All posts by MBusiness

Pollution Turns Argentina Lake Bright Pink

A lagoon in Argentina’s southern Patagonia region has turned bright pink in a striking, but frightful phenomenon experts and activists blame on pollution by a chemical used to preserve prawns for export.The color is caused by sodium sulfite, an anti-bacterial product used in fish factories, whose waste is blamed for contaminating the Chubut river that feeds the Corfo lagoon and other water sources in the region, according to activists.Residents have long complained of foul smells and other environmental issues around the river and lagoon.”Those who should be in control are the ones who authorize the poisoning of people,” environmental activist Pablo Lada told AFP, blaming the government for the mess.The lagoon turned pink last week and remained the abnormal color on Sunday, said Lada, who lives in the city of Trelew, not far from the lagoon and some 1,400 kilometers south of Buenos Aires.Environmental engineer and virologist Federico Restrepo told AFP the coloration was due to sodium sulfite in fish waste, which by law, should be treated before being dumped.The lagoon, which is not used for recreation, receives runoff from the Trelew industrial park and has turned the color of fuchsia before.But residents of the area are fed up.In recent weeks, residents of Rawson, neighboring Trelew, blocked roads used by trucks carrying processed fish waste through their streets to treatment plants on the city’s outskirts.”We get dozens of trucks daily, the residents are getting tired of it,” said Lada.With Rawson off limits due to the protest, provincial authorities granted authorization for factories to dump their waste instead in the Corfo lagoon.  “The reddish color does not cause damage and will disappear in a few days,” environmental control chief for Chubut province, Juan Micheloud, told AFP last week.Sebastian de la Vallina, planning secretary for the city of Trelew disagreed: “It is not possible to minimize something so serious.”Plants that process fish for export, mainly prawns and hake, generate thousands of jobs for Chubut province, home to some 600,000 people.Dozens of foreign fishing companies operate in the area in waters under Argentina’s Atlantic jurisdiction.”Fish processing generates work… it’s true. But these are multi-million-dollar profit companies that don’t want to pay freight to take the waste to a treatment plant that already exists in Puerto Madryn, 35 miles away, or build a plant closer,” said Lada.
 

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Venezuela’s Maduro Aims for Dialogue with Opposition in August 

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said that he was aiming to begin a dialogue with the country’s political opposition next month in Mexico facilitated by Norway, a process he hoped the United States would embrace.In May the opposition changed strategy and indicated its willingness to return to negotiations to resolve the political crisis in OPEC member Venezuela.Maduro has overseen an economic collapse in once-prosperous Venezuela since taking office in 2013, and stands accused by his domestic opponents, the United States and the European Union of corruption, human rights violations and rigging his 2018 re-election. Maduro denies the accusations.In June, top diplomats in Washington, Brussels and Ottawa said they would be willing to revise their sanctions on Maduro’s government if the dialogue with the opposition led to significant progress toward free and fair elections.”I can tell you that we are ready to go to Mexico,” Maduro said in an interview on the state-funded Telesur television network late on Saturday. “We have begun to discuss a complicated, difficult agenda.”Venezuela’s opposition, led by Juan Guaido, has accused Maduro of using previous rounds to buy time in the face of diplomatic and sanctions pressure by the United States and others. Guaido is recognized by Washington and several other Western democracies as the country’s rightful leader.Opposition groups have said they are willing to negotiate the conditions for presidential and parliamentary elections with Maduro’s government.Maduro, in turn, has said he wants the negotiations to focus on the lifting of U.S. sanctions targeting the financial and oil sectors.He added that the negotiations would include “all the oppositions,” a reference to opposition politicians who broke with Guaido’s call to boycott the 2020 parliamentary elections, which were won handily by Maduro’s ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela. 

