U.S. SOUTHERN COMMAND
HEADLINE NEWS FOR SUNDAY, JANUARY 25, 2009
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SOUTHCOM RELATED ARTICLES
Soft Power: More Than Hearts And Minds
Source: Small Wars Journal 01/24/2009
By Norman Seip
Leading up to the Presidential Inauguration, the use of military “Soft Power” has been roundly
debated as military policy evolves under the new administration. The conventional thought process on
how and why militaries conduct soft power operations, non-traditional missions involving humanitarian
assistance, disaster response and infrastructure development in foreign nations, has been to view these
missions as a means to increase the ‘attractiveness’ of American culture. In fact, the Los Angeles Times
even likened these missions to getting “what you want through attraction rather than coercion…” (Joseph
Nye, Los Angeles Times, Jan 21, 2009).
But to cast Soft Power as simply a ploy to win hearts and minds is to miss the larger goal. When
U.S. forces open a clinic to treat patients in remote regions, our nation’s image is not the doctor’s
motivation. When Air Forces exchange ideas on how to work together during natural disasters,
influencing trade policy isn’t part of the flight plan. And when a soldier sits down with a village elder to
discuss assistance in erecting a bridge, whether or not the population finds American culture appealing is
not in the blueprints.
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has personally called for a resurgence in Soft Power practices.
Air Force leadership recently committed millions to fund ‘Operation Southern Partner,’ a biannual, two-
week exchange program with Latin American and Caribbean nations to share tactics, techniques and
procedures in more than 25 military career specialties. Air Forces Southern medical technicians annually
complete more than 30 medical readiness deployments in 14 countries across the region. In 2009, the
USNS Comfort is again headed across the U.S. Southern Command area of focus to provide medical care
and infrastructure projects to coastal communities.
Contrary to popular belief, Soft Power cannot change hearts and minds — American policy and
media coverage of these effects is far too pervasive to be forgotten. Personal relationships built during
mil-to-mil or mil-to-civilian interactions can move individuals, but a soft power campaign itself will not
stop an insurgency or change a nation’s sentiment towards America.
So what are the goals of military Soft Power projects? In the U.S. Southern Command area of
focus, and in Air Forces Southern, our stated objective is to promote security, enhance stability and enable
partnerships across the Americas. Countering narcoterrorism, promoting human rights and providing
humanitarian assistance to partner nations are some of the programs in our toolkit — ‘influence’ is never
Soft Power missions foster increased security and stability within partner nations, thereby
increasing the conditions necessary for free peoples to prosper. Soft Power helps to emplace
infrastructure, the rule of law, the internal ability to effectively respond to natural disasters and
professional militaries to enable citizens to freely exercise rights and make responsible choices about their
nation’s destiny. In addition, Soft Power missions develop strong partnerships and open communication
channels, allowing nations to collaborate in solving regional challenges. On the other end of the spectrum,
instability and insecurity tend to breed dictatorships, offer safe havens to narcoterrorism and repress
The enduring effects of Soft Power missions benefit both civilian and military institutions; for
example, the continued professionalization of partner nation enlisted forces is bolstered through non-
commissioned officer academy mobile training teams. Fixed wing subject matter exchanges with partner
nation Air Forces preserve the sovereignty of a nation’s airspace and close air routes for drug smugglers
while cooperation teams focused on airport security protect ports for tourism, travel and commerce.
A sustained Soft Power campaign may do more to avert the next conflict than an arsenal of
missiles or massing of troops. The future of our nation’s military will surely see the rise of more diverse
units — equipped as a strong, expeditionary force able to adapt missions to focus on Soft Power or
traditional military operations. Tactics will shift from the ‘cult of the offensive’ to “any mission,
anywhere, any time.”
In the future, Soft Power will be applied across the spectrum of military operations, combining
kinetic effects (Hard Power) with economic, political, cultural and military Soft Power campaigns — a
concept termed “Smart Power” by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during her confirmation hearings.
For military members, Soft Power employment must become part of the services’ core competencies,
second nature to the warfighter and planner.
In doing so, militaries will have to involve other vital contributors — an evolution as dramatic for
the services as the “joint” movement of the 1980s — such as Department of State, government agencies,
law enforcement, non-governmental organizations and private enterprise. Other nations may provide
additional expertise; for example, Operation Southern Partner will surely mature from the one-to-one
exchanges began last year to include partner nation experts teaming with U.S. Air Force subject matter
experts to share techniques with Air Forces from other regions.
In many circles, professional military education has already begun to teach future battlefield
commanders that Soft Power isn’t simply the mission of Civil Affairs or Public Affairs detachments; it’s a
responsibility of all commanders and the second-order mission of every Soldier, Sailor, Airmen and
Lieutenant General Norman R. Seip is Commander, 12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern).
General Seip entered the Air Force after graduating from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1974. He has
commanded two squadrons, an operations group and a wing. The general was an exchange officer with
the U.S. Navy serving with VF-41 on board the USS Nimitz. He has also served in key positions during
tours with Air Combat Command, the Air Staff and Joint Staff. General Seip is a command pilot with
more than 4,500 flying hours, primarily in fighter aircraft. He flew the F-15E in support of operations
Southern Watch, Northern Watch and Iraqi Freedom. As the Deputy Combined Forces Air Component
Commander for U.S. Central Command, General Seip had a direct impact in supporting combat
operations in operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom and Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa.
CHAVEZ: Closing Gitmo Isn't A Solution
Source: Washington Times 01/25/2009
By Linda Chavez
President Obama is learning it is a lot easier to reverse unpopular positions of his predecessor than
it is to come up with better ones of his own.
On Thursday, he signed executive orders aimed at shutting down the prison at Guantanamo Bay,
which houses some of the most dangerous terrorists in the world. His orders also restricted interrogation
methods that can be used by the CIA to elicit information from suspects and eliminated secret CIA-run
overseas detention facilities.
Earlier, he suspended military commission hearings established to hear cases against those held at
Guantanamo, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on
America. Now he has to decide what to do with the 245 men held at Guantanamo. And, if he is lucky
enough to see Osama bin Laden or Ayman al-Zawahri captured on his watch, he'll have to decide what to
do with them. Ensure they're read their Miranda rights and appointed taxpayer-funded legal counsel,
It's no joke. The philosophical shift between treating accused terrorists captured on foreign soil as
enemy combatants or simply heinous criminals is an important distinction. The Clinton administration
dealt with those responsible for the first attack on the World Trade Center in 1993 as the latter. (In
fairness, no one knew at the time that the perpetrators were involved in more than a criminal conspiracy.)
But Mohamed Atta and his 18 fellow soldiers made sure we understood on Sept. 11, 2001, that their
attacks were acts of war against the United States.
