Trump, Obrador Hail US-Mexico Relationship During Meeting

President Donald Trump welcomed Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador Wednesday to the White House, where they discussed trade, the economy and immigration, days after a new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) trade deal among the two countries and Canada went into effect.They also remarked on the improved relations between the two countries.FILE – Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrives for a news conference in Ottawa, Canada on July 6, 2020.”The relationship between the U.S. and Mexico has never been closer than it is right now,” Trump said in the Rose Garden before the two leaders signed a joint declaration which “recognizes the advancements our two countries have achieved toward a renewed and strengthened partnership.”The U.S. leader, who in the past has made disparaging remarks about Mexican immigrants and threatened trade tariffs, called the relations between U.S. and Mexico “outstanding,” adding that he and Lopez Obrador “put the interests of our countries first.”López Obrador responded, saying: “As president of Mexico, instead of remembering the insults and things like that against my country, we have received from you, President Trump, understanding and respect.”Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau declined to attend the meeting to commemorate USMCA, citing a busy schedule and the inappropriateness of international travel amid the COVID-19 pandemic.Trump said the U.S. is home to 36 million Mexican Americans and that they make up a “big percentage” of small-business owners.”They’re like you — they’re tough negotiators and great businesspeople, Mr. President,” Trump told the Mexican leader.The leftist Mexican president, often referred to by his initials, AMLO, has brushed off domestic criticism for meeting Trump, who is widely disliked in Mexico because of past disparaging remarks about Mexicans and his stance on immigration.Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and U.S. President Donald Trump hold a meeting at the White House, in Washington, July 8, 2020.López Obrador’s government sees this visit as an opportunity to reaffirm the importance of USMCA and has tried to distance the visit from topics related to immigration.“It is very important for us to be launching this new agreement, López Obrador said through a translator. “But I also wanted to be here to thank the people of the United States, its government. And thank you, President Trump, for being increasingly respectful with our Mexican fellow men,” he added.In his remarks, López Obrador quoted George Washington, the first U.S. president, who said, “Nations should not take advantage of the unfortunate condition of other people.” López Obrador said Trump has “followed” Washington’s “wise advice.”Some analysts have noted that Trump has used America’s tremendous economic leverage, including threats of tariffs and even a total border closing, to pressure the Mexican leader on issues of trade and immigration.Mexico functions as a “hinge” between the United States and the asylum-seeker origin countries of Central America, said Maria Fernanda Perez Arguello, associate director at the Atlantic Council. “Immigration from Central America — and the push factors in the countries — is the big elephant in the room between AMLO and Trump,” she said.This is López Obrador’s first meeting with Trump and the second visit to the White House by a foreign leader since the coronavirus shutdown in March. Like Trump, López Obrador has downplayed the risks of the coronavirus and said he has never been tested for the coronavirus because he has no symptoms and will take a test only if the White House requires it.Deputy Press Secretary Judd Deere said that all members of the Mexican delegation, including the president, were tested for the coronavirus and that the tests were administered by the White House.Speaking to reporters in Mexico City before his departure Tuesday, López Obrador repeatedly said in response to questions about raising issues such as immigration policy that his focus in the talks would be on the trade deal.“It is always important that there be cooperation for development. But now in a circumstance of global economic crisis, this treaty is going to help us a lot. It is very timely,” López Obrador said.He noted the economic challenges facing Mexico, like those in many other countries during the coronavirus pandemic and stressed the need for Mexico to have good relations with its neighbor.The Mexican leader noted the agenda for bilateral talks includes other topics, and on those, his delegation — which includes Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard Casaubon and Economic Secretary Graciela Márquez Colín — would not take a confrontational approach, but rather try to have a dialogue of understanding with their U.S. counterparts.The USMCA updated the 1990s North American Trade Agreement and was a major policy push for Trump, who cast the former trade deal as harmful to U.S. businesses and workers.The pact includes new laws related to intellectual property protection, the internet, currencies, investment and state-owned enterprises. The new legislation includes more stringent rules on auto manufacturing, e-commerce and labor provisions, but leaves largely unchanged the trade flows among the North American countries valued at $1.2 trillion a year.In addition to private talks between Trump and López Obrador and wider meetings with their advisers, the two leaders attended a dinner Wednesday night with business leaders from both countries.Before going to the White House, López Obrador visited the Lincoln Memorial and a statue of former Mexican President Benito Juárez in Washington. 

