INTL Latin America and the Islands: Politics, Economics, Military- June 2020

Plain Jane

Veteran Member
May's thread:

Main Coronavirus thread from page 1230:

Season’s 1st tropical storm drenches part of Central America
By MARCOS ALEMAN53 minutes ago

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The swollen Los Esclavos River flows violently under a bridge during tropical storm Amanda in Cuilapa, eastern Guatemala, Sunday, May 31, 2020. The first tropical storm of the Eastern Pacific season drenched parts of Central America on Sunday and officials in El Salvador said at least seven people had died in the flooding. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador (AP) — The first tropical storm of the Eastern Pacific season drenched parts of Central America on Sunday and officials in El Salvador said at least seven people had died in flooding.
President Nayib Bukele decreed a 15-day state of emergency to deal with the rains that began pounding the country on Friday ahead of Tropical Storm Amanda’s landfall on Sunday.

“We are facing a critical situation,” said Intrior MInister Mario Durán. “The situation in all of the country and especially in the metropolitan area of San Salvador is grave.”

Amanda had maximum sustained winds of 40 mph (65 kph) when it hit Sunday morning, but it soon weakened back to tropical depression status with winds of 35 mph (55 kph) by the afternoon, when it was centered about 45 miles (75 kilometers) northeast of Guatemala City. It was moving to the north at 9 mph (15 kph), according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center.

Forecasters said it should soon weaken or dissipate during the day or by night, but there was a possibility its remnants could form a new system in the Gulf of Mexico.

El Salvador’s Civil Defense agency said at least seven people had died in the flooding, including an 8-year-old child. San Salvador Mayor Ernesto Muyshondt said 50 houses had been destroyed in the capital, and officials said hundreds of people around the country had been evacuated as rivers overflowed.

Amanda could dump 10 to 15 inches (25 to 38 centimeters) of rain over El Salvador, southern Guatemala, western Honduras and southeastern Mexico, with lesser accumulations over parts of Nicaragua and Belize.

Plain Jane

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MAY 31, 2020 / 4:27 PM / UPDATED 8 HOURS AGO
Bolsonaro joins rally against Brazil's top court; judge warns democracy at risk

Anthony Boadle, Ricardo Brito

BRASILIA (Reuters) - Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro joined a rally on Sunday on horseback as supporters urged the closing of the Supreme Court for investigating the right-wing leader, as one of its justices compared the risks to Brazil’s democracy with Hitler’s Germany.

Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro rides a horse during a meeting with supporters protesting in his favor, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Brasilia, Brazil May 31, 2020. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino

Deepening a political crisis during one of the world’s worst novel coronavirus outbreaks, Bolsonaro has slammed the top court for investigating his interference in police affairs and opening an inquiry into his supporters’ alleged libel and intimidation campaigns on social media.

The former army captain and defender of Brazil’s 1964-1985 military government has denounced the investigations, suggesting “absurd orders” should not be followed and warning that the court may “plunge Brazil into a political crisis.”

Bolsonaro flew in a military helicopter over the rally in Brasilia where protesters held banners calling for shutting down Brazil’s Congress and top court, known as the STF. One said: “Military Intervention - close Congress and the STF now.”

Supreme Court Justice Celso de Mello, who is responsible for investigating a former justice minister’s allegation that Bolsonaro tried to meddle with law enforcement for personal reasons, said the president’s supporters were seeking a military dictatorship.

“We must resist the destruction of the democratic order to avoid what happened in the Weimar Republic when Hitler, after he was elected by popular vote ... did not hesitate annulling the constitution and imposing a totalitarian system in 1933,” de Mello told other judges in a message seen by Reuters.

A person familiar with the matter confirmed the authenticity of the message, which was also reported in Brazilian newspapers. De Mello’s office said the message was “exclusively personal.”

Bolsonaro has said his aims are democratic and that his opponents are trampling the constitution in their efforts to oust him.

After his helicopter ride, the president walked to the rally and shook hands with supporters, wearing no face mask despite its use being mandatory in the capital to fight the coronavirus outbreak. He then mounted a police horse and trotted past the crowd.

On Saturday night, a group of masked backers of Bolsonaro marched to the court carrying torches to call for its closure.

During Sunday’s demonstrations in Sao Paulo, opponents of Bolsonaro took to a main avenue to protest against “fascism” and clashed with riot police who intervened to stop them getting close to a rally by supporters of the president.

Police used tear gas to push back stone-hurling youths.

Reporting by Anthony Boadle, Ricardo Brito and Ueslei Marcelino in Brasilia; Additional reporting by Leonardo Benassatto in Sao Paulo; Writing by Anthony Boadle; Editing by Brad Haynes, Peter Cooney and Daniel Walllis
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Plain Jane

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JUNE 2, 2020 / 3:18 PM / UPDATED 10 MINUTES AGO
African, Haitian migrants in Honduras defy border closure in attempt to reach U.S.

Gustavo Palencia

TEGUCIGALPA (Reuters) - African, Cuban and Haitian migrants stranded in Honduras after borders were closed due to the coronavirus pandemic began trekking northward on Tuesday in an attempt to reach the United States, migration authorities said.

Young men and women carrying backpacks along with children wearing face masks walked along a highway in southern Honduras near Nicaragua, television images showed, although it was not clear how many people were in the group.

An activist in the town the group left from said 102 had started out in the morning, including a dozen Cubans. Lizandro Vallecillo, a spokesman for the national migration institute, said he counted 50 people from television images.

Vallecillo said the migrants were among some 260 people in migrant shelters in the southern Honduras city of Choluteca since mid-March, when Honduras and neighboring El Salvador and Guatemala closed borders in an effort to contain the coronavirus.

They were in Choluteca but decided to leave in a caravan. They are aiming to reach the border with Guatemala on the way to the United States,” he said.

Jimmy Aguilera, an activist with civil society group ACI-PARTICIPA in Choluteca said police had stopped them at a road block in a nearby town called El Marillal.

“They are asking to be given safe passage,” he said.

African, Haitian and Cuban migrants have been stranded at several points in Central America since the pandemic interrupted global mobility.

In Panama, which currently has about 2,400 such migrants, 59 people at migrant shelters in the Darien province, on the edge of a remote jungle separating Panama and Colombia, tested positive for the coronavirus.

Honduras currently allows only cargo trucks in and out of the country.

A curfew first imposed in March is still in place, as the country on Monday registered 5,362 total infections and 217 overall deaths.

Reporting by Gustavo Palencia in Tegucigalpa, additional reporting by Elida Moreno in Panama City, Writing by Daina Beth Solomon; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel and Nick Zieminski
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South America ignores Europe and reopens as virus peak nears

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Pedestrians and commuters wearing face masks amid the new coronavirus pandemic crowd a sidewalk near a bus stop in Caracas, Venezuela, Monday, June 1, 2020. After two and a half months of COVID-19 related quarantine, some industries are allowed to reactivate under a scheme of five days' work and 10 days rest. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — South American countries on Monday began easing COVID-19 restrictions even as the region hurtles toward its viral peak, disregarding the example set by European nations that were battered earlier by the virus.

Some of Brazil’s hardest hit cities, including the jungle metropolis Manaus and coastal Rio de Janeiro, are starting to allow more activity. Bolivia’s government authorized reopening most of the country and the government of Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro unwound restrictions. Ecuador’s airports were resuming flights and shoppers returning to some of Colombia’s malls.

Rolling back measures runs counter to Europe’s approach of waiting for the worst to pass before resuming activity, and South America trails much further behind on its viral curve. Even European nations that lifted restrictions earliest in their respective outbreaks – the U.K. and Russia - did so only after clearing their initial peaks.

The executive director of the World Health Organization’s emergencies program, Mike Ryan, expressed concern over South America’s climbing contagion, telling reporters Monday that the region had become an “intense zone of transmission for this virus,” which had not yet reached its peak.

“Clearly the situation in many South American countries is far from stable. There is a rapid increase in cases and those systems are coming under increasing pressure,” he said.
Data from the WHO’s Pan American Health Organization shows the region’s seven-day rolling average of new cases continues rising, due in large part to Brazil, which accounts for more than half the total.

Manaus, the Amazon rainforest’s largest city, was the first Brazilian metropolis whose health care system collapsed. For weeks, overwhelmed intensive-care units were unable to admit patients, deaths at home surged and a city cemetery buried bodies in mass graves.

Wearing face masks amid the new coronavirus pandemic, a teacher leads his class on the first day back to a rural school near Empalme Olmos, Uruguay, Monday, June 1. (AP Photo/Matilde Campodonico)

Such burials continue, yet the capital of Amazonas state on Monday began loosening its clamp on non-essential businesses. Amazonas registered 818 new COVID-19 cases Sunday, bringing the total number of cases above 40,000. There are more than 500,000 confirmed cases in Brazil, the second most in the world, and experts believe the true toll to be much higher due to insufficient testing.

Rio de Janeiro, the Brazilian city with the second-most cases after Sao Paulo, on Monday announced it would begin gradually relaxing restrictions the following day. Already a city in its metropolitan region, Sao Joao de Meriti, started allowing salons, auto mechanics, and hotels to operate on Monday.

“Brazil tends to look at Europe, and the problem is that there they did one or two months of strict quarantine and are now reopening,” said Renato Mendes Coutinho, a specialist in mathematical biology at COVID-19 BR Observatory, an independent group of more than 50 Brazilian researchers. “The difference is that the lockdown they implemented and the restriction measures were much more efficient and thorough.”

Ecuador was one of the first South American nations slammed, with grim scenes of people leaving corpses outside their doorsteps in Guayaquil through March and April. The nation’s caseload continues to surge, yet its airport will resume international flights on June 3, according to Nicolás Romero, the airport’s spokesperson, though he said arriving passengers must spend 15 days in quarantine, without specifying how such quarantine will be enforced.
The airport in capital, Quito, recorded its first flight in 80 days on Monday, and flights to Miami and Houston will take off on June 4.

“It has just been one flight so far, but the important thing is the message it gives, of flying safely,” Luis Galárraga, the airport’s spokesperson, told The Associated Press.

Across Ecuador’s border, Colombia has shut the international airport in its capital, Bogotá, until September and locked down an entire working-class district home to 1.5 million people. But in the nation’s second city, Medellin, malls cautiously began opening their doors on Monday, though checking customers’ temperatures upon entry.

Medellin’s Mayor Daniel Quintero highlighted that the city registered no COVID-19 deaths in the prior 30 days. The national death toll, however, continues rising.

Worker at the Corabastos market, one of Latin America's largest food distribution centers, takes the temperature of a man. (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara)
Marcos Espinal, director of PAHO’s communicable diseases department, said by phone that reopening too soon could cause harm in certain places that aren’t yet ready.

“If you’re in the middle of the epicenter, we don’t recommend to open,” Espinal said from Washington. “People’s lives are precious, and there shouldn’t be any negotiations of that.”
Venezuela on Monday allowed barbershops, beauty salons, auto shops, construction sites and banks to begin operations, along with other sectors. The nation is dialing down restrictions because it has reported relatively low COVID-19 impact: 1,510 cases and 14 deaths. Experts have roundly criticized Venezuela’s data as suspicious.

