14 September 2006 Edition

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In Brief


Palestinian president Abbas has said he is prepared for "unconditional" dialogue with Ehud Olmert, who had also announced he would be meeting Abbas for talks "without conditions". The opening of talks come at a time when the UN has once again highlighted that living conditions for Palestinians in Gaza have reached breaking point. Karen Abuzayd, head of the UN Relief and Works Agency, said that military action in Gaza - Israel keeps Gaza's borders sealed and conducts regular military operations, including daily target killings - over recent weeks was creating despair and suffering, rather than any desire for political compromise.


It seems the political opposition in Bolivia are following unsuccessful US-promoted tactics previously used by the colleagues in Venezuela. The right wing opposition to President Evo Morales called for a 24-hour general lock-out in the regional departments of Santa Cruz, Beni, Pando y Tarija, where they have electoral support. The lock-out, on Friday 8 September, was rejected by trade union, peasant and indigenous leaders.Bolivian vice-president, Alvaro García Linera, assured "absolute respect" for the lock-out and pointed out that the security forces would not be called upon. However, García highlighted the political interests behind the call to strike while offering the opening of negotiations with the opposition party, the Social and Democratic Power, which opposes the reform of the Constitution - approved through referendum - and the powers of the new Constitutional Assembly.


On Friday 8 September, 500 people demonstrated in Chile's capital Santiago, occupying public land to protest at the lack of housing in the city. The government of Michelle Bachellet deployed riot police against the demonstrators. Men, women and children were baton-charged, forced out of the area and arrested. Two protest leaders, Jose Luis Flores, and Rodrigo Corvalán set themselves alight outside the HQ of Unicef and the residence of Norway's ambassador in Santiago. Both were taken to hospital to be treated for their injuries. The Home Department issued a warrant against Flores, who was arrested in hospital and taken to police barracks where he is being interrogated by police and representatives of the government.

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