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Living with the world's oldest mummies

SharecloseShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingImage source, Courtesy University of Tarapacá”It may seem strange for some people to live on top of a graveyard, but we’re used to it,” says Ana María Nieto, who lives in the Chilean port city of Arica. Arica, on the border with Peru, is built on the sandy dunes of the Atacama desert, the driest desert in the world.But long before the coastal town was founded in the 16th Century, this area was home to the Chinchorro people.Their culture hit the news in July when the United Nations’ cultural organisation, Unesco, added hundreds of mummies preserved by them to its World Heritage List. The Chinchorro mummies were first documented in 1917 by German Archaeologist Max Uhle, who had found some of the preserved bodies on a beach. But it took decades of research to determine their age. Radiocarbon dating eventually showed that the mummies were more than 7,000 years old – more than two millennia older than the more widely known Egyptian mummies. Chinchorro cultureImage source, Courtesy University of TarapacáPre-ceramic culture that lasted from 7,000 to 1,500 BCSedentary fishers and hunter-gatherersLived in what is now northernmost Chile and southern PeruMummified their dead in a sophisticated and evocative manner Mummification is believed to have started as a way to keep the memories of the dead aliveThat makes the Chinchorro mummies the oldest known archaeological evidence of artificially mummified bodies. Anthropologist Bernardo Arriaza, an expert on the Chinchorro, says they practiced intentional mummification. That means they used mortuary practices to conserve the bodies rather than leave them to naturally mummify in the dry climate – although some naturally mummified bodies have also been found at the sites.Small incisions would be made to a body, the organs taken out and the cavities dried while the skin was ripped off, Mr Arriaza explains. The Chinchorro people would then stuff the body with natural fibres and sticks to keep it straight before using reeds to sew the skin back on. They would also attach thick black hair onto the mummy’s head and cover its face with clay and a mask with openings for the eyes and mouth. Image source, Getty ImagesImage source, Getty ImagesImage source, Eye UbiquitousFinally, the body was painted in a distinctive red or black colour using pigments from minerals, ochre, manganese and iron oxide. The Chinchorro’s methods and approach to mummification differed markedly from that of the Egyptians, Mr Arriaza says. Not only did the Egyptians use oil and bandages, mummification was also reserved for deceased members of the elite whereas the Chinchorro mummified men, women, children, babies and even foetuses regardless of their status.Living with the deadWith hundreds of mummies found in Arica and other sites over the past century, locals learned to live alongside – and often on top of – the remains.Discovering human remains during building works or having your dog sniff out and dig up parts of a mummy is something generations of locals have experienced. But for a long time they did not realise just how significant these remains were. “Sometimes the residents tell us stories about how the children used the skulls for footballs and took the clothing off the mummies, but now they know to report back to us when they find something, and to leave it alone,” archaeologist Janinna Campos Fuentes says.Locals Ana María Nieto and Paola Pimentel are thrilled that Unesco has recognised the significance of the Chinchorro culture.The women lead neighbour associations near two of the excavation sites and have been working closely with a group of scientists from the local Tarapacá University to help the community understand the importance of the Chinchorro Culture and to make sure the precious sites are looked after. There are plans for a neighbourhood museum – where rows of Chinchorro remains lie under re-enforced glass for visitors to peer at – to get a new interactive extension. The idea is to train locals as guides so they can show off their heritage to others.Currently, only a tiny part of the more than 300 or so Chinchorro mummies are on display. Most of them are housed at the San Miguel de Azarpa Archaeological Museum. The museum, which is owned and run by Tarapacá University, is a 30-minute drive from Arica and has impressive displays showing the mummification process.A larger museum is being planned on the site to house more of the mummies but funds are also needed to ensure they are correctly preserved so they do not deteriorate. Mr Arriaza and archaeologist Jannina Campos are also convinced that Arica and the surrounding hills still hold many treasures that have yet to be discovered. But, more resources are needed to find them. The mayor, Gerardo Espindola Rojas, hopes the addition of the mummies to the World Heritage List will boost tourism and attract additional funds. Image source, Felipe Tobar AlduanteBut he is mindful that any development should be done in the right way, working with the community and safeguarding the sites. “Unlike Rome that sits on monuments, the people of Arica are living on top of human remains and we need to protect the mummies.”Urban planning laws are in place and archaeologists are present whenever building works are carried out, he says, to make sure the precious remains are not disturbed.Mayor Espindola is also adamant that unlike in some other parts of Chile, where tour operators and multinational companies have bought up land to reap profit from tourist sights, Arica’s heritage should remain in the hands of its people and benefit the local community.Neighbourhood association president Ana Maria Prieto is positive the newfound fame of the mummies will work in everyone’s favour. “This is a small town, but a friendly one. We want tourists and scientists from all over the world to come and learn about the incredible Chinchorro Culture that we’ve been living with all our life.”If you want to know more about the Chinchorro mummies, listen to Jane Chamber’s report on Discovery on the BBC World Service.

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Colombian drug lord Otoniel to be extradited to US

SharecloseShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingImage source, Colombian Police/Handout via REUTERSColombia has announced that the country’s most wanted drug trafficker will be extradited to the US after his capture on Saturday.Dairo Antonio Úsuga, better known as Otoniel, was seized after a joint army, air force and police operation.He led the country’s largest criminal gang and has been on the US Drug Enforcement Agency’s most wanted list for years.US officials had placed a $5m (£3.6m) bounty on his head.They accused him of importing at least 73 metric tonnes of cocaine into the country between 2003 and 2014. Colombia’s Defence Minister Diego Molano told El Tiempo newspaper that the next step for officials was to comply with the US extradition order. Authorities have now taken Otoniel to a military base in the capital Bogotá ahead of his extradition, according to newspaper El Nuevo Siglo.President Iván Duque hailed the drug lord’s capture in a televised video message.”This is the biggest blow against drug trafficking in our country this century,” he said. “This blow is only comparable to the fall of Pablo Escobar in the 1990s.”How was he caught? Otoniel was captured in his rural hideout in Antioquia province in north-western Colombia, close to the border with Panama. The operation involved 500 soldiers supported by 22 helicopters. One police officer was killed. Otoniel had used a network of rural safe houses to move around and evade the authorities, and did not use a phone, instead relying on couriers for communication.In the past, police have found special orthopaedic mattresses for Otoniel in these sparse homes, as he suffered back pain from a herniated disc.Police chief Jorge Vargas has said the drug lord was fearful of capture, “never approaching inhabited areas”. BACKGROUND: Colombia’s hunt for an elusive drug lordBut El Tiempo reported that authorities managed to pinpoint the location where he was eventually captured two weeks ago.Chief Vargas said his movements were traced by more than 50 signal intelligence experts using satellite imagery. US and UK agencies were involved in the search.Mr Duque described the operation as “the biggest penetration of the jungle ever seen in the military history of our country”.Colombia’s armed forces later released a photo showing its soldiers guarding Otoniel, who was in handcuffs and wearing rubber boots.There have been several huge operations involving thousands of officers to capture the 50-year-old in recent years.There’s no doubt this is seen as a coup by Colombian authorities – they’ve been trying to capture Otoniel for several years now. The Gulf Cartel is a formidable and violent organisation with a great deal of power. And the comparisons with Pablo Escobar are understandable. Otoniel is a household name and has been hugely powerful, especially in the north west of the country. “In South America, there is no larger cocaine trafficker,” says Toby Muse, author of Kilo: Inside the Cocaine Cartels. “We are living in the golden age of cocaine, we are producing more cocaine than ever – that’s a fact.”But the parallels perhaps stop there – Otoniel is not as well-known outside of Colombia. And speak to people who lived in the country at the peak of Pablo Escobar’s power, many feel they were more frightening times. The question is, will Otoniel’s capture impact the trade of the illicit drug? It’s hard to know now. We’ll have to see what happens in the coming months but most experts seem to think that while demand for cocaine remains strong, it’s likely there will be new “capos” rising to the top to replace him.Who is Otoniel?Born in Antioquia in the early 1970s, Otoniel jumped between several guerrilla and paramilitary groups – including the Farc (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia), the major Marxist-Leninist rebel group, and the United Self-Defence Forces of Colombia (AUC), a far-right paramilitary and drug trafficking gang.When the AUC dissolved in 2005, he began working for the drug lord Daniel Rendón Herrera, known as Don Mario – head of the Urabeños, which later became known as the Gulf Clan.Otoniel then took charge of the group after its previous leader – his brother – was killed by police in a raid on a New Year’s Eve party almost 10 years ago.Colombia’s security forces labelled the gang as the country’s most powerful criminal organisation, while authorities in the US describe it as “heavily armed [and] extremely violent”.The gang, which operates in many provinces and has extensive international connections, is engaged in drug and people smuggling, illegal gold mining and extortion.It is believed to have about 1,800 armed members, who are mainly recruited from far-right paramilitary groups. Members have been arrested in Argentina, Brazil, Honduras, Peru and Spain.The gang controls many of the routes used to smuggle drugs from Colombia to the US, and as far away as Russia.The Colombian government, however, believes it has decimated its numbers in recent years, forcing many leading members to hide in remote regions in the jungle.Otoniel now faces a number of charges, including sending shipments of cocaine to the US, killing police officers and recruiting children.He was indicted in the US in 2009.

