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.)

Map of Latin America showing countries where major protests have occurred in recent months (AFP Photo)
A student holds a sign reading "Don't shoot, listen!!!" during a protest
on June 17, 2013 in Brasilia (AFP, Evaristo)

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, February 27, 2014

Locals demand action as extreme weather ravages Argentina's cities

Deutsche Welle, 27 February 2014

Extreme weather is ravaging Argentina's urban centers. Locals want to know how the government is preparing to protect them against flash floods, extreme heat and drought.

At about 4:30 in the morning on April 2, 2013, Federico Brusau woke to the sound of a neighbor ringing his doorbell again and again. The water level in the street was rising quickly, and people were preparing for the worst.

Brusau rushed to shut the floodgates on his home and save his electronics. Then he hurried to his rooftop terrace to unclog its already-overflowing drains. By the time he got back downstairs, it was too late to do anything more.

“Everything was already covered with water,” he remembers. “It had come in over the floodgates and then through the heating vents. In less than five minutes, everything was flooded.”

The water level in the street had rapidly risen to 1.3 meters (51 inches) and spilled over Brusau's meter-high floodgates. Brusau had no choice but to retreat to his second-floor bedroom and waited for the rain to stop.

Extreme weather

Brusau, a 27-year-old who lives in the upper-middle-class neighborhood of Saavedra - one of the lowest-lying points in the city of Buenos Aires - was just one of the many people affected by last April's floods in Buenos Aires and La Plata.

The floods caused at least 50 deaths and destroyed thousands of homes and businesses. Both cities, like many in Latin America, are built on flood plains. As global warming increases and extreme weather events become more common, devastating floods are likely to carry away more lives and property unless governments develop adequate infrastructure and emergency responses.

Extreme weather events are becoming commonplace in places like Buenos Aires

That evening, in the neighboring city of La Plata, 300 millimeters of rain fell.

Soledad Escobar, a La Plata resident, remembers stepping out of her home the morning after the torrential downpour.

“It was as if we'd been through a war,” she recalls. “The first thing I did was go to see a friend of mine who lived five blocks away who had water up to her neck. In that same block there was a woman who died, just meters from where my friend lives. She drowned in her house.”

What's to be done

As global warming increases, experts say not only Argentine cities, but cities across Latin America can expect both more droughts - like the one Argentina is experiencing now - and more storms, like the heavy rain that caused last year's deaths and devastation.

“Climate change has been underestimated,” says Antonio Elio Brailovsky, a local environment expert. “We're going to have more and more extreme events all the time.”

If local governments built infrastructure capable of handling normal storms, the effects of record-breaking rainfall wouldn't be so tragic, says Claudio Velazco, a hydraulic engineer and an expert on La Plata's drainage system. But, in dry years like this one, it's hard to make long-term investments to prepare for future storms.

The infrastructure that's needed is extensive. Environment expert Brailovsky says cities need to construct new drains in lower areas and, in higher areas, dams to hold back the water until the rain subsides.

Velazco, the engineer, says the money the local, provincial, and national governments spent on subsidies for those who lost their houses or possessions in last April's storms would have covered the cost of necessary public works projects. The government offers such subsidies because very few people have home insurance in Argentina.

Many homes are without insurance
in Argentina
Fortunately, some palliative measures wouldn't require much of a budget, adds Brailovsky, the environment expert. He says zoning laws should be changed so that there aren't underground parking garages or power boxes in areas susceptible to flooding.

Making up for lost time

Plans to get Buenos Aires ready for the next storm are in the works. But the problem is, since 1940, city governments have neglected to build infrastructure to keep up with the growing population, says the city's Director of Infrastructure, Daniel Capdevila.

So, now, the city is doing its best to make up for lost time. In 2005, it hired a consultant to complete a “Hydraulic Master Plan.”

“The first thing we did was improve the Maldonado Canal, which is the watershed where one third of the population [about one million people] lives,” says Capdevila.

Next on the city's list is the Vega Canal, which drains the areas flooded in 2013. But, due to disagreements between the local and national governments, the city of Buenos Aires never got the loans it needed to finance the projects.

