- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 25, 2008

OUTPOST IN TIBET

Tucked away in the $250 billion war supplemental spending bill approved by the House of Representatives last week was $5 million to fund the first U.S. consulate in the remote and restive Chinese region of Tibet.

Rep. Mark Steven Kirk, Illinois Republican, has pushed for the establishment of the consulate, noting that U.S. diplomats had no presence in Tibet during fierce clashes in March between Chinese authorities and pro-autonomy demonstrators, our correspondent David R. Sands reports. With Beijing imposing a news blackout on the violence, the nearest American consulate was 1,500 miles away in Chengdu.

The Chinese government said fewer than 20 people were killed in the clashes, but Tibetan activist groups Friday put the number of fatalities at 209.

Mr. Kirk, co-chairman of the House U.S.-China Working Group, told The Washington Times in April that he had personally pitched the idea of a Tibetan consulate to Chinese Ambassador Zhou Wenzhong, who said Beijing would consider the proposal. Lodi Gyari, a top adviser to the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, told lawmakers at an April 3 hearing he supported the idea.

REBEL ROUSERS

A former ambassador from Costa Rica is raising an alarm about the leftward drift of El Salvador, where a political party composed of old communist rebels is poised to sweep legislative and presidential elections next year with a former television newsman as its candidate for president.

“Indeed, there is a genuine risk that El Salvador could become another satellite of Hugo Chavez, whose radical ‘Bolivarian Revolution’ has eroded political and economic liberties in Venezuela,” Ambassador Jaime Daremblum wrote in a recent review of the political situation in the Central American nation.

Mr. Daremblum noted that the United States has paid little attention to El Salvador since the 1980s when the rebels of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (known by its Spanish initials FMLN) fought a bloody guerrilla war against a U.S.-backed military government.

Today the FMLN is a political party with a double-digit lead in opinion polls over the ruling National Republican Alliance Party, which has held the presidency since 1989. Its popular presidential candidate, former anchorman Mauricio Funes, has promised to moderate the party’s left-wing agenda. However, Mr. Daremblum warned that Mr. Funes will likely be controlled by the hard core of the party, “inspired by old-fashioned Marxism-Leninism.”

Mr. Daremblum, whose article first appeared on the Weekly Standard’s Web site, served as ambassador here from 1998 to 2004 and is now director of the Hudson Institute’s Center on Latin American Studies.

MANDELA BLACKLISTED

The South African ambassador is trying to get the United States to remove Nelson Mandela — winner of the Nobel Peace Prize and the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom — from a terrorist blacklist before his 90th birthday next month.

“Certainly there is a lot of anxiety and interest in South Africa as to the resolution of this matter, particularly by the time of Mandela’s birthday,” Ambassador Welile Nhlapo told Reuters news agency.

Mr. Mandela was added to the list in the 1970s when the United States labeled the African National Congress a terrorist organization. In May, the House approved a bill to remove him from the list. The measure is awaiting Senate action.

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