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

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.
"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. …

Friday, November 17, 2017

Dutch woman with a trumpet taking Colombian salsa by storm

Yahoo – AFP, Florence PANOUSSIAN, November 16, 2017

Dutch musician and trumpet player Maite Hontele (C) performs in a bar with
a salsa band in Bogota -- she says she's "Colombian at heartt" (AFP Photo/
Raul Arboleda)

Bogota (AFP) - A woman playing trumpet in a salsa band in traditionally macho South America is a rare thing. It's rarer still when that woman is Dutch.

Since arriving on Colombia's salsa scene, Maite Hontele has been blasting her horn to full houses from Bogota to Seoul and has gradually won the respect of salsa's greats.

"I was born on the wrong continent," says Hontele, a tall, blonde 37-year old from the central Netherlands.

She insists she's "Colombian at heart."

Her love affair with the country began when she played Bogota's Teatro Colon while visiting from the Netherlands in 2003 with the Rumbata Big Band. The audience loved her and the feeling was mutual.

"I fell in love with Colombia, with its people, its cities, its energy, its diversity," she says in an interview at her apartment in Bogota's bohemian La Macarena quarter.

Hontele followed her heart and her trumpet to Colombia, settling in Medellin for seven years and churning out record after record as well as touring with her own band.

Now she plays regularly with the greats of the genre -- people like Panama's Ruben Blades, Venezuela's Oscar D'Leon and the Buena Vista Social Club from Cuba.

In 2014, official recognition came when her album "Dejame asi" (Leave Me Like This) was nominated for Best Salsa Album at the Latin Grammys, and she shared the limelight with such stars as Marc Anthony and Tito Nieves.

She has just returned to Colombia from Havana, where she spent two months recording her fifth album, "Cuba linda" (Beautiful Cuba) with the Orquesta Aragon.

Her latest single, "Casi Muero" (I nearly died), from the album of the same name, came out on November 3.

That evening, Maite was back where it all started, at Bogota's "big, beautiful" 800-seat Teatro Colon.

Hontele plays to a full house at Bogota's Teatro Colon (AFP Photo/Luis Acosta)

On their feet

The sell-out crowd was on its feet from the opening notes of the third song in her set, "Maria Cristina me quiere gobernar" (Maria Cristina wants to control me).

From the stage right down to the cheap seats, fans danced between the red velvet seats while Hontele grooved on stage with her musicians.

The crowd took up the chorus of some of her best known tunes, "Que bonito" (How Nice) and "Nonchecita."

Like many in the crowd that night, Jaime Ospino, 49, knew all the material.

"This is a great concert," he told AFP.

In early October, Hontele was playing to another full house at the Cafe Libro, the Colombian capital's top spot for tropical music.

Long-time fan Angela Ramirez was there celebrating her 38th birthday.

"I've always loved salsa. But the idea of a Dutch woman who plays the trumpet in Colombia gives me chills!" Ramirez said.

Salsa from the cradle

Hontele laughs about a certain irony in her life story: "I never chose the trumpet," she says. The instrument chose her.

She first held a trumpet as a nine-year old when playing in a local brass band in her home village of Haaften.

She was immersed in Latin American music as a child, raised to the rhythms of her father's collection of Caribbean vinyl records.

Hontele often has her fans dancing throughout her sets (AFP Photo/Luis Acosta)

"I grew up with these sounds," she says. "He would go to Paris to look for records, just off the presses. Celia Cruz, the Gran Combo of Puerto Rico, etc."

No surprise then that as a 14-year-old, she preferred to play Latin American music. She convinced the Rotterdam Conservatory to bring in a specialized Latin music teacher rather than be forced to go the usual route of classical or jazz training.

She began playing in Dutch nightclubs as a teenager, "until six in the morning -- the only woman in a group of men, playing merengue, bachata, and Cuban salsa."

Looking back, getting out on the club scene was "the best education."