“The World Bank was pleased with the loan they gave us for the Maldonado, and wanted to give us money for the Vega,” says Capdevila. “But we need to work with the national government so that it backs the loan.”

Frustrated residents

Those affected by last year's floods say it's just a matter of political will.

In Buenos Aires, a group of residents from Federico Brusau's neighborhood, Saavedra, is demanding the city implement a plan to notify residents when a dangerous storm is coming and a way to send emergency vehicles to vulnerable sites when floods strike. And, if that doesn't happen soon, they plan to take their case to court.

Soledad Escobar, in La Plata, wants to see her taxes coming back to her in the form of infrastructure improvements and new public works projects - even in dry years, like this one.

“We want the government to take the problem seriously, to solve it, to listen to engineers…, to come to an agreement, to put together a task force, and to build the necessary infrastructure regardless of how much it costs,” she says.

After all, she asks, “What is the price of human life?”

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Cuban cigars get shorter to counter anti-smoking laws

Google – AFP, Francisco Jara (AFP), 25 February 2014

Habanos SA president, Spanish Luis Sanchez Harguindey, looks on during
 an interview with AFP, on February 24, 2014, during the XVI Havana Cigar Festival
in Havana (AFP/File, Yamil Lage)

Havana — Shorter cigars that can be savored more quickly are Cuba's strategic response to global anti-tobacco campaigns.

"With restrictions around the world on where one can smoke, the logical answer is to provide the enjoyment of intense flavor in less time," Luis Sanchez-Harguindey, the co-president of Habanos SA, told AFP.

"Today's trend is to provide cigars to consumers that have a larger caliber but are shorter precisely so they can be smoked more quickly," the Spaniard said in an interview on the sidelines of Havana's annual cigar festival.

Habanos SA is a joint venture between Cuban state company Cubatabaco and the Franco-Spanish Altadis that was bought in 2008 by the British Imperial Tobacco Group.

One of the stars of the festival is one such new smoke -- the Partagas D6 -- that measures just 9 centimeters (3.5 inches) in length. In contrast, the longest Havanas can traditionally be more than twice that long.

Puffing on the new product takes about 15 minutes, according to Habanos SA.

Younger consumers and women increasingly are being targeted with milder, more refined flavors.

"There are other brands, like Hoyo de Monterrey, that allow for the introduction of more delicate flavors, more meant for young people," said Sanchez-Harguindey, a non-smoker who took to cigars when he arrived in Cuba in 1998 while working for a foreign bank.

"Traditionally, the cigar smoker is a man who is middle aged or older, especially because of the price of cigars," he added. "The most expensive products, like the Cohiba, aren't in everyone's reach."

A brand's image is also very important, according to Sanchez-Harguindey.

"We're seeing in our marketing studies that the average age of a Havana smoker is falling and that the number of women smokers is on the rise" even though they still only represent five percent of consumers, he added.

Sanchez-Harguindey expressed confidence Cuban cigars will remain a "globally unique product" thanks to the Caribbean country's climate, earth and centuries-old tobacco culture.

Tobacco is one of Cuba's top exports, behind nickel and biotech products.

On Monday, Habanos SA announced that Cuban cigar sales were up eight percent in 2013, reaching $447 million.

While Europe remained the top taker of the famous smokes, the greatest gains were seen in China.

Country-specific, the main markets for Havanas are Spain, France, China, Germany, Switzerland, Cuba, Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates, it said.

But Habanos SA faces a significant hurdle: It is unable to access the biggest global cigar market, the United States, due to an economic embargo imposed by Washington more than a half-century ago on communist Cuba.

As in years past, the 16th Havana Festival, featuring tours of tobacco plantations and cigar factories, culminates Friday with a gala dinner.

Related Article:

Monday, February 24, 2014

Rousseff backs EU-Brazil cable project

Deutsche Welle, 24 February 2014

Brazil and the EU plan to establish a communications network complete with undersea cable to circumvent the US National Security Agency. It's the outcome of a visit to Brussels by Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff.

Brazil and the EU welcomed on Monday a German proposal to create a European network to avert US surveillance. At a summit in Brussels, Rousseff said the joint project would "guarantee the neutrality" of the Internet.

