INTL Latin America and the Islands: Politics, Economics, and Military-October 2021

Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB
September's thread:


Main Coronavirus thread beginning page 1404:





Mexico asks Israel for extradition in missing students case
yesterday


MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexico’s president has revealed he sent a letter to the Israeli government asking for the extradition of a former top security official, Tomás Zerón.

Zerón was the head of the federal investigation agency at the time of the abduction of 43 students in southern Mexico in 2014. He is being sought on charges of torture and covering up those disappearances.

Zerón fled to Israel in August 2019, where he may have connections to an Israeli firm that sold the Mexican government spyware during his time in office.

The students from a radical teachers’ college were abducted by local police in southern Guerrero state who presumably killed them and burned their bodies.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador showed a copy of a letter he sent in September to Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, asking him for help.

“I write you to ask for your valuable attention on this extradition process, which is a priority for our country,” the letter reads.


Despite reports that Israel had expressed disinterest in extraditing Zerón, Israel’s Ambassador to Mexico, Zvi Tal, wrote in July that the process was moving forward.

“Israel does not take political considerations into account in extradition proceedings,” Tal wrote. “The goal of the dialogue between the respective Israeli and Mexican authorities is to ensure that the extradition request is properly submitted and considered. There has been no delay on the part of Israel.”

Zerón oversaw the criminal investigation agency of the Attorney General’s Office and also its forensic work in the 2014 case. Most of the students’ bodies have never been found, though burned bone fragments have been matched to three students.

Zerón’s investigation had long been criticized by the families of the 43 students who disappeared in September 2014 after they were detained by local police in Iguala, in the southern state of Guerrero. They were allegedly handed over to a drug gang and slain, and have not been heard from since.

Zerón was at the center of the government’s widely criticized investigation, which has failed to definitively determine what happened to the students. Two independent teams of experts have cast doubt on the insistence of Mexican officials that the students bodies were incinerated in a huge fire at a trash dump.
Many of the suspects arrested in the case were later released, and many claimed they had been tortured by police or the military.

The supposition is that Zerón and others tortured witnesses, illegally detained suspects and mishandled evidence to try to bring the investigation to a quick conclusion or cover up what really happened.
 

Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB

Police in Ecuador seize a ton of cocaine bound for Bulgaria
Ecuadorian police have seized 2.5 tons of cocaine in two separate operations. A ton of was bound for Europe. They also arrested five suspects.



Italian carabinieri shows 800g of cocaine after Italian Police conduct a raid in the southern Italian city of Naples
Cocaine produced in Colombia is often transported via Ecuador to Europe

Police discovered a metric ton of cocaine bound for Bulgaria in a container at the port of regional capital Guayaquil, anti-narcotics units in the southwestern city reported.

Guayaquil law enforcement also seized another 1.5 tons of cocaine on a sailing boat headed to Chile on the same day. They also arrested five people.

Canine sniffs out Bulgaria haul
Authorities seized the drugs on Saturday as part of an operation called "Matrix" during a search at Guayaquil port, said Manuel Gomez, anti-narcotics chief from Zone 8 of the city.
The Ecuador police announced details of the finds on Twitter.

The anti-narcotics officer said a police dog drew attention to the substance in the container. It later "tested positive, presumably for cocaine."

Gomez said in a press conference that "a ton of cocaine was seized, destined for Bulgaria."


Watch video04:24
UN sounds the alarm over global drug use: Angela Me (UNODC) speaks to DW
Ecuadorian authorities have become aware of the Guayaquil port being used as a new departure point for drugs like cocaine, reported the Ecuador news outlet El Comercio. The drugs often reach Europe via the Panama canal.

What about the other operation?
In a separate operation code-named "Jupiter", the anti-narcotics chief revealed police raided a sailing boat "in coordination with personnel from the US Coast Guard, the Ecuadorian Navy and the Colombian Police."

They found that the vessel was allegedly being used "to transport drugs by sea," said Gomez.
Police arrested two Ecuadorians, two Colombians and a Mexican in the raid.
Anti narcotics police officers leave a coca field after burning a laboratory to make cocaine in San Miguel, on Colombia's southern border with Ecuador

Anti narcotics police raid a coca field in Colombia on the border with Ecuador

He said they are "allegedly responsible for the transport of approximately one and a half tons of cocaine." Colombia is the main producer of cocaine in the region, with 212,000 hectares (about 524,000 acres) dedicated to its production.

The Ecuadorian police will now transport the suspects and evidence to the United States, he reported.

"These results obtained will affect the coffers of organized criminals," added Gomez.
jc/rc (EFE)
 

Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB


Blaze destroys much of island off Honduras’ northern coast
By MARLON GONZÁLEZyesterday


TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (AP) — A blaze that ripped through a small, densely populated cay along a Honduran island destroyed about 40% of the area and left hundreds homeless the island’s mayor said Sunday.

Guanaja Mayor Spurgeon Miller told The Associated Press that 130 houses were completely destroyed and 10 more damaged on Bonacca Cay, just off the island. There were no reports of deaths, but at least six injuries. Miller said 800 people were homeless

National Emergency Commission chief Max Gonzales had said a day earlier that the fire destroyed 90 homes and damaged 136, though he said a more thorough survey would follow.
Video images on social media showed huge flames and a dense cloud of smoke rising from the Atlantic island of some 5,700 people, which is a tourist attraction as well as a fishing town.

Officials said they evacuated hundreds of people by sea as military aircraft dumped loads of water on the blaze from the air.

“If the helicopters hadn’t arrived, all of Guanaja was going to burn,” said Wanda Hurlston, a 54-year-old resident who lost her home.

She was sleeping with her seven grandchildren when they were warned to get out because flames were rapidly approaching.

“When we got up the fire was advancing, I had to leave with nothing and I lost everything,” said Hurlston, who took refuge in her mother’s house with three of the grandchildren, while the others went to stay with their mothers.

President Juan Orlando Hernández said the government was sending aid to the island, which is east of the larger island of Roatan off Honduras’ northern coast.

Authorities said Sunday they were trying to determine the cause of the fire,. which raced through housing made of wood and corrugated roofing.



 

Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB

Venezuela to reopen border with Colombia
Both Venezuela and Colombia have given positive indications that land borders could reopen between the South American neighbors within hours.



Colombian soldiers pictured at a border control point with Venezuela
Venezuela and Colombia appear to be willing to reopen border areas soon

Venezuela is to reopen its border with Colombia, Venezuelan Vice President Delcy Rodriguez said in a state television address on Monday.

Rodriguez said in the speech that border trade would resume on Tuesday.

At the same time, Colombia's President Ivan Duque said in a statement his country was willing to begin "an orderly process" in order to open up.

News agency AFP reported seeing the removal of two containers that had been used as a barricade between the Venezuelan town of San Anton de Tachira and Cucuta in Colombia.


Watch video02:40
Illegal trails connecting Venezuela and Colombia
Why was the border closed?

Caracas initially closed the border in February 2019 as the Venezuelan opposition, backed by both Colombia and the United States, attempted to bring humanitarian aid into the country via its land border. But President Maduro rejected the aid, fearing it was the beginning of a US invasion. With the borders shut, and shops running short of essentials, Venezuelans were forced to resort to desperate measures simply to survive.

Colombia's President Duque said on Monday that Maduro had to decided to reopen Venezuela's border with Colombia after "democratic resistance."

Waves of people left Venezuela, and have sought sanctuary in neighboring states.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says more than 5 million people have fled the country because of political insecurity, violence, lack of food and medicine and basic services.
kb/jsi (AFP, EFE, Reuters)
 

Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB


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Chile reports breaking up ring that smuggled Haiti migrants
October 4, 2021


SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) — Chilean police said Monday they have detained an international group of migrant traffickers who have sent more than 1,000 migrants out of the South American nation, including lone children heading to the United States.

The group also is accused of slipping people illegally into Chile. The Investigative Police said that while making the arrests in northern Chile, they encountered 57 Colombian and Venezuelan migrants who had just arrived from Peru.

Police said the ring was led by a Haitian man and also included people from Peru, Paraguay, Venezuela and Chile.

The head of the metropolitan police brigade on human trafficking, Giordano Lanzarini, said officials last year detected that children less than 5 years old — offspring of Haitians who are Chilean citizens because born here — were being detected by immigration officials in other nations while heading toward the U.S.