your ad here

Facebook Removes False Accounts Linked to Brazil’s Bolsonaro

Social media giant Facebook said Wednesday that it had removed dozens of accounts linked to supporters or employees of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro as part of an investigation into the spread of false news online.Nathaniel Gleicher, the company’s head of cybersecurity policy, said in a statement that 73 Facebook and Instagram accounts, 14 pages and one group had been removed. Brazilian courts have been investigating the spread of false news in connection with Bolsonaro.There was no immediate comment from the presidential office about Facebook’s action.Facebook’s executive said the accounts were linked to the Social Liberal Party, which Bolsonaro left last year after winning the 2018 presidential election, and to employees of the president; two of his sons, Senator Flávio Bolsonaro and congressman Eduardo Bolsonaro; and two other lawmakers.”This network consisted of several clusters of connected activity that relied on a combination of duplicate and fake accounts — some of which had been detected and disabled by our automated systems — to evade enforcement, create fictitious personas posing as reporters, post content, and manage pages masquerading as news outlets,” Gleicher said in the statement.He added that some of the content posted by the accounts had already been taken down for community standards violations, including hate speech.Gleicher said about 883,000 accounts followed one or more of the Bolsonaro linked pages and an additional 917,000 followed one of more of the Instagram accounts that were removed.

your ad here

Britain In Huawei Dilemma as China Relations Sour

There is growing speculation that Britain may be about to reverse course and ban the Chinese firm Huawei from its rollout of 5G mobile telecoms technology.  A move by the United States to ban U.S. companies from selling crucial microchips to Huawei appears to have changed the calculation in London. But as Henry Ridgwell reports from London, Beijing has warned Britain against what it calls ‘making China into an enemy.’Camera: Henry Ridgwell

your ad here

Serbian President Retracts COVID-19 Curfew After 60 Hurt in Violence

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has retracted his decision to reimpose a coronavirus curfew and has urged people to stop attending anti-government rallies after a violent clash between protesters and police.The president said Wednesday that new measures could still include shortened hours for nightclubs and penalties for those not wearing masks.On Tuesday, Vucic said at a news conference he would implement a curfew Friday, “probably” to run from 6 p.m. until 5 a.m. on July 13. The president added that gatherings would be restricted to five people starting Wednesday, citing a rising number of coronavirus cases in the country and hospitals running at full capacity.Vucic’s backtracking Wednesday came after a protest by thousands Tuesday night outside the parliament building in Belgrade. Police fired tear gas and beat demonstrators, while protesters retaliated by throwing stones and bottles at officers, some chanting for the resignation of the president.The clash left 17 protesters and 43 police injured and 23 protesters arrested, according to police director Vladmir Rebic. More protests were reported Wednesday.Vucic said foreign secret services were behind the protests by “right-wing and pro-fascist demonstrators.” He did not name specific intelligence agencies and stood by the police’s handling of the protests.”We will never allow the destabilization of Serbia from within and abroad,” he said.The president’s critics have accused him of lifting previous lockdown measures to hold parliamentary elections on June 21, which Vucic’s Progressive Party won by a landslide — accusations the president has denied.Critics also blame Vucic for the swell in infection rates, as the government permitted sports matches, religious festivities, parties and private gatherings to resume after lifting state of emergency restrictions on May 6.As of Wednesday afternoon EDT, Serbia had 17,076 reported cases of the coronavirus infection and 341 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University statistics.

