Pope feels ‘used’ by fake friends
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AFP) – Pope Francis says he has felt “used” by people claiming to be his friend since he became pontiff, in a radio interview touching on the personal side of his papacy.
“I never had so many quote-unquote ‘friends’ as now. Everyone is the pope’s friend,” Francis said in a telephone interview with radio station Milenium in his native Argentina.
“I have felt used by people who presented themselves as my friends and whom I hadn’t seen more than once or twice in my life. They have used that to their own benefit. But it’s an experience we all go through,” he told Argentine journalist Marcelo Gallardo, a real-life friend since the days when the pope was bishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires.
“Friendship in the utilitarian sense — let’s see what advantage I can gain by getting close to this person and becoming friends — that pains me,” he told Gallardo in the interview, broadcast Sunday.
“Friendship is something sacred. The Bible says to have one or two friends.”
Francis, whose papacy began in March 2013, also touched on environmental destruction and religious fundamentalism in the wide-ranging conversation — a rare interview with a non-religious broadcaster.
Echoing the bold appeal to care for the planet he issued in a sweeping encyclical in June, the pope condemned humankind’s “abuse of creation.”
“We’re not friends of creation. Sometimes we treat it like our worst enemy. Think of deforestation, misuse of water, methods of extracting minerals with elements like arsenic and cyanide that end up making people sick,” he said.
Of fundamentalists, he said: “Their mission is to destroy in the name of an idea, not a reality…. They kill, attack, destroy, malign in the name of an ideological god.”
The interview came as the pope prepares to visit Cuba and the United States from September 19 to 28.
Mexican tourists killed by Egyptian security forces
The tourists were travelling in four vehicles that entered a restricted zone in the Wahat area of the Western Desert, the ministry said. Sources said eight of those killed were Mexicans.
Ten Mexicans and Egyptians were also injured. Egypt has been battling Islamist militants for years. Attacks on army and police, mainly in the Sinai peninsula, have escalated since Islamist President Mohammed Morsi was ousted in 2013.
Egypt’s interior ministry said the four vehicles the tourists were travelling in were “mistakenly dealt with” during a joint military police and armed forces operation.
It said the incident happened on Sunday in an area that “was off limits to foreign tourists”, but it did not give an exact location.
Survivors said they suffered an “aerial attack” after stopping for a meal, according to Mexican Foreign Minister Claudia Ruiz Massieu. She could only confirm that two Mexican nationals had been killed.
Mexico’s President Enrique Pena Nieto condemned the incident and demanded an “exhaustive” investigation by Egypt.
The disastrous shooting up by Egyptian security forces of a tourist convoy in the Western Desert is yet another sign of growing instability in the Arab world’s most populous country.
Egypt’s western oases are spectacularly beautiful, hence their popularity with adventure tourists. But since the Arab Spring upheavals of 2011, security along Egypt’s border with Libya has deteriorated as the Islamist insurgency has grown across the country. Vast stretches of both the Sinai Peninsula and the Western Desert are now too dangerous for Westerners to visit.
Last month IS militants beheaded a Croatian engineer they had kidnapped not far from Cairo. Now the possibility of being mistakenly shot at by the authorities, as well as being kidnapped by militants, will further damage Egypt’s much depleted tourism revenues.
Egyptian officials say the tourists were in a no-go zone – and had not liaised with the authorities. But a local tour guide has denied that, saying the group was in an unrestricted area, on top of sand dunes, trying to get a bird’s eye view.
Another local source – who claims to have spoken to a driver who survived the incident – told the BBC the tourists even had a police escort.
He said the safari was organised by a local hotel which co-ordinated with the security forces. According to the interior ministry’s statement, the security forces were pursuing Islamic militants in the desert, and targeted the four vehicles which were away from the main road with an Apache helicopter, which shot and hit the four vehicles.
The vast Western Desert area is popular with foreign sightseers, but is also attractive to militants, reports the BBC’s Orla Guerin in Cairo. The area – which borders Libya – is a gateway to the long border and weapons are available on the other side, our correspondent adds.
On Sunday, the Islamic State group (IS) claimed it had “resisted a military operation” in the desert. A group claiming to be affiliated with IS also said on Sunday that it was present in Farafra.
Venezuelan military jets ‘entered Colombian airspace’
The planes encroached into Colombian airspace twice on Saturday morning, according to the defence ministry. They reportedly flew over a border military base in the Alta Guajira region before returning to Venezuela.
Colombian officials have demanded an explanation from Venezuela, which has yet to comment. Relations between the two countries have been tense.
“Initially the Venezuelan military planes entered 2.9km (1.8 miles) into Colombian airspace,” a statement from Colombia’s Ministry of Defence said.
The jets then returned to Venezuela and crossed into Colombian airspace again, “flying over a military base in the La Flor region”.
The planes went 2.3km (1.4 miles) west of the border before flying back towards Castilletes, on the Colombian-Venezuelan border, the statement added.
On 19 August, Venezuela closed most crossings along the long, porous border with Colombia and launched a major anti-smuggling operation.
More than 1,000 Colombians living across the border were expelled for alleged involvement either with smuggling gangs or paramilitary groups. Thousands of other Colombians fled fearing reprisals.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos criticised his Venezuelan counterpart’s unilateral decision and recalled his ambassador to Caracas for consultations.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro reciprocated the gesture hours later. The Colombian and Venezuelan foreign ministers, Maria Angela Holguin and Delcy Rodriguez, met in Ecuador on Saturday to try to find a diplomatic solution to the crisis.
A statement said the talks had gone well, paving the way for a summit between Mr Santos and Mr Maduro in the near future. Ms Holguin said, ahead of the meeting, that Venezuela must agree to reunite hundreds of families separated by the border closure.
Venezuela has reported major success in its anti-smuggling operation. It said its economy had been suffering with the activities of gangs that operated in the border zone.
For many years, subsidised items from Venezuela, including cheap petrol, have been sold for much higher prices on the Colombian side of the border.