Just Foreign Policy News
March 21, 2011
Congress Must Debate the Libya War
If President Obama can bomb Libya without Congressional authorization, then President Palin can bomb Iran without Congressional authorization.
Lugar on Face the Nation – Libya
Sen. Lugar: if we’re going to go to war in Libya, then Congress should declare war.
Obama on Presidential authority to bomb other countries, 2007
Q. In what circumstances, if any, would the president have constitutional authority to bomb Iran without seeking a use-of-force authorization from Congress? (Specifically, what about the strategic bombing of suspected nuclear sites — a situation that does not involve stopping an IMMINENT threat?)
A.The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.
VoteVets: Veterans Withhold Support of Military Operations in Libya
VoteVets.org released a statement that lays out why the group cannot support military operations in Libya launched by the Obama administration over the weekend. The group’s chair said that there were far too many unanswered questions, and raised concern that operations took place without Congressional approval.
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1) A group of liberal House Democrats is questioning the constitutionality of U.S. missile strikes against Libya, Politico reports. Nadler, Edwards, Capuano, Kucinich, Waters, Andrews, Jackson Lee and Barbara Lee "all strongly raised objections to the constitutionality of the president’s actions" during a call organized by Rep. John Larson, chair of the Democratic Caucus, who called for Obama to seek congressional approval before committing the US to any anti-Qadhafi military operation. "They consulted the Arab League. They consulted the United Nations. They did not consult the United States Congress," one Democratic lawmaker said.
2) Ron Paul has circulated a resolution "expressing the sense of Congress that the President is required to obtain in advance specific statutory authorization for the use of United States Armed Forces in response to civil unrest in Libya, the Huffington Post reports." The measure was supported by Reps. Michael Honda and John Conyers. The Administration "leveled a devastating blow to our legislative-executive checks and balances," read a statement by Honda, co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus’s Peace and Security Taskforce. "For the Pentagon to deliberately circumvent Congressional authority sets a new precedent for war powers authorization," Honda said.
3) The Arab League secretary general, Amr Moussa, deplored the broad scope of the U.S.-European bombing campaign in Libya and said Sunday that he would call a league meeting to reconsider Arab approval of the Western military intervention, the Washington Post reports. Moussa said the Arab League’s approval of a no-fly zone on March 12 was based on a desire to prevent Moammar Gaddafi’s air force from attacking civilians and was not designed to endorse the intense bombing and missile attacks whose images filled Arab television screens for two days. "What is happening in Libya differs from the aim of imposing a no-fly zone," Moussa said. "And what we want is the protection of civilians and not the shelling of more civilians." It was not clear how many Arab governments shared the hesitations voiced by Moussa, the Post says.
4) Commanders in Afghanistan were bracing themselves for possible riots and public fury triggered by the publication of "trophy" photographs of US soldiers posing with the dead bodies of defenceless Afghan civilians they killed, the Guardian reports. Senior officials at ISAF have compared the pictures published by Der Spiegel to the images of US soldiers abusing prisoners in Abu Ghraib.
5) Human Rights Watch says that moves by U.S. Congress members to ensure that Colombia meets human rights standards before the trade deal is ratified are "critically important," according to Colombia Reports. Six members of the House sent a letter to President Obama Thursday stating that more steps must be taken to improve the human rights situation in Colombia before the president sends the trade agreement to Congress for approval.
6) The U.S.-backed president of Yemen suffered a devastating political blow Sunday when his own powerful tribe demanded his resignation, AP reports. Massive crowds flooded cities and towns around Yemen, screaming in grief and anger as they mourned dozens of protesters killed Friday when President Saleh’s security forces opened fire from rooftops on a demonstration in the capital. Experts said Saleh had lost the support of every major power base in Yemen except the military – and the US. Human Rights Minister Huda al-Ban said she was stepping down to protest the government’s "horrible, coward[ly] and perfidious crime." A Foreign Ministry official told AP U.N. Ambassador Abdullah Alsaidi had sent in his letter of resignation.
