Unfinished business of liberation fuels renewed civil war
With civil war once again rending the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire), the United Nations Security Council voted at the end of February to increase the U.N. presence there to 5,500 “peacekeepers,” ostensibly to help enforce a seven-month-old stillborn cease-fire agreement. Given the history of imperialist manipulation of Congo, including a UN role 40 years ago in the assassination of the country’s first and only elected leader, nationalist Patrice Lumumba, Congolese are justifiably wary.
The current government of Laurent Kabila came to power in May 1997 at the head of a rebellion that ousted 32-year dictator Mobutu Sese Seko. Initially greeted with hope by many, Kabila lost no time in signing lucrative contracts with foreign companies, outlawing political opposition, and repressing former allies among the Tutsis of western Congo. The corruption of his regime has left the economy in tatters and production has fallen below the levels of the 1980s.
The avowed aims of the rebellion, which began in the west only a year after Kabila took the reins, are democratic but not anti-capitalist. It is backed by Rwanda and Uganda, which are both bankrolled by the U.S. Intervening on Kabila’s side are Angola, Zimbabwe, and Namibia, and the war threatens to engulf all of central Africa.
The heart of the conflict is capitalist lust for Congo’s fabulous mineral wealth, including diamonds, gold, copper, and uranium. Only when revolt against corruption and dictatorship is linked to an anti-capitalist program will the people of Congo be free to enjoy the wealth that is theirs.
Student, strikers, arrested but not defeated, appeal for support
On February 6 in Mexico City, police stormed the grounds of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) and arrested 500 leaders of the General Strike Council. The country’s largest university had been held by students for nearly 10 months.
Students shut down the campus in April 1999 to protest a planned tuition hike which would have eroded Mexico’s tradition of essentially free public education. They condemned Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo and university administrators for colluding with the World Bank and International Monetary Fund to privatize education.
In maintaining the occupation, they withstood media hostility and fierce pressure from officials, while gaining support from trade unions and the Zapatistas. Anxious to avoid the political consequences of a bloody massacre like that of students in 1968, politicians such as liberal, Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) Mayor Rosario Robles nevertheless were compelled to break the strike or lose credibility.
The campaign to preserve democratic public education continues, and protests are now focusing on winning freedom for the arrested students. Letters demanding their release are critically needed and can be sent via fax to Sra. Rosario Robles Berlanga, Jefa de Gobierno del Distrito Federal, at 52-5-521-0722 and to Dr. Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de León, Presidente de México, Palacio Nacional, at 52-5-277-2376.
Step-up in deadly “war on drugs”
In January, U.S. President Clinton announced an aid package that will send $1.6 billion over two years to the Colombian military, supposedly to support its efforts against the illegal drug trade. Colombia is now the third-largest recipient of U.S. military aid.
The real targets of the war on drugs are anti-imperialist Colombian guerrillas fighting for land reform, an end to repression, and other democratic rights and social protections.
Blaming the guerrillas for Colombia’s huge cocaine industry provides the pretext for U.S. intervention, but most coca growing is under the control of billionaire businessmen. The government has begun figuring drug-earned income into the regular statistics on the economy.
The war of counter-insurgency in Colombia, which has uprooted 1.7 million peasants from their land and whose casualties are mostly civilian, is a war made in the USA. To end it means demanding that the U.S. government withdraw its troops and trainers and cut off the flow of bloody dollars.