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Colombia's most wanted drug lord Otoniel captured

SharecloseShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingImage source, ReutersColombia’s most wanted drug trafficker and the leader of the country’s largest criminal gang has been captured.Dairo Antonio Úsuga, better known as Otoniel, was seized after a joint operation by the army, air force and police on Saturday.The government had offered a $800,000 (£582,000) reward for information about his whereabouts, while the US placed a $5m bounty on his head.President Iván Duque hailed Otoniel’s capture in a televised video message.”This is the biggest blow against drug trafficking in our country this century,” he said. “This blow is only comparable to the fall of Pablo Escobar in the 1990s.”Otoniel was captured in his rural hideout in Antioquia province in north-western Colombia, close to the border with Panama. While details of the operation are still emerging, the president said one police officer had been killed. Colombia’s armed forces later released a photo showing its soldiers guarding the handcuffed Otoniel.There have been several huge operations involving thousands of officers to capture the 50-year-old in recent years, but until now none have been successful.BACKGROUND: Colombia’s hunt for an elusive drug lordOtoniel become the head of the Gulf Clan, previously known as the Usuga Clan, after its previous leader – his brother – was killed by police in a raid on a New Year’s Eve party almost ten years ago.Colombia’s security forces labelled the gang as the country’s most powerful criminal organisation, while authorities in the US describe it as “heavily armed [and] extremely violent”.The gang, which operates in many provinces and has extensive international connections, is engaged in drug and people smuggling, illegal gold mining and extortion.It is believed to have about 1,800 armed members who are mainly recruited from far-right paramilitary groups. Members have been arrested as far away as Argentina, Brazil, Honduras, Peru and Spain.Image source, ReutersThe gang controls many of the routes used to smuggle drugs from Colombia to the US and as far away as Russia.The Colombian government, however, believes it has decimated its numbers in recent years, forcing many leading members to hide in remote regions in the jungle.Otoniel now faces a number of charges including sending shipments of cocaine to the US, killing police officers and recruiting children.He was indicted in the US in 2009, and faces extradition proceedings which could see him eventually appear in court in New York.You might also be interested in:

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Alex Quiñónez: Ecuador sprinter shot dead

SharecloseShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingImage source, AFP via Getty ImagesOne of Ecuador’s best-known athletes, Alex Quiñónez, has been shot dead. He was shot along with another person outside a shopping centre in the city of Guyaquil on Friday night. A motive is not yet clear.Tributes have been pouring in for Mr Quiñónez, 32, who was described by Ecuador’s athletics federation as the country’s greatest sprinter.President Guillermo Lasso promised that those behind the killing will be found and punished.It comes after a 60-day nationwide state of emergency came into force in Ecuador on Monday in response to a wave of violent crime.Official figures suggest the number of murders in the first eight months of this year are double those in the same period last year.”With great sadness, we confirm the murder of our sportsman Alex Quiñónez,” the Sports Ministry announced on Twitter.”We have lost a great sportsman, someone who allowed us to dream, who moved us….he was the greatest sprinter this country produced.”Mr Quiñónez won bronze in the 200 metres at the 2019 World Athletics Championships in Doha. He was suspended prior to the Tokyo Olympics due to “breach of his whereabouts obligations”.President Lasso tweeted his condolences. “May he rest in peace. Those who take the lives of Ecuadoreans will not remain unpunished,” he said. This is the second killing of an international athlete this month. Agnes Tirop, a Kenyan runner who recently broke the women-only 10km road race world record, was stabbed to death in her home. Her husband has been arrested on suspicion of murder.

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Jamaica's first gold medallist Arthur Wint remembered

SharecloseShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingImage source, Alison WintJamaica’s first Olympic gold medallist was a life-long learner and an establishment rebel, his daughter has said.Dr Arthur Wint was 28 when he won gold in the 400-metre dash at the 1948 London Olympics.Dr Alison Wint said: “He always wanted to better himself, expand his mind and use that to better other people’s lives, that’s his legacy.”Aside from running, he was also a World War Two pilot, surgeon and diplomat.The NHS doctor from Bristol, who is now approaching retirement, said she wanted people to remember her father’s achievements – not just on the athletics track but his life as a whole – during this year’s Black History Month.Image source, Alison Wint”His hallmark will always be that gold medal but the rest of his life – the fact that he had three or four different careers demonstrates, that he could be flexible and move with the times and take the opportunities that were presented to him,” she added. “People may no longer be familiar with his name, but in his time he was a household name. I am sure that he would love to be remembered.”Known as the Gentle Giant, 6ft 5ins (1.95m) Dr Wint was born in May 1920 in Jamaica.He is perhaps best known for equalling the world record of 46.2 seconds in the 400m final at Wembley Stadium.As Jamaica did not gain full independence from Great Britain until 1962, when he collected his gold medal, the anthem that was played was ‘God Save the Queen’.”In Jamaica he remains a national hero,” his daughter said.”Streets are named after him and a statue stands proudly outside the national stadium, based on a photograph of him.”When he won that historic gold, he had already seen active combat as a Royal Air Force pilot during World War Two. “He volunteered to fight for Britain, and flew spitfires alongside two of his brothers and many others who have now been celebrated as Pilots of the Caribbean,” she said.Image source, Alison Wint”I recall many hilarious stories of the difficulty he had getting his 6ft 5in frame into the small cockpit of the planes.”But he still showed an independent spirit unafraid to challenge the rules.The family moved from Jamaica to the UK in 1973 when Dr Wint was offered the role of Jamaican High Commissioner.”In his own way he was quite anti-establishment as well, he was a bit of a rebel. “He was an officer in the RAF and his brothers were not. In those days officers wouldn’t talk with enlisted men, it was definitely ‘us and them’.”He was reprimanded for talking to the squaddies. He said, ‘he’s my brother, I’m going to talk with him, whether you tell me that’s right or not’.”He was willing to buck the trend there.”Mr Wint was High Commissoner to Jamaica in London from 1974-78.”When he became high commissioner to the court of St James the tradition was that a knighthood would be offered and he turned down the knighthood. “He didn’t want that sort of honour.”She added that her father and mother had their feet on the ground even though they were part of high society.”I’m quite glad I have that balance and it’s not just about bowing to authority or establishment.”They can be there to be challenged and questioned as well.”Image source, Alison WintFollow BBC West on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Send your story ideas to: bristol@bbc.co.uk

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Record high migrant detentions at US-Mexico border

SharecloseShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingImage source, ReutersThe US says more than 1.7 million migrants were detained along its border with Mexico in the past 12 months – the highest number ever recorded. More than one million of them were expelled to Mexico or their native countries, according to data from US Customs and Border Protection.Agents apprehended people from more than 160 countries.President Joe Biden’s popularity in opinion polls has been sinking, partly as a result of his immigration policy.Just 35% of Americans said they approved of his handling of the issue, in an Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research survey earlier this month. Mr Biden promised a more humane immigration policy than his predecessor Donald Trump, but the US-Mexico border has been engulfed in crisis for much of the Democrat’s nine-month-old presidency.What are Biden’s challenges at the border?US probes horseback charge on Haiti migrantsThe detention numbers for the 2021 fiscal year, which ended in September, are the highest since 2000. That year, more than 1.6 million migrants were held at the US-Mexico border. But the number has not reached 1.7 million since US authorities first began tracking such entries in the 1960s.”The large number of expulsions during the pandemic has contributed to a larger-than-usual number of migrants making multiple border crossing attempts,” the US Customs and Border Protection said.Those trying to enter the US illegally were mainly from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.Of all those detained, the biggest category were adults travelling without children – more than 1.1 million (or 64%).At the same time, the US authorities said they encountered more than 145,000 unaccompanied children – a record number. Almost 11,000 of those children remained in government custody on Friday.A BBC investigation of the Fort Bliss detention centre in Texas earlier this year found reports of sexual abuse, Covid and lice outbreaks, hungry children being served undercooked meat and sandstorms engulfing the desert tent camps where the young people were being held.Republicans have blamed Mr Biden’s promise to create a pathway to citizenship for immigrants for fuelling the surge.Mr Biden – who is making one of his regular trips to his home in Delaware this weekend – has been facing questions this week about why he has not visited the border.The White House press secretary told reporters on Friday that Mr Biden drove by the border in 2008 when he was campaigning to be Barack Obama’s vice-president.

