1 Dead in Mali Protests Demanding President Resign

At least one person is dead as protesters in Mali’s capital attempted to occupy key government buildings and blocked main roads Friday demanding the resignation of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.Mali state television went off the air soon after a crowd of protesters gathered outside state broadcaster ORTM.Video taken in the capital, Bamako, by VOA’s Bambara service shows a crowd of demonstrators estimated at tens of thousands assembled outside the national assembly building, demanding that Keita step down.National guardsmen also reportedly fired tear gas at protesters throwing rocks at the parliament building.Protesters were seen building barricades with burning tires to block a main road.Groups of protesters were also seen trying to take over two main bridges in the city, leading to battles with the police.Witnesses reported hearing gunshots near the national assembly and the state broadcaster.This was the third mass protest in Bamako in the past two months.Leaders of the protest are calling on supporters to occupy buildings as part of a civil disobedience campaign to force Keita to resign for failing to enact political reforms.Keita, in power since 2013, has come under harsh criticism for failing to end a long-running jihadist insurgency and improve the African country’s economic woes.Ousmane Diallo, a researcher for Francophone West Africa at Amnesty International, told VOA this week that many Malians also are angry about alleged fraud in recent legislative elections and general poor governance.On Wednesday, Keita promised reforms to the constitutional court in an effort to appease protesters. The court has been at the center of controversy after it overturned the provisional results for March’s parliamentary poll, affecting several dozen seats.A mission from the regional group ECOWAS has called for the government to hold new elections in districts where the results are contested. 

your ad here

In Florida Visit, Trump Melds Venezuela Policy, Campaign Strategy

Amid a surge in coronavirus cases, President Donald Trump flew to Florida on Friday on a visit that melded his administration’s policy toward Venezuela and Cuba and his reelection bid in one of the nation’s biggest swing states.Trump hosted a round-table discussion in Doral, in Miami-Dade County, home to one of the largest Venezuelan communities in the United States. Flanked by Venezuelan and Cuban dissidents, Trump reiterated his administration’s support for the people of Venezuela and Cuba.“We are standing with the righteous leader of Venezuela, Juan Guaido,” Trump said, adding that he had ended the “Obama-Biden sellout to the Castro regime.”Trump laid out a similar message at an earlier event Friday as he met with leaders of the U.S. Southern Command to review the counternarcotics operation in the Caribbean, an effort his administration has described partly as an attempt to intercept funds going to the regime of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.“We’re going to fight for Venezuela and we’re going to be fighting for our friends from Cuba,” Trump said.FILE – Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido talks to a journalist during an interview with The Associated Press in Brussels, Jan. 22, 2020.Last year, Guaido, who was then Venezuelan National Assembly president, took over the role of interim president, replacing Maduro. Washington’s early support for Guaido helped him gain diplomatic recognition from about 60 countries. But a series of sanctions against Venezuela and Cuba and a proposal for a peaceful transition presented by the U.S. State Department have failed to persuade Maduro to leave office.In June, Trump was criticized for saying he was open to meeting with Maduro. Trump later clarified he would do so only to discuss the Venezuelan president’s exit.Shifting Venezuela policyPresumptive 2020 Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden reminded voters of what he described as Trump’s shifting Venezuela foreign policy in a statement Friday.“Just like his response to this pandemic, the president has been unreliable and self-centered in his approach to the issues closest to the Venezuelan people,” Biden said.He renewed his pledge to grant Temporary Protected Status to Venezuelans to allow them to live and work in the United States and said he would lead a coordinated international effort to help Venezuela’s failing economy. He called Trump’s Florida visit a “photo-op and a distraction from his failures.”FILE – Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro speaks during an event with the youth of Venezuela’s United Socialist Party in Caracas, Venezuela, June 22, 2020.At the round-table event in Florida, Trump hit back at his Democratic opponent. As attendees shared their experiences of fleeing from socialist countries, Trump described Biden as a puppet of progressive Democratic Senator Bernie Sanders, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and “the militant left.”Despite sanctions and diplomatic pressure by the Trump administration, the issue of Venezuela remains unresolved.“The power struggle between Juan Guaido and Nicolas Maduro endures with no end in sight,” wrote FILE – A health care worker takes a swab sample from a driver at a drive-through COVID-19 testing site outside Hard Rock Stadium, July 8, 2020, in Miami Gardens, Fla. Florida is one of the nation’s hot spots for coronavirus.Overshadowed by pandemicFlorida reported nearly 11,500 more cases of COVID-19 on Friday, bringing the total number of cases to nearly 245,000 across the state. The state’s health department reported nearly 440 more hospitalizations Friday, the largest single-day increase the state has seen thus far.Trump allies Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez are both facing criticism for their handling of the pandemic. DeSantis downplayed the outbreak early on but has since been forced to pause the state’s reopening amid a resurgence of the virus.Despite the surge of cases, Republicans still plan to hold their national convention next month in Jacksonville, Florida.The Trump campaign has been criticized for holding rallies and other large gatherings amid the pandemic. On Friday, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Trump was postponing a rally in New Hampshire set for  Saturday, citing a tropical storm forecast to hit in the area.Trump ended his Florida trip with a private fundraiser at Hillsboro Beach before returning to the White House.Maritime counternarcoticsSince the Trump administration increased its maritime counternarcotics focus April 1, the U.S. has added 75% more surveillance aircraft and 65% more ships to support drug interdictions, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Friday during the U.S. Southern Command meeting with Trump.President Donald Trump speaks during a briefing on counternarcotics operations at U.S. Southern Command, July 10, 2020, in Doral, Fla.The enhanced operations have allowed the U.S. and its allies to ramp up targeting of known maritime smugglers by 60%, Esper added, disrupting more than 122 metric tons of drugs and denying $2 billion in drug profits since late March.That means that in the last three months alone, the U.S. and allies interdicted nearly half the amount of drugs that they interdicted in all of last year. According to SOUTHCOM data provided to VOA, the U.S. and its allies interdicted 273 metric tons of drugs in 2018 and 280 metric tons of drugs in 2019.Still, these counternarcotics operations are making just a small dent in the illegal-drug profits of transnational criminal organizations, estimated at $90 billion a year according to SOUTHCOM.In written testimony before the asset increase took effect, SOUTHCOM commander Admiral Craig Faller said the U.S. “only enabled the successful interdiction of about 9 percent of known drug movement” recently in Latin America and the Caribbean.VOA Pentagon Correspondent Carla Babb contributed to this report.

