Category Archives: HUMAN RIGHTS

PAYNCoP Gabon Partners with the National Youth Council to Stop Violence against Youth


To CPNN from Jerry Bibang, PAYNCoP National Coordinator (translation by CPNN)

In the face of renewed violence against young people in Gabon, the National Coordination of the Panafrican Youth Network for the Culture of Peace (PAYNCoP Gabon) and the National Youth Council of Gabon (CNJG) joined forces on Saturday, October 26, to firmly condemn this phenomenon which harms Gabonese youth. Their press conference had the support of several youth organizations in Gabon.

(Article continued in right column)

(Click here for the original in French.)

Questions related to this article:

Rights of the child, How can they be promoted and protected?

(Article continued from left column)

In the statement, read by Fernandez Ona, President of the CNJG, the young leaders recalled the international legal provisions relating to the protection of the child in particular Article 16 of the African Charter of the Rights and Welfare of the Child that states: “The States Parties to this Charter shall take specific legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child against all forms of torture, inhuman and degrading treatment, and in particular any form of or physical or mental abuse, neglect or abuse, including sexual abuse, when entrusted to the care of a parent, legal guardian, school authority or any other person having custody of the child.”

Also, the 2040 Agenda of the African Union on the Rights and Welfare of the African Child, in its aspiration 7, urges the States Parties to provide protection against all forms of violence against children. In the same vein, the Constitution of the Republic, in its Preamble, reaffirms the need to ensure and protect the physical and moral integrity of youth.

“In spite of these normative devices, it is sad to note the recurrence of cases of violence against young people on the national territory,” said Jerry Bibang, PAYNCoP National Coordinator. “The violence is multiple and varied, including physical, sexual, economic, verbal and psychological violence,” he added, respectfully urging the Government to take concrete measures to eradicate this phenomenon.

PAYNCoP Gabon and AFRICTIVITIES inform civil society organizations about the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR)


by Jerry Bibang, National Coordinator of PAYNCoP Gabon (translation by CPNN)

As part of the celebration of the African month of justice, the Citizen Movement for Good Governance in Gabon (MCB2G) and the Panafrican Youth Network for Peace Culture (PAYNCoP), in partnership with Africtivists, organized, Saturday, August 10, a public conference on the theme “African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and Access to Justice: Mechanism for this fundamental right.”

(click on photo to enlarge)

Hosted by Paulette Oyane Ondo, lawyer and human rights defender, the meeting at the Glass Cultural Center brought together several NGO leaders and associations working for the defense and promotion of human rights.

(Article continued in right column)

(Click here for the original French version.)

Question(s) related to this article:

How can human rights be defended?

(Article continued from left column)

In his remarks, Jerry Bibang, the MCB2G General Coordinator and National Coordinator of PAYNCoP Gabon emphasized the context of this meeting: “the activity that brings us together today is part of the implementation of the program entitled ‘Local Initiative for Justice’, which aims to set up a framework for dialogue, exchange, discussion and debate around human and peoples’ rights issues. The program, organized by Africtivistes, consists of 5 major sessions that will be held successively in Gabon, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso and Cameroon. ”

Through this program, “the Africtivists and all the stakeholders wish to publicize the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), which remains little known to the general public,” he added.

In her remarks, Maitre Paulette Oyane Ondo began with a historical reminder before addressing the composition, functioning, mechanisms and conditions of referral to the ACHPR. For the lawyer, the Commission, created in 1987 in Ethiopia, essentially promotes, protects, guarantees and respects human rights in Africa. Its basic tool is the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

The commission also acts as a jurisdiction between states or in case of a difference between a state and an individual or a group of people living in Africa. If the commission is accessible to all, there are, however, conditions for it to take up a case. The first condition is that the country involved has ratified the African Charter on Human Rights; and the second is that the complaint is related to a violation of the basic text. The lawyer took the opportunity to highlight the lack of involvement of Gabonese civil society with the ACHPR, before answering the many questions of the participants.

On the sidelines of this event, the public also was presented the Africtivistes platform by Boursier Tchibinda, one of the members of this pan-African organization as well as a presentation of the MCB2G, by Joanie Mahinou, the Deputy General Coordonatrice of this NGO.