7) Bahrain’s king said Monday the nation had thwarted an "external plot" to undermine security and stability, understood to be a reference to Iran, the Christian Science Monitor reports. Iran serves as a convenient excuse for the Sunni Gulf regimes to crack down on protests, which are the real threat to their power, the Monitor says. There is little evidence that Iran has influenced Bahrain’s demonstrators, who have protested against discrimination by the ruling Sunni elite and demanded democratic reform in the kingdom, the Monitor says.
8) Dozens of Saudis protested outside Riyadh’s Interior Ministry, demanding the release of thousands of detainees held without trial for years, AP reports. It was the third protest this month by families and activists demanding information on the fate of people held without trial for years on security and terrorism charges.
9) UN investigator Richard Falk told the UN Human Rights Council that Israel’s expansion of settlements in East Jerusalem and eviction of Palestinians from their homes there is a form of ethnic cleansing, Reuters reports.
10) Egyptian voters overwhelmingly approved changes in the constitution, opening the way for parliamentary and presidential elections within months, AP reports. The elections commission chief said 41 percent of eligible voters cast ballots in Saturday’s referendum. 77.2 percent voted in favor, with 22.8 percent opposed.
11) Assistant principal Ilse Velasquez died from head injuries sustained during a protest for better working conditions for teachers and the return of former President Zelaya, AP reports. Radio Globo said Velasquez was struck in the face by a tear gas grenade then hit by a police vehicle that was spraying water at protesters.
12) President Funes said Obama’s visit dispels fears relations would suffer under El Salvador’s first leftist government, AP reports. Opponents had said US ties would deteriorate if Funes won the last election. El Salvador’s economy is highly dependent on the US. Funes said security would be the main topic of discussion; U.S.-supported crackdowns in Mexico and Colombia have pushed drug traffickers into Central America, fueling violence. Central American governments have repeatedly asked for more U.S. help.
1) Liberal Democrats in uproar over Libya action
John Bresnahan and Jonathan Allen, Politico, March 19, 2011
A hard-core group of liberal House Democrats is questioning the constitutionality of U.S. missile strikes against Libya, with one lawmaker raising the prospect of impeachment during a Democratic Caucus conference call on Saturday.
Reps. Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.), Donna Edwards (Md.), Mike Capuano (Mass.), Dennis Kucinich (Ohio), Maxine Waters (Calif.), Rob Andrews (N.J.), Sheila Jackson Lee (Texas), Barbara Lee (Calif.) and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D.C.) "all strongly raised objections to the constitutionality of the president’s actions" during that call, said two Democratic lawmakers who took part.
Kucinich, who wanted to bring impeachment articles against both former President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney over Iraq – only to be blocked by his own leadership – asked why the U.S. missile strikes aren’t impeachable offenses. [Kucinich did bring articles of impeachment against Cheney, so it’s not clear here what Politico is talking about – JFP.]
Kucinich also questioned why Democratic leaders didn’t object when President Barack Obama told them of his plan for American participation in enforcing the Libyan no-fly zone during a White House Situation Room meeting on Friday, sources told POLITICO.
And liberals fumed that Congress hadn’t been formally consulted before the attack and expressed concern that it would lead to a third U.S. war in the Muslim world.
While other Democratic lawmakers have publicly backed Obama – including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and top members of the Armed Services, Foreign Affairs and Intelligence committees – the objections from a vocal group of anti-war Democrats on Capitol Hill could become a political problem for Obama, especially if "Operation Odyssey Dawn" fails to topple Libyan leader Muammar Qadhafi, leads to significant American casualties, or provokes a wider conflict in the troubled region of North Africa.
[…] Saturday’s conference call was organized by Rep. John Larson (Conn.), chairman of the Democratic Caucus and the fourth-highest ranking party leader. Larson has called for Obama to seek congressional approval before committing the United States to any anti-Qadhafi military operation.
