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.)


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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

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.
"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. …

Saturday, December 30, 2017

2018: A big year for Latin America elections

Yahoo – AFP, Tupac POINTU, 29 December 2017

The election in Chile of conservative Sebastian Pinera December 17 is part
of a tilt to the right in Latin American politics

Next year will be a big election year for Latin America, a region where democracy in many countries is only decades young, and where the shadow of corruption stretches wide and long.

Half of the population across the region is being called to cast ballots.

Here are the main points of note concerning the polls in regional economic heavyweights Brazil and Mexico, as well a newly pacified Colombia and troubled Venezuela.

Corruption: the roots of wrath

The Odebrecht scandal, an affair of tentacular graft involving a Brazilian construction firm that is alleged to have paid millions of dollars in bribes to Latin American government officials to secure juicy public contracts, has rocked the region.

It has led to Ecuador's vice president being imprisoned for six years, and last week nearly resulted in Peru's president being impeached.

But the scandal is just part of a much bigger picture of corruption, according to Gaspard Estrada, director of an Observatory of Latin America at Paris's Sciences-Po institute.

A corruption scandal involving Brazilian contractor Odebrecht is roiling politics in
Latin American countries like Peru where President Pedro Pablo Kuczynchi barely
escaped impeachment over graft allegations

"Corruption phenomena are deeply rooted in the region, and persist," he said.

"This will have an impact on the next political cycle," said Fiona Mackie, in charge of Latin America for The Economist Intelligence Unit. The Odebrecht scandal, she added, "is really shaking up the political scene."

The disheartening multiple cases of embezzlement and personal enrichment by officials in region has engendered "an impatience now in the electors, because they are so fed up," Mackie said.

"Elections in Brazil, Colombia, and Mexico will be dominated by voter anger against the political establishment and demand for change, making them hard to predict and opening up room for negative surprises," the Eurasia consulting firm said in a recent report.

"Candidates that better capture this sentiment will be the most competitive, and the risk of negative surprises is high," as attested to by an unexpected surge for the left in a recent Chilean presidential election, the report said.

That "should serve as a reminder not to underestimate voter frustration," it said.

Outsiders like right-wing soldier-turned-politician Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil have 
gotten a lift from a wave of public disgust with corruption-tainted political elites

A boon for outsiders

The electoral landscape in Latin America in 2018 is dotted with an increasing number of candidates from outside the political system.

This can be put down to public disgust over the many instances of graft that has "disqualified the traditional political class," Estrada said.

He deplored a regional "leadership crisis" and feared political outsiders would fuel discourse that undermines democracy, as in Brazil where an extreme-right soldier-turned-politician, Jair Bolsonaro, has emerged as a contender.

Some traditional politicians were presenting themselves as outsiders "because that's a good thing to do in term of popularity, but they are insiders," Mackie said.

"An outsider needs to ally with a party that has a machinery. You need to have a political movement behind you," she added.

Eurasia said Mexico "is headed towards its most uncertain and consequential elections in decades on 1 July."

A leftwing candidate, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, appears best placed for a win right now, it said.

A former mayor of Mexico City, Lopez Obrador is aiming for the presidency after a long political career. He has spurned the traditional leftwing PRD party to start the Movement for National Regeneration, known as Morena.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, seen here at an event in Cuba this month,
 leads the country with the region's worst economic crisis but analysts predict he will
win re-election next year in a tightly controlled process

Tilt to the right

The victory of conservative billionaire Sebastian Pinera as president-elect in Chile after a mid-December runoff has confirmed a general right-leaning tilt to the region, building on the stewardship of Mauricio Macri in Argentina, Michel Temer in Brazil and Pedro Pablo Kuczynski in Peru.

But for Estrada, "it's not really a question of left or right -- it's just the government that had been in place, on the left, had flagged, which encouraged the parties on the right. What happened was a phenomenon of alternation."

More than political labels, 2018 will be decided by economic issues "because the economy is doing badly," he said.

"With a few notable exceptions, the policy and economic outlook for Latin America looks set to continue improving in 2018," Eurasia's report said.

But political dynamics could determine whether that "positive trend slows or, in some countries, is derailed," it said.

Eurasia predicted that in Venezuela, the Latin American country with the most severe economic problems, President Nicolas Maduro "will likely remain in office and win the presidential election in a tightly controlled process."

But, it added: "The government will also likely stumble into default, further complicating an already bleak economic outlook."


