Category Archives: World

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Reborn Railroad is History Come Alive

At the dawn of the 20th century, a railway was born. It connected Austria and Germany with a major port in the Adriatic Sea. The railway carried critical World War I supplies, but it fell out of favor by the 1940s. VOA’s Arash Arabasadi takes us on a coal-powered ride on a train that tourism may just save.

Bolivia’s Morales Urges Opposition to ‘Pacify the Country’

Updated 2:40 p.m., Nov. 11, 2019Bolivia’s Evo Morales called on the opposition to keep the peace Monday as a deepening political crisis over his disputed reelection last month has led to his resignation.Morales resigned over the weekend after protests followed October elections, which granted him a fourth term; however, there were accusations of “irregularities.”According to the Bolivian constitution, the vice president is next in line to take power when the president steps down. The head of the country’s Senate is third in line, but both of them, as well as a number of other top ministers, resigned shortly after Morales, leaving a power vacuum in the South American country awaiting rescheduled elections.Opposition leader Jeanine Anez said Sunday she would assume the interim presidency of Bolivia, but Congress must first be convened to vote her into power.Morales sent a string of tweets lashing out at his opponents Monday, saying they had a “responsibility to pacify the country and guarantee the political stability and peaceful coexistence of our people.”Mesa y Camacho, discriminadores y conspiradores, pasarán a la historia como racistas y golpistas. Que asuman su responsabilidad de pacificar al país y garanticen la estabilidad política y convivencia pacífica de nuestro pueblo. El mundo y bolivianos patriotas repudian el golpe— Evo Morales Ayma (@evoespueblo) November 11, 2019Morales called his key opponents, Carlos Mesa and Luis Fernando Camacho, “discriminators and conspirators,” and also wrote that “violent groups” had attacked his home.A State Department official said the United States is monitoring the “unfolding events” in Bolivia, adding, “It is crucial that the constitutionally delineated civilian leadership maintain control during the transition.”Mexico has described the ouster of Morales as a military coup, and said Monday that it would offer Morales political asylum. Some of his ministers and senior officials who stepped down over the weekend are currently seeking refuge in the Mexican ambassador’s residence.Latin America’s longest-serving leader went into the election needing a 10 percentage-point lead to avoid a runoff and secure his fourth term in office in the October elections.Partial results released after the election had predicted Morales would face a December runoff election against his main rival, former President Carlos Mesa.Less than 24 hours later, the electoral commission released new numbers that showed with 95% of votes counted, Morales was just a 0.7 percentage point short of the 10 percentage-point mark.The announcement prompted opposition complaints of fraud, and triggered violent protests in several cities.

Bilateral Tensions High Ahead of Erdogan Trump Meeting

This week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visits Washington to meet President Donald Trump. The meeting is seen as an opportunity to reset relations that have been strained over numerous policy differences. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul.

