Chile to remember indigenous victims of dictatorship

Many activists vanished during the 1970s and their remains were never found.

    Chile is due to open its first memorial to the members of the Mapuche indigenous minority, killed during the country’s period of military dictatorship.

    Many activists vanished during the 1970s and their remains were never found.

    Al Jazeera’s Lucia Newman reports from Temuco in central Chile.

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    Rihanna appointed ambassador by Barbados

    Singer Rihanna has said she “couldn’t be more proud” after being given a new ambassadorial role by the government of Barbados.

    The artist, whose full name is Robyn Rihanna Fenty, was named “Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary” for her home country on Thursday.

    The role involves promoting education, tourism and investment.

    Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley said she was honoured to confer the title.

    “Rihanna has a deep love for this country and this is reflected in her philanthropy, especially in the areas of health and education. She also shows her patriotism in the way she gives back to this country and continues to treasure the island as her home,” the prime minister said in a statement.

    “She has also demonstrated, beyond her success as a pop icon, significant creative acumen and shrewdness in business. It is therefore fitting that we engage and empower her to play a more definitive role as we work to transform Barbados.”

    Rihanna is one of the best-selling singers of all time, with 250 million record sales globally. She has also enjoyed success as an actress and fashion designer, and launched a widely-praised makeup collection last year.

    The singer was born in Saint Michael in Barbados, and grew up in the capital, Bridgetown.

    She lived there until her teen years when she was discovered by an American record producer, who helped her break into the US charts.

    Last year a street she used to live on was renamed Rihanna Drive in her honour.

    In a statement accepting her new role, the singer (who is now described as Ambassador Fenty by the Barbados government) said she “couldn’t be more proud to take on such a prestigious title” in her home country.

    “Every Barbadian is going to have to play their role in this current effort, and I’m ready and excited to take on the responsibility. I look forward to working with Prime Minister Mottley and her team to re-imagine Barbados.”

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    Honduras: 7.6 earthquake triggers Tsunami alert

    A magnitude 7.6 earthquake struck near the coast of Honduras, briefly prompting a tsunami warning.

      A magnitude 7.6 earthquake has struck near the coast of Honduras, according to the US Geological Survey (USGS), which said it was registered at 20:50 local time.

      The earthquake on Wednesday was felt across northern Central America, briefly prompting a tsunami warning in Puerto Rico, and the Caribbean Islands.

      The tremor occurred in the sea between the island of Cuba and the coasts of Honduras and Belize, according to maps published by USGS.

      The epicenter was located 202 kilometres from the Honduran town of Barra Patuca, and 245 kilometres from the municipality of Puerto Lempira (Honduras). 

      Translation: In face of the earthquake registered in our country, we have activated the emergency system, please remain calm, report any emergency to @ 911Honduras, Honduran president Juan Orlando tweeted. 

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      Venezuelan helicopter pilot killed in police raid

      Interior Minister Nestor Reverol confirmed Oscar Perez was killed together with six of his accomplices.

        Venezuelan police have killed a former police officer who had been on the run after stealing a helicopter and attacking government buildings six months ago, according to officials.

        Interior Minister Nestor Reverol confirmed on Twitter on Tuesday that Oscar Perez was killed with six accomplices in a gun battle near the capital, Caracas, on Monday.

        Six members of Perez’s group, who Reverol called members of a “terrorist cell”, were arrested by police.

        Two police officers were also killed in the operation.

        In June 2017, Perez and several unidentified accomplices used a stolen helicopter to launch four grenades at the Supreme Tribunal in Caracas, before shooting at the interior ministry with firearms.

        On Monday, an elite Venezuelan police force located Perez and his allies in El Junquito, on the outskirts of Caracas. 

        During the raid, Perez posted several videos of himself online showing injuries from a clash between him and the authorities.

        In some of the Instagram videos, shots can be heard.

        “They are firing at us with grenade launchers. We said we are going to surrender, but they do not want to let us surrender. They want to kill us,” a bloodied Perez said.

        However, Venezuelan authorities said the polices forces came under attack by Perez’s group as they were negotiating a surrender, claiming the group tried to detonate a vehicle loaded with explosives.

        People in El Junquito took to the streets to show their support of Perez, who became Venezuela’s most wanted man after the helicopter attack.

        Shortly after that incident, Perez declared that he belonged to an uprising of members of the security forces who were fed up with President Nicolas Maduro’s administration.

