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. …

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Argentines celebrate approval of landmark abortion law

Yahoo – AFP, Daniel MEROLLA, December 29, 2020 

Argentina's Vice President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner (R) opens
the session at the Senate to decide whether to legalize abortion

Pro-choice activists celebrated on the streets on Wednesday as Argentina joined a handful of South American nations to legalize abortion, a landmark decision in a country where the Catholic Church has long held sway. 

Senate president Cristina Kirchner confirmed the vote after more than twelve hours of debate that began Tuesday, sparking scenes of jubilation in the capital Buenos Aires. 

"Safe, legal and free abortion is law ... Now we're a better society that is increasing women's rights and safeguarding public health," President Alberto Fernandez, who sponsored the original bill, wrote on Twitter. 

Hundreds of thousands of illegal terminations are carried out every year in Argentina with at least 3,000 women dying after backstreet abortions since the 1980s, said Fernandez, who is Catholic. 

Before the vote he said the law was necessary "to legislate for everyone." 

"After so many attempts and years of struggle that cost us blood and lives, today we finally made history," protester Sandra Lujan, a 41-year-old psychologist, said after the vote in the pre-dawn hours of Wednesday. 

"Today we leave a better place for our sons and daughters." 

The bill in the country of 44 million succeeded despite strong opposition from Evangelical Christians and traditional Roman Catholics -- with Pope Francis tweeting his tacit disapproval of change ahead of the vote. 

Human Rights Watch Americas Director Jose Miguel Vivanco hailed the decision as historic, and hoped it would energize other governments in the region to follow in the footsteps of one of Latin America's largest nations. 

"The criminalization of abortion has failed. It's time to end it," he tweeted. 

The new legislation will allow voluntary terminations up to 14 weeks of pregnancy, and was approved 38 to 29 with one abstention. 

The vote overturns a similar one in 2018 which -- although also passed the lower house -- ultimately foundered in the Senate by 38 votes to 31. 

Only Uruguay, Cuba and Guyana allow voluntary terminations in South America, which has some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the world. 

In El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua, it is banned, and women can be sentenced to jail even for having a miscarriage. 

In Argentina, terminations were previously allowed in only two instances: rape, and danger to the mother's life. 

Thousands of pro-choice activists celebrated the vote on the streets
of capital Buenos Aires

'Gift of life' 

The bill passed the Chamber of Deputies on December 11. 

Francis, who is Argentine, has not commented directly on the vote but many felt he indirectly addressed the issue in a speech on Wednesday morning.

 "Christians, as all believers, bless God for the gift of life. To live is above all to have received," he said in his last speech before the New Year. 

"All of us are born because someone wanted us to have life." 

More than 60 percent of Argentines call themselves Catholic, according to a 2019 survey by the National Council for Scientific and Technical Research (Conicet). 

Another Conicet survey this year found more than half of Argentina's Catholics supported abortion only in limited circumstances -- with around 22 percent supporting it, and roughly 17 percent rejecting it in all cases. 

"The interruption of a pregnancy is a tragedy. It abruptly ends another developing life," said Ines Blas, a senator from the ruling coalition. 

However, Senator Silvina Garcia Larraburu, from the same coalition, had said she would vote for the bill this time despite being against it in 2018. 

'Centuries of regression' 

Despite measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, thousands of pro-choice and anti-abortion demonstrators had gathered outside parliament ahead of the vote, following the debate on giant screens. 

Pro-choice activists have campaigned for years to change the abortion laws that date from 1921, adopting a green scarf as their symbol. 

Anti-abortion activists, who recently started wearing light blue scarves, expressed sadness after the vote passed. 

The alliance of evangelical churches issued a statement calling it "a sad day." 

"Today Argentina regressed centuries in terms of civilization and respect for the supreme right to life," said the alliance. 

