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JFP 8/20: 6 in 10 oppose Afghanistan war; ground zero mosque needed for national security
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 20 August 2010 - 3:03pm
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August 20, 2010
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1) Nearly six in 10 Americans oppose the war in Afghanistan, AP reports.
2) There are many reasons for supporting the Muslim community's right to build a cultural center and mosque on private property, not least of all the First Amendment guaranteeing freedom of religion, argues former FBI anti-terrorist interrogator Ali Soufan in Forbes. But from a national security perspective, our leaders need to understand that no one is likely to be happier with the opposition to building a mosque than Osama Bin Laden. His next video script has just written itself.
3) Critics who say building an Islamic prayer space in Lower Manhattan is "insensitive" ignore the need for a convenient prayer space by Muslims who live and work in Lower Manhattan, writes Fareed Ahmed on his blog. There are more than 100,000 Muslims who currently live in the city (120,000 Muslim students in NYC public schools alone) and many more commute in every day. For the Muslims who spend their day in Lower Manhattan, the current facilities are not sufficient to meet their needs and they are forced to either forgo their religious obligations or take lengthy commutes to other parts of town.
4) Muslims pray 30 steps from the place where terrorists crashed the nose cone of American Airlines Flight 77 through the wall of the Pentagon, writes Petula Dvorak in the Washington Post. People at the Pentagon say they have heard no complaints and that the military is sworn to uphold the Constitution, which includes freedom of religion; and said they were surprised at the furor over plans to build a mosque near Ground Zero in New York.
5) The U.S. blocked a proposal to maintain the IMF's executive board in its current form as part of a push to give emerging economies more say, Bloomberg reports. The move will force negotiations on the composition of the board, where European countries are over-represented.
6) Organizers said a Lebanese ship carrying aid and women activists hoping to break Israel's Gaza blockade will set sail Sunday from Lebanon despite warnings that they will not be allowed to make it past Cyprus, AP reports. The Cypriot ambassador told AP the boat, the Mariam, will be turned back when it reaches Cyprus. But organizer Samar al-Hajj was undeterred. "We are not children who can be told to stay home," al-Hajj told AP.
7) Secretary of State Clinton announced that Israel and the Palestinians would resume direct negotiations in Washington on Sept. 2, the New York Times reports. Clinton said that she hoped an agreement could be reached within a year and that the negotiations would cover all the so-called "final status" issues: borders of a future Palestinian state, the political status of Jerusalem, security provisions for Israel, and the right of return for Palestinian refugees.
8) The Wikileaks documents have revealed the existence of a US "capture/kill" team in Afghanistan called Task Force 373, reports Pratap Chatterjee in TomDispatch. Leaving a trail of civilian deaths, these teams regularly make more enemies than friends and undermine any goodwill created by U.S. reconstruction projects.
9) US officials say they have persuaded Israel it would take roughly a year - and perhaps longer - for Iran to complete what one senior official called a "dash" for a nuclear weapon, the New York Times reports. US officials said they believe the assessment has dimmed the prospect that Israel would pre-emptively strike against the country's nuclear facilities within the next year. They said the US believed international inspectors would detect an Iranian move toward breakout towards production of a nuclear weapon within weeks, giving plenty of time to consider a military strike.
10) President Ahmadinejad said Iran is ready for nuclear talks with world powers over a nuclear fuel swap deal, AFP reports. "We promise to stop enriching uranium to 20 percent if fuel supply is ensured," he said.
11) The main effect of the Colombian court decision declaring the military base agreement with the U.S. unconstitutional is that it strengthens Colombia's relations with the rest of the region, reports Javier Darío Restrepo for Inter Press Service. The government may still submit the deal to Congress [but a report earlier this week suggested a strong deterrent to doing so: the possibility that the Obama Administration would then have to submit the deal to the U.S. Congress - JFP.]
12) Thousands of Honduran workers marched to demand an increase in the minimum wage, EFE reports. The minimum wage, currently $290 a month, was supposed to go up in April, but the hike was put off due to complaints from the business sector, the secretary of the CUTH labor federation said.
1) Poll: Nearly 6 in 10 oppose war in Afghanistan
Glen Johnson, AP, August 20, 2010
Lawrence, Mass - A majority of Americans see no end in sight in Afghanistan, and nearly six in 10 oppose the nine-year-old war as President Barack Obama sends tens of thousands more troops to the fight, according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll.