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Abortion in Mexico: Fight for rights just beginning, women say

SharecloseShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingFew customers who get into Paulina Ramírez’s taxi know her awful story. But 20 years ago, the so-called Paulina Case made headlines around the world, her name synonymous with Mexico’s strict rules and attitudes on abortion. In 1999, aged 13, Paulina was raped and was left pregnant by a man who broke into her family’s home. Following the brutal attack, she sought an abortion, fully legal in Mexico in cases of rape. However, Paulina was harangued by conservative doctors, state officials and priests who put up constant obstacles to stop her from terminating the pregnancy. “I heard the doctors say ‘I’m not doing it, they’ll sack me. I’m not a murderer’,” she recalls in her sweltering home-town of Mexicali on the US-Mexico border. The campaign of intimidation was relentless. One doctor told Paulina she could bleed to death or be left sterile from an abortion. A priest told her she might be excommunicated. “They brought pro-life representatives to my room who showed me pictures of dead foetuses and the image of Christ,” she says. “It was a very difficult time, I was still dealing with the trauma of the rape.” Their cruel tactics worked. Eventually the 12-week deadline for an abortion passed and Paulina, still only a child herself, had to carry the baby to full term. The suffering of that time has never fully left her but she is greatly encouraged by a unanimous ruling from Mexico’s Supreme Court last month to decriminalise abortion. Specifically the decision referred to the law in the northern state of Coahuila but it set a precedent for the entire country. “I cried! I cried when I heard!” smiles Teresa Mesa, a single mother-of-three in Coahuila. When she became pregnant a fourth time, Teresa decided the most responsible thing to do was to abort – then illegal in her home state. “It wasn’t easy. At that time, there was no legal protection for women, no places of an adequate health standard to carry them out, and really a lot of social stigma.” Teresa hopes the measure will make it easier for other girls to have an abortion than it was for her, particularly as neighbouring Texas in the US moves in the opposite direction, towards much stricter control. “This is just the start. There’s still mountains to overcome before this is fully legal. We need proper health clinics which carry out abortions and doctors that are prepared to do them.” “And it’s not just about normalising abortion,” she continues, “but also making visible the domestic violence under which so many women live in Coahuila. Eight in every 10 women here experience some form of violence at home.” Image source, Getty ImagesImage source, Getty ImagesWhile the Supreme Court’s ruling set a historic change into motion, there are several legal challenges ahead before safe abortions are available across the country. In the meantime, many women – including Teresa – must turn instead to the Safe Abortion Network, an abortion rights’ group which operates on the margins of the law. I met members of the Coahuila branch as they plastered posters with their contact details on them at bus stops around the state capital, Saltillo. “We helped nearly 300 women last year to obtain abortion pills or travel to Mexico City,” where abortion is legal, the group’s founder Malu Reina told me.Although their opponents paint them as somehow “promoting abortion”, Ms Reina says that is a deliberate mischaracterisation, and that the co-operative provides sexual health education and support to vulnerable mothers in Coahuila’s marginalised communities. ANALYSIS: Can one country’s abortion law change a continent?ON THE GROUND: The rape survivors facing an ‘impossible choice’ in BrazilNevertheless, there are some powerful forces in Mexico lined up against the new law. Mexico is Latin America’s second-biggest Catholic nation and anti-abortion campaigners have held several demonstrations outside the Supreme Court recently. They say they are determined to block the court’s decision. “The Supreme Court has failed against the fundamental freedom of life,” argues Rodrigo Ivan Cortes, president of the National Front for the Family. “Now they also want to proceed against the fundamental freedom of the health sector and take out the freedom of conscious objection for doctors and nurses. That is very, very dangerous for a democratic country.” Still, such campaigners appear to be losing ground. Across Latin America, attitudes on abortion are shifting. In Chile, Argentina, Mexico and beyond, younger generations are slowly knocking down the traditional positions of their parents and grandparents. Paulina Ramírez’s son is now 20 and they have a strong relationship. But she deeply resents her harrowing treatment as a teenage rape victim, shamed and victimised by those legally obliged to help her. “Everyone decided for me except for me. All I wanted was to exercise my rights and they didn’t let me.” Forced teenage pregnancies in impoverished circumstances will not vanish overnight in Mexico. But decriminalisation, Paulina says, is the first step to make sure no other girl goes through the same trauma she did.

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Emiliano Sala flight organiser 'distressed' after crash

SharecloseShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingImage source, Getty ImagesThe man accused of organising the flight carrying footballer Emiliano Sala was “distressed” once he knew it had crashed, a court has heard.David Henderson, 67, of Main Street, Hotham, East Riding of Yorkshire, said he had been monitoring the plane’s trip between Nantes and Cardiff.Sala and pilot David Ibbotson died in the crash in January 2019.Mr Henderson denies endangering the safety of an aircraft and has begun giving evidence in his defence.He told Cardiff Crown Court he “was getting concerned” when trying to monitor the aeroplane on the radar.Sala pilot did not have permission to fly planeSala flight organiser ‘hired unqualified pilot’The story behind the Sala transfer flights”I think I rang Cardiff to see what time it was expected, they didn’t know,” he said. “Time was ticking on. I rang Exeter and then Guernsey and that’s when they told me they had lost contact.”I was very concerned and distressed. I feared the worst.”The single-engine Piper Malibu aircraft was carrying the 28-year-old striker and Mr Ibbotson when it went down 22 nautical miles north-west of Guernsey on the evening of 21 January 2019.Asked how he felt at the time, Mr Henderson said: “The whole scenario – to lose an aeroplane and a person I know and a passenger – I was very badly affected by the news.”He added he had been suffering from “anxiety” since, and “barely an hour goes by without it being in my mind”.Image source, Getty Images/David IbbotsonEarlier, as the prosecution drew a close to its case, the court heard more about Mr Henderson’s version of how the flight came about by means of a letter sent to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) in April 2020.The letter was read to the jury by Stephen Hunt from the CAA.In the document, Mr Henderson said he had received a phone call from football agent Willie McKay asking for an aircraft between 18 and 21 January, 2019.Mr Henderson was in France at the time but said Mr McKay was “very persistent, so I offered to see if there were any other pilots who were available”.He said he sent Mr Ibbotson a text message saying: “Do you fancy a weekend in Nantes?” Mr Ibbotson replied: “Yes.”The story of Emiliano SalaLegal action in footballer Sala’s crash death caseMr Henderson said there was no discussion about payment at the time, and he had “previously made it clear to Mr McKay that the flights were private”.The letter also outlined his relationship with Fay Keely, the owner of the plane. He said: “I was never paid a fee by Miss Keely – she offered me the use of the aircraft on a fuel-only basis.”She was happy for me to allow hire of the aircraft to suitable parties.”Image source, PA/AAIBThe letter also said Mr Ibbotson had called Mr Henderson when he arrived in Nantes, and highlighted “a soft pedal issue and an oil leak”, adding: “He thought he had heard a bang on the descent into Nantes.”Mr Ibbotson said he “was obviously concerned about the issue”, but the court heard he had spoken to engineer David Smith who “was satisfied the aircraft remained air worthy”.Responding to a question asking whether he accepted being the organiser of the flight, Mr Henderson said: “While I accept that I looked after the aircraft, at the relevant time the person who had control of the aircraft was Mr Ibbotson.”He added: “At no time was there any reason for me to believe Mr Ibbotson was not qualified to fly the aircraft.”The court has previously heard Mr Ibbotson did not hold a commercial pilot’s licence, was not allowed to fly at night and that his rating to fly the Piper Malibu had expired.The trial continues.

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Haiti sees nearly 800 kidnappings so far this year, NGO says

SharecloseShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingImage source, Getty ImagesNearly 800 kidnappings have been reported in Haiti so far this year, a local group says, as gangs expand their control amid political instability.The Center for Analysis and Research in Human Rights (CARDH) said 119 people were abducted in the first half of this month alone.People from all walks of life, both local and foreign, have been targeted.The most recent high-profile case involves 17 missionaries from the US and Canada, kidnapped last weekend.The security situation in Haiti, which was already precarious, has deteriorated significantly since the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in July. Rival factions are fighting to gain control of the country in the face of a struggling police force.”Citizens do not trust the Haitian national police and this poses a problem because we cannot have an efficient police force if the population does not collaborate,” Gedeon Jean, the CARDH director, told AFP news agency. “According to our statistics, there are at least two policemen in every large armed group: some policemen are active in gangs and others provide cover, allowing gangs to operate, or they share information with them.” CARDH said at least 782 kidnappings were reported this year to 16 October, compared with 796 cases in the whole of 2020. The actual numbers were likely to be much higher, it said, as many people do not report abductions, fearing retaliation from the gangs.The rise in violence and a dire economic situation, made worse by several natural disasters in recent years, have led to a growing number of Haitians seek opportunities in other countries.FEATURE: ‘I’d rather risk death than be deported to Haiti’On Saturday, the missionaries from the Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries were returning from a visit to an orphanage when their bus was seized by members of the 400 Mazowo gang in Ganthier, a town east of the capital, Port-au-Prince.Ganthier is located in the Croix-des-Bouquets area which is controlled by the gang. The kidnappers are demanding $1m (£725,000) in ransom for each hostage.All of those kidnapped are US citizens, except one who is a Canadian national. Among those seized are five men, seven women and five children, the youngest reported to be two years old.Seizing vehicles and all of their occupants for ransom is one of the main activities the 400 Mazowo uses to finance itself. In April, the gang abducted a group of Catholic clergy, who were later released. It is not clear if a ransom was paid.

