Argentina's President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner (C) addresses the
audience during a meeting of the annual Mercosur trade bloc presidential
summit in Mendoza June 29, 2012. (Credit: Reuters/Enrique Marcarian)

Chinese leader woos Latin America with deals

Chinese leader woos Latin America with deals
Chinese President Xi Jinping (4-L, first row) poses with leaders of the CELAC group of Latin American and Caribbean states, in Brasilia, on July 17, 2014 (AFP Photo/Nelson Almeida)
"A Summary" – Apr 2, 2011 (Kryon channelled by Lee Carroll) (Subjects: Religion, Shift of Human Consciousness, 2012, Intelligent/Benevolent Design, EU, South America, 5 Currencies, Water Cycle (Heat up, Mini Ice Ace, Oceans, Fish, Earthquakes ..), Middle East, Internet, Israel, Dictators, Palestine, US, Japan (Quake/Tsunami Disasters , People, Society ...), Nuclear Power Revealed, Hydro Power, Geothermal Power, Moon, Financial Institutes (Recession, Realign integrity values ..) , China, North Korea, Global Unity,..... etc.) -

“ … Here is another one. A change in what Human nature will allow for government. "Careful, Kryon, don't talk about politics. You'll get in trouble." I won't get in trouble. I'm going to tell you to watch for leadership that cares about you. "You mean politics is going to change?" It already has. It's beginning. Watch for it. You're going to see a total phase-out of old energy dictatorships eventually. The potential is that you're going to see that before 2013.

They're going to fall over, you know, because the energy of the population will not sustain an old energy leader ..."

"Update on Current Events" – Jul 23, 2011 (Kryon channelled by Lee Carroll) - (Subjects: The Humanization of God, Gaia, Shift of Human Consciousness, 2012, Benevolent Design, Financial Institutes (Recession, System to Change ...), Water Cycle (Heat up, Mini Ice Ace, Oceans, Fish, Earthquakes ..), Nuclear Power Revealed, Geothermal Power, Hydro Power, Drinking Water from Seawater, No need for Oil as Much, Middle East in Peace, Persia/Iran Uprising, Muhammad, Israel, DNA, Two Dictators to fall soon, Africa, China, (Old) Souls, Species to go, Whales to Humans, Global Unity,..... etc.)
(Subjects: Who/What is Kryon ?, Egypt Uprising, Iran/Persia Uprising, Peace in Middle East without Israel actively involved, Muhammad, "Conceptual" Youth Revolution, "Conceptual" Managed Business, Internet, Social Media, News Media, Google, Bankers, Global Unity,..... etc.)

A student holds a sign reading "Don't shoot, listen!!!" during a protest
on June 17, 2013 in Brasilia (AFP, Evaristo)

Brazil's Rousseff claims nation 'ready for greatest World Cup'

Brazil's Rousseff claims nation 'ready for greatest World Cup'
Google: Ready, set, goooaaallll! The WorldCup is finally here.

Paraguay police search S. American football HQ

Paraguay police search S. American football HQ
The Conmebol headquarters in Luque, Paraguay, is seen on January 7, 2016, during a raid within the framework of the FIFA corruption scandal (AFP Photo/Norberto Duarte)

'Panama Papers' law firm under the media's lenses

'Panama Papers' law firm under the media's lenses
The Panama Papers: key facts on the huge journalists' investigation into tax evasion (AFP Photo/Thomas Saint-Cricq, Philippe Mouche)

Mossack Fonseca

Mossack Fonseca


"The Recalibration of Awareness – Apr 20/21, 2012 (Kryon channeled by Lee Carroll) (Subjects: Old Energy, Recalibration Lectures, God / Creator, Religions/Spiritual systems (Catholic Church, Priests/Nun’s, Worship, John Paul Pope, Women in the Church otherwise church will go, Current Pope won’t do it), Middle East, Jews, Governments will change (Internet, Media, Democracies, Dictators, North Korea, Nations voted at once), Integrity (Businesses, Tobacco Companies, Bankers/ Financial Institutes, Pharmaceutical company to collapse), Illuminati (Started in Greece, with Shipping, Financial markets, Stock markets, Pharmaceutical money (fund to build Africa, to develop)), Shift of Human Consciousness, (Old) Souls, Women, Masters to/already come back, Global Unity.... etc.) - (Text version)

