La Señal Informativa de América Latina <![CDATA[UN Grants Palestine More Powers to Act More As Full Member]]> Wed, 17 Oct 2018 10:16:00 -0400 The 193-member United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday allowed the Palestinians to act more like a full U.N. member state during meetings in 2019 when they will chair the group of 77 developing nations.

Palestinian Hospitals, Patients Latest Victims of US Fund Cuts

Palestine’s permanent representative to the United Nations, Riyad Mansour hailed as “a new political victory” the General Assembly's vote in favor of his country. 

Mansour told the official Voice of Palestine radio that the General Assembly vote confirms the international community’s confidence in the State of Palestine and its ability to lead 134 countries and negotiate about 70 percent of the U.N. agenda issues that are of concern to humanity in general and to help developing countries develop their economy.

Meanwhile, the United States, Israel and Australia voted against the move, which won 146 votes in favor. There were 15 abstentions and 29 countries didn't vote. "We cannot support efforts by the Palestinians to enhance their status outside of direct negotiations. The United States does not recognize that there is a Palestinian state," U.S. Deputy U.N. Ambassador Jonathan Cohen told the General Assembly.

The Palestinians want to establish a state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. Israel captured those territories in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed East Jerusalem in a move not recognized internationally.

In 2012, the U.N. General Assembly overwhelmingly approved the de facto recognition of the sovereign state of Palestine when it upgraded the Palestinian Authority's U.N. observer status to non-member state - like the Vatican - from entity.

The status upgrade has allowed them to participate in some General Assembly votes and join some international bodies. However, as a non-member state the Palestinians cannot speak in meetings until after member states, diplomats said.

The Egyptian-drafted resolution allows them to procedurally operate like a member state when acting on behalf of the G77 and China - making statements, submitting and co-sponsoring proposals and amendments, giving rights of reply and raising points of order.

"Australia's decision to vote no on this resolution reflects our long-standing position that Palestinian attempts to seek recognition as a state in international fora are deeply unhelpful to efforts toward a two-state solution," Australian U.N. Ambassador Gillian Bird told the General Assembly.

Days earlier reports suggested that the Australian government has Israel that it might follow Washington's steps, recognize Jerusalem as the "undivided capital" of Israel and move the embassy to the contested city. 

<![CDATA[Costa Rican Court Halts Fiscal Reform, Unions to Continue Protests]]> Wed, 17 Oct 2018 10:12:00 -0400 As Costa Rican workers entered the 37th day of the national strike against the bill titled Strengthening Public Finance Tuesday, the country’s Constitutional Court halted the controversial fiscal reform measure with an 11 to four vote, arguing it affects judicial autonomy.

Costa Rica: Fiscal Plan Crosses First Hurdle, Unions to Continue Protest

During a protest outside the court, Albino Vargas Secretary General of the National Association of Public and Private Employees (ANEP), warned that if the court didn't reject the bill they would continue to call for its nullification.

“Today the justices will tell us whose side they are on, on the side of power or of the people,” Carmen Brenes of the Union of Costa Rican Educators (Ande) said.   

After the Court’s ruling Congress can send the bill back to its legislative commission to be re-drafted, eliminating provisions that according to the ruling go against judicial autonomy, including an article that grants the Planning Ministry (Mideplan) power over employment in the judicial branch, and guaranteeing that judicial workers will not be affected by the reduction in percentages for exclusive dedication and the prohibition of private exercise. The judicial branch has also said the will not abide by the technical guidelines of the civil service.

With these changes, the court would approve the bill. 

Congress could also refuse to modify the bill, in which case they would need to secure 38 of 57 votes in a second legislative debate and vote to approve the bill without the court’s go ahead.

The bill was approved on October 5 with just 35 votes. Members of left-leaning Broad Front (FA), National Renewal (PRN) and National Integration (PIN) parties reached 22 votes against the bill, arguing it disproportionately impacted the country's poor and working class.

Costa Rica: Tens of Thousands March Against Fiscal Reform

President Carlos Alvarado, who has pushed for the bill, disagreed with the ruling saying it does not affect the judicial branch but confirmed his willingness to reach some sort of consensus in order to gain approval for the measure, which he claims the country “urgently” needs.

Alvarado ministers and other state officials have, however, failed to reach agreements with workers' unions and other groups that have been on strike for over a month. The government and unions set up a dialogue on the issue, but they ultimately fail to come to an agreement. The unions were unwilling to halt the strike if the government didn’t withdraw the bill, while the government refused to withdraw the law or to discuss the union’s alternative bill until the strike ended. The Union's proposal is known as the Justice and Solidarity Tax Reform, which focuses on combating tax evasion and fraud, increasing taxes on companies and banks that generate extraordinary profits, eliminating "luxury" pensions for former presidents, and reducing state financial support for political parties.

