Politics this week
Jul 23rd 2009
From The Economist print edition
Barack Obama used a prime-time news conference marking six months in office to make the case for his blueprint for health-care reform. Polls show Americans increasingly disapprove of the president’s plans, and some Democratic congressmen are questioning the cost. In its latest estimate, the Congressional Budget Office said the health-care bill would add $239 billion to the federal deficit over ten years. See article
A panel looking at the best way to close Guantánamo Bay missed a reporting deadline and said it needed another six months. It did produce an interim report, suggesting that although most detainees could be tried in federal courts, some should be judged by military tribunals. The administration insists it is still on track to close the camp by January.
California’s legislature prepared to vote on a deal crafted by Arnold Schwarzenegger, the governor, and party leaders in the Assembly and Senate that would close the state’s $26.3 billion budget deficit. The agreement brings in deep spending cuts to social programmes, but no tax rises. See article
Voters in Oakland approved a measure, by 80% to 20%, that sharply increases the tax imposed on the receipts of the city’s “cannabis business”. The measure is expected to reap $300,000 in revenue next year.
Talks to try to resolve the conflict in Honduras between Manuel Zelaya, the recently ousted president, and the de facto government made little progress. The European Union said that it was suspending aid. The de facto government ordered Venezuelan diplomats to leave Honduras. In Washington conservative Republicans delayed the nomination of Arturo Valenzuela as the State Department’s top diplomat for Latin America because of his condemnation of last month’s coup. See article
Mexico’s government sent 5,500 troops and police to the western state of Michoacán after 16 federal police agents were murdered, apparently by members of La Familia, a drug-trafficking gang. See article
Alberto Fujimori, Peru’s president from 1990 to 2000, was convicted by a court in Lima of illegally paying off his former intelligence chief with $15m in public money. Mr Fujimori is already serving a 25-year sentence for authorising a paramilitary death squad.
A video was leaked by Colombia’s police in which a leader of the FARC guerrillas spoke last year of payments to the campaign of Rafael Correa, Ecuador’s president. Mr Correa dismissed the video as a “fabrication”. See article
The American vice-president, Joe Biden, visited Ukraine and Georgia, reassuring both countries that America would support them even as it sought better relations with Russia. Ahead of the visit, Georgia’s president, Mikheil Saakashvili, promised a string of democratic reforms, partly in response to opposition complaints about his excessive power.
A second so-called Ergenekon trial of 56 senior Turks, including two former generals, began in Istanbul. The defendants are accused of seeking to engineer a military coup against Turkey’s government.
Two Bosnian Serb commanders were found guilty of committing war crimes in Bosnia by The Hague war-crimes tribunal. Among other offences, Milan and Sredoje Lukic, who are cousins, burned alive Muslim women and children during the Bosnian war in 1992-95.
The European Commission made a concession by approving a large state-aid programme for Poland’s shipyard in Gdansk. The shipyard was the birthplace of the anti-communist trade union, Solidarity, in the 1980s.
An international court of arbitration at The Hague proposed new boundaries between north and south Sudan that would give the main oilfields in the disputed Abyei region to the north. Leaders from both sides have promised to abide by the ruling, in the hope of a final end to a long-simmering conflict.
Some 223,000 people have fled Somalia’s beleaguered capital, Mogadishu, since early May, when jihadist rebels attacked government forces there, according to the UN’s High Commission for Refugees. The Dadaab refugee camp in north-east Kenya, designed to host 90,000 people, now has 286,000 inhabitants.
A year after taking power in a military coup, Muhammad Ould Abdelaziz was elected as Mauritania’s civilian president in a multi-candidate poll. Various governments and international bodies, led by the African Union, which at first denounced his original takeover, seemed likely to welcome the country back as a proper democracy. See article
Factories across South Africa closed as tens of thousands of workers in the chemical and other industries called for pay rises of up to 15%. Hundreds of thousands of public-sector workers, including doctors and teachers, also threatened to stop work for more pay. See article
India and America signed a defence agreement that will allow the sale of sophisticated American military equipment to India. A separate pact would increase American involvement in India’s space programme.
The chief suspect in last year’s Mumbai bombings, Muhammad Ajmal Qasab, a Pakistani citizen, reversed an earlier plea, confessed his involvement in the atrocity, pleaded guilty in court and said he was ready to be hanged. He faces 86 charges including murder and waging war on India.
Jemaah Islamiah, an extremist group with branches across South-East Asia, was blamed for two suicide-bombings in luxury hotels in Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta, that killed nine people. See article
In the week of the 20th anniversary of Aung San Suu Kyi’s first house arrest by Myanmar’s military authorities, Hillary Clinton, America’s secretary of state, said that growing military co-operation between Myanmar and North Korea was a threat to the stability of South-East Asia. See article
England’s cricketers beat Australia in a Test match at Lord’s in London, “the home of cricket”, for the first time since 1934 and only the second time since 1896. England lead one-nil (the first Test was drawn) in a five-match series, with three to play. See article
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