BRIAN WILLSON, VIETNAM VETERAN AND A participant in last year's Veterans Fast for Life lost both legs during a September 1 demonstration against U.S. arms shipments to the Contras. Willson was one of about 40 demonstrators who had gathered outside the Concord Naval Weapons Station, 45 miles east of San Francisco, to protest a munitions shipment destined for Acajutla, El Salvador. Willson was kneeling on the track as the train approached. Some observers say the train sped up as it approached the protesters; Willson lost one leg and suffered a fractured skull when he was hit. The other leg was amputated at the John Muir Memorial Hospital in Walnut Creek, California, where he is still a patient.
The Berkeley Pledge of Resistance discovered that the munitions, which included white phosphorus bombs and fuses, were being sent to El Salvador, where it is believed they will be distributed to the Contras. Nonviolent protests against the shipments and U.S. intervention in Central America had taken place before at the weapons station. Demonstrators said that the Naval authorities had been informed of the demonstration where Willson was hurt. Several U.S. peace groups are calling for a Congressional investigation, a call which is supported by Reps. Ron Dellums and Barbara Boxer of California.
Nicaraguan official Rosario Murillo visited Willson in the hospital, as has Jesse Jackson. Willson had met Murillo last year in Nicaragua, where he also witnessed a bomb attack which killed 13 civilians.
Demonstrations have been held regularly by the tracks since Willson was struck. At a demonstration on September 5, fifty yards of track were torn up with crowbars. At another protest six people were arrested for blocking a truck carrying munitions. Over $10,000 has been donated by well-wishers for Willson's medical expenses, as he has no health insurance. Letters of support and donations can be sent to Willson's wife: Holly Rauen, 249 Bahia Place, San Rafael, CA 94901.
JEAN DE WANDELAER, 28, WAS WORKING WITH Peace Brigades International's (PBI) new programme in El Salvador when he was picked up by San Salvadoran police the afternoon of August 25. Police originally denied that De Wandelaer was in jail, but later confirmed that the Belgian citizen had been jailed and was accused of having contact with the guerrillas.
De Wandelaer, a conscientious objector who has worked with the Belgian section of War Resisters' International, had worked with PBI in Guatemala from June 1986 to February of this year, providing nonviolent escort service for members of the human rights organization Grupo Apoyo Mutuo. PBI has established a similar project in El Salvador to protect human rights activists from violence. The PBI team also plans to begin work on peace education in the fall.
The PBI and other networks were activated and cables expressing concern began to come in. One example of international support included a meeting on 27 August between members of the Disarmament Campaigns staff and the general secretary of the International Fellowship of Reconciliation with Ambassador Rafael Zaldivar and Consul Jaime Malandez at the Salvadoran Embassy in the Hague. The Ambassador agreed to send a telex outlining De Wandelaer's commitment to nonviolence and his work for peace. That day in San Salvador legal officials reviewed De Wandelaer's case.
De Wandelaer was released shortly afterward by officials and given 24 hours to leave the country. How will his expulsion affect PBI's activities in El Salvador? "All the difficulties in Guatemala have never affected the team in Guatemala," said Piet Dijkstra, PBI coordinator in the Netherlands. "Some members of the team were expelled in 1985 but were back within 10 days....but this may be different in El Salvador. The whole attitude of the police and government is different in El Salvador. The two other members of the team were not expelled, so perhaps this is just an individual case and not against the PBI team itself:'
Contact: Piet Dijkstra, Weserweg 2,1862 CE Bergen. the NETHERLANDS. Tel. 0220813277.
THE CREATlON OF A NUCLEAR-FREE CORRIDOR along the borders between the two military blocs, proposed by the Palme Commission, is an important first step in setting Europe free of the nuclear threat.
Seventeen experts from both East and West are working together on the Palme Commission, whose chairman was the former Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme until his murder in February 1986. The members include Georgi Arbatov (USSR), Egon Bahr of the FRG's Social Democratic Party, Josaf Cyrankiewicz (Poland) and former UK Social Democratic Party leader David Owen.
The Commission believes its proposal would be an ideal and verifiable move towards nuclear disarmament in West Europe. AU nuclear warheads, including all short-range nuclear rockets, mines, and artillery, would be removed between the military blocs within a 150km radius. All launch systems, for both nuclear and conventional weapons, would also be removed. This amounts to 6,000 nuclear warheads, and the same number of launch systems, to be removed, most of them from the GDR and Czechoslovakia.