        The Venezuelan authorities later issued an arrest warrant in which he was accused of a “terrorist attack”.

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        Honduras caravan builds for new march across Mexico to the USA

        Another migrant caravan is forming in Honduras, with plans to set out next week on a journey that will once again test the immigration policies of Mexico and the United States.

        In much the way last year’s Central American caravan originated, a flier is circulating on Honduran social media.

        “We’re looking for refuge,” it says. “In Honduras, we are being killed.” It advertises a 5am departure on Tuesday, January 15 from the northern city of San Pedro Sula.

        The Mexican government says it is preparing for the group’s arrival.

        “We have information that a new caravan is forming to enter our country in mid-January,” Olga Sánchez Cordero, the interior minister, said last Monday. “We are already taking the necessary steps to ensure the caravan enters in a safe and orderly way.”

        When the previous caravan reached Mexico in October, Mexican authorities closed one of the main border crossings but allowed thousands of migrants to swim across the river separating the country from Guatemala. The migrants then continued north through Mexico, most of them traveling without documents.

        Ms Sánchez Cordero said this time the government will place guards at 370 illegal crossing points and the border will be “controlled to prevent the entry of undocumented people”. But she suggested members of the caravan could be allowed into the country legally if they apply for visas.

        “We don’t know how many people this will be, but it’s a lot,” said Walter Coello, a taxi driver from Tegucigalpa, the Honduran capital, who helped organise the last caravan and is playing a similar role again.

        “The goal is to give them a chance to work and have a better life, be it in Mexico or the United States.”

        Last year’s group, with about 7,000 people, was dwarfed by the roughly 400,000 people who were apprehended at the US border in 2018, as well as the more than 100,000 who applied for asylum in that period. But it became a major focus for President Donald Trump, who attempted to use the spectre of an invading caravan to rally his supporters.

        Mr Trump deployed similar rhetoric about the new group.

        “There is another major caravan forming right now in Honduras, and so far we’re trying to break it up, and so far it’s bigger than anything we’ve ever seen, and a drone isn’t going to stop it, and a sensor isn’t going to stop it, but you know what’s going to stop it in its tracks?” he said. “A nice, powerful wall.” (© The Washington Post)

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        Cuba country profile

        Cuba’s Communist government has survived more than 50 years of US sanctions intended to topple veteran leader Fidel Castro.

        It also defied predictions that it would not survive the collapse of its one-time supporter, the Soviet Union.

        Since the fall of the US-backed dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista in 1959, Cuba has been a one-party state led by Mr Castro and – since February 2008 – by his chosen successor and younger brother, Raul.

        Fidel Castro exercised control over virtually all aspects of Cuban life through the Communist Party and its affiliated mass organisations, the government bureaucracy and the state security apparatus.

        Exploiting the Cold War, Fidel Castro was for decades able to rely on strong Soviet backing, including annual subsidies worth $4-5 billion, and succeed in building reputable health and education systems. But, at least partly because of the US trade sanctions, he failed to diversify the economy.

        The US and Cuba agreed in 2014 to normalise relations.


        Republic of Cuba

        Capital: Havana

        Population 11.5 million

        Area 110,860 sq km (42,803 sq miles)

        Major language Spanish

        Major religion Christianity

        Life expectancy 78 years (men), 82 years (women)

        Currency Cuban peso


        President: Miguel Diaz-Canel

        Miguel Diaz-Canel became president in April 2018 in a handover ending six decades of rule by the Castro family.

        Mr Diaz-Canel, aged 57 at the time of his inauguration, is a former engineer born after the revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power.

        He has promised to maintain the island’s one-party communist system after being chosen president by parliament.

        He succeeded Fidel’s brother Raul, who will remain head of Cuba’s all-powerful Communist Party.


        Cuba has the most repressive media environment in the Americas, says Freedom House. Almost all traditional media are state run.

        Online access is tightly controlled and prohibitively expensive. Many Cubans use “the Package” – a digest of digital content distributed on USB sticks.


        Some key dates in Cuba’s history:

        1898 – Cuba is ceded to the US which defeated Spain in war.

        1902 – Cuba becomes independent under the protection of the US.

        1933 – Sergeant Fulgencio Batista seizes power in a coup.

        1959 – Fidel Castro leads a guerrilla army into Havana, forcing Batista to flee.