For her, the secret of rhythm lies "not only in the technique, but where the flavor is, and the flavor is in the street -- that's where you have to look for it."

These days, she finds that flavor in Bogota's streets, which she moves through in true Dutch style -- by bicycle.

She claims to be a vegan, listens to Cuban sounds as much as Bach or pop, and even as she prepares for a European tour, she says she just wants to be the "the neighbor who plays the trumpet."

"It doesn't interest me to be famous, to ride in a limousine," Hontele says.

She's already played with some of South America's greats, but apart from Sting, her biggest dream is to play with Carlos Vives.

"It would close the circle," she says.

As a kid, already steeped in the music but without a word of Spanish, she sang along to the Colombian singer's hit at the time, "Pa' Mayte" (For Mayte), reading into it a kind of musical destiny.

"I thought it was about me," she says.


Monday, November 13, 2017

EU removes Colombia's FARC from terror blacklist

Yahoo – AFP, November 13, 2017

Step in the right direction: A demobilized FARC member making shoes in a
Colombian training and reincorporation zone, where former guerrilla fighters
receive help in adapting to civilian life (AFP Photo/Raul Arboleda)

Brussels (AFP) - The EU on Monday removed Colombia's FARC from its list of terrorist organisations, an official told AFP, after the former guerilla movement disarmed as part of a peace deal and relaunched itself as a political party.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), which battled the government for half a century in a conflict that left some 260,000 people dead, reached a historic peace deal last year and its former leader now plans to run for president.

The decision to remove FARC from the list permanently comes after the EU suspended its terror listing in September 2016 in a bid to help the peace process in Colombia.

"The Council adopted the legal acts providing for the de-listing of the FARC from the EU list of individuals and entities subject to restrictive measures to combat terrorism," an EU official told AFP, adding that the decision would be announced officially on Tuesday.

FARC guerilla leader Rodrigo Londono, also known as "Timochenko", will run
in 2018's presidential election (AFP Photo/Raul Arboleda)

After agreeing to the peace deal and disarming, the rebels transformed their movement into a political party, keeping the same initials but changing the official name to the Common Alternative Revolutionary Force.

Rodrigo Londono, 58, the group's guerilla leader better known by his nickname "Timochenko", will run in the presidential election for the party, with the first round of voting scheduled for May 2018.

The UN has heard of concerns about progress under the peace deal. There are warnings that the reintegration of former fighters is not progressing well, with many finding it difficult to return to civilian life.

FARC's demobilisation has also triggered battles over territory it used to control, the Organization of American States warned last week, particularly areas linked to the drug trade.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Dutch government puts €550m into fund for post-hurricane Sint Maarten

DutchNews, November 10, 2017

Still showing damage on Sint Maarten from Dutch defense ministry footage 

The Netherlands is pumping €550m into the special fund to rebuild its former colony of Sint Maarten following the devastation caused by hurricane Irma. 

The first payment will be made to the island authorities as soon as they agree to the establishment of a special chamber to ensure the cash is spent properly. In addition, the Netherlands want border controls to be stepped up to make sure the work goes to local firms and local workers. 

The establishment of the fund ran into trouble earlier when the then-prime minister William Marlin refused to accept that the Dutch authorities would have final say on the integrity chamber. 

Since then, the government has fallen and an interim administration is in charge.

‘It is a lot of Dutch tax money,’ junior home affairs minister Raymond Knops said. ‘People are still without a roof over their heads and the Netherlands wants to help, but it is a gesture with strings attached.’ 

Earlier estimates had put the size of the fund at €260m.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

US unveils fresh Venezuela sanctions, targets 10 officials

Yahoo – AFP, November 9, 2017

The US has unveiled new sanctions against the government of Venezuelan President
Nicolas Maduro over alleged corruption and interference in state elections last month
in which pro-Maduro candidates unexpectedly won a majority of governorships
(AFP Photo/FEDERICO PARRA)

Washington (AFP) - The United States on Thursday slapped more sanctions against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's government, targeting 10 officials it said engaged in election irregularities to perpetuate what Washington called a dictatorial regime.

