TASHKENT, Uzbekistan (AA) – A local dance from the central Asian nation of Uzbekistan has been added to UNESCO’s list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, the country’s deputy prime minister said on Friday.
Aziz Abdukhakimov said the Lazgi dance was inscribed Thursday at the 14th session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage held in Bogota, Colombia.
Initially associated with the country’s northwestern Khorezm (Xorazm) region, the dance later spread nationwide.
Abdukhakimov stressed that the Lazgi dance was added to the list in recognition of its rich historical background and uniqueness.
Uzbekistan also hopes to add Bakhshi, the art of bards reciting folk epics.
Uzbekistan has several treasures on the UNESCO list, including the southeastern Boysun district, Shahmaqom music, the traditional Uzbek palov dish, Askiya (the art of wit), and Katta Ashula, a type of traditional song.
* Writing by Gozde Bayar
- UNHCR urges greater support for displaced Afghans
By Peter Kenny
GENEVA (AA) – The UN Refugee Agency appealed Friday for intensified support for some 4.6 million globally displaced Afghans and their host communities, ahead of next week’s first-ever Global Refugee Forum in Geneva.
UNHCR spokesman Babar Baloch made the call at a UN briefing in Geneva, noting that the world is entering the fifth decade of Afghan displacement.
Among the approximately 4.6 million Afghans who remain uprooted globally, around 2.7 million are registered as refugees, with another 2 million displaced inside the country itself.
“Afghans represent the longest displaced and the longest dispossessed population under UNHCR’s mandate worldwide,” said Baloch.
An overwhelming majority of some 90% of Afghan refugees remain in Pakistan and Iran.
“Afghans are also the single largest group of asylum-seekers arriving in Europe, due to a sharp deterioration in security in Afghanistan, and increasing financial pressure on hosting nations,” said Baloch.
He said that as the world comes together for the three-day Global Refugee Forum starting Monday, “it is imperative that those affected by decades of Afghan displacement remain a shared priority.”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is reportedly due to co-chair the forum.
Baloch said that in both Iran and Pakistan, Afghan refugees access education and national healthcare systems.
“The results of this inclusive approach have been remarkable and world-leading,” said the UNHCR spokesman.
In Iran, the literacy of Afghan children has risen more than tenfold since 1979.
Official figures estimate that some 480,000 Afghan refugees and undocumented children are currently enrolled in school for 2019-2020, indicating a continuing increase from previous years.
Since 2009, programs under the Refugee Affected and Hosting Areas initiative have benefitted more than 12.4 million Pakistanis and Afghan refugees in total.
The overwhelming majority of Afghans both within the country and in exile are young, said Baloch.
When it comes to refugees from Syria, Turkey is the largest host country and provides international protection to more than 3.5 million people who fled the neighboring country, more than any other country in the world.
- UN report finds police, army abuse of power in Chile
By Vakkas Dogantekin
ANKARA (AA) – The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on Friday said the police and army in Chile have violated international human rights norms and standards during the recent mass protests and state of emergency.
After 235 interviews with victims and 60 interviews with police officers, the UN team concluded a 30-page report that detailed extensive allegations of torture, ill-treatment, rape and other forms of sexual violence by the police against people held in detention, many of whom appear to have been detained “arbitrarily”.
“In all, according to official figures, more than 28,000 people were detained between 18 October and 6 December, although the great majority have been released,” said the report.
They documented 113 cases of torture and ill-treatment, and 24 cases of sexual violence against women, men and adolescent girls and boys.
The Office of the Public Prosecutor in Chile has indicated there are ongoing criminal probes into 26 deaths that occurred during the protests.
The report also cited that there had been “unnecessary and disproportionate use of less-lethal weapons, in particular anti-riot shotguns”.
“The alarmingly high number of persons with injuries to their eyes or faces (approximately 350) provides a strong basis to believe that ‘less-lethal weapons’ have been used improperly and indiscriminately,” the report said.
UN team made a few recommendations to Chilean officials in their handling of the mass protests such as “immediately” ending “the indiscriminate use of anti-riot shotguns to control demonstrations” among others.
“Recognizing and learning from what happened, we should look forward in a constructive way,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet.