He said the group so far this year had moved more than 1,000 Haitians, including some children travelling alone, setting out on the dangerous land trip across the continents to the U.S.
Thousands of Haitians came to Chile following a devastating 2010 earthquake in their homeland, and many found permanent jobs. But an economic downturn in 2019 followed by the pandemic and a growing sense of social rejection has led many to opt instead for the long trek toward the United States.

But that migration has created crises at chokepoints in several countries along the way as well as at the U.S. border itself, where thousands gathered at a bridge in Del Rio, Texas.

That prompted the U.S. to fly some back to Haiti and allow others to wait in the U.S. pending hearings, while many others went back to Mexico, which has been trying to keep most such migrants stalled near its own southern border while slow asylum or residence appeals play out.
 

Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB

Brazil: Police uncover Nazi trove during child rape investigation
Nazi memorabilia and weapons valued at around €3 million have been found by police in Rio de Janeiro. The hoard was found during an investigation into a suspected raping of a minor.



Nazi uniforms pictured at the home of an alleged pedophile in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Nazi uniforms pictured at the home of an alleged pedophile in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Police in Rio de Janeiro said on Wednesday that they had uncovered a trove of Nazi uniforms and memorabilia, along with weapons, thought to be worth around €3 million ($3.4 million).
More than a thousand items were found in total, according to media reports, including Nazi police uniforms, newspapers, paintings, insignia, flags, medals relating to the Third Reich and images of Adolf Hitler.

Officers had been investigating a case of child rape and found the items at the 58-year-old suspect's home.

Arrest on suspicion of pedophilia leads to Nazi haul
Rio's civil police had initially gone to the suspect's residence to serve an arrest warrant over allegations he had raped a minor and had been abusing children who lived in his apartment complex.

It was then that police said they discovered the hoarded items.


Watch video00:56
Steinmeier: Babyn Yar massacre 'a meticulously planned crime'
Luis Armond, who is the lead detective, told the news agency Reuters: "He is a smart guy and articulate, but he's a Holocaust denier, he's homophobic, he's a pedophile and he says he hunts homosexuals."

"I'm no doctor," Armond continued. "But he seems to me an insane psychopath."
Its understood that investigations will now be expanded, with a focus on possible links to far-right groups.
Reuters contributed to this article.
 

Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB

Peru president names new prime minister amid political turmoil
Peru's controversial Prime Minister Guido Bellido, and his cabinet, stepped down only two months after taking office. President Castillo quickly swore in a new cabinet. Bellido said he resigned at Castillo's "request."



Peru's President Pedro Castillo (C) attends a ceremony for Armed Forces Day alongside Supreme Court President Elvia Barrios Alvarado (L) and Defense Minister Walter Ayala Gonzales, in Lima
President Pedro Castillo announced the resignation of his prime minister in a televised address

Peruvian President Pedro Castillo on Wednesday named environmentalist and human rights activist Mirtha Vasquez as his new prime minister, replacing her controversial predecessor Guido Bellido who resigned hours earlier.

Bellido's resignation as prime minister, which he said was at President Castillo's "request," also dissolved the entire cabinet, as per Peruvian law.

"Today I inform the country that we have accepted the resignation of Prime Minister Guido Bellido Ugarte, whom we thank for his services rendered," Castillo said in a televised message. Bellido had been in office since July.

Who is the new Prime Minister?
Vasquez was tipped by Castillo as prime minister just hours after Bellido's resignation. The appointment of Vasquez, 46, is being seen as a concession to the moderate wing of the informal leftist coalition backing the administration.

Unlike Castillo or Bellido, Vasquez is not a member of the Marxist-Leninist Free Peru party.

She belongs to the left-wing Broad Front, which has made environmental issues a policy focus.

A lawyer by training, she defended Maxima Acuna, a peasant farmer, in a prominent case against Newmont Mining Corp's Yanacocha gold mine that drew headlines around the world.


Watch video02:15
Former teacher Pedro Castillo sworn as Peru's president
Why was Guido Bellido sacked?

While the president did not give a reason for removing Bellido, who was seen as far-left compared to the more pragmatic Castillo, it comes as the leftist administration grapples with political instability.

The appointment of Bellido, an electronic engineer, and a political novice, was controversial from the very beginning.

He was little-known before taking the role, but according to local media, he was investigated for an alleged "apology for terrorism" over remarks he made shortly after taking up his seat in parliament in June.

Bellido also came out in defense of his labor minister who had been questioned by Congress in a formal hearing for allegedly having been a part of a Maoist insurgency in his youth.
Maria del Carmen Alva, president of Congress, and a member of right-wing Accion Popular welcomed the president's decision to replace Bellido.
 Peru's President Pedro Castillo, right, takes the oath of office of his Prime Minister Guido Bellido, during a symbolic swearing-in ceremony at the site of the 1824 Battle of Ayacucho
Pedro Castillo had appointed Guido Bellido as prime minister in July
adi/wmr (AFP, Reuters)
 

Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB


Another armed Indigenous vigilante group appears in Mexico
yesterday


TUXTLA GUTIERREZ, Mexico (AP) — Another armed Indigenous vigilante group has appeared in the southern Mexico state of Chiapas.

In a video posted on social media Thursday, a group of about 30 masked men are seen holding mainly hunting rifles and shotguns in the woods. The group said it is made up of members of the Tzeltal and Tojolabal communities from the rural township of Altamirano.
The group’s spokesman said he would not reveal the name of the self-styled “self defense” group, “out of respect” for the rebels of the Zapatista movement who hold territory near by.

The masked spokesman read a statement condemning the rich, politicians, thieves and “the exploitation of our resources.”

In July, a couple of hundred armed men descended on another Chiapas mountain township, Pantelho, and burned vehicles and at least a dozen homes, vandalized the town hall and abducted 21 people, causing hundreds of residents to flee.

That vigilante group, called “El Machete,” formed armed brigades, pledging to fight the incursion of drug cartels in the largely Indigenous mountain communities of Chiapas.
Those vigilantes, who appear to include members of the Tzotzil group, also called themselves a “self-defense force,” a phenomenon seen for years in some western Mexican states.

After El Machete announced its presence earlier this month, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said he would not accept the presence of the so-called self-defense forces, which have often themselves been allied with criminal gangs.
 

Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB


Mexico finds 652 migrants in truck trailers near border
By ALFREDO PEÑAyesterday


CIUDAD VICTORIA, Mexico (AP) — Mexican authorities have discovered 652 Central American migrants in six trailers near the United States border.

The trucks stopped at a military checkpoint Thursday night on a highway between Ciudad Victoria and Monterrey in the northern state of Tamaulipas. The state public safety agency said Friday that four suspects were arrested.

Among the migrants were 564 Guatemalans, as well as migrants from Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Belize. More than half of those aboard the trucks were children, nearly 200 of them not accompanied by an adult.

Authorities said the trucks’ journey appeared to have started in the central state of Puebla and they were trying to reach Monterrey, a key transportation hub for reaching various points on the U.S.-Mexico border.

The trailers were padlocked, forcing authorities to move them to state police facilities to cut them open. The Red Cross said that 40 migrants were evaluated for dehydration and malnutrition.

Tamaulipas’ health department said Friday that nine of the migrants tested positive for COVID-19.

Tamaulipas is a popular route for migrant smuggling, being the closest border state for Central American migrants.
 

Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB


US legislators probing Puerto Rico power outages demand data
By DÁNICA COTOOctober 8, 2021


A wooden Puerto Rican flag is displayed on the dock of the Condado lagoon, where multiple selective blackouts have been recorded in the past days, in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Thursday, Sept. 30, 2021. Power outages across the island have surged in recent weeks, with some lasting up to several days. (AP Photo/Carlos Giusti)

A wooden Puerto Rican flag is displayed on the dock of the Condado lagoon, where multiple selective blackouts have been recorded in the past days, in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Thursday, Sept. 30, 2021. Power outages across the island have surged in recent weeks, with some lasting up to several days. (AP Photo/Carlos Giusti)

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — A U.S. House committee on Friday demanded that the company in charge of the transmission and distribution of power in Puerto Rico release key data amid widespread outages in the U.S. territory that have outraged and frustrated many.

The Committee on Natural Resources ordered Luma to submit by Oct. 22 information including the number of maintenance workers it employs, the estimated amount of time one generation unit will be inoperable and the compensation packages and titles of employees who earn more than $200,000 a year.