From September l to l9 a mass common action in West Germany, East Germany (GDR), Austria, and Czechoslovakia was held to promote this nuclear-free zone. The peace march, named after Palme, was actively supported by the German Peace Society/United War Resisters (DFG-VK), the GDR Peace Council, the Austrian peace movement and the Czechoslovakian Peace Committee. The Union of the GDR Protestant Churches has also agreed to take part.
The peace march made it possible, for the first time, for East and West Germans to coordinate and take part in a common action. Delegations from the other countries also took part in every action. Their participation will guarantee controversial discussions about government policies, conscientious objection and peace work in all four countries.
In West Germany on August 31, a panel discussion on "Nuclear Free Corridor; Sense and Sensibility" with speakers from the FRG and the GDR was held. A bicycle tour from 1 to 5 September also took place in Schleswig-Holstein, in north Germany. The peace march ended September 19 with a blockade of the Pershing missile base at Waldheide, near Heilbronn.
The GDR peace march began in the northern part of the country with political meetings and marches and ended with a demonstration in Dresden. The Czechoslovakian march began with a demonstration in Freistatt and ended in the town of Declin. There were sirnilar activities for the march in Austria.
Contact: Aktionsbaro Palme Friedensmarch, DFG~VK, Kurfürstenstrasse 21, 8500 Nürnberg, FRG. TeL 0911 42 54 75.
ON AUGUST 25 THE CHIEF JUSTICE OF THE BELAU Supreme Court excused himself from judging the legal challenge to the Constitutional amendment process. He cited threats on his life and to his family. Four days later High Chief Ibedul Gibbons said he was also dropping his law suit in defense of Belau's nuclear-free Constitution. Fifty women elders proceeded to file suit against the amendment process, which they dropped on September 8, citing threats against their lives. The night before gunmen killed the father of activist Bernie Keldermans and lawyer Roman Bedor, leaders in the fight to retain the Constitution.
Judge Robert Hefrer, noting the dropped legal actions against the process which changed the percentage of votes needed to change Belau's nuclear-free clause, said that the case could be taken up again due to the atmosphere of violence and fear.
The referendum for the Compact of Free Association, which will allow U.S. warships the use of the Belauan harbour; was passed on August 21. Voter turnout was low, but 73 percent of those who did vote approved The referendum may not end the strong resistance to U.S. militarisation which has been waged since 1979. Belau (Palau), a small island of 487 square-kilometres and 17,000 people, is part of the U.S. Pacific Trust Territory. Belau's independence is limited but it has its own government as well as a constitution. Belau is an important harbour for the U.S. Navy.
On September 7,1979 the Belauans approved by 92 percent a nuclear-free Constitution which would prohibit U.S. Navy nuclear-capable warships from entering the Belauan harbours. Three days later, on September 10, 1979, the Belauan people were presented with a second draft for a Constitution more acceptable to the US., with the non-nuclear clause deleted.
This draft was thrown out by a 70 percent "no" vote. In July 1980, the first draft was reaffirmed.
The pro-U.S. Belauan government then created an amendment to the Constitution, called the "Compact of Free Association," which would allow U.S. warships to use Belauan harbours. Since then the Belauans have voted five times (the last time on June 30 of this year, the last date possible under the constitution) about the Compact. In no case did it get the necessary 75 percent to pass.
Since its beginning the struggle about the nuclear-free constitution was accompanied by rising violence and government-made scandals. Belauan President Haruo Remeliik was assassinated on June 30,1985 just before he was to publicly state his support for the nuclear-free constitution. This year there was one fire-bombing and the house of a pro-constitution activist was burned. Three days after the last rejection of the Compact, on July 3, 1987, President Lazarus Salli announced a financial crisis, stating that Belau would now lose much of its U.S. funding, and dismissed 900 of the government's 1300 workers (about 25 percent of all paid workers in Belau). This brought the already devastated Belauan economy to a stand-still. The sacked workers protested daily in front of the Belauan Congress (OEK), and threatened "direct actions" if the situation wasn't resolved.
The Salli Administration took another move: the OEK decided to set up a referendum on a constitutional amendment on August 4. According to this amendment the Compact of Free Association would only need 50 percent approval, which it would likely receive. This step is unconstitutional, as referenda on constitutional amendments can only be held during presidential elections. These won't be held before the end of 1988. The process also requires at least 75 percent of the delegates' votes in the OEK, but it received only 11 out of 16 votes (about 68 percent).
On July 23 there was a hearing in the U.S. Congress which President Salli and an OEK speaker attended. While Salli explained the reasons for the layoffs, the OEK speaker said he only voted in favour of the referendum for the constitutional amendment because he feared for his life. A report by U.S. Congress researchers set up right afterwards also concluded that the whole process was unconstitutional.
