Kyrgyzstan-US: On Thursday, 20 June, the Kyrgyz parliament voted 91 to 5 in favor of ending the lease agreement with the US for use of Manas air base when it expires in 2014. The bill will take effect after being signed by the Kyrgyz president. The US has been given notice to vacate the premises by July 2014 when the lease expires.
Comment: The vote is no surprise, though the US had hoped to keep using Manas after 2014. President Atambayev campaigned in 2011 to end the lease agreement with the US and to establish closer ties with Russia. Last year, Kyrgyzstan extended for 15 years the Russian lease to use Kant air base, which is not far from Manas.
The transit center at Manas has been critical in military personnel movements to and from Afghanistan, but the lease agreement has been a longstanding source of controversy among Kyrgyzstan, Russia and the US. The significance of a firm end date is that it takes away any easy option and capability for an emergency surge or bailout, to help save the Karzai government after mid-2014. It also means the final phase of the withdrawal must transit Pakistan or use Russian bases.
Like South Asia, Central Asia is a half-continent too far for the US to sustain deep engagement in defiance of Russia or China.
Afghanistan: For the record. In web postings today, the Taliban gloated about their political victory over the US.
Brazil: The demonstrations are starting to turn violent. The day after the government revoked the transportation fare increases the demonstrations swelled again and engaged in more aggressive clashes with police.
President Dilma Rousseff decided to call off a visit to Japan that was planned for next week. The forthcoming visit by Pope Francis might also have to be rescheduled if the demonstrations continue.
In Rio de Janeiro riot police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at groups of masked young men trying to approach the City Hall late on Thursday. At least 29 people were reported to be injured in the clashes.
Some reports suggest about 300,000 people were taking part in an anti-government rally in the city. One news service reported more than 800,000 people participated in demonstrations in the major Brazilian cities
Comment: The polling agency, Datafolha, published its findings from a poll of the demonstrators in Sao Paulo yesterday. More than half of the demonstrators are under 25. Seventy-seven percent have higher education. Eighty-four percent back no political party, suggesting they do not vote.
The dominant issue for more than half was the fare increase which has been withdrawn. Corruption, a better transportation system, against all politicians and against violence and repression were distant other issues.
What the poll and anecdotal reports indicate is that the beneficiaries of Brazilian prosperity are protesting. The poll found no poor or disadvantaged people and few unemployed among the protestors. Brazil has low unemployment even for workers under age 25. The protestors have no organization or leadership. They gather by cell-phone notification. Expect the demonstrations to expand this weekend and become more violent.
End of NightWatch
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