Social law changes have always been slow in Argentina: divorce was legalized only in 1987, sex education introduced in 2006, gay marriage approved in 2010 and a gender identity law passed in 2012.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Chileans begin work on roadmap to new constitution

France24 – AFP, 28 October 2020 

Demonstrators supporting the reform of the Chilean constitution celebrate while
waiting for the referendum official results at Plaza Italia square in Santiago
on October 25, 2020 Pedro Ugarte AFP

Santiago (AFP) - Chile pressed ahead with the task of creating a roadmap to a new constitution Tuesday as Congress debated rules for choosing the body tasked with drafting the new charter. 

Citizens of the South American country voted by a landslide in a referendum Sunday to throw out their dictatorship-era constitution, blamed for the jarring economic and social inequalities that led to months of violent protests. 

Much of the path ahead is already clear, with the election of a constitutional convention, which will draft the new charter, slated for April 11. 

However, independent candidates face an uphill battle in the race for seats on the convention, as they aim to limit the influence of the traditional parties. 

Congress on Tuesday discussed removing one of the roadblocks to political independents playing a full part in the process. 

Under current rules they need a minimum of signatures equal to 0.4 percent of voters in their electoral district, a tough task amid Chile's coronavirus epidemic. 

Prospective independent candidates say the threshold is too high and want it halved. 

Overwhelming rejection 

Citizens overwhelmingly rejected an option in the referendum for lawmakers to take part in the drafting of the new constitution, handing that role instead to a new body whose members will be elected from scratch. 

Several Chilean artists and celebrities have signaled their intention to run for the convention. 

Sitting members of Congress are banned from participating, but independents fear the traditional parties -- seen as administrators of the dictatorship-era constitution for decades -- are preparing to stack the new body with their members anyhow. 

Some of President Sebastian Pinera's advisors have expressed an interest in running. The president's daughter Magdalena Pinera is reportedly aiming to represent his conservative National Renewal party, part of his ruling Vamos coalition. 

Also signaling her intention to run is Francisca Desbordes, daughter of Chile's defense minister Mario Desbordes. 

There is lively debate on the number of seats that should be set aside in the new body for the Mapuche people, Chile's largest ethnic group. 

"The task of the parliament is to ensure reserved seats for the indigenous people, so that this new constitution contains all the views and cultures there are in Chile," said Mapuche lawmaker Emilia Nuyado. 

The constitutional convention will be composed of 155 members, who will be elected in a vote on April 11 that coincides with Chile's local elections. 

Anybody can put themselves forward, but those involved in organizations and unions must renounce their positions if they are to participate. 

Similarly, civil servants will also have to resign to participate and all 155 members will have to renounce running for public office for one year after its work is completed. 

Members of the new body will receive a monthly salary equivalent to $3,200, around a third the amount earned by members of Congress. 

'Two-thirds' confusion 

The new constitution must be approved by two-thirds of its members. 

However, "it's not clear whether each provision must be approved by two-thirds or if it is only the constitution as a whole, a difference of interpretation that could have important consequences with respect to what's agreed upon," constitutional lawyer Sebastian Zarate told AFP. 

It remains possible the convention will alter this provision once it sits, said Zarate. 

"However it's interpreted, the last word will go to the constituent body," said Zarate. 

Once established, the convention will have nine months to draft and adopt the new constitution. If required, that timeframe can be extended once, for three months. 

The text will be put to the electorate in a new referendum in 2022. 

Failure to approve it will mean dictator Augusto Pinochet's 1980 constitution will remain in force.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Arrest warrants issued for founders of Panama Papers firm: report

Yahoo – AFP, October 20, 2020 

Mossack Fonseca's founders, suspected of tax evasion and associating
with criminals, will be arrested if they enter the EU, according to reports

Germany has issued international arrest warrants for the two founders of the firm at the centre of the tax haven scandal exposed by the Panama Papers data leak, German media reported. 

Mossack Fonseca founders Juergen Mossack and Ramon Fonseca, suspected of tax evasion and associating with criminals, will be arrested if they enter the European Union, German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung reported late Monday. 