After two and a half months of COVID-19 related quarantine some industries in Caracas are allowed to reactivate under a scheme of five days' work and 10 days rest. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

Bolivia on Monday instituted a so-called “dynamic quarantine” in most of the country, keeping parks and shows shuttered while resuming work, commerce and public transport, even as contagion continues rising.

The government’s public works minister, Iván Arias, suggested Monday that men shave their beards and mustaches to prevent infection. The Health Ministry’s epidemiological director, Virgílio Prieto, offered less optimism about recalibrating the nation’s quarantine, admitting it “could bring about an explosion of the new coronavirus.”

Mannequin wearing a face mask stands at the entrance of a women's clothing store on June 1 in La Paz, Bolivia. (AP Photo/Juan Karita)

Across the ocean, in Europe, nations have debated reopening even after passing their contagion peaks. Britain only began easing lockdown once new deaths, hospitalizations and infections had clearly topped out. Still, some public health experts believe the government has acted too soon and there will likely be a new rise in infections.

Russian officials say that the nation is now past its peak, making it safe to gradually ease restrictions, even though some experts warn that the significant daily increase of about 9,000 cases makes it dangerous to do so quickly. On Monday, non-food retail stores, dry cleaners and repair shops reopened in the Russian capital that accounted for about half of the nation’s caseload.

Having seen first-hand the worst of the virus’ damage in Europe, Jesús Gómez-Gardeñes, an associate professor in physics and computational epidemiology at the University of Zaragoza, in Spain, looks on South America’s rush to reopen with concern.

“Opening their doors when we have recent growth in the number of daily cases is something that could be, or is, a catastrophe,” he said.

Pedestrians wearing face masks amid the new coronavirus pandemic walk in La Paz, Bolivia, Monday, June 1. (AP Photo/Juan Karita)
___ AP journalists Mayra Pertossi contributed from Buenos Aires, Argentina; Marcelo de Sousa from Rio de Janeiro; Scott Smith from Caracas, Venezuela; Carlos Valdez from La Paz, Bolivia; Gonzalo Solano from Quito, Ecuador, and Christine Armario from Bogota, Colombia.

Plain Jane

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Tropical Storm Cristobal drenching Mexico’s Gulf coast

Rain clouds hover over mountains during tropical storm Amanda in Barberena, eastern Guatemala, Sunday, May 31, 2020. The first tropical storm of the Eastern Pacific season drenched parts of Central America on Sunday and officials in El Salvador said at least seven people had died in flooding. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Tropical Storm Cristobal is creeping along just inland over Mexico’s Gulf coast state of Campeche, threatening to cause flooding the next few days before a predicted turn northward toward the U.S.

The storm’s sustained winds weakened to 45 mph (75 kph) after it moved inland Wednesday near the oil town of Ciudad del Carmen. The U.S. National Hurricane Center said it was expected to weaken into a tropical depression by Thursday, but then begin strengthening once it moved back over the Gulf of Mexico on Friday.

Cristobal was forecast to be out in the central Gulf on Saturday and could be nearing the U.S. Gulf Coast by Sunday, the hurricane center said. It added that current conditions “will not be very conducive” for further strengthening as the storm moves away from Mexico.

The Mexican army evacuated 138 people in Campeche after floodwaters threatened homes, and police in Campeche reported water washing across highways.

By late Wednesday, the storm was nearly stationary about 20 miles (35 kilometers) south of Ciudad del Carmen.

Cristobal formed Tuesday from the remnants of the Pacific Tropical Storm Amanda that had caused deadly flooding and landslides in Central America. At least 22 deaths in El Salvador and Guatemala were blamed on the storm.

Cristobal was the earliest third named storm of an Atlantic hurricane season on record. In 2016, Tropical Storm Colin formed in the Gulf on June 5.

Plain Jane

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Ex-Ecuador president detained in COVID-19 corruption raid

FILE - In this April 27, 2005 file photo, Ecuador's former President Abdala Bucaram leaves the Foreign Ministery in Panama City, where he sought political asylum after fleeing his country amid massive protests that forced the ouster of President Lucio Gutierrez. Bucaram was detained at his home in Guayaquil, Ecuador on June 3, 2020, during a search warrant ordered by the Prosecutor's Office investigating alleged embezzlement through a contract for hospital medical supplies. (AP Photo/Arnulfo Franco, File)

QUITO, Ecuador (AP) — A former Ecuadorian president has been detained after authorities raided his home Wednesday and found a gun and medical supplies including masks as part of a wider investigation into corruption during the pandemic.

Prosecutors and police charged into the home of ex-President Abdalá Bucaram, 68, in Guayaquil, the coastal city that became one of the earliest cities in Latin America to see a sudden surge in COVID-19 infections.

Investigators said the raid was conducted in connection with an ongoing probe into suspected embezzlement at a large public hospital. Though no charges have been filed, Bucaram was detained after authorities found an unlicensed gun, in addition to some 5,000 masks and 2,000 coronavirus test kits.

“A lot of medical supplies were found,” chief prosecutor Diana Salazar said.
Bucaram was elected president of the small South American nation in 1996 and ousted by Congress less than six months later for “mental incapacity.” He was accused of corruption and nepotism during his brief time in office.

Throughout Latin America, multiple officials and business leaders have been charged or forced to resign amidst reports of fraudulent purchases of ventilators, masks and other equipment aimed at helping to confront the pandemic.

Prosecutors in Ecuador carried out 37 raids Wednesday in Guayaquil and the capital of Quito, detaining 17 people suspected of overcharging for supplies, influence peddling and criminal organization. Those captured include five people tied to Quito’s public water company, the ex-director of the Teodoro Maldonado Carbo Hospital in Guayaquil, and the prefect of Guayas province, which includes the port city of 2.6 million.

Salazar said her office estimates $12 million in overcharging.

Images shared by prosecutors showed investigators in black protective masks searching through documents in a room with a glass chandelier.

“Long live the homeland!” Bucaram shouted to local media as he was taken into custody, a blue medical mask drawn down around his chin.

Prosecutors have opened 45 corruption cases in Ecuador related to the acquisition of medical equipment to confront the pandemic in recent weeks. In one incident, officials were charged $150 for body bags that should cost $15.

Bucaram rose to power with the votes of Ecuador’s poor and indigenous groups and became known as “El Loco” or “The Crazy One” for his many bizarre acts. He once shaved his Charlie Chaplin-like mustache on a telethon to earn money for poor children and liked to compare himself to great world leaders who had been assassinated.

His family came to his defense Wednesday, calling the raid illegal and saying he needed the pistol because he is regularly threatened. They also said that he had rightfully purchased the masks and test kits found in his possession.

“This is an ABUSE!!!” his son, Dalo Bucaram, wrote on Twitter.

Ecuador has been hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic, with about 40,000 confirmed cases and nearly 3,500 deaths. The actual toll is likely much higher, because many people were not tested before they died with COVID-19 symptoms. Guayaquil was so inundated with cases in early April that patients were turned away from hospitals. Many died at home, where it initially took authorities upward of nearly a week to retrieve their bodies.

Authorities vowed to press forward in holding those accused of wrongdoing accountable.
“Getting rich off a tragedy and at the expense of the most needy isn’t just illegal,” Vice President Otto Sonnenholzner said. “It’s despicable.”

Plain Jane

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JUNE 5, 2020 / 6:06 PM / UPDATED 39 MINUTES AGO
Colombia arrests 50 for plant and animal trafficking


BOGOTA (Reuters) - Colombia has captured 50 people and charged them with illegally trafficking plants and animals as part of efforts by authorities to protect the environment, the government said in a statement on Friday.

The Andean country is the world’s second most biodiverse country after neighboring Brazil and is home to over 50,000 recorded species of animals and plants, which are threatened by deforestation.

Colombia had been due to host the 2020 edition of World Environment Day, which focuses on biodiversity. However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, events were held virtually.

“These people, who illegally commercialized Colombia’s exotic wildlife, advertised species through social networks or via instant messaging groups and sold them on demand,” the government said.

During the operation, authorities recovered 502 species of fauna and 38 specimens of flora, and also seized 51 cubic meters of wood.

So far this year environmental authorities in Colombia have seized 52,000 species of flora and 11,436 species of fauna, as well as over 41,500 cubic meters of wood.

Some 2,200 people have been detained for crimes against the environment in 2020, the government added.

Destruction of natural areas spiked after Colombia signed a peace deal in 2016 with its largest rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), as swathes of land became more accessible.

In recent years deforestation has started to decline. According to government data, deforestation in 2018 fell to 197,159 hectares (487,190 acres), from over 219,000 hectares in 2017.

In 2019, deforestation in key provinces in the country’s Amazon region fell by around 50%, according to the environment ministry.

However, a study recently published by the Foundation for Conservation and Sustainable Development found that more than 75,000 hectares of Colombia’s Amazon were destroyed from the start of the year through April 15.

Reporting by Oliver Griffin; Editing by David Gregorio
Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Plain Jane

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JUNE 7, 2020 / 2:29 AM / UPDATED 3 HOURS AGO
Ten shot dead in attack on Mexican drug rehab center


MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Ten men were killed on Saturday when gunmen opened fire on a drugs rehabilitation center in the Mexican city of Irapuato, the government of Guanajuato state said.

Guanajuato, a region in central Mexico, has become one of the principal flashpoints of surging gang violence which President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has promised to quell.
But despite lockdown measures imposed to combat the coronavirus outbreak, homicides continue to test record levels.

The state government said in a late Saturday statement that according to preliminary findings, three unidentified assailants shot up the rehab center in Irapuato, an industrial hub south of the state capital, also named Guanajuato.

Meanwhile, police are also investigating the killing of three men shot dead in a separate attack on Saturday in the city of Celaya, southeast of Irapuato, the state government said.

Rehab centers have previously been targeted by criminal gangs waging turf wars for control of the drug business.

In September 2017, at least 14 people were killed and several wounded in an attack by suspected gangsters on a drug rehab center in the northern city of Chihuahua.

Reporting by Dave Graham; Editing by Robert Birsel
Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Plain Jane

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JUNE 6, 2020 / 11:21 PM / UPDATED 7 HOURS AGO
Salvadoran president vetoes coronavirus law again - legal team

SAN SALVADOR (Reuters) - Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele has for the second time vetoed emergency legislation passed to regulate the Central American country’s coronavirus policy and usher in a gradual reopening of its economy, his legal team said on Saturday.

Bukele’s legal counsel, Conan Castro, said Bukele had vetoed the law backed on May 30 by Congress because it breached a number of constitutional guarantees including the rights and health of workers and cooperation between organs of government.

Castro was speaking to reporters at a news conference in San Salvador with other members of Bukele’s legal team.

Bukele, who has been at loggerheads with Congress for weeks over coronavirus policy, had vetoed a similar law in May on the grounds it put the public’s health at risk. He had said he would do the same with the law passed last weekend.

Bukele has imposed some of the toughest measures in the Americas against the pandemic, repeatedly clashing with lawmakers over the scope of the lockdown he is pursuing.

Bukele’s administration is also ready to sanction any companies that restart operations on Monday without proper authorization, Labor Minister Rolando Castro told reporters at a separate news conference in the capital.

