La Señal Informativa de América Latina <![CDATA[Manila: 10 Die in Plane Crash, 4 More in Hotel Fire]]> Sun, 18 Mar 2018 06:00:00 -0400 Multiple people killed while more than a dozen remain trapped in a Phillippines hotel, following a fire.

Russian Cargo Plane Crashes in Syria Killing All 39 on Board

Almost 20 trucks were dispatched to the scene of a fire which broke out early Sunday. According to officials, four people died and hundreds were evacuated from the Manila Pavilion casino.

Manila Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office chief, Johnny Yu, reported that six individuals were being treated and up to 19 were still in the building.

The hotel fire comes a day after another deadly blaze claimed the lives of 10 people when a small aircraft crashed into a house. All five passengers died as well as five others on the ground, a Manila police chief, Supt. Julio Lizardo, told CBS.

Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines spokesman Eric Apolonio said the airplane plummet into the building, setting it on fire, shortly after it had taken off.

Eyewitnesses claim the plane hit a tree and electric post before slamming into the house. But, the cause of the crash is not yet known.

The plane was on its way to Laoag in Ilocos Norte.

<![CDATA[#TodosSomosVenezuela Hits Globally]]> Sun, 18 Mar 2018 03:34:00 -0400 On Saturday, Venezuelan Nicolas Maduro extended gratitude for the overwhelming support #TodosSomosVenezuela has received on social media.

'Todos Somos Venezuela' Event Continues in Caracas

The hashtag allowed people across the globe to show support for the people of the Bolivarian republic on World Day of Solidarity.

Foreign Affairs Minister Jorge Arreaza also expressed thanks to those who support the country in these moments of political and financial aggression.






“Thanks to the friends of the world for so much solidarity, imperialism will not be able to reach the sons of Bolívar and Chávez. #JuntosTodoEsPosible With @NicolasMaduro we will win! #TodosSomosVenezuela #VenezuelaPazSiInjerenciaNo”.



The #TodosSomosVenezuela hashtag, which led trend worldwide, afforded people from all over the opportunity to voice their displeasure with the interventionist measures being employed by various elements to interfere with the autonomy and sovereignty of Venezuela.

Authorities, organizations, social movements and students from across Cuba, Russia, Italy, Sweden, Spain, Kenya, China, the Dominican Republic and Argentina, Mexico and Chile used the international hashtag to show solidary for the South American country.

<![CDATA[FIFA Chief: Do Not Make Trouble at World Cup, Russia Is Ready]]> "The Russians are very committed to this World Cup in order for it to be a total success," the FIFA president said.

Sat, 17 Mar 2018 23:25:00 -0400 The violence and crime which were rampant in Brazil’s hosting of the World Cup 2014 will not be a problem in Russia, FIFA president Gianni Infantino said during a press conference.

FIFA Votes to Bring Video Referees to Soccer Pitch in World Cup

The soccer president praised Russian authorities for their commitment to security, as the nation increases its police force in anticipation of the international event.

"The Russians are very committed to this World Cup in order for it to be a total success," Infantino told media personnel in Panama.

There has been some speculation of possible clashes between vigilant, dedicated soccer enthusiasts, particularly Russian and English fans.

"We are not going to war, we are going to the football party this summer, you are going to see that we are going to have a football party and if someone wants to make trouble they will have problems," the FIFA president said.

Brazil’s turn with the international event has left Rio in shambles, struggling to manage the worsened conditions of poverty, crime and a broken economic infrastructure in the city – all direct results of the 2014 World Cup.

Ahead of the much-anticipated event, police distributed a brochure which advised tourists to "not react, scream or argue" if attacked or approached by thieves. Visitors were warned against showcasing their valuables and to check constantly to ensure they were not being followed.

FIFA To Toughen Up Sanctions Amid Gun Controversy

In 2014, the Sao Paulo director of World Cup Security, Mario Leite said, “Tourists come mainly from Europe and the United States, where they do not see this crime very often… There is no use crying over spilt milk.”

However, Russia seems to have security measures under control, as Infantino could not suppress his enthusiasm saying, "I have experienced problems in organizing big events and I have to say that the level of preparation, especially in what is safe, what I am seeing in Russia I did not see anywhere," said Infantino, also noting that the lack of a visa also presents an unprecedented opportunity for travelers attending the summer event.

