Argentina's President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner (C) addresses the
audience during a meeting of the annual Mercosur trade bloc presidential
summit in Mendoza June 29, 2012. (Credit: Reuters/Enrique Marcarian)

Chinese leader woos Latin America with deals

Chinese leader woos Latin America with deals
Chinese President Xi Jinping (4-L, first row) poses with leaders of the CELAC group of Latin American and Caribbean states, in Brasilia, on July 17, 2014 (AFP Photo/Nelson Almeida)
"A Summary" – Apr 2, 2011 (Kryon channelled by Lee Carroll) (Subjects: Religion, Shift of Human Consciousness, 2012, Intelligent/Benevolent Design, EU, South America, 5 Currencies, Water Cycle (Heat up, Mini Ice Ace, Oceans, Fish, Earthquakes ..), Middle East, Internet, Israel, Dictators, Palestine, US, Japan (Quake/Tsunami Disasters , People, Society ...), Nuclear Power Revealed, Hydro Power, Geothermal Power, Moon, Financial Institutes (Recession, Realign integrity values ..) , China, North Korea, Global Unity,..... etc.) -

“ … Here is another one. A change in what Human nature will allow for government. "Careful, Kryon, don't talk about politics. You'll get in trouble." I won't get in trouble. I'm going to tell you to watch for leadership that cares about you. "You mean politics is going to change?" It already has. It's beginning. Watch for it. You're going to see a total phase-out of old energy dictatorships eventually. The potential is that you're going to see that before 2013.

They're going to fall over, you know, because the energy of the population will not sustain an old energy leader ..."

"Update on Current Events" – Jul 23, 2011 (Kryon channelled by Lee Carroll) - (Subjects: The Humanization of God, Gaia, Shift of Human Consciousness, 2012, Benevolent Design, Financial Institutes (Recession, System to Change ...), Water Cycle (Heat up, Mini Ice Ace, Oceans, Fish, Earthquakes ..), Nuclear Power Revealed, Geothermal Power, Hydro Power, Drinking Water from Seawater, No need for Oil as Much, Middle East in Peace, Persia/Iran Uprising, Muhammad, Israel, DNA, Two Dictators to fall soon, Africa, China, (Old) Souls, Species to go, Whales to Humans, Global Unity,..... etc.)
(Subjects: Who/What is Kryon ?, Egypt Uprising, Iran/Persia Uprising, Peace in Middle East without Israel actively involved, Muhammad, "Conceptual" Youth Revolution, "Conceptual" Managed Business, Internet, Social Media, News Media, Google, Bankers, Global Unity,..... etc.)


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A student holds a sign reading "Don't shoot, listen!!!" during a protest
on June 17, 2013 in Brasilia (AFP, Evaristo)

Brazil's Rousseff claims nation 'ready for greatest World Cup'

Brazil's Rousseff claims nation 'ready for greatest World Cup'
Google: Ready, set, goooaaallll! The WorldCup is finally here.

Paraguay police search S. American football HQ

Paraguay police search S. American football HQ
The Conmebol headquarters in Luque, Paraguay, is seen on January 7, 2016, during a raid within the framework of the FIFA corruption scandal (AFP Photo/Norberto Duarte)

'Panama Papers' law firm under the media's lenses

'Panama Papers' law firm under the media's lenses
The Panama Papers: key facts on the huge journalists' investigation into tax evasion (AFP Photo/Thomas Saint-Cricq, Philippe Mouche)

Mossack Fonseca

Mossack Fonseca

.

.
"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. …

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Brazilian town embraces universal income experiment

Yahoo – AFP, Louis GENOT, 14 February 2017

Brazilian town embraces universal income experiment

Does being handed money every month -- no strings attached -- sound attractive? The residents of a small town in Brazil are finding out.

Governments and think-tanks around the world are increasingly fascinated by the idea of a universal basic income, where citizens are given cash to spend as they want.

In Marica, a seaside town of about 150,000 people near Rio de Janeiro, the left-wing municipal government has spent the last year finding out how it works.

"We are a laboratory for the Brazilian left," says Washington Quaqua, who introduced the experiment as mayor in December 2015 before stepping down. He was replaced by another candidate from the leftist Workers' Party, Fabiano Horta.