With just over 10 weeks before nationwide elections that could define the remainder of Obama's first term, only 38 percent say they support his expanded war effort in Afghanistan - a drop from 46 percent in March. Just 19 percent expect the situation to improve during the next year, while 29 percent think it will get worse. Some 49 percent think it will remain the same.
The numbers could be ominous for the president and his Democratic Party, already feeling the heat for high unemployment, a slow economic recovery and a $1.3 trillion federal deficit. Strong dissent - 58 percent oppose the war - could depress Democratic turnout when the party desperately needs to energize its supporters for midterm congressional elections.
A majority of Americans do welcome Obama's decision to end combat operations in Iraq. Some 68 percent approve, a number unchanged from earlier this year. The last American combat brigade began leaving Iraq on Thursday, ahead of Obama's Aug. 31 deadline for ending the U.S. combat role there.
Seven years after that conflict began, 65 percent oppose the war in Iraq and just 31 percent favor it.
U.S. troops have suffered more than 1,100 deaths in Afghanistan since fighting began in October 2001, including a monthly record of 66 in July. Last fall, Obama authorized an increase in the force in Afghanistan by 30,000 to 100,000 troops - triple the level from 2008.
2) The National Security Mosque
Ali Soufan, Forbes, 08.18.10
[Soufan was an F.B.I. supervisory special agent from 1997 to 2005.]
The furor over the proposed Islamic cultural center and mosque near Ground Zero makes me think back to one of the most important lessons I learned from al Qaeda terrorists I interrogated - that they have a warped view of America. To them - and this they get from Osama Bin Laden's rhetoric - the U.S. is a country at war with Islam and Muslims, and so they had a duty to fight us.
While I was serving on the frontlines I found that this distorted view of America was common among ordinary Muslims too, and it was only by correcting this image did we encourage locals to help our investigations and turn against al Qaeda. Our efforts were helped by public statements, like from President Bush in the days after 9/11, declaring that America was at war with al Qaeda and not with Islam. I was in Sana, Yemen, on that day, and I remember our military and law enforcement group feeling encouraged that our leadership understood how to frame our battle.
But while we started off on the right note in dealing with the Muslim world, our leadership soon demonstrated that they failed to understand that our war against al Qaeda was not just a military fight, but an asymmetrical battle for the proverbial hearts and minds of Muslims across the world too. We should have been highlighting that al Qaeda has killed thousands of Muslims and blown up dozens of mosques around the world. But instead we failed to appreciate the importance of rebutting al Qaeda's propaganda and of turning ordinary Muslims against the terror network.
When we eventually did this, we had great successes. As commander in Iraq Gen. Petraeus reached out to local Sunni groups and convinced them that al Qaeda was their enemy and America their friend. That led to a remarkable turnaround in our fortunes in Iraq. He is now trying to do the same in Afghanistan. Just this weekend Meet the Press reported that when Gen. Petraeus learned that the Taliban attacked a mosque near the border with Pakistan, he ordered it to be publicized among the local population.
There are many reasons for supporting the Muslim community's right to build a cultural center and mosque on private property, not least of all the First Amendment of the Constitution guaranteeing freedom of religion. But from a national security perspective, our leaders need to understand that no one is likely to be happier with the opposition to building a mosque than Osama Bin Laden. His next video script has just written itself.
To those politicians now saying a mosque can't be built near Ground Zero, I would like them to take a walk through Arlington Cemetery and learn the names and stories of American-Muslims who have died in service to our country. They should also learn a bit more about the victims of 9/11, such as Mohammad Salman Hamdani, a Muslim-American who was a New York City Police cadet and paramedic. When he saw smoke coming from the Twin Towers he ran to assist, where he died helping victims.
Another Muslim who died in the World Trade Center was Mohammad Chowdhury who was working at Windows on the World to support his pregnant wife and daughter. He never made it home that day, and his son born 48 hours later never knew his father. Al Qaeda didn't differentiate between Muslims and other Americans when it hit the Twin Towers - and neither should we.
3) Largely Forgotten Fact: Muslims in Lower Manhattan Need More Local Prayer Space
Fareed Ahmed, Let Fareedahm Ring, Monday, August 16, 2010
In recent weeks, many prominent individuals - Abraham Foxman, Senator Harry Reid, and President Barack Obama to name a few - have expressed that although they are not against the building of Masjids, in general, they believe that the decision to build a prayer space near Ground Zero in Manhattan is "insensitive". Their sentiments echo those held by a large portion of the American public who question why those organizing the Park 51 project don't simply build 20 blocks north. What these individuals ignore is the dire need for a convenient prayer space by Muslims who live and work in Lower Manhattan.