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Barbados elects first ever president ahead of becoming republic

SharecloseShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingImage source, Getty ImagesBarbados has elected its first ever president as it prepares to become a republic, removing Queen Elizabeth as head of state.Dame Sandra Mason, 72, is set to be sworn in on 30 November, which will mark the country’s 55th anniversary of independence from Britain.The first woman to serve on the Barbados Court of Appeals, Dame Mason has been governor-general since 2018.The government announced the plan to move to a republic status last year.It said “the time [had] come” for Barbados to “fully leave our colonial past behind”. The change had already been recommended by a constitutional review in 1998. The historic election came after a joint session of the House of Assembly and the Senate on Wednesday. Prime Minister Mia Mottley described the vote as a “seminal moment” for the nation.With a population of about 285,000, Barbados is one of the more populous and prosperous Caribbean islands. Once heavily dependent on sugar exports, its economy has diversified into tourism and finance.Barbados will not be the first former British colony in the Caribbean to become a republic. Guyana took that step in 1970, less than four years after gaining independence from Britain. Trinidad and Tobago followed suit in 1976 and Dominica in 1978.Jamaica has in the past suggested that it might also consider the change.

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Emiliano Sala: Pilot asked to not fly plane by its owner

SharecloseShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingImage source, AFPThe pilot of a plane that crashed into the English Channel, killing footballer Emiliano Sala, was ordered not to fly the aircraft, a court has heard.Fay Keely said she asked that David Ibbotson not fly her plane after being told of previous infringements.David Henderson, 67, was the plane’s operator and was responsible for choosing appropriate pilots. Mr Henderson is on trial at Cardiff Crown Court accused of endangering the safety of an aircraft.Sala, 28, was involved in a multimillion-pound transfer from French club Nantes to Cardiff City FC, when the plane crashed into the sea in January 2019, killing the striker and pilot Mr Ibbotson, 59.Sala flight organiser ‘hired unqualified pilot’Legal action in footballer Sala’s crash death caseThe story behind the Sala transfer flightsMr Henderson denies the charge of endangering the safety of an aircraft.He has previously admitted a charge of attempting to discharge a passenger without valid permission or authorisation.Image source, Getty ImagesMs Keely said she had bought the Piper Malibu aircraft in 2015 through her family’s trust, Cool Flourish Ltd, of which she is secretary and director. She said that she had told Mr Henderson in 2018 that Mr Ibbotson should not fly the aircraft again after she was notified by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) of two infringements that had happened while he was in the air.She later found out that Henderson had hired Mr Ibbotson again, this time to pilot a flight carrying her sister a month later, in August 2018.Image source, Getty Images/David IbbotsonShe said: “Later on in the year, in August, he tried to contact me while I was on holiday. He was due to fly my sister on a trip and was going to be piloting himself.”I found out after the event that he was unavailable and had asked David Ibbotson to fly instead of him.””He allowed that to happen without my permission,” she added.Asked by defence counsel Stephen Spence QC if she had warned Henderson not to hire Mr Ibbotson again, she said: “No. As far as I was concerned I had made my feelings clear that he shouldn’t be flying the aircraft.”Image source, PA/AAIBIn an text message exchange from August 2018, that was read to the jury, Mr Henderson had a conversation with someone who had flown with Mr Ibbotson. It said: “The Ibbotson experience was interesting! He was all over the place. Had to help him out coming into White Waltham [airfield].”Mr Henderson replied: “His handling OK? Takes a lot to try and knock these new guys into shape.””He’s just not very quick and not thinking ahead,” was the reply. In another text message, found on Mr Henderson’s phone from July 2018, Mr Ibbotson explained he had “messed up a couple of times” during a flight. Jurors also heard that, hours after the night-time crash, Mr Henderson had messaged aircraft engineer David Smith telling him to “keep very quiet”, adding “need to be very careful. Opens up a whole can of worms”.The court has already heard that Mr Ibbotson did not hold a commercial pilot’s licence, was not allowed to fly at night, and that his rating to fly the Piper Malibu had expired.Despite this, when Mr Henderson was unavailable to fly the plane carrying Sala between Nantes and Cardiff in January because he was away with his wife in Paris, he hired Mr Ibbotson again.Mr Smith, an employee of aircraft maintenance company Eastern Air Executive, said he had become aware of some issues with the aircraft on January 21 before it was due to fly back from France to the UK and insisted it was checked by a French engineer. The trial is expected to last until the end of next week.

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Hugo Carvajal: Spain to extradite Venezuela's ex-spy chief to US

SharecloseShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingImage source, ReutersSpain’s high court has ruled that Venezuela’s former spy chief, Hugo Carvajal, should be extradited to the United States.Mr Carvajal faces charges of drug trafficking and collaborating with Colombia’s Farc terrorist group.But he could also have incriminating evidence against Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, a major adversary of the United States.Mr Carvajal fell out with Mr Maduro and fled Venezuela for Spain in 2019.Mr Carvajal has repeatedly denied having any links to drug traffickers or the Marxist Farc rebels, and said the charges against him are politically motivated. The Spanish high court ruling follows an interior ministry decision to refuse Mr Carvajal asylum. However, that process has yet to be completed as Mr Carvajal can appeal.The extradition could also be delayed by another court case Mr Carvajal may have to testify in.It involves alleged illegal financing from Venezuela of Spain’s left-wing Podemos party. Country profile: VenezuelaVenezuela crisis in 300 wordsMr Carvajal, 61, nicknamed “El Pollo” (The Chicken), was arrested in Spain last month after he had been in hiding for nearly two years in the wake of an earlier Spanish court decision which backed his extradition.The US and the government of President Maduro have been at loggerheads for years, with the US imposing tough sanctions on Venezuela.Who is Hugo Carvajal?Gen Carvajal was the head of Venezuela’s military counter-intelligence from July 2004 until December 2011, when Hugo Chávez was president of the country.Image source, ReutersIn 2011, US prosecutors accused Mr Carvajal of personally co-ordinating a US-bound shipment of more than five tonnes of cocaine from Venezuela to Mexico. The indictment also accused him of being on the payroll of a Colombian drug lord and having links to Farc.Who are the Farc?He avoided an earlier US attempt at extradition and served again as military counter-intelligence chief under Mr Maduro.But in 2019 Mr Carvajal chose to back opposition leader Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s leader, and fled that year to Spain.

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Guatemala: Riot police deployed after protesters breach Congress, set cars alight

Riot police were deployed onto the streets of Guatemala City, after a group of army veterans breached the Congress building. Lawmakers and office workers were evacuated as the group set cars alight in the car park, and caused damage to the main building.Military veterans have been protesting for several weeks, demanding approval of a law which would give them compensation for time served during Guatemala’s long running civil war, dating from 1960-1996.

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Covid: Brazil's Bolsonaro 'should be charged with crimes against humanity'

SharecloseShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingImage source, ReutersBrazil’s president should be accused of a series of crimes over his handling of the country’s Covid-19 pandemic, a draft of a major inquiry report says.The report is the culmination of a six-month inquiry that has revealed scandals and corruption in government.President Bolsonaro has been accused of failing to control the virus that has killed more than 600,000 Brazilians.Excerpts leaked to the media indicate that the panel wants Mr Bolsonaro to face nine charges.Initial drafts of the report had recommended the president be charged with homicide and genocide against indigenous groups. But these recommendations have now apparently been dropped from the 1,200 page report, which urges charges of crimes against humanity, forging documents and incitement to crime. Despite the serious allegations, it is not clear what this means for Mr Bolsonaro, according to the BBC’s South America correspondent Katy Watson.The draft report still needs to be voted on by the Senate commission where it could be vetoed and altered, and there is no guarantee it will lead to criminal charges.Image source, ReutersPresident Bolsonaro has dismissed the Congressional inquiry as politically motivated. He has frequently spoken out against lockdowns, masks and vaccinations.In March, he told Brazilians to “stop whining” about Covid, a day after the country saw a record rise in deaths over a 24-hour period.However, Mr Bolsonaro’s popularity has already been dented by the pandemic, and this report could make life much harder for him if he wants to run for a second term in Brazil’s 2022 elections. Brazil’s confirmed Covid-related death toll is the second-highest in the world – behind only the US. Covid – what’s gone wrong in Brazil? Brazil variant drives South America Covid surgeSpeaking to the BBC ahead of the report’s publication, the inquiry rapporteur, Senator Renan Calheiros, said the panel wanted to punish those who contributed to “this massacre of Brazilians”.

