Skip to main content


Return to Transcripts main page


Colombian Protests: Students Clash With Riot Police; U.S., Brazil Sign Ethanol Agreement; NATO's Operation Achilles Meets Stiff Resistance by Taliban Fighters in Southern Afghanistan

Aired March 9, 2007 - 12:00   ET


RALITSA VASSILEVA, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: The U.S. president's tour of Latin America starts off on all cylinders with a visit to an ethanol plant in Sao Paulo Brazil.
JIM CLANCY, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Refugees fleeing the fighting in Iraq establish little Iraqs wherever they end up. But it is still a long way from home.

VASSILEVA: Once he was Iran's defense minister. Now he's disappeared. Whatever happened to Tehran's man of mystery?

CLANCY: It is 2:00 p.m. right now in Sao Paulo, Brazil, it is 12:00 noon in Washington.

Hello and welcome to our report broadcast around the globe.

I'm Jim Clancy.

VASSILEVA: And I'm Ralitsa Vassileva.

From Iran to Istanbul, Cairo to Colombia, wherever you are watching, this is YOUR WORLD TODAY.

Well, he's promoting it as a goodwill tour, a way to reach out to southern neighbors and wipe away an impression of neglect.

CLANCY: And while U.S. President George W. Bush is getting the red carpet treatment from the Latin American leaders, the sentiments on the streets, well, that's something else.

VASSILEVA: That's right. Mr. Bush is on the first leg of a seven-day trip to Brazil, Uruguay, Colombia, Guatemala and Mexico.

CLANCY: Now, this was the scene in Sao Paulo, Brazil, before Mr. Bush touched down. Riot police firing tear gas to break up protesters that are out in the streets because of his visit.

VASSILEVA: President Bush is trying to improve ties with Brazil with what some call ethanol diplomacy. We'll have a live report from Sao Paulo in just a few minutes on that.

CLANCY: First, Mr. Bush will not likely get a welcome reception when he arrives in the Colombian capital on Sunday either. About 200 students from a national university have already clashed with police before he even got there. CNN's Karl Penhaul saw that protest from the inside.


KARL PENHAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): A homemade explosive rocks a police riot truck. Hundreds of masked students run for cover as water cannons douse them. The chant is "Yankees out!"

These running battles last through the afternoon in protest to at U.S. president George Bush's planned visit to Colombia on Sunday.

FERMIN, STUDENT PROTESTER: So we fight not only for the Bush visit. It's also because we believe that a new Colombia is possible, that a new Latin America is possible.

PENHAUL: The interview abruptly ends as tear gas fired by the police rains down on campus.

FERMIN: We're fighting men.

PENHAUL: Radical students of Bogota's biggest public university normally reject contact with the media, but months ago I met some of their leaders, and on this rare occasion, they agreed to show me the protests from their perspective. Despite that acceptance, it's a chaotic scene, making it impossible to do an on-camera standup.

"He's coming to sell us out. We're fighting against Bush's visit," this student says. A team of his masked comrades launch fireworks through PVC pipes. Another group takes aim by the wall, where I'm taking cover, too.

Police and the government accuse communist rebels of infiltrating Colombia's university campuses. The students, though, reject the terrorist tag. They describe themselves as a mixture of communist sympathizers, anarchists, leftists and nationalists. Today, they're united with one aim -- "This is a demonstration of Colombian dignity. We will not become the slaves of U.S. imperialism," he says.

Washington funds Colombia's war on drugs and against communist guerillas with around $700 million a year. Critics like these students say that's meddling.

Police battle through the afternoon to contain the riot to the campus. Violence flared on nearby street corners. The teargas began to clear, the riot trucks pulled back, leaving the students to chant, "Victory!"

Karl Penhaul, CNN, Bogota, Colombia.