Global Human Rights Movement Issues Travel Warning for the U.S. due to Rampant Gun Violence


An article from Amnesty International

Amnesty International today issued a travel warning calling for possible travelers and visitors to the United States to exercise extreme caution when traveling throughout the country due to rampant gun violence, which has become so prevalent in the United States that it amounts to a human rights crisis. It aims to hold up a mirror to the U.S. using the model of the United States Department of State’s travel advice for U.S. travelers to other countries.

“Travelers to the United States should remain cautious that the country does not adequately protect people’s right to be safe, regardless of who they might be. People in the United States cannot reasonably expect to be free from harm – a guarantee of not being shot is impossible,” said Ernest Coverson, campaign manager for the End Gun Violence Campaign at Amnesty International USA. “Once again, it is chillingly clear that the U.S. government is unwilling to ensure protection against gun violence.”

The travel advisory addressed growing gun violence, mostly hate crimes, including racism and discrimination, highlighting that the traveler’s race, country of origin, ethnic background, sexual orientation or gender identity may place them at higher risk after recent attacks linked to white supremacist ideology.

(Article continued in right column)

Question(s) related to this article:

What is the state of human rights in the world today?

Do you think handguns should be banned?, Why or why not?

(Article continued from left column)

The action called attention to the extent to which all aspects of life in the United States have been compromised in some way by unfettered access to guns, without comprehensive and uniform regulation of their acquisition and use. By prioritizing gun ownership over basic human rights, the U.S. government is willfully and systematically failing on multiple levels and ignoring its international obligations to protect people’s rights and safety.

Amnesty International has been calling for common sense reform regarding the use and possession of firearms, including comprehensive background checks, national regulations for registering and licensing firearms, required training, a ban on high capacity magazines/assault weapons, and mandatory safe-storage laws. Amnesty International USA’s campaign to end gun violence has focused efforts on passing S.42., the Assault Weapons ban, and the Disarm Hate Act.


A report by Amnesty International, “In the Line of Fire: Human Rights and the U.S. Gun Violence Crisis” examined how all aspects of American life have been compromised in some way by the unfettered access to guns, with no attempts at meaningful national regulation.

Last month, Amnesty International published a report examining how survivors of gun violence in the United States suffer years of trauma and pain due to a destructive combination of government policies which ignore their needs.

UN chief welcomes power-sharing deal between Sudanese military and opposition


An article from UN News

UN Secretary-General António Guterres said on Friday he was “encouraged” by reports of a newly-inked power-sharing deal between the Forces for Freedom and Change – a coalition of opposition and protest groups – and Sudan’s ruling military council.
The two sides have reportedly agreed to share power for three years, and then hold elections for a return to full civilian government. Mr. Guterres welcomed the decision to establish transitional governing bodies, and congratulated the African Union, Ethiopia and the regional Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), for their role in mediating the talks.

Video from Deutsche Welle

News of the deal reportedly brought thousands of people onto the streets to celebrate and raised hopes that a peaceful transition of power can take place, following months of turmoil since December’s civilian revolt began.

(Article continued in the right column)

Questions related to this article:

How effective are mass protest marches?

(Article continued from the left column)

The Secretary-General, said a statement from his Spokesperson, is now encouraging all stakeholders to “ensure the timely, inclusive, and transparent implementation of the agreement and resolve any outstanding issues through dialogue.”

The statement also noted that Mr. Guterres welcomes the parties’ commitment to conducting an independent investigation into the violence perpetrated against peaceful protesters, including the events on 3 June, when security forces and militia fired on pro-democracy protesters in the capital Khartoum, leaving dozens dead and many more injured.

The UN chief expressed his solidarity with the people of Sudan, and reiterated the commitment of the United Nations to assist in the transition process.

Following a series of strikes and protests early in the year, long-time dictator Omar al-Bashir was overthrown by his top generals in April. Hopes were high that the military and opposition could reach a deal, but since the military-led violence of 3 April, talks were at an impasse until the latest round of negotiations began in the capital Khartoum earlier this week.   

Just last Sunday, there were nationwide demonstrations demanding the transfer of power to civilian hands, in which at least seven were reportedly killed, with more than 180 injured.