It is tempting to believe the worst is over - that we won't be hit again, maybe even harder than we
were just eight years ago. Some Democrats are sure nothing George W. Bush did made us safer, and
many of them would argue Mr. Bush sacrificed important constitutional guarantees without gaining any
measure of security.
But I think it is highly implausible that pure luck has protected us. Waterboarding may be nasty
business, but if the technique indeed forced Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to reveal details in 2003 of
planned attacks and thus saved lives - as Bush officials have asserted - is it responsible to say there are no
circumstances, ever, in which it might be used again? And would the Obama administration go further, as
Attorney General nominee Eric Holder hinted in his confirmation hearings, and seek to prosecute those
who ordered or carried out waterboarding?
So what will the Obama administration do with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the others at
Guantanamo? If the military commission established to try these men will no longer do so, will they be
turned over to criminal courts in the United States? If so, it is likely many would be acquitted on the basis
of "tainted evidence" and lack of due process alone. Then what? Do we put them on airplanes and ship
them home? Or will human rights groups protest that countries like Saudi Arabia or Egypt might torture
these men so we must not send them there?
Spanish Prime Minister Jose Zapatero has offered President Obama his support and help in closing
Guantanamo, but is Mr. Zapatero willing to take any of those prisoners deemed too dangerous to release
and put them in Spanish jails?
In his Inaugural address, Mr. Obama promised "for those who seek to advance their aims by
inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be
broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you." But actions speak louder than words. We'll see if
he means it.
As President Obama no doubt has figured out, closing Guantanamo while preserving national
security will take more than a stroke of the pen. He risks alienating the left-wing base of his party if the
barbed wire doesn't come down immediately. But the stakes are much higher if he lets terrorists loose on
Linda Chavez is a nationally syndicated columnist.
When Gitmo Was (Relatively) Good
Source: Washington Post 01/25/2009
By Karen J. Greenberg
In his first week in office, President Obama signed an executive order that would shut down the
notorious U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, within a year. But as the United States moves to
end this shameful episode, it's worth reflecting on the untold story of the very beginnings of Guantanamo.
The following account, which draws on dozens of interviews I conducted over the past few years,
tells the startling tale of a period shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, when military officers on the ground tried to
do the right thing with the recently captured detainees but were ultimately defeated by civilian officials
back in Washington. Those early days -- back before Gitmo became Gitmo -- strongly suggest that the
damage the prison inflicted on America's honor and security could have been avoided if policymakers had
been willing to follow the uniformed military's basic instincts. It may be too late for these revelations to
help redeem Guantanamo in its waning days. But those crafting U.S. detention policy in the years ahead
could still benefit from learning about these small initial efforts at decency.
The story begins in the first week of January 2002, when Joint Task Force 160, led by Marine
Brig. Gen. Michael Lehnert, dutifully landed at Guantanamo Bay. Lehnert's approximately 2,000 troops
were fired up about their mission: building the first detention facility for prisoners taken from the Afghan
battlefield. The unit had a 96-hour deadline, according to Lehnert, and they were told that about 300
detainees were already en route to Cuba. As Col. William Meier, Lehnert's chief of staff, explained it, the
task force had to scavenge materials from existing structures on the base to help build hundreds of cells
and the massive tent city needed to house the U.S. troops coming in to guard them. One commander
working on the construction mission, Lou V. Corielo, told a Marine Corps interviewer at the time that he
found himself lamenting the absence of a Home Depot.
But it wasn't the logistics that most worried Lehnert. It was the policy vacuum into which he and
his troops had been thrown. "We are writing the book as we go," one officer said at the time. Lehnert said
he had been told by the Joint Chiefs of Staff that the Geneva Conventions would not technically apply to
his mission: He was to act in a manner "consistent with" the conventions (as the mantra went) but not to
feel bound by them. The Joint Task Force, advised by U.S. Southern Command, was essentially left
on its own to improvise a regime of care and custody for the allegedly hardened al-Qaeda terrorists
-- whom the Bush administration famously called "the worst of the worst" -- who would be coming
their way. The idea, as Lehnert told me he understood it, was to detain them and wait for a legal
process to begin.
In the absence of new policy guidance about how to treat the detainees, Lehnert told me that he
felt he had no choice but to rely on the regulations already in place, ones in which the military was well
schooled: the Uniform Code of Military Justice, other U.S. laws and, above all, the Geneva Conventions.
The detainees, no matter what their official status, were essentially to be considered enemy prisoners of
war, a status that mandated basic standards of humane treatment. One lawyer for the Judge Advocate
General Corps, Lt. Col. Tim Miller, told me that he used the enemy-POW guidelines as his "working
manual." A corrections specialist, Staff Sgt. Anthony Gallegos, called Washington's orders "shady,"
which he told me gave his colleagues no choice but to "go with the Geneva Conventions."
The task force set to work around the clock, processing the detainees upon arrival, administering
medical treatment and providing general care in the cells of the newly built Camp X-Ray. Lehnert's
lawyers studied the 143 articles of the Geneva Conventions, paying particular attention to Common
Article 3, which prohibits "humiliating and degrading treatment." The head of the operation's detention
unit, Col. Terry Carrico, summed up the situation to a team of Marine Corps interviewers several weeks
into the mission: "The Geneva Conventions don't officially apply, but they do apply."
But there were early signs of trouble. Lehnert told me that his request to bring representatives of
the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to Guantanamo -- something international law
requires for all prisoners being held in war-related situations -- was, as he heard it, shunted aside
somewhere up the chain of command. "The initial request," he recalled, "was turned down." He persisted.
Even if he obviously could not implement some of the Geneva Conventions requirements -- the right to
musical instruments, for instance, or the right to work for payment -- he wanted advice from ICRC
professionals to help him ensure the prisoners' safety and dignity.
Exasperated by repeated attempts to find out which guidelines to apply to the detainees, Col.
Manuel Supervielle, the head JAG at Southern Command, picked up the phone and called the ICRC's
headquarters in Geneva. As one member of the Southern Command staff remembers the episode, the Joint
Chiefs of Staff had warned the Gitmo task force that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's office
opposed getting involved with the ICRC. But now, according to Supervielle, a U.S. officer was asking the
ICRC to help out at Guantanamo. The ICRC answered with an immediate "Yes."
It was a pivotal moment in the history of Guantanamo. Once Supervielle's call had been made, the
civilian policymakers around Rumsfeld could not undo what the uniformed military had done -- although,
according to Supervielle, an irritated team of lawyers, including Pentagon general counsel William J.