The new sanctions come as EU member states prepare to impose an arms embargo on Venezuela, whose leftist government has sought to tighten its grip on power amid a prolonged economic and political crisis that has led to deadly street clashes.

Things are so dire in oil-rich Venezuela that people line up to buy not just food and medicine but basics like soap and toilet paper. Maduro calls the crisis a plot contrived by rich conservative business people backed by the government of President Donald Trump.

The new sanctions came in response to October 15 state elections in which pro-Maduro candidates unexpectedly won 18 of 23 gubernatorial seats.

The US Treasury Department said irregularities "strongly suggest fraud" was used to elect Maduro candidates.

For instance, one of the people sanctioned, Sandra Oblitas Ruzza, vice president of the National Electoral Council, announced the relocation of polling stations just days before the voting, the US said.

So people showed up where they thought they could vote, but could not, it added.

"As the Venezuelan government continues to disregard the will of its people, our message remains clear: the United States will not stand aside while the Maduro regime continues to destroy democratic order and prosperity in Venezuela," US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.

He said the US will continue to go after Venezuelan officials who are complicit in efforts to undermine democracy, violate human rights, and act corruptly "unless they break from Maduro’s dictatorial regime."

Censorship and corruption

The sanctions named government ministers and members of Venezuela's National Electoral Council and the new, all powerful Constituent Assembly, which has replaced congress, even taking over its building, chamber and seats, can rewrite laws as it sees fit and is made up solely of Maduro loyalists.

The Treasury Department said the October elections were held amid censorship, abuse of state media and corruption extending to the distribution of food.

Others among those designated under the new US sanctions were Elvis Eduardo Hidrobo Amoroso, second vice president of the Constituent Assembly, which Washington deems illegitimate.

Also named were Culture Minister and former Information Minister Ernesto Emilio Villegas Poljak, the head of Venezuela’s state telephone utility Manuel Angel Fernandez Melendez, Urban Agriculture Minister Freddy Alirio Bernal Rosales and current ambassador to Italy Julian Isaias Rodriguez Diaz.

Rodriguez Diaz, for instance, who used to be second vice president of the Constituent Assembly, signed a decree forcing newly-elected governors to take the oath of office before that body, the US statement said.

The sanctions effectively freeze those named out of much of the global banking system, requiring most international banks not to process transactions on their behalf, and block their access to any assets under US jurisdiction.

Sanctions imposed by Trump's administration in August banned US trade in any new bonds issued by the Venezuelan government or state oil company PDVSA -- a needed step in any restructuring of the oil-rich country's debt.

The embattled government in Caracas announced last week it was calling a meeting of creditors for November 13 to try to restructure its foreign debt, estimated at $150 billion.

The move came the same day the International Monetary Fund said it was sanctioning the government for failing to provide economic data, as all IMF member states are required to do.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Haribo launches probe into 'inhumane working conditions' in Brazil

Yahoo – AFP, November 3, 2017

German sweets manufacturer Haribo is to investigate companies in its supply
 chain after accusations in a documentary that Brazilian workers including minors
work in appalling conditions at a suppliers' plantation (AFP Photo/JOEL SAGET)

Berlin (AFP) - German sweets maker Haribo said it had launched an internal investigation after a TV documentary alleged Brazilian workers supplying ingredients for their confectionary suffer inhumane conditions.

"We have tasked a group of independent, accredited and certified auditors with conducting a full investigation of our carnauba wax supply chain and are currently awaiting the findings of the investigation," the company said in a statement Thursday.

The company has faced criticism in the German and international press after public broadcaster ARD alleged in mid-October that workers on carnauba wax planations in Brazil, among them minors, suffered under high temperatures and were forced to sleep outside, often without access to clean drinking water.