Brazilian telecoms provider Telebras and Spain's IslaLink plan major shares in the cable project priced at $185 million (135 million euros). European and Brazilian pension funds would put up the remainder.

The cable would span the Atlantic Ocean, from the Portuguese capital Lisbon to Fortaleza in northeastern Brazil.

Last year, it emerged that the National Security Agency (NSA) had spied on Rousseff's email and phone communications. US President Barack Obama apologized to Merkel for surveillance of her mobile phone.

"We have to respect privacy, human rights and the sovereignty of nations. We don't want businesses to be spied upon," Rouseff told a news conference in the presence of top EU officials.

"We will continue to enhance data protection and global privacy standards," said President Herman Van Rompuy.

Brussels has since scrutinized EU-Us agreements on data transfers, demanding increased guarantees for the protection of data of citizens in the EU.

The EU is a major trading partner with Brazil, receiving more than 20 percent of Brazil's exports and accounting for a similar share of its imports.

Talks on a long-envisaged free-trade deal were however delayed at the summit, officials said.

ipj/dr (dpa, AFP, Reuters)

Access to one of the building's floors requires US
government clearance

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Sunday, February 23, 2014

Pope Francis urges new cardinals to avoid Vatican intrigue and gossip

Former archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols among 19 new cardinals told to embody holiness with zeal and ardour

The Guardian, Lizzy Davies in Rome, Sunday 23 February 2014

Pope Francis holds the book of the gospels aloft. Photograph: Max Rossi/Reuters

Pope Francis has instructed his new "princes of the church" – among them Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the archbishop of Westminster – to avoid "intrigue, gossip, cliques, favouritism and partiality" as they don the Roman Catholic church's prized red biretta.

Speaking in St Peter's basilica a day after he created 19 new cardinals, the Argentinean pontiff strictly exhorted the men to reject the habits of a royal court that have in recent years come to be associated with parts of the Roman curia, or Vatican bureaucracy.

Looking up from his notes to address the massed ranks of cardinals, he told them: "A cardinal – I say this especially to you – enters the church of Rome, my brothers, not a [royal] court. May all of us avoid, and help others to avoid, habits and ways of acting typical of a court: intrigue, gossip, cliques, favouritism and partiality."

Nichols, 68, is one of 16 new "cardinal electors" who are not yet 80 and are therefore young enough to be likely to vote in the next papal conclave to elect Francis's successor. The remaining three prelates are over 80. One, in fact, Cardinal Loris Capovilla, 98, was unable to attend the ceremony because of ill health.

Cardinal Vincent Nichols attends the mass with other newly appointed
cardinals. Photograph: Franco Origlia/Getty Images

In a homily on Sunday, Francis made it clear there was no longer any room for shortcomings for those he had chosen to become his first entrants to the college of cardinals. "To be saints is not a luxury. It is necessary for the salvation of the world. This is what the Lord asks of us," he said.

In what some said amounted to a code of conduct, he added that cardinals needed to embody holiness "with greater zeal and ardour".

"We love, therefore, those who are hostile to us; we bless those who speak ill of us; we greet with a smile those who may not deserve it," he said. "We do not aim to assert ourselves; rather, we oppose arrogance with meekness; we forget the humiliations that we have endured."

He added: "This is the attitude of a cardinal, this must be how a cardinal acts."On Saturday, at a consistory in which Francis created his new cardinals, Nichols, leader of the Catholic church in England and Wales, knelt before the pope as he received the famed red biretta. He was told his titular church in Rome – of which he will now become a "cardinal protector" – would be St Alphonsus on the Esquiline Hill, dedicated to the Italian founder of the missionary Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer.

Designed by Scottish architect George Wigley in the 19th century, the neo-Gothic building houses a celebrated Byzantine icon of the Virgin Mary entitled Our Lady of Perpetual Help.

On Sunday, Father Luciano Panella, rector of the church, said he had been introduced to Nichols at St Peter's and was now looking forward to planning his official welcome. "We are very happy about this nomination," he said. Previously, St Alphonsus's titular cardinal had been Anthony Bevilacqua, a former archbishop of Philadelphia who died in 2012, leaving the post in Rome vacant.