A spokesman for the Cologne public prosecutor's office confirmed that two international arrest warrants had been issued in connection with ongoing investigations, but did not identify those involved. 

Mossack and Fonesca hold Panamanian passports and are currently in the Caribbean archipelago, which does not have any extradition treaties, the newspaper said. 

However investigators hope that Mossack, who has family in Germany, may surrender to officials in order to negotiate a reduced sentence and avoid US charges. 

The Panama Papers, a massive data leak in April 2016, exposed widespread tax avoidance and evasion using complex structures of offshore shell companies and caused an international outcry. 

At least 150 investigations have been opened in 79 countries to examine potential tax evasion or money laundering, according to the American Center for Public Integrity. 

In 2018, Mossack Fonseca said it would close due to "irreparable damage" to its reputation. Panama's government meanwhile continues to petition the international community to remove it from several tax haven blacklists.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Peru's Machu Picchu reopens... for one Japanese tourist

Yahoo – AFP, October 13, 2020  

Machu Picchu has reopened for a single lucky visitor, a Japanese man
stranded in the country by the pandemic

Peru's best-known tourist site Machu Picchu has opened after months of coronavirus closure, but for just a single visitor -- a Japanese man stranded in the country by the pandemic. 

"The first person on Earth who went to Machu Picchu since the lockdown is meeeeeee," Jesse Katayama posted on his Instagram account alongside pictures of himself at the deserted site. 

"This is truly amazing! Thank you," he added in a video posted on the Facebook pages of the local tourism authority in Cusco, where the famed site is located. 

Katayama spoke against the backdrop of the majestic mountaintop dotted with ancient ruins that once attracted thousands of tourists a day but has been closed since March because of the coronavirus. 

The Japanese boxing instructor, identified by local media as a 26-year-old from Nara, has been stuck in Peru since March, when he bought a ticket for the tourist site just days before the country declared a health emergency. 

He told a Peruvian newspaper he had only planned to spend three days in the area, but with flights cancelled and movement limited by the virus, he found himself stuck there for months. 

Eventually, his plight reached the local tourism authority, which agreed to give him special permission to visit the Inca city, reopening the site just for him. 

"I thought that I wouldn't be able to go, but thanks to all of you who pleaded with the mayor and the government, I was given this super special opportunity," he wrote in Japanese on his Instagram account. 

Machu Picchu is the most enduring legacy of the Inca empire that ruled a large swathe of western South America for 100 years before the Spanish conquest in the 16th century. 

The ruins of the Inca settlement were rediscovered in 1911 by the American explorer Hiram Bingham, and in 1983, UNESCO declared Machu Picchu a World Heritage Site. 

It was originally scheduled to reopen to visitors in July, but that has now been pushed back to November. 

Just 675 tourists a day will be allowed in, 30 percent of the number allowed before the pandemic, with visitors expected to maintain social distancing. 

Since it first opened to tourists in 1948, it has been closed just once before, for two months in 2010 when a flood destroyed the railway tracks connecting it to Cusco.

Monday, August 31, 2020

Brazil indigenous chief Raoni set for hospital release

Yahoo – AFP, July 21, 2020

Raoni Metuktire, a chief of the Kayapo people in northern Brazil, is an iconic
defender of the Amazon rainforest who is in his 90s (AFP Photo/CARL DE SOUZA)

Rio de Janeiro (AFP) - Brazil's best-known indigenous leader, chief Raoni Metuktire, is improving and expected to be released soon from hospital after a health scare, doctors said Monday.

Raoni, an iconic defender of the Amazon rainforest who is in his 90s, has been diagnosed with two gastric ulcers and an intestinal infection, his medical team at the Dois Pinheiros hospital in the state of Mato Grosso said.

But "his clinical condition is improving," they said in their latest update.

"He is expected to be released from the hospital soon."

Raoni, a chief of the Kayapo people in northern Brazil, was hospitalized Thursday for weakness, shortness of breath and diarrhea.

