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O’Rourke, Trump trade blows in rival Texas border rallies

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EL PASO, Texas (Reuters) – Beto O’Rourke, the former Democratic congressman considering a White House run, and President Donald Trump traded political blows on Monday in rival rallies in El Paso, Texas, over the Republican’s fight for a border wall.

Beto O’Rourke, Democratic former Texas congressman, participates in an anti-Trump march in El Paso, Texas, U.S., February 11, 2019. REUTERS/Loren Elliott

O’Rourke, who narrowly lost a 2018 bid for a U.S. Senate seat, accused Trump of stoking “false fear” about immigrants and telling “lies” about his hometown El Paso, which Trump said was a dangerous place before it had a border fence.

“Here is one of the safest cities in the United States of America, safe not because of walls but in spite of walls,” O’Rourke told a crowd of several thousand supporters, many waving “Beto 2020” signs and wearing “Immigrants Make America Great” baseball caps.

Two hundred yards away in El Paso County Coliseum, Trump told his supporters that O’Rourke had “little going for himself.”

“We are all challenged by a young man who lost an election to (Republican Senator) Ted Cruz,” said Trump, surrounded by banners reading “Finish the Wall.”

Trump was in El Paso to argue for a wall he says can protect Americans from violent criminals, drugs and a “tremendous onslaught” of migrant caravans.

The rally was his first direct clash with a potential 2020 rival, albeit on separate stages.

As Trump and O’Rourke spoke, U.S. congressional negotiators in Washington said they had reached a tentative deal on border security funding to avert another partial government shutdown due to start on Saturday.

An aide said it did not include the $5.7 billion Trump has demanded for his wall, however.

“BUILD THE WALL”

O’Rourke relished the prime-time national platform, sometimes breaking into Spanish as he decried the Trump administration’s separation of immigrant children from their parents at the border.

He said Dreamers – undocumented people brought to the United States by their parents when they were children – should be given citizenship, and their parents a pathway to citizenship.

“With a president who describes Mexican immigrants as rapists and criminals, we have a chance to tell him and the country that immigrants commit crime at a lower rate that Americans who are born in this country,” he said to shouts of “Beto, Beto.”

Trump traveled to the Democratic bastion of El Paso county in the heavily-Republican Texas to hammer on immigration issues that delighted his followers.

“I will never sign a bill that forces the mass release of violent criminals into our country,” Trump said, referring to a Democratic proposal in the Washington talks to lower the cap on detentions of criminal aliens by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

A congressional aide said under Monday’s tentative agreement, the cap would likely stay around the same in previous years.

Trump said he had heard about progress in the talks before he took the stage, but did not mention details.

“Just so you know – we’re building the wall anyway,” he said, to huge cheers.

For much of his speech, Trump recounted accomplishments from his first term. He was also interrupted several times by protesters in the crowd who were escorted out by security.

Slideshow (17 Images)

“BUILD THE WALL!” the crowd chanted as they were led out.

Although O’Rourke’s full-throated denunciation of the president sounded like a campaign speech, the two-time congressman declined to discuss a potential run on Monday when asked by reporters on a conference call.

O’Rourke told Oprah Winfrey last week he would make a final decision about running for president by the end of the month. [L1N2001WQ]

Reporting by Tim Reid in El Paso, additional reporting by Steve Holland and Tim Ahmann in Washington; Writing by Andrew Hay; Editing by Colleen Jenkins, Bill Tarrant and Sonya Hepinstall

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Saudi Arabia signs oil agreement to supply Pakistan: minister

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FILE PHOTO: Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih speaks during a news conference in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia January 9, 2019. REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser/File Photo

CAIRO (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia has signed an agreement to supply Pakistan with crude oil and petroleum products to secure its fuel needs, Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said on Sunday on Twitter.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman arrived in Pakistan on Sunday and said Saudi Arabia has signed investment agreements worth $20 billion during his visit to the country.

Reporting by Hesham Hajali; Editing by Sandra Maler

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Indonesian presidential hopefuls vow energy self-sufficiency via palm

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JAKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesia’s two presidential candidates pledged to achieve energy self-sufficiency by boosting the use of bioenergy, particularly fueled by palm oil, to cut costly oil imports by Southeast Asia’s biggest economy.

Indonesia’s presidential candidate Joko Widodo (L) shakes hands with his opponent Prabowo Subianto after the second debate between presidential candidates ahead of the next general election in Jakarta, Indonesia, February 17, 2019. REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan

Indonesia, the world’s biggest palm oil producer, has been pushing for all diesel fuel used in the country to contain biodiesel to boost palm consumption, slash fuel imports, and narrow a yawning current account gap.

In a televised election debate, President Joko Widodo said if he won a second term the government planned to implement a B100 program, referring to fuel made entirely from palm oil, after last year making it mandatory to use biodiesel containing 20 percent bio-content (B20).

“We hope 30 percent of total palm production will go to biofuel. The plan is clear, so we will not rely on imported oil,” Widodo said, adding that Indonesia’s crude palm oil production had reached 46 million tonnes a year.

Agreeing on the importance of bioenergy for self-sufficiency, his opponent Prabowo Subianto said if elected he would also “boost the use of palm oil, palm sugar, cassava and ethanol from sugar (cane)”.

The challenger did not elaborate on his bioenergy plan, but his campaign team has proposed using millions of hectares of degraded land to cultivate palm sugar to produce energy.

