Category Archives: South America

December 28, 2020

China’s ‘dark’ fishing fleets are plundering the world’s oceans

The flotilla was plundering waters that are among the most biodiverse in the world: the Galapagos Marine Reserveis home to the greatest biomass of sharks on the planet.

When a vast Chinese armada appeared outside the Galapagos Marine Reserve in South America earlier this year, Ecuador’s Government sounded the alarm.

They called in the big guns, asking the United States Coast Guard to help keep an eye on the enormous number of fishing vessels.

The sheer size of the fleet fuelled Ecuador’s urgency: more than 350 Chinese fishing boats were detected, outnumbering its own navy and those of Peru and Chile combined.

Lieutenant-Commander Kristen Caldwell of the US Coast Guard, which sent a vessel down to the region to provide surveillance on the fleet, said the magnitude of fishing activity was unprecedented.

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December 17, 2020

Venezuela wields a powerful “hate” law to silence Maduro’s remaining foes

Venezuela’s “law against hate” is suddenly a key tool for Nicolás Maduro to repress dissent, particularly online. A Reuters review of over 40 recent arrests found in each case that authorities used the law to detain critics of the president, his aides or allies.

Francisco Belisario, a Venezuelan mayor, retired general and member of the ruling Socialist party, had enough. His loudest local critic had accused him of bungling the response to the coronavirus outbreak and other big problems.

In August, he wrote a state prosecutor and requested an “exhaustive investigation” of his nemesis, Giovanni Urbaneja, a former lawmaker who had become a gadfly to the mayor and other Socialist officeholders. Urbaneja, Belisario wrote in a letter reviewed by Reuters, was conducting a “ferocious smear campaign” on Facebook and elsewhere.

Urbaneja not only defamed him and President Nicolás Maduro, the mayor wrote. He violated Venezuela’s Law Against Hate. The law, passed in 2017 but rarely used before this year, criminalizes actions that “incite hatred” against a person or group. Charge Urbaneja with hate crimes, the mayor implored the prosecutor.

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December 28, 2019

Venezuela’s currency so worthless it’s mostly being used for making crafts

Data from the opposition-controlled National Assembly shows the inflation rate for October 2019 was 20.7 percent and the cumulative inflation for 2019 was 4,035 percent. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates Venezuela’s inflation this year will reach 200,000 percent – and that the economy will contract by 35 percent, Al Jazeera reported.

Venezuela – once one of the more prosperous countries in Latin America – has been driven into such economic and political turmoil that its currency is no longer of any use.

However, that has not stopped Venezuelan bolivares from becoming a commodity elsewhere.

Across the border in Colombia, Hector Cordero uses the currency to make wallets and purses, which he sells to tourists in Colombia.

“These bolivares soberanos notes are worth nothing,” Cordero, who is from Caracas, told Al Jazeera. “These notes I use are not circulating any more since last year.”

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February 20, 2018

Venezuelan refugee crisis could eclipse Syria’s, economist predicts

Around 4 million Venezuelans have fled their country, and the number will keep rising amid a severe shortage of food and cash, according to an economist. He said the outflow will eventually overtake Syria’s, which stands at 5.5 million.

Syria’s civil war has resulted in what’s been dubbed the world’s largest refugee crisis, but another humanitarian calamity may soon surpass it.

The millions of Venezuelans fleeing their turmoil-hit nation could eventually overshadow the number of Syrian refugees, according to an economist.

“The next refugee crisis is not being driven by a violent war but by a socioeconomic disaster of magnitudes hardly seen before,” Dany Bahar, a fellow at think tank the Brookings Institution, said in a Monday note, referring to the South American nation.

About 4 million Venezuelans — over 10 percent of the population — have left the country in search of better living conditions in the last two decades, Bahar said, citing others’ estimates.

In comparison, “the estimates of refugees who left Syria during the war account for about 5 million individuals,” he noted. The latest United Nations data indicates there are currently 5.5 million Syrian refugees.

Bahar said he expects Venzeula’s figure to increase “very rapidly” and eventually exceed that of the Middle Eastern state.

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February 10, 2018

Mass exodus from ‘Mad Max violence’ in Venezuela: Thousands flee across bridge to Colombia amid desperate hunger and soaring crime following economic crisis

Thousands of desperate Venezuelans are trying to enter Colombia through the border crossing of Cucuta. They are fleeing hunger, inflation and the political crisis threatening to engulf the South American country. Colombia – along with neighbour Brazil – has sent extra soldiers to patrol their porous border with Venezuela. The crisis shows no sign of easing and Colombian lawmakers are beginning to tighten their border controls.

Thousands of desperate Venezuelans are trying to enter Colombia in a bid to escape the hunger and soaring crime rate caused by the spiralling economic crisis.

Incredible pictures show the mass exodus of refugees crossing the Simon Bolivar international bridge trying to flee the political crisis threatening to engulf Venezuela.

Colombia – along with its neighbour Brazil – has sent extra soldiers to patrol their porous border with the country after officially taking in more than half a million migrants over the last six months of 2017.

The country is also tightening its border controls in a bid to stem the flow.

The dire economic conditions have led to lawlessness in parts of Venezuela’s capital Caracas, with truck drivers subjected to ‘Mad Max’ violence as looters target heavy goods vehicles carrying food.

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December 17, 2017

As Venezuela Collapses, Children are Dying of Hunger

For five months, The New York Times tracked 21 public hospitals in Venezuela. Doctors are seeing record numbers of children with severe malnutrition. Hundreds have died.

Kenyerber Aquino Merchán was 17 months old when he starved to death.

