Havana, Apr 22 (AP/UNB) — An official newspaper in Cuba reports that officials are restricting electricity use at a time the economy is being squeezed by a series of setbacks, including reduced fuel shipments from Venezuela and tighter U.S. sanctions.
The local Communist Party newspaper Invasor in Ciego de Avila province said Sunday that authorities across the island have been told to cut consumption to conserve fuel and avoid blackouts. It says a 10 percent cut is being imposed on Ciego de Avila itself. So far there haven't been reports of any widespread power outages.
The island has suffered shortages of some basic foods in recent weeks as the government copes with reduced aid from Venezuela, the end of a medical services deal with Brazil and poor performances in sectors including nickel, sugar and tourism.
Sudan, Apr 22 (AP/UNB) — The organizers of Sudan's protests said Sunday they have suspended talks with the ruling military council because it has failed to meet their demands for an immediate transfer to a civilian government following the overthrow of President Omar al-Bashir.
Mohammed al-Amin Abdel Aziz, a spokesman for the Sudanese Professionals Association, said Sunday that the political committee of the military council is too close to al-Bashir, who has been jailed in the capital, Khartoum.
"The military council is delaying its response to our proposals, saying that they are considering proposals from all political forces," he said.
He said the SPA is calling for more protests, and repeated its demand for an immediate transfer to a transitional civilian government that would rule for four years.
The SPA led four months of protests that eventually ended al-Bashir's 30-year reign, which was marred by multiple armed conflicts and widespread corruption. The umbrella group of unions says around 100 people were killed by security forces since December, when the protests were sparked by a hike in the price of basic goods.
The Sudanese military overthrew and arrested al-Bashir on April 11, and has appointed a military council that says it will rule for up to two years while elections are organized. The military has arrested senior officials from al-Bashir's government and sacked top judges and prosecutors.
Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, the head of the military council, told state TV Sunday that the council is "ready to hand over power tomorrow to a civilian government agreed by political forces."
He said the military is waiting for the various political factions behind the protests to submit the names of the proposed members of a transitional government, something the organizers had said they would do on Sunday. He said the military is considering the protesters' demands for a civilian council with a military representative.
"Our role is to complete the uprising and the blessed revolution," he added.
The protesters fear the military — which is still dominated by al-Bashir appointees — will cling to power or appoint another general in his place.
Mohammed al-Asam, a senior member of the SPA, told The Associated Press late Saturday that "we are ready with a clear plan for a transition with qualified names."
The association had said it would announce the names at a press conference Sunday outside the military's headquarters in Khartoum, where thousands of protesters have kept up a sit-in since April 6. It was not immediately clear whether the announcement had been cancelled or delayed.
"We want a civil council immediately with a military representation. This is our demand," said al-Asam, who was detained for more than three months before being released after al-Bashir's ouster. He was held in the Koper prison in Khartoum, where al-Bashir and other top officials now reside.
The 28-year-old doctor urged the international community to press the military to hand over power to civilians. He said the military council is becoming more powerful every day and that "this is dangerous to the revolution."
Burhan said the military council will send a delegation to the United States later this month for talks on removing Sudan from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terror, a designation that dates back to the early 1990s, when the country briefly hosted Osama bin Laden.
"We expect a breakthrough in this issue," he said.
The military has also reached out to the African Union, saying it is working to "create an environment so political forces can rule in a peaceful and democratic way," according to the state-run SUNA news agency.
SUNA said Lt. Gen. Omer Zain-al-Abdin, head of the political committee of the military council, met with AU commission chairman Moussa Faki in Khartoum on Saturday.
The African Union on Monday gave Sudan's military 15 days to hand over power to a "civilian-led political authority" or face suspension from AU activities. The AU said a civilian authority should hold elections "as quickly as possible."
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates meanwhile announced a $3 billion aid package for Sudan. The Saudi state-run news agency said Sunday that $500 million would be deposited in Sudan's central bank, while the remaining amount will be used to purchase food, medicine and fuel.
Burhan said authorities recently searched a presidential residence, where they found more than 7 million euros ($7.8 million) and $350,000 in U.S. currency. The protesters have accused al-Bashir and his family of pillaging state resources during his three decades in power.
Venezuela, Apr 22 (AP/UNB) — Heavy rains unleashed a landslide in a remote mountain town in southwestern Colombia on Sunday, killing at least 17 people and injuring five more.
The National Disaster Risk Management agency said the early morning landslide hit at least eight homes and blocked a stretch of the Pan-American Highway in the community of Rosas, roughly 400 miles (630 kilometers) southwest of Bogota.
Officials said rescue workers were continuing their search for victims, removing earth and debris with heavy machinery.
President Iván Duque sent a tweet expressing "solidarity with families of victims." He went to the area late Sunday to check on operations.
Officials said five people were taken to local hospitals for treatment.
Jerusalem, Apr 21 (AP/UNB) — After Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu coasted to another victory in this month's Israeli election, it sure seems that way.
On the campaign trail, Netanyahu ruled out Palestinian statehood and for the first time, pledged to begin annexing Jewish settlements in the West Bank. His expected coalition partners, a collection of religious and nationalist parties, also reject Palestinian independence.
Even his chief rivals, led by a trio of respected former military chiefs and a charismatic former TV anchorman, barely mentioned the Palestinian issue on the campaign trail and presented a vision of "separation" that falls far short of Palestinian territorial demands.
The two Jewish parties that dared to talk openly about peace with the Palestinians captured just 10 seats in the 120-seat parliament, and opinion polls indicate dwindling support for a two-state solution among Jewish Israelis.