your ad here

Brazilian President Bolsonaro ‘Doing Very Well’ Despite Coronavirus Diagnosis

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro says he is “doing very well” one day after testing positive for coronavirus. Bolsonaro tested positive for the disease on Tuesday after spending the weekend in close proximity with government officials, including a mask-free attendance at an Independence Day celebration at the U.S. Embassy. “Be assured that for you the chance of something more serious is close to zero,” Bolsonaro assured citizens during the announcement of his illness on Tuesday. Brazilian President Tests Positive for Coronavirus Jair Bolsonaro previously downplayed risks posed by coronavirus, once telling supporters because of his history of athleticism, he would not worry if he became infectedIn a video posted late Tuesday evening, Bolsonaro drank what he described as his third dose of hydroxochloriquine and seemed to attribute his state of relative health to the drug. Hydroxochloriquine, commonly used to treat malaria, has been touted by both Bolsonaro and U.S. President Donald Trump as a treatment for coronavirus. So far little medical evidence has been produced to support their claims; in June, the U.S. National Institutes of Health halted clinical trials of the drug in COVID-19 patients due to lack of sufficient evidence. The World Health Organization also announced on July 4 that their investigation into the treatment’s efficacy would cease, as data does not suggest increased recovery rates for COVID-19 patients. “To those who root against hydroxychloroquine but don’t present alternatives, I hate to say I’m doing very well using it and, thank God, I will still live much longer,” Bolsonaro wrote in a Twitter post on Wednesday.The populist Brazilian president has been known to flout convention. In March, he dismissed concerns about the virus and claimed that his previous experience as an athlete would protect him and has repeatedly refused to wear a mask despite a court order requiring that he do so. Local government and public health officials have encountered several obstacles to enforcing necessary safety precautions. In several cases, such as indoor mask mandates and social distancing enforcement, Bolsonaro has personally intervened and vetoed the legislation. He has claimed such precautionary measures dampen the embattled Brazilian economy. Two health ministers during the pandemic, both trained doctors, were fired by Bolsonaro in recent months and were replaced with an active-duty army general on an interim basis.With 1.6 million confirmed cases and at least 66,000 deaths, Brazil’s death toll trails only that of the United States. The 65-year-old former Army captain said he planned to work via videoconference and sign as few documents as possible during the course of his illness. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Honduran president Juan Orlando Hernandez also contracted the virus, although both of them required hospital stays and extra oxygen.

your ad here

Russian Journalists Fear Growing Media Persecution After Treason Arrest 

Russian journalists have launched a petition demanding treason allegations against a former reporter be made public, fearing the case is bogus and that media are being increasingly persecuted.   Ivan Safronov, a former newspaper journalist working at Russia’s space agency since May, was detained by security agents outside his flat on Tuesday and accused of passing military secrets to the Czech Republic. He denies the charges.   At a closed hearing, the court ordered Safronov to be held in custody for two months. One of his lawyers, Ivan Pavlov, said the hearing was unusual as the state investigator had not presented any evidence. Ivan Safronov stands inside a defendants’ cage before a court hearing in Moscow, Russia, July 7, 2020. “Now they’ve taken Ivan Safronov,” read the petition circulated online by journalists at investigative newspaper Novaya Gazeta and signed by nearly 7,500 people.   The petition said the case should be declassified and the allegations made public, adding: “Otherwise it’s fake. The evidence is hidden when it is fake.”   The Kremlin noted what it described as some emotional media reactions, but said those outlets had not seen the evidence, which would be reviewed in court. It said it had seen no signs of a campaign of pressure against reporters.   Several journalists were photographed staging one-person pickets in various Russian cities on Wednesday, demanding Safronov be freed. Dozens of people, including journalists, were detained by Moscow police on Tuesday.   On Monday, a court in the city of Pskov found another journalist guilty of justifying terrorism. She denied the charge.   Russian journalist Svetlana Prokopyeva charged with publicly justifying terrorism arrives for a court hearing in Pskov, Russia, July 6, 2020.Mediazona, a private media outlet, wrote that it looked like law enforcement agencies were trying to “force us to stay silent.”   FILE – Pyotr Verzilov gestures during a court hearing in Moscow, July 16, 2018.Police opened a criminal case this week against Mediazona’s publisher, Pyotr Verzilov, for failing to declare dual Canadian citizenship. He is an anti-Kremlin activist.   The U.S. Embassy’s spokeswoman wrote on Twitter it was “starting to look like a concerted campaign against #MediaFreedom.”   “Mind your own business,” Russia’s Foreign Ministry responded. 