… The Shift in Human Nature

You're starting to see integrity change. Awareness recalibrates integrity, and the Human Being who would sit there and take advantage of another Human Being in an old energy would never do it in a new energy. The reason? It will become intuitive, so this is a shift in Human Nature as well, for in the past you have assumed that people take advantage of people first and integrity comes later. That's just ordinary Human nature.

In the past, Human nature expressed within governments worked like this: If you were stronger than the other one, you simply conquered them. If you were strong, it was an invitation to conquer. If you were weak, it was an invitation to be conquered. No one even thought about it. It was the way of things. The bigger you could have your armies, the better they would do when you sent them out to conquer. That's not how you think today. Did you notice?

Any country that thinks this way today will not survive, for humanity has discovered that the world goes far better by putting things together instead of tearing them apart. The new energy puts the weak and strong together in ways that make sense and that have integrity. Take a look at what happened to some of the businesses in this great land (USA). Up to 30 years ago, when you started realizing some of them didn't have integrity, you eliminated them. What happened to the tobacco companies when you realized they were knowingly addicting your children? Today, they still sell their products to less-aware countries, but that will also change.

What did you do a few years ago when you realized that your bankers were actually selling you homes that they knew you couldn't pay for later? They were walking away, smiling greedily, not thinking about the heartbreak that was to follow when a life's dream would be lost. Dear American, you are in a recession. However, this is like when you prune a tree and cut back the branches. When the tree grows back, you've got control and the branches will grow bigger and stronger than they were before, without the greed factor. Then, if you don't like the way it grows back, you'll prune it again! I tell you this because awareness is now in control of big money. It's right before your eyes, what you're doing. But fear often rules. …

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Colombian court backs referendum on peace deal with FARC rebels

Yahoo – AFP, July 19, 2016

A man places flowers on a Colombian national flag during a march in Cali, in
support of the peace talks between the government and the FARC guerrillas,
on July 15, 2016 (AFP Photo/Luis Robayo)

Bogota (AFP) - Colombia's constititutional court gave its approval for a popular referendum on a historic peace deal being negotiated with FARC rebels.

"There is a green light for us, the Colombian people, to approve the peace deal with our votes," President Juan Manuel Santos said on Monday.

The top court held more than eight hours of deliberations before giving its go-ahead to a government bill on the plebiscite, which has already been approved by Congress.

The Colombian government and the Marxist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) are in the final phase of four years of talks that it is hoped will result in a peace deal putting to an end a half-a-century of conflict.

The rebels last month signed a ceasefire and disarmament deal with the government, with the aim of becoming a political party.

The government said it hoped to move on to a full peace deal within weeks.

Alejo Vargas, an analyst at the National University's Center for Reflection and Monitoring of the Peace Dialogues, has said government supporters of the peace deal are in the majority. In a referendum, he estimated, "up to 70 percent would vote 'Yes.'"

Russian Sports Minister Mutko barred from Rio Games over doping

Yahoo – AFP, Jul 19, 2016

Russia's Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko addresses the media within the election
of a new chief of Russia's athletics federation in Moscow on January 16,
2016 (AFP Photo/Vasily Maximov)

Lausanne (AFP) - The International Olympic Committee on Tuesday barred Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko and other ministry officials from attending the Rio Games after the revelation of a state-run doping system.

"The IOC will not grant any accreditation to any official of the Russian Ministry of Sport or any person implicated in the (independent) report for the Games of the XXXI Olympiad Rio 2016," said an IOC statement.