Rocio Aguilar, the country's finance minister, has sent a written note to the court offering guarantees that the judicial branch will not lose its independence in establishing salaries.

“On the possibility that the bill will affect the independence of the judicial branch by regulating certain extras, I would like to point out in a respectful way that the project does not affect or eliminate the judicial branch’s power to modify the pay scale or base salaries,” Aguilar said.

She also said she was willing to include an interpretation of the article that stipulates that the Mideplan will be charged with evaluating public sector employees to “guarantee the absolute independence of the judicial power in performance evaluations.”

The bill has been widely criticized by workers’ unions, students, Indigenous groups, Campesinos, and municipal councils. Several of these groups have protested against the measure since it was proposed by president Alvarado in September.

It is unclear if a modified version of the bill would change the impact it would have on public sector workers.

<![CDATA[UN: Rohingya Refugee Girls Sold into Forced Labor in Bangladesh]]> Wed, 17 Oct 2018 09:44:00 -0400 Young girls, who are among the thousands of Rohingya refugees created by a humanitarian crisis in Myanmar, are being sold into forced labor in Bangladesh according to the United Nations’ International Organization for Migration (IOM). The girls are the largest group of trafficking victims at overcrowded camps in Bangladesh were 700,000 refugees across the border to escape human rights abuses.


India To Deport Seven 'Illegal' Rohingya Refugees to Myanmar

According to the IOM, 99 cases of human trafficking were identified during the year starting September 2017, although researchers fear the actual number of victims may be much greater. The report, released this week, said that out of the victims, 35 were girls and 31 women. 31 of the girls and 26 of the women ended up in forced labor, with at least 10 percent facing sexual exploitation. 

“The stories we commonly hear are of vulnerable people being approached by traffickers with false promises of work and a better life,” said IOM spokeswoman Dina Parmer, adding some refugees were unaware of the risks and only fall victim to the promises to raise money for family members living in the heavily overcrowded camps.

“Others may be aware it is dangerous, but feel their situation is so desperate that they are willing to take extreme measures, perhaps sacrificing one family member for the sake of the rest of the family,” she said in a statement.

The rest of the trafficking victims include 25 adult men and eight boys who were forced into labor. Figures show five women and four girls ended up in situations of sexual exploitation.

An IOM NGO partner organization, Young Power in Social Action (YPSA), a Bangladeshi charity is trying to raise awareness among refugees of the dangers of trafficking. They have been collecting reports from Rohingya community leaders, as well as local and international groups.

“More than 1,000 have been identified as victims of human trafficking,” according to these figures, Jishu Barua of the YPSA.

More than 900,000 Rohingya, an ethnic and religious Muslim minority in Myanmar, live in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar district, the vast majority in camps, according to the United Nations.

About 700,000 of them arrived in the four months after deadly attacks by Rohingya insurgents on Myanmar security forces in August 2017 were followed by military operations that the United Nations and human rights groups said targeted civilians.

Bangladesh bars refugees from leaving the camps or holding jobs other than participating in small-scale cash-for-work programs run by humanitarian agencies, according to IOM.

“They are desperate to get out of the camps to make some money,” Barua told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone from Cox’s Bazar.

Traffickers prey on that desperation, offering transportation and work opportunities, according to IOM.

Since September 2017, IOM has carried out more than 50 outreach sessions, ensuring almost 1,000 refugees have been made aware of trafficking with messages that they can then share with others. In addition, over 100 Bangladeshi law enforcement officers in Cox’s Bazar have taken part in IOM counter-trafficking training.

<![CDATA[Over 400 Women to Contest Violence-Plagued Afghan Election]]> Wed, 17 Oct 2018 06:59:00 -0400 Afghanistan's upcoming October 20 parliamentary election will have more than 400 women candidates. There are 417 women candidates, out of 2,565,  set to contest seat across the country amid increasing violence.

'Positive Change' Afghan Candidate Killed in Suicide Attack

"Elections in my country are not just about victory or defeat," 26-year-old candidate, Dewa Niazai, said. "It is about launching a small-scale war. I can get killed, injured or abducted." There has also been an alarming increase in deadly suicide attacks on election rallies, offices as well as candidates, in an attempt to deter voting.

"My supporters were waiting to listen to my speech but in a few seconds I was surrounded by their bodies," 32-year-old teacher and candidate, Nazifa Yousuf Bek, told Reuters. "I am shaken but I am also determined to continue the election campaign. This is my responsibility."

Women's rights advocates have said that despite emphasis being placed on promoting equality, child marriage and the murder of women, by family members, in "honor killings" remain widespread.