Reporting by Nelson Renteria; Editing by Robert Birsel
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Plain Jane

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Guyana ruling party rejects vote recount in election chaos

People line up to vote during presidential elections in Georgetown, Guyana, Monday, March. 2, 2020. Guyana get to choose for a new government in a bruising fight for control of a South American country whose oil revenues in the next decade could make it one of the wealthiest in the hemisphere. (AP Photo/Adrian Narine)
GEORGETOWN, Guyana (AP) — A major dispute erupted Monday in Guyana and threatened to further destabilize the South American country after the governing party rejected a recount of votes cast during the March 2 general elections.

The ruling multiparty coalition that has been in power since 2015 accused the main opposition People’s Progressive Party of electoral fraud and said it would go to court to prevent the elections commission from declaring a winner. The announcement was made a day after the commission finished recounting about 400,000 votes, including disputed votes from about 30 boxes from coastal villages that the ruling coalition said contained only votes for the opposition that it wants invalidated.

The opposition party, which is leading by three parliamentary seats, has rejected the fraud allegations and said former Housing Minister Irfaan Ali should be sworn in while the court resolves any alleged irregularities. The People’s Progressive Party led Guyana for 23 years until 2015, when it lost to the ruling coalition led by President David Granger, who is seeking a second five-year term.

The election is considered the most important since Guyana became independent from Britain in 1966, given the recent discovery of major oil and gas deposits near its coastline. But the impasse has largely paralyzed life in the country of some 750,000 people., The Finance Ministry warned it’s unable to access funds amid the coronavirus pandemic because there is no functioning Parliament, which was dissolved in December.

Plain Jane

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JUNE 9, 2020 / 6:24 PM / UPDATED 10 HOURS AGO
Chile eyes new migration law after report predicts it will rise once pandemic eases

Aislinn Laing

SANTIAGO (Reuters) - Chilean senators on Tuesday reopened a debate over a bill to tighten migration at the behest of the government after a report last week suggested Chile could again become a migration hotspot after the coronavirus pandemic subsides.

The bill seeks to tighten rules on how prospective immigrants can enter Chile, how they are taxed, the recognition of their qualifications, and how they can be deported if they do not meet the requirements.

More than one million people have migrated to Chile since 2014, bringing the foreign-born population to a total of 1.5 million, according to government figures.

The comparatively wealthy Latin American nation is a popular destination for migrants from poorer regional countries such as Haiti and Venezuela.

Migration levels fell in mid-2019 after the center-right government of President Sebastian Pinera announced a campaign to register undocumented migrants and said migrants would have to obtain visas in their home countries before entering Chile.

The coronavirus pandemic and lockdown have left thousands of Venezuelans, Bolivians and Peruvians who were already in Chile without work, and many have chosen to return home.

But a report by Chile’s Department of Migration predicted that, without the new law, migrant numbers could reach up to 250,000 people a year once the crisis is over, pointing to an International Monetary Fund report that suggested Chile’s economy would rebound quicker than most.

“The migration pressure on the country will pick up once the pandemic ends, especially in 2021,” it said.

Juan Francisco Galli, the Interior Ministry undersecretary, told local El Mercurio newspaper he hoped the legislation would be passed by the end of the year.

Legislating in the current context was “idiocy,” Hector Pujols, who heads an immigration advocacy group, said in an interview.

“They don’t have any proof (of a likely increase) and even if they did, you can’t formulate laws based on what is happening now. This requires long-term thinking,” he said.

Reporting by Aislinn Laing, Editing by Rosalba O'Brien
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Punish with lashes': Peruvian peasant militias dole out rough justice in coronavirus fight

Maria Cervantes

LIMA (Reuters) - Peruvian peasant brigades, who decades ago battled leftist rebel groups, are now doling out rough justice in a bid to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus in the Andean country, which has the region’s second highest number of cases after Brazil.

The elected community militias, who in normal times solve odd cases of infidelity, robberies of chickens, or go after badly-behaved mayors, judges and other officials, say they now use lashes to punish those breaking quarantine.

“According to the crime, you can punish with lashes,” Aladino Fernández, the president of a group in the northern highland region of Cajamarca, told Reuters by telephone. “A serious crime would be about 15 lashes.”

After their creation in the 1970s the militias expanded throughout the country’s rural highland areas, where there is little state administration. In cities and urban areas, the police and judges enforce law and order.

After a coronavirus quarantine was declared in March, the peasant brigades in Cajamarca closed their regional borders and imposed social isolation measures, which has kept cases in the area low with just over 1,000 diagnosed infections.

In the southern area of Puno, with 1.2 million inhabitants, there have been 526 infections and 9 deaths. In that region the militias also took control after the start of the lockdown.

“For a person to correct himself, according to our grandparents, it has to be three lashes, it has to be an odd number. If it’s two the person doesn’t correct himself, that is the belief,” said Vinter Apaza, president of one local group.

While critics say these groups over-use violence, the brigades’ activities are recognized under Peruvian law after they played an important role in the decades-ago fight against leftist Maoist rebels known as the Shining Path.

Reporting by Maria Cervantes; Writing by Marco Aquino and Adam Jourdan; Editing by Daniel Wallis
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Plain Jane

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JUNE 16, 2020 / 9:20 AM / UPDATED 2 HOURS AGO
Mexico to stop sending workers to Canadian farms hit by coronavirus


MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico will stop sending temporary workers to Canadian farms that have registered a coronavirus outbreak and that do not have proper worker protections, Mexico’s labor ministry said on Tuesday, although it will not completely suspend the program.

The decision came after a coronavirus outbreak in Ontario hit at least 17 farms, killing two Mexican workers aged 24 and 31, and prompting the testing of about 8,000 migrant farm workers.

Canadian farmers rely on 60,000 short-term foreign workers, predominantly from Latin America and the Caribbean, to plant and harvest crops.

This year, Mexico’s Temporary Agricultural Workers Program (PTAT) has sent more than 16,000 people on short-term contracts to Canada, including 10,600 people since the pandemic began, the labor ministry said.

The program was halted only from March 19 to April 9, restarting after Canadian authorities said there were proper health conditions.

Workers planning to travel to farms that have had coronavirus outbreaks or do “not have a strategy of prevention and care for workers” will be reassigned, the labor ministry said in a statement.

Ken Forth, president of Canada’s Foreign Agricultural Resource Management Services (FARMS), said Mexico is looking for assurances that workers will be safe.

“No additional workers will go to the farms where there’s an outbreak until they can demonstrate to the Mexican government that they’ve done all the protocol for the new workers to come,” Forth said.

CNN and Canadian media earlier reported that Mexico had put the program on hold while it reviewed Canadian health policies and procedures, citing Mexican embassy officials in Ottawa.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he expressed condolences to President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador in a recent call.

“We are going to make sure that we’re following up,” Trudeau said, citing living conditions and labor standards as areas that must be considered.

Reporting by Daina Beth Solomon and Frank Jack Daniel in Mexico City and Kelsey Johnson in Ottawa; Editing by David Gregorio and Nick Zieminski
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A teen’s killing stirs Black Lives Matter protests in Brazil

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FILE- In this May 15, 2020 file photo, residents look at bodies of people who died amid an armed confrontation, after the bodies were brought from inside the Alemao slum complex to one of the slum's entrances in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. More than 600 people were killed by police in the state of Rio de Janeiro in the first months of this year. That's about double the number of people killed by police over the same period in the entire U.S., which has 20 times Rio's population. (AP Photo/Leo Correa, File)

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — When Rafaela Matos saw police helicopters over her favela and heard gunshots, she fell to her knees and asked God to protect her son, João Pedro. Then she called the boy to make sure he was OK.

“Be calm,” João Pedro wrote back, explaining that he was at his aunt’s house and everything was fine, Rafaela told The Associated Press. Minutes after he sent the message, police burst in and shot the 14-year-old in the stomach with a high-caliber rifle at close range.

João Pedro Matos Pinto was one of more than 600 people killed by police in the state of Rio de Janeiro in the first months of this year. That’s almost double the number of people killed by police over the same period in the entire U.S., which has 20 times Rio’s population. Like João Pedro, most of those killed in Rio were black or biracial and lived in the city’s poorest neighborhoods, or favelas.

As the Black Lives Matter movement brings hundreds of thousands to the streets around the world, demonstrators outraged by João Pedro’s death one month ago have been organizing the largest anti-police brutality demonstrations in years on the streets of Rio.

Still, the protests are nowhere near the size and public impact of other countries. To protesters, their struggle to gain momentum in the country where more than half the population is black or biracial, with a police violence problem that far overshadows other nations, is evidence of the depth of racism and complacence.

“They kill teenager after teenager in their homes every day. We’re here because we need to be,” 19-year-old civil engineering student João Gabriel Moreira said at a June 10 protest in Duque de Caxias, a poor city in the Rio metropolitan area. He said he had never protested anything before this year.

“Kill a young black man in a favela, it’s seen as normal — he must be a drug dealer,” Moreira said. “Racism has always been veiled in Brazil. That’s why so few of us are here. If Brazil had racial consciousness, this street would be filled.”

Rio de Janeiro police initially said they were pursuing a criminal in a joint operation by civil, military and federal police officers when they shot João Pedro on May 18. There was no sign of illegal activity at the house in the Salgueiro complex of favelas, according to Eduardo Benones, a federal prosecutor investigating the operation.

João Pedro’s father, Neilton Pinto, was serving up fish at a bayside kiosk when he heard the choppers. By the time he reached the scene, police had already taken the teen’s body away, he said, sitting beside Rafaela for an interview just before the one-month anniversary of the incident.

Police never took João Pedro to a hospital and his family began a frantic search. Rafaela, 36, received a glimmer of hope when she saw on her phone that her son’s WhatsApp was active.

“Hi … ,” she wrote. “Hi … Hi ... Hi … Talk to me …”

No response came from whomever was using João Pedro’s phone. But a campaign swept across social media and his body was tracked down the next day, inside a police forensic institute.

“Good people live in the favela, people with families, who plan on growing in this life,” Neilton, 40, said. “I’m sure if this were in wealthy areas, police wouldn’t act this way, breaking down the house of someone good.”

Benones’ investigation seeks to hold the Brazilian state responsible for João Pedro’s death, alleging it occurred in the context of institutional racism. All depositions and eyewitness accounts Benones has reviewed indicate João Pedro and others present posed no threat to officers on the scene, he said.

“Why didn’t police directors or whoever see that we’re in a pandemic, so obviously a place that’s already densely populated would be even more densely populated with kids? That’s predictable,” Benones said. “You can’t say it’s racism of that police officer, but a practice of police forces not taking care when dealing with the black population. And if something happens, it’s seen as collateral damage.”

Rio police killed a record 1,814 people in 2019, according to official data — triple the number five years earlier. The 2020 death toll is on track for a repeat.

Both President Jair Bolsonaro and Rio state Gov. Wilson Witzel won election in 2018 with campaigns that emphasized law and order, and both have said police should be able to kill criminals with almost no legal constraints.

