Connect with us

News

Canada sends military aircraft into Haiti’s skies as gang violence escalates

Published

 on

OTTAWA — Canada has sent one of its military planes to Haiti to help the country cope with escalating violence.

A joint statement today from National Defence Minister Anita Anand and Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly says Canada has deployed a CP-140 Aurora aircraft to help “disrupt the activities of gangs” in Haiti.

Gang violence has become a reality for those living in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince since last summer, with hundreds having reportedly been kidnapped and killed.

The UN has also said gangs are restricting access to necessities like health care and water and are also allegedly sexually assaulting women and children.

Haiti’s political and humanitarian crisis has led to calls for Western countries to intervene, with the Canadian government saying the aircraft deployment comes in direct response to Haiti’s request for help.

The government says the patrol aircraft is currently in Haiti and will remain there “for a number of days” to help with surveillance and intelligence efforts.

The aircraft deployment is the latest step the government has taken to assist Haiti, and not indicative of a military intervention.

Other support measures to date include levying sanctions against individuals it views as responsible for the violence in Haiti.

“The deployment of a Canadian patrol aircraft will strengthen efforts to fight criminal acts of violence and to establish the conditions necessary for a peaceful and prosperous future,” Anand said in Sunday’s statement.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 5, 2023.

 

The Canadian Press

News

Key events in Alexander Lukashenko’s 30 years as the iron-fisted leader of Belarus

Published

 on

Key events in the 30-year rule of Belarus’ hard-line President Alexander Lukashenko:

July 20, 1994 — Lukashenko is inaugurated as president after a landslide victory in what international observers say was the post-Soviet country’s first and only genuinely free election. He previously headed the parliament’s anti-corruption committee and was director of a state farm.

1995 — A referendum is held on replacing the national flag with one closely resembling one that Belarus used as a Soviet republic. It also returns the Soviet-era coat of arms, establishes Russian as the state language on par with Belarusian and gives the president authority to dissolve parliament.

1996 — Alarmed by Lukashenko’s increasingly authoritarian turn, thousands of protesters fill the streets in what became known as the “Minsk Spring.” The human rights center Viasna (Spring) is formed. Lawmakers gather enough signatures to petition for impeachment proceedings against Lukashenko, but Russia’s prime minister and other top officials convince them to drop the effort. Another referendum significantly expands presidential powers, restores the death penalty and extends Lukashenko’s presidential term until 2001. Lukashenko dissolves parliament.

1998 — Lukashenko orders U.S. and European ambassadors to vacate residences on a compound near Minsk. Washington recalls its ambassador in protest and Lukashenko is banned from travel to the U.S. and European Union countries.

1999-2000 — After Lukashenko calls for suppressing the opposition, four prominent critics — former Interior Minister Yuri Zakharenko, former Central Election Commission head Viktor Gonchar, businessman Anatoly Krasovsky and journalist Dzmitry Zavadski — are presumed dead. A top Interior Ministry official was arrested on suspicion of involvement, but Lukashenko ordered him released and the prosecutor leading the investigation was dismissed. Investigations by the Council of Europe showed that opposition figures were killed by “death squads” connected with the state. The scandal dominated Belarus’ political landscape for years. Also in 1999, Lukashenko and Russian President Boris Yeltsin sign a treaty on forming a “union state” federation.

Sept. 9, 2001 — Lukashenko wins election to second term.

Oct. 17, 2004 — A referendum removing presidential term limits from the constitution is approved.

March 19, 2006 — Lukashenko wins a third term. Protesters build a tent camp in a central square of Minsk, but police destroy it and arrest over 400 protesters more than a week later. One opposition presidential candidate is imprisoned for over two years and another is jailed for 15 days. The EU and the U.S. later freeze bank accounts of Lukashenko and members of his government.

Dec. 19, 2010 — Lukashenko is re-elected for a fourth term. After the polls closed, thousands of protesters tried to storm the Belarusian government building, breaking windows and doors. Seven presidential candidates and hundreds of opposition activists were arrested. Several of the candidates who opposed Lukashenko were imprisoned for up to 5 1/2 years.

2014-15 — Belarus hosts negotiations to end fighting between Ukrainian forces and Russia-backed separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine.

Oct. 11, 2015 — Lukashenko wins a fifth term.

2018 — Seeking to reduce tensions with the West, Lukashenko appoints a reformist prime minister. Disputes arise with Russia over oil and gas duties, and Lukashenko accuses the Kremlin of trying to absorb Belarus.