However, Afghanistan’s women representation is better than some Western nations. About 28 percent of seats in the Afghan lower house are currently held by women, this is eight points higher than the U.S. Congress.

"In comparison with male candidates, women have more problems in the election race ... insecurity and harassment inhibit women's mobility and justify family restrictions," Maria Bashir, Afghanistan's first female prosecutor from Herat province, said.

"Laws about equality exist on paper but they are yet to implemented," Sabri Andar, the only female candidate with disabilities, said. "As a lawmaker, I want to ensure we practice what is written in our constitution."

Nine candidates, including one woman, have been killed so far. Two others have been abducted and four others have been wounded, according to election officials.

Zabi Sadat, a deputy spokesperson for Afghanistan's Independent Election Commission, told DW that: "We don't have exact numbers, but according to an estimate, at least 60 to 65 percent of candidates running in the October 20 polls are below the age of 40."

<![CDATA[US Midterm Vote: More Controversy in Georgia As Black Seniors Removed From Bus]]> Wed, 17 Oct 2018 05:46:00 -0400 U.S. mid-term elections in the state of Georgia has again attracted controversy after dozens of black senior citizens were removed from a bus that was transporting them to vote.

US Midterms: Concerns Over Rigged Election in Georgia

The bus was preparing to leave a county-operated senior center - with about 40 people - when the center director ordered them off the vehicle, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

"We knew it was an intimidation tactic,” Black Voters Matter (BVM) co-founder, LaTosha Brown, said. “It was really unnecessary. These are grown people.” 

BVM had arranged for the bus, the Journal-Constitution reported. Brown added that the group had secured permission, before explaining that a county clerk had raised concerns about the bus.

Jefferson County Administrator Adam Brett said his office viewed the event as a “political activity” because it was organized with county Democratic Party Chairwoman Diane Evans.

“Jefferson County administration felt uncomfortable with allowing senior center patrons to leave the facility in a bus with an unknown third party,” Brett said. “No seniors at the Jefferson County senior center were denied their right to vote.”

Last week, over 53,000 voter applications were placed on hold in Republican candidate Brian Kemp’s office ahead of the election, according to an Associated Press report. Almost 70 percent of those registrations are reportedly from black applicants. Voters will choose between African American Democratic candidate Stacey Abrams, and Kemp, for governor. 

Public polls have suggested that the racial makeup of the voters is trending to significantly impact the election’s outcome.

Kemp, who is the secretary of state, is responsible for overseeing the elections. Statistics show a virtual dead heat. Voting rights advocacy groups have criticized Kemp for using his office to suppress voters in an attempt to influence the mid-term election result.

Democratic candidate Stacey Abrams Photo: Reuters FILE

Election officials can place non-matching applications on hold under Georgia’s “exact match” verification process. The policy requires that information on voter applications "exact match" policy requires that information must identically match information on file with the Georgia Department of Driver Services or the Social Security Administration.

The secretary of state has remarked that he is executing his designated job.

“The thing of it is, is that blue waves aren’t blue … the blue wave is African-American. It’s white, it’s Latino, it’s Asian-Pacific Islander. It is disabled. It is differently abled. It is LGBTQ, it is law enforcement. It is veterans. It is made up of those who have been told they are not worthy of being here. It is comprised of those who are documented and undocumented. It is comprised of those who have been told they’re successful and those who have been left behind,” Abrams commented.

During a Fox News interview, Kemp countered to accuse Abrams of supporting immigrants without legal status to vote.

“Wow. It means she wants illegals to vote in Georgia. This is a shocking development in the campaign. While she was campaigning with Elizabeth Warren she actually said this,” Kemp said. “I think hard-working Georgians should decide who their governor is, not people here illegally like my opponent wants.”

Abrams could become the United States' first African-American woman mayor and the first person from an ethnic minority to be governor of the state of Georgia.

<![CDATA[14 Iranian Security Personnel Abducted Near Pakistan Border]]> Wed, 17 Oct 2018 03:56:00 -0400 Iranian state media has reported that 14 security personnel were abducted near the country’s southeastern border with Pakistan, on Tuesday.

Iran Warns
US, Israel of Revenge After Ahvaz Parade Attack

"The Pakistani government should immediately implement all necessary means and measures to free border guards of the Islamic Republic of Iran and arrest the wicked terrorists," Iran's Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi said.

The security personnel were “abducted between 4:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m. in the Lulakdan area of the border by a terrorist group,” the IRNA news agency said.

Al-Qaida-affiliated group Jaish al-Adl claimed responsibility for the attack on the group’s social media page.

Qassemi said a request was made to the Pakistani ambassador to Tehran to help release the abductees "within the framework of mutual relations, the principle of good neighborliness and commitments under mutual agreements and regulations of the international law."