At a June 11 protest in Niteroi, another city in Rio’s metro area, Bruna Mozer told how her son Marcos gave up on school and fell in with drug traffickers in his favela. Even though he surrendered when police found him with a walkie-talkie in 2018, officers executed him, she said. Marcos would have been 18 this year.

“Every day more mothers, victims of state violence, join our groups,” said Mozer.

Rio’s civil police said in an e-mailed statement that it is investigating the circumstances surrounding João Pedro’s death and that three officers have been suspended. Rio’s military police didn’t respond to multiple requests seeking comment.

Brazil’s Supreme Court on June 5 banned police operations in favelas until the coronavirus pandemic ends, in response to outrage over João Pedro’s death.

His life had been divided between home, school, church and the mall, his father said. He got good grades and wanted to study law. He told his dad he would make him proud.

When Neilton lost his job, João Pedro entered public school, only to find it lacking teachers and classes. Rafaela got him into the private school where she teaches.

His parents said they never talked to João Pedro about racism. Nor did they ever participate in protests, but they joined one on June 7. Rafaela said hearing João Pedro’s name become a rallying cry has lightened their emotional load a bit.

“I never participated in events against racism or policing, never got involved with those things. Today we’re living something we didn’t expect, something that arrives and knocks on the door,″ Rafaela said. “With this repercussion, we saw João Pedro wasn’t the first, and he also wasn’t the last.” ___

Associated Press video producer Diarlei Rodrigues contributed to this report.

Plain Jane

Veteran Member

JUNE 18, 2020 / 2:43 PM / UPDATED 10 HOURS AGO
U.S. slaps sanctions on Mexican firms, individuals linked to Venezuelan oil trade

Daphne Psaledakis, Marianna Parraga

WASHINGTON/MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - The United States on Thursday blacklisted Mexico’s Libre Abordo and a related company, accusing them of helping Caracas evade U.S. sanctions in the first formal action by the U.S. Treasury Department against Mexican firms involved in trading Venezuelan oil.

The Treasury said in a statement it imposed sanctions on three individuals, eight entities and two vessels for activities related to a network attempting to skirt U.S. sanctions on Venezuela aimed at ousting President Nicolas Maduro.

Mexico’s peso slumped 2% after the U.S. action.

Among those blacklisted were Mexico-based Libre Abordo and related Schlager Business Group, as well as their co-owners, Olga Maria Zepeda and Veronica Esparza.

The Treasury also targeted Mexican Joaquin Leal Jimenez, accusing him of having worked with Alex Saab, recently arrested in Cape Verde, Libre Abordo and Schlager for brokering the resale of millions of barrels of Venezuelan crude.

“Leal is the critical conduit between Libre Abordo, Schlager Business Group, and their owners, and PDVSA and Saab. Leal has been coordinating the purchase and sale of Venezuelan-origin crude oil from PDVSA,” Treasury said.

Leal did not reply to a request for comment.

A Maduro ally who has previously helped the government buy food, Saab was sanctioned in 2019 and charged with money laundering and conspiracy in a U.S. court in relation to a food program managed by Maduro’s administration. The government has denied any wrongdoing in connection with the program.

Libre Abordo said its lawyers will evaluate the Treasury’s decision, which it said wrongly linked the firm to unrelated entities.

“Our exchange of humanitarian aid with Venezuela should not be subject of sanctions,” Libre Abordo told Reuters in a statement.

The sanctions freeze any U.S. assets of the individuals and entities and generally prohibit Americans from dealing with them.

Libre Abordo and Schlager began receiving Venezuelan oil for resale in Asian markets late last year after signing two contracts with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s government in mid-2019.

The agreement was framed as an oil-for-food pact exempted from U.S. sanctions as the Mexican firms intended to supply Venezuela with 210,000 tons of corn.

Through May, Libre Abordo and Schlager received some 30 million barrels of Venezuelan oil, according to PDVSA’s documents. Even though they supplied about 500 water trucks in exchange, food was never delivered, as very low oil prices affected a schedule originally planned, Libre Abordo said.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement that the oil-for-food “enterprise skimmed millions from funds that were claimed to have been for humanitarian aid, yet failed to deliver the promised food to the Venezuelan people.”

Reuters reported last month that the FBI was probing several Mexican and European companies allegedly involved in trading Venezuelan oil, gathering information for a Treasury inquiry.

“They want us to be unable to export oil so the Venezuelan people are left without food, medicine or gasoline,” Venezuela’s Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza said on Thursday. “Your actions and sanctions are criminal,” he told Pompeo over Twitter.

Washington in January 2019 recognized Venezuelan politician Juan Guaido as the OPEC nation’s rightful leader and has ratcheted up sanctions and diplomatic pressure in the aftermath of Maduro’s 2018 re-election that was widely described as fraudulent.

Maduro remains in power, backed by Venezuela’s military as well as Russia, China and Cuba.

“The United States will continue to relentlessly pursue sanctions evaders,” Treasury Deputy Secretary Justin Muzinich said in the statement.

Washington also targeted on Thursday Marshall Islands-based Delos Voyager Shipping Ltd. and Greece-based Romina Maritime Co Inc. for operating in the Venezuelan oil sector, giving them until July 21 to wind down activities.

The other firms blacklisted are Alel Technologies LLC, Cosmo Resources Pte. Ltd, Luzy Technologies LLC; and Washington Trading Ltd.

The Treasury delisted Marshall Islands-based firm Afranav Maritime Ltd and Greece-based Seacomber Ltd, and two vessels they own, after the companies promised to stop trade with Venezuela while Maduro is in power.

Reporting by Daphne Psaledakis in Washington and Marianna Parraga in Mexico City; Additional reporting by Ana Isabel Martinez in Mexico City and Eric Beech in Washington; Editing by Tim Ahmann, Jonathan Oatis and Daniel Wallis
Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

See this thread as well:


Disaster Cat
And now for some news that is totally different - it seems the favorite "Santo" in Venezuela - a late 19th century Dr, named Dr. Gregorio, is being beatified. I do wonder if they will include the "miracle" reported by the Mother of my former boyfriend (the Venezuelan I almost married) that when she was dying on the operating table after just giving birth to him, Dr. Gergorio walked up to her and put his warm hands on her head. She felt a warm rush all over her body, her bleeding stopped and she and the baby were fine [note he had been dead for years, obviously this was a vision/dream].

I have no idea how the Catholic church deals with such things but my former boyfriend died during the Houston hurricane so he can't do a first-hand report.

However, I heard many similar stories while I was there, I'm sure they will get their "3" or however many miracles they need.

This is translated from Venezuelan TV Twitter - I used an official translator to make sure I was reading it correctly:

The Archdiocese of Caracas presented the poster of Dr. José Gregorio Hernández as a gift to the dioceses and parishes of Venezuela to officially enthrone his figure on the altars of the churches, while awaiting his beatification in the coming days. #TVVNews


Plain Jane

Veteran Member
Here is the official word.

JUNE 19, 2020 / 6:55 PM / UPDATED 11 HOURS AGO
Venezuela celebrates beatification of 'doctor of the poor'

Shaylim Valderrama

CARACAS (Reuters) - A Venezuelan doctor known for treating the poor during the Spanish flu pandemic a century ago has been beatified, moving a step closer to sainthood, Venezuelan Cardinal Baltazar Porras said on Friday.

The announcement sparked celebrations outside the La Candelaria church in central Caracas, which holds the remains of Jose Gregorio Hernandez. They came despite Porras’ call for the faithful to celebrate the news at home in the predominantly Roman Catholic country, to help avoid spreading the novel coronavirus.

Hernandez, born in the Andean state of Trujillo in 1864, was known as the “doctor of the poor” for his care of the needy in Caracas during the Spanish flu pandemic just over a century ago. He died in 1919 after being struck by a car.

In 2017, the Catholic church attributed a miracle to Hernandez for saving the life of a young girl, Yaxury Solorzano, who was shot in the head during a robbery attempt.

Doctors said Solorzano would be disabled if they managed to save her life, but she recovered and was able to walk just weeks after leaving the hospital, according to church records. They state that Solorzano’s mother had prayed to Hernandez for her salvation.

Murals of the mustachioed doctor line the walls of La Pastora, the working-class neighborhood of Caracas where Hernandez died.

“In the middle the COVID-19 pandemic affecting the world, in the middle of this terrible crisis that our fatherland is living through, today we receive a balm from this person who unites us,” Porras said in a news conference.

He said Pope Francis had ordered the beatification.

Venezuela is suffering a six-year economic collapse marked by hyperinflation and chronic shortages of basic goods. It ranks among the most crime-stricken countries in the world.

In the Catholic Church, beatification is a step toward sainthood. A second, distinct miracle must take place after the beatification in order to proceed to sainthood.

“I pray to him for an exit to this coronavirus that has Venezuela worried, for peace, and that we all stay healthy,” said Jose Gregorio Cairo, a 59-year-old La Pastora resident named after the newly-beatified doctor.

Reporting by Shaylim Valderrama; Editing by Vivian Sequera, Luc Cohen and Tom Brown
Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Plain Jane

Veteran Member

JUNE 19, 2020 / 4:59 PM / UPDATED 13 HOURS AGO
Mexican president says he ordered release of 'El Chapo's' son


MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on Friday said he personally ordered the release of Ovidio Guzman, one of the sons of notorious drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, after his brief detention during a military operation.

Scenes of mayhem during the operation caused Lopez Obrador’s government considerable embarrassment in October as security forces briefly captured Ovidio in Culiacan, capital of western Sinaloa state, only to let him go hours later as security forces were overwhelmed by cartel forces.

Likely tipped off ahead of the operation, hundreds of heavily armed gunmen from the Sinaloa Cartel had poured into the city of a million people during an hours-long siege, erecting flaming roadblocks and unloading bursts of gunfire in the streets in a coordinated effort to free the younger Guzman.

Lopez Obrador had previously said his security cabinet made the call to release Ovidio, a decision he said he endorsed to protect terrorized residents from the crossfire between cartel henchmen and security forces.

Friday was the first time the president openly acknowledged having given the order himself.

“So as not to put the population at risk ... I ordered that this operation be stopped and that this alleged criminal be released,” Lopez Obrador said at a regular news conference.

Lopez Obrador added that a couple days later U.S. President Donald Trump offered to help crack down on the cartel, but Mexico did not accept it.

The United States continues to seek Ovidio’s extradition.

Despite Lopez Obrador’s promises to tame spiraling violence with policies focused on relieving rampant poverty and youth unemployment, homicides in Mexico have climbed to record levels during the first four months of this year.

In 2019, the president’s first full year in office, homicides hit an all-time high.

Reporting by Raul Cortes Fernandez; Writing by Anthony Esposito; Editing by David Alire Garcia and Tom Brown
Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Plain Jane

Veteran Member

Leaked Documents Reveal Right-Wing Oligarch Plot To Overthrow Mexico's AMLO
Profile picture for user Tyler Durden
by Tyler Durden
Sat, 06/20/2020 - 21:30

Authored by Ben Norton via,
Mexico’s oligarchs and establishment political parties have united in a secret alliance to try to remove left-wing President López Obrador from power, with help from the media, Washington, and Wall Street. Leaked documents lay out their devious strategy.

