After weeks of rebellion led by indigenous protesters, Bolivia has a new president. At 11:47 last night, the President of Bolivia’s Supreme Court was sworn in after a day marked by massive protest and widespread fears of a bloodbath or a civil war. The situation in the country remains tense but many believe that the worst case scenario has been avoided. Throughout the day yesterday, the right-wing head of the Bolivian Senate, Hormando Vaca Diez, was manuevering behind the scenes and in public to take control of the country. Meanwhile, indigenous leaders and other opposition groups vowed to bring Vaca Diez down by force if necessary if he took power. Earlier this week, President Carlos Mesa resigned amid massive protest against his government, giving Vaca Diez an opportunity to take power as his constitutional successor. After resigning, Mesa joined opposition calls for Vaca Diez and the Speaker of the House to step aside and allow the president of the Supreme Court to assume the presidency and organize new elections. But throughout yesterday, Vaca Diez seemed bent on rejecting those calls and was said to be negotiating with the military. In order to take over Vaca Diez needed to convene the Congress, which he could not do in La Paz because of the massive protests. Yesterday, he moved lawmakers to the historical capitol, Sucre, in an attempt to meet. Again protests prevented that from happening until late last night. Before that meeting happened, Vaca Diez was taken by the military to a secure base, where he announced he would not seek the presidency. After a tense day in which one protest leader was killed and rumors floated of a possible coup d’etat, Eduardo Rodriguez was sworn in. After taking the oath of office, the Harvard Law graduate briefly addressed the country.
"Democracy and the sense of union and peace is the best destination for Bolivians."
Bolivia’s new President Eduardo Rodriguez. He was sworn in at 11:47 last night. We’ll have more on this in a moment.
Congressmember John Conyers of Michigan has announced that as the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, he has scheduled hearings on the so-called Downing Street Memo and what Conyers calls the administration’s "efforts to cook the books on pre-war intelligence." The hearing is scheduled for June 16. Conyers also says that he plans to introduce new documents that back up the accuracy of the Downing Streets memo, which is actually the classified minutes of a July 2002 meeting of Tony Blair and his senior advisers. The minutes paint a picture of an administration that had already committed to attacking Iraq, was manipulating intelligence and had already begun bombing Iraq to prepare for the ground invasion. This was almost a year before the actual invasion officially began. In a statement released yesterday, Conyers said next Thursday’s hearing will attempt to answer what he calls "serious constitutional questions raised by these revelations." Among those scheduled to testify are former US ambassador to Iraq Joe Wilson, former CIA analyst Ray McGovern, Cindy Sheehan, who lost her son in Iraq and attorney John Bonifaz, who has been calling for Bush’s impeachment. Conyers says that immediately following the hearings, he will deliver a petition to the White House signed by over half a million people. The petition demands that President Bush answer questions about his secret plan for the Iraq invasion.
A newly released Justice Department report says that the FBI missed at least five opportunities before the Sept. 11 attacks to uncover what it calls vital intelligence information about the alleged hijackers. The report by the department’s Inspector General says the bureau didn’t aggressively pursue the information it did have. The report blames the FBI for not knowing about the presence of two of the alleged hijackers in the United States and for not following up on an agent’s theory that Osama bin Laden was sending students to U.S. flight training schools. The report is a year old and is only now being released because of a court fight with lawyers for accused 9/11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui.
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid said yesterday that Democrats will not allow a vote on President Bush’s nominee for U.N. ambassador unless the White House hands over records of communications intercepts Bolton sought from the National Security Agency. Reid told CNN, "If they want John Bolton as ambassador to the United Nations, give us this information. If they don’t, there will be no Bolton." Senators Joe Biden and Christopher Dodd have demanded the Bush administration produce ten National Security Agency communications intercepts that Bolton requested since 2001 as the State Department’s undersecretary for arms control.
Meanwhile, Republican lawmakers are once again threatening to cut US funding of the United Nations. The International Relations Committee of the House of Representatives this week approved a sweeping bill that, if passed, would require Washington to withhold funds if the UN does not alter several of its policies. The bill would require the U.N. to fund most of its programs through voluntary contributions, rather than mandatory dues from its 191 member-states, and enable Washington to pick and choose those programs it wished to fund. It would also require the U.N. to set up a number of new oversight boards to investigate the U.N. bureaucracy and specific agencies, as well as adopt new rules that would bar government’s Washington opposes from serving on the U.N. Human Rights Commission. It would also withhold U.S. support for new or expanded U.N. peacekeeping operations until specific reforms are implemented. Failure to implement any of the specific mandates would result in the withholding of half of the assessed U.S. obligations which amounted to 438 million dollars this year. The bill is expected to be introduced to the full house next week.
Now to the fight for freedom of the media. A former co-chair of the Republican National Committee is the leading candidate to take over the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. That is the US-tax payer funded agency that funds public media in this country. Patricia de Stacy Harrison is reportedly the favored candidate of the CPB’s chairm, Kenneth Tomlinson. Harrison is currently a high-ranking official at the State Department. She was co-chair of the RNC from 1997 until January 2001, helping to raise money for Republican candidates, including George W. Bush. In her State Department role, Harrison has praised the work of the department’s Office of Broadcasting Services, which in early 2002 began producing feature reports, some coordinated by the White House, that promoted the administration’s arguments for the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. The reports were distributed free to domestic and international TV stations. In testimony before Congress last year, Harrison said the Bush administration regarded these "good news" segments as "powerful strategic tools" for swaying public opinion.
Lawyers for deposed Iraqi president Saddam Hussein say they have not been formally given any of the charges against the former leader and say they have not been given access to any of the estimated eight million documents relating to the case, despite the fact that Iraqi officials have announced that his trial could begin in 60 days. Saddam Hussein has been allowed just two meetings with his lawyers since his capture in December 2003.
And President Bush’s approval ratings dipped to the lowest point since the Associated Press began its poll in December 2003. Only 43 [forty-three] percent of adults said they approve of the job being done by Bush and just 41 percent said they support his handling of the war in Iraq.