He was first taken to a hospital in the small town of Colider before being transferred Saturday to Dois Pinheiros, a larger hospital in the city of Sinop, when his condition deteriorated.

Raoni's health began to decline after he lost his wife of more than 60 years, Bekwyjka, who died in June after a stroke.

Known for his colorful feather headdresses and the large disc inserted in his lower lip, Raoni has traveled the world raising awareness of the threat posed by destruction of the Amazon.

Doctor Fernanda Quinelato said he had received two blood transfusions.

"His general health is good, he is lucid, with controlled blood pressure and no fever," she said in the statement.

A test for the new coronavirus came back negative.

The virus has hit Brazil's indigenous communities hard. It claimed the life of another top indigenous leader, Paulinho Paiakan, last month.

Another of Brazil's best-known indigenous leaders, chief Aritana Yawalapiti, 71, is in serious condition with suspected COVID-19, his son told AFP Monday.

Saturday, August 22, 2020

El Salvador children, priest launch initiatives to stave off hunger

Yahoo – AFP, Carlos Mario MARQUEZ, August 22, 2020

Priest Moises Rutilio Moran checks the water filters in a pond where he
breeds fish at his church in Santa Ana, El Salvador

Priest Moises Rutilio Moran didn't sit twiddling his thumbs when the coronavirus pandemic struck and his church emptied -- like many Salvadorans, he got creative helping combat the country's COVID-induced lack of food.

Determined that his church in the city of Santa Ana "shouldn't be a burden on the community," Moran and his staff dug a pond and started selling affordable fish to the local community.

Some 50 kilometers (30 miles) east in El Chaparral, a village of 107 families, children began rolling up their sleeves, cultivating a vegetable garden that is providing food for the community.

The pandemic and its economic woes have sent the price of fruit and vegetables soaring, and left Salvadorans scheming plans to feed themselves.

"I know how to preach, teach the catechism, manage groups, but launching a tilapias project, never," the 41-year-old priest told AFP..

After churches were closed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Moran started collecting groceries to help 1,700 families, "not just poor people with houses made of (metal) sheets" but also lawyers and engineers who lost their jobs.

However, he soon realized he no longer had the means to pay for the electricity, water, telephone and internet at his church, Our Lady of Rosario.

Church caretaker Roberto Rivas prepares fish bred in a pond to be sold to 
parishioners and visitors in Santa Ana, El Salvador

Thus his project was born: provide cheap fish to the community whose payments would keep the church running "in a reciprocal manner."

On a makeshift table next to the pond, 65-year-old church caretaker Roberto Rivas is in charge of gutting the fish.

While the work is rewarding, Rivas told AFP he hopes the church "opens soon because in these worrying times the faithful need us to accompany them."

After five months of closure, churches are tentatively hoping to reopen their doors on August 30.

While many parish priests laid off their employees due to a lack of resources, Moran's new enterprise means he's actually hired new staff.

William Hernandez, 42, was left unemployed after the pharmacy he worked in for 16 years closed due to the crisis.

Now he wields a net and catches fish "chosen by the customer" while Omar Blanco, 29, serves as one of two workers making deliveries by motorcycle.

A girl holds a bundle of radishes in the community vegetable garden in El Chaparral

"It's an excellent initiative discovering sources of work in the midst of a difficult situation in which we have to reinvent methods (of generating income) for the church," priest Oscar Lagos told AFP as he arrived with a cooler to buy some fish.

'Getting children involved'

In the village of El Chaparral radishes, peppers, cabbages, tomatoes, spinach, blackberries and watermelons grown by the children are a welcome boost.

"It's an initiative in our El Chaparral community aimed at getting children and young people involved," said Victorina Alvarenga, a 32-year-old mother who joins her nine-year-old daughter Sheyla in the garden.

The vegetable patch is divided into plots named after the child in charge. One part of the garden is dedicated to providing food for the elderly.