Mayas mark the 21th anniversary of the end of the civil war in Guatemala, praying for a "true peace" after a conflict that left more than 200,000 dead and missing between 1960 and 1996

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

'Forgive me,' ex-Peru leader Fujimori says after pardon protests

Yahoo – AFP, Carlos MANDUJANO, Francisco JARA, 26 December 2017

Protesters in Lima holding posters showing the victims of ex-Peruvian president
Alberto Fujimori, who was granted a pardon by current President Pedro Pablo
Kuczynski over Christmas

Peru's ailing former leader Alberto Fujimori on Tuesday asked the public for forgiveness, two days after receiving a presidential pardon that sparked street protests.

"I am aware that the results of my government were well received on one side, but I admit that I have let down other compatriots, and I ask them to forgive me with all my heart," Fujimori said in a Facebook video filmed from his hospital bed.

The 79-year-old had been serving a 25-year sentence for corruption and human rights abuses committed during his time in office from 1990 to 2000.

He was transferred from prison to a hospital on Saturday after suffering from low blood pressure and an irregular heartbeat, the latest in a string of hospitalizations.

In the video, Fujimori lay propped up on a hospital bed wearing a white gown, with a blood pressure cuff on his right arm and another monitor clasped to his left index finger. He talked over the constant background beeping of a monitoring device.

He said the pardon "took me by surprise" and provoked "a mix of feelings -- great joy and sorrow."

President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski ordered the pardon of Fujimori and seven other prisoners Sunday on humanitarian grounds, placing himself in the middle of a political crisis just days after he avoided impeachment.

A supporter of Peru's ex-president Alberto Fujimori gathers with others outside 
the Lima hospital where he was admitted, before being pardoned

The move set off street protests in Lima, and police fired tear gas and clashed with demonstrators who marched Monday against the pardon and demanding that Kuczynski step down.

The president defended his decision in a televised message to the nation.

"I am convinced that those of us who feel democratic should not allow Alberto Fujimori to die in prison, because justice is not revenge," Kuczynski said in his address Monday night.

"It is about the health and chances of life of a former president of Peru who, having committed excesses and grave errors, was sentenced and has already completed 12 years" in prison, he said.

Anti-riot police deployed to prevent demonstrators from heading to the clinic where Fujimori is hospitalized, firing tear gas canisters and erecting barricades to disperse them.

"Out, out PPK! Out, out PPK!" demonstrators chanted in reference to the current president, who had promised during his electoral campaign last year that he would not free Fujimori.

"Fujimori, murderer and thief. No to the pardon!" read a sign held by the protesters, some of whom also carried a giant Peruvian flag.

Relatives of victims of Fujimori's brutal rule took part in the march.

"We are here as relatives to reject this illegal pardon, because it does not correspond to the gravity of the crimes," Gisella Ortiz, from a group of victims' families, told reporters.

Peru's president Alberto Fujimori hands a weapon to a man in 1991 for use in
the battle against the Shining Path leftist rebels

A 'vulgar' process

The pardon from Kuczynski came after Fujimori's son Kenji drained votes away from a parliamentary bid Thursday to impeach Kuczynski on suspicion of corruption, sparking speculation the pardon was political.

"The president's word is totally devalued and he will not be supported again," political analyst Arturo Maldonado told El Comercio newspaper.

"Instead of reaffirming that in a state of law there is no special treatment for anyone, the idea that the liberation was a vulgar political negotiation in exchange for keeping Pedro Pablo Kuczynski in power will remain forever."

A doctor at the Centenario Clinic, Alejandro Aguinaga, told reporters that Fujimori's condition was "delicate" and there was no prospect of his leaving soon from the facility where he is in intensive care.

The former leader has spent more than a decade imprisoned for ruthlessly cracking down on political rivals and for ordering dozens of murders and overseeing other brutal tactics.

Despite his conviction for human rights abuses, however, Fujimori retains a level of popularity in Peru for having defeated left-wing guerrillas and for stabilizing the economy after a period of crisis.

That dichotomy has come to the fore with the pardon: dozens of supporters have gathered in front of the hospital caring for him, while opponents demonstrated in Lima against him.

Fujimori's daughter Keiko, a congresswoman who was narrowly beaten to the presidency by Kuczynski in elections last year, hailed her father's pardon as "a great day for my family and for Fujimorists -- finally my father is free."





