Opposition supporters clash with police in Albania

Opposition supporters wave Albanian Flags as they take part in an anti-government rally outside the prime minister's office in capital Tirana, Albania, on Saturday, Feb.16, 2019. (AP)
Updated 16 February 2019
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Opposition supporters clash with police in Albania

  • Protesters throwing flares and other objects broke through police ranks as they tried to enter the office of Socialist Prime Minister Edi Rama

TIRANA, ALBANIA: Thousands of Albanian opposition supporters clashed with police Saturday at an anti-government rally protesting what they claim is a corrupt and inefficient Cabinet. The protesters demanded that the government resign and an early election be held.
Protesters throwing flares and other objects broke through police ranks as they tried to enter the office of Socialist Prime Minister Edi Rama. They destroyed the main door of the government building in Tirana, the capital, and broke an artwork on the side of the building but could not get inside.
Police used tear gas to disperse the protesters. The Health Ministry said 15 people were injured, including seven policemen.
One poster read "This is the end of the thieves," while another showed a picture of Rama's face made to resemble that of embattled Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. Protesters shouted "Rama go!" and blew vuvuzelas.
The rally was organized by the center-right Democratic Party. In an interview with The Associated Press before the rally, Democrats leader Lulzim Basha said his supporters want the government to resign, a transitional Cabinet to be put into place and an early election held.
"(We need) to restore democracy through a parliament that is elected by the will of people and not the money or the threats of criminals," he said.
After five hours, Basha ended the rally pledging that the "popular uprising will continue until the overturn of this system." He called for another protest on Thursday.
This year Albania, a NATO member since 2009, hopes to get the European Union's approval to launch full membership negotiations. Fighting corruption and organized crime are some of the EU's main priorities for Albania, which has seen corruption across the political spectrum.
U.S., EU and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe denounced the violence Saturday on the government building and called on political parties "to take all necessary steps to ensure that the situation becomes peaceful and constructive."
Interior Minister Sander Lleshaj urged political leaders to distance themselves from the violence. President Ilir Meta also called for restraint, saying that "citizens should be free to protest, and all the institutions should be respected."
Rama on Saturday was meeting with citizens in the southwestern port of Vlora in an apparent campaign stop ahead of Albania's municipal election in June.
On his Twitter page, Rama apologized to German artist Carsten Holler, who created mushroom sculpture on the building that was damaged.


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 6 min 30 sec ago
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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.