Haiti Anti-Government Protests Lose Momentum

Only a few hundred people responded to the opposition’s call Sunday to protest in the streets of Haiti’s capital to continue pressuring President Jovenel Moise to step down.On previous Sundays, tens of thousands have filled Port-au-Prince streets from morning to sundown.  Much lower turnout for today’s anti-government protest in Port au Prince, #Haiti. The opposition blamed armed attacks against protesters, bribes of money and food and fear. But they vow to keep pressing the president to resign.— Sandra Lemaire (@SandraDVOA) November 11, 2019Have the protests lost momentum? VOA Creole put the question to opposition leaders marching on Sunday.Sen. Ricard Pierre said he thinks bribes and fear were partly to blame for the small crowd. “A significant number of Bel Air residents have died — an area that heavily supports the efforts of the Alternative (opposition group). We have people hiding out in the poor neighborhoods because the government has threatened to kill them,” the senator told VOA Creole. “There have been efforts to distribute weapons to residents of the slums. They’ve been offered money, offered food. But despite the massacres endured by the poor people, there are some of them in the streets today fighting (for a better life).”VOA could not confirm the senator’s allegations.Downtown, evangelical pastor Prophete Mackenson Dorilas, who, perched atop a carnival-style truck had been surrounded by thousands of followers during October protests, was seen marching in the street with only a handful of protesters. He blamed fear and the absence of his truck for the low turnout.”The first truck we were offered, I turned down because it wasn’t what I requested. So, they said they would bring me another truck, and I’m still waiting. Some members of my church had intended to join the protest, but they heard the police was targeting protesters, so they ran away,” Dorilas told VOA Creole, adding that the people also need motivation.”The churchgoers don’t like to see me walking on the street. They like to see me up high,” he said.Also marching with about a dozen protesters was former Haitian Army Col. Himmler Rebu, who described his participation as the right thing to do.
“There are two efforts happening simultaneously. There are those (members of the opposition) who are in offices working on plans and strategy, and there are those who are accompanying the people marching in the streets. So today, that’s my job, ” he said.Up northEarly Sunday, tires were seen burning in the middle of a main road in the northern city of Cape Haitian. There were also roadblocks made of tree branches, rocks, metal and debris.Cape Haitian, #Haiti tires are burning as residents get ready for another day of anti-government protests. 📹Yvan Martin Jasmin— Sandra Lemaire (@SandraDVOA) November 10, 2019″These roadblocks are here because President Jovenel still refuses to resign. We will keep blocking the streets, and we will keep protesting until the president leaves,” a protester told VOA Creole.Opposition summitBack in the capital, members of the opposition spent the weekend meeting at the Marriott Hotel to discuss the transition process that would be activated if Moise were to resign.”We are in agreement on four aspects of the transition: governance, control, steps forward and duration,” announced opposition Sen. Youri Latortue, who heads the Haitian Senate’s Ethics and Anti-Corruption Committee. No further details were given.Senator Youri Latortue signs an agreement with leaders from the opposition, to choose an interim president in place of President Jovenel Moise.On the subject of who would replace Moise, the group decided that the choice would be made by a five-member committee comprised of a representative of each opposition group. The transitional president would be chosen among the Supreme Court judges. The committee would also choose a prime minister.”This is a historic event,” prominent businessman Gregory Brandt, who represented the private sector at the meeting, told VOA Creole. “The country has been suffering through a complicated situation for two months now. We aren’t selling merchandise, we aren’t receiving merchandise. Port-au-Prince is beginning to face a scarcity of basic goods. We’re facing an unprecedented humanitarian crisis, so we must sit down in all seriousness to discuss how we can resolve this crisis.”US aidLast week, Rob Thayer, director of USAID’s “Food for Peace” program, told VOA Creole the agency has earmarked 3,500 metric tons of emergency food aid for Haiti, which will be distributed to those in need.In addition to the food aid, the U.S. Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort has been docked off Haiti’s shores since Nov. 6 for a seven-day medical and humanitarian mission. According to the U.S. Embassy in Haiti, the ship’s staff has seen more patients per day in Haiti than on any other stop of their five-nation tour.What a week-end! We’re proud of the Comfort crew & their HAITIAN partners’ effort as they are seeing more patients at the clinic per day than they have on any other stop of the 5 months #EnduringPromise mission. –— U.S. Embassy Haiti (@USEmbassyHaiti) November 9, 2019U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo expressed concern about the situation in Haiti last week on Twitter.The #USNSComfort has arrived to provide much-needed medical services in Haiti. We call on all of Haiti’s leaders to come together to solve the ongoing political & economic gridlock through dialogue & institutions. We stand with all Haitians who peacefully call for accountability.— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) November 7, 2019″The #USNSComfort has arrived to provide much needed medical services in Haiti. We call on all of Haiti’s leaders to come together to solve the ongoing political & economic gridlock through dialogue & institutions. We stand with all Haitians who peacefully call for accountability,” Pompeo tweeted.President MoiseMeanwhile, Moise has been busy naming new cabinet ministers, meeting with members of the diplomatic corps, and giving interviews to the foreign press. He has also increased his visibility on the streets, in the national press and on social media.”Since my first day in office, I have always preached the same thing — togetherness, unity — because the country is tired,” Moise said during a Nov. 7 speech. “Our (nation’s) motto is Unity is Power. But unfortunately, this system (of government), the system that uses people, gives us a different motto which is, Divide and Conquer. Whenever a person wants to enrich himself, he pits us against each other. And when we’ve taken the bait and died in battle, who benefits? Not us.”FILE – Haitian President Jovenel Moise sits at the Presidential Palace during an interview, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Oct. 22, 2019.Early Sunday morning, before the anti-government protest began, Moise visited police stations in Carrefour and Petionville, his press secretary announced. According to a press statement received by VOA Creole early Monday morning, Moise sought to see the working conditions for the policemen and asked for a detailed report on the current status of affairs that will be used to “better address the needs of the agents of the PNH (National Police of Haiti).”Yvan Jasmin Martin in Cape Haitian, Renan Toussaint and Yves Manuel in Port-au-Prince and Ronald Cesar in Washington contributed to this report  