One way in which Masjids differ from Churches and Synagogues is the frequency with which Muslims visit Masjids. Muslims are highly encouraged to pray as many of their required five daily prayers in congregation as possible and many choose to do so. There are hundreds of Muslims who live and work in Lower Manhattan. They currently have two choices for public prayer space. The first choice is Masjid Manhattan on Warren Street. In previous years this Masjid had the capacity to hold up to 1,000 congregants on any given day. However, in 2008 the organizers lost the lease to the building they had occupied for 28 years and the congregation size is now limited to about 200. A bit further north is Masjid Al-Farah which also has enough prayer space for a few hundred congregants.
For most areas this would be enough but New York City is different. There are more than 100,000 Muslims who currently live in the city (120,000 Muslim students in NYC public schools alone) and many more commute in every day. For the Muslims who spend their day in Lower Manhattan - whether it's on Wall Street or behind a food cart - the current facilities are not sufficient to meet their needs and they are forced to either forgo their religious obligations or take lengthy commutes to other parts of town.
It is unfair to ask these Muslims, some of whom lost their loved ones on 9/11, to regularly inconvenience themselves by leaving Lower Manhattan if they wish to perform their religious obligations. Aside from the fact that the longer commute would require more time away from work to go to the mandatory Friday prayer, it would also be one filled with shame for the commuters. The commute would be a constant reminder for them that Americans hold all Muslims responsible for the atrocious events on 9/11 and that Muslims are not part of the American mourning. Segregating the Muslims in Lower Manhattan by refusing to allow them the space to pray locally would also fall in line with Al Qaeda's propaganda goal of convincing Muslims around the world that America is against Islam.
4) At Pentagon, A Lesson In Tolerance N.Y. Mosque Debate Should Heed
Petula Dvorak, Washington Post, Friday, August 20, 2010; B01
Let me take you back to 2002, a year after the Sept. 11 attacks, with the horror and disbelief of that terrible day still very fresh in our minds. Now, would you believe that in November of that year, right next to the spot where 184 people lost their lives in the Pentagon, the military opened a sanctuary where Islam could be celebrated?
This is truly on sacred ground, mind you. Not two blocks away, wedged between the Gap and Sephora in Pentagon City mall, out of sight of the original crash site.
This prayer room is a mere 30 steps from the place where terrorists crashed the nose cone of American Airlines Flight 77 through the wall and killed Pentagon secretaries and military officers, soccer moms and Little League dads in a screaming "I-have-control-of-this-plane-and-I'm-going-to-die-in-the-name-of-Allah" instant.
In this Pentagon chapel, Muslims can unroll their prayer mats once a day and give praise to Allah. On Fridays, they bring in an imam to conduct a service.
Cue the outrage: "How dare they?"/"This is an insult to patriotic Americans everywhere, and especially to the families of those who died that day and the good men and women who are risking their lives for their country in the fight against terrorism!"/"Let's stop this now!"
Oh wait, there was no outrage. No hyperventilating by cable news anchors. No outpouring of hateful rhetoric on blogs and Web sites. "Nope, never heard a word about it," folks in the Pentagon chaplain's office told me Thursday after we visited the crash site memorial and the chapel next to it. "No one has had a problem with it."
In the heart of the U.S. military machine, in a place where generals stomp around like demigods and the hallways bristle with combat-ready warriors, religious tolerance is part of what it means to be American.
"We are sworn to uphold and defend the Constitution. And freedom of religion is part of that Constitution," said George Wright, who is an Army spokesman at the Pentagon. Until this week, when reporters like me flooded him with calls about the proximity of Muslim worship to the site of a terrorist attack, there has been no interest or controversy surrounding it.
The people I spoke with at the Pentagon said they were surprised at the furor over plans to build a mosque and Islamic community center near Ground Zero in New York.
5) U.S. Blocks IMF Board Proposal, Seeks Emerging Countries' Voice
Sandrine Rastello, Bloomberg, August 20, 2010
The U.S. blocked a proposal this month to maintain the International Monetary Fund's executive board in its current form as part of a push to give emerging economies more say at the institution.
A resolution submitted to member countries to keep the 24 seats on the board of directors failed to get backing from the U.S., a Treasury Department spokeswoman said today. A vote takes place every two years to allow an exception to the original size of 20 seats. Approval from the U.S., the IMF's largest shareholder, is needed to reach the 85 percent voting threshold required for passage.