An independent inquiry commissioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency said the Russian sports ministry organised a "state-dictated failsafe system" of cheating by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics and other major events hosted by Russia.

Deputy sports minister Yury Nagornykh is among officials to have been suspended by the Kremlin since the report was released on Monday.

Monday, July 11, 2016

US transfers two Guantanamo detainees to Serbia: Pentagon

Yahoo – AFP, 11 Jul 2019

The US flag flies above the US Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (AFP
Photo/Paul J. Richards)

Washington (AFP) - The Pentagon on Monday transferred two Guantanamo detainees, one Yemeni and the other Tajik, to Serbia, bringing the population of the controversial US military prison to 76.

Tajik national Muhammadi Davlatov and Yemeni Mansur Ahmad Saad al-Dayfi were both unanimously approved for transfer by six US government departments and agencies, the State Department said.

President Barack Obama, as one of his first official acts after being elected in 2008, vowed to empty and shutter the notorious "war on terror" prison, which critics feel has tarnished America's reputation because of treatment deemed inhumane to the inmates there.

"As directed by the president's January 22, 2009, executive order, the interagency Guantanamo Review Task Force conducted a comprehensive review" of Davlatov's case and unanimously approved his transfer, a Pentagon statement said.

US defense, homeland security and other officials determined late last year that continued imprisonment of al-Dayfi "does not remain necessary to protect against a continuing significant threat to the security of the United States."

The Defense Department statement thanked Serbia "for its humanitarian gesture and willingness to support ongoing US efforts to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility" -- a sentiment echoed by US Secretary of State John Kerry.

"The United States appreciates the generous assistance of Serbia as the United States continues its efforts to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility," Kerry said in a statement.

"This significant humanitarian gesture is consistent with Serbia's leadership on the global stage."

The United States has in recent months accelerated the rate at which detainees who have been approved for transfer are released from the facility, which Obama urgently wants to close before he leaves office at the start of next year.

Guantanamo is a US naval base carved out of a remote chunk of land on the tip of southeastern Cuba. The administration of George W. Bush opened a prison there to hold terror suspects.

The Guantanamo prison has held about 780 inmates in all since it was opened shortly after the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001.

Transfers have been slowed because many inmates were from war-torn Yemen, and so had to be returned to a third country that can provide rehabilitation and monitoring.

Obama would like to send inmates deemed to be the most dangerous for incarceration in the United States but Republican lawmakers have steadfastly resisted any such move.

US transfers Guantanamo inmate to Italy: official

Yahoo – AFP, July 10, 2016

According to US government statistics, about 13 percent of prisoners freed from
 Guantanamo since Obama began his first term have returned to violent extremism
(AFP Photo/Mladen Antonov)

Washington (AFP) - The United States has transferred Saudi-born Yemeni inmate Fayiz Ahmad Yahia Suleiman to Italy, the Pentagon announced Sunday, as President Barack Obama seeks to close the reviled American military detention center in Cuba.

The 41-year-old, who was recommended for transfer in January 2010 by the Guantanamo Review Task Force, was originally brought to Guantanamo Bay in January 2002.

"In accordance with statutory requirements, the secretary of defense informed Congress of the United States' intent to transfer this individual and of the secretary (of defense)'s determination that this transfer meets the statutory standard," a Pentagon statement said.

"The United States is grateful to the government of Italy for its humanitarian gesture and willingness to support ongoing US efforts to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. The United States coordinated with the government of Italy to ensure this transfer took place consistent with appropriate security and humane treatment measures."

A total of 78 inmates now remain at Guantanamo, which Obama took action to begin closing in one of his first acts as president. Yemenis account for the biggest group of detainees.

Obama has been unable to fulfill his long-held campaign promise due to opposition from the Republican-held Congress, concerns at home over plans to hold one-time terror suspects on US soil and the reluctance of allies to take in the prisoners.

Some of those concerns have crystallized in recent days after the disappearance of a former Guantanamo inmate in Uruguay, where he had been resettled in 2014 along with five other ex-detainees.