<![CDATA[Russia Votes: Putin Leads Presidential Polls]]> Sat, 17 Mar 2018 22:41:00 -0400 Amid reports of low voter numbers, Russians have turned out to polling stations to cast their ballots in Moscow's presidential election. So far, giving current President Vladimir Putin an overwhelming lead in his bid for a fourth term in office.

A Quick Look at the 8 Candidates for Russia's Presidency

Stations along the Russian eastern edge in Petropavlovsk and Kamchatsky opened at 8:00 a.m., local time. Over 100 million voters are eligible to cast votes across the country, which covers 11 time zones. Voters will cast ballots across 100,000 polling stations in 85 regions of Russia in addition to 145 countries, according to Al Jazeera.

Putin and candidates Ksenia Sobchak and Vladimir Zhirinovsky cast their ballots in Moscow, while Pavel Grudinin carried out the process elsewhere outside the capital. Boris Titov and Grigory Yavlinsky have also logged their ballots.

Russian President Vladimir Putin at a polling station during the presidential election in Moscow, Russia on March 18, 2018. Photo: Reuters
Presidential candidate Ksenia Sobchak, the only woman contesting the polls, casts her ballot in Moscow, Russia March 18, 2018. 

Recent opinion polls had put Putin comfortably ahead, harnessing an unassailable 70 percent support: almost 10 times more than any of his competitors. TASS is reporting that about 13,000 journalists from 2,400 Russian media outlets and 1,400 others from 400 countries will cover the elections.

According to the head of the OSCE Observer Mission, Jan Petersen, the group has received "reports from 291 teams throughout whole Russia which means that we have a lot of information to process before we can give the full picture. And I think it's very, very important that we do not voice any opinion based on very limited number of observations."

Presidential candidate Vladimir Zhirinovsky casts his ballot in Moscow. Photo: Reuters
Presidential candidate Pavel Grudinin casts his ballot outside Moscow, Russia. Photo: Reuters

Seven hopefuls are vying for the post, but Putin's reputation provides a difficult platform to compete with. The incumbent ran with the slogan 'A strong president, a strong Russia' and, except for former challenger Alexei Navalny, very few candidates have achieved the same level of support.

"He is our president. We take pride in him," said Marianna Shanina, a resident of the Crimea region. "We wish him victory at the election. Our whole family will vote for Putin."

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev signs a document before receiving his ballot at a polling station in Moscow. Photo: Reuters
Russians go to the polls in Ulyanovsk, where Lenin was born. Photo: Reporte73TV
Russians voting in Ulyanovsk, a city located near the Volga and Sviyaga rivers. Photo: Reporte73TV
Polls open in Ulyanovsk, 893 kilometers east of Moscow. Photo: Reporte73TV
Voting underway in the city of Ulyanovsk, east of Moscow. Photo: Reporte73TV

Navalny, who was convicted for embezzling funds, denounced the elections and is calling for a boycott: "The procedure in which we are invited to participate is not an election; it involves only Putin and those candidates whom he personally chose, who do not pose a slightest threat to him."

The Kremlin has also voiced concerns ahead of the elections, predicting a low voter turnout.

Alexei Khvorostov, a Krasnodar resident, said: "There is no intrigue. I do not see any point for me in going to the election."

Putin Says Russia's Arms Development Is 'Guarantee of Peace in the World'

Shortly before voting day on TV, Putin urged citizens to vote: "I, therefore, ask you to come to the polling stations on Sunday, use your right to choose a future for the great Russia that we love."

Some businesses have taken the president's message to heart, forcing employees to participate in order to boost turnout at the polls.

<![CDATA[Protesting Amazonian Women: 'We Are Protectors of The Jungle']]> Sat, 17 Mar 2018 20:55:00 -0400 An army of Amazonian Indigenous women plans to parade a list of demands to the door of Ecuador's President Lenin Moreno on March 22 to fight exploitation by the oil and mining industries.

Ecuador: 3 Detained After Homemade Bomb Detonated in Esmeraldas, No Deaths Reported

After marching for a week through the capital city, Quito, Women of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of the Ecuadorean Amazon (Confeniae) were admitted into the Governmental Palace on Friday to meet with Presidential Secretary Sebastian Roldan, per the state policy to communicate decisions with Indigenous communities.

The Indigenous representatives' 20-objective mandate outlining the needs of communities in the Amazonian region as well as their opinion on the continual destruction of forest land.

