Argentina Set to Receive More Russian COVID-19 Vaccine

Argentina is set to receive another batch of a Russian vaccine against COVID-19 on Tuesday, just days after Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner became the country’s latest leader vaccinated with the Sputnik V vaccine.    
 
The vice president was given the shot three days after President Alberto Fernández was given his first dose.
 
Argentina is one of the largest countries to begin vaccinating its citizens with Sputnik V vaccine, which its developers claim is more than 90 percent effective against COVID-19.
 
Argentina approved the use of Sputnik V for people 60 years of age and older last week, as it expands the vaccination program to a larger segment of the population.  
 
Argentina is also awaiting the first batch of vaccine created AstraZeneca and Oxford University.
 
The South American country is working on obtaining the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine while still having access to the Covax equitable distribution of vaccine, which is run by the World Health Organization.
 
So far, Argentina has recorded more than 1.8 million confirmed cases and 47,034 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University Covid Resource Center.

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Peru Company Approved to Sell COVID-19 Test Kits That Detect Variants   

A Peru-based company says it has developed a COVID-19 molecular test kit that can detect the variants of the virus found in the United Kingdom, South Africa, and Brazil. The director of BTS Consultores Research, Milagros Zavaleta says the CavBio can detect the variants in a swab sample but does not distinguish the type of variant. The low-cost COVID-19 test kits became available for sale after Digemid, the government organization that oversees the safe access to medicines, authorized the BTS production plant to operate. The director of BTS says the company is in talks with clinics and laboratories to sell the kits, which could prove beneficial, with more countries experiencing a second wave of COVID-19 cases, including variants of the virus. Peru has confirmed more than 1,093,000 coronavirus cases and 39,608 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University COVID Resource Center.  

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A Former Paramilitary Leader in Colombia is in Custody in the South American Country

A former paramilitary leader in Colombia is in custody in the South American country Tuesday, a day after being deported from United States, where he served a 16-year sentence for drug trafficking. A spokesman for Colombia’s Ministry of Justice said 74 year-old Hernán Giraldo faces charges related to massacres, murder, kidnapping, rapes and drug trafficking.  Giraldo, who was known as “the boss” for his heavy-handed leadership, is wanted under dozens of warrants for crimes committed under his command by the Tayrona Bloc of the Self-Defense Units of Colombia, a far-right militia that operated in northern Colombia.  Giraldo was sentenced to 40 years in Colombia after confessing to hundreds of crimes affecting more than 10,000 victims while in custody in the United States.  Giraldo’s sentence was reduced because he helped the government under a program to prosecute paramilitary groups. Giraldo’s lawyers are seeking leniency from Colombia for his time served in the United States and his earlier cooperation with the government.  

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Brexit Bites for British Businesses as Border Delays Slow Trade

Despite making up just 0.1% of Britain’s economy, fishing played an outsized role in the brinkmanship leading up to December’s Brexit agreement between London and Brussels.  
 
Many Brexit supporters saw regaining control of the country’s sovereign waters as totemic. A month since the agreement was signed, many fishermen say they feel betrayed.   
 
Under the deal, a quarter of European boats’ fishing rights in British waters will be transferred to British boats over the next five years.
 
That is not good enough, said Phil Mitchell, skipper of the 23-meter-long trawler Govenek of Ladram, which operates from Newlyn Harbor in Cornwall, England. He believes many fishermen feel they were exploited by the “Leave” campaign.
 
“They were happy to use us for their campaign, and when push comes to shove, we’ve had the shove, and we’ve been dumped on from a great height,” Mitchell said.
 
Mitchell said Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised Britain would regain full control of its waters.
 
“The fact now is that we’re worse off than before Brexit because it’s all written in that we won’t be able to get (control of fishing rights) back. And it’s just a travesty. Boris, the betrayer, has completely sold us down the river,” he added.
 
Nearly half of the fish caught by British boats is exported to the European Union, a trade worth over $1.8 billion in 2019. Brexit has brought new border checks, paperwork and costs.FILE – Fishing boats are moored at the South Pier of Bridlington Harbor fishing port in Bridlington, Dec. 11, 2020.Allan Miller runs AM Shellfish from Aberdeen, Scotland, another hub of Britain’s fish industry. He said delivery times of live brown crab, lobster and prawns to Europe had doubled, meaning lower prices, while some of the product does not survive the increased journey time.  
 