The move will force negotiations on the composition of the board, where European countries including Belgium and the Netherlands hold nine chairs. Group of 20 leaders agreed last year to give China and other emerging economies more say through a transfer of so-called quotas from countries with disproportionate influence.
Eswar Prasad, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a former IMF official, said the U.S.'s stance is "a very powerful signal that the emerging markets and the U.S. are now going to join forces very aggressively for this."
6) Organizers: Lebanese ship to sail for Gaza Sunday
Elizabeth A. Kennedy, Associated Press, Thursday, August 19, 2010; 12:07 PM
Tripoli, Lebanon - A Lebanese ship carrying aid and women activists hoping to break Israel's Gaza blockade will set sail Sunday from Lebanon despite warnings that they will not be allowed to make it past Cyprus, organizers said Thursday.
The ship cannot travel directly to Gaza from Lebanon because Beirut is still technically at war with Israel, forcing the vessel to pass through a third country - in this case, Cyprus - before heading for the blockaded Palestinian territory.
But on Thursday, the Cypriot ambassador to Lebanon told The Associated Press that the boat, the Mariam, will be turned back when it reaches Cyprus. "We decided that such a ship will not be allowed to enter Cyprus and if such a Gaza-bound ship docks in a Cypriot port the crew and the passengers will be deported to their country of origin," Kyriacos Kouros said.
But organizer Samar al-Hajj was undeterred Thursday, and said the ship, named after the Virgin Mary, will set out with between up to 75 female activists on a mission to deliver cancer medication, books and toys. "We are not children who can be told to stay home," al-Hajj told the AP after a chaotic news conference outside the port in Tripoli, where security forces prevented the group from speaking to the media from the ship.
Israel has lifted virtually all restrictions on food, medicine and consumer goods, but still maintains its naval blockade, saying that Hamas could sneak weapons into Gaza.
Asked whether sending the Mariam is a provocation given that medicine is now allowed into Gaza, al-Hajj said the ship was "symbolic" with the aim of lifting the blockade entirely.
The Israeli army would not say whether it would intercept the vessel, saying only it is "monitoring the situation and preparing accordingly."
7) Return to Table Is Scheduled in Mideast Talks
Mark Landler, New York Times, August 20, 2010
Washington - Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton announced Friday that Israel and the Palestinians would resume direct negotiations in Washington on Sept. 2, awakening hopes for the Middle East peace process but leaving many key questions unanswered.
Mrs. Clinton said that she hoped an agreement could be reached within a year and that the negotiations would cover all the so-called "final status" issues. Those issues have long included the borders of a future Palestinian state, the political status of Jerusalem, security provisions for Israel, and the right of return for Palestinian refugees.
But Mrs. Clinton pointedly did not mention using Israel's pre-1967 borders as the basis for territorial negotiations - a basic plank of previous talks - or set any other basic terms for the negotiations. Nor did she press the Israeli government to extend a moratorium on the construction of Jewish settlements, which would remove a potential hurdle to a deal.
Mr. Mitchell said that it would be up to Israel and the Palestinians to set terms for the negotiations, but that the United States would be ready to step in with "bridging proposal," should that become necessary. "We believe it can be done within a year and that is our objective," Mr. Mitchell told reporters.
The one-year time limit is viewed as crucial because the Palestinians are leery of being drawn into an open-ended negotiation with Israel. Mr. Netanyahu has long said he is open to talks, but the Palestinians have been resistant, seeking assurances from the United States about the terms and conditions.
Israel has eschewed any preconditions to negotiations, officials said, including an extension of the government's 10-month partial moratorium on settlement construction in the West Bank, which is set to expire on Sept. 26. The Obama administration has pushed to restart direct talks so that the two sides would be at the negotiating table when that date arrives.
8) The Secret Killers
Assassination in Afghanistan and Task Force 373
Pratap Chatterjee, TomDispatch, August 19, 2010
"Find, fix, finish, and follow-up" is the way the Pentagon describes the mission of secret military teams in Afghanistan which have been given a mandate to pursue alleged members of the Taliban or al-Qaeda wherever they may be found. Some call these "manhunting" operations and the units assigned to them "capture/kill" teams.
Whatever terminology you choose, the details of dozens of their specific operations - and how they regularly went badly wrong - have been revealed for the first time in the mass of secret U.S. military and intelligence documents published by the website Wikileaks in July to a storm of news coverage and official protest. Representing a form of U.S. covert warfare now on the rise, these teams regularly make more enemies than friends and undermine any goodwill created by U.S. reconstruction projects.