VASSILEVA: Back to Sao Paulo now, where the U.S. and Brazilian presidents have signed a new agreement on ethanol. Mr. Bush says it will boost alternative fuels production in the Americas for the collective good, but critics say the deal is more about countering the oil wealth and influence of Venezuela and its controversial leader, Hugo Chavez. Let's bring in Ed Henry, traveling with Mr. Bush in Sao Paulo.

A lot of skepticism, Ed, for Mr. Bush to overcome.

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Ralitsa. Just overall, this whole seven-day swing through Latin America. But as you noted, the two presidents today inking this deal, more ethanol cooperation, aimed in part at Hugo Chavez and trying to neutralize all of his oil revenues, trying to find alternative sources of energy here, all throughout Latin America.

The two presidents toured a depot showing off the biofuels that Brazilians produce there. They make it from soy, form sugarcane, cotton. Mr. Bush touted the security and environmental implications for the United States from this deal, and the Brazilian president also talked about the economic opportunities it will provide in trying to slash global poverty.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you are dependent upon oil from overseas, you have a national security issue. In other words, dependency upon energy from somewhere else means that you are dependent upon the decisions from somewhere else. And so as we diversify away from the use of gasoline by using ethanol, we are really diversifying away from oil.

LUIZ INACIO LULA DA SALVA, BRAZILIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): And I believe that that partnership between the U.S. and Brazil can, beginning today, really be a new moment for the global car industry, a new moment for fuel in general in the world, and possibly a new moment for humanity.


HENRY: But protests against Mr. Bush are growing all across Latin America, in part because some people feel that this U.S. effort towards economic development here is too little, too late, that Mr. Bush is waiting too late in his administration to actually start tackling these issues.

Now, other protestors are basically upset about the war in Iraq. This anger at Mr. Bush, of course, stirred up in part by the Venezuelan strongman, Hugo Chavez, as you mentioned at the top.

In fact, U.S. officials are now privately charging that Chavez is paying for some of these protesters to show up, that they are not spontaneous, that, in fact, Chavez is behind this. And, in fact, over the weekend, Chavez is going to be just across the river in Argentina, leading a major protest in a stadium there -- Ralitsa.

VASSILEVA: Ed Henry, thank you very much.

HENRY: Thank you.

VASSILEVA: And that brings us to today's question. CLANCY: That's right. We're asking you, are biofuels the solution to cutting global oil consumption? What do you think?

E-mail us at

What do you think about the biofuels? Is it an answer?

VASSILEVA: Well, at a meeting of EU leaders in Brussels today, Tony Blair says he pressed other European nations to provide more troops to the NATO force in Afghanistan. NATO's Operation Achilles is meeting stiff resistance by Taliban fighters in southern Afghanistan.

Nic Robertson hat the story.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Days into Operation Achilles, British commandos are resupplying the front line. Ammunition, food, water and spare vehicles in a near mile-long highly-armed convoy. Too much and potentially too dangerous to send by air.

MAJ. STUART TAYLOR, 42ND ROYAL MARINE COMMANDOS: Support helicopter are very vulnerable in this area. There is a perceived threat of ground-to-air capability by the enemy.

ROBERTSON (on camera): The sun's just beginning to come up now. The convoy has been on the road for about an hour already. The journey is expected to take the whole day. Nobody's really sure what to expect along the route.

(voice over): As they pass through the first village, concerns of a Taliban ambush.

VINCE PULHAM, 42ND ROYAL MARINE COMMANDOS: It's been a road (ph) run at the moment to the east of Garash (ph). It's called IED Alley. It's about just 4k, so you can tell it's bumpy and rubbly. And it's had a lot of IED attacks on it in the past due to the fact, they can I hide them in the rubble itself.

ROBERTSON: But it's not the Taliban. It's the terrain that becomes the enemy. The heavy trucks bogging down in the deep sand. Time is lost.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All call (ph) signs, cancel my last. No hold two (ph). No hold two (ph).