Miller was one of several seafood exporters to stage a protest outside Parliament in London this month, using articulated trucks to block traffic around Westminster.
 
“Live shellfish, it’s got a sell-by date. It’s alive or dead,” Miller said. “Unless the government does something, a lot of these businesses will be out of here. They’ll be finished.”  
 
Johnson insists the problems will be ironed out.
 
“Insofar as there are problems at the moment caused by teething problems, people not filling in the right forms or misunderstandings. And when it’s not people’s fault, of course, we’re going to compensate and to help out. And funds have been put in place to do that,” Johnson told reporters January 18. “But be in no doubt that there are great opportunities for fishermen across the whole of the U.K. to take advantage of the spectacular marine wealth of the United Kingdom. … There is scope for fishermen, fishing communities, fishers across the U.K. to take advantage of the increase in quota,” Johnson added.
 
It is not just fish that are floundering. Other sectors are warning of significant disruption. New tax rules have prompted some European retailers to stop selling to British customers, while some shipping firms have paused their cross-Channel operations.
Edward Velasco, British import manager at the pan-European fruit and vegetable supplier Rodanto, said problems caused by the coronavirus pandemic have been compounded.
 
“We’ve had the added challenge of Brexit and the added documentation that requires hauliers have an extra cost in coming here. They don’t know if the drivers are going to get back within a certain amount of time. If they’re not, if the wheels are not moving, they’re losing money. And ultimately, so are we,” Velasco told Reuters news agency.FILE – Trucks bound for Britain wait on the access ramp to the Channel Tunnel in Calais, northern France, before leaving for England, Dec. 17, 2020.Supermarkets in Northern Ireland have faced shortages owing to extra checks on goods shipped from mainland Britain. So, is it teething troubles, or an inevitable consequence of Britain’s decision to quit the European Union?
“It depends which sector you’re talking about, whether these are teething problems or they are structural and endemic to the consequences of having signed the EU-U.K. Free Trade Agreement,” said analyst Rem Korteweg of the Clingendael Institute in the Netherlands.  
 
“Where I think there are teething problems is in the issue, let’s say, of small-order transports. So, this question of ‘groupage’ that hauliers are now facing, where they have to sign forms for every single shoebox or crate that is in their container, I think those things can be simplified,” Korteweg told VOA.
 
He added, “Where I don’t think we’re currently facing teething problems — and things are much more structural — is, for instance, in the health and sanitary, and phytosanitary and food safety checks, for instance, with fish exports. Because that is the consequence of leaving the Single Market, that there is now a regulatory border.”  
 
Britain insists Brexit will offer economic opportunities outside the EU. Its strategy was given a boost this week as Japanese carmaker Nissan pledged to keep building cars in Britain and invest millions of dollars building a new factory to make batteries for electric vehicles.  
 
From 2027, all British and European carmakers will have to source batteries from either Britain or the EU or face tariffs on their exports.
 
“Brexit gives us the competitive advantage not only within the United Kingdom but outside the United Kingdom, also,” Nissan’s Chief Operating Officer Ashwani Gupta said Thursday following the announcement.
 
The government hopes other companies will soon follow Nissan’s lead and invest in its vision of a “Global Britain.” But a month on from the signing of the EU-U.K. Free Trade Agreement, many businesses say Brexit has so far brought extra costs and little benefit.
 