"Jim" Haynes II, asked the Southern Command lawyer days later whether there was "a way to back out of
The ICRC arrived at Guantanamo on Jan. 17, 2002 -- six days after the detainees did. Thus began
what amounted to a period of subtle defiance of Washington's lack of direction. The ICRC worked with
Joint Task Force 160 to create a rational, legal detention operation. ICRC representatives immediately
began to help Lehnert's troops improve the grim physical situation of the hastily constructed camp: the
open-air cages in which prisoners were held, the cells without toilets, the constant exposure to heat and
To intensify his efforts, Lehnert told me, he requested a Muslim chaplain, Navy Lt. Abuhena M.
Saifulislam. "Saif," as the Bangladeshi American imam was known throughout the camp, became a
fixture inside the blocs of cages at Camp X-Ray. Task force members recall him strolling daily through
the camp, sometimes accompanied by Lehnert, and conversing with the detainees -- some of whom were
in no mood to chat, some of whom had stories to tell. Lehnert tried to assure them that some form of legal
remedy or transfer home was in the works, as one former detainee, British citizen Shafiq Rasul, told me.
Brig. Gen. Lehnert had built his own Guantanamo, one with ICRC oversight, a Muslim chaplain
and an overriding ethos that stressed codified law and the unwritten rules of human decency. Lehnert's
team let the detainees talk among themselves; it provided halal food, an additional washing bucket inside
cells that lacked toilet facilities, a Koran for each detainee, skullcaps and prayer beads for those who
wanted them, and undergarments for the prisoners to wear at shower time, in accordance with Islamic
laws that proscribe public nakedness.
Perhaps Lehnert's Guantanamo could have been sustained. But Rumsfeld wanted something else:
He expected to get valuable, actionable intelligence from the detainees. By late January 2002, according
to Brig. Gen. Galen B. Jackman, Lehnert's chief contact at Southern Command, the defense secretary told
officers on a video conference call with Southern Command that he was frustrated by the absence of such
A displeased Rumsfeld seems to have decided to create a second command, one that would exist
side by side with Lehnert's. It would be devoted solely to gathering intelligence and would be headed by a
reservist major general, a former U.S. Army interrogator during the Vietnam War named Michael
Dunlavey. Jackman told me that he considered the idea of two parallel commands a "recipe for disaster."
At the same time, Navy Capt. Robert Buehn, the commander of the naval base at Guantanamo, recalled,
the Gitmo task force's initial expectations of orders to build a courtroom began to fade.
As Dunlavey's command took shape in late February and early March, the fabric of prisoner's
rights that Lehnert had woven was beginning to unravel. By the end of February, nearly 200 detainees had
mounted a hunger strike to protest their treatment. Interrogations, not trials, had become the future of
But Lehnert did not concede defeat. In later accounts, several detainees described the surprise they
felt watching the general walk through the camp in response to the hunger strike. As these prisoners
remembered it, Lehnert would sit on the ground outside the wire-mesh cells, hat in hand, and make
promises to prisoners in exchange for their agreement to eat. According to these detainees, he promised to
remove a guard who they said had kicked a copy of the Koran and to find a way to reduce the chafing of
the ankle shackles they wore during transport. One German detainee, Murat Kurnaz, was among the
detainees who watched Lehnert negotiate with the prisoners. "Was he trying to signal that . . . he wanted
to speak to the prisoner as a human being?" Kurnaz wondered. Lehnert admitted to me that, with the help
of Saif, the chaplain, he even put in a call to a detainee's wife to find out whether she had safely delivered
the baby they were expecting -- a boy, it turned out. Above all, the U.S. general hoped to avoid having to
feed the prisoners by force.
Thanks in large part to Lehnert's efforts, the hunger strike dwindled to a couple of dozen fasters by
the first week of March. But as much as he might have championed the need to respect the detainees as
individuals -- albeit allegedly dangerous terrorists -- Guantanamo's future had been decided. As the
hunger strike wound down, Lehnert said, he and his unit were given notice that they would soon be
Once Lehnert's troops departed, a new Guantanamo took shape -- the Guantanamo that an appalled
world has come to know over the past seven years. Inmates were kept in isolation, interrogation became
the core mission, hunger strikers were regularly force-fed, and above all, the promise of a legal resolution
to the detainees' cases has eluded hundreds of prisoners.
As Obama moves to close Guantanamo down, the story of Joint Task Force 160 takes on new
significance. Had the United States been willing to trust in the professionalism of its superb military, it
could have avoided one of the most shameful passages in its history. Lehnert still regrets the legal limbo
that Guantanamo became -- and the damage that did to America's "stature in the world." As he put it, "the
juice wasn't worth the squeeze."
And there is a final irony on the horizon.
One of the places now being considered as a new U.S.-based destination for the remaining Gitmo
detainees is Camp Pendleton, a Marine Corps base in Southern California. The base's commanding
general is none other than Michael Lehnert, now a major general. The detainees might well be returned to
his custody. In several senses, we could wind up right back where we started. This time, however, we
should have the law on our side -- not to mention a conscience.
Karen J. Greenberg is the executive director of New York University's Center on Law and
Security and the author of the forthcoming "The Least Worst Place: Guantanamo's First 100 Days."
Guantanamo Case Files In Disarray
Source: Washington Post 01/25/2009
By Karen DeYoung, Peter Finn
President Obama's plans to expeditiously determine the fates of about 245 terrorism suspects held
at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and quickly close the military prison there were set back last week when
incoming legal and national security officials -- barred until the inauguration from examining classified
material on the detainees -- discovered that there were no comprehensive case files on many of them.
Instead, they found that information on individual prisoners is "scattered throughout the executive
branch," a senior administration official said. The executive order Obama signed Thursday orders the
prison closed within one year, and a Cabinet-level panel named to review each case separately will have
to spend its initial weeks and perhaps months scouring the corners of the federal government in search of
Several former Bush administration officials agreed that the files are incomplete and that no single
government entity was charged with pulling together all the facts and the range of options for each
prisoner. They said that the CIA and other intelligence agencies were reluctant to share information, and
that the Bush administration's focus on detention and interrogation made preparation of viable
prosecutions a far lower priority.
But other former officials took issue with the criticism and suggested that the new team has begun
to appreciate the complexity and dangers of the issue and is looking for excuses.
After promising quick solutions, one former senior official said, the Obama administration is now
"backpedaling and trying to buy time" by blaming its predecessor. Unless political appointees decide to
overrule the recommendations of the career bureaucrats handling the issue under both administrations, he
predicted, the new review will reach the same conclusion as the last: that most of the detainees can be
neither released nor easily tried in this country.
"All but about 60 who have been approved for release," assuming countries can be found to accept
them, "are either high-level al-Qaeda people responsible for 9/11 or bombings, or were high-level Taliban
or al-Qaeda facilitators or money people," said the former official who, like others, insisted on anonymity
because they were not authorized to talk to reporters about such matters. He acknowledged that he relied
on Pentagon assurances that the files were comprehensive and in order rather than reading them himself.
Obama officials said they want to make their own judgments.