Pointing to a photograph of the late American cardinal hanging on the wall, Panella smiled and said: "We'll have to get a one of the new cardinal now."

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Saturday, February 22, 2014

Venezuelans on streets again as protest leader awaits trial

Opposing marches on Saturday come after president Nicolás Maduro played down protest movement on Friday, Virginia López in Caracas,  Saturday 22 February 2014

Opposition supporters march against the Maduro government in Caracas
on Saturday. Photograph: Jorge Silva/Reuters

Venezuelans have taken to the streets for the second time in ten days in opposing marches for and against the Maduro administration. The government has asked women to rally around the presidential palace, while the opposition has called on supporters to protest against the country's mounting street crime and to demand the disarmament of violent pro-government groups.

What began two weeks ago in the western state of Táchira as a student-led street movement demanding that the government address safety concerns on a university campus following the assault of a student soon spread to other cities. In the capital, Caracas, the street marches were spearheaded by opposition leader Leopoldo López, who called for protests to continue until the president, Nicolás Maduro stepped down from power. López currently awaits trial in a military jail.

Since the protests began, 10 people have died, 137 have been injured and 104 arrested, according to government figures.

In a press conference with foreign media on Friday, Maduro said the protests – the worst since his razor-thin election victory against Henrique Capriles last April – are only occurring in 18 of the country's 335 municipalities, all of which, he contends, are under opposition rule.

Maduro reiterated that the events of the last two weeks are a coup-in-the-making backed by the US and financed by Colombia's ex-president Álvaro Uribe, whom Maduro accuses López of working closely with. The proof of his allegations, he says, "will soon come to light".

But as Venezuelans take to the streets again it is hard to predict whether the march will be the last, or if it will serve to inject new energy into an opposition that has been dispersed over the last couple of nights by National Guard troops firing rubber bullets and teargas and tearing down the camps students set up on street corners.

In San Cristóbal, the state-capital of Táchira, where military action was felt the strongest, troops and tanks took to the streets on Wednesday to disperse crowds and to clear debris that was blocking the city's main roads. According to locals, the internet remained down until Friday.

In another effort to neutralise mounting tensions, the minister of energy, Rafael Ramirez, has banned fuel distribution to areas he considers "under-siege".

Human Rights Watch has issued a statement condemning the systematic violation of personal freedom and the unlawful imprisonment of civilians.

Adding to the uncertainty reigning in the streets of Venezuela is the complete media blackout. Private and public TV stations in the country have given little coverage to the street protests, or even to the incarceration of López, who now awaits trial in a military prison on the outskirts of Caracas on charges of sedition.

In the most flagrant demonstration of state censorship yet, several members of a CNN team had their journalist accreditation revoked and left the country amid accusations of "contributing with their coverage to psychological warfare".

But despite accusing the US of meddling in the country's internal affairs and expelling three US diplomat, Maduro has invited Obama to "a sincere dialogue between equals".

"Accept the challenge and we will start a high-level dialogue and put the truth on the table," Maduro said in a nationwide TV address.

Michael Shifter, head of the US thinktank Inter-American Dialogue, says that despite the government's severe weaknesses, it does not appear to be on the verge of collapse.

"Given the gravity of the current situation, it is not surprising that more and more Venezuelans are prepared to take to the streets to express their profound discontent with the government's ineptitude and the country's rapid descent," he said.

"It is not clear what can be accomplished through this approach.  It depends very much on what the government does now – both in dealing with sustained protests and Venezuela's deepening economic distress. If there is no relief on the economic front, it is likely that the protests will only intensify… Any reconciliation or even meaningful dialogue between the government and opposition forces seems like a long way off."