Jihad Diyab -- a 44-year-old Syrian -- went off the South American country's radar several weeks ago after apparently evading border controls and crossing into Brazil.

According to US government statistics, about 13 percent of prisoners freed from Guantanamo since Obama began his first term have returned to violent extremism or are believed to have done so, down from 35 percent under his predecessor George W. Bush.

Paul Lewis, the Pentagon's special envoy for Guantanamo closure, said that 14 ex-prisoners have gone on to participate in attacks that killed Americans.

In February, with less than a year left in his term, Obama released a last-ditch plan to close the facility, hoping to speed up the resettlement of all but 46 of the remaining prisoners, for whom he hopes to find alternate, secure detention centers in the United States.

All those he is seeking to resettle abroad have been deemed eligible for transfer.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Uruguay to sign up smokers to buy state marijuana

Yahoo – AFP, July 7, 2016

Uruguay government aims to begin registering users by the end of the month
authorizing them to purchase marijuana in pharmacies in an effort to undermine
drug-trafficking gangs (AFP Photo/Luis Robayo)

Montevideo (AFP) - Uruguay will this month start signing up smokers to buy marijuana from pharmacies in the world's first scheme for state-production and sale of the drug, an official source said Wednesday.

The leftist government has begun harvesting its own marijuana and aims to start selling it in mid-August, the source told AFP.

The marijuana leaves have been grown under heavy security at privately operated, state-supervised farms.

"It is being harvested and dried," said the source, who asked not to be named.

The government will buy the drug from the producers and sell it on to the pharmacies. But the amount released for sale will depend on how many users register.

The government aims to start registering users by the end of this month, the source said.

Under a law passed in 2013, Uruguay already allows users to grow marijuana if they register as members of state-regulated clubs.

In this June 30, 2016 photo, a pharmacy attends a client at Capurro neighborhood
 in Montevideo, Uruguay. Uruguay's government is planning to sell marijuana at 50
pharmacies throughout the country. (AP Photo/Matilde Campodonico)

The state will now expand that initiative to regulate the sale of the drug in pharmacies.

The law allows for users to buy up to 40 grams (1.4 ounces) a month. Authorized buyers will be identified by their fingerprints.

The scheme is being overseen by the state Cannabis Regulation and Control Institute.

Officials have not ruled out extending sales to establishments other than pharmacies.

The initiative was launched by former president Jose Mujica as a way to undermine drug-trafficking gangs.

A poll at the time indicated that nearly two thirds of Uruguayans were opposed to the law.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Venezuela 'willing' to restore diplomatic ties with US

Yahoo – AFP, July 4, 2016

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro (R) talks with US State Department envoy
 Thomas Shannon at the Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas, on June 22,
 2016 (AFP Photo/Federico Parra)

Caracas (AFP) - Crisis-hit Venezuela is willing to restore diplomatic relations with the United States after a six-year freeze, the socialist government said Monday.

The foreign ministry's announcement came two weeks after top US diplomat Thomas Shannon met with Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro in a bid to help tackle the country's economic and political crisis.

In a message congratulating the United States on its Independence Day commemoration, the ministry expressed its "willingness to establish respectful bilateral diplomatic relations."

The two countries have not exchanged ambassadors since 2010 due to tensions between Washington and the government of Hugo Chavez, Maduro's mentor and late predecessor.

Like Chavez before him, Maduro has frequently accused Washington of interfering in Venezuela's internal affairs and seeking his overthrow.

The United States has expressed concern over the crisis in Venezuela, saying Maduro's opponents have a right to organize a referendum on removing him from power, which they hope to do this year.