"They consulted the Arab League. They consulted the United Nations. They did not consult the United States Congress," one Democrat lawmaker said of the White House. "They’re creating wreckage, and they can’t obviate that by saying there are no boots on the ground. … There aren’t boots on the ground; there are Tomahawks in the air."
"Almost everybody who spoke was opposed to any unilateral actions or decisions being made by the president, and most of us expressed our constitutional concerns. There should be a resolution and there should be a debate so members of Congress can decide whether or not we enter in whatever this action is being called," added another House Democrat opposed to the Libyan operation.
"Whose side are we on? This appears to be more of a civil war than some kind of a revolution. Who are protecting? Are we with the people that are supposedly opposed to [Qadhafi]? You think they have a lot of people with him? If he is deposed, who will we be dealing with? There are a lot of questions here from members."
2) Obama’s Libya Policy Makes Strange Bedfellows Of Congressional Critics
Sam Stein and Amanda Terkel, Huffington Post, 03/21/11
Washington – As the United States expands its military imprint on the international intervention into Libyan airspace, members of Congress have begun sounding the alarm over the lack of regard being paid by the president to the legal and advisory roles of the legislative branch.
[…] "In the absence of a credible, direct threat to the United States and its allies or to our valuable national interests, what excuse is there for not seeking congressional approval of military action?" asked Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) in a separate interview. "I think it is wrong and a usurpation of power and the fact that prior presidents have done it is not an excuse."
Under the War Powers Act of 1973, the president can send U.S. armed forces into conflict only with the authorization of Congress or if the United States is under attack or serious threat. Absent such authorization, however, the president does have a 48-hour window to report about military deployments overseas. While Congress is supposed to be consulted "in every possible instance," a broadening interpretation of executive powers has greatly diminished its "sign-off" authority.
"More recently, due to an expansive interpretation of the president’s constitutional authority as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces and of his inherent powers to use force without Congressional authorization, the President has welcomed support from the Congress in the form of legislation authorizing him to utilize U.S. military forces in a foreign conflict or engagement in support of U.S. interests, but has not taken the view that he is required to obtain such authorization," reads a March 2007 Congressional Research Service report.
Nadler and Chaffetz aren’t alone among those classes of lawmakers (old and young) whose politics have been shaped by skepticism with this trend. Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), put up a Facebook post on Sunday arguing that the president could not "launch strikes without authorization from the American people" and complaining Congress was being treated like "serfs."
[…] "One of the reasons I predict that there will be some strong bipartisan support in the Congress for the President’s decision is because it is a limited mission," Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D- MI) said Sunday on "Meet the Press." "I saw that in person in the White House on Friday- and was very impressed by the caution and the care that the President is putting into this."
UPDATE: Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.) had been circulating a resolution "[e]xpressing the sense of Congress that the President is required to obtain in advance specific statutory authorization for the use of United States Armed Forces in response to civil unrest in Libya." The measure was supported by Reps. Michael Honda (D-Calif.) and John Conyers (D-Mich.), among others.
"In launching over 100 missiles on Libya this weekend, not only did the Defense Department undermine a carefully constructed consensus, which included the Arab League, but it leveled a devastating blow to our legislative-executive checks and balances," read a statement by Honda, who is co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus’s Peace and Security Taskforce. "For the Pentagon to deliberately circumvent Congressional authority sets a new precedent for war powers authorization and sends the message to the world that American democracy is deeply dysfunctional. Secondly, for the Pentagon to pick its battles based on energy security considerations, which is particularly apparent given Libya’s 7th-ranked oil reserves, sends the message that America cares little about the human rights and freedoms of people in countries, like the Democratic Republic of Congo, Western Sudan, or Ivory Coast, without critical energy resources. Thirdly, for the Pentagon to pursue past precedent in employing a shock-and-awe-type invasion, indicates a deliberate disdain for the myriad of smaller pursuable efforts that are possible before pummeling a country with an air assault. I demand a serious conversation in Congress before new countries are incautiously invaded and before America’s legislative branch is eviscerated further."