"We are the protectors of the jungle," Amazonian representative Nina Gualinga said during her meeting with Roldan, urging the government to accelerate its investigations into crimes and threats against social leaders in the region.

Gualinga explained there have been multiple allegations of sexual assaults near the various oil fields in the area.

The group of Indigenous women began their crusade Monday, "camping" in front of Carondelet, the presidential palace, where they swore they would stay until Moreno agreed to meet them and receive their mandate. On Tuesday Ecuador's police unsuccessfully attempted to remove them from the public square, but no incidents were reported.

In the past, Confeniae has strongly criticized the government, denouncing the decision to permit oil companies to begin drilling in the central-southern zones. It says Amazonian communities such as Shuar, Achuar, Sapara, Kichwa, Shiwiar, Waorani and Andoas would be put at risk and negatively affected.

In prevalent mining sectors where the Nankints and the Tundayme live, many inhabitants have turned to authorities to assist them as they are subjected to eviction and displacement.


<![CDATA[Controversial Guatemalan Mayor Julio Sanchez Shot to Death]]> Sat, 17 Mar 2018 19:38:00 -0400 Guatemalan police are investigating the murder of Zacapa Mayor Julio Alberto Enriquez Sanchez, who was gunned down on Saturday just meters from his home.

At Least 469 Murders Committed in Guatemala in January: Report

Sanchez had just stepped out of his home when he was attacked by two men on a motorcycle who shot him, killing him almost instantly. The attackers escaped and have yet to be identified, Volunteer Firefighter Raul Conteras told local media.

Local residents paid tribute yesterday, saying Sanchez had brought considerable improvements to the neighborhood. The mayor was in his second term as municipal administrator when he was executed.

Sanchez was known for traveling without bodyguards and was often seen riding around town and to meetings on his own motorcycle.


He was not, however, without his critics. Sanchez had been accused of numerous irregularities during his administration in connection to the water system. Police are investigating complaints lodged against him, as well as threats made towards him.

Congresswoman Laura Franco had publicly blamed Sanchez for the murder of her brother, Jacobo de Jesus de Franco Samayoa, who she said was silenced for denouncing corruption.


<![CDATA[US Imposes Fresh Sanctions Against Venezuela's Fledgling Petro]]> Sat, 17 Mar 2018 19:00:00 -0400 U.S. President Donald Trump has announced fresh sanctions against Venezuela's fledgling Petro cryptocurrency, which was launched specifically to help stabilize the Latin American nation's economy.

Maduro: 'Venezuelan Youth Should Create Cryptocurrency Farms'

The blockade, due to be signed and implemented Monday, restricts the use of Petros in U.S. financial transactions, McClatchy reports.

Trump and other critics have claimed the Petro, backed by Venezuela's oil reserves – the largest in the world – is unreliable. Yet in presales alone, Venezuela has already made over US$5 billion dollars.

The Petro, which was made available for presale on Feb. 20, is being used specifically to counter U.S.-imposed sanctions and the economic war waged by Washington.

Last month, President Nicolas Maduro said the new digital currency exists to strengthen Venezuela's "monetary sovereignty, to make financial transactions and overcome the financial blockade." Other countries subject to U.S. sanctions are now considering launching their own crypto-currencies.

Venezuela has yet to officially respond to news of the latest round of penalties imposed upon it by the United States, believed to be part of a larger set which will once again target Venezuelan officials and other government associates.

<![CDATA[Guatemala Prepares for Vote in Land Dispute with Belize]]> Sat, 17 Mar 2018 14:16:00 -0400 Guatemala is laying fresh claim to 19,600 square kilometers of land that currently belong to Belize in a territorial dispute that has been raging for more than 200 years.


Belize Says Guatemala Amassing Troops on Border, Tensions Rise

The Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) has prepared a 'popular consultation' on the territorial, insular and maritime dispute with Belize, with the vote due to be held on April 15.

Under the slogan 'Vote for Guate,' the Guatemalan government has allocated more than US$41 million to ask the population if the nation should bring the issue before the International Court of Justice.

TSE spokesperson Luis Gerardo Ramirez said 135 coordinators and delegates of polling stations have already been sworn in and will oversee operations on the day of the vote.

"The Popular Consultation is the mechanism through which the people approve or not transcendental decisions of the nation," he posted on Twitter. "Learn and participate in the #ConsultaPopular2018 on the territorial, insular and maritime dispute with Belize #ParticipemosPorGuatemala."


