The Multinational Monitor


B E H I N D    T H E    L I N E S

Amazon Solidarity

JOINING TOGETHER TO ADDRESS REGIONAL THREATS to their lives and livelihoods, indigenous leaders from Brazil, Guyana and Venezuela called in August for a rethinking of government plans for regional integration. In a joint declaration issued at the end of a meeting held in the northern Brazilian Amazon, the indigenous leaders demanded legal protections for their lands, removal of invaders and the commissioning of detailed environmental impact assessments before plans proceed on a series of already announced or underway major infrastructure projects.

"Together, our peoples are seeking a new development model for the region," said José Adalberto Macuxi, vice-coordinator of the Indigenous Council of Roraima, in Northern Brazil.

Among the regional infrastructure projects on the table are: a 685-kilometer power line from Venezuela to provide electricity to Roraima state; a Manaus, Brazil to Caracas, Venezuela 1,600-kilometer highway (200 kilometers of which remains to be paved in Roraima); and highway improvements on roads from Guyana to northern Brazil.

The indigenous fear the projects themselves would endanger their communities. Construction of segments of the Manaus-Caracas highway led to the deaths of about half of the Waimiri-Atroari people due to the introduction of disease.

The Venezuela-Brazil power line would cut through three indigenous lands in Brazil, and most of the Venezuelan portion of the line would run through indigenous lands or protected parks. "The Venezuelan government needs to recognize the existence of the indigenous peoples before making development plans for our lands," said Jose Poyo, president of the Venezuelan Indigenous Confederation.

In addition to the direct threat posed by the infrastructure projects, the mines and timber projects they facilitate -- as well as the immigrants they bring -- constitute dangers of perhaps an even greater order of magnitude.

"To allow uncontrolled mining and logging in our lands will ultimately benefit neither Guyana, nor the world," said David James, president of the Amerindian Peoples Association of Guyana. "Worst of all, it threatens the survival of the Amerindian people and the environment."

Nuclear Shutdown

"THIS IS THE LARGEST SINGLE NUCLEAR SHUTDOWN anywhere in the world," says Dave Martin, research director of the Nuclear Awareness Project in Toronto, in response to the August announcement by Ontario Hydro that it will close its oldest seven nuclear reactors. "It's the beginning of the end for nuclear power in Canada." The Ontario Hydro announcement followed an intensive company study of its nuclear operations' chronic underperformance.

"The assessment found that the performance of Ontario Hydro Nuclear is well below the performance typically achieved by the world's best nuclear facilities," says company chair and interim CEO William Farlinger. Allan Kupcis resigned as company CEO the day before the utility made the shutdown announcement.

Ontario Hydro emphasized that the report found the nuclear plants were operating safely.

The utility says it will increase its use of coal and oil to offset the nuclear loss. Environmentalists are demanding it promote conservation and renewable energy sources.

The Ontario Hydro shutdown may have significant effects overseas. Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) aggressively peddles abroad the same CANDU reactors that Ontario Hydro is closing down.

"The message is clear: do not buy CANDU reactors," says Martin.

Making Levi's Pay

A TEXAS JURY SLAPPED LEVI STRAUSS in September with a $10 million punitive damages verdict for discriminating against workers who filed workers' compensation claims against the company. Five plaintiffs -- three current and two former workers -- alleged that the pants maker forced them into return-to-work programs that were inhumane, premature and a pretext to get the employees to quit so the company could save on workers' compensation costs. More than 100 other Levi Strauss workers have filed similar suits which remain to be heard.

The jury awarded the plaintiffs $600,000 in compensatory damages for lost wages, lost fringe benefits and mental anguish.

Levi Strauss continues to vociferously deny the plaintiffs' allegations and says it will appeal the verdict.

"There is no basis for the findings of discrimination and malice in the case," says Albert Moreno, senior vice president and general counsel for Levi Strauss.

"Moreover, the punitive damages awarded in the case are outrageous, unwarranted and egregious. The company firmly believes there are solid grounds for a reversal of the jury's verdict and their subsequent decisions on damages."

Corporate Tax Reduction

CORPORATE TAXES accounted for only 13 percent of the U.S. Internal Revenue Services tax take in 1996, the Wall Street Journal reported. Corporate taxes made up 24 percent of IRS collections in 1960.

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