The idea of a universal basic income isn't new, but long-considered as a potential tool for social equality and redistribution of wealth.

The concept has gained traction more recently among high-powered business thinkers, especially in Silicon Valley, as they ponder how society will cope with the ever-expanding role of automation -- a trend some futurists believe may create mass unemployment.

In Marica -- a surviving Workers' Party bastion in increasingly right-leaning Brazil -- the basic income idea fits in well with the leadership's socialist fervor.

Just about every public building is decorated in socialist red and Quaqua's office sports portraits of communist revolutionary Che Guevara, whose name is also soon to be given to a new hospital.

"The world lacks creativity and Marica is giving the example of a town that knows how to redistribute its riches," Quaqua says with pride about his pet project.

Modest reality

Despite his claims, Marica is only taking baby steps.

Inconclusively tried around the world for decades, the experiment is currently getting a high-profile rollout in Finland. The left-wing French presidential candidate Benoit Hamon, backed by the star economist Thomas Piketty, has also made the basic income part of his platform.

However, if Finland is handing out payments of about $590 a month -- and only to a test group of unemployed people for now -- the amount in Marica is a measly 10 reais, or about $3.20. The new mayor hopes to raise the amount to $32 in 2017.

Only the town's 14,000 poorest families are currently being given the income, which is denominated in Mumbucas, a virtual currency created to pay welfare under Quaqua three years ago.

The 10 reais is added to the 85 reais ($27) monthly welfare check for families whose income doesn't top three times the minimum wage. The extra money is also given to poorer people aged between 14 and 29 and pregnant women already receiving other benefits.

There's another limitation: only 131 local businesses -- less than 10 percent of the total -- accept payment in Mumbucas, the mayor's office says.

The currency, which physically exists only on specially issued red magnetic cards, is unpopular with business owners because they must wait more than a month after purchases are completed for the government to convert payments into reals.

Feasible or fantasy?

Opposition politician Filippe Poubel denounces what he calls an attempt to addict the people of Marica to welfare. Handing out an income, he says, will backfire.

"People want to work, they want to earn their income with dignity. They would be a lot happier if the mayor would create jobs and offer them decent hospital care."

Horta dismisses such criticism saying a basic income will in fact create jobs, "stimulating the local economy."

And he says that the town, which draws revenues from offshore oil exploitation, can afford to boost the program "in an exponential way over the next 10 years."

"The rich love it when they get millions in tax breaks," Quaqua says of his project's opponents. "But they are furious when we give a few hundred reais to the poor."




Sunday, February 12, 2017

Thousands of Mexicans protest against Trump

Yahoo – AFP, Yemeli ORTEGA, February 12, 2017

People hold sugns against US President Donald Trump during an anti-Trump
march in Mexico City, on February 12, 2017 (AFP Photo/RONALDO SCHEMIDT)

Mexico City (AFP) - Thousands of Mexicans protested Sunday against US President Donald Trump, hitting back at his anti-Mexican rhetoric and vows to make the country pay for his "big, beautiful" border wall.

"Mexico must be respected, Mr Trump," said a giant banner carried by protesters in Mexico City, who waved a sea of red, white and green Mexican flags as they marched down the capital's main avenue under the watchful eye of thousands of police.

In what is shaping up to be Mexico's biggest anti-Trump protest yet, some 20 cities joined the call to march from a protest movement backed by dozens of universities, business associations and civic organizations.

Protester Julieta Rosas was wearing a T-shirt with a picture of Trump sporting an Adolf Hitler mustache.

"We're here to make Trump see and feel that an entire country, united, is rising up against him and his xenophobic, discriminatory and fascist stupidity," said Rosas, a literature student at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM).

US-Mexican relations have plunged to their lowest point in decades since Trump took office on January 20.

Trump, who launched his presidential campaign calling Mexican immigrants "criminals" and "rapists," has infuriated the United States' southern neighbor with his plan to stop illegal migration by building a wall on the border and his vows to make Mexico pay for it.

US-Mexico trade in goods since 2006 with breakdown by industry sectors
(AFP Photo/Christopher HUFFAKER, Sophie RAMIS)

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto canceled a January 31 trip to Washington over Trump's insistence that Mexico will fund the wall.

"We are all migrants. We are all one. This is a time to build bridges, not walls," said 73-year-old protester Jose Antonio Sanchez, who was marching with his nine-year-old granddaughter.

