SPAIN: US troops did not march in Spain's National Day Parade on October 12. Instead, a French contingent participated. Former right-wing Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar had invited the US contingent as a solidarity gesture after the September 11, 2001, attacks, and a small group participated in 2002 and 2003. But, responding to overwhelming popular demand, the newly installed centre-left government immediately announced withdrawal of Spanish forces from Iraq. The US contingent was not invited this year because "it is a national holiday, not a US holiday", said a Government statement. "The alliance with the United States continues. What does not continue is the subordination and the kneeling" [before Washington]. The French presence is seen as an anti-war statement because of France's opposition to the US invasion of Iraq.
* * *NIGERIA: The Labour Civil Society Coalition started a nation-wide four-day general strike on October 11 to protest against petrol price hikes following the government's deregulation of the domestic fuel market. The International Monetary Fund is pushing deregulation as a key aspect of economic changes. The Coalition said the strike involves workers and working families, students, artisans, professionals, market men and women, and all segments of society. The Nigerian Labour Congress President Adams Oshiomhole said that the federal government has not participated in talks. "The government is [instead] busy arming the military and the police to suppress protesters", he said. * * *CHILE: Chile's national legislature is poised to remove some undemocratic provisions introduced into the constitution by former military dictator Augusto Pinochet. According to measures the legislature is expected to pass, the president will no longer have the right to remove the head of the armed forces, and past presidents will no longer automatically be made senators for life, making the senate fully electable. But there is no agreement on reforming an electoral system that observers say over-represents right-wing forces. In August the country's highest court ruled that Pinochet should be stripped of his immunity from prosecution, opening the way for a possible trial for his fascist campaign of repression in the 1970s and 1980s. * * *JAPAN: A new accord for Japan to resume importing US beef has been held up by Japanese consumers who are demanding that all imported beef be tested for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). In Japanese slaughterhouses, parts at high risk for collecting the abnormal prion causing BSE are removed from all beef cattle and tested, while in the US such parts are only removed from cattle 30 months and older. "Food safety for the Japanese people will be seriously undermined if Japan yields to the pressure from President Bush, who is keen on gaining the support of US cattle growers" said a report in the Japan Press Weekly. "Before pressing Japan to resume beef imports, the United States should conduct BSE tests on all beef cattle and remove all high-risk parts. It should never distort issues concerning food safety with crass political priorities."