teleSUR English ES Wed, 20 Mar 2019 23:04:54 -04:00 teleSUR English <![CDATA[Guatemala Issues Arrest Warrant for Former Attorney General]]> Wed, 20 Mar 2019 23:04:52 -04:00 A judge on Monday ordered the arrest of Thelma Aldana, former attorney general and presidential candidate, who helped topple and imprison a former president on corruption charges and investigated current President Jimmy Morales.

Guatemala Calls for General Elections on June 16

The warrant was issued by Judge Victor Cruz on Tuesday, the same day she was officially registered as a presidential candidate. The alleged charges relate to a corruption inquiry involving illegal hiring, embezzlement, lying and tax fraud. Aldana has said that the accusations against her are politically motivated to undermine her bid as the head of state.

A statement from the Supreme Electoral Tribunal informed that former attorney general, who is currently traveling outside Guatemala, has immunity as a candidate for Movimiento Semilla. While a Supreme Court official said that there "is a migratory alert out because we know she is not in the country." 

#Urgent Former Attorney General Thelma Aldana was already registered as a presidential candidate. Therefore she has immunity and for now, the arrest warrant cannot be processed. #Guatemala

The former attorney general (2014-2018) is largely known for pursuing high profile corruption cases as she worked alongside with the U.N.-backed International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (Cicig). The international body played a key role in the investigations that caused ex-President Otto Perez Molina to resign due to accusations of corruption.

“No, I’m not scared. They’re the ones who are scared,” Aldana told Reuters in an interview in El Salvador, where she had previously scheduled activities. “When I go back to Guatemala... I’ll do it with complete calm, I’ll do it without a single problem.”

Now President Morales, who was elected with a promise for change in 2015, is trying to expel the Commission from the country. Aldana said that if she wins, she would make the government efficient and transparent as well as strengthen Cicig.

]]> <![CDATA[UN: Future of South-South Agenda Is to Join 2030 Initiative]]> Wed, 20 Mar 2019 22:49:41 -04:00 The president of the General Assembly of the United Nations, Maria Fernanda Espinosa, said on Wednesday that the future of South-South cooperation is to join the 2030 agenda and the 17 Sustainable Development goals.

"We are coupling the new South-South cooperation agenda to the 2030 agenda, to the 17 Sustainable Development goals, but also to the current arithmetic in economic matters and to the new political actors that have emerged in recent years," she explained in an interview for teleSUR.

 US Sanctions Will Deepen Venezuelan Economic Crisis: UN

She explained that this alignment with the 2030 agenda is important because it aims to combat poverty and inequalities. To also have the goal of learning from the experiences in the countries of the global South and thus "to base and establish South-South cooperation in its founding principles".

In this sense, Espinosa affirmed that "the idea is to have a document that renews the commitment with South-South cooperation, but that at the same time projects to the future", taking into account the experience of 40 years of work between the countries of the Global South.

Espinosa explained that since the foundation of South-South cooperation there was an explosion of transnational and subregional initiatives "in terms of financing, creation of regional banks and innovative ways to create funds when countries of the global South are facing emergency situations", such as natural catastrophes. In addition, there was an exchange on public health and technology transfer.

María Fernanda Espinosa highlighted that 40 years after the first South-South cooperation meeting in Buenos Aires, the successes and achievements have been evaluated, as well as the future of this project in the new geopolitical scenario and economies.

Given this analysis, she considers that the future of South-South cooperation is very promising and "will have more effect if it is directly established within the 2030 agenda, the 17 Sustainable Development goals, and if it points to the issues of food solidarity, climate change and the phenomenon of migration ".

The president of the United Nations General Assembly stressed that South-South cooperation is based on solidarity and respect for differences and sovereignty of States. "This form of cooperation made it possible to overcome the assistance and vertical forms of cooperation through much more horizontal and respectful forms of each of the priorities and models that each State sovereignly decides".

]]> <![CDATA[New Zealand Bans Military-Style Semi-Automatics/Assault Rifles]]> Wed, 20 Mar 2019 22:23:38 -04:00 New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Thursday that military style semi-automatics and assault rifles will be banned under stronger new gun laws following the killing of 50 people in the country’s worst mass shooting.

Ardern said she expects the new laws to be in place by April 11 and buy-back scheme will be established for banned weapons.

“Now, six days after this attack, we are announcing a ban on all military style semi-automatics (MSSA) and assault rifles in New Zealand,” Ardern said.

 Funerals Begin for New Zealand Mosques Shooting Victims​​​​​​​

​​​​​​​ “Related parts used to convert these guns into MSSAs are also being banned, along with all high-capacity magazines.”

A lone gunman armed with semi-automatic rifles including an AR-15, last Friday killed 50 people in two mosque attacks in Christchurch.

Australia banned semi-automatic weapons and launched a gun buy-back after the Port Arthur massacre in 1996 in which 35 people were gunned down.

The AR-15 was used at Port Arthur and has been used in a number of high-profile U.S. mass shootings.

“On 15 March our history changed forever. Now, our laws will too. We are announcing action today on behalf of all New Zealanders to strengthen our gun laws and make our country a safer place,” Ardern said.

“All semi-automatic weapons used during the terrorist attack on Friday 15 March will be banned.”

Ardern said that similar to Australia, the new gun laws will allow for strictly enforced exemptions for farmers to conduct pest control and animal welfare.

“I strongly believe that the vast majority of legitimate gun owners in New Zealand will understand that these moves are in the national interest, and will take these changes in their stride.”

Federated Farmers, which represent thousands of farmers, said it supported the change.

“This will not be popular among some of our members but after a week of intense debate and careful consideration by our elected representatives and staff, we believe this is the only practicable solution,” Federated Farmers Rural Security spokesman Miles Anderson said in a statement.

New Zealand, a country of less than 5 million people, has an estimated 1.2 to 1.5 million firearms, around 13,500 of them MSSA type weapons.

The minimum legal age to own a gun in New Zealand is currently 16, or 18 for military-style semi-automatic weapons.


The bullet-riddled Al Noor mosque in Christchurch was being repaired, painted and cleaned ahead of Friday prayers, as grieving families buried more victims.

Ardern has announced that Friday’s call to prayers for Muslims will be broadcast nationally and there will be a two minute silence.

Armed police have been guarding mosques around New Zealand since the attacks. “We will have a heightened presence tomorrow in order to provide reassurance to people attending the Friday call for prayers,” police said in a statement on Thursday.

“Police have been working relentlessly, doing everything in our power to gather all appropriate evidence from what are active crime scenes so we can allow people to return to the mosques as quickly as possible.”

Both mosques attacked, the Al Noor and nearby Linwood mosque, plan to be reopened. Thousands of worshippers are expected at the Al Noor mosque, where the majority of victims died.

Most victims were migrants or refugees from countries such as Pakistan, India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Turkey, Somalia, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.

Australian Brenton Tarrant, 28, a suspected white supremacist who was living in Dunedin, on New Zealand’s South Island, has been charged with murder following the attack.

He was remanded without a plea and is due back in court on April 5, when police said he was likely to face more charges.

The first victims were buried on Wednesday and burials continued on Thursday, with the funeral of a school boy.

Families of the victims have been frustrated by the delay as under Islam bodies are usually buried within 24 hours.

A mass burial is expected to be held on Friday. Body washing will go on through the day and night to have the dead ready for burial, said one person involved in the process.

Police have identified and release to the families the bodies of some 30 victims.

Twenty nine people wounded in the attacks remained in hospital, eight still in intensive care.

The gunman broadcast his attack live on Facebook and it was quickly distributed to other platforms, prompting Ardern and others to rebuke technology companies and call for greater efforts to stop violence and extremist views being aired on social media.

]]> <![CDATA[Deforestation in Brazil to Increase Temperature Yearly by 1.45°]]> Wed, 20 Mar 2019 23:01:06 -04:00 Brazil’s local temperature could increase by 1.45 degrees Celsius by 2050, according to a new peer-reviewed study from researchers of the State University in Rio de Janeiro and UC Santa Cruz.

Bolsonaro's Hate Speech Inspires 150% Increase in Tribal Land Invasions: Report

Using data from 2000 to 2010 on global changes in forest cover, the researchers developed a new model to quantify how those changes affect land surface temperatures. Their results, published Wednesday in the academic journal Plos, showed that tropical forests are particularly sensitive, altering their abilities to reflect sunlight and increasing the loss of moisture.

"When you think about the cooling effect of forests in the context of climate change, the effect on local temperatures is really important," coauthor Barry Sinervo said, adding he "was very surprised by the impact of these deforested patches on temperatures in adjacent patches of intact habitat. That should be alarming."

With this model. the authors applied a time projection to predict local temperature change in Brazil starting from 2010 to 2050. Assuming the current rate of illegal deforestation is maintained, this prognosticated an annual land surface temperature rise of up to 1.45 degrees Celsius. 

However, if no further illegal deforestation occurred, the temperature rise could be far more limited, affirmed the report. As they found that deforestation and forestation generally appeared to have opposite effects of similar magnitude. In tropical and temperate regions, deforestation led to warming, while forestation had cooling effects yet the first effect was usually stronger. 

Satellite images of Rondônia in western Brazil, taken in 1975 (left) and 2009 (right). Photos: NASA

"Forests have the potential to attenuate the levels of local warming even in the face of ongoing climate change, but this is most pronounced in tropical regions compared to temperate regions of the world," Sinervo advised. 

According to figures released by the Brazilian government in November 2018, deforestation has risen by 13.7 percent since the same time last year. The highest level in a decade, as 7,900 sq km of the Amazon rainforest were cut down from August 2017 to July 2018, an area roughly five times the size of Mexico City. 

A situation that will aggravate, according to experts, as Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s policies are intended to open more native and protected territory for commercial profit. Just ten days after Brazil’s right-wing head of state took office, witnesses say dozens of men invaded protected Indigenous land in a remote corner of the Amazon.

The Brazilian minister of agriculture is now also responsible to expand the agricultural border in the country, expanding exploitable lands mainly towards the Amazon forest. Through this ministry, Bolsonaro plans to open up Indigenous reserves for cattle raising, agriculture and mining.

]]> <![CDATA[Bolivian General Elections Set for October 20 ]]> Wed, 20 Mar 2019 22:09:35 -04:00 The Bolivian Plurinational Electoral Body (OEP) announced on Tuesday that the date for the 2019 General Elections has been established for Oct. 20. 

Evo Morales is Leading The Polls For Presidential Race

"The reason for this date is that elections in Argentina and Uruguay are also being held on Oct. 27. This makes it difficult for us to organize technically and logistically, as in many cases we have the same precincts and polling stations, and we want to guarantee the right to vote for our citizens residing in those countries”, explained President of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) María Eugenia Choque.

After the primary elections took place on Jan. 27, a preliminary date was for Oct. 27, yet the arguments to change it was presented and agreed upon during a coordination meeting in Cochabamba between the members of the TSE and the nine Departmental Electoral Courts (TED) from Bolivia. 

"We have agreed to work intensely in the organization of the electoral process, we want to standardize our processes at the national and international level with the goal to obtain the  Electoral ISO and provide certainty to the population about the proper handling of the Election," added Choque.

During this electoral process, Bolivians will elect their president and vice-president, 130 legislators and 36 senators for the period 2020-2025. President Evo Morales is leading the polls for the presidential elections that will take place in the Andean country. Morales is polling with 35.6 percent, whereas the main opposition candidate, and former president, Carlos Mesa, is trailing behind at 30.5 percent.

The Tal Cual company carried out the survey between the 14th-19th of February with the participation of 1,815 people over 18 years old, in the nine capitals of the Bolivian departments and also the city of El Alto. According to the poll, there is over a 5 percent gap between the leading candidates, which are Evo Morales of the ‘Movement Towards Socialism’ (MAS), Evo Morales, and Carlos Mesa of the Community Citizen Party (CC).

]]> <![CDATA[US Sanctions Will Deepen Venezuelan Economic Crisis: UN]]> Wed, 20 Mar 2019 21:46:43 -04:00 Further sanctions from the United States will only serve to aggravate Venezuela’s economic state, said U.N. human rights chief, Michelle Bachelet said Wednesday.


Gold Fever? US Treasury Sanctions Venezuela Gold Mining Company

"I am concerned that the recent sanctions on financial transfers related to the sale of Venezuelan oil within the United States may contribute to aggravating the economic crisis, with possible repercussions on people's basic rights and wellbeing," Bachelet told the Human Rights Council.

On Tuesday, U.S. President Donald Trump warned that he had even “tougher measures” in store for the South American country if the democratically elected president didn’t resign in favor of self-declared president and opposition lawmaker, Juan Guaido.

According to Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Carrie Filipetti told media sources that the U.S. never meant to harm Venezuelans.

However, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro announced last week that the nationwide sustained blackout which extended from March 7 to March 12 was orchestrated from the U.S. Thousands were left without water and electricity for five days.

Bachelet insists that the political situation ought to be remedied democratically soon without risking further damage to the economy.

“Water shortages, scarcity of natural gas and the collapse of public transport also continue to affect many people, and together with hyperinflation, they generate dire economic conditions, which have triggered thousands of social protests,” Bachelet said.

In an open letter to the U.N. published by Ultimas Noticias, Economist Pasqualina Curcio wrote, "We live in an economic and political situation, which without becoming a humanitarian crisis, is characterized by the difficulty to acquire medicines and some food, as well as the accelerated increase in prices. The causes are the unilateral and illegal coercive measures of imperialism and the attacks on our currency that to date have caused us losses of more than 110 billion dollars, equivalent to 30 years of food and medicine for our people.

"Mrs. High Commissioner for Human Rights of the UN, Venezuelans do not need humanitarian aid. We demand that imperialism lift the financial and commercial blockade, stop the attack on our currency and stop the terrorist acts against our people," Curcio said.

Currently, a human rights team is on the ground to assess the situation, which Bachelet cheered as a “positive first step.”

“It is important that the team have completely unhindered access, with no reprisals against any person who has met, or sought to meet, with them,” she added.

]]> <![CDATA[Controversy as Ecuador Debates Unconstitutional Reform for 2019 Elections]]> Wed, 20 Mar 2019 19:44:20 -04:00 Three days before the mid-term elections are to be held in Ecuador, the National Electoral Council (CNE) debated a project to change the mechanism for counting null votes in the election of both female and male councilmembers for the Council of Citizen Participation and Social Control (Cpccs). On Wednesday the councilmembers did not approve the change but did allow the notion to pass it to a higher instance in the Electoral Contentious Court.

Judge Accepts Corruption Probe of Lenin Moreno

In an official statement, the electoral body clarified on Wednesday, that the change "has not yet been approved" and that in the Ordinary Session #20, which is taking place this afternoon, a resolution will be announced. During the session, the arguments of the councilors were heard and the draft change was put to vote, it didn't pass by two votes against, one abstention and two votes in favor. 

However, Councilmember Luis Verdesoto proposed the notion to send the proposal to the Electoral Contentious Court, which legally could reverse the decision until Sunday, March 24. "Meanwhile, the rules of the game remain the same for Sunday's elections," said Diana Atamaint,  CNE President.

A necessary clarification, after local media, reported on Tuesday that the state body had already defined that each null ballot will be equivalent to three null votes instead of one, a proposal presented by Verdesoto. In case null vote would win, the law requires a new election and the same candidates cannot be on the ballot again. 

1 vote = 1 person! Inadmissible that 4 days before the elections, @cnegobec intends to "tamper" and interpret the Law at will and benefit the interests of a group. In a democracy, we RESPECT the popular will!

However, and putting aside the date of the resolution, this change would imply an unconstitutional act on behalf of the CNE. The Ecuadorian Constitution of 2008 reads in article 117 that "it is prohibited to carry out legal reforms in electoral matters during the year prior to the holding of elections." This means that three days before the elections, the law would not allow a change to the elections’ electoral process, whichever its nature.

For this reason, the announcement has unleashed strong criticism from several legislators, users on social media and even ex-president Rafael Correa who have voiced their concerns under the hashtag #CNEesFraude, which has become the second trend on Twitter, below #PorelNulo, promoted by various political sectors of Ecuador.

A strategy that strengthened in recent days with the aim of "questioning" the legitimacy of the Cpccs and thus, press for a popular consultation to seek a redesign or elimination of the institution. A proposal that factions of the Ecuadorian right-wing are pressing for, and even to which the current president of transitory Cpccs, Julio Cesar Trujillo has backed.

The transitory Cpccs was approved during the popular consultation on Feb. 4, 2018, and it was the National Assembly of Ecuador that appointed the seven main councilmembers, whose action during this past year has been to remove all public officials considered as "correistas".

"They made the rules and now, as they do not agree with them, they change them, what is typical of phonies. But it is much worse because by validating each null vote as three, they are creating first and second voters, going against citizens' rights since the vote of people who vote null will be worth three," said Kintto Lucas, former Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ecuador and political analyst.

The head of the observation mission of the Organization of American States (OAS), Kevin Casas, reiterated today, Wednesday, March 20, 2019, that "as soon as possible" it must be decided how the null votes for the election will be counted.

]]> <![CDATA[Mexico Apologizes for 2010 Murder of Tec Monterrey Students]]> Wed, 20 Mar 2019 19:11:26 -04:00 After a nine-year battle for justice, Mexico made an official apology Tuesday for the murder of two tech students, killed at the hands of the military in 2010.

Mexico: Number of Killed Journalists Climbs to 4 So Far in 2019

"On behalf of the Mexican State, I offer you a public apology for the violation of your rights in the context of the excessive use of force for which your children were deprived of their lives," Secretary of the Interior (Segob), Olga Sanchez Cordero, told surviving family members.

Jorge Antonio Mercado Alonso, 23, and Javier Francisco Arredondo, 24, were attending the University of Technology of Monterrey pursuing a science masters and a doctorate in manufacturing and engineering. However, their studies were cut short on the night of March 19, 2010, when the pair were gunned down by state militia outside their campus for alleged connections to organized crime.

At first, authorities denied their role in the 2010 shooting, saying the deaths were a tragic accident, collateral damage of an unfortunate crossfire, or the result of their alleged involvement with local gangs.

However, an investigation from the National Commission of Human Rights (CNDH) later showed that not only did police gun down the students, but they also tampered with evidence at the scene and planted weapons to back their claims.

Rosa Elvia Mercado, mother of Jorge, told BBC, "We realized that it was not an error, it was not crossfire, they had been executed in cold blood and not satisfied with that they were beaten, dragged, their identity was stolen and even more infamously they declared that they were assassins.”

In a tweet, Sanchez Cordero wrote, “I offer you an apology for the damage to the image and the honor of Jorge and Javier, derived from the false accusations of the authorities and for the alteration of the scene of the events.

"The parents and relatives fought against the pain, suffering, impunity and unworthy treatment they gave their children and always sought decorum.

"The State recognizes that Jorge Antonio Mercado Alonso and Javier Francisco Arredondo were excellent students of the Tec de Monterrey, not assassins," the secretary added.

Of the six state militiamen suspected of perpetrating the students’ murder, three are being prosecuted for homicide, two are fugitives, and one was allegedly “disappeared.”

]]> <![CDATA[Florida Republicans Undermine Voting Rights of Former Felons]]> Wed, 20 Mar 2019 18:00:36 -04:00 Florida passed a bill undermining a law that restored voting rights to former convicted residents. Civil rights activists Tuesday condemned the move by the Republicans.


Disenfranchisement of Prisoners, Ex-Convicts Back in Spotlight Amid US Midterms

Four months ago, Florida voters passed Amendment Four in a state referendum that allowed many former felons to vote. But Tuesday, the GOP controlled House Criminal Justice Subcommittee passed a measure which requires former felons to pay all court fees to have the voting right granted.

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Public Citizen denounced the measure calling it a poll tax.

The Amendment Four was approved by 64 percent voters restoring the voting right to 1.4 million former felons.

The American Civil Liberties Union said that forcing them to pay all fines the GOP "would effectively disenfranchise two categories of returning citizens for life: those with very small financial obligations that they will never be able to pay due to poverty and those with financial obligations for non-violent property crimes."

"If this bill passes, it will undoubtedly continue to disenfranchise those who have already served their time and paid their debt to society," Kirk Baily, the political director of ACLU said in a statement. "This is exactly what we were worried about from the beginning – legislative attempts to undermine the will of the people who voted for second chances and to rid Florida of the last vestiges of its Jim Crow era past."

]]> <![CDATA[US Airstrikes Killed Four Civilians in Somalia]]> Wed, 20 Mar 2019 17:13:52 -04:00 An airstrike near the Somali town of Afgoye killed four people, a relative of one of the victims said Tuesday, reported the news agency Reuters.

RELATED: Amnesty Report: 14 Civilians Likely Killed by US Airstrikes

The United States carries out attacks to target extremist militants in the Horn of Africa country. The attacks are aimed to help to bolster Somalia’s U.N.-backed central government against al-Qaida-affiliated al Shabaab movement.

Abdiqadir Nur, an employee of telecoms firm Hormuud Telecom, and three others died while driving through Laanta Buuro village in the southwestern Lower Shabelle region, 45 km (28 miles) from the capital Mogadishu, relatives said.

“Nur and three others died on the spot. His brother Mahad Nur is totally burnt,” Nur’s cousin Abdullahi Ali said.

In an email to Reuters, the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) said it carried out the air strike on Monday and that three militants had died in the attack.

“We are aware of reports alleging civilian casualties resulting from this air strike...The U.S. Africa Command will review any information it has about the incident, including any relevant information provided by third parties,” it said.

Al Shabaab was driven out of Mogadishu in 2011, but retains a strong presence in southern and central parts of Somalia.

Recently Amnesty International declared that the United States airstrikes have killed or wounded almost two dozen civilians in Somalia. The report said 14 civilians were killed and eight injured in strikes.

]]> <![CDATA[Chile: Mapuche March to End Militarization of Their Region]]> Wed, 20 Mar 2019 15:06:23 -04:00 The demonstration, taking place in Santiago de Chile and Temuco, will also commemorate the young Camilo Catrillanca, four months after his murder at the hands of Carabineros.


Chilean Police Sergeant Formally Charged With Mapuche Murder

This Wednesday demonstrations will be held in Santiago, the capital of Chile, and in the southern city of Temuco, demanding an end to the militarization of Mapuche territory and in commemoration of Camilo Catrillanca, young Mapuche murdered by the Chilean police, known as the Carabineros, while driving a tractor, on Nov. 14, 2018.

The march was called by the Wewaiñ community, and in Temuco by the community of Temucuicui, where the young man lived.

The grand Mapuche have started in Temuco. In Santiago, they are calling Ayekan Weichan at 8 p.m. in Hero's Plaza

"We call on the Mapuche community and organizations to support this march, because this mobilization is aimed at reasserting the historic rights of the Mapuche people and announcing the route we are going to follow in view of the denial and violation of our rights committed by the Chilean state with our people," argued Marcelo Catrillanca, father of the murdered youth.

The march in southern Chile beings at 10:00 local time at the Hospital Plaza of Temuco. There will also be a cultural arts day from 1:00 p.m. local time at the Plaza Teodoro Schmidt.

In Santiago, the march will start at 8:00 p.m. (local time) leaving from Plaza Los Heroes.

]]> <![CDATA[China Will Keep Non-Tariff Policy for Developing Countries]]> Wed, 20 Mar 2019 16:37:10 -04:00 At the Second High-level United Nations Conference on South-South Cooperation (BAPA + 40) held in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Vice Premier Hu Chunhua said Wednesday that China will maintain its "Zero tariffs policy" for imports from developing countries development, a decision which shows that the Asian country "is opening its doors to the world".

China Backs Venezuela And Offers Help to Restore Power

"We will help more developing markets' products to reach the Chinese market," VP Hu said and added that "our tariff policy will continue for imports from developing countries."

Vice Premier mentioned that, as part of its long-term policy towards "sister countries" in the developing world, the Chinese State will "encourage well-ranked, reliable Chinese firms to continue doing business in other developing countries."

The High-level officer also appreciated the importance of the South-South Cooperation in a world where there is a "real imbalance" between developed nations and developing countries.

"We have honored the South-South cooperation values, which mean seeking welfare for all," VP Hu said, adding that "countries should be encouraged to participate in the way they feel best, taking advantage of their capacities and taking into account their development level."

Meanwhile, at the White House, the U.S. President Donald Trump continued his trade war against China as he said that tariffs on Chines imports would stay in place.

"We're not talking about removing [tariffs], we're talking about leaving them for a substantial period of time,” Trump said, adding that “China had free rein over our country taking out US$ 500 billion a year for many years.”

The BAPA + 40 Conference, which is the most important multilateral meeting on South-South cooperation, brings together representatives of 193 UN member states, international organizations and more than 1500 participants.

Its purpose is to exchange experiences and knowledge with the objective of strengthening the capacities of States. On this occasion, the Conference was inaugurated by the Secretary-General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres.

This multilateral conference takes place 40 years after the adoption of the Buenos Aires Action Plan (PABA), through which developing countries defined the way forward in terms of technical cooperation.


]]> <![CDATA[Right Groups Demand Justice for Costa Rican Indigenous Leader]]> Wed, 20 Mar 2019 14:41:03 -04:00 Various rights organizations are demanding justice for the murdered Costa Rican Indigenous activist who was shot dead Monday. From political parties, the Ombudsman's Office, students, to the presidency of the National Institute of Women are demanding a prompt investigation of the murder of Sergio Rojas, the Bribri leader.


