Category Archives: Foreign Affairs

Deadly Easter Explosions Rip Across Sri Lanka

Prayers for our Christian family who are suffering this Easter Day.

The first reports of explosions came at about 08:45 (03:15 GMT) local time – with six blasts reported within a small space of time.

Three churches in Negombo, Batticaloa and Colombo’s Kochchikade district were targeted during Easter services and blasts also rocked the Shangri-La, Kingsbury and Cinnamon Grand hotels in the country’s capital.

As police hunted those responsible, two further explosions were reported.

One blast hit near the zoo in Dehiwala, southern Colombo, and an eighth was reported near the Colombo district of Dematagoda during a police raid, killing three officers.

It remains unclear who was behind the attacks, but 13 arrests were made by police on Sunday.

The government has said they believe suicide bombs were used at some of the sites.

Mexico to Try to Restrict Central American Illegals to South

Well, it’s something… maybe.

Mexico City (AFP) – Mexico said Wednesday that central American migrants will be given “regional visitor cards” near the Guatemalan border that restrict their movement to the south of the country, impeding their ability to reach the United States.

The restriction will be a blow to tens of thousands of migrants, fleeing the poverty and violence at home, who enter southern Mexico and travel across the country in so-called “caravans” in an attempt to seek asylum in the US.

The cards will be given out in the southeastern city of Tapachula, where Mexican media report there are around 5,000 would-be migrants planning to head to the US.

[…]

US President Donald Trump has warned of a raft of sanctions — including closing official border crossings — unless Mexico cracks down on migrants.

[…]

It is not clear what effect issuing regional visitor cards will have on the caravans given many of the migrants have entered Mexico illegally anyway.

Critics Say Notre Dame Donations Should be Used for the Poor

Oh, fer cryin’ out loud.

Paris (AFP) – France’s culture minister pleaded Thursday for an end to the controversy over the 850 million euros (950 million dollars) pledged to restore Notre-Dame cathedral, which critics have suggested would be better spent on the poor.

Some of France’s biggest companies and billionaires, including luxury goods tycoons Francois-Henri Pinault and Bernard Arnault, have pledged amounts of 100 million euros or more to rebuild the landmark after it was gutted by fire on Monday evening.

The vast sums have drawn fire in a country where wealth inequality and the plight of the low-income households have been highlighted during five months of demonstrations by “yellow vest” protesters.

“This pointless debate consists of saying ‘it’s too much money for Notre-Dame even though there are needs elsewhere’ — of course there’s a need for money for the social system, for health, the fight against climate change,” Culture Minister Franck Riester told RMC radio.

“But let’s leave this extraordinary show of generosity to run its course,” he pleaded.

He said Notre-Dame was “not only old stones. It’s a part of our identity, it’s our nation, European culture.”

Notre-Dame Burns

So, so, tragic. This architectural gem has been a significant part of western civilization for centuries.

A fire has broken out at the famous Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris and has spread rapidly across the building.

The cause is not yet clear, but officials say that it could be linked to renovation work.

A major operation to tackle the blaze is under way at the 850-year-old Gothic building, but the cathedral’s spire and roof have collapsed.

You can see the images here. The damage is extensive.

Ecuador Acuses Assange of Spying

I’m fairly sure that Assange has managed to tick off just about everyone now.

President Moreno – who came to power in 2017 – said of the decision to end Assange’s seven-year stay in the embassy: “Any attempt to destabilise is a reprehensible act for Ecuador, because we are a sovereign nation and respectful of the politics of each country.”

He added: “We can not allow our house, the house that opened its doors, to become a centre for spying.”

The president also made references to Assange’s apparently poor hygiene following allegations made by Ecuador’s interior minister, Maria Paula Romo.

Umbrella Movement Leaders Convicted

This is your reminder that China is still a communist regime.

Nine pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong have been found guilty of public nuisance charges for their role in a civil disobedience movement that called for free elections in the city.

Among them are three prominent activists, seen as figureheads of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement.

They could be jailed for up to seven years for their part in the “Umbrella Movement” protests of 2014.

Thousands marched demanding the right for Hong Kong to choose its own leader.

Those convicted include the so-called “Occupy trio” – sociology professor Chan Kin-man, 60, law professor Benny Tai, 54, and Baptist minister Chu Yiu-ming, 75.

