- - Thursday, March 17, 2011


18 protesters hurt in government attacks

SANAA | Security forces and government loyalists struck protest camps across Yemen on Thursday, hurling rocks, beating protesters with sticks and firing rubber and live bullets, hoping to break the will of thousands camped in squares for more than a month, demanding their longtime authoritarian leader leave power.

The violence underscored the chipping-at-the-edges tactic of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has ruled Yemen for more than 30 years. He does not appear to have the will - or perhaps the capabilities - to disperse the demonstrators conclusively.

In the past few weeks, he has unleashed fiery assaults on protesters in different cities using a mix of security forces and paid thugs, apparently hoping to wear them out.

It is just one of the problems this extremely poor, tribal country faces. Even before protests began in mid-February, Yemen’s government was struggling to confront one of the world’s most active al Qaeda branches, a secessionist rebellion in the south and a Shiite uprising in the north.

Mr. Saleh is a key ally in the U.S. campaign against the al Qaeda terror network.


Political feud endangers government

LISBON | Portugal’s political and financial crisis deepened Thursday, when the main opposition party said it won’t support the minority government’s latest measures aimed at avoiding a bailout for the debt-laden country.

The decision could force the beleaguered government’s downfall, triggering fresh market jitters just as Europe readies new measures to contain the continent’s sovereign debt crisis.

Many analysts anticipate Portugal’s high debt load and feeble growth will compel it to ask for financial assistance like Greece and Ireland last year. The government has ruled out asking for help, insisting its tax increases, pay cuts and reductions in welfare benefits and other state spending will be enough to restore faith in the economy.

Pedro Passos Coelho, leader of the center-right Social Democratic Party, said Thursday he cannot endorse the center-left Socialist government’s latest austerity plan - the fourth set of measures in 11 months. Other opposition parties also disagree with the steps.


Government ejects U.S. election observers

NAIROBI, Kenya | Djibouti has kicked out an American election monitoring group less than a month before the nation’s presidential election, a vote opposition politicians are boycotting because they say the president is repressing dissent.

Djibouti, a tiny East African nation that hosts the only U.S. military base in Africa, is nominally democratic. However, events leading up to the April 8 presidential election appear to show a hard-line approach by President Ismail Omar Guelleh.

Democracy International, a U.S. group that works on democracy and governance programs, was halfway through a two-year, $2.2 million U.S. government-funded contract when it was accused of assisting opposition politicians and barred from the country earlier this month.


Police arrest second top cop in drug probe

LA PAZ | Bolivian authorities Thursday announced the arrest of a police colonel on suspicion of drug trafficking, the second senior Bolivian official snared for alleged cocaine trafficking in less than a month.

Prosecutor Luzgarde Alcantara says Col. Robert Miguel Valdez was arrested outside the eastern city of Santa Cruz Wednesday after agents found traces of cocaine in his vehicle.

Col. Valdez was Interpol chief in Santa Cruz until December and was preparing for retirement. Last month, a former recent director of Bolivia’s counternarcotics police was arrested in Panama and deported to Miami to stand trial on cocaine trafficking charges.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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