Peru, Jan 8 (AP/UNB) — Peru's attorney general said he will present his resignation on Tuesday amid calls for him to step down for allegedly hindering a sweeping corruption probe involving Brazilian mega-builder Odebrecht.
Pedro Chavarry said Monday on his Twitter account that he will offer his resignation to prosecutors the following day to "protect the autonomy of the Public Ministry" after President Martin Vizcarra urged lawmakers to declare an emergency in the office, which could have paved the way for his removal.
Lima's bar association suspended Chavarry on Sunday. Vizcarra has repeatedly called for his resignation since he assumed the post of attorney general in July.
Last Wednesday, Chavarry reversed his dismissal of the lead investigators in the corruption probe into top officials, retreating in the face of a growing public outcry and street protests.
Their removal had threatened to derail the investigation into whether several former presidents and other high-ranking officials accepted money from Odebrecht.
Oderbrecht has admitted in U.S. court filings to winning public works contracts by paying $800 million in bribes to officials across Latin America, including $29 million in Peru.
Among those being investigated in the Odebrecht case are former President Alan Garcia and former presidential candidate Keiko Fujimori.
Prosecutors also have publicly accused Chavarry of having ties with criminal organizations made up of magistrates and businessmen who bartered power for favors or money, something he has denied.
Turkey, Jan 8 (AP/UNB) — President Donald Trump's shifting timetable for pulling U.S. troops out of Syria has left allies and other players in the region confused and jockeying for influence over a withdrawal strategy that appeared to be a work in progress.
One day after White House national security adviser John Bolton announced the U.S. pullout would not be as immediate as Trump had initially declared, U.S. allies on Monday sought clarification from American diplomats. The Kurds, who have fought alongside U.S. forces against the Islamic State group and fear an assault by Turkey if the U.S. withdraws, were still asking publicly for an explanation from Washington.
Bolton said the U.S. would first seek assurances from Turkey that it would not harm the Kurds — for the first time adding a "condition" to the withdrawal. He arrived Monday in Turkey to seek those guarantees from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, but there was little reason for optimism. In a New York Times op-ed published ahead of the Tuesday meeting, Erdogan referred to the Syrian Kurdish Peoples Protection Units, or YPG, as a terrorist group, Turkey's longtime position, and rejected any role for Kurdish fighters in restoring peace to the war-torn region.
The piece set up a contentious day of diplomacy for Bolton and underscored the destabilizing impact of Trump's shoot-from-the-hip approach to foreign policy. Trump's spur-of-the-moment withdrawal came with no details, leaving allies scrambling for answers and aides crafting a strategy that can satisfy all the players, including Trump.
Trump discussed Syria during a phone call on Monday with French President Emmanuel Macron, who had panned Trump's decision to withdraw U.S. troops and warned it could have dangerous consequences. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said they discussed the commitment of their two countries "to the destruction of ISIS as well as plans for a strong, deliberate, and coordinated withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria."
Bolton said Sunday, "We don't think the Turks ought to undertake military action that's not fully coordinated with and agreed to by the United States." Trump has made clear that he would not allow Turkey to kill Kurds, Bolton added. "That's what the president said, the ones that fought with us."
Erdogan proposed in his op-ed to stand up a "stabilization force featuring fighters from all parts of Syrian society" to safeguard northeast Syria once American troops leave, though he said an "intensive vetting process" will exclude fighters with "links to terrorist organizations," which in his government's view includes the YPG.
Bolton did not respond to the op-ed ahead of Tuesday's meetings, but such an offer would appear unlikely to be acceptable to the U.S. Bolton had said the protection of U.S. allies in Syria, including the YPG, was among "the objectives that we want to accomplish that condition the withdrawal" of U.S. forces.
Speaking to The Associated Press from northern Syria on Monday, a Syrian Kurdish official said the Kurds have not been informed of any change in the U.S. position and were in the dark about Bolton's latest comments.
"We have not been formally or directly notified, all what we heard were media statements," Badran Ciya Kurd said.
Kurdish officials have held conversations with Moscow and Syrian President Bashar Assad's government about protection, but Bolton called on them to "stand fast now."
Bolton's pronouncements were the first public confirmation from the administration that the pace of the drawdown had changed since Trump's announcement in mid-December that U.S. troops are "coming back now." Trump faced widespread criticism from allies about his decision, including that he was abandoning the Kurds in the face of Turkish threats. Officials said at the time that although many details of the withdrawal had not yet been finalized, they expected American forces to be out by mid-January.
At the time, Trump had also said that Turkey would step up the fight against the remnants of the Islamic State in Syria, but Bolton said Sunday U.S. troops will eliminate what remains of IS as another "condition" to northeastern Syria.