Russia Charges Famed Historian With Murder After Lover’s Severed Arms Found in Bag

A Russian court on Monday charged a distinguished historian known for re-enacting Napoleonic battle scenes with the murder of his partner after he was found in a river with a rucksack containing her severed arms.Oleg Sokolov, a 63-year-old history professor at St Petersburg State University confessed in court on Monday to shooting dead Anastasia Yeshchenko, a 24-year-old postgraduate, with a rifle.Sokolov told the court he had loved Yeshchenko and that they had been lovers for five years. But they argued over his children from another relationship and he had “lost control,” shooting her four times with a sawn-off rifle, he said.Russian historian and professor Oleg Sokolov, who is accused of murdering his girl friend and former student, is escorted inside a court building in Saint Petersburg, Russia, Nov. 11, 2019.“I repent,” he was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency.Investigators suspect Sokolov, whose expertise on Napoleon Bonaparte earned him a Legion of Honor order of merit from France, of chopping his lover into pieces and of trying to dump them in the river to cover his tracks.He was hauled from the Moyka River on Saturday morning with a rucksack containing a gun that fires rubber bullets and the dismembered arms of a woman, Russia’s Investigative Committee, which handles major crimes, said in a statement.He was treated for hypothermia.Divers have been combing the river for Yeshchenko’s remains, but instead found the skeleton of a man, a find apparently unrelated to the historian’s case. Yeshchenko’s remains may have been swept out by currents into the Gulf of Finland, the search team was cited by the RIA news agency as saying.Sokolov appeared in court on Monday and was visibly upset, occasionally holding his head in his hands as he spoke to his lawyer.Sokolov’s lawyer Alexander Pochuyev said his client had probably been sober during the murder.The court ruled to hold Sokolov in pre-trial custody for two months.

Mexico: Bolivia Suffered ‘Coup’ Due to Military’s Role in Events

Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said on Monday that his government viewed
Sunday’s events in Bolivia as a “coup” because the Bolivian military had broken with the constitutional order by pressing the South American country’s president to step down.
 A broken portrait of former Bolivia’s President Evo Morales is on the floor of his private home in Cochabamba, Bolivia, after hooded opponents broke into the residence on Nov. 10, 2019.”It’s a coup because the army requested the resignation of the president, and that violates the constitutional order of that country,” Ebrard told reporters.
The minister was speaking at a regular government news conference after Evo Morales, Bolivia’s president since 2006, resigned under pressure from anger over his disputed re-election last month.