Some of the most powerful forces in Mexico are uniting in a campaign to try to topple the country’s first left-wing president in decades, Andrés Manuel López Obrador. And they apparently have support in Washington and on Wall Street.

Known popularly as AMLO, the Mexican leader is a progressive nationalist who campaigned on the promise to “end the dark night of neoliberalism.” He has since implemented a revolutionary vision he calls the “Fourth Transformation,” vowing to fight poverty, corruption, and drug violence — and has increasingly butted heads with his nation’s wealthy elites.

López Obrador has also posed a challenge to the US foreign-policy consensus. His government provided refuge to Bolivia’s elected socialist President Evo Morales and to members of Evo’s political party who were exiled after a Trump administration-backed military coup.

AMLO also held a historic meeting with Cuba’s President Miguel Díaz-Canel, and even stated Mexico would be willing to break the unilateral US blockade of Venezuela and sell the besieged Chavista government gasoline.

These policies have earned AMLO the wrath of oligarchs both inside and outside of his country. On June 18, the US government ratcheted up its pressure on Mexico, targeting companies and individuals with sanctions for allegedly providing water to Venezuela, as part of an oil-for-food humanitarian agreement.

The value of the Mexican peso immediately dropped by 2 percent following the Trump administration’s imposition of sanctions.

These opening salvos of Washington’s economic war on its southern neighbor came just days after López Obrador delivered a bombshell press conference, in which he revealed that the political parties that had dominated Mexican politics for the decades before him have secretly unified in a plot to try to oust the president, years before his democratic mandate ends in 2024.

The forces trying to remove AMLO from power include major media networks, massive corporations, sitting governors and mayors, former presidents, and influential business leaders. According to a leaked document, they call themselves the Broad Opposition Block (Bloque Opositor Amplio, or BOA).

And they say they have lobbyists in Washington, financial investors on Wall Street, and major news publications and journalists from both domestic and foreign media outlets on their team.

Jesús Ramírez Cuevas


El pdte. @lopezobrador_ difundió un documento llegado a Palacio (cuyo origen y autenticidad desconocemos) que propone la conformación de un bloque opositor para arrebatar la presidencia en el 2021, en el que participan partidos, empresarios, medios, intelectuales, periodistas.
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10:56 AM - Jun 9, 2020
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‘Broad Opposition Block’ BOA plot to demonize AMLO with media propaganda

In a press conference on June 9, the Mexican government published a leaked strategy document purportedly drafted by the Broad Opposition Block, titled “Let’s Rescue Mexico” (Rescatemos a México). The AMLO administration said it did not know the origin of the leak.

These pages consist of an executive summary of “Project BOA,” outlining what it calls a “plan of action” – a blueprint of concrete steps the opposition alliance will take to unseat AMLO.

The cover of the leaked document, the executive summary of the Project BOA plan, “Let’s Save Mexico”

One of the key points in the plan is the following: “Lobbying by the BOA in Washington (White House and Capital Hill) to stress the damage that the government of the [Fourth Transformation] is doing to North American investors.”

The lobbying strategy depends heavily on turning the US against AMLO: “More than comparing it with Venezuela,” the document reads, “BOA should highlight the very high mass migration of Mexicans toward the United States if the crisis of unemployment and insecurity gets worse.”

Then the BOA adds: “Repeat this narrative in the US and European media.”

The section of the BOA plan on lobbying in Washington and using the media to push anti-AMLO messaging

The leaked pages say that BOA has the “international press (USA and Europe)” on its side, along with “foreign correspondents in Mexico.”

The document even names specific media outlets, along with individual journalists and social media influencers, who could help spread their anti-AMLO propaganda. On the list are some of the top news publications in Mexico: Nexos, Proceso, Reforma, El Universal, Milenio, El Financiero, and El Economista.

The list of sympathetic anti-AMLO media outlets and journalists in the BOA document

The “plan of action” makes it clear that this powerful opposition alliance seeks to use its extensive control over the media to obsessively blame AMLO for “unemployment, poverty, insecurity, and corruption” in Mexico.

BOA even states unambiguously in its plan that it will use “groups of social media networks, influencers, and analysts to insist on the destruction of the economy, of the democratic institutions, and the political authoritarianism of the government of the 4T” (using an acronym for the Fourth Transformation process).

This makes it especially ironic that the BOA document reluctantly acknowledges that the López Obrador “government has managed to mitigate the economic impact of the health crisis of coronavirus by giving large amounts of public money to the affected, through social programs.”

The leaked pages likewise admit that AMLO has an approval rating of more than 50 percent — lower than his peak at 86 percent support in the beginning of 2019 or his 72 percent at the end of the year, but still impressive for a region where US-backed leaders like Chile’s Sebastián Piñera or Colombia’s Iván Duque have routinely enjoyed approval ratings of 6 percent and 24 percent, respectively.

Jenaro Villamil


#ConferenciaPresidente. Presentan un documento confidencial de un presunto Bloque Opositor Amplio (BOA) para desplazar a Morena y al gobierno actual en las elecciones del 2021.
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9:38 AM - Jun 9, 2020 · Cuauhtémoc, Distrito Federal
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Mexico’s establishment political parties and former presidents unite to oust AMLO
With backing from the US government and utter dominance of media narratives, the Broad Opposition Block plan is to unite all of Mexico’s establishment political parties.

Together, these parties could potentially run candidates under the BOA umbrella, according to the document. Their goal would be, in the 2021 legislative elections, to end the majority that AMLO’s left-wing party Morena won in Mexico’s Chamber of Deputies.

After that, BOA states clearly that it plans to block reforms in the Mexican legislature, and ultimately impeach President López Obrador by 2022 — at least two years before his term ends.

Quite revealing is that the “Let’s Rescue Mexico” document does not mention anything about average working-class Mexicans and their participation in the political process. Nor does it acknowledge the existence of labor unions or grassroots activist organizations, which make up the base of AMLO’s movement and his Morena party.

This is not surprising, considering the BOA alliance lists some of the most powerful figures in the Mexican ruling class.

All the major political parties are included: the right-wing National Action Party (Partido Acción Nacional, or PAN), the center-right Institutional Revolutionary Party (Partido Revolucionario Institucional, or PRI), the centrist Citizens’ Movement (Movimiento Ciudadano, or MC), and even AMLO’s former Party of the Democratic Revolution (Partido de la Revolución Democrática, or PRD).

The list of political parties included in the BOA document

BOA also includes the new political party México Libre, a vehicle for former right-wing President Felipe Calderón, a major ally of George W. Bush who declared a catastrophic “war on drugs” in Mexico, leading to tens of thousands of deaths.

Along with Calderón, BOA lists former President Vicente Fox, another right-wing US ally, as a coalition ally. Fox worked closely with the Bush administration during his term as president to isolate the leftist governments in Latin America, and even tried to undemocratically remove AMLO as mayor of Mexico City and ban him from running for president.

BOA also says it has support from the governors of 14 states in Mexico, along with opposition lawmakers in both the Senate and Chamber of Deputies, judges from the Electoral Tribunal of the Federal Judiciary (TEPJF), and officials from the National Electoral Institute (INE).

Wall Street investors and Mexican oligarchs back anti-AMLO alliance

Joining the entire Mexican political establishment in the Broad Opposition Block is a powerful financial oligarchy, both domestic and foreign.

Along with its “anti-4T lobbyists in Washington,” the leaked document says BOA has “Wall Street investment funds” behind it.

BOA adds that it is supported by “corporations linked to T-MEC,” using the Spanish acronym for the new “United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement” free-trade deal, known popularly as NAFTA 2.0.

The powerful business groups and corporations listed in the BOA document

Some of the richest capitalists in Mexico are associated with BOA. Named in the leaked document is the Mexican corporate behemoth FEMSA and oligarchs from its associated Monterrey Group, which the New York Times once described as a “a tightly knit family of wealthy and conservative businessmen.”

The BOA pages also point to Mexico’s powerful Business Coordinating Council (Consejo Coordinador Empresarial) and Employers Confederation of the Mexican Republic (Coparmex) as allies.

Opposition denies involvement in BOA, while turning up heat on AMLO
In the days after López Obrador’s press conference exposing the Broad Opposition Block, some of the prominent figures implicated in the alliance, such Felipe Calderón, denied involvement.

Some of these political and economic elites even claimed BOA doesn’t exist, seeking to cast doubt on the president’s scandalous revelation and accusing him of fabricating the scandal.

But their efforts are clearly part of a larger campaign by Mexican opposition groups to remove President Andrés Manuel López Obrador from power. As AMLO’s Fourth Transformation moves forward, their destabilization tactics have grown increasingly extreme.

López Obrador himself has warned of the radicalization of the right-wing opposition. As The Grayzone previously reported, the president made an ominous reference to the threat of a potential coup in November 2019.

Referencing Mexico’s former President Francisco Madero, a leader of the Mexican Revolution and fellow left-winger who was assassinated in 1913, AMLO tweeted, “How wrong the conservatives and their hawks are… Now is different… Another coup d’état won’t be allowed.”

Andrés Manuel


· Nov 2, 2019

¡Qué equivocados están los conservadores y sus halcones!
Pudieron cometer la felonía de derrocar y asesinar a Madero porque este hombre bueno, Apóstol de la Democracia, no supo, o las circunstancias no se lo permitieron, apoyarse en una base social que lo protegiera y respaldara

Andrés Manuel


Ahora es distinto. Aunque son otras realidades y no debe caerse en la simplicidad de las comparaciones, la transformación que encabezo cuenta con el respaldo de una mayoría libre y consciente, justa y amante de la legalidad y de la paz, que no permitiría otro golpe de Estado.


1:29 PM - Nov 2, 2019
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Plain Jane

Veteran Member

JUNE 22, 2020 / 7:12 AM / UPDATED AN HOUR AGO
Threat of Brazil military coup unfounded, retired generals say

Anthony Boadle

BRASILIA (Reuters) - Calls for Brazil’s military to close Congress and the Supreme Court have screamed from banners at marches attended by President Jair Bolsonaro in recent weeks, but retired generals and close observers of the armed forces call it empty talk.

A defender of Brazil’s 1964 military coup and the two decades of dictatorship that followed, Bolsonaro has allowed his sons and supporters to fan threats against democratic institutions in part because he has been backed into a corner, analysts say.

As the right-wing populist struggles with a sinking economy, the world’s worst coronavirus outbreak outside the United States, and police investigations targeting his family and friends, those anti-democratic outbursts seem likely to continue.

However, three retired generals told Reuters in recent days that there was no risk of a military intervention and expressed concern that the armed forces were being unduly politicized under Bolsonaro, a former army captain disciplined in 1986 for insubordination.

“The idea of putting the armed forces in the middle of a dispute between branches of the state, authorities and political interests is completely out of place,” said Carlos dos Santos Cruz, a retired army general who served in the cabinet last year until he fell out with Bolsonaro’s sons.

“It is a lack of respect for the armed forces,” he told Reuters.

Bolsonaro himself has insisted he will defend Brazil’s constitution. But he has accused courts of abusing their authority and done nothing to stop his most fervent supporters from demanding the military intervene.