Haribo uses carnauba wax as a coating agent in its candy.

"We have been in contact with our direct carnauba wax supplier in Brazil to demand that the entire supply chain, including its preliminary suppliers, all the way down to the carnauba wax producing farms, is laid bare and reviewed to ensure standards are upheld at all relevant facilities," beginning this week, the company said.

The company said it would hold discussions with Brazil's labour ministry and other government officials as part of the investigation.

Haribo also said it would launch an additional internal probe to respond to allegations in the same documentary about the mistreatment of pigs on German farms used for gelatine production.

The animals live in their own excrement and are covered in bruises, according to the documentary.

"As a company whose mission it is to bring joy to children and adults alike, reports of animal cruelty in our supply chain are unacceptable," the company said.

Argentina’s former VP arrested on corruption charges : court sources

Yahoo - AFP,  3 November 2017

Amado Boudou was Argentina's economy minister from 2009-2011, then served
 as vice president from 2011 until Kirchner left office in December 2015© AFP/
File Fayez NURELDINE

Amado Boudou, Argentina’s vice president under Cristina Kirchner, was arrested Friday on charges including money laundering and hiding undeclared assets, court sources said.

Judge Ariel Lijo ordered his arrest in a case initially brought in 2012. Boudou was economy minister from 2009-2011, then served as vice president from 2011 until Kirchner left office in December 2015.

Lijo said that Boudou, 54, “had been enriched unjustifiably during the exercise of public duties.”

The judge cited tax return anomalies, the 2010 purchase of a Buenos Aires apartment by his former girlfriend, and the unclear source of tens of thousands of dollars in income.

The arrest comes as Kirchner herself on Thursday lost a legal appeal against corruption charges, with a high court saying the prosecution’s case against her can go ahead.

The federal appeals court upheld a previous ruling that Kirchner, 64, must answer charges of criminal association and fraud that stem from her 2007-2015 term in office.

Kirchner, however, enjoys parliamentary immunity from jail if convicted, having become a senator-elect in polls held last month. She says the charges are politically motivated.

Kirchner’s former planning minister, Julio de Video, was arrested two weeks ago on corruption charges after Congress stripped him of his parliamentary immunity.

A former deputy public works minister, Jose Lopez, is also facing charges after being caught by police trying to hide $9 million in cash in a Buenos Aires convent earlier this year.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Nobel laureate wants global environment court

Yahoo – AFP, October 24, 2017

Yemeni Nobel Peace Prize laureate Tawakkol Karman calls for a global tribunal to
prosecute executives of multinational corporations who damage the environment (AFP
Photo/Orlando SIERRA)

Tegucigalpa (AFP) - Nobel Peace Prize laureate Tawakkul Karman proposed in Honduras on Tuesday the creation of a global tribunal to prosecute executives of multinational firms who damage the earth.

Karman, of Yemen, made the suggestion in the Central American country that Amnesty International last year described -- along with its neighbor Guatemala -- as the most dangerous in the world for environmentalists.

"A world court should be created that could punish all these multinational corporations" that damage the environment and contribute to climate change, Karman said through a translator.

She spoke at a press conference with Shirin Ebadi of Iran, a fellow Nobel laureate who won the peace prize in 2003.

As part of the Nobel Women's Initiative, they aimed "to gather a first-hand account of the ongoing violence against women land defenders" in Honduras and in Guatemala, where they travelled later Tuesday, the group's website says.

The murder of Berta Caceres, 45, gunned down last year, highlighted the threat to Honduran activists and sparked international outrage.

Caceres opposed plans by the company Desarrollos Energeticos to build a hydroelectric dam across a river on which indigenous communities depended.

Rachel Vincent, advocacy and media director for the Nobel Women's Initiative, said Honduras has the world's highest rate of murders for human rights and land defenders.

Since 2009, 123 activists have been killed, she said.

In comments to AFP, Karman said a special international court is needed "to fight against corruption and money laundering and against all those involved in destroying the environment and exploiting the climate in a damaging way."

