Dockworkers at the Port of Portland in Oregon walked off their jobs at the container yard on March 4 to honor a picket line set up by a small group of Honduran dockworkers protesting what they said were labor abuses at the Puerto Cortés port in northern Honduras. The picketers were members of the Dockworkers Labor Union (SGTM), which has been in a dispute since last year with Operadora Portuaria Centroamericana (OPC), the Honduran subsidiary of the Philippines-based International Container Terminal Services, Inc. (ICTSI). A US subsidiary of ICTSI operates Terminal 6 in the Oregon port, and the dockworkers there, who are represented by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), have had their own disputes with the company.
Some 1,200 employees of the Mexican oil company Oceanografía SA de CV began blocking the four entrances to the Laguna Azul industrial dock in Ciudad del Carmen in the eastern state of Campeche early on the morning of March 7, disrupting the operations of at least 40 companies that provide services to Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex), the government's giant oil monopoly. The workers were demanding payment of wages that have been held up since the government's Finance Secretariat took over the bankrupt company at the end of February after it became mired in allegations of fraud.
Greenpeace Chile announced on March 5 that it had established a new country in the glacial regions of southern Chile, the "Glacier Republic." The group said the country will remain independent until the Chilean government passes laws to protect Chile's glaciers. Greenpeace based its claim to the territory on a loophole in Chile's laws, which include no claim to sovereignty over the glaciers. In the past the loophole has made the glacial regions vulnerable to environmental damage by mining companies, but Greenpeace now hopes to use it as a way of bringing attention to projects such as the mammoth Pascua Lama mine that the Toronto-based Barrick Gold Corporation has been building high the mountains on both sides of the border with Argentina. Greenpeace is also targeting what it calls "an even greater danger"—the Andina 244 project of the state-owned copper company Corporación Nacional del Cobre de Chile (Codelco), which Greenpeace says "provides for the destruction of 5,000 hectares of glaciers, directly affecting water reserves for Chile's entire central zone."
Some 100,000 people from eight cities across Taiwan marked the approaching three-year anniversary of the Fukushima disaster by taking to the streets to demand an end to nuclear power in the island nation. Protesters called for a halt to construction on the island's fourth nuclear power plant, now underway at Lungmen, as well as closure of the existing three installations. They also demanded the removal of nuclear waste from Orchid Island, and that the government review its policy on the long-term management of radioactive waste. (Taiwan Today, March 10; China Post, March 9)
Amnesty International (AI) on March 10 accused Syrian president Bashar al-Assad's forces of committing war crimes (PDF) and crimes against humanity on Palestinian and Syrian civilians in Yarmouk, on the outskirts of Damascus. The report, entitled "Squeezing the Life Out of Yarmouk: War Crimes Against Besieged Civilians," discusses the deaths of nearly 200 people since the tightening of the siege and cutting off of access to food and medical supplies in July, with 128 of those deaths caused by starvation. The report also states that government forces and government allies have repeatedly attacked civilian buildings, such as schools, hospitals and mosques in Yarmouk. AI's regional director, Philip Luther, stated that the siege of Yarmouk amounted to "collective punishment of the civilian population," going on to say that the Syrian government must end the siege immediately and allow humanitarian efforts access to assist the citizens. Despite efforts by the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) to provide aid during January and February, attempts to reach a truce in Yarkmouk to allow for food deliveries to the starving people have repeatedly collapsed.
A judge for the US District Court for the Southern District of New York on March 4 ruled (PDF) that US courts may not be used to collect $9.51 billion in fines and legal fees from an Ecuadoran court's judgment against Chevron. Judge Lewis Kaplan wrote in his near 500-page ruling that the punishment inflicted against Chevron was not justified, and that the Ecuadoran court's judgement "was obtained by corrupt means." Kaplan asserted that fraudulent evidence had been introduced in the case, and that lawyers arranged to write the opinion against Chevron themselves by coercing a judge. Hewitt Pate, Chevron vice president, stated regarding the judgment, "We are confident that any court that respects the rule of law will likewise find the Ecuadorian judgment to be illegitimate and unenforceable." Lawyers for Ecuadoreans reported that they will be filing an appeal, saying the decision "constitutes a mockery of the rule of law and will not serve to reduce the risk the oil company faces in the imminent collection of the sentence dictated against it by the Ecuadorean justice system."
This is pretty funny. Israel's progressive +972 mag reports March 7 that a delegation from the group Breaking the Silence, an anti-occupation organization made up of Israeli army veterans, recently arrived in Hebron to be greeted with two prominently placed banners raised by local settlers, reading: "Palestine never existed! (And never will)". Both the banners, which were very professionally produced (no hand-painted job), were hung on sections of Shuada Street that Palestinians are barred from entering under restrictions imposed in the wake of Baruch Goldstein's 1994 massacre at Hebron's al-Ibrahimi Mosque.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) on March 7 found (PDF) Congolese militia leader Germain Katanga guilty of four counts of war crimes and one count of crime against humanity. The crimes were committed during an attack on a village in a diamond-rich region of Congo in 2003, in which approximately 200 civilians were killed and some sexually assaulted. During a public hearing Friday, presiding judge Bruno Cotte delivered a summary of the judgment. He explained that based on the evidence presented and witness testimony, it had been established beyond a reasonable doubt that Katanga made a "significant contribution to the commission of crimes by the Ngiti militia." The court acquitted Katanga of the other charges, including sexual slavery, using child soldiers and rape. Katanga is only the second person to be convicted since the court's inception in 2002.