"The consensus among almost everyone is that the current system is not in our national interest
and not sustainable," another senior official said. But "it's clear that we can't clear up this issue overnight"
partly because the files "are not comprehensive."
Charles D. "Cully" Stimson, who served as deputy assistant defense secretary for detainee affairs
in 2006-2007, said he had persistent problems in attempts to assemble all information on individual cases.
Threats to recommend the release or transfer of a detainee were often required, he said, to persuade the
CIA to "cough up a sentence or two."
A second former Pentagon official said most individual files are heavily summarized dossiers that
do not contain the kind of background and investigative work that would be put together by a federal
prosecution team. He described "regular food fights" among different parts of the government over
information-sharing on the detainees.
A CIA spokesman denied that the agency had not been "forthcoming" with detainee information,
saying that such suggestions were "simply wrong" and that "we have worked very closely with other
agencies to share what we know" about the prisoners. While denying there had been problems, one
intelligence official said the Defense Department was far more likely to be responsible for any
information lapses, since it had initially detained and interrogated most of the prisoners and had been in
charge of them at the prison.
Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said that the Defense Department would cooperate fully in the
"Fundamentally, we believe that the individual files on each detainee are comprehensive and
sufficiently organized," Morrell said. He added that "in many cases, there will be thousands of pages of
documents . . . which makes a comprehensive assessment a time-consuming endeavor."
"Not all the documents are physically located in one place," Morrell said, but most are available
through a database.
"The main point here is that there are lots of records, and we are prepared to make them available
to anybody who needs to see them as part of this review."
There have been indications from within and outside the government for some time, however, that
evidence and other materials on the Guantanamo prisoners were in disarray, even though most of the
detainees have been held for years.
Justice Department lawyers responding in federal courts to defense challenges over the past six
months have said repeatedly that the government was overwhelmed by the sudden need to assemble
material after Supreme Court rulings giving detainees habeas corpus and other rights.
In one federal filing, the Justice Department said that "the record . . . is not simply a collection of
papers sitting in a box at the Defense Department. It is a massive undertaking just to produce the record in
this one case." In another filing, the department said that "defending these cases requires an intense, inter-
agency coordination of efforts. None of the relevant agencies, however, was prepared to handle this
volume of habeas cases on an expedited basis."
Evidence gathered for military commission trials is in disarray, according to some former officials,
who said military lawyers lacked the trial experience to prosecute complex international terrorism cases.
In a court filing this month, Darrel Vandeveld, a former military prosecutor at Guantanamo who
asked to be relieved of his duties, said evidence was "strewn throughout the prosecution offices in desk
drawers, bookcases packed with vaguely-labeled plastic containers, or even simply piled on the tops of
He said he once accidentally found "crucial physical evidence" that "had been tossed in a locker
located at Guantanamo and promptly forgotten."
2 Ex-Detainees In Qaeda Video
Source: New York Times 01/25/2009
By Robert F. Worth
BEIRUT, Lebanon — Two former Guantánamo Bay detainees now appear to have joined Al
Qaeda’s Yemeni branch, which released a video on Friday showing them both and identifying them by
their names and Guantánamo detainee numbers.
American counterterrorism officials have already confirmed that Said Ali al-Shihri, 35, who was
released from the American prison camp at Guantánamo in November 2007, is now the deputy leader of
Al Qaeda’s Yemeni branch. He is suspected of playing a role in a deadly attack on the American Embassy
in the Yemeni capital, Sana, in September.
In the video released Friday, Mr. Shihri sits alongside a man identified as Abu Hareth Muhammad
al-Awfi, who appears with a script at the bottom of the screen giving his Guantánamo identification
number, 333. That number corresponds to a man known in Pentagon documents as Mohamed Atiq Awayd
al-Harbi, who was also released to Saudi Arabia in November 2007.
The difference in names is partly due to the common Arab practice of referring to men by their
kunya, an honorific, in this case Abu Hareth, derived from the name of his first son. The name Al Harbi is
a tribal designation.
Both men passed through a Saudi rehabilitation program for jihadists after their release from
Guantánamo. That program has been seen as a model, and the Saudi government had previously said that
none of its graduates had returned to terrorism.
In the video released Friday, Mr. Awfi warns fellow prisoners about the Saudi program and
threatens attacks against Saudi Arabia. He also speaks angrily about the Israeli attacks on Hamas in Gaza.
Mr. Shihri also speaks in the video, saying “by God, our imprisonment only increased our
perseverance in the principles for which we went out, did jihad for, and were imprisoned for.”
Two Ex-Guantanamo Inmates Appear In Al-Qaeda Video
Source: Agence France-Presse 01/25/2009
WASHINGTON (AFP) – Two men released from the US "war on terror" prison at Guantanamo
Bay, Cuba have appeared in a video posted on a jihadist website, the SITE monitoring service reported.
One of the two former inmates, a Saudi man identified as Abu Sufyan al-Azdi al-Shahri, or prisoner
number 372, has been elevated to the senior ranks of Al-Qaeda in Yemen, a US counter-terrorism official
Three other men appear in the video, including Abu al-Hareth Muhammad al-Oufi, identified as an
Al-Qaeda field commander. SITE later said he was prisoner No. 333.
A Pentagon spokesman, Commander Jeffrey Gordon, on Saturday declined to confirm the SITE
"We remain concerned about ex-Guantanamo detainees who have re-affiliated with terrorist
organizations after their departure," said Gordon.
"We will continue to work with the international community to mitigate the threat they pose," he
On the video, al-Shihri is seen sitting with three other men before a flag of the Islamic State of
Iraq, the front for Al-Qaeda in Iraq.
"By Allah, imprisonment only increased our persistence in our principles for which we went out,
did jihad for, and were imprisoned for," al-Shihri was quoted as saying.
Al-Shiri was transferred from Guantanamo to Saudi Arabia in 2007, the US counter-terrorism
The other men in the video are identified as Commander Abu Baseer al-Wahayshi and Abu
Hureira Qasm al-Rimi (also known as Abu Hureira al-Sana'ani).
The Defense Department has said as many as 61 former Guantanamo detainees -- about 11 percent
of 520 detainees transferred from the detention center and released -- are believed to have returned to the
The latest case highlights the risk the new US administration faces as it moves to empty
Guantanamo of its remaining 245 prisoners and close the controversial detention camp within a year.
Yemen Says 94 Guantanamo Inmates Home Within Three Months (AFP)
Source: Agence France-Presse 01/25/2009
SANAA (AFP) – President Ali Abdullah Saleh said on Saturday that 94 Yemeni inmates of the
US military detention centre at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba will be home within three months.
"Security authorities have been instructed to prepare a comprehensive centre... to rehabilitate
them, in a patriotic way, so that they move away from extremism," Saleh told a security conference, an
AFP correspondent reported.