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Nicaragua Arrests 7th Presidential Contender Ahead of November Vote 

Nicaraguan police placed under house arrest a seventh presidential contender on Saturday, meaning that almost all of those who could have challenged President Daniel Ortega in the November 7 elections have now been detained.Opposition leader Noel Vidaurre was placed under police custody Saturday at his home, as was political commentator Jaime Arellano. Arellano had been called in for questioning regarding a commentary he wrote criticizing an Ortega speech.Vidaurre was one of the potential presidential candidates of the Citizens for Liberty alliance. The conservative alliance announced it had chosen as its candidate Oscar Sovalbarro, a leader of the U.S.-supported Contra insurgency that fought the Sandinistas in the 1980s. It was not clear if Sovalbarro had accepted the nomination.Half a dozen other potential candidates have been arrested in a crackdown that began almost two months ago. Also almost two dozen journalists and opposition activists have been detained.Almost all were arrested under treason laws that Ortega has used against political rivals. Most face vague allegations of crimes against the state. Ortega alleges the country’s April 2018 street protests were part of an organized coup attempt with foreign backing.Another potential candidate, Cristiana Chamorro, is also under house arrest. Most of those arrested in a crackdown that began in late May are being held at undisclosed locations with no access to lawyers or family visits. They include Medardo Mairena, Félix Maradiaga and Miguel Mora.Potential candidates Juan Sebastián Chamorro and Arturo Cruz were also arrested. Candidates must register by August 2.Lesther Alemán, a former student leader who returned to Nicaragua after exile but stayed in safe houses, has also been detained. And several of the leading Sandinista revolutionaries who fought alongside Ortega in 1979 have also been jailed by him.Those currently under arrest include Dora María Téllez, 65, a former guerrilla commander who later split with Ortega and became a leader of the Sandinista Renovation Movement. Another jailed former Sandinista guerrilla and Renovation Movement leader, Hugo Torres, is 73.Another is Víctor Hugo Tinoco, the leader of the political movement Unamos. He’s a former assistant foreign minister and former ambassador to the United Nations.Ortega, 75, is seeking a fourth consecutive term in November 7 elections.

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Anti-graft Investigator Flees Guatemala to ‘Safeguard His Life’ 

Guatemala’s top anti-graft investigator, Juan Francisco Sandoval, fled the country Saturday hours after he was fired, a move that sparked international backlash, a human rights official said.Guatemalan Ombudsman Jordan Rodas accompanied Sandoval to the Salvadoran border “in light of the difficult decision to leave the country to safeguard his life and integrity due to recent events,” according to the Central American country’s human rights body.Sandoval had been fired from his post as head of Guatemala’s Prosecutor Against Corruption and Impunity (FECI) on Friday by Attorney General Consuelo Porras.Sandoval said he had encountered many obstacles in his work at FECI and that he was told not to investigate President Alejandro Giammattei without the attorney general’s consent, something he said went “against the autonomy and independence” of FECI.The Attorney General’s Office said he had been let go because of “constant abuses and frequent violations” of the institution and that attempts had been made to “undermine” the “work, integrity and dignity” of Porras.His firing sparked criticism from the U.S. State Department, which has called him an “anti-corruption champion,” as well as outcry from humanitarian groups, civil society and businesses.Julie Chung, the acting assistant secretary for the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, condemned Sandoval’s sacking in a tweet on Friday, saying it was “a significant setback to rule of law.””It contributes to perceptions of a systemic effort to undermine those known to be fighting corruption,” she added.The Center against Corruption and Impunity in the North of Central America also criticized Porras’ decision, saying it would create “setbacks in the fight against corruption in the region.”FECI was initially created to work alongside the U.N. International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala to combat corruption and impunity, but the body’s work was stopped in 2019 under a decision by then-President Jimmy Morales, after he was singled out by both entities for electoral corruption.