U.S. Cuts off Aid to Northern Triangle

Good. But we also need to do something with Mexico for allowing these caravans to traverse the length of their country unmolested. These countries are free to have whatever policies they want, but the American taxpayers don’t have to pay for it.

(CNN)The United States is cutting off aid to the Northern Triangle, otherwise known as the Central American countries of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, the State Department told CNN Saturday, one day after President Donald Trump said they had “set up” migrant caravans for entry into the United States.

[…]

Officials would not say exactly how much money would be affected by the directive with some of it likely already spent. Between last year and this year, about $1.3 billion was allocated to the region with the vast majority of it going to those three countries, according to a study from the Congressional Research Service.

House Rejects All Brexit Options

What a mess.

A series of votes on Brexit options – known as “indicative” votes, designed to see what MPs would and would not support amid the Brexit deadlock – were held on Wednesday evening in the House of Commons, the main decision-making body of the UK Parliament, following hours of debate.

Unusually, MPs indicated their preferences using printed voting forms rather than trooping through the voting lobbies of the chamber.

House of Commons Speaker John Bercow announced the results, revealing that MPs had rejected:

  • Leaving the EU with no deal on 12 April
  • Unilaterally dropping the plan to leave the EU if no deal is reached by 12 April
  • A new referendum on any deal/s to leave the EU
  • Leaving the EU but staying in a customs union with the 27 EU states
  • Two variations on leaving the EU but staying in the European Economic Area (EEA) and rejoining the European Free Trade Association (EFTA)
  • Negotiating changes to the Withdrawal Agreement more in line with the Labour Party’s position
  • Agreeing with the EU a period of two years in which UK goods have full access to EU markets

MPs from Mrs May’s Conservative Party were allowed by the leadership to vote as they saw fit, with the exception of her most senior ministers, who were expected to abstain.

[…]

The UK could still leave with no deal on 12 April if a way forward is not found. Although this is now regarded as unlikely, given the opposition of most MPs, by what method this can be avoided – and even who will be in charge of the process – is not entirely clear.

Brexit March

Not that I planned it, but I was in London for the gigantic anti-Brexit march that happened yesterday. My hotel was on Piccadilly across the park from Buckingham Palace. The march went right in front of my hotel. I skipped over to the City of London to escape most of the craziness, but was able to enjoy some fun protest signs. It took every fiber of my being to resist slipping in with a sign that said, “I’m American! I’m indifferent!”

 

House Speaker Triggers Constitutional Crisis

In Britain.

The House of Commons Speaker has thwarted any attempt by Theresa May to bring a third meaningful vote to parliament, unless there has been substantial change to the Brexit deal.

With Theresa May’s plans thrown into chaos by the move, one of her chief law officers warned the government could be forced to cut short the parliamentary session and restart in order to bring back the Brexit deal.

John Bercow’s shock move, which drew immediate criticism from May’s allies, suggested he believed such a fundamental change would involve a renegotiation at EU level rather than clarification of the legal advice written by the attorney general, something that had been suggested this week.

The solicitor general, Robert Buckland, said the decision was a “constitutional crisis” and that the government might have to consider the drastic step of ending the parliamentary session early and restarting a new session.

U.S. Leaves Venezuela

Smart move. In a collapsing country, their value as hostages increases by the day.

The U.S. is withdrawing its remaining diplomatic personnel from the embassy in Venezuela, citing the “deteriorating situation” given days of blackouts, increased water shortages and the threat of further protests.

The decision also comes amid growing concern that American diplomats could become a pawn in the battle with President Nicolas Maduro as the U.S. tries to push him from power.

Despite Maduro’s calls for their expulsion, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo vowed to keep American personnel there to support Juan Guaido, the president of the National Assembly who has been recognized as the country’s interim president by the U.S. and over 50 other countries.

But the sudden reversal was announced late Monday night in a statement where Pompeo called embassy staff’s presence a “constraint on U.S. policy.”

“Decisions you make are always encumbered by the fact that you know there’s real risk to your own people, people that you’ve sent into harm’s way,” Pompeo added Tuesday. “We wanted to get them out of the country so that we could move forward in a way that provided that opportunity.”

Brexit Broken

Divorces are always messy.

Theresa May’s planned Brexit deal has suffered a major defeat in the UK parliament, leaving the Brexit process in disarray.