Related Article:

New cardinals, among them Archbishop Vincent Nichols, bear Pope's stamp

Many of the 19 men to be made cardinals by Pope Francis on Saturday share similar backgrounds and outlooks to the pontiff, Associated Press in Vatican City, Saturday 22 February 2014

Vincent Nichols, right, with the Archbishop of Managua, Leopoldo Jose' Brenes
Solorzano, in Rome this week. Photograph: Alessandra Tarantino/AP

Pope Francis is putting a personal imprint on the group of men who will choose his successor, tapping like-minded cardinals from some of the world’s smallest, most remote and poverty-wracked nations to help him run the Catholic Church.

Alongside Archbishop Vincent Nichols, the leader of the church in England and Wales, those elevated will include old friends of the Pope, Vatican bureaucrats and sentimental favorites.

Francis is presiding over his first cardinal-making ceremony on Saturday to bring 19 new “princes” of the church into the College of Cardinals. Two hail from Africa, two from Asia and six from Francis’s native Latin America, which is home to nearly half the world’s Catholics but is grossly underrepresented in the church’s hierarchy.

Cardinal-designate Chibly Langlois is not even an archbishop, but rather the 55-year-old bishop of Les Cayes and now Haiti’s first-ever cardinal. Another Caribbean cardinal, Kelvin Edward Felix, was for a quarter of a century the archbishop of tiny Castries, St. Lucia, population 163,000.

The archbishop of Managua, Nicaragua, Leopoldo Jose Brenes Solorzano, is an old friend who worked alongside the former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio in preparing the seminal document of the pope’s vision of a missionary church – the so-called Aparecida Document produced by the 2007 summit of Latin American bishops. Nicaragua’s second cardinal, Brenes has made an impression at the Vatican with his unruly grey curls and the blue jeans he donned for the flight to Rome.

Cardinal Andrew Yeom Soo-jung, archbishop of Seoul, South Korea, has ancestors who were among the lay people who brought Christianity to the Korean peninsula in the 19th century. His great-great grandfather and his wife were executed as part of the Joseon Dynasty’s persecution of Christians, Asian Catholic news agency UCANews reported. Of the six children in his immediate family, three became priests.

Burkina Faso Cardinal Philippe Nakellentuba Ouedraogo, though he hails from the other side of the world, sounded an awful lot like Francis in his 2013 Christmas homily. Nakellentuba denounced the “inequality, injustice, poverty and misery” of a society in which employers exploit their workers and the powerful few have most of the money while the masses suffer.

Francis is “emphasising his preference for what he calls the periphery, or the margins”, noted Robert Mickens, Vatican correspondent for the British Catholic magazine the Tablet.

In a personal letter to his new cardinals, Francis asked them to accept their nominations with joy but to refrain from “any kind of expression of worldliness, from any celebration alien to the evangelical spirit of austerity, moderation and poverty”.

One cardinal is sitting out the ceremony even as he makes a record by living to see it: Cardinal Loris Francesco Capovilla, aged 98, is becoming the oldest member of the College of Cardinals, but due to his age couldn’t make the trip from northern Italy.

His is a sentimental choice for Francis: For more than a decade, Capovilla was the private secretary to Pope John XXIII, whom Francis will make a saint alongside Pope John Paul II in April.

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Mexican police arrest drug baron Joaquin 'Shorty' Guzman

Deutsche Welle, 22 February 2014

Police have arrested Mexican drugs overlord Joaquin "Shorty" Guzman, considered the world’s most powerful narcotics kingpin. He had been on the run for the past 11 years, after an audacious prison escape.

Mexican marines swooped on Saturday, capturing Joaquin "El Chapo" (Shorty) Guzman apparently without a shot being fired, sources said.

An anonymous US government source said the capture took place in the seaside resort of Mazatlan, in Guzman's northwestern home state of Sinaloa. The source said Mexican forces had been acting on a tip-off from the US Drug Enforcement Agency and the US Department of Homeland Security.

"We've been actively tracking him for five weeks. Because of that pressure, he fled in the last couple of days to Mazatlan," the official told the AFP news agency.

In Mexico City, presidential spokesman Eduardo Sanchez said merely that officials had "captured an individual in Sinaloa (state)" without confirming the identity.

Guzman was reportedly found with an unidentified woman. As the net around him closed, he had reportedly fled to Mazatlan from a house - fitted with escape tunnels - in Culiacan, Sinaloa's largest city.