Guatemala: Indigenous Women Running for President, VP

Indigenous land rights defender Sergio Rojas was assassinated by armed gunmen who shot the activist as many as 15 times at around 11:45 pm local time in his home, according to his neighbors, in southern Costa Rica.

Rojas was President of the Association for the Development of the Indigenous Territory of Salitre and coordinator of the National Front of Indigenous Peoples (FRENAP) in Costa Rica and was a staunch defender of the Bribri of Saltire Indigenous people who have been fighting for years to regain their rights to over 12,000 hectares of land in southern Costa Rica pledged to them by a 1938 government agreement.

The Ombudsman's Office said the murder of Sergio Rojas, "is a serious blow in the fight for the defense of human rights because he was a person who defended the rights of Indigenous peoples in Costa Rica.”

The Attorney General's office formed a special team which will investigate the assassination. The group is made up of experts on homicides and Indigenous affairs.

The United Nations Human Rights Commission also condemned the brutal murder of Rojas and urged the authorities to take immediate action while guaranteeing the protection of the people of Salitre.  

This wasn't the first attempt on Rojas' life. In 2012, shortly after the Bribri gained back some of their lands, the FRENAP coordinator was shot at eight times by armed men but escaped the shooting unscathed.

]]> <![CDATA[Ilhan Omar Calls US Iraq Invasion 'Illegal' on 16th Anniversary]]> Wed, 20 Mar 2019 15:31:54 -04:00 On the sixteenth anniversary of the day when former President of the United States George W. Bush, and his British ally, Tony Blair, decided to invade Iraq arguing that they will turn the country into a model of democracy and spread freedom across the Middle East, Ilhan Omar, the U.S. congresswoman from Minnesota, said in a series of tweets that the George W. Bush administration's invasion of Iraq was "illegal." 


Ilhan Omar: Obama’s Policies as Bad as Trump’s, Just More Polished

Recently released conversations between U.S. highly ranked officials revealed the U.S. knew ahead of time that the war would cause massive instability, societal collapse and would encourage terrorism.

"We must hold accountable those who repeatedly lied in the run-up to war," she added, citing specific statements about alleged weapons of mass destruction including biological weapons, none of which were ever found, that was made by President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.

"All of these statements were not only false, they were known by intelligence agencies to be lies at the time. To this day they have not been held accountable," Omar wrote.

In the eight years between invasion and withdrawal (2003-2011), more than 110,000 people suffered violent deaths as a direct result of the Iraq conflict. Some estimates put that number at over a million. Hundreds of thousands of civilians and former combatants also suffered injury during the war, both physical and psychological. When the coalition finally withdrew in 2011, no significant weapons of mass destruction had been located. 

The U.S progressively disbanded Iraq’s bureaucracy and security services, allowing looters to plunder and torch people’s homes and public buildings, and opening the door to murder and kidnapping. 

Militias based in Iraq began a long insurgency against the occupation, and terrorist organizations joined the fight.  The U.S. invasion also set the stage for the rise of the Islamic State (IS) group in Iraq. 

Today, after 16 years, Iraq is still trying to regain stability suffering intermittent attacks that continue to kill, wound, or maim civilians by the thousands.

]]> <![CDATA[UN Orders Life Imprisonment for Serb Leader over Genocide]]> Wed, 20 Mar 2019 13:47:10 -04:00 United Nations appeals judges upheld the charges against former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic Wednesday. Karadzic was convicted for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. The judges also increased his sentence from 40 years to life imprisonment.


Serbia: 15,000 March in Belgrade, 5th Week of Protest

Vagn Joensen of Denmark, the presiding judge said that 40 years was too little of a sentence given for the "sheer scale and systematic cruelty" of Karadzic’s crimes.

The 73-year-old former political leader was found guilty of genocide and war crimes in 2016 by a U.N. tribunal in The Hague and given the 40-year prison sentence.

The judges also rejected an appeal by the prosecution against’s Karadzic’s acquittal on a second count of a genocide of the same war.

He was the mastermind behind the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, deemed as the worst atrocity in Europe since World War II where 8,000 Muslims were massacred by Bosnian Serb forces.

Karadzic, a trained psychiatrist, was the president of the Bosnian Serb entity Republika Srpska during the Bosnian War (1992-1995). He was also charged for leading an ethnic cleansing campaign against non-Serbs, i.e., Croats and Muslims.

The ruling by the U.N. cannot be challenged while Karadzic said he was convicted based on “rumors.” Last year he also said that the expulsion of Croats and Muslims were “myths.”

"He deserves that," Munira Subasic whose husband and son were among the murdered in Srebrenica, told BBC. "I will never see my son again. [Karadzic] should just stay in a black hole. I will live with the pain. This should be a message to the world, to war criminals."

After the war, Karadzic was hiding for almost a decade, pretending to be an expert in alternative medicine before being finally arrested in 2008.

"I cried because I lost my children, I am all alone. I am very shaken. I lost three sons, my husband, my grandchild, my father died," said Mira Dogas of the Mothers of Srebrenica group, who traveled to the Netherlands for Wednesday's verdict.

"He’s still alive while our children have been in the ground for a long time and they had a horrible death. He (Karadzic) is alive, he has food and drink. He killed and destroyed our children. I will go home to an empty house tonight and look at the walls. I have nobody."

]]> <![CDATA[Russia Warns US of 'Unpredictable Consequences' of Arms Race]]> Wed, 20 Mar 2019 14:07:57 -04:00 At the Conference on Disarmament held in Geneva, the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned Wednesday that the U.S. recent withdrawal from both the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM Treaty) and the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty) leads to an “Arms race” with likely worse consequences than the Cold War’s one.

Russia, Iran: Dedicated to 'Internal Peace' in Venezuela

"Washington made no secret of an intention to have their hands free in order to build up unrestricted missile capabilities in the regions where the U.S. tends to push through their own interests," the Russian top diplomat said and explained that the U.S. withdrawal from the ABM and INF treaties "could lead to a renewed widescale arms race with unpredictable consequences."

The Rotating Presidency of the Conference on Disarmament is held by the United States, a nuclear country whose Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control, Verification, and Compliance Yleem Poblete accused Russia of "aggressive activities" that have shaken European security.

Lavrov responded said the U.S. stance does not favor overcoming the Conference on Disarmament's crisis and called on Western countries to properly assess the situation.

"I'm still confident that we all have enough wisdom and strength to overcome this crisis, preserve and consolidate the existing system of international agreements on arms control and non-proliferation, and complement it with new arrangements,” Lavrov said and hoped that “our Western colleagues will be in a position to properly assess the situation and set their priorities in a new way and rejoin us in the collective efforts to ensure peace and security including arms control."

In early February, the United States confirmed the suspension of the INF Treaty, a multilateral agreement signed by Moscow and Washington in 1988, which prohibited countries from manufacturing, deploying or testing both short-range (500-1,000 km) missiles and medium range (1,000-5,500 km) missiles.

According to President Donald Trump administration, however, Russia developed the 9M729 missile, which the White House has claimed violates the INF Treaty.

]]> <![CDATA[Italy: Driver Sets Fire to Empty School Bus in Protest]]> Wed, 20 Mar 2019 12:36:42 -04:00 A 47-year-old school bus driver in Milan asked teenagers onboard to get out of the vehicle before he doused the inside with gasoline and set fire to it in protest at the treatment of migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean, Italian media reported Wednesday.

Far-right Parties Could Double Seats in EU Vote With Steve Bannon's Puppeteering: Pol

Fire services arrived in force to put out the blaze. No one was injured but twelve teenagers were taken to hospital with intoxication, hospital sources said. Two adults were also reportedly taken the hospital, however, authorities said only one was injuired. An official told Sky TG24 that the children alerted authorities, which aided a fast emergency response.

The bus driver, believed to be Senegalese-Italian, was arrested at the scene. Armed police patrolled the area. Earlier in the day, the Italian parliament blocked prosecutors from pursuing an investigation into Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini for abuse of power and kidnapping migrants.

Salvini, leader of the right-wing League party, has followed a "closed ports" crackdown on illegal immigration since he formed a ruling coalition last year with the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement.

In August, he blocked an Italian coastguard ship with 150 migrants aboard for almost a week off the coast of Sicily before finally letting it dock after Albania, Ireland and Italy's Catholic Church agreed to house them.

Magistrates subsequently put him under investigation and asked parliament to strip him of his immunity from prosecution, but on Wednesday the upper house, the Senate, threw out the request and said he had been acting in the national interest.

"I hope no one in this chamber ... has any difficulty in understanding the concept of nation and national sovereignty," Salvini told lawmakers ahead of the vote.

"This is why Italians pay my salary: to defend our borders and to maintain the security of our country."

]]> <![CDATA[May Requests Brexit Delay for Jun 30, EU Pushes Back]]> Wed, 20 Mar 2019 13:26:39 -04:00 Prime Minister Theresa May has asked for a three-month delay to Brexit Wednesday to buy time to get her twice-rejected departure deal through parliament, but the request faced immediate resistance from the European Commission.

UK Parliament Overwhelmingly Rejects 2nd Brexit Referendum

May's initiative came just nine days before Britain is formally due to leave the European Union and marked the latest twist in more than two years of negotiations that have left British politics in chaos and the prime minister's authority in tatters.

After the defeats in parliament opened up the possibility of Britain leaving the EU without a deal and a smooth transition, May said she remained committed to leaving "in an orderly manner" and wanted to postpone Brexit until June 30. The pound fell sharply as May requested her extension.

Her announcement prompted uproar in Parliament, where the opposition Labour Party accused her of "blackmail, bullying and bribery" in her attempts to push her deal through, and one prominent pro-Brexit supporter in her own Conservative Party said seeking a delay was "betraying the British people."

Britain voted in 2016 to leave the EU in a referendum 52 to 48 percent. The decision has split the country, opening up divisive debates over the future of the economy, the nation's place in the world, and British identity itself.

Some European leaders have welcomed May's extension plan, with Germany saying a disorderly British departure would be in nobody's interest.

But a European Commission document seen by Reuters said the delay should either be several weeks shorter, to avoid a clash with European elections in May, or extended at least until the end of the year, which would oblige Britain to take part in the elections. May said it was not in Britain's interests to take part in European elections.

"Any extension offered to the United Kingdom should either last until 23 May 2019 or should be significantly longer and require European elections," the EU document said. "This is the only way of protecting the functioning of the EU institutions and their ability to take decisions."

The document also said the EU should offer Britain just one extension as multiple delays would leave the bloc in limbo. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker had warned May against requesting a Brexit delay beyond the European elections unless Britain takes part, an EU spokeswoman said.

Britain must decide by April 11 if it will participate in the May 23 European election, creating an effective deadline for parliament to pass May's deal for an orderly Brexit.

Nearly three years after the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union, British politicians are still arguing over how, when or even if the world's fifth largest economy should leave the bloc it first joined in 1973.

When May set the March 29 exit date two years ago with the formal Article 50 divorce papers, she declared there would be "no turning back." However, British Parliament's refusal to ratify the withdrawal deal she had agreed to with the EU has thrown her government into crisis.

On Wednesday, May wrote to European Council President Donald Tusk to ask for the delay.

"As prime minister, I am not prepared to delay Brexit any further than the 30th of June," May told a rowdy session of parliament. "I have therefore this morning written to President Tusk, the president of the European Council, informing him that the UK seeks an extension to the Article 50 period until the 30th June."

She said she planned to ask parliament to vote a third time on her departure deal, which lawmakers have voted down twice. She did not say when the vote would happen. Though she did say delaying Brexit did not rule out the possibility that Britain could leave without a deal.

The Labour Party said by choosing a short delay May was forcing British lawmakers to decide between accepting a deal they have already rejected or leaving without a deal.

Many pro-Brexit members of May's Conservative Party are opposed to a longer delay because they fear it could mean Brexit might never happen. They argue Britain can do well outside the European Union even though an abrupt departure would cause short-term pain.

The loss of Britain for the EU is the biggest blow yet to more than 60 years of effort to forge European unity after two world wars, though the 27 other members of the bloc have shown surprising unity during the tortuous negotiations.

EU leaders are expected to decide on May's request for a Brexit delay at a summit in Brussels on Thursday. But some diplomats said the final decision could be pushed into next week.

]]> <![CDATA[Japan Urged to Change Transgender Forced Sterilization Law]]> Wed, 20 Mar 2019 13:00:18 -04:00 A Human Rights Watch (HRW) report urges Japan to prioritize revision of a law that requires transgender people to be surgically sterilized to get legal recognition of their gender identity, The report, released Wednesday, denouced Japan's requirement of a medical intervention as a condition of having their gender identity legally recognized saying it violates Japan’s human rights obligations and runs counter to international medical standards.

Brazil: 420 Violent Deaths Against LGBTQ in 2018

“Japan should uphold the rights of transgender people and stop forcing them to undergo surgery to be legally recognized,” said Kanae Doi, Japan director at HRW.

“The law is based on an outdated premise that treats gender identity as a so-called ‘mental illness’ and should be urgently revised,” she added.

Transgender people told the group that Japan’s law infringes on their rights. One transgender man said: “I don’t want to [have surgery], to be honest. However, I have to just because it is a requirement…I feel pressured to be operated on – so terrible.”

Others explained the trade-offs they felt forced to make. “Of course I want to change the gender on my official family register, and have relationships with my significant other,” said a transgender woman in Tokyo. “But the walls that I have to overcome are just too big.”

The report criticized the law as based on a “pejorative notion that a transgender identity is a mental health condition” and blasted the requirement that transgender people “undergo lengthy, expensive, invasive, and irreversible medical procedures.”

The United Nations special rapporteur on torture noted in 2013 that transgender people being “required to undergo often unwanted sterilization surgeries as a prerequisite to enjoy legal recognition of their preferred gender” was a human rights violation.

]]> <![CDATA[Nirav Modi, India’s Most Notorious Bank Scammer, Arrested in UK]]> Wed, 20 Mar 2019 12:16:22 -04:00 Fugitive billionaire jeweler Nirav Modi, wanted by Indian authorities over a US$2 billion loan fraud at state-run Punjab National Bank (PNB) was remanded in custody after appearing before a British court Wednesday.


India: Controversial Right-Wing Ex-Defense Minister Passes Away

India asked Britain last August to extradite Modi, 48, who was accused of massive bank fraud, charges he denies.

The diamond magnate was arrested in the Holborn area of central London Tuesday after he went into a bank to open an account and a member of staff contacted police.

On Wednesday, he appeared at London's Westminster Magistrates Court accused by India of two charges of conspiracy to fraud and conspiracy to conceal criminal property.

He spoke only to confirm his name, age, and address, and that he did not agree to be extradited. His lawyer, George Hepburne Scott, said his client would deny the charges which he believes are politically motivated.

Despite offering to put up 500,000 pound (US$658,650) security, he was told he would not be given bail. District Judge Marie Mallon said there were substantial grounds to believe he might not surrender to bail and no conditions would satisfy her to grant his release.

He was remanded in custody until his next appearance at the same court on March 29.

PNB shares closed up 3 percent on the news of Modi's arrest.

Modi left the country before India's biggest banking fraud came to light early last year.

PNB, India’s second-largest state-run bank, said in 2018 that two jewelry groups headed by Modi and his uncle Mehul Choksi had defrauded it by raising credit from other Indian banks using fraudulent guarantees issued by the rogue staff of the bank. Modi and Choksi have both denied wrongdoing.

Prior to his arrest, India's main opposition Congress party had used it as a weapon to target the ruling far-right Bharatiya Janata Party ahead of an April-May general election.

He was also part of a CEO-meeting with far-right Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Jan. 23  at the World Economic Forum in Davos, despite being charged with fraud.

In December, a British court agreed that another high-profile Indian businessman, aviation tycoon Vijay Mallya, could be extradited to his homeland to face fraud charges. Mallya is currently appealing the decision.

Separately, the Enforcement Directorate (ED), India's main financial crime-fighting agency, said a court Wednesday issued a non-bailable warrant against Nirav Modi's wife.

The court also allowed the ED to auction 11 vehicles belonging to Modi - including Rolls Royce, Porsche, Mercedes, and Toyota models - and allowed income tax authorities to auction 68 paintings owned by him.

]]> <![CDATA[Mozambique Cyclone: 100s Trapped as Rescuers Race Against Clock]]> Wed, 20 Mar 2019 11:30:13 -04:00
The EU has said it will provide initial emergency aid of 3.5 million euros (US$4 million) to Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe for emergency shelters, hygiene, sanitation and healthcare. Britain and the United Arab Emirates have also pledged aid.
Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi has declared three days of national mourning starting Wednesday and has said the eventual death toll from the cyclone and ensuing floods could rise to more than 1,000.
On Tuesday, rescuers saved 167 people around Beira with the help of South African Air Force helicopters. The South African shipping firm Grindrod said it would send a container ship with relief supplies from Mozambique's capital, Maputo, to Beira.
Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa said on a visit to the town of Chimanimani that his government would ensure houses were built with stronger materials in the future. In rural Zimbabwe, many people cannot afford cement to build their houses, leaving them vulnerable to torrential rain and wind.
Both Mozambique and Zimbabwe have declared states of emergency in some areas. The cyclone knocked out Mozambican electricity exports to South Africa, exacerbating power cuts that are straining businesses in Africa's most industrialized economy.
Aid groups said they were struggling to reach many survivors trapped in remote areas of Mozambique where villages were submerged. The European Union's Earth Observation Programme said Tuesday that an area of 152 sq miles was flooded.
]]> <![CDATA[UK University Denies Access to Pro-Palestine Students During Queen’s Visit]]> Wed, 20 Mar 2019 11:08:33 -04:00 Pro-Palestine students at London’s King’s College (KCL) were denied access to the university over security concerns during the Queen’s visit.


BDS Activists Go on Trial in Germany over Protesting Israeli 'Pinkwashing'

The students said that they were barred from attending classes or sitting for exams because of their political beliefs. A senior university official said that the students were blacklisted based on CCTV footage.

The Queen visited KCL Tuesday to open a refurbished building at the university’s Strand Campus in central London. But a student Asif Khapedi was barred from sitting in a compulsory exam six kilometers away in south London.

"Considering that the exam is in an hour and if I don't sit it I potentially have to resit the entire year, it was very, very distressing for me," he told Middle East Eye. He was eventually allowed to sit for the exam but the stress just before the exam affected him and the test.

He is a member of Action Palestine student society. Ten other students also came forward with claims of being banned from campus, libraries, cafes, exams, and classes.

"The students affected by this are all core organizers of campaigns that have established themselves as effective, successful and resistant to university apathy and reaction,” the students said in a statement.

"The racialized and gendered securitization of campus also cannot be ignored; the affected students are predominantly women of color."


Hammer-wielding Vandal Damages Karl Marx's Grave in London

King’s College issued a statement saying, “We had an event today which demanded the highest level of security and we had to minimize movement through buildings for security reasons. At times some of our buildings were not accessible.”

Khapedi said "they've come up with this statement recently that they only blocked access to certain buildings because it was a high-security event, but the reality is that I was nowhere near there. You blocked my access everywhere."

According to the students, this obstruction is a restriction on freedom of speech.

On Monday, these students crashed into a meeting of the college council to deliver an open letter demanding the university sever ties with Techion, an Israeli research institute with close links to the arms trade. King’s College compiled a list of those student activists.

Richard Kent, director of campus operations, responding to a student said, "It was just produced on the grounds that you're all ... there are a number of protesters who've been visible at a number of protests over last year, two years, and you were identified because you were on CCTV."

"It is concerning if students are being placed under surveillance by their university – this is a place of learning, not a police state, and surveillance has a chilling effect on students' freedom of expression," the student union of the university said.

"We've seen a rise in politically active students — especially those campaigning on Palestine, Prevent and Divestment — become targets for disciplinaries across the country," said Ilyas Nagdee, the National Union of Student's black student's officer.

]]> <![CDATA[Ebola Death Toll Reaches 606 in DR Congo Northeast Provinces]]> Wed, 20 Mar 2019 12:15:27 -04:00 The Health Ministry of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) revealed Tuesday that the number of Ebola deaths reached 606 and detected infections reached 968 in North Kivu and Ituri, which are provinces located at the country's northeast.

DR Congo's Tshisekedi to Release 700 Political Prisoners

According to figures taken up until March 18, the Congolese authorities estimated 606 deaths, of which 541 were Ebola positive in the laboratory tests, while probable cases amount to 968, of which 903 were laboratory confirmed.

The North Kivu and Ituri provinces have been seriously hit by the current Ebola outbreak, which is the most lethal in the country's history.

Despite the actions undertaken by national and international health institutions, the outbreak has not yet been controlled because some communities refuse to receive treatment. Epidemiological control has also been weakened due to insecurity conditions at the country's northeast, where numerous armed groups operate.

More than 89,656 people have been inoculated since vaccinations began in Aug. 2018. This massive campaign has been focused mainly in the cities of Mabalako, Beni, Mandima, Katwa and Butembo.

Nevertheless, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), the DR Congo Ebola outbreak is now concentrated in two areas and could be stopped by September.

"We have averted a much larger outbreak," WHO chief Tedros Ghebreyesus Adhanom said and added that “our target now is to finish [the outbreak] within the next six months."

The Ebola virus, which is transmitted through direct contact with blood and contaminated body fluids, causes hemorrhagic fever. If there is no timely medical treatment, 90 percent of infected people may die.

The world's most devastating outbreak was declared in March 2014, with cases that date back to December 2013 in Guinea-Conakri, an area from which Ebola expanded to Sierra Leone and Liberia.

In January 2016, the WHO declared the end of such an outbreak, in which 11,300 people died and more than 28,500 were infected. These figures could be an underestimation according to the agency.

]]> <![CDATA[Nowruz Celebrations Begin for Spring Arrival Across Middle East]]> Wed, 20 Mar 2019 11:21:50 -04:00 Nowruz marks the end of the old year and the beginning of a new one. Nowruz is the precise moment of the beginning of spring, occurring on the spring equinox. An equinox occurs when the earth's north and south poles are not tilted towards or away from the sun and the duration of daylight is theoretically the same at all points on the earth's surface, which usually happens on March 20 or 21. 

Iraq: Yazidi Women Honor Women Killed by Islamic State Group

Nowruz is considered as the beginning of the New Year in Iran and Afghanistan. It is a holiday in other countries such as Tajikistan, Russia, Kirghizistan, Kazakhstan, Syria, Iraq, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Albania, China, Turkey, Turkmenistan, India, Pakistan, and Uzbekistan.

Nowruz contributes to cultural diversity and friendship among different communities such as Persian, Kurds, Turkish, Lurs, Arabs, and Baloch. 

The origin and appearance of Nowruz are not well known. Some historical accounts attribute the beginning of Nowruz to Babylon. According to this story, the current version of Nowruz in Iran dates back to 538 BC, when Cyrus the Great invaded Babylon. According to other accounts, Zarathustra, traditionally regarded as the founder of Zoroastrianism, is considered the founder of Nowruz.

Zoroastrians leave a temple on the occasion of the celebration of Nowruz, the Parsi New Year / EFE

The celebrations of Nowruz begin with the feast of Tchaharchanbé Souri, also called "Feast of Fire."

Tchaharchanbé Souri is celebrated on the eve of the last Wednesday of the year by the Iranians since at least 1,700 BC (since the first period of Zoroastrianism more or less.) On this occasion, lights and decorations are installed in major Iranian cities, and fires are lit in public squares. 

The lights and the fire symbolize the hope of enlightenment, and radiant happiness for the year to come. Concretely, people light fires larger or smaller and jump over the flames, pronouncing the sentence: "Zardi-yé man az to; sorkhi-ye to az man" which literally means " my [color] yellow for you, your [color] red for me." Figuratively, it means "I give you my pallor (or my illness) and I take your strength (your health)."

]]> <![CDATA[Funerals Begin for New Zealand Mosques Shooting Victims]]> Wed, 20 Mar 2019 10:48:42 -04:00 Mourners shouldered the open caskets of victims from New Zealand's mass shooting of two mosques and carried them into a large tent at Christchurch's Memorial Park Cemetery Wednesday for the first burials of the 50 victims.

New Zealand: Kiwis Are Surrendering Guns After Terrorist Attack

The majority of victims from Friday's attack were migrants or refugees from countries such as Pakistan, India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Turkey, Somalia, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.

The youngest was a three-year-old boy born in New Zealand to Somali refugee parents. The first two victims buried, father and son Khaled and Hamza Mustafa, came from war-torn Syria.

"I cannot tell you how gutting it is ... a family came here for safety and they should have been safe here," said Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, visiting the city for the second time since the massacre.

Wrapped in white cloth, the bodies were laid to face Mecca, and, after jenazah (funeral) prayers, were carried towards their freshly dug graves.

“Seeing the body lowered down, it was a very emotional time for me,” said Gulshad Ali, who had traveled from Auckland to attend the first funeral.

Several mounds of dirt piled high marked the site of multiple graves which will be used for New Zealand's worst mass shooting in its history. Hundreds gathered to mourn, some men wearing a taqiyah (skullcap), others in shalwar kameez (long tunic and trousers), while women wore hijabs and scarfs.

Heavily armed police stood watch with flowers tucked in their revolver holsters and attached to their high powered rifles. Six victims were buried Wednesday, with more expected during the week.