The letter comes two days after officials including Luma CEO Wayne Stensby testified at a hearing held by the committee to learn more about the ongoing outages in Puerto Rico.
“Many of your answers were incomplete. You refused to answer others,” stated the committee, which oversees U.S. territorial affairs.

Luma previously was sued by Puerto Rico’s House of Representatives for similar information, with the island’s Supreme Court ordering the company to turn over the data, although that hasn’t occurred. At the time, Stensby said the company is private and the information confidential.

Luma issued a statement on Friday saying its more than 3,100 employees are working hard despite “the numerous and very difficult challenges from those that oppose the transformation,” adding that much misinformation has been spread. However, the company did not address the questions and concerns raised by the committee.

The outages have forced schools and workplaces to close and sparked concern for those who depend on insulin or oxygen. The lack of power also has led to losses at thousands of businesses across the island, including a small store that Carmen Lydia de Jesús owns in the central mountain town of Ciales.

She estimates she has lost $6,000 as a result of not being able to open her business, noting that power surges also sparked a fire at her house and caused more than $4,000 in damage.
“It’s a miracle I wasn’t burned,” she said. “We can’t continue like this. This is abusive.”

Luma took the reins of Puerto Rico’s transmission and distribution on June 1 and has faced sharp criticism ever since. The U.S. House committee letter said that in some cases, conditions have worsened since Luma took over. Legislators demanded information including the number and length of outages, the causes behind every service disruption and the number of voltage fluctuations that caused property damage.

Current and former government officials have blamed the outages on the retirement of experienced employees and a lack of maintenance of generation units owned and managed by Puerto Rico’s Electric Power Authority. They also note the power grid remains fragile after Hurricane Maria struck the island in September 2017 as a Category 4 storm, and that reconstruction has yet to start.

On Friday, the power authority’s governing board approved a declaration of a state of emergency to speed up contracts and the purchases of costly equipment, although Gov. Pedro Pierluisi said he didn’t feel it was needed since the authority was already authorized to do that.
 

Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB


US envoy: US asking Mexico to let in DEA and other agents
October 9, 2021


MEXICO CITY (AP) — The new U.S. ambassador to Mexico, Ken Salazar, said Saturday the United States has asked the Mexican government to allow agents, including those from the Drug Enforcement Administration, to work in Mexico.

Last year, Mexico pulled foreign agents’ immunity from prosecution and imposed strict limits on their contacts with their Mexican counterparts. Analysts say that inevitably affects the DEA’s ability to do intelligence gathering on Mexican drug cartels.

Since some DEA personnel are already in Mexico, it appears the U.S. request is for more to be allowed in, or for those here to be allowed to work more freely.

The United States has been inundated by fentanyl that is largely produced in Mexico using precursor chemicals from China. Salazar said Mexico has committed to fighting drug cartels under the new bilateral Bicentennial Framework for Security announced Friday to replace the Merida Initiative.

“We are going to have cooperation from the Mexican government, that was what was agreed upon yesterday, to make sure that law enforcement resources that we have functioning here in conjunction with Mexican law enforcement authorities, have the ability to do so,” Salazar said in his first press conference since he arrived in Mexico City in September.

“So yes, that includes our request, and we’re working this with the government on having the opportunity to again bring agents including our DEA agents, but we’re doing in this in a way where we’re doing it in partnership with Mexico,” Salazar said.

Salazar also spoke about the need for a “regional response” to another major U.S. concern, the tens of thousands of migrants — many from Haiti — who are either in Mexico or heading there from South America.

Last month, thousands of Haitian migrants crossed the Rio Grande and set up an encampment under a bridge in Del Rio, Texas.

“It is a very significant issue for both countries, it is a very significant issue for the western hemisphere,” Salazar said. “Secretary (Antony) Blinken is very committed to working on developing a regional solution, and it has to be one that is led both by the United States and Mexico.”

That was an apparent reference to the fact that many Haitian immigrants already had asylum or refugee status in countries like Brazil or Chile, before setting out this summer for the United States.

Mexico, for its part, has begun flying some Haitians home on repatriation flights to Port-au-Prince.

Salazar called the new Bicentennial Framework “a milestone,” and said it marked “a new era of partnership.”

The Merida Initiative, in its early years, focused largely on U.S. donations of law enforcement equipment, including aircraft. The Bicentennial agreement is expected to focus more on economic development.

The name is a reference to the 200th anniversary of Mexico’s independence and relations with the United States.
 

Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB

Mexican Cartel Seen Firing Machine Guns Into US, Above National Guard Recon Post
Tyler Durden's Photo

BY TYLER DURDEN
MONDAY, OCT 11, 2021 - 04:40 PM
President Biden's inconsistent border policies have transformed the Mexico–US border into a chaotic mess. An immigration crisis continues to fester, and Mexican cartel members are now firing machine guns across the border.

Fox News' Bill Melugin captured the gunfire on camera Thursday from Roma, Texas, and said Guardsmen stationed at an observation post on the border had bullets zipping over their heads. Guardsmen he was with were stunned by the rare gunfire into the US.

View: https://twitter.com/dawnstar1776/status/1446542980832129024?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1446542980832129024%7Ctwgr%5E%7Ctwcon%5Es1_c10&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.zerohedge.com%2Fgeopolitical%2Fmexican-cartels-seen-firing-machine-guns-us-above-national-guard-recon-post


Guardsmen told Melugin cartel members with "AK-47s" have taunted them while standing on the otherwise of the Rio Grande.

The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) said Wednesday there had been several instances of cartel members brandishing weapons this week. The gunmen were photographed wearing military tactical vests with assault rifles.
"As we work closely with the Texas Military Department, any potential threats toward law enforcement and the Texas Military Department will be fully investigated, and those responsible will be arrested and charged to the fullest extent of the law," the Texas DPS said in a statement.
Texas has been committed to securing the southern border while the Biden administration turns a blind eye to the crisis.
Governor Greg Abbot has continued increasing Guardsmen into the area to stabilize the situation as he warns of "increased caravans attempting to cross the border caused by Biden's open border policy."
View: https://twitter.com/GregAbbott_TX/status/1444430841342537728?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1444430841342537728%7Ctwgr%5E%7Ctwcon%5Es1_c10&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.zerohedge.com%2Fgeopolitical%2Fmexican-cartels-seen-firing-machine-guns-us-above-national-guard-recon-post


Meanwhile, the border crisis continues to drag down Biden's polling numbers nationwide as Republicans highlight the reversal of former President Trump's strict border policies that have resulted in today's mess. Republicans could gain an edge in the midterms next year, possibly "retaking the House majority," said Susan Crabtree via RealClearPolitics, due to Biden's inability to arrest migrant US inflows.
 

Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB


Number of children crossing Darien Gap hits record high
By ASTRID SUAREZyesterday


FILE - This Sept. 15, 2021 file photo shows a young migrant being carried north near Acandi, Colombia. The number of minors who risked their lives to cross the Darien Gap, the inhospitable stretch of land that separates Colombia and Panama, reached a record high of 19,000 between January and September, UNICEF revealed Monday, Oct. 11, 2021, saying that the rapid increase should be addressed as a serious regional humanitarian crisis. (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara, File)

FILE - This Sept. 15, 2021 file photo shows a young migrant being carried north near Acandi, Colombia. The number of minors who risked their lives to cross the Darien Gap, the inhospitable stretch of land that separates Colombia and Panama, reached a record high of 19,000 between January and September, UNICEF revealed Monday, Oct. 11, 2021, saying that the rapid increase should be addressed as a serious regional humanitarian crisis. (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara, File)

BUCARAMANGA, Colombia (AP) — The number of minors who risked their lives to cross the Darien Gap, the inhospitable stretch of land that separates Colombia and Panama, reached a record high between January and September, UNICEF revealed Monday.

The U.N. children’s agency said 19,000 minors faced the rigors of the jungle during that period. At least one in five of the migrants who walked the area, which is filled with wild animals and dotted with criminals, are children, of which half were under the age of 5.

“The rapid growth in the influx of children heading north from South America should be urgently treated as a serious humanitarian crisis throughout the region, beyond Panama,” Jean Gough, UNICEF director for Latin America and the Caribbean, said in a statement.

The number of migrant children in the Darien over the nine-month period almost tripled the total number of the last five years. The agency said 109 children were recorded crossing the area in 2017, and two years later, the figure increased to 3,956. In 2020, it dropped to 1,653 due to restrictions derived from the pandemic, which slowed the migratory flow.