On Wednesday, UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet called on Sudanese authorities to lift restrictions on the internet and launch independent investigations into all acts of violence against demonstrators, and allegations of excessive force, including attacks on hospitals. Ms. Bachelet said her office had received numerous allegations that excessive force had been used by security forces against protestors.

Kazakhstan: Protests of presidential vote bring 500 arrests


An article from The Public’s Radio-Kazakhstan

Police detained hundreds of people in Kazakhstan amid unauthorized protests of a presidential election Sunday that opponents alleged was a fake exercise in democracy.

Kazakh police block demonstrators during an anti-government protest during the presidential elections in Nur-Sultan, the capital city of Kazakhstan, Sunday, June 9, 2019 
(click on image to enlarge)

Officers, some in riot gear with shields and helmets, broke up the demonstrations in the capital, Nur-Sultan, and in Almaty, the Central Asian country’s main commercial city. Some 500 protesters were taken to police stations, a government official said.

Three police officers were injured in the clashes, Deputy Interior Minister Marat Kozhayev said. There were no immediate reports of charges following the arrests.

The snap election was called after the unexpected March resignation of President Nursultan Nazarbayev, 78, who had led the country since its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. Many people assumed Nazarbayev would run for re-election during a regularly scheduled presidential vote next year.

(Article continued in the right column)

Questions related to this article:

How effective are mass protest marches?

(Article continued from the left column)

The protesters alleged the election to choose his successor would not be free or fair, and had called for a voter boycott.

Nazarbayev loyalist Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, the upper house speaker who became acting president when Nazarbayev stepped down, was expected to win easily.

Seven candidates were on the ballot, including a genuine opposition figure for the first time since 2005.

The opposition candidate, Amirzhan Kossanov, said he had no complaints about possible campaign violations before Sunday’s contest.

“But the most important result, the peak of the election political process, is counting of the votes,” Kossanov said.

The national elections commission reported that about 77% of the electorate turned out to vote. Previous presidential elections had reported turnouts of more than 90%.

Kazakhstan recently has experienced rising opposition sentiment. Previous anti-government rallies took place in the spring to protest the early election, which opponents saw as an orchestrated handover of power.

One of the most prosperous former Soviet republics, large Kazakhstan stands at a crossroads between neighbors China and Russia.

[Note: According to Garda News, Canadian diplomatic authorities indicate large-scale demonstrations are expected in Nur-Sultan and Almaty on Sunday, June 30.

Czech Republic: Prague crowds demand PM Andrej Babis step down


A report by Emmanuelle Chaze from Deutsche Welle (reprinted by permission)

Hundreds of thousands of anti-Babis activists flooded the center of Prague on Sunday [June 23] in the culmination of anti-government protests.

“Judging from the aerial photos, it looks like we’re about 250,000,” said Mikulas Minar, head of Million Moments for Democracy, the NGO organizing the protest, as crowds were filling Prague’s central Letna square earlier on Sunday.

(click on image to enlarge)

Carolina, a flight attendant from the south of the country, told DW she had traveled to Prague to take part in the protests because it “has simply become too much.”

“That’s why people from all across the country came here today, to show that it isn’t simply the people in the capital that are angry.”

Hannah, 31, a saleswoman, said she no longer agrees with the government: “Even in his own party (ANO), there are people against Babis who didn’t want him as a prime minister … now I think it is our turn to show that we disagree with how things are done.”

Previously, some 400,000 people signed a petition calling on billionaire Prime Minister Andrej Babis to step down amid allegations of fraud. The rallies were triggered after Babis appointed a close ally as the country’s new justice minister at a time when prosecutors are deciding on a potential indictment against him.

Many Babis opponents also claim the 64-year-old politician had collaborated with the communist secret police before the 1989 Velvet Revolution.

(Article continued in the right column)

Questions related to this article:

How effective are mass protest marches?

(Article continued from the left column)

Corruption and anti-corruption

Babis has built his reputation as the founder and head of his business empire Agrofert, which started in the early 1990s and grew to become the Czech Republic’s biggest private employer, encompassing over 250 companies.

The billionaire entered politics in 2011 by founding the ANO (YES) party on an anti-corruption platform, becoming finance minister and deputy prime minister in 2014. He was forced out of the Cabinet in 2017 over allegations of tax fraud and suspicious business dealings. However, the crisis brought down the government and triggered a parliamentary election, which saw Babis’ ANO place far ahead of its rivals.