"This will happen during the coming two months, and they will be here in a period between 60 to
90 days. They number 94 people," he added.
New US President Barack Obama on Thursday ordered the closure of the prison where hundreds
of men were held for alleged links with Islamist extremists following the 2001 US-led invasion of
Afghanistan to oust the Taliban regime.
On Friday the US-based SITE monitoring service reported that two men released from
Guantanamo have appeared in a video posted on a jihadist website.
A US counter-terrorism official told AFP that one of the two, a Saudi identified as Abu Sufyan al-
Azdi al-Shihri, or prisoner number 372, has been elevated to the senior ranks of Al-Qaeda in Yemen.
Saleh said Yemen rejected a proposal by the old US administration to send Yemeni inmates to
Saudi Arabia for rehabilitation, insisting on receiving them in Yemen, ancestral homeland of Al-Qaeda's
Saudi-born chief Osama bin Laden.
"We rejected this US request and told them that we are ready to receive them in our country," he
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Bolivia To Vote On New Constitution
Source: Los Angeles Times 01/25/2009
By Chris Kraul and Patrick J. Mcdonnell
Reporting from La Paz, Bolivia, and Los Angeles — A new constitution that voters are expected
to approve today would give more power to Bolivia's indigenous communities, promote agrarian reform
and allow President Evo Morales to seek reelection to another term.
But analysts warn that passage of the new constitution also could worsen Bolivia's polarization,
throw its legal system into chaos, and discourage investment in the natural resources that are its main
ticket to prosperity.
Morales, a onetime coca farmer and Bolivia's first Indian president, is following his regional allies,
leftist Presidents Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and Rafael Correa of Ecuador, in seeking a new constitution
to lengthen his time in office and increase his powers.
Morales enjoys the support of more than 60% of Bolivia's population of 9.2 million, including
solid backing from indigenous people. Many in the middle class and intelligentsia who are fed up with a
history of ineffective government also back him.
"This would be a very significant victory for Evo," said Eduardo Gamarra, political scientist at
Florida International University. "It basically gives him carte blanche to do what he feels like."
Today's vote follows a year of tension in Bolivia, the poorest nation in South America. In 2008,
four of the country's nine states defied Morales and passed measures seeking more autonomy. Morales
easily survived a recall vote, but violence in September in northern Pando state left more than a dozen
The conflict pits the largely indigenous population of the western highlands against cattlemen and
soy farmers in the eastern states, which are rich in natural resources.
The new constitution would boost indigenous rights by promoting "community justice" to replace
traditional courts, and by recognizing the rights of 36 ethnic groups to control their land and claim
royalties on natural resources.
Political analyst Lupe Andrade, former mayor of the capital, La Paz, warned that competition for
royalties from Bolivia's many mineral and energy projects could lead to conflict among ethnic groups.
The vote comes as relations between Bolivia and the United States are fraying. The top U.S.
diplomat in La Paz, Krishna Urs, walked out of Morales' state of the union speech Thursday after he
alleged that the United States was interfering in Bolivian affairs. Urs has been in charge of the embassy
since Morales expelled Ambassador Philip Goldberg in September, alleging that a plot was in the works
to overthrow him.
Morales has also ordered the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to get out by the end of this
month, as international counter-narcotics officials say coca cultivation, cocaine production and illicit
exports are on the rise. The coca plant is recognized in the new constitution as part of Bolivia's "cultural
The Bush administration retaliated last year by expelling Bolivia's ambassador and ending trade
preferences offered to Andean nations for fighting the drug trade. That has cost Bolivian textile
manufacturers millions of dollars.
The Peace Corps last year removed 130 volunteers from Bolivia, and the embassy reduced
Political scientist Gamarra sees little prospect in the short term for improvement of relations under
President Obama, noting that Morales spent part of his speech Thursday repeating his accusations against
the former ambassador.
"There is no real sentiment in the new Congress or the State Department that's favorable of
renewal of relations with Bolivia," Gamarra said.
Even some Morales supporters are ambivalent about the financial support he receives from
Chavez. Morales redistributes Venezuelan cash to local mayors and makes his foreign trips on
Venezuelan military aircraft. Chavez has offered to send troops to defend Morales in the event of a coup
The new constitution would codify national rights over mineral and energy deposits, and more
foreign-owned energy, mining and telecommunications companies probably would be nationalized,
former President Carlos Mesa said in an interview. On Friday, Morales nationalized Chaco Petroleum
Co., a subsidiary of British-owned BP.
Parts of the proposed constitution were toned down in negotiations with the opposition in
congress, including a clause that would have allowed Morales and future presidents two additional five-
year terms; the limit was reduced to one.
Luis Eduardo Siles, a political science professor and former congressman, said the new
constitution would advance redistribution of land to the poor, although the mechanics are ill-defined.
"The constitution will permit the ownership of up to 25,000 acres by a single landowner as long as
the land is 'economically and socially productive,' " Siles said. "The problem at this point is in measuring
As Bolivians Vote On New Constitution, Opposition Finds Itself Divided
Source: Washington Post 01/25/2009
By Joshua Partlow
LA PAZ, Bolivia -- Just six months ago, the enemies of President Evo Morales seemed brash with
In the arc of lowland eastern regions known as the "half moon," which tend to be richer and whiter
than those in the western mountains, leaders openly expressed their disdain for Morales. They considered
Bolivia's first indigenous head of state an authoritarian socialist and acolyte of Venezuelan President
In protests and strikes, they mocked the former coca grower as nothing but a narco-president.
They held their own referendums and declared themselves autonomous. Some called for a military coup.
Among their ultimate aims was to stop Morales from passing a new national constitution that
would enhance the power of the state over the economy, enshrine new rights for indigenous groups and
perhaps give him several more years as president. The opposition vowed to stop it.
But as Bolivians go to the polls Sunday to vote on that constitution, Morales opponents are
divided and seemingly demoralized, with many acknowledging they have little hope of voting it down. In
a country where a majority of people are of indigenous descent and poor, the opposition does not, at the
moment, have a national figure or a message to challenge the appeal and charisma of Morales.
"Today, there is not a serious opposition in the country," said Manfred Reyes Villa, the former
governor of Cochabamba and a Morales opponent, who was ousted during a nationwide recall referendum
Those free-market advocates who disagreed with Morales's policies -- demanding more regional
revenue from oil and gas companies, state payments to poor children and the elderly -- coalesced not in a
political party but around regional governors and civic committee leaders in the eastern states. They had
momentum in May and June when Santa Cruz, Beni, Pando and Tarija passed autonomy referendums.
But their movement stumbled in August, during a national referendum on whether to recall
Morales halfway through his first term. Morales won by a landslide, capturing 67 percent of the vote,
exceeding the 53 percent he achieved during his election in December 2005.