Five children have been found dead in 2021, while another 150, including some newborns, arrived in Panama without their parents, according UNICEF.

The agency also warned that girls and adolescents are especially vulnerable to sexual violence in the Darien jungle. Twenty-nine complaints of sexual abuse were filed between January and September.

“Deep in the jungle, robbery, rape and human trafficking are as dangerous as wild animals, insects and a lack of clean water,” Gough said.

Meanwhile, some 20,000 other migrants — many of them in families — are still waiting their turn to cross the Darien, paused in Necoclí, a small coastal town in Colombia. Some of them stay in hotels while others spend nights under tents on the beach.

The economic crises in Latin America and pandemic-related restrictions led more than 67,100 people, the majority of them Haitians, to cross the Darien between January and August, according to the National Migration Service of Panama.

Most of the Haitian migrants come from Chile and Brazil, where they took refuge after the earthquake that devastated their home country in 2010, and many of the children who undertake the dangerous journey were born in those South American countries.

Now, they are trying to reach the U.S. despite the deportation of thousands of migrants in recent weeks.

Children crossing the Darien usually arrive in Panama with gastrointestinal illnesses due to untreated water or with respiratory ailments after spending days in the humid the jungle, sleeping in the open and crossing rivers. On the Panamanian side, organizations such as UNICEF provide health services and support.
 

Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB



Chile president decrees state of emergency in nation’s south
today


Chilean President Sebastian Piñera announces a state of emergency in the southern La Araucanía and Biobío regions, from La Moneda presidential palace in Santiago, Chile, Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2021. The state of emergency is a response to violence and attacks that are sometimes claimed by groups of Mapuche Indigenous people demanding the return of their ancestral lands. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)
1 of 4
Chilean President Sebastian Piñera announces a state of emergency in the southern La Araucanía and Biobío regions, from La Moneda presidential palace in Santiago, Chile, Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2021. The state of emergency is a response to violence and attacks that are sometimes claimed by groups of Mapuche Indigenous people demanding the return of their ancestral lands. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)

SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) — President Sebastián Piñera declared a state of emergency Tuesday in 72 communities in two regions of southern Chile amid disturbances and attacks sometimes claimed by Indigenous Mapuche groups demanding the return of their ancestral lands.

The decree limits freedom of assembly and movement and also allows the military to support police. Such an order by the president can run for a maximum of 15 days, renewable for 15 more days with the agreement of Congress.

The measure affects 40 communities in the Biobío region and 32 in La Araucanía. In the latter region, violence and conflicts have dragged on for decades, including attacks on forestry machinery and trucks. In Biobío, which neighbors La Araucanía, arsonists burned two churches, one Roman Catholic, one Evangelical.

Piñera said the state of emergency is “to be able to protect the population, to safeguard public order and the rule of law.”

After learning of the measure, truckers began to gradually lift road blockades they had set up in both regions to demand greater safety on their routes.

La Araucanía has spent years under the custody of militarized police, who have been criticized for the 2018 shooting of a young Mapuche. A year earlier, a police intelligence unit fabricated evidence against eight Mapuches who were jailed for allegedly organizing attacks in the area.

Some 12% of Chile’s 19 million people are Mapuches descended from the country’s original people. Half of them live in poor rural communities.

The Spanish never managed to conquer the Mapuches, who were finally dominated by Chilean forces in the 18th century when they were pushed south and colonizers took over their lands.
 

Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB


Chile opposition takes steps to impeach Pinera over Pandora Papers leaks
Issued on: 14/10/2021 - 04:46
Demonstrators in Santiago hold a banner depicting Chilean President Sebastian Pinera with the words, ''The biggest thief in the history of Chile''.

Demonstrators in Santiago hold a banner depicting Chilean President Sebastian Pinera with the words, ''The biggest thief in the history of Chile''. © Ivan Alvarado, Reuters
Text by:NEWS WIRES
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Chile's opposition on Wednesday moved to impeach the country's president, Sebastian Pinera, for the controversial sale of a mining company through a firm owned by his children, which appeared in the Pandora Papers leaks.

Pinera used "his office for personal business," said congressman Tomas Hirsch when presenting the accusation in the lower house of Congress, the first step in the impeachment process that could last for several weeks.

The move comes after the Chilean public prosecutor's office opened an investigation on October 8 into the claims surrounding the sale in 2010, during Pinera's first term in office, of the Dominga mining company.

That investigation was prompted by the Pandora Papers leaks, a vast trove of reports on the hidden wealth of world leaders researched by the International Consortium of Journalists (ICIJ).

One of the richest men in Chile, Pinera has denied the claims and said that he was absolved of the charges in a 2017 investigation.

When the new investigation was opened last week, Pinera said he had "full confidence that the courts, as they have already done, will confirm there were no irregularities and also my total innocence."

Now Chile's Chamber of Deputies, controlled by the opposition, will have to decide whether to approve or reject the indictment, a vote that will take place the first week of November, congressional sources explained to AFP.

If it receives the green light, the case would pass to the Senate, which would have to act as a jury to seal Pinera's fate.

It is the second impeachment case brought against Pinera after an unsuccessful attempt to remove him from office in 2019 over the at-times brutal crackdown of anti-inequality protesters.

The decision is expected to be made before Chileans head to the polls on November 21 to elect Pinera's successor and a new congress.

His second term, which began in March 2018, ends March 11, 2022.

The government accused the opposition of bringing "an accusation without legal basis" for political gain.

"It is the dirtiest (trick) of the electoral campaign," said Jaime Bellolio, the government's communications minister.

'Bribery and tax crimes'
The Pandora Papers linked Pinera to the sale of Dominga through a company owned by his children, to businessman Carlos Delano -- a close friend of the president -- for $152 million.
The papers said a large part of the operation was carried out in the British Virgin Islands.
In addition, it said a controversial clause was included that made the last payment of the business conditional on "not establishing an area of environmental protection in the area of operations of the mining company, as demanded by environmental groups."

That decision falls within the remit of the Chilean president.

According to the investigation, the Pinera government at the time decided not to protect the area around the mine.

Chile's public prosecutor said last week the investigation was opened following the Pandora Papers leaks because of the possibility that the deal involved "bribery, eventual tax crimes."
If found guilty, billionaire Pinera could be jailed for up to five years.

Despite Pinera's insistence he has been cleared of wrongdoing, the public prosecutor claimed last week that the Dominga mine was not actually "expressly included" in the case that was shelved in 2017.

Pinera insists that he knew nothing of the deal, because during his first presidency from 2010-14, he said he put the administration of his assets in blind trusts.

"As president of Chile I have never, never carried out any action nor management related to Dominga Mining," Pinera said last week.

Dominga owns two open-air mines in the Atacama desert, 500 kilometers (310 miles) north of Santiago, that are yet to be exploited.
A mining project to do so was approved by a regional court but has yet to be ratified in the Supreme Court due to appeals.

The project included the construction of a cargo port close to an archipelago that is home to a national park reserve where protected species live, including 80 percent of the world's population of Humboldt penguins.
(AFP)
 

Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB



Peru president challenged by his own party over Cabinet
By FRANKLIN BRICEÑOyesterday


FILE - In this Sept. 21, 2021 file photo, Peruvian President Pedro Castillo Terrones arrives in the General Assembly hall to address the 76th Session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters. Castillo's Peru Libre party announced on Oct. 14, 2021 it will not support Castillo's new cabinet. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, Pool, File)

FILE - In this Sept. 21, 2021 file photo, Peruvian President Pedro Castillo Terrones arrives in the General Assembly hall to address the 76th Session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters. Castillo's Peru Libre party announced on Oct. 14, 2021 it will not support Castillo's new cabinet. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, Pool, File)

LIMA, Peru (AP) — The leader of the Marxist party that carried Pedro Castillo to Peru’s presidency said Thursday it won’t support his newly named Cabinet, creating a political strain on a government with less than 100 days in office.

The leader of the Free Peru party, Vladimir Cerrón, said on his Twitter account that the party´s deputies won’t give a vote of confidence to the new 19-member team of ministers headed by Mirtha Vásquez, an environmentalist and attorney.

That means Castillo will have to depend on other parties to get the 66 votes needed in Peru’s 130-seat Congress. Free Peru has 37 seats.

