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Voice of America, 00-01-25

Voice of America: Selected Articles Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Voice of America <gopher://>





    INTRO: After nine years of nationalist, autocratic rule, Croatia is now faced with a new center-left government and a choice between two pro-Western candidates for president. V-O-A's Ron Pemstein reports from Zagreb, following the first round of presidential elections on Monday, that a sharper presidential campaign is expected before the run off election on February 7th.

    TEXT: On the surface, there is little to distinguish Stipe Mesic and Drazen Budisa. Both presidential candidates favor Croatia's effort to join the European Union and NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization). Both men favor Croatian national interests, but both men had their differences with President Franjo Tudjman about his autocratic presidential rule and Croatia's intervention in neighboring Bosnia-Herzegovina. President Tudjman's death in December has unleashed the Croatian voters' rejection of the political party he founded. The Croatian Democratic Union was not only reduced to a minority in parliamentary elections, but also will not have a candidate in the second round of presidential elections that will take place on February 7th. While Western countries may be pleased with this turn of events in the Balkans, supporters of Mr. Mesic and Mr. Budisa are getting ready to wage a personality battle over the next two weeks. In the first round, Mr. Mesic won nearly 42 percent of the vote to Mr. Budisa's 28 percent. Ivo Skrabalo, an adviser to Mr. Budisa, says his candidate plans to accentuate his advantages over Mr. Mesic to make up the difference in the second round. One of those differences is about which candidate was the first to disagree with President Tudjman's policies in Bosnia.

    /// Skrabalo Act ///

    It is true that Mr. Mesic was later a harsh critic of this war. But during this war, Mr. Budisa spoke out very clearly against the destruction of the mosques in Herzegovina and he was almost lynched by the Herzegovian Croats because of his statements. So it is untrue that Mr. Mesic was against the war in Bosnia and that Mr. Budisa was not clear enough. We think that now when a new chapter of Croatian history begins, Mr. Budisa is the best person on one side for preserving the real Croatian national interests and on the other side to show his openness and his qualifications for contacts with European integration, with the United Nations, with NATO.

    /// End Act ///

    While Mr. Budisa may be younger at age 52 than the 65- year-old Mr. Mesic, the older man has two advantages going into the run off election. One is his resume. People here remember Mr. Mesic as the last president of Yugoslavia's collective presidency before Croatia won its independence. The other advantage is his communication skills. Zagreb political analyst Ljubomir Cucic says Mr. Mesic is a master at communicating with people, while Mr. Budisa is not.

    /// Cucic Act ///

    Mr. Mesic was never a stiff politician with a strict image on his face. He is an easygoing guy. He has always a virtue to make fun of people around and also to make fun of himself. In this regard, he is very interactive with what normal people on the street feel and want to say and what they think.

    /// End Act ///

    Mr. Budisa has a more highly developed political message than does Mr. Mesic, but Budisa adviser Mr. Skrabalo admits Mr. Mesic is a better campaigner

    /// Skrabalo Act ///

    He's a good communicator. He's a populist. He knows how to speak with people. He's a witty man. He has a good sense of humor. Mr. Budisa is a little more rigid in his way of communication in public. I know him privately. He is often a charming person, but public opinion does not see it enough so in that field Mr. Mesic is ahead of Mr. Budisa.

    /// End Act ///

    Mr. Budisa is taking the approach of any candidate who is behind in a political campaign. He is challenging Mr. Mesic to a series of debates over the next two weeks. That is a gamble for a politician who has a problem communicating with the public. Analysts here see little chance that Mr. Mesic will divert from what so far has been a winning formula with Croatian voters. What they expect, instead, is an increasingly bitter run-off election between these political allies as Mr. Budisa tries to make up the gap. His supporters are already questioning whether a President Mesic will be as committed as Mr. Budisa is to the plans of the new Croatian government to change the constitution to limit the powers of the president. That is a complicated procedure that will require cooperation between the new head of state and the new prime minister. Mr. Mesic says he favors the change, but his opponent is trying to raise doubt in the mind of the Croatian public. In rounds of balloting since January 3rd, the Croatian voters have clearly said they are ready for sweeping political and economic changes. (Signed)
    NEB/RP/GE/JP 25-Jan-2000 14:49 PM EDT (25-Jan-2000 1949 UTC)
    Source: Voice of America