Revolutionary Guards intelligence officers are reportedly among those kidnapped by “terrorist groups that are guided and supported by foreign forces,” the armed force group remarked in a statement, adding that the authorities should take action to recover the abducted individuals.  

"We expect Pakistan to confront these terrorist groups that are supported by some regional states, and immediately release the kidnapped Iranian forces."

In a previous abduction, the armed group killed an Iranian officer before releasing four soldiers after holding them for nearly two months.

"Both militaries, under a joint mechanism established since last year, are working to ascertain the whereabouts of Iranian guards," the Pakistani Foreign Ministry declared in a statement, on Tuesday. "No effort will be spared to assist our Iranian brothers in finding the Iranian guards."

<![CDATA[Pakistani Child Serial Killer, Rapist Hanged]]> Wed, 17 Oct 2018 03:08:00 -0400 According to police reports, Pakistani serial killer Imran Ali was executed Wednesday, after being convicted, in January, for the rape and murder of a six-year-old Zainab Ansari.   

'Public Hangings Won't Prevent Child Abuse in Pakistan': NGO

Ali was hanged, at the Lahore's Kot Lakhpat prison, after several failed appeals. President Arif Alvi rejected a plea for clemency. The execution of the 24-year-old took place in the presence of several members of the victim’s family.

"I have seen his awe-inspiring end with my own eyes. They dropped him on the gallows, and let his body hang for half an hour," Amin Ansari, the father of the deceased, told reporters. A request, by Zainab's father, for a public hanging was dismissed but the elder Ansari thanked the judiciary, government and investigators after Ali’s hanging.

The body of Zainab Ansari - who had been missing for five days - was discovered after CCTV footage documenting the six-year-old being led away by a man, was unearthed and circulated on social media by relatives. The video prompted the viral hashtag #JusticeForZainab.

Ali was sentenced to death in February, for the murder of Zainab. Photo: Police handout

On January 4, Ali was held when positive DNA matching linked him to the crime. Ali was sentenced to death, in February, for the murder of Zainab, as well as convicted for crimes against at least half-a-dozen other girls.

The case was among a series of child murders, in the city of Kasur, that have sparked protests across the country.

<![CDATA[Pressure Grows in Liberia over US Charity in 'School Rape' Storm]]> Tue, 16 Oct 2018 23:23:00 -0400 Liberian Vice President Jewel Taylor on Tuesday lent her voice to demands for a probe into a U.S. educational charity after girls were raped at a school supposed to save them from a life of sexual exploitation.

#MeToo Expands as Abuses in US Advertising Sector Unveiled

Last week, the charity More Than Me admitted to major failings and deeply apologized after the scale of the abuse came to light.

"I vehemently denounce this act of exploiting our young girls and putting an organization's interest before the lives of our children," said Taylor. "I will never condone this act from anyone, be it foreign or domestic. Please allow us to do due diligence."

The charity had founded the school specifically to empower and educate local girls to save them from prostitution and sexual coercion.

The rapes — some of them perpetrated against children as young as 10 — were carried out by the charity's co-founder, Macintosh Johnson, who later died of AIDS, ProPublica said in a piece co-published with Time.

The assaults took place at a school at West Point, a notorious slum in Monrovia. It opened in 2013 to a blaze of publicity, becoming the first of 18 schools that More Than Me opened in the impoverished West African state.

ProPublica described Johnson as a "charming hustler" who insinuated himself with Katie Meyler, an evangelical Christian who created the charity.

She eventually raised more than US$6.9 million in funding, nearly US$600,000 of which came from the U.S. government, and gained the support of Liberia's then-president and Nobel Peace Laureate, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

Taylor said ProPublica's investigation was a "horrific reminder of what continues to happen to the most vulnerable in our society, our young girls." "First and foremost, we must give the appropriate attention to the girls and victims at the institution. Medical and psychological support must be rendered to them and their families," she said. "Second, my office will engage all parties involved to ensure that the current children under the care of the institution are safe and protected."

After some of the girls came forward to reveal what was happening, Johnson was suspended by the school and arrested. He was facing trial when he died in 2016 from an illness that ProPublica said was AIDS, stoking fears that he had infected his victims with HIV.

On Friday, More Than Me said it was "profoundly, deeply sorry" and would strengthen efforts to prevent any recurrence. "To all the girls who were raped by Macintosh Johnson in 2014 and before: we failed you," it said.

Separately, the information ministry late Monday said the government was reviewing the ProPublica report. "We are currently looking into it after which we will inform the Liberian people about our official position," Deputy Information Minister Eugene Fahngon was quoted as saying by the Liberia News Agency.