Future diplomatic relations should be guided by international law and "principles such as sovereign equality of states and the people's right to self-determination," the ministry's statement said.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Obama blasts isolationism, with Trump in sights

Yahoo – AFP, Jerome Cartillier, June 30, 2016

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto (L), Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
 and US President Barack Obama (R) pose during the North American Leaders
Summit on June 29, 2016 in Ottawa, Ontario (AFP Photo/Brendan Smialowski)

Ottawa (AFP) - US President Barack Obama warned against isolationist tendencies in America and elsewhere, calling it "the wrong medicine" to fix legitimate concerns about globalization.

While Obama did not mention Donald Trump by name, he took a clear swipe at the Republican presidential candidate's heated anti-trade rhetoric during a "Three Amigos" summit with his Canadian and Mexican counterparts.

"Even if we wanted to we can't seal ourselves off from the rest of the world," Obama said in a speech to the Canadian parliament after trilateral talks.

"In an integrated, global economy the solution is not for us to try to shut ourselves off from the world," he earlier told a news conference in Ottawa -- held as Trump repeated a threat to renegotiate or walk out of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Delivering a plea for regional cooperation and free trade, Obama argued -- in a thinly-veiled rebuke to the real estate magnate -- for growing the United States' relationship with Mexico, "our neighbor, our friend."

He accused some of exploiting fears by "arguing that we must rebuild walls and disengage from a chaotic world... in order to regain control of our lives."

(L-R) Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, Canadian Prime Minister Justin 
Trudeau and US President Barack Obama arrive for the North American Leaders
 Summit at the National Gallery of Canada on June 29, 2016 in Ottawa, Ontario 
(AFP Photo/Brendan Smialowski)

"We saw some of these currents at work this past week in the United Kingdom's referendum to leave the European Union," he said.

Trump has made Mexicans a prime target of his anti-immigrant rhetoric, promising to build a wall on the US-Mexico border that threatens to undermine the NAFTA accord that has bound the two countries together with Canada since 1994.

"We've had times throughout our history where anti-immigration sentiment is exploited by demagogues," said Obama. "But guess what? They kept coming."

"Unless you are one of the first Americans, unless you are a native American, somebody, somewhere in your past showed up from some place else. And they didn't always have papers."

'Friends and neighbors'

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto echoed Obama's comments, saying "Isolationism is not a road towards progress."

"We are neighbors, we are friends," he added, announcing he would soon visit the White House. "This friendship is based on strong cooperation and teamwork."

U.S. President Barack Obama, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and 
Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto and their delegations take part in the North
 American Leaders’ Summit working session in Ottawa, Canada June 29, 2016. 
Reuters/Kevin Lamarque

In the same vein, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau highlighted the joint efforts by the three nations, calling it "proof that cooperation pays off, and that working together always beats going it alone."

For the billionaire Trump, NAFTA is the root of America's economic woes, including job losses.

Trump reiterated on Wednesday his intent to revisit the 1994 accord that unites 530 million consumers and represents more than one-quarter of the world's gross domestic product (GDP).

"I'm going to tell our NAFTA partners that I intend to immediately renegotiate the terms of that agreement to get a better deal for our workers, OK?" he told supporters at a rally in Bangor, Maine.

"If they do not agree to a renegotiation, then I will submit notice under article 2205 of the NAFTA agreement that America intends to withdraw from the deal, OK?"

"No more NAFTA."

With less than seven months before he leaves the White House and a new president is sworn in, Obama will make his first joint campaign stop with Democrat Hillary Clinton next week as he throws his full weight behind her in the battle against Trump.

Brexit concerns

Six days after Britain's vote to exit the European Union, felt on both sides of the Atlantic, the shock British decision to go it alone topped the agenda of talks in Ottawa.

Obama recognized there existed "genuine concerns" about the impact on long-term global growth if the Brexit goes ahead.

But he expressed "confidence" in the global financial system's resilience and stability, and the ability of all parties in Europe to work out a smooth transition.

Do the United States, Canada and Mexico not fear a spillage from the so-called Brexit impacting the North American trade pact or raising questions about it?

Obama warned against "simple comparisons" between Europe's woes and North America.