Mrs May began the day with renewed hope after securing last-minute changes to her withdrawal deal with the EU.

But MPs roundly defeated her proposals, 391 votes to 242, weeks after her first attempt to pass the deal met the same fate.

Had the vote gone her way, the UK would be preparing to leave the EU on 29 March.

That exit date still looms large, but things could go a few different ways before then.

The next step is… another vote (this one on Wednesday). MPs will vote on a motion on whether to allow the UK to exit the EU on 29 March without a deal – a so-called “disorderly” or “no-deal” Brexit.

Leaving the EU without a deal – and therefore without the 21-month transition period provided for by the deal – carries significant risks for trade, immigration, health, and more, and parliament will almost certainly reject that possibility.

Rejection of a no-deal Brexit would then set up… yes, you guessed it: another vote.

This one would decide whether Mrs May will go back to the EU to request an extension to Article 50 – the formal name for the notification from the UK that it is leaving the union.

That would throw the Brexit ball into the EU’s court – potentially allowing the union to decide the terms of any extension period.

Kidnapping (Maybe) in Mexico

Yikes.

Mexico City (AFP) – Nineteen passengers who were kidnapped from a bus last week in northern Mexico were migrants, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said Tuesday, as investigators worked through the murky details of the case.

The men were crossing the violent state of Tamaulipas, on the US-Mexican border, on Thursday when four vehicles blocked the road and forced their bus to stop, according to authorities.

Armed men then boarded the coach and kidnapped 19 passengers whose names they had on a list.

“I can confirm that they were migrants,” Lopez Obrador said, referring to the abducted men, without specifying their nationalities.

The bus was traveling from the port of Tampico to Reynosa, a border city across from McAllen, Texas.

Although the bus driver told authorities that 19 passengers were kidnapped, investigation sources have indicated the real number of victims could be as high as 25.

The president told a news conference that one line of investigation is the possibility the men could have staged their own kidnapping as a way to drop off the radar and then enter the United States undetected.

Venezuela In the Dark

This is how socialism works. Equality in misery.

When night falls on Venezuela’s ghostly capital, an unnerving hush grips the streets of this once-bustling South American metropolis.

“You feel a profound silence all around you,” said Alejandro Guzmán, a 26-year-old lawyer and one of millions of Venezuelans left in the dark after their country was hit by an unprecedented blackout some believe could have dramatic implications for its political future. “It’s like a city of shadows.”

Like many Venezuelans, Guzmán has spent most of the last three days without electricity after a crippling outage – that Nicolás Maduro’s beleaguered administration is blaming on foreign saboteurs – struck at about 5pm Thursday afternoon plunging virtually the entire country into the gloom.

Talks with North Korea Fail

This is disappointing on many levels.

President Donald Trump landed back in Washington after the sudden collapse of his nuclear summit with Kim Jong Un – after saying in an interview he appreciates that North Korea spent ‘a lot of time’ building up its nuclear arsenal.

In an interview with Sean Hannity of Fox News, conducted in Hanoi before Trump told the world why he failed to reach a deal with the North Korean dictator, Trump said he and Kim did not see eye to eye on what North Korea would have to give up for sanctions relief.

‘Well, they wanted to denuke certain areas and I wanted everything,’ Trump told Hannity.

‘And the sanctions are there and I didn’t want to give up the sanctions unless we had a real program. And they’re not ready for that and I understand that fully, I really do. I mean, they spent a lot of time building it and that doesn’t mean the world has to be happy,’ Trump said.

Socialist Venezuelan Government Kills Own People

For the horrendous crime of wanting to accept aid so that they can eat and heal.

A high stakes bid by the Venezuelan opposition to transport aid into the country turned deadly on Friday as government forces opened fire on a group of indigenous volunteers, killing at least one woman and injuring 12.

Members of the indigenous community in the southern town of Kumarakapay, bordering Brazil, on Friday night took the commander of the Venezuelan national guard prisoner in retaliation.

Jose Miguel Montoya Rodriguez was being detained by members of the Pemon tribe, following the death of Zoraida Rodriguez in the clashes.

The violence cast an ominous shadow over the massive aid delivery planned for Saturday, with hundreds of tonnes of medical supplies destined to be brought across the border from Brazil and Colombia.