Relatives and other people arrive to attend the burial ceremony of the victims of the mosque attacks, at the Memorial Park Cemetery. | Source: Reuters

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said this coming Friday's call to prayers for Muslims in New Zealand will be broadcast nationally and there will be a two minute silence Friday.

"There is a desire to show support for the Muslim community as they return to mosques on Friday," she said.

The bullet-ridden Al Noor mosque, where more than 40 people died, was being cleaned and repaired for Friday prayers. Near the mosque, members of rival gangs did a Maori haka, a powerful Indigenous ceremonial performance, and a crowd of people sang New Zealand's national anthem as the sun set.

The Australian National Imams Council has called on Imams to dedicate this Friday's Khutbah (sermon) to the Christchurch mosque mass shooting.

The burial ceremony of the victims of the mosque attacks at the Memorial Park Cemetery was held under the watch of armed police. | Source: Reuters

Australian Brenton Tarrant, 28, a suspected white supremacist who was living in Dunedin, on New Zealand's South Island, has been charged with murder following the attack. He was remanded without a plea and is due back in court on April 5, when police said he was likely to face more charges.

The country’s Prime Minister has vowed that he will remain “nameless,” and that she will not permit him to hold notoriety for his mass homicide by uttering his name.

"He is a terrorist, he is a criminal, he is an extremist. But he will, when I speak, be nameless,” she said.

The alleged shooter had written a 74-page screed promoting his white supremacist views and had live-streamed his attack on the Al Noor mosque in Christchurch.

"He may have sought notoriety, but we in New Zealand will give him nothing. Not even his name," she said.

Ardern earlier visited Cashmere High School in Christchurch which lost two students in the attack - teenagers Sayyad Milne and Hamza Mustafa - plus Hamza's father Khaled, and a former student Tariq Omar. She talked to about 200 children gathered at the school auditorium about racism and changes in gun laws.

"Never mention the perpetrator's name ... never remember him for what he did," she said, asking the children to focus on the victims.

New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern hugs a student during her visit to Cashmere High School. | Source: Reuters

New Zealand's police chief said global intelligence agencies, including the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation and those from Australia, Canada and Britain, were building up a profile of the shooter.

"I can assure you this is an absolute international investigation," Police Commissioner Mike Bush said at a media briefing in the capital Wellington.

Questions were being asked about New Zealand's relaxed gun laws, which Ardern has promised to tighten, and on whether New Zealand authorities were focused enough on the risk from far-right extremists.

As of Tuesday night, 21 victims had been identified, while the remaining victims will be attended to Wednesday before their bodies can be released for burial, police said.

Families of the victims have been frustrated by the delay as under Islamic tradition bodies are usually buried within 24 hours. Bush said police had to prove the cause of death to the satisfaction of the coroner and the judge handling the case.

"You cannot convict for murder without that cause of death. So this is a very comprehensive process that must be completed to the highest standard," he said.

Twenty-nine people wounded in the attacks remained in hospital, eight still in intensive care.

Many have had to undergo multiple surgeries due to complicated gunshot wounds. The gunman used semi-automatic AR-15 rifles, with large magazines, and a shotgun.

The attack was broadcast live on Facebook and quickly distributed to other platforms, prompting Ardern and others to rebuke the technology companies.

A group of state-run New Zealand investment funds with a combined NZ$90 billion (US$61.5 billion) in assets said they were putting their investment heft behind calls for Facebook, Google and Twitter to take action following the live-streaming and sharing on social media of the attack.

]]> <![CDATA[Colombia Teachers Begin National Strike Against Duque's Reforms]]> Wed, 20 Mar 2019 10:37:16 -04:00 The Colombian Federation of Education Workers (Fecode) announced Tuesday a two-day strike to protest for a constitutional reform which guarantees adequate public funding for infrastructure, transportation, and feeding. This measure is accompanied by “Occupy Bogota” (La Gran Toma), a massive march called for Wednesday which demands improvements in the teachers' working conditions.

Indigenous Protesters Injured: Police Ambush Peaceful Protest

Fecode seeks the fulfillment of the agreements signed with the National government in December 2018, which were aimed at improving the Colombian teachers' working conditions by providing salary bonuses and improving teacher evaluations. They also demand timely compliance with health contracts for teachers and their families.

"We require a greater political will from the National government to find timely solutions in the negotiation process," Fecode said in a statement and added that "the delay will aggravate the already critical problems within the country's public education system."

The teachers' mobilization also rejects the National Development Plan proposed by President Ivan Duque administration because it harms the future of the public system.

In this regard, Carlos Eduardo Vasco, a physicist who coordinated the 'Mission of Sages' formed in 1994, criticized Duque's Plan for lacking consistent objectives on scientific education.

Source: TeleSUR

"Where are the main goals of the old Mission of Science, Education and Development?," Vasco asked and added "where are the funding guarantees for the December agreements, which [President Duque administration] reached with college students, professors and rectors?"

Today's mobilization is the second strike that Fecode carries out so far this year. On Feb. 14, the Colombian teachers staged another national strike demanding improvements to the provision of health services for teachers and their families.

]]> <![CDATA[EU Fines Google $1.7B in 3rd Anti-trust Case]]> Wed, 20 Mar 2019 10:18:31 -04:00 The global internet giant was fined 1.49 billion euros (US$1.7 billion dollars) Wednesday for abusing the dominance of its search engine to block competitors in the market of selling text ads on the search results that appear on third-party websites.

RELATED: Google Fights French 'Right to be Forgotten Online' in EU Court

The fine was calculated based on the value of Google's revenue from online search advertising sales in the European Economic Area (EEA), said the European Commission. 

“Google has cemented its dominance in online search adverts and shielded itself from competitive pressure by imposing anti-competitive contractual restrictions on third-party websites,” European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said.

Google's strategy utilizing it's AdSense products as an online search advertising brokerage is at question. The company contracts with "publisher" websites, such as newspapers or travel sites, which use search functions. When users execute a search, the website, using AdSense delivers both search results and related ads made to look like results. 

Google was stopping publishers from placing any search adverts from competitors on their search results pages, forcing them to reserve the most profitable space on their search results pages for Google’s adverts. 

Google has already been fined twice by the European Commission. 

Vestager, in July 2018, imposed a record US$4.9 billion fine on Google for illegal practices regarding Android mobile devices to strengthen the dominance of Google's search engine. In June 2017, the Commission fined Google US$2.7 billion or abusing its dominance as a search engine by giving an illegal advantage to the company's own comparison shopping service.

]]> <![CDATA[Amnesty Report: 14 Civilians Likely Killed by US Airstrikes]]> Wed, 20 Mar 2019 07:49:09 -04:00 Credible evidence has surfaced to support allegations that United States airstrikes have killed or wounded almost two dozen civilians in Somalia.  The report said 14 civilians were killed and eight injured in strikes.

US Army Admits to Deadly Airstrike in Somalia

“Amnesty International’s research points to a failure by the U.S. and Somali governments to adequately investigate allegations of civilian casualties resulting from U.S. operations in Somalia,” the report disclosed.

The United States’ Africa Command officials disputed the report and insisted that the military has investigated about 18 cases of possible civilian casualties, since 2017, and found that none were credible.

“The civilian death toll we’ve uncovered in just a handful of strikes suggests the shroud of secrecy surrounding the US role in Somalia’s war is actually a smokescreen for impunity,” Brian Castner, a senior adviser at Amnesty International, said.

Somali officials reported that a drone strike Tuesday targeted a vehicle carrying suspected militants but also hit another vehicle with civilians.

Tuesday the international human rights group charged that the U.S. Pentagon has not been adequately investigating potential casualties resulting from the military airstrikes, prompting the United States’ Africa Command to promise that it will review the details of the incident related by the report. 

U.S. defense officials said the casualty figures are subjective because al-Shabab makes false claims.

However, Amnesty International rubbished the United States’ explanation, saying the organization has analyzed satellite imagery and other data, and interviewed 65 witnesses and survivors of five specific airstrikes to support the report’s findings.

“Our findings directly contradict the U.S. military’s mantra of zero civilian casualties in Somalia. That claim seems all the more fanciful when you consider the USA has tripled its air strikes across the country since 2016, outstripping their strikes in Libya and Yemen combined” Castner added.

Airstrikes in Somalia have steadily risen during the U.S.'s Donald Trump administration, from 47 in 2018 to 28 so far this year.

]]> <![CDATA[Mathematics Abel Prize Awarded to First Woman Recipient]]> Wed, 20 Mar 2019 07:56:53 -04:00 The prestigious mathematics award, the Abel Prize, has been rewarded to the first female recipient since the first prize was initially awarded in 2003. 


Bolivian Woman Scientist Wins Prestigious Prize in Ethnobotany

Mathematician and University of Texas Professor Karen Uhlenbeck was given the award "for her pioneering achievements in geometric partial differential equations, gauge theory and integrable systems, and for the fundamental impact of her work on analysis, geometry and mathematical physics."

In addition to her expertise in the quantitative fields, Professor Uhlenbeck is also an advocate for gender equality.

The Abel Prize is modeled after the Nobel Peace Prize and is awarded by the King of Norway to individuals who have made notable contributions to the field.

The prize includes a cash reward of 6 million Norwegian kroner (US$700,000).

Uhlenbeck, who is 76 years old, has contributed to several disciplines, including physics, geometry and quantum theory. The intersectionality of fields has "led to revolutionary advances at the intersection of mathematics and physics," the dean of University of Texas' College of Natural Sciences, Paul Goldbart, explained. 
Uhlenbeck is best known for her analysis on "minimal surfaces," specifically the thin, curved surface area of soap bubbles. Studying the behavior of the surfaces gives researchers a better understanding of a broad spectrum of phenomena that occur in many scientific studies.

Aside from her studies, Uhlenbeck has co-founded several outreach programs, such as the Park City Mathematics Institute and the Institute's Women and Mathematics Program, which recruit and train young researchers and female mathematicians, respectively. 

]]> <![CDATA[Migrant Man Dies in CBP Custody, 4th Since December]]> Wed, 20 Mar 2019 07:07:15 -04:00 A Mexican migrant reportedly died while in the custody of the United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP). This is the fourth such death since December of last year. 


US Reportedly Uses 'Secret' Shelters to Detain Migrant Children

The 40-year-old man was taken into custody Sunday morning after he was apprehended for illegal re-entry into the United States, near the Bridge of the Americas. The man's identity has not yet been released, although the Department of Homeland Security Office of the Inspector General and Mexico's government have been notified.

Tuesday's report stated that the man was given a medical evaluation at the CBP processing center in El Paso, Texas, before being transferred to the medical center. He received treatment for flu-like symptoms, liver failure and kidney failure at Las Palmas Medical Center, but died shortly after. 

Earlier this month, Border Patrol Commissioner Kevin McAleenan warned that the immigration system "is well beyond capacity and remains at the breaking point," while the center's assistant commissioner for public affairs, Andrew Meehan, said the facility "remains committed to ensuring the safe, humane and dignified treatment of those within the care of our custody."

Among the four migrants who have died in CBP custody are a 45-year-old man, an 8-year-old boy and a 7-year-old girl.

ACLU Border Rights Center Director Astrid Dominguez said, in a statement, that "a transparent and independent investigation into the conditions at CBP detention facilities and its medical care practices is needed immediately."

Regarding this specific case, Meehan says the "CBP will release more details as they become available and are deemed appropriate and will ensure an independent and thorough review of the circumstances."

]]> <![CDATA[Kenyan Officials At Odds Over Drought Crisis, Hunger Deaths]]> Wed, 20 Mar 2019 06:07:05 -04:00 Lawmakers in Kenya are denouncing the government's response to a severe drought that has reportedly left thousands of people starving in at least 12 counties, and are calling on President Uhuru Kenyatta to declare a national disaster. 


Record Disaster Hinders Aid as Millions Wait Across Africa: UN

Reports indicate that two more people have died of hunger in Baringo County and two more in Turkana County, last week.

Rift Valley Regional Coordinator Mongo Chimwanga disputes the reports, saying that measures have been put in place to mitigate the situation, and claiming that there have been no hunger-related deaths, the regional official claims, adding that "no single soul has been lost in Baringo or Turkana counties as reported by the media."

Nelson Loleta, member of the County Assembly for Silale Ward, refuted the claim.

“We wonder why the government is disputing reports that people have died of hunger in Baringo …We have all the records,” the representative said during a relief food distribution in Baringo County on Tuesday. Loleta accuses the provincial administration of going "to the extent of intimidating us and the local chiefs for giving the reports to the media."

Minority leader James Orengo also denounced Chimwanga's assertion, stating, "it is a matter of fact people are dying of famine and hunger in Turkana."

Lawmakers are questioning the use of the 14 Billion shillings allocated by the government specifically for drought response, as well as the commitment of national and county governments to address the crisis.

Both Bungoma Senator Moses Wetangula and the Senate majority leader blame the failure of country-wide food distribution for the crisis, pointing out how farmers in breadbasket areas are stuck with an abundance of food while other counties starve.

"The images of emaciated people in Baringo, Turkana and other counties in a nation that is well endowed with natural resources is something that this nation needs to worry about,” Saboti Member of Parliament Caleb Amisi points out. 

]]> <![CDATA[New Zealand: Kiwis Are Surrendering Guns After Terrorist Attack]]> Wed, 20 Mar 2019 05:18:46 -04:00 New Zealand gun owners have begun handing over weapons to the authorities following the terrorist attack which claimed the lives of at least 50 people at two mosques in Christchurch Friday.

Europe Investigates Far-Right Links of NZ Mosque Shooter

Citizens across the Oceanic state are reportedly appearing at local police stations to surrender their semiautomatic rifles, Newsweek reports. The police issued a statement asking people to call before attempting to surrender any firearm.

"Until today, I was one of the New Zealanders who owned a semiautomatic rifle," a farmer, John Hart, wrote on Twitter. "On the farm, they are a useful tool in some circumstances, but my convenience doesn't outweigh the risk of misuse.”

New Zealand police said, so far, about 37 firearms had been handed in across the country.

A number of other gun owners have also taken to social media to urging Kiwis - as New Zealanders are widely known - to follow suit.

The attack marks New Zealand's first mass shooting in nearly 30 years and prompted Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern vow to introduce new gun laws

"As the Cabinet we were absolutely unified and very clear, the terror attack in Christchurch on Friday was the worst act of terrorism on our shores, it was, in fact, one of the worst globally in recent times, it has exposed a range of weaknesses in New Zealand's gun laws," the head of government said.

The PM has also encouraged gun owners to surrender their guns.

"We don't need these in our country," Hart added, while displaying a form which requests the "destruction" of his weapon. "We have make sure it's #NeverAgain."

New Zealand hunting lobby, Fish and Game NZ, supports the call for a ban and buyback of military-style semi-automatic weapons as well as a limitation on the sale of high-capacity magazines to prevent people from illegally modifying a smaller capacity semi-automatic rifle into a military-style weapon.

“They are designed for one thing only and that’s to kill people,” Fish and Game NZ chief executive Martin Taylor told Radio NZ.

In contrast, ex-New Zealand Deerstalkers' Association (NZDA) President Bill O'Leary said the organization would cooperate with the government but will not advise members to part ways with their semi-automatic firearms.

"We will cooperate with the government and put to the government through a process our proposals for how those firearms could be legalized or withdrawn, but withdrawn in such a manner that the people who have invested money in those firearms are not left out of pocket.”

O'Leary noted that military-style firearms were used by a very small group of people in New Zealand. 

"The people who are holding what are called MMSAs are holding them with a current New Zealand firearms licence, therefore they are legal at this stage."

In response to negative comments, Hart also wrote: "The devil doesn't need any more advocates."

]]> <![CDATA[Chile-Ecuador Mining Partnership Raises Environmental Concerns]]> Wed, 20 Mar 2019 05:51:11 -04:00 A project jointly owned by the world's top copper producer Chilean Codelco, and Ecuadorean miner Enami EP has reached the advanced exploration stage despite receiving strong opposition from nearby communities.


Ecuador: Cuenca Says 'No' To Mines In El Cajas National Park

The Llurimagua copper project will be carried out about 80 kilometers northeast of Ecuador's capital, Quito, in the Imbabura Province. Though Codelco considered prospects in Brazil and Mexico, the 982-million-ton copper project in Ecuador will be the Chilean company's first venture abroad.

The project, which began in 2015, has been met with environmental concerns from surrounding communities. Fitch Solutions Macro Research released a report stating the increased risk of exacerbating tensions between locals and companies due to mining expansion and exploration.

Ecuador has witnessed two landmark cases, in the last year, in which courts ruled in favor of Indigenous communities who were not adequately informed about mineral exploitation being conducted in their territories. The 2008 Constitution protects this right.

"Minister Williams with President of Ecuador, Lenin Moreno, meet to sign the "Joint Declaration of Cooperation", promoting the Llurimagua mining project between partners Codelco and Enami EP."

While Ecuador's forests are “open to mineral exploration but (are) subject to strict environmental standards and obligations supervised by the Ministry of Environment,” according to the chief executive of Cornerstone Capital Resources Brooke MacDonald, mining activity has been banned in concessions already in operation due to Indigenous resistance

Just last month, a judge in the province of Sucumbio banned the activity in 52 concessions, including a requirement for reparations to be made for any environmental impacts caused. 

Enami has already been slapped with an environmental lawsuit.

Late last year, the Cotacachi government filed a suit against the miner for damaging the protected forest inhabited by the endangered Andean bear, and clearing forest area

According to experts, the environmental effects of the Llurimagua project are already noticeable, despite still being in the exploration phase. Water quality in the area has been monitored by an independent collective of 70 scientists and locals. They have recorded alarming levels of chemicals such as arsenic, manganese, copper and molybdenum in streams and micro-basins that run downstream from Llurimagua. They have also reported landslides near the exploration zones. 

These predictive issues give communities the "right to start questioning what's going to happen once the companies start extracting," William Sacher, leader of the collective and academic at the Simon Bolivar Andean University, said.

President of the Defense and Ecological Conservation of Intag, Silvia Quilumbango points out how "the contamination from extracting metals is much more permanent (than farming).”

]]> <![CDATA[Palestinian-owned School Demolished by Israeli Forces]]> Wed, 20 Mar 2019 04:05:29 -04:00 A Palestinian-owned school building that was under construction, in the Shuafat refugee camp, in occupied East Jerusalem was demolished by Israeli forces' bulldozers Tuesday. 


Israeli Court Orders Closure of Al-Aqsa Mosque, Again

Eyewitnesses recount dozens of Israeli occupation forces escorting the bulldozers into the refugee camp, while others closed off traffic at the checkpoint near the school. 

The Israeli forces then, reportedly, surrounded the al-Razi School from rooftops of nearby buildings while students and faculty were evacuated prior to the demolition. According to multiple witnesses, there were drones observed flying above the two-story school building and rubber-coated steel bullets fired on locals in the camp. 

The owner of the demolished school building, Muhammad Alqam, insists that he issued all necessary permits at the Israeli Jerusalem Municipality before beginning construction. Alqam was assured that the area belonged to the United Nations Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA). 

There was no prior notice of the demolition before it took place, says Saleh Alqam, principal of the al-Razi school and an official reason for the demolition is yet to be confirmed.

Despite the requisite preparations being carried out, the demolition order was issued, in November, by Israeli authorities.  

The United Nations has consistently condemned Israel for the practice of illegal demolition, since 2015.

The al-Razi School had registered about 400 kindergarten and elementary students for the upcoming school year for the new building. 

It is a common practice of Israeli authorities to demolish Palestinian-owned buildings under the pretext of missing permits. Permits in East Jerusalem are rarely issued to Palestinians, and the application process can last years and cost several thousands of dollars. The process burdens individual families in Palestinian neighborhoods, while projects for Jewish Israelis are funded and carried out by the Israeli government. The government assists in planning, marketing, development, as well as infrastructure. 

 “Since 1967, the Government of Israel has directly engaged in the construction of 55,000 units for Israelis in East Jerusalem; in contrast, fewer than 600 units have been built for Palestinians in East Jerusalem, the last of which were built 40 years ago," the founder of Terrestrial Jerusalem, Daniel Seidemann, noted. 

]]> <![CDATA[California Jury Hands Bayer Another Blow in Weedkiller Lawsuit]]> Wed, 20 Mar 2019 03:45:09 -04:00 Eight months after Bayer was ordered to pay over a US$289-million claim, the company suffered another major blow, Tuesday, in a San Francisco federal court. A jury unanimously ruled that Bayer AG’s glyphosate-based Roundup weed killer caused cancer, after five days of deliberation.

India Cuts Monsanto Seed Royalties for 3rd Time

The company, which continues to deny the allegations leveled against the glyphosate chemical in its Roundup product, also faces other pending rulings, in both this case and others.

“We will only really know whether it works for Bayer to isolate scientific issues once we see more trials,” Adam Zimmerman, a law professor at Los Angeles-based Loyola Law School, explained.

Another second trial, involving the case, will determine Bayer’s liability and damages relating to the cancer of plaintiff Edwin Hardeman, who has non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Hardeman’s lawyers, Aimee Wagstaff and Jennifer Moore, said: “Now we can focus on the evidence that Monsanto has not taken a responsible, objective approach to the safety of Roundup.”

Meanwhile, Bayer responded, in a statement, that “we are confident the evidence in phase two will show that Monsanto’s conduct has been appropriate and the company should not be liable for Mr. Hardeman’s cancer.”

Previously, the European Union health authorities seemingly sided with the chemical company, declaring that "experts, with only one exception, concluded that glyphosate is unlikely to pose a carcinogenic hazard to humans and the evidence does not support classification with regard to its carcinogenic potential."

But, global health authority, the United Nation World Health Organization, countered the EU’s remark, stating that Roundup is "probably carcinogenic to humans."

United States District Judge Vince Chhabria was responsible for splitting the Hardeman case into two phases: one to decide causation and the other to determine Bayer’s potential liability and damages.

Last year, the German chemical giant bought out Monsanto, the original maker of Roundup, for US$63 billion.

Roundup is recorded as the first glyphosate-based weed killer.

Glyphosate is the world’s most widely used weed killer. 

In August, a Californian man was awarded US$289 million in a cancer case against Roundup. The award was subsequently reduced to US$78 million, which is currently pending an appeal decision.

Tuesday’s case is the second of about 11,200 Roundup accepted lawsuits, which are scheduled to go to trial, in the United States.

]]> <![CDATA[Gold Fever? US Treasury Sanctions Venezuela Gold Mining Company]]> Tue, 19 Mar 2019 23:24:09 -04:00 The U.S. Department of the Treasury imposed sanctions on Tuesday against Venezuela’s state-run gold mining company Minerven, which is part of the Venezuelan Guayana Corporation (CVG) holding.

Venezuela Lost Billions as Result of US-led Sanctions: Maduro

As part of the ongoing sanctions and attempts to destabilize the Venezuelan government, the U.S. government announced the new measure that aims to block state mining assets and prohibit U.S citizens from dealing with the company. The decision comes after Uganda said it was investigating its biggest gold refinery for importing Venezuelan gold.

The state-run ferrous metals mining company, and its president, Adrian Antonio Perdomo Mata, were included in the list of the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) and Specially Designated Nationals And Blocked Persons (SDN), adding to more than half a dozen rounds of sanctions against the Venezuelan people and assets.

"We have a fierce battle against international sanctions that have caused Venezuela to lose at least 20 billion dollars in 2018," said President Nicolas Maduro back in January 2019 as sanctions intensified. 

Venezuela to Boost Gold Despite US Sanctions

While the interventionist choke-hold progresses, gold has become a possible lifeline for the Venezuelan economy. President Maduro declared that Venezuela is currently certifying 32 gold fields, adding that “everything suggests the country will be the second biggest gold reserve on the planet.”

However, U.S. officials keep asserting pressure on their British counterparts, as the Bank of England refused in February to return 14 tons of gold owned by the Venezuelan central bank, worth US$550 million. According to RT, Venezuela holds more than US$8 billion in foreign reserves. The amount of Venezuelan gold kept in the Bank of England doubled in recent months, growing from 14 to 31 tons. 

Trump: “We can be much tougher if we need to do it"

As the new sanctions rolled out, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro was meeting with Donald Trump, part his first U.S. visit. Most of the discussion in the White House revolved around Venezuela, to which Trump said his administration has yet to impose the "toughest" sanctions. 

"We can be much tougher if we need to do it," said the U.S. president reiterating that all options are on the table regarding possible aggression against the Latin American nation.

In an official response issued by Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza, the government declared it was “grotesque to see two heads of state with such important international responsibilities justify war without any distension, in a flagrant violation of the U.N. Charter.” 

Arreaza added that the Venezuelan government is concerned about the "U.S. warmongering influence over Brazil and the supremacist thesis of Donald Trump over Jair Bolsonaro." The statement emphasized that Venezuela denounces once again the threats of military intervention before the international community. "No neofascist alliance will succeed in overcoming the independent and sovereign will of the Venezuelan people," it concludes. 

]]> <![CDATA[US Reportedly Uses ‘Secret’ Shelters to Detain Migrant Children]]> Tue, 19 Mar 2019 22:05:20 -04:00 An exposé by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting reported Monday that the U.S. government is relying on clandestine shelters to hold unaccompanied migrant children, in possible violation of the long-standing Flores Settlement agreement.