The victory not only energized his push for a new constitution, it also inflamed the situation in
opposition territory. Anti-government mobs ransacked and burned government offices. The trouble
peaked on Sept. 11, when a group of Morales supporters came under attack on a dirt road in the
Amazonian region of Pando. About 20 people were killed, though the numbers are in dispute, and a
subsequent report from the Union of South American Nations called it a "massacre." Civil war seemed a
"They were much more aggressive. They didn't have a response to the recall referendum," Antonio
Peredo, a senator from Morales's Movement Toward Socialism party, said of the opposition. "The only
response that they found was the violence, in hope that the government would respond with violence, and
then they could publicize the image of an authoritarian dictatorship capable of massacres."
Morales imprisoned the governor of Pando, Leopoldo Fernández, and accused him of
orchestrating the killings. The killings and the arrest, according to analysts and politicians, undercut the
"With Pando, the regional opposition just collapsed," said George Gray Molina, a research fellow
at Oxford University and former United Nations official in Bolivia. "I think they lost authority and
legitimacy even among their own grass roots."
Opposition leaders say it was Morales who became more aggressive, using what he saw as a
powerful mandate from the recall referendum to crack down on his enemies.
Either way, the violence proved repellent to many.
"If there is one thing that unites Pacenos and Crucenos," as people here call residents of La Paz
and Santa Cruz, "according to our research, it is a desire for reconciliation and unity and a rejection of
violence and extremism," said Mark Feierstein, a partner in the Washington-based firm Greenberg
Quinlan Rosner Research, which has recently conducted polls in Bolivia.
And Fernández's arrest, considered by Morales critics to be illegal, intimidated other opponents,
said Jaime Aparicio, a former Bolivian ambassador to the United States.
"The moment that this governor was put in jail without due process and without legal procedure,
the moment they accepted that, they were, first of all, divided, and second, they were totally scared the
same thing could have happened to them," he said. "And that is when they lost their impulse and energy."
From this weakened negotiating position, opposition lawmakers agreed on Oct. 21 to a series of
amendments to the constitution, to reach compromises on some of the administration's more controversial
measures. That paved the way for Sunday's referendum.
The final draft of the 411-article constitution would increase the state's power and allow for
presidents to be reelected, which could give Morales a second five-year term.
The new constitution would enshrine a series of rights for Bolivia's 36 Indian "nations," including
setting aside seats for minority indigenous groups in the National Congress and requiring that they be
consulted before natural resources are extracted in their territory.
"Historically and politically, this is going to be like closing a black page in our past. We are
opening a new era, where we can build a new country," said Sabino Mendoza, a union leader for coca
farmers and a member of the constituent assembly. "For the first time, the campesino, the indigenous
person, will know that they have worked on this constitution . . . they are the owners of these ideas."
The constitution also would limit sprawling landholdings, and the state could confiscate land not
deemed productive. Although existing properties would be grandfathered in, voters will decide whether
the maximum size of future property should be 12,400 or 24,700 acres.
The opposition to Morales and this constitution are by no means gone, and the clamor of
dissenting voices has grown louder in recent weeks. Marches and protests championing the "no" vote
have attracted thousands.
The Catholic Church has joined the fray over concerns such as the text's failure to declare life as
beginning "from conception," which it fears might allow for the legalization of abortion. The proposed
draft also does not declare Catholicism the national religion, as the current constitution does.
But polls suggest that the opposition will have trouble mustering votes to stop the constitution.
And Morales, who greeted screaming supporters Thursday night from a stage in front of the presidential
palace in La Paz, seems nothing if not confident.
"Patriots, we are not visiting the palace, we are here to stay for life," he said. "Sunday's vote is not
for the government; it is for the Bolivian people."
Bolivians To Decide Fate Of New Constitution
Source: San Francisco Chronicle 01/25/2009
By Annie Murphy, Chronicle Foreign Service
La Paz, Bolivia -- A power struggle that began almost a decade ago will culminate today, when
Bolivians vote to approve or reject a new constitution.
"This constitution was a demand from the streets," said Abraham Delgado, an indigenous activist.
"When people spoke out for a constitution, they were saying that the old system doesn't work."
Even though the new constitution is controversial, 65 percent are expected to support the reforms,
with only 16 percent voting against it, according to Angus Reid Global Monitor, a Canadian pollster.
The rewritten constitution grants new rights to the nation's more than 5 million indigenous
inhabitants of 36 distinct "nations," including collective ownership of property, community-based judicial
systems, and the right to manage and earn income from natural resources found on their lands.
"If over 60 percent of the population self-identifies as indigenous, a country has to ask itself, 'How
does the government reflect that?' " said sociologist Oscar Vega. "Until recently, it simply hasn't."
It also ends immunity in criminal cases for sitting members of Congress, gives voters rather than
Congress the right to choose judges, including the Supreme Court, and opens the possibility of two
consecutive five-year terms. The current limit is also two terms, but they must be nonconsecutive.
The document has generated criticism for allowing voters to decide whether future private
property holdings should be capped at 12,000 acres or 24,000 acres; giving the government greater
control over the economy and natural resources; and guaranteeing freedom of religion without mentioning
the Roman Catholic Church like the current constitution.
Bolivia's indigenous groups have been a disenfranchised labor pool since the Spanish conquest
more than 500 years ago. It wasn't until the 1950s that they were given the right to vote or own property.
Most still lack access to education, jobs and health care. About 60 percent of the population lives below
the poverty line - the majority indigenous - according to CIA data. Rural poverty has been estimated at
more than 80 percent.
Many activists are banking on President Evo Morales, the first indigenous president, to change
those grim statistics through increased social programs and the new constitution. Since taking office in
2006, he has nationalized the gas industry, increased social spending and pledged to "refound" Bolivia
through a new constitution that benefits the indigenous majority.
In 2007, a draft constitution was approved by a special constitutional assembly and boycotted by
Jorge Lazarte, a La Paz political scientist and a participant in the constitutional assembly, says he
is voting no. Approval, he says, would give indigenous peoples "too many rights by expanding their
authority over land and resources. You just wait, it's all going to be a mess."
But, Miguel Urioste, director of the La Paz think tank Land Foundation, says a yes vote may begin
to improve the nation's skewed land distribution. According to the last government survey, 86 percent of
the nation's small farmers occupy just 2.4 percent of the land, leaving most in the hands of industrial
farmers or unproductive. He says rewriting the rules is just the first step.
"Evo Morales has got to do more to put land into the hands of this country's indigenous and poor,"
Such sentiment scares rancher Duston Larsen, the Bolivian-born son of American parents. Last
year, he and his father engaged in a six-month armed standoff after government agents tried to inspect
working conditions and land titles on their 40,000-acre property in eastern Santa Cruz province.