    INTRO: Croatia faces a second round of voting two weeks from now to choose a successor to President Franjo Tudjman who died last month. Ron Pemstein reports from Zagreb, Croatian voters have again demonstrated they want a change from President Tudjman's policies. Text: In the space of less than two months since President Tudjman died, a political earthquake has struck Croatia. His former ruling party has already been reduced to a minority in parliament and two opponents of Mr. Tudjman's policies will meet in the second round of presidential elections two weeks from now to decide which man succeeds him as head of state. If there was any doubt about the intentions of Croatian voters to have their country emerge from political and economic isolation, Monday's first round of presidential elections has removed it. Stipe Mesic has come back from political oblivion to lead the balloting with 41-percent. The election rules require 50-percent for a first round victory. Mr. Mesic was the last President of Yugoslavia's collective presidency before Croatia's war of independence. He later split with President Tudjman about Croatia's policy in Bosnia. Mr. Mesic has promised to end Croatian interference in neighboring Bosnia. His opponent in the second round will be former student leader Drazen Budisa. He opposed President Tudjman's nationalist policies and had the support of Croatia's new Prime Minister Ivica Racan. Mr. Budisa won 28-percent of the vote in the first round. Mr. Mesic says he will continue his campaign in the same easy-going manner that has catapulted him to become the favorite to succeed President Tudjman. Mr. Budisa acknowledges he has a lot of ground to make up in the next two weeks but he adds his comeback cannot be excluded. Eliminated by the first round is Croatia's Foreign Minister Mate Granic, the candidate of the party President Tudjman founded, the Croatian Democratic Union. Mr. Granic tried to separate himself from the now unpopular party but he agrees his move came too late in the campaign. He finished third with 21- percent of the vote. The Croatian Democratic Union is likely to split apart now that the party is shut out from power. Following his loss in the first round, Mr. Granic announced he is leaving the party anyway because of all the divisions in the party that has dominated Croatian politics since independence in 1991. No matter whether Mr. Mesic or Mr. Budisa wins the presidency in the second round, both men can be expected to support the new government's intentions to reform Croatia's political and economic policies. One of those proposals is to limit the extensive powers of Croatia's President and turn Croatia into a parliamentary democracy. Both contenders support Croatia's bid to become a member of the European Union and NATO, two organizations that shunned Croatia when President Tudjman was in power. (Signed) NEB/RP/TVM/gm 24-Jan-2000 20:58 PM EDT (25-Jan-2000 0158 UTC)
    Source: Voice of America



    INTRO: A Bosnian Serb charged with murdering and exterminating Muslims has been arrested by NATO-led troops in eastern Bosnia. He's now in the custody of the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal in The Hague, from where Lauren Comiteau reports.

    TEXT: Forty-five year old Mitar Vasiljevic didn't know he was wanted for war crimes before his arrest Tuesday morning in the eastern Bosnian town of Visegrad. The charges against the former waiter- turned-paramilitary fighter were kept secret until his capture. But prosecutors say the crimes Mr. Vasiljevic committed in and around Visegrad were some of the earliest and worst of the Bosnian war. Visegrad became infamous for the corpses that floated down the Drina River--and prosecutors are charging Mr. Vasiljevic with the murder of five Muslim men on the river's banks. He is also charged with extermination, persecution, and the mass murder of some 135 Bosnian Muslims. Prosecutors say Mr. Vasiljevic was one of the men who locked the Muslims--including young children and babies--in two houses before setting them on fire. As they tried to escape, Mr. Vasiljevic shined a light so his partner could shoot them. All but six people locked in the house were killed, including 46 members of a single family. Tuesday's arrest is the third by NATO-led troops in the past two months--a warning to other war crimes suspects, said NATO's Secretary General Lord George Robertson, that it's time to surrender. (Signed) NEB/lc/gm 25-Jan-2000 17:41 PM EDT (25-Jan-2000 2241 UTC)
    Source: Voice of America



    INTRO: U-S stock prices wandered through most of the session today (Tuesday) then roared back to close higher for the day. V-O-A's Joe Chapman reports from New York.

    TEXT: The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished up 21 points, just a small fraction, to 11-thousand-21. The broader and more representative Standard and Poor's 500 finished up eight points, about one-half percent, to 14-hundred-10. The high-technology Nasdaq Composite, down more than one-and-one-half percent during the session, closed up 71 points at four-thousand-167. The Dow Jones industrial average was down 115 points during the session, but shot up behind sharply-higher prices for American Express and the Disney entertainment company.

    // OPT //

    Prices of the biggest technology stocks, including Microsoft, Intel, Cisco and Oracle gyrated both higher and lower, then bargain hunters pushed the high-technology and Internet stocks sharply higher in the final hour. // END OPT // Analysts say some technical factors contributed to the volatility of the market. Others say the large number of individual investors and day traders is making market behavior much harder to predict.