Aug. 9, 2020 — Lukashenko wins a sixth term with 80% of the vote in an election that is denounced as fraudulent at home and abroad, with key opposition figures prevented from running. Huge protests break out over the balloting as well as Lukashenko’s dismissal of the COVID-19 pandemic as “a psychosis.” Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who ran instead of her jailed husband, flees to Lithuania. Authorities crack down harshly on protests that last for months in Minsk and other cities. More than 35,000 people are arrested. About 500,000 people leave the country, including significant opposition figures.

May 23, 2021 -— A passenger jet flying from Greece to Lithuania and carrying an opposition blogger is ordered to land in Minsk as it crosses through Belarusian airspace, with flight controllers citing an alleged bomb threat. Upon landing, the dissident blogger, Raman Pratasevich, is arrested, put on trial and convicted of organizing unrest stemming from the disputed election. Facing international outrage and further sanctions, Lukashenko threatens to flood the EU with migrants and drugs. Belarus later sends thousands of migrants toward borders with Poland and Lithuania, which block them from crossing.

2022 — Russian troops stationed in Belarus enter northern Ukraine as Moscow’s invasion of its neighbor begins. Belarusian forces do not take part directly in the war, but a Lukashenko-ordered referendum abolishes Belarus’ ban on nuclear weapons.

2023 — Russia deploys tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, raising fears they could be used in the Ukraine war. On June 23, Lukashenko plays a key role in negotiating an end to a brief uprising against the Russian Defense Ministry leadership by Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of the Wagner mercenary group. Belarus allows the Wagner mercenaries to relocate to Belarus in camps there.

2024 — Lukashenko announces his intention to run in 2025 for a seventh term. He releases several political prisoners with serious illnesses, but about 1,400 remain behind bars, including Nobel Peace Prize-winning human rights activist Ales Bialiatski.



Source link

Continue Reading

News

Leader of Belarus marks 30 years in power after crushing all dissent and cozying up to Moscow

Published

 on

TALLINN, Estonia (AP) — For three decades, European leaders have come and gone by the dozens, but Alexander Lukashenko remains in absolute control of Belarus.

His longevity is due to a mixture of harshly silencing all dissent, reverting to Soviet-style economic controls and methods, and cozying up to Russia, even as he sometimes flirted with the West.

Lukashenko, 69, was dubbed “Europe’s last dictator” early in his tenure, and he has lived up to that nickname.

On Saturday, he marks 30 years in power — one of the world’s longest-serving and most ruthless leaders.

As head of the country sandwiched between Russia, Ukraine and NATO members Poland, Lithuania and Latvia, Lukashenko was elected to his sixth term in office in 2020, in balloting widely seen at home and abroad as rigged.

Months of mass protests that followed were harshly suppressed in a violent crackdown that sent tens of thousands to jail amid allegations of beatings and torture. Many political opponents remain imprisoned or have fled the nation of 9.5 million.

But the strongman shrugged off Western sanctions and isolation that followed, and now he says he will run for a seventh five-year term next year.

Lukashenko owes his political longevity to a mixture of guile, brutality and staunch political and economic support from his main ally, Russia.

Most recently, in 2022 he allowed Moscow to use Belarusian territory to invade Ukraine and later agreed to host some of Russia’s tactical nuclear weapons.

“Lukashenko has turned Belarus into a fragment of the USSR, dangerous not only for its own citizens but also threatening its Western neighbors with nuclear weapons,” said independent political analyst Valery Karbalevich.

He describes the Belarusian leader as “one of the most experienced post-Soviet politicians, who has learned to play on both on the Kremlin’s mood and the fears of his own people.”

When the former state farm director was first elected in July 1994 just 2 1/2 years after Belarus gained independence following the USSR’s collapse, he pledged to fight corruption and boost living standards that had plunged amid chaotic free-market reforms.

An admirer of the Soviet Union, Lukashenko pushed soon after his election for a referendum that abandoned the country’s new red-and-white national flag in favor of one similar to what Belarus had used as a Soviet republic.

He also quickly bolstered ties with Russia and pushed for forming a new union state in the apparent hope of becoming its head after a full merger — an ambition dashed by the 2000 election of Vladimir Putin to succeed the ailing Boris Yeltsin as Russian president.

Under Lukashenko, Belarus’ top security agency retained its fearsome Soviet-era name of the KGB. It also has been the only country in Europe to keep capital punishment, with executions carried out with a shot to the back of the head.

In 1999 and 2000, four prominent Lukashenko critics disappeared, and an investigation by the Council of Europe concluded they were kidnapped and killed by death squads linked to senior Belarusian officials. Belarusian authorities stonewalled European demands to track down and prosecute the suspected culprits.

“Lukashenko never bothered with his reputation,” said Anatoly Lebedko, leader of the now-outlawed United Civil Party of Belarus. “He relished in calling himself a dictator and bragged about being a pariah even when he was publicly accused of political killings and other crimes.”