Government officials eventually gained access when both father and son were away from the property,
and a legal process in which ownership and working conditions will be verified is expected to begin.
Although land restrictions cited in the new constitution apply only to future sales of property, it does not
protect those with large tracts of fallow land. Larsen says all three of his ranches are productive, but he
fears the government will claim otherwise and eventually confiscate his properties.
"The idea that indigenous people need more land is ridiculous," Larsen said. "Indigenous people
don't want more land; who wants more land is the Evo Morales government, plain and simple," referring
to control of Bolivia's natural resources.
In the meantime, Abraham Delgado, who lives in El Alto, a rapidly growing city of 1 million
mostly Aymara migrants located above the capital La Paz, is ready to vote yes. The son of a subsistence
farmer and a miner who migrated to the city to find work, Delgado participated in demonstrations that
ousted two presidents in 2003 and 2005.
"I fought to get to this point like everyone else," Delgado said. "But make no mistake; it's just a
starting point, because we still have a long way to go."
The restive road to a new constitution
In 2000, growing frustration by indigenous groups and labor unions came to a head in the central
city of Cochabamba, when residents protested higher prices for water charged by the local water company
administered by the San Francisco company Bechtel. The episode, which became known as the "Water
War," forced Bechtel out of Bolivia and marked the start of a grassroots movement to nationalize the
nation's natural resources, according to the Democracy Center, a San Francisco advocacy group with an
office in Cochabamba.
In 2003, the ensuing political movement demanded the nationalization of the natural gas industry -
Bolivia has the second-largest gas reserves in South America after Venezuela - and a new constitution to
increase the rights of Aymara, Quechua and other indigenous groups, who make up 60 percent of
Bolivia's 9 million inhabitants but have long been marginalized by successive governments.
In 2003 and 2005, widespread protests forced two presidents out of office for failing to meet those
In 2006, Aymara coca union leader Evo Morales became Bolivia's first indigenous president,
promising to nationalize the gas industry and launch a special legislative assembly to write a new
"At that point whoever stepped into the presidency had to call a constitutional assembly," said
Oscar Vega, a La Paz sociologist. "It was the only way to address tensions here."
In 2007, lawmakers met to begin drafting the new constitution in the administrative capital of
Sucre, where they insulted each other, engaged in fisticuffs and staged walkouts. On the streets,
opposition-led riots left three dead and dozens injured. Some delegates were forced to seek refuge in army
On Dec. 9, 2007, legislators approved the final draft after moving to the city of Oruro, where most
opposition was not present.
Key elements of Bolivia's proposed constitution
Local autonomy: Eastern lowland provinces can set up state assemblies that control local issues,
but not land reform or natural gas revenues. Indigenous groups are granted self-rule on traditional lands
inside existing states. All autonomies have "equal rank."
Re-election: Presidents can serve two consecutive five-year terms. Current constitution permits
two terms, but not consecutive. Evo Morales could thus remain in office through 2014.
Homosexuality: Prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation, refers to marriage as
"between a man and a woman."
Land: Voters decide in the referendum whether future land ownership should be capped at 12,000
or 24,000 acres. Current holdings are grandfathered in. The state can seize land that doesn't perform a
"social function" or was fraudulently obtained.
Indigenous rights: Recognizes self-determination of 36 distinct Indian "nations." Sets aside seats
in Congress for minority indigenous groups.
Natural resources: The state controls all mineral and oil and gas reserves.
Justice: Judges on Bolivia's highest court are elected rather than appointed by Congress as current
law provides. The state recognizes indigenous groups' practice of "community justice" based on
Religion: Both the Christian God and Pachamama, the Andean earth deity, are honored. Church
and state are separate. Freedom of religion is guaranteed, and no mention is made of the Roman Catholic
Church, a departure from the current constitution.
Obama Poised To Change Cuba Policy?
Source: Washington Times 01/25/2009
By Carmen Gentile
With the inauguration last week of Barack Obama, many Cuban-Americans are anticipating a
change in policy toward their homeland that reflects both the new president's campaign promises and
shifting views and demographics among a once-solid Republican political bloc.
Mr. Obama won more than one-third of Florida's Cuban-American vote in November, a voter base
that in the past has favored Republican presidential candidates by margins of more than 80 percent.
During months of stumping in the Sunshine State, Mr. Obama promised that as president he would
drop increasingly unpopular Bush administration restrictions on travel to Cuba for Cuban-Americans and
allow them to send unlimited remittances to the communist-run island.
"Popular support for the [Bush] policy toward Cuba is diminishing," said Brian Latell, a senior
research associate at the University of Miami's Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies and
author of "After Fidel: The Inside Story of Castro's Regime and Cuba's Next Leader."
Beyond lifting restrictions put in place by the Bush administration in 2004 that limit travel by
Cuban-Americans to Cuba to once every three years, a majority of Cuban-Americans also wants the U.S.
trade and investment embargo -- now in its 47th year -- to be removed.
According to a poll last month by Florida International University, 55 percent of Florida's Cuban-
Americans are against continuing the embargo. The poll said 65 percent want the United States to re-
establish diplomatic ties with the island, regardless of its leadership.
The results mark the first time since the poll was conducted in 1991 that a majority of the 900,000
Cuban-Americans in Florida advocate completely abandoning the embargo.
"It's a logical progression of the exile community's awareness of the failures of our policies," said
Tomas Bilbao, executive director of the Cuba Study Group.
Francisco Hernandez, president of the Cuban American National Foundation (CANF), which in
the past has supported the embargo, said his organization agrees with Mr. Obama's proposal to end
restrictions on travel and remittances by Cuban-Americans.
"We believe that those restrictions were counterproductive, because we need more of a
relationship between Cuban-Americans and Cubans on the island," he said.
"After all, eight years of the Bush administration didn't do anything [for Cuba]," he said. "There
should be some more imaginative ways to deal with the Cuban government."
Mr. Hernandez said CANF was preparing a set of recommendations for the new administration but
would not specify what they were.
Mr. Obama said during the campaign that he would retain the embargo until real democratic
change comes to Cuba.
The country has been governed for the past two years by Raul Castro, who has introduced some
modest economic reforms while continuing to clamp down on political freedom. His brother, Fidel, the
leader of Cuba since 1959, has been largely out of public view since he had stomach surgery in 2006 and
formally stepped down in February, although he met last week with the president of Argentina.
The Cuban-Americans who still support the embargo are mostly older exiles who left Cuba prior
to or just after the rise of Fidel Castro, Mr. Bilbao said. With their numbers shrinking and an influx of
newer immigrants who have suffered under an embargoed Cuba, where even basic necessities are hard to
come by, the changing attitude toward U.S. policy is understandable, he said.