His son, Congressman Eduardo Bolsonaro, said in May that an institutional “rupture” was a matter of time.

The remarks followed a decision by the Supreme Court to investigate a suspected misinformation and intimidation network run by the president’s backers on social media that played a large role in his 2018 election. The inquiry could lead an electoral court to question his victory and potentially annul the result.

The threats of democratic rupture are aimed at intimidating rivals, prosecutors, and the Supreme Court, according to political scientist Christian Lynch. But military commanders have publicly dismissed any likelihood of a coup.

“The Supreme Court called Bolsonaro’s bluff,” said Lynch, a professor at Rio de Janeiro State University Social and Political Studies Institute. “He didn’t have the coup card. He was bluffing all along.”

For retired General Roberto Peternelli, who was elected to Congress in 2018 for the same party that nominated Bolsonaro, the military would simply not obey a presidential order to shut down Congress or the Supreme Court.

“The armed forces totally respect the constitution and such an order would be unconstitutional and illegal,” said the ex-paratrooper, who commanded the Brazilian army’s helicopter fleet, in a telephone interview.

Retired General Paulo Chagas, a former infantry officer, said the president did not have the power to close Congress or the top court and would lose legitimacy if he attempted it.

Some critics say Bolsonaro is already politicizing the military, which worked for decades to establish itself as an apolitical defender of democracy after the human rights abuses of the 1964-1985 dictatorship.

With military brass in a third of Bolsonaro’s cabinet posts, including two active duty generals among his closest advisors and retired General Hamilton Mourao as his vice president, the reputation of the armed forces is tied up with the government.

According to a Federal Audit Court investigation, there are now as many as 3,000 military personnel in government jobs.

Chagas, who campaigned for Bolsonaro’s election, said he still believes the president is the best man to lead the country, but he suggested active duty officers should refuse or retire from government jobs in order to keep a distance between the military and political spheres.

Paulo Kramer, a University of Brasilia professor who knows many of Bolsonaro’s cabinet well, said the generals who are in the cabinet, such as top security advisor Augusto Heleno, remember vividly how the legacy of the 1964 coup stained the reputation of the armed forces.

“This generation of General Mourao and Heleno are vaccinated against any coup attempts. They feel uneasy when the president and his sons make those threats,” Kramer said.

Reporting by Anthony Boadle; Editing by Brad Haynes and Rosalba O'Brien
Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Plain Jane

Veteran Member

JUNE 21, 2020 / 7:42 PM / UPDATED 14 HOURS AGO
Iran ship reaches Venezuelan waters with cargo of food


CARACAS (Reuters) - An Iranian ship was approaching the Venezuelan port of La Guaira on Sunday with a cargo of food that will supply the South American nation’s first Iranian supermarket, according to Refinitiv Eikon and Iran’s embassy in Venezuela.

Iran supplied 1.5 million barrels of fuel to Venezuela last month amid a collapse of refinery operations and tightening sanctions by the United States that has made it more difficult for Venezuela to obtain fuel on international markets.

The Iranian-flagged general cargo ship Golsan, owned by Mosakhar Darya Shipping Co, departed on May 15 from Bandar Abbas. Five tankers left for the Caribbean from the same port in March after loading fuel, according to Eikon data.

The Golsan will arrive carrying food to open the first Iranian supermarket in Venezuela,” the Iranian Embassy wrote on Saturday via its Twitter account. It did not provide details.

Venezuela’s Information Ministry did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Iran is expected to dispatch two to three monthly shipments of gasoline to its ally Venezuela, sources close to the matter said, which would help offload the gasoline inventory that Iran accumulates, while helping to alleviate the fuel shortage in Venezuela.

The growing bilateral trade could lead to retaliation by the United States, which has enacted extensive sanctions programs against the two countries.

Reporting by Deisy Buitrago; Additional reporting by Tibisay Romero in Valencia; Editing by Peter Cooney
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Plain Jane

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JUNE 22, 2020 / 4:43 PM / UPDATED 10 HOURS AGO
Peru indigenous leaders push quick Amazon protection vote, defying oil industry

Marco Aquino, Matthew Green

LIMA (Reuters) - Peru’s indigenous leaders have been lobbying lawmakers to pass a bill to declare swathes of virgin Amazon rainforest off limits to outsiders, but they fear opposition by the oil industry may scupper a rare opportunity to secure a vote this week.

With concerns growing that the coronavirus pandemic could devastate remote communities, Congress is considering whether to fast track a bill which would restrict access to a string of indigenous territories near the border with Ecuador and Brazil.

Advocates say the legislation, designed to protect these areas from exploitation by oil and gas, mining and logging companies, would also help protect indigenous communities from the virus.

“Until now, high risk extractive activities have been allowed in these territories,” Jorge Pérez, president of the Regional Organization of Indigenous Peoples of the Amazon, told Reuters in a statement.

“This reform will guarantee the lives and human rights of the uncontacted peoples,” Perez said, referring to an estimated 7,000 people in some 20 groups in the Peruvian Amazon who have very little or no interaction with the outside world.

Preserving indigenous territories in Peru and Ecuador is seen as critical to the wider Amazon ecosystem, which scientists warn is approaching catastrophic tipping points due to climate change and accelerating deforestation in Brazil.

While President Martin Vizcarra’s centrist government opposes the proposed law, political analysts and legislators say Peru’s fragmented Congress has a populist hue after January elections and could pass the bill.

Indigenous leaders met with Vizcarra on Friday in anticipation that Congress could vote as early as this Thursday.

But Lesly Lazo, president of the Congressional justice commission, cast doubt on whether the bill would pass this week since her commission may decide to subject it to further review.

“I do not think there is a rush,” said Lazo, who belongs to the centrist Popular Action party.

Indigenous leaders fear the momentum to pass the bill quickly may fade as the country emerges from the most acute phase of the pandemic.

Peru’s oil industry - including state-owned firm Petroperu - has warned lawmakers against passing the amendment, which would close loopholes in a framework adopted in 2006 to protect indigenous peoples from commercial interest encroachment.

Felipe Cantuarias, president of the Peruvian Hydrocarbon Society industry lobby group, said the bill would disrupt production and throw exploration contracts into doubt.

“We are asking Congress to please debate the issue and understand that this is not solved by withdrawing private investment, because then we all lose: the country loses, the regions lose,” Cantuarias told Reuters.

Supporters of the bill, including Congressman Lenin Bazan, who belongs to the left-leaning Frente Amplio party, have pushed back, saying the current draft bill would not threaten existing oil and gas agreements.

Bazan, who presides over a congressional committee on indigenous peoples that has approved the draft, last week tweeted out a copy of a document he said supported his position with the message, “Don’t be fooled!”

Writing by Matthew Green; Editing by Daniel Flynn, David Gregorio, and Aurora Ellis
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JUNE 24, 2020 / 2:03 AM / UPDATED 5 HOURS AGO
Honduras president needed oxygen to battle coronavirus, doctor says

TEGUCIGALPA (Reuters) - Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez needed oxygen after being hospitalised with the coronavirus last week, a military doctor said, warning that the leader remained in a “delicate” situation and would need to stay in hospital.

Tuesday’s remarks by Lieutenant Colonel Juan Diaz, who works in the military hospital in the capital, Tegucigalpa, offered the first public glimpse of the seriousness of Hernandez’s medical condition, stemming from treatment for pneumonia.

Diaz said the president’s condition was “somewhere between a good state and feverish with trouble breathing”, adding, “There is a clear improvement.”

Hernandez announced last Tuesday that he had been infected, along with his wife and two aides, saying his symptoms were mild and he would work remotely, but later went to hospital.

After he arrived with a cough, breathing problems and signs of inflammation, doctors at the hospital adjusted his medication, “including the application of oxygen”, Diaz said. It was not clear if Hernandez was still receiving oxygen.

They also changed his intravenous drip, he said, adding that Hernandez was in a stable but delicate state.

The health woes have been a fresh blow for the 51-year-old Hernandez, who has faced increasing domestic pressure after a drug trafficking investigation in the United States that swept up his brother threatened to engulf him as well.

Honduras has reported 13,943 infections and 405 deaths in the pandemic. But many Hondurans disobeyed the lockdown and the figures are likely to underestimate the impact of the outbreak.

(Interactive graphic tracking global spread of coronavirus: open in an external browser.)

Reporting by Gustavo Palencia; Writing by Drazen Jorgic; Editing by Clarence Fernandez
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Plain Jane

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JUNE 24, 2020 / 10:28 AM / UPDATED 4 HOURS AGO
U.S. sanctions five Iranian ship captains for bringing oil to Venezuela: Pompeo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States on Wednesday imposed sanctions on five Iranian ship captains who had delivered oil to Venezuela, and the U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reaffirmed Washington’s backing for Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido.

Speaking at a press conference at the State Department, Pompeo said the ships delivered around 1.5 million barrels of Iranian gasoline and related components, and warned any mariners against doing business with the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, whose ouster Washington wants.

As a result of today’s sanctions, these captains’ assets will be blocked. Their careers and prospects will suffer from this designation,” Pompeo said in a statement later. “Mariners who are considering work with Iran and Venezuela should understand that aiding these oppressive regimes is simply not worth the risk,” he said.

The Trump administration, which is seeking both to block Iran’s energy trade and bring down Maduro, has threatened reprisals and warned ports, shipping companies and insurers against facilitating the tankers.

The OPEC member’s exports are hovering near their lowest levels in more than 70 years and the economy has collapsed, but Maduro has held on - to the frustration of the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump.

Iran has since April sent five tankers totalling about 1.5 million barrels to the leftist government of fuel-starved Venezuela, though the shipments have done little to alleviate hours-long lines at gas stations.

Reporting By Humeyra Pamuk, Matt Spetalnick, Arshad Mohammed, David Brunnstrom, Editing by Franklin Paul and Marguerita Choy
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Plain Jane

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JUNE 25, 2020 / 2:50 PM / UPDATED 11 HOURS AGO
Argentina, Brazil monitor massive locust swarm; crop damage seen limited

Maximilian Heath, Ana Mano

BUENOS AIRES/SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Argentina and Brazil are monitoring the movement of a 15-square-kilometer locust swarm in Argentina’s northeast, though authorities and specialists said so far it had not caused significant damage to crops in the South American countries.

Argentine food safety body SENASA said the swarm, which initially entered Argentina from Paraguay in late May, contained about 40 million insects. It is in the province of Corrientes, near borders with Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay.

Argentina and Brazil are among the world’s largest soy and corn exporters.

“We are following the movement of the plague,” Héctor Medina, a coordinator at SENASA, told Reuters on Thursday. Due to the arrival of a cold weather front from the south, the movement of the locusts would be limited in the coming days, he added.

The low temperatures “will prevent them from moving and reproducing. The lethargy makes them stay still,” Medina said. Winds could eventually push the cloud of locusts into a neighboring country, he added.

Brazil’s agriculture ministry is also monitoring the swarm and has asked farmers in the south of the country to be on alert, although it has concluded that the locust cloud is unlikely to move into Brazilian territory for now.

Nevertheless, Farming Minister Tereza Cristina Dias, declared on Thursday a “phytosanitary emergency” in the states of Río Grande do Sul and Santa Catarina due to the swarm.