ROBERTSON: Past fields full of opium poppies, villages here have been told to leave the convoys alone. As benign as it looks, this is where the Taliban are at their most dangerous, in this area, planting mines.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Taliban are using some of these mines to dig up the tracks that we're using, conceal the mines, and therefore deny those tracks to us.

ROBERTSON: Seven hours and 60 kilometers later, they reach their first drop-off. Ammunition at the base is being used up fast fighting the Taliban. Late afternoon, and slowed by breakdowns, they move off for the next drop.

(on camera): It's about an hour before the sun goes down, and the pressure is on to keep the speed of the convoy up so we can get to a safe place for everyone to rest up for the night.

(voice over): More than 12 hours on the road, and still not reached the second drop-off. Taylor halts the convoy for the night. Not unexpected, just not as quick as hoped. Re-supply at war always hard. In Afghanistan, fighting enemy and terrain doubly so.

Nic Robertson, CNN, Helmand Province, Afghanistan.


CLANCY: All right. We're going to turn now and take a look at some of the other stories that are making news, stories of interest around the world.



VASSILEVA: Welcome back to CNN International and YOUR WORLD TODAY.

This is where we cover the news of the world and give you a little bit of perspective that goes deeper into the stories of the day.

VASSILEVA: Well, as many as four million Shiite pilgrims have come to the Iraqi holy city of Karbala. They're taking part in a religious observance to mark the end of a 40-day mourning period commemorating the death of Mohammed's grandson.

For the past week, pilgrims have been streaming to the city, which is some 80 kilometers south of Baghdad. Hundreds have been killed on the way, victims of suicide attacks and bombings.

CLANCY: All right. It is only a first meeting, but it's certainly a very important one. Iraq is going to be hosting a regional security conference this weekend. Neighbors Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia, they are going to be there. And so will the United States.

Daniel Speckhard is the U.S. deputy chief of mission in Baghdad. He joins us now live.

Mr. Ambassador, thanks for being with us.


CLANCY: All right.

Let's begin here. In the U.S. view, what is needed from countries like Syria and Iran at this conference? SPECKHARD: Well, I think it's going to be important that they show a willingness to play a constructive role in stemming the violence, supporting the Baghdad security plan, and supporting reconciliation.

CLANCY: Well, all right. Constructive, how do you define that? What's a solid move, say, that Syria could make?

SPECKHARD: Well, I think just starting by a strong statement of support for the democratically-elected Maliki government is a starting point. And then strong statements not supporting the flow of fighters, weapons, or support to groups inside of Iraq which are involved in violence.

CLANCY: Ambassador Speckhard, a lot of speculation, will the U.S. sit down and talk one on one with Iran? It hasn't been ruled out by the administration, but I'm wondering, is the U.S. in a stronger position now because of some of the pressure that's been brought to bear against Tehran?

SPECKHARD: Well, I would say we are in a good position here to be focusing this conference on supporting Iraq. I think everybody understands now that the only constructive way out of the situation in Iraq is for the international community and the neighbors to come together to support this government, who has a credible security plan and a reconciliation program. And so I would say, yes, we are starting from a good position to have that discussion.

CLANCY: You know, when you look across the entire region, there is concern that the violence in Iraq is going to spread. Certainly, countries like Syria and Jordan are feeling the weight of hundreds and hundreds of thousands of refugees.

SPECKHARD: Well, I think the neighbors understand that, and that's why you see them coming together here. I also think it's a positive sign that Iraq is hosting this conference, taking the lead in setting an agenda, and being in charge of this process here in Iraq. And the neighbors, I think, do understand at this point in time that the only way to alleviate some of the challenges that are going to face them if the situation doesn't improve is to come together here and support Iraq at this important time.

CLANCY: All right.

You know, you're talking a lot about support, you're talking about constructive imput coming from these nations. But the U.S. has to have a bottom line, a bar that would determine whether or not this meeting is a success, whether or not there should be more of these types of meetings.

