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. …

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Mexico arrests top drug cartel figure

Google – AFP, 30 January 2014

Mexican soldiers patrol during an operation to arrest cartel figure Ruben
 Oseguera Gonzalez, aka "el Menchito," in Guadalajara, Mexico on January 30,
2014 (AFP, Hector Guerrero)

Guadalajara — Security forces in Mexico arrested the alleged number two in a major drug cartel Thursday in a military sweep in Guadalajara, the country's second largest city, an official said.

The official, who asked not to be identified, identified the suspect as Ruben Oseguera Gonzalez, the son of the leader of the Jalisco New Generation cartel and considered the group's number two.

Backed by a helicopter, dozens of soldiers sealed streets and raided properties in the Zapopan section of Guadalajara, a city of 4.4 million people in western Mexico.

In apparent response, armed men set fire to at least three vehicles -- two buses and a milk truck -- in the south of the city, officials said.

"It's an operation against organized crime, an investigation we've been conducting. We have some people detained," a military commander who requested anonymity told AFP.

The cartel operates in the state of Jalisco, of which Guadalajara is the capital.

The neighboring state of Michoacan has been the scene of an unfolding showdown between the government, vigilante groups, and the Knights Templar cartel.

Panama releases 32 N. Koreans in arms case

Google – AFP, 30 January 2014

The North Korean cargo Chong Chon Gang at anchor in front of the Sherman
 Base near Colon, 120 km from Panama City, on November 27, 2013 (AFP/File,
Rodrigo Arangua)

Panama City — Panamanian authorities have released 32 of the 35 North Koreans detained since July after an undeclared cargo of Cuban arms was found on their ship, prosecutors said Thursday.

"On Tuesday, the organized crime office ordered the release of 32 crew members of the 'Chong Chon Gang,'" the prosecutor in the case Nahaniel Murgas told reporters, adding they were turned over to immigration authorities.

The remaining three North Koreans will go to trial on arms trafficking charges, Murgas said.
The North Korean freighter was stopped July 10 on suspicion of carrying drugs as it tried to enter the Panama Canal.

Instead, a search uncovered 25 containers of Cuban military hardware, including two Soviet-era MiG-21 aircraft, air defense systems, missiles and command and control vehicles.

Earlier this month, Panamanian officials said North Korea had agreed to pay a $666,000 fine for release of the crew and ship.

It was unclear whether North Korea had made that payment.

Authorities have said that crew members could face sentences of up to 12 years in prison if convicted of arms smuggling charges.

Both Havana and Pyongyang said the weapons aboard the freighter were obsolete Cuban arms being shipped to North Korea for refurbishment under a legitimate contract.

Panama, however, said the shipment violated the UN arms embargo against North Korea.

The UN has yet to make an official determination on the shipment.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Latin America, Caribbean proclaim 'zone of peace'

Google – AFP, 29 January 2014

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos (2-L) and Colombian Foreign
 Minister Maria Angela Holguin (L) attend the Second Summit of the Community
 of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), on January 29, 2014 in Havana
(AFP, Adalberto Roque)

Havana — Regional leaders declared a "zone of peace" in Latin America and the Caribbean Wednesday at a summit in Havana that also showcased Cuba's emergence from international isolation.

"I solemnly proclaim Latin America and the Caribbean as a 'zone of peace,'" Cuban President Raul Castro told representatives of 33 countries, not including the United States and Canada, which were not invited.

As part of the proclamation, the region's leaders pledged not to resort to force for the resolution of conflicts among them.

Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa (L)
 attends the Second Summit of the
Community of Latin American and
Caribbean States (CELAC), on January 29,
2014 in Havana (AFP, Adalberto Roque)
Although largely spared wars over the past century, border disputes abound in the region and many countries have suffered civil wars and bloody insurgencies fueled by Cold War rivalries.

Among the heads of state and government attending the summit were the presidents of Chile, Sebastian Pinera, and Peru's Ollanta Humala, whose countries this week received a World Court ruling on a longstanding maritime boundary dispute.

They were expected to meet on the sidelines of the summit for the first time since the ruling in the Hague.

The two-day summit was to close Wednesday with a "declaration of Havana" affirming the region's "unity within diversity."

"The creation of a common political space is of primordial importance to advance our objective of peace and respect among nations, in order to overcome natural barriers and those imposed on us," said Castro.

Cuba's communist regime received numerous expressions of solidarity during the summit and the final communique was expected to condemn the more than 50-year-old US trade embargo on the island.