<![CDATA[French Police Dump 2 Asylum-Seekers Across Italian Border]]> Tue, 16 Oct 2018 23:14:00 -0400 Italy’s far-right Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini branded France an “international disgrace” on Tuesday for having driven two migrants across its border and dumping them in Italy.

French President 'Macronsplains' Tougher Policies to Migrants

On Friday, witnesses reported seeing a French police van cross the mountain border at Claviere, near the Italian ski resort of Sestriere, and making two black men get out in a wooded area before driving back the short distance to France.

Italy demanded explanations from France and on Monday French media quoted the head of the Hautes-Alpes region that flanks Italy as acknowledging that its police had crossed the border, calling the incursion “an error.”

Salvini, who serves as interior minister and is also head of the far-right League, dismissed the explanation and demanded to know the identities of the two men, who he said were migrants.

“What happened in Claviere represents an unprecedented offense against our country,” Salvini wrote on Facebook. “We are facing an international disgrace, and (French President Emmanuel) Macron cannot pretend nothing has happened.”

Macron has denounced Salvini’s anti-immigrant policies, telling reporters in August that he represented the “main opponent” in Europe to nationalists like Salvini.

In June, a spokesman for Macron’s party said Salvini’s moves to block charity rescue ships from docking in Italy “makes me vomit.”

Salvini wrote on Facebook: “I wonder if international organizations, starting with the United Nations and European Union, do not find it vomit-making to leave people in an isolated area, without any assistance.” He added, “Paris must inform us IMMEDIATELY the identities of the immigrants left in the woods. Names, surnames, nationalities, dates of birth.”

Alongside his comment was a photo of Macron with a bright, red face and the text: “International shame. Italy won’t accept apologies.”

Under EU rules, migrants must apply for asylum in Italy and are not allowed to move to a third country. France has policed its borders increasingly vigorously and looks to return to Italy any irregular migrants.

<![CDATA[China Fines Pharmaceutical Giant After Rabies Vaccine Scandal]]> Tue, 16 Oct 2018 22:01:00 -0400 China is conducting a nationwide crackdown on pharmaceutical companies after one of the country’s largest vaccine producers was found guilty of falsifying records and malpractice.


South Africa's Tuberculosis Vaccine Trial Promising As Drug-Resistant Strain Emerges

Changchun Changsheng Life Sciences Ltd was fined a whopping US$1.3 billion fine after an investigation proved that the pharmaceutical company was using expired materials to create a rabies vaccine, mixing random batches together, and neglecting to test them properly, the China National Drug Administration (CNDA) said Tuesday.

The company was also accused of "destroying hard drives and evidence to conceal illegal actions" and 14 of its executives as well as its chairwoman were arrested while dozens were banned working in the drugs sector. A separate fine of 600,000 yuan was imposed on Changsheng Biotechnology and at least four top executives.

An investigation was launched in late July after a surprise inspection discovered the fabricated data. Although authorities assure the vaccine never reached the market, the scandal triggered a public outcry and protests, demanding more thorough administration over the drug industry.

Chineses President Xi Jinping said the vaccine scandal was “shocking” and “vile.” Li Keqiang, the Premier of the State Council of the People's Republic of China, said the incident, “violated a moral bottom line.”

However, China is regularly bombarded with toxic food, faulty medications among other products, despite state assurances that the issue will be addressed, local media reports.

<![CDATA[Ronaldinho, Rivaldo Get Backlash After Supporting Bolsonaro]]> Tue, 16 Oct 2018 21:10:00 -0400 Brazilian soccer players Ronaldo de Assis Moreira aka Ronaldinho and Vítor Borba Ferreira Gomes, better known as Rivaldo were under fire in recent days after they made public their support for the homophobic and racist presidential candidate Jair Messias Bolsonaro, who came first with 46 percent of the vote for the first round.

Brazil: David Duke Announces Support for Jair Bolsonaro

Many people raised their voice on social media arguing that the far-right party Social Liberal Party represented by Bolsonaro did not defend the rights of the 97 million Afro-Brazilian citizens living in the country, including Ronaldinho and Rivaldo.

Ronaldinho had previously said on Twitter, “For a better Brazil, I wish peace, security and someone who would make us happy again. I chose to live in Brazil, and I want a better Brazil for all!” along with a photo showing him wearing a soccer shirt with the number 17 — referring to Bolsonaro’s electoral list. Bolsonaro thanked Ronaldinho for the support and reposted the soccer player’s post on Twitter.


As for Rivaldo, he wrote in an Instagram post that “your vote will be choosing a president, not a father. We need him to solve the problems of our country, not to teach us values, this is something we have to learn at home and at school.”

A social media user criticized his comment, opposing him to former soccer legend Socrates, known for publicly rejecting the military dictatorship in the 1980s, including on the day of the vote.