your ad here

British Prime Minister Takes Responsibility for COVID-19 Response

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Wednesday he takes full responsibility for the country’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, two days after appearing to blame workers in health care facilities for the deaths of residents there.Johnson was responding in parliament to opposition Labour Party Leader Keir Starmer, who quoted the prime minister regarding deaths in British care homes.  Johnson said, “too many care workers did not follow procedures the way they should have.” Starmer said front-line care workers took great offense at the remark and called on Johnson to apologize.The prime minister responded by saying the last thing he wanted to do was blame care workers or for anyone to think he was blaming them and said they have done “an outstanding job.” He said, “When it comes to taking blame, I take full responsibility for what has happened.”Johnson added that no one knew when the pandemic began that COVID-19 would spread asymptomatically the way it does, and procedures changed.Starmer said Johnson’s explanation was not an apology and said by refusing to do so, Johnson “rubs salt in the wound” of the frontline workers he says he admires so much.  Johnson responded by calling for bipartisan measures to invest in and reform Britain’s care home sector.

your ad here

Poll: Most Mexicans Want Closer Mexico-US Relations

More Mexicans have warmed to the idea of closer ties with the United States just as President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador lines up his first meeting with U.S. counterpart Donald Trump, a poll showed on Wednesday.
 
A June 30-July 1 survey of 407 people by Mexican polling firm Parametria showed that 52% of respondents said Mexico should “be closer to” the United States, significantly up from 36% two years ago, when the leftist Lopez Obrador was first elected.
 
Lopez Obrador is visiting the White House, days after the start of a new regional trade deal, in his first trip outside Mexico since taking office 19 months ago.
 
His meeting carries risks because Trump has been highly unpopular south of the border since he described Mexican migrants and rapists and drug runners during his 2015-2016 campaign for the U.S. presidency.
 
Pessimism over Trump that set in when he took office still pervades: the Parametria poll showed 87% of respondents held a negative view of Trump, with only 10% of the opposite opinion.
 
Although Lopez Obrador has tried to avoid conflict with Trump, the latter has frequently pressured Mexico over trade and migration. Trump has also repeatedly said he will stick to a campaign promise to make Mexico pay for his planned border wall.
 
Of the people surveyed, significantly more expected the meeting of the presidents to help the United States.
 
Some 78% thought it would benefit the United States, with only 49% taking that view for Mexico. Some 35% said it would harm Mexico, while just 14% said that for the United States.