your ad here

One Dead in Mali Protests Demanding President Resign

Protesters in Mali’s capital calling for the resignation of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita clashed with authorities Friday as they tried to occupy key government buildings and blocked main roads. At least one person was reported killed.Mali state television went off the air soon after the protesters gathered outside state broadcaster ORTM.Video taken in Bamako by VOA’s Bambara service showed a crowd estimated at tens of thousands of demonstrators assembled outside the national assembly building, demanding that Keita step down.   National guardsmen reportedly fired tear gas at protesters throwing rocks at the parliament building. Protesters were seen building barricades with burning tires to block a main road.This was the third mass protest in Bamako in the past two months.Keita, in power since 2013, has come under harsh criticism for failing to end a long-running jihadist insurgency and improve the African country’s economic woes.Ousmane Diallo, a researcher for Francophone West Africa at Amnesty International, told VOA this week that many Malians also are angry about alleged fraud in recent legislative elections and general poor governance.

your ad here

Sudan PM Shuffles Cabinet in Response to Protests 

Sudan’s prime minister has replaced his finance, energy and health ministers and four other cabinet-level officials in response to growing public demands for sweeping reforms.  The government said in a statement Thursday that Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok had fired Health Minister Akram Altom and accepted the resignations of six other ministers.  No reasons were given for the removal of any particular minister. Protests precede changes Suleiman Baldo, a senior policy analyst at the Sentry, a Washington-based organization that tries to expose government corruption linked to African wars, told South Sudan in Focus the reshuffle was not unexpected, as it followed nationwide protests in which citizens demanded the transitional government implement economic reforms and hold former officials accountable for crimes.  “There’s a lot of popular frustration with delays in carrying out the agendas of the transition, noticeably in the area of justice and economic reforms to alleviate the very severe economic crisis and the crushing burden that the economic crisis is causing to people’s livelihoods and the dwindling of their incomes due to the crisis,” Baldo said. Hamdok runs a power-sharing government of civilian technocrats and military officials, many of whom were allied with ousted President Omar al-Bashir. The transitional cabinet was appointed in August and September 2019 after Bashir’s ouster in April. Although Sudan’s constitutional document grants broad powers to the prime minister and his Cabinet, economic reforms are needed now, not later, Baldo said. “I believe that the slowness in deploying these extensive executive powers is what frustrated people, including observers and analysts such as myself, in the sense that you could see that the Cabinet is not using the full extent of the constitutional powers that were granted to it, and therefore there was an objective reason to carry out this change,” Baldo told VOA. Surprise firingFew had anticipated the firing of Ibrahim Albadawi, who steered efforts to stabilize Sudan’s struggling economy and worked with foreign donors as finance minister.  Hamdok named Hiba Mohamed Ali as caretaker minister. Baldo said the change would do little to relieve the dire economic straits the country is facing. “Hiba Mohamed Ali was the right arm of former Minister Badawi, in the sense that she was in charge of several policies that the ministry was pursuing and overseeing the implementation of many of these policies and therefore she is no stranger to the policy line,” Baldo said. Even though U.S. sanctions on Sudan were lifted in October 2017, which brightened expectations among many that the economy would improve, Sudan’s economic situation continues to deteriorate. According to the transitional government, the inflation rate has reached 64% this year. Financial experts say it could be closer to 100%. Costs of basics on riseThe prices of basic commodities like fuel and food have more than doubled since last year, and the Sudanese pound has depreciated threefold against the U.S. dollar in the same time period. To achieve meaningful reforms, Hamdok should use his executive power to bring the army and other Sudanese military forces under the Cabinet’s control, Baldo said. “We do have a Cabinet that has full executive powers, but the real powers in terms of physical power, in terms of the control of weapons and the control of money, is in the hands of the security sector institutions of the army, the police and the rapid support forces, in addition to the general intelligence services,” Baldo told VOA.  Hamdok told Sudanese in a televised address on the eve of nationwide rallies June 30 that his government would respond to demonstrators’ demands for peace, faster economic reform, and justice for the hundreds of people killed and injured during protests to topple Bashir. One person was killed and several others were injured during the demonstrations held just over a week ago. Carol Van Dam Falk contributed to this report.