She said such a tribunal could be similar to The Hague-based International Criminal Court which investigates and tries people charged with genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Karman said the court she proposes would handle cases in which human rights and environmental activists or anti-corruption fighters are "found dead."

She also said the investigation of Caceres's murder must be deepened "to discover all those who benefited from this crime."

Eight people were arrested, among them an employee of Desarrollos Energeticos.

The Nobel laureates met Austra Berta Flores, the mother of Caceres, on Saturday.

In Guatemala, they are to join two other Nobel Peace Prize winners, Guatemala's Rigoberta Menchu and Jody Williams of the United States.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Sint Maarten says ‘no’ to Dutch demands over repairing hurricane damage

DutchNews, October 23, 2017

Damage to Philipsburg. Photo: Ministry of Defence

The former Dutch colony of Sint Maarten, devastated by a Caribbean hurricane last month, is refusing to accept two conditions which the Dutch government wants to impose on rebuilding its ravaged infrastructure, Trouw said on Monday. 

The paper says prime minister William Marlin’s government does not agree with Dutch insistence on setting up a special Dutch-run body to oversee the flow of funds and ensure corruption is kept out. 

Although Marlin has said he is ‘not unwilling’ to set up some form of supervisory body, he says the Dutch ‘integrity chamber’ cannot be established before the Dutch ultimatum, and instead wants to use the island’s own organisation in which the Netherlands would have a role, but not the final say. 

The Netherlands is creating a multi-million euro fund to finance the reconstruction of the island which will provide loans under very strict conditions to ensure maximum monitoring. 

Sources in The Hague and on Sint Maarten told Trouw last month that the fund may be as high as €260m but that the final amount will be decided in the coming weeks. 

Outsiders 

Marlin is also unwilling to accept the Dutch insistence that border controls be stepped up involving Dutch military police officers, Trouw said. The aim is to stop outsiders coming to the island to work for rogue construction companies and to ensure locals benefit from the contracts, the paper said. 

Outgoing home affairs minister Ronald Plasterk has given Sint Maarten until the end of this month to agree to his terms. 

Trouw says Marlin’s letter to Plasterk is extremely courteous in tone and that he has offered to come to the Netherlands to discuss the issue. Nevertheless, saying ‘no’ twice to the Dutch demands risks delaying the rebuilding programme, Trouw said.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Peruvian congress approves legalisation of medicinal pot

Yahoo – AFP, Moises AVILA, October 20, 2017

Map showing where Cannabis is authorised for medical use and/or recreational
 use. Peru's congress approved a measure that legalizes marijuana for medicinal
use there (AFP Photo/Jonathan JACOBSEN)

Lima (AFP) - Peru's congress late Thursday overwhelmingly approved a measure supported by President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski that legalises marijuana for medicinal use.

The proposal at first was controversial because of the thriving illegal drug trade: Peru is the world's second largest producer of coca leaves - the source plant for cocaine - and some worried that drug gangs would branch into the marijuana business.

Proponents emphasised however that the measure is aimed at extracting components from marijuana to address specific ailments.

The Kuczynski administration proposed legalising medicinal marijuana in February, after police busted a home lab and arrested a group of parents who were distilling cannabis oil for children ill with cancer and severe cases of epilepsy.

The head of Peru's single chamber congress, Luis Galarreta, wrote on Twitter just before midnight that lawmakers voted mindful of "those people who need it for their treatment."

Pro-government lawmaker Alberto de Belaunde said that all charges should be dropped against the parents.

"Science is on our side, the regional current is on our side. Let's not let our fears paralyse us," he said ahead of the vote.

In 2013 Uruguay became the first country in the world to legalise pot from production to sale. The drug is sold only to people who have officially registered with a licensed pharmacy, and with a monthly limit of 40 grams.

