The Week Ahead: Unions plan wave of protest strikes

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The Independent Online
TRADE UNIONS in Belgium plan a week of protests against government austerity plans, culminating in a general strike on Friday - dubbed 'red Friday' by the Socialist union leader, Francois Janssens. The provinces of Limburg, Liege and Antwerp are to down tools today and the other six on Wednesday.

Spain's worsening economic crisis will be pointed up on Thursday by a strike called by the two big trade-union confederations against what they regard as the government's feeble response to industrial decline and massive unemployment. Students are expected to join in to protest at possible infringements of their right to study at university.

This will be an uncomfortable curtain-raiser for the Prime Minister, Felipe Gonzalez, who welcomes Chancellor Helmut Kohl in Granada on Friday for the annual Spanish-German summit.

In Cuba, tumbling into even direr chaos, the leader of a Miami-based exile paramilitary group, Alpha 66, plans to strike at one of the country's few hopes for economic salvation, the tourist industry. Humberto Perez launches a campaign of violence against tourists in Cuba on Saturday.

Opec oil ministers meet tomorrow in Vienna to elect a new president and set next year's budget. It will be the last one attended by Ecuador, which has decided to withdraw from the organisation to leave itself free to increase oil production unfettered by Opec quotas.

Some 1,800 Guatemalan refugees return home today after spending 11 years in Mexico. Their return follows protracted negotiations between refugee organisations and the Guatemalan government designed to protect the refugees, many of them indigenous people, from persecution at home.

The remains of 20,000 Korean noses cut off as war booty by Japanese Samurai invaders nearly 400 years ago are to be buried near Puan on the south-west coast of Korea today. The noses were found in 1983 in the 36ft by 13ft 'One Thousand Nose Tomb' in Okayama, Japan, and brought back last year to rest in a temporary tomb in Korea. Some 100,000 Koreans died during the 1597 invasion, and Japanese soldiers received rewards for cutting off their noses or ears.