US Holding Nearly 13,000 Migrant Children in Detention Centers

According to the report the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), which is responsible for unaccompanied migrant children, has not publicly revealed the existence of the shelters. Attorney Holly Cooper, who represents the class-action of unaccompanied minors in the agency’s care, told Reveal the government failed in its obligation to report every minor’s location and believes ORR is still withholding information about other locations. 

Under the 1997 Flores Agreement, the federal government is supposed to provide attorneys representing detained children with a regular and detailed census of each minor in the agency’s custody. 

Cooper learned about one of the facilities months ago. After requesting information about additional sites, she discovered several others. At the moment it remains unclear how many total sites are under operation, but there are at least five in Arkansas, Florida, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. 

The alleged minors being held initially were placed at public shelters around the country but were later transferred to these undisclosed facilities that specialize in mental health and behavioral cases. Currently, according to Reveal, ORR is holding at least 16 boys and girls, some as young as 9 years old.

“ORR needs to provide answers immediately about where they are holding asylum-seeking children, and what, if any, child welfare regulations those facilities are meeting,” Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley said on Twitter. The Oregon lawmaker has introduced a bill that would require shelter operators to grant access to members of Congress.

In a response to Splinter News, regarding this investigation, the ORR claimed it "does not have clandestine facilities," yet accepted that  “at times facilities providing highly specialized care are used...These facilities can be out of the ORR care network.” Even indicated that the ORR is currently holding approximately 15 to 20 unaccompanied migrant children “in out of network placements,” which matches with the investigation estimates and leads. 

One of the facilities is Millcreek Behavioral Health in Arkansas where Nestor Dubon’s cousin is being held.  As a sponsor, he said he’s met all the requirements yet Dubon’s 16-year-old cousin is still in custody since he first entered the United States more than two years ago. The most troubling fact is that some of the facilities have been accused “of sexual harassment and physical abuse,” as is the case of the Rolling Hills Hospital in Ada, Oklahoma. 

Both centers are operated by Acadia Healthcare Company, Inc, a firm that trades in the Nasdaq, meaning “you can buy stocks for a company that's holding unaccompanied children. Publicly traded but not publicly known,” Aura Bogado, one of the journalists who wrote the story tweeted on Tuesday. 

This investigation comes days after the former ORR director, Scott Loyd, comes back to the spotlight as new documents reveal further how the agency managed pregnant teenagers in their care. In November 2018, an The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) lawsuit was presented against him for mishandling abortion requests from migrant teenagers. 

According to a New York Times report, 12,800 migrant children were being detained in September 2018 by the United States' government. 

]]> <![CDATA[Italy: Pro 'Anti-Vaxxer' Politician Catches Chickenpox]]> Tue, 19 Mar 2019 22:02:40 -04:00 One of Italy’s largest vaccine critic, Friuli Venezia Giulia Governor Massimiliano Fedriga, is recovering from a bout of chickenpox after receiving treatment at a local hostpital.


No Link Between Measles, Mumps, Rubella Vaccine and Autism: 11-Year Study

I'm fine, I'm at home in convalescence and I thank everyone,” the politician wrote on social media.

A senior member of the far-right, Northern League, Fedriga has opposed Italy’s efforts to introduce childhood vaccinations for 12 diseases, including the measles and chickenpox. On numerous occasions, he has denounced any regulated, mandatory vaccinations a form of “dictatorship” which “anti-vaxxers” never accept, although his own children are vaccinated.

In a Facebook post, Italian immunologist, Dr. Roberto Burioni wished the politician a speedy recovery, writing, “Dear President, first of all let me wish you a speedy recovery,” he wrote on Facebook. “I’m glad you vaccinated your children.

“[Mr Fedriga], like many adults, did not get vaccinated... if he had been vaccinated as an adult he would be in perfect health.

“If he had infected a pregnant woman we would be facing a malformed child or an abortion.

“The only way we have to avoid such tragedies is to vaccinate us all to prevent the circulation of this dangerous virus, which could have hit a much more vulnerable person.”

Italian doctors warn that the growing anti-vaccine or anti-vaxxer movement is requiring emergency measures, like the compulsory vaccine legislation- the Lorenzi law, introduced during the last administration- to be implemented.

Since being hospitalized for the chickenpox, Fedriga has changed his tune, insisting that he has never supported the anti-vaccination movement, but rather, legislation like the Lorenzi law.

“I'm reading a series of celebratory comments on Twitter because I’ve been hospitalised,” he said.

“I have always said that I am in favour of vaccines, but to achieve the result it is necessary to have an alliance with families not an imposition.

“They even said I would get chicken pox from my children, not knowing that my children are vaccinated, as I have stated in interviews,” the politician said.

]]> <![CDATA[Colombia: Indigenous Peaceful Protesters Injured in Heavy Police Crackdown in Cuaca]]> Tue, 19 Mar 2019 21:51:30 -04:00 At least seven people have been wounded and one killed after peaceful protesters were ambushed on the Pan-American highway, Cauca, Colombia Tuesday evening.

UN Warns Massacres in Colombia Increased 164% in 2018: Report

Members of the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC) were met with police violence during a demonstration against forced evacuations in Augustina. Indigenous communities continued their week of protests, erecting barricades in the road to stall police forces to no avail.

Rapid gunfire echoed throughout the videos uploaded by Indigenous groups, who turned to social media when violence broke, calling for help from the United Nations and the Colombian government to intercede.

“#ATTENTION| At this time the public force are attacking violently La #MingaSocialSuroccidente. In the Agustina, Cauca, there are several mingueros (Minga Indigenous people) wounded by a firearm. We ALERT HUMAN RIGHTS. @IvanDuque @luiskankui @mindefensa @ONUHumanRights @CIDH,” the ONIC tweeted.

Colombian authorities are blaming armed groups for the attack, although the Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca (CRIC) had already denounced the Mobile Anti-Disturbances Squadron (ESMAD) and the National Army for several violent interventions prior to the shootings.

At least three Indigenous people and possibly four Public Force members were wounded during the incident, Cauca state secretary, Ricardo Cifuentes Guzman said.

On its personal website, ONIC reported, “In the afternoon of March 19, in the sector the Agustina the public force ESMAD fires with long-range firearms against the humanity of the mingueros, leaving 3 wounded.”

“The first Manuel Mosquera, the second Weimar Lame and the third the promoter of the medical mission, all wounded by firearms. It is worrisome how the ESMAD fires with the medical mission that provides the service to guarantee the right to life,” the organization said.

“We demand that the Colombian Government and its armed repressive agents comply with the national and international standards that regulate the fundamental right to social and peaceful protest,” they said.

Protests in Cauca have going on for more than a week with demands to talk to president Ivan Duque about the 462 murders of social leaders and human rights activists in Colombia since 2016 as well as constant threats violence, death, and displacement.

Their calls for help on social media gathered attention, as activists and academics rising to carry the banner.

Ana Erazo, a politologist and professor of urban studies, wrote, “Disturbing situation that the (Indigenous) communities are forced to mobilize today for their rights to live. @IvanDuque and @DilianFrancisca repression should not be the answer. #MingaSocialSuroccidente.”

Human Rights Activist Moritz Tenthoff said, “Duke's response to social protest is army and bullet. #DuqueVengaAlCauca to dialogue with social organizations. Guarantees for the #MingaSocialSuroccidente2019.”

Telesur Correspondent Tatiana Portela tweeted, “More evidence of the war treatment that is giving the Government of @IvanDuque The Social And Popular Minga that is ahead in the department Of Cauca.”

]]> <![CDATA[AMLO Signs Promise He Will Not Seek a Second Term]]> Tue, 19 Mar 2019 21:30:54 -04:00 Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador signed a vow on Tuesday to never seek a second term amidst critics’ worries that a new law allowing a mid-term recall referendum could be a mechanism for a re-election bid.

AMLO 'Ends Neoliberalism', Ushers In Post-Neoliberal Plan

"I’ve already said many times, out of conviction, I am against re-election. I’m a supporter of effective suffrage and not re-election, but I am going to put it in writing with my signature, making a public commitment," Lopez Obrador said Monday in a press conference where he was expected to sign the letter.

However, it was on Tuesday morning that the Mexican head of state went ahead and signed the document in which he promises to step down as president when his term ends in 2024 and retire to his ranch in southern Mexico. A move that comes as a response to his critics and opponents who argue that the new revocation of mandate law is just a way to obtain re-election. 

The Constitutional reform was passed on March 14 by the Chamber of Deputies - the lower house of Congress - 328 votes in favor, 153 against and with two abstentions. Yet still must be approved by the Senate.

The mid-term recall is intended to give Mexicans the choice to dismiss an elected official, even the president, half-way down their term, which for AMLO would come in 2021. The approved legislation was one of the most important promises of the President’s campaign followed by the slogan, "If the people place us there, the people take us away.”

According to the Mexican constitution, the president is limited to a single six-year term, and the principle of no re-election has been at the heart of Mexican politics since Francisco Madero campaigned in 1909 against president Porfirio Diaz, who held on to power for three decades.

]]> <![CDATA[Lula is Near Proving Innocence, According to His Brother]]> Tue, 19 Mar 2019 20:03:48 -04:00 The brother of Brazilian former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Jose Ferreira da Silva, revealed that Lula's defense team will prove his innocence on all the accusations the Brazilian justice has imposed on him.

Lula Calls on Brazilians to Never Lose Hope

Lula's brother who is also a union leader, better known as Frei Chico, stated that "I want to say to the people, believe me in one thing: Lula did not steal anything. He did not steal and he's going to prove that. The narrative that they made saying he stole, they will have to prove it."

In an interview with local media, the brother of the Brazilian leader reiterated that Lula suffers "a stupid persecution (...), history will show his innocence."

Frei Chico added that "unfortunately Lula is a very important person for Brazil and he is paying the price for that."

According to the former president's team, "Lula is arrested by a legal trick and by manipulation of the Penal Code," as stated on the Lula official Twitter account.

According to his brother, when Lula attended the funeral of his grandson Arthur, the Brazilian government, and other authorities imposed conditions of not using cell phones or talking to the media.

Now the "Free Lula is the flag of national sovereignty, of the rights of the working class. The sentences against Lula must be annulled," says the Lula's official Twitter account.

Lula continues to be a prisoner in the Curibita Federal Police Superintendence, serving a sentence of 12 years and one month imposed by the Federal Regional Court for alleged acts of corruption. Nonetheless, social movements and activists point out that this accusation, which lacks evidence, responds to persecution against the popular leader.

]]> <![CDATA[Biggest Migration Flow in US Had Huge Economic Benefits: Study]]> Tue, 19 Mar 2019 19:37:50 -04:00 From 1860 to 1920, the United States experienced what is known as the Age of Mass Migration. Almost a century later, a new peer-review study published by Oxford University Press notes that U.S. counties who received more historical migration nowadays enjoy better economies.

Trump Will Ask Congress for Extra $8.6 Billion for Border Wall

“We studied the effects of European immigration on economic prosperity and found that counties with more historical immigration have higher income, less poverty, less unemployment, higher rates of urbanization, and greater educational attainment today,” reveal the authors. The research was published on March 12, 2019, in the scientific journal, Review of Economic Studies. 

During the time period over 20 million eastern, northern and southern Europeans reached the U.S. at a time when the country only had 75 million citizens. Most settled in urban coastal centers yet many moved to the interior of the country. The investigation was applied to 1,489 counties, which consist of those that existed in 1860 and have the same boundaries from 1860–2000, as well as estimates and historical projections. 

Data suggests that an increase on the percentage of migrants in a country by 4.9 percent resulted in a 13 percent increase in average per capita income today, a 44 percent increase in average manufacturing output per capita from 1860-1920, a 37 percent increase in agricultural productivity, and a 152 percent increase in the number of patents per capita related to innovation. 

This study comes at a crucial moment as the U.S. political discourse led by President Donald Trump, rallies on the supposed detrimental effect that immigrants have on the communities in which they settle. Yet, according to the researchers, migrants not only benefit the economy but their presence doesn’t have long-run social costs. Those counties that experience more historical migration as of today have similar levels of social capital, civic participation, and rates of crime.

"There are several important parallels that one could draw between then and now: the large influx of unskilled labor, the small but important inflow of highly skilled innovators, as well as the significant short-run social backlash against immigration. There is much to be learned from taking a longer perspective on the immigration debate," concluded lead-author and researcher at  The London School of Economics, Sandra Sequeira.

]]> <![CDATA[Democratic Primary Candidates to Debate on LGBTQ Issues]]> Tue, 19 Mar 2019 17:46:51 -04:00 The United States presidential candidates from the Democrat party will appear for a presidential debate at an LGBTQ forum to debate solely on LGBTQ issues.


Bernie Sanders Campaign's Staff Are Unionizing

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) will host the debate at University of California, Los Angeles in October just before National Coming Out Day.

The HRC also hosted a Democratic primary forum in 2004 but not in 2016.

To be able to qualify for the forum, the candidates must have at least one percent support in three different national polls and getting more than 65,000 donors from 20 different states.

2016 exit polls showed that 78% of LGBT people voted for Hillary Clinton in the presidential election, up from the 70% that voted for Barack Obama in 2008 making them a loyal Democratic constituency.

"Millions of LGBTQ people will have their rights on the ballot in 2020," Chad Griffin, the HRC president said in a statement. "But today we are also a powerful voting bloc that will help determine the outcome. We’re excited to partner with UCLA Luskin and create an opportunity to hear candidates’ agendas for moving equality forward.”

The Democrats have a wide range of people running for elections including Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Tulsi Gabbard, Kamala Harris etc. Pete Buttigieg is the first openly gay Democratic candidate ever to run for President of the country.

]]> <![CDATA[Ecuador: Judge Accepts Corruption Probe of Lenin Moreno]]> Tue, 19 Mar 2019 16:01:37 -04:00 An Ecuadorean judge has accepted a demand Tuesday for the National Assembly to start a corruption probe on President Lenin Moreno and high ranking officials who prevented the creation of an investigatory commission for the “Ina Papers” corruption case. 

Ecuadorean Legislator Says Assembly President Influencing Votes

The protection order was requested by activist Felipe Ogaz on March 7, after a conversation leaked between National Assembly President Elizabeth Cabezas and Interior Minister Maria Paula Romo, in which Cabezas pressured Romo into helping to prevent the creation of an investigatory commission to probe corruption allegations against Moreno in regard to the "INA Papers" accusations. 

The case was exposed on February 19 by the digital platform "La Fuente" (The Source), owned by Fernando Villavicencio, an outspoken critic of ex-president Rafael Correa. The investigation presented a presumed link between Moreno and the company INA Investment Corp, a Panama tax haven, from which a series of payments, gifts, and purchases of furniture, and even an apartment in Spain were bought for the family of President Moreno. 

Due to the National Assembly’s faltering to pursue the investigation, Ogaz argues the Ecuadorean people’s constitutional rights have been violated, consequently demanding integral reparation by requesting: the National Assembly to initiate the investigation for Moreno and the aforementioned audio, and for the sentence to be public. 

The appeal was assigned to the Judicial Unit for Family, Women, Children, and Adolescents, based in Quito, whose judge, Raquel Herrera, accepted it and issued a ruling on March 19, 2019, to process it and by law hold a public hearing on April 1, 2019. 

For this, 153 public officials, authorities and other defendants have been summoned. The defendants are President Moreno, all 137 National Assembly lawmakers, including its president, Elizabeth Cabezas, Interior Minister Romo, all the members of the Transparency and Social Control Function. And due to the gravity of the accusation also the Attorney General, Superintendent of Banks, Companies, Market Power Control, and Territorial Ordinance will be compelled to appear on court. 

The resolutions adopted in this process have legal significance as they can advance criminal, civil and political-administrative responsibilities, which may lead to an impeachment against Moreno.

]]> <![CDATA[Trump: 'Toughest' Sanctions on Venezuela Yet to Be Imposed]]> Tue, 19 Mar 2019 16:45:44 -04:00 U.S. President Donald Trump gave Brazil's new far-right leader Jair Bolsonaro a ringing endorsement in the Oval Office Tuesday, saying he was looking at a NATO membership or some other alliance for Brazil while saying that his administration has yet to impose the "toughest" sanctions on Venezuela. 

Trump Vetoes Congressional Push to Terminate State Emergency

At the outset of their first meeting, the two populist presidents exchanged football jerseys from their national teams, with Trump's name emblazoned on Brazil's famous yellow shirt and Bolsonaro's on the USA uniform.

Bolsonaro, a former army captain who styled his 2018 campaign after Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, has declared himself an unabashed admirer of the U.S. president, his politics, and the "American way of life". He’s also openly praised former dictators of Brazil, Chile, and Paraguay as well as the ‘Chicago Boys.’

Despite the courtship of both parties, no major breakthroughs were expected from the White House meeting. Trump did give his verbal support, however, to expanding Brazil's presence in major multinational organizations, such as the military alliance, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and the trade organization, Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

"We're going to look at that very, very strongly in terms of- whether it's NATO or it's something having to do with alliance," Trump told reporters as he sat beside Bolsonaro.

Brazilian government officials had said last week that they expected the United States to name Brazil as a major non-NATO ally. However, proposing Brazil for NATO membership would take that a step further.

In 2018, Colombia became the only Latin American nation to join NATO, as a "global partner," which means it will not necessarily have to take part in military action.

Trump also said he supported Brazil's efforts to join the OECD. Brazil, the world's eighth-largest economy, applied in 2017 to join the international organization, which has around three dozen members including Latin American countries Mexico, Chile, and Colombia.

During the press conference, Trump once again took aim at Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro saying that "the twilight hour of socialism has arrived in our hemisphere," Trump told reporters and added that "as you know we have yet to impose the toughest sanctions" on Venezuela.

U.S. President Donald Trump listens during a joint news conference with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro in the Rose Garden of the White House. | Source: Reuters

A senior member of Bolsonaro's economic team said last week Brazil did not expect the U.S. government to announce support for its bid to join the OECD during Bolsonaro's visit.

Trump said he and Bolsonaro would also discuss improving trade between the two largest economies in the Western Hemisphere and cooperation over Venezuela, where both leaders want to oust leftist President Nicolas Maduro.

Ahead of Tuesday's Oval Office meeting, Bolsonaro waived a visa requirement for U.S. visitors to Brazil and later in a Fox News interview, Monday night threw his weight behind Trump's immigration agenda, which includes a wall on the Mexican border.

"We do agree with President Trump's decision or proposal on the wall," Bolsonaro said, in remarks translated to English by the broadcaster. "The vast majority of potential immigrants do not have good intentions. They do not intend to do the best or do good to the U.S. people."

Trump’s administration’s immigration policies, with tightening restrictions and shifting protocol, have lead to family separations, human rights violations, and at least three deaths of two children and one man who were in custody at the US-Mexican border since December 2018.

]]> <![CDATA[People with Disabilities Share Tales of Mistreatment]]> Tue, 19 Mar 2019 15:49:14 -04:00 A viral hashtag started by people with disabilities is gaining momentum on Twitter. Using #Ablesareweird, people with disabilities are sharing their personal stories on how they have been treated by able-bodied people.


'March of Empty Chairs' Demands Rights of Disabled Argentines

The stories of how people with disabilities have been harassed or mistreated or faced a lack of understanding by abled people are doing rounds on Twitter.

It started with Imani Barabani’s tweet saying, “I think about the time an abled random stranger threw my crutch into the pool “to help me swim” a lot. #AbledsAreWeird”

Since then, many came forward with their stories showing their mistreatment.


Imani Barabani’s tweet also drew flak from able people. Many showed the same kind of non-enlightenment that people with disabilities are trying to highlight.

The hashtag has been used not only by people with physical disabilities, but also mental illness, as up to recently, many do not treat mental illness as a disability.

]]> <![CDATA[Diaz-Canel Defends Cuban Doctors' Work in Venezuela]]> Tue, 19 Mar 2019 17:03:13 -04:00 Cuba's President Miguel Diaz-Canel, rejected Tuesday the U.S. media accusations regarding the political activities supposedly carried out by Cuban doctors, who have been working in the Venezuelan Barrio Adentro Mission since 2003.

Cuban-Venezuelan Program Returns Eyesight to 700,000 Bolivians

According to an article published by the New York Times on March 17, Cuban doctors allegedly pressured their patients to vote in favor of Nicolas Maduro in exchange for medical attention, professional misconduct which allegedly was performed just a few days before the 2018 presidential elections.

"Cuban doctors can never be defamed. Their extraordinary human work carried out those lands which the Empire calls 'the world's dark corners' belies the NYT and its reporter Casey," President Diaz-Canel said on Twitter and pointed out that "feeding Marco Rubio's hatred war against Cuba and Venezuela is a crime. We are Cuba."

Concerning the U.S. media accusations, the Cuban Public Health Minister Jose Angel Portal recalled what Fidel Castro, Cuban former president and revolutionary leader, said about the Cuban doctors' work:

"The [Cuban] medical personnel, who departs to save lives anywhere, even at the risk of losing theirs, is the greatest example of solidarity that humankind can offer."

"The truth is this: we, the Cuban doctors, do not propagate ideology. Our example does it for us." The photo caption says: "Our doctors will not get involved in internal politics at all... They do not have as mission to propagate ideology."

The Barrio Adentro Mission is a social program which began to be promoted by Venezuela's former President Hugo Chavez in 1999. Its main purpose is to offer health services to the Venezuelan population living in areas which do not have permanent medical facilities or are far away from hospitals.

Since its inception, this program has sought the Cuban doctors' cooperation so as to provide quality care through ambulatory clinics, comprehensive diagnostic centers, and specialized child health care.

Currently, Cuba also has other international cooperation programs in health. One of them, Operation Miracle, is an ophthalmology-focused initiative which provides free optometry consultations, exams, surgeries and medications to low-income people in the Caribbean, Central, and South American countries.


]]> <![CDATA[Kazakhstan's Leader Resigns After Three Decades in Power]]> Tue, 19 Mar 2019 16:51:42 -04:00 Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev has abruptly announced his resignation, 29 years after taking office. 

RELATED: China and Tajikistan Break Ground on Central Asian Gas Pipeline

In a televised address on Tuesday, the 78-year-old said he has made the "difficult" decision to terminate his authority as president, without specifying the reason behind his decision.

"I have decided to end my duties as president," Nazarbayev said, before signing a decree terminating his powers effective March 30.

"This year I will have held the highest post for 30 years," he said. "As the founder of the independent Kazakh state, I see my task now in facilitating the rise of a new generation of leaders who will continue the reforms that are underway in the country."

Nazarbayev has led Kazakhstan since 1989 when the country was still part of the Soviet Union. He came to power as the country's Communist Party chief and was then elected president in 1991 before the Soviet collapse.

He was elected for a fifth-five year term in 2015 where he took 98 percent of the vote.

Nazarbayev said that speaker of the central Asian country's upper house, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, will serve as the interim head of state until a new election is held. 

The announcement came less than a month after Nazarbayev sacked his government, citing a lack of economic development.

Kazakhstan is the ninth-largest country in the world and has vast mineral resources. Due to its geostrategic position and history, the country is under the influence of China and Russia, as well as a privileged, regional partner of the latter. 

]]> <![CDATA[Trump Admin Economy Report Urges 'Protecting' US From Socialism]]> Tue, 19 Mar 2019 15:10:53 -04:00 The United States administration chastised socialism and the Democrats’ Medicare for All proposal, praising the benefits of capitalism rapturously, as well as its own tax cuts in the annual "Economic Report of the President."

US Officials Intervene in South Africa's Land Reform Debate

With the 2020 presidential race on the horizon, U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration dedicated one of the 10 chapters in a 705-page report to laying out the costs of state control of an economy, loaded with references to Karl Marx, Mao Zedong, and the current administration of Venezuela.

"There is a lot of confusion about this," chairman of President Donald Trump’s Council of Economic Advisers Kevin Hassett told reporters Monday while explaining why the "Markets Versus Socialism" section was included in the report.

Hassett and his fellow CEA economists filled the space of that chapter with attacks on the Medicare for All proposal by democratic-socialist, Senator Bernie Sanders from Vermont, who has announced a second presidential bid for the 2020 elections. That proposal has since taken up by many Democrats.

"We find that experiences of socialism that do not use prices to guide production and consumption… have generally been characterized by distorted incentives and failures of resource allocation— in some extreme instances, on a catastrophic scale," a report summary by the White House states.

What was not mentioned was the president’s own corporate interests, which have been under scrutiny since before his inauguration. The president was formerly a real estate mogul, born into wealth, who said two years prior to the 2008 stock market crash, "I think it’s a great time to start a mortgage company."

"The real estate market is going to be very strong for a long time to come," he added in an interview with CNBC in Apr. 2006.

The report comes at a time when the Trump administration is investing millions of dollars in its policy of regime change in Venezuela against the leftist government of Nicolas Maduro in an effort to install a Washington- friendly president who would open up the country to capitalist and corporate interests. 

]]> <![CDATA[AMLO Invites Multinationals to Build New Oil Refinery]]> Tue, 19 Mar 2019 14:21:51 -04:00 Mexico's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) vowed Monday to rescue the Mexican oil industry by increasing production, building a new refinery, and rehabilitating other six refineries, all of which are decisions aimed at reducing fuel imports.

Citi to Support AMLO's Anti-corruption Agenda

"We are going to recover oil production with 20 new oil fields. We are dedicating enough budget for this purpose and... we are going to rehabilitate six refineries," AMLO said in Tula, Hidalgo, during an event which commemorated the 81st anniversary of the oil expropriation.