<![CDATA[Brazil: Federal Police Seeks Temer's Indictment For Corruption]]> Tue, 16 Oct 2018 20:02:00 -0400 Brazilian President Michel Temer may face crimes of corruption, money laundering and criminal association after federal police recommended the opening of a new case, the Associated Press said Tuesday.


Brazil: Police Seek Charges Against President Temer

After a year of investigations, police officials say there are strong implications indicating Temer may have been receiving bribes via the Brazilian Democratic Movement (MDB) party and abusing his authority to favor certain port administrative companies.

The report also implicates his daughter, Maristela, as well as 11 others including Colonel Joao Baptista Lima and his wife Maria Rita Fratezi.

The document suggests the president may also have been receiving bribes through the number of real estate reforms like those conducted in his daughter's house, O Globo said.  

The full report was filed to Brazil's Supreme Court and recommended the Supreme Court "block assets" of all those under suspicion as well as hold four in preventative detention.

However, the Federal Supreme Court (STF) said that it will await the Public Prosecutor's decision before conducting any arrests or blocking funds.

Both the Attorney General and Congress will have 15 days to decide whether or not to pursue the case which could cause the president’s suspension in the final two months of his term.

Past corruption allegations leveled at the president have been dismissed by lawmakers or postponed until January 1, 2019.

The president’s attorney states he has been given access to the report.

<![CDATA[Mexico: Parents Demand Justice for 37 Abused School Children]]> Tue, 16 Oct 2018 19:32:00 -0400 Parents are demanding the state investigate a case of sexual abuse which victimized at least 37 kindergarten students within the walls of a private school in Mexico City, allegedly at the hands of an employee.


Poland Sees First Anti-Pedophilia Rally Against Catholic Church

Family members filled the streets, protesting the institution’s negligence and demanding the arrest of the alleged culprit known as “Ramon N.”

Victims say, while working at the private school, Marcelino de Champangat, the faculty member was in contact with both kindergarten classes and would lure the children into a dark closet after drugging them.

The parents said they have filed a report with the Central Prosecutor’s Office for the Investigation of Sexual Offenses, but neither the school nor police officials have responded to their complaints. Relatives have accused the school of dismissing their concerns and the nearly 40 abuse cases targeting children between the ages of two and five.

In a letter written to the President-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) the delegation of parents urged the official to reconsider the abilities of Mexico City’s head of Education, Luis Ignacio Sánchez, as well as review the Federal Education Department’s Child Abuse and Sexual Abuse Unit.

The school has temporarily closed and suspended its classes.

National statistics show that nearly 4.5 million cases of sexual abuse occur during childhood; only 10 percent of them are ever reported, while only 1.5 percent are ever brought to trial. There are 67,548 cases of sexual crimes, 28, 672 happen to women between 0 and 15 years of age. Over half of the 12,576 male victims of sexual abuse are younger than 15 years old, the Executive Commission of Attention to Victims (Ceav) reports.

<![CDATA[Mexico: Lopez Obrador Encourages Big Oil Firms to Hasten Oil Production]]> Tue, 16 Oct 2018 19:02:00 -0400 Mexico’s president-elect, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador from the Morena party --and who will take office on December 1st--, encouraged big oil to step up their role in the production of recently discovered fields as an effort to pick up lagging production, during his first meeting with the sector’s top representatives, on Tuesday.  

Obrador’s production target for the next six years is roughly 2.6 million barrels per day (bpd) --production currently stands at 1.8 bpd--.

Mexico: AMLO’s Future Tema Tour New Airport Construction Site

In 2017, two foreign oil operators Talos and Eni announced the discovery of a major offshore find, which the new Government hints the companies should take the lead on. Additionally, Obrador stated at the event that there are several drilling rigs owned by a few national firms which are not currently producing. For this reason, the state firm Pemex will lead firms in the production revamping effort, according to executives.

Executives present at the meeting (speaking on condition of anonymity), expressed concern about the new government’s intention to give Pemex the contracts because, according to them, this would discourage bigger investments. Yet, 20 idle oil drilling rigs would be put to work in greater capacity by the move announced by the incoming president.

This announcement comes at a time when Obrador and his team are approaching different sectors of society to learn about their needs as well as to communicate the new government’s policy agenda, before taking office on December 1st.  

<![CDATA[Venezuela Ditches Dollar After US Sanctions Hit Private Sector]]> Tue, 16 Oct 2018 18:17:00 -0400 Venezuela is replacing the dollar with the euro or yuan in its international business endeavors, Bolivarian Minister of Industries and National Production, Tareck El Aissami said Tuesday.


Venezuela's Maduro Announces Gov't National Development Plan

The newest round of sanctions imposed by the United States against Venezuela is making international financial interactions impossible, Aissami said during a press conference with Calixto Ortega, the president of the Central Bank of Venezuela.