Trump on Monday struck back to the perception that his intentions in Syria had changed. "No different from my original statements, we will be leaving at a proper pace while at the same time continuing to fight ISIS and doing all else that is prudent and necessary!....." he said in a tweet.
While Sanders said last month the administration had "started returning United States troops home," the Pentagon said Monday no U.S. troops have withdrawn from Syria yet, but added that there is an "approved framework" for withdrawal.
Bolton maintained there is no fixed timetable for completing the drawdown, but insisted it was not an indefinite commitment to the region. Still, some 200 U.S. troops will remain in the vicinity of al-Tanf, in southern Syria, to counter growing Iranian activity in the region, he said.
In meetings with Turkish officials Tuesday, Bolton said he will seek "to find out what their objectives and capabilities are and that remains uncertain."
He will be joined by the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford, who will remain in Turkey for additional meetings with Turkish military officials, as well as Jim Jeffrey, the special representative for Syrian engagement and the newly named American special envoy for the anti-Islamic State coalition. Jeffrey will travel from Turkey into Syria to reassure the Kurdish fighters that they are not being abandoned, Bolton said.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo left Washington on Monday for an eight-nation trip of the Middle East. Both he and Bolton are seeking input and support for the specifics of the withdrawal plan, according to one official, who said U.S. partners were eager for details.
San Francisco, Jan 8 (AP/UNB) — Utility crews restored power to thousands of people Monday and mopped up the damage from a winter storm that swept through Northern California, as they braced for more stormy weather later this week.
A new wet system is expected in the region on Tuesday night that won't be as intense but two more powerful storms are expected over the weekend, National Weather Service forecaster Emily Heller said.
Strong winds and downed trees knocked out electricity for nearly 90,000 customers across the Sacramento region Sunday night. Toppled utility poles and trees prompted the temporary closure of a major highway.
By Monday afternoon, about 3,000 customers were still without power, the Sacramento Municipal Utility District said.
Spokeswoman Lindsay Van Laningham said the utility was getting ready for more potential work later this week.
"We'll have all hands on deck for crews to repair damages. We are ready for it, and we're sort of mopping up from today's storm and damage," she said.
In Oregon and Washington, tens of thousands of people remained without power after windstorms struck parts the northwest over the weekend.
Interstate 80 from Placer County in California to the state line with Nevada reopened Monday but it remained closed in Nevada's Washoe County, the California Transportation Department said.
Officials shut down the highway Sunday after the snowstorm reached the Lake Tahoe area as weekend visitors were leaving.
The National Weather Service on Monday issued a winter storm warning for areas in the Sierra Nevada above 4,000 feet (1,200 meters), saying snowy and gusty conditions will limit visibility.
Over three days 4.5 feet (1.37 meters) of snow accumulated at the summit of Mammoth Mountain, 150 miles (240 kilometers) south of Tahoe, the resort said Monday. More than a foot (30 centimeters) fell in the upper elevations around Tahoe, including 19 inches (48 centimeters) at Squaw Valley.
Up to 5 inches (13 centimeters) of rain fell in some Northern California coastal and valley areas, while mountain communities got heavy snow.
In Southern California, light to moderate rain fell early Monday as a second system followed heavy Saturday night downpours that unleashed massive mud flows from the fire-scarred Santa Monica Mountains onto Pacific Coast Highway.
Cleanup work kept about 13 miles (21 kilometers) of the scenic highway closed from western Malibu to Ventura County. Caltrans said the closure might last into Tuesday.
While the latest rain was modest, powerful winds swept the Antelope Valley north of Los Angeles early Monday because of a so-called mountain wave — southwesterly winds rising up and over the San Gabriel Mountains and then plunging down into the high desert. The National Weather Service said a 78 mph (125 kph) gust was recorded at Lake Palmdale.
In the northwest, about 30,000 Puget Sound Energy customers in Oregon and Washington remained without power Monday afternoon. Crews had restored power to 288,000 customers since the height of the storm. Seattle City Light had approximately 1,000 customers without power as of Monday morning, the utility said on Twitter.
In Oregon the lights were back on for most people.
The storm caused Alaska Airlines to ground all its flights between 4:20 a.m. and 5:15 a.m. Sunday after a power outage in the Seattle area, where its operations are based. Twenty seven flights were delayed and five were canceled.
The National Weather Service reported winds included gusts of more than 60 mph (95 kph) at the storm's peak Saturday night and early Sunday morning.
Guatemala City, Jan 8 (AP/UNB) — Guatemala announced Monday it was pulling out of a United Nations-sponsored anti-corruption commission after more than a year of tension between the government and the group, which has investigated top government officials and people close to President Jimmy Morales.