3) Arab League condemns broad Western bombing campaign in Libya
Edward Cody, Washington Post, Sunday, March 20, 1:01 PM
Cairo – The Arab League secretary general, Amr Moussa, deplored the broad scope of the U.S.-European bombing campaign in Libya and said Sunday that he would call a league meeting to reconsider Arab approval of the Western military intervention.
Moussa said the Arab League’s approval of a no-fly zone on March 12 was based on a desire to prevent Moammar Gaddafi’s air force from attacking civilians and was not designed to endorse the intense bombing and missile attacks – including on Tripoli, the capital, and on Libyan ground forces – whose images have filled Arab television screens for two days.
"What is happening in Libya differs from the aim of imposing a no-fly zone," he said in a statement carried by the Middle East News Agency. "And what we want is the protection of civilians and not the shelling of more civilians."
Moussa’s declaration suggested that some of the 22 Arab League members were taken aback by what they have seen and wanted to modify their approval lest they be perceived as accepting outright Western military intervention in Libya. Although the eccentric Gaddafi is widely looked down upon in the Arab world, the leaders and people of the Middle East traditionally have risen up in emotional protest at the first sign of Western intervention.
A shift away from the Arab League endorsement, even partial, would constitute a major setback to the U.S.-European campaign. Western leaders brandished the Arab League decision as a justification for their decision to move militarily and as a weapon in the debate to obtain a U.N. Security Council resolution two days before the bombing began.
[…] In the Middle East, the abiding power of popular distrust of Western intervention was evident despite the March 12 Arab League decision. It was not clear how many Arab governments shared the hesitations voiced by Moussa, who has said that he plans to run for president in Egypt this year. But despite Western efforts to enlist Arab military forces, only the Western-oriented Persian Gulf emirate of Qatar has announced that it would participate in the campaign.
The Qatari prime minister, Hamad bin Jasim al-Thani, told reporters that the kingdom made its decision in order to "stop the bloodbath" that he said Gaddafi was inflicting on rebel forces and civilians in opposition-controlled cities. He did not describe the extent of Qatar’s military involvement or what the mission of Qatari aircraft or personnel would be alongside U.S., French and British planes and ships that have carried out the initial strikes.
4) US Army ‘kill team’ in Afghanistan posed for photos of murdered civilians
Commanders brace for backlash of anti-US sentiment that could be more damaging than after the Abu Ghraib scandal
Jon Boone, The Guardian, Monday 21 March 2011
Commanders in Afghanistan are bracing themselves for possible riots and public fury triggered by the publication of "trophy" photographs of US soldiers posing with the dead bodies of defenceless Afghan civilians they killed.
Senior officials at Nato’s International Security Assistance Force in Kabul have compared the pictures published by the German news weekly Der Spiegel to the images of US soldiers abusing prisoners in Abu Ghraib in Iraq which sparked waves of anti-US protests around the world.
They fear that the pictures could be even more damaging as they show the aftermath of the deliberate murders of Afghan civilians by a rogue US Stryker tank unit that operated in the southern province of Kandahar last year.
5) Rights progress crucial for Colombia trade deal: Human Rights Watch.
Marguerite Cawley, Colombia Reports, Friday, 18 March 2011
NGO Human Rights Watch says that moves by U.S. Congress members to ensure that Colombia meets human rights standards before the trade deal is ratified are "critically important," in a statement released Thursday.
Six members of the House of Representatives sent a letter to President Barack Obama Thursday stating that more steps must be taken to improve the human rights situation in Colombia before the president sends the free trade agreement to Congress for approval.
The Americas director at HRW Jose Miguel Vivanco said in response to the letter that, "It is crucial for Colombia to reduce killings and attacks against trade unionists and to bring those responsible for these crimes to justice" and that "These benchmarks include concrete and achievable steps that the Colombian government should take."