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Emiliano Sala flight organiser 'hired unqualified pilot'

SharecloseShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingImage source, Getty ImagesA man acted “recklessly and dangerously” when he organised a flight carrying Argentine footballer Emiliano Sala, a court has heard.David Henderson, 67, of Main Street, Hotham, East Riding of Yorkshire, enlisted a pilot who was neither qualified nor competent, said prosecutor Martin Goudie.Sala and pilot David Ibbotson died in the crash in January 2019.Mr Henderson denies endangering the safety of an aircraft.The defendant had previously admitted a charge of attempting to discharge a passenger without valid permission or authorisation.Image source, AFPMr Henderson was scheduled to pilot the flights which took Sala, 28, from Cardiff to Nantes and back again, but could not, as he was on holiday in Paris with his wife, Cardiff Crown Court heard.Instead, he asked Mr Ibbotson, who he knew, to pilot the flights, despite him not having a commercial licence, Mr Goudie said. The story of Emiliano SalaLegal action in footballer Sala’s crash death caseSala – timeline of Cardiff City signingThe court was told that Mr Ibbotson was not competent to fly in the poor weather Mr Henderson knew had been forecast. He added Mr Henderson “ignored certain requirements” and that the organised flights were “not operated and organised out of a love for Emiliano Sala or Cardiff City Football Club”, but for his business interests. The second flight in the single-engine Piper Malibu came down in the English Channel on 21 January. Image source, Getty Images/David IbbotsonIn the summer of 2018, more than six months before the crash, Mr Henderson was told by the aircraft’s owners that Mr Ibbotson “should not pilot the Piper-Malibu again” after he committed two airspace infringements while flying it.Mr Goudie told the jury the defendant “was aware that there were issues with Mr Ibbotson’s flying from the start”, even before the letters from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).Following the letters, Mr Ibbotson wrote to Mr Henderson suggesting he thought Mr Henderson would not be using him again.’I’m practically dead while living’Cardiff and Nantes mark Sala deathFay Keely, who represented the trust which owned the aircraft, was “not aware Mr Ibbotson was the pilot” on either of the flights between Nantes and Cardiff, the court heard.Responding to Mr Ibbotson, Mr Henderson replied: “I am just responding to emails from Fay who has forwarded me two letters from CAA.”I have always said the flying we do is challenging and everyone has to be on the ball. It is a steep learning curve for someone new to the operation.”The prerequisite is a willingness to listen and learn. We both have an opportunity to make money out of the business model but not if we upset clients or draw the attention of the CAA… As self-employed sole traders we both have debtors and creditors and surely you understand that to remain legal we can’t take money in advance.”But Mr Henderson, who managed the day-to-day operations of the aircraft, had contacted Mr Ibbotson again about flying the aircraft by 5 August.Mr Goudie said: “Right from the get-go, Mr Henderson was aware he was dealing with someone who had a private licence, not a commercial one.”‘Don’t say a word’Communications between Mr Henderson and Mr Ibbotson from August and October 2018, showed Mr Henderson talking about flying at night and flying outside his qualifications.The court heard Mr Henderson tried to rearrange the time of the return flight to Cardiff, but this was to avoid incurring costs at Cardiff Airport and not because of Mr Ibbotson’s lack of qualifications to fly at night.Mr Goudie told the court the pilot did have an American qualification, which he received in 2014, but he was not allowed to be paid as a private pilot. He added Mr Ibbotson never held a commercial pilot’s licence in the UK and his rating to fly the type of aircraft expired on 20 November 2018.On the night the plane went missing, Mr Goudie said Mr Henderson sent a text message to an aircraft engineer saying “don’t say a word”, and asked others to keep quiet because “questions may be asked about his flying”.’Disaster’Another text to a different recipient said: “Ibbo has crashed the Malibu and killed himself and VIP pax! Bloody disaster. There will be an enquiry [sic].”Mr Goudie said: “It’s clear on the evidence that [Mr Henderson] knew Mr Ibbotson well, frequently discussed his qualifications with him and knew he was deficient.”He said Mr Henderson responded to written questions from the CAA in June 2020, and said he “didn’t know the precise status of Mr Ibbotson’s licences and ratings”. Mr Goudie said this was a “lie”. He added Mr Henderson denied being the operator of the aircraft at the time, something he now accepts. The trial continues.

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Ecuador crime wave triggers state of emergency

SharecloseShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingImage source, EPAA 60-day nationwide state of emergency has come into force in Ecuador.The measure was announced by President Guillermo Lasso on Monday evening in response to a wave of violent crime. Guillermo Lasso said police and the armed forces were being mobilised and their presence would be felt “with force” in the streets.Official figures suggest the number of murders in the first eight months of this year are double those in the same period last year. Speaking in a televised address, President Lasso said that under the emergency measures, the armed forces and police would carry out “arms checks, inspections, 24-hour patrols, and drug searches, among other actions”.The measure was introduced weeks after a prison fight in the port city of Guayaquil left 119 inmates dead.Analysts said the prison killings had probably been ordered from outside the jail, mirroring a power struggle between Mexican drug cartels currently under way in Ecuador.They added that the deadly fight had highlighted the growing influence in Ecuador of the Mexican criminal organisations, which operate in the Andean country through local gangs. Ecuador is a transit country for cocaine smuggled from neighbouring Peru and Colombia and much of the crime wave is thought to be drug-related. “There’s only one enemy in the streets of Ecuador and that’s drug trafficking,” President Lasso said on Monday. He added that more than 70% of violent crimes in Guayas province – where the country’s most populous city, Guayaquil, is located – where related to the drugs trade.

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Haiti kidnappers 'demand $17m' for missionaries

SharecloseShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingImage source, AFPA gang which kidnapped a group of missionaries from the US and Canada in Haiti on Saturday is demanding $1m (£725,000) in ransom for each of the 17 people it is holding, the Haitian justice minister has told the Wall Street Journal. The gang is notorious for kidnapping groups of people for ransom.The same gang, 400 Mazowo, abducted a group of Catholic clergy in April.The clergy were later released but it is not clear if a ransom was paid. Who are the victims?All of those kidnapped are US citizens, except one who is a Canadian national.Among those seized are five men, seven women and five children. The youngest child is reportedly only two years old. They worked for Christian Aids Ministries, a non-profit missionary organisation based in the US state of Ohio, which supplies Haitian children with shelter, food and clothing. How were they kidnapped?The missionaries were returning from a visit to an orphanage when the bus they were travelling in was seized by the gang members on a main road in the town of Ganthier, east of the capital, Port-au-Prince. Ganthier is located in the Croix-des-Bouquets area which is controlled by 400 Mazowo gang.AFPHaiti gangs162number of gangs reportedly active in Haiti3,000estimated number of gang members20,000estimated number of Haitians who have fled their homes due to gang violenceSource: BBC MonitoringSeizing vehicles and all of their occupants for ransom is one of the main activities the 400 Mazowo gang uses to finance itself. The Washington Post said one of those abducted had posted a WhatsApp message calling for help.”Please pray for us!! We are being held hostage, they kidnapped our driver. Pray pray pray. We don’t know where they’re taking us,” it said. What’s the reaction been?The White House said on Monday that both the US Department of State and the FBI were assisting Haitian authorities with the case. A former field director for Christian Aid Ministries in Haiti told CNN that the kidnappers had already made contact with the missionary organisation. Adam Ki zinger, a Republican congressman from Illinois, told CNN he believed the US should negotiate with the kidnappers, but not pay ransom. “We need to track down where they are and see if negotiations – without paying ransom – are possible,” he said. “Or do whatever we need to do, on a military front or police front.”Image source, AFPIn Haiti, local unions staged a walkout on Monday in protest at the rising levels of crime.The strike closed down business in Port-au-Prince and other cities, as public transportation employees stayed home. Barricades were set up in some areas to prevent workers from crossing picket lines.How widespread is kidnapping in Haiti?Haiti has one of the highest kidnapping rates in the world. This year has been particularly bad, with more than 600 kidnappings recorded in the first three quarters of 2021, compared with 231 over the same period last year, according to a local civil society group.The Catholic Church has previously described the situation as “a descent into hell”, with gangs taking people from all walks of life, both local and foreign.The country has been further thrown into chaos by the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in July, as rival factions fight to gain control of the country in the face of a struggling police force.

