Chilean President Sebastián Piñera said Wednesday that he is canceling two major international summits so he can respond to protracted nationwide protests over economic inequality that have left more than a dozen people dead, hundreds injured and businesses and infrastructure damaged.
The decision to call off the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation and U.N. global climate gatherings, planned for November and December, respectively, dealt a major blow to Chile's image as a regional oasis of stability and economic development.
Piñera said he was forced to cancel both events due to the chaos unleashed by 12 days of protests. Demonstrators are demanding greater economic equality and better public services in a country long seen as an economic success story. Shops have been vandalized and buildings set on fire, shutting down numerous subway stations.
The situation had stabilized somewhat by midday Wednesday, Except for the presence of a few hundred protesters, the streets of the capital, Santiago, were mostly quiet, with no reports of vandalism.
"This has been a very difficult decision that causes us great pain," Piñera said in a televised address. "A president always has to put the needs of his countrymen first."
Opposition and pro-government parties in Chile generally welcomed the president's decision, saying that having the summits was unrealistic given the circumstances.
Trade and climate negotiators scrambled to find new locations for their summits, aimed at resolving tariff-related conflicts between China and the U.S. and finalizing countries' climate rules in advance of a bigger summit next year during which governments will be asked to commit to new emissions limits.
President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping had hoped to sign a modest trade agreement at the APEC summit, formerly scheduled to take place in Santiago on Nov. 16-17. Under the tentative deal, the U.S. had agreed to suspend plans to raise tariffs on $250 billion in Chinese imports, and Beijing had agreed to step up purchases of U.S. farm products.
White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said U.S. officials were "awaiting potential information regarding another location," but it was unclear if any had been proposed. Gidley added that Trump wanted to sign the deal with China "within the same time frame," hinting that a separate event could occur outside a summit.
The so-called Phase One trade agreement did little to address the underlying U.S. grievances against China, including its alleged practice of forcing foreign firms to hand over trade secrets; stealing technology, and unfairly subsidizing Chinese firms. China's leaders have been reluctant to make the kind of policy reforms that would satisfy Washington, worrying such concessions would mean scaling back their aspirations to become a world leader in advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence and driverless cars.
Still, the apparent cancellation of the summit "removes a hard deadline for action toward a comprehensive agreement in the trade war," said Jeff Moon, a former U.S. diplomat and trade official specializing in China who is now president of the China Moon Strategies consultancy. "That hard deadline and the relatively short period of time available allowed Trump and Xi to give themselves permission to do only easy things and delay indefinitely resolving tough issues."
Now, Moon said, "there is no excuse for not pressing forward with the full U.S. agenda of concerns."
Climate advocates said they were disappointed but expected to relocate their talks.
"My thoughts are with the people of Chile," tweeted teen climate activist Greta Thunberg. "I've been making my way through the North American continent towards Santiago, but as #COP25 will be moved I will now wait until I have more information..."
The Santiago climate conference was meant to work out some of the remaining unresolved rules for countries on climate efforts, smoothing the way for the bigger effort in the 2020 summit: encouraging countries to up their commitments to cutting climate-changing emissions.
"The absence of rules does not stop countries from acting either alone or together" to cut emissions, said Nigel Purvis, a climate and environment negotiator in the administrations of Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. "It really shouldn't slow down climate action."
But other climate experts said it was important to get those rules worked out in advance.
"To load everything into one conference — I think they'll work pretty hard not to do that," said Henry Jacoby, a climate expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Rachel Cleetus, policy director at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said she believed there would be "every effort made that some type of ... meeting does happen."
"These ... are the venues where the global community comes together to decide how to tackle this problem together," she said. "The climate challenge requires every country to act, but it requires us to act collectively."
U.N. Climate Change Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa issued a statement saying that "alternative hosting options" were being explored. And a U.N. official, speaking on condition of anonymity for lack of authorization to comment publicly, said that all U.N. venues are being considered as options. Those would include cities such as New York, Geneva, Bonn, Vienna and Nairobi.
Heraldo Muñoz, president of Chile's opposition Party for Democracy, said he thought it was unfortunate the climate summit was canceled.
"On the other hand, the desire to hold the meeting wasn't realistic," he said. "We have to focus on domestic affairs."
Some demonstrators said they agreed with Piñera's decision.
"The political situation right now in Chile isn't right for talking productively about climate change," said Micha Vergara, a 20-year-old art student. It's a very important topic, but it would distract from the protests."