HRW highlighted the issue of reducing violence against trade unionists, which has been an ongoing problem in Colombia. According to the NGO, Colombia has the highest documented killings of unionists in the world, with more than 2,800 reported since 1986. Evidence indicates that paramilitary organizations are responsible for the bulk of these deaths.
[…] [The Members letter is here:
House Members Send Obama Benchmarks for Colombia FTA
6) Yemen’s weakened president abandoned by own tribe
Ahmed al-Haj, Associated Press, Sun Mar 20, 5:10 pm ET
Sanaa, Yemen – The U.S.-backed president of Yemen suffered a devastating political blow on Sunday when his own powerful tribe demanded his resignation, joining religious leaders, young people and the country’s traditional opposition in calls for an end to his three decades in power.
Massive crowds flooded cities and towns around the impoverished and volatile nation, screaming in grief and anger as they mourned dozens of protesters killed Friday when President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s security forces opened fire from rooftops on a demonstration in the capital.
Saleh appeared to be trying to hold on, firing his entire Cabinet ahead of what one government official said was a planned mass resignation, but making no mention of stepping down himself. Yemen’s ambassador to the United Nations and its human rights minister had announced their resignations earlier in the day.
Experts said that Saleh, who has cooperated closely with U.S. military operations against his country’s branch of al-Qaida, had lost the support of every major power base in Yemen except the military.
Many said he would now be forced to choose between stepping down and confronting demonstrators with even deadlier force. "We’re talking a new set of dynamics that are driving the conflict into either the resignation of Saleh or a very serious clash between the two sides," said Ibrahim Sharqieh, deputy director of the Brookings Doha Center. "The U.S. should work now on an orderly transition in Yemen and press Saleh to find an arrangement that doesn’t allow chaos."
Sharqieh said from Washington that it was far from clear what would replace Saleh if he goes. Options could include a military-run transitional government and an administration of traditional political opposition parties.
[…] The day after the bloodshed, the head of Saleh’s Hashed tribe met with religious leaders at his home on Saturday and emerged with a statement of support for the protesters’ demands that the president step down. "We hail with all respect and observance, the position of the people at the (Sanaa University) square," Sheik Sadiq al-Ahmar said late Saturday.
Al-Ahmar does not command the automatic loyalty of tribal members but his positions are deeply influential, Sharqieh said. The tribal leader now stands with opposition parties who have gone from negotiating Saleh’s eventual departure to demanding his immediate resignation.
The parties said they would not be satisfied by Saleh’s pledges not to run for re-election in 2013 or to hand power to his son. "Our only choice now is the removal of the regime soon. We stand by the people’s demand," opposition leader Yassin Said Numan told The Associated Press.
The opposition will under no circumstances agree to a dialogue with Saleh after Friday’s violence, spokesman Mohammad al-Sabri told The Associated Press. "The president must understand that the only way to avoid more bloodshed and strife in this country is for him to leave. Nobody will have any regrets about him," he said.
The president has now been left almost entirely dependent on external support, mainly from the United States, which sends Yemen hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid to battle the potent al-Qaida offshoot in the country’s mountainous hinterlands, political analyst and researcher Abdelkarim al-Khiwani said.
The U.S. has condemned violence against Yemeni protesters.
[…] Human Rights Minister Huda al-Ban said she was stepping down to protest the government’s "horrible, coward and perfidious crime." And a Foreign Ministry official told The Associated Press that U.N. Ambassador Abdullah Alsaidi had sent in his letter of resignation.
[…] Health Minister Abdul-Karim Rafi told reporters the killing of protesters was "a crime unacceptable by logic or could be justified." He said 44 protesters were killed and 192 wounded, 21 critically.
Prosecutor-General Abdullah al-Ulty said that 693 protesters were hurt and some bodies have not yet been identified.