Saturday, December 23, 2017

Brazilian president's pardons ignite corruption row

Yahoo – AFP, 23 December 2017

Brazilian president's pardons ignite corruption row

President Michel Temer was accused Saturday of handing Brazilians convicted of corruption a get out of jail card with changes to the traditional collective Christmas pardon.

Temer, who has been charged with corruption himself, issued the annual decree Friday, expanding the categories of prisoners eligible for early release.

The main shift was to lift the previous exclusion on all those serving sentences of more than 12 years. Under Temer's changes, the length of sentence no longer matters and a prisoner also needs only to have served 20 percent of the sentence to qualify, rather than 25 percent as under the previous rules.

"It's a Christmas party for the corrupt," lashed out Deltan Dallagnol, one of the chief prosecutors in operation "Car Wash," as the biggest anti-corruption probe in Brazilian history is known.

"Practice corruption with only 20 percent of the consequences," he said on Facebook.

Dallagnol referred to the case of construction tycoon Marcelo Odebrecht who was released this week into house arrest as part of a steep reduction of his sentence in exchange for providing devastating testimony to "Car Wash" investigators.

Originally, Odebrecht had been sentenced to more than 19 years in prison, but saw that cut to 10 years, with only two and a half behind bars and a transfer now to his luxury Sao Paulo house.

His testimony and that of fellow company executives was used to go after scores of politicians who allegedly took bribes.

Temer's decree will undermine prosecutors' bargaining power in such cases, Dallagnol said.

"If Marcelo Odebrecht could have seen this Christmas pardon from President Temer, he'd never have struck a plea bargain!" Dallagnol tweeted.

"Open season for corruption continues. They defraud bids. They embezzle from health, education and security! Come, steal, and head off!! That's the message."

Accused of corruption, Temer is the first sitting president to face criminal charges. Congress, where many members are also facing corruption probes, twice voted against putting him on trial.

Responding to the outcry, Justice Minister Torquato Jardim held a press conference in the capital Brasilia Saturday, telling journalists that Temer's expansion of the pardons was done for completely different reasons.

"The prisons are overcrowded. That is a reality we cannot ignore. Those who will be let out did not commit heinous crimes and are not considered serious threats," the Correio Braziliense newspaper quoted him as saying. 

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Raul Castro to step down as Cuba's president in April 2018

Yahoo – AFP, December 21, 2017

Cuban President Raul Castro (R) will stay on a couple of months later than
planned, stepping down in April 2018 (AFP Photo)

Havana (AFP) - Cuban President Raul Castro will step down in April 2018 straight after his successor is chosen by a top governing council, according to a vote Thursday in the island state's National Assembly.

The vote by lawmakers pushed back the date of general elections, which were initially to be held at the end of February. The delay was necessary due to disruption caused by Hurricane Irma, which ravaged much of Cuba in September.

It means that Castro, 86, will stay on a couple of months later than planned.

The modification to Cuba's election calendar means general elections choosing the National Assembly's 600 members will be moved to a date yet to be decided.

Cuba's president is not directly elected by the people, but by the Council of State which is chosen by the National Assembly.

The lawmakers' election of the Council of State posts -- including that of its president, who will also be the president of Cuba, replacing Raul Castro -- was set for April 19.

The National Assembly session deciding these changes was closed to international media.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Chile swings back to right as billionaire returns to power

Yahoo – AFP, Paulina ABRAMOVICH, 18 December 2017

El chileno Sebastian Piñera (C), celebra junto a su familia y partidarios la victoria
presidencial en el exterior de un hotel de Santiago de Chile, el 17 de diciembre de 2017

Chile's political landscape once again swung back from left to right, after billionaire businessman Sebastian Pinera beat an independent backed by outgoing center-leftist President Michelle Bachelet.

The latest swing of the political pendulum came as Pinera, who ran the South American copper giant from 2010-2014, beat Alejandro Guillier, a 64-year-old TV presenter turned senator who ran as an independent backed by Bachelet.

Bachelet and Pinera had tag-teamed the presidency since she first took office in 2006, but the constitution prohibited her from seeking a third term.

Pinera, 68, won 54 percent of the vote in Sunday's run-off, a resounding win after a shaky performance in the first round of voting in November.

"We have suffered a tough defeat," Guillier said after conceding. He had called for the anti-Pinera opposition to unite after the first round and defend reforms launched by Bachelet, a center-left leader.

Guillier failed, however, to rally far-left supporters who had voted for journalist Beatriz Sanchez in the first round, when she won 20 percent of the vote to his 22 percent.