Mexico, Colombia, Chile and Argentina have since authorised the cultivation and consumption of marijuana for medicinal and scientific purposes.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Chile penguins win battle in war against mine

Yahoo – AFP, Giovanna FLEITAS, 13 October 2017


They may be less than a meter tall but they have conquered a Goliath: Chile's vulnerable Humboldt penguins have thwarted -- for now at least -- a billion dollar mining project in one of the country's most depressed regions.

The rare species is only found on the coasts of Peru and Chile, which has created the National Humboldt Penguin Reserve -- but it's also an area rich in natural resources which has put the animals on a collision course with mining giant Andes Iron and their $2.5 billion project.

Conservationists jumped to their defense when the company unveiled plans to construct a huge open-cast mine and a port near the reserve, 600 kilometers (250 miles) north of Santiago.

The Dominga mine would have produced 12 million tonnes of iron ore a year, making it the biggest of its kind in the country, and 150,000 tonnes of copper.

For months it made headlines amid a bitter national debate over economic development and environmental conservation that was fought out on social media and split the socialist government of Chilean President Michelle Bachelet.

The project was rejected in March by an environmental commission but Andes Iron appealed the ruling.

In August, a special cabinet committee which included the energy and mines, health and environment ministers, finally vetoed the project citing of a lack of guarantees for the penguins.

Humboldts have been protected here since 1990, when the reserve was set up to encompass the islands of Dama, Choros and Gaviota, a stunning nature trail beloved of whale, sea-lion and penguin watchers.

Thousands of jobs

Rodrigo Flores, vice-president of the fisherman's union in nearby Punta Choros, a jumping off point for tours of the islands, welcomed the move.

"Dominga is an invasive project, for nature and for society," he told AFP. "It is incompatible with a place considered a hotspot of biodiversity at the global level."

But that's not everyone's view.

Joyce Aguirre is one of the project's staunch defenders in the local community of La Higuera.

"Every project has an impact," she said, arguing that the government had a duty to come down on the side of jobs.

"We want to be vigilant and watch what's going to happen. We are the ones who live here and we would never want to damage the area."

The region is among the most underdeveloped in Chile and many locals lament the loss of thousands of jobs promised under the plan.

Conservation NGO Oceana warned of the risks to the ecosystem from the mine, whose port terminal was set to be built only 30 kilometers away from the island of Choros.

The conservation group argued that increased shipping traffic, with its greater risk of oil spills, would do untold harm to a known cetacean migrant route and pristine waters that provide a rich food source to several vulnerable species including the sea otter.

"I've been diving in other areas and I've seen that residue from mining activity is noticeable on the ocean bottom, killing all existing life," said fisherman Mauricio Carrasco. "That's what we're afraid of."

Constant pressure on reserve

In Punta Choros, 160 families in the fishing community play an official role in watching over the penguin reserve, an area of 880 hectares which is home to 80 percent of the species.

Recent studies have shown the water to be pristine, largely due to conservation efforts.

But the reserve "is constantly under threat from mega-projects," warned Liliana Yanes, regional director of the National Forestry Office in Coquimbo.

French giant Suez was forced to pull out of a project to build a power plant in Barrancones, near Choros, in 2010. The then-president Sebastian Pinera demanded that the power plant be built elsewhere after thousands of people protested.

Around 60 kilometers away in the town of La Serena, part of the population has come out strongly against the U-turn on the Dominga project.

"We feel the disappointment, as Chileans, because the government is clipping our wings," said Marta Arancibia, adding that the region was one of the poorest in Chile.

She is a member of a residents association which signed an agreement with Andes Iron in which they promised to invest heavily in local education, healthcare and potable water projects.

"The state hasn't been present for us over the last 20 years, so we see these private enterprise projects as opportunities," said Aguirre, who also signed the agreement.

Andes Iron has signalled its intention to continue the battle in Chile's environmental court and if necessary, take it all the way to the Supreme Court.

Round one to the plucky penguins, though it seems the war has only started.