Among those in attendance were the secretary general of the Organization of American States, a Washington-based regional security group that expelled Cuba in 1962 but reinstated it in 2009. Also taking part was UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

Castro has taken strides to open Cuba's Soviet-style state-controlled economy, but the regime brooks no political opposition.

Cuban rights groups reported more than 100 dissidents were taken in for questioning to prevent their meeting during the summit.

Unlike previous international gatherings in Havana, none of the presidents attending the summit sought to meet with dissidents, although the Costa Rican embassy received a visit from a delegation led by a prominent dissident, Elizardo Sanchez.

Ban on Tuesday said he raised the problem of "arbitrary arrests" with Castro.

Cuba also used the summit to pay homage to the late Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, who was a driving force behind the Community of Caribbean and Latin American States. Castro is to turn over the rotating presidency of the group to Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla.

Related Articles:

 "The End of History"- Nov 20, 2010 (Kryon channeled by Lee Carroll)

“.... South America and the New Energy 

South America is starting to consider the same thing. My partner was just there and I allowed him to see the energy of the potential future in that land.

I would like to paint history for you regarding South America. There was a time when every single country had a dictator. Less than 15 years ago, they had failing economies and currencies that were worthless. Trouble and strife and killings were the norm. Marauding drug lords openly killed in the streets and corruption was everywhere. Even the politicians created fear and many disappeared overnight, never to be seen again. Today it isn't that way. Today, there is an ongoing stability as one country after another brings a new, positive, stable energy to their cultures. So, without a concentrated effort by any kind of multi-national leadership or direction, how could this have changed in only 15 years?

Within the entire continent, there's only one dictator left. What's happening? If you think that's amazing, there is a move afoot that you're not going to hear about yet. But they're discussing it right now, so let me tell you what they're thinking. "What would happen if we took these countries and eliminated the borders?" Sound familiar? They're talking about it. In back rooms where nobody is reporting it, they're saying, "What about a plan of eventually having one currency from the top of Columbia to the bottom of Chile? And we would be strong and we would be unified." And dear ones, I'm here to tell you, that it's going to work, and it might not take 50 years. Soon the one dictator will be gone, and the unification can begin.. Read More …. "The End of History"- Nov 20, 2010 (Kryon channeled by Lee Carroll) ‘…”

"Recalibration of Knowledge" – Jan 14, 2012 (Kryon channelled by Lee Carroll) - (Subjects: Channelling, God-Creator, Benevolent Design, New Energy, Shift of Human Consciousness, (Old) SoulsReincarnation, Gaia, Old Energies (Africa, Terrorists, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Venezuela ... ), Weather, Rejuvenation, Akash, Nicolas Tesla / Einstein, Cold Fusion, Magnetics, Lemuria, Atomic Structure (Electrons, Particles, Polarity, Self Balancing, Magnetism), Entanglement, "Life is necessary for a Universe to exist and not the other way around", DNA, Humans (Baby getting ready, First Breath, Stem Cells, Embryonic Stem Cells, Rejuvenation), Global Unity, ... etc.) (Text Version)

“…  I want you to watch some countries. I don't have a clock [this statement is Kryon telling us that there is no time frame on his side of the veil, only potentials]. I'll just tell you, it's imminent [in Spirit's timing, this could mean as soon as a decade]. I want you to watch some countries carefully for changes. You're going to be seeing changes that are obvious, and some that are not obvious [covert or assumptive]. But the obvious ones you will see sooner than not - Cuba, Korea [North]Iran, of course, and Venezuela. I want you to watch what happens when they start to realize that they don't have any more allies on Earth! Even their brothers who used to support them in their hatred of some are saying, "Well, perhaps not anymore. It doesn't seem to be supporting us anymore. "Watch the synchronicities that are occurring. The leaders who have either died or are going to in the next year or so will take with them the old ways. Watch what happens to those who take their place, and remember these meetings where I described these potentials to you. …”

Salvadoran ex-president 'tries to flee' amid graft probe

Google – AFP, 29 January 2014

Former Salvadorean president (1999-2004) Francisco Flores (R) answers
 questions before Congress in San Salvador, El Salvador on January 7, 2014,
 during a special investigation into the disappearance of a $10 million donation 
made by Taiwan (AFP/File, Jose Cabezas)

San Salvador — El Salvador's ex-president Francisco Flores, who is under investigation over alleged misuse of $10 million donated by Taiwan, tried to flee the country for Guatemala, President Mauricio Funes said.