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Kerry Says US ‘Proud to Be Back’ in Paris Climate Agreement

World leaders gathered virtually Monday for the Climate Adaption Summit, an online meeting hosted by the Netherlands with hopes of developing practical solutions and funding for dealing with climate change between now and 2030.The online program featured leaders from around the world, including China’s Deputy Prime Minister Han Zheng, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and other leaders. Representing the United States was former Secretary of State John Kerry, who has been appointed by President Joe Biden to be Washington’s new special climate envoy. Kerry told the group the Biden administration has made fighting climate change a top priority and said the U.S. is proud to be back as a leader on the issue.“We have a president now, thank God, who leads, tells the truth and is seized by this issue,” Kerry said. “And President Biden knows that we have to mobilize in unprecedented ways to meet a challenge that is fast accelerating. And he knows we have limited time to get it under control.”Kerry said that is the reason Biden immediately rejoined the Paris climate agreement that former U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from formally last November. Trump originally announced the U.S. was pulling out of the agreement in 2017, but United Nations regulations prevented it from being official until November. Biden rejoined the agreement on his first day in office. As secretary of state under former President Barack Obama in 2015, Kerry helped negotiate the original agreement, bringing China to the table at the U.N. climate conference in Paris.

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Turkey: No Word from Pirates Who Seized Sailors off Nigeria

Pirates who seized 15 sailors when they stormed a Turkish-crewed container ship in the Gulf of Guinea two days ago have not yet made contact with authorities, Turkey’s foreign minister said on Monday.An Azeri sailor was killed when armed attackers boarded the vessel, which was headed to Cape Town from Lagos, and abducted 15 Turkish sailors.”We have not yet received word from the pirates,” foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters in Ankara.Turkey was in contact with officials in Gabon, where he said the Liberian-flagged container ship Mozart had docked with its remaining crew, and with authorities in neighboring countries.Echoing comments by President Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s transport minister said the government was working to ensure the swift release of the sailors.”We will rescue our citizens from the hands of these bandits and reunite them with their families as soon as possible,” Adil Karaismailoglu said.The ship was attacked 160 km (100 miles) off Sao Tome island on Saturday, maritime reports showed.Pirates in the Gulf, which borders more than a dozen countries, kidnapped 130 sailors in 22 incidents last year, accounting for all but five of those seized worldwide, according to an International Maritime Bureau report.The attack on the Mozart could raise international pressure on Nigeria to do more to protect shippers, who have called for tougher action in recent weeks, analysts said.

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Greece, Turkey Resume Talks on Maritime Disputes in Mediterranean Under Pressure from EU and NATO

Greece and Turkey opened their first direct talks in nearly five years in Istanbul Monday to discuss long-standing maritime disputes in the eastern Mediterranean.Relations between Athens and Ankara were exacerbated in August of last year when Turkey deployed a survey vessel in contested Mediterranean waters and gunboats from the two countries collided.Disputes over energy sources and borders also have threatened to spiral out of control.Greece and Turkey, both members of the NATO military alliance, made insignificant progress in several dozen rounds of talks between 2002 and 2016.The European Union and NATO had pressed hard on Ankara and Athens to sit down at the negotiating table. They agreed early this month to resume talks in Istanbul, with Turkey hoping to improve its relations with the 27-member block.On Saturday, however, Athens expressed willingness to only discuss issues of mutual economic interests and the continental shelf in the eastern Mediterranean, but not issues of “national sovereignty.”  Last week, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said his country would approach the talks with optimism but “zero naivety.”  On his part, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he hoped returning to negotiation table would “herald a new era.”The EU has supported Greece, a member of the group, in its disputes with neighboring Turkey, and threatened sanctions on Turkey, but has postponed imposing them until March of this year.

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EU States No Longer Recognize Guaido as Venezuela’s Interim President

Venezuela’s Juan Guaido is a “privileged interlocutor” but no longer considered interim president, European Union states said in a statement on Monday, sticking by their decision to downgrade his status.The EU’s 27 states had said on Jan. 6 they could no longer legally recognize Guaido as after he lost his position as head of parliament following legislative elections in Venezuela in December, despite the EU not recognizing that vote.Following the disputed re-election of President Nicolas Maduro in 2018, Guaido, as head of parliament, became interim president. Guaido is still seen by the United States and Britain as Venezuela’s rightful leader.The status of interim president gives Guaido access to funds confiscated from Maduro by Western governments, as well as affording him access to top officials and supporting his pro-democracy movement domestically and internationally.The 27 EU members said in a joint statement that he was part of the democratic opposition – despite a resolution by the European Parliament last week for EU governments to maintain Guaido’s position as head of state.”The EU repeats its calls for … the freedom and safety of all political opponents, in particular representatives of the opposition parties elected to the National Assembly of 2015, and especially Juan Guaido,” the statement said following a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels.The EU considers them to be important actors and privileged interlocutors,” it said, calling for the opposition to unite against the disputed rule of Maduro.The assembly elected in 2015 was held by the opposition, whereas the new assembly is in the hands of Maduro’s allies, after the opposition called on Venezuelans to boycott the vote.Guaido last week thanked the European Parliament for recognizing him as president of the National Assembly, a committee of lawmakers who assert they are the country’s legitimate legislature, arguing the 2020 parliamentary elections were fraudulent.