"We're teaching children the value of solidarity so that when they're adults, they'll be good people," said Alvarenga.

A month after planting seeds, the first harvest produced huge radishes that were enthusiastically "ripped up" by the children.

A boy collects radishes in the El Chaparral community garden

"I'm delighted because I'm bringing fresh food to my family," said Sheyla proudly.

"I don't have any money but I bring healthy food."

The idea has caught on and in the neighboring village of Dimas Rodrigues a score of children have started another community garden.

"We want to produce our own food so we're not dependent on the market," said the group's leader, Pedro Diaz, 22.

Felicia Mijango, in charge of a union of rural communes, says the idea has its roots in the confinement of 10,000 Salvadoran refugees who fled to Ocotepeque in Honduras as civil war raged a decade ago.

The refugees couldn't leave their UN camp that was surrounded by barbed wire so they started growing their own fruit and vegetables.

Mijango says her union actively supports around 100 family and community allotments with help from American and Canadian NGOs.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Amazon indigenous protesters vow indefinite roadblock

Yahoo – AFP, Joao Laet,  August 20, 2020

Members of the Kayapo indigenous tribe are blocking a highway through the Brazilian
Amazon demanding help against the new coronavirus and an end to illegal mining
and deforestation

Armed with spears and bows, dozens of indigenous protesters in Brazil vowed Thursday to maintain a roadblock on a key highway until the authorities listen to their demands for help fighting COVID-19 and deforestation.

Members of the Kayapo Mekranoti ethnic group have been blocking highway BR-163 through the Amazon since Monday outside the northern town of Novo Progresso.

But they vowed that they would no longer lift their blockade periodically to let truckers through, as they had done for the past two days.

"We're going to stay right here until the government sends its representatives to talk with us," one protest leader, Mudjere Kayapo, told AFP.

The highway is the main artery to ship corn and soybeans, two of Brazil's main exports, from the country's central-western agricultural heartland.

A federal judge has ordered the protesters to stand down, citing the economic damage they are inflicting.

She rejected an appeal Wednesday, and has ordered the federal police to remove the protesters if they do not comply.

The Kayapo Mekranoti warned that would lead to violence.

"We do not want to fight. But we will not accept the army or police coming here and removing us by force. If that happens, there will be blood spilled on the asphalt," they said in a letter to the government's indigenous affairs office, FUNAI.

Wearing feather headdresses and body paint, the protesters burned a letter from FUNAI rejecting some of their demands and calling for patience on others.

The Kayapo Mekranoti are demanding far-right President Jair Bolsonaro's government release funds they say they are owed for environmental damage the highway caused to their land.

They also want help fighting illegal mining, deforestation and the new coronavirus, which has hit especially hard among indigenous people in the region.

In Brazil, the country with the second-biggest COVID-19 death toll worldwide after the United States, 26,000 indigenous people have been infected and 690 have died in the pandemic, according to the Brazilian Indigenous Peoples' Association (APIB).

"Our rights are being violated," the protesters said.

"Indigenous health is growing more fragile by the day... We are here to defend the Amazon and protect our territory. But the government wants to open indigenous lands to illegal projects, including mining, logging and ranching."

Saturday, August 8, 2020

Bishop who defended indigenous people dies in Brazil aged 92

Yahoo – AFP, August 8, 2020

Spanish bishop Pedro Casaldaliga, shown here speaking to actor Eduard
Fernandes in an undated photo released by Minoria Absoluta Productions,
has died aged 92 in Brazil

The Spanish bishop Pedro Casaldaliga, a fervent defender of the indigenous people of the Amazon, died Saturday at the age of 92 in Brazil, where he had been living since 1968, his office said.

The Prelature of Sao Felix do Araguaia, in the central-western state of Mato Grosso, where Casaldaliga was bishop emeritus, announced in a statement that he passed away in the morning at hospital in Batatais, near Sao Paulo.