– Chile protests
The troubling protests, which engulfed Chile in response to a now-suspended 4% transport fare hike, turned violent on Oct. 19, leaving dozens dead and thousands injured.
After months of dissent against the government of President Sebastian Pinera, Chileans last marched Tuesday on International Human Rights Day for the 352 people who lost their eye sight partially or totally during the protests.
They were carrying banner featuring an eye-drawing that read “the eyes of the people accuse the terrorist state.”
According to the National Institute of Human Rights, more than 6,000 people have been arrested and 3,449 others injured over the past month.
Chilean prosecutors opened a total of 2,670 criminal investigations on human rights violations committed by security forces during the protests.
The president accepted protesters’ demands earlier this month to change the constitution, which dates back to the Augusto Pinochet dictatorship.
Pinera also announced concessions to roll back the fare hike, raise the minimum wage and place a hold on electricity prices until next year in a bid to contain strife.
Chile’s lower house on Thursday rejected a motion to impeach Pinera over allegations that he failed to manage the protests and human rights violations across the country.
Pinera, a conservative billionaire and former president, won Chile’s presidency in December 2017, against his center-left opponent Alejandro Guillier.
- Turkish cities beat European rivals in fastest growth
By Tuba Sahin
ANKARA (AA) – Two top tourist-draw Turkish cities led the way for fastest growth in 2018, beating out their European rivals, the World Travel and Tourism Council announced on Friday.
The GDP for Istanbul, the Turkish metropolis, and Antalya, a top Mediterranean resort, coming from direct travel and tourism grew 15.7% and 15.5% annually, respectively. The figure was far above the average of the 73 cities (3.6%) analyzed in a report by the council.
“This reflects the continued recovery of Turkish travel and tourism, driven by safety improvements and the depreciation of its currency, making the country more attractive to foreign visitors,” it said.
Four out of the 10 fastest-growing cities in 2018 were in Europe, the report said.
The third-fastest growing city last year was Moscow, expanding by 13.7% thanks to the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
Budapest, Hungary placed 10th for year-on-year growth at 8.5%.
The report underlined that travel and tourism accounts for 10.4% of GDP and one in 10 jobs worldwide.
Shanghai ($35.9 billion), Paris ($35.6 billion), and Beijing ($33.2 billion) have the top three largest travel and tourism economies.
International visitors accounted for 45% of tourism spending across the 73 cities in the report, compared to 29% for economies worldwide.
International visitor spending is more important to cities than it is to countries as a whole, as it helps pay for city infrastructure projects as well as public workers and services that improve the quality of life for residents.
Hong Kong boasted the highest international visitor spending in 2018 ($44 billion), followed by Macau, China ($36 billion), and Dubai
Seven out of the top 10 cities ranked for their reliance on international visitor spending were located within Europe, with Dublin and Dubrovnik, Croatia both over 95% reliant.
Venice, Budapest, Istanbul, Prague, and London were similarly reliant on international visitor spending, with 84-93% of spending coming from international visitors to these cities.
- Turkish archer dreams of winning 2020 Olympic gold
By Musa Samur
ANKARA (AA) – Record-breaking Turkish archer Mete Gazoz, 20, dreams of bagging a gold medal at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
Seen one of the most successful young Turkish athletes at international events, this April he broke a world record in the junior category and European record in the senior category.
Spoken to Anadolu Agency on Friday, Gazoz said that it was an amazing experience for him to compete in the Olympics.
He competed at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio but was eliminated in the second round after losing to Dutch Sjef van den Berg 7-3.
“Some athletes would retire after competing in the Olympics since they would think they reached the pinnacle of their careers,” he explained.
“Some athletes like me would be more ambitious by saying ‘I see my performance in this Olympics as an experience, now I’ll work over the next four years to bag the medal’.”
He said during his hours of training sometimes he imagines winning a gold medal in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
”I also imagine celebrating my championship and standing at a podium. I dream of every step through the title,” he said.
* Writing by Muhammed Enes Calli
- Turkey slams EU for Libyan maritime pact remarks
By Davut Demircan
ANKARA (AA) – Turkey on Friday criticized a European Council decision rejecting last month’s Turkish-Libyan maritime pact.
“The European Union has no authority to decide maritime jurisdiction and the EU is not an international court, they cannot give a verdict on the legality of the Libyan agreement,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said in a statement.
