US senators strike deal to end government shutdown

White House says Donald Trump is pleased with the deal on ending government shutdown. (AFP)
Updated 22 January 2018
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US senators strike deal to end government shutdown

WASHINGTON: US senators struck a deal on Monday to lift a three-day government shutdown and try to end a fight between Democrats and President Donald Trump's Republicans over immigration and border security.
Legislation to renew federal funding to the government cleared a procedural hurdle in the Senate and was expected soon to pass votes in the Senate and House of Representatives, allowing government to re-open through Feb 8.
Tens of thousands of federal workers had begun closing down operations for lack of funding on Monday, the first weekday since the shutdown, but essential services such as security and defense operations had continued.
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said he had come to an arrangement with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to keep the government open for the next few weeks after the Republican promised to let a bill on immigration reach the Senate floor.
The US government cannot fully operate without funding bills that are voted in Congress regularly. Washington has been hampered by frequent threats of a shutdown in recent years as the two parties fight over spending, immigration and other issues. The last US government shutdown was in 2013.
This shutdown, which began on the Friday's first anniversary of Trump’s inauguration as president, undercut his self-crafted image as a dealmaker who would repair the broken culture in Washington.
It had forced Trump to cancel a planned weekend trip to his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida and created uncertainty around his scheduled trip this week to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. However, the White House admitted he will fly to Davos as scheduled.
In negotiations over the shutdown, Democrats had insisted that legislation to keep the government running include protections for young undocumented immigrants known as "Dreamers."
Republicans in turn said they would not negotiate on immigration until Democrats gave them the votes needed to reopen the government.
TRUMP EXPECTED TO SIGN
Trump was expected to sign the legislation, which would give Congress more time to try to reach agreement on a long-term spending bill that would resolve issues including immigration, border security and spending caps.
McConnell promised to allow a fair and open immigration debate "to consider a proposal that can actually be signed into law, a bipartisan, bicameral group is already negotiating and I look forward to completion of its work.”
Such a debate would occur if a deal on an immigration bill is not reached before Feb. 8, McConnell said
Democrats want Congress to address the issue of the Dreamers, more than 700,000 immigrants brought to the United States illegally as children.
Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp welcomed the deal.
"You now have a commitment for a path forward for the so-called 'Dreamers.; That’s critical. We’re going to get a vote. We’re going to regular order," she said.
House of Representatives Republicans have been told by their leaders to plan on voting on re-opening the government immediately.
Markets have absorbed the shutdown drama over the last week, and on Monday morning world stocks and U.S. bond markets largely shrugged off the standoff even as the dollar continued its pullback. U.S. stocks were higher, the dollar was slightly lower and benchmark treasuries yields were off highs of the day.
Both sides in Washington had tried to blame each other for the shutdown.
Democrats said Trump had not only failed to bring both sides together but made a deal more difficult by changing his position on what kind of agreement on immigration he would accept.
Trump and Republicans accused Democrats of putting the interests of illegal immigrants ahead of US military personnel and government workers.
Early polls showed that Trump and Republican leaders were drawing most of the blame from American voters, but some Democrats worried they would pay a higher political cost if the shutdown dragged on.


Mexico demands apology for colonial ‘abuses,’ Spain hits back

Handout photo released by the Mexican presidency showing Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador answering questions during a press conference at the Palacio Nacional, in Mexico City on March 25, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 26 March 2019
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Mexico demands apology for colonial ‘abuses,’ Spain hits back

  • “The government of Spain deeply regrets that the letter the Mexican president sent to his majesty the king, whose contents we firmly reject, has been made public,” it said in a statement

MEXICO CITY: The 500-year-old wounds of the Spanish conquest were ripped open afresh on Monday when Mexico’s president urged Spain and the Vatican to apologize for their “abuses” — a request Madrid said it “firmly rejects.”
President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, an anti-establishment leftist, reopened the debate over Spain’s centuries of dominance in the New World with a video posted to social media, urging Spanish King Felipe VI and Pope Francis to apologize for the conquest and the rights violations committed in its aftermath.
“I have sent a letter to the king of Spain and another to the pope calling for a full account of the abuses and urging them to apologize to the indigenous peoples (of Mexico) for the violations of what we now call their human rights,” Lopez Obrador, 65, said in the video, filmed at the ruins of the indigenous city of Comalcalco.
“There were massacres and oppression. The so-called conquest was waged with the sword and the cross. They built their churches on top of the (indigenous) temples,” he said.
“The time has come to reconcile. But let us ask forgiveness first.”
Spain’s reaction was swift and unequivocal.
“The government of Spain deeply regrets that the letter the Mexican president sent to his majesty the king, whose contents we firmly reject, has been made public,” it said in a statement.
“The arrival, 500 years ago, of Spaniards to present Mexican territory cannot be judged in the light of contemporary considerations,” it said.
“Our two brother nations have always known how to read our shared past without anger and with a constructive perspective, as free peoples with a shared history and extraordinary influence.”

Lopez Obrador took office in December after a landslide election win that represented a firm break with Mexico’s traditional political parties.
A folksy populist, he pulls no punches in going after traditional elites — but had so far cultivated cordial relations with Spain, including during a visit to Mexico City by Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez earlier this year.
Lopez Obrador made the remarks during a visit to his native Tabasco state, in southern Mexico.
He was later due to visit the nearby city of Centla. On March 14, 1519, the site was the scene of one of the first battles between Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes and the indigenous peoples of the land now known as Mexico.
With the help of horses, swords, guns and smallpox — all unknown in the New World at the time — Cortes led an army of less than 1,000 men to defeat the Aztec empire, the start of 300 years of Spanish rule over Mexico.