His father left before dawn to bring him home from the hospital morgue. He carried Kenyerber’s skeletal frame into the kitchen and handed it to a mortuary worker who makes house calls for Venezuelan families with no money for funerals.

Kenyerber’s spine and rib cage protruded as the embalming chemicals were injected. Aunts shooed away curious young cousins, mourners arrived with wildflowers from the hills, and relatives cut out a pair of cardboard wings from one of the empty white ration boxes that families increasingly depend on amid the food shortages and soaring food prices throttling the nation. They gently placed the tiny wings on top of Kenyerber’s coffin to help his soul reach heaven — a tradition when a baby dies in Venezuela.

When Kenyerber’s body was finally ready for viewing, his father, Carlos Aquino, a 37-year-old construction worker, began to weep uncontrollably. “How can this be?” he cried, hugging the coffin and speaking softly, as if to comfort his son in death. “Your papá will never see you again.”

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November 11, 2017

Socialism: Venezuela’s Minimum Wage Crashes to Under Four Dollars a Month

The monthly minimum wage in the socialist country of Venezuela has crashed to under four dollars a month as hyperinflation continues to crush the country’s shattered economy.

Despite dictator Nicolás Maduro’s five minimum wage hikes over the course of 2017, the monthly minimum wage of 177,507 bolivares is equivalent to $3.41, working out at just over two cents an hour, according to latest real value exchange rates.

Venezuelans also receive a monthly food ticket of 279,000 bolivares a month, bringing people’s total monthly income to around approximately nine dollars a month.

Maduro confirmed last week that the government would debut a new 100,000 Bolivar bill, making it the highest denomination note released in modern Venezuelan history. The move comes less than a year after he tried to relieve pressure on consumers by releasing 500, 1000, 2000, 10,000, and 20,000 bolivar notes, although all of these notes now all have a value of well under half a dollar.

While, ten years ago, a 100 Bolivar note could buy a television, it is now worth just over one cent, with the currency having lost over 99.99 percent of its value since 2010. Yet rates of inflation continue to accelerate amid fears of a default on the country’s colossal debt.

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September 27, 2017

In Venezuela, they were teachers and doctors. To buy food, they became prostitutes

It’s not just a border phenomenon. Fidelia Suarez, the president of Colombia’s Union of Sex Workers, said her organization has seen a dramatic influx of “Venezuelan women and men working in the sex trade” across the country.

At a squat, concrete brothel on the muddy banks of the Arauca River, Gabriel Sánchez rattled off the previous jobs of the women who now sell their bodies at his establishment for $25 an hour.

“We’ve got lots of teachers, some doctors, many professional women and one petroleum engineer,” he yelled over the din of vallenato music. “All of them showed up with their degrees in hand.”

And all of them came from Venezuela.

As Venezuela’s economy continues to collapse amid food shortages, hyperinflation and U.S. sanctions, waves of economic refugees have fled the country. Those with the means have gone to places like Miami, Santiago and Panama.

The less fortunate find themselves walking across the border into Colombia looking for a way, any way, to keep themselves and their families fed. A recent study suggested as many as 350,000 Venezuelans had entered Colombia in the last six years.

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July 17, 2017

Adiós to Venezuelan democracy

Nicolás Maduro prepares a “caricature of a caricature” of Cuba.

Constitutions, like diamonds, are supposed to last. But that is not the view of Nicolás Maduro, a former bus driver chosen by a dying Chávez to replace him as president in 2013. He has ordered a new constituent assembly, to be chosen on July 30th. Everything about the process is different from 1999. In violation of Chávez’s constitution, it has been called by presidential decree rather than by referendum.

Mr Maduro says its purpose is to defeat the opposition’s “fascism”. Yet it will be chosen under a system that might have been devised by Mussolini. Each of the 340 municipalities will elect one assembly member, regardless of size (only state capitals will get two), meaning the opposition-supporting cities are under-represented. A further 181 members will be chosen from communal and occupational groups controlled by the regime.

Mr Maduro wants the assembly because he can no longer stay in power democratically. Low oil prices and mismanagement have exacted a heavy toll. Food and medicines are scarce; diseases long curbed, such as diphtheria and malaria, are killing once more. The opposition won a big majority in a legislative election in 2015. Since then Mr Maduro has ruled by decree and through the puppet supreme court. In almost daily opposition protests since April, 75 people have been killed, many shot by the National Guard or pro-regime armed gangs.

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July 6, 2017

3D imaging reveals the face of a female Peruvian ruler 1,700 years after her elaborately tattooed body was wrapped in 20 layers of fabric and buried with a treasure trove of gold

The Lady of the Cao was found in Peru in 2005 buried with weapons and gold. Her arms and legs were covered with tattoos of snakes and spiders. Scientists have now recreated her face using digital forensics technology. The aristocrat first had her picture taken with a handheld laser scanner. Researchers then used her skull to reconstruct her face into a full-scale model.

She died in her twenties some 1,700 years ago and ruled over a desert valley in ancient Peru, where her elaborately tattooed body was wrapped in 20 layers of fabric and buried with weapons and gold objects.

But a glimpse of the former priestess, the Lady of Cao, can now be seen in a replica of her face unveiled by culture officials and archaeologists on Monday.

Using 3D forensics technology, the replica was based on the Lady of Cao’s skull structure and took 10 months to create.

The international team of researchers behind the effort, led by experts at Peru’s El Brujo museum where the mummy is currently on display, first took pictures of the Lady of Cao’s remains with a state-of-the-art, handheld laser scanner.

The scanner was designed for industrial use and is now commonly used in forensic investigations.

The scanned data was then entered into a computer, which digitally stripped away her facial skin to reveal her skull bones.

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