What has to be the minimum that comes from the nations that gather around the table?

SPECKHARD: I mean, I think the minimum has to be statements, as I said earlier, support for this government, a support for the process that this government is involved in, in terms of a security plan and a reconciliation process, and a commitment by those countries to not be involved in support for groups that are countering or involved in violence, or not supporting a reconciliation process.

So I think what you should be looking for tomorrow is statements of support and a willingness to play a constructive role, but not expect this conference to be the end of that process, but the beginning.

CLANCY: All right.

Daniel Speckhard, the U.S. deputy chief of mission there at the embassy in Baghdad.

I want to thank you very much for being with us on YOUR WORLD TODAY.

SPECKHARD: Thank you.

CLANCY: Ralitsa.

VASSILEVA: Well, Jim, Iraqis are fleeing this relentless violence that this conference is meant to try to begin to address, and they are forming enclaves in neighboring countries.

Aneesh Raman visited one such community in Egypt and found the refugees united in their struggle.


ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): A successful pediatrician in Iraq for the past year, the only kids Dr. Bahaa Essa has seen are his own. An unemployed refugee in Egypt, Bahaa is one of tens of thousands here watching his country destroy itself from afar.

BAHAA ESSA, PEDIATRICIAN: I usually feel sad. Sometimes, depression come to my heart.

RAMAN: Bahaa's kids are too young to really know what's going on. Mohammed (ph) and Danya (ph) were both born after the war began. But even they know something just isn't right.

ESSA: They ask me sometimes -- they say to me, "Papa, when will we return to Iraq? And we miss our grandfather. We like to play in our garden." Especially the young one. He miss his toys.

I think it is difficult for any father. But what can I do? I try always to be strong in front of them and in front of my wife.

RAMAN: Bahaa's neighborhood is an area that could be called "Little Iraq." Rising in the past year in a Cairo suburb, it is a square filled with refugees all struggling to survive.

Khalid Ibrahim (ph) came to Egypt eight months ago with his family and now runs this restaurant. He is Sunni, his wife, Shia. And while Iraq is being torn apart along sectarian lines, among refugees, he says, there is only one identity.

"Here," he tells me, "there is no difference between Sunni and Shia. Even in Iraq, the difference is not among the people. It is among the politicians. They are making things worse." Every Iraqi we met here described a life in limbo. Former businessmen like Mohammed serve up shwarmas (ph) just to keep busy. Everyone just letting time pass, day after day, worried about only one thing, when they will be able to go home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Maybe 10 years. Maybe.

ESSA: I think the politics people -- and I kiss their heart -- please sit on the same table, and shake hands and make our country as it was, one country.

RAMAN: A desperate plea from a desperate people left to kill time month after month, until the killing at home comes to an end.

Aneesh Raman, CNN, Cairo.


CLANCY: All right. We're going to take a short break here. When we come back, we'll have an update of financial markets.

Plus, we're standing by -- we're going to bring you live a press conference with George W. Bush and Luiz Inacio Lula Da Silva, Brazil's president. They're going to be talking about that deal they signed on ethanol.

VASSILEVA: Yes. They are talking about ethanol diplomacy. It's an effort by the Bush administration to show that it cares about the plight of the people in Latin America. Brazil's passion for alternative fuels, the cash crop that's filling more tanks, that's coming up.

Stay with us.



CLANCY: Brazil has long been a pioneer in producing ethanol. In fact nearly eight of 10 new cars there run on fuel made from the sugar cane, making biofuels big business.


CLANCY (voice-over): Defying foreign oil. A cascade of castor beans. Brazil, long a pioneer in alternative fuels, is drilling into production of castor and soy beans to power its trucks, buses and farm machinery on biodiesel. It's about energy independence and the environment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With biodiesel, we reduce the amount of CO2. That's not a local environmental problem. This is a global environmental problem.