He had been in intensive care due to respiratory problems and was suffering from Parkinson's disease.

"Our land, our people are losing today an example of generous living for a better world; we will miss him very much," former left-wing President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva tweeted.

Born in 1928 in Balsareny, Catalonia, and ordained a priest in 1952, he went on mission to Sao Felix do Araguaia, in the heart of the Brazilian Amazon, in 1968, while the country was under a military dictatorship.

He opposed the regime, the wealthy landowning class, and even the Vatican, defending the landless peasants and the indigenous people.

"In this land, it is easy to be born and die, but difficult to live," the prelate told AFP in 2012, as a TV series about his life was released -- "Barefoot on Red Soil," from the book of the same name by Catalan writer Francesc Escribano.

Living under the constant threat of hired killers in the pay of large landowners, he was one of the founders of the Pastoral Land Commission (CPT) and the Indigenous Missionary Council (CIMI), two key bodies in the struggle for agrarian reform.

In 1998 Bishop Casaldaliga was called to Rome, where he underwent a tough interrogation by the then Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who seven years later became Pope Benedict XVI.

At the end of last month, he and 150 other Brazilian bishops signed an open letter criticizing the extreme right-wing president Jair Bolsonaro, castigating his "incompetence" and his "inability" to manage the coronavirus health crisis, which has caused nearly 100,000 deaths in Brazil -- including several hundred indigenous people.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Brazil's indigenous chief Raoni leaves hospital

Yahoo – AFP, July 25, 2020

A photo released by the Hospital Dois Pinheiros shows indigenous leader Raoni
Metuktire at a press conference at the hospital after being released by his doctors
in Sinop, Mato Grosso State, Brazil, on July 25, 2020 (AFP Photo/Diego OLIVEIRA)

Brasília (AFP) - Brazil's best-known indigenous leader, chief Raoni Metuktire, was released from hospital Saturday after a health scare and gave thanks for all the support he received during his convalescence.

"I want to thank everyone who supported me, who heard about me every day, about my health. I thank you, now I am healed," said Raoni, an iconic defender of the Amazon rainforest, in a brief statement as he left the hospital.

In a wheelchair and visibly emaciated, the 90-year-old chief appeared at a press conference at Dois Pinheiros hospital in Sinop, Mato Grosso state, where he spent one week being treated for gastric ulcers, an inflamed colon and an intestinal infection.

His statement was translated by his grandson Paxton Metuktire.

"He is still a little weak because he is finishing recovering, but he is strong enough to continue leading his people," said Dr. Douglas Yanai, part of the team of eight specialists who treated him.

Raoni was to return by plane around 1:00 pm local time (1600 GMT) to his home of Metuktire, in the Xingu indigenous territory, the hospital reported.

Doctors said the "deep sadness" he felt on the death of his wife Bekwyjka, his companion for 60 years, on June 23 contributed to his condition.

Known for his colorful feather headdresses and the large disc inserted in his lower lip, Raoni, a chief of the Kayapo people, has traveled the world raising awareness of the threat posed by destruction of the Amazon.

In his brief statement, Raoni called for people to respect one another, because ill health can come "any day."

"Let's love, let's respect each other, because we don't know if tomorrow our friends are going to get sick. We have to be together," he said.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Judge orders Brazil's Bolsonaro to wear mask

Yahoo – AFP, June 23, 2020

In this file photo taken on May 12, 2020 Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro wears a
face mask as he arrives at a flag-raising ceremony at the Alvorada Palace in
Brasilia (AFP Photo/EVARISTO SA)

Brasília (AFP) - A federal judge in Brazil ordered President Jair Bolsonaro to wear a face mask in public, after the far-right leader repeatedly flouted the coronavirus containment measures in place in Brasilia.

Judge Renato Borelli ordered Bolsonaro, who has famously compared the new coronavirus to a "little flu," to stop ignoring the capital city's mask decree, or face a fine of 2,000 reals ($390).