He said the EU leaders in Brussels claiming the pact “violates the sovereign rights of third countries” is another example of EU hypocrisy toward Turkey.
“The EU was silent when the Greek Cypriot administration made an agreement, acting like regular state and representing the entire island even they had no authority with regional countries against Turkey and Turkish Cypriots in 2003, 2007, and 2010. The EU ignored Greece’s occupation of Libya’s continental shelf,” he added.
Aksoy stressed: “This attitude cannot discourage us from defending the rights and interests of our country and the Turkish Cypriots in the Eastern Mediterranean.”
Twenty-seven member of the EU gathered Friday in Brussels and agreed on a statement claiming Turkish-Libyan maritime pact “violates the sovereign rights of third countries.”
-Turkish-Libyan maritime pact
The pact was signed Nov. 27 and passed Turkey’s parliament Dec. 5. It went into effect Dec. 8 after the two countries published it in their respective official gazettes.
The memorandum determining both countries’ marine jurisdictions rejects unilateral and illegal activities by other regional countries and international firms and aims to protect the rights of both countries.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the Mediterranean region is estimated to hold millions of barrels of oil and trillions of cubic meters of natural gas worth hundreds of billions of dollars.
Turkey urged regional countries to take an equality-based approach, but its calls have largely fallen on deaf ears. Turkey continues its drilling and discovery operations in the region under the protection of the country’s navy.
Since 2011, when longtime ruler Muammar Gaddafi was ousted and killed, Libya has seen the emergence of two rival seats of power: one in eastern Libya to which military commander Khalifa Haftar is affiliated and the Government of National Accord, which enjoys UN recognition.
- Oil prices gain as US, China close on trade deal
By Ovunc Kutlu
ANKARA (AA) – Oil prices gained more than 1% on Thursday and Brent crude opened higher on Friday after the U.S. and China signed off on a phase-one trade deal.
“Getting VERY close to a BIG DEAL with China. They want it, and so do we!” U.S. President Donald Trump said on Twitter on Thursday.
Later, Trump congratulated Boris Johnson’s win in the U.K. and wrote “Britain and the United States will now be free to strike a massive new Trade Deal after BREXIT. This deal has the potential to be far bigger and more lucrative than any deal that could be made with the EU, Celebrate Boris!”
The positive sentiment sent major indexes in the U.S. stock market to new highs as the Dow Jones and Nasdaq ended Thursday with more than 0.7% gains, and S&P 500 soared 0.86% to close at a record high level of 3,168.57 points.
International benchmark Brent crude jumped 1.2% to finish Thursday at $64.48 per barrel and increased by 0.28% on Friday to trade at $64.66 a barrel at 0650 GMT.
American benchmark West Texas Intermediate soared 1.4% to close Thursday at $59.59 a barrel but on Friday at the same time it declined 0.12% to trade at $59.52 per barrel.
U.S. and China have been working on a phase-one trade agreement since October, but up until now failed to resolve some of the key issues such as technology transfer and intellectual property rights.
As details of the phase one deal are yet to be announced, it is still unclear whether the sides have worked out those differences or made progress on other issues such as agriculture.
The world’s two largest economies’ closure of a deal comes before Washington’s additional 15% tariffs on $160 billion worth of Chinese imports, which were scheduled to kick in on Sunday.
Over the last 20 months, the U.S. has imposed tariffs on $550 billion worth of Chinese imports, while China has reciprocated by implementing tariffs on $185 billion worth of imports from the U.S.
Due to the trade war between the world’s two largest oil consumers, global oil demand was forecast to be low in 2020, with weaker global economic growth next year.
- New Zealand recovers 6 bodies from White Island volcano
By Riyaz ul Khaliq
ANKARA (AA) – Police in New Zealand on Friday said they have recovered six bodies from waters near White Island, as death toll rose to 16 from a volcano that erupted last Monday.
Addressing a news conference aired live, New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush said one more body was still in the waters near the island.
“The recovery process was not over,” Bush said.
Police had said that 25 of the 30 wounded were still in critical condition.
New Zealand scientists warned of possible further eruption on New Zealand’s most active volcano.
The victims were tourists from Australia, the U.K., China, Germany, New Zealand, Malaysia and the U.S.
The volcano had last erupted in 2001.