"At 11:00 am, ex-president Flores tried to leave the country on a bus (at the) La Hachadura crossing and he had gone through immigration... seeking to flee from justice," he told a press conference.

"We made him come back because he had not reported his departure, in other words he was hiding there; only the driver had reported he was there," the president said, adding Flores was supposed to appear Tuesday before lawmakers investigating the donation case.

Funes recently alleged that three cheques -- for $1 million, $4 million and $5 million -- were issued by the Bank of New York, on behalf of Taiwan, and endorsed by Flores.

But Flores denied the accusation and appeared before a congressional committee to say so. He denied any wrongdoing.

The cheques were received by a branch of Banco Cuscatlan in Costa Rica and sent to a bank in the Bahamas, through another bank in Miami, Funes said.

Taiwan donated the money to El Salvador in the waning months of Flores's presidency, between 2003 and 2004, said the president.

"If his conscience is clean, if he didn't do anything with that $10 million, then why is (Flores) sneaking out of the country at the Hachadura border crossing?" Funes asked.

Flores said he had personal business in Guatemala but turned back at the border.

"I did not leave the country. I did not hide. I decided at the border not to attend the meeting I had in Guatemala and I came back. That's why I am here before you," he told an investigative commission in Congress.

He insisted he made no personal use of the money.

Flores maintains that he accepted the money but did nothing inappropriate, passing it on through the proper channels.

Flores has told investigators he did not receive the funds from Taiwan for a government cooperation account. He said he received them on a personal basis from the president of Taiwan.

These contributions were "normal," said Flores, and that Taiwan for years had been giving them to countries that recognized the island diplomatically.

Just 22 countries, most in Central America and the Caribbean, recognize Taiwan diplomatically. China regards Taiwan as a rebel island awaiting reunification with the mainland.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Mexican forces catch notorious drugs cartel leader El Tío

Arrest comes as authorities sign deal that paves way for vigilante groups to become rural police

The Guardian, Jo Tuckman in Mexico City, Tuesday 28 January 2014

A picture of drug kingpin Dionisio Loya Plancarte on a screen during an interior
ministry press conference in Mexico City. Photograph: Tomas Bravo/Reuters

Mexican federal forces have detained one of the top four leaders of the Cabelleros Templarios, or Knights Templar, drug cartel in the western state of Michoacán on the same day as the authorities announced a deal that effectively legalises vigilante groups formed to battle the criminal group.

Dionisio Loya Plancarte was captured in the state capital of Morelia along with an unnamed 16-year-old. Senior security official Monte Alejandro Rubido said: "Upon the arrival of the federal forces, Loya Plancarte hid in a closet."

Local press reported that Plancarte, who carried a 30 million peso (£1.5m) reward on his head, was flown to Mexico City for questioning. He is reportedly the uncle of another major Caballeros leader, Enrique Plancarte, which would account for his alias of El Tío or The Uncle.

Loya Plancarte's capture took place two weeks into a major federal offensive in the cartel's heartland of the Tierra Caliente region of Michoacán where it had established a de facto regime of terror, backing rampant extortion and kidnapping rackets that affected everything from running methamphetamines produced in hidden labs to the price of tortillas.

The region had appeared to be on the verge of civil war after vigilantes launched a drive to expel the cartel from the area.

The vigilantes have always claimed they rose up in arms to defend themselves because the cartel operated with the near total complicity of many local authorities.

At first, the soldiers sent to the area to calm the situation sought to disarm the militias, but the government quickly changed tack when it became clear the vigilantes would not give up their considerable arsenals until they were convinced that the government was finally determined to dismantle the cartel.

Negotiations culminated on Monday with the signing of an agreement between the authorities and vigilante leaders foreseeing their transformation into "rural police".

A statement released by the interior ministry described the agreement as "the integration of citizen groups into institutional life". It requires the vigilantes to provide a detailed list of members to be vetted by the army and register all their weapons.

The deal commits the authorities to providing the new rural police with "the necessary tools for their communication, movement and operation."

The signing ceremony was held in the small town of Tecapaltepec where the vigilante movement started on 24 February 2013. The movement grew steadily, but many Caballeros bastions remained, most importantly the regional capital of Apatzingan. The current crisis was triggered after the vigilantes began to advance on the city, occupying outlying towns and seemingly preparing a final assault.