During the campaign, Babis was hounded by charges of defrauding the EU for around €2 million ($2.28 million) in 2007. He has denied any wrongdoing.

In April this year, police said Babis should stand trial over the alleged fraud. Babis rejected the move as a political plot against him. When Justice Minister Jan Knezinek resigned over the probe, Babis replaced him with his own longtime adviser Marie Benesova.

Last month, Babis found himself fending off another crisis when preliminary results of a European Commission audit were leaked to the public. According to the draft document, Babis has a conflict of interest as his companies benefit from EU funding. Specifically, it found that Agrofert should not have received €17.4 million in EU subsidies. The prime minister dismissed it as “an attack on the Czech Republic.”

He also pledged not to resign.

Risky vote of no confidence

The opposition has called a no-confidence vote for next week. To oust Babis, the opposition would need to have his coalition partners, the Social Democrats, side against him, or have the Communist Party revoke their parliamentary support for the government.

However, some observers believe Babis could also turn to the far-right Freedom and Direct Democracy party to stay in power.

A state attorney is set to decide whether Babis will go on trial over subsidies later this year.

Sudan: top UN official demands cessation of violence and rape against civilians by security forces


An article from the United Nations

Following recent reports of attacks and rape by security forces and paramilitaries against the pro-democracy protesters in Sudan who have been holding a sit-in outside army headquarters in the capital, Khartoum, the United Nations Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Pramila Patten, expressed  “grave concern” on Thursday [June 13] and called for an “immediate and complete” end to the violence.

Ahmed Bahhar/Masarib. Protesters take to streets in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum. 11 April 2019.
(click on image to enlarge)

According to her Office, despite restrictions on communications in Sudan, reports of serious human rights violations have emerged since the beginning of the month.

These include reported rapes and gang rapes of protesters, women’s human rights defenders and women medical personnel working in hospitals near the sit-in perpetrated by the “Rapid Support Forces” or RSF – a paramilitary group run by the Sudanese Government, primarily composed of the Janjaweed, a party to the Darfur conflict – and other militias.

(Article continued in the right column)

Questions related to this article:

How effective are mass protest marches?

(Article continued from the left column)

“I demand the immediate and complete cessation of all violence against civilians including sexual violence,” stated Special Representative Patten, noting that the RSF have consistently been listed in the UN Secretary-General’s annual report on conflict-related sexual violence.

“[They] should take effective measures to prevent and punish sexual violence in accordance with relevant Security Council resolutions, including resolution 2467,” she added.

After the three-decade autocratic rule of President Omar al-Bashir ended in a military takeover in April, talks faltered in May between protesters and the ruling Transitional Military Council over a timetable for civilian rule.

On 3 June, security forces and paramilitaries fired on pro-democracy protesters  holding a sit-in outside army headquarters in the capital Khartoum, leaving a number of people dead and many more injured. Three days later, the African Union suspended the participation of Sudan in all its activities until the effective establishment of a civilian-led transitional authority.

Pending verification of the alleged incidents by relevant UN bodies, Ms. Patten highlighted the fact that “the weakness of the rule of law and a general climate of impunity” is further compounding a highly-volatile context.

“I urge the prompt investigation of all credible allegations of sexual violence and accountability for those responsible,” said the Special Representative, adding that she strongly supports the rapid deployment of a United Nations human rights monitoring team to examine the situation on the ground.

She also called upon the international community, including members of the UN Security Council, to use “all possible diplomatic channels with leaders of Sudan to pave the way for a swift transition to a civilian administration and an end to all forms of violence and intimidation against civilians”.

On Tuesday, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), sounded the alarm over the  killing and injuring of dozens of minors  in the protests backlash.

Hong Kong protesters march demanding leader resign


An article from Deutsche Welle

Protesters, mostly in black, jammed the streets Sunday demanding that Hong Kong’s leader step down even after she suspended work on a controversial extradition bill.  

Leaders of the Civil Human Rights Front said they estimated that almost 2 million people had taken part. 