President Ivan Duque will deploy 2,500 troops to a conflict-ridden zone in Colombia's southwest to reinforce security after a band of renegade rebels allegedly killed five indigenous leaders.
The five people from the Tacueyo reservation were killed late Tuesday when their caravan of armored SUVs was ambushed by gunmen the government says belong to a faction of Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia that refused to accept the larger rebel group's peace treaty with the government.
Among those killed was Cristina Bautista, the top authority and spiritual leader of the semi-autonomous reservation in southwestern Colombia. Six other people were injured as the gunmen continued to fire at an ambulance tending to the injured.
Duque immediately condemned the "assassination" and traveled to the area Wednesday to oversee operations aimed at hunting down the assailants. He said in the next 40 days some 2,500 troops would arrive to the zone.
"The state is here to take decisions," Duque, flanked by his top military advisers, said at the conclusion of a meeting with community leaders.
But his expressions of solidarity barely registered with indigenous leaders, who have repeatedly condemned the government for standing by as a "genocide" takes place in communities caught in the crossfire of Colombia's decades-long conflict between leftist rebels, right-wing paramilitaries and state security forces.
Dozens of indigenous and social leaders have been killed in the aftermath of Colombia's historic 2016 peace accord as illegal armed groups and dissidents seek to exert control over for former rebel territory and lucrative drug routes. Among those killed were 14 members of tribes in Cauca state, where Tuesday's massacre took place. It is one of Colombia's fastest-growing areas for cocaine production, responsible for about 10% of all illegal crops produced across the country last year, according to the United Nations.
"When will the massacre end?" the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia lamented on Twitter as news of the attack spread.
An initial investigation suggested the massacre came in retaliation for the capture of three members of a residual FARC front by members of the indigenous guard unit, community leaders who mete out justice in their territories. Killed alongside Batista were four members of the indigenous guard.
Reflecting a pacifist philosophy, guard members don't carry firearms, asserting their authority instead with a wooden staff adorned with the multicolored ribbons representing their tribe.
"Our only weapon is our unity and spirituality," said Luis Acosta, national coordinator of the indigenous guards.
The armed groups "don't allow us to control our territories because we reject the logic of war," Acosta said from the desolate roadway where community members gathered Wednesday to inspect the bullet-riddled vehicle and urge more protection from Duque.
"This is a historical battle for territory," said Sen. Feliciano Valencia, who represents Colombia's indigenous community in Congress. "While the armed groups fight for control of illicit crops and drug routes, we are defending our territory and autonomy."
The nearly 2 million Colombians belonging to 115 indigenous groups carry less political and economic weight than their brethren in neighboring countries like Ecuador or Peru and are largely relegated to poverty-stricken areas traditionally neglected by the state and where alternatives to growing illicit crops are hard to come by.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo lashed out at China on Wednesday, accusing the Chinese Communist Party of adopting hostile policies that run counter to U.S. interests.
He also criticized previous American administrations going back to Richard Nixon for accommodating Beijing by ignoring fundamental differences in the U.S. and Chinese systems and wishing for reform despite evidence of China's authoritarianism.
Pompeo's remarks were the second harshly critical speech about China from a senior Trump administration official in a week. Vice President Mike Pence delivered a similar critique of China last Thursday. The speeches come as China and the U.S. try to finalize a partial trade deal.
"It is no longer realistic to ignore the fundamental differences between our two systems, and the impact that these differences may have on the United States," Pompeo said in a speech to the conservative Hudson Institute in New York. He said China must be confronted rather than coddled on numerous fronts, including its trade practices, its human rights record and its aggression in the South China Sea and toward Taiwan.
"We did everything we could to accommodate China's rise, in the hope that Communist China would become more free, market-driven and, ultimately, democratic," he said. "We did this for a long time."
Pompeo blamed not just China for what he said was a failure by multiple presidents, their advisers, analysts, scholars and historians to understand the risks posed to America by Beijing. That is changing under the Trump administration, he said.
"We've been slow to see the risk China poses to American national security because we wanted friendship with the People's Republic from the very start. We still hope for it," he said. "But in our efforts to achieve this goal, we accommodated and encouraged China's rise for decades — even at the expense of American values, and security, and good sense."
Pompeo said the Trump administration would aggressively call out China for its actions, particularly on economic issues but also on the security front.
Pompeo repeated previous criticism of predatory Chinese lending and infrastructure investment in developing nations, theft of intellectual property, its restrictions on religious freedom and its buildup of military assets in the South and East China seas, which threaten its smaller neighbors.
