Friday, March 11, 2005

Politics this week

From The Economist print edition:

Russian special forces in Chechnya killed the rebel Chechen leader, Aslan Maskhadov. But although his death gave the Russians a much-needed triumph, it may change little on the ground. The rebels vowed to fight on.

Using controversial new powers that he obtained last September for the first time, Russia's president, Vladimir Putin, sacked the elected governor of the Koryakia region.

Ramush Haradinaj, prime minister of Kosovo, resigned and flew to The Hague to defend himself after being indicted by the Yugoslav war-crimes tribunal. Fears of more violence in Kosovo were assuaged as the news was received calmly.

The Communists won Moldova's election. Formerly pro-Russian, they now favour a tilt towards the European Union.

Mourners brought central Rome to a standstill for the funeral of Nicola Calipari, an Italian intelligence agent killed while escorting freed Baghdad hostage Giuliana Sgrena. Mr Calipari was apparently shot by American troops at a checkpoint on the way to Baghdad airport (Ms Sgrena was wounded). Italy's prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, said he was waiting for clarification of the incident from American authorities.

A turbulent week in Bolivia: President Carlos Mesa resigned, saying that protesters were making the country ungovernable, but then agreed to stay on, after securing the support of a majority in Congress. Protesters continued to demand the immediate expulsion of a French water company and higher royalties on foreign oil companies.

In another Latin American prison inferno, a fight between rival gangs was reported to have set off a fire which killed 133 inmates at a jail in the Dominican Republic.

Argentina's economy minister, Roberto Lavagna, met officials of the IMF and the United States Treasury, for talks on his country's suspended loan agreement with the Fund. Argentina claims to have put its debt default behind it, after 76% of defaulted bonds were tendered in a debt swap offer; some Fund shareholders want Argentina to make provisions for remaining bondholders.

The presidents of Paraguay and Colombia signed an agreement to co-operate on security and against drug-trafficking. Paraguay's government believes that Colombia's FARC guerrillas had a hand in the recent kidnapping and murder of the daughter of a former president.

The government of Niger, which had blessed the release of 7,000 slaves, scheduled for last week, changed its mind, denied that there were any slaves on its territory and intimidated the slave-owners into parroting this denial. No slaves were freed.

The lower house of Nigeria's national assembly voted to stop servicing the country's vast foreign debt. The upper house overruled it. The president asked rich-country creditors for debt relief. Britain seemed sympathetic, Germany less so.

Condoleezza Rice, America's secretary of state, said the US was pulling out of an international protocol that provides access to consulates for foreigners who are charged with death penalty crimes. The protocol was used last year in a ruling by the International Court of Justice that said 51 Mexicans on death row must have their cases reviewed.

South Korea's finance minister, Lee Hun-jai, resigned amid allegations that his wife had improperly acquired farm land in a speculative deal.

Hong Kong's chief executive, Tung Chee-hwa, officially resigned (though many believe he was sacked).

A British aid worker was shot dead in Kabul, a reminder that Afghanistan remains plagued by security problems.

Indonesia and East Timor agreed to establish a Commission of Truth and Friendship, which will examine the events of 1999, when Indonesian militias ran amok after an East Timorese vote for independence. The commission will not make prosecutions.

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