(click on image to enlarge)

The crowds, walking slowly and shouting “withdraw” and “resign,” spilled into the streets from downtown Victoria Park in the early afternoon and began marching toward the Central district, where the government headquarters is located. The rally continued until late on Sunday night.

“Our demands are simple. Carrie Lam must leave office, the extradition law must be withdrawn and the police must apologize for using extreme violence against their own people,” said bank worker John Chow as he marched with a group of his friends.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam on Saturday buckled under the pressure of sometimes violent protests over the past week and indefinitely shelved the bill in order to “maintain law and order and restore calm as soon as possible.” However, the proposals have not been completely withdrawn.

Lam apologizes

In response to Sunday’s renewed protests, the government apologized for its handling of the crisis.

“The chief executive acknowledged that the lack of government work has caused great contradictions and disputes in the community of Hong Kong,” it said in a statement. 

“Many members of the public are disappointed and saddened. The chief executive apologizes to the public and promises to accept it with the utmost sincerity and humility.”

The bill proposed a legal mechanism to allow Hong Kong residents and Chinese or foreign nationals traveling through the city to be extradited to mainland China. Lam argued that it would prevent criminals from seeking to hide in the financial hub.

(Article continued in the right column)

Questions related to this article:

How effective are mass protest marches?

(Article continued from the left column)

But critics believe it would tighten Beijing’s grip on the autonomous city, which is governed under a “one country, two systems” policy cemented during the British handover of Hong Kong in 1997.

While Lam said the bill had “laudable objectives” in combating international crime, protesters are concerned that an extradition agreement would allow Hong Kongers to be handed over to courts controlled by the Communist Party in mainland China, where a fair trial is not guaranteed.

Bill ‘must be withdrawn’

Some opponents of the extradition bill said that suspension was not enough.

“The bill’s legislative process is only suspended, but not completely withdrawn, which means there is a possibility that the government could restart the legislative process at some point in the future,” Ray Chan, a pro-democracy legislator in Hong Kong, told DW.

Lam avoided answering questions about whether she would yield to some protesters’ demands that she resign, requesting that citizens “give us another chance.”

The Beijing-appointed Lam added that she felt “deep sorrow and regret that the deficiencies in our work and various other factors have stirred up substantial controversies and disputes in society.”

Opposition to the extradition bill came from broad sectors of society, including the business community, professionals, teachers, students, pro-democracy figures and religious groups. 

Autonomy concerns

Hong Kong is a special administrative region of the People’s Republic of China. Hong Kong’s constitution, known as the Hong Kong Basic Law, grants the city a high level of autonomy, including executive and legislative powers and an independent judiciary.

While speaking to reporters on Saturday, Lam addressed concerns that the territory’s chief executive was being steered by the Central Committee in Beijing, saying that such an assertion was based on a misunderstanding.

“That is a view that does not sit well with Basic Law, and is not in line with the constitutional role of chief executive,” said Lam, adding that the Hong Kong executive was responsible both to the PRC and Hong Kong.

“The central people’s government has confidence in my judgment and they support me,” she said.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said the government “expresses support, respect and understanding” for Lam’s decision.

Brazil: general strike highlights Bolsonaro’s weakness


An article by Jorge Martin in from

Millions participated in the general strike in Brazil on 14 June, with demonstrations in 380 cities across the country. The strike had been called to reject the proposed counter-reform of the pension system by the Bolsonaro government, but also reflected opposition to education cuts, which had already brought millions onto the streets on 15 and 30 May.

Image: Fora Bolsonaro
(click on image to enlarge)

The Bolsonaro government, already riddled with internal contradictions and rapidly losing support, was hit by revelations published this week of collusion between the judge and the prosecution in the trial against former president Lula. The judge involved was then awarded the Ministry of Justice by Bolsonaro. Far from being faced with the prospect of fascism, the government could be brought down by the mass movement, but for that to happen, more than a one-day general strike is required.

The general strike had been originally called by the trade union confederations on 1 May and was part of a very weak strategy centred around “putting pressure on the members of parliament” not to approve the law, rather than to defeat it with sustained mass pressure on the streets. The decision by the Bolsonaro government to introduce cuts in universities’ budgets and the provocative way in which it was done provoked a tsunami of indignation on the national day of strike in the education sector on 15 June, when 2 million participated in demonstrations against the government across the country. The movement of the students and teachers provided the necessary momentum for the general strike. A further national day of demonstrations, called on 30 May by the National Union of Students, saw hundreds of thousands march again against education cuts.