7) Bahrain’s king thanks Saudi troops for thwarting ‘external plot’
The remarks by Bahrain’s king reflect an effort to pin his country’s recent Shiite-led protests on interference by the Gulf states’ regional adversary, Iran.
Kristen Chick, Christian Science Monitor, March 21, 2011
Cairo – Bahrain’s king said Monday the nation had thwarted an "external plot" to undermine security and stability in his tiny Gulf kingdom and thanked the Saudi forces he invited to the country last week to quell a mostly Shiite protest movement.
The king’s statement, understood to be a veiled reference to Iran, seemed like an attempt to justify the use of foreign forces in Bahrain, as well as the violent crackdown on protesters, by using the regional rival as a boogeyman. There is little evidence that Shiite Iran has influenced Bahrain’s demonstrators, who have protested against discrimination by the ruling Sunni elite and demanded democratic reform in the kingdom.
[…] The regional adversary of the Sunni Gulf regimes serves as a convenient excuse for the regimes to crack down on the protests, which are the real threat to their power, as The Christian Science Monitor reported last week. Saudi Arabia is extremely wary of its own restive Shiite population, which also complains of discrimination, and has moved quickly to quiet rumbles of a protest movement at home.
Bahrain’s opposition groups said Monday they would continue to stick by the conditions they have set forth for dialogue with the kingdom’s rulers, and would not talk until troops are off the streets and political protesters are released. They’re also demanding the creation of a government that is not filled with members of the Al Khalifa ruling family and an elected council to rewrite the constitution, reports Reuters.
"Bahrain needs a new agreement between all the people and the government… This system is broken and failed. We need a new system and a new constitution," Wefaq leader Sheikh Ali Salman told a news conference.
"Today we say to the government you took the wrong decision when you let the army come into the streets… We tried our best to solve our problems inside Bahrain. We don’t want the Iranians to come. We don’t want big problems in this small country."
The government’s harsh crackdown has dimmed hope for dialogue, and pushed some protesters to go beyond calls for a constitutional monarchy to instead demand the fall of the ruling family.
Meanwhile, BBC reports that security forces in Bahrain continued to occupy Manama’s main hospital Monday. Two doctors have disappeared and others are frightened. Troops are preventing doctors inside from leaving and preventing those at home from coming to work.
Bloomberg adds that security forces are moving into Shiite villages as well. About 12 people were hurt yesterday when police used tear gas and birdshot against people in Karzakan, a Shiite village. Witnesses say the wounded are too afraid of arrest to go to hospitals. At least 13 people have been killed since the protests began in February, and 63 have gone missing since Saudi forces arrived last week.
8) Hundreds of security forces block Saudi protest demanding release of detainees
Associated Press, Sunday, March 20, 5:03 AM
Cairo – Outnumbered by anti-riot police, dozens of Saudi men and women protested outside Riyadh’s Interior Ministry, demanding the release of thousands of detainees held without trial for years. Witnesses say a number of protesters were arrested today after trying to push their way into the building, heavily fortified by about 2,000 special forces and some 200 police vehicles.
[…] It was the third protest this month by families and activists demanding information on the fate of people held without trial for years on security and terrorism charges. Saudi authorities ban demonstrations and appear increasingly determined to prevent the spread of unrest inspired by uprisings across the Arab world.
9) UN investigator: Israel engaged in ethnic cleansing with settlement expansion
U.S. academic Richard Falk spoke to UN Human Rights Council as it prepared resolution condemning settlement building in East Jerusalem and West Bank.
Israel’s expansion of settlements in East Jerusalem and eviction of Palestinians from their homes there is a form of ethnic cleansing, a United Nations investigator said on Monday. United States academic Richard Falk was speaking to the UN Human Rights Council as it prepared to pass resolutions condemning settlement building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
The "continued pattern of settlement expansion in East Jerusalem combined with the forcible eviction of long-residing Palestinians are creating an intolerable situation" in the part of the city previously controlled by Jordan, he said. This situation "can only be described in its cumulative impact as a form of ethnic cleansing," Falk declared.
