Zelaya Leaves Honduras as New President Takes Office
Honduras is entering a new phase following the swearing-in of a new president and the departure of the now former president Manuel Zelaya. On Wednesday, President Porfirio Lobo was sworn into office. A wealthy landowner, Lobo was elected in a November race boycotted by Zelaya supporters. Hours after the ceremony, Zelaya ended his four-month stay in the Brazilian embassy and left Honduras for exile in the Dominican Republican. Just before boarding the plane, Zelaya told the assembled crowd, “We’ll be back.” Just before Zelaya left Honduras, the Honduran Supreme Court dismissed all charges against six military commanders involved in the June 28th coup that removed him from office. The Obama administration says it’s not ready to restore aid to Honduras suspended following the coup. But Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Arturo Valenzuela said he believes the new president, Lobo, is taking Honduras “in the right direction.”
Arturo Valenzuela: “I thought the President’s speech was excellent. It was a speech of national reconciliation for all the people of Honduras.”
Report: US Military Spending in Haiti More Than Triples Assistance to Haitian Gov’t
The Haitian government is appealing to the international community to improve the earthquake relief effort as the confirmed death toll is now near 170,000. On Wednesday, Haitian President René Préval said he is thankful for the international assistance, but said it needs “better coordination.” Préval’s comments come as the Associated Press reports his government is receiving less than a penny for each dollar the United States spends on aid efforts in Haiti. Thirty-three cents of every dollar goes to US military aid, over three times the nine cents spent on food.
Haiti Postpones Parliamentary Vote, Suspends Orphan Flights
Also Wednesday, Préval announced he would indefinitely postpone parliamentary elections and won’t seek re-election when his term expires in February 2011. The Haitian government has also slowed down the adoption process for Haitian children abroad. Flights carrying orphaned children have been suspended over concerns the children could be victimized by human traffickers. Foreign adoption cases will now require the personal approval of Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive.
Report: Pentagon Sending More Special Ops to Yemen
The Wall Street Journal is reporting the Pentagon is escalating military operations in Yemen with a major new deployment of Special Forces. Military officials say the number of US operatives will “significantly increase” above the estimated 200 Special Forces currently on the ground. The US has been deeply involved in secret joint operations with Yemeni troops that have killed scores of people, including civilians and suspected al-Qaeda leaders, in the past six weeks. The news comes as the US and other nations met Wednesday in London at an international conference on Yemen. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the US won’t just rely on military operations to fight Yemen’s militant extremists.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: “We recognize that the challenges facing Yemen cannot be solved by military action alone. Progress against violent extremists and progress toward a better future for the Yemeni people will depend upon fortifying development efforts. The Yemeni people deserve the opportunity to determine their own future, not leaving their fate to extremists who incite violence and inflict harm.”
Aid Groups: Militarization of Aid Endangering Afghan Civilians
Foreign ministers are also meeting in London today for an international conference on Afghanistan. On the eve of the summit, a coalition of aid groups issued a warning that the militarization of aid to Afghanistan is endangering Afghan civilians. In a report titled “The Dangers of Militarised Aid in Afghanistan,” Oxfam International and seven other aid agencies warn the emphasis on rushed, short-term projects to win over Afghan civilians fails to address Afghanistan’s deep poverty. Some of the projects also wind up becoming major security risks as they’re targeted by militant groups.