Meanwhile, the attempt by government supporters to call counter-demonstrations in defence of Bolsonaro on 26 May was a complete flop. In Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, they barely managed to gather 10,000 each. On 15 May, anti-government protesters brought 250,000 to the streets of Sao Paulo and 400,000 in Rio. Not only were the 26 May demonstrations smaller, but their mood was not one of enthusiasm but rather of being on the defensive and in shock at the militancy shown by the youth on 15 May. The 26 May demonstrations had the aim of strengthening the government and Bolsonaro personally, in an attempt to appeal to “the people” directly above the heads of the parties and the parliament. They failed. The stage was set for the general strike.

According to the CUT trade union confederation, about 45 million workers participated in strike action. The strike was particularly strong in the education and the public sector, but also amongst bank workers, oil workers at Petrobras, public transport workers in the main cities, etc. In the industrial heartland of the Sao Paulo ABC, the metal workers’ union announced that over 98 percent of workers had struck, paralysing the main assembly plants of Volks and Mercedes and the auto-parts sector. 10 out of the country’s 12 refineries were paralysed, with workers not replacing their colleagues at the end of the night shift. The underground and bus services were either partially or completely paralysed in the main cities, despite the fact that there had been some court decisions banning some sections from going out on strike. The governor of Sao Paulo, João Dória, threatened to sack underground workers if they went on strike.

During the day, there were demonstrations and rallies outside the main workplaces as well as pickets. In the afternoon, hundreds of thousands came onto the streets in over 300 demonstrations across the whole country, including 50,000 in Sao Paulo, the same number in Porto Alegre and 100,000 in Rio de Janeiro, according to the organisers. The mood was very militant and the slogan “Fora Bolsonaro” (Bolsonaro Out!) caught on, despite attempts by the leaders of the left and the trade unions to limit themselves to demand the resignation of Justice Minister Moro. The demonstrations could have been bigger had it not been for the role played by the trade union leaders, which did their best to prevent militant demonstrations in the streets. The CUT’s president Vagner Freitas openly called on workers “to stay home” as part of the general strike.

Masses react against attacks

The strike was preceded by revelations published by The Intercept of improper conduct by the judge and state prosecutors during the trial of PT leader for corruption, with the aim of preventing him, first from being a candidate in the presidential election when he was first in the opinion polls; and then from giving any public interviews from jail, which could have influenced the election result.

This is a major scandal, which puts into question not only the validity of Lula’s trial, in which he was sentenced to jail for corruption without any evidence, but also questions the legitimacy of the presidential election itself. Had Lula been allowed to stand, it is likely that he would have gone on to win the presidency. Furthermore, the scandal affects Judge Moro, who presided over the trial against Lula and was then rewarded with the Ministry of Justice in Bolsonaro’s government, as well as being promised a seat in the Supreme Court. The latest revelations in this scandal show how Judge Moro, who was supposed to be neutral and impartial, told the prosecution to issue a press statement to rebut the arguments of Lula’s defence team. Despite the fact that he is still the most-popular member of the government, the number of people who have a positive opinion of him has fallen sharply from 60 to 50 percent over these recent leaks, adding to the ailments of the Bolsonaro government, which has just seen another of its ministers being sacked.

The pensions counter-reform is a major part of the anti-working class offensive, which the ruling class needs to implement and is being spearheaded by ultra-liberal Finance Minister Paulo Guedes. If implemented, it would be a major setback, increasing the retirement age for both men and women, as well as increasing the necessary contributions. It would have a particularly negative impact on public sector workers. The counter-reform has become very unpopular, including amongst many who voted for Bolsonaro. Furthermore, it faces a number of important hurdles in its parliamentary procedure before it can be approved. Let us remember that Bolsonaro’s party does not command a majority in the lower house, which despite being dominated by bourgeois parties, is not to keen to bear the responsibility for such a brutal attack.

(Article continued in the right column)

Questions related to this article:

How effective are mass protest marches?