International financial transactions using foreign currency were reportedly blocked, agroindustrial and pharmaceutical sectors said, showing that the U.S. financial sanctions have now extended to affect both the private and public sectors.

From his personal Twitter account, Aissami said, “We have to generate new conditions to overcome these aggressions on the part of the governments of the USA, for which we have taken some actions.

“They continue to try to impose exchange rates that do not correspond to rational economic formulas,” said Aissami, who is also the vice president of the Economic Ministry.

"This will show you how far the madness of imperialism is coming. It is increasingly more hostile to trade with your currency,” he said.

“There is an illegal, arbitrary ban- contrary to international law- on the dollar’s use...which even affects the transactions of (Venezuela’s) private sector- this is the fault of imperialism,” said Aissami.

Consequently, Aissami said, the Bolivarian System Exchange, Dicom, “will be operating in euro, yuan or any other convertible currency and will allow the foreign exchange market to use any other convertible currency.”

Over the next few months, two billion euros will be sold to the public market at a “real, non-speculative rate,” by members of the state as part of the country’s "Recovery and Economic Growth Program", the minister said.

<![CDATA[Hungary Gender Studies Ban Draws University Anger]]> Tue, 16 Oct 2018 17:07:00 -0400 A prestigious Hungarian university on Tuesday blasted a government decree that prohibits gender studies courses as a "major infringement" on academic freedom.

Women Appointed to Half of Ethiopia's Cabinet Roles in Reshuffle

The decree, signed by Prime Minister Viktor Orban and in force since Saturday, dropped the subject from a list of masters degree programmes entitled to official accreditation and financial support.

Institutions are also now barred from launching new courses in the discipline, although students who have already begun courses may complete their studies, according to the decree.

"This is a major infringement on academic freedom and university autonomy," said the Budapest-based Central European University (CEU) in a statement. "Eliminating this programme will be a significant loss to the Hungarian scholarly community and for democratically-minded public policy," said the CEU, one of only two universities in Hungary that offered gender studies degrees.

The decree is seen by critics as the latest attack by Orban's right-wing government on both university independence and political opponents of its socially conservative policies.

In June a magazine owned by a close ally of Orban published a list of researchers at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, accusing them of working on "gay rights and gender science."

The CEU, where gender studies have been taught for over two decades, is also embroiled in a bitter administrative dispute that the university says could drive it out of the Hungarian capital, its home since 1993.

A higher education law placing tough new requirements on foreign universities which passed last year was also seen by critics as targeting the CEU, founded by U.S. billionaire George Soros.

Attracting students from over 100 countries and also offering US-accredited programmes, the university has long been seen by Orban as a hostile bastion of liberalism.

<![CDATA[Brazil: David Duke Announces Support for Jair Bolsonaro]]> Tue, 16 Oct 2018 15:51:00 -0400 David Duke, former leader of the white supremacist group, the Klu Klux Klan (KKK), Tuesday endorsed Jair Bolsonaro’s bid in the Brazilian elections.

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Duke, who endorsed U.S. President Donald Trump during his 2016 campaign, says the right-wing candidate "sounds like us, and he's a very strong candidate, too."

The statement aired Oct. 9 during a radio program, according to the BBC. Bolsonaro responded to Duke’s endorsements saying he would reject any support "coming from supremacist groups."

The KKK became active in 1865, the beginning of the Reconstruction era in the United States. That era was marked by the 13th Amendment which ended slavery and new laws to promote the rights of Black people across the South.

Group members have been responsible for the torture, killings, and lynchings of people of color. As of 2017, they are still active in 22 states according to the Anti-Defamation League.

Duke boasted his support for a Bolsonaro presidency.  "He is total European descendant, he looks like any white man in the US, in Portugal, Spain or Germany, and France, and he is talking about the demographic disaster that exists in Brazil and the enormous crime that exists there, in the black neighborhoods of Rio de Janeiro.”

Bolsonaro had made a speech in Rio de Janeiro last year in which he characterized Black people as fat and useless not even “fit for procreation,” according to court documents.

Those statements were brought to court when Brazil’s prosecutor general pressed charges on the basis of “practicing and inciting discrimination by allegedly likening the black descendants to merchandise,” Bloomberg reports.

“The truth is that nationalist movements, which are basically pro-Europeans, are definitely sweeping the planet, even in a country you would never have imagined," Duke said.

Bolsonaro won 46 percent of votes in the Oct. 7 election. His opponent, Fernando Haddad received 29.2 percent. The two will face off in a runoff election on Oct. 28.