CLANCY: Brazil has blazed this trail between farm fields and fuel pumps before. It is already one of the world's biggest producers of ethanol, which powers more than half of the cars on the roads here. And biodiesel is the next step.

At the Institute of Petroleum Technology, vehicle engines are fed different varieties, and monitored for their performance. Brazil is fine tuning not just engines, but an industry. The true laboratory is where investment in biodiesel refineries is already bringing production to the pumps. This Granul (ph) plant in Campenas (ph) may not be much to look at. It's a converted vegetable oil plant. But it is here that the castor beans lie in wait under the careful watch of manager Juan Feraro (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Brazil is very rich in different options, a high variety of options for raw materials for production biodiesel.

CLANCY: Brazil's energy giant Petrobrass (ph) is investing heavily in biodiesel, but its CEO cautions this biofuel will be in the shadow of Big Oil for years, if not decades to come.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think that there is a very large volume of oil that can be produced economically, economically feasible conditions for a long time.

CLANCY: Still, the faithful can't be swayed. Time and price are on the side of biodiesel.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is schemated (ph) that the barrel of petroleum to equalize (ph) is about $50 per barrel. It's coming to stay, to increase the participation year by year. It's a future fuel.

CLANCY: At one of Sao Paolo's biggest bus depots, the future is already in motion, as the plows the streets of Brazil's biggest city is converted to biodiesel. This bus may look like all the others, but 30 percent of its fuel comes from the farm, not the well.


VASSILEVA: Interesting. And as gas prices rise higher and higher, it's becoming better to produce biofuels, and it' not as expensive as it used to be when gas prices were lower, so there's a cost involved in producing it.

CLANCY: And it's a whole industry, because you've to have your cars -- in Brazil, you find most of the cars are what they call flex vehicles, so they can either run on ethanol, or they can run on regular unleaded gas. And that's the way it's going to approach it. One of the things that President Bush is going to be talking about, as you know, moving the technology forward, so it's an interesting topic.

VASSILEVA: Well, and as President Bush tours South America, there is a not-so-subtle subtext going on here, which is the effort to undermine the effort of the Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

CLANCY: Yes, and Hugo Chavez is very aware of that. It may be hard to do, because Venezuela does have a lot of influence in gasoline stations, not only in Latin America, but across the U.S.

Let's take a closer look, get some Insight Jonathan Mann. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JONATHAN MANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: One place President Bush may want to go is a gas pump. The president may have Venezuela's leader in his sites, but what's more important is a lot of Americans have Venezuelan gas in their cars. The Citgo chain, for example, has 13,000 gas stations nationwide, and it's owned by The Venezuelan state oil company. So its customers are essentially helping Venezuela. So is anyone buying Venezuelan oil it in any form? And that's one-tenth of the U.S. market.

Venezuela isn't just selling the oil either. It is selling itself, offering low-cost heating oil to more than a million needy Americans and Native Americans in 16 states. That is one of the most famous names in American life with the pump, a former U.S. Congressman, who's even pumping up Citgo in ads that are running in 16 U.S. cities.

JOE KENNEDY, FMR. U.S. LAWMAKER: I'm Joe Kennedy. Help is on the way. Heating oil at 40 percent off from our friends in Venezuela at Citgo. Call me at Citizen's Energy, at 1-877-JOE-4-OIL. No one should be left out in the cold.

MANN: Kennedy has been criticized, but he's unapologetic, and openly offering thanks.

KENNEDY: From the leadership of President Hugo Chavez, the truth of the matter is, that without that kind of leadership, without that kind of commitment to helping low-income people, we wouldn't be here today, with this assistance.

MANN: The truth is, leadership, charity and politics aside, the U.S. and Venezuela do have a commitment. They're locked in an oily embrace. More than three-quarters of Venezuela's oil goes to the U.S., and most of its oil money comes from here.

