March 27, 2008

  • Fixing a Broken Electoral System
  • Democratic Congressional Hopefuls Challenge Iraq War
  • The EU’s New Alliance
  • Indigenous People Continue to Be Displaced as a Result of Latin America’s Longest Running Civil War
  • Cambodia’s Real Estate Boom Threatens to Displace 150,000 People

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Shiite Militia Crackdown Continues in Iraq Amidst Protests
Fierce fighting between Iraqi government troops and Shiite militias in Basra has continued for a thrid day. The ongoing crackdown against the Shiite militias led thousands to take to the streets of the Iraqi capital today to call for the resignation of Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki. Al-Maliki issued an ultimatum to the Basra militias yesterday, giving their members until Friday to surrender or face serious consequences. The Iraqi Prime Minister flew to Basra on Tuesday to personally supervise the start of the massive operation there. As many as 30,000 police and Iraqi soldiers are participating in the offensive. The battles in the southern Iraqi city have reportedly killed more than 130 people and have flooded its hospitals with civilian casualties.

Basra Pipeline Attack Affects 1/3 of Iraq’s Oil Exports

In related news, oil prices soared to over $107 a barrel today after suspected militants bombed a major pipeline in southern Iraq. The attack has reduced Iraqi oil exports by one-third.

India Guarantees Sanitized Olympic Torch Run

Responding to Beijing’s concern about Tibetan protestors targeting the Olympic torch, India today assured China proper protection for the flame during its passage through the country next month. Bismillah Geelani reports.

The assurance from India came a day after Beijing expressed its concern over the security of the Olympic torch during its run in India. China even hinted at the possibility of bypassing India entirely if New Delhi could not guarantee a protest-free passage. India’s National Security Adviser today promised the government would take all necessary steps to comply with the Chinese demands. The Olympic torch will arrive in New Delhi on April 17 and will stay in the country for two days before passing on to Bangkok. China is particularly concerned about protests from Tibetan exiles in India after Tibetans stormed the Chinese Embassy in New Delhi last week. The Chinese mission in India has already raised the matter with the Ministry of External Affairs as well as the Indian Olympic Association. Meanwhile, the Tibetan Youth Congress has appealed to Bollywood actor Aamir Khan not to carry the Olympic torch. Khan is the official Beijing Olympics torchbearer in Delhi. The group has also threatened that it will not allow the flame to move through India. The group will be holding parallel torch relays along the official torch route. For FSRN, this is Bismillah Geelani from New Delhi.

Dengue Fever Epidemic in Rio de Janeiro

The Brazilian government has deployed its army to Rio de Janeiro to battle a major outbreak of dengue fever. The Ministry of Health has also announced plans to hire hundreds of emergency workers to cope with the huge number of people complaining of symptoms. Medical workers have had to set up special tents in the streets as the hospitals have filled to capacity. The epidemic has hit the poorest areas of the city the hardest. Dengue fever is transmitted by mosquito bites. Symptoms include fever, diarrhea, and intense muscle pain and can be fatal in some cases. More than 30,000 cases of dengue fever have been registered in Rio de Janeiro state since the start of the year. Small children make up the majority of the more than 50 of the current epidemic’s confirmed fatalities.

RCMP Criticized for Censoring Taser Report
The debate around the police use of tasers has heated up again in Canada following the release of a Royal Canadian Mounted Police report on the weapon’s use. Aaron Lakoff has more.

Critics in the Canadian House of Commons slammed the initial version of the report, recently released to two Canadian media outlets under the Access to Information Act. The released version censored key information including if the taser victims were armed and the actions the officer took prior to using the weapon. In response to growing public pressure, RCMP Commissioner William Elliott has ordered “a further review” of the report to determine if the decision to censor was appropriate and if the Mounties should release additional information from the unabridged taser report. Elliott estimates that review could be completed within two weeks. Tasers have contributed to the deaths of at least 19 people in Canada since they became part of the police arsenal in 2001. For Free Speech Radio News, this is CKUT’s Aaron Lakoff.

Oaxaca Starts Repatriating Remains of Central American Migrants

Mexico has began repatriating the remains of Salvadoran migrants who shipwrecked off the coast of Oaxaca in what was the deadliest sea accident ever for migrants passing through Mexico on their way to the US. Vladimir Flores has the story.

The exhumation comes at the request of consular representatives from El Salvador in Mexico. Five months ago, 13 Salvadorans died on their way to the United States when their boat capsized in bad weather. Survivors of the accident say the boat left a Guatemalan port with 24 people aboard. It shipwrecked off the coast of San Francisco Ixhuatán in the region of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec – a key route for Central American migrants. Most of the dead were given Christian burials in the Oaxacan city of Juchitán. Ten of the bodies have been identified and are in the process of being returned to their families in El Salvador. Mexican authorities expect to complete the exhumations and repatriations by the end of the month. For FSRN, I’m Vladimir Flores in Oaxaca City.



Fixing a Broken Electoral System

Saying the system is broken, Florida Senator Bill Nelson today announced that he will introduce new legislation that would abolish the electoral college and create a new system of rotating, inter-regional primaries –as well as another plan to have Florida’s Primary vote count. WMNF’s Mitch Perry reports:

Democratic Congressional Hopefuls Challenge Iraq War

The next wave of Democratic challengers for November’s seats in Congress laid out their plan in Washington today to end the war in Iraq. Meanwhile, President Bush was at the National Air Force museum, giving an impassioned plea for the US to continue it’s current course. FSRN’s Karen Miller has more.

The EU’s New Alliance

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and French President Nicolas Sarkozy today pledged to work together inside the European Union and on the world stage. The declaration, which could mean a shift in alliances in Europe, came on the second day of Sarkozy’s state visit to Britain. Tony Cross reports from Paris.

Indigenous People Continue to Be Displaced as a Result of Latin America’s Longest Running Civil War

Diplomatic tensions between Colombia and Ecuador appear to persist, despite Colombian Foreign Minister Fernando Araujo’s announcement this week that he would like to re-establish relations with the neighboring country after Colombia’s unauthorized military incursion into Ecuador this month. Today, Araujo accused Ecuadorian rebels of carrying attacks against Colombian farmers who eradicate coca plants, and is calling on Ecuador to coordinate border security. Meanwhile, hundreds of indigenous people have been forced to flee their homes in Colombia, due to combats between the Colombian Army and FARC guerrillas. Manuel Rueda is in Tacueyo, southern Colombia – where the fighting is taking place.

Cambodia’s Real Estate Boom Threatens to Displace 150,000 People

The war in Cambodia is now over land. According to Amnesty International, more than 150,000 Cambodians are living in fear of eviction from their homes. To make way for new housing developments, the government is forcibly evicting hundreds of thousands of slum dwellers from their homes – claiming they are illegal squatters. But the United Nations says authorities are violating the country’s 2001 land law and international human rights. As Rebecca Henschke reports, evicted families are dumped in camps outside the city.