Andy Gomez, an adviser to the U.S. Task Force on Cuba, a group that is under the auspices of the
Brookings Institution, said the shift is a result in part of the changing face of the Cuban-American
population as well as the failure of the embargo to produce change.
"Isolating our enemies has not worked," Mr. Gomez said. "Putting conditions on Cuba doesn't get
A minority of Cuban-Americans still supports the embargo.
"What I would like from the Obama administration is to manifest very clearly that a free and
democratic Cuba is in the best interest of U.S. national security," said Orlando Gutierrez, co-founder and
national secretary of a leading South Florida Cuban group, the Cuban Democratic Directorate.
Mr. Gutierrez said that the new administration must take "concrete steps to help the resistance in
Cuba establish a democratic Cuba." But unlike failed efforts in the 1960s to foment an armed resistance in
Cuba, Mr. Gutierrez said the Obama administration should pressure the Cuban government to be
accountable for human rights violations, such as the jailing of political opponents, and to free prisoners in
exchange for an easing of U.S. restrictions.
"It must be very clear to the Castro regime that in order to get any concession [such as the removal
of certain trade restrictions], they must make concessions," Mr. Gutierrez said.
El Salvador's Leftists Gain In Legislative Vote
Source: Associated Press 01/25/2009
By Marcos Aleman
SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador – El Salvador's former leftist rebels won more seats than any
other party in legislative elections but fell short of a majority, final results showed Saturday.
The results positioned the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front, or FMLN, as the single
strongest party less than two months before presidential elections. But the outcome also means the party
will have to negotiate with a conservative bloc if it takes the presidency.
The FMLN won 35 seats in the Jan. 18 elections, three more than in the 2006 elections, said
Supreme Electoral Tribunal President Walter Araujo.
President Tony Saca's conservative Arena party lost two seats to end up with 32 in the 84 seat-
unicameral congress. But the Christian Democratic Party won 11 seats and the conservative National
Conciliation Party won five, giving the conservative bloc more than the 43 seats needed for a simple
Neither side has the two-thirds needed to approve the national budget and other key measures.
Arena's popularity has been hurt by high gas prices and soaring food costs, and the FMLN's candidate,
television journalist Mauricio Funes, is favored to win March 15 presidential elections.
That would give guerrillas-turned-political party the presidency for the first time since peace
accords ended El Salvador's civil war in 1992.
The party has struggled to win over Salvadorans politically in the past 17 years. It has never
completely overcome its rebel image — partly because its hard-left faction pushed aside party moderates
when choosing candidates in past presidential elections.
In a significant setback, the FMLN lost the capital for the first time in 12 years. Arena candidate
Norman Quijano unseated Salvadoran Mayor Violeta Manjivar of the FMLN.
Former Rebels Win Salvador Poll
Source: BBC News 01/25/2009
El Salvador's former rebel movement has become the country's largest political party, 17 years
after signing a peace accord that ended the bitter civil war.
But the Farabundo Marti Liberation Front (FMLN) failed to win a majority of parliamentary seats,
final results from last week's vote have shown.
A party spokesman called the result a platform for victory in El Salvador's presidential election in
It is their first such win since the end of the conflict in 1992.
Final results from Sunday's parliamentary election gave the FMLN 35 seats against 32 for the
governing conservative party Arena, election officials announced.
But conservative parties and their allies can still hold a majority in the 84-seat assembly if they
The FMLN has overcome internal divisions and chosen a moderate leader with wide appeal -
former television journalist Mauricio Funes, who took no part in the civil war.
But in a significant setback, the FMLN lost the capital for the first time in 12 years. Arena
candidate Norman Quijano unseated Salvadoran Mayor Violeta Manjivar of the FMLN.
Mr Funes is favoured to win the 15 March presidential elections, but the party needs to convince
the public that it can end a growing wave of kidnappings and gang violence.
The FMLN was once a formidable guerrilla army that posed a serious threat to El Salvador's
American-backed military leaders.
Formed in 1980, it brought together a number of left-wing rebel groups, and launched a series of
offensives from its bases in the countryside over the next decade.
At least 75,000 people were killed in one of the bloodiest of the ideological conflicts that raged
across Central America in the 1980s.
The Reagan administration in Washington responded with substantial aid and training for the
military as it fought to keep the guerrillas out of El Salvador's major cities.
With the end of the Cold War and stalemate on the battlefield, the FMLN signed a peace
agreement in 1992, and reinvented itself as a legitimate political party.
Region Low Down On Obama's List
Source: Trinidad & Tobago News 01/25/2009
By Andy Johnson
AS DC got ready to shut down after a phenomenal week when the world was watching, people
here didn't want it to come to an end. They wanted to revel in the moment in which there was
overwhelming agreement that America was welcoming change, that the world had been made different.
Speaking with People Magazine for its special inauguration edition this week, Colombian singing
sensation Shakira said it was a moment she wished could never end. Jennifer Lopez said of Barack
Obama's inauguration that it was "wonderful to feel the world changing."
The man himself, Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States, told ABC television's Robin
Roberts: "I think I'm going to take in the atmosphere."
And what an atmosphere it was - from Obama' s tectonic Oath of Office as the first black man to
hold the most powerful job in the world.
At the end of a dizzying week, banks of portable toilets remained in the park around the
Washington monument, put there for the million and a half people who descended on the town for the
main event Tuesday. Many of them had gathered from as early as 5 a.m. for a ceremony that took place at
noon, and many stayed on the streets until well past midnight.
All over the city, souvenir shops and hawkers did excellent business; Obama inauguration
memorabilia was just everywhere.
By Wednesday morning, however, the Commander-in-Chief of the world's reputed strongest
military was on his feet, using a swift left hand to sign into law or policy a number of sweeping
regulations. Or to sign away regulations and restrictions of the former administration.
It was Obama's signal that he was determined to keep his promises to the American people, that
their government would go back to working for them.
On the basis of his decision to set in train the closure of the US naval base in Cuba, he said he
wanted the world to know that "America would not torture."
"We need to be leaders in world diplomacy," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said to her staff the
next day as she walked triumphantly into the head office of the US State Department.
"But there is nothing which says that we have to do it alone. You will see that we will develop
partnerships with other countries." She was speaking about the decisions of her boss and former bitter
rival to change the face of American government, using foreign policy as a significant weapon, and
returning diplomacy to its former place of pride in the deployment of that policy.
The Rule of Law, the new president said, was going to be the foundation on which the new policy,
foreign and domestic would be based.
Given the agenda as it is unfolding, US relations with the Caribbean, let alone with Latin America,
appears way down on a list. While he wants to communicate this new mood and this change of direction
and attitude to leaders such as Castro and Venezuela's provocative Hugo Chavez, engagement with the
rest of the Caribbean seems hanging on a question mark, once you get past the front page of hope and