Lukashenko initiated constitutional changes that put parliament under his control, removed term limits and extended his power in elections that the West didn’t recognize as free or fair. Protests following the votes were quickly broken up by police and organizers were jailed.

His Soviet-style centralized economy depended heavily on Russian subsidies.

“Instead of helping Belarus, cheap Russian oil and gas have become its curse, allowing Lukashenko to receive windfall profits from exporting oil products to Europe and freeze the situation in Belarus,” said Alexander Milinkevich, who challenged him in a 2006 election. “Opposition calls for reforms and movement toward the European Union literally drowned in the flood of Russian money.”

But even while relying on Moscow, Lukashenko repeatedly clashed with the Kremlin, accusing it of trying to strong-arm Belarus into surrendering control of its most prized economic assets and eventually abandoning its independence.

While maneuvering for more subsidies from Russia, he often tried to appease the West by occasionally easing repressions. Before the 2020 election, the U.S. and EU lifted some sanctions as Belarus freed political prisoners.

The balancing act ended after the vote that sparked the largest protests ever seen in Belarus. In the subsequent crackdown, over 35,000 people were arrested, thousands were beaten in police custody, and hundreds of independent media outlets and nongovernmental organizations were closed and outlawed.

While Putin had been annoyed by Lukashenko’s past maneuvers, he saw the protests as a major threat to Moscow’s influence over its ally and moved quickly to shore up the Belarusian leader who came under Western sanctions.

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who challenged Lukashenko in that election and then fled the country to lead the opposition from exile, said the vote marked a watershed as it became clear that he had “lost support of the majority of the Belarusians.”

“Lukashenko has survived primarily thanks to Russia, which offered him information, financial and even military support at the peak of the protests,” she told The Associated Press. “The Kremlin’s intervention prevented a split in the Belarusian elites. Now Lukashenko is paying back that support with the country’s sovereignty.”

Belarus’ leading human rights group Viasna counts about 1,400 political prisoners in the country, including group founder and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Ales Bialiatski, who has been held incommunicado like other opposition figures.

“Lukashenko has created a harsh personalist political regime in the center of Europe with thousands of political prisoners where civic institutions don’t function and time has turned back,” said Bialiatski’s wife, Natalia Pinchuk. “Torturous conditions in which Ales has been held are emblematic for thousands of Belarusian prisoners and Lukashenko’s path in politics.”

In one of the most vivid episodes of the crackdown, a commercial jet carrying a dissident journalist from Greece to Lithuania was forced to land in Minsk in May 2021 when it briefly crossed into Belarusian airspace in what the West condemned as air piracy. The journalist, Raman Pratasevich, was convicted of organizing protests and sentenced to eight years in prison. He later was pardoned and become a Lukashenko supporter.

The Belarusian leader is sometimes blustery and mercurial. He once praised Adolf Hitler for “raising Germany from ruins.”

Lukashenko shrugged off the COVID-19 pandemic as “psychosis” and advised people to “kill the virus with vodka,” go to saunas and work in the fields because “tractors will cure everybody!”

Amid the 2020 crackdown, Lukashenko declared that “sometimes we shouldn’t care about the laws and just take tough steps to stop some scum.”

He kept his youngest son, 19-year-old Nikolai, at his side at official events, fueling speculation that he could be nurturing him as a successor.

Lukashenko maintained a tough-guy image by playing hockey, skiing and doing other sports. After contracting COVID-19, he said he recovered quickly, thanks to physical activity.

But he’s become visibly less energetic in recent years amid rumors of health problems that he denied with his usual bravado.

“I’m not going to die,” he said last year. “You will have to tolerate me for quite a long time to go.”



Source link

Continue Reading

News

Trump describes assassination attempt in personal detail as he accepts Republican nomination

Published

 on

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Donald Trump, somber and bandaged, accepted the GOP presidential nomination on Thursday at the Republican National Convention in a speech that described in detail the assassination attempt that could have ended his life just five days earlier before laying out a sweeping populist agenda, particularly on immigration.

The 78-year-old former president, known best for his bombast and aggressive rhetoric, began his acceptance speech with a softer and deeply personal message that drew directly from his brush with death. Moment by moment, the crowd listening in silence, Trump described standing onstage in Butler, Pennsylvania, with his head turned to look at a chart on display when he felt something hit his ear. He raised his hand to his head and saw immediately that it was covered in blood.

“If I had not moved my head at that very last instant, the assassin’s bullet would have perfectly hit its mark,” Trump said. “And I would not be here tonight. We would not be together.”

