Priests to Purify Site After Bush Visit

March 12th, 2007

GUATEMALA CITY (AP) – Mayan priests will purify a sacred archaeological site to eliminate “bad spirits” after President Bush visits next week, an official with close ties to the group said Thursday.

Bush Will Push Compassion in Guatemala

March 12th, 2007

Frame-by-frame, the images of President Bush in Guatemala on Monday will depict sharp contrasts.

The leader of the richest nation reaching out to the impoverished. A smiling vegetable farmer benefiting from a free trade deal that Bush had trouble selling to Congress. Bush touring Mayan ruins and speaking out against social injustice suffered by Guatemala’s indigenous citizens of Mayan ancestry, who have protested his visit.

Undeterred by protests that have dogged Bush at every stop on his five-nation Latin American trip, Bush will work to convince Guatemalans that the United States is a compassionate nation. It’s the same message he delivered earlier at stops in Brazil, Uruguay and Colombia.

“It’s very important for the people of South America and Central America to know that the United States cares deeply about the human condition, and that much of our aid is aimed at helping people realize their God-given potential,” Bush said Sunday in Bogota, Colombia.

His goodwill tour also serves as a counterweight to Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, who has been doing his own tour of Latin America. On Sunday in Bolivia, Chavez called for a socialist counterattack against the American “empire.” Chavez has been pumping his nation’s oil profits into social programs across the region to further the leftward political shift he’s leading in the United States’ backyard.

Using his own Marine One helicopter, Bush will fly around this mountainous country, about the size of Tennessee, for a series of events meant to show that strong democratic reforms can improve the lives of Guatemalans.

He will visit with U.S. military medical team that offers basic health care everything from giving vaccinations to helping build new health centers.

He’ll tour Labradores Mayas, a thriving vegetable packing station in Chirijuyu that has received $350,000 in U.S. assistance since 2003 and is taking advantage of eased trade restrictions under the U.S.-Central America Free Trade Agreement.

Congress narrowly passed the trade pact last year and Bush wants lawmakers to approve of three similar ones with Colombia, Panama and Peru. He acknowledges that these are “tough votes,” but failing to get congressional approval would blunt Bush’s weeklong message that free trade and democratic reforms can help lift Latin Americans from poverty.

The vegetable packing station he’ll visit was started in the early 1990s by an indigenous farmer named Mariano Canu. The association of 66 small farming families produces 95,000 heads of lettuce a week that are sold in Guatemala, Costa Rica, El Salvador and Honduras. It employs 200 indigenous farmers and is one of the major vegetable suppliers for Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s Central American supermarkets.

Guatemala’s President Oscar Berger and his wife are going with the president and first lady Laura Bush to Santa Cruz Balanya, a town of about 10,000 mostly indigenous Guatemalans, to stress the need for social justice and equality.

Nearly three-quarters of Guatemala’s indigenous people, descendants of native Mayans, live in poverty. Many who have protested Bush’s visit don’t agree with U.S. immigration policy and believe current trade agreements between the countries have kept Guatemalans from rising out of poverty.

The distribution of income throughout Guatemala is lopsided. The richest 20 percent of the population receives two-thirds of all income. As a result, about 80 percent of the population lives in poverty, including more than 7 million who live in extreme poverty.

On Sunday, in Tecpan, more than 100 Mayan Indians protested Bush’s visit, holding signs that read: “No more blood for oil.” The group is angry that Bush will be visiting the sacred Iximche archaeological site, founded as the capital of the Kaqchiqueles kingdom before the Spanish conquest in 1524.

Mayan priests say they will purify the sacred archaeological site at Iximche to rid it of any “bad spirits” after Bush is there.

“That a person like (Bush) with the persecution of our migrant brothers in the United States, with the wars he has provoked is going to walk in our sacred lands is an offense for the Mayan people and their culture,” said Juan Tiney, director of a Mayan non-governmental organization with close ties to Mayan religious and political leaders.

Bush Prepares for Trip to Latin America

March 6th, 2007

He talked of grinding poverty and called it “a scandal” that democracy and capitalism have not delivered more to Latin Americans. The working poor need change, he declared. He invoked Simon Bolivar, the “great liberator,” and vowed to “complete the revolution” and bring true “social justice” to the region

Hugo Chavez? No, George W. Bush.

As he prepares to embark on a six-day trip to Latin America this week, the president is launching a new campaign to compete with Chavez for the region’s hearts and minds, employing language mirroring the Venezuelan leader’s leftist populism but rooted in traditional American conservatism. After six years of focusing elsewhere in the world, Bush in his final two years wants to convince the nation’s neighbors that, as he put it yesterday, “we care.”

Watch out, Latin America: ‘we’ care!

CIA Rushing Resources to Bin Laden Hunt

March 6th, 2007

Armed with fresh intelligence, the CIA is moving additional man power and equipment into Pakistan in the effort to find Osama bin Laden and his deputy Ayman al Zawahri, U.S. officials tell ABC News.