In the spirit of stepping up collaboration, the three leaders announced a strengthening of efforts to fight climate change.

The aim is to produce 50 percent of the continent's overall electricity from "clean energy," including from solar and wind, nuclear and hydroelectric generation, by 2025. This is up from 27 percent in 2015.

"The Paris Agreement was a turning point for our planet, representing unprecedented accord on the urgent need to take action to combat climate change through innovation and deployment of low-carbon solutions," the leaders said in a joint statement calling for the accord to come into force before the end of the year.

Mexico also joined a commitment already made by the United States and Canada to reduce emissions of methane -- a powerful greenhouse gas -- by 40 to 45 percent by 2025, compared to 2012 levels.

Related Articles:

“… Human Nature is Changing

There's a new concept afoot, a change in Human nature. We've spoken about this before. How many of you studied European history? And in school, did your mind fill up with all of the dates you had to memorize? Who conquered whom and when? Over and over and over, every single country had their turn conquering another country. Borders moved constantly. As far back as you want to go, that's what Humans did. They separated, gathered, and conquered. But as little as 50 years ago, it all stopped.

We've said this before. Fifty years ago, a seed, an idea, was planted at the end of World War II. "Let's put these European countries together," they said. "Let's even drop the borders and eventually give them one currency." Do this and they'll never war again, they predicted, for countries with common economic sources don't go to war! And that's exactly what's happened. Did it work? It's fairly fresh, but their money is threatening to take over the strength of your money, did you notice? It's worth more than yours. They still struggle to make it work and balance it. But then again, you do the same in the United States, always fine tuning the unity.

South America is considering the same thing right now. The seeds are being planted in Brazil. Within a generation, they would love to see the borders dropped and one currency. Can they do it? Perhaps. Perhaps it will take longer. Why do it? Because they see the European Union with the strongest currency on Earth. We've said this before. Here is a prediction: Perhaps not in your time, but there'll come a day when there are only five currencies in the world, because continents will start understanding that unification creates peace and prosperity. Separation creates chaos. What a concept. …

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Newly expanded Panama Canal opens for bigger business

Yahoo – AFP, Marc Burleigh, June 25, 2016

Miraflores Locks of the Panama Canal, seen on June 25, 2016 (AFP Photo/
Johan Ordonez)

Panama City (AFP) - Panama is preparing to officially open its canal this weekend to far bigger cargo ships after nearly a decade of expansion work aimed at boosting transit revenues and global trade.

On Sunday, a VIP ceremony will be held on the banks of the canal to inaugurate the completion of the works.

President Juan Carlos Varela will unveil the new locks and third shipping lane built into the 102-year-old canal. Foreign dignitaries, including the presidents of Taiwan, Chile and other Central American nations, will be present at the ceremony.

A Chinese-owned Neopanamax-class cargo ship will be the first vessel to officially test the new infrastructure, entering from the Atlantic and exiting into the Pacific a few hours later.

The Neopanamax vessels are much bigger than the Panamax-class ships that previously were the largest able to pass through the 80-kilometer (50-mile) long canal. Each is able to haul three times as much cargo as the smaller predecessors.

The expansion work began in 2007 and was meant to have been completed in 2014, but it ran well past deadline, and over budget.

The expansion is estimated to have cost $5.5 billion. However, outstanding disputes between the Spanish- and Italian-led consortium that carried out the work and the Panamanian government could yet hike that figure by hundreds of millions more.

Pride, and opportunity

For Panama, the unveiling of the broader canal is a moment of pride and of opportunity.

Now, ships as long as the Eiffel Tower is tall, and as broad as Olympic-sized swimming pools, will be able to use the canal.

Annual cargo volumes should double over the next decade, leading Panama to hope to triple the $1 billion in shipping fees it receives each year.

Also, with the country these days linked to the "Panama Papers" scandal of offshore businesses owned by the world's wealthy and influential, the expanded canal is seen as a chance to burnish the country's tarnished image.