Vigilante leaders at the signing ceremony welcomed the arrest of Loya Plancarte who came to prominence as a leader of the La Familia cartel that was based in the same region. La Familia, which split in 2010, with the Caballeros Templarios becoming the most powerful group to emerge from the division.

Loya Plancarte reportedly played a particularly important role in cartel propaganda, by handing out largesse and promoting the group on social media.

Like other Caballeros leaders, he accused the vigilantes of being a front for an attempted incursion by another cartel known as the New Generation Jalisco Cartel, which they vehemently deny.

In one YouTube video, he directly challenged vigilante leader Hipólito Mora to a "duel to the death."

Monday, January 27, 2014

UN court draws Peru-Chile sea border to end fisheries dispute

Deutsche Welle, 27 January 2014

The UN's highest court has created a new maritime boundary between Peru and Chile, ending a long-running dispute over fish-rich sea. Peru was handed a chunk of Pacific Ocean but Chile kept valuable coastal fishing areas.

The ruling by the Hague-based International Court of Justice draws a line over which country owns some 38,000 square kilometers (14,670 square miles) of ocean in a zone extending to the boundaries of each country's territorial waters.

The UN court's verdict, read out by its president, Peter Tomka, is considered a compromise between the positions of both countries on how the border should be delineated. The zone includes one of the world's richest fishing areas, with an annual catch estimated by the Peruvian government to be worth $200 million (146 million euros).

Tomka confirmed Chile's sovereignty over waters up to 80 nautical miles (92 land miles, 148 kilometers) from the coast, but the verdict significantly enlarges Peru's sovereignty over waters previously held by Chile - a large chunk of ocean beyond that point.

The Peruvian government had brought the case before the court. In Lima, Peruvian supporters watched the final ruling being read out on a television screen in the yard of the Government Palace [seen above].

Nelson Manrique, a Peruvian historian and columnist, told the AP news agency the decision was an "intelligent verdict" that was "not going to please anyone but it's also not going to bring anyone to fits."

Verdict implications

Chile had feared that some 2,000 of its fisherman could lose their jobs if the verdict had gone Peru's way. The bulk of the catch in the formerly disputed zone is an anchovy species that is mostly converted into fish meal, which is used in animal feed and fertilizers.

Peru and Chile are the world's top two exporters of fish meal.

jr/ipj (AP, AFP, Reuters)

Dozens of dissidents arrested in Cuba as major summit looms

Google – AFP, Carlos Batista (AFP), 27 January 2014

A man works during preparations at the complex where the CELAC
summit will be held, in Havana on January 18, 2014 (AFP/File, Yamil Lage)

Havana — Dozens of dissidents have been detained in a "wave of political repression" ahead of a major international summit in Cuba, activists said Sunday.

The Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) summit hosting heads of state from across the region provides opportunities for dissidents in the Americas' only one-party Communist-ruled state to try to raise their profiles, and seek world leaders' ears.

"The government is carrying out a wave of political repression ahead of the summit" in Havana that ends Wednesday, warned dissident Elizardo Sanchez.

One dissident who planned to attend an event on the summit's sidelines, Jose Daniel Ferrer, was arrested Friday after meeting with European diplomats, Sanchez said.

Cuban dissident Guillermo Farinas on 
July 3, 2013 during a ceremony to receive
 the 2010 Sakharov prize in Strasbourg
(AFP/File, Frederick Florin)
"As of now, he is technically missing. No one knows where he is," said Sanchez, who heads the outlawed Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation.

Dissident Guillermo Farinas said he has been placed under house arrest to keep him from taking part in an opposition forum on the summit sidelines.

"Today is the third day they won't let me go out," Farinas told AFP by telephone from his home in Santa Clara, 280 kilometers (174 miles) east of Havana.

"There is a police operative who stays a block away from my house during the day but is in front of it at night," he said.

Farinas, who was awarded the European parliament's Sakharov prize in 2010, is a veteran of hunger strikes seeking political opening on the communist-ruled island.

The 52-year-old psychologist said he had planned to take part in a "democratic forum about international relations and human rights" that Cuban dissidents have called for Tuesday in Havana.

The meeting is timed to coincide with the opening of the two-day CELAC summit. The organization counts 33 members.

And the higher-profile dissident group Ladies in White, made up of political prisoners' relatives, said that as many as 100 of its members have been arrested to keep them from taking part in the dissident forum.

The Ladies in White, who won the 2005 Sakharov prize, were out on the streets in Havana marching as they do each week.