Cerrón is closely allied with the man Castillo removed as prime minister last week, Guido Bellido, who was widely seen as an ideological hardliner. The president said at the time he acted for reasons of “governability,” but did not elaborate.

Following the ouster of Bellido — and Castillo’s announcement the Central Bank president would remain — the value of Peru’s currency rose.


Cerrón complained that the government was taking “an unconcealable turn ... to the center-right” and asserted in a separate tweet that the new Cabinet has been “captured” by U.S. non-governmental organizations, though he didn’t elaborate.

Vásquez represented small farmers in battles with multinational mining companies and had backing from some international environmental groups. She was elected to Congress last year, a chaotic period in which Peru went through three presidents, and she served as head of Congress from November until July, when Castillo began his five-year term.

Cerrón said that the party hasn’t joined opposition to Castillo. But he added, “Free Peru continues at the side of the people and it is against the U.S. NGOs that have captured the Cabinet.”
 

Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB


Puerto Rico ponders race amid surprising census results
By DÁNICA COTOyesterday


FILE - In this Sept. 30, 2021 file photo, a wooden Puerto Rican flag is displayed on the dock of the Condado lagoon in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The number of people in Puerto Rico who identified as “white” in the 2020 Census plummeted almost 80%, sparking a conversation about identity on an island breaking away from a past where race was not tracked and seldom debated in public. (AP Photo/Carlos Giusti, File)

FILE - In this Sept. 30, 2021 file photo, a wooden Puerto Rican flag is displayed on the dock of the Condado lagoon in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The number of people in Puerto Rico who identified as “white” in the 2020 Census plummeted almost 80%, sparking a conversation about identity on an island breaking away from a past where race was not tracked and seldom debated in public. (AP Photo/Carlos Giusti, File)

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — The number of people in Puerto Rico who identified as “white” in the most recent census plummeted almost 80%, sparking a conversation about identity on an island breaking away from a past where race was not tracked and seldom debated in public.

The drastic drop surprised many, and theories abound as the U.S. territory’s 3.3 million people begin to reckon with racial identity.

“Puerto Ricans themselves are understanding their whiteness comes with an asterisk,” said Yarimar Bonilla, a political anthropologist and director of the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College in New York. “They know they’re not white by U.S. standards, but they’re not Black by Puerto Rico standards.”

Nearly 50% of those represented in the 2020 census — 1.6 million of 3.29 million — identified with “two races or more,” a jump from 3% — or some 122,200 of 3.72 million — who chose that option in the 2010 census. Most of them selected “white and some other race.”


Meanwhile, more than 838,000 people identified as “some other race alone,” a nearly 190% jump compared with some 289,900 people a decade ago, although Bonilla said Census Bureau officials have yet to release what races they chose. Experts believe people likely wrote “Puerto Rican,” “Hispanic” or “Latino,” even though federal policy defines those categories as ethnicity, not race.

Among those who changed their response to race was 45-year-old Tamara Texidor, who selected “other” in 2010 and this time opted to identify herself as “Afrodescendent.” She said she made the decision after talking to her brother, who was a census worker and told her how people he encountered when he went house to house often had trouble with the question about race.

Texidor began reflecting about her ancestry and wanted to honor it since she descended from slaves on her father’s side.

“I’m not going to select ‘other,’” she recalled thinking when filling out the census. “I feel I am something.”

Experts are still debating what sparked the significant changes in the 2020 census. Some believe several factors are at play, including tweaks in wording and a change in how the Census Bureau processes and codes responses.

Bonilla also thinks a growing awareness of racial identity in Puerto Rico played a part, saying that “extra intense racialization” in the past decade might have contributed. She and other anthropologists argue that change stemmed from anger over what many consider a botched federal response to a U.S. territory struggling to recover from Hurricane Maria and a crippling economic crisis.

“They’ve finally understood that they’re treated like second-class citizens,” Bárbara Abadía-Rexach, a sociocultural anthropologist, said of Puerto Ricans.

Another critical change in the 2020 census was that only a little over 228,700 identified solely as Black or African American, a nearly 50% drop compared with more than 461,000 who did so a decade ago. The decline occurred even as grass-roots organizations in Puerto Rico launched campaigns to urge people to embrace their African heritage and raised awareness about racial disparities, although they said they were encouraged by the increase in the “two or more races” category.

Bonilla noted Puerto Rico currently has no reliable data to determine whether such disparities have occurred during the pandemic, noting that there is no racial data on coronavirus testing, hospitalizations or fatalities.

The island’s government also does not collect racial data on populations, including those who are homeless or incarcerated, Abadía-Rexach added.

“The denial of the existence of racism renders invisible, criminalizes and dehumanizes many Black people in Puerto Rico,” she said.

The lack of such data could be rooted in Puerto Rico’s history. From 1960 to 2000, the island conducted its own census and never asked about race.

“We were supposed to be all mixed and all equal, and race was supposed to be an American thing,” Bonilla said.

Some argued at the time that Puerto Rico should be tracking racial data while others viewed it as a divisive move that would impose or harden racial differences, a view largely embraced in France, which does not collect official data on race or ethnicity.

For Isar Godreau, an anthropologist and professor at the University of Puerto Rico, that type of data is crucial.

“Skin color is an important marker that makes people vulnerable to more or less racial discrimination,” she said.

The data helps people fight for racial justice and determines the allocation of resources, Godreau said.

The major shift in the 2020 census — especially how only 560,592 people identified as white versus more than 2.8 million in 2010 — comes amid a growing interest in racial identity in Puerto Rico, where even recent surveys about race prompted responses ranging from “members of the human race” to “normal” to “I get along with everyone.” Informally, people on the island use a wide range of words to describe someone’s skin color, including “coffee with milk.”

That interest is fueled largely by a younger generation: They have signed up for classes of bomba and plena — centuries-old, percussion-powered musical traditions — as well as workshops on how to make or wear headwraps.

More hair salons are specializing in curly hair, eschewing the blow-dried results that long dominated professional settings in the island. Some legislators have submitted a bill that cites the results of the 2020 census and that if approved would make it illegal to discriminate against someone based on their hair style. Several U.S. states already have similar laws.

As debate continues on what sparked so many changes in the 2020 census, Bonilla said an important question is what the 2030 census results will look like. “Will we see an intensification of this pattern, or will 2020 have been kind of a blip moment?”
 

Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB


Cyberattack disrupts services at Ecuador’s largest bank
yesterday


QUITO, Ecuador (AP) — Customers of Ecuador’s largest bank continued to experience service disruptions on Friday following a cyberattack on the institution several days earlier.

Long lines formed outside Pichincha bank branches and thousands of customers took their complaints to social media. People reported being unable to access services offered by the bank(s online and mobile app. ATMs worked somewhat regularly and branches remained open.
The bank in a statement Monday acknowledged that it had “identified a cybersecurity incident in our systems that has partially disabled our services.”

Its largest shareholder, Fidel Egas, tweeted that “We are doing the impossible. They want to blame us for something in which we are the victims.”

The government’s Superintendency of Banks sent a delegation to the bank’s headquarters to monitor the problems and solutions.

That bank has about 1.5 million clients and some $1.5 billion in its portfolio.
 

Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB

Haiti: 15 US missionaries and family kidnapped
The missionaries had been heading home from building an orphanage when they were pulled off a bus by a gang, according to media reports. Haiti has already witnessed more than 300 kidnappings this year.



A bird's eye view of downtown Port-au-Prince, Haiti
More than 320 kidnappings were reported in Haiti in the first eight months of the year

At least 15 American missionaries and family members have been kidnapped by a gang outside the Haitian capital, security sources said Sunday.

The group of between 15 and 17 people, including children, was being held by an armed gang, one source told the Agence France-Presse news agency.

For months, the gang has been engaged in theft and kidnappings in the area between Port-au-Prince and the border with the Dominican Republic.

The New York Times cited Haitian security officials as saying the group was pulled off a bus heading to the airport to drop off some members of the group before continuing to another destination in Haiti.

Church name not revealed
Initial reports did not give details on the missionaries or their church.
"This is a special prayer alert,'' said a voice message sent to other religious missions by an organization with direct knowledge of the incident.

"Pray that the gang members would come to repentance," the message from Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries continued.

The message stated that the mission's field director is working with the US Embassy, and that the field director's family and one other unidentified man had stayed at the ministry's base while everyone else visiting the orphanage was abducted.