PETER HAKIM, INTER-AMERICAN DIALOGUE: It's a mutual dependence. Venezuela sends its oil to the United States, the refineries for the kind of oil Venezuela produces are found only in the United States, so Venezuela doesn't -- can't just from one day to the next ship its oil to other markets.

MANN: The problem is obvious to both sides. That's why Venezuela is trying to sell the refineries in the United States. U.S. oil imports from Venezuela are down, and of course why President Bush is in Brazil, talking about ethanol.

Back to you.


CLANCY: All right, Jonathan Mann there.

VASSILEVA: Very interesting.

Well, and this of course brings us to our inbox. As President Bush and Brazil sign a biofuel agreement, we would like to hear your thoughts on alternative-fuel production.

CLANCY: Yes, we've been asking this question -- you see it there on your screens -- are biofuels the solution to cutting global consumption? Here's how some of your have responded.

VASSILEVA: John in Arizona says, quote, "I is obvious by Brazil's example that ethanol can mean energy independence.

CLANCY: April in Pennsylvania had this to say, "What makes President Bush think that we can all afford new cars that run on ethanol?"

VASSILEVA: And Roger in Madrid writes, quote, "Biofuels are a beginning in itself, but there are other technologies that are much better to solve global warming."

CLANCY: You know, a lot of people are writing in on this. A lot of people are favorable, pointing out, that, look, it's part of the solution, it's not the whole solution. But it shows some progress in thinking. One man wrote in here, "Ethanol is an excellent solution to the global dependence on oil, but not if they're going to keep laying waste to the rainforest in order to create it."

VASSILEVA: That's what environmentalists are saying.

CLANCY: Yes, one of the big issues. Keep sending those e-mails. Our address

VASSILEVA: Well, representatives on both sides say they are not expecting any breakthroughs at Sunday's meeting between Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and the Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. It will be the third meeting in as many months.

In announcing the talks, Chief Alexander (ph) negotiator side Verakhov (ph) indicated Mr. Abbas might press for an extension of the Gaza ceasefire into the West Bank. But an Israeli spokesman says Mr. Olmert won't talk about extending the truce until the current fire agreement is fully respected.

CLANCY: Love a good mystery? Well, here it is. Iran's former defense minister, a man certainly holding many secrets.

VASSILEVA: And perhaps his biggest secret, what happened to him? What happened to Ali Reza Azkari? And where is he right now?

Ben Wedeman has more on Iran's man of mystery.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Sixty-three-year- old former Iranian Deputy Defense Minister Ali Reza Azkari, traveled to Istanbul a month ago. Then disappeared, leaving behind only questions.

Was he kidnapped? Did he defect? Who was behind it, the Americans, the Israelis? Azkari is a man with many secrets. MEIR JAVEDANFAR, MIDDLE EAST ANALYST: The United States and Israel are very much involved in trying to find out as much as possible about Iran nuclear program, how, where is it right now, what are the challenges, and when is Iran likely to have a nuclear bomb. And the information that General Azkari would have would fill in some very crucial gaps, I believe.

WEDEMAN: There are, in fact, many other gaps going back many years. A senior Iranian revolutionary guard officer in Lebanon in the 1980s and '90s, Azkari may have information about the 1983 bombing of the U.S. marines barracks in Beirut, which left 241 dead.

Israel would no doubt like to pick Azkari's brains about Hezbollah, an organization he helped develop. Danny Yatom served as head of Mossad, Israel's spy agency.

DANNY YATOM, FORMER MOSSAD CHIEF: Whatever happened, during those years, and had signature of either Hezbollah or Iran, probably was orchestrated by this man.

WEDEMAN: Azkari could also hold information about the 1994 bombing of a Jewish cultural center in Buenos Aires, Argentina, which killed more than 80 people. He may also know the fate of Israeli pilot Ron Arad, shot down over Lebanon in 1986 and believed to have ended up in Iranian custody.

AMIR MENASHE, IRAN WATCHER: If we assume that there are 10 persons in Iran who knows about the fate of Ron Arad, he is one of them.