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Argentina’s Abortion Law Enters Force Under Watchful Eyes

Argentina’s groundbreaking abortion law went into force Sunday under the watchful eyes of women’s groups and government officials, who hope to ensure its full implementation despite opposition from some conservative and church groups.  Argentina became the largest nation in Latin America to legalize elective abortion after its Senate on December 30 passed a law guaranteeing the procedure up to the 14th week of pregnancy and beyond that in cases of rape or when a woman’s health is at risk.  The vote was hailed as a triumph for the South American country’s feminist movement that could pave the way for similar actions across the socially conservative, heavily Roman Catholic region. But Pope Francis had issued a last-minute appeal before the vote and church leaders have criticized the decision. Supporters of the law say they expect lawsuits from anti-abortion groups in Argentina’s conservative provinces and some private health clinics might refuse to carry out the procedure.  “Another huge task lies ahead of us,” said Argentina’s minister of women, gender and diversity, Elizabeth Gómez Alcorta, who has acknowledged there will be obstacles to the law’s full implementation across the country.  Gómez Alcorta said a telephone line will be set up “for those who cannot access abortion to communicate.”A smiley pillow sits on a gynecological table at Casa Fusa, a health center that advices women on reproductive issues and performs legal abortions, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Friday, Jan. 22, 2021.The Argentine Catholic Church has repudiated the law and conservative doctors’ and lawyers’ groups have urged resistance. Doctors and health professionals can claim conscientious objection to performing abortions but cannot invoke the right if a pregnant woman’s life or health is in danger. A statement signed by the Consortium of Catholic Doctors, the Catholic Lawyers Corporation and other groups called on doctors and lawyers to “resist with nobility, firmness and courage the norm that legalizes the abominable crime of abortion.” The anti-abortion group Unidad Provida also urged doctors, nurses and technicians to fight for their “freedom of conscience” and promised to “accompany them in all the trials that are necessary.”  Under the law, private health centers that do not have doctors willing to carry out abortions must refer women seeking abortions to clinics that will. Any public official or health authority who unjustifiably delays an abortion will be punished with imprisonment from three months to one year. The National Campaign for the Right to Legal, Safe and Free Abortion, an umbrella group for organizations that for years fought for legal abortion, often wearing green scarves at protests, vowed to “continue monitoring compliance with the law.” “We trust the feminist networks that we have built over decades,” said Laura Salomé, one of the movement’s members. A previous abortion bill was voted down by Argentine lawmakers in 2018 by a narrow margin. But in the December vote it was backed by the center-left government, boosted by the so-called “piba” revolution, from the Argentine slang for “girls,” and opinion polls showing opposition had softened. The law’s supporters expect backlash in Argentina’s conservative provinces. In the northern province of Salta, a federal judge this week rejected a measure filed by a former legislator calling for the law to be suspended because the legislative branch had exceeded its powers. Opponents of abortion cite international treaties signed by Argentina pledging to protect life from conception. Gómez Alcorta said criminal charges currently pending against more than 1,500 women and doctors who performed abortions should be lifted. She said the number of women and doctors detained “was not that many,” but didn’t provide a number. “The Ministry of Women is going to carry out its leadership” to end these cases, she said.  While abortion is already allowed in some other parts of Latin America — such as in Uruguay, Cuba and Mexico City — its legalization in Argentina is expected to reverberate across the region, where dangerous clandestine procedures remain the norm a half century after a woman’s right to choose was guaranteed in the U.S. 

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