Argentine Vice President Says #CELAC Crucial for Domestic Agenda

Argentine Vice President Gabriela Michetti

Credits: EFE

The Argentine vice president says regional integration is important in advancing its own domestic policy objectives.

Argentine Vice President Gabriela Michetti outlined various policy objectives for her country’s government such as the strengthening of democracy, poverty reduction and the fight against narco-trafficking at the fourth CELAC summit in Quito, Ecuador, on Wednesday.

“CELAC is a space to help us grow. Specifically, as it relates to the goals of our government over the next several years,” Michetti stated.

The newly elected vice president vowed to promote policies with the goal of widening social inclusion, reducing poverty, and expanding dignified employment. However, Michetti’s comments come as her newly elected administration fired more then 12,000 public workers, as part of a purge of various state agencies.

Meanwhile, during her speech, Michetti reiterated her commitment to strengthen democratic institutions, amid the highly criticized arrest of Indigenous, social leader Milagro Sala, after protesting the new government of Mauricio Macri.

Similarly, the recent decision by Argentine President Mauricio Macri to declare a “Emergency State for Security”, drew widespread criticism from local NGO’s, expressing concern over potential human rights abuses involving law enforcement in efforts to combat drug-trafficking.

Towards the end of her speech, Michetti said that one of the key priorities for her government is to combat climate change through the “promotion of clean and renewable energy through encouraging investment in these industries.”

“We are currently working in conjunction with Bolivia and Chile in the area of renewable energy.” She stated.

​Bolivia is considered one of the regional powers in energy, with the second-largest natural gas reserves in South America. Both from an energy and political point of view, Bolivia represents a key part of the regional cooperation efforts that have occurred over the last decade in the region.

Vice President Michetti stepped in for Argentine President Mauricio Macri who did not attend his first ever Community of Latin American and Caribbean States summit due to a “recommendation” from his doctors.

 

Brazil Deploys 200,000 Troops to Combat Zika Virus

Municipal workers gesture before spraying insecticide at the neighborhood of Imbiribeira in Recife.

 

Soldiers will be making house-to-house visits to spread awareness of the mosquito-borne virus.
Brazil is deploying more than 200,000 soldiers to battle the Zika virus, which is believed to cause severe birth defects, the health ministry announced Wednesday.

The troops will make house-to-house visits to spread awareness of the mosquito-borne virus, handing out leaflets and insect repellent to Brazilians.

The campaign, due to last just one day, Feb. 13, comes amid fears that the outbreak could affect the upcoming Rio Olympic Games.

The mosquito-borne virus causes symptoms similar to dengue and chikungunya, including fever and joint pain. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, no confirmed cases of Zika have led to death, and symptoms normally last no longer than a week.

However, in recent weeks health officials have raised concerns the virus could be linked to a rare brain defect among newborn babies, which has caused deaths.

“Although Zika typically causes only mild symptoms, outbreaks in Brazil have coincided with a marked increase in microcephaly – or unusually small head size – in newborns,” PAHO said. “Pregnant women should be especially careful to avoid mosquito bites.”

In Brazil, microcephaly, a condition which affects the development of an infant’s brain, is believed to have affected 3,893 newborn babies since authorities began investigating the surge in October, local officials announced earlier this month.

 

#CostaRica sets date for 2nd airlift of stranded #Cubans

Costa Rica has set a Feb. 4 date for a second airlift of Cuban migrants who have been stranded for over two months at the country’s northern border with Nicaragua, officials said Monday.

Costa Rica’s immigration agency announced the next flight will ferry 184 Cubans to El Salvador, from where they will continue by land north toward the United States. Costa Rican authorities were contacting those on the list to let them know what documents they will need to present.

The migrants are responsible for the cost of the air bridge: $555 per adult, plus $75 total for Salvadoran and Guatemalan visas. The travel cost is $350 for children between 2 and 12 years old, and $150 for those under the age of 2.

After the flight is filled up, “we will immediately begin to prepare the next one,” immigration agency director Kathya Rodriguez said.

Thousands of Cuban migrants have been stuck in Costa Rica since Nicaragua closed its southern border to them Nov. 14.

The Cubans say their goal is to reach the United States, where favorable immigration policies allow them to remain and apply for residency.

The U.S. rules irk Havana, which says they foment brain drain and encourage islanders to attempt risky migration routes. Backers of the policies say they offer refuge to people fleeing Cuba’s communist system.

The first airlift took place Jan. 12 from Costa Rica to El Salvador, leapfrogging Nicaragua. The migrants then traveled by bus through Guatemala and into southern Mexico, where authorities issued them 20-day transit visas to reach the United States.

Barack Obama Praises Cuba Role in Colombian Peace Talks

Credits: AP

US President Barack Obama thanked the Cuban government for hosting the peace talks between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces guerrillas

Obama made his statements to Bogotá’s El Tiempo newspaper in which he said that the dialog has advanced more during the reestablishment of relations between Washington and Havana, PL news agency reported.
In his statements the US president acknowledged what he described as the valiant decision of Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos to go to the bargaining table.