- Iraq’s Sadr closes Facebook account with ‘goodbye’ post
By Haydar Karaalp
BAGHDAD (AA) – Iraqi Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr closed his Facebook account Friday, writing “goodbye” on a black background on the social media site.
The move led to speculations that al-Sadr “withdrew from politics” in response to an agreement between political parties regarding the prime minister candidacy of Mohammed Shia al-Sudani, supported by groups close to Iran.
Al-Sadr also replaced his profile picture, an image of his father Mohammad Sadeq al-Sadr, also known as a Shia religious authority, with a picture of a black background with the world “closed” written on it.
Earlier, al-Sadr said in two statements on Facebook that he is against the candidacy of al-Sudani, who is a former Minister of Labour and Social Affairs.
Al-Sadr’s Twitter account remains open.
Iraq has been rocked by mass protests since early October over poor living conditions and corruption, forcing Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi to resign.
According to Iraq’s High Commission for Human Rights, at least 460 Iraqis have been killed and 17,000 have been injured since the protests began Oct. 1.
* Writing by Jeyhun Aliyev from Ankara
- Fishing groups to hold mass rally in Thai capital
By Zehra Nur Duz
ANKARA (AA) – More than 10,000 fishermen in Thailand will hold a mass rally to protest harsh regulations on the fishing industry, according to a local news agency.
The demonstrators from various groups will rally outside the Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry in Thai capital, Bangkok, until Jan. 15, asking the government to relax the regulations.
“We’ve already notified Nang Loeng police station as required by the law on public gatherings. And more than 10,000 people from 22 provinces will turn up,” said Mongkon Sukcharoenkhana, president of the National Fisheries Association of Thailand (NFAT), the Bangkok Post reported.
“If the government refuses to respond to our calls, it should buy all our fishing equipment and trawlers, as we can no longer go out to work,” he said.
On Wednesday, Alongkorn Ponlaboot, an adviser to Thai Minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives Chalermchai Sri-on, called on the groups to cancel the rally.
Thai government’s regulations aim at tackling with illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing but further regulations introduced over the past four to five years have resulted in harder conditions in the industry.
Fishermen claim that the regulations forced many to quit the fishing, saying they can no longer cope with increasing debts caused by the harsh regulations.
- European Rohingya Council slams Suu Kyi for ‘genocide’
By Jeyhun Aliyev
ANKARA (AA) – The European Rohingya Council (ERC) on Friday “strongly condemned” Aung San Suu Kyi for her statements at an international court seeking to defend the military’s crimes against minority Muslims in northern Rakhine state.
Neglecting the world’s call for justice for the Rohingya, who faced a brutal military crackdown in 2017, State Counsellor Suu Kyi, a 1991 Nobel peace laureate, defended the military at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on Wednesday, undermining her claim to the prize.
The Rohingya, described by the UN as the world’s most persecuted people, have faced heightened fears of attack since dozens were killed in communal violence in 2012.
The ERC said in a written statement that Suu Kyi has “yet again failed to acknowledge the graves crimes committed by the military under her watch.”
“She has also shown the world that she prioritises her political position over human rights, justice and accountability,” the statement said.
“Having failed to mention the term Rohingya during her statements at the International Court of Justice, she and her legal team have failed to offer any signs of justice and accountability, instead she has provided denial, defense and whitewashing of crimes of genocide being committed by Commander-in-Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing and Myanmar Military,” it added.
The statement underlined that Suu Kyi showed the world that “once again she has failed in her leadership and moral responsibility.”
The ERC also urged the international community to support the genocide case at the ICJ, as well as acknowledged support of the of Gambia, Canada, the Netherlands and Myanmar’s ethnic communities and human rights organizations in the “path for justice and accountability”.
Last month, Gambia filed a genocide lawsuit against Myanmar at the UN’s highest court, a move termed as “historic achievement” by the Rohingya community, the first three-day hearing of which has been concluded Thursday at the ICJ in the Hague.
Hailing Gambia for strong leadership in the fight for justice, the ERC said: “It is the west African nation standing tall amidst the silence of international justice and accountability of genocide against Rohingya.”
Noting that the path to justice and accountability in Myanmar is every nation’s morally-bound responsibility, the council called countries with “a clear conscience towards human rights and justice” to join the move of Gambia, Canada and the Netherlands.