Tensions Flare as Belize Detains 3 Guatemalans at Heated Border

At least 7.5 million citizens are eligible to cast their ballot in the consultation, according to the electoral register of the TSE, which has also arranged for 135 educational institutions to act as operations centers where ballots, plastic bags and other supplies will be safeguarded.

In another Twitter post, the TSE said: "#ExpresaTuOpinion and participate in the #ConsultaPopular2018 to decide if the International Court of Justice definitively resolves the dispute with Belize that dates back more than 200 years."

<![CDATA[Venezuela: Digital Cards to Be Used in May Elections, CNE Publishes Electoral Registry]]> and could reduce waiting times for voters, according to the National Electoral Council.]]> Sat, 17 Mar 2018 11:45:00 -0400 Venezuelan citizens will use digital cards or tactile membranes to vote in the presidential and state elections scheduled for May 20, says Tania D'Amelio, a director of the National Electoral Council (CNE). 

United Nations 'Considering' Sending Observers for Venezuelan Elections

Highlighting the novelty, D'Amelio told Venezolana de Television that the cards make the best use of current technology and could reduce waiting times. She also confirmed the start of the selection process for those who will administer the electoral tables and boards.

The CNE will provide detailed voter records to political organizations with candidates registered to participate in the elections. 

Luis Piedra, secretary of the CNE's National Electoral Office, said the databank will include the names of voters registered in Venezuela, along with the composition of 24 regional electoral boards, 335 municipal boards, 71 local boards and 33,783 polling centers.

On Friday, the CNE published the preliminary list of voters which will be audited March 19 as part of the electoral timetable with the period for contesting the electoral list ending on March 18.

President Nicolas Maduro insists the electoral process offers guarantees to voters, being 100 percent automated and auditable: "Venezuela's electoral system and its guarantees are in the 21st century."

Another safeguard is the use of fingerprinting, which prevents people from voting twice. Voters can also check on the printed ballot that their votes correspond to their selection.

Maduro's government, along with the opposition, has invited the United Nations to accompany the elections. The international body is considering the request, according to Jose Luis Diaz, a spokesman for U.N. political affairs.

The announcement came after U.N. political affairs chief Jeffrey Feltman and other U.N. officials met with Venezuelan Ambassador Samuel Moncada and opposition representatives, including Henri Falcon.

Communications Minister Jorge Rodriguez said Venezuela will continue to press the Union of South American Nations and the United Nations to create a committee to monitor electoral practices in Latin America after the "disaster" during Colombia's recent elections, marred by widespread allegations of fraud.

<![CDATA[Mexico: Front-Runner Lopez Obrador to Hold Referendums if Elected]]> Sat, 17 Mar 2018 10:51:00 -0400 Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who is leading the presidential polls in Mexico, has vowed to hold bi-yearly referendums on his performance if he is elected on July 1. The referendums, he explained, would determine if he completes Mexico’s six-year presidential term.

Mexican Left Candidate Won't Be Provoked into Unofficial Debates

After formally registering his candidacy for the National Regeneration Movement (Morena) and the Together We’ll Make History Coalition on Friday, Obrador said in a brief speech “every two years there will be a popular consultation to ask if you want me to remain in the presidency or if I should resign.”

The most recent polls reveal Lopez Obrador is favored to be Mexico’s next president with 35 percent of those surveyed saying they would vote for him, giving him a 14 point lead against runner-up Ricardo Anaya, backed by the tradition right-wing party National Action Party (PAN), who is currently immersed in a corruption scandal over allegations of money laundering and the use of ghost companies.

Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office is investigating Anaya.

Lopez Obrador, former mayor of Mexico City, has run for the country’s top office twice before but was defeated by Felipe Calderon and then by current president Enrique Peña Nieto. In both cases, he and his followers unsuccessfully alleged electoral fraud.

His political platform is based on the commitment to fight corruption and inequality. He has promised to amend an article in Mexico’s constitution to make it possible to try former presidents for corruption and to cancel the pensions Mexico’s former presidents receive.


<![CDATA[Cuba: Economic Reforms Bring First Wholesale Food Market]]> Mary Blanca Ortega, Interior Minister of Commerce (MINCIN), said the opening of the wholesale food market would generate more cooperatives.

Sat, 17 Mar 2018 10:39:00 -0400 Amid talks of economic reforms in Cuba, the country inaugurated Mercabal, its first wholesale food market on Saturday. The move is a part of border modifications being made to the country's economy by Cuban President Raul Castro.