Trump has also wrought havoc on the Mexican economy with his threats to terminate the country's privileged trade relationship with the United States, blaming Mexico for the loss of American jobs.

The Mexican peso has taken a beating nearly every time Trump insisted on renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), attacked car-makers and other companies that manufacture in Mexico, or vowed to slap steep tariffs on Mexican-made goods.

Mexico sends 80 percent of its exports to the United States -- nearly $300 billion in goods in 2015.

New nationalism

The confrontation has stoked patriotic pride in Mexico, where US companies like Starbucks, Coca-Cola and McDonald's are the targets of boycott campaigns. Many people have taken to putting the Mexican flag in their profile pictures on social media.

Not everyone is on board with Sunday's protests, however.

Some accused Pena Nieto of using the ostensibly non-partisan marches to try to bolster his own popularity -- which has taken a beating over perceptions that he has been too conciliatory toward a bullying neighbor.

People hold sugns against US President Donald Trump during an anti-Trump 
march in Mexico City, on February 12, 2017 (AFP Photo/RONALDO SCHEMIDT)

When the rector of UNAM, the country's largest university, backed the marches, many students and professors voiced outrage. The hashtag "#It'sNotTrumpIt'sPena" is trending on Twitter in Mexico.

The new nationalism appears to be giving a boost to Mexican presidential hopeful Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, whom some political analysts call a "leftist Donald Trump" for his populist, anti-establishment rhetoric.

Lopez Obrador -- widely known by his initials, AMLO -- was the runner-up in the past two presidential elections.

He is leading in opinion polls for presidential elections in 2018 and appears to be benefiting from Trump's anti-Mexican vitriol, which has badly dented not only Pena Nieto -- who is ineligible for re-election -- but also the ruling PRI party.

Ironically, a Lopez Obrador victory next year could work to Trump's disadvantage, giving him a far more hardline counterpart to work with.

As Sunday's protests unfold in Mexico, Lopez Obrador will be visiting the United States to address both Mexicans and Americans in Los Angeles about what he called Trump's "poisonous" rhetoric.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Merkel and Uruguay's Vazquez push to deepen EU-Mercosur ties

Angela Merkel intends to push trade talks between the EU and Mercosur nations. The chancellor has met with Uruguay's president to forge new bonds in the wake of Donald Trump's inauguration in the United States.

Deutsche Welle, 8 February 2017


On Wednesday, Chancellor Angela Merkel said new right-wing administrations in Latin America had improved the chances of an EU trade pact with  Mercosur, the region's primary trading bloc. The German chancellor's search for new trade partners has grown increasingly urgent for EU businesses after the election of US President Donald Trump cast doubt on the future of bilateral trade ties with the United States.

"We, as the European Union, if we perhaps don't advance or advance more slowly with a view to the United States - we will have to see - of course will continue to negotiate other trade agreements quickly," Merkel, who is facing an increasingly tough re-election fight, said on Wednesday. "We are negotiating with Japan, with India, with Australia, and we are negotiating with Mercosur."

Trump has said he will not allow the United States to sign on to the controversial Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership during his presidency.

"Before anything, we need to know what the agreement will be with the new US administration," Merkel said on Wednesday. "The topic of free trade will be important at the G20 meeting. We will see then what the priorities of the US administration are."

Founded in 1991, Mercosur entered into its first trade negotiations with the European Union in 1999. The bloc's members are Uruguay, Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil, after Venezuela was suspended in December. Merkel said Uruguay could prove a "motor" toward bringing negotiations to a beneficial end in Brussels.

'To continue pushing'

President Tabare Vazquez seeks to firm overseas bonds as Uruguay's neighbors experience economic hardships. He is headed for Finland next, and his trip will wrap up in Russia. But there may be a good reason why his first stop was Berlin.

"Germany is a fundamental member of the European Union," Vazquez said. "We have committed to keep pressing the negotiations to reach an agreement between Mercosur and the EU."

The president pointed out that Uruguay "has historically advocated for the demolition of barriers and the elimination of obstacles to commerce."

Vazquez also criticized Trump, especially his ban on refugees and travelers and immigrants from seven mostly Muslim countries. He said Uruguay had been built by immigrants from Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries. The indigenous population was largely wiped out by disease and colonialist slaughter by the end of the 1830s.