WEDEMAN: He may also have clues to the whereabouts of two Israeli soldiers captured by Hezbollah last summer. Most observers believe Azkari defected for money, lots of it, or --

YATOM: Maybe the way he wants to wash the blood, is by defection.

WEDEMAN: Iranian officials say Azkari was kidnapped by Western intelligence services. Israeli and American officials deny involvement.

The only certainty in the case of Ali Reza Azkari is that he's vanished. And observers here suggest more high profile Iranians could disappear under similarly murky circumstances as a full-blown crisis looms over Iran's nuclear program.

Ben Wedeman, CNN, Jerusalem.


CLANCY: All right. We're going to take a short break.

It is only the first stop on a week-long tour. We are waiting to hear from the U.S. president in Brazil, alongside his Brazilian counterpart. They will be stepping up there to the podium in a few minutes time. VASSILEVA: We're watching that live, (INAUDIBLE) we'll bring it to you as soon as it begins. Stay with us.


VASSILEVA: Welcome back, you're watching YOUR WORLD TODAY here on CNN International.

CLANCY: And we are surveying some of the events around the world and sharing the ones that really stand out.

All week, we've been watching what's going on in Indonesia.

VASSILEVA: Quite a tragedy.

Hundreds of mourners including the Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono attended services Friday in a Jakarta mosque. The event was held to honor the memory of 22 people who died in Wednesday's plane crash in Yogyakarta. Eight people are still missing.

After the service, the president refused to comment on the cause of the deadly crash. He said it was a matter for the country's transportation officials.

CLANCY: For the Indonesian people, the crash only succeeded in fueling their fears and superstitions that they are somehow cursed.

VASSILEVA: The country has suffered a string of both natural and man-made disasters, leaving many to wonder if someone or something is trying to send them a message.

Dan Rivers has this checklist of woe.


DAN RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As Australian and Indonesian officials begin to analyze the debris of flight GA-200, Indonesia finds itself once again being scrutinized after yet another terrible tragedy.

The 2004 tsunami was clearly the most deadly to befall this vast country, leaving an estimated 168,000 people dead. But since then, the disasters have just kept coming.

In May last year, another huge earthquake killed more than 5,000 near Yogyakarta. Simultaneously, the local volcano, Mt. Merapi erupted.

Then, during December and January, three catastrophes at sea. Two ferries sank, another caught fire. On New Year's Day, an Adam air jet plunged into the sea, killing 102.

In February, the capital Jakarta was hit by devastating floods. And now this week's fiery air crash.

Transport analysts prescribe several remedies to improve safety.

DANANG PARIKESIT, INDONESIAN TRANSPORT SOCIETY: You have to see a very good combinations of people who is credible, and good safety systems, safety equipment, safety instruments.

RIVERS: But ask the average Indonesian why their country has been in the news so much in recent years, and they say it's nothing to do with the poor safety record or the fact that it lies on an active fault line, but something much more supernatural.

Javanese culture is full of myths and magic. Some think recent tragedies are a curse. Proof, the spirits are angry, or that man has somehow upset the natural order.

BAMBANG PRUYOHADI, ADVISER TO THE SULTAN OF YOGYAKARTA: This is because of this harmony, the relationship, between two system. One between leaders, and the community, the peoples, but when human to the god.

RIVERS: It's an idea that chimes with many people in Indonesia, who see their traditional ways being overwhelmed, who think god is punishing modern society.

But such theories won't be entertained by those investigating this latest disaster. Curse or no curse, already the airport here has reopened.

Dan Rivers, CNN, Yogyakarta, Indonesia.


CLANCY: All right. We're going to take a short break here. But we continue to watch what is unfolding down in San Paulo, Brazil there. We see a little bit more activity in the room, testing the microphones.

