Kerry’s Latin America trip overshadowed by spying allegations

August 13, 2013

Kerry seeks to smooth things over in Colombia, kidnapping spells trouble in Afghanistan, and clashes erupt in Cairo. Today is Monday, August 13, the day Fidel Castro turns 87 out of the public eye. Here’s the World Wrap, brought to you by @clarerrrr.

 Handle with care.

Colombia’s Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon (L) shakes hands with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry during a visit to the anti-narcotics department in Bogota, August 12, 2013.  REUTERS / Fredy Builes

Guerrilla war and spying on the docket. John Kerry is visiting Latin America in his first trip to Colombia and Brazil as U.S. secretary of state. Allegations of NSA spying across the region are likely to color conversations about other issues:

Kerry’s first official visit to South America is taking place under the cloud of revelations about U.S. global surveillance programs by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. The spying has sparked particular concern in Latin American countries, many of which have long complained about U.S. infringements on their sovereignty […] Kerry’s decision to make Colombia the first country he visited in South America as secretary of state reflects close ties between Washington and Bogota in a region where many governments keep their distance from the U.S. government.

Praising Colombia as “one of the very few success stories” in the world, Kerry promised the U.S. would back peace talks with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Colombia’s negotiations with the FARC are intended to end a conflict that has killed over 200,000 people in the past half-century. The U.S. has provided over $8 billion dollars in aid – including about $350 million this year – to help combat the insurgency and drug trafficking.

Rights being swept away.

Women walk on a windy day outside Kabul, July 23, 2013. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail

From bad to worse. A female parliamentarian and her children were kidnapped in the latest example of violent attacks on women in Afghanistan.

Fariba Ahmadi Kakar’s three daughters were later released, the police commander said, but her kidnappers were demanding four Taliban prisoners in exchange for the parliamentarian. Kakar, a member of the lower house, was the second female parliamentarian to be attacked in Ghazni in less than a week. Her husband denied the attack had taken place, saying she was travelling abroad, but the Kakar tribe’s elder, Samad Khan, said attempts were under way to reach an agreement with the Taliban.

Still seen one of the worst places in the world to be a woman, there are concerns that recent gains in women’s rights in Afghanistan are slipping and will be further undermined when international forces leave in 2014.

Mursi melee.

Police detain a supporter of ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi during clashes in central Cairo, August 13, 2013. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany

Cairo boils over… again. Supporters of Egypt’s ousted President Mursi were attacked with rocks and tear gas during a march calling for Mursi’s reinstatement.

Supporters of the new military-installed government hurled stones at the marchers and threw bottles at them from balconies. Police then fired tear gas at the pro-Mursi protesters. A few thousand pro-Mursi protesters were taking part in the march when the trouble erupted. Local residents taunted them, calling them terrorists and saying they were not welcome. They then began throwing stones at them.

Thousands of pro-Mursi supporters have joined sit-ins in Cairo, fortifying their camps over the past few days ahead of an expected crackdown. The current Egyptian government is under pressure to disperse the protesters, but on Tuesday no major movement seemed imminent. Political violence has killed nearly 300 people since Mursi was deposed.

Nota Bene: Mali elected a new president, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, after over a year of turmoil.


Why I must flee Russia – Journalist Masha Gessen decides to leave the country after new anti-gay legislation targets “homosexual propaganda.” (The Guardian)

Purse pawn –  Cash-strapped fashionistas hand over handbags in Hong Kong. (WSJ)

The Chomsky file – After years of denials, the CIA admits keeping tabs on MIT professor and dissident Noam Chomsky in the 70s. (Foreign Policy)

Alcohol is not your friend – Turkey implements new warning labels. (Canadian Press)

Accused abroad – Peru releases footage of two British women arrested on suspicion of drug smuggling. (BBC)


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