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59 Cuban Protesters Prosecuted So Far; Hundreds Were Arrested

Fifty-nine Cubans have been prosecuted so far for participating in unprecedented demonstrations against the government earlier this month, a senior official said Saturday.The charges were minor, and the total number of people detained has not been released amid complaints from relatives seeking information about loved ones.”Until yesterday, 19 judicial processes had reached the municipal courts of the country, cases involving 59 people accused of committing alleged crimes [during] these disturbances,” Ruben Remigio Ferro, president of the Supreme Court, told reporters.On July 11 and 12, thousands of Cubans took to the streets, shouting “Freedom,” “Down with the dictatorship” and “We’re hungry” in the biggest protests since the revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power in 1959.Hundreds of people were arrested and many face charges of contempt, public disorder, vandalism and propagation of the coronavirus epidemic for allegedly marching without face masks.Independent observers and activists have published lists of those arrested with at least 600 names on them.Ferro said a faster trial system was being used to prosecute the accused but made assurances that due process was being followed.The rallies came as the country endures its worst economic crisis in 30 years, with chronic shortages of electricity, food and medicine amid an increase in COVID-19 cases.Anyelo Troya, one of the creators of an anti-government rap song adopted by protesters, was sentenced to a year in prison Wednesday for “public disorder,” according to his family.

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Slain Haitian President Jovenel Moise Laid to Rest

The body of slain Haitian President Jovenel Moise was laid to rest in the northern port city of Cap-Haitien today. Moise was gunned down in his home in Port-au-Prince on July 7. The assassination underscored the continuing influence of foreign actors in the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country.  VOA’s Laurel Bowman has our story.

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Guatemala Ousts Anti-corruption Prosecutor Praised by US

Guatemala’s attorney general has removed the leader of the Special Prosecutor’s Office Against Impunity less than two months after U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris stressed the office’s importance amid a growing push against anti-corruption efforts in the country.Attorney General Consuelo Porras removed Juan Francisco Sandoval on Friday because of “constant abuses and frequent abuses to the institutionality” of the ministry, according to a government statement.Sandoval is a respected anti-corruption prosecutor with a record of pursuing dozens of criminal networks. Together with the former United Nations anti-corruption mission in Guatemala he helped take down former President Otto Pérez Molina and some members of his Cabinet on corruption charges.In June, Harris visited Guatemala as part of her work to find ways the U.S. can help address the root causes of Central American migration, among them corruption. She told Guatemalan officials that the U.S. wanted to support anti-corruption efforts and that the participation of the anti-impunity prosecutor’s office and Sandoval would be essential.Observers had worried that Porras was blocking the work of Sandoval’s office and that his own job could be jeopardy.Porras did not provide details of Sandoval’s alleged abuses. She had blocked attempts by Sandoval’s office to lift the immunity of government officials suspected of crimes or make arrests of powerful individuals investigated for corruption. Sandoval confirmed his firing to the AP.On Thursday, Porras removed another prosecutor from the anti-impunity office. 

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Funeral for Haiti’s Assassinated President Disrupted by Protests, Gunfire

