Protests continue to follow President Bush as he finishes out his Latin America tour. In Guatemala Monday, Bush heard more criticism on U.S. treatment of undocumented immigrants. For the first time, the president said he would like to see Congress pass new immigration laws by August. But he defended several controversial measures, including the construction of the Mexico border wall and carrying out mass deportations.
President Bush: “It is against the law for somebody to hire somebody in our country illegally. Therefore, the price is the result of law enforcement. That’s why we can’t say, 'Oh, maybe they are Guatemalans, and let's go get them.’ That wouldn’t happen. And so, you know, you got to understand that if we enforce the law, we’ll do it in a fair way.”
As Bush spoke, hundreds of protesters marched on Guatemala’s National Palace. More than 5,000 police officers were deployed. Demonstrators also scuffled with police in the ancient Mayan capital of Iximche.
Protester Cesar Pol: “We are protesting because we are against the visit of Bush. The U.S. financed the civil war in the 1980s when there were many massacres.”
Despite the protests, President Bush was able to visit the Iximche ruins. The Associated Press reports Mayan priests decided to purify the sacred archaeological grounds to get rid of “bad spirits” following Bush’s visit.
The Bush administration’s roots in supporting military repression in Latin America during the 1980s has played a prominent role in the reaction to Bush’s visit. In Nicaragua, President Daniel Ortega called on the U.S. to respect the 1986 judgment of the World Court that said the Reagan administration should pay Nicaragua $17 billion for committing unlawful aggression.
Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega: “The court said that the United States should cease these aggressions against Nicaragua and should compensate Nicaragua with $17 billion. And if President Bush recognizes this debt and withdraws its troops from Iraq, then we would be dealing with a state that could accept that they cannot be aggressors.”
President Bush is in Mexico today for the last stop of his Latin America tour.
New information has revealed the Bush administration’s role in the firing of eight U.S. attorneys is greater than previously thought. The White House has admitted administration officials worked with the Justice Department to draw up a list of U.S. attorneys who would lose their jobs. At one point two years ago, the administration even floated the idea of firing all 93 U.S. attorneys at once. The White House has also admitted President Bush spoke with Attorney General Alberto Gonzales about Republican concerns the prosecutors were not pursuing voter fraud cases. Seven of the prosecutors were asked to step down just weeks later. On Monday, Gonzales’ chief of staff, D. Kyle Sampson, resigned after acknowledging he did not properly inform the Justice Department of his consultations with the White House. Sampson’s email records show extensive discussion with top deputy Karl Rove and then-White House counsel Harriet Miers. The administration had previously claimed it only approved of a list of fired U.S. attorneys after it was drafted by the Justice Department.
In military news, Army Surgeon General Kevin Kiley has resigned under pressure from senior Army leaders. Kiley is the third top military official to lose his job in the controversy over the neglect of wounded soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Kiley was the Walter Reed commander three years ago and is said to have ignored complaints of poor conditions.
The chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is stoking controversy today for calling homosexuality “immoral” and defending the military ban on openly gay servicemembers. In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, General Peter Pace said, “My upbringing is such that I believe there are certain things, certain types of conduct, that are immoral. … I believe that homosexual acts between individuals are immoral and that we should not condone immoral acts.”
In other military news, new figures tracking criminal prosecutions of U.S. soldiers show a growing trend of alcohol- and drug-related crimes. The New York Times reports alcohol- and drug-related charges represent more than a third of all criminal prosecutions of soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Two hundred forty cases resulted in convictions. Seventy-three of those cases involved murder, rape or armed robbery. Twelve convictions for sex crimes were linked to drug and alcohol use.
On Capitol Hill, Democratic leaders have announced they’re now abandoning an effort to put limits on President Bush’s authority to take military action against Iran. Democrats had included a provision in the new military spending bill that would have required congressional approval for any military confrontation with Iran. But the requirement was dropped after several Democrats argued it would take away the use of force as a bargaining tool over Iran’s nuclear program.
The wife of the convicted war resister Agustin Aguayo is vowing to continue to fight for her husband’s release from a military prison. Aguayo was sentenced last week to an eight-month term. Helga Aguayo spoke at a news conference Monday in Germany, where her husband is detained.
Helga Aguayo: “What I do want now is my husband to be released, which will happen in 40-45 days. We pursue it legally, and that he is found to be a conscientious objector, one, that his conviction of desertion is overturned, two, and that he is given an honorable discharge. That’s all I hope for.”
In the Occupied Territories, a BBC reporter has been kidnapped in Gaza. Alan Johnston is the BBC’s correspondent there. Hamas spokesperson Fawzi Barhoum called for his release.
Fawzi Barhoum: “Our call for this killer and kidnapper and destructive group to let this foreign journalist free immediately with no conditions and not to affect him in any type of violence.”
In Zimbabwe, a jailed and badly beaten opposition leader has appeared in court for the first time since his arrest two days ago. Morgan Tsvangirai and dozens of his supporters were detained Sunday as riot police stopped a planned mass protest. Witnesses say police beat him so severely he lost consciousness. Tsvangirai is head of the Movement for Democratic Change.
MDC Deputy President Thokozani Khupe: “I would like to warn Robert Mugabe and ZANU-PF that no amount of police brutality can either stop or delay the people’s march to freedom. Zimbabweans will never give up their right to economic and political freedom.”
The Syrian government has renewed calls for direct negotiations with the United States. The move came as Assistant Secretary of State Ellen Sauerbrey was in Damascus Monday for talks on Iraqi refugees. It was the highest-level visit by a U.S. diplomat in nearly two years. The Bush administration has so far rejected further talks with Syria beyond the situation in Iraq.
Back in the United States, the Bush administration is urging an appeals court to dismiss a lawsuit accusing the telecom giant AT&T of illegally helping the National Security Agency spy on the Internet use of U.S. citizens. In court papers released Monday, the Justice Deparment says the suit’s subject matter, including AT&T’s ties to government surveillance, is a “state secret.” The filing was released by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which brought the suit.