Latest Developments, April 19

In the latest news and analysis…

Yemen drones
The Washington Post reports the CIA is seeking permission from the White House to launch drone strikes in Yemen against targets whose identity it does not know.
“Securing permission to use these ‘signature strikes’ would allow the agency to hit targets based solely on intelligence indicating patterns of suspicious behavior, such as imagery showing militants gathering at known al-Qaeda compounds or unloading explosives.
The practice has been a core element of the CIA’s drone program in Pakistan for several years.

‘How discriminating can they be?’ asked a senior U.S. official familiar with the proposal. Al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen ‘is joined at the hip’ with a local insurgency whose main goal is to oust the country’s government, the official said. ‘I think there is the potential that we would be perceived as taking sides in a civil war.’ ”

Wrong place, wrong time
The Associated Press reports that the US has released two apparently innocent Chinese Uighur men from the Guantanamo Bay prison to El Salvador, making them the first detainees released or transferred in over a year.
“Their release brings the prisoner population at the U.S. base in Cuba to 169, including three more Uighurs who officials are eager to resettle in a third country.
Uighurs at Guantanamo posed a huge diplomatic headache for the U.S. government. Twenty-two of them were captured at the start of the Afghanistan war and shipped to the base in Cuba because officials suspected they had links to al-Qaeda. But it turned out they were not terrorists and had merely fled their homeland in search of opportunities and freedom abroad.

U.S. courts and officials blocked efforts to settle the men in the United States and the prisoners were left in limbo.”

Embassy protests
The Kuwait Times, meanwhile, reports that family members of two Kuwaiti nationals still held at Guantanamo Bay without charge have begun holding daily two-hour protests outside the American embassy in Bayan.
[Khalid Al-Odah, the father of one of the detainees] said the current president is even worse than the previous one. ‘In fact, during Bush’s regime most detainees were released, but now only a few were released and they were even sent to a third nation and not their home country. Obama only talks much, but he is not practically helpful,’ he charged.
‘Our lawyer there is still working on the case, but there is no result yet. The American government won’t allow a fair trial for them, and this is illegal and against human rights. We are also dealing and meeting with different NGOs and international organizations to help us in this injustice. We need support from the public, as the Kuwaiti government is not active,’ concluded Al-Odah.”

Financial accomplices
Inter Press Service reports that Swiss banks are increasingly under the microscope in Europe over their alleged role in tax evasion and money laundering.
“If ‘private banks (are) accomplices of tax evasion and money laundering they should be prosecuted by German justice, even if the banks have their headquarters abroad, and the crimes mentioned are also committed abroad,’ [German opposition leader Sigmar] Gabriel said.

The legal conflicts with Switzerland on tax evasion also highlight the futility of the decades-long international fight against tax evasion, mostly within the framework of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and its associated Financial Action Task Force (FATF).”

Dying languages
Al Jazeera reports that Australia has the world’s highest rate of  “language extinction,” with only about 10 percent of its indigenous languages still spoken regularly.
“The suppression of indigenous languages was an intrinsic part of the often violent methods employed by the British against the Aboriginals when conquering the continent. The resulting extreme marginalisation of the Aboriginal people can still be seen in modern Australia, where Aboriginals were neither allowed to vote in elections nor to settle freely until the 1960s. Even today, various government policies target Aboriginal communities but do not apply to other Australians.”

Intensifying protests
Manuela Picq, most recently a visiting professor and research fellow at Amherst College, writes that violence related to mining projects is not new in the Americas, but the “extent and intensification” of the protests are.
“The smaller and larger indigenous mobilisations taking place simultaneously across Latin America are inevitably local, in that they contest projects in their communities, but they cannot be trivialised as isolated or anecdotal incidents. These mobilisations are of international relevance because they have successfully mobilised thousands of peoples, indigenous and non-indigenous, over long periods of time and across territories, crafting political demands, and often forcing governments to reframe policies. Most importantly, indigenous mobilisation has been able to bring environmental politics to the streets, turning natural resources, water, and consultation into public political issues. The growing constellation of mobilisations across the region points towards deeper societal changes in the making.”

Ending Françafrique
Le Nouvel Observateur asks France’s 10 presidential candidates what measures are needed to put an end to Françafrique, the name given to the perceived neocolonial nature of the relationship between France and its former African colonies.
“Françafrique, that collection of influence networks and shady connections between African heads of state and French politicians dating back to the 60s, is the manifestation of the permanent hold of French imperialism over its former colonies. Françafrique is also and especially the pillage of wealth and exploitation of workers in Africa by Total, Bouygues, Bolloré and many others. We will only be able to put an end to it when we tackle the unbridled domination of the economy by these capitalist groups,” [wrote Workers’ Struggle (Lutte Ouvrière) candidate Nathalie Arthaud.] (Translated from the French.)

Defending renationalization
The Center for Economic and Policy Research’s Mark Weisbrot argues that Argentina’s unorthodox economic policies, highlighted most recently by a move to renationalize a Spanish-controlled oil company, do not deserve the bad press they get.
“It is interesting that Argentina has had such remarkable economic success over the past nine years while receiving very little foreign direct investment, and being mostly shunned by international financial markets. According to most of the business press, these are the two most important constituencies that any government should make sure to please. But the Argentinian government has had other priorities. Maybe that’s another reason why Argentina gets so much flak.”

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