Police strength had been boosted discreetly but 56 of the group's members marched on Fifth Avenue, calling for political opening after mass.

"More than 100 members of the Ladies in White have been called in by the police since Friday, taken to police stations," said Ladies in White leader Berta Soler.

"They have been threatened, warned by the force of repression, State Security, that today Sunday, they should not be here on Fifth Avenue.

"The people who are not here (marching), are all being detained," she added.

The Ladies in White are the only group whose demonstrations are approved by the government. President Raul Castro, 82, agreed to the arrangement in 2010 with mediation from the Roman Catholic church.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon gets a haircut at a barber
shop in Old Havana, Cuba (AFP)

Related Article:

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Colombia's Medellin rides cable car to a better future

Google – AFP, Ariela Navarro (AFP), 25 January 2014

Picture showing the Metrocable cable railway in Santo Domingo neighbourhood
 in Medellin, Antioquia department, Colombia, on January 5, 2014 (AFP/File,
Fredy Amariles Garcia)

Medellín — Medellin's "cable car of the poor," soaring over the slums of Colombia's second largest city, has revolutionized this former drug lord fiefdom and inspired other violent Latin American cities.

The city of 2.5 million, long considered one of the most dangerous places on the planet, has seen crime rates fall and neighborhood life return thanks to new public services in some of its poorest areas.

At the center of the strategy to reclaim the slums is a transportation system that now includes subways, the cable car, hillside escalators and even public libraries at metro stations.

Picture showing the Metrocable cable
 railway in Santo Domingo neighbourhood
 in Medellin, Antioquia department,
 Colombia, on January 5, 2014 (AFP/
File, Fredy Amariles Garcia)
It "creates a sense of belonging," said Juliana Correa, communications director for the Metro de Medellin.

"Before, the people of the hillside slums would say, 'I'm going down to Medellin.' Now they feel part of the city," he said.

At the Acevedo station, where the subway and Metrocable meet, a huge library welcomes residents from the gritty neighborhoods surrounding it -- and also tourists who ride the cable car for the spectacular birds eye views of the city.

"This was a very violent neighborhood, not that busy, so there was no transportation," Luz Valdes, at a small grocery store just outside the station, told AFP.

"Now there are many jobs and many tourists from far away visit the neighborhood because it's very nice with the Metrocable and library."

'Dark, long night'

It is all a far cry from just a few years ago.

Medellin went through "a dark, long and painful night", the mayor, Anibal Gaviria, told AFP, referring to the 1990s, when the drug lord Pablo Escobar unleashed a wave of violence.

Then, the city had a startling homicide rate of 380 per 100,000 inhabitants and the dubious distinction of being known as the murder capital of the world.

Last year, the murder rate was 10 times lower according to the mayor. Other studies support the claim that there has been a sharp drop in violence.

To change the dynamic local governments have employed a kind of "urban acupuncture," bringing to bear a welter of programs designed to reach long neglected shantytowns.

With an $88 million budget in 2014, the plan provides transportation at critical points and promotes education, culture, health and the deployment of security forces.

People chat next to a section of the
covered outdoor escalators at Comuna
13, one of the poorest neighbourhoods
of Medellin, Antioquia department,
Colombia, on January 5, 2014 (AFP/
File, Fredy Amariles Garcia)
The Metrocable opened in 2004, and the subway system has also added on a bicycle rental service.

But the most striking initiative is a system of outdoor escalators that has served Comuna 13, one of the poorest and most violent areas in Medellin, since December 2011.

Instead of trudging up 350 concrete steps, residents take escalators now.

"Projects such as the Metrocable, the metro, the escalators and the libraries imply the presence of the state in places in the city that had been abandoned," Gaviria said.

'Cable car of the poor'

None of this is to say that Medellin does not still have considerable problems. In Comuna 1, which is served by a cable car, gangs maintain a discreet presence.

But Ferney Navarro, a resident of 32 years, told AFP: "There is more control from the authorities.

A man walks with his mules past the
 Metrocable cable railway station in
 San Javier neighbourhood in Medellin,
 Antioquia department, Colombia, on 
January 5, 2014 (AFP/File, Fredy
Amariles Garcia)
"Seeing so many tourists coming, the government has had to tighten control. Before we were totally abandoned, but now we have more protection."

A study by Columbia University in the United States found the homicide rate in the slums of Medellin where Metrocable serves dropped by 66 percent between 2003 and 2008.