Complementing what President Lopez Obrador announced, the Mexican Energy Secretary Rocio Nahle said the construction of the Dos Bocas refinery, whose estimated value is between US$6 billion and US$8 billion, will be carried out by a private foreign company.

For this reason, the Mexican government issued invitations to Bechtel (USA), Techint (Italy), Worley Parsons (Australia), KBR, Inc. (USA) and Technip (France), among others.

Nahle also indicated that the new refinery will process 340,000 barrels per day and have its own gas pipelines and railroad, among other facilities.

President AMLO defended Tuesday the possibility that any of these companies build the new refinery in Dos Bocas, which is an international port located in the State of Tabasco.

"These are the companies that have more experience in the construction of refineries," the Mexican President said and commented that they have an "ethical dimension," which is important to avoid situations similar to the Brazilian company Odebrecht's corruption cases.

]]> <![CDATA[Record Disaster Hinders Aid as Millions Wait Across Africa: UN]]> Tue, 19 Mar 2019 15:11:41 -04:00 Rescue crews are still struggling to reach victims five days after Cyclone Idai raced in at speeds of up to 105 mph, hitting Mozambique, Malawi, and Zimbabwe. UN officials said more than 2.6 million people have been affected in what could rank as one of the worst weather-related disasters recorded in the southern hemisphere.

Cyclone Leaves Over 125 Dead In Mozambique, Zimbabwe

Aid groups said many survivors were trapped in remote areas, surrounded by wrecked roads, flattened buildings and submerged villages.

The Horror in Malawi

“There's a sense from people on the ground that the world still really hasn't caught on to how severe this disaster is,” Matthew Cochrane, spokesman for International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, told a U.N. briefing in Geneva.

“The full horror, the full impact is only going to emerge over coming days,” he added.

As of last week, the death toll in Malawi has stood at 56 from heavy rains and flooding. Caroline Haga, a senior International Federation of the Red Cross official in Beira, said the situation could be far worse in the surrounding areas where houses were not as sturdy and which remained completely cut off by road access.

In 14 districts of Southern Malawi more than 900,000 people are still in need of humanitarian aid following last week’s flooding that killed dozens of people. Flood survivors need emergency shelter, clean water and medical supplies.

“We don’t have enough food at all. So we need a lot of food. We don’t know, perhaps the lorries we see here, they are to be distributed to us. We don’t know, because up to now we haven’t received any food at all,” said Isaac Falakeza, a displacement camp manager,

The Malawian government is trying to mobilize aid to those affected, but humanitarian assistance is in short supply. Over 16,000 households have so far been displaced. And with further rains expected in the south of the country, affected families will only have to hope for rapid intervention from aid agencies.

1,000s could be dead in Mozambique

Meanwhile, the official death count in Mozambique stands at 84, but its President Filipe Nyusi said Monday he had flown over some of the worst-hit zones, and has seen bodies floating in rivers.

A general view shows destruction after Cyclone Idai in Beira, Mozambique | Source: Reuters

The number of people killed could exceed 1,000, Mozambique’s president Filipe Nyusi said Monday, putting the potential death toll greatly more than current figures.

In Beira, Mozambique's fourth-largest city which is home to 500,000 people, a large dam had burst, complicating rescue efforts further. Large swaths of land were completely submerged, and in some streets people waded through knee-high water around piles of mangled metal and other debris.

In the early hours of Monday morning, rescuers launched dinghies onto chest-high waters, navigating through reeds and trees, where some people perched on branches to escape the water, to rescue those trapped by the flooding.

Eighty-four deaths have been confirmed so far in Mozambique as a result of Cyclone Idai, which has also left a trail of death and destruction across Zimbabwe and Malawi, with vast areas of land flooded, roads destroyed and communication wiped out.

President Nyusi said on Radio Mocambique that he had flown over the affected region, where two rivers had overflowed. Villages had disappeared, he said, and bodies were floating in the water.

"Everything indicates that we can register more than 1,000 deaths," he said. Nyusi flew over areas that were otherwise accessible, and some of which had been hit by flooding before Cyclone Idai.

Beira, which sits at the mouth of the Pungwe River, is home to Mozambique's second-largest port, serving as gateway for imports to landlocked countries in southeast Africa. The director of a company that jointly manages the port, Cornelder, based in the Netherlands, said the port had been closed since last Wednesday but would hopefully resume operations Tuesday.

Two cranes would be working and the company had two large generators and enough fuel for now, though damage to access routes and roads further inland was more likely to cause a problem, said the director, who asked not to be named. The fuel pipeline running from Beira to Zimbabwe was believed to be intact, the person said, though communication was still very patchy and therefore the situation at the port remained uncertain.

In February 2000, Cyclone Eline hit Mozambique when it was already devastated by its worst floods in three decades. It killed 350 people and made 650,000 homeless across southern Africa, also hitting Zimbabwe.

Death Toll Expected to Rise in Zimbabwe

In Zimbabwe, the cyclone killed 98 people while more than 200 are missing, the government said Monday. No new numbers had been released since the cyclone's arrival in the country.

Rescuers were struggling to reach people in the country’s Chimanimani district, cut off from the rest of the country by torrential rains and winds of up to 170 kph that swept away roads, homes and bridges and knocked out power and communication lines.

Zimbabwe's treasury has released US$18 million to rebuild roads and bridges, and also provide water, sanitation and electricity. Families have begun burying the dead but the death toll is expected to rise.

Many people had been sleeping in the mountains since Friday, after their homes were flattened by rock falls and mudslides or washed away by torrential rains.

The Harare government has declared a state of disaster in areas affected by the storm. Zimbabwe, a country of 15 million people, was already suffering a severe drought that has wilted crops.

]]> <![CDATA[Rohingya Women Request ICC Probe Into Genocide]]> Tue, 19 Mar 2019 13:54:57 -04:00 Female Rohingya refugees have created a support group called Shanti Mohila (peace women) in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar district.


The Massacre of Inn Din: How Rohingya Are Lynched And Blamed

None of these women knew each other before fleeing Myanmar more than a year ago but grief and trauma brought them together leading them to meet frequently in refugee camps.

“Our fathers and brothers shot, our sisters and mothers raped. Little children were cut into pieces and thrown into the fire. They grabbed our children out of our arms,” said a refugee woman who did not wish to be named while speaking to Al-Jazeera.

But they do not wish to be seen as victims. Through telling their stories, they want to raise awareness and hope to achieve justice.

“They killed my husband and my son and raped my daughter in front of me. Why did they humiliate us? Why did they cut my husband and son into pieces?” asks another woman.

The group submitted a formal request to the International Criminal Court (ICC) last May urging an investigation against genocide and persecution of the Rohingyas in Myanmar.

The Rohingyas an ethnic and religious Muslim minority in Myanmar are being persecuted by the majority Buddhists in Myanmar’s Rakhine state.

More than 900,000 Rohingya live in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar district, the vast majority in camps, according to the United Nations.

About 700,000 of them arrived in the four months after deadly attacks by Rohingya insurgents on Myanmar security forces in August 2017 were followed by military operations that the United Nations and human rights groups said, targeted civilians.

ICC is now conducting a preliminary examination which might lead to an official investigation. A legal Non-Governmental Organization (NGO), Legal Action Worldwide is representing the women.

The women say that they want the world to know is that they are not victims or refugees but human beings who deserve justice.

]]> <![CDATA[Italy Court Asks for Life Sentence for Operation Condor Leaders]]> Tue, 19 Mar 2019 14:46:50 -04:00 The Italian Court of the city of Rome asked to sentence to life imprisonment 24 South American former political and military leaders from Bolivia, Chile, Perou, and Uruguay. The state officials are accused of involvement in the Condor Operation and the disappearance of 23 Italian nationals during the 1970s and 1980s.

Operation Condor: Cross-Border Disappearance and Death

Rome prosecutors Francesco Mollace and Tiziana Cugini justified their appeal by claiming that the 23 Italians were murdered within the context of an "abominable extermination program" and that all are "responsible for everything they are accused of because they have been Executors of death," EFE agency reported.

Under Italian law, Italian judges can investigate the killings of Italian citizens overseas.

In the first instance, in 2017, just eight former South American leaders - Hernán Jerónimo Ramírez, Rafael Ahumada Valderrama, Juan Carlos Blanco, Luis García Meza, Luis Arce Gómez, Francisco Morales Bermúdez, Pedro Richter Prada and Germán Ruiz Figueroa - involved in the Condor Operation, were sentenced to life in prison by courts in Italy.

Operation Condor was set up in 1975 in Santiago de Chile in a meeting chaired by the head of the Chilean chief of intelligence services, Manuel Contreras. Key member countries of Operation Condor were Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay, Brazil, and Bolivia, with Peru and Ecuador occasionally participating. The joint operations aimed to track down left-wing activist across South America.

the Latin American dictators had documented logistical, financial, and intelligence support from the United States.

Throughout the Condor system, thousands of people were kidnapped, tortured, forcibly disappeared and murdered with people often snatched off the streets or taken from their homes. Estimates include at least 60,000 deaths.

]]> <![CDATA[US Presidential Candidate Beto O'Rourke Raises $6M in 24 Hours]]> Tue, 19 Mar 2019 12:39:01 -04:00 Beto O'Rourke raised US$6.1 million for his official run to the White House in his first 24 hours as a candidate, beating every other 2020 Democrat who has disclosed first-day figures, according to his campaign.

Bernie Sanders Raises $4M Just 12 Hours After Announcing Candidacy

He surpasses Bernie Sanders who raised US$5.9 million in the first 24 hours of his 2020 campaign.

O'Rourke's campaign said the US$6.1 million came from online contributions.

“In just 24 hours, Americans across this country came together to prove that it is possible to run a true grassroots campaign for president – a campaign by all of us, for all of us, that answers not to the Pacs (Political Action Committees), corporations and special interests but to the people,” O’Rourke said in a statement.

Sanders held the previous one-day record among 2020 Democrats and his campaign said he raised about $10 million by the end of his campaign's first week.

Some other Democrats showed smaller initial totals. Senator Kamala Harris' campaign said she raised more than US$1.5 million in the first 24 hours. Her Senate colleague Elizabeth Warren drew more than US$299,000 the day she launched her exploratory committee, Reuters reported.

However, political observers in the U.S. criticize O'Rourke for lack concrete policy ideas, while others point to the fact that he has come out against single-buyer medical insurance in the United States, which the majority

As the Washington Post’s Jenna Johnson observed a few months ago “When it comes to many of the biggest policy issues facing the country today, O’Rourke’s default stance is to call for a debate.”

O'Rourke also has promoted "Medicare for America," saying that "it complements what already exists with the need that we have for millions of Americans who do not have insurance and ensures that each of them can enroll in Medicare."

He also suggested, "additional investments in that program so it becomes the program of choice and people who have private insurance migrate over to the Medicare system."

]]> <![CDATA[Video: Elliott Abrams Fumbles on How Juan Guaido is 'President']]> Tue, 19 Mar 2019 10:59:39 -04:00 Elliot Abrams went on record to say the Venezuelan National Assembly passed a resolution that essentially goes against the country’s constitution. He says they voted for the 30-day term of the self-declared interim president, opposition lawmaker Juan Guaido, to start once President Nicolas Maduro steps down.


Russia, Iran: Dedicated to 'Internal Peace' in Venezuela

In a press conference that had reporters scratching their heads, Abrams, who is now United States special envoy to Venezuela, told journalists that Guaido’s 30-day interim presidency that was set to end by Feb. 23, hasn’t actually begun and won’t until President Nicolas Maduro is out of office.

“The 30-day end to his interim presidency starts counting, uhm, because he’s not in power, that’s the problem. Maduro is still there,” said Abrams to reporters at the White House, effectively admitting that the man has zero authority in Venezuela.

The U.S.-backed Guiado declared himself interim president Jan. 23 with the expectation that he’d be able to call snap elections within 30 days, as permitted by invoking Article 233 of Venezuela’s constitution. However, the plan was foiled, as well as the U.S.-backed cyber attack on Venezuela’s electrical system that sent most of the country into darkness just under two weeks ago.

Guiado, not able to muster an overthrow of democratically elected Maduro, and now that the 30-day time frame is over, he and opposition allies in the National Assembly, in contempt of court for nearly two years, have passed a resolution saying that his interim status won’t start until Maduro is removed.    

“The (Venezuelan) National Assembly has passed a resolution that states that the 30-day period of interim presidency will not start ending, or counting, until the day Maduro leaves power. So the 30 days doesn't start now it starts after Maduro leaves. That’s a resolution of the Venezuelan assembly,” said Abrams to the gathered journalists.

A reporter challenged Abrams and the National Assembly’s constitutional jurisdiction to change the rules of the game midway.

“When did they do that?” asked a journalist.

“Ahh about, they did that roughly a month ago,” responded Abrams, somewhat confounded.

“So when he was took the mantle of the presidency that (resolution) wasn't there, so that’s post facto. … That’s like saying I was elected president for four years and two years into it you change the rules so that your term hasn't even started yet,” said the same journalist.

Abrams retorted to the journalist that he didn’t get to vote “because you’re not in the national assembly.”

The U.S. official said that the assembly found the move “constitutional” and called the presidency “vacant” until “Maduro goes.”

A journalist continued to question Abrams, “so he (Guido) isn’t interim president?”  

“He is interim president but he’s not able to exercise the powers of the office because Maduro is still there,” responded Abrams. “I think it’s logical.”

]]> <![CDATA[Brazilians Take to Twitter to Slam Bolsonaro's Visit to US]]> Tue, 19 Mar 2019 13:36:03 -04:00 Since the beginning of his first official visit to Washington on Monday, Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro has shown himself to be an "unconditional admirer" of the United States and its foreign policies, and Brazilians are making it clear they do not agree with such a view. 

Far-Right Homage: Bolsonaro Visits CIA Before Meeting Trump on First US Visit

"The United States and its people have always inspired in large part the decisions I made," Bolsonaro said and pointed out that "I am here extending my hands and I am certain that Trump will do the same...We want a big Brazil, just like you want a big United States."

The far-right Brazilian president’s statements, however, sparked a wave of shame and indignation in Brazil, so much so that #BolsonaroEmbarassesBrazil (#BolsonaroEnvergonhaOBrasil) became one of the world’s most commented Twitter subjects on Tuesday.

Among the most criticized issues were the end of visa requirement for U.S. citizens and the handing over of Alcantara military base to the United States.

"Bolsonaro embarrasses Brazil: Love defines."

During an interview with Fox News, the content of which was quickly republished by the Brazilian media, President Bolsonaro also endorsed the conservative and racist view of migrants.

"The vast majority of migrants do not have good intentions and do not want to do good to the U.S. people," Bolsonaro said, adding that “I would very much like the U.S. to push forward its current immigration policy because, to a large extent, we owe our democracy in the Southern Hemisphere to the U.S."

Brasil 247, a local media, also echoed comments from angry Brazilians who recalled that there are millions of Brazilian migrants living in the United States.

"Bolsonaros father and son share a totally wrong view about who leaves their own home, family and country to seek opportunities elsewhere," Alessandro Moron said in a tweet and added that "such view proves they do not know the Brazilian people."

"Summary of Bolsonaro in the United States."

O Globo, a mainstream Brazilian media, could not help but report on Bolsonaro's most surprising statements.

"Hailed by Fox News as ‘Trump of the Tropics,’ Bolsonaro said [the U.S. President] is battling socialism and ‘could not agree more with him’,” O Globo, a local media, reported and added that, when asked about the growing positive view that U.S. youth has of socialism, Bolsonaro said that “France is a negative example of the evils of such political system.”

During the second day of his official visit to the U.S., however, the outspoken President tried to avoid detailed answers to questions about his links with the Brazilian paramilitary militias or about Marielle Franco, a human rights defender who was murdered in 2018.

Shortly after arriving in the U.S. capital Monday, Bolsonaro visited the headquarters of the CIA, the first-ever Brazilian president to do so, drawing criticisms from Brazilians who pointed out the dirty history of such an organization that supported brutal military dictatorships in Brazil and Latin America. 

]]> <![CDATA['Eggboy' to Donate Money Raised For Legal Fees to NZ Victims]]> Tue, 19 Mar 2019 11:18:45 -04:00 Will Connolly, the Australian teenager who egged a far-right Australian Senator for making anti-Muslim hate comments, will donate money raised for his legal fees to the victims of the New Zealand mosque shootings.


Australian PM Suggests Charging 'Egged' Senator for Anti-Muslim Comments

The egging incident became a worldwide "sensation" almost instantly. In the now viral video, an Australian teenager  can be seen sliding behind Senator Fraser Anning with his cell phone in one hand and the "redeeming" egg on the other hand. The teenager smashes the egg on the back of Anning's head while he was speaking with reporters, earning him the nickname “eggyboy.”

The far-right senator responded violently, spinning around, and punching the young man in the face, while others rushed to restrain the teen.

Police released the teenager with no charges.

A GoFundMe page was set up to raise Connolly’s legal fees and for “more eggs” which has managed to raise more than AU$50,000 (around US$35,500).

An update to the page said, "EggBoi (Will) plans to send a majority of the money to the victims of the Christchurch terrorist attack."

On Sunday, the Australian Prime Minister Scott Morison said that Anning should be charged for his anti-Muslim comments.

"The full force of the law should be applied to Sen. Anning,” the prime minister said.

He also described the senator’s comments as “appalling” and “ugly” with "no place in Australia.”

Immediately after the Christchurch mosque shootings by a far-right white supremacist which claimed 50 lives of Muslim worshippers, Anning came out saying,  "Does anyone still dispute the link between Muslim immigration and violence?"

"The real cause of the bloodshed on New Zealand streets today is the immigration program which allowed Muslim fanatics to migrate to New Zealand in the first place," he later said in a statement.

A petition has been started calling for him to be thrown out of office which garnered 1.2 million signatures.

Anning, however, is unmoved. Brushing off criticisms, he again claimed Monday that Muslim immigration is “terrorism” and also defended his violent reaction to being egged by a teenage boy.

]]> <![CDATA[OECD Survey Shows People Want More Tax on Rich, Better Welfare]]> Tue, 19 Mar 2019 10:03:05 -04:00 A strong majority of people in wealthy countries want to tax the rich more and there is broad support for building up the welfare state in most countries, a survey conducted by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) showed Tuesday.


Ocasio-Cortez Proposes 70% Tax on Super-Rich to Pay for Green New Deal

In all of the 21 countries surveyed, more than half of those people polled said they were in favor when asked, “Should the government tax the rich more than they currently do in order to support the poor?” The OECD, however, did not provide definition for rich in this context.

Higher taxation is being debated in many wealthy countries, apparent via the Democrats in the United States proposing hikes and “yellow vest” protesters in France demanding the wealthy bear a bigger tax responsibility. Support was highest in Portugal and Greece.

The Paris-based forum’s survey of 22,000 people about perceived social and economic risks also found deep discontent with governments’ social welfare policies, which many people said were insufficient, the OECD said.

On average, only 20 percent said they could easily receive public benefits if needed while 56 percent thought it would be difficult to get benefits, the survey found.

People were on average particularly concerned about access to good quality, affordable long-term care for the elderly, housing and health services.

Most people said the top priority should be better pensions with 54 percent saying it would make them feel more economically secure.

Healthcare followed in second place at 48 percent while nearly 37 percent were in favor of a guaranteed basic income benefit, which has attracted international interest from policymakers but has yet to be tried at the national level.

Not only did people say they were not getting their fair share given what they have paid into the system, but also, people in all the surveyed countries except Canada, Denmark, Norway, and the Netherlands did not think that their governments were heeding their views.

“These feelings spread across most social groups, and are not limited just to those deemed ‘left behind’,” the OECD said in an analysis of the survey’s results.

In light of the high level of discontent, a majority of people wanted their government to do more in all countries except Denmark, whose welfare system is among the best in the world.

]]> <![CDATA[Citi to Support AMLO's Anti-corruption Agenda]]> Tue, 19 Mar 2019 12:05:41 -04:00 Citigroup, one of the largest international financial institutions, pledged Monday to support the Mexican President’s anti-corruption agenda as well as policies for more development in the southeastern region of the country and to reduce the use of cash.

AMLO 'Ends Neoliberalism', Ushers In Post-Neoliberal Plan

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s (AMLO) met with national and international executives of Citibanamex, a subsidiary in Mexico of the United States-based firm, at the National Palace.

Ernesto Torres, general director of Citibanamex, was among those from the financial company in attendance. The meeting also included the Secretary of the Treasury Carlos Urzua, and the undersecretary of the same department, Arturo Herrera, the office of the presidency said.

"We are talking about supporting the anti-corruption agenda, eliminating cash and contributing to the development of the southeast of the country," said Michael Corbat, global director of Citi, after meeting with President Lopez Obrador, according to a statement released by Citibanamex.

"We are focused on investing in our franchise, with a history of 135 years, to bring together the best of Mexico and the best in the world," he added.

AMLO’s main campaign promise was to eradicate corruption; however, Citi’s track-record for corrupt dealings isn’t exactly clean.

In 2008 at the peak of the global financial crisis when the housing finance bubble imploded — the start of the Great Recession in the United States — Citigroup Inc. stunned Wall Street with reports that the company had suffered its worst-ever quarterly loss of US$10 billion.

The U.S. bailed out Citigroup, Inc., agreeing to shoulder most losses on about $306 billion of the bank’s risky assets, and inject new capital, bolstering investor hopes that the government will support big banks as the economy sinks into recession, Reuters reported.

That act put taxpayers on the hook for nearly US$250 billion in potential losses in a US$306 billion portfolio, including commercial real estate loans, leveraged loans, and other assets.

Although much of the damage inflicted on Citigroup and the economy as a whole was caused by high-voltage, erratic stock trading and lax supervision, the blame also reached the bank's highest ranks.

Earlier in 2008, the Federal Reserve re-incriminated the bank for poor supervision and poor risk control, according to a report sent to the group. Sources close to Citigroup say that the bank's risk managers never investigated carefully, El Pais reported.

In 2011, The Reserve Bank of India investigated fraud in Citibank's Gurgaon branch, a week after diversions of depositors funds in stock markets were discovered. Victims of the fraud complained to police that their securities had been cashed out without their knowledge or consent.

In 2012, a former vice president of the company who had admitted to embezzling more than US$22 million was sentenced to eight years in prison, according to federal prosecutors.

]]> <![CDATA[South-South Cooperation Conference To Meet in Argentina]]> Tue, 19 Mar 2019 11:20:08 -04:00 The BAPA+40 Conference will mark the fortieth anniversary of the U.N. Conference on Technical Cooperation among Developing Countries, which convened from Aug. 30 to Sept. 12 1978, in Buenos Aires, Argentina. That meeting adopted the Buenos Aires Plan of Action for Promoting and Implementing Technical Cooperation among Developing Countries (BAPA).

Cuba a Model of South-South Cooperation: ECLAC Chief

The plan established a scheme of collaboration among least developed countries, mostly located in the south of the planet. It also introduced for the first time a framework for this type of cooperation and incorporated in its practice the basic principles of relations between sovereign States: respect for sovereignty, non-interference in internal affairs and equality of rights, among others.

Since then, South-South Cooperation has been perceived as a way to convey solidarity among the countries in question and to alter asymmetrical relations dominated by the global North.

South-South cooperation is an alternative development strategy for Southern countries and also an opportunity to promote a new way to support their growth rate based on the potential of their internal market. 

According to a report published in 2017 by the U.N about South-South Cooperation, 5,000 South-South Cooperation initiatives have been documented in the past decade, and their numbers have increased eightfold over this time. In 2015, the number of initiatives rose to 1,475. Of these initiatives, 1,206 were bilateral, 168 were triangular and 101 were regional.

Among Latin America’s 19 countries, the initiatives’ main providers were Argentina, with 180 projects, followed by Mexico, with 125, Brazil, with 110, and Chile, with 90.

The three-day conference will, among other things, discuss ways to increase and strengthen technical cooperation between developing countries in the Global South in areas such as agriculture, digital issues, peaceful uses of nuclear, bioeconomy and institution building. 

]]> <![CDATA[Algeria: New Gov't Talks Begin as Protests Continue]]> Tue, 19 Mar 2019 10:49:11 -04:00 In Algiers, the capital of Algeria, thousands of students, teachers and doctors, who overflowed the streets surrounding the Grand Post Plaza, showed their rejection to President Abdelaziz Bouteflika plan to an "orderly transition."

Pressure Mounts on Algeria's Bouteflika as Allies Turn on Him Amid Fresh Protests

"We are here to demand the end of this system," Ali Harfush, Physics Professor at the University of Algiers, said and added that “since things do not change, we will remain on the street peacefully as long as necessary. If those in power love our country as they say, they would make quick decisions."

In a similar tone, a student stated that Bouteflika's resignation, the postponement of the April  presidential elections and the transition plan are only political maneuvers to placate Algerians.

"We have mobilized to express our rejection of what is actually a prolongation of [Bouteflika's] fourth mandate," the University of Algiers student said and added that "No means No. They must leave power."

“Algeria: the population continues to demand freedom, democracy and justice while the power violates the Constitution and wants at all costs to maintain the current system of predation. Solidarity with this great democratic movement. The sign reads: You prolong the mandate, we prolong the fight.”