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Earthshot Prize: Costa Rica wins £1m from William's Earthshot prize

SharecloseShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingImage source, PA MediaTwo best friends who grow coral and the country of Costa Rica are among the winners of the first ever Earthshot Prizes.The annual awards were created by the Duke of Cambridge to reward people trying to save the planet. There were five winners announced in London, each receiving £1m. Prince William was joined by stars including Emma Watson, Dame Emma Thompson and David Oyelowo for the ceremony at Alexandra Palace.Ed Sheeran, Coldplay and KSI were among the acts that performed – and in keeping with the eco message, the music was powered by 60 cyclists pedalling on bikes.No celebrities flew to London for the ceremony, no plastic was used to build the stage and guests were asked to “consider the environment” when choosing an outfit – with Watson wearing a dress made from 10 different dresses from Oxfam.Image source, PA MediaThe Earthshot prize’s name is a reference to the “Moonshot” ambition of 1960s America, which saw then-President John F Kennedy pledge to get a man on the Moon within a decade.Each year for the next decade, the prize is awarding £1m each to five projects that are working to find solutions to the planet’s environmental problems.The inaugural winners were selected from five different categories, and were chosen from a shortlist of 15 by judges including broadcaster Sir David Attenborough, actress Cate Blanchett and singer Shakira.The winnersProtect and Restore Nature:The Republic of Costa Rica: Costa Rica was a country that once cleared most of its forests, but it has now doubled the number of trees and is seen as a role model for others to follow. The winning project is a scheme paying local citizens to restore natural ecosystems that has led to a revival of the rainforestClean our Air:Takachar, India: A portable machine created to turn agricultural waste into fertiliser so that farmers do not burn their fields and cause air pollutionRevive our Oceans:Coral Vita, Bahamas: A project run by two best friends who are growing coral in the Bahamas, designed to restore the world’s dying coral reefs. Using special tanks, they have developed a way to grow coral up to 50 times faster than they normally take in natureBuild a Waste-Free World:The City of Milan Food Waste Hubs, Italy: Another challenge is waste – and the city of Milan in Italy wins a prize for collecting unused food and giving it to people who need it most. The initiative has dramatically cut waste while tackling hungerFix our Climate:AEM Electrolyser, Thailand/Germany/Italy: A clever design in Thailand using renewable energy to make hydrogen by splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen. Hydrogen is a clean gas but it is usually produced by burning fossil fuelsIn a recorded message played at the ceremony – which was broadcast on BBC One and iPlayer at 20:00 BST – Prince William said the next 10 years was a “decisive decade” for the planet.”Time is running out,” he said. “A decade doesn’t seem long enough, but humankind has an outstanding record of being able to solve the unsolvable.”Earlier this week, the duke suggested that rather than the world’s top minds setting their sights on space tourism, they should instead focus on saving Earth.With stars from the worlds of football and music arriving on a green carpet, the message was that environmental challenges deserve the same kind of attention as the Oscars. And the winning teams were obviously thrilled to get such high-profile recognition. The test now is whether their projects will be scaled up in a way that makes a difference worldwide. Whether it’s restoring corals and forests or reducing waste and carbon emissions, the plan is for big name companies to support these mostly small-scale schemes and help them to become global. It may well be years before we see how well that works out in practice, and inevitably some projects may prove more effective than others. In any event, in the countdown to the vital Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow next month, the winners offer something that’s been in short supply recently: a sense of optimism. Among the celebrities at Sunday night’s ceremony was Love Actually actress Dame Emma, who criticised throwaway culture as she made her way to the event.”If we had shown my parents how people live (today) how they will wander down the streets and coffee cup, immediately throw it away, eat, throw away, everything throwaway, they would’ve gone, ‘What’s going on?'” said Dame Emma.THE CURRENCY OF COMMUNITY?: Will shopping at black-owned businesses make a long-term difference?HIDDEN GIRLS: Investigating the shocking extent to which teenage girls are being exploited by gangs

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Haiti kidnap: 400 Mawozo accused of US missionary kidnap

SharecloseShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingImage source, Getty ImagesA notorious gang is behind the kidnap of at least 17 North American missionaries near Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, officials say.The five men, seven women and five children were returning from a visit to an orphanage when they were abducted on Saturday.Officials say they are being held by the 400 Mawozo gang – also blamed for the kidnap of Catholic clergy in April.Haiti has one of the highest rates of kidnapping in the world.This year has been particularly bad, with more than 600 kidnappings recorded in the first three quarters of 2021, compared with 231 over the same period last year, according to a local civil society group. The rise has come in the wake of President Jovenel Moïse’s assassination in July, as rival factions fight to gain control of the country in the face of a struggling police force.Why are so many Haitians at the US-Mexico border?Haiti president’s assassination: What we know so farThe Catholic Church has previously described the situation as “a descent into hell”, with gangs taking people from all walks of life, both local and foreign.According to Gedeon Jean, director of the Center for Analysis and Research in Human Rights, based in Port-au-Prince, the vast majority of kidnappings were carried out by the 400 Mawozo gang.Haitian police inspector Frantz Champagne told The Associated Press news agency it was thought the gang was also behind Saturday’s kidnap of 16 US citizens and one Canadian. News agency AFP said an unknown number of locals had also been taken. The missionaries – which had travelled to the country with the Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries – were seized shortly after leaving the town of Croix-des-Bouquets, an area controlled by the gang.Mr Jean said it fit with the “type of kidnapping that 400 Mawozo do”, telling the Miami Herald that taking an entire bus load of people was known as “a collective kidnapping”.The gang normally demands a ransom. In April, it demanded $1m (£722,000) for the safe return of the Catholic clergy. It is unclear if any demands have been made for the return of the missionaries. Christian Aid Ministries, which supports Haitians largely through donations and supplies shelter, food and clothing to children and helps to fund their education, said in a statement on Sunday it was “praying for those who are being held hostage, the kidnappers, and the families, friends, and churches of those affected”.You may also be interested in:

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Haiti: US missionaries reportedly kidnapped in Port-au-Prince

SharecloseShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingImage source, AFP via Getty ImagesAs many as 17 American Christian missionaries and their families, including children, have reportedly been kidnapped by gang members in Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince.The kidnapping happened as the missionaries were leaving an orphanage, the New York Times reports.The group are being held by the armed gang, a local security source told the AFP news agency.The US government is yet to provide any information on the incident.Armed gangs have controlled the poorest districts of the Haitian capital for years. Recently they have extended their hold to other parts of Port-au-Prince and its outlying areas, which has led to a huge rise in kidnappings.More than 600 kidnappings were recorded in the first three quarters of 2021, compared with 231 over the same period last year, according to the Centre for Analysis and Research in Human Rights, a civil society group based in Port-au-Prince.Violence has spiralled in Haiti – the poorest country in the Americas – after the assassination of President Jovenel Moise in July and an earthquake in August which killed more than 2,000 people.

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Venezuelan President Maduro's close aide extradited to US

SharecloseShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingOne of President Nicolás Maduro’s closest aides has been extradited from Cape Verde to the United States, where he’s been charged with money laundering.The US Treasury says Alex Saab worked as a front man for Mr Maduro’s regime. The Venezuelan government suspended talks soon afterwards with the US-backed opposition. The talks were to resolve a political crisis that has led to violence and the collapse of the economy. The discussions had been due to resume this weekend in Mexico.The US Treasury accuses Mr Saab – a Colombian-born businessman and Venezuelan envoy – of using his accounts in American banks to launder the proceeds of corruption.He was detained in June last year as his plane made a stopover to refuel in Cape Verde. Mr Saab said he was travelling on an official mission to obtain medical supplies to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic. He denies all the charges and says they are politically motivated.The Venezuelan government has accused the US of kidnapping diplomatic personnel and announced the suspension in negotiations with the opposition that were set to resume this weekend. Mr Saab was due to be a member of the government’s negotiating team in talks with the opposition in Mexico.The suspension of talks was announced by ruling Socialist party legislator Jorge Rodriguez, who heads the government’s negotiating team.Mr Rodriguez called the decision “an expression of our deepest protest against the brutal aggression” against Mr Saab.Venezuela: What you need to knowMr Saab is accused of making large amounts of money from overvalued contracts, as well as from Venezuela’s government-set exchange rate and centralised system of import and distribution of basic foods.Venezuela has faced chronic shortages of food and medicine as a result of years of political and economic crisis.Venezuela’s opposition has described Mr Saab as a front man doing shady deals for the populist socialist regime of Mr Maduro.Colombian President Ivan Duque tweeted that Mr Saab’s extradition was “a triumph in the fight against drug trafficking, money laundering and corruption by the dictatorship of Nicolas Maduro”.

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Pablo Escobar: Colombia sterilises drug lord's hippos

SharecloseShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingImage source, Getty ImagesA group of hippos – an unwanted legacy following the death of notorious Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar – are being sterilised.Escobar, who was shot dead by police in 1993, illegally imported exotic animals, including a male and a female hippo – dubbed the “cocaine hippos”.Since then, a growing population has been taking over the countryside near his former ranch, Hacienda Nápoles.The Colombian government has so far sterilised 24 of more than 80 animals.They have been treated with a chemical that will make them infertile.Colombian environmentalists say the hippos, believed to be the biggest herd outside Africa, are an invasive species and have pushed away the native fauna. Many have campaigned for the animals to be culled or sterilised.Escobar’s hippos: A growing problemWhy scientists want to kill Colombia’s hipposBack in 1993, when authorities seized Hacienda Nápoles – Escobar’s luxury estate situated about 250km (155 miles) north-west of the capital Bogotá – most of the animals found there were distributed to zoos across the country.But not the hippos.”It was logistically difficult to move them around, so the authorities just left them there, probably thinking the animals would die,” Colombian biologist Nataly Castelblanco told the BBC earlier this year.However, with no natural predators in South America, the hippos multiplied.Image source, RAUL ARBOLEDAAccording to experts, they started spreading through one of the country’s main waterways – the River Magdalena. Scientists studying the hippos’ environmental impact say the animals could affect the local ecosystem in a number of ways: from displacing native species already under threat of extinction, like the manatee, to altering the chemical compositions of waterways, which could endanger fisheries – though other studies suggest they might help the environment too.Escobar, one of the most notorious criminals of all time, was the founder of the infamous Medellín drugs cartel in the 1980s, responsible for kidnappings, bombings and indiscriminate assassinations. At one point he was thought to be one of the world’s richest men.