    /// REST OPT ///

    Investment executive John Bollinger agrees the market is seeing some different behavior, but he credits the post-World War Two "baby boomer" generation that is now well into middle age.

    /// BOLLINGER ACT ///

    It's the "baby boomer" factor. They have a lot of money and they need to invest it. For the time being, they're still comfortable with the idea of investing in stocks. They're still comfortable with the idea of coming in and buying the dips. When that cycle is reversed -- and we really don't see any sign of that yet -- then you will get a real bear [down] market. But until then, buying the dips [when the market declines] is going to be the strategy of choice.

    /// END ACT ///

    Analysts openly say they are confused by current market trading patterns. Earnings reports are currently flooding Wall Street, and many are much better than expected. But earnings disappointments bring sometimes harsh punishment by investors. In the end, analysts say, earnings will determine the market's direction. From their current perspective, most analysts think that means higher stock prices, with some occasional dramatic setbacks. (Signed) NEB/NYC/JMC/LSF/WTW 25-Jan-2000 17:45 PM EDT (25-Jan-2000 2245 UTC)
    Source: Voice of America



    INTRO: The U-S presidential election campaign has the attention of many editorial page writers. In a related development, there are several editorials regarding a Supreme Court decision on limiting campaign contributions. Internationally, there is more comment on the latest developments with the little Cuban boy, the focus of a debate about his returning to his father in Cuba; the weekend coup in Ecuador; and the scourge of AIDS in Africa. Lastly, the rape and murder of a little Albanian girl by a U-S soldier assigned to the Kosovo peacekeeping force is also deplored in several commentaries. Now, here is __________ with a closer look in today's Editorial Digest.

    TEXT: "USA Today", published in a Washington, D-C suburb studied the Iowa results briefly and then pondered:

    VOICE: So who won? Spinmeisters [spokesmen] for candidates who came up short in Monday's Iowa caucuses will be busy today trying to argue that their losers are really winners. ... But the most obvious interpretation of Monday's caucuses is the right one. The winners were the ones who got the most votes. Vice President Al Gore and Texas Governor George W. Bush. And not just because Iowans like them, but because time is running out for their challengers to dent the front-runners overwhelming leads in national polls. ... Real math, adding up the delegate votes state by state, is what counts, not political baloney about expectations.

    TEXT: "The New York Times" also waited until results were in before commenting:

    VOICE: The solid Iowa victory of Vice President Al Gore and the shakier win for Governor George [W] Bush sustain their front-runner status, but hardly insulate them from New Hampshire's upset- minded voters next week. Steve Forbes ... and Alan Keyes ... demonstrated that conservative Republican voters could be pulled away from Mr. Bush. Their surprisingly strong showing portends a tough fight for Mr. Bush in the New Hampshire primary...

    TEXT: "The Dallas Morning News" assesses the results, and notes the pull of most candidates toward the political center.

    VOICE: ... the center is alive and well in this year's race. Members of both parties readily acknowledge that all four top presidential contenders are relatively mainstream figures. ... This situation is quite different from, say, 1992 when Democrats Bill Clinton and Paul Tsongas waged war to break their party away from its traditional liberal moorings. President George Bush also had to battle back a rightist challenge that year from columnist-turned-GOP insurgent Pat Buchanan.

    TEXT: In related news, "The Fort Worth Star-Telegram" is criticizing Governor Bush for briefly curtailing news conferences after being hounded by reporters' questions about his abortion views. Then the campaign relented and said the candidate would continue to be available to the press, eliciting this from the paper:

    VOICE: Good. Access is important. ... The country has had too many evasive answers and finger-to-the wind opinions from chief executives. What is needed from all candidates in this year's election is more, not less, access to their views and opinions.

    VOICE: A Supreme Court decision to uphold limits on campaign contributions is being hailed by the "Boston Globe" as "A victory for reform." The paper says the court is:

    VOICE: ... taking a stand for voters and against influence peddlers. It was a welcome decision, since opponents of campaign finance reform had hoped the case would eliminate all limits on political contributions, federal and state.

    TEXT: Internationally, several papers are commenting on the coup in Ecuador, and how a semblance of civilian governance has been quickly restored. But the "Miami Herald" also wants the coup leaders brought to Justice, noting: Military solutions to crises are not acceptable among the burgeoning democracies of Latin America.

    VOICE: Ecuador's brief coup ended on a positive note this past weekend, with the junior officers behind it overseeing a constitutional transfer of power to Vice president Gustavo Noboa. But if the message from this experience is to be that military solutions to crises are no longer acceptable among the burgeoning democracies of Latin America - as it must be - then the new president and the senior military leadership in Ecuador must.. Punish those who led the coup.