Putin Bemoans Continued Corruption at Space Base

Russian President Vladimir Putin is complaining to his cabinet that widescale corruption at Russia’s new space launch facility is continuing.The facility in the Far East, named Vostochny, is intended to reduce Russia’s reliance on the Baikonur launchpads in Kazakhstan, from which all manned space missions and many other major rockets set off. But construction of Vostochny has been plagued by corruption.“It’s been said 100 times: Work transparently, large amounts of money are allocated. … No, they’re stealing hundreds of millions,” Putin exclaimed with irritation at the Monday cabinet meeting.Presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov later told reporters that about 11 billion rubles ($169 million) has been embezzled during Vostochny’s construction.   

Bolivia in Power Void as Morales, Would-be Successors Resign

Bolivia entered a sudden era of political uncertainty on Monday as President Evo Morales, pushed by the military and weeks of massive protests, resigned after nearly 14 years in power and seemingly every person constitutionally in line for the job quit as well.
Crowds of jubilant foes of the socialist leader celebrated in the streets with honking horns and fireworks after Morales’s announcement Sunday, treating as a triumph of democracy the ouster of a man who pushed aside presidential term limits and claimed victory in a widely questioned October election.
“We are celebrating that Bolivia is free,” said one demonstrator near the presidential palace.
But others – including Morales himself – saw it as a return to the bleak era of coups d’etat overseen by Latin American militaries that long dominated the region. Morales stepped aside only after the military chief, Gen. Williams Kaliman, called for him to quit to allow the restoration of peace and stability.
Morales earlier in the day had already accepted calls for a new election by an Organization of American States team that found a “heap of observed irregularities” in the Oct. 20 election whose official result showed Morales getting just enough votes to avoid a runoff against a united opposition.
It wasn’t immediately clear who would succeed Morales, or how his successor would be chosen.
His vice president also resigned as did the Senate president, who was next in line. The only other official listed by the constitution as a successor, the head of the lower house, already had resigned.
There were no immediate signs that the military itself was maneuvering for power, but “I think we have to keep a close eye on what the military does over the next few hours,” said Jennifer Cyr, associate professor of political science and Latin American studies at the University of Arizona. “Are they overstepping their role?”
She said “the power vacuum opens up space for the military to potentially step in.”
 Bolivia’s President Evo Morales, center, speaks during a press conference at the military base in El Alto, Bolivia, Nov. 10, 2019.Morales was the first member of Bolivia’s indigenous population to become president and he brought unusual stability and economic progress, helping cut poverty and inequality in the impoverished nation, and he remains deeply popular among many Bolivians. Backers of the president have clashed with opposition demonstrators in disturbances that have followed the October vote.
After nightfall, there were reports of tensions in La Paz and the neighboring city of El Alto, with reports of looting and burning of public property and some houses.
The leadership crisis had escalated in the hours leading up Morales’ resignation. Two government ministers in charge of mines and hydrocarbons, the Chamber of Deputies president and three other pro-government legislators announced their resignations. Some said opposition supporters had threatened their families.
In addition, the head of Bolivia’s Supreme Electoral Tribunal, Maria Eugenia Choque, stepped down after the release of the OAS findings. The attorney general’s office said it would investigate the tribunal’s judges for possible fraud, and police later said Choque had been detained along with 37 other officials on suspicion of electoral crimes.
Morales, whose whereabouts were unknown, went on Twitter late Sunday to claim authorities were seeking to arrest him, but police Gen. Yuri Calderon denied any apprehension order had been issued for him.
In his tweet, Morales said: “I report to the world and Bolivian people that a police officer publicly announced that he has instructions to execute an unlawful apprehension order against me; in addition, violent groups also stormed my home.”
 Denuncio ante el mundo y pueblo boliviano que un oficial de la policía anunció públicamente que tiene instrucción de ejecutar una orden de aprehensión ilegal en contra de mi persona; asimismo, grupos violentos asaltaron mi domicilio. Los golpistas destruyen el Estado de Derecho.— Evo Morales Ayma (@evoespueblo) November 11, 2019Armed intruders did break into Morales’ home in Cochabamba.
 A broken portrait of former Bolivia’s President Evo Morales is on the floor of his private home in Cochabamba, Bolivia, after hooded opponents broke into the residence on Nov. 10, 2019.Mexico’s government reported Sunday night that 20 members of Bolivia’s executive and legislative branches were at the official Mexican residence in the capital seeking asylum.
Mexican Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard also said on Twitter that Mexico would offer asylum to Morales if should ask for it, though there was no indication he had.
Morales was elected in 2006 and went on to preside over a commodities-fed economic boom in South America’s poorest country. The combative former leader of a coca growers union paved roads, sent Bolivia’s first satellite into space and curbed inflation.
But even many backers eventually grew wary of his reluctance to leave power.
He ran for a fourth term after refusing to abide by the results of a referendum that upheld term limits for the president – restrictions thrown out by a top court critics claimed was stacked in his favor.
After the Oct. 20 vote, Morales declared himself the outright winner even before official results indicated he obtained just enough support to avoid a runoff with opposition leader and former President Carlos Mesa. A 24-hour lapse in releasing results fueled suspicions of vote-rigging.
The government accepted an OAS team sent to look into the election, and that group called for a new contest with a new electoral tribunal.
“Mindful of the heap of observed irregularities, it’s not possible to guarantee the integrity of the numbers and give certainty of the results,” the OAS said in a statement.
The U.S. State Department issued a statement calling for the OAS to send a mission to Bolivia to oversee the electoral process. “The Bolivian people deserve free and fair elections,” it said.
 The U.S. commends the work of @OAS_official technical team in #Bolivia, which determined new elections and a new Electoral Tribunal are needed. We recommend the OAS continue its good work by collaborating on a new electoral process that reflects the will of the Bolivian people.— Morgan Ortagus (@statedeptspox) November 10, 2019The state news agency ABI said Morales announced his resignation from Chapare province, where he began his career as a union leader. At the end of his speech, he said he was returning to Chapare.
“I return to my people who never left me. The fight goes on,” he said.