Watch video03:26
Haitian migrants expelled from US border
Jennifer Viau, a spokeswoman for the US State Department in Washington, told Reuters by email that "we're looking into this."

The US Embassy in Haiti has not issued any statement regarding the incident.

Kidnappings spike amid Haiti lawlessness
A surge in gang violence has displaced thousands and hampered everyday life in the Americas' poorest country.

Violence spiraled after the assassination of President Jovenel Moise in July and an earthquake in August that killed over 2,000 people.

Armed gangs, which for years have controlled the poorest districts of the Haitian capital, have extended their hold to other parts of the city, sowing terror with kidnappings.

Gangs have demanded ransoms ranging from a few hundred dollars to more than $1 million (about €860,000), according to authorities.

Last month, a deacon was killed in front of a church and his wife was kidnapped.

At least 328 kidnappings were reported to police in the first eight months of 2021, compared with a total of 234 for all of 2020, according to the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti.
The latest abductions come just days after high-level US officials visited Haiti and promised more resources for the country's National Police, including another $15 million (€13 million) to help reduce gang violence.
mm/sri (AFP, AP, Reuters)
 

Housecarl

On TB every waking moment

Haiti: 15 US missionaries and family kidnapped
The missionaries had been heading home from building an orphanage when they were pulled off a bus by a gang, according to media reports. Haiti has already witnessed more than 300 kidnappings this year.



A bird's eye view of downtown Port-au-Prince, Haiti's eye view of downtown Port-au-Prince, Haiti
More than 320 kidnappings were reported in Haiti in the first eight months of the year

At least 15 American missionaries and family members have been kidnapped by a gang outside the Haitian capital, security sources said Sunday.

The group of between 15 and 17 people, including children, was being held by an armed gang, one source told the Agence France-Presse news agency.

For months, the gang has been engaged in theft and kidnappings in the area between Port-au-Prince and the border with the Dominican Republic.

The New York Times cited Haitian security officials as saying the group was pulled off a bus heading to the airport to drop off some members of the group before continuing to another destination in Haiti.

Church name not revealed
Initial reports did not give details on the missionaries or their church.
"This is a special prayer alert,'' said a voice message sent to other religious missions by an organization with direct knowledge of the incident.

"Pray that the gang members would come to repentance," the message from Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries continued.

The message stated that the mission's field director is working with the US Embassy, and that the field director's family and one other unidentified man had stayed at the ministry's base while everyone else visiting the orphanage was abducted.

Watch video03:26
Haitian migrants expelled from US border
Jennifer Viau, a spokeswoman for the US State Department in Washington, told Reuters by email that "we're looking into this."

The US Embassy in Haiti has not issued any statement regarding the incident.

Kidnappings spike amid Haiti lawlessness
A surge in gang violence has displaced thousands and hampered everyday life in the Americas' poorest country.

Violence spiraled after the assassination of President Jovenel Moise in July and an earthquake in August that killed over 2,000 people.

Armed gangs, which for years have controlled the poorest districts of the Haitian capital, have extended their hold to other parts of the city, sowing terror with kidnappings.

Gangs have demanded ransoms ranging from a few hundred dollars to more than $1 million (about €860,000), according to authorities.

Last month, a deacon was killed in front of a church and his wife was kidnapped.

At least 328 kidnappings were reported to police in the first eight months of 2021, compared with a total of 234 for all of 2020, according to the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti.
The latest abductions come just days after high-level US officials visited Haiti and promised more resources for the country's National Police, including another $15 million (€13 million) to help reduce gang violence.
mm/sri (AFP, AP, Reuters)
Someone's going to get a "late night visit".....
 

Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB

El Salvador: Thousands march against President Nayib Bukele
Demonstrators in the capital San Salvador rallied against what they say is increasing authoritarianism. President Nayib Bukele has stacked the highest court in his favor and made bitcoin legal tender.



People march during a protest against President Nayib Bukele in San Salvador
While grievances against Salvadoran president Nayib Bukele were varied, the united message was one against authoritarianism

Thousands of protesters took to the streets in El Salvador's capital San Salvador Sunday to demonstrate against President Nayib Bukele's government.

While Bukele was very much the focus of the protests, grievances of those gathered ranged from his effort to supplant the Supreme Court justices with judges more to his liking and the move to make bitcoin legal tender in El Salvador.


Watch video02:07
Bitcoin is now legal tender in El Salvador
Feminist groups, human rights organizations, environmentalists, and opposition political parties were among those who gathered in the capital carrying signs that read, "Bitcoin is fraud," and, "Democracy is not up for negotiation, it is defended," along with numerous anti-authoritarian messages.

They also burned an effigy of Bukele near the main square in San Salvador.

El Salvador has used the US dollar as legal currency for two decades, but recently it became the first country in the world to make bitcoin a national currency.

Bukele's government has said bitcoin could help revitalize El Salvador's struggling economy and may help the country retain fees that are lost when remittances are sent back to the country.


Watch video01:29
Cryptocurrencies help Venezuelan remittances retain value
Remittances from Salvadorans abroad account for more than $400 million (€345 million) or 22% of El Salvador's GDP.

'Emperor' Bukele's concentration of power criticized
Last month, amid increasing concerns over Bukele's efforts to consolidate power, he proclaimed himself "emperor" in his Twitter bio. On the social media site, he criticized Sunday's protests as a failure.

For the first time, Congress is dominated by lawmakers belonging to Bukele's New Ideas party. In May, they voted in favor of firing judges on the Supreme Court's constitutional panel and the attorney general. Their replacements were perceived as friendly to Bukele.

The Supreme Court then ruled that Bukele could seek a second conservative term. The maneuvers led to strong criticism from the US and other international rights groups.

What do the protesters say about Bukele?
Ricardo Navarro, head of the environmental NGO Salvadoran Center for Appropriate Technology, told the AFP news agency that Bukele "is already taking us down a cliff with his bad ideas that are already affecting the economy with this bitcoin."

Rosa Granados, a labor union member, told Reuters news agency, "If he raises his hand, all the deputies approve it and there is no law and no legal process that is respected."
ar/fb (AFP, Reuters)
 

jward

passin' thru
Manuel Bojorquez
@BojorquezCBS


NEW: A senior law enforcement official tells @CBSNews FBI tactical teams are in Port-au-Prince to assist with the hostage taking situation, per @AndyTriay

1:06 PM · Oct 18, 2021·Twitter Web App

Someone's going to get a "late night visit".....
 

Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB

Haiti: General strike comes after mass kidnapping of 17 missionaries
The streets of Port-au-Prince were eerily quiet Monday due to a general strike called over the security situation. The general strike comes days after 17 US and Canadian missionaries were abducted.



 Burning tires block a road, set by protesters in Port-au-Prince
Workers angry about the nation's lack of security went on strike in protest two days after 17 members of a US-based missionary group were abducted by a violent gang

Port-au-Prince ground to a halt Monday as a general strike called over the deteriorating security situation in the country left usually chaotic streets empty. The strike came just days after 17 US and Canadian missionaries were abducted after visiting an orphanage.

Thousands of workers took part in the strike led by local unions and other civil society groups. Drivers of private moto taxis and public buses stayed home while businesses, schools and government offices were shuttered.

Some streets saw tire pyres alight in Port-au-Prince and in southern Haiti, the AP news agency reported some threw rocks at the few cars there were on the street.

Missionaries abduction highlights precarious security situation
US officials, including the FBI, are working with the Haitian government to free the 17 missionaries from the US and Canada kidnapped over the weekend. Their mass abduction, which includes five children, highlights the peril confronting Haitians in their own country.
Changeux Mehu, president of Haiti's Association of Owners and Drivers who supported the general strike told AFP, "The kidnapping of the Americans shows that no one is safe in the country."

The abduction of the missionaries is the largest mass kidnapping of its kind in recent years in Haiti. Gangs in Haiti have grown more brazen amid political instability, a severe and growing economic crisis and a crime wave forcing many to leave the country by any means necessary and try their luck abroad.

Watch video02:41
US steps up security at Mexico-Texas border crossing
Kidnapping gangs in Haiti have been known to demand ransoms that can range from hundreds of dollars to more than one million. Sometimes they have murdered those they abducted if ransom efforts are unsuccessful.