In Argentina, both SENASA and the Buenos Aires grain exchange said they were less worried by the locust swarm than issues of dry weather impacting crops.

“For now (the swarm) is not a problem, we are more concerned about the humidity issue for wheat planting than locusts,” said Esteban Copati, head of agricultural estimates at the exchange, who added the swarm was moving over a marginal farming areas.

The pests have raised concerns in Brazil. A representative from the Aprosoja growers association in Rio Grande do Sul said they feared the locusts would enter the state where corn is still being harvested and wheat being grown.

Eugenio Hack of the Copercampos cooperative in Santa Catarina told Reuters that if the locusts were to move to the state, producers would have to be trained to use the appropriate chemicals, which are different from those normally used.

“My grandfather dealt with locusts many years ago. Farmers used to dig ditches in the ground, cover insects with soil, and then set them on fire,” Hack said.

Reporting by Maximilian Heath in Buenos Aires and Ana Mano in Sao Paulo; Editing by Adam Jourdan and Richard Chang
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JUNE 25, 2020 / 6:27 PM / UPDATED 12 HOURS AGO
Brazil soy exporters cannot promise China coronavirus-free cargos, ANEC says

Ana Mano

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Brazilian grain exporters should not give China the guarantees it requested that their cargoes are free of the novel coronavirus, as that would require extensive testing, according to ANEC, an association representing local grain traders.

The exporters’ response to the Chinese request will emphasize that there is no evidence the coronavirus can be transmitted by food, Marcos Amorim, director of ANEC’s contract committee, said during a webinar hosted by law firm Mattos Engelberg on Thursday.

ANEC’s members include U.S.-based Cargill [CARG.UL] and China’s Cofco [CNCOF.UL], as well as many of the world’s major agricultural commodity traders.

China is the world’s top soybean buyer and is expected to import about 94 million tonnes in the 2019/20 crop year, mostly from Brazil and the United States.

Imported soybeans are crushed to produce soymeal to feed livestock.

Anec is preparing a letter for associates to respond in an equal manner. Preferably, we would like the declaration ... not to be signed [by the exporters here],” Amorim said referring to a Chinese document in which exporters would say their cargos are COVID-19 free.

As for exporters declaring they comply with Chinese laws, ANEC recommends against doing so.

“The Brazilian exporter cannot declare this because they do not know [Chinese laws],” he added. “Even the largest companies do not know.”

Reporting by Ana Mano; Editing by Brad Haynes and Daniel Wallis
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JUNE 26, 2020 / 5:28 PM / UPDATED AN HOUR AGO
Venezuela is a health 'time bomb,' Colombian president says

Julia Symmes Cobb, Luis Jaime Acosta

BOGOTA (Reuters) - Colombian President Ivan Duque on Friday called Venezuela a public health “time bomb,” and said the lack of reliable information about the status of its neighbor’s coronavirus outbreak was a worry as his administration tries to control its own infections.

Colombia has long been the top destination for Venezuelans fleeing years of social and economic upheaval in their home country.

Asked if he was worried about Colombia’s lengthy borders with Venezuela and Brazil as a conduit for the virus, even though they are officially closed, Duque told Reuters he was, and said the issue with Venezuela was a lack of information.

“In the case of Venezuela the information is non-existent,” Duque said in an interview. “There’s not good hospital capacity or good epidemiological capacity, for a long time they haven’t had serious vaccination programs.”

“I think Venezuela is a time bomb from the public health point of view.”

Venezuela has acknowledged just 4,600 coronavirus cases and 39 deaths, while Colombia has reported around 80,600 confirmed cases and more than 2,600 deaths.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has insisted his country has managed the outbreak better than other Latin American nations and says most cases can be traced to migrants returning from Colombia and Brazil.

Venezuelan doctors, however, have decried insufficient hospital beds and supplies, limited use of face masks in public spaces, and the use of low-budget hotels to quarantine patients.

Duque’s government does not recognize Maduro as his country’s rightful leader and regularly accuses him of harboring crime gangs and leftist rebels.

Colombia last month sent more soldiers to its border with Brazil to stop informal crossings, after sparsely-populated Amazonas province saw a spike in cases.

Brazil has the world’s second highest number of coronavirus cases after the United States, registering more than 1.2 million cases and nearly 55,000 deaths. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has downplayed the seriousness of the pandemic.

Duque said in contrast with Venezuela, Brazil and its officials are making efforts to control the virus, however.

“It must also be emphasized that (Brazil) has much more trustworthy, more credible institutions,” he said.

“Also regionally we’ve seen state governors are trying to do more tests, putting in measures, there is a coordinated effort with national authorities.”

Thanks to an economic and social lockdown put in place in late March, Colombia’s infection levels are “much more an ellipse” than a spike, Duque said.

New cases are concentrated in a handful of municipalities and deaths in those over 60 years old, he said.

The country, which has boosted its number of intensive care units by 17% since the start of the pandemic, is trying to increase the number of ventilators as well.

“Colombia should get close to 10,000 ventilators, which will translate to a robust capacity in intensive care units,” he said.

Between spending on social programs and healthcare, government credit guarantees and liquidity efforts by the central bank, the equivalent of 11.3% of gross domestic product is working to fight the coronavirus, Duque said.

Almost 90% of the country’s economic activity was “in the process of recovery,” he contended.

The finance ministry has said the economy will contract 5.5% this year.
Reporting by Julia Symmes Cobb and Luis Jaime Acosta; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall
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JUNE 26, 2020 / 9:10 AM / UPDATED 5 HOURS AGO
Mexico City police chief shot in assassination attempt, blames drug cartel

Paulo Prada

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico City’s chief of police was shot and injured and two of his bodyguards killed in a dramatic assassination attempt early on Friday that he quickly blamed on one of Mexico’s most powerful drug gangs, the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG).

The city’s public security chief Omar Garcia Harfuch suffered three bullet wounds as he and bodyguards came under heavy fire around dawn in an upscale Mexico City neighborhood, where the attack was captured on security cameras.

Some three hours later, apparently from his hospital bed, Garcia sent out a message on Twitter blaming his injuries and the death of two bodyguards on a “cowardly attack” by the CJNG, a gang notorious as one of the most violent in Mexico.

A 26-year-old woman traveling in a car with relatives to sell street food nearby was also killed in the gunfire that ripped through the Lomas de Chapultepec neighborhood. The area is home to many wealthy people and has ambassadorial residences.

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum said the attack showed that authorities were putting pressure on criminal gangs in the capital, which has rarely witnessed such brazen outbreaks of violence.

“There will be no turning back,” Sheinbaum told a news conference.

Grainy security camera footage broadcast on Mexican television showed a group of heavily armed men in an open-backed truck disguised as a work vehicle, and an SUV blocking off a road to open fire on Garcia’s automobile.

Separately, fast-arriving police could be seen shouting and moving towards the high caliber gunfire that rang out for several minutes just after 6.30 a.m. local time/1130 GMT.

Television footage of what was apparently Garcia’s armored SUV showed a vehicle riddled with bullets roped off by police.

Garcia was wounded in the shoulder, collarbone and the knee, Security Minister Alfonso Durazo told a news conference.

The assassination attempt served as a warning that “nobody is off limits” and was reminiscent of previous attacks on officials during Mexico’s drug war, said Gladys McCormick, a security analyst at Syracuse University in New York.

It fit the CJNG’s modus operandi “to a T” and had the hallmark of the cartel staking out its turf, she said.

Led by a former police officer and based in the western state of Jalisco, the CJNG has been blamed for fueling record levels of violence in Mexico during its battles to eliminate rivals for control of drug trafficking and crime rackets.

Slideshow (19 Images)
Lopez Obrador took office 19 months ago vowing to pacify the country, but homicides hit a new high last year and are on track be higher still in 2020.

The shooters fled. Mexico City attorney general Ernestina Godoy said 12 suspects were arrested.

Police recovered military-grade long guns including a Barrett rifle from the crime scene, authorities said.

Videos posted on the internet by the CJNG have featured gunmen brandishing high-performance weapons used by the gang in its bloody feuds with other outfits, notably the Sinaloa Cartel of captured kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.

That the CJNG may have carried out the attack was one of various lines of investigation, Security Minister Durazo said. A week ago threats were made against some security officials, and authorities would see if they were linked to Friday, he said.

Reporting by Paulo Prada; Additional reporting by Raul Cortes, Dave Graham, Tomas Bravo, Lizbeth Diaz, Anthony Esposito and Daina Beth Solomon; editing by Steve Orlofsky, Diane Craft and Grant McCool
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JUNE 26, 2020 / 3:41 PM / UPDATED 10 HOURS AGO
Coronavirus, spreading in Brazil's interior, threatens to 'boomerang' back to major cities

Pedro Fonseca

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - The novel coronavirus, now spreading through the smaller towns of Brazil’s interior, risks returning to major cities in a so-called “boomerang effect,” as a lack of specialized medical treatment forces patients into larger urban centers.

The impact of a potential second wave of new cases in urban centers could complicate attempts to reopen businesses and get the economy going again, experts said.

“The boomerang of cases that will return to the (state) capitals will be a tsunami,” said Miguel Nicolelis, a leading medical neuroscientist at Duke University who is coordinating a coronavirus task force advising the state governments of Brazil’s northeast.

Brazil, home to the world’s second worst coronavirus outbreak behind the United States, has over 1.2 million cases of the virus, which has killed nearly 55,000 people. On most days, it is spreading faster in Brazil than in the United States, the top country by cases.

The virus initially came to Brazil through airports and spread mostly in its largest cities, but since late May it has been spreading faster in the interior of the country.

Last week, 60% of new cases were registered in smaller cities, according to health ministry data. Deaths are also rising outside of the major cities, and now account for about half of all daily deaths in Brazil.

Brazil’s response to the coronavirus has been criticized by many health experts, as President Jair Bolsonaro has played down the severity of the disease, shown indifference to its rising death toll and aggressively promoted the unproven remedy hydroxychloroquine.

As the virus spreads outside of Brazil’s cities, doctors are facing constraints. Only about 10% of Brazil’s municipalities have intensive care units, according to public health institute Fundação Oswaldo Cruz (Fiocruz). That means seriously ill patients need to be transported to cities.

“The virus moves into the interior, along the highways, you start having community transmission, people fall ill, get worse and return to the (state) capital to be treated,” said Nicolelis, describing the “the boomerang effect.”

At the same time, Brazil’s largest cities are reopening. Sao Paulo’s mayor said on Friday that it could reopen restaurants, bars and hair salons as early as July 6. Thousands of shops have already reopened, sending workers back to their regular commuting patterns.

The disease is now feeding off people’s movement,” said Gonzalo Vecina Neto, a public health professor at the University of Sao Paulo. “It goes to the interior with truck drivers, it goes to the interior with people who come to the large cities to buy things to resell in the interior. That’s the path.”

The patterns are causing concern about overlapping curves, as cities like Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro pass their peaks and fall, while smaller cities are still on the rise.

Some experts say the spread of the virus should have been better contained at first. Now, one possible mitigation option is to create testing checkpoints along highways, said Christovam Barcellos of the Institute for Communications, Scientific Information and Health Technology at Fiocruz.

