Troops rescue president from strikers' blockade
Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa was rescued Thursday night from a hospital where he had been trapped much of the day by police, incensed by a new law that cuts their benefits.
Hundreds of protesting officers had roughed up and tear-gassed Correa, shut down airports and blocked highways in a nationwide strike, plunging the small South American nation into chaos.
Before the rescue, the Organization of American States' secretary general, Miguel Insulza, had called the situation "a coup d'etat in the making," and Bolivian President Evo Morales called for an emergency meeting Friday of South America's presidents in Buenos Aires.
At least one person was killed and six injured in clashes between police and Correa supporters outside the hospital, where the leader was being treated for the tear-gas exposure. The rescue operation left at least one member of the security forces wounded.
Upon his return to the presidential palace, Correa, 47, told cheering supporters that the uprising was more than a simple police protest.
"There were lots of infiltrators, dressed as civilian and we know where they were from," he shouted. But he did not blame anyone specifically.
The violence began when Correa, 47, tried to speak at a police barracks in the capital, Quito. Officers incensed by a law approved by Ecuador's congress on Wednesday shoved the president around and pelted him with tear gas and water.
Police also took over barracks in Quito, Guayaquil and other cities. Some set up roadblocks of burning tires, cutting off highway access to the capital.
The government responded by declaring a state of siege, putting the military in charge of public order, and suspending civil liberties. The commander of Ecuador's armed forces later declared the military's loyalty to Correa.
While Correa's leftist allies voiced their concern, with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez asserting that the Ecuadorean leader was "in danger of being killed," the United States didn't go that far. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton urged "all Ecuadoreans to come together . . . to reach a rapid and peaceful restoration of order."
- Associated Press
First official photograph of Kim Jong Eun released
North Korea's state news agency on Thursday published a photograph and video footage of Kim Jong Eun, whose image the outside world had not seen in about 15 years. According to experts, the move qualified as another benchmark in the unveiling of Kim Jong Il's youngest son and presumed successor.
The photo, published in North Korea's official Rodong Shinmun newspaper, shows Kim Jong Eun sitting on a red chair, surrounded by delegates to a recent political conference in Pyongyang. He has chubby cheeks, reminiscent of his grandfather, North Korean founder Kim Il Sung. Two seats to his left sits Kim Jong Il.
Until this week, Kim Jong Eun qualified as the best-concealed figure in the world's most secretive state. At this week's conference, though, the North's leadership strongly signaled a father-to-son power transfer, naming Kim Jong Eun to key political and military posts.
North Korea cares very much about the faces of its leaders, Seoul-based observers said. Its soldiers wear pins showing the faces of Kim Jong Il and Kim Il Sung, and portraits of both Kims must be displayed in every North Korean home.
- Chico Harlan
5 NATO troops killed in attacks in Afghanistan: Five NATO service members were killed in southern Afghanistan, the scene of heavy fighting as troops push into areas long controlled by the Taliban. Three died when a homemade bomb exploded, and two were killed separately, one after an insurgent attack and another in an explosion, the coalition said.
U.S. billionaires talk to China's wealthy: Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and billionaire investor Warren Buffett said they were impressed by the passion for giving back to society that they saw among China's super rich during a dinner in Beijing. The American businessmen said they will try to hold a similar event in India next year.
New Dutch government seeks to ban burqa: Two center-right parties agreed to ban the burqa in the Netherlands as the price for parliamentary support for their minority government from the anti-Islam Freedom party. The Netherlands would become the second European Union country after France to ban the face-covering Muslim garb.
- From news services