your ad here

Indian Crime Suspect Shot Dead by Police

Police in India say they have shot and killed notorious criminal Vikas Dubey, wanted in connection with at least 60 crimes, including the killing of eight police officers.   Officials say Dubey had given himself up in the central town of Ujjain on Thursday after a week-long search. They say police were driving him Friday to Kanpur, in northern Uttar Pradesh state, when the vehicle crashed, prompting Dubey to steal a policeman’s pistol and attempt to flee, before being shot by other officers.Some political leaders and rights activists have questioned the police version of events and accused them of an extra-judicial killing. Dubey was believed to have had many connections with state politicians and the police, and the activists believe he was killed so he would not reveal those links.From his Twitter account Friday, Indian Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan said the fact that media vehicles following the police convoy were stopped before the suspect was killed “leaves no room for doubt that the encounter was staged.” He called for all police officers involved to be arrested.The Associated Press reports two officers were arrested this week for allegedly tipping off Dubey about a police raid on his home July 3.Deaths in police custody are not isolated incidents in India.A report last month by a New Delhi rights group, the National Campaign Against Torture, said at least 1,731 people died in custody during 2019, which means five custodial deaths a day.

your ad here

Spike in COVID-19 Cases Delays Plans to Reopen Schools in Malawi

A spike in COVID-19 cases has forced authorities in Malawi to delay plans to reopen schools on July 13. In addition, the country is running short of testing kits. The co-chair for the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19, John Phuka, said Friday that a critical shortage of test kits has forced the government to stop mass testing. “So what we have done, we have changed our testing to make sure that we are testing only those with symptoms,” he told VOA, via a messaging app.”The logistics around these tests is that we order them from abroad,” he said. “So some of those kits come from Europe, and as we speak because of logistic challenges and flights, we have some test kits stuck elsewhere in Europe.” The kits are expected to arrive in two weeks.  FILE – People queue to wash their hands as a preventive measure against the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus before they can queue again to vote at a polling station in Lilongwe, June 23, 2020.In the meantime, those who have had contact with confirmed COVID-19 patients are being advised to isolate themselves for 10 to 14 days.  Health rights campaigner George Jobe says he worries that the lack of testing could make the virus spread further and undetected. “The negative effect is that we will stop knowing how many people have coronavirus because the past times we have been reporting cases of those who have tested positive,” Jobe told VOA via a messaging app.COVID surge Malawi is currently facing a surge in cases, partially because of the winter season, which health experts say provides fertile ground for the coronavirus, which causes the COVID-19 disease.  The surge is also attributed to a failure to control crowds during recent election campaign rallies and a return of migrant workers from South Africa. As of Friday, Malawi confirmed close to 1,990 cases including almost 30 deaths. Officials say more than 700 of these cases have come from abroad, while 1,000 others have originated locally. The country with a population of 18 million people has tested about 19,000 people in its 39 testing centers. No schoolThe spike in COVID-19 cases has forced the government to shelve plans to reopen schools next Monday. The schools closed in March as the coronavirus began to spread across southern Africa.  Benedicto Kondowe, executive director for the Civil Society Education Coalition, told VOA via telephone that the government should have allowed classes to reopen for students to take final examinations, but under strict COVID-19 guidelines. “Because currently we are aware that online programs, lessons through the radio as well as television, are leaving out millions of Malawians, especially those who are coming from poor backgrounds,” Kondowe said.However, the ministry of health says the government cannot risk the lives of students, so the right to an education must be suspended as authorities monitor the COVID-19 situation.   

your ad here