'Public Enemy Number One'

Officials in the US had offered a $5-million (3.6-million-euro) reward for information leading to Guzman's arrest. The capture of Guzman represents a significant blow to the Sinaloa cartel, which is deemed Mexico's biggest drugs empire. It is also a major coup for President Enrique Pena Nieto, who came to power 14 months ago.

Mexican authorities have made several high profile arrests in recent years, including Angel Trevino Morales, leader of the brutal Zetas cartel.

Guzman, considered by US authorities to be "the most powerful drug trafficker in the world," was on the run for years. He was captured in Guatemala in 1993, but escaped from a Mexican prison in 2001, hiding in a laundry basket.

He was named "Public Enemy Number One" by the Chicago Crime Commission, the only criminal other than notorious gangster Al Capone to be granted the dubious moniker. The chief reason was said to be his ability to sneak vast quantities of cocaine, heroin and marijuana into the US.

The diminutive Guzman was also on Forbes magazine's list of billionaires until 2013, when the publication said it could not verify his wealth. Guzman was reported to be spending an increasing amount of money on protection. However, he remained ranked by Forbes as one of the most powerful people in the world.

rc/jm (AP, AFP, Reuters)

Venezuela President Maduro calls on Obama for dialogue

Deutsche Welle, 22 February 2014

Amid continued unrest, Venezuelan President Maduro has called for "high-level dialogue" with US President Obama. The move followed his decision to kick out journalists from US broadcaster CNN for alleged false reporting.

During a news conference in Caracas on Friday, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro (pictured) challenged US President Barack Obama to hold bilateral talks. The call for dialogue comes amid anti-government protests against Maduro across Venezuela, which have turned deadly in recent days.

"I call a dialogue with you, President Obama...between the patriotic and revolutionary Venezuela and the United States and its government," Maduro told reporters, adding that only then could the two leaders "put the truth on the table."

Maduro, who is currently facing calls for his resignation over mass inflation and currency shortages, has accused US diplomats and journalists of fomenting the recent public unrest sweeping across Venezuela.

CNN journalists' credentials revoked

On Friday, Venezuelan officials revoked the credentials of CNN journalists working there. Maduro accused the US international news broadcaster of misrepresenting anti-government demonstrations.

"They want to show the world that there is a civil war in Venezuela," Maduro said, according to CNN's website on Friday.

"Enough war propaganda. I do not accept war propaganda against Venezuela," Maduro said, adding that CNN journalists should "get out."

The Venezuelan president expelled three US diplomats earlier this week for allegedly attempting to foment unrest through the country's university system.

Across Venezuela, thousands have taken to the streets since February 12 in calls for the president to step down. Maduro rose to power after Hugo Chavez died last year, but has since been criticized for supporting economic policies that have driven inflation over 50 percent and caused a shortage of not only everyday necessities, but also of hard currency.

The president has characterized the demonstrations, which have since spread across several cities, as a "fascist" plot led by opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez to overthrow his government. His political foe emerged from hiding this week to face arrest on charges of arson and criminal incitement in connection with a mass rally on February 12.

Death toll rises

Meanwhile on Friday, Venezuela's attorney general, Luisa Ortega, confirmed the death toll.

"There are a total of 137 people injured and eight deaths," Ortega said.

The latest fatality occurred in the north-central state of Carabobo where 22-year-old college student and beauty queen Genesis Carmon died of a gunshot wound to the head. The majority of fatalities have been protesters who have come under fire, some by armed motorcyclists.

US-based watchdog Human Rights Watch condemned the violence in a statement on Friday.
"Venezuelan security forces have used excessive and unlawful force against protesters on multiple occasions since February 12, 2014, including beating detainees and shooting at crowds of unarmed people," the statement said.

The Venezuelan government has deployed police, National Guard troops and private militias across several cities, including Caracas, where they have been conducting night time sweeps.

kms/slk (AP, AFP, Reuters)

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Obama in Mexico for trade talks, calls for dialog in Venezuela and Ukraine

Deutsche Welle, 20 February 2014

US President Barack Obama in Toluca for trade talks with Mexico and Canada proposed an expansion of trade agreements for the Americas into Asia. Obama also spoke out on the unrest in Venezuela and Ukraine.