Most of the country’s unions, who also joined the demonstrations against the transition plan, refused to meet with the new Prime Minister Noureddine Bedoui or to participate in consultations for the formation of a "concerted government."

The invitation to participate was extended by Bedaoui and the new Deputy Prime Minister Ramtam Lamamra with the aim that the new Executive would lack political affiliation and significantly reflect the demographic characteristics of Algerian society.

"We have rejected the offer due to its lack of clarity," Mezian Merian, coordinator of the National Autonomous Union of Secondary Education Teachers (SNAPEST), argued and added that "we are in a difficult political situation, and in order to avoid misunderstandings, transparency is more than necessary."

An Algerian woman holding a sign that reads: “I march, you march, he marches, we march, you march, he steps down.”

The formation of a concerted government is the basis of the Bouteflika administration plan, which includes the convening of an inclusive National Conference that must prepare new presidential elections.

In that sense, Lamamra said the opposition will soon be able to get involved in the Algerian political process through elections, in which, for the first time in the country's history, everyone will participate and there will be an independent electoral commission.

"The Algerian opposition will be able to participate actively in governmental activities," Lamamra vowed, adding that Buteflika "is prepared to transfer his powers to the new elected president."

Meanwhile, Algeria’s state agency APS said Sunday that the newly-appointed prime minister has started talks to form a new government whichw ould see the formation of a new cabinet that will include experts without political affiliation and will “reflect the demographics of the Algerian society”, APS said. 

]]> <![CDATA[Russia, Iran: Dedicated to 'Internal Peace' in Venezuela]]> Tue, 19 Mar 2019 06:21:40 -04:00 Russian and Iranian foreign ministers say they are committed to helping Venezuela’s government and opposition “find mutual understanding.”

Venezuela’s Electric Grid Was Attacked From Abroad: Russia

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Yavad Zarif held a Tuesday phone conversation in which they discussed “the current situation in Venezuela," and their shared dedication to a peacefully resolution for the South American nation.

The two ministers expressed their willingness to "contribute, based on the principles of the UN Charter, to the efforts of the international community to find mutual understanding among the responsible political forces of Venezuela in the interest of ensuring internal peace," according to Russia’s foreign ministry website.

Lavrov and Zarif also want to help bring about a prompt “solution of pressing social and economic objectives" in Venezuela.

The two high-ranking officials also discussed bilateral agreements.

The discussion between the two senior authorities of Russian and Iran is a drastically different tenor towards Venezuela than the one adopted by the United States, which has been waging a soft coup against the Nicolas Maduro administration since U.S. President Trump took office in 2017.

In an effort to over Maduro, Trump has decreed over 20 sanctions against the Venezuelan government and individuals. As late as last week the White House began trying to criminalize the Russian oil company, Rosneft, for doing business with Venezuela’s U.S.-sanctioned oil company Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA). The two state-owned oil companies already hold a joint venture in which Russia's Rosneft buys PDVSA oil to sell to other countries in the region.

At a Monday OPEC meeting, PDVSA President Manuel Quevedo said the company may shift oil originally bound for the U.S. to supply Rosneft. Quevedo said at the Azerbaijan meeting that Caracas would decide where to ship its oil and that its main goal was to strengthen ties with Russia, according to Reuters.

The Venezuelan economy has directly lost as much as US$38 billion from Washington's sanctions alone, according to its government.


]]> <![CDATA[Indonesia Flash Flood Death Toll Rises to 89, 74 Still Missing]]> Tue, 19 Mar 2019 05:04:27 -04:00 As many as 89 people are now reported dead, according to Indonesian authorities, after a devastating flash flood hit the country’s easternmost province of Papua over the weekend. Another 74 are missing and 159 people have been injured by landslides amidst heavy rains, according to a tweet from Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, spokesperson for Indonesia's National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB).

 Indonesia Flash Floods Kill 50, Death Toll Expected To Rise

"The death toll continues to grow due to … the disaster,” Nugroho said in a statement.

Over 6,800 people were evacuated and 350 homes were damaged because of the storms and major infrastructure was also ruined or damaged, said Nugroho over Twitter. The vast majority of deaths and destruction took place in the city of Sentani near the Pacific Ocean coast.

The death toll rose quickly on Sunday as some waters receeded and rescuers were able to clear at least some debris left by the floods. More than 1,600 rescue workers from 23 government agencies and civil organizations are still working to clear buildings, trees and heavy mud in search of those unaccounted for.

"The search continues,” said head of Jayapura Search and Relief Office, Putu Arga Sujarwadi, in an online statement.

As of Tuesday (3/19/2019) morning, victims of the Sentani flash flood in Jayapura Papua 89 people were killed, 74 people are missing, 159 people were injured, 6,831 people were displaced, 11,725 families were affected, 350 houses were severely damaged, 3 bridges were seriously damaged , 4 roads were severely damaged, 2 churches were severely damaged, etc.

President Joko Widodo called for urgent evacuation of victims. "What is most important is handling the evacuation," said the head of state in a statement posted on Instagram. The BNPB said the emergency response will continue until at least March 30.

In Sentani, 15 shelters have been established to help those currently without a home, but the emergency residencies are in urgent need of basic supplies such as food, blankets and clothing, says EFE News.

Nugroho has warned authorities in Sentani to be careful of further mudslides as the area surrounding the city are mountainous and heavily deforested.

Floods and landslides affect Indonesia each year during the rainy season that peaks between December and February.

A March 17 earthquake in the country has also left two people dead and over 50 injured.​​​​​​​


]]> <![CDATA[Costa Rican Indigenous Rights Defender Shot 15 Times, Killed]]> Tue, 19 Mar 2019 03:54:48 -04:00 A Costa Rican Indigenous Bribri land rights activist was shot and killed late Monday night in his home in Salitre territory.

Costa Rica's Former President Arias Accused of Abusing 3 Women

Indigenous land rights defender Sergio Rojas was assassinated by armed gunmen who shot the activist as many as 15 times at around 11:45 pm in his home, according to his neighbors, in southern Costa Rica.

Rojas was President of the Association for the Development of the Indigenous Territory of Salitre and coordinator of the National Front of Indigenous Peoples (FRENAP) in Costa Rica and was a staunch defender of the Bribri of Saltire Indigenous people who have been fighting for years to regain their rights to over 12,000 hectares of land in southern Costa Rica pledged to them by a 1938 government agreement, according to a 2014 teleSUR report.

Costa Rica Supreme Court Backs Alvarado's Controversial Reform

The Bribri and other Indigenous have managed to recuperate control of some of their native lands but have become targets of violence from those who oppose their rights and sovereignty. Last December men armed with guns and machetes held hostage two Bribri women and eight minors on land they had recuperated in Salitre territory.

According to the women, they called 911 but when police arrived they spoke “aggressively” toward them and asked for their land deeds, which the authorities claimed were invalid. The police made no effort to arrest the hostage takers who escaped the scene, according to the testimonies given to Tree People Program.

This wasn't the first time Rojas' life was threatened. In 2012, shortly after the Bribri gained back some of their lands, the FRENAP coordinator was shot at eight times by armed men, but escaped the shooting unscathed.

]]> <![CDATA[Mexico's Popocatepetl Volcano Explodes, Sends Ash 1Km High ]]> Tue, 19 Mar 2019 02:36:54 -04:00 Mexico’s famous Popocatepetl volcano exploded Monday night sending a plume of ash 1.2km into the sky that has covered some houses in the area with the carbon.

Indonesia Flash Floods Kill 50, Death Toll Expected To Rise

The Civil Protection of Mexico (CPM) reported by Twitter that at around 9:40 pm Monday night the volcano, that lies between the states of Mexico, Puebla, and Morelos exploded, covering 2.5 km of its slopes with molten lava. The state agency warns residents in the area to avoid the 12 km radius around the active site that is now at ‘phase yellow’ meaning people should watch for pyroclastic flows and wear protective masks because of ash in the air.

The geological event was recording by National Center for Disaster Prevention of Mexico (Cenapred) cameras located in the state of Puebla. Images show Popocatepetl’s abrupt detonation and subsequent red lava flow against the night time darkness.   

Popocatepetl is a volcano that has been active for 25 years, Ramon Espinasa Pereña, deputy director of Cenapred Volcanic Risks told CNN previously. ‘Popo’, as its locally known, exploded earlier this week, but had remained calm over the past several days until the Monday eruption.​​​​​​​

Don't risk it! stay 12km outside the radius of Popocatepetl

Cenapred reports that there have been “43 ... explosions of water vapor, gas and … slight amounts of ash,” along with low scale tremors in the area. The active volcano is located about 70 km south of Mexico City.

No heavy damages have been reported.


]]> <![CDATA[Bolsonaro Visits CIA Before Meeting Trump on First US Visit ]]> Tue, 19 Mar 2019 00:24:31 -04:00 Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro showed the world who’s really the boss by visiting the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Headquarters in Virginia Monday prior to meeting President Donald Trump, on his first official visit to the U.S.

'Bolsonaro is a Murderer' Signs Greet Brazilian President in US

“No Brazilian president had ever paid a visit to the CIA,” Celso Amorim, who served as foreign minister under former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, told AP, adding that it “is an explicitly submissive position.” 

The clandestine chat was announced by his son, Eduardo Bolsonaro, in a tweet saying the meeting was “an excellent opportunity to talk about international affairs of the region with technicians and experts of the highest level.” 

A rather ominous fact, since the CIA has been involved in numbers of assassinations, military coups, and interventions around the globe with special regard against progressive governments in Latin America. And quite fitting comment as the three-day visit underscores Bolsonaro’s embrace of U.S. influence in Latin America to confront what he calls a communist threat against democracy.

A theme the far-right populist leader insisted on Sunday declaring he “always dreamt of freeing Brazil from the dirty ideology of the left.” Combine this to his well-known praise of the Brazilian dictatorship, which caused forced disappearances, torture, and killings over two decades, and the CIA does not make such an “unexpected” place to visit after all. Especially as he was accompanied by Brazilian Justice Minister Sergio Moro, the same judge that led the lawfare strategy to carry out the soft-coup against ousted Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, and has been allegedly linked to working for the agency. 

After this chat in Langley, he is due to meet like-minded President Donald Trump at the White House on Tuesday to discuss a range of issues, including ways to increase U.S. private-sector investment in Brazil and also the ongoing interventionists actions against Venezuela. Bolsonaro has stated that he supports Trump’s policies and the fact that he wants “to have a great Brazil just like Trump wants to have a great America,” has dubbed him the nickname “Trump of the Tropics”.

Yet this public admiration is even surprising to the U.S. A senior administration official, who spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity, said “even the friendliest of Brazilian governments was never really that friendly. Here we have now a government in Brazil we truly consider an ally.” A remarkable claim as the 1964 coup and Brazilian Dictatorship was fully backed by the U.S. government and even received direct assistance from the CIA, as the National Security Archive (NSA) revealed in 2014. 

Leaving the controversy aside Bolsonaro’s first official visit marks a complete alliance to the U.S. strategy and plans for the region, in which Brazil hopes to play a pivotal role. 

]]> <![CDATA[Drinking Sugary Beverages Linked With Early Death: Study]]> Mon, 18 Mar 2019 23:36:36 -04:00 Sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) were linked to risks of premature death, particularly death from cardiovascular diseases, according to a Harvard study published on Monday in the journal Circulation.

In the study, researchers analyzed data from 80,647 women and 37,716 men who answered questionnaires about lifestyle factors and health status every two years.

 Pollution To Cause Millions of 'Premature Deaths' By 2050

They found that carbonated and non-carbonated soft drinks, fruit drinks, energy drinks, and sports drinks are the single largest source of added sugar in the U.S. diet.

The more SSBs a person drank, the more risks of early death from any cause increased, according to the study.

It showed that, compared with drinking SSBs less than once per month, drinking one to four sugary drinks per month was linked with a 1 percent increased risk; two to six per week with a 6 percent increase; one to two per day with a 14 percent increase, and two or more per day with a 21 percent increase.

The increased early death risk was more pronounced among women than among men, according to the study.

Those who drank two or more servings per day of SSBs had a 31 percent higher risk of early death from cardiovascular diseases. Each additional serving per day of SSBs was linked with a 10 percent increased higher risk of cardiovascular diseases-related death.

Also, among both men and women, there was a modest link between SSB consumption and early death risk from cancer.

"These findings are consistent with the known adverse effects of high sugar intake on metabolic risk factors and the strong evidence that drinking sugar-sweetened beverages increases the risk of type 2 diabetes, itself a major risk factor for premature death," said Walter Willett, professor of epidemiology and nutrition at Harvard.

]]> <![CDATA[Cuban-Venezuelan Program Returns Eyesight to 700,000 Bolivians]]> Mon, 18 Mar 2019 22:03:08 -04:00 Operation Miracle, the free Cuban-Venezuelan eyecare program has brought back sight to more than 700,000 Bolivians in the last 12 years.

Bolivia Inaugurates Free Universal Health Care System

"What it means for a person to have their sight again, in recent years 707,737 Bolivians recovered it and all these patients did not pay a peso, it was all free," the Bolivian Minister of Health, Gabriela Montaño, said Friday on a official statement.

The program was launched in 2004 by late revolutionary leaders, Fidel Castro, and Hugo Chavez. During its first year, only Venezuelan patients were treated but in 2005 it was extended to other Caribbean, Central and South American countries. Initially, patients had to travel to Cuba to for treatment, but in 2006 the program set up ophthalmology centers in several nations, including Bolivia.

The program offers 100 percent free optometry consultations, exams, surgeries and medications to low-income people, which in Bolivia are treated in five specialized ophthalmology centers. These establishments are located in the municipalities of El Alto, Guayaramerín, Yacuiba, Cochabamba, and Santa Cruz.

In the last 12 years, as the Bolivian Ministry of Health stated, Operation Miracle performed 505,663 pterygium surgeries (growth of tissue in the eye due to high exposure to wind and sun) and 86,396 cataract surgeries (the natural process of aging of the lens), the first cause of reversible blindness.

"Thanks to President Evo Morales and Cuban doctors, we see now with no problem and we can carry out all our daily activities," a 63-year-old couple, Rogelio Velazquez and Angelica Rosse told Prensa Latina Friday.

According to the Cuban Ophthalmology Institute, by 2017 there were 65 ophthalmology centers, equipped with 93 operating theaters, in 18 countries across Latin America, the Caribbean, and Africa, providing treatment to people in 34 nations.

]]> <![CDATA[UN Warns Massacres in Colombia Increased 164% in 2018: Report]]> Mon, 18 Mar 2019 21:55:12 -04:00 The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (Ohchr) presented its annual 2018 report regarding the situation of human rights in Colombia on March 14, especially marked by a considerable increase in the homicide rate and in the number of massacres perpetrated throughout the country. 

Colombia: Indigenous and Campesino Protesters Call for Human Rights

The report is based on direct observation by the entity concerning human rights violations between Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, 2018. Its representative in Colombia, Alberto Brunori, expressed his concern about three fundamental issues: the increase in the number of massacres, the rise in killings of social leaders and human rights defenders, as well as the increase in extrajudicial executions “false positives” linked with members of the public force.

The report warns that in 2018 the number of massacres increased by 164% with respect to 2017, from 11 to 29 cases. The majority of these killings occurred in Antioquia, Cauca, Northern Santander, and Caqueta. In the first three of these departments there was also a higher incidence of murders of human rights defenders.

In addition, according to data from the Police cited by the agency, 49.5% of the municipalities registered an increase in the homicide rate with respect to 2017. For example, in San Jose de Ure and Barrancas, located in the northeastern part of the country, the homicide rate grew 1,473% and 880%, respectively.

An worrisome aspect for the UN is the high number of killings (110) of human rights defenders, out of which 27% of the cases correspond to Indigenous or Afro-Colombian victims, which shows that “some ethnic communities are more affected than others.” 

Woman being treated after having been attacked by Esmad anti-riot forces | Photo: Alba Movement

As Colombian Indigenous and Campesino communities are being attacked, killed, persecuted and dispossessed, on March 11 the people of Cauca in southwestern Colombia began protesting in a collective action called "Minga". Their protest has been marked by violent repression from the Mobile Anti-riot Squad (Esmad) of the National Police. 

The report emphasizes that the structural causes related to the systematic killing of human right defenders and social leaders “derive to a large extent from the weak or null presence of the State in some rural areas… and the result of substantial delays in the implementation of the Peace Agreement, particularly in relation to comprehensive rural reform and the substitution of illicit crops.”

Regarding extrajudicial killings, the multilateral agency found 11 new cases of alleged “false positive” executions registered in Antioquia, Arauca, Huila, La Guajira, Magdalena, and Northern Santander. “National police would allegedly be responsible for six cases, and the
army of five”, the UN affirms adding that is concerned about “some aspects of Law 1922, especially article 11, paragraph 2, which contemplates the provisions that expressly prevent the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) to investigate the State agents, particularly the members of the public force.”

Finally, the UN Human Rights body focuses solely on the Peace Process, stating that President Ivan Duque will have the "historic responsibility to continue implementing the Agreement." As the Colombian defense budget increased by more than 5%, the Ohchr encourages the Duque’s government to prioritize public spending on prevention, since the UN’s Secretary General estimated that prevention measures could reduce costs generated by violence and conflicts by up to 30%. 

]]> <![CDATA[Venezuela Denounces Unlawful Seizure of Diplomatic Assets in US]]> Mon, 18 Mar 2019 19:34:23 -04:00 The Venezuelan Foreign Affairs Minister Jorge Arreaza denounced Monday that the country’s diplomatic premises in the United States have been forcibly seized by Washington-backed agents. 

Russia Calls US Intervention in Venezuela 'Unacceptable'

"In a clear violation of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, our diplomatic buildings have been seized", said Arreaza in an official statement, adding that according to the 1961 Convention "Venezuela's diplomatic assets in the U.S. can only be used by the official personnel that represent the democratic and constitutional government of President Nicolas Maduro."

Representatives of the Venezuelan lawmaker and self-proclaimed “interim president”, Juan Guaido, took control of two buildings belonging to Venezuela’s defense ministry in Washington and one consular building in New York Monday, said Guaido’s envoy Carlos Vecchio, with the connivance of the U.S. government. 

This latest attack on Venezuela’s sovereignty comes as a blatant disregard of international law. According to Art. 22 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, “the premises of the mission shall be inviolable.” The article continues by assuring that the receiving State may not enter them, except with the consent of the head of the mission and is under a special duty to protect the diplomatic mission against any intrusion or damage. 

Even in a rupture in diplomatic relations and supported by art. 45, the receiving nation must continue respecting foreign properties, as the Venezuelan government has done with the U.S. Embassy in Caracas. 

Arreaza has asked  Trump’s administration to  “take the necessary measures to immediately reverse this forcible occupation” yet continued, “that if the U.S. government continues to disregard international obligations, Venezuela's government reserves its right to take legal actions and reciprocal actions in its territory.” 

Despite an ongoing series of interventionist remarks made by U.S. Senators and high ranking officials, the Venezuelan government informed March 13 that it hopes to normalize diplomatic relations with the North American country, hoping the UN will serve as a mediator.

]]> <![CDATA[Nicaragua's Govt Demands Commitment From Opposition]]> Mon, 18 Mar 2019 21:50:31 -04:00 On Monday, the Nicaraguan government demanded that the opposition take the negotiating table seriously and responsibly, following the recent violent protest that had not been authorized.

In a statement, the delegation of the Government of Reconciliation and National Unity called on the opposition counterpart to show "a sincere commitment to talk and reach positive agreements for Nicaragua."

 Nicaraguan Government and Opposition Resume Peace Talks

He also rejected the "inconceivable, contradictory and unusual attitude of participants of this table, which on Saturday, March 16, were part of a provocation and disturbance of public order against the safety of Nicaraguan families, who have the right to tranquility and peace".

Vice President Rosario Murillo said that the Government has the "sincere commitment to agree on what is best for Nicaragua," which is "precisely the peace we must follow, the good we want to do, justice."

She reiterated that the objective is "to build, to construct peace (...) to continue walking with the good course that we had and that we will have again because God has so arranged."

On March 16, the National Police (PN) of Nicaragua reported the release of 107 people detained that day in an unauthorized march in Managua, capital of the country. This had been convened by the opposition coalition National Unity Blue and White and resulted in riots.

The negotiating table was reinstated on March 14 between the government of President Daniel Ortega and the grouped opposition in the Civic Alliance. However, the Blue and White National Unity does not recognize these dialogues and continues its agenda.




]]> <![CDATA[IMF Approves the Release of $10.87 Billion to Argentina]]> Mon, 18 Mar 2019 18:39:09 -04:00 International Monetary Fund (IMF) staff and Argentine authorities announced Monday they have reached an agreement on the third review of the economic program supported by the Stand-By Arrangement, releasing approximately US$11 billion more part of the three-year loan.

Inflation Rate Reaches 49.3% in Argentina, Highest Since 1991

“Subject to the approval of the Executive Board, Argentina would have access to about US$10.87 billion. The Executive Board’s review is expected in the coming weeks,” said in statement Roberto Cardarelli, who led the IMF mission to Argentina from Feb. 11 to 22, 2019. Argentina already received US$15 billion in 2018 and will have access to the rest by the end of 2019.

However, the IMF has requested President Mauricio Macri’s government that more austerity measures are in order, “achieving a zero primary deficit in 2019 will require further restraint in government spending”, read the statement.  

This new requirement comes as Argentina continues in a tough recession, with an interannual inflation rate of 51,2% by February 2019 and a devaluation of the peso, that lost half its value against the dollar in 2018. The government has decided to implement zero growth in the monetary base until June 2019 and to lessen the pace at which the edges of the non-intervention zone will increase. 

A course of action the international body has praised by saying that “tightening the monetary framework will contribute to bringing down inflation and re-anchoring inflation expectations.”

Argentina: President Macri's Recession Kills 82 Companies a Day

However, the burden of these measures keeping falling on the poorest segments of the population. Food prices in February 2019 have risen on average 53 percent, transportation rates 67,3 percent, and housing, water, electricity, and gas prices have increased by 48,7 percent, compared to the same month last year. 

Argentines have taken on the streets to protest these high prices around the country, especially in Buenos Aires. On Feb. 13, over a million mobilize under the "Land, Housing and Work" slogan, to denounce the government's economic policies. On Monday’s statement, the IMF said, that it “strongly supports the authorities’ efforts to mitigate the social impact of the needed stabilization policies.”

Yet the country continues on a downward spiral reminiscent of the 2001-2002 crisis. The government statistics bureau said the economy contracted 3.5 percent in the third quarter of 2018 and plunged 7.5 percent in November 2018 alone. The IMF estimated Argentina's economy fell by 2.6 percent in 2018 and will drop another 1.6 percent in 2019, yet believe there are “good prospects for a gradual recovery.”

According to a local media outlet, Pagina 12, opposition party members have said that if they win in next October’s presidential elections they will renegotiate the US$56.3 billion deal, which is the biggest loan in IMF’s history. 

]]> <![CDATA[Havana Film Festival to Show Film on Star Cuban Ballet Dancer]]> Mon, 18 Mar 2019 17:59:16 -04:00 "Yuli", a film inspired by the life of Carlos Acosta, the famous Cuban ballet dancer will be showed in the Havana Films Festival in New York on April 16. The film will mark the closure of the festival in the United States.


Argentina: All-Women Tango Festival Calls for End to Sexism

Organized by the International Performing Arts Foundation and the American Friends of the Ludwig Foundation of Cuba, the closing ceremony will see the participation of Catalan filmmaker and director of Yuli, Icar Bollain.

"Yuli", named after Acosta’s nickname given by his father is based on the dancer’s autobiography “No Way Home” which shows his rise as a ballet dancer and eventually performing as the first Black Romeo at the Royal Ballet.

Acosta was born in 1973. To “discipline” him, Acosta’s father enrolled him at the Cuban National Ballet School, a state-funded school.  He received his training for free at the school which is recognized as one of the best ballet school in the world.

The film which boasts of impressive dance, music, and cinematography is considered as a tribute to Havana.

Edilson Manuel Olbera Nuñez plays the child Acosta and Mario Sergio Elias from Acosta Danza company portrays the young Carlos. Acosta played the older version himself.

The film festival will take place from April 5 to April 16. The platform will allow directors, actors, and producers the opportunity to exchange ideas, enrich, and expand the vision of Latin American culture. It is being organized with the collaboration of the International Festival of New Latin American Cinema in Havana and will showcase works of filmmakers from Latin America, the Caribbean, and the United States.

]]> <![CDATA[Haiti: Lower House Votes to Remove Prime Minister]]> Mon, 18 Mar 2019 15:34:40 -04:00 Haiti's Lower House of Deputies voted Monday to censure Prime Minister Jean-Henry Ceant amidst ongoing economic unrest and nation-wide protests. 

Uruguay Urges OAS to Prioritize Crisis in Haiti

Of the 104 lawmakers participating, 93 voted to dismiss the prime minister and his government, six voted against and three abstained. "Notice will be sent to the president of the Republic. A new prime minister will be appointed in consultation between the head of state and the presidents of both branches of Parliament," said Speaker Gary Bodeau.

Reports stated that at around 11:30 am at the Senate level there were only 13 senators present. In the absence of a quorum in the Upper House, Ceant could not ask for a vote of confidence to stay as head of government for six more months. The ousted Prime Minister tweeted he was present in the Senate since 7:00 am Monday. 