The funeral of Haiti’s assassinated president, Jovenel Moise, was disrupted Friday by tear gas used on nearby protesters as well as sounds of gunfire, prompting U.S. officials to leave before the end of the ceremony.Hundreds of protesters gathered Friday outside the site of the state funeral in the northern city of Cap-Haitien, burning barricades and shouting loudly, causing police to fire tear gas. Protesters were calling for justice for the July 7 assassination of Moise.Media reports said smoke billowed into the private compound where the funeral was taking place.Supporters of slain Haitian President Jovenel Moise are blocked by security forces from attending Moise’s funeral outside the former leader’s family home in Cap-Haitien, Haiti, July 23, 2021.There were no reports that anyone attending the funeral was injured.The funeral was held amid heavy security. Reuters news agency reported that police formed protective cordons around Haitian officials who attended the ceremony.The U.S. delegation, led by the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, left before Moise’s widow spoke.“The Presidential Delegation to the funeral of President Moise is safe and accounted for, and those traveling from Washington, D.C., have arrived safely back in the United States,” national security adviser Jake Sullivan said in a statement.Thomas-Greenfield said Friday on Twitter, “We urge everyone to express themselves peacefully and refrain from violence.”She said, “The Haitian people deserve democracy, stability, security and prosperity, and we stand with them in this time of crisis.”Once the funeral ended, protesters threw rocks at a caravan of Haitian authorities and journalists as they were leaving, according to The Associated Press.People attend the funeral for slain Haitian President Jovenel Moise at his family home, where smoke in the background rises from where Moise’s supporters burn tires to protest his killing and not being allowed into the funeral.Moise was shot and killed in a pre-dawn attack at his private residence in a wealthy suburb of Port-au-Prince. His wife, Martine Moise, was injured during the attack and received treatment at a Miami, Florida, hospital. She returned to Haiti last week to help plan and attend the funeral of her husband.The funeral came days after Prime Minister Ariel Henry took power in Haiti after receiving support from key international diplomats.Henry had been designated prime minister by Moise but had not been sworn in because of Moise’s assassination. He has vowed to form a consensus government until elections can be held.Thomas-Greenfield called on Henry to create conditions for legislative and presidential elections “as soon as feasible,” in remarks when the U.S. delegation arrived in Cap-Haitien.Some information in this report came from Reuters and The Associated Press.

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US Churches Reckon with Traumatic Legacy of Native Schools