VASSILEVA: The press has gathered there for a live press conference with the U.S. President George W. Bush and Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who is Brazil's president. They will be speaking to reporters shortly. We are waiting, and we'll bring it back to you live as soon as it happens.


VASSILEVA: Welcome back. Stars like Angelina Jolie and Madonna have done it, and so have many other people.

CLANCY: Very quickly, we are talking about foreign adoptions here. They are becoming ever more popular for child-less couples and those who simply want to make a difference in a child's life.

VASSILEVA: And along with that, a new trend in self-identity. U.S. affairs editor Jill Dougherty explains what that means.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN U.S. AFFAIRS EDITOR (voice-over): The music is Chinese. The children from around the world. But they and their adopted parents are all Americans. At this heritage celebration in New York, held at Spence-Chapin adoption agency, parents learn how to blend cultures. How to love their children for who they are, and where they came from.


DOUGHERTY: Since she was a little girl, Shawn (ph) Axelbank has known exactly where she came from, South Korea. The 17-year-old high school student was adopted as an infant by Suzanne and Gary Axelbank.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She's looking at you.

DOUGHERTY: They have a home movie of that day in 1989, when they, along with their biological son Evan (ph) first held little He Yu (ph), better known as Shawn (ph./

SUZANNE AXELBANK, ADOPTIVE MOTHER: Then the social worker came out carrying two babies in her arms like this, and one was all hairy, and one was bald and we said, oh, my god, that bald one, look at her that's our baby.

DOUGHERTY: Shawn's (ph) not bald anymore. Her bedroom is filled with souvenirs of the things she loves, baseball and Korean culture like this traditional dress.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I put it on and I'd come into class and all the children would see, oh, Shawn's (ph) Korean. It was like show and tell.

DOUGHERTY: Suzanne Axelbank owns a store. Gary's in public relations. They say they wanted Shawn (ph) to know and respect Korean culture.

AXELBANK: In our country, you are Korean American, you are Italian American, people take pride in that. And that's part of your child's pride, too.

DOUGHERTY: The Axelbanks are Jewish. That's part of Shawn's (ph) heritage, too. She even celebrated her Bat Mitzvah.

(on camera): The Axelbanks say they soon realized that becoming part of a new culture goes both ways. Shawn (ph) slowly became part of American culture and they were gradually exposed to the richness of Korean culture.

GARY AXELBANK, ADOPTIVE FATHER: I'm a Jewish American man who has adopted a Korean daughter, and as a result of that, in a way, I've adopted Korean culture and ingrained it into our family.

DOUGHERTY (voice-over): Last summer, Shawn (PH) and her parents flew to South Korea on a roots discovery tour. There, she met the Korean foster mother who took care of her for the first six months of her life. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Wow, they are all Korean. They all look like me.

DOUGHERTY: Spence-Chapin agency saying knowing your roots gives adopted children from other countries a crucial sense of belonging.

RITA TADDIONIO, SPENCE-CHAPIN ADOPTION AGENCY: They are still going to face racism somewhere, but they will have a solid feeling of who they are, ethnically and culturally so that they can deal with it.

DOUGHERTY: Shawn (ph) Axelbank says knowing where she comes from is helping her to find her identity as she grows up. She wants to see Korea again. After all, she says, they love baseball. Jill Dougherty, CNN, Washington.


VASSILEVA: That's it for this hour. We are standing by, though, for a live press conference with the U.S. and Brazilian presidents. We are watching that picture very closely. They will be speaking to the media shortly. President Bush, of course, there, to show a softer side of his administration to prove that he is not neglecting Latin America.

CLANCY: All right, we're going to hear with him too on the subject of all the protests. We're going to be watching that both on CNN USA and right here on CNN International. Thanks for being with us.



© 2007 Cable News Network.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us. Site Map.
Offsite Icon External sites open in new window; not endorsed by
Pipeline Icon Pay service with live and archived video. Learn more
Radio News Icon Download audio news  |  RSS Feed Add RSS headlines