Pinera meanwhile managed to woo an additional 1.4 million voters after his lackluster 37 percent in the first round, as Chileans appeared to have seen him as a safe pair of hands at a time when GDP growth has been sluggish in comparison with previous years.

"Pinera's triumph by the margin he achieved was surprising," said political analyst Guillermo Holzmann.

Pinera, whose next four-year term will begin in March 2018, had breakfast on Monday with Bachelet at his house, in line with the country's political tradition.

Pragmatic vote

"For voters, this wasn't an ideological choice between right and left," said Holzmann. "It was a pragmatic vote. They voted for whoever gave them the greatest sense of certainty."

Pinera managed to win 13 out of the country's 15 regions, including Antofagasta, where Guillier serves as senator.

Biografía del expresidente chileno Sebastián Piñera, ganador 
del balotaje de las elecciones presidenciales

He succeeded in capturing the votes of those fearful of a swing further to the left, comparing Guillier to Venezuela's Socialist leader Nicolas Maduro.

Riding a wave of elections in recent years that have seen leftists ousted in Argentina, Brazil and Peru, Pinera also tapped into a deeply conservative tranche of Chilean society upset at Bachelet's support for same-sex marriage and abortion.

At the same time, he performed a U-turn by promising to maintain Bachelet's policy of free university education, despite having earlier declared "free things mean less commitment."

"I am going to be a unity president, a president for all Chileans and a president for work... for progress, and of course for the middle class and all the regions of our country," a joyful Pinera told a victory rally in central Santiago.

"Chile is saved, Chile is saved!", chanted a thousand or so supporters who had gathered to celebrate the second victory of the business magnate, whose wealth is estimated at around $2.7 billion.

"It was the best thing that could happen to us," said 43-year-old security guard Mauricio Vega. "We lived better under Pinera and now we will return to a better life, wand have work."

That confidence was reflected in Chile's ISPA stock market, which opened Monday 6.2 percent higher and within minutes had gained 7.55 percent, nudging the 5,600 mark.

Pinera has outlined an ambitious program that includes adding Chile to the list of developed countries by the year 2025, creating 700,000 jobs and stabilizing the public debt, which is currently at 23.8 percent of GDP.

He has also vowed to lower the corporate tax rate from 27 percent to 25 percent and reform the pension system.

The future of reforms

That optimism was counterbalanced by concerns among opposition supporters over the future of Bachelet's social reforms.

"I'm furious and worried. Those who were supposed to vote didn't," said Maria Salome, a 71-year-old street vendor. "I'm really angry because they are getting what they want, and the right wants a people with no education so it is easier for them to do whatever they want with us."

But the make-up of the new Congress means that Pinera will need to cut deals with the new opposition. His coalition has 55 seats in the 155-member Chamber of Deputies. The left is split into two factions -- the Broad Front, a far-left grouping, has 20 seats, while the New Majority has 43.

"We have to be more critical of ourselves. We have suffered a tough defeat," said Guillier. "And there are more lessons to be learned in a defeat -- we have to lift our spirits and get out there and defend the reforms that we believe in."

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Vatican returns shrunken 'warrior' head to Ecuador

Yahoo – AFP, 16 December 2017

It is very rare for a historical artifact to be returned by the Vatican museums,
which boast one of the largest collections of art and archaeology in the world

The Vatican museum has returned a shrunken head to Ecuador, relinquishing the wizened cranium of an Amazon warrior nearly 100 years after it was taken by a missionary.

The grisly body part -- which belonged to the Shuar indigenous people -- was handed over during Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno's visit to Pope Francis on Saturday after months of negotiations, the Vatican said.

It is very rare for a historical artifact to be returned by the Vatican museums, which boast one of the largest collections of art and archaeology in the world.

The fist-sized capitulum, which never went on show, is believed to have been a war trophy for the Shuar, who mummified and kept the heads of their warrior enemies, as well as their heroes.

The Shuar are still one of the most important ethnic groups in the Amazon region. In recent years they have hit the headlines for attempting to resist government-authorised large-scale mining on land they claim as their own.

They used to be best known in the West for their shrunken heads -- called "tsantsa".

Removing the skull, boiling the flesh then sowing up the eyes, nose and mouth is believed to have trapped avenging souls inside, or stored the wisdom of their elders.