The discoveries of hundreds of unmarked graves at former residential schools for Indigenous children in Canada have prompted renewed calls for a reckoning over the traumatic legacy of similar schools in the United States — and in particular by the churches that operated many of them.U.S. Catholic and Protestant denominations operated more than 150 boarding schools between the 19th and 20th centuries. Native American and Alaskan Native children were regularly severed from their tribal families, customs, language and religion and brought to the schools in a push to assimilate and Christianize them.Some U.S. churches have been reckoning with this activity for years through ceremonies, apologies and archival investigations, while others are just getting started.Some advocates say churches have more work to do in opening their archives, educating the public about what was done in the name of their faith and helping former students and their relatives tell their stories of family trauma.“We all need to work together on this,” said the Rev. Bradley Hauff, a Minnesota-based Episcopal priest and missioner for Indigenous Ministries with the Episcopal Church.“What’s happening in Canada, that’s a wakeup call to us,” said Hauff, who is enrolled with the Oglala Sioux Tribe.This painful history has drawn relatively little attention in the United States compared with Canada, where the recent discoveries of graves underscored what a 2015 government commission called a “cultural genocide.”That’s beginning to change.This month top officials with the U.S. Episcopal Church acknowledged the denomination’s own need to reckon with its involvement with such boarding schools.“We have heard with sorrow stories of how this history has harmed the families of many Indigenous Episcopalians,” read a July 12 statement from Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, president of the denomination’s House of Deputies.“We must come to a full understanding of the legacies of these schools,” they added, calling for the denomination’s next legislative session in 2022 to earmark funds for independent research into church archives and to educate church members.Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, the first Native American to serve as a U.S. Cabinet secretary, announced last month that her department would investigate “the loss of human life and the lasting consequences of residential Indian boarding schools.” That would include seeking to identify the schools and their burial sites.FILE – This July 8, 2021, image of material archived at the Center for Southwest Research at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, New Mexico, shows a group of unidentified Indigenous students in the late 19th century.Soon afterward, she spoke at a long-planned ceremony at the former Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania, where the remains of nine children who died at the school more than a century earlier were returned to Rosebud Sioux tribal representatives for reburial in South Dakota.U.S. religious groups were affiliated at least 156 such schools, according to the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition, formed in 2012 to raise awareness and address the traumas of the institutions. That’s more than 40% of the 367 schools documented so far by the coalition.Eighty-four were affiliated with the Catholic Church or its religious orders, such as the Jesuits. The other 72 were affiliated with various Protestant groups, including Presbyterians (21), Quakers (15) and Methodists (12). Most have been closed for decades.Samuel Torres, director of research and programs for the coalition, said church apologies can be a good start but “there is a lot more to be done” on engaging Indigenous community members and educating the public.Such information is crucial given how little most Americans know about the schools, both in their impact on Indigenous communities and their role “as an armament toward acquisition of Native lands,” he said.“Without that truth, then there’s really very limited possibilities of healing,” said Torres, who is a descendant of Mexica/Nahua ancestors, an Indigenous group from present-day Mexico.Hauff noted that the experiences of former students, such as his own parents, ranged widely. Some said that even amid austerity, loneliness and family separation, they received a good education, made friends, learned skills and freely spoke tribal languages with peers. But others talked of “unspeakable, cruel abuse,” including physical and sexual assault, malnourishment and being punished for speaking Native languages.“Even if some of the children did say they had a positive experience, it did come at a price,” Hauff said. “Our church worked hand in hand with the government to assimilate these children. … We need to acknowledge it happened.”In Canada, where more than 150,000 Indigenous children attended residential schools over more than a century, a National Truth and Reconciliation Commission identified 3,201 deaths amid poor conditions.The United Church of Canada, which operated 15 such schools, has apologized for its role, opened its archives and helped identify burial sites.The Rev. Richard Bott, moderator of the United Church, lamented that “we were perpetrators in this” and that the church “put the national goal of assimilation ahead of our responsibility as Christians.”The Catholic Church’s response in Canada remains controversial. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in June that he was “deeply disappointed” the Vatican has not offered a formal apology. Pope Francis expressed “sorrow” following the discovery of the graves and has agreed to meet at the Vatican in December with school survivors and other Indigenous leaders.FILE – This photo made available by the Presbyterian Historical Society, Philadelphia, shows students at a Presbyterian boarding school in Sitka, Alaska, in the summer of 1883.Canada’s Catholic bishops said in a joint statement this month that they are “saddened by the Residential Schools legacy.” In Saskatchewan, bishops have launched a fundraising campaign to benefit survivors and other reconciliation efforts.The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, meanwhile, said it would “look for ways to be of assistance” in the Interior Department’s inquiry.“We cannot even begin to imagine the deep sorrow these discoveries are causing in Native communities across North America,” spokesperson Chieko Noguchi said.Influential voices such as the Jesuit-affiliated America Magazine are urging U.S. Catholic bishops not to repeat their mishandling of cases of child sex abuse by priests and other religious leaders.“For decades the people of God were anguished by the obfuscation on the part of those church leaders who allowed only a trickle of incomplete document releases from diocesan and provincial archives while investigators struggled to get to the truth,” the magazine said in an editorial. “The church in the United States must demonstrate that it has learned from … such failures.”Individual efforts are underway, however, such as at the Red Cloud Indian School in South Dakota, which has formed a Truth and Healing Advisory Committee to reckon with the years it was managed by Catholic orders.Other churches have addressed their legacy to varying degrees.Early in 2017, leaders of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) traveled to Utqiagvik, on Alaska’s North Slope, to deliver a sweeping apology before a packed school auditorium for the treatment of Indigenous persons in general, and specifically for how it operated the boarding schools.The Rev. Gradye Parsons, former stated clerk for the denomination, told the gathering that the church had been “in contempt of its own proclaimed faith” in suppressing Native spiritual traditions amid its zeal to spread Christianity, and “the church judged when it should have listened.”“It has taken us too long to get to this apology,” Parsons said. “Many of your people who deserved the apology the most are gone.”The United Methodist Church held a ceremony of repentance in 2012 for historic injustices against Native peoples, and in 2016 it acknowledged its role in the boarding schools in tandem with a government effort to “intentionally” destroy traditional cultures and belief systems.Still, the Native American International Caucus of the United Methodist Church recently urged the church to do more “to uncover the truth about our denomination’s role and responsibility in this reprehensible history.”  

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