"We do not agree with making walls," Vazquez said on Wednesday. "We want to build bridges between nations. We do not believe that nations should discriminate on ethnic or religious grounds or on the basis of sexual preference." He added: "We believe in the peaceful search for solutions. Because of this, some of the actions of the president of the United States concern us. "

mkg/sms (EFE, Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Jovenel Moise sworn in as Haiti's new president

Yahoo – AFP, Amelie BARON, February 7, 2017

New Haitian President Jovenel Moise arrives at the Te Deum during his inauguration
ceremony at the National Palace in Port-au-Prince, on February 7, 2017 (AFP Photo/
HECTOR RETAMAL)

Port-au-Prince (AFP) - Jovenel Moise was sworn in Tuesday as Haiti's 58th president, ending a protracted electoral crisis that had created a power vacuum in the impoverished, disaster-prone Caribbean nation.

Moise, a 48-year-old banana exporter who has never held political office but ran as the candidate of the center-right Tet Kale Party (PHTK), took the oath at a ceremony at the National Assembly.

He was former president Michel Martelly's hand-picked choice to lead the poorest country in the Americas, one still struggling to recover from devastating natural disasters.

"The Haitian people have spoken: it has chosen to entrust the reins of power to a young, dynamic man" who has ideas "to get the country out of the misery and political instability that has been holding back its growth and development for too long," said National Assembly President Youri Latortue.

Haiti is fighting to emerge from the world's most significant cholera outbreak, with an estimated 30,000 cases expected this year, as well as the effects of the January 2010 earthquake, with tens of thousands of people still camping in tents without proper sanitation.

The government and aid officials have said Haiti needs nearly $300 million to provide urgent assistance for its most vulnerable inhabitants, including those affected by Hurricane Matthew last October.

The hurricane caused $2.8 billion in damage, and more than 1.5 million people are still in dire need of humanitarian assistance, said El-Mostafa Benlamlih, Representative of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH).

Musicians await the arrival of new Haitian President Jovenel Moise at his
 inauguration ceremony at the National Palace in Port-au-Prince, on February 7, 
2017 (AFP Photo/HECTOR RETAMAL)

Lengthy political crisis

Moise's election brings to a close a political crisis that began in October 2015 when the results of a first round of voting -- which Moise won -- were annulled because of massive fraud.

In February 2016, with Martelly's five-year term nearing its end and his political succession in limbo, Haiti's parliament elected Jocelerme Privert, president of the Senate at the time, to be interim president.

The presidential election was rescheduled for October and then postponed to November in the wake of Hurricane Matthew.

Haiti's political temperature remains high, with several of Moise's main opponents contesting his first-round victory.

The businessman is also at the center of an unresolved money laundering probe. He denies any wrongdoing.

The investigation was launched in 2013 as a routine bank-regulation procedure. The Central Financial Intelligence Unit (UCREF) forwarded a secret report about the inquiry to prosecutors last summer.

However, the investigating judge took no action until four opposition senators recently demanded information about the findings.

The judge delivered the conclusions to the government prosecutor, who has made no public announcements on the case.

Moise was declared the winner with 55 percent of the votes, but with a dismal turnout of just 21 percent.

People gather outside during the inauguration ceremony of the new President, 
Jovenel Moise on February 7, 2017 in Port-au-Prince (AFP Photo/Pierre Michel Jean)

Austere inauguration

After the swearing-in ceremony, the 2,000-plus guests took seats in the courtyard of the presidential palace to attend a religious ceremony and hear Moise speak.

The event took place on the site of the presidential palace, which was destroyed in the 2010 earthquake.

Austerity has been the motto of the inauguration ceremony, as Haiti is suffering from an economic crisis with more than $2 billion in debt and anemic growth that is not expected to surpass one percent this year.

According to Moise's transition team, the inaugural costs are close to $1 million, a tighter budget than those of predecessors Rene Preval and Martelly, which cost more than $4 million and $2 million, respectively.

While Martelly -- the sole former Haitian president at the ceremony -- is a well-known entertainment figure, Moise remains largely unknown to the broader public.

Moise said he had invited 53 other former presidential candidates to signal his willingness to ease political tensions.