When Danny Hall and Gordon Phillips, the civilian and military directors of the U.S. provincial reconstruction team in Nangarhar province, Afghanistan, arrived for a meeting with Gul Agha Sherzai, the local governor, in mid-June 2007, they knew that they had a lot of apologizing to do. Philips had to explain why a covert U.S. military "capture/kill" team named Task Force 373, hunting for Qari Ur-Rahman, an alleged Taliban commander given the code-name "Carbon," had called in an AC-130 Spectre gunship and inadvertently killed seven Afghan police officers in the middle of the night.
The incident vividly demonstrated the inherent clash between two doctrines in the U.S. war in Afghanistan - counterinsurgency ("protecting the people") and counterterrorism (killing terrorists). Although the Obama administration has given lip service to the former, the latter has been, and continues to be, the driving force in its war in Afghanistan.
Hall and Phillips were in charge of a portfolio of 33 active U.S. reconstruction projects worth $11 million in Nangarhar, focused on road-building, school supplies, and an agricultural program aimed at exporting fruits and vegetables from the province.
Yet the mission of their military-led "provincial reconstruction team" (made up of civilian experts, State department officials, and soldiers) appeared to be in direct conflict with those of the "capture/kill" team of special operations forces (Navy Seals, Army Rangers, and Green Berets, together with operatives from the Central Intelligence Agency's Special Activities Division) whose mandate was to pursue Afghans alleged to be terrorists as well as insurgent leaders. That team was leaving a trail of dead civilian bodies and recrimination in its wake.
Details of some of the missions of Task Force 373 first became public as a result of more than 76,000 incident reports leaked to the public by Wikileaks, a whistleblower website, together with analyses of those documents in Der Spiegel, the Guardian, and the New York Times. A full accounting of the depredations of the task force may be some time in coming, however, as the Obama administration refuses to comment on its ongoing assassination spree in Afghanistan and Pakistan. A short history of the unit can nonetheless be gleaned from a careful reading of the Wikileaks documents as well as related reports from Afghanistan and unclassified Special Forces reports.
The Wikileaks data suggests that as many as 2,058 people on a secret hit list called the "Joint Prioritized Effects List" (JPEL) were considered "capture/kill" targets in Afghanistan. A total of 757 prisoners - most likely from this list - were being held at the Bagram Theater Internment Facility (BTIF), a U.S.-run prison on Bagram Air Base as of the end of December 2009.
9) U.S. Assures Israel That Iran Threat Is Not Imminent
Mark Mazzetti and David E. Sanger, New York Times, August 19, 2010
Washington - The Obama administration, citing evidence of continued troubles inside Iran's nuclear program, has persuaded Israel that it would take roughly a year - and perhaps longer - for Iran to complete what one senior official called a "dash" for a nuclear weapon, according to American officials.
Administration officials said they believe the assessment has dimmed the prospect that Israel would pre-emptively strike against the country's nuclear facilities within the next year, as Israeli officials have suggested in thinly veiled threats.
For years, Israeli and American officials have debated whether Iran is on an inexorable drive toward a nuclear bomb and, if so, how long it would take to produce one. A critical question has been the time it would take Tehran to convert existing stocks of low-enriched uranium into weapons-grade material, a process commonly known as "breakout."
Israeli intelligence officials had argued that Iran could complete such a race for the bomb in months, while American intelligence agencies have come to believe in the past year that the timeline is longer.
"We think that they have roughly a year dash time," said Gary Samore, President Obama's top adviser on nuclear issues, referring to how long it would take the Iranians to convert nuclear material into a working weapon. "A year is a very long period of time."
American officials said the United States believed international inspectors would detect an Iranian move toward breakout within weeks, leaving a considerable amount of time for the United States and Israel to consider military strikes.
Now, American and Israeli officials believe breakout is unlikely anytime soon. For one thing, Iran, which claims it is interested in enriching uranium only for peaceful purposes, would be forced to build nuclear bombs from a limited supply of nuclear material, currently enough for two weapons. Second, such a decision would require kicking out international weapons inspectors, eliminating any ambiguity about Iran's nuclear plans.
Even if Iran were to choose this path, American officials said it would probably take Iran some time to reconfigure its nuclear facilities to produce weapons-grade uranium and ramp up work on designing a nuclear warhead.
10) Ahmadinejad says Iran ready for nuclear talks: report
AFP, Thu Aug 19, 9:58 pm ET
Tokyo - Iran is ready for immediate talks with world powers over a nuclear fuel swap deal, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in an interview published in Japan on Friday.
