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1 October 1998 Edition

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Rebels cheerful despite difficulties

By Simon Jones

Polhó used to be just a small rebel village in Chiapas, Mexico, about 700 Zapatistas living in a valley off the main road, overlooked by the school.

Now Polhó is home to ten and a half thousand people driven from their homes by paramilitary groups loyal to the government. The valley is dotted with houses made out of rusty tin and cardboard.

According to Domingo, president of the municipal council, the biggest problem is that people cannot leave the valley to work in their fields. ``We are dependant on donated food; the situation at the moment is very bad. and it is very difficult to sit around all day and not be able to do anything. But we cannot leave.''

A young man takes me up to the top of a hill and explains why: ``Over there are paramilitaries. Over there more. And over there. Over there the army.'' Polhó is encircled, constantly under threat.

As we cross the road, the army roars past. Angry faces stare down at us and shout abuse.

Manuel, one of the health promotors at the rebel-run clinic, tells me that the poor housing and diet are responsible for many people having bronchitis and flu, diarrhoea and parasites from the water. There have been cases of typhoid, and a lot of people have ulcers from going hungry. Stress is causing low blood pressure problems, he adds. His clinic is chronically short of medicines. The Red Cross clinic, Manuel alleges, has a lot more medicines, but the wrong ones. The Mexican Red Cross is seen as pro-government (a view disputed by the doctor in charge of the clinic in Polhó) but the situation is so desperate that the community has had to accept their help, while calling for the International Red Cross to move in instead.

Despite it all, people keep going. Thirty women have formed a weaving co-op. Other women grow vegetables. On the side of the hill a welding school is being built, though they are not sure where the welding gear will come from. And a group of university students from Mexico City has started classes for the children. The struggle goes on.

Young Nigerian killed by Belgian policy

By Soledad Galiana

A young Nigerian immigrant was killed by Belgian policemen when she was been deported to Tongo. Semira Adamu (20) is now a symbol for the anti-deportation movements around the world. She avoided expulsion five times since she arrived in Belgium trying to escape a pre-arranged marriage with a 65 year-old polygamous man. On Tuesday 22 September she was killed while handcuffed to her seat in a Sabena aircraft. She started shouting for help as passengers were boarding the plane and the policemen tried to silence her using two small pillows. She died hours later in hospital.

Her death has caused uproar in Belgium and rejection of legislation that specifies the ``use of the pillow'' to restrain and silence deportees. Louis Tobback, Belgian Home minister, defended the legality of the police action and their use of the pillow. He was forced to present his resignation, which was refused by the Belgian government. The Police Union has called for the suspension of deportations. The French-speaking Women's Council has called for sexual abuses to be included as one of the reasons to be granted political asylum.

The Belgian government has suspended deportations pending an inquiry.

Georges flattens the Caribbean

Georges will be remembered as one of the most destructive huricanes ever experienced in the Caribbean area. Puerto Rico, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Cuba, Virgin Islands, Guadalupe, Dominica, Monserrat and St Kitts-Nevis were affected by winds and heavy rain.

Crops have been destroyed, thousands of people are homeless and dependent on international aid to rebuild their lives. In Santo Domingo, where winds reached up to 210kmph, more than 200 people have been killed. The Dominican government is being accused of negligence because they chose to ignore the advice of the Miami Huricane Centre and decided not to make public the list of safe shelters in the island in advance to the arrival of Georges.

Expecting the hurricane, the Cuban authorities organised in less than 48 hours the evacuation of nearly half a million people, who were housed in secure shelters. Georges hit Guantanamo, Cuba, on Wednesday evening, and moved towards the North-East, devastating villages and towns with winds that reached 120 kmph and heavy rain. Cuban President, Fidel Castro has called for the international humanitarian aid directed to Cuba to be send to Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

Germany: Green-red government.

The social democrat leader of the SPD, Gerhard Schroeder, winners of the German elections, is meeting representatives from the Green Party on Friday 2 October. Both parties have worked together in regional governments in Germany before and a new national alliance will allow Schroeder to rely on a comfortable majority in the German Parliament.

SPD won 288 seats and the Green Party 46. Helmut Kohl's party, the CDU, obtained just 243 seats, the worst result since the 1949 election.

``Germany will be more modern and socially fair,'' said Schroeder as soon as the election results were known. One of the possible reforms - proposed by the Green Party and to be negotiated during the meetings - will deal with Germany's restrictive citizenship rights. This reform would allow immigrants to opt for double nationality. Other issues tabled for negotiation by the Green Party, dealing with international policy and military affairs, received a much cooler reception from the SPD.


Washington was the scene of a new meeting between the Israeli PM, Benjamin Netanyahu and Yassir Arafat, the president of the Palestinian Authority. US President Bill Clinton hosted the meeting on Monday aimed at relaunching the dialogue between both parties and avoiding a possible independence declaration by Yassir Arafat during his speech before the UN in New York on Monday.

The Israeli government agreed to the transfer of 13% of the occupied territories in the West Bank, with the condition that 3% of this territory will be converted into a natural park under the control of the Israeli army. Yaasir Arafat has agreed to these terms. The next meeting is scheduled for the middle of October.

Meanwhile, clashes between Palestinians and the Israeli army continued following the confiscation of 35 hectares of land in the village of Um-al-Fajem, where the Israeli government wants to build a training camp for the army.

On Monday, Albanian PM, Fatos Nano, presented his resignation to the President Rexhep Meidani. Nano denounced ``suffocating pressures'' and the lack of ``any solidarity signs'' as the main reasons for his decision.. The resignation comes two weeks after the disturbances provoked by the murder of Azen Hajdani, popular member of the opposition Democratic Party of Sali Belisha. The main candidate to form the new government is Pandeli Majiko, general secretary of the Socialist Party.

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