"The president has a constitutional obligation to follow the laws in force in the country, as well as to promote the general welfare of the people, which means taking the necessary measures to protect citizens' right to health," the judge wrote in his ruling Monday.

The decision also applies to Bolsonaro's cabinet and staff.

The case was brought by a lawyer who said the president should be held to account for his "irresponsible behavior."

Masks have been mandatory in public in Brasilia since April to curb the spread of the virus.

Bolsonaro regularly breaks the social distancing measures in place in the capital, giving handshakes and hugs at rallies by his supporters, hosting barbecues, hitting the shooting range and going out for hotdogs, generally without a mask.

His former education minister Abraham Weintraub was fined 2,000 reals last week for attending a pro-Bolsonaro rally in Brasilia without a mask.

Brazil has the second-highest COVID-19 death toll in the world, after the United States, at more than 51,000.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Chile reports more than 7,000 virus deaths under new counting method

Yahoo – AFP, June 20, 2020

The toll thus increased by 3,069, officials said; pictured are health care staff
transferring a patient with symptoms of COVID-19 to San Jose Hospital,
in Santiago, on June 18, 2020 (AFP Photo/MARTIN BERNETTI)

Santiago (AFP) - Chile nearly doubled its coronavirus death toll Saturday to more than 7,000 under a new tallying method that includes probable fatalities from COVID-19.

The toll thus increased by 3,069, Rafael Araos of the heath ministry said as he revealed officially for the first time the new government counting methodology.

The revelation of this tallying method last week by CIPER, an investigative news organization, prompted the resignation of health minister Jaime Manalich.

Until now the death toll from confirmed coronavirus cases in the South American country was 4,075.

Infections have risen steadily in Chile even though it began taking emergency measures in February -- including widespread testing and the closure of borders and schools -- making it one of the first Latin American countries to do so.

The capital Santiago and its seven million people were placed under lockdown more than a month ago, followed recently by the cities of Valparaiso and Vina del Mar.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Costa Rica legalises same-sex marriage in first for Central America

Yahoo – AFP, Marco SIBAJA, May 26, 2020

Costa Rica is the first Central American country to legalise same-sex marriage
(AFP Photo/Ezequiel BECERRA)

San José (AFP) - Costa Rica legalised same-sex marriage on Tuesday, becoming the first Central American country to do so and sparking an emotional response from rights campaigners as the first weddings were held overnight.

Celebrations were cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic, but a special program about LGBT rights was broadcast on public television and online after a court ruling came into force at midnight.

"This change will bring about a significant social and cultural transformation, allowing thousands of people to marry," said President Carlos Alvarado in the program.

Costa Rica is the eighth country in the Americas to recognise same-sex marriage -- a group that includes Brazil, Ecuador and Argentina, as well as Canada and the US.

The Supreme Court in August 2018 ruled that a ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional and gave parliament 18 months to amend the laws. It failed to do that, so the provision was automatically annulled.

"Costa Rica is celebrating today: marriage equality has become a reality in the country -- the first one in Central America," tweeted the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA)..

"We rejoice with you: congratulations to all those who worked so hard to make it happen!"

Gay rights activists have long campaigned for the right to
marry in Costa Rica (AFP Photo/Ezequiel BECERRA)

Victor Madrigal-Borloz, the UN's Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, called the change "an extraordinary moment of celebration" in a tweet posted on Monday.

Strong Catholic tradition

He expressed "gratitude to the work of so many activists, and of quiet reflection of the lives of those who lived without seeing this moment".

Moments after midnight, Dunia Araya and Alexandra Quiros tied the knot in a town northwest of the capital, San Jose. The young women, both dressed in white, took their vows before a notary wearing a face mask as part of measures to stop the spread of coronavirus.

Costa Rica has a strong Catholic tradition and has also seen a proliferation of evangelical churches in recent decades. Many followers of those denominations are opposed to gay marriage.