The head, brought to the Vatican by a missionary in 1925, will be given to the Pumapungo ethnographic museum in Cuenca.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Venezuelan leader says no to opposition in presidential race

Yahoo – AFP, 11 December 2017

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro plans to seek reelection in the 2018
 presidential race, in which he said leading opposition parties will not be allowed \
to participate

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro announced Sunday that leading opposition parties will be barred from taking part in next year's presidential vote after they boycotted mayoral polls, in a move set to further consolidate his grip on power.

That includes the groups of key figures who have led street protests against his rule such as Henrique Capriles, Leopoldo Lopez and others, Maduro told reporters after casting his vote in the municipal polls.

"That's what the National Constituent Assembly set out," he said, referring to a controversial Maduro-allied special powers legislature whose legitimacy has been questioned by many in the international community.

"If they don't want elections, what are they doing? What's the alternative? (Civil) war?" the president asked, visibly angry.

While municipal elections were under way across the country, Maduro clearly had his mind on the 2018 presidential race, in which he plans to seek reelection despite an approval rating of around 30 percent.

Crisis-weary voters meanwhile appeared to be staying away in droves from mayoral elections that the opposition is already boycotting.

Maduro said his party won more than 300 of Venezuela's 355 mayoral races. And the president insisted that 9.3 million people voted, which he called a record for a municipal vote.

In terms of politics, the local election stakes might seem low.

Yet a failure in municipal votes could be seen by many a sign the government had lost the support of the massive lower-income base it relies on to stay in power and in charge of the state-led economy.

Luis Emilio Rondon, a member of the electoral board, said that there were some irregularities involving pro-government candidates who are running some polling stations. He did not immediately say where, or address the extent of the issue.

But voting "cannot be restricted, obligatory, or supervised by people with political interests" therein, Rondon told reporters.

People look for their names on electoral rolls before voting in Venezuelan
municipal elections that were boycotted by leading opposition parties

Lack of serious challenge

He also said he had received reports that in some polling stations run by the ruling PSUV, officials were making sure that those who have a special social benefits card get out to cast their votes.

He said some of these voters' "Fatherland Card," an electronic card that helps them get scarce food and medicine, were being scanned.

"There has been some confusion on voters' part about whether they have to go to the polls with their regular ID card and the Fatherland Card. This is not needed to vote. You only need your regular national ID," he stressed.

These are the last elections before presidential voting scheduled for late next year, in which Maduro says he will seek another term. Some analysts think they will be moved up to the early months of 2018.

The lack of a serious challenge Sunday to Maduro-aligned candidates led to skepticism in the main cities of Caracas, Maracaibo and San Cristobal.

Maduro's ruling socialist party was aided by the refusal of the three main parties in the opposition coalition Democratic Union Roundtable (MUD) to participate, though smaller parties decided to contest the election.

Victor Torres, a chauffeur in Maracaibo, said the election will do nothing to resolve what he considers to be the country's biggest woe: hyperinflation, estimated at 2,000 percent this year.

"The other day I went to buy a banana. In the morning it cost 1,900 bolivares and in the afternoon, 3,000. You can't live this way. I am disappointed with politicians," said Torres.

Yon Goicoechea was contesting the election against the wishes of his party because he says the opposition must "defend" its political space.

Goicoechea, who is running for mayor in a Caracas municipality, said the government "will try to steal the vote, but we will not give it away."

The balloting station where the president himself votes, in a poor area of Caracas called Catia, also looked deserted, an AFP reporter there said.

"Not voting is a mistake. Instead of moving forward, we are going backwards the way crabs do," said Carmen Leon, 78, after casting her ballot in Chacao, which has been home to many opposition leaders. 

Thursday, November 30, 2017

German judges agree to hear Peruvian's climate case against RWE

Yahoo – AFP, Daphne Rousseau with Tom Barfield in Frankfurt, November 30, 2017

Peruvian farmer Saul Luciano Lliuya claims energy giant RWE must share
 the cost of protecting his hometown from a swollen glacier (AFP Photo/
PATRIK STOLLARZ)

Berlin (AFP) - A German court ruled Thursday that it would hear a Peruvian farmer's case against energy giant RWE over climate change damage in the Andes, a decision labelled by campaigners as a "historic breakthrough".

Farmer Saul Luciano Lliuya's case against RWE was "well founded," the court in the northwestern city of Hamm said in a statement.

Lliuya argues that RWE, as one of the world's top emitters of climate-altering carbon dioxide, must share in the cost of protecting his hometown Huaraz from a swollen glacier lake at risk of overflowing from melting snow and ice.