Cuba a 'Champion' of Children's Rights: UNICEF

Mary Blanca Ortega, Interior Minister of Commerce (MINCIN) said the opening of the wholesale food market would generate more cooperatives, leaving out private workers, or “cuantepropistas,” at the outset.

Mercabal is part of "the process of reordering trade to meet one of the most repeated demands of those who exercise the new state forms of management in the country," according to Granma newspaper. Some of its products include beans, cigars, soda drinks, beers, sugar, salt, preserves, chicken, hamburgers, and sausages. Discounts will range from 20 to 30 percent of the retail price.

Located in Havana, the wholesale food market opened its doors at a time when the Cuban government "temporarily" suspended the issuing of several private sector job licenses.

Official figures indicate that Cuba now has 550,000 registered private workers and 429 non-agricultural cooperatives in operation.

Though committed to economic reforms, the Cuban government has reiterated that it will not allow the concentration of property and wealth through private management, nor turn its back on its socialist principles.

“The people will participate in the decisions that the government takes,” said Cuban Vice-President Miguel Diaz-Canel. "The people can also recall someone who doesn't fulfill their responsibilities. There has to be a focus on ties to, links with, the people, to listen to the people, deeply investigate the problems that exist and inspire debates about those problems."

<![CDATA[Facebook Suspends Data Analytics Firm Involved in Trump Campaign]]> Sat, 17 Mar 2018 09:59:00 -0400 Facebook is suspending political data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica, which worked for Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, after discovering the firm violated the social media network's privacy policies.

Palestinian Journalists: Facebook 'Complicit' in Israeli Crimes

In a statement, Facebook Deputy General Counsel Paul Grewal announced the firm had suspended Cambridge Analytica and its parent company Strategic Communications Laboratories (SCL) after reports they sold information about Facebook users to a third party.

The statement, which does not mention the Trump campaign, also warns that Facebook "will take legal action if necessary to hold them responsible and accountable for any unlawful behavior,” adding that it would continue its investigations.

On Cambridge Analytica's website, the firm claims it "provided the Donald J. Trump for President campaign with the expertise and insights that helped win the White House." Neither the firm nor Brad Parscale, who ran Trump's digital ad operation in 2016, have so far commented, acccording to Reuters.

In previous interviews, Parscale downplayed the firm's role in the campaign, insisting it mostly relied on data from Republican-affiliated organizations. However, according to Federal Election Commission records, the Trump campaign paid the analytics firm over US$6.2 million.  

Facebook also had problems with SCL in 2015, after learning that University of Cambridge Professor Aleksandr Kogan violated its policies when he shared data with a so-called 'research app' that used Facebook's login system to SCL/Cambridge Analytica and Christopher Wylie of Eunoia Technologies.

The suspension means that Cambridge Analytica and SCL cannot buy ads on Facebook or administer clients' pages.

<![CDATA[Russia Expels 23 United Kingdom Diplomats As Crisis Deepens]]> Sat, 17 Mar 2018 09:11:00 -0400 Russia announced the expulsion of 23 United Kingdom diplomats on Saturday and informed them they would have a week to leave the country. Russia's Foreign Ministry also revoked the permit for the British consulate to operate in Saint Petersburg.

Corbyn Urges UK Gov't Against 'McCarthyite, Cold War' Approach on Russia

The measures are a response to the U.K.’s decision on March 4 to expel 23 Russian diplomats and Prime Minister Theresa May’s accusations against Russia, blaming the country for a nerve toxin attack on a former Russian double agent, Serguei Skripal, and his daughter in Salisbury, U.K.

Moscow announced the diplomatic retaliation on the eve of Russia’s presidential elections, which incumbent Vladimir Putin should comfortably win because he is leading the polls.

Shortly after the attack, Russia offered their collaboration to investigate the case and requested the U.K. government access to the compound used in the attack so that Russian experts could test it in accordance with the Chemical Weapons Convention, to which both parties have adhered.

May didn’t accept Russia’s collaboration without providing explanations.

On Wednesday the U.K. requested an urgent meeting of the United Nations Security Council; a move criticized by Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia.

How the United States 'Hacked' Russia's Elections in the 1990s

Nebenzia also dismissed the U.K.’s theory, which posits the substance used in the attack against Skripal could only have come from Russia. “For British specialists to be able to establish the gas is Novichok, they must have a standard of control. To prove that this is the compound, it must be compared by the corresponding standard. If the British say it is Novichok gas, then a priori they must have a standard of the substance,” Nebenzia argued.