your ad here

Canadian Justice Grinds Slowly for Detained Huawei Executive

The extradition case of Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Chinese tech firm Huawei, is winding its way through the Canadian legal system. For Meng, it means confinement to her Vancouver mansions and conferences with high-priced lawyers. For two Canadians, it means more uncertainty and more time in a Chinese jail. Throw in a U.S. presidential election and a rift in Canada-Chinese trade relations and it creates the makings of an international soap opera.If all goes according to schedule, the actual extradition hearing for Meng will start on April 23. Before that, she faces multiple court dates in front of the Supreme Court of the province of British Columbia and the Federal Court of Canada.The U.S. Justice Department is seeking her extradition from Vancouver on allegations of helping a Huawei subsidiary break U.S. sanctions against doing business in Iran. The daughter of Chinese technology giant Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei, Meng was arrested at Vancouver International Airport while in transit to a connecting flight to Mexico on December 1, 2018.That means the actual extradition hearing may take place more than 28 months after her arrest.Intensely watching the proceedings is Vancouver immigration lawyer and policy analyst Richard Kurland, who does not represent any party in the case.He said for a person like Meng, the case is actually not taking a long time.“It’s not slow,” Kurland said. “This is the typical, average, garden-variety vanilla extradition case processing times. I’m aware of at least three other extradition cases that required eight to 10 years to finish. So the Canadian extradition process does take about eight to 10 years when someone has the resources to dig their heels in and take advantage of every procedural possibility in the extradition case.”Kurland added that for those who lack Meng’s financial means – she has the resources of a giant company like Huawei and her father is said to be worth over $1 billion – the extradition process can be rather abrupt.“If you don’t have financial resources, the road is short,” he said. “Typically, in the overwhelming majority of cases, extradition from beginning to end is a matter of days, if not a short number of months.”’The two Mikes’Not long after Meng’s arrest, two Canadian citizens, now commonly referred to as “the two Mikes” – Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig — were detained in China. Spavor, who specialized in travel from the People’s Republic of China and North Korea, and Kovrig, a former diplomat who works with a nonprofit research organization, live most the time in China. They were initially accused of “endangering Chinese security” but were not formally charged until June of this year. Spavor is facing charges of spying and transmitting secrets outside of China. Kovrig is facing charges of spying on Chinese state secrets for other countries.In the past, both men have been denied legal counsel or the ability to see family members and have only been granted infrequent visits by Canadian diplomatic staff in China.One former Canadian diplomat who used to visit Canadians in Chinese prisons is Colin Robertson, currently vice president of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute. One of his many diplomatic postings was in Hong Kong, from where he often traveled to China.He said conditions in such facilities are usually deplorable. While Meng is out on bail and lives in her choice of her two Vancouver mansions, the two Michaels are not so lucky. And Kovrig’s former diplomatic career is also an issue.“But certainly in the case of Kovrig, the Chinese were questioning him about his activities as a Canadian diplomat, day after day, hour after hour, which is in total violation of his privileges, and privileges of diplomats which Chinese diplomats also enjoy,” Robertson said. “Under the Vienna conventions, which take back to 1815.”Canada-China trade issuesRobertson said the relationship between Canada and China is at its lowest point since modern diplomatic relations were established under Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, the father of current Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, over 50 years ago. He said that has led to a number of trade complaints.“And the Chinese continue to find things, more recently seafood and now looking at lumber, that are just basically trade harassment,” Robertson said. “And my own view is, I think we needed to be, we needed a more muscular response earlier on when they started going, because we just basically, Prime Minister [Trudeau] seemed to kind of turn the other cheek and just take this barrage of words which is straight out of the Chinese playbook. All this language that they use about irrefutable proof terms of the so-called crimes of the two Michaels, and the accusations of racism, white supremacy, and double standard — we’re not the first country they’ve applied this to.”A public opinion survey at the end of June by the Angus Reid Institute found that over 72 percent of Canadians backed Trudeau’s refusal to stop the extradition hearing and send Meng back to China in exchange for the two Michaels. Trudeau said doing so would set a dangerous precedent and that he would let the Canadian justice system, instead of politics, take care of the matter.Before that actual extradition hearing next April, Meng and her lawyers will spend the summer months tied up in legal maneuvers.The next scheduled federal court date is July 16. Defense lawyers are trying to get more information from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, the country’s spy agency, that they claim can help Meng. Canada’s attorney general says that information needs to remain secret for reasons of national security.Defense claims rights violationsMeng’s lawyers are also alleging that U.S. and Canadian authorities improperly conspired to open a criminal investigation when Meng initially arrived at Vancouver’s airport. She was held for several hours, had her computers and cellphones seized, and was questioned at length. Meng’s lawyers say that instead, Canadian authorities should have simply taken her into custody on the existing arrest warrants. Not doing so, the defense says, violated her basic legal rights.Her lawyers are also claiming that the United States deliberately misled the court to get the legal proceedings underway. Hearings to secure documents and evidence for these arguments will be held in the British Columbia Supreme Court on August 17.As the summer turns into fall, a week in September has been set aside for Meng’s legal team to present evidence regarding the accuracy of the information in the U.S. charges filed in New York that instigated the extradition process.On February 16 of next year, there will be a hearing, scheduled to last three weeks, regarding Meng’s arrest and alleged interference by U.S. President Donald Trump. Shortly after the arrest, Trump remarked that the charges against Meng could be used as a bargaining chip in the ongoing U.S.-China trade negotiations.Assuming that none of the decisions arising from all these hearings is appealed, the court will move to the actual extradition hearing in April.Ironically, if the court does find Meng should be extradited and she loses all appeals, the Canadian legal extradition process does become political. Canada’s attorney general, who is also justice minister, would then have to decide whether or not to sign the extradition papers. 

your ad here