In Honduras, the democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya has been overthrown in a military coup. Zelaya was forced from the presidential palace and flown to Costa Rica early Sunday after he tried to carry out a non-binding referendum to extend his term in office. Speaking to the television network Telesur, Zelaya called his ouster a kidnapping and urged US support for restoring his government.
Honduran President Manuel Zelaya: “This is a kidnapping. This is an extortion of the Honduran democratic system. And I will ask the presidents of the Americas, including the US president — I want to hear the US Ambassador Hugo Llorens in Tegucigalpa if they are behind this, and if not, clear it up, because if the US is not behind this coup, they won’t be able to stay there forty-eight hours.”
Following Zelaya’s ouster, the Honduran Congress swore in former parliamentary speaker Roberto Micheletti as interim president. Micheletti immediately imposed a two-day nationwide curfew. But thousands of Zelaya supporters remain on the streets. Shots were reportedly fired at protesters near the presidential palace earlier today. There have also been reports of the brief arrest of ambassadors from Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua. Speaking in La Paz, Bolivian President Evo Morales condemned the coup.
Bolivian President Evo Morales: “I am calling on international organizations, I am calling on the social movements of Latin America and of the world, I am calling on the presidents of democratic countries to condemn and repudiate this coup in Honduras.”
The Obama administration has criticized the coup and said it will only recognize Zelaya as the Honduran President. Zelaya’s overthrow marks the first Central American military coup since the Cold War.
The House has narrowly passed a climate bill that would limit greenhouse gas emissions and impose a cap-and-trade system allowing firms to trade emissions permits. The measure would cut emissions 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 and 83 percent by 2050. The measure passed by a slim margin Friday of 219-to-212. President Obama hailed the vote as a major victory.
President Obama: “The fact is, just weeks ago, few in Washington believed that this day would come to pass.”
Most Republicans voted against the measure. The Hill newspaper reports House Minority Leader John Boehner even referred to the bill using an expletive. But several Democrats also opposed it for not going far enough to reduce pollution. Environmentalist critics say the emissions cuts are too low and could be easily avoided through flawed methods of monitoring compliance. The measure also provides billions of dollars in subsidies for the coal industry. In congressional debate before the vote, Congress member Dennis Kucinich called the measure a boon for polluters.
Rep. Dennis Kucinich: “The bill allows two billion tons of carbon dioxide a year, roughly equivalent to 30 percent of all US greenhouse gas emissions. Supporters of the bill point out that coal use will increase by 2020, because electric utilities will continue to use dirty coal, the prime source of pollution. With two billion tons of offsets per year, we’re told electric utilities will reduce carbon emissions at places other than their generating plants. So they really don’t have to actually decrease their emissions, and coal-fired CO2 emissions will increase through 2025. No wonder there are twenty-six active coal plant applications. Increased CO2 emissions will be our gift to the next generation. Apparently, the planet is not melting; with this bill, it’s just getting better for polluters.”
The Justice Department has reportedly determined foreign prisoners enjoy at least some constitutional rights if tried by military commissions in the United States. According to the Wall Street Journal, the Obama administration has been advised that prisoners are entitled to protections from statements against them obtained through coercive interrogation. The opinion was delivered by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel last month. It suggests military tribunal convictions could be overturned if based on statements obtained through coercion.
The Justice Department meanwhile has announced a widely anticipated CIA inspector general report on the Bush administration’s torture program will be delayed until shortly before the upcoming July 4th long weekend. It’s the second time the Obama administration has delayed the report’s release.
In Iran, government forces used tear gas and batons Sunday on a crowd of around 3,000 people protesting the disputed national elections. The protest had been one of the few allowed amidst the ongoing crackdown on opposition groups who’ve accused authorities of rigging the election in favor of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Iranian authorities, meanwhile, have released five out of nine British embassy workers jailed in Tehran. Iran has accused the workers of stoking anti-government protests, a charge Britain denies.
US forces are facing a deadline tomorrow to withdraw from Iraqi cities and towns. In most cases, they’ll be shifted to areas encircling the places they leave. American forces will also remain in the town of Mosul for an indefinite time. Appearing on Fox News Sunday, the top commander of US forces in Iraq, General Ray Odierno, said Iraqi forces are ready to assume control.
General Ray Odierno: “In May, we had the lowest level of incidents we’ve ever had on record in Iraq. In the first three weeks of June, we did, as well. You’ve seen a slight uptick this past week with these high-profile attacks, but again, I would say these are just extremist elements that are attempting to bring attention to themselves. And I think this is the right time for us to turn responsibility over to the Iraqis.”
In Pakistan, an estimated 10,000 people took part in a rally Sunday denouncing US military drone attacks on Pakistani soil. Pakistani political leader Syed Munawar Hasan said the US presence in the region is bringing violence and militarization.
Syed Munawar Hasan: “All foreign troops, NATO and other forces should immediately go back from this region. America should leave this country and this region. The presence of the US and NATO forces will intensify the extremism and terrorism here. It was a peaceful land, which now has been turned into terrorists’ soil by America and its allies.”
At least sixty people were believed to have been killed in the latest US drone attack in Pakistan’s South Waziristan region last week.
Meanwhile in Afghanistan, the US has declared an end to its poppy eradication program. Speaking at the G8 summit in Italy, US Special Envoy Richard Holbrooke declared the program a failure.
Special Envoy Richard Holbrooke: “The Western policies against the opium crop, the poppy crop, have been a failure. They did not result in any damage to the Taliban, but they put farmers out of work, and they alienated people and drove people into the arms of the Taliban. So I need to stress this: the poppy farmer is not our enemy; Taliban are. And to destroy the crops is not an effective policy, and the US has wasted hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars on this program. And that is going to end. We are not going to support crop eradication.”
In Israel and the Occupied Territories, United Nations investigators have begun a probe into war crimes and other violations of international law during Israel’s military assault on Gaza beginning last December. Israel has refused to cooperate with the investigation, forcing investigators to enter Gaza through Egypt. On Sunday, the panel held the first day of public hearings with residents of Gaza City.
President Obama has issued a signing statement refusing to comply with several provisions of the $106 billion war funding bill he signed into law last week. Obama says he will ignore a congressional mandate to pressure the World Bank to strengthen labor and environmental standards. Obama has also rejected a provision calling for the Treasury Department to report on the World Bank and IMF’s activities. The war funding bill included billions of dollars for the IMF. The signing statement is Obama’s sixth since taking office.
The investigative website ProPublica and the Washington Post are jointly reporting the industrial giant GE has become a major beneficiary of the taxpayer-funded Wall Street bailout while avoiding many of the attendant restrictions imposed on participating firms. GE’s financial arm initially failed to qualify for the bailout, but ended up taking part after regulators eased eligibility rules. Assistance to GE so far accounts for nearly a quarter of the $340 billion in debt secured by the government bailout.
Events were held around the world this weekend to mark the fortieth anniversary of the Stonewall uprising that launched the modern gay and lesbian rights movement. The uprising began the morning of June 28, 1969, when members of the gay community decided to fight back against a New York City police raid on the Greenwich Village gay bar the Stonewall Inn. Here in New York, organizers say around 500,000 people marked the anniversary Sunday at the annual gay pride parade.
And the jailed financier Bernie Madoff is being sentenced today in a New York courtroom. Madoff has pleaded guilty to running the biggest Ponzi scheme in history, defrauding investors of some $64 billion. He faces up to 150 years in prison. Defense attorneys are seeking a twelve-year sentence. Ten of Madoff’s dozens of victims have asked permission to address the court today in support of a lengthy jail term.