Obama spent a day south of the US border with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper with a focus on trade discussions around the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade bloc of 12 countries in the Americas, Asia and the Pacific.

"We are wanting to see and committed to seeing a good, comprehensive Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement. I think it's in all of our interests," Harper said.

Obama said the North American partners must maintain their "competitive advantage" on trade, in part by expanding into the fast-growing Asia-Pacific region. Obama acknowledged that "elements in my party" oppose the TPP deal, but said: "We'll get this passed if it's a good agreement."

At issue between the US and Canada, has been the US review of the Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry oil from tar sands in western Canada over a thousand miles to Nebraska, where existing pipelines would then carry the crude to refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast. Environmental groups have opposed it, and Obama has said he won't approve it if it increases greenhouse gas emissions.

For Mexico, the focus is on an overhaul of US immigration laws and Obama said immigration reform remained one of his highest priorities. But Republican opposition in Congress is likely to prevent new laws being passed this year.

The North America Leaders' Summit - also known as the "Three Amigos" meeting - coincided with the 20th year of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) among the three countries. A third of US exports go to Mexico and Canada and the trade supports 14 million jobs on US soil, US officials say. But NAFTA has been criticised within the US for its effect on jobs and environmental protection.

Pena Nieto heralded the "innovative spirit" that spurred NAFTA and said new trade agreements were: "bound to go beyond the progress that each one of our countries has made."

Venezuela and Ukraine

Speaking about unrest in Venezuela and Ukraine, Obama denounced the "unacceptable violence in those two countries which the United States strongly condemns."

Obama called on Venezuela's government to release protesters detained in recent demonstrations and address the "legitimate grievances" of its people. He said: "along with the Organization of American States we call on the Venezuelan government to release protesters it has detained and engage in real dialogue."

On Sunday, left-wing President Nicolas Maduro ordered the expulsion of three US diplomats, accusing them of meeting student leaders under the guise of offering them visas.

On Ukraine, Obama gave a cautious welcome to the truce announced between government and opposition on Wednesday.

"My hope is at this point that a truce may hold but ... ultimately the government is responsible for making sure that we shift toward some sort of unity government, even if it's temporary, that allows us to move to fair and free elections so that the will of the Ukrainian people can be rightly expressed without the kinds of chaos we've seen on the streets," Obama said.

jm / crh (AFP, AP)

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Vigilantes 'rehabilitate' gangsters in Mexico's west

Google – AFP, Carola Sole (AFP), 18 February 2014

A member of the so-called self-defense groups, poses for a photo with a 
shotgun in La Nopalera, Michoacan state, Mexico, on February 15, 2014
(AFP/File, Alfredo Estrella)

LA NOPALERA — Under the watch of vigilantes, a pair of captured drug cartel henchmen mop the floors and cook in a dusty, sparsely furnished house in Mexico's unruly west.

The duo once worked as "hawks," or lookouts, for the cult-like Knights Templar gang that terrorized Michoacan, but they are now in the hands of civilian defense militias that have ousted the cartel from several towns.

The vigilantes, who are marking their one-year anniversary this month, came together to combat a cartel that they accused of murdering, kidnapping and extorting their populations in the lush agricultural state.

The civilian militias now say they want to "rehabilitate" the less-virulent, low-ranking former members of the Knights Templar, because punishing all would be a tall task in a state where the cartel was so entrenched in society.

"Chilango", a member of the so-called
self-defense groups, poses for a photo with a 
shotgun in Apatzingan, Michoacan state,
Mexico, on February 12, 2014 (AFP/File,
Alfredo Estrella)
The two young men held in La Nopalera, a town within the former gang-dominated municipality of Apatzingan, sleep on dirty mattresses in a ramshackle house they share with 10 vigilantes.

"The order is to hold them for three months under my watch and simply convince them psychologically that they have to take the correct path," said a vigilante leader who goes by the name Comandante Patancha.

"If they escape, they may not be pardoned," said the mustachioed man.