Cambodian Opposition Leader Meets French Envoy After House Arrest Lifted

Cambodian opposition leader Kem Sokha met the French ambassador on Monday after his house arrest was lifted, although he remains charged with treason and is banned from politics and leaving the country.Sokha greeted Ambassador Eva Nguyen Binh outside his home before going inside for talks. They made no statement after the meeting.Sokha’s house arrest was lifted as the European Union considers whether to cut preferential trade terms with Cambodia after a crackdown by Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has ruled with an iron grip for more than three decades.It also came days after self-exiled opposition party founder Sam Rainsy increased public scrutiny on Hun Sen in a high-profile return to the region from Paris. He had said he would go to Cambodia despite facing arrest on a criminal defamation conviction, but stopped in Malaysia, where he said he was rallying support.Cambodian authorities have arrested about 50 of Sokha’s banned opposition party supporters and other activists this year, accusing them of plotting a coup to overthrow Hun Sen.Sokha, 66, was arrested in 2017 and his Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) was dissolved by the Supreme Court in the run-up to last year’s general election.Hun Sen’s ruling party went on to win every seat in parliament in the vote.”As an innocent person who has been jailed for two years, I continue to demand that the charges against me be dropped,” Sokha said in a Facebook post on Sunday after house arrest was lifted.”I expect today’s decision to be the first step, but I, as well as many other Cambodians who have lost political freedom, still need real solutions and justice.”Sokha was accused of plotting with foreigners to oust Hun Sen – a charge he dismissed as nonsense.The Phnom Penh Municipal Court said in a statement that Kem Sokha could leave his house, but that he could not engage in political activity or leave the country.The crackdown on Cambodia’s opposition prompted the European Union to reconsider trade preferences granted under an “Everything But Arms (EBA) trade program for least-developed countries.It is due to receive a preliminary determination on Tuesday on the EBA and Cambodia’s human rights situation.The EU accounts for more than one-third of Cambodia’s exports, including garments, footwear and bicycles.