Widodo’s government has previously said it would offer incentives for developers of B100, which the net oil importer hopes can replace fuel imports within three years.

Oil imports have contributed to Indonesia’s widening current account deficit and the volatility of the rupiah currency. The government claimed that its biodiesel program would save billions of dollars in diesel fuel imports.

Although retired general Prabowo agreed with Widodo on several points during the debate, he said Indonesia’s “land and water, and the resources within” must be controlled by the government.

“We are of the view that the government must be present in detail, thoroughly, firmly and actively to correct inequalities in wealth,” he said.

The challenger said the proportion of small farmers’ holdings in the country’s palm plantations should also be larger. Smallholders currently account for roughly 40 percent of Indonesia’s 12 million hectares of palm oil plantations.

Farmers currently do not require larger plots of land, but instead, they need a program to boost yield from their current farm, Mansuetus Darto of Palm Farmers Union said.

He added that farmers wanted more clarity on Widodo’s B100 program and have asked to ensure that small holders play a greater role in the biodiesel supply chain.

“This is an important task for Jokowi on how to prevent big palm companies to be the only main suppliers and not farmers,” Darto said, referring to the president’s nickname.

Meanwhile, environmental group Greenpeace criticized both candidates for failing to ensure that the biofuel programs they promised will not cause further erosion of forests, peatlands and mangrove, due to potentially higher demand for palm oil that is mixed with the fuel.

Slideshow (2 Images)

By 2030, the global demand for biofuels would reach 67 million tonnes from the current 10.7 million tonnes, which could potentially result in 4.5 million hectares of deforestation and 2.9 million hectares of mangrove disappearance, Greenpeace said.

Both candidates expressed support for greater control of Indonesian natural resources.

President Widodo highlighted Pertamina’s takeover of stewardship of major oil and gas blocks from foreign operators, and an agreement for a state company to purchase a 51 percent stake in the giant Grasberg copper mine from Freeport McMoRan.

Reporting by Fransiska Nangoy and Tabita Diela,; Additional reporting Bernadette Christina Munthe,; Editing by Ed Davies, Jan Harvey and Sherry Jacob-Phillips

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Indonesian presidential hopefuls vow energy self-sufficiency through palm

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JAKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesia’s two presidential candidates pledged on Sunday to achieve energy self-sufficiency by boosting the use of bioenergy, particularly fueled by palm oil, to cut costly oil imports by Southeast Asia’s biggest economy.

Indonesia’s presidential candidate Joko Widodo (L) shakes hands with his opponent Prabowo Subianto after the second debate between presidential candidates ahead of the next general election in Jakarta, Indonesia, February 17, 2019. REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan

Indonesia, the world’s biggest palm oil producer, has been pushing for all diesel fuel used in the country to contain biodiesel to boost palm consumption, slash fuel imports, and narrow a yawning current account gap.

In a televised election debate, President Joko Widodo said if he won a second term the government planned to implement a B100 program, referring to fuel made entirely from palm oil, after last year making it mandatory to use biodiesel containing 20 percent bio-content (B20).

“We hope 30 percent of total palm production will go to biofuel. The plan is clear, so we will not rely on imported oil,” Widodo said, adding that Indonesia’s crude palm oil production had reached 46 million tonnes a year.

Agreeing on the importance of bioenergy for self-sufficiency, his opponent Prabowo Subianto said if elected he would also “boost the use of palm oil, palm sugar, cassava and ethanol from sugar (cane)”.

The challenger did not elaborate on his bioenergy plan, but his campaign team has proposed using millions of hectares of degraded land to cultivate palm sugar to produce energy.

Widodo’s government has previously said it would offer incentives for developers of B100, which the net oil importer hopes can replace fuel imports within three years.

Indonesia’s state energy company PT Pertamina has signed an agreement with Italian oil company Eni to develop a refinery in Indonesia that would produce fuel completely derived from crude palm oil (CPO).

Oil imports have contributed to Indonesia’s widening current account deficit and the volatility of the rupiah currency. The government claimed that its biodiesel program would save billions of dollars in diesel fuel imports.

Although retired general Prabowo agreed with Widodo on several points during the debate, he said Indonesia’s “land and water, and the resources within” must be controlled by the government.

“We are of the view that the government must be present in detail, thoroughly, firmly and actively to correct inequalities in wealth,” he said.

The challenger said the proportion of small farmers’ holdings in the country’s palm plantations should also be larger. Smallholders currently account for roughly 40 percent of Indonesia’s 12 million hectares of palm oil plantations.

Farmers currently do not require larger plots of land, but instead, they need a program to boost yield from their current farm, Mansuetus Darto of Palm Farmers Union said.

He added that farmers wanted more clarity on Widodo’s B100 program and have asked to ensure that small holders play a greater role in the biodiesel supply chain.

Slideshow (2 Images)

“This is an important task for Jokowi on how to prevent big palm companies to be the only main suppliers and not farmers,” Darto said, referring to the president’s nickname.

Both candidates expressed support for greater control of Indonesian natural resources.

President Widodo highlighted Pertamina’s takeover of stewardship of major oil and gas blocks from foreign operators, and an agreement for a state company to purchase a 51 percent stake in the giant Grasberg copper mine from Freeport McMoRan.

Reporting by Fransiska Nangoy and Tabita Diela,; Additional reporting Bernadette Christina Munthe,; Editing by Ed Davies, Jan Harvey and Sherry Jacob-Phillips

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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