RWE's power plants emitted carbon dioxide that contributed to global warming, increasing local temperatures in the Andes and putting the father of two's property at risk from flooding or landslides, Lliuya argues.

"Even people who act according to the law must be held responsible for damage they cause to property," the judges said.

Now the court must decide whether "the accused's contribution to the chain of events depicted here is measurable and calculable," they added.

"This is a major success not just for me, but for the people of Huaraz and everywhere in the world threatened by climate risks," Lliuya said in a statement circulated by NGO Germanwatch.

He wants RWE to pay 17,000 euros ($20,000) towards flood defences for his community in Peru's northern Ancash region.

The 37-year-old also wants the German company to reimburse him for the 6,384 euros he himself has spent on protective measures.

Lliuya bases his claims on a 2013 climate study which found that RWE was responsible for around 0.5 percent of global emissions "since the beginning of industrialisation".

The court said in the statement that it would choose experts to evaluate the claim in cooperation with both plaintiff and defendant, with Lliuya paying some 20,000 euros in fees up front.

"It will be up to the experts to quantify (RWE's) role, which could be different" from the amount he claims, the judges said.

'Can't be accountable'

After an initial hearing in mid-November, the Hamm court gave both sides until Thursday to provide further arguments to help them decide whether the case should go ahead.

The decision to hear the case is a "historic breakthrough with global relevance," Germanwatch, which has backed Lliuya's claim, said in a statement.

"Major emitters of greenhouse gases can be held responsible for protective measures against climate damage."

For RWE's part, "we still believe that one single emitter can't be held accountable for something that was contributed to from millions of sources and factors worldwide," the energy giant's spokesman Guido Steffen told AFP after the ruling.

"We realise that (Lliuya) is afraid for the safety of his land, but we think it's up to the authorities where he lives to defend it from acute dangers."

He added that RWE would appeal any ruling against it to Germany's highest court.

A lower court in the German city of Essen, where RWE is based, initially found that the lawsuit against the energy giant was unfounded.

The company has in the past said it did not understand why it has been singled out for legal action, stressing the efforts it had made to become more environmentally friendly.

As well as modernising its coal-fired power plants to reduce CO2 emissions, RWE has invested billions in renewable energy as part of Germany's move away from fossil fuels, it says.

Shares in RWE plunged on Germany's DAX index of blue-chip shares following the news, closing down 1.94 percent.

The Peruvian's case comes at a time when German politics is sharply divided over how to balance climate action against economic growth.

A government-directed "energy transition" to renewables, rather than nuclear power and fossil fuels, is making only halting progress, while environmentalists are pushing the country's powerful auto industry to produce less polluting vehicles after a series of scandals.

Climate and energy policy was among the most bitterly disputed issues in three-way coalition talks between Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives, the pro-business Free Democrats and the ecologist Greens before they broke down this month.

Monday, November 27, 2017

US, Russia lend skill to non-stop Argentina sub hunt

BusinessTimes – AFP, Nov 27, 2017

At the port of Comodoro Rivadavia, a ship carrying the submarine rescue
vehicle cast off and headed toward the search zone. PHOTO: AFP

[BAHÍA BLANCA, Argentina] Eleven days after Argentina's missing San Juan submarine went silent following an explosion, a 14-nation search has failed to find the vessel at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.

But not for want of trying.

For more than a week, aircraft from Argentina, Britain and the United States have crisscrossed the South Atlantic.

A Russian Antonov transport plane has arrived with an underwater robot that can scour the ocean at a depth of 1,000m, adding to the arsenal of sophisticated international recovery tools. 

Russia also sent an oceanographic research ship to the search zone, and the US Navy provided an underwater rescue capsule.

Even though Argentina's navy has yet to declare the 44 crewmembers of the ARA San Juan dead, many relatives of the crew have lost hope.

On Thursday, the navy revealed there had been an explosion aboard the submarine, which experts said was likely catastrophic and linked to a battery problem.

"There is no precedent in history for a deployment of this extent," naval engineer Horacio Tettamanti said of the recovery effort.

"The United States and Russia are the most developed in this field, a legacy of the Cold War," added Mr Tettamanti, one of Argentina's leading experts in the field.

Confirmation of the explosion has led to a more localised search area around a zone 400km off the Argentinian coast, after searchers initially scoured a 500,000 sq km area nearly the size of France.