Alvarado, a centrist, was elected to the presidency in April 2018 by comfortably seeing off a challenge from evangelical preacher Fabricio Alvarado, who campaigned against same-sex marriage.

The Supreme Court decision complied with an opinion given by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, declaring that homosexual couples have the same rights to marry as heterosexual ones.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Sao Paulo mayor: cancer survivor, COVID fighter

Yahoo – AFP, Paula RAMON,, May 23, 2020

Sao Paulo Mayor Bruno Covas has barely left city hall, where he has a bed in his
office, since he implemented the most aggressive stay-at-home policies in Brazil

Sao Paulo (AFP) - Isolated in his office at city hall, Sao Paulo Mayor Bruno Covas is waging a war on two fronts: the cancer survivor is also leading the fight against coronavirus at its epicenter in Latin America.

It's safe to say February 26, 2020 is a day the 40-year-old mayor won't forget anytime soon: just as he was starting immunotherapy for lymphoma -- his third cancer in as many months -- he got the news that Latin America's first case of the new coronavirus had been confirmed in his city.

Covas had already beaten his two previous tumors into remission with chemotherapy -- one in his upper stomach, one in his liver -- and he reacted to the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic with the same grit.

"I never considered stepping down," he told AFP in an interview at his offices, wearing a tight-fitting face mask that matched his black outfit.

"The doctors never said I needed to."

Bald and gaunt from his chemo, Covas bears the physical signs of the battles he has waged. But he is working virtually around the clock to run the pandemic response in the hardest-hit city in Latin America, with 40,000 infections and more than 3,000 deaths so far.

Together with Sao Paulo state Governor Joao Doria, Covas implemented the most aggressive stay-at-home policies in Brazil, ordering the closure of schools and non-essential businesses on March 24.

That flew in the face of far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, who condemned the "hysteria" around the virus and accused state and local authorities of needlessly hurting the economy.

Covas says his biggest battle is getting citizens in Brazil's biggest city to respect the stay-at-home.

Sao Paulo is Brazil's economic capital, and the bustle of business and the street is what the city is all about.

Monitoring based on cell phone location data indicates that only about half its 12 million residents are respecting the stay-at-home -- a source of frustration for Covas.

"But at the same time, it's rewarding to see that six million people are respecting it," he said.

"We've been in quarantine for almost two months, so each day that passes we're asking people to make an extra sacrifice."

The mayor, who took office in April 2018, is leading by example.

Since the stay-at-home started, he has barely left city hall, where he has installed a bed in his office.

Aside from occasional hospital visits or meetings with officials, Covas remains inside his 15-storey headquarters.

A divorced father of one, he receives visits a few times a week from his 14-year-old son.

Other than that, he mainly spends his time working. He says he wants to be available 24 hours a day for the people of Sao Paulo.

With Brazil emerging as the latest flashpoint in the pandemic, with more than 21,000 deaths, and the situation not expected to peak here until June, Covas' stay at city hall probably won't be over soon.

Not about ideology

Covas, who hails from the center-right Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB), is the grandson of a longtime Sao Paulo political bigwig, Mario Covas.

A lawyer by training, he was elected a state lawmaker at 26, then became deputy mayor under Doria. When his mentor stepped down to run for governor, Covas took over at city hall.

Covas acknowledged the challenges his administration has faced handling the pandemic, but defended its response.

"We're getting through the crisis in better shape than other major capitals," he said.

Local hospitals are near the breaking point, with 88 percent of intensive care beds full, but Covas said he was proud they had not been forced to turn anyone away.

He and his team are racing to reinforce the health care system. They have opened field hospitals that are caring for 2,500 COVID-19 patients and added hundreds of additional beds to existing hospitals.

He openly discusses the frustrations of watching Bolsonaro downplay the pandemic even as his city is being ravaged.

"The president doesn't care about medical protocols. That is doing a lot of damage," he said.

"This isn't a left-wing virus or a right-wing virus," he added.

"It's a scientific reality, and we have to confront it."