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Brazil soldiers who shot dead a musician convicted

SharecloseShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingImage source, Getty ImagesEight Brazilian soldiers who shot dead a musician and a bystander in a hail of bullets have been convicted of murder. Evaldo dos Santos Rosa and Luciano Macedo were killed in April 2019, in an incident in which the soldiers fired more than 250 rounds.Prosecutors believe the troops mistook Mr Santos Rosa’s car for one of the same colour driven by gang members. The case shocked Brazil, and on Thursday a court handed down long jail terms for all eight men.They were convicted of murder and attempted murder, for the wounds caused to Mr Santos Rosa’s father-in-law in the shooting.Mr Santos Rosa’s widow, Luciana, said the sentencing “brought peace to my soul”.”I know I won’t get my husband back, but it wouldn’t be fair to leave here without a positive outcome,” a statement on news site G1 said. “I think I’ll be able to sleep today.”Mr Santos Rosa was driving his family to a performance in Rio de Janeiro’s Guadalupe neighbourhood when soldiers fired some 82 rounds into his car. Nine of the rounds reportedly hit Mr Santos Rosa. Luciano Macedo, a local rubbish collector, tried to help the family but was himself shot. He died from his wounds 11 days later.Sérgio Gonçalves, Mr Santos Rosa’s father-in-law, was injured in the attack but survived after more than a week in hospital. Image source, EPAIn recent years authorities have put the army in charge of security in the violence-plagued state of Rio, and in 2017 a law passed putting cases of civilian deaths caused by the military under Brazil’s military court system. President Jair Bolsonaro – the country’s right wing, populist leader – dismissed the case in the weeks after the deaths as an “incident”.”The army didn’t kill anyone. The army belongs to the people. We cannot accuse the people of murder,” he said.A military court however voted to convict the eight men on Thursday, more than two years after the deaths.The lieutenant in command received a 31-and-a-half-year sentence, while the other seven each were sentenced to 28 years in jail. Local media report however that the men will appeal to the Superior Military Court. They will not be placed in custody until that body’s final decision.You may also be interested in:

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Covid-19 in Brazil: 'My mum was used as a guinea pig'

SharecloseShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingImage source, Katia CastilhoA Brazilian healthcare provider is accused of giving unproven drugs to Covid-19 patients and conducting experiments on elderly people without their relatives’ consent. The allegations have been linked to deaths that, families say, could have been prevented.Katia Castilho’s grief keeps her awake at night. In March, Norberto, her father, was admitted to a public hospital in São Paulo with Covid-19. Brazil, which has been hit hard by the pandemic, was then at the height of its second wave, with daily deaths numbering 4,000. Days later, Ms Castilho’s mother, too, began to show symptoms of the disease. Irene, unlike Norberto, had access to a private healthcare provider, Prevent Senior, one of the country’s largest, with more than half a million customers.The Castilho family contacted the company, and were sent a so-called “Covid Kit”, which included hydroxychloroquine, azithromycin and ivermectin, despite there being no scientific evidence that those drugs are beneficial in the treatment of the virus. Irene got worse and worse, and Ms Castilho and her two sisters decided to take their mother to a Prevent Senior-owned hospital. But, to their surprise, Ms Castilho says, Irene was sent back home without being examined.Her condition worsened further overnight. By morning, Irene was struggling to breathe even with an oxygen cylinder. The family went back to the hospital, and she was finally admitted. On that same day, Norberto died.He was buried in a hurry, without rites, while the hearse waited a few moments for one of the Castilho sisters to say her goodbyes before driving her back and picking up more bodies.Image source, Katia CastilhoMeanwhile at the hospital, Irene was kept in a small ward, where staff rarely came to check on her, Ms Castilho says. The sisters took turns to make sure the oxygen mask stayed on. One day, Ms Castilho noticed that nurses were giving Irene a thick solution. She says she was told it was flutamide, a type of hormone used in prostate cancer. Flutamide can potentially lead to liver failure in certain patients, and Irene was a liver cancer survivor. The sisters say they had expressly told the hospital not to give her this drug.”I was so upset by everything going on with my father, that I didn’t look for a doctor to discuss this,” Ms Castilho says. “Then I noticed that my mum was getting worse.” REALITY CHECK: The false science behind the ivermectin hypeON THE GROUND: ‘Everything you should not do, Brazil has done’Irene had been in hospital for nearly 10 days when she was taken to intensive care. Her organs began to fail, she developed deep-vein thrombosis, and after three weeks, was infected with a bacteria common in hospitals. She did not survive.The sisters had 20 minutes to be with their mum for the last time. Irene was cremated and her ashes were scattered over Norberto’s grave. ‘My mum trusted them’As the intensity of the events eased, Ms Castilho says, “the penny began to drop” about her mother’s treatment. “I started to reflect on things. I couldn’t sleep. It felt like I was rewinding a tape, realising what went wrong.” The negligence, Ms Castilho believes, started the day Irene was sent the “Covid Kit”, as many scientists were already expressing profound misgivings about the drugs, and continued as doctors prescribed unproven medicine instead of opting for more costly intensive care treatment. “My mum really trusted [Prevent Senior]. She was anxious and would ask me to call them to find out when her ‘Covid Kit’ would arrive,” she said. “She could never have imagined that she was a guinea pig in their hands, and that she would soon die.” Now, more deaths are being blamed on the company’s medical practices.Image source, ReutersA Senate inquiry into the government’s handling of the pandemic heard allegations that the company was trying to endorse unproven treatments associated with President Jair Bolsonaro, who has repeatedly dismissed Covid-19.A former patient, 65-year-old Tadeu Frederico de Andrade, testified that he, too, was given the “Covid Kit” and treated with flutamide. His family says doctors wanted to move him to palliative care without their consent. “I’m a survivor of this macabre plot,” he said.Bruna Morato, a lawyer representing 12 whistleblowers, told the inquiry doctors were threatened and fired if they disagreed with the unproven drugs. The firm is also accused of failing to mention Covid-19 deaths in patients’ records to hide the scale of the problem. Prevent Senior said in statements to the BBC that Irene and Tadeu “received every clinical and medical support” and that the company never adopted treatments contrary to medical ethics or aimed at reducing costs.It said allegations levelled against it at the Senate inquiry were “unfounded” and “a true public lynching”. The company has also said it never fired employees because of their technical convictions. Pedro Batista, the company’s CEO, admitted to senators that Covid-19 was removed from patients’ records after two weeks, because they were no longer infectious. But he denied testing unproven drugs on patients without their knowledge.The company is under investigation by federal prosecutors, the police, and a separate inquiry by São Paulo state lawmakers. The case, which has caused outrage in the country, is mired in political controversy, with the federal government being blamed for lax rules on Covid-19 treatment.The inquiry also heard the Bolsonaro administration had ignored repeated offers by drug firm Pfizer to sell it 70 million doses of its vaccine. Next Tuesday, the investigation’s final report will be made public, and it could accuse the president of serious misconduct in his response to the pandemic, which has resulted in more than 600,000 deaths.Ms Castilho says her family feels “devastated”. “The day my dad died, he was supposed to be given the first dose of vaccine,” she says. “I lost my mum and my dad to a virus for which a vaccine already existed.”Denying science kills, but when you think of all the money and interests involved… I can’t remain silent.”* Vinicius Lemos in São Paulo contributed to this report

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Chile's Sebastián Piñera faces impeachment bid after Pandora Papers

SharecloseShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingImage source, Getty ImagesChile’s opposition has launched a bid to impeach President Sebastián Piñera over possible irregularities in the sale of a mining company, after details emerged in the Pandora Papers leak.Mr Piñera used “his office for personal business”, congressman Tomas Hirsch said as he presented the accusation in the lower house of Congress.The president is accused of selling the firm to a friend in a deal contingent on a favourable regulatory decision.He has denied any wrongdoing.The revelations come from the Pandora Papers, a leak of 11.9 million documents. The files say President Piñera sold the Dominga mine, a copper and iron project in an environmentally sensitive area, to a childhood friend in 2010, nine months after he had taken office.The leaks suggest the last payment in the deal was conditional on not establishing an area of environmental protection where the mining company operated, a demand of environmental groups.The decision would be taken by the Chilean government which eventually decided against the introduction of the protection.The data was obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) in Washington DC, which has been working with more than 140 media organisations on its biggest ever global investigation.BBC Panorama and the Guardian have led the investigation in the UK.EXPLAINER: A simple guide to the Pandora Papers leakCONTEXT: Your guide to nine years of finance leaksAfter the revelations, the Chilean presidency said President Piñera, a billionaire businessman, had no role in, or information about, the sale of the mining project, and that he had not been involved in the management of any company for more than 12 years.The president himself has rejected any irregularities, saying the details of the deal were examined in a judicial investigation in 2017 that cleared him of wrongdoing.But last week, Chile’s public prosecutor’s office said it would investigate the allegations against the president.Opposition congressman Jaime Naranjo, one of the authors of the impeachment proceeding, said President Piñera had “openly infringed the Constitution… seriously compromising the honour of the nation”.The president has not commented yet on the impeachment bid.The opposition-controlled Chamber of Deputies will now hold a vote on whether to approve or reject the impeachment process. The move comes ahead of presidential and legislative elections in November. President Piñera is not a candidate.The Pandora Papers is a leak of almost 12 million documents and files exposing the secret wealth and dealings of world leaders, politicians and billionaires. The data was obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists in Washington DC which has led one of the the biggest ever global investigations.More than 600 journalists from 117 countries have looked at the hidden fortunes of some of the most powerful people on the planet.Pandora Papers coverage: Follow reaction on Twitter using #PandoraPapers, in the BBC News app, or watch Panorama on the BBC iPlayer (UK viewers only)