Haitian police have blamed Saturday's abductions on the 400 Mawozo gang with its history of killings, kidnappings and extortion. Almost a year ago, a wanted poster was issued for Wilson Joseph, the alleged gang leader who is wanted on charges that include murder, attempted murder, kidnapping, auto theft and carjacking trucks carrying goods.

Joseph uses the nickname "Lanmo Sanjou," which means "death doesn't know which day it's coming."

According to the Center for Analysis and Research in Human Rights, there have been over 600 kidnappings in the first nine months of this year compared to 231 for the same period last year.

Haiti hits bottom
Long the poorest country in the Western hemisphere, the recent chaos has been extraordinary even by the standards of life in a difficult country like Haiti.

On July 7, President Jovenal Moise was fatally shot. The following month, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake leveled much of the country and killed more than 2,200 people.

Germain Joce Salvador, a young man in his twenties told AFP, "It's as if we weren't living anymore," adding, "You can't go on everyday hearing that it's a loved one, a friend or someone else who is kidnapped."

Diego Toussaint, 37, an entrepreneur who sells solar panels in the capital, told Reuters the country had finally hit bottom.

"This strike is our way of saying that we can't take it anymore," he said. "We live in fear."

ar/sri (AFP, AP, Reuters)
 

Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB

Ecuador declares state of emergency over crime wave
The South American country is grappling with a surge in violent crime and deadly prison riots. The government has pointed to drug trafficking and consumption as the underlying problem.



Soldiers in riot gear arrive to reinforce authorities after street merchants protested the seizure of their merchandise by the municipal police of Quito, Ecuador
Violent deaths in Ecuador are already higher than in the whole of last year

Ecuador's President Guillermo Lasso announced a 60-day state of emergency on Monday amidst a rise in violent drug crime.

"Starting immediately, our Armed Forces and police will be felt with force in the streets because we are decreeing a state of emergency throughout the national territory," the president said on state broadcaster EcuadorTV.

The announcement came on the eve of a visit by US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken. The two will discuss questions of security, defense and trade.
Ecuador's President Guillermo Lasso
The center-right president has been in power since May of this year

What does the state of emergency entail?
With the new powers, the government will be able to mobilize 3,600 soldiers and police to patrol the country's 65 prisons, as well as increasing street presence.

Authorities will have the power to restrict freedom of movement, assembly and association for two months in a bid to curb the growing number of homicides, home burglaries and robberies.

Ecuador has already registered almost 1,900 murders this year — more than the 1,400 registered in the whole of 2020.

What problems is Ecuador facing?
Lasso pointed to the increasing role of Ecuador as a consumer of drugs rather than just a trafficking zone.

The rise in criminality "is not only reflected in the amount of drugs consumed in our country, but in the number of crimes that today have a direct or indirect relationship with the sale of narcotics,'' he said.

The Andean nation is also dealing with a spate of prison riots that have left almost 240 people dead this year. The violence is often down to conflicts between rival drug gangs.
An armed insurrection at a prison in the southwestern city of Guayaquil, in the coastal province of Guayas, led to one of the biggest prison massacres in Latin American history.

Members of groups linked to Mexican and Colombian cartels made a bid to take control of the prison — 119 people were killed in the fighting.

Lasso pointed out that over 70% of all violent deaths that occurred in the Guayas province were related to drug trafficking.

Watch video02:08
Guayaquil, Ecuador prison clash leaves up to 120 dead
ab/rt (AFP, EFE, AP)
 

Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB

Notorious Haitian Gang Demands $17 Million Ransom For Kidnapped Missionaries
Tyler Durden's Photo

BY TYLER DURDEN
TUESDAY, OCT 19, 2021 - 01:13 PM
A local gang that days ago kidnapped a group of 17 American and Canadian missionaries in Haiti, among them children, is demanding a $17 million ransom to obtain their release, or $1 million for each person.

Since the Saturday kidnapping which drove world headlines, the group has been identified as the powerful and notorious "400 Mawozo" gang. The 16 Americans and one Canadian were in Haiti as part of the Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries, and include five men, seven women, and five children.

FBI agents are now reportedly on the ground in Port-au-Prince, while representatives of the Ohio Christian ministry are said to be in contact with the hostage-takers, after the gang contacted the US-based organization in order to conduct a ransom negotiation. The FBI is said to be advising the missionary group during the phone calls.

Via AP: Christian Aid Ministries in Berlin, Ohio
An FBI official recently confirmed to CNN: "The FBI is part of a coordinated US government effort to get the Americans involved to safety. Due to operational considerations, no further information is available at this time."

The missionaries had been visiting and working at a local orphanage in Port-au-Prince when they were taken. The ransom demand was confirmed via Haiti's justice minister, according to reports:
Justice Minister Liszt Quitel said the gang was demanding $1 million per person. Quitel did not immediately return messages for comment, but he also confirmed the figure to the New York Times. The Journal said he identified the ages of the abducted children as 8 months and 3, 6, 14 and 15 years.
In recent years Haiti's rapid descent into complete government and infrastructure breakdown has made the country incredibly dangerous for missionaries and foreign aid workers. Some reports show half of Port-au-Prince is controlled by criminal gangs. The country has suffered years of political chaos as kidnappings have recently erupted.
Port-au-Prince, AFP via Getty Images
In the first eight months of 2021, 328 kidnapping victims were reported to Haitian police, compared with 234 for all of 2020, according to United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti known.

What's made the violence worse is the assassination of president Jovenel Moise in July and a devastating earthquake in August that killed more than 2,000 people. It seems the Biden administration has another crisis on their hands. Hopefully, they won't ignore this one as they've with the one along the Mexico–US border.
 

Zagdid

Veteran Member

CITGO 6 back in Venezuelan prison due to “retaliation” for Saab extradition
By Theresa Schmidt
Published: Oct. 18, 2021 at 8:54 PM EDT|Updated: 17 hours ago

Lake Charles, LA (KPLC) -The six CITGO executives, including one who managed the Lake Charles refinery, are now back in a notorious Venezuelan prison, and no longer under house arrest.

The move is believed to be retaliation stemming from the government’s extradition of Alex Saab from Cape Verde to the U.S.

Saab, a Columbian businessman, is accused of laundering money on behalf the Venezuelan government of Nicolas Maduro.

Now back in the Venezuelan prison, family member of the CITGO 6 have renewed fears about the health and safety of their loved ones.

Executive Tomeu Vadell from the local CITGO refinery was lured to Venezuela under false pretenses just before Thanksgiving 2017.

His wife Dennysse and daughter Cristina, who live in Lake Charles, are relentless in their determination to get him home.

“My husband is an innocent man caught up in this political turmoil, political storm that he has nothing to do with. This is between two countries that need to sit down as these are human lives you’re talking about,” said Dennysse.

They say the U.S. government knew extraditing Alex Saab could put the CITGO 6 in jeopardy. They don’t believe the government is doing enough to bring the men home.

“This tells me that the U.S. has resources to bring all the bad guys here, but we don’t have the resources to bring innocent Americans like my father home. Why is that? That’s a problem and Americans should be outraged,” said daughter, Cristina.

“These cases of unjustly detained Americans cannot be ignored. They need to be addressed. And we are failing. We are failing our Americans,” she said.

The families have written President Biden expressing frustration with the lack of action and asking that his administration directly engage with the captors.

“We could solve this if we wanted to. And so, the political will needs to be there,” said Cristina.

The Vadells urge people to utilize any and all resources they have to help bring the CITGO 6 home.
 

Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB

Iran, Venezuela To Sign 20-Year Economic Cooperation Deal While Facing US Sanctions
Tyler Durden's Photo

BY TYLER DURDEN
TUESDAY, OCT 19, 2021 - 06:45 PM
Authored by Dave DeCamp via AntiWar.com,
Iran and Venezuela have announced a plan to sign a 20-year economic cooperation deal as the two countries continue to strengthen their trade relationship in the face of US pressure.
Venezuelan Foreign Minister Felix Plasencia met with his Iranian officials in Tehran on Monday. After meeting with Plasencia, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said the deal will be signed when Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro visits Tehran in the "next few months."

Image source: TradeWinds
The Iranian Foreign Ministry said the two diplomats "decided to hold a joint economic commission of the two countries in the near future and to compile and finalize a comprehensive plan for the 20-year economic cooperation between the two countries."
Both Iran and Venezuela are under crippling economic sanctions, so the two countries are natural trading partners. This growing relationship has angered Washington. During the Trump administration, the US outright stole shipments of Iranian gasoline that were bound for Venezuela.