“Reports that the trail has gone stone cold are not correct,” said one U.S. official. “We are very much increasing our efforts there,” the official said.

People familiar with the CIA operation say undercover officers with paramilitary training have been ordered into Pakistan and the area across the border with Afghanistan as part of the ramp-up.

Although never publicly acknowledged, Pakistan has permitted CIA teams to secretly operate inside Pakistan.

US pressurizing Pak to get its support for attack on Iran: Gul

March 6th, 2007

ISLAMABAD: Former ISI Chief, Gen (retd) Hameed Gul has said that the Untied States is paving the way to use Pakistan’s territory for its expected attack on Iran in order to shift the blame of its failure in Afghanistan to Pakistan.

Talking to a private TV Channel, Gen (retd) Hameed Gul said that NATO forces have intensified their activities on Pak-Afghan border as they are frustrated due to their failure in Afghanistan.

Former ISI Chief has said that US backed Karzai government has been completely failed in Afghanistan and the United States has now realized that they are now facing strong resistance from Taliban.

General (retd) Hamid Gul said that its an American policy to use different tactics to pressurize Pakistan and the main objective of recent visit of US Vice President Dick Cheney to pressurize Pakistan as US would need Pakistan’s support and Balochistan land to attack Iran. He said that it may be the possibility that Pakistani government is refusing the United States to given permission to use its land.

Iranians Blame the West for Sunni Unrest

March 6th, 2007

TEHRAN – As a Shia majority country with several large ethnic groups like the Kurds, Arabs, and Baluchis that follow the Sunni faith, Iran has for years been vulnerable to unrest, riots, and terrorist attacks that officials routinely attribute to foreign powers.

“Iranian intelligence services have acquired information that show the United States, Britain, and Israel have been behind the unrest in various parts of Iran, including Khuzestan, Kurdistan, and West Azerbaijan in the past few years,” Mostafa Pour Mohammadi, Iran’s intelligence minister, was quoted as saying by the Aftab News Agency.

IAEA: Iran may have halted nuke program

March 6th, 2007

VIENNA, Austria Iran seems to have at least temporarily halted the uranium-enrichment program at the heart of its standoff with the U.N. Security Council, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency said Monday.

Some fear Iran’s space program is hostile

March 6th, 2007

TEHRAN, Iran – Iran’s announcement that it launched a research rocket has called new attention to a space program that Tehran says is peaceful but which some fear aims to produce long-range ballistic missiles that could reach Europe or the United States.

Exactly what Iran launched, or even what it aimed to do, remains the subject of debate, speculation and possible misinterpretation.

But there are parallels to the controversy over its nuclear program.

Afghan children die as US drops one-tonne bombs

March 6th, 2007

Nine civilians, including four children, were killed in Afghanistan when US planes dropped two 2,000lb bombs on their mud home. Their deaths came after at least eight civilians were killed by US Marines a day earlier.

It has been a disastrous two days for the Americans in Afghanistan. First US Marines trying to get to safety after being ambushed by a suicide bomber sprayed gunfire wildly across one of the busiest roads in the country, killing passers-by.

And now US planes have dropped two bombs on a family home, killing children aged between six months and five years.

Last year, the Afghan President Hamid Karzai wept as he pleaded for Western soldiers to take more care to avoid killing civilians. But the killings continue.

That Karzai–Mr. Unocal–such a softie.

Bomb Shatters Baghdad’s Storied Literary Street

March 6th, 2007

…Tai, short with round glasses, was leaving a bank after collecting his pension when the car bomb detonated. “It was a huge explosion,” he said, as ambulances carrying the injured sped past. “My head and face were full of dust and ash from the burning books.”

Imad Abbas, 39, a burly man with thinning hair, was in his stationery shop when he heard the explosion. Shelves and boxes fell on his head, he recalled. The electricity went off. Outside, a car burned. Then his store caught fire.

He ran upstairs to the balcony and began shouting for help. Fifteen minutes later, he was rescued by firemen. One of them placed Abbas on his back and carried him down, depositing him near a corpse covered with a blanket.

“I just returned from the dead,” Abbas said.

When Saddam Hussein was in power, Mutanabi Street exuded a defiant spirit that reverberated through its bookstores and the famed Shabandar Cafe. Here, intellectuals, over cups of sweet tea, engaged in lively debates.

But in recent months, the street had become a casualty of Iraq’s incessant violence. As thousands of educated Iraqis left, many of the original booksellers closed shop. Others were kidnapped or killed. Many fled the country. Checkpoints, street closings and a Friday curfew kept customers away.

Still, the street was a hive of activity in the mornings, mostly because of a brisk trade in stationery products. Abbas said he believes that’s why the street was attacked.

“They want to drive down the trade of Iraq,” he said of the perpetrators. “They are trying to humiliate our history and humiliate our people.”