This will show the "real face of Panama," Panama Canal Authority (ACP) chief Jorge Quijano told AFP in an interview this week.

World trade should also benefit from what will essentially be an inter-oceanic highway for goods between the United States and Asia. More cargo on bigger ships should mean lower transport costs.

The first trial run with a Post-Panamax cargo ship in the new sets of locks on the
 Atlantic side of the Panama Canal, in Panama City, Panama June 9, 2016.
Reuters/Carlos Jasso

US gas shipments

Panama is also avidly eyeing the lucrative market of transporting liquefied natural gas between the United States and Asia, principally to Japan.

The ships carrying the gas were too big to use the old canal. With the expansion, they now can.

"When we started this expansion, we did not have on our radar that the United States was going to be a net exporter of gas and oil," ACP deputy administrator Manuel Benitez Hawkins told journalists Saturday.

Now, with the US producing gas and oil from shale, American interest in using the canal has grown.

"That will add to the revenue and help us recoup" the massive investment, Benitez said.

Currently, some five percent of global maritime commercial traffic uses the canal, which provides a valuable shortcut between North America and Asia.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Colombia, FARC rebels sign historic ceasefire

Yahoo – AFP, Alexander Grosbois in Havana with Alina Dieste in Bogota,  June 23, 2016

Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos (L) and Timoleon Jimenez, (R), 
head of the FARC leftist guerrilla, shake hands accompanied by Cuban
 President Raul Castro (C) during the signing of the peace agreement in
 Havana on June 23, 2016 (AFP Photo/Adalberto Roque)

Havana (AFP) - The Colombian government and the FARC rebel force signed a ceasefire and disarmament agreement Thursday, one of the last steps toward ending a half-century conflict that has killed hundreds of thousands of people.

The deal puts a definitive end to fighting in Latin America's longest civil war, which has torn the country apart with shootings and bombardments in its coca-rich jungles and hills.

President Juan Manuel Santos and FARC leader Timoleon Jimenez shook hands and smiled after negotiators signed the deal at a ceremony in Cuba.

The deal establishes "a bilateral ceasefire and end to hostilities and the definitive laying down of arms," according to the text.

"This is a historic day for our country," Santos said in a speech to assembled leaders including UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

"After more than 50 years of confrontations, deaths, attacks and pain, we have put a final end to the armed conflict with the FARC."

Disarmament will begin after the signing of a full final peace agreement, expected within weeks.

Thursday's agreements "leave us on the verge of completing a final accord relatively soon," Jimenez said.

The final deal "will allow us to return at last to legal political activity through peaceful and democratic means," he added.

The state of peace negotiations between the Colombian government 
and FARC rebels (AFP Photo/Tatiana Magarinos, Gustavo Izus)

Tears of joy

In the Colombian capital Bogota, crowds gathered to watch the announcement on a big screen.

One man, Camilo Gonzalez, was moved to tears.

"It has been a tragic journey. Millions of victims, people displaced, fighting, broken dreams," he said.

"But I think now we have reached a moment of hope."

Under the agreement, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) must hand over its weapons to United Nations monitors within six months.

The FARC's members -- an estimated 7,000 or so -- will gather in "normalization zones" for a demobilization process.

The sides also agreed to government action against "criminal organizations" blamed for fueling the conflict.

The United States congratulated Colombia. "We will stand ready to help the Colombian people as they work toward a just and lasting peace," said US National Security Advisor Susan Rice.

The European Union's foreign representative Federica Mogherini in a statement called it a "a turning point in the Colombian peace process."

"Now all efforts must be devoted to reaching a final comprehensive agreement that will pave the way to durable peace in the country" and justice for victims, she said.

Colombians celebrate in downtown Bogota as they watch on a giant screen 
the signing of the ceasefire in Havana, on June 23, 2016 (AFP Photo/
Guillermo Legaria)

260,000 dead

The Colombian conflict started in the 1960s as a rural uprising for land rights that spawned the communist FARC.