Despite the US pressure, Caracas and Tehran continue to trade. On Friday, an Iranian ship discharged about 2 million barrels of condensate in Venezuela, a compound used to refine oil. In exchange, Venezuela gave Iran about 2 million barrels of crude.

In Tehran on Monday, Plasencia also met with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi. The Iranian leader said strengthening ties with countries like Venezuela will be a priority of his.

"In this government, we are determined to overcome the problems caused by the enemies and continue the path of development of our country," he said.
 

Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB

Antony Blinken kicks off three-day Latin America trip
US President Joe Biden has dispatched his top diplomat to the region to shore up democracy and reverse gains made by autocrats under his predecessor Donald Trump.



US Secretary of State Antony Blinken
On Wednesday night, Blinken will deliver a speech in the Ecuadorean capital Quito where he is expected to lob strong criticism at the region's leftist strongmen in Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was in Ecuador Tuesday at the start of a three-day trip through Latin America intended to highlight democracy in the region.

Climate change and migration are expected to weigh heavily on his agenda. On Tuesday, he met with President Guillermo Lasso, a conservative former banker and Washington favorite since his unanticipated victory earlier this year.

"We admire the strong voice for democracy that you have shared with the Ecuadorean people, but also for people throughout our hemisphere," Blinken told Lasso.

On Monday, Lasso declared a 60-day state of emergency to fight drug trafficking, announcing he is sending the military and police to the streets just as Blinken departed Washington.

Blinken will also meet Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Mauricio Montalvo during his visit to discuss regional challenges like migration.


Watch video01:55
Latin American leaders feature strongly in Pandora Papers
Biden's global democracy agenda

US President Joe Biden dispatched his top diplomat to the region to shore up democracy and reverse gains made by autocrats under his predecessor Donald Trump.

Biden is also hoping to make progress on issues related to climate change and keep the pressure on left-leaning authoritarians like Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega.

Prior to Blinken's departure, the Biden administration praised the conservative leaders of Ecuador and Colombia, asserting they are defenders of democracy in an increasingly troubled region.

The US has also stepped up talks with Brazil where another Trump ally, President Jair Bolsonaro, said he might not accept the results of next year's election.

Muni Jensen, a former Colombian diplomat who is now a senior adviser at the Albright Stonebridge Group, told AFP, "It's a big democracy trip for Secretary Blinken but it's also a realignment of the relationship with democratic Latin America beyond the traditional issues that have dominated the conversation for many years," such as security and disrupting the drug trade.


Watch video01:37
Venezuela reopens border to Colombia
Other expected highlights of Blinken's time in Ecuador

On Wednesday night, Blinken will deliver a speech in the Ecuadorean capital Quito where he is expected to lob strong criticism at the region's leftist strongmen in Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua.

The speech will come days after a close aide of Nicolas Maduro, Alex Saab, was extradited to the US on money laundering charges stemming from the theft of money marked for food aid.

Next stop: Colombia
After Ecuador, Blinken will travel to Colombia. The president there, Ivan Duque, who has come under fire for his crackdown on protesters, was also an ally of former President Trump.
Colombia has pleased the Biden administration, though, by adopting some of the most ambitious targets on climate change in the region ahead of next month's high-stakes UN summit on climate, COP26.

In Bogota, Blinken will meet ministers from the region to discuss a humane migration policy. Many desperate Haitians have tried in recent weeks to make the long journey to the US, with Colombia as their jumping off point.
ar/sri (AFP, Reuters)
 

Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB


Efforts drag on to free 17 missionaries kidnapped in Haiti
By DÁNICA COTO and PIERRE-RICHARD LUXAMAyesterday


People protest for the release of kidnapped missionaries near the missionaries' headquarters in Titanyen, north of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021. A group of 17 U.S. missionaries including children was kidnapped by a gang in Haiti on Saturday, Oct. 16, according to a voice message sent to various religious missions by an organization with direct knowledge of the incident. (AP Photo/Joseph Odelyn)
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People protest for the release of kidnapped missionaries near the missionaries' headquarters in Titanyen, north of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021. A group of 17 U.S. missionaries including children was kidnapped by a gang in Haiti on Saturday, Oct. 16, according to a voice message sent to various religious missions by an organization with direct knowledge of the incident. (AP Photo/Joseph Odelyn)

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Efforts to win the return of 17 members of a U.S.-based missionary group and a local driver stretched into a fourth day Wednesday, with a violent gang demanding $1 million ransom per person.

The group seized includes five children aged from 8 months to 15 years, although authorities were not clear whether the ransom demand included them, a top Haitian official said Tuesday. Sixteen of the abductees are Americans and one Canadian.

The Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries said it would hold a day of fasting and prayer for its missionaries Thursday.

“We, along with government authorities, continue to work hard to bring them home safely,” the group said. “This time of difficulty reminds us of the ongoing suffering of millions of Haitians. While our workers chose to serve in Haiti, our Haitian friends endure crisis after crisis, continual violence, and economic hardship.”


The FBI and other U.S. agencies were “part of a coordinated U.S. government effort” to free the missionaries, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday, though officials from Haiti, the U.S. and the church group involved were silent about sensitive details.

A wave of kidnappings has added to the other miseries besetting the Caribbean nation. At least 119 people were kidnapped in Haiti for the first half of October, according to the Center of Analysis and Research of Human Rights, a local nonprofit group.

It said that in addition to the 17 members of the missionary group, a Haitian driver was abducted along with them, bringing the total to 18.

The Haitian official, who was not authorized to speak to the press, told The Associated Press that someone from the 400 Mawozo gang made the ransom demand Saturday in a call to a leader of the Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries shortly after the abduction.

“This group of workers has been committed to minister throughout poverty-stricken Haiti,” the Ohio group said Tuesday, adding that the missionaries worked most recently on a project to help rebuild homes lost in a magnitude 7.2 earthquake that struck southwestern Haiti on Aug. 14.

The group was returning from visiting an orphanage when it was abducted, the organization said.

The rash of kidnappings led to a strike Monday that shuttered businesses, schools and public transportation — a new blow to Haiti’s anemic economy.

Life was largely back to normal on Wednesday, but unions and other groups vowed to organize another strike next week, and sporadic protests erupted Wednesday in Port-au-Prince over the lack of fuel, with gangs blamed for blocking gas distribution terminals.

Dozens of moto taxi drivers zoomed around one Delmas neighborhood, setting barricades of tires on fire and throwing rocks across roads to block them.

“We want gas for work! If we don’t find gas, we’re going to shut down the country completely!” they yelled. “(Prime Minister) Ariel Henry, if he cannot run the country, he must go!”

Similar protests erupted the day before.

In a more peaceful demonstration Tuesday north of Port-au-Prince, dozens of people walked through the streets of Titanyen demanding the release of the missionaries. Some carried signs that read “Free the Americans” and “No to Kidnapping!” and explained that the missionaries helped pay bills and build roads and schools.

“They do a lot for us,” said Beatrice Jean.

One protest took place near the prime minister’s residence, where police fired tear gas to disperse a crowd demanding fuel.

The kidnapping was the largest of its kind reported in recent years. Haitian gangs have grown more brazen as the country tries to recover from the July 7 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse and the earthquake that killed more than 2,200 people.

Christian Aid Ministries said the kidnapped group included six women, six men and five children. A sign on the door at the organization’s headquarters in Berlin, Ohio, said it was closed due to the kidnapping situation.

News of the kidnappings spread swiftly in and around Holmes County, Ohio, hub of one of the largest populations of Amish and conservative Mennonites in the United States, said Marcus Yoder, executive director of the Amish & Mennonite Heritage Center in nearby Millersburg, Ohio.

Christian Aid Ministries, is supported by conservative Mennonite, Amish and related groups that are part of the Anabaptist tradition.

The organization was founded in the early 1980s and began working in Haiti later that decade, said Steven Nolt, professor of history and Anabaptist studies at Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania. The group has year-round mission staff in Haiti and several countries, he said, and it ships religious, school and medical supplies throughout the world.
___
Coto reported from San Juan, Puerto Rico. Associated Press journalists Matías Delacroix in Port-au-Prince, Matthew Lee in Washington, Pete Smith in Pittsburgh, John Seewer in Toledo, Ohio, and Julie Carr Smyth in Berlin, Ohio, contributed to this report.
 
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