Obama said that nobody thought it would be an easy task, since it is more difficult to end wars than to start them. This demands commitment and implies taking risks, he noted.

The US President said that his country supports the implementation of the Colombian accord on the victims of the conflict, justice and restitution of the lands.

#Pope Francis will Meet Ayotzinapa 43 Parents in his #Mexico’s Apostolic visit

Police stand in front of pictures of the 43 students missing from Ayotzinapa school as their relatives take part in a meeting with Mexico

The pope will meet with parents campaigning against violence in Mexico.
Pope Francis will meet with parents of a group of 43 missing students in February, according to an announcement Monday.

The head of Mexico’s conference of Bishops Cardinal Francisco Robles Ortega said the Pope is eager to meet with victims of violence in Mexico when he visits the country next month, including the families of the Ayotzinapa 43, according to La Jornada.

Many of the families are currently involved in a nationwide campaign against violence.

The announcement of the Pope’s plans to meet the families came just days after revelations Mexican government officials may have intentionally withheld evidence related to the Ayotzinapa 43 case.

Family members and supporters of the 43 disappeared students have repeatedly called for justice and a thorough and independent investigation into the case, rejecting the official government story that the students were burned in a garbage dump near Cocula, Guerrero.

Independent experts provided new evidence last month to prove that the students were not burned in the Cocula garbage dump as federal investigators had claimed.

The evidence was expected to serve as a basis to open up new lines of investigation in other areas to identify the whereabouts of the remains of the 43 disappeared Ayotzinapa students.

 

 

Mass Funeral for Victims in #Guatemala Massacre

The government refused to help with the burial of 49 of the victims of the 1982 massacre.
Guatemalans held a funeral march Saturday for 49 victims of a massacre committed by the Guatemalan army 33 years ago, teleSUR correspondent Santiago Boton reports.

Survivors of the massacre, commited under the dictatorship of Gen. Efrain Rios Montt, carried coffins with the remains along a main road of a remote community in Huehuetenango state.

”This is where the massacre was, this is where they burnt all the homes, where they shot everyone,” Mateo de Mateo Pedro, of the victims’ committee, told teleSUR, standing in an area that is now dirt paths and lush green forrest.

Another survivor remembered when some 300 soldiers barged into the community on July 27, 1982, and he saw them “acting like devils who had escaped from hell.”

“I saw with my own eyes, then a nine-year-old child, the army massacring children, accusing them of being guerillas, cutting off their head and sucking their blood in order to create psychological panic within the community. They raped women infront of their husbands, as punishment, as psychological torture. In a field near here, they played ball with the heads of the dead,” the protected witness, who’s identity can’t be revealed, stated.

In total, 74 people were killed that day and the next in the community, with scientific studies carried out by the Forensic Anthropological Foundation supporting survivors’ testimonies.

“We’ve recovered (the remains of) at least 49 individuals, but the problem is that we don’t have complete bones … we have a piece of skull, a piece of a femur, a bit of rib, and so on,” explained Jose Suasnavar, from the foundation.

IN DEPTH: New Guatemalan President, Old Problems

Although the remains were exhumed in 2009, it has taken this long to carry out a burial, according to the families, because the Guatemalan government has refused to fulfill its responsibility to give the victims dignity. Instead, the International Red Cross has helped the families out.

The Guatemalan civil war begun in 1960 and lasted 36 years. The government waged war on various leftist groups that were mainly supported by Mayan indigenous people and by campesinos.

This content was originally published by teleSUR at the following address:
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Key Lawmaker Urges #Mexico to Legalize #Marijuana

Ines Cano (R) and her daughter, who uses medical marijuana to treat the symptoms of refractory epilepsy, visit the Cannalivio cannabis lab, Colombia May 7, 2015.

The president of Mexico’s lower house says that both medical and recreational marijuana use should be legalized.

Mexico should move ahead with completely legalizaing Marijuana, according to Jesus Zambrano, the president of the country’s Chamber of Deputies. On Sunday the legislative body began a month-long discussion on the drug war.

“The topic has its international component and efforts need to be combined, particularly between the United States and Mexico, to have common rules, laws that are essentially identical, though each with its own modalities, because we are distinct, but the United States must help our country apply, for instance, legalization of marijuana for medical and recreational use,” said Zambrano.

He added that Mexico will not wait for the United States and will instead follow the example of Colombia and Italy in pursuing policies to undercut organized crime.

Mexico has been ravaged by violence in the last decade, with more than 164,000 homicides between 2007 and 2014 alone, coiniciding with an increasingly militarized war on drugs.

Zambrano also touched on the use of border controls to limit the traffic of arms, which has equipped narcotraffickers with more weapons than the national army. Inequality and poverty, he said, are also central to any policy addressing gang violence.