The situation in the Caribbean nation took a drastic turn on Feb. 7 when opposition anti-government protests were called against current President Jovenel Moise. The angry citizens rallied to demand the judicial system take action against embezzlement of Petrocaribe funds, which rose to approximately US$2 billion between 2008 and 2018, according to a partial report of the National Audit Office.

Lawmakers agree the reason for the censure is because Ceant failed to improve the living conditions in the six months since he took over as Prime Minister. As the protests and riots reach day 40, unofficial reports indicate that at least eight people have died in the demonstrations, while the opposition raises the figure to 50. 

]]> <![CDATA[US Trying to Undermine Women Rights Agreements in UN]]> Mon, 18 Mar 2019 15:51:57 -04:00 United States officials in New York are trying to dilute language and remove the term “gender” from documents at the United Nations which is perceived as a threat to international agreements on women rights.


Politicized US 'Human Rights' Report Singles Out Political Foes

In the negotiations at the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) at U.N. headquarters, the U.S. said it wants to remove the term gender in the outcome document which refers to only women or girls.

At the CSW, the U.S. also refused to affirm the country’s commitment to the Beijing declaration and platform for action agreed in 1995 during the fourth world conference. The Beijing agreement, although not legally binding, has been used by activists to hold governments accountable regarding women rights.

The Beijing agreement talks of ending violence against women and eliminating female genital mutilation to women’s representation in the media and their involvement in decision-making.

Muadi Mukenge, chief of development and external relations at the reproductive health NGO Ipas said, “The US played a leadership role in the passage of Beijing, so to take a step back is regrettable. We know so many areas of Beijing have not been realized yet. There are still gaps and inequalities and it would be irresponsible for the US to take this position.”

“When the US speaks it has an impact on the global conversation. It could potentially set a precedent. We already have governments that are hostile to the consensus they agreed to previously,” Mukenge added.

“They [the US] are coming into the negotiations in a way that is very aggressive and that advances an anti-gender, anti-woman position from the very start,” Shannon Kowalski, director of advocacy and policy at the International Women’s Health Coalition said.

“One of the first things they have tried to do is block reaffirmation of Beijing and subsequent documents … trying to downplay the political importance of this document as setting out the vision for women’s human rights. They are trying to weaken commitments to that overall.”

Under the administration of the U.S. President Donald Trump, U.S. negotiators have increasingly tried to undermine agreements on women rights at the U.N., especially regarding reproductive health rights.

]]> <![CDATA[Israeli Court Bans Jewish Power Party's Ben-Ari From Contesting]]> Mon, 18 Mar 2019 14:48:20 -04:00 Israel's top court disqualified Sunday a far-right Jewish politician from next month's national election and approved the candidacy of a disputed Arab party, overturning decisions by the election board from March 6, a court statement said.


Why The Outrage? 'Jewish Power' Party Is New Norm in Israeli Politics

The Supreme Court rulings were widely expected and unlikely to shake Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's efforts to craft a rightist alliance that might secure him a record fifth term.

The court found in favor of appellants who argued that Michael Ben-Ari of the Jewish Power party had displayed anti-Arab racism. That view was backed by Israel's attorney-general.

Jewish Power is based on the ideology of late Rabbi Meir Kahane who openly advocated expelling Arabs from Israel and establishing a Jewish theocracy.

Meir Kahane and his Kach party in Israel were outlawed in 1994 after killing 29 Palestinians. This party is also dubbed the Jewish KKK and have racist, anti-Arab, ultra-nationalist, and homophobic politics.

The U.S. banned Michael Ben-Ari from entering the states for his association with a “terrorist organization.”

Other members of Jewish Power, a small faction that is part of an ultra-nationalist group which last month forged an election alliance with Netanyahu's Likud party, remain eligible to run.

The Central Elections Committee, a monitoring body made up of delegates of parties in the current parliament, last month approved Ben-Ari's candidacy while disqualifying Raam-Balad, a joint party list representing some of Israel's 20 percent Arab minority.

Netanyahu's bid for reelection has been challenged by a newcomer, former armed forces chief Benny Gantz. Their escalating exchanges of allegations have included corruption, bigotry, forsaking national security and abetting Israel's foes.

The premier's partnership with Jewish Power also drew censure from the United States pro-Israel lobby and even the normally staunch backer for Netanyahu, AIPAC, branded the party "racist and reprehensible".

]]> <![CDATA[Iran's Rouhani To Take Legal Action Against U.S. for Sanctions]]> Mon, 18 Mar 2019 15:10:24 -04:00 Iranian President Hassan Rohani said Monday that the government would file a legal case in Iran against U.S. officials who imposed sanctions on the country as a precursor to action in international courts.

Iran Urges Europe to Do More on Nuclear Deal to Counter the US

Rohani said in a speech broadcast live on state television that U.S. sanctions had created difficulties including a weaker rial currency that has fed higher inflation.

Rohani said he had ordered the ministries of foreign affairs and justice “to file a legal case in Iranian courts against those in America who designed and imposed sanctions on Iran. ... These sanctions are crime against humanity,” he added.

Iranian complaints about sanctions in the international courts have occasionally succeeded. In October, judges at the International Court Of Justice (ICJ) ordered the United States to ensure sanctions do not affect humanitarian aid or civil aviation safety.

The sanctions should not affect exports to the territory of Iran of any goods required for humanitarian needs such as medicine, pharmaceuticals, foodstuffs and agricultural commodities, as well as goods and services required for the safety of civil aviation,” judges said.

“It has become difficult if not impossible for Iran, Iranian nationals and companies to engage in international financial transactions” to purchase such goods, the court said.

According to the ICJ, the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump is violating the terms of a 1955 Treaty of Amity between the two countries.

During his speech, President Rouhani, declared that Iranians "were able to win in both the International Court of Justice in the Hague and the European courts, which means that we were able to legally defeat America, and of course, this trend should continue."

The United States re-imposed sanctions on Tehran after the unilateral decision of U.S. President Donald Trump to withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) last May despite the fact that Iran was in compliance with the terms of the nuclear deal

“The Americans have only one goal: they want to come back to Iran and rule the nation again,” Rohani said.

]]> <![CDATA[Colombia: Indigenous and Campesino Protesters Call for Human Rights]]> Mon, 18 Mar 2019 16:02:28 -04:00 The Indigenous and Campesino communities of Cauca in southwestern Colombia, have called on the country's authorities and human rights organizations to be alert for violence from the Mobile Anti-riot Squad (Esmad) of the National Police.


Colombia: Indigenous Protest Enters 6th Day in Cauca

In a statement, the organizations participating in the minga (work group) for the Defense of Life, Territory, Democracy, Justice and Peace made a list of events that suggest a "possible intervention and aggression by public protection forces on the mingueros (workers) of the southwest."

They highlighted that they have made thus far unsuccessful efforts since February 2018 to hold a meeting with Colombian President Ivan Duque, in order "to have a dialogue with our organization," — these meetings have never matierlialized.

Instead, they say, Esmad attacked the community that was on the Pan-American highway on March 13, leaving 13 injured.

Three days later, Esmad units attacked "indiscriminately the camp of Campesinos in Cairo and the Tunnel located more than one kilometer from the Pan-American highway," the statement said.

On the same day, at 11:30 p.m., a Colombian air force helicopter flew over different areas where the communities were in throwing flares down on them.

These acts have generated great uncertainty regarding the treatment being shown to these demonstrations, he added.

The social minga requested the attention of the "Ministry of the Interior, Ombudsman, Attorney General of the Nation, High Council for Peace, Presidential Counsel for Human Rights and other competent entities."

"To the International Agencies, to include the facts related in this URGENT ACTION in the reports on the human rights situation in Colombia, as well as to issue requests to the State institutions tending to prevent a possible violation of human rights in the framework of the social protestl, "he said.

]]> <![CDATA[Europe Investigates Far-Right Links of NZ Mosque Shooter]]> Mon, 18 Mar 2019 13:03:05 -04:00 European authorities are investigating whether there are any links between far-right groups on the continent with Brenton Tarrant, the 28-year-old who carried out the attack on two mosques killing 50 worshippers.


Australian PM Suggests Charging 'Egged' Senator for Anti-Muslim Comments

Turkey, Bulgaria, and Greece have started formal investigations since Friday into the extensive travel of the shooter throughout Europe before he moved to New Zealand. He traveled through Europe, the Middle East and Asia, including Turkey, France, Pakistan, Bulgaria, Hungary, and North Korea.

The manifesto published by the shooter claimed that his views on immigration changed drastically when he was traveling through Eastern Europe.

He wrote that he felt “fuming rage and suffocating despair” at “invaders.”

Experts believe that he had been influenced by the far-right “identitarian” movement.

The “movement” claims that the European culture is in the process of being replaced with a non-European culture.

According to the counter-terrorism expert Greg Barton, from Deakin University in Melbourne, Tarrant shared similar ideologies with the movement.

“It’s just speculation of course, but it would make sense in that context that he has picked up on those ideas while traveling in Europe at that time,” he said.

He was never before featured in any intelligence report and now all the countries are investigating his travels and where he went while traveling.

Tarrant said while traveling through France, Portugal, and Spain, he was horrified with the killing of Ebba Akerlund when an Uzbek man rammed a truck onto pedestrians in Stockholm.

Two of his rifles used in the shooting had Akerlund’s references on them. A Serbian nationalist song was also heard in the background during his live stream of the attack.

]]> <![CDATA[US Officials Intervene in South Africa's Land Reform Debate]]> Mon, 18 Mar 2019 15:47:01 -04:00 A number of U.S. officials visited South Africa to study the seizure and expropriation of land in South Africa, along with the killing of farmers, as requested by Trump administration.


South Africa: 2 White Farmers Sentenced for Killing Black Teen

On Aug. 1, 2018, the African National Congress (ANC) planned to change the constitution to allow the expropriation of land without compensation, which according to the party's Ronald Lamola was nothing new, “Land expropriation had been happening, but with compensation at market value," say Ronald Lamola.

The United States President Donald Trump got involved however, in August of 2018 with a customary incediary tweet, saying the South African government was "seizing land from white farmers."


A day before that, Tucker Carlson claimed that the South African president, Cyril Ramaphosa, had started “seizing land from his own citizens without compensation because they are the wrong skin color,” calling the alleged seizures “immoral,” reported the Guardian.

In response, the South Africa government said those allegations reflected a “narrow perception which only seeks to divide our nation and reminds us of our colonial past." Khusela Diko, a spokesperson for Ramaphosa, added that the government will privilege the diplomatic way to discuss this issue with the U.S.  

Mr Trump's comments have incited more ferver into the land reform debate in South Africa — a country that remains deeply racially divided and unequal nearly a quarter of a century after Nelson Mandela swept to power at the end of apartheid.

Patrick Gaspard, the country’s former ambassador to South Africa tweeted that Trump was “attacking South Africa with the disproven racial myth of ‘large-scale killings of farmers’. This man has never visited the continent and has no discernible Africa policy.”

]]> <![CDATA['Bolsonaro is a Murderer' Signs Greet Brazilian President in US]]> Mon, 18 Mar 2019 10:54:21 -04:00 The Brazilian far-right President Jair Bolsonaro was greeted with protests against him in the United States Sunday. He is visiting the country to meet U.S. President Donald Trump Tuesday.


Brazil: Bolsonaro Lawmaker Requests 'Deleftification Ministry'

For the protestors, the meeting between the two leaders "will mean only bad things to the oppressed people in their countries," as "the sexism, racism, and homophobia that come from Trump is the same thing that comes from Bolsonaro."

Sean Blackmoon, who led a protest in Washington shortly after the assassination of Councilwoman Marielle Franco, said that the protests are necessary to draw attention to these causes.

Marielle Franco, an Afro-Brazilian lesbian, a feminist, and a socialist councilwoman, was critical of police violence and the right-wing government. She was assassinated in Rio de Janeiro along with her driver, Anderson Gomes, on the night of March 14, 2018, two weeks after she was named a rapporteur to a special commission to monitor military intervention in Rio de Janeiro.

The protestors came with placards saying "Bolsonaro is a murderer" and "Free Lula", referring to the former Brazilian President (2003-2010) and leftist leader sentenced to 12 years in prison for alleged corruption.

Demonstrators attend a protest against Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro in front of the White House in Washington, U.S., March 17, 2019. | Photo: Reuters

Bolsonaro will be staying at the Blair House, in front of the White House, where the protest was taking place. In addition to the meeting scheduled for Tuesday, there will be a joint lunch and a press conference on the joint agenda of the presidents.

This is Bolsonaro’s first official trip since he assumed his office on Jan. 1.  He traveled with Foreign Minister Ernesto Araujo and Economic Minister Paulo Guedes along with four others.

He will also meet Secretary-General of the Organization of American States (OAS) Luis Almagro.

He already met the former advisor to Donald Trump, Steve Bannon, who, since his time in the White House has been trying to galvinize and unite right-wing leaders worldwide.

One of the main issues that will be discussed by Bolsonaro and Trump is Venezuela. The United States is continuing its campaign and interventions against Venezuelan refusing to recognize the rightfully elected leader President Nicolas Maduro and instead recognizing the right-wing opposition lawmaker Juan Guaido who proclaimed himself the “interim president” of the Latin American country.

]]> <![CDATA[Classified Report Shows MBS Authorized Silencing Dissenters]]> Mon, 18 Mar 2019 11:32:39 -04:00 More than a year before the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, MBS approved a secret campaign to silence dissenters, the New York Times (NYT) reported.

MBS Threatened to Kill Khashoggi in 2017: US Intelligence

The campaign included surveillance, kidnapping, detention, and torture of Saudis, said the report published Sunday citing the U.S. officials who have access to classified intelligence reports about the effort.

American officials referred to it as the "Saudi Rapid Intervention Group," the NYT newspaper said.

At least some of the clandestine missions were carried out by members of the team that killed and dismembered Khashoggi in October 2018 at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, implying his murder was part of a wider campaign against dissidents, the report said, citing the U.S. officials and associates of some Saudi victims.

These members were involved in at least a dozen operations beginning in 2017, including forced repatriation of Saudis citizen from other Arab countries, the officials said.

The Rapid Intervention Group was authorized by Prince Mohammed and overseen by Saud al-Qahtani, a royal court advisor, American officials told the Times.

The Rapid Intervention Group has also been involved in the harassment of arrested prominent Saudis human rights defenders, including Loujain al-Hathloul, Aziza al-Yousef, and Iman al-Najfan, according to the NYT. 

Saudi officials declined to confirm or deny that such a team existed, or answer questions from the Times about its work.

]]> <![CDATA[UNHRC Report: Israel 'Pillaging' Palestine's Natural Resources]]> Mon, 18 Mar 2019 10:01:48 -04:00 The U.N. Human Rights Council (UNHRC) met on March 18 to investigate the human rights situation in Palestine and issued a report which focused on the impact of the occupation on the environment, natural resources, the ongoing use of excessive force by Israeli security forces against demonstrators in Gaza, and the near humanitarian catastrophe in the territory caused by the blockade.

Palestinian Toddlers Burn to Death After Israeli Troops Block Fire Brigade

The UNHRC points out that people living under occupation should be able to enjoy the full panoply of human rights provided by international law.

Michael Lynk, U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories said that “for nearly five million Palestinians living under occupation, the degradation of their water supply, the exploitation of their natural resources and the defacing of their environment, are symptomatic of the lack of any meaningful control they have over their daily lives." 

About Israel, he reported that “its approach to the natural resources of the Occupied Palestinian Territory has been to use them as a sovereign country would use its own assets, with vastly discriminatory consequences.”

“With the collapse of natural sources of drinking water in Gaza and the inability of Palestinians to access most of their water sources in the West Bank, water has become a potent symbol for the systematic violation of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory,” the Special Rapporteur continued.

“As of 2017, more than 96% of Gaza’s coastal aquifer – the main source of water for residents of Gaza – has become unfit for human consumption. The reasons include over-extraction because of Gaza’s extremely dense population, contamination with sewage and seawater, Israel’s 12-year old blockade, and asymmetrical wars which has left Gaza’s infrastructure severely crippled and with a near-constant electricity shortage."

According to UNHRC, since March 30, 2018, "Israeli Security Forces (ISF) killed and gravely injured civilians who were neither participating directly in hostilities nor posing an imminent threat to life. Among those shot were children, paramedics, journalists, and persons with disabilities. 183 people were shot dead, another 6,106 were wounded with live ammunition."

Palestinian Ambassador Ibrahim Khraishi said, “Israel must stop this pillaging, what Israel is doing in the occupied territories is very far from its obligations under international law and treaties.”  “This is more even than apartheid,” he added. 

]]> <![CDATA[3 People Killed In Netherlands Shooting, Suspect Identified]]> Mon, 18 Mar 2019 06:48:12 -04:00 Several people were shot, and three killed Monday in a tram, as reported by the mayor of the central Dutch city of Utrecht, in an incident police said may have had a "terrorist motive." A suspect has been identified and images of him have been circulated to aid in his capture.


NZ Mosque Shooter Mailed Manifesto to PM Minutes Before Attack

Police said the suspected gunman, a 37-year-old man named Gokman Tanis, whose nationality is unclear but who has been identified by police as being "Turkish born," is at large and authorities raised the terrorism threat to its highest level in Utrecht province. Schools were told to shut their doors and paramilitary police increased security at airports and other vital infrastructure. Security was stepped up at mosques.

"Several shots were fired in a tram and several people were injured. Helicopters are at the scene and no arrests have been made," said police spokesman Joost Lanshage. He was not immediately able to provide further details.

Local broadcaster RTV Utrecht quoted a witness as saying he had seen a woman lying on the ground amid some kind of confrontation and several men ran away from the scene.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte said he was deeply concerned about the incident and convened crisis talks.

The incident comes after a lone gunman killed 50 people in mass shootings at two mosques in the city of Christchurch, New Zealand, last Friday.

Utrecht, the Netherlands' fourth largest city, is known for its picturesque canals and large student population. Gun killings are rare in Utrecht, as elsewhere in the Netherlands.

The Utrecht police said The October 21st square, a tram station stop outside the city center, had been cordoned off as emergency services were at the scene.

]]> <![CDATA[Cyclone Leaves Over 125 Dead In Mozambique, Zimbabwe]]> Mon, 18 Mar 2019 06:24:49 -04:00 Authorities in the southern African nations of Mozambique and Zimbabwe say the cyclone that tore through the two neighboring countries has left 128 people dead and hundreds more missing.

 South Africa: To Downgrade Embassy In Israel For Second Time

As of Sunday the effects of tropical cyclone Idai had left 62 people dead in Mozambique and another 65 in Zimbabwe after 177 km per hour winds hit along with torrential rains hit the city of Beira, Mozambique Thursday.

Mozambique’s environment Minister Celso Correia said Sunday of the final body count: “We will certainly end with a higher toll.”

“Our priority now is to save human lives,” added the minister.

“I think this is the biggest natural disaster Mozambique has ever faced. Everything is destroyed,” Correia told reporters from the city of Beira that experts estimate was 90 percent destroyed.

“The scale of damage caused by cyclone Idai that hit the Mozambican city of Beira is massive and horrifying,” Jamie LeSueur from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said of the city with 500,000 residents.

LeSueur told Africa News: “The situation is terrible. The scale of devastation is enormous. It seems that 90 percent of the area is completely destroyed (and) communication lines have been completely cut and roads have been destroyed." ​​​​​​​

 DR Congo's Tshisekedi to Release 700 Political Prisoners

Idai hit Mozambique first on Thursday night then moved on to Zimbabwe.

Local Zimbabwe government official, July Moyo told reporters, "Some of the bodies have been found floating along the rivers." She added that, "a number of people … are missing."

Zimbabwe’s eastern Chimanimani district suffered the brunt of the storm’s winds, rain and landslides. Flash floods washed away houses and bridges to areas still inaccessible to rescue teams.

“So far we looking at 65 people that have lost their lives,” Joshua Sacco, a Chimanimani legislator told AFP by phone, adding that between “150 to 200 people” are missing.

The majority of those who can't be found are government workers whose housing quarters in the district were taken over by overflowing rivers and rapids.

“We are very worried because all these houses were just suddenly submerged under water and literally washed away and that is where we have about 147 missing,” said Sacco.

“It’s very sad and the situation is dire.”

The United Nations in Zimbabwe said that nearly 10,000 were affected by the cyclone and the The World Food Program estimates, “at least 1.7 million people were in the direct path of the cyclone in Mozambique.”

Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa has declared a state of disaster in the country’s affected areas. On Saturday the president tweeted: "My thoughts & prayers are with all those affected by Cyclone Idai." 

As of last Wednesday, 56 people had lost their lives in Malawi due to the tropical despression that formed over the country in early March, spawning Idai, according to NASA. Some 83,000 residents are without a home there because of the severe weather patterns that have remained over the country for the past two weeks.

A district officer for Malawi's disaster management department, Francis Kadzokoya, told Reuters, "the general situation has been very pathetic."​​​​​​​

]]> <![CDATA[Northern Ireland: 3 Youths Crushed To Death At St. Paddy's Party]]> Mon, 18 Mar 2019 04:59:44 -04:00 St. Patrick’s Day celebrations turned tragic early Monday morning when three teenagers were “crushed” to death at a hotel bar in Cookstown in Northern Ireland.

Vandals Steal 800-year-old Mummified Head From Irish Church

The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) said they confirmed two deaths on scene at the Greenvale Hotel in County Tyrone. Two others were taken to hospital and one of the party-goers died at a nearby hospital, according to Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton.

Speaking from the hotel, Hamilton said that two of the deceased were 17 years old and the third, 16.

"Our preliminary investigations show there was a crush towards the front door of this hotel,” informed the police chief.

"There looks like there was a large crowd of young people pushing up against the hotel," Hamilton told reporters from outside the establishment.

The Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS) said they received calls around 9:30 pm to help those with serious injuries.

"NIAS despatched two Rapid Response Paramedics, two doctors and five emergency crews to the scene," said the local medic service.

A witness told Belfast Live: “A lot of people had congregated outside the Greenvale and there was a lot of carry on but suddenly all hell broke loose and there was a big panic. People were running all over the place."

A mother of survivors of the incident, Emma Heatherington, says her two sons told her: “There was a huge crowd waiting to get into the venue and then a lot of commotion up near the front of the queue, then they said the emergency services arrived and they were all asked to leave,” said the distraught mom.

 One UK Soldier Charged With Murder For Bloody Sunday Killings

"They came home very, very shaken with rumors that some people had died."

Heatherington added: "While it's not clear exactly what happened, it's the most tragic ending imaginable to what was supposed to be a celebration of St Patrick's Day."

Colin Neill, chief executive of Hospitality Ulster, said: "We are devastated to hear of the confirmed PSNI report of at least two deaths this evening at the Greenvale Hotel in Cookstown. This is shocking and tragic news and our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the deceased."



]]> <![CDATA[AMLO 'Ends Neoliberalism', Ushers In Post-Neoliberal Plan]]> Mon, 18 Mar 2019 03:56:20 -04:00 President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) says neoliberalism has been “abolished” in Mexico.

During the unveiling of the administration’s National Development Plan 2019-2024, AMLO said: "The neoliberal model and its economic policy of pillage and handouts are abolished" in the country.

Mexico's 'AMLO' Still Popular After 100 Days in Office

The head of state added: "The nightmare that was the neoliberal policy (is) finished. We formally declare, from the National Palace, the end of the neoliberal policy."

Earlier this month the Mexican leader called the country's decades of neoliberal reforms "complete failures especially in the last few years and more precisely last year.”

AMLO, who was elected last year on an anti-corruption, anti-privatization platform, told the crowd as he introduced his development plan Sunday: "The market won’t replace the state."

AMLO’s predecessor, Enrique Peña Nieto, to the opposition of over 60 percent of the population, infamously signed a 2014 law that privatived much of the country’s energy sector, including the country’s 1938-formed state oil agency, PEMEX (Petróleos Mexicanos).

Lopez Obrador reminded those present that the state has an economic, social and political responsibility to improve the living conditions of the people and even achieve the "happiness" of the people, according to local media.

The president called his administration’s plan, "post-neoliberal" and an alternative to create actual economic development.

"We must show that modernity can be forged from below, and without excluding anyone, and that development does not have to be contrary to social justice," pronounced the president.

His post-neoliberal policies will be guided by honesty, wealth distribution, gender equality and “dignity for all,” including young people and seniors, said AMLO.

 'Mexico Punished For Failed Neoliberalism, Corruption'

The president, who enjoys a 78 percent public approval rating, has already implemented several “post-neoliberal” policies since taking office in December such as cracking down on corruption and fuel theft within PEMEX, along canceling a US$13 billion Mexico City airport backed by Mexico's richest and the world’s seventh wealthiest man, Carlos Slim. 

At the same time, the president has been widely criticized for using public referendums to push through major infrastructural projects throughout the country that residents says will be damaging to public health and the environment.

For his part, the Undersecretary of the Ministry of the Interior Alejando Encinas said that the new government’s plan is a turn around from the four decades of the state “abandoning” the people.

"It's about leaving behind almost four decades of abandonment by those who submitted to the laws of the market," Encinas said. He added that this abandonment has created the country’s intense violence that is creating a "deep crisis" in the country. The undersecretary said the solution to the end of the violence needs to be centered around three pillars: gender equality, inclusion and non-discrimination.