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Havana syndrome reported at US embassy in Colombia

SharecloseShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingImage source, Google MapsUS officials are investigating possible cases of Havana syndrome illness in Colombia, days before a visit by the Secretary of State, US media say.US embassy staff in Bogota may have been injured by the mysterious illness, which causes a painful sound in the ears, fatigue and dizziness.First reported in Cuba in 2016, US diplomats around the world have since reported cases of the syndrome.Its origins are unknown, with some speculating that is a type of weapon. On Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal first reported that emails sent by US Ambassador to Colombia Philip Goldberg confirmed a number of “unexplained health incidents” or UHIs – the term used for Havana syndrome by the US government – since mid-September. Colombian President Iván Duque told the New York Times that the country is investigating the reports. He added that the US is leading the inquiry.Americans who have been hit by Havana syndrome have described an intense and painful sound in their ears. Some of the estimated 200 affected have been left with dizziness and fatigue for months. More than half of those impacted were CIA employees, according to the Times. ‘Havana syndrome’ and the mystery of the microwavesOn Friday, reports of Havana syndrome emerged at the US embassy in Berlin. President Joe Biden released a statement vowing to find “the cause and who is responsible”.It came hours after he signed a new law that entitles the heads of the CIA and State Department to provide financial compensation to those US government employees who have been harmed by the syndrome. A State Department official refused to confirm the reports to BBC News on Tuesday.In a statement, the official said “we are vigorously investigating reports of AHIs wherever they are reported,” and that they are “actively working to identify the cause of these incidents and whether they may be attributed to a foreign actor”.The news comes ahead of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s scheduled travel to Bogota next week. In August, Vice-President Kamala Harris delayed travel to Vietnam after two US officials were medically evacuated from the country after falling ill.

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US to reopen Mexico Canada borders for fully vaccinated travellers

SharecloseShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingImage source, Getty ImagesThe US has said it will reopen its borders with Mexico and Canada to fully vaccinated travellers from November. In a statement, its Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said it will allow travel for non-essential purposes via land and ferry crossings.From January 2022, it will also require proof of vaccination for any travel over these crossings, essential or not.The US has restricted travel from its northern and southern neighbours since March 2020, due to the Covid pandemic.But President Joe Biden’s administration recently revealed that restrictions on fully jabbed air travellers would be eased in November.The current rules bar entry to most non-US citizens who have been to the UK, China, India, South Africa, Iran, Brazil and a number of European countries within the last 14 days.IN CHARTS:Where are Covid cases the highest? EXPLAINED:Travel update: Which countries are still on the UK’s red list?FEATURE:Getting Covid in a land where no cases officially existIn a statement, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said his department was “pleased to be taking steps to resume regular travel in a safe and sustainable manner.”But he did not say when the changes would come into effect.Last week the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said all visitors must receive vaccines approved or recognized for emergency use by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).At present, vaccines developed by Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna have been approved in the US. The WHO has also supported these three, along with others made by AstraZeneca-Oxford, Sinopharm and Sinovac.Image source, Getty ImagesNews of the upcoming announcement has drawn praise from US lawmakers with constituencies along the Canadian border.Among them was Chuck Schumer, the Democrats’ Senate Majority Leader. “Kudos to President Biden for doing the right thing and increasing cross border travel between Canada and the US,” he said in a statement.”This reopening will be welcome news to countless businesses, medical providers, families, and loved ones that depend on travel across the northern border,” added New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.The announcement of new rules in September was a surprise to many – coming days after the US government said it was not the right time to lift restrictions.The US has recorded more than 42 million coronavirus cases since the pandemic began, and over 670,000 deaths.

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Mexico City to swap Columbus statue for one of indigenous woman

SharecloseShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingImage source, Government of Mexico CityMexico City’s governor has confirmed that a statue of an indigenous woman will replace the capital’s Christopher Columbus monument.The statue was removed last year after indigenous rights activists threatened to tear it down.Claudia Sheinbaum said it will be replaced by a replica of a pre-Columbian statue known as the Young Woman of Amajac.Protesters have toppled Columbus statues in Latin America and the US.Columbus, an Italian-born explorer who was financed by the Spanish crown to set sail on voyages of exploration in the late 15th Century, is seen by many as a symbol of oppression and colonialism as his arrival in America opened the door to the Spanish conquest. Ms Sheinbaum’s latest announcement was made on 12 October – the anniversary of Columbus’ discovery of the Americas.In the US it is widely celebrated as Columbus Day. But in Mexico and other Latin American countries it is known as Día de la Raza (Spanish: Day of the Race). Many view it as a commemoration to native resistance against European conquest.Image source, AFPMs Sheinbaum said she wanted to make the change as part of the “decolonisation” of the famous Reforma Avenue, where an empty plinth currently stands. She added that the new monument – set to to be three times as tall as the Columbus statue – was in recognition that “indigenous women had been the most persecuted” during and after the colonial period.The original Young Woman of Amajac was discovered in January in Veracruz.It is believed that the sculpture depicts a leading female member of the Huastec people at the time of its creation.The original currently sits in Mexico City’s Anthropology Museum, which is going to create the replica. After the city government decided to remove the Columbus statute from its plinth, a number of proposals were put forward including a statue inspired by a pre-Hispanic Olmec head. However, it was derided as a token gesture for its lack of authenticity, prompting Ms Sheinbaum to cancel it and opt instead for the Young Woman of Amajac. The statue of Christopher Columbus will be moved to a park in another area of Mexico City.

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Guatemala police free 126 migrants from abandoned container

SharecloseShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingImage source, PNC de GuatemalaPolice in Guatemala have rescued 126 migrants who were abandoned inside a shipping container at the side of a road. They were found at dawn between the towns of Nueva Concepción and Cocales after locals reported hearing screams inside the trailer. Authorities believe they were abandoned by smugglers who had been paid to take them to the US via Mexico. More than 100 of those discovered are from the crisis-hit nation of Haiti.There were also people from Nepal and Ghana.Speaking after the discovery, a police spokesperson said: “We heard cries and knocks coming from inside the container. We opened the doors and found inside 126 undocumented people.”Officers gave the migrants first aid before escorting them to a shelter run by the Guatemalan Migration Institute. A spokeswoman for Guatemala’s migration authority, Alejandra Mena, said that the migrants had arrived in Central America in Honduras and from there begun to make the treacherous journey north to the US. They will now be transported back to the border with Honduras and handed over to authorities. The discovery comes just a day after Mexican authorities detained 652 migrants, including some 350 children, travelling in three refrigerated double-trailer trucks near the US southern border. Soldiers at a military checkpoint in Tamaulipas searched the trucks after hearing voices inside. The incident reflects growing concerns over the amount of migrants, among them large numbers of Haitians, taking significant risks in their attempts to reach the US. ‘I’d rather risk death than be deported to Haiti’Why are so many Haitians at the US-Mexico border?Images of Haitians at US border echo grim pastSince the start of 2021, more than 50 migrants have died while trying to cross a jungle corridor called the Darien Gap in Panama, on the border with Colombia, according to the Panamanian prosecutor’s office.Haiti has suffered from years of instability, culminating in the assassination of President Jouvenal Moïse in July. The following month, the country was hit by a deadly earthquake.Haiti president’s assassination: What we know so far Thousands of Haitians had already left the country, seeking work in countries across Latin America.Many have begun attempting to reach the US in the belief that they qualify for Temporary Protected Status, a temporary right to remain in the country which has been extended to Haitians already living in the US but not to new arrivals.Last month about 13,000 Haitians gathered under a bridge connecting Del Rio in Texas to Ciudad Acuña in Mexico. Since then the US has deported more than 7,500 people to Haiti, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).The US special envoy for Haiti, Daniel Foote, resigned in protest over the deportations, saying that returning people fleeing an earthquake and political instability was “inhumane”. But the US Department of Homeland Security’s Marsha Espinosa reiterated that “our borders are not open, and people should not make the dangerous journey”.

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