Bolivia, May 19 (AP/UNB) — Cheered by thousands of supporters in Bolivia's coca-growing Chapare region, President Evo Morales began his campaign for his third consecutive re-election Saturday amid opposition assertions the constitution prohibits him from running again.
Morales, a one-time leader of coca farmers, became the Andean nation's first indigenous president in January 2006 and is one of the few remaining leaders of the wave of leftists who swept into office in South America in past decades. If he is re-elected in October and serves out the five-year term, he would have been president for almost two decades.
Last year, Bolivia's top electoral court accepted Morales' candidacy for a fourth term despite a constitutional ban and a referendum in which 51% of Bolivians rejected his intention to modify the constitution to allow him to run again.
"Why five more years? To finish our great works. We feel strong; we have self-esteem; and with these crowds giving us energy we will guarantee the liberation of Bolivia forever," Morales said to his supporters.
He launched his campaign at the airport in Chimore, about 300 kilometers (186 miles) east of La Paz, where Morales said the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration had a base more than 10 years ago. Morales expelled DEA agents from Bolivia in 2008, and the choice of the airport to launch his re-election bid was symbolic.
"Our fight is for there to never again be an American base in Bolivia," he said. "The United States was the owner of Bolivia. Our struggle has always been to recover our homeland and dignity."
Polls show a competitive race heading into the Oct. 20 vote, which would go to a second round if no candidate wins an outright majority.
Morales has presided over an economic boom and is credited with lifting millions out of poverty, but he has lost support following allegations about manipulation of the justice system, his insistence to run for another term and corruption scandals. Bolivia's opposition view him as a threat to the country's democracy.
He supported a 2009 constitution that allowed only two consecutive terms — though he later argued the restriction took effect only after the new constitution was adopted. The former coca farmer was re-elected in 2009 and 2014.
Bolivians rejected a constitutional amendment to allow more than two consecutive terms in a 2016 referendum. But Morales' party convinced the constitutional court to rule his candidacy was legal, saying term limits violate citizens' human right to run for office. Bolivia's top electoral court then accepted his candidacy.
New Delhi, May 19 (AP/UNB) — Indians are voting in the seventh and final phase of national elections, wrapping up a 6-week-long long, grueling campaign season with Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist party seeking reelection for another five years.
The voting on Sunday also covers Modi's constituency of Varanasi, a holy Hindu city where he was elected in 2014.
The election is seen as a referendum on Modi's five-year rule. He has adopted a nationalist pitch in trying to win votes from the country's Hindu majority by projecting a tough stance against Pakistan, India's Muslim-majority neighbor and archrival.
The Congress and other opposition parties are challenging him over a high unemployment rate of 6.1% and farmers' distress aggravated by low crop prices.
Counting of votes is scheduled for May 23.
Vienna, May 18 (AP/UNB) — Austrian vice chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache resigned Saturday after two German newspapers published footage of him apparently offering lucrative government contracts to a potential Russian benefactor.
Standing before assembled journalists and cameras, Strache said he was illegally set up in a "political assassination" but added his behavior in the video was "stupid, irresponsible and a mistake."
The scandal has led to speculation about the future of the governing coalition between Strache's anti-immigration Freedom Party and Chancellor Sebastian Kurz's center-right People's Party. Scenarios include replacing Strache in the cabinet with another party member or ending the coalition for new elections.
In his resignation statement, Strache said he was quitting so that the coalition could continue its work. Kurz has so far not spoken publicly.
The daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung and the weekly Der Spiegel on Friday published extracts of covert video purportedly showing Strache offering government contracts to a Russian woman purportedly interested in investing large amounts of money in Austria.
In the video, the source of which the newspapers declined to reveal, Strache and party colleague Johann Gudenus are heard telling the unnamed woman she could expect lucrative construction contracts if she buys an Austrian newspaper and supports the Freedom Party. Sueddeutsche Zeitung and Der Spiegel said the footage was authenticated by a forensic video expert. It couldn't be immediately independently verified by The Associated Press.
According to the two newspapers, the video spanned some six hours of drink-fueled conversation in a villa on the Spanish island of Ibiza between the Austrian politicians and the woman, who claimed to be the niece of a prominent Russian businessman. Aside from discussing possible investments in Austria, including the purchase of influential tabloid newspaper Kronen Zeitung, Strache also appears to suggest ways of funneling money to his party via an unconnected foundation to circumvent Austrian rules on political donations.
Strache announced his resignation to assembled journalists without taking questions. He said that he had no further contact with the woman and that there were no contributions.
Tehran, May 18 (AP/UNB) — Iran's foreign minister traveled Friday to China on his Asian tour aimed at keeping world markets open to Tehran amid an intense sanctions campaign from the U.S. as tensions across the Persian Gulf remain high.
Concerns about a possible conflict have flared since the White House ordered warships and bombers to the region to counter an alleged, unexplained threat from Iran that has seen America order nonessential diplomatic staff out of Iraq.