(Article continued from the left column)

The congressional committee report on the pensions proposal included a number of minor concessions, for instance regarding the basic state pension, the pension system for workers in rural areas and even put into question one of the central ideas of Guedes proposal such as the move to individual private savings accounts. The idea behind this move by the “centre” bourgeois parties in parliament is to make some minor amendments to Guedes’ plan in order to bring the PT governors from the north-eastern states on board in accepting the basic principle of the need for a “reform” of the pension system. These governors, from the PT and the PCdoB, had issued a letter asking to be included in the negotiations of the pensions “reform”. According to some calculations, the congressional plan would reduce the amount of cuts involved from R$1.2 billion to “just” R$850 million. Nevertheless, the central aspects of the counter-reform remain, increasing the retirement age, as well as the amount of contributions workers will have to pay. The manoeuvre by Congress was also aimed at dividing the workers and weakening the impact of the general strike. Guedes reacted angrily to these proposals and threatened to resign if his original plan was not approved. The pension counter-reform law is supposed to be put to a final vote before the parliamentary recess at the end of July.

Bolsonaro government weakening

The Bolsonaro government is riddled with all sorts of internal splits and divisions, with at least three major factions fighting each other publicly. The struggle against education cuts and the attacks on pensions have provoked a steep decline in its popularity. Those who think that the government is bad or very bad have increased from 22.5 percent in February to 37.4 percent now, while those who think the government is good or excellent have declined from 38.7 percent to 30.4 percent.

Any hope that an economic recovery would prop up Bolsonaro has quickly evaporated. Figures for the first quarter of 2019 reveal an economic contraction of -0.2 percent, the first one since the end of the recession in 2016. As well as the international slowdown hitting Brazil’s extractive sector (-6.3 percent), the country’s car industry has been hit by the recession in neighbouring Argentina. Overall, industry fell by 2 percent in the first quarter. Unemployment has barely decreased and remains at 12.7 percent (30 percent amongst the youth), a total of over 13 million unemployed.

All indicators are down. Capitalists are no longer happy with the government, which is proving unable to move fast in implementing the policies the ruling class demands and risks provoking a social explosion on the lines of the 2013 June days. A survey of “money managers, economists and traders” carried out by XP Investimentos  showed how approval of the Bolsonaro government had fallen to 14 percent in May, from a high of 86 percent in January, while those rating it as bad or awful had risen to 43 percent, from 1 percent!

At a certain point, if Bolsonaro becomes too unpopular and is unable to implement the programme the capitalists need, they might consider the option of replacing him with the more “moderate” and “reasonable” figure of his vice-president Hamilton Mourão, from the government’s “military wing”.

Faced with such a weak and divided government it would be perfectly feasible to defeat the pensions counter-reform and also bring the government down. That would require a fighting leadership, which neither the leaders of the left organisations nor those of the trade unions are providing.

Fora Bolsonaro!

They were in shock when Bolsonaro won the second round of the presidential election, an outcome they were unable to understand. The leaders of the PT and the CUT reacted by raising a hue and cry about “fascism” having come to power. This was completely false and only served to cover their own cowardice in organising the struggle against the government. Bolsonaro’s government is reactionary and he is a dangerous, far-right demagogue with Bonapartist aspirations. But what we have in Brazil is not fascism, which would imply a reactionary government able to mobilise mass support amongst the petty bourgeoisie in order to physically suppress the workers’ organisations. On the contrary, what we have seen on 15 and 30 May, and above all yesterday during the general strike, is a powerful mobilisation of the working class and the youth and Bolsonaro’s failure to counter it with a mass movement on the streets on 26 May.

From this wrong political appraisal, the leaders of the PT and the CUT draw the conclusion that the situation is bad, Bolsonaro has mass support and therefore the slogan “Bolsonaro Out” is out of order. In this they are joined, unfortunately, by the leaders of the PSOL and the majority of the ultra-left sects. While the PT and CUT leaders argue that Bolsonaro was democratically elected (!!) and should be allowed to finish his term of office, the ultra-left sectarians argue that the slogan is premature and pointedly refuse to raise it. Both reformists and ultra-lefts are united in their lack of confidence in the working class.

