Multinational Monitor

NOV 2004
VOL 25 No. 11


The Political Economy of Immigration Reform: The Corporate Campaign for a U.S. Guest Worker Program
by David Bacon

Freeloaders: Declining Corporate Tax Payments in the Bush Years
by Robert McIntyre and T.D. Coo Nguyen

Advice and No Dissent: Public Health and the Rigged U.S. Trade Advisory System
by Joseph Brenner and Ellen Schaffer

The Ultimate Dumping Ground: Big Utilities Look to Native Lands to House Nuclear Waste
by Winona LaDuke


Chemical Trespass: The Verdict on Dow
an interview with Jack Doyle


Behind the Lines

Bracing for Four More Years

The Front
Ballot Box Victories - The Development Agenda

The Lawrence Summers Memorial Award

Names In the News


Behind the Lines

Uruguay Goes Left

Not all progressives were unhappy with the fall election results.

In Uruguay in October, leftist Tabare Vazquez won more than 50 percent of the presidential vote to avoid a run-off and win election.

Vasquez’s victory ends a 180-year reign, dating back to Uruguay’s independence from Spain, during which the Colorado and National parties have traded control of the country’s presidency.

Vasquez’s win comes as Uruguay, which has traditionally maintained a relatively strong economy, has suffered through a major economic crisis. The economy contracted 11 percent in 2002, official unemployment is over 20 percent, and as much as two-thirds of the nation’s population is now living in poverty.

Vasquez joins other left-of-center elected leaders in South America, including Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador and Venezuela.

Uruguayan voters also approved a national referendum, supported by Vasquez, on a constitutional amendment giving the government exclusive control over water and sanitation, and making access to drinking water and sanitation a human right. The thrust of the referendum was to stop privatization, including to block demands for privatized ownership by the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, or made in connection with a possible Free Trade Area of the Americas agreement.

Promoted by the water workers union and civil society organizations, the referendum won more than 60 percent of the vote.

There is uncertainty about whether the referendum will force the cancellation of contracts with Spanish firms that already operate several municipal water systems in Uruguay. In at least one case, reports Inter Press Service, the privatized firms’ water rates are seven times higher than the charge for public water.

NASCAR: Liquored Up

Defying outrage over the mixing of drinking and driving, and the advertising of hard liquor to youths, the NASCAR auto racing organization announced in November that it would permit sponsorships from liquor companies starting in 2005.

“We felt the time was right to allow distilled spirits companies into NASCAR,” said NASCAR president Mike Helton. “Attitudes have changed, and spirits companies have a long record of responsible advertising.”

Helton gave assurances that all advertising and promotional campaigns from the companies will be responsible. “Spirits companies are recognized as leaders in responsibility and are encouraging adults who choose to drink, to do so responsibly,” he said, adding that liquor companies will have to follow “advertising and marketing guidelines set by NASCAR that are consistent with the Distilled Spirits Council’s advertising code.”

Public health advocates were having none of it.

“NASCAR’s decision to abandon 30 years of limiting the promotion of alcoholic beverages at its racing events spells trouble for young race fans and for national efforts to reduce the association of drinking and driving,” .

“The point of this deal is to sneak rolling liquor ads onto network television, where millions of NASCAR’s underage and impressionable fans will see them,” says the Center for Science in the Public Interest’s Alcohol Policies Project Director George Hacker. “The networks’ longstanding refusal to run liquor ads is seriously under siege.”

“NASCAR’s assurances that the sponsorships will be responsible and meet current liquor-industry advertising standards is faint comfort,” Hacker adds. “Those standards are vague, industry-friendly and unenforceable. Likewise, the new sponsors’ commitments to ‘responsibility’ advertising are laughable. Having the liquor industry promote responsible drinking is like having Ronald McDonald promote healthy eating or Joe Camel promote smoking cessation.”

Striking Berlusconi

Millions of Italians walked off the job for a day in November, as part of a massive general strike.

The strike closed schools, universities, offices, banks and factories. Union officials said 80 percent of public sector workers participated in the strikes, and claimed 70 percent of workers at Fiat, the country’s largest private sector conglomerate, joined the strike.

The general strike — the fifth since Premier Silvio Berlusconi came to power in May 2001 — was in protest of $8 billion in proposed budget cuts.

The unions that called the strike say the budget cuts will undermine the nation’s welfare system and threaten thousands of public sector jobs.

Italy is under pressure from the European Union to cut its budget deficit, but the proposed budget cuts are to be coupled with tax cuts.

Guglielmo Epifani, whose union is Italy’s largest and most militant, said “the government is totally isolated on the budget,” ANSA reported.

Epifani said the budget had generated widespread opposition, from the powerful employers’ federation Confindustria and local governments to right-wing unions, according to ANSA.

“At the moment, the unions and Confindustria share the same interests — sustaining businesses, industry and development,” he said.

He said the main beneficiaries of the tax cuts would be rich people.

Innovation and Technology Minister Lucio Stanca retorted that “the unions are evidently in favor of taxes,” according to ANSA.



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