    TEXT: "The Sun" in Baltimore laments Quito's political change. It says aside from a new president, all the country's pressing problems remain.

    VOICE: South America's evolution from military juntas to electoral democracy began 21-years ago in Ecuador, when the army declared free elections. Few people want to see the trend reversed there. ... [But] Despite oil and banana exports, Ecuador ... has been in the grip of depression, inflation and bank failure, its G-N-P shrinking and its people getting poorer. ... President [former Vice President Gustavo] Noboa swears by the policies of former President Mahuad, including introduction of the dollars as the official currency. [However] The economic distress is no better, the government no stronger.

    TEXT: Still with Latin American affairs, are comments regarding the visit of two grandmothers of the little Cuban boy, Elian Gonzalez, to the United States in an effort to get him home to Cuba. "The Orlando Sentinel" is frustrated at the prolonged battle between the U-S government and anti-Castro Cubans in Miami, trying to keep him here.

    VOICE: Wisdom appears to be slipping beneath the waves as the tussle over Elian Gonzalez escalates. This time it is certain members of ...Congress who want to throw the young Cuban shipwreck victim's future an anchor instead of a life preserver [by granting him] citizenship. ... the bottom line is this: They are playing politics with a little boy's life. Elian already has citizenship - Cuban citizenship. He needs to step away from the limelight and go back to being a little boy in Cuba. If not for adults acting foolishly, that is where he would be now.

    TEXT: Turning to Africa and a Clinton initiative to focus attention on the twin plagues there, of civil war and AIDS infection, "The Washington Times" is criticizing the White House for duplicity.

    VOICE: Unfortunately, the Clinton administration appears more inclined to offer Africa catchy sound bites than constructive proposals that will significantly help the continent. ... In 1997, South Africa passed a bill which would give it license to import and produce generic pharmaceuticals at a fraction of what they would cost to purchase from the U-S firms that produce these drugs under patent protections. Since its passage, Mr. Gore has pressured South Africa to revise the law by threatening to withhold U-S aid. Mr. Gore's pressure ... incensed some AIDS and homosexual activists and leaders of the black community - two important sources of Democratic support.

    TEXT: Turning to the Balkans, the brutal rape and murder of an 11-year-old Albanian girl, allegedly by a U-S Army soldier in the peacekeeping forces, is drawing attention from the editorial columns, including "The San Francisco Chronicle".

    VOICE: The very public acts of contrition by U- S leaders in Kosovo about the death of 11-year- old Merita Shabiu speak well of this country's humanity. They also underscore the fragility of the postwar environment in Kosovo. ... [This] is the type of barbaric incident that could quickly erode public confidence in the NATO-led force. ... /// OPT /// The circumstances of the killing remain a mystery. The military still has not provided an explanation on how a soldier apparently wandered so far away from the tightly regimented environment. Was the Army actually enforcing its strict rules against leaving the base when not on patrol or official duty? Was [Army Staff Sergeant Frank] Ronghi allowed to leave the base by himself? /// END OPT ///

    TEXT: "The Florida Times-Union" in Jacksonville adds that this is not the only complaint about U-S forces serving in Kosovo province.

    VOICE: Not only was the crime about as horrible as can be imagined, the girl's neighbors portray it as part of a bigger picture of abuse. American soldiers, they say, improperly touch young Albanian girls when searching for weapons - a complaint they claim the U-S command has chosen to ignore.

    TEXT: And lastly, more thoughts on that harsh criticism of the United Nations delivered last week, in person by Senator Jesse helms, one of the world body's severest critics. Here's "The Tulsa [Oklahoma] World":

    VOICE: ...[Senator] Helms' appearance ... was not as bad as some might think and, in fact, could be considered a success. [Senator] Helms raised some eyebrows when he complained that the United States spent billions of dollars on the United Nations. Yes, the United States does spend a lot of money. But, the United States is a wealthy country. The contribution of, say, Bangladesh - although smaller . is a much greater monetary sacrifice. ... But [Mr.] Helms makes a good point: "The money we spend on the United Nations is not charity. To the contrary, it is an investment - an investment from which the American people rightly expect a return." ... So the United Nations has met one of its harshest critics. And the critic has met with his once-faceless adversary. And both came away with a little more understanding of the other.

    TEXT: On that note, we conclude this sampling of comment from Tuesday's U-S press.
    NEB/ANG/RAE 25-Jan-2000 11:50 AM EDT (25-Jan-2000 1650 UTC)
    Source: Voice of America

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