The inauguration "of a democratically elected president allows Haiti to return to democratic and constitutional rule," US State Department spokesman Mark Toner said.

Canada in turn "reaffirmed its friendship and solidarity with Haiti," and "looks forward to working" with the Moise government, the ministry of international development said in a statement.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Vatican expresses 'concern' on Trump's wall, travel ban

Yahoo – AFP, February 1, 2017

Protesters gather at the Los Angeles International airport's to demonstrate
against President Trump's controversial travel ban (AFP Photo/Konrad Fiedler)

Rome (AFP) - The Vatican on Wednesday voiced "concern" over President Donald Trump's executive orders to build a wall on the US-Mexican border and impose a travel ban on nationals from seven Muslim-majority countries.

"Naturally, there is concern," the Holy See's number three, Monsignor Angelo Becciu, said on the Catholic TV channel TV2000, in response to a question.

"We are builders of bridges, far less of walls, and all Christians should emphatically reaffirm this message."

Becciu noted that Pope Francis had repeatedly stressed the need "to integrate those who arrive, who come into our society, into our culture."

Trump has run into a storm of criticism since signing orders to build an anti-migrant frontier wall with Mexico and temporarily ban nationals from seven countries -- Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen -- for 90 days.

Related Article:


Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Dutch central bank takes action against trust offices post Panama Papers

DutchNews, January 25, 2017

Photo: Pbech via Wikimedia Commons

The Dutch central bank has made formal complaints about a number of trust offices in the Netherlands following the publication of the Panama Papers – millions of leaked documents about offshore entities. 

The head of the bank’s integrity division Willemieke van Gorkum told the Financieele Dagblad on Wednesday that ‘action has been taken against individual institutions’ but declined to say which trusts or how many. 

A number of Dutch banks, trust offices, notaries and tax advisors were referenced too in the leaked documents.

‘We have carried out data research on the basis of the leaked documents and taken action against individual institutions,’ she said. ‘This involves pension funds and insurance companies as well as banks and trust offices. A number of investigations are underway, in cooperation with other regulators such as the AFM.’ 

The FD says the central bank has increased its supervision of trust offices in recent years following mounting criticism of the sector. 

Trust offices in the Netherlands currently manage the affairs of 24,000 companies for their clients, but the identity of the owners is often hard to establish. 

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Four Yemenis freed from Guantanamo arrive in Saudi Arabia

Yahoo – AFP, Abdulhadi Habtoor, January 5, 2017

A former Yemeni inmate, released from the US military prison in Guantanamo
Bay, is welcomed by his family upon his arrival in Riyadh on January 5, 2017
(AFP Photo/STRINGER)

Riyadh (AFP) - Four Yemenis released from the US prison at Guantanamo Bay arrived Thursday in Saudi Arabia to a tearful reunion with relatives, after the White House rejected Donald Trump's call for a freeze on transfers.

The Pentagon confirmed the detainee transfers, and said there are now 55 inmates still being held in the military detention centre in Cuba.

In the Saudi capital, an AFP reporter saw the four prisoners after they landed at a terminal normally reserved for royals at the Riyadh international airport.

Prisoners and family members wept as they saw each other for the first time in years.

One of the released inmates, Salim Ahmed bin Kanad, told reporters he felt "born again" after seeing his relatives.

Another, Mohammed Bawazir, said he hoped to move on and forget the past.

"I want to give back to my family the 15 years I lost," he said.

Officials identified the other former prisoners as Mohammed Rajab Abu Ghanim and Abdullah Yahya al-Shalabi.

"The United States is grateful to the government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for its humanitarian gesture and willingness to support ongoing US efforts to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility," the Pentagon said.

Outgoing US President Barack Obama's pledge to close the Guantanamo Bay facility has been met with legal and political hurdles for years, and on Tuesday, his successor jumped into the fray.

"There should be no further releases from Gitmo. These are extremely dangerous people and should not be allowed back onto the battlefield," Trump tweeted.

Hours later, Obama's spokesman Josh Earnest said he would expect "additional transfers" before the Democrat hands power to Trump on January 20.

Saudi King Salman has said the four Yemenis who arrived Thursday will live in the kingdom, where they will take part in a rehabilitation and de-radicalisation programme, the interior ministry said in a statement.