The conflict has drawn in various leftist rebel groups, right-wing paramilitaries and drug gangs over the decades.

It has left 260,000 people dead, 45,000 missing and nearly seven million displaced, according to official figures.

Human rights groups say atrocities have been committed on all sides. Many families are still searching for missing loved ones.

Thursday's deal resolves one of the final points in peace talks between the government and the FARC, the country's largest rebel group.

However, the means of implementing the final peace deal remain to be settled after three-and-a-half years of negotiations.

The two sides said they would wait for the courts to rule on whether a referendum can be held to endorse the accord, and would accept the court's decision.

Although peace with the FARC would virtually end the conflict, other armed groups are still operating in Colombia.

A bid to hold peace talks between the government and the second-biggest rebel group, the leftist National Liberation Army (ELN), has stumbled because of its alleged kidnappings.

"The activity of the ELN above all and the criminal gangs means that we cannot yet talk of a complete end to the armed conflict," said Kyle Johnson, Colombia analyst for the International Crisis Group.

"It will be the end of Colombia's biggest armed conflict, but not all of them."

Monday, June 20, 2016

Scores of environmental activists murdered in 2015: report

Yahoo – AFP, Marlowe Hood, June 20, 2016

Lumad people protest against the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC)
Summit on November 19, 2015 (AFP Photo/Joseph Agcaoili)

Paris (AFP) - At least 185 activists and indigenous people fighting environmental pillaging were murdered in 2015, the watchdog group Global Witness said on Monday.

The grisly toll is the largest recorded -- nearly 60 percent more than in 2014 -- since the NGO began tracking such violence worldwide in 2002, and is probably higher because many killings go unreported, it said in its annual report.

Brazil and the Philippines together accounted for nearly a third of the total, followed by Colombia, Peru, Nicaragua and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

2015 Was a Deadly Year for 
Environmental Activists
More than 40 murders were related to mining operations, according to the report.

Disputes over agribusiness, logging and dam projects also led to numerous killings.

"Communities that take a stand are increasingly finding themselves in the firing line of companies' private security, state forces and a thriving market for contract killers," Global Witness campaign leader Billy Kyte said in a statement.

"Governments must urgently intervene to stop this spiralling violence."

Indigenous people -- nearly 40 percent of the victims -- are frequent targets of land and resource grabs, often in collusion with corrupt local officials, he said.

The area on Mindanao in the Philippines inhabited by the Lumad people, for example, saw 25 killings last year alone, the highest death rate of any region monitored.

The Lumad homeland is rich in coal, nickel and gold.

In a particularly brazen attack, the father and grandfather of Filipino activist Michelle Campos were murdered in public for their stand against mining operations, Global Witness reported.

"We know the murderers -- they are still walking free in our community," Campos, who escaped harm, said in a statement.

In Brazil, the NGO said, the fight to save the Amazon is "increasingly a fight against criminal gangs who terrorise local populations at the behest of timber companies and the officials they have corrupted."

Thousands of unauthorised logging camps are scattered across Brazil's Amazon basin, where precious hardwoods -- mahogany, ebony, teak -- are cut and prepared for export.

A 2014 report from Chatham House estimates that 80 percent of timber coming from Brazil is illicit, accounting for a quarter of illegal wood on the global market.

"The murders that are going unpunished in remote mining villages or deep within rainforests are fuelled by the choices consumers are making on the other side of the world," Kyte said.

The top markets for precious woods are the United States, China and the European Union.

In early March this year, two masked men gunned down indigenous activist Berta Caceres, recipient of a prestigious international environmental prize for fighting a dam project in Honduras.

Last week, some 500 indigenous Lenca people held a protest in Honduran capital Tegucigalpa to demand an international probe into the murder.

One of five people arrested for Caceres' murder is a high-ranking employee of Desarrollos Energeticos (DESA), an electricity company involved in the construction of the hydro-electric dam against which she campaigned.