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NightWatch 20100409


For the Night of 9 April 2010

North Korea: Kim Chong-il was absent from the second session of the 12th Supreme People's Assembly which met today, according to the report in the Korean Central News Agency. The KCNA summary indicated the one day session focused on rebuilding the economy and did its primary task of approving the budget. The national goal is to achieve prosperity by 2012.

Comment: It is customary for the leader of the country to preside at the opening of the usually twice a year sessions of the Supreme People's Assembly, which is the supreme organ of state power, according to the constitution. Kim Chong-il did not attend meetings in the 1990s, but lately his attendance has been routine. One blog devoted to North Korean leadership suggested Kim might have gone to China instead.

Thailand: Thousands of Red Shirt protestors scuffled with police today at the Thaicom satellite station which broadcasts an anti-government channel. Thaicom satellite station will resume the signal transmission for the People's Channel (PTV), according to Natthawut Saikua, a co-leader of the Red Shirts. Protestors, Thaicom representatives and the police negotiated an agreement to permit broadcasting and avoided violence.

Comment: In its effort to avoid actions that might build sympathy for and swell the ranks of the Red Shirt opposition, the government appears willing to make concessions that erode its authority. Having promulgated decrees that restrict movements and declares regions off limits, it failed to enforce them today.

This encounter clearly went to the opposition because the government backed down from doing what it said it would do and what all governments have a duty to do - control lawbreakers. The Red Shirts announced they would ignore the emergency decree and did so with impunity. This outcome guarantees that an escalation of street encounters will follow.

Sri Lanka: President Rajapaksa's ruling coalition easily won this week's election and achieved an outright majority in Parliament, according to election officials. The President's United People's Freedom Alliance won 117 of the 225 seats, just short of the 66% majority it sought.

Using arm twisting and persuasion, the ruling coalition is likely to achieve a two-thirds majority by the time a government must be formed. Then Rajapaksa is likely to amend the constitution so that he can remain in office.

Kyrgyzstan: The interim government will sign a decree abolishing the current constitution and replacing it with a provisional one some time between 9 and 10 April, Russian news services reported, citing fourth deputy Azimbek Beknazarov.

Beknazarov said the new authorities had no plans to negotiate with ousted President Bakiyev, and that the pending decree would deprive Bakiyev of his office and his immunity from prosecution. The official added that the provisional constitution would contain only basic provisions for the functioning of the state, and a new constitution should be completed before presidential elections, within six months.

Kyrgyzstan's interim government said it may change its foreign policy priorities, deputy interim government head Omurbek Tekebayev said 9 April, Interfax reported. Tekebayev said he did not know the direction or extent of that change but that Russia, Kazakhstan and China remain "strategic partners" with Kyrgyzstan.

Comment: Since President Bakiyev refuses to resign, the interim government has fired him and abolished the legal authority for the position itself. Leader Otunbayeva does not refer to herself as President or prime minister.

Tekebayev has emerged as the most vocal foreign policy spokesman. All of his statements indicate an unambiguous tilt towards Russia.

Mexico: The El Paso Times published the excerpt reproduced below from an Associated Press exclusive.

"After a two-year battle that has killed more than 5,000 people, Mexico's most powerful kingpin now controls the coveted trafficking routes through Ciudad Juarez. That conclusion by U.S. intelligence adds to evidence that Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman's Sinaloa cartel is winning Mexico's drug war. … Guzman last year made Forbes magazine's list of the world's top billionaires."

U.S. authorities reportedly now believe that the Sinaloa cartel has edged out the rival Juarez gang for control of the trafficking routes. "Other officials corroborated pieces of the assessment. Andrea Simmons, an FBI spokeswoman in El Paso, confirmed that the majority of drug loads arriving from Juarez now belong to Guzman. Mexican Federal Police Chief Facundo Rosas told The Associated Press that while authorities are still working to confirm the U.S. assessment, "These are valid theories….If you control the city (Ciudad Juarez), you control the drugs. And it appears to be Chapo."

The article also reported that Sinaloa has moved against Juarez cartel positions in other towns along the Texas border including opposite Fabens and Forth Hancock, Texas. The irony, according to some commentators, is that murders and violence might decline in Juarez, now that one cartel dominates the drug routes there.

End of NightWatch for 9 April.

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