Foreign Minister Sandra Jovel announced the decision after meeting with Secretary-General Antonio Guterres about the commission, known as CICIG for its initials in Spanish, at the United Nations.
An hour later, Morales, accompanied by ministers and family members of people accused of corruption, held a news conference in Guatemala City in which he accused the U.N. and Guterres of being silent in the face of what he said were human rights abuses committed by CICIG.
"In spite of Guatemala's efforts with the United Nations, the silence, passivity and negativism of the secretary-general contributed to an uncertainty in the CICIG's actions that put at risk the country's sovereignty," Guatemala's president said.
Members of a Russian family accused and convicted of corruption for the use of false documents to open businesses and buy property in Guatemala thanked Morales for withdrawing from the commission.
"Thank you, Mr. President, for your fight for sovereignty and human rights," said Irina Bitkova, whose family was affected by the commission's work in Guatemala.
Guterres' spokesman Stephane Dujarric issued a statement saying the U.N. expects Guatemala to keep up its end of an agreement that created the commission, until its mandate ends in September.
Guterres "strongly rejects" Guatemala's complaints in withdrawing from the commission, Dujarric said, adding that the group has made an "important contribution ... to the fight against impunity in Guatemala."
Jovel accused the commission and its members of politicizing its work, violating Guatemala's sovereignty, failing to respect the presumption of innocence and causing "division in our society."
"The CICIG has exceeded its authority," she said. Jovel said the commission's staffers have 24 hours to leave the country, though a Guatemalan court has ruled that the country has to grant them visas.
During its 11 years operating in Guatemala, CICIG has pressed corruption cases that have implicated more than 600 people, including elected officials, businesspeople and bureaucrats. The commission said in November that it has won 310 convictions and broken up 60 criminal networks.
Morales has made no secret of his contempt for the group — formally, the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala — which has investigated the president's son and his brother. They deny accusations of corruption.
The commission has also tried to bring a case involving purported illegal campaign financing against Morales, who has repeatedly denied involvement in any corruption and calls attempts to investigate him politically motivated. Lawmakers so far have rebuffed proposals to lift Morales' immunity from prosecution in the matter.
Morales said in August 2017 he was expelling CICIG's chief. Though a court quickly blocked that order, the commission head was later barred from re-entering the country after leaving for a business trip.
Last year, Morales refused to renew CICIG's mandate, effectively giving it until September 2019 to wind down operations and leave the country. He used his speech at this fall's annual U.N. General Assembly meeting of world leaders to inveigh against CICIG and what he called Guterres' indifference to Guatemala's concerns.
Most recently, a commission member was detained at an airport for almost a day and refused entry to the country after arriving Saturday. A court ordered his release.
United Nations, Jan 8 (AP/UNB) — The U.N. Security Council has put off a planned session on Congo and its closely watched presidential election as the country continues waiting for delayed results.
A council discussion initially set for Tuesday was postponed to Friday after Congolese officials indefinitely postponed the release of the first results. They had been due Sunday.
The council has been keenly following the long-awaited election in a country where the U.N. operates one of its biggest peacekeeping missions.
But there have been differences in the council over sending a collective message about the Dec. 30 election, diplomats said. A closed-door discussion last week spanned two hours but yielded no joint statement.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Monday the U.N. is looking forward to "the timely publication" of provisional results. Spokesman Stephane Dujarric also reminded everyone with a stake in the outcome to respect Congo's electoral laws and "help maintain an environment free of violence."
The vote could herald Congo's first democratic, peaceful transition of power since its 1960 independence from Belgium, and the vast, mineral-rich Central African nation is awaiting the results in a tense atmosphere.
Longtime President Joseph Kabila had already postponed the election for two years, and some Congolese worry it could be manipulated to keep his party in power — suspicions fanned by the delay in announcing a winner.
With a little over half the vote compiled, officials said Sunday that no information would be released until all ballots were tallied. Officials gave no date for when that might be. Meanwhile, the government has cut off internet access to prevent any social-media speculation about who won.
In the Security Council's private meeting Friday, France — which had called for the session — wanted the group to make a statement about the importance of the election and results, according to two council diplomats who spoke on condition of anonymity to talk about the private discussion.
Other countries, including South Africa, thought the council shouldn't weigh in until results were known, the diplomats said Monday.
South African Ambassador Jerry Matjila, whose country just joined the council as a voice from Africa, had publicly appealed for patience on his way into the session: "Let's wait for the count," he told reporters.
While the council didn't speak as a whole, French Ambassador Francois Delattre said Friday that the meeting underscored the group's close attention to Congo's electoral process.