Last year, Mexico’s Supreme Court ruled that a couple had a right under the constitution to cultivate marijuana, though that ruling did not legalize cultivation for others.

Mexican lawmakers will be discussing whether or not to extend that ruling themselves until Feb. 17.

Did the US Congress Just Lift the Ban on Medical Marijuana?

Last year, the U.S. congress approved a measure that prevents the Department of Justice and the Drug Enforcement Administration from spending money to interfere with state laws on medical marijuana. The move has been heralded as tantamount to essentially lifting the federal ban on medical marijuana and a major blow to the war on drugs.

The measure lets states implement their own medical marijuana policy without the fear of federal interference. And this is big news, considering that the majority of U.S. citizens now live in states where medical marijuana is legal.

“I think it is a step in the right direction and it shows the willingness to respect the will of the people,” Amanda Reiman, manager of Marijuana Law and Policy at the Drug Policy Alliance.

The provision was approved as part of the massive 1,603-page US$1.1 trillion spending bill for 2016—the amendment had been passed temporarily in 2015, but its approval in the 2016 spending bill locked it into law—and it comes as national views on cannabis and mass incarceration have shifted in recent years. More lawmakers are now open to rolling back strict federal drug policy, which still holds that marijuana is more dangerous than cocaine.

It’s So Cold In #Minnesota That Even Ghosts Started Wearing Pants

I wasn’t scared. But, yet, I stopped
What could those pants be there for?
What could a pair of pants at night
Be standing in the air for?

Winters are really cold in Minneapolis, Minnesota, so to brighten up the mood, Tom Grotting started erecting frozen jeans in his neighborhood. The locals quickly caught on and followed the new trend.

Grotting has been amusing his neighbors since 2013. How do the pants stay up? He soaks them in water and then sculpts them outside as they freeze.

“I mostly do it for my neighbor, Diane,” Grotting told ABC News. “The winter gets a little long and she doesn’t like winter very much so it’s mostly entertainment for Diane.”

More info: Instagram | Facebook (h/t: sergiosamgenio)

Tom Grotting started erecting frozen jeans in his neighborhood

Image credits: Tom Grotting

“The fellas hanging out at Digital Pictures,” Grotting wrote on Facebook

Image credits: Tom Grotting

“I mostly do it for my neighbor, Diane,” said Grotting

Image credits: Tom Grotting

“The winter gets a little long and she doesn’t like winter very much so it’s mostly entertainment for Diane”

Image credits: Tom Grotting

The locals quickly caught on and followed the new trend

Image credits: Tania Suarez

Now the frozen pants are popping all over Northeast Minneapolis

Image credits: Tom Grotting

Image credits: 

Image credits: Tom Grotting

Image credits: Tom Grotting

Image credits: Tom Grotting

Colombian Negotiators Send End-of-Conflict Proposals to #Havana

The FARC rose up in 1964 and has an estimated 8,000 fighters.

The FARC and the government have agreed to speed up the peace talks to reach a final deal to bring an end to the armed conflict as soon as possible.
Top military commanders of both the Colombian government and the FARC rebel army sent end-of-conflict proposals on Saturday to the negotiating teams involved in the ongoing peace talks in Havana, Cuba, that will help shape the discussion in the final stages of the peace process.

The report covers logistical aspects of ending the conflict including the laying down of arms, verification of the end of the conflict, and security guarantees to accompany disarmament.

Colombian General Javier Florez and Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, Commander Carlos Antonio Lozada have discussed end-of-conflict issues since last year.

The military commanders’ proposals also come as President Juan Manuel Santos announced Saturday that to date 590,000 victims of Colombia’s armed conflict have been compensated for their suffering.

Last month, the government and the FARC signed a historic agreement on the victims of the armed conflict that addresses truth, non-repetition of the conflict, reparations, and transitional justice. An agreement on this area of negotiations was considered a key precursor to being able to the issue of a bilateral cease-fire on the table.

The negotiations have also already reached partial agreements on the issues of land reform, political participation of rebels once they lay down their arms, and programs and policies regarding illicit drugs.

UN Proposes Monitoring Implementation of Colombia Peace Deal

The security council should vote on the draft resolution next week.
A draft resolution submitted to the UN Security Council on Thursday proposes to set up a 12-month mission in Colombia that would monitor the implementation of the peace agreement currently being negotiated between the government and the guerrilla FARC group.

Two days before, both parties agreed in Havana, where the negotiations have been carried out since 2012, to resort to the international organization in order to “establish a political mission to participate for a period of 12 months … to monitor and verify the definitive bilateral ceasefire and cessation of hostilities, and the laying down of arms,” reported Reuters .

The draft, redacted by the United Kingdom, and suggested by Colombian President Juan Manual Santos in 2014, also suggests that international observers could settle any disputes and make recommendations.

One council diplomat said on condition of anonymity that he hoped the draft resolution would go to a vote next week.

The government and the FARC both agreed to reach a peace deal by March 23, although the FARC warned it would be difficult to meet the deadline.