- No better option -

If they change their ways, however, they can return home or join the self-defense force, which could earn them $450 a month, close to what they earned with the cartel.

"If the Knights Templar were to catch us, they would kill us," said Manuel, who gave a fake name for fear of being targeted by his former employers.

"Now I don't have a better option than to help the self-defenses," the married, 25-year-old father of two said.

Manuel and his cohort Carlos, who also gave a fake name, say they are much better off with the vigilantes, who feed them and do not tie them up. They even receive weapons training.

When they worked for the cartel, they faced beatings and threats for underperformance.

The cartel sees itself as a righteous order defending Michoacan, indoctrinating its recruits with pseudo-religious literature inspired by the Christian crusaders.

Manuel and Carlos say they were captured by federal police and then handed over to the vigilantes.

The federal government has deployed almost 10,000 police and troops to Michoacan in a bid to curb the violence, and last month it struck a deal to legalize the growing vigilante movement.

The government says it has captured more than 300 people linked to organized crime, but the authorities have yet to capture Knights Templar leader Servando "La Tuta" Gomez.

Manuel says he joined the cartel because he was not earning enough picking limes in the Tierra Caliente ("Hot Land") region, Mexico's lime and avocado heartland.

But Carlos admits that, like many of his friends in Apatzingan, he was allured by the gang life, partly because it made it easier to woo women.

"You would see these armed guys walking around and nobody could say anything to them," the svelte 20-year-old said. "You wanted to be like them."

- Can't banish all -

A member of the so-called self-defense groups,
poses for a photo with a shotgun in Apatzingan,
 Michoacan state, Mexico, on February 12,
 2014 (AFP/File, Alfredo Estrella)
The Knights Templar gang once roamed Michoacan with impunity, riding in cars bearing their symbol, the Christian crusaders' red cross. Vigilantes have destroyed altars that had been built in honor of a Knights leader.

Estanislao Beltran, the spokesman for the self-defense militias, said towns in Tierra Caliente were "in complete collusion with the Knights Templar."

"Are we going to capture and banish all of them? Are we going to create ghost towns? What are we going to do?" he wondered, adding that some towns have formed citizen assemblies to decide the fate of captured gang members.

A vigilante in charge of a checkpoint in the town of Pinzandaro said the militias are getting help from members of a gang known as Los Viagras, who have broken away from the Knights Templar.

Self-defense leaders have been accused of having been part of organized crime groups. Federal officials have said that some vigilantes who were detained last year admitted to getting support from the Knights Templar cartel's enemy, the Jalisco New Generation gang.

But vigilante leaders say the agreement with the government that legalizes their movement, which calls for militiamen to join "rural defense" forces under the army, will allow them to purge their ranks of any cartel infiltrators.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Venezuelan security forces break up student protests in Caracas

Deutsche Welle, 15 February 2014

Security forces in Venezuela have deployed tear gas and water canon to break up a student protest in the capital, Caracas. The clash comes two days after three people died in violence at anti-government rallies.

Some 500 students blocked the main highway in Caracas on Friday, choking off traffic for several hours. Venezuelan security forces deployed tear gas and water cannon to clear the protesters, who responded by throwing rocks and burning trash. So far, no injuries have been reported.

Venezuela's latest unrest began 10 days ago when students in Caracas rallied to protest against the government's handling of public safety and the economy. Venezuela suffers from rampant crime, inflation and shortages of basic goods.

On Wednesday, the demonstrations turned bloody when three people were shot dead during clashes (pictured above) between security forces and protesters in the capital.

Twitter said on Friday that the Venezuelan government had blocked people from sharing videos and images of the unrest on its social media service.

The San Francisco-based company went on to say that protesters could get around the government filter by having their tweets delivered to smartphones via text message.

Some of the protesters have called for President Nicolas Maduro to step down. While some politicians have come out in support of the protestors, opposition leader Henrique Capriles has said that the conditions are not right for Maduro to leave office. Capriles was defeated by Maduro, the successor to the late Hugo Chavez, in last year's presidential election.

President Maduro has accused the protesters of trying to overthrow his government.