Iran is "ready to resume in late August or in early September" talks with the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany over an exchange of enriched uranium, Ahmadinejad told the Yomiuri Shimbun.
"We promise to stop enriching uranium to 20 percent if fuel supply is ensured," he said in the exclusive interview in Tehran, published in Japanese.
11) Ruling Against US Access to Bases Helps Ease Colombia's Isolation.
Javier Darío Restrepo, Inter Press Service, August 18, 2010
Bogota - When the Colombian government announced in November that it had reached a deal to give the U.S. armed forces access to seven military bases, the news provoked surprise and protests, like when an unfair clause is discovered in a contract that was blindly signed. Except that in this case, the Colombian people were not even aware that any agreement had been signed.
The opposition invoked article 173 of the constitution, according to which Congress must authorise the presence of foreign troops in the country.
But the government of former President Álvaro Uribe (2002-2010) argued that it was a "simplified agreement" arising from the extension of a 1974 military treaty with the United States, and thus did not require congressional approval.
Opposition politician Carlos Gaviria, who is a former Constitutional Court magistrate, argued however that it could not be considered a "corollary" to a broader treaty, but was a treaty in its own right.
In the verdict handed down Tuesday, the Constitutional Court ruled that the deal is not a "simplified agreement" but a treaty that involves new obligations on the part of the Colombian state, as well as an extension of previous obligations, which means it has to be submitted to Congress for approval and reviewed afterwards by the Constitutional Court. The Court thus struck down the agreement on the argument that it was unconstitutional.
But the government of President Juan Manuel Santos, who took office Aug. 7, may put the accord before Congress. [But there is apparently a significant impediment to doing so: according to a former Colombian official, US officials told Colombian officials that if they submitted the "treaty" to the Colombian Congress, US officials would have to submit it to the U.S. Congress, where it would be unlikely to be approved - JFP.]
The magistrates listed some of the commitments undertaken in the agreement: it authorised access and use of military installations by foreign military and civilian personnel; allowed the free circulation of foreign ships, aircraft and tactical vehicles in the national territory without the possibility of inspection or oversight by national authorities; and authorised the carrying and use of weapons by foreign personnel in the national territory.
It also granted diplomatic immunity and privileges to contractors and subcontractors, and to people overseeing U.S. personnel, while setting vague time frames for the leasing of the bases.
The main effect of the Court decision is that it strengthens Colombia's relations with the rest of the region. When the countries of South America expressed their concern as a bloc that U.S. access to the seven bases posed a threat, Colombia became the most isolated country in the region.
Despite the Uribe administration's attempts to ease the worries of its neighbours, the bases were seen as a platform that would allow the United States to keep a close eye on the nations of South America.
The government's promise that U.S. forces would only use the bases to fight "drug trafficking, terrorism and other threats" failed to convince, especially after Colombia's March 2008 bombing attack on a Colombian guerrilla camp across the border in Ecuador, in which U.S. military technology was used.
Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa believes a U.S. plane and other technology as well as advice allegedly used in the attack on the FARC rebel camp came from the Manta air base on Ecuador's Pacific coast, which was leased to the United States from 1999 to 2009.
Opponents of the bases say that if it needs to carry out counter-narcotics actions, the United States already has the Tres Esquinas and Larandia bases in southwest Colombia and the Arauca base in the northeast, as well as the network of radar stations installed after the U.S. military forces pulled out of Panama in 1999.
12) Thousands March in Honduras to Demand Hike in Minimum Wage.
EFE, August 18, 2010
Tegucigalpa - Thousands of Honduran workers marched here Wednesday to demand an increase in the minimum wage and show solidarity with teachers who want the government to pay more than $200 million in past-due contributions to a pension and benefits fund.
The minimum wage, currently 5,500 lempiras ($290) a month, was supposed to go up in April, but the hike was put off due to complaints from the business sector, the secretary of the CUTH labor federation, Israel Salinas, reminded reporters covering the protest.
While the CUTH is calling for a 30 percent increase, Honduran unions say they are prepared to negotiate with the government on the exact figure.
Joining CUTH members for the march in Tegucigalpa were elements of the National Popular Resistance Front, a group formed after the June 2009 ouster of President Mel Zelaya as he prepared to hold a non-binding referendum on convening a constitutional convention.
A leader of the resistance front, Juan Barahona, and CUTH chief Salinas said Wednesday's protests were part of a growing movement toward a national general strike against the government of Lobo, who won the presidency last November in elections overseen by the coup regime. Turnout was below 50 percent.
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