It stressed Bangladesh, the country which hosts Rohingya refugees “shouldering the burden of shelters and keeping hope intact”, has also shown great resilience for the case.
The ERC urged European countries and nations across the world to support Gambia along with the other two countries toward the genocide case filed against Myanmar for justice and accountability “as provisional measures to prevent and end the genocide reach a critical point,” and called on international NGOs and human rights organizations to keep momentum in the case.
– Persecuted people
According to Amnesty International, more than 750,000 Rohingya refugees, mostly women and children, fled Myanmar and crossed into Bangladesh after Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community in August 2017, pushing the number of persecuted people in Bangladesh above 1.2 million.
More than 34,000 Rohingya were also thrown into fires, while over 114,000 others were beaten, said the OIDA report titled Forced Migration of Rohingya: The Untold Experience.
Some 18,000 Rohingya women and girls were raped by Myanmar’s army and police and over 115,000 Rohingya homes were burned down and 113,000 others vandalized, it added.
- EU heavyweights urge halt to military actions in Libya
BERLIN (AA) – Germany, France and Italy on Friday urged conflict parties in Libya to halt military operations and return to political negotiations.
Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte issued a joint statement after their meeting in Brussels to discuss latest developments in Libya, on the sidelines of an EU summit.
“The leaders call on all Libyan and international parties to refrain from taking military action, genuinely commit to a comprehensive and lasting cessation of hostilities and re-engage into a credible UN-led negotiation,” the statement said.
The joint statement came after eastern Libya-based commander Khalifa Haftar announced that he would launch a new offensive to capture the capital Tripoli.
Merkel, Macron and Conte stressed that a solution to the Libya conflict could only come through a political solution, and underlined their full support for the UN Special Envoy Ghassan Salame’s efforts for a settlement.
They also called for stronger efforts to gather a long-planned international conference for a political solution to the Libyan conflict.
“The leaders also reiterated their determination to work for the success of the Berlin Conference, which needs to take place with no further delay, and welcomed the efforts of their respective Foreign Ministers to this end,” the joint statement said.
Germany is planning to host the conference early next year.
Since 2011, when longtime ruler Muammar Gaddafi was ousted and killed, Libya has seen the emergence of two rival seats of power: One in eastern Libya, to which military commander Khalifa Haftar is affiliated, and the Government of National Accord, which enjoys UN recognition.
- Ethiopia: Contemporary painting, sculpture in dire straits
By Seleshi Tessema and Ibrahim Tigil
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AA) – Walls, domes and the exteriors of the magnificent Medhane Alem Cathedral in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa are embellished with colorful portraits and life-size paintings of saints of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.
The saints, depicted with an exaggerated size of eyes, solemnly gaze at visitors and worshippers who congregate throughout the week.
Bekele Mekonen, an academic at Addis Ababa University’s Alle School of Fine Arts and Design, says religious paintings which began with Christianization of Ethiopia in the 4th century uniformly adopted a style of depicting the eyes of their subjects bigger than their normal size to “hypnotize the viewers”.
“The philosophy of the style is that it is not only the viewer who look at the paintings, but the paintings also observe the viewers,” Bekele noted.
According to Mekonen, despite centuries of artistic tradition and nearly a century of education, the secularized and westernized contemporary Ethiopian painting and sculpture are “in dire straits”.
“Today, the art community and academia also have big eyes which are engaged in mesmeric stares at the problems of Ethiopian painting and sculpture,” Bekele noted.
– ‘Mesmeric stare at problems’
The ancient religious paintings constitute a unique visual history and form of teachings of the church, Mekonen said.
From an artistic point of view, some notable Ethiopian contemporary painters had adopted specific elements of style in religious paintings, he added.
According to Mekonen, despite centuries of artistic tradition and nearly a century of academic trainings, the overall level of contemporary painting and sculpture was abysmally low.
“One of the most fundamental problems lies in societal and institutional attitudes as well as lack of knowledge in the significance of paintings and sculpture,” he noted.
“For some, these art forms are luxury and play no role in the material and spiritual development of our society,” Bekele lamented.
According to him, such attitudes have negatively impacted the expansion of government and private academic institutions.