But in this region north of the Falkland Islands - known in Argentina as the Malvinas - depths at the edge of the Argentine shelf can plummet.

From Argentina's military base at Bahia Blanca two US Navy P-8A Poseidon aircraft are using their radars and scanners in the sub hunt.

An AFP journalist aboard saw them drop buoys equipped with sensors to try to detect the vessel.

US personnel focus on their monitor screens, looking for any clues to the sub's location on a mission that continues 24 hours a day using rotating crews.

At the port of Comodoro Rivadavia, a ship carrying the submarine rescue vehicle cast off and headed toward the search zone.

The vehicle could descend to the sea floor to recover the crew members once the San Juan is located - and it will be, said Tettamanti.

"The search will continue until they find it. With the technical deployment that is there I am convinced that it will turn up rapidly, in coming days," he said.

But military expert Rosendo Fraga cautioned: "The search is going to take time."

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Cubans vote in municipal elections with eye to leadership change

Yahoo – AFP, Rigoberto DIAZ, 26 November 2017

Cuban First Vice President Miguel Diaz-Canel (R) arrives to cast his vote in
municipal elections seen as a first step in a process that could see him replace
Raul Castro as the country's president

Cubans choose municipal councilors Sunday in island-wide local elections that are the first step in a Communist Party-supervised process meant to culminate next year with the election of a successor to President Raul Castro.

Castro, 86, cast his ballot at a voting station in western Havana, where he stopped to talk to neighbors and students who were guarding ballot boxes, images aired on Cuban television showed.

No opposition candidates are competing in the elections for the more than 12,500 council seats.

Instead, voters will choose from among 30,000 candidates selected by acclamation in neighborhood assemblies.

More than eight million people are eligible to cast ballots, but voting is voluntary. Ballots are secret.

Cuba's only direct election, the municipal vote is the first step in a tightly controlled, multi-step process for choosing leaders at higher levels of government.

It is set to culminate in February with the election of Castro's successor as president, in what would be the first generational change of leadership since the 1959 revolution led by his brother Fidel.

For the first time in nearly six decades, it appears, Cuba's president will not be named Castro or be a member of the old guard that came to power during the revolution.

Sunday's balloting comes a day after Cuba marked the first anniversary of Fidel Castro's death.

All signs point to current First Vice President Migel Diaz-Canel being chosen to replace 86-year-old Raul, who succeeded the ailing Fidel as president in 2008.

Diaz-Canel, a 57-year-old engineer, slowly climbed to the top rungs of the Cuban hierarchy over a three-decade career under Raul's mentorship.

Castro is expected to remain head of the all-powerful Communist Party, however. He would be 90 when his current term ends in 2021.

Cuban First Vice President Miguel Diaz-Canel (R) casts his ballot at a polling 
station in Havana's Playa neighborhood as Cubans voted, November 26, 2017, 
in an election with no opposition candidates

For Fidel and against Trump

Cuba's electoral system, designed to perpetuate the country's communist system, provides for municipal council elections every two and a half years, and mayoral and parliamentary elections every five years.

The council members elected Sunday will propose half the candidates for election to the provincial assemblies and the parliament, which will then elect the council of state and the president. The other candidates are proposed by six social organizations close to the government.

The Communist Party does not put forward candidates, but it supervises the process and ensures there are no opposition candidates.

State-controlled media have launched an intense campaign to get out the vote, promoting it as a tribute to Fidel.

"Being present in these elections, heeding the call that he always made to us, is also a beautiful and heartfelt homage to Fidel," Diaz-Canel said Friday.

National Assembly President Esteban Lazo urged voters to turn out in massive numbers in "response to that president (Donald Trump) who goes around saying so many things about us."

Cuba and the United States restored diplomatic relations in 2015 after a half-century break, but ties have become strained since Trump took office.

No opposition

In theory, the electoral system allows any Cuban who has been put forward by the base to be elected to parliament and even to the council of state. In 2015, the opposition managed to field two candidates in the primaries, but they were later defeated.

This time, three opposition groups -- OTRO18, Candidates for Change and the Pinero Autonomous Party -- failed in their attempt to nominate 550 independent candidates in the municipal council elections.

Manuel Cuesta, a spokesman for OTRO18, said the government blocked the nomination of independents with "a barrage of actions in violation of the electoral law and the constitution," including temporary detentions and legal actions.