Juan Guaido, the self-declared “interim president” who has marshalled the hugely symbolic aid delivery, condemned the killing of Rodriguez, and promised to bring the perpetrators to justice.

[…]

Cucuta has four bridges crossing into Venezuela, and the volunteers, told to dress in white, will set out at 9am (2pm GMT) – “not smugglers in the night,” said Jose Manuel Olivares, a 33-year-old doctor-turned-politician, who will on Saturday lead one of the columns.

“We will do it by the light of day, with full transparency, because we have nothing to hide.”

Freddy Superlano, a deputy for the Chavez family state of Barinas, added: “We’ve thought it all through, with the aid. It’s much more than politics. It’s the survival of the nation.”

Mr Guaido insisted that the aid must be allowed to pass, and issued another plea to the soldiers to allow its safe passage.

“You must decide on which side you stand, at this decisive hour,” he tweeted on Friday night.

“To the soldiers, between tonight and tomorrow you must decide how you want to be remembered. We know you stand with the people. Tomorrow you must show it.”

Captured American Jihadi Wants to Return to U.S.

Unlike the British one in the previous story, this one sees the error of her ways.

An American woman captured by Kurdish forces after fleeing the last pocket of land controlled by Islamic State says she “deeply regrets” travelling to Syria to join the terror group and has pleaded to be allowed to return to her family in Alabama.

Once one of Isis’s most prominent online agitators who took to social media to call for the blood of Americans to be spilled, Hoda Muthana, 24, claims to have made a “big mistake” when she left the US four years ago and says she was brainwashed into doing so online.

Speaking from al-Hawl refugee camp in northern Syria, while her 18-month-old son played at her feet, Muthana said she misunderstood her faith, and that friends she had at the time believed they were following Islamic tenets when they aligned themselves to Isis.

“We were basically in the time of ignorance […] and then became jihadi, if you like to describe it that way,” she said. “I thought I was doing things correctly for the sake of God.”

Muthana said she had not been in contact with US officials since her capture. “I would tell them please forgive me for being so ignorant, and I was really young and ignorant and I was 19 when I decided to leave. I believe that America gives second chances. I want to return and I’ll never come back to the Middle East. America can take my passport and I wouldn’t mind.”

What do you think? On the one hand, she appears regretful and might not return to her violent ways. On the other hand, why take the risk? She was an adult when she joined the Islamic State. She made her bed, as they say…

“Death to America”

Yup. They’re still at it.

Crowds chanted ‘Death to America, death to Israel’ as hundreds of thousands of Iranians gathered at rallies to mark the 40th anniversary of the Islamic revolution.

Ceremonies were held across the state today to observe the anniversary of the fall of the Shah and the triumph of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the Shiite cleric who led the coup.

Iran’s army declared its neutrality on February 11, 1979 and paved the way for the collapse of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi – the closest ally of the US in the Middle East.

Trump Open to Use of Military in Venezuela

While I support and pray for the opposition in Venezuela to succeed in casting off the yoke of oppression, I oppose direct military intervention by the U.S. Supplies, logistical support, aid… yes. Military on the ground… no.

Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump said that the use of US military force in Venezuela is still on the table amid its ongoing political crisis and that he turned down a meeting with Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro several months ago.

The President’s comments came in an interview taped Friday with CBS’s Margaret Brennan on “Face the Nation” in which he also declined to say what would cause him to use the military in Venezuela, noting only that “it’s an option” for his administration.
When Brennan asked Trump what would make him use military force in the country and what the national security interest for such action would be, he said, “Well, I don’t want to say that, but certainly it’s something that on the — it’s an option,” according to the transcript of the interview.

Invasion Continues at Southern Border

It won’t stop until we stop it.

MEXICO CITY — Thousands of U.S.-bound Central American migrants resumed their northern journey on Thursday, Mexico City officials said, part of a growing group of would-be asylum seekers who say they are fleeing violence and poverty back home.

Around 2,400 migrants left a city shelter to begin the journey from the Mexican capital early Thursday morning, the latest caravan to embark upon the risky path to the U.S.-Mexican border despite U.S. President Donald Trump’s determination to prevent them from entering.

Since last October, thousands of mostly Central American migrants have sought to cross into the United States, many traveling in caravans in order to minimize the risks of kidnapping and attacks by members of criminal gangs while in Mexican territory.