The Trump administration, Pompeo said, will not shy away from confronting the Chinese.
"We didn't want this," he said. "China has forced it upon us."
Democratic presidential candidates largely praised Twitter's decision Wednesday to ban all political advertising, while President Donald Trump's reelection campaign decried the move as attempting to muzzle conservatives on social media.
"We believe political message reach should be earned, not bought," announced Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey. That followed Facebook taking fire since reaffirming that it will not fact-check ads by politicians or their campaigns — which could allow them to lie freely. That company's CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, told Congress last week that politicians have the right to free speech on Facebook.
The issue came to the forefront in September when Twitter, along with Facebook and Google, refused to remove a misleading video ad from Trump's campaign that targeted former Vice President Joe Biden, who along with Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren leads the 2020 Democratic Party field. In response, Warren ran an ad on Facebook claiming that Zuckerberg endorsed Trump for reelection, acknowledging the deliberate falsehood as necessary to make a point.
"We appreciate that Twitter recognizes that they should not permit disproven smears, like those from the Trump campaign, to appear in advertisements on their platform," Biden campaign spokesman Bill Russo said in a statement. "It would be unfortunate to suggest that the only option available to social media companies to do so is the full withdrawal of political advertising, but when faced with a choice between ad dollars and the integrity of our democracy, it is encouraging that, for once, revenue did not win out."
Montana Gov. Steve Bullock suggested Facebook should follow Twitter's lead, tweeting simply: "Good. Your turn, Facebook."
Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Indiana, called Twitter's move "a bold step" that reflects a "sense of responsibility." Buttigieg, speaking to reporters in Peterborough, New Hampshire, added, "I think other online platforms would do well to either accept their responsibility for truth or question whether they should be in the business at all."
Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, another Democratic presidential candidate, said it was unacceptable for different social media platforms to have different rules on political advertising.
"Under their current policies, Facebook is allowing blatant lies in political ads and now Twitter isn't allowing political ads at all, creating a patchwork of solutions across various platforms that isn't going to work," she said in a statement. She said it was "time for Congress to take action" to create consistent standards for all political advertising.
Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale panned Twitter for walking "away from hundreds of millions of dollars of potential revenue, a very dumb decision for their stockholders."
"This is yet another attempt to silence conservatives, since Twitter knows President Trump has the most sophisticated online program ever known," Parscale said in a statement. Other Republicans, though, suggested it was the other party that could be hurt. "HUGE hit to Democrats who do significantly more advertising on Twitter than we do," tweeted Matt Whitlock, a senior adviser to the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
Political ad archives on both platforms show that the 2020 candidates spent far more money on Facebook spots than Twitter, meanwhile.
Trump's reelection campaign spent $21.2-plus million on Facebook ads between May 2018 and this past weekend, compared to $269,000 on Twitter spots. Over the same period, 10 top Democrats trying to unseat the president combined to spend more than $34.3 million on Facebook ads and $4.5-plus million on ones on Twitter — though both totals include spending during the Senate campaigns some ran last year.
Warren spent nearly $4.7 million on Facebook ads and about $900,000 on Twitter ads, some of which came as she sought reelection to the Senate last year. Her campaign offered no immediate comment to Twitter's announcement.
Her spending outpaced that of Biden, who paid nearly $2.8 million for Facebook ads, compared to around $617,000 on Twitter spots.
Leading the Democratic field on social media spots between last May and earlier this month was former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke, who shelled out more than $9 million for Facebook ads and $1 million for ads on Twitter — though he spent heavily online during his unsuccessful 2018 run against Republican Sen. Ted Cruz.
Dorsey said the ban takes effect Nov. 22, meaning the company could still accept Biden's and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders' campaigns purchasing ads to run on Twitter hours before his announcement.
House investigators are asking former national security adviser John Bolton to testify in their impeachment inquiry, deepening their reach into the White House as the probe accelerates toward a potential vote to remove the president.
Democratic lawmakers want to hear next week from Bolton, the hawkish former adviser who openly sparred over the administration's approach to Ukraine — in particular, President Donald Trump's reliance on his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani for a back-channel operation. Bolton once derided Giuliani's work as a "drug deal" and said he wanted no part of it, according to previous testimony.
Bolton's attorney, Charles Cooper, said Wednesday evening that his client would not appear without a subpoena.
The Democrats are also calling John Eisenberg, the lawyer for the NSC who fielded an Army officer's concerns over Trump's phone call with the Ukraine president, and Michael Ellis, another security council official, according to a person familiar with the invitation and granted anonymity to discuss it.