“Identifying the person who is going to take the virus to a place is a positive thing, it’s the least that we can do,” Barcellos said.

Reporting by Pedro Fonseca; additional reporting by Eduardo Simoes; writing by Marcelo Rochabrun; editing by Jonathan Oatis
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Venezuelans take extraordinary steps to beat water shortage


CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuela’s economic collapse has left most homes without reliable running water, so Caracas resident Iraima Moscoso saw water pooling inside an abandoned construction site as the end of suffering for thousands of her poor neighbors.

Workers had long ago stopped building a nearby highway tunnel through the mountain above them. Yet, spring water continued to collect inside the viaduct and then stream past their homes, wasted. The construction firm had also left behind coils of tube.

Moscoso, 59, rallied her neighbors to salvage the materials and build their own system, tapping into the tunnel’s vast lagoon and running the waterline to their homes. Today, they’re free of the city’s crumbling service and enjoy what many in Venezuela consider a luxury.

Men, equipped with inner tubes, wade through an abandoned highway tunnel with the aid of a safety line as they work to repair a self-created water system in the Esperanza neighborhood of Caracas, Venezuela, Thursday, June 11, 2020. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)
“Everybody here has water,” said Moscoso, seated on the stairs of her hillside neighborhood of cinder block homes. “We all benefit.”

Venezuela’s water crisis is nothing new, but it’s started driving residents to extraordinary measures — banding together to rig their own water systems and even hand dig shallow wells at home. Water today is even more important as a way to protect against the pandemic.

Critics of the socialist government blame chronic infrastructure failures on years of corruption and mismanagement that have also left the electrical grid fragile and destroyed Venezuela’s once-thriving oil industry.

An estimated 86% of Venezuelans reported unreliable water service, including 11% who have none at all, according to an April survey of 4,500 residents by the non-profit Venezuelan Observatory of Public Services.
Full Coverage: Photography

María Eugenia Gil, of the Caracas-based non-profit Clear Water Foundation, said residents have no other choice than to hunt for water, breaking a nationwide quarantine that was imposed to slow the spread of the new coronavirus. They’re exposing themselves to illness or possibly spreading the virus to others, she said.

“They don’t have an alternative,” Gil said. “You can’t stay at home locked inside if you don’t have water.”

President Nicolás Maduro’s government has accused political foes of sabotaging pump stations, and recently celebrated the purchase of a fleet of 1,000 “super tanker” trucks from China to deliver water to residents.

A car drives past hauling a plastic water tank on it's rooftop, in the Petare neighborhood of Caracas, Venezuela, Friday, June 5, 2020. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

That’s no solution for Arcangel Medina, 66, who recruited young men in his neighborhood to dig for five days, striking water at a depth of four meters (13 feet). He bought $200 worth of pipes and an electric pump so he can share the water with other homes.

“We went four months without running water,” said Medina, complaining that when city lines used to flow every two weeks, dirty water spewed from his faucets.

“It’s a blessing,” said Medina, one of a dozen residents in his sector who took the drastic measure. He next had to figure out how to get rid of the dirt pile on the street in front of his home.

Moscoso, who proudly organized her neighbors to build their own system, estimates that 5,000 people in her neighborhood now have water. It started flowing in May, said Moscoso, who works at the mayor’s office.

Their above-ground water line starts at the abandoned tunnel’s mouth and runs 1,000 meters (3,200 feet) - under a highway, strung from power poles over a city street and down to their homes.

Four other neighborhoods have run similar lines from the tunnel.

Moscoso said the water is perfectly safe, drinking down a glass as proof. She declined to say how much it cost them after salvaging the abandoned pipes, claiming she hasn’t had time to add up the expenses.

“For me it’s priceless,” Moscoso said.

A man, wearing a protective face mask, pushes a dolly filled with empty containers, as he and a child go in search of water in Caracas, Venezuela, Saturday, June 20, 2020. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

Buckets, some of them filled with water provided by a government tanker truck, are stored in the living room of a house in the Petare neighborhood of Caracas, Venezuela, Monday, June 15, 2020. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

A residents fills a container with water provided by a government tanker truck in the Petare neighborhood of Caracas, Venezuela, Monday, June 15, 2020. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

A man pushes a stripped down baby stroller with containers he filled with water that he collected from a street faucet, in Caracas, Venezuela, Saturday, June 20, 2020. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

A child ascends a flight of stairs with an empty container to be filled with water provided by a government tanker truck in the Petare neighborhood of Caracas, Venezuela, Monday, June 15, 2020. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

A man, wearing a protective face mask, pushes a dolly holding a container filled with water he collected from a street faucet, in Caracas, Venezuela, Saturday, June 20, 2020. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

A woman wearing a protective face mask, turns around as she is called by a friend, in the Baralt highway tunnel in Caracas, Venezuela, Sunday, June 7, 2020. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)

A boy jumps into a drainage ditch which channels water from an abandoned highway tunnel in Caracas, Venezuela, Saturday, June 6, 2020. Workers had long ago stopped building the highway tunnel through the mountain. Yet, spring water continues to pool inside the viaduct, then stream past homes, wasted. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)

A woman, wearing a protective face mask, pushes a dolly of containers filled with water, in Caracas, Venezuela, Saturday, June 20, 2020. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

A worker controls a water hose from a government tanker truck to distribute water to residents in the Petare neighborhood of Caracas, Venezuela, Thursday, May 21, 2020. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

La Lira neighborhood residents protest the lack of public services including water, in Caracas, Venezuela, Thursday, May 21, 2020. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)

A man cleans the inside of a water container situated on the roof of his home in the San Agustin neighborhood of Caracas, Venezuela, Sunday, May 17, 2020. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)

A child wearing a protective face mask rides her scooter in the bed of a water fountain of Los Proceres promenade in Caracas, Venezuela, Sunday, April 26, 2020. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)

A woman scrubs her protective face masks with runoff water from the Avila mountain in Caracas, Venezuela, Sunday, June 21, 2020. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)
Scott Smith on Twitter: @ScottSmithAP

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JUNE 27, 2020 / 3:46 PM / UPDATED 7 HOURS AGO
Brazen cartel attack in Mexico City opens new front in crime battle

Lizbeth Diaz

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico’s bustling capital was once seen as a relative oasis in the country’s raging drug war, but a shocking military-style assassination attempt on the city’s police chief offers proof at least one gang is unafraid to shatter the peace.

The hyper-violent Jalisco New Generation Cartel, or CJNG, was quickly fingered as the probable culprit by the wounded target of the attack, Mexico City security head Omar Garcia Harfuch, in a message tapped out on his phone shortly after the shooting, likely from his hospital bed.

The 38-year-old Garcia Harfuch - who was shot in the shoulder, collarbone and knee during the attack - defiantly pledged to keep working.

While cartel gunmen failed to kill Garcia Harfuch in Friday morning’s daybreak hit in one of Mexico City’s most upscale neighborhoods, two of his bodyguards plus an innocent bystander on her way to work were gunned down in the crossfire.

“Until recently, many denied that big drug cartels operate in Mexico City, and it’s just not true,” said security expert Erubiel Tirado.

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said in a video message on Saturday that government intelligence services knew that such an attack on the chief was being planned, and were able to warn him ahead of time to take additional precautions.

Nearly 20 suspects have already been arrested in the case, according to Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum, including the man described as the leader of the attempted assassination.

The attack played out on the city’s leafy Paseo de la Reforma boulevard. Security camera footage showed heavily armed and mostly hooded cartel hit men pouring out of a truck after blocking the roadway and unleashing hundreds of rounds on Garcia Harfuch’s armored SUV.

Many analysts described the hit as a show of strength by CJNG and evidence that drug gangs are probably expanding their presence in Mexico’s capital. Some, however, offered a contrarian view.

For me, this looked like the futile struggle of a drowning man more than a show of strength,” said cartel expert Tomas Guevara.

He noted that preliminary reports describe some three weeks of planning that went into the attack, and pointed to a well-executed counteroffensive by police immediately afterwards in which fleeing cartel gunmen were swiftly rounded up.

“In Mexico City, at least, the police are doing a good job... and I hope this can boost other police departments in other states.”

CJNG is regarded as Mexico’s strongest gang, along with the Sinaloa Cartel formerly led by jailed kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman. It is often credited with successfully infiltrating poorly paid and trained local police departments across the country to better protect its wide-ranging criminal rackets.

Unlike his predecessors, Lopez Obrador has sought a less confrontational approach to crime-fighting, preferring to attack what he describes as root causes like poverty and youth joblessness, via social spending.

The leftist Lopez Obrador repeated that message on Saturday, stressing that he will not be “declaring war on anyone” while also promising to prevent future attacks.

“We won’t let them intimidate us,” he said.

However, during Lopez Obrador’s first full year in office last year murders hit a new record, and the homicide rate is on pace to surpass it this year.

The grisly crime wave will likely apply new pressure on the president to change tack.

The army will need to be brought in,” said Tirado, even as he acknowledged it will not likely contain the growth of sophisticated actors like CJNG or new rounds of deadly shootouts.

“We’ve seen this movie before.”

Reporting by Lizbeth Diaz; Additional reporting by Adriana Barrera and David Alire Garcia; Writing by David Alire Garcia; Editing by Jonathan Oatis
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2 Yanomami reported slain by illegal prospectors in Amazon

BRASILIA, Brazil (AP) — Two members of the Yanomami ethnic group in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest were shot to death by illegal gold prospectors inside the Indigenous community’s territory, according to reports from the group.

Júnior Hekurari Yanomami, a member of the group who is president of Condisi-Y, the local health council, told The Associated Press on Saturday that Original Yanomami, 24, and Marcos Yanomami, 20, were slain June 12. The deaths were only reported recently due to the remoteness of the region in Brazil’s Roraima state and communication difficulties.

The Hutukara association, which represents Yanomami communities in Brazil, issued a statement confirming the reports of the killings.

Brazil’s national Indian foundation, known as Funai, and the Federal Police didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Relying on a conversation with a leader of the far-flung community, Hekurari said Original was shot first as a group of Yanomami followed prospectors who were trespassing on the community’s land. Then Marcos was shot and the other Indigenous people retreated after an hour-long pursuit, Hekurari said.

Their bodies were left in the forest, in accordance with the traditions of the Yanomami, he said.

“The community is in mourning,” Hekurari said. “It is unacceptable to be killed in your home by people who are looking for gold. We need support, security.”

The Socio-Environmental Institute, an environmental and indigenous advocacy group, says more than 26,000 indigenous people live in Yanomami territory and they have faced invasions by prospectors and contamination of their waterways since the 1980s.

The institute and other groups have expressed concern about incursions into Indigenous lands by prospectors amid the coronavirus pandemic, worrying the intruders could infect their isolate communities far from medical facilities.

The Hutukara association also expressed concern that the incident could lead to further violence, as has occurred in the past.

“We fear that the family of the Yanomami murdered will decide to retaliate against the prospectors following the justice system of the Yanomami culture,” the association’s statement said. “That can lead to a cycle of violence that will result in tragedy.”