The U.K.’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement reiterating Russia’s alleged responsibility for the attack. “Russia’s response doesn’t change the facts of the matter - the attempted assassination of two people on British soil, for which there is no alternative conclusion other than that the Russian State was culpable,” the Ministry said.

This stance is backed by the United States, Germany, and France, all of which have issued calls on Russia to explain the attack.

This diplomatic crisis has plunged Russia-U.K. relations to the lowest they’ve been since the Cold War.

<![CDATA[Brazil's Lula Launches Book, Vows Not to Hide or Seek Asylum]]> Fri, 16 Mar 2018 23:52:00 -0400 Brazilian presidential candidate Luiz Inacio 'Lula' da Silva has released his new book, 'The Truth Will Win,' simultaneously warning authorities that arresting him now would make him a political prisoner.


Brazil: Danny Glover Visits Lula to Support Presidential Bid

"If they dare to have me arrested, they will be committing legal barbarism and I will become a political prisoner," said Lula, president from 2003 to 2010.

The former president has spent the past year campaigning while jumping from one appeals court to the next, fighting a 12-year prison sentence for corruption and money laundering.

As his new book hit the shelves, Lula once again declared his innocence: if police want to arrest him, he won't seek asylum or go into hiding, he said: "I will be at my house, arriving between eight and nine in the evening, going to sleep at ten, waking up at five in the morning to do exercises."

Brazil: Adolfo Esquiez Nominating Lula for Nobel Peace Prize

The 216-page book details an extended interview with journalists and intellectuals, during which he gives his perspective on events leading up to his conviction. Lula agreed to the content, despite the inclusion of controversial statements relating to his successor, Dilma Rousseff.

"I want you to know that what is here is exactly my truth and that that truth places my accusers against the wall: they believed that I was going to put my tail between my legs and stay still, but I am not going to disappear; I will return to be president of Brazil," Lula said of the book.

Senator Gleissi Hoffman, president of the Workers' Party, said: "It is a strong testimony about the current situation in Brazil and makes it clear that if we continue to insist on his candidacy for the presidency despite being convicted, it is for one reason only: because Lula is innocent."

To date, Lula has topped every presidential election poll, including those conducted by Datafolha, Vox Populi, Data Poder 360, Instituto Parana, the National Confederation of Transportation/MDA and Ipsos.

<![CDATA[Bullets That Killed Brazil Activist Franco 'Bought by Police']]> Fri, 16 Mar 2018 23:03:00 -0400 The 9mm bullets that killed Brazilian councilwoman and activist Marielle Franco were part of a lot bought by federal police in 2006, it has been revealed, as the country's top prosecutor confirmed she is tracking the murder investigation.

Brazil: Activists Vow to Continue Marielle Franco's 'Struggle' as Protest Spread Across Brazil

The ammunition was apparently stolen and has been used in more than 50 crimes since, a source told Reuters on condition of anonymity, because they were not authorized to discuss the matter.

Meanwhile, Prosecutor General Raquel Dodge said she would not hesitate to demand federal authorities take control of the investigation into the murder if local police fail to aggressively pursue the case.

Dodge told reporters she hoped it would not be necessary for her to petition Brazil's top appeals court to give federal police and prosecutors control over the investigation into Franco's assassination

Dodge has already taken the initial bureaucratic steps required to monitor the work of Rio de Janeiro state investigators' efforts to find those responsible for the Wednesday killing.

Franco, 38, was a rising star in the Socialism and Liberty Party (PSOL). She was returning home from an event entitled 'Young Black People Moving the Structures' in Lapa when her vehicle was approached by another car. 

At least nine bullets were fired, killing the councilwoman and her driver. Her advisor, Fernanda Chaves, who was also in the vehicle, was the only survivor.

The United Nations Organization for Human Rights has requested a "transparent, credible" investigation and urged authorities to carry it out independently so that it can be considered credible.

<![CDATA[FIFA Votes to Bring Video Referees to Soccer Pitch in World Cup]]> Fri, 16 Mar 2018 22:49:00 -0400 Video Assistant Referees (VAR) will be used in this year's World Cup Finals beginning in June, FIFA officials decided in Colombia on Friday. 