<![CDATA[Argentine Bankers Score Record Profits Amid Economic Crisis]]> Tue, 16 Oct 2018 15:05:00 -0400 Banks in Argentina have declared record profits for the month of August despite the South American country slipping even further into an economic crisis with rising unemployment, poverty, and hunger. The banking sector recorded a 264 percent growth in profits this August in comparison to the same month last year, the Central Bank's monthly report revealed.


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According to local newspaper Pagina12, the profits registered in August by financial entities, including private and local banks as well as public and foreign institutions, exceeded 26 billion Argentine pesos (US$715 million) while in August 2017 banking profits reached 7 billion Argentine pesos, or US$192 million.

The figures for August are not isolated but a part of a trend that has seen stable growth throughout the year.

The record profits come as Argentines who receive pensions, cash transfers known as the Universal Allocation Per Child, and local salaries have seen their purchasing power greatly affected by currency devaluation and inflation rates, while banks’ profits have increased at a rate superior to that of devaluation.    

Actually, as the peso rapidly lost value during April and May, financial institutions registered high profits. According to the Central Bank, in May they accumulated 14.5 billion pesos, or US$405 million, in profits.

Investment in state bonds represents the main driving cause of such great profits. In August, the Central Bank increased interests rates on state bonds to over 60 percent in a failed attempt to curb currency devaluation. 

The other driving force is the interest banks are able to charge on loans. Income for interest increased by over 70 percent in August.  

Argentines continue to be affected by the economic crisis and the economic policies implemented by the government of Mauricio Macri. This year, public teachers and university professors have organized national strikes against the loss of purchasing power due to inflation and currency devaluation. The real economy  — which creates jobs — continues to contract on a monthly bases, and layoffs continue to increase in the private and public sector.  

<![CDATA[ELN Calls on Colombian President Duque to Declare a Ceasefire ]]> Tue, 16 Oct 2018 14:50:00 -0400 The National Liberation Army (ELN) has released a statement Tuesday requesting, once more, that Colombia’s President Ivan Duque announce a ceasefire on both sides of the ongoing conflict.

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The group says that since Duque assumed the presidency in August that “he has intensified military and paramilitary operations in areas where the National Liberation Army is present.”

The ELN said there is a "collective feeling of need" that indicates an urgency to reach a bilateral ceasefire agreement that the group believes would have a positive impact on the nation.

The Colombian government and the ELN had initiated peace talks in February 2017 under a mandate by former President Juan Manuel Santos. Those talks are currently in an evaluation phase.

President Duque says he is waiting for the group to release all kidnapped victims and cease their activities in order to restart the talks. In September, the ELN released nine detainees in an effort come to an agreement with Duque's regime. "The ELN fulfills its word as promised," an insurgent commander said.

The county’s prolonged armed conflict has been ongoing since the 1960s. Between October 2017 and January 2018, the Colombian government and the ELN agreed on a bilateral ceasefire that lasted 101 days.

Since then, the militant organization ordered unilateral truces, in what they claimed was in an effort to prevent any impediment of the voting process during this year's elections.

Funded and sponsored by Catholic priests and rebels, ELN is currently the largest active guerrilla group in Colombia. “The future of Colombia cannot be war. Today more than ever, a dialogue is necessary and violence must be separated from politics in order to achieve a peace that addresses the overcoming of the causes that originated the conflict,” the ELN said in a statement.

<![CDATA[Argentine Utility Price Hike Causes Heavy Burden on Salaries: Report]]> Tue, 16 Oct 2018 13:40:00 -0400 Argentina has one of the highest rates of spending in utilities and services in Latin America which went from 6 percent of Argentines' salaries in 2016 to 23 percent in 2018,  according to a new report by the University of Avellaneda, changes that have taken place under the government of right-wing President Mauricio Macri.

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To put this in perspective, the hikes represent roughly 2,057 percent in natural gas, 1,491 percent in electric energy,  approximately 1,000 percent in potable water services, 677 percent in toll booths and 375 percent in train tickets, just to name a few.

This move by Macri’s government isn’t just part of a solitary adjustment measure — it corresponds to a new “paradigm” which guides government measures intended to pave the way for future international finance deals. Specifically, cutting state spending on subsidies as per requirements by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

This type of macroeconomic strategy shifts the financial burden away from companies to the taxpayers. “Earnings in dollars from such companies end up being paid for by the entire Argentine production chain as well as families,” according to the report. To illustrate this, in the last three years public services such as electric energy, gas and potable water services saw a 17.2 percentage increase on minimum salaries during the last three years.

The price hike comes just weeks after protests against Macri, in the context of a meeting held with IMF President Christine Lagarde, in New York. Macri recently signed a US$50 billion “emergency” loan with the IMF with the purpose of reducing the country’s debt; however, the announcement of the measure led to a 30 percent loss of its value against the U.S. dollar.