Leaders of 10 different parties met on 20 May  in an attempt to organise a “cross-party front” against Bolsonaro. The meeting included bourgeois parties, as well as representatives from the PT, PCdoB and PSOL. As is always the case in these popular fronts, the programme was watered down so much as to mean almost nothing. There was no agreement in opposing the pensions counter-reform, which the bourgeois parties support. The demand therefore was dropped from the common front. There was no agreement on a basic, simple, democratic demand “Lula Livre”, so this was dropped.

One thing they all agreed on was… to reject the slogan “Fora Bolsonaro”. This was also the line coming from Lula, who is still in jail. The arguments are surreal. Some say that the slogan could be interpreted as a slogan in favour of Vice-President Mourao! Others argue that there should be legal grounds for demanding the impeachment of Bolsonaro, but the mass demonstrations in the streets don’t want to impeach him, they want to overthrow him!

At the meeting, PT leader Haddad insisted that the opposition agreement should be broadened in order to get the support of the centre and the “liberal centre-right”. The leader of the PCdoB parliamentary group was very pleased with the meeting and said that “we must fight against sectarianism in Brazilian politics”! At a separate meeting of left parties, involving the PT, PSB, PCdoB, PDT and PSOL on 22 May, they agreed not to raise the demand Fora Bolsonaro, despite the pressure coming from the 15 May demonstrations.

The comrades of the Esquerda Marxista  (Brazilian section of the International Marxist Tendency) have intervened since the beginning of the movement raising precisely the idea that the government can be defeated by a mass united movement of the working class. This idea can be summarised in the slogan “Fora Bolsonaro”. Defeating Bolsonaro, they argue correctly, would require not just a 24-hour general strike, but the preparation of indefinite strike action with the aim not only of defeating the pension counter-reform but of bringing down the government.

The general strike on 14 June showed the willingness to struggle by workers and the youth. If they had a leadership up to the task, the Bolsonaro government would be counting its days.

Celebrating arrests, but still pushing for change, protesters rally in Algeria


An article by Ulf Laessing in Reuters

Tens of thousands of protesters gathered in the Algerian capital for the 17th consecutive Friday, demanding the removal of the ruling elite and prosecution of former officials linked to former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

Demonstrators carry banners and flags during a protest demanding the removal of the ruling elite and prosecution of former officials linked to former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, in Algiers, Algeria June 14, 2019. REUTERS/Ramzi Boudina
(click on image to enlarge)

After 20 years in power, Bouteflika quit on April 2 under pressure from protesters and the army, but protests have continued.

The demonstrators are pushing for radical change and seeking the departure of senior figures, including politicians and businessmen, who have governed the North African country since independence from France in 1962.

There was no official count, but a Reuters correspondent estimated that the number of people protesting was higher than last Friday. It was still smaller than in the weeks before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in May, however.

At this week’s rally they celebrated the arrest of several former officials and business people linked to Bouteflika on anti-graft charges, demanding more action.

(Article continued in the right column)

Questions related to this article:

How effective are mass protest marches?

(Article continued from the left column)

“You have built prisons, you will be imprisoned there all,” read one banner held up by protesters marching through central Algiers, scene of mass dissent since February.

On Thursday, the supreme court remanded ex-prime minister Abdelmalek Sellal in custody over graft allegations.

State media also said police had arrested Mourad Eulmi, head of the private firm SOVAC, a partner of Germany’s Volkswagen AG, at a car assembly plant in the western province of Relizane in connection with “corruption cases”. It did not elaborate. Volkswagen declined to comment.

On Wednesday, the supreme court ordered the detention of another former prime minister, Ahmed Ouyahia, for alleged involvement in corruption.

Bouteflika’s youngest brother, Said, and two former intelligence chiefs have also been placed in custody by a military judge for “harming the army’s authority and plotting against state authority”.

Protesters rejected an offer from interim President Abdelkader Bensalah to hold a dialogue with all parties after authorities postponed a presidential election previously planned for July 4. No new date has been set for the vote.

“We need real dialogue”, read one protest banner. Protesters have rejected Bensalah as too close to Bouteflika.

Armed forces chief Lieutenant-General Ahmed Gaed Salah, who has been managing the transition, has called on parties and protesters to meet among themselves to discuss a way out of the crisis.

He also called for the prosecution of officials accused of being corrupt, after which the wave of arrests started.