Tensions have also ratcheted up in the region after authorities alleged that a sabotage operation targeted four oil tankers on Sunday off the coast of the United Arab Emirates, and Iran-aligned rebels in Yemen claimed responsibility for a drone attack Tuesday on a crucial Saudi oil pipeline.
Saudi Arabia directly blamed Iran for the drone assault, and a local newspaper linked to the Al Saud royal family called on Thursday for America to launch "surgical strikes" on Tehran.
This all takes root in President Donald Trump's decision last year to withdraw the U.S. from the 2015 nuclear accord between Iran and world powers and impose wide-reaching sanctions. But Trump took a soft tone Thursday, a day after tweeting that he expected Iran to look for talks. Asked if the U.S. might be on a path to war with the Iranians, the president answered, "I hope not."
Iranian officials remain skeptical.
Imposing sanctions while seeking talks is like "pointing a gun at someone and demanding friendship," said Iranian Gen. Rasool Sanaeirad, according to the semi-official Mehr news agency.
That comment was echoed by Majid Takht-e Ravanchi, Iran's ambassador to the United Nations.
"They want to have the stick in their hands, trying to intimidate Iran at the same time calling for a dialogue," Ravanchi told CBS. "What type of dialogue is this?"
For his part, Trump criticized the media in a tweet Friday about Iran and added: "At least Iran doesn't know what to think, which at this point may very well be a good thing!" Since the White House's decision May 5 to deploy the bombers and aircraft carrier, the U.S. government has declined repeated requests to publicly explain the new threat they perceive coming from Tehran.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif later responded to Trump on Twitter.
"We in Iran have actually known what to think for millennia_and about the U.S., since 1953," the diplomat wrote, referring to the CIA's involvement in the overthrow of Iran's prime minister at the time. "At this point, that is certainly 'a good thing!'"
Then Trump appeared to minutes later respond to Zarif's tweet.
"With all of the Fake and Made Up News out there, Iran can have no idea what is actually going on!" the U.S. president wrote.
On Friday, Zarif arrived in Beijing to speak to his Chinese counterpart. China was one of the signatories on Iran's 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, which saw it limit its enrichment of uranium in exchange for the lifting of crushing economic sanctions.
"So far, the international community has mainly made statements instead of saving the deal," Zarif said, according to a report by the state-run IRNA news agency. "The practical step is quite clear: economic relations with Iran should be normalized. This is what the deal clearly addresses."
Foreign Minister Wang Yi told Zarif that China hopes the Iran nuclear deal can be "fully implemented."
"China firmly opposes unilateral sanctions and the so-called 'long arm' jurisdiction imposed by the United States on Iran," Wang said, according to China's Xinhua state news agency. He pledged to maintain the nuclear deal and work with Iran to eliminate "complicated disturbing factors," Xinhua said.
Zarif earlier visited Japan, a major importer of crude oil from the Persian Gulf.
Iran recently said it would resume enriching uranium at higher levels if a new nuclear deal is not reached with Europe by July 7. That would potentially bring it closer to being able to develop a nuclear weapon, something Iran insists it has never sought.
The USS Abraham Lincoln and its carrier strike group have yet to reach the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf through which a third of all oil traded at sea passes. A Revolutionary Guard deputy warned that any armed conflict would affect the global energy market. Iran long has threatened to be able to shut off the strait.
"If a war happens, the world will suffer from problem in energy supply," Gen. Saleh Jokar said, according to a report Friday by the semi-official Fars news agency.
He also said Iran's short-range missiles "can easily reach present warships in the Persian Gulf," while noting the 2,000-kilometer (1,240-mile) range of the Islamic Republic's ballistic missiles can reach across the wider Persian Gulf.
The U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet, which patrols the Persian Gulf from its base in Bahrain, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. However, the USS McFaul and the USS Gonzalez, two Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, transited the strait on Thursday without incident.
Also on Friday, Britain's Foreign Office advised against all travel to Iran by British-Iranian dual nationals. The government said the upgraded travel warning is in response to Iran's "continued arbitrary detention and mistreatment" of dual nationals and of Iranian citizens working for institutions linked to Britain.
Benchmark Brent crude traded near $73 a barrel on Friday, up around half a percent.
Dhaka, May 18 (UNB) -A dog in northern Thailand has rescued a newborn baby after it was buried alive, allegedly by its teenage mother, reports BBC.
The baby boy is said to have been abandoned by his mother, 15, to hide her pregnancy from her parents.
Ping Pong the dog was barking and digging in a field in Ban Nong Kham village. Its owner says he then noticed a baby's leg sticking out of the earth.
Locals rushed the baby to hospital where doctors cleaned him up and declared he was healthy.
Ping Pong's owner, Usa Nisaikha, says it lost the use of one of its legs after being hit by a car.
He told Khaosod Newspaper: "I kept him because he's so loyal and obedient, and always helps me out when I go to the fields to tend to my cattle. He's loved by the entire village. It's amazing."
The newborn's mother has been charged with child abandonment and attempted murder.
Panuwat Puttakam, an officer at Chum Phuang police station, told the Bangkok Post she was now in the care of her parents and a psychologist.
He said that she regrets her actions.
The girl's parents have decided to raise the baby.