10) Egypt: Constitution changes pass in referendum
Maggie Michael, Associated Press, Sun Mar 20, 5:14 pm ET
Cairo – Egyptian voters overwhelmingly approved changes in the constitution, opening the way for parliamentary and presidential elections within months, according to final results from a landmark referendum announced Sunday. Opponents fear the swift timetable could boost the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood and members of the former ruling party.
The Brotherhood had campaigned heavily for a "yes" vote in the referendum. Critics say that since it and the former ruling party are the best organized political forces in the country, they stand to gain the most in an early election – which will bring in Egypt’s first democratically elected government to replace the regime of ousted President Hosni Mubarak.
The results are likely to open a frenzied campaign season, with liberal pro-democracy forces scrambling to put together political parties to contest the upcoming races.
Shady Ghazali, one of the organizers of the protests that forced Mubarak out after 18 days, said the youth coalition that led the demonstrations is discussing putting forward a national list of candidates for the parliamentary elections under its name.
The parliamentary and presidential elections are key because the next legislature and government are to lead the process of wider change, including likely drawing up a new constitution. Many of those who led the wave of popular protests that ousted Mubarak on Feb. 11 want a radically new document that would break the total hold that the presidency held over government during Mubarak’s rule. They worry that the Brotherhood or former ruling party could dominate the process.
In an interview with daily El-Shorouk, a top member of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces said that the council will issue "a constitutional declaration" right after the announcement of the final vote to lay down next steps, with approval leading to a timetable for parliament and presidential elections.
Elections commission chief Ahmed Attiya said 41 percent of 45 million eligible voters cast ballots in Saturday’s referendum. More than 14 million – 77.2 percent – voted in favor, with around 4 million – 22.8 percent – opposed.
11) 1 dead, 2 injured in protests by Honduras teachers
AP, March 18, 2011
Tegucigalpa, Honduras – Honduras’ president ordered striking school teachers back to work Friday following clashes with police that left one teacher dead and two others injured.
The teachers are demanding better conditions as well as the return of ousted former President Manuel Zelaya.
Assistant principal Ilse Velasquez, 59, died from head injuries, Hospital Escuela spokeswoman Lilia Leiva said. Velasquez worked at a school in Tegucigalpa, the capital.
Pro-Zelaya radio station Radio Globo said Velasquez was struck in the face by a tear gas grenade then hit by a police vehicle that was spraying water at protesters.
12) El Salvador: Obama visit dispels fears over ties
Marcos Aleman, Associated Press, Sat, Mar. 19, 2011
President Mauricio Funes said Saturday he is gratified that Barack Obama is including his small country in a tour of Latin America, saying the visit dispels fears relations would suffer under El Salvador’s first leftist government.
Funes was elected in 2009 with the support of a party of former Marxist guerrillas that fought to overthrow U.S.-backed governments in the 1980s. His rise to power unseated two decades of conservative governments that made El Salvador among the staunchest U.S. allies in Latin America.
Opponents had warned those ties would decline, but Funes said Obama’s planned visit Tuesday proves them wrong. "We have won the battle against disinformation," Funes said at a news conference with foreign reporters. "We have dispelled the fear that relations would deteriorate."
Funes has charted a moderate course in El Salvador, restoring diplomatic relations with Cuba but also making ties with Washington a priority. His policies have at times caused friction with hard-liners in his party, known as the FMLN.
[…] El Salvador’s economy is highly dependent on the United States, which is home to 2.8 million Salvadoran immigrants who sent home $3.5 billion last year.
Funes said he would discuss immigration with Obama, but security was likely to be the main topic. U.S.-supported crackdowns in Mexico and Colombia have pushed drug traffickers into Central America, fueling violence in a region that already had some of the world’s highest murder rates. Central American governments have repeatedly asked for more U.S. help.
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