"The majority of the people in the state of Israel no longer see a two-state solution as an option," said Oded Revivi, the chief foreign envoy for the Yesha settler council, himself an opponent of Palestinian independence. "If we are looking for peace in this region, we will have to look for a different plan from the two-state solution."
For the past 25 years, the international community has supported the establishment of a Palestinian state on the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip — lands captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war — as the best way to ensure peace in the region.
The logic is clear. With the number of Arabs living on lands controlled by Israel roughly equal to Jews, and the Arab population growing faster, two-state proponents say a partition of the land is the only way to guarantee Israel's future as a democracy with a strong Jewish majority. The alternative, they say, is either a binational state in which a democratic Israel loses its Jewish character or an apartheid-like entity in which Jews have more rights than Arabs.
After decades of fruitless negotiations, each side blames the other for failure.
Israel says the Palestinians have rejected generous peace offers and promoted violence and incitement. The Palestinians say the Israeli offers have not been serious and point to Israel's ever-expanding settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, now home to nearly 700,000 Israelis.
The ground further shifted after the Hamas militant group took over the Gaza Strip in 2007 and left the Palestinians divided between two governments, with one side — Hamas — opposed to peace with Israel. This ongoing rift is a major obstacle to negotiations with Israel, and has also left many Palestinians disillusioned with their leaders.
Since taking office a decade ago, Netanyahu has largely ignored the Palestinian issue, managing the conflict without offering a solution for how two peoples will live together in the future.
After clashing with the international community for most of that time, he has found a welcome friend in President Donald Trump, whose Mideast team has shown no indication of supporting Palestinian independence.
Tamar Hermann, an expert on Israeli public opinion at the Israel Democracy Institute, said the election results do not necessarily mean that Israelis have given up on peace. Instead, she said the issue just isn't on people's minds.
"Most Israelis would say the status quo is preferable to all other options, because Israelis do not pay any price for it," she said. "They don't feel the outcome of the occupation. ... Why change it?"
While the two-state prospects seem dim, its proponents still cling to the belief that the sides will ultimately come around, simply because there is no better choice.
"Either Israel decides to be an apartheid state with a minority that is governing a majority of Palestinians, or Israel has to realize that there is no other solution but two states," Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh told The Associated Press. "Unfortunately the Israeli prime minister is politically blind about these two facts."
Shtayyeh noted the two-state solution continues to enjoy wide international backing. Peace, he insisted, is just a matter of "will" by Israel's leaders.
Dan Shapiro, who served as President Barack Obama's ambassador to Israel, said the two-state solution "is certainly getting harder" after the Israeli election but is not dead.
Getting there would require leadership changes on both sides, he said, pointing to the historic peace agreement between Israel and Egypt 40 years ago, reached by two leaders who were sworn enemies just two years earlier.
"We know what's possible when the right leadership is in place," he said. "So that puts us supporters of it in a mode of trying to keep it alive and viable for the future."
That may be a tall task as the Israeli election results appear to reflect a deeper shift in public opinion.
According to the Israel Democracy Institute, which conducts monthly surveys of public opinion, support for the two-state solution among Jewish Israelis has plummeted from 69% in 2008, the year before Netanyahu took office, to 47% last year. Just 32% of Israelis between the ages of 18-34 supported a two-state solution in 2018. The institute typically surveys 600 people, with a margin of error of just over 4 percentage points.
Attitudes are changing on the Palestinian side as well. Khalil Shikaki, a prominent Palestinian pollster, said 31% of Palestinians seek a single binational state with full equality, a slight increase from a decade ago. His poll surveyed 1,200 people and had a margin of error of 3 percentage points.
Although there was no breakdown by age group, Shikaki said the young are "clinging less to the two-state solution because they lost faith in the Palestinian Authority's ability to provide a democratic state" and because the expanding settlements have created a new reality on the ground.
Amr Marouf, a 27-year-old restaurant manager in the city of Ramallah, said he maintains his official residence in a village located in the 60% of the West Bank that Israel controls, just in case Israel annexes the territory. That way, he believes, he can gain Israeli citizenship.
"I think the one state solution is the only viable solution," he said. "We can be in Israel and ask for equal rights. Otherwise, we will live under military occupation forever."
Netanyahu is expected to form his new coalition government by the end of May, and he will come under heavy pressure from his partners to keep his promise to annex Israel's West Bank settlements.
Such a step could extinguish any hopes of establishing a viable Palestinian state, particularly if the U.S. supports it. American officials, who have repeatedly sided with Israel, have said nothing against Netanyahu's plan.
There is also the Trump administration's long-delayed peace plan, which officials have signaled could finally be released this summer. U.S. officials have said little about the plan, but have indicated it will go heavy on economic assistance to the Palestinians while falling far short of an independent state along the 1967 lines.
Shtayyeh said such a plan would be a nonstarter.
Washington, Apr 21 (AP/UNB) — Sen. Mitt Romney says he's "sickened" by the dishonesty the Russia investigation found in the Trump White House, but the president fires back that Romney should have put the same energy into running for president in 2012 that the Utah Republican has tapped in criticizing him.
Romney also tweeted Friday that in reading the special counsel's report he was "appalled" Americans working on the Trump campaign had welcomed help from Russia.
On Saturday, Trump responded via Twitter, saying if Romney "spent the same energy fighting Barack Obama as he does fighting Donald Trump, he could have won the race (maybe)!"
In 2012 Romney won a slightly greater percentage of the popular vote than Trump in 2016. He's one of the few prominent Republicans to criticize Trump since Trump's election.