"Human rights must impregnate all public actions and policies of this government in a transversal manner, as proposed in the National Development Plan,” said Encinas who has pledged to bring justice to the country’s thousands of unsolved and unpunished murders. Mexico’s National Institute of Statistics and Geography registered 154,557 murders between 2010 and 2016, of which 94.8 percent remain unconvicted.

The official added that to reverse this “humanitarian crisis, it is essential that public is governed by the principles of non-discrimination, gender perspective and inclusion."

]]> <![CDATA[Honduran Journalist Gunned Down Outside Home]]> Mon, 18 Mar 2019 01:53:15 -04:00 A Honduran journalist was shot to death Sunday in southern Honduras, making 54-year-old Gabriel Hernandez the country’s first reporter to be killed in 2019.

Honduran Journalists Reject State Censorship, Violence

Gunned down outside his home in the city of Nacaome located south of the capital of Tegucigalpa, the reporter worked for Canal Valle TV where he was an opinion reporter and Radio Globo that is broadcast in the capital.

National Police told EFE that Hernandez was walking into his home when he was stopped by a gunman who then shot the journalist several times, leaving him "seriously wounded."

The wounded was taken to a hospital in Nacaome where he died of his injuries. There is no word yet on why Hernandez may have been shot.

According to the National Commissioner for Human Rights in Honduras (Conadeh), 75 journalist were murdered between 2001 and 2018 in Honduras. The human rights organization said in February that of the 229 journalists and lawyers murdered during that same time, more than 90 percent of the cases are still unpunished. The same impunity rate exists for the over 6,200 women killed during those years.

Impunity is a problem that "especially affects the most disadvantaged, social peace and frustrates the expectations and opportunities for justice and development in the country," Conadeh director, Roberto Herrera, told local reporters last month.

Journalists, along with human rights defenders and lawyers have faced increased threats and risks of doing their job since the 2009 overthrow of elected President Manuel Zelaya. Sixty 62 journalists were killed in Honduras between 2006 and 2017, according to the Latin American Federation of Journalists, but only two of these killings occurred prior to 2009.

A 2017 report by the U.S. Department of State says that journalists often “self-censored due to fear of retaliation from organized crime or corrupt government officials” as they face continual threats and harassment by gangs and authorities alike.

The 2018 Honduran murder rate averaged ten deaths per day. That number has since spiked to 13 during the first two months of this year, according to the Observatory of Violence of the National Autonomous University.

]]> <![CDATA[President Maduro to Carry out Deep Government Restructuring]]> Sun, 17 Mar 2019 23:47:47 -04:00 Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro will carry out a restructuring of the executive cabinet to protect the operation of the national government in the face of threats of external interference, Vice President Delcy Rodríguez reported Sunday.

In this regard, the head of state asked all cabinet members to place their positions at his disposal.

 Venezuela Launches Drills to Protect Public Services

“President @NicolasMaduro has asked the entire executive Cabinet to put their roles up for review in a deep restructuring of the methods and functions of the Bolivarian government, to protect the fatherland of Bolivar and Chavez from any threat,” Rodriguez wrote on Twitter, referring to independence leader Simon Bolivar and former President Hugo Chavez.​​​​​​​

Last Friday, the Venezuelan leader had announced his intention to produce changes in the executive body to optimize the government's management and protect the country against new threats, after the cyber attack that affected the strategic services of the South American nation on March 7.

By swearing in the new government period 2019-2025 on January 10, President Nicolás Maduro assumed the commitment to deepen the efficiency of State benefits with the aim of guaranteeing stability and social peace.

"It is a moral, spiritual struggle of an entire country for honesty, for efficiency, for good services," he said during his swearing in the seat of the Supreme Court of Justice (TSJ).



]]> <![CDATA[Philippines Officially Out of International Criminal Court]]> Sun, 17 Mar 2019 23:35:50 -04:00 The Philippines have officially withdrawn from the International Criminal Court (ICC) Sunday a year after notifying the United Nations (U.N.) its resolution to leave.

'Thuggish': Trump Imposes Visa Bans on ICC Staff Probing US War Crimes in Afghanistan

The decision came as the international body, led by ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, launched an examination in 2018 into possible crimes against humanity committed by President Rodrigo Duterte's ongoing drug crackdown, which according to Derrick Carreon, a spokesman for the Philippine drug enforcement agency (PDEA), between July 2016 and the end of November 2018, has taken 5,050 lives, mostly at the hands of the police.

However human rights advocates, including U.N. High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet,  estimate the real figure is much higher than the official numbers, ranging between 15,000 to 27,000. Human Rights Watch research has found that police falsify evidence to justify unlawful killings, despite growing calls for an investigation, Duterte has continued his hard stance.  

The court "can never acquire jurisdiction over my person, not in a million years," said Duterte in a speech on Wednesday, as the withdrawal does not mean the investigations will cease. A signatory country cannot be discharged of any cases already pending in the court before the pullout. 

Yet the government continues arguing that that the nation never legally joined the treaty that underpins the court becoming a state party to the Rome Statute which created the ICC, the president's spokesman Salvador Panelo pronounced Sunday, adding that "as far as we are concerned, this tribunal is non-existent and its actions a futile exercise."

In the notice dated March 15, 2018, Ambassador Teodoro Locsin Jr, Permanent Representative to the U.N. explained that the decision was due to the country’s  “stand against those who politicize and weaponize human rights,” criticizing the actions of the international body, while insisting the Philippines has a functioning justice system. 

By withdrawing, the Phillippines is the second country to do so after Burundi. A move that will resonate with other African nations such as Zambia, South Africa, Kenya, and, Gambia, who have also expressed interest in withdrawing as they have accused the court of being biased against Africans. 

Duterte’s actions to prevent an ICC probe come as the U.S. announced Friday that the country will impose visa restrictions on people responsible for any court probe regarding their and their allies actions during and after the invasion in Afghanistan.

]]> <![CDATA[Bolivia: Unasur Still Active Despite Attacks From Some Nations]]> Sun, 17 Mar 2019 23:33:42 -04:00 Bolivian Foreign Minister Diego Pary said Sunday that the Union of South American Nations (Unasur) remains active with its members fully engaged, following the recent decision of Ecuador to leave the block and demand the return of the building that houses the General Secretariat in Quito.

Ecuador's Ex-President Rafael Correa on UNASUR 'Disintegration'

"Unasur has difficulties at the moment, there are six countries that several months ago decided to suspend their participation in the different activities and meetings, however, the block is still active," Pary commented on state television Bolivia TV.

On March 11, the Ecuadorean government formalized the decision to suspend its participation and withdraw from the Constitutional Treaty of Unasur thereby leaving the bloc, joining Colombian President Ivan Duque, who on Aug 27, 2018, made a similar decision. Other nations such as  Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, and Peru suspended their participation in April 2018.

At the moment, Venezuela, Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname, and Uruguay are its only active members. In order, to continue the work made by the South American integration body Pary said that in his capacity as president pro tempore of UNASUR, Bolivia is willing to offer the Parlasur building in Cochabamba, to house the new headquarters of the General Secretariat.

"The Unasur parliament is prepared and has the necessary infrastructure to make it work (the General Secretariat) here in Bolivia if Ecuador decides to denounce the treaty," he added.

However, Ecuador’s withdrawal will not be immediate. According to article 24 of the Constitutional Treaty of Unasur, the pullout will take effect after six months from the date the notification was received by the body. The Ecuadorean constitution of 2008 itself states that leaving international treaties are required to pass through the country's National Assembly.

At the same time, the Ecuadorean Government has mentioned its intent to adhere to the proposal of a new “integration” project called Prosur, an idea from presidents Ivan Duque (Colombia) and Sebastian Piñera (Chile) with the main purpose of excluding Venezuela. 

The Bolivian Foreign Minister noted that the creation of a new regional platform "has not even started”, adding that even though “two meetings of regional coordinators have taken place, but we see there are difficulties in this new proposal put forward by some countries."

]]> <![CDATA[More Than 11,000 Workers Fired in 3 Months in Ecuador]]> Sun, 17 Mar 2019 23:22:22 -04:00 From December 2018 to February 2019, 11,820 people have been fired from the public sector in Ecuador,  the country’s Labor Minister Andres Madero announced Wednesday on a meeting of the Workers Commission of the National Assembly.

Post-IMF Deal, Ecuador Fires 10,000 Public Officials in 3 Days

The government official detailed that 8,916 people were laid off from the Executive branch, 207 from the Judicial and 566 from Legislative. While 1,365 workers corresponded to institutions created by Constitutional mandate and under specific laws. The rest belongs to the Office of Transparency and Social Control, Government Council for the Special Regime of Galapagos and Andean Parliament. 

Most of the firings, approximately 10,000, happened between Feb. 27 to March 1, a few days after it was announced that a Staff-level agreement with the IMF was reached, according to local media reports. After almost two weeks and social pressure, the government finally issued official figures assuring that at the end of March the total list of people affected by layoffs from the public sector will be issued. 

This means the number will likely be higher. Such is the case of the allegedly 2,500 to 3,500 workers fired just from the health sector with provisional contracts, as denounced on March 6 by leaders of the National Union Organization of Workers of the Ministry of Public Health (Osuntramsa), which added that “ workers rights were vulnerated.”

Workers gathered outside buildings from the Public Health Ministry to protest on March 8.

Ecuadorean Labor Minister has insisted that the decision answers to the  “necessity of the institutions and follow the country’s Law for Public Service (Losep)”. As the 11,820 workers are just part of a larger plan to “reduce” the country’s public expenditure. 

On Sept. 1, 2017, President Lenin Moreno signed executive order 135, which stated the overall strategy to take in order to "optimize and reduce public spending." Based on that the Coordinating Company of Public Companies (EMCO) announced in February 2019 that public companies were to cut 10% of their payroll. According to EMCO, the companies under its coordination report 39 100 workers, which would mean almost firing 4,000 employees. 

A course of action that follows the requirements made by the new IMF loan agreement. One of its main commitments regards the national wage bill will most likely be done, as many economists and experts have pointed out, through mass layoffs in the public sector, reduction in the nominal salary and minimum wage. As well as reforms for the flexibilization of the workforce, which will also affect private sector workers.

]]> <![CDATA[Trump Jr. Backs Clinton Amidst Accusation of AntiMuslim Rhetoric]]> Sun, 17 Mar 2019 20:26:14 -04:00 As the Trump family never cease to amaze, this time Donald Trump Jr. took on Twitter Saturday to defend Chelsea Clinton, who was accused of pilling on anti-Muslim rhetoric in the wake of the New Zealand mosque attack.

Democrats Put Off Anti-Semitism Resolution After Outpouring of Support for Ilhan Omar

“It’s sickening to see people blame @ChelseaClinton for the NZ attacks because she spoke out against anti-Semitism,” Trump Jr. tweeted, adding that “we should all be condemning anti-Semitism & all forms of hate. Chelsea should be praised for speaking up.” A rather unexpected comment, as President Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton’s belligerence, continues, even after the 2016 presidential run. 

The tweet came after Clinton was publicly confronted Friday by Palestinian activist Leen Dweik, during a public vigil for the victims of the terrorist attacks at two Christchurch mosques in New Zealand that left 50 people dead and over 50 injured. 

In a video that circulated social media, Dweik is seen telling Clinton that "this is the result of a massacre stoked by people like you and the words that you put out into the world!", adding that she wants Hillary Clinton’s daughter to "feel deep inside" her guilt in what happened to the victims. 

To the “words,” Palestinian Muslim activist referred to Clinton's support of a smear-campaign against congresswoman Ilhan Omar, calling her anti-semitic after she suggested that members of U.S. Congress support Israel because of money they receive from the pro-Israel lobbying groups. A campaign that soon turned into anti-muslim and racist rhetoric against her faith and background, supported by both the Republican and Democratic establishment.

“We were shocked when Clinton arrived at the vigil, given that she had not yet apologized to Rep. Omar for the public vilification against her. We thought it was inappropriate for her to show up to a vigil for a community she had so recently stoked hatred against,” Dweik and activist Rose Asaf wrote Saturday on an op-ed for BuzzFeed.

As social media users weighted upon the matter, some argued that in fact, Clinton did participate in a smear campaign against Omar as other criticized Dweik for associating two apparently distanced issues. “To them, we say that anti-Muslim bigotry must be addressed wherever it exists...This is about people who do and do not have power, and how those with power use it. A global environment of hatred and vilification against Muslims created this killer,” the activists argued in their article.

Yet this is not the first time the political elite’s offspring have come out to defend their political “opponents”. In 2017, both Chelsea Clinton and Ivanka Trump publicly stood behind Malia Obama, the former first daughter, after some videos showed her smoking and partying in college. And in 2019, after some pictures of Obama’s daughter, allegedly underage drinking, were published, once again Clinton and this time Jenna Bush, George W. Bush’s daughter, quickly took on Twitter. Or the time Clinton defended Trump's young son after social media turned him into a meme.

No matter the cause, this just shows that class solidarity does happen, at least in the higher rankings of the political elite. 

]]> <![CDATA[Venezuela Launches Drills to Protect Public Services]]> Sun, 17 Mar 2019 19:14:20 -04:00 Venezuela on Saturday launched civic-military exercises to protect the nation's public services in the wake of a recently purported sabotage of the electricity system.

"The Comprehensive Action Exercises begin to protect the nation's strategic public services," President Nicolas Maduro tweeted.

 Russia Calls US Intervention in Venezuela 'Unacceptable'

"We will not allow the enemies of the state to once again rob the heroic Venezuelan people of their tranquility," he added.

The exercises aimed "to perfect the people's organization," and "deploy all our forces" to prevent further attacks on the power grid or water distribution network, Maduro said.

Among the tasks to be carried out was "maintenance," such as bolstering communications between the different supply stations, the president said.

Electricity went off in many parts of the country on March 7 and schools and government offices were shut down in the aftermath. The worst blackout in modern Venezuelan history came amid heightened tensions between the ruling socialist party and the right-wing opposition.

Maduro on Tuesday declared victory after his government succeeded in restoring electricity following a prolonged blackout.

]]> <![CDATA[Opec May Need to Extend Oil Cuts Until the End of 2019]]> Sun, 17 Mar 2019 18:22:44 -04:00 As global inventories are still rising, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) may need to expand output cuts into the second half of 2019, Saudi Minister of Energy, Industry and Mineral Resources Khalid al Falih said Sunday during a press conference in Azerbaijan.

Iran Oil Exports Up, Unveils Major National Refinery

The Saudi minister’s comment took place during the 13th meeting of the Joint OPEC-non-OPEC Ministerial Monitoring Committee (JMMC) that is being held from March 17 to 18 in the Azeri capital, Baku. The JMMC comprises ministers of six countries: Russia, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Venezuela, Algeria, and Oman, whose task is to review market development scenarios and make recommendations for OPEC+ countries regarding the necessary actions.

In December 2018, the block and allies led by Russia agreed to cut oil production by 1.2 million barrels per day (bpd) starting January 2019, to help rebalance the global oil market and prop up prices, despite pressure from the U.S. to not decrease global oil supply.

The OPEC nations agreed to lower its production to 800 million bpd while its external allies to support with an additional cut of 400 million bpd. During the meeting, al Falih expressed that  “the job still remains ahead of us... We are still seeing inventory builds... We need to stay the course certainly until June,” date agreed upon back in 2018.

According to secondary sources, total OPEC-14 preliminary crude oil production averaged 30.55 million bpd in February, a decrease of 221,000 bpd over the previous month. Crude oil output decreased mostly in Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq, while production inched up in Libya and Angola. However, an increase in the non-OPEC supply of 65,000 bpd, compared with the previous month, was mainly driven by the U.S., U.K., and Brazil. 

Bloomberg reported that in February the level of compliance with the oil output cut deal reached 89% compared with 83% in January. Yet the figure will be officially announced on Monday. 

However, a steeply increase in recent months from the U.S’s oil exports, while imposing sanctions on Venezuela and Iran to reduce their shipments to global markets, are “are creating negative trends in the market and are completely distorting the supply and demand picture”, as Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said Sunday.

The Russian Minister added that it was hard for Moscow and OPEC to plan due to the U.S. sanctions, as “they are imposed to help sell goods of the country that is imposing the sanctions, and they create uncertainty.”

In Baku, Venezuelan Oil Minister Manuel Quevedo reaffirmed the country's support for the “stability of the oil market”, and that oil exists for the development of the people around the world. The next meeting will be held in April in Austria. 

]]> <![CDATA[India: Controversial Right-Wing Ex-Defense Minister Passes Away]]> Sun, 17 Mar 2019 16:08:53 -04:00 India’s former defense minister and serving chief minister of the western state of Goa, Manohar Parrikar, died Sunday, officials said.


India: Court Order Seeks to Evict Millions of Indigenous People

A technocrat turned politician, 63-year-old Parrikar was a senior member of the ruling far-right Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). He had been suffering from cancer.

While the BJP leadership and right-wing supporters are mourning the death of Parrikar, many women on social media are mourning by bringing up sexist remarks that made him famous.

Last year Parrikar said, “I have begun to fear now because even the girls have started drinking beer. So the barrier of that tolerance limit is being crossed."

He served as India’s defense minister from 2014-2017 during which policies attributed to him wreaked havoc on the lives of Kashmiris in Indian Occupied Kashmir in 2016. The Surgical Strike policy gave the Indian army the freed reign in the region in the name of national security.

The defense minister had also been caught up in one of the biggest scandals offar-right Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration , i.e, the the Rafale scam.

As defense minister, he oversaw the controversial deal to buy 36 Rafale fighter jets from French aircraft manufacturer Dassault Aviation for around $8.7 billion, the country’s first major acquisition of combat planes in two decades.

The deal has been at the center of allegations because Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government paid too much and it forced Dassault to accept their Indian businessman Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence as its Indian partner despite the company having had no such prior experience in defense contracting.

]]> <![CDATA[Brussels III: UN and EU Conference Gather Aid For Syrian People]]> Sun, 17 Mar 2019 16:14:11 -04:00 57 countries and more than 20 international organizations and UN agencies came together to discuss the ongoing crisis in Syria in an international conference.

Leaders of Russia, Turkey, Iran Meet to Discuss Syria's Future

From March 12-13, the 'days of dialogue' brought together more than 1,000 participants: civil society representatives from Syria and the region, ministers and decision-makers from countries neighboring Syria, donor countries, regional organizations, U.N. agencies, and the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. They discussed key themes affecting the Syrian people and the international response to the crisis.

The conference succeeded in mobilizing aid to Syrians inside the country and in neighboring countries, including for hosting communities, through pledges totaling US$7 billion for 2019, and multi-year pledges of close to US$2.4 billion for 2020 and beyond.

"Pledging is an important signal of the international community's solidarity with the people of Syria inside the country and with the neighbors of Syria, hosting huge numbers of refugees, and feeling the strain of that generosity," said Mark Lowcock, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator.

According to the U.N., since March 2011, more than 5 million Syrians have fled the country and 6 million are internally displaced. More than 13 million people are in need of assistance. 370,000 people died.

Germany, France, Britain, and the Netherlands are defending a policy of withholding reconstruction money until a transition begins that would lead to Assad leaving power.

On Feb. 14, Russian President Vladimir Putin hosted his Iranian and Turkish counterparts, Hassan Rouhani and Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in Sochi to discuss constitutional reform and elections issues Syria is facing. The U.N. Special Envoy to Syria, Geir Pedersen, declared in an interview that  “work is underway to form a Syrian constitutional committee." He also added that "it is not my role to say what the content of the constitution will be—this is a sovereign Syrian decision.”

"The constitution and all matters related to it are a sovereign issue that should be decided by Syrians themselves without any foreign interference," Muallem said in a statement carried by SANA.

]]> <![CDATA[Australian PM Suggests Charging Anti-Muslim Senator]]> Sun, 17 Mar 2019 15:37:56 -04:00 Australian Prime Minister Scott Morison suggested Sunday that an anti-Muslim senator who slapped a teen for cracking an egg on his head should be charged.


NZ Mosque Shooter Mailed Manifesto to PM Minutes Before Attack

Senator Fraser Anning said after the New Zealand mosque shooting, "Does anyone still dispute the link between Muslim immigration and violence?"

"The real cause of the bloodshed on New Zealand streets today is the immigration program which allowed Muslim fanatics to migrate to New Zealand in the first place," he later said in a statement.

He drew widespread criticism for anti-Muslim comments after an attack which claimed 50 lives.

And not only criticisms. While speaking at a press conference, the senator also received a raw egg on his head by a 17-year-old boy Will Connolly. The youngster cracked a raw egg on his head before being slapped and punched by the senator and dragged to the ground by his supporters.

While the world is hailing Connolly as a hero, the Australian Prime Minister also came out against Anning saying, "The full force of the law should be applied to Sen. Anning."

New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern who termed the shootings by a white supremacist a “terrorist” act also condemned Anning’s comments Sunday. According to her, "They're a disgrace."

Police had arrested Connolly after the incident, took his details and later released him without any charges.

"The incident is being actively investigated by Victoria Police in its entirety," a police statement said.

Anning has been assigned a federal police security detail after the incident, a measure usually reserved for the prime minister.

A GoFundMe page was set up to raise Connolly’s legal fees and “more eggs” which has managed to raise AU$25,000 (around US$17,700) by Sunday most of which will be given to Christchurch victims.

"Don't egg politicians. You get tackled by 30 bogans at the same time," Connolly later said in a video. Bogan is an Austrialian term for low-life.

]]> <![CDATA[Slovakia: Environmental Lawyer Leads Presidential Race]]> Sun, 17 Mar 2019 15:26:31 -04:00 Zuzana Caputova, an anti-corruption campaigner, and an environmental lawyer, with no experience in public office, won the first round of Slovakia's presidential election Saturday, setting up a tough clash with the ruling Social Democracy Party (Smer) candidate.


Bolivia: Evo Morales is Leading The Polls For Presidential Race

Voters appeared to spurn Smer a year after the murder of a journalist sparked mass protests. The killing of Jan Kuciak, a reporter on fraud cases involving politically connected businessmen, triggered the biggest anti-government protests in Slovakia in recent times. It also led to the resignation of then prime minister, and Smer leader, Robert Fico.

The government remains in power, but Smer's popularity has slumped. On the first anniversary of Kuciak's murder, thousands of Slovaks rallied to protest against what they see as a lack of government action on the corruption he uncovered.

With results from 99.4 percent of polling stations counted, Caputova had 40.5 percent of votes, far ahead of Sefcovic, who had 18.7 percent.

As no candidate secured a majority of all votes cast in the European Union and NATO member country of 5.4 million, the pair will now contest a second round on March 30.

If elected, the 45-year-old Caputova, a pro-European liberal who belongs to the small, non-parliamentary Progressive Slovakia party, will stand out among the populist nationalist politicians on the rise across much of Europe.

Endorsed by outgoing President Andrej Kiska, who did not seek reelection, Caputova has promised to end what she calls the capture of the state "by people pulling strings from behind," while maintaining the course of Slovakia's foreign policy.

"I see the message from voters as a strong call for change," Caputova told reporters early Sunday after her victory in the first round was clear.

Slovakia's president does not wield day-to-day power but has veto power over the appointments of senior prosecutors and judges, pivotal in the fight against corruption.

The murder of Kuciak and his fiancee, who was shot dead alongside him, is still under investigation. The biggest breakthrough to date came just two days before the vote when special prosecutors said they had charged businessman Marian Kocner, a subject of Kuciak's reporting with connections across the political scene, including Smer, with ordering the murder.

Caputova was dubbed "Slovakia's Erin Brockovich" by fellow lawyers for leading a 14-year fight against an illegal landfill in her hometown.

"Sefcovic, painting himself as a Christian, experienced candidate with contacts abroad, has already launched the campaign for the second round with combative statements towards Caputova," sociologist Sona Gyarfasova said, adding he would seek to mobilize those who did not vote in the first round.

Supreme court judge and former justice minister Stefan Harabin, who promised to fight immigration, came third with 14.4 percent of votes, while the leader of a parliamentary far-right party, Marian Kotleba, was fourth with 10.6 percent.

Both have labeled Caputova as extreme-left and too liberal because of her pro-choice and pro-LGBT stand.

]]> <![CDATA[Russia Calls US Intervention in Venezuela 'Unacceptable']]> Sun, 17 Mar 2019 12:48:04 -04:00 The Deputy Foreign Minister of Russia Sergei Ryabkov announced a meeting with the United States special envoy to Venezuela Eliot Abrams, in which he will tell him face-to-face that a military intervention in the South American country is unacceptable.


US, Canada, EU Join Forces to Intimidate Russia with Sanctions

The central approach to the meeting, which will take place March 19 in Rome, Italy hopes to convey the messages that “a military intervention by the United States, as well as other forms of pressure on the legitimate government of Caracas, are unacceptable,” said the vice minister as reported by Sputnik.

Pressure by U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration on Russian companies with economic ties to Venezuela will also be discussed.

The U.S. has said previously that the assets of Evrofinance Mosnarbank, a Russia-Venezuela states-owned financial organization would be frozen and U.S. citizens would be prohibited from doing business with the joint venture.

The U.S. State Department said in a statement that Evrofinance was violating a Trump decree because it is a “foreign financial institution that materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services to or in support of (PdVSA).” 

The deputy foreign minister also reiterated that the government of Russian President Vladimir Putin will continue to cooperate with Caracas in the energy industry, and military expertise, regardless of pressure from the United States.