The rush of possible new witnesses comes as the House prepares to take its first official vote Thursday on the process ahead. That includes public hearings in a matter of weeks and the possibility of drafting articles of impeachment against the president.
The White House has urged officials not to testify in the impeachment proceedings, and it's not guaranteed that those called will appear for depositions, even if they receive subpoenas as previous witnesses have.
Bolton's former deputy, Charles Kupperman, has filed a lawsuit in federal court asking a judge to resolve the question of whether he can be forced to testify since he was a close and frequent adviser to the president. Any ruling in that case could presumably have an impact on whether Bolton will testify. A status conference in that case was scheduled for Thursday afternoon.
Trump and his Republican allies on Capitol Hill say the entire impeachment inquiry is illegitimate and are unpersuaded by the House resolution formally setting out next steps.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the format for the impeachment probe denies Trump the "most basic rights of due process."
Now in its second month, the investigation is focused on Trump's July phone call with Ukraine when he asked President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate Democrats and a potential 2020 political rival, Joe Biden, as the White House was withholding military aid Ukraine relies on for its defenses. Democrats contend Trump was proposing a quid-pro-quo arrangement.
On Thursday, the investigators are to hear from Tim Morrison, a former top GOP aide on Capitol Hill, who served at Trump's National Security Council and was among those likely monitoring the president's call with Ukraine.
Late Wednesday, it was disclosed that Morrison was resigning his White House position. He has been a central figure in other testimony about Trump's dealing with Ukraine.
Earlier in the day, the Democratic and Republican House lawmakers heard fresh testimony about the Trump administration's unusual back channels to Ukraine.
Two State Department Ukraine experts offered new accounts of Trump's reliance on Giuliani rather than career diplomats to engage with the East European ally, a struggling democracy facing aggression from Russia.
Foreign Service officer Christopher Anderson testified that Bolton cautioned him that Giuliani "was a key voice with the president on Ukraine" and could complicate U.S. goals for the country.
Another Foreign Service officer, Catherine Croft, said that during her time at Trump's National Security Council, she received "multiple" phone calls from lobbyist Robert Livingston -- a former top Republican lawmaker once in line to become House speaker -- telling her the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, should be fired.
"It was not clear to me at the time -- or now -- at whose direction or at whose expense Mr. Livingston was seeking the removal of Ambassador Yovanovitch," she said in prepared remarks obtained by The Associated Press.
Livingston characterized Yovanovitch as an "'Obama holdover' and associated with George Soros," she said, referring to the American financier who is often the subject of conservative criticism in the U.S. and Europe.
Most Democrats are expected to support the formal impeachment investigation resolution Thursday, even if they don't back impeachment itself, saying they are in favor of opening the process with more formal procedures.
Public hearings are expected to begin in mid-November, a matter of weeks. Democrats are eager to hear from some top witnesses who have already provided compelling testimony behind closed doors, including diplomat William Taylor, a top ambassador in Ukraine, and Alexander Vindman, the Army officer who testified Tuesday that he twice reported to superiors, including Eisenberg, his concerns about Trump's actions toward Ukraine.
Vindman is willing to testify publicly, according to a person familiar with the situation and granted anonymity Wednesday to discuss it.
At Trump's hotel in Washington, during a fundraiser for House Republicans and lengthy dinner afterward with GOP leaders, the president indicated he was prepared for the fight ahead, said those familiar with the private gatherings Tuesday night.
"He's a tough guy," said Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the GOP whip.
Both career diplomats testifying Wednesday had served as top aides to the former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volker, who was the first to testify in the impeachment inquiry and whose cache of text messages provided key insight into Trump's demands on the new Ukraine president.
Croft, who testified for nearly five hours, described being told at an administration meeting that security funds for Ukraine were being put on hold "at the direction of the president," corroborating other accounts that have been provided to investigators.
In his opening statement, Anderson traced his unease with developments that he felt threatened to set back relations between the U.S. and Ukraine.
He told investigators that senior White House officials blocked an effort by the State Department to release a November 2018 statement condemning Russia's attack on Ukrainian military vessels.
Both witnesses were instructed by the administration to not testify but appeared in response to subpoenas from the House, according to a statement from their attorney Mark MacDougall.
The lawyer told lawmakers that neither of his clients is the whistleblower whose complaint triggered the impeachment inquiry and that he would object to any questions aimed at identifying that person.