Another sector of the opposition, which Havana labels as "mercenaries," refused to participate at all, so as not to lend legitimacy to the process.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Noises detected in Argentine sub search disappoint

Yahoo – AFP, Eitan ABRAMOVICH, Carlos REYES, November 21, 2017

The vessel would have enough oxygen for its crew to survive underwater
for seven days, if there was no hull breach, officials say (AFP Photo/Handout)

Mar del Plata (Argentina) (AFP) - Experts ruled out Monday the possibility that noise detected at sea could have come from an Argentine submarine missing with 44 people aboard, in the latest bad news to hit their relatives.

"The sound footprint could not correspond to a sub's... it may have been a noise from a living thing," said navy spokesman Enrique Balbi.

"The search continues," he added, noting that there are 14 vessels and 10 aircraft scouring area 24 hours a day in the midst of a storm front in the South Atlantic that is expected to ease on Tuesday.

News that noises had been detected had raised hopes to find alive the 44 crew members aboard the ARA San Juan, missing for five days in the South Atlantic -- after earlier apparent distress calls were dismissed as not coming from the vessel.

Argentina will still dispatch vessels with multi-beam undersea probes to explore the site where the noises were detected, some 360 kilometers (225 miles) offshore in shallow waters at the edge of Argentina's continental shelf that were on the sub's course, Balbi said.

The noises sounded like tools being banged on the hull of a submarine to attract the attention of rescuers, CNN reported, citing an unnamed senior US navy official familiar with the international search effort.

A US Navy P-8A Poseidon plane was immediately dispatched to the site where the noises were detected by two Argentine ships. The plane dropped sonar buoys into the sea to record the noises.

A multinational air and sea search is under way with help from seven countries including Brazil, Britain, Chile, the United States and Uruguay.

Warship captain Gabriel Galeazzi revealed the vessel had reported a mechanical 
breakdown in its final communication (AFP Photo/EITAN ABRAMOVICH)

'Breakdown'

Earlier in the day, the navy said the German-built TR-1700class diesel-electric submarine launched in 1983 had reported a mechanical breakdown in its final communication Wednesday.

The nature of the breakdown was not immediately clear. It was the first time the navy indicated it had been aware of a problem.

"The vessel surfaced and it reported a breakdown. It was therefore asked to change course and go to Mar del Plata," said Gabriel Galeazzi, the head of the naval base in the city, located 400 kilometers south of Buenos Aires.

Balbi also told reporters that analysis has shown that seven signals received by naval bases over the weekend were not attempted distress calls from the submarine's satellite phone.

False hope?

Monday's revelations were a blow to relatives of sailors aboard the sub, around 100 of whom are being housed at the Mar del Plata naval base as they await news of the crew.

Juan Carlos Mendoza, father of missing submariner Ariel Fernando Mendoza, is one of 
the relatives waiting for news in Mar del Plata (AFP Photo/EITAN ABRAMOVICH)

"They have a lot of hope. The hours go by and the worry rate goes up. The best tranquilizer is accurate information," said Enrique Stein, a member of a psychological support unit set up for the families.

Andrea Ali, wife of Franco Ali, an electrician aboard the San Juan, added: "We don't know anything. We are waiting with a great deal of anxiety."

The submarine's fate has gripped the nation, and President Mauricio Macri visited the relatives and prayed with them.

Macri was briefed on the search during his visit to the base.

Multinational rescue efforts

Search efforts have been hampered by inclement weather, including a powerful storm that has whipped up waves reaching seven meters (23 feet) in height.

Rescuers are focusing on an ocean patch about 300 kilometers in diameter, radiating from the last point of contact.

US Southern Command has deployed the Poseidon patrol and reconnaissance plane with a crew of 21, as well as a NASA P-3 research aircraft, and other equipment and personnel.

Map of the search zone in the South Atlantic where an international 
team is hunting for a missing Argentine submarine (AFP Photo/Anella RETA)

The US Navy has deployed two unmanned underwater vehicles that use a sonar system to create an image of large sections of the sea floor.

Britain's Royal Navy said it had sent the HMS Protector, an Antarctic patrol ship.

The submarine had been returning from a routine mission to Ushuaia, near the southernmost tip of South America, to Mar del Plata.

It is one of three submarines in the Argentine fleet.

Sixty-five meters long and seven meters wide, it was built by Germany's Thyssen Nordseewerke and launched more than three decades ago.

It underwent a refit between 2007 and 2014 to extend its use by about 30 years.