FIFA Authorities Debate Video Referees Ahead of 2018 World Cup

"We are going to have our first World Cup with video assisted refereeing," FIFA President Gianni Infantino said. "This has been adopted and approved and we are extremely happy with that decision."

The long-awaited decision follows a unanimous International Football Association Board (IFAB) vote of approval earlier this month in lieu of a two-year trial period.

"It's a decision based on the trials that were carried out in over 1,000 matches in the last two years that provide us with guarantees and concrete facts that VAR definitely helps referees," Infantino said.

The incorporation of VAR will provide a more transparent system for both players and fans, according to FIFA. From Twitter, FIFA council member Reinhard Grindel showed his support, explaining that clear communication is vital to a successful tournament.

"It will help to have a more transparent and fairer sport, which is what we want because the referee has his work cut out for him already and sometimes he can make mistakes – like any human being – and if we can help him to correct some of these mistakes, let's do so."

VAR promises greater accuracy through playbacks, which will guarantee the dutiful delivery of red cards, penalty awards, mistaken identities and goals.

FIFA officials also voted Friday to bring an open ballot to the 2026 World Cup bidding process. The FIFA Congress will meet again June 13 to elect the host for the next international soccer tournament.

<![CDATA[Mexico Extraditing 'Money Laundering' Former Governor to US]]> Fri, 16 Mar 2018 21:43:00 -0400 Mexico has agreed to extradite a former state governor for the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) wanted on money laundering charges in the United States, the foreign ministry said on Friday.

One Candidate Murdered Every Four Days in Mexico Elections: OAS

Eugenio Hernandez Flores, who served as governor of the northern border state of Tamaulipas from 2005 to 2010, faces trial in a U.S. federal court in Texas, the ministry said in a statement.

Several former PRI governors, including Hernandez's predecessor in Tamaulipas, have been arrested over allegations of corruption in the past year, seriously undermining the reputation of the ruling party, Reuters reports.

The party's candidate is running third in most opinion polls in the race to win the July 1 Mexican presidential election.

The former governor has the right to challenge the extradition in court, and his lawyer Juan Jorge Olvera Reyes said he would do so. Hernandez denies the charges, Olvera said.

Hernandez was arrested in the Tamaulipas state capital of Ciudad Victoria in October. Prosecutors in Texas charged him over a money laundering scheme in mid-2015.

<![CDATA[Argentina's Missing San Juan Submarine 'Spied on British Ships']]> Fri, 16 Mar 2018 20:56:00 -0400 The crew of Argentina's missing ARA San Juan submarine was tasked with spying on British ships, Cabinet Chief Marcos Peña told a Congressional hearing on Friday.

Argentina: US$5m Reward to Find Missing San Juan Submarine

"The priority tactical objective of this patrol was the location, identification, photographic registry of refrigerated, logistics, oil ships that were smuggling with a fishing vessel," Peña said.

The San Juan was commissioned to identify and monitor a fleet of British ships and aircraft circling the Malvinas Islands, Peña told the court. The information was approved by the Navy Training and Enlistment Command and sent to the sub commander.

The fact the vessel had shown "flaws" before embarking on her final voyage, having sailed for 39 months on half-life repairs against the recommendation of the manufacturer, offers a sobering perspective on defense spending in Argentina.

The chief cabinet minister's admission contradicts testimony from Defense Minister Oscar Aguad, who firmly denied any order of espionage, though there was an order to rank, observe and scout out the area to perform regular check-ups, he said.

"I have the strong impression that Aguad's denial of the control activities of British ships and aircraft is due to the priority in governing the privileged relationship with the British for the discovery of the truth about the disappearance," opposition party deputy Guillermo Carmina wrote on Twitter.

Crew of ARA San Juan Submarine 'Died in Explosion': Report

Carmina said Peña's statement confirms claims the government is downplaying the case of the missing submarine, which disappeared along with her 44 crew on November 15, 200 kilometers off the coast of Chubut in the Argentine Sea.

Contact with the crew was lost and the rescue mission was aborted two weeks later in favor of attempts to locate and recover the wreckage.

Relatives of the crew are demanding that President Mauricio Macri re-initiate the search. The bereaved families paid tribute to the lost crew members at Mar del Plata naval base, 400 kilometers south of capital city Buenos Aires, Thursday.

"We are tired, sad and the anguish increases, we need you to continue searching and find it," said Malvinas Vallejos, a relative of one of the victims.

Last month, the government offered USS$5 million to anyone able to locate the wreckage of the missing submarine.