The bearded ex-prisoners appeared healthy and were all dressed in two-piece Pakistani-style tunics.

One prisoner was welcomed by 21 relatives, including children, but only a handful greeted the others.

A lone woman waited for one of the inmates.

Reporters were kept in the terminal and could not see what type of aircraft had transported them.

Prisoners and family members wept as they saw each other 
for the first time in years (AFP Photo/STRINGER)

Whittling down numbers

Obama came to office eight years ago vowing to close the Guantanamo facility, arguing that detention without trial did not reflect American values.

But he has run up against Pentagon foot-dragging and stubborn Republican opposition in Congress.

With Guantanamo's closure blocked, Obama's White House has focused on whittling down the number of inmates.

Before Thursday's transfer, around 20 of the remaining prisoners had been cleared for removal. But finding countries to take them has often proven time-consuming.

Only a handful of those who remain have started moving through military tribunals, including the alleged plotters of the 9/11 attacks.

Many of the others are in legal limbo -- not charged but deemed too dangerous to release.

Fifteen of the 19 Al-Qaeda hijackers who carried out the attacks against the United States on September 11, 2001 were Saudi. But Riyadh denies any ties to the plotters who killed nearly 3,000 people.

In recent months, Obama has authorised a flurry of transfers of prisoners to other countries -- prompting outrage from Republicans each time.

In April, nine Yemeni inmates were transferred from Guantanamo Bay to Saudi Arabia, the first time the kingdom received any inmates from the facility.

The move followed years of negotiations with the Saudi government.

Yemen's civil war meant those inmates could not be sent to their home country.

Obama's predecessor George W. Bush released or transferred around 500 inmates before leaving office. Obama had released or transferred more than 180.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Pinochet agents apologize for Chile crimes

Yahoo – AFP, December 23, 2016

Human rights activists demonstrate during the private ecumenical ceremony in
 the Punta Peuco prison where nine former agents of Chile's 1973-1990 dictatorship,
apologize for their crimes, in Santiago, on December 23, 2016 (AFP Photo/
Christian Miranda)

Santiago (AFP) - Nine former agents of late Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet's regime asked forgiveness for their crimes Friday -- a first for Chile -- but victims' families rejected the gesture as a ploy.

The apology came in the form of a private religious ceremony at the Punta Peuco prison, where some 100 former regime agents are serving sentences for the kidnappings, killings and torture perpetrated during Pinochet's rule from 1973 to 1990.

The nine convicts included Raul Iturriaga, a high-ranking official in Pinochet's political police.

"God is doing something extraordinary in this country. This would not have been possible until recently," Anglican priest Pablo Alvarez told journalists after the ceremony, which was closed to the press.

But dozens of victims' family members protested outside the prison, rejecting the ceremony as a hollow bid to obtain a pardon or early release.

"We have the right and the moral duty to be here to prevent this media show," said Alicia Lira, head of a rights group for victims' families.

Pedro Pablo Barrientos Nunez, right, leaves the federal courthouse with his
 attorney, Luis Calderon, left, Monday, June 27, 2016, in Orlando, Fla. Barrientos, 
former lieutenant under the brutal dictator Augusto Pinochet, tortured and killed 
a famed Chilean folk singer whose family had been seeking justice for more 
than 40 years, a federal jury in Florida ruled. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

Family members emphasized that none of the convicts have provided information on the fate of nearly 1,000 people missing and presumed killed by the regime.

They also demand the closure of Punta Peuco, which they condemn as a luxury prison with tennis courts, terraces and barbecues.

More than 3,000 regime opponents and alleged collaborators were killed or disappeared during Pinochet's rule. Some 38,000 were tortured.

Pinochet, who came to power in a military coup, died in 2006 without being brought to justice.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Brazil's Odebrecht, Braskem pay record fine in bribery case

Yahoo – AFP, Heather Scott, with Sebastian Smith in Rio de Janeiro, December 22, 2016
Brazilian construction company Odebrecht pled guilty to paying hundreds of
millions to bribe government officials in countries on three continents (AFP
Photo/YASUYOSHI CHIBA)

Washington (AFP) - Scandal-plagued Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht and petrochemical affiliate Braskem have agreed to pay a record $3.5 billion to settle a vast international bribery case, US officials said.