Trump’s address, among the longest convention speeches in modern history at just under 93 minutes, marked the climax and conclusion of a massive four-day Republican pep rally that drew thousands of conservative activists and elected officials to swing-state Wisconsin as voters weigh an election that currently features two deeply unpopular candidates. Sensing political opportunity in the wake of his near-death experience, the often bombastic Republican leader embraced a new tone he hopes will help generate even more momentum in an election that appears to be shifting in his favor.

“The discord and division in our society must be healed. We must heal it quickly. As Americans, we are bound together by a single fate and a shared destiny. We rise together. Or we fall apart,” Trump said, wearing a large white bandage on his right ear, as he has all week, to cover a wound he sustained in the Saturday shooting. “I am running to be president for all of America, not half of America, because there is no victory in winning for half of America.”

While he spoke in a gentler tone than at his usual rallies, Trump also outlined an agenda led by what he promises would be the largest deportation operation in U.S. history. He repeatedly accused people crossing the U.S.-Mexico border illegally of staging an “invasion.” Additionally, he teased new tariffs on trade and an “America first” foreign policy.

Trump also falsely suggested Democrats had cheated during the 2020 election he lost — despite a raft of federal and state investigations proving there was no systemic fraud — and suggested “we must not criminalize dissent or demonize political disagreement,” even as he has long called for prosecutions of his opponents.

Trump barely mentioned Democratic President Joe Biden, often referring only to the “current administration.”

The RNC ends at an uncertain moment in the race

With less than four months to go in the contest, major changes in the race are possible, if not likely.

Trump’s appearance comes as the 81-year-old Biden clings to his party’s presumptive nomination in the face of unrelenting pressure from key congressional allies, donors and even former President Barack Obama, who fear he may be unable to win reelection after his disastrous debate.

Long pressed by allies to campaign more vigorously, Biden is instead in isolation at his beach home in Delaware after having been diagnosed with COVID-19.

Hours before the balloons were scheduled to rain down on Trump and his family inside the convention hall, Biden deputy campaign manager Quentin Fulks appeared nearby in Milwaukee and insisted over and over that Biden would not step aside.

“I do not want to be rude, but I don’t know how many more times I can answer that,” Fulks told reporters. “There are no plans being made to replace Biden on the ballot.”

Strength on the program

Thursday’s RNC program seemed designed to project strength and masculinity in an implicit rebuke of Biden.

Ultimate Fighting Championship President Dana White called Trump “a real American bad ass.” Kid Rock performed a song with the chorus, “Fight, fight!,” echoing the word Trump shouted on stage in Pennsylvania as Secret Service agents helped him off the stage. And wrestling icon Hulk Hogan described the former president as “an American hero.”

Hogan drew a raucous response when, standing on the main stage, he ripped off his shirt to reveal a red Trump-Vance “Make America Great Again” shirt.

“As an entertainer, I try to stay out of politics,” Hogan said as he briefly broke character. “I can no longer stay silent.”

Like many speakers during the convention, former Fox News host Tucker Carlson suggested that recent events were divinely inspired and that he wondered “if something bigger is going on.”

“I think it changed him,” Carlson said of the shooting, praising Trump for not lashing out in anger afterward.

“He did his best to bring the country together,” Carlson added. “This is the most responsible, unifying behavior from a leader I’ve ever seen.”

Former first lady Melania Trump and Ivanka Trump, the president’s elder daughter and former senior adviser, joined Trump in the convention hall ahead of his speech, making their first appearances there. Neither woman spoke.

Republicans leave their convention united

The convention has showcased a Republican Party reshaped by Trump since he shocked the GOP establishment and won over the party’s grassroots on his way to the party’s 2016 nomination. Rivals Trump has vanquished — including Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Marco Rubio of Florida, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis — put aside their past criticisms and gave him their unqualified support.

Even his vice presidential pick, Ohio Sen. JD Vance, Trump’s choice to carry his movement into the next generation, was once a fierce critic who suggested in a private message since made public that Trump could be “America’s Hitler.”

Security was a major focus in Milwaukee in the wake of Trump’s near-assassination. But after nearly four full days, there were no serious incidents inside the convention hall or the large security perimeter that surrounded it.

The Secret Service, backed by hundreds of law enforcement officers from across the nation, had a large and visible presence. And during Trump’s appearances each night, he was surrounded by a wall of protective agents wherever he went.

Meanwhile, Trump and his campaign have not released information about his injury or the treatment he received. The former president on Thursday described his story of surviving the attack — and vowed he would not talk about it again.

“I’m not supposed to be here tonight,” Trump told the packed convention hall. The crowd of thousands, which was listening in silence, shouted back, “Yes, you are.”

___

Associated Press reporters Michelle L. Price in Milwaukee and Emily Swanson in Washington contributed to this report.

___

Follow the AP’s coverage of the 2024 election at https://apnews.com/hub/election-2024.



Source link

Continue Reading

Trending