This decrease coincides with a sharp drop in homicides in Colombia -- from 78 per 100,000 population in 1991 to 32 in 2012.

The rate, however, remains well above the Latin American average of 15.6 , according to the Organization of American States.

A secret of Medellin's success has been its ability to adapt initiatives that have worked elsewhere in the world.

At the same time, the city has become "an inspiration for other cities living difficult times," said the mayor.

Thus the Metrocable -- "the cable car of the poor" -- has been replicated in Curitiba, in southern Brazil, and Caracas, capital of Venezuela.

Since 2010 in San Agustin del Sur, in the west of Caracas, a Metrocable carries more than 40,000 people a day on a nine-minute ride from the foot of a mountain to the populous neighborhoods overhead.

That initiative's success led Venezuelan authorities to begin building another cable car serving Mariche neighborhood in February 2012.

Another is scheduled for December this year for Petare, the largest slum in the Venezuelan capital and one of the most overcrowded in Latin America.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Argentina lifts restrictions on buying foreign currency

Google – AFP, 24 January 2014

People queue in front of a foreign exchange shop in Buenos Aires, Argentina,
on March 22, 2002 (AFP/File, Ali Burafi)

Buenos Aires — Argentina on Friday lifted restrictions in place since 2011 that limited the purchase of foreign currency, a day after the peso suffered its worst single-day dive since the 2002 financial crisis.

The government has decided "to authorize the purchase of dollars for holding or savings," said Jorge Capitanich, President Cristina Kirchner's cabinet chief.

The restrictions had always been temporary and had served their purpose, said Capitanich, adding that the change would take effect beginning Monday.

He added that at a rate of 8.01 pesos to the dollar, the peso "has reached a level acceptable to the objectives of economic policy convergence".

The peso plunged by more than 11 percent against the dollar on Thursday.

The move came with the Argentina in the throes of a major economic crisis, amid growing capital flight and a currency whose value so far this year has plummeted by nearly 19 percent.

Earlier this week, the government moved to cut back spending abroad by Argentinians, to stem the drain on reserves.

The government restricted purchases from abroad made over the Internet to two a year, at a maximum value of $25 each, above which it would impose a 50 percent tax.

The Central Bank of Argentina had rigidly managed the official exchange rate over the past several years.

But that has had a steep cost to foreign exchange reserves, which have dwindled to $29 billion currently from $52 billion in 2011 -- at a time when most developing countries have been able to pile up reserves on strong capital inflows.

Despite the central bank intervention, the peso has slid steadily since last year.

And after spending about $120 million to shore it up on Tuesday, the bank appeared to abandon those efforts to protect its stockpile of dollars.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

China's cash haven in the British Virgin islands – the key points

Some of the offshore financial secrets of the Chinese ruling class have been revealed in leaked documents

The Guardian, Matthew Weaver, Wednesday 22 January 2014

Tortola, in the British Virgin Islands. Photograph: Neil Rabinowitz/Corbis

Leaked documents contained in more than 200GB of data shared with Guardian expose the extent to which China's political elite is using secret firms based in the British Virgin Islands. Here are the main revelations:

1. More than a dozen relatives of China's most senior political and military leaders use companies based in the offshore tax haven of the British Virgin Islands. They include the brother-in-law of the China's president Xi Jinping; the son and son-in-law of the former president Wen Jiabao; and the daughter of the former premier Li Ping.

2. Leading western banks and accountancy firms, including PriceWaterhousecoopers (PwC), Credit Suisse and UBS, played a central role in establishing the companies. UBS, for example, helped incorporate more than 325 offshore institutions from China, Hong Kong or Taiwan, while PwC helped established at least 274. Companies involved insisted the activities were legal but refused to discuss the details, citing client confidentiality.

3. The documents, which relate to only two firms in the British Virgin Islands, show that 21,000 clients from mainland China and Hong Kong have made use of offshore havens in the Caribbean. The disclosures illustrates the scale of recent wealth amassed by China's ruling elite.

4. The documents relate to the incorporation and ownership of the legal offshore companies and provide virtually no information on their business activities. They highlight the lack of accountability in financial and tax affairs, as officials and their families have no obligation to issue public financial disclosures.

5. One of the companies helped obscure links between the consultancy firm Fullmark Consultants – which is currently under investigation by the US authorities – and Wen's daughter Lily Chang. The documents show the company was set up by Chang's husband before nominal ownership was switched to a friend of the Wen family.

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