Odebrecht, a key player in the Petrobras corruption scandal gripping Brazil, agreed to a fine of $4.5 billion but said it was only able to pay $2.6 billion, the US Justice Department said in a statement. Braskem, meanwhile, will pay $957 million.

The fines are to be paid to Brazilian, Swiss and US authorities, the department said, calling it "the largest-ever global foreign bribery resolution."

It is the latest in a string of terrible headlines for Odebrecht, which Brazilian investigators say was one of the ringleaders of a scheme to plunder billions of dollars from state oil company Petrobras.

Revelation of the scandal has rocked Brazil's political and business establishment to its foundations, with ex-president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva facing trial and current President Michel Temer reportedly under suspicion.

The bribery case settled Wednesday includes the Petrobras allegations, but is even bigger.

The Odebrecht conglomerate pleaded guilty to bribing government officials and political parties to the tune of $788 million to secure business on three continents -- mostly in Brazil, but also 11 other countries in Latin America and Africa.

"Odebrecht and Braskem used a hidden but fully functioning Odebrecht business unit -- a 'Department of Bribery,' so to speak -- that systematically paid hundreds of millions of dollars to corrupt government officials in countries on three continents," US Deputy Assistant Attorney General Sung-Hee Suh said in a statement.

"Such brazen wrongdoing calls for a strong response from law enforcement, and through a strong effort with our colleagues in Brazil and Switzerland, we have seen just that."

Political fallout

In the main scheme, Odebrecht targeted top Brazilian politicians and executives at Petrobras for more than a decade starting in about 2001. The bribes were used to secure inflated contracts and even get favorable legislation passed in Congress.

Suh praised Brazil's judiciary for tackling the issue head on.

"I cannot praise their efforts enough. They have been under enormous pressure, done an extraordinary job of initiating the investigation and carrying it through," she said.

The Brazilian probe, known by its codename Operation Carwash, has cast dark shadows over two of Brazil's most important companies, Petrobras and Odebrecht, adding to economic pain as the country flounders in deep recession.

Odebrecht's jailed boss Marcelo Odebrecht and 76 other current and former executives have signed plea deals agreeing to tell all in exchange for lighter sentences.

The Brazilian press has described the deal as potentially apocalyptic for the political establishment.

Panama, meanwhile, said it would request information from the United States about alleged Odebrecht bribes paid in Panama to secure contracts, its foreign ministry said.

Shattered record

The previous record bribery settlement was $1.6 billion for German engineering group Siemens in 2008. It settled charges of systematically using bribes and slush funds to land public works contracts around the world.

Margarida Gutierrez, an economist at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, told AFP that this settlement, Odebrecht's newest move to come clean, would open the door for its return to the market.

"Right now they are unable to participate in any bids in Brazil or probably out of Brazil," she said. "Now they can start again, and try to clear their name. They will succeed but it will be hard."

The US Justice Department will conduct an "inability to pay analysis" by March 31 to determine the final amount that Odebrecht must come up with. Sentencing has been scheduled for April 17.

Under the plea agreement, Brazil will receive 80 percent of Odebrecht's fines, while the United States and Switzerland will garner 10 percent each.

Braskem, which is traded on the New York Stock Exchange through American Depositary Receipts (ADR), saw its shares soar after the deal was announced, closing up four percent.

It will pay a criminal fine of $632 million, and another $325 million penalty to the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

Under the Braskem deal, Brazil will receive 70 percent of the fines, while US and Swiss authorities receive 15 percent. Sentencing for the firm has not yet been scheduled.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Panama pardons Dutch journalist jailed for libel

DutchNews, December 20, 2016

Panama’s president Juan Carlos Varela has given an official pardon to Dutch journalist Okke Ornstein, who was arrested last month and ordered to spend three years four months in jail. 

The Panama authorities published a list of names of people who are being pardoned on Tuesday. Ornstein will be freed on Friday if he does not object, the Dutch foreign ministry said.

‘It will be terrific if he is free in time to celebrate Christmas with his family,’ said foreign minister Bert Koenders. 

Ornstein was arrested last month on a charge of criminal libel dating from 2012 as he entered Panama where he lives. 

The libel charges followed articles on his blog Bananama Republic about the business practices of Canadian national Monte Friesner who lives in Panama City. The blog has since been closed down.