SANTA CRUZ, Bolivia — President Evo Morales of Bolivia accused the United States of undermining democratic government in Latin America in a speech Monday about purported plots and conspiracies originating in Washington as Defense Secretary Robert Gates listened only a few feet away.
Gates gave no noticeable reaction as Morales opened a conference of defense ministers with a rambling, hourlong address that condemned the U.S. military, several former U.S. ambassadors to Bolivia, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the International Monetary Fund and two American members of Congress.
All of them, Morales said, are or have been engaged in secret plans to overthrow the government in Bolivia or its Latin American neighbors. He provided few details and no evidence, though he said there were documents showing a former U.S. envoy to Bolivia had conspired with his opponents to overthrow him.
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Woman in blasphemy case may avoid death
KARACHI, Pakistan — Hopes were raised Monday that a Pakistani Christian woman, convicted of blaspheming the Prophet Muhammad this month and sentenced to death, will be pardoned soon.
Shahbaz Bhatti, the minister for minority affairs, said he was convinced that Asia Bibi was innocent, and the president's top representative in Punjab province, where the conviction occurred, predicted an award of clemency.
The case raised an international outcry, including a plea for mercy from Pope Benedict XVI. However, even if Bibi, who's spent a year and a half in jail on the charge, is granted a presidential pardon, the blasphemy law remains in place in Pakistan, a majority of whose population is Muslim.
Critics charge that the law is an instrument for terrorizing minorities, leading to dozens of people being jailed each year on trumped-up charges.
Irish aid bid triggers elections in 2011
DUBLIN — Ireland's bid for financial aid prompted Prime Minister Brian Cowen to call for elections Monday after support for his government unraveled.
Cowen made the announcement hours after the Green Party said it would pull out of his coalition. He said the vote will come early next year after passage of a 2011 budget.
A rescue package that Goldman Sachs estimates may total $136 billion failed to damp speculation that Portugal and Spain would follow Ireland in tapping the fund set up by the European Union and International Monetary Fund after the Greece rescue.
The aid, which Irish officials said as recently as Wednesday they didn't need, marks the latest blow to an economy that more than doubled in the decade ending in 2006. The bursting of the real-estate bubble in 2008 plunged the country into a recession and brought its banks close to collapse.
—Bloomberg News Service