“We hope this would change in the future, but currently the aesthetic test of our society is very low,” he said, adding: “Despite some great works in the past, the overall artistic quality of paintings and sculptures is not up to the aspired level.”
Mekonen, also a renowned sculptor, noted that as sculpture requires space, it was difficult for aspiring young artists to have their own studios.
Mekonen added: “Besides, as Ethiopia is a profoundly religious society of Christians and Muslims, both religions associate sculptures with idolatrous worship, and viewers, buyers, and ‘would be’ artists are virtually disinterested.”
Mifta Zeleke, a curator, told Anadolu Agency that one of the factors that impeded the growth of art was the self-serving attention given by successive Ethiopian governments to the profession.
The governments get the painters engaged only when they require propaganda posters, paintings and sculptures, he said.
Zeleke added: “The country’s cultural policy does not provide ways and means for the development of the field.”
Consequently, Ethiopia has very few galleries, curators, and art critiques, according to Zeleke.
“We need to solve our problems to get near enough to African art capitals — Accra, Dakar, and Johannesburg, among others,” he added.
– ‘Challenging art business’
Addis Fine Arts is one of the very few galleries in Addis Ababa. It was founded in 2016 by Rakeb Sile, an Ethiopian American art enthusiast and Mesai Haileleul, an art collector and owner of a gallery in Los-Angeles.
Haileleul told Anadolu Agency that Addis Fine Arts owns a gallery in London, and aims to open up the traditionally localized and least commercialized Ethiopian painting to global audience and market.
Over the last three years, we have managed to organize art exhibitions in New York, Lagos, Dubai, London and South Africa, among others, Haileleul said.
“The events have introduced various Ethiopian painters to global viewers and buyers,” he noted, adding that sales value of the paintings had been a huge reward for the artists.
Haileleul added: “As we are connected to the market, we sell in different ways, without exhibitions.”
But he said that Ethiopia’s tax system “views art as any commodity and the bill is huge and discouraging.”
We hope that the reformist Ethiopian administration led by Nobel laureate Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed would also reform the tax system, he added.
- Deepest point of earth’s continents found in Antarctica
By Sena Guler
ANKARA (AA) – A group of glaciologists discovered the deepest point on land under an Antarctic glacier.
Among other findings of BedMachine Antarctica, a mapping project for the white continent, glaciologists said one of the most striking one was finding “the world’s deepest land canyon below Denman Glacier in East Antarctica.”
The discovery was announced by the University of California, Irvine (UCI) on Thursday.
“The new Antarctic bed topography product was constructed using ice thickness data from 19 different research institutes dating back to 1967, encompassing nearly a million line-miles of radar soundings,” said the article on the finding at the university’s official webpage.
“Older maps suggested a shallower canyon, but that wasn’t possible; something was missing,” the article quoted the lead author Mathieu Morlighem, an UCI professor of Earth system science, as saying.
Morlighem added that their calculations suggest that the ice flowing through the canyon according to the combined radar survey and ice motion data hits 3,500 meters (some 11,500 feet) below the sea level, the deepest point on earth.
“The newly released Antarctica topography map, BedMachine Antarctica, and related findings were published today [Thursday] in the journal Nature Geoscience,” the article said.
The deepest trench in the ocean is known as the Mariana Trench which is located in the western Pacific Ocean.
It is about 200 kilometers (124 miles) east of the Mariana Islands. It is crescent-shaped and measures about 2,550 km (1584 mi) in length and 69 km (39 mi) in width.
- Bolivia’s ex-leader Morales completes month in exile
By Juan Felipe Velez and Santiago Pena Aranza
BOGOTA, Colombia (AA) – Former Bolivian President Evo Morales, who was forced by the military to resign last month, remains at the center of attention in his country’s politics after completing a month of exile in Mexico.
Morales, the first indigenous president of Bolivia and its ruler for 13 years, has been a strong critic of the interim government headed by Jeanine Anez and the Organization of American States (OAS).
He termed his resignation a coup, declaring that his victory was sealed in elections in October when he was elected for a fourth term.
The interim government has called for an election rerun next year in which Morales will not be allowed to stand as he has exceeded a constitutional limit allowing two terms of office.
In a tweet, his only weapon is exile, the Aymara leader rejected the OAS report which claims there were irregularities in the elections.