<![CDATA[One Candidate Murdered Every Four Days in Mexico Elections: OAS]]> Fri, 16 Mar 2018 19:09:00 -0400 A spike in assassinations in the run-up to Mexico's regional and national elections is "absolutely unacceptable," the Organization of American States (OAS) warned on Friday.

Mexico: Another Candidate Killed in Guerrero State

"It is an average of one murder of a candidate every four or five days: that is a margin of violence absolutely unacceptable in an electoral process, we are very worried," said OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro.

Mexico's next president – as well as numerous senators, federal deputies, governors and mayors – will be contested in July when millions of voters head to the polls.

"We are concerned about several elements in the Mexican election: the first is the assassination of candidates and political leaders in the country," Almagro said during a conference at the Casa America in Madrid.

On Friday morning, news of the murder of Gustavo Martin Gomez Alvarez, a mayoral candidate with the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), reached the department of Puebla.

Local media is reporting that Gomez Alvarez was eating breakfast in Metlatoyuca at about 11:30 a.m. when a group of men drove up and shot him six times. The death is being investigated by the Puebla Public Prosecutor's Office as a homicide.

Mexico Mourns 30th Election Candidate Murdered Since September

Earlier this month, mayoral candidates Homero Bravo Espino, with the Mexican Democratic Party (PRD), and Aaron Varela Martinez, with the National Regeneration Movement (Morena), were both shot dead.

Antonia Jaimes Moctezuma (PRD) and Dulce Nayeli Rebaja Pedro (Institutional Revolutionary Party), both precandidates for local elections in Chilapa, Guerrero, were killed on Feb. 21 and Feb. 25 respectively. Rebaja was also head of Indigenous and Afro-Mexican Affairs for the state of Guerrero.

According to the PRD's estimate, about 12 members of the party have been assassinated since the beginning of the election campaign in September.

Local media report that at least 54 pre-candidates from various parties have been murdered during the same period, while 83 have been assaulted.

Since 2006, more than 100 mayors have been killed, according to a report by the National Association of Mayors.

The OAS plans to send observers to the July elections in an attempt to safeguard electoral transparency.

<![CDATA[Venezuela Warns Mike Pompeo to Avoid Tillerson's Mistakes]]> Fri, 16 Mar 2018 16:50:00 -0400 Venezuela's Minister of Defense Vladimir Padrino Lopez is warning new U.S. Secretary State Mike Pompeo to avoid repeating his predecessor's mistakes: there will be no coup in Venezuela.


Arreaza: Cooperation, Dialogue 'Unites' Venezuela with the Caribbean

"If Mike Pompeo comes with the same policy that Tillerson initiated, with the same line of attack – of aggression – against sovereignty, against a population and its armed forces, he will again be faced with a wall," Padrino said.

The announcement of Pompeo's ascension to secretary of state was made by President Donald Trump on Twitter. Earlier this year, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency hinted that his department had contributed significantly to Trump's decision to impose sanctions against Venezuela.

A former senior staffer on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Thomas Hill, broke down Trump's decision to appoint the former CIA director: "Pompeo is a pleaser – a Trump pleaser. The reason why Trump likes him is because he's kind of a sycophant. He's not going to come in and immediately stand up to Trump. It would be antithetical to the relationship that Pompeo has with Trump, right? The relationship is based on Pompeo saying yes."

Based on past interviews, Pompeo is unlikely to change his position. Earlier this year, he said Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's government posed a serious risk because of its links to Cuba, Russia and Iran.

Venezuela has repeatedly warned against plans for an invasion. Padrino said that despite attempts to overthrow the government by "puppets" of the United States, such plans will never succeed.

"There cannot be a military coup here: we are in the middle of the 21st century; I need to say this to whoever talks about a military coup that we are in 2018… a military coup? This is part of the past," Padrino said.

Despite the sanctions imposed by Washington, Venezuela's economy has been rebounding thanks to the the recovery of oil prices, and Caracas remains hopeful that recent incorporation of cryptocurrency in the form of Petros, backed by oil exports, will allow it to circumvent the U.S. measures.

US: Trump Sacks Rex Tillerson as State Secretary

During the XXIII Ordinary Meeting of the Council of Ministers of the Association of Caribbean States (ACS) in Venezuela, Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza called on the United States to cease hostilities against the Bolivarian nation: "Enough with the threats. We must avoid imposition and achieve multilateral forums in harmony," he said.