The referendum was brought to the Belauan Supreme Court. The Court said it would rule on the case later, but refused to delay the referendum. Despite the approval of voters, many believe the struggle to keep Belau nuclear-free will go on.
Contact: Charles Scheiner of Mobilization for Survival, PO 1182, White Plains, New York 10602. Tel. 914428-7299.
AN INTERNATIONAL investigative team which visited the Philippines 20-30 May at the invitation of the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates has accused the CIA of supporting right-wing violence against Filipino activists. According to the Philippine Presidential Human Rights Commission, there have been hundreds of political killings of peasants and peace and justice activists since Cory Aquino came to power. The former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, the team leader, said the U.S. is involved in an effort to "whip up anti-communist hysteria" which in other countries has led to the formation of right-wing death squads. The report accuses the CIA of "advising, organizing, arming, financing and otherwise supporting vigilante violence in the Philippines." The report said that Cansa International, a political wing of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church which also supports the Contras in Nicaragua, is also involved in the campaign through its links with the U.S. Information Agency.
Source: Sojourners (August/September 1987 issue), Box 28272, Washington, DC 20077. Tel 202 636-3637.
IN A RECENT INTERVlEW JAN STERN, MEMBER OF the Czech dissident group Charta '77, said that "at least some few changes can be observed" in Czechoslovakia of glasnost. The youth press and cultural magazines are printing more criticism, sometimes even addressing government officials directly, and Czech theatre also seems more open.
In economics, the Czech government recently approved a new business law which Stern describes as a "conservative" copy of Soviet reform -- "conservative" in the sense that the increased independence for factories and workers' collectives followed in the Soviet model is, in the Czech version, limited by a new government ministry. The ministry must approve the workers' collective's elected director, and has other powers that can change workers' decisions.
A major obstacle to progressive economic reform, which is inseparably connected to social reform, is the need to close unprofitable factories in order to increase industrial efficiency. Stern added that restructuring is necessary in certain fields, but that many leaders personally profited from the status quo and remain eager to keep it:
Another sign of change has been the decrease in police harassment Charta '77 activists have seen. Open police surveillance of spokespersons' homes has stopped and intimidating police questionings have been reduced to once or twice a year for each activist: The improvements are welcomed, but activists feel they are viewed as concessions and not as the basic civil rights Charta '77 is fighting for.
There are still many restrictions. Charta '77 has issued a report, on its tenth anniversary, on the status of the 45,000 prisoners in Czechoslovakia. Of these, 5,000 are political prisoners. According to the report, most prisons are over-crowded, with up to thirty prisoners sharing a 20 by 50-metre cell. Many suffer from tuberculosis, are mistreated by prison officials and face physical abuse from other prisoners. There is drug use and many attempted suicides.
Recent sentences for Czech political activists include three years in jail for journalist and Charta member Mr. Motl, for distributing foreign political news. The sentence has higher court approval. Pavel Wonka received a total of five years for two charges around his work to become an independent candidate for Parliament: His brother Jiri Wonka, who was also involved in the campaign, received a one-year sentence.
The sentences of two Jazz Section members have been proved by an appeal court: They were accused of "illicit trading" and "damaging property in socialist ownership." Karel Srp received 16 months and Vladimir Kouril, chairman and treasurer for the Prague Jazz Section, received 10 months.
Activists have been able to coordinate more actions across borders. On 20 August there was a meeting on the Polish-Czech border between Solidarnosc activists Zbigniev Bujak, Jacek Kuron and Adam Michnik, and Charta '77 members Vaclav Havel, Jiri Dienstbier and Jaroslav Sabata. Their resolution demanded shorter military service, abolition of hate propaganda against other countries, and freedom of travel. They suggested an independent movement organise holiday study camps for young people from both East and West: The "Circle of Friends of Solidarnosc" founded in July will try to continue the dialogue.
Stern said Charta '77's position in society differs from that of Solidarnosc. Charta '77 is a group of intellectuals many Czechs cannot identify with, even if they respect their stand. Milos Kopecky, a popular Czech actor, is one Czech the average person can identify with. His speech on conforming to authorities' wishes has been circulated and passed from person to person. It is not publicly available. In it he urged the "old ones" (he is in his 70s, as are many government leaders ) to turn over power to younger people. His criticisms have more credibility than Charta '77's among Czechoslovakians.
By Tobias Gram, a West Germun peace activist who recently visited Czechoslovakia.