Yemen looks to future as Saleh seeks safety in U.S.

Three years ago, President Bush’s surprisingly quick reflexes were revealed to the world.

During a news conference in Baghdad, Bush successfully dodged a shoe thrown by an angry Iraqi journalist who called him a dog.

Recently, in February, a similar situation occurred in New York City.

Wearing a black beret, President Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen stepped out of the Ritz-Carlton hotel in New York City where he waved to irate protestors and even motioned blowing kisses to them.

The group of protestors angrily glared at Saleh, the notorious, authoritarian ruler of their homeland.

They chanted, “N.Y.C. cries fear, Saleh is here” and “Saleh, oh thug, we will come for you, we will get you,” reported the Wall Street Journal. During the hubbub, President Saleh was the target of a shoe attack by one protestor, which narrowly missed Saleh as he headed for his car.

According to Human Rights Watch, while he was in power, the Yemeni president ordered an end to Arab Spring protests killing at least 270 people just of last year.

In the city of Taiz, at least 120 protestors and bystanders in an anti-government demonstration were killed, reported Associated Press.

“They had tanks and bulldozers,” said protestor Arif Abd al-Salam to Human Rights Watch. “I saw with my own eyes, a man with a loudspeaker calling on the security forces to stop attacking and killing their brothers. He was shot dead with a bullet.”

On Jan. 28, Saleh arrived in the U.S. to receive medical treatment for injuries suffered during an assassination attempt in his presidential palace last June, reported Associated Press. However, some are skeptical that the Yemeni president came to the U.S. solely for medical reasons.

“He’s just buying time, and doing a song and a dance to avoid having to go back and face the music,” said Robert Duncan, visiting assistant professor of political science. “He’s looted the country enough that he has enough to retire on. What better place to retire than in the U.S. of A?”

According to The New York Times, American officials believe that Saleh’s visit to the U.S. was a shrewd decision. His absence from Yemen would result in a smooth transition into the Feb. 21 election, in which Saleh officially announced he would not be running, ending his authoritarian regime in Yemen.

On Nov. 23 of last year, President Saleh reluctantly agreed to hand power to his current vice president Abdel Rabbo Mansour Hadi, after the Yemeni parliament granted him immunity from prosecution for any criminal actions during his rule.

Even though the future election will be a single-candidate election, Hadi and other Yemeni officials seem to believe it will be the “start of a new age in the life of Yemen,” reported CBS News.

Some are satisfied with Saleh’s promise of resignation, which was greatly influenced by mass street demonstrations against his rule last year. However, many are pessimistic about any dramatic reform due to Saleh’s family members’ continuing command of military units and Yemen’s air force.

“What difference does it make?” said activist Hamyir Ali to USA Today. “His family still has the military in their hands. Ali Abdullah Saleh will still be able to control everything.”

“It won’t change anything,” said Duncan. “The controlling oligarchy, either Saleh or the vice president, are all part of the same regime. It’s the same card. They are just painting it in a different color.”

While the future of Yemen and its new political control may be unclear, an infamous spotlight continues to shine on President Saleh wherever he goes — whether in Yemen or in the U.S.