Minister Anibal Cavaco Silva, of the SocialDemocratic Party, took 50.54 % of the popularvote, narrowly securing the majority needed towin. His two main opponents were ManuelAlegre Duarte and Mario Alberto Soares. Bothcandidates are members of theSocialist Party, which won theParliamentary elections lastF e b r u a r y, but only Soares was off i-cially endorsed by the party. T h eo ffice of President is largely ceremo-nial, but this result is still seen as abad sign for the ruling Socialist gov-e r n m e n t .Another Presidential election took place in Chile, resulting in then a t i o n ’s first female President.Michelle Bachelet, the moderate lib-eral candidate of the Coalition of Parties for Democracy, defeated hermore conservative opponentSebastian Pinera in a runoff election,garnering 53.5 % of the votes cast.B a c h e l e t ’s party has been in controlin Chile since the end of militaryrule in 1990. Her election continuesthe trend of victories for left-leaningcandidates in South America, follow-ing the election of Evo Morales inBolivia and the overwhelming victo-ry of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’sparty in parliamentary elections.Ruling governments were also upheld inJanuary elections in Finland and Cape Ve r d e .The Caribbean nation of Haiti was supposedto hold elections this month, but a fourth delaypushed the poll back to February 7. Explainingthe delay, government representatives claimedmany voters had not yet received electoralidentification cards. Haiti, one of thepoorest countries in the world, hasbeen administered by an interim gov-ernment since an armed uprisingforced former President Jean-BaptisteAristide into exile in 2004. AU N -sponsored force from Brazil wasdeployed in the country to restoreorder following A r i s t i d e ’s departure.Still, more than 800 Haitians havedied since September 2004, and thedissolution of Parliament means thePresident has been ruling by decreesince January. The poor security situa-tion in the country – it is estimatedthat 10 people are kidnapped daily –and shortage of election workers haveraised concerns over thefeasibility of conducting a poll in Haiti, but there isstill hope that it will spark a democrat-ic reconstruction. The current favoriteto win the Presidency is Rene Preval,whose Hope Platform has strong back-ing from former Aristide supporters.Elections kick ass.Ford, "America's Car," founded in 1903by Henry Ford, is now in trouble. It plans tocut 30,000 jobs and close 14 manufacturingplants over the next 6 years.Ford Chairman and CEO, Bill Fordmade the announcement on Monday January23rd, after 10 years of losing market share andprevious cutbacks, such as the 2005 attempt toincrease profit by running the North A m e r i c a nplants at 75% capacity.Over these next six years, Ford will cutup to 30,000 jobs in North America. Half of them will be through "regular retirement andattrition." Some laid-off workers that have acontract through the United Auto Wo r k e r sunion will continue at nearly full pay throughSeptember 2007 when their contract expires. Itwill try to provide incentive packages to someof these and to others, to rid of them sooner.By the end of this first quarter it will reduceo fficer ranks 12% and cut 4,000 salaried jobs.All of these announcements have comeafter Ford made a deal with the UAWto lowerhealth care costs, which meant to reduce its$3.1 billion health care bill by $850 million.Ford cited health care costs as one of itsbiggest challenges.Within the next three years, manufac-turing plants in St. Louis (Missouri), Wi x o m(Michigan), Atlanta (Georgia), and Batavia(Ohio) will close. This year it will decide ontwo additional plants to close in the UnitedStates for the following year and it will reduceshifts of production in other plants. Ford's cut-back represents 20-25% of its 122,000 workersin the United States, reducing worldwide man-ufacturing capacity by 26%.Besides the closings, Fordannounced new changes and plansfor the future. For example, it willtry to make more hybrid vehicles,will design more smaller-sized cars,and try to reduce the price tag on allvehicles without the messy incen-tives and rebates that are nowo ff e r e d .Ok, so Ford has a plan. Butwhat are the people who have beenlaid off to do? I will admit that someof Ford's cars, Aston Martin, Jaguar,D a i m l e r, Land Rover, Lincoln,Mazda, Mercury and, Volvo, arequite attractive and a pleasure todrive. Some, like the Expedition andExplorer and quite large, evenunnecessarily so. If one wanted tobuy a family vehicle, minivans areactually safer, more fuel eff i c i e n t ,and better designed then large-sized SUV's,trucks, and the like. Still others are racy andhave fun looks.H o w e v e r, the way Ford decided to cutfunding is by first cutting health care pay andthen dropping people's jobs. Now, the unem-ployed individual has to pay more out of pock-et for medical costs in addition to findinganother source of living. The only advantage isthat workers in the union are covered until2007, but with the high trend of moving manu-facturing plants overseas and reducing the onesin the United States (with all industries in gen-eral), workers have little time to acquire a newskill to give them a more stable job.F i n a l l y, health care costs are going up,so the fact that Ford is paying less means dras-tic changes to retired workers and their fami-l i e s .Life isn't easy and it is not getting eas-ier any time soon. Perhaps with more standard-ized equipment in manufacturing plants, whichreduce costs, and a greater variety of smallervehicles, Ford will be able to increase profitand rehire some of its unemployed masses. Justdon't put your hopes on it.
Fo rd Will Cut 30,000 Jo b s,Close 14 PlantsElection Roundup Continu e d . . .
Continued from previous page
!Courtesy of workers who are now jobless
The Real Winners of January
Courtesy of Alex Walsh