President Evo Morales of Bolivia and opposition governors stated on Jan. 15 that they are working towards a settlement to the country’s political crisis. Governors of the prosperous lowland provinces of Beni, Santa Cruz, Tarija and Pando declared autonomy in protest of planned constitutional reforms. The reforms would have changed how revenues from natural gas production would be shared with the central government and would have implemented a wide-reaching land reform program. Lowland provinces worried that their interests – and natural wealth – would be sacrificed to appease Morales’ constituents in the largely indigenous highland provinces.
The United Nations Security Council met Wednesday Jan. 17 in an attempt to resolve the status of Kosovo, which has been under UN administration since NATO drove Serbian forces out of the province during a 78-day air campaign in 1999. Russian Ambassador Vitally Churkin warned that Russia, which has a veto on the Security Council, will block all attempts to grant the separatist state membership in the UN unless the Serbian government gives its assent. The United States and the European Union may try to recognize Kosovo’s independent status unilaterally, and the province’s Albanian separatist leaders may declare independence on their own.
Opposition groups took to the streets again Jan. 16 in Nairobe, Kenya, to protest the results of the Dec. 27 presidential election, which they claim was rigged. Police reportedly fired tear gas, beat protestors with gun butts, kicked down doors, and fired live ammunition into crowds. Opposition spokesman Salim Lone told the Associated Press, “our rallies will continue until the government sits down with us and seeks a solution.”
Israel claimed to have carried out a successful test of a new ballistic missile on Jan. 17 – said to be capable of carrying an ‘unconventional payload’ – which is apparently a reference to the nuclear weapons that Israel is assumed to possess. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was quick to respond to the test, telling Al Jazeera television “The Zionist Regime . . . would not dare attack Iran.” Israel has been increasingly assertive since the release of the December United States National Inteligence Estimate (NIE). The report, which claims that Iran stopped its nuclear weapons program in 2003, has helped to reduce international pressure on the Islamic state’s uranium enrichment activities.