According to the report, despite irregularities his rival Carlos Mesa had not won enough votes to form a government.
Morales accused the de facto government of “orchestrating the coup” and “sowing people” against him.
He further claimed that the Anez administration requests military intervention from Israel.
“The de facto government asks for help from the Zionist government of Israel to fight with the [political] left. The coup leaders are violent, do not respect freedom, dignity, and identity with foreign military intervention policies that divide us,” said the former president.
Another accusation made by Morales is that the new government is looking for a way to re-establish diplomatic relations with Chile — a country that Bolivia has no ties with since 1978 due to a territorial dispute.
Morales said it seeks to “deliver our nationalized companies and natural resources like lithium to the Chilean oligarchy”.
– Newest campaign manager
Last week, while he was in Cuba receiving medical care, Morales was appointed by his Movement for Socialism (MAS) party as the new campaign leader for next year’s election rerun.
He will take up his new role from Argentina where he landed on Thursday after being granted asylum.
This symbolic role is decisive for choosing a presidential candidate and achieving the unity of MAS.
The indigenous leader cannot return to Bolivia at this time because the new government accuses him of sedition and terrorism for allegedly inciting violence by instructing his local allies to block roads in the country.
Additionally, the interim government filed a complaint in the International Criminal Court against Morales and some of his closest collaborators for crimes against humanity this week.
– Winds of change
During the first month as interim president, Anez has made drastic state decisions at the national and international levels in the country.
She changed the heads of the military and announced that “the Bible returns to the Palace”, without acknowledging the secular state proclaimed by the constitution of 2009.
Anez has given clear signs of placing Bolivia in Latin American right-wing politics.
She cut relations with the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, an unconditional ally of Bolivia during the last decade. She also recognized Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaido as the legitimate ruler — something that Morales would never have done.
Anez also announced Bolivia’s withdrawal from the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA), an international forum that promotes regional and economic integration mechanisms outside the U.S. influence.
The interim government is also discussing withdrawal from the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), another regional cooperation body.
Latin American integration without Washington’s political influence was promoted by Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro. With UNASUR, Bolivia received the support of more than 700 Cuban doctors in its health system.
However, Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canal said that the doctor’s mission deployed in Bolivia had to leave the Andean country because of the “harassment and mistreatment” of the new government.
Despite all those harsh decisions taken by the transitional government, the Anez administration has not set a date for the next presidential elections, which are expected to bring an end to the social and political crisis.
*Jose Baez and Maria Paula Trivino from Colombia, Beyza Binnur Donmez from Ankara contributed the story
- 3 traditions from Southeast Asia gain UN heritage note
By Zehra Nur Duz
ANKARA (AA) – Three traditions from Southeast Asia made entry into UNESCO’s list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
UNESCO released Thursday the list after the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage meeting was held in Colombia’s capital Bogota between Dec. 9-14.
The UN’s education, science and culture body inscribed traditional Thai massage, and martials arts from Malaysia and Indonesia on the list.
Nuad Thai, or Thai massage, was Thailand’s second cultural heritage which entered the list after Khon masked dance was recognized in 2018, local news agency Nation Thailand reported.
Thai massage, which is popular all over the world, lowers stress, boosts energy and improves athletic performance.
“Nuad Thai, traditional Thai massage, is regarded as part of the art and science of traditional Thai healthcare,” the UN body said in a statement.
During the meeting, the UN heritage body also included Silat, a combative art of self-defence and survival rooted in the Malay Archipelago, in the list.
“Traced back to the early days of the Langkasuka Kingdom, Silat has now evolved into a fine practice of physical and spiritual training associated with traditional Malay attire, musical instruments and customs,” UNESCO said in the statement. “Many practitioners have been trained, and Silat is now a popular sport for health and leisure.”
Indonesia’s Pencak Silat, which is also widely known as a martial art, is also included in the list.
“Pencak Silat is a long-standing tradition that encompasses numerous aspects: mental and spiritual, self-defence and aesthetics,” UNESCO said.
Practitioners of this traditional art “are taught to maintain their relationship with God, human beings and nature, and trained in various techniques to defend themselves and others,” read the statement.
During the bogota meeting on Thursday, UNESCO also inscribed 12 more cultural practices from across the world to the Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.