        1961 – US breaks off diplomatic relations in response to the nationalization of US-owned properties, and later imposes a complete commercial embargo.

        1961 – Cuban exiles backed by the US try to invade Cuba at the Bay of Pigs, but are defeated.

        1962 – The US and the Soviet Union have a showdown that almost touches off war after the US discovers Soviet nuclear missiles on Cuba. The confrontation ends with the Soviets removing the missiles and the US agreeing never to invade Cuba.

        1975 – Castro sends troops to Angola to help fight rebels backed by South Africa. It is the start of 15 years of war in which 300,000 Cubans will fight.

        1991 – The Soviet Union, Cuba’s biggest benefactor, collapses, touching off an economic crisis.

        2006 – Fidel Castro provisionally turns over power to brother Raul Castro, who becomes president in 2008.

        2014 – US President Barack Obama and President Castro announce moves to normalise diplomatic relations, severed for more than 50 years.

        2016 – Fidel Castro dies, aged 90.

        2018 – Senior Communist Party stalwart Miguel Diaz-Canel becomes president, ending six decades of rule by the Castro family.

        Read full timeline

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        What are Jair Bolsonaro’s policies?

        Jair Bolsonaro has won the presidential election in Brazil. Well known for his often incendiary statements, the far-right politician’s actual policy positions are harder to pin down.

        After being stabbed by a lone attacker on 6 September, Mr Bolsonaro spent time in hospital receiving treatment which took him away from the campaign trail.

        Even after he won the first round of the election on 7 October, he did not participate in TV debates with his Workers’ Party rival, Fernando Haddad.

        He has nonetheless remained active on social media and given interviews where he has offered some clues about the kind of policies his administration could pursue.

        Gun rights for ‘all honest citizens’

        Increasing security for Brazilian citizens has been one of Mr Bolsonaro’s flagship campaign issues. He has portrayed himself as a hardliner who will restore safety to Brazil’s streets.

        He has indicated that his government will aim to relax laws restricting the ownership and carrying of guns. “Every honest citizen, man or woman, if they want to have a weapon in their homes – depending on certain criteria – should be able to have one,” he said of his plans on Rede TV on 11 October.

        He has also strongly opposed the legalisation of abortion. Writing on Twitter on 12 October he said: “The money of Brazilians will not finance NGOs that promote that practice.”

        That stance has won him the support of many evangelic Christians.

        Mixed signals about the economy

        Many Brazilians said that they voted for Jair Bolsonaro as a reaction to what they considered the inadequate economic track-record of the left-wing Workers’ Party, under which Brazil’s economy went from boom to bust.

        Mr Bolsonaro’s economic policy plans resemble those of market-friendly right-wing governments in other parts of Latin America, and include proposals to reduce government “waste” and promises to reduce state intervention in the economy.

        However, on occasion he has also defended more nationalistic stances, arguing for the need to keep state control over industries he deems strategic.

        The former army captain has said that he wants to undertake a reform of the government in order to reduce and relocate “unnecessary expenses”.

        “I made a commitment to reduce the number of ministries, extinguish and privatise many of the state-owned [companies] that exist today,” he wrote on Twitter.

        In his party manifesto, he also suggested that state-run oil company Petrobras should “sell a substantial portion of its refining, retail, transportation and other activities where it has market power” in order to “promote competition” in the oil and gas sector for the good of consumers.

        However, in a TV interview on 9 October he expressed concern that privatising electric utility company Eletrobras could lead to it being bought by Chinese investors.

        He also rowed back on his earlier support for privatising Petrobras, saying that the “core” of the oil company should stay under state control.

        Affinity with Donald Trump

        Mr Bolsonaro has been called “Trump of the Tropics” and on foreign policy he is likely to follow an agenda closely aligned to that of the US president on issues such as the environment and the Middle East conflict.

        He has suggested that Brazil could pull out of the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change, arguing that its requirements compromise Brazil’s sovereignty over the Amazon region. An editorial in São Paulo’s Folha newspaper called Mr Bolsonaro’s reasoning “an anachronistic fear”, but it is one that has won him the support of many landowners and agribusinesses.

        Mr Bolsonaro is also thought to favour moving the Brazilian embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

        He also said he would close the Palestinian embassy in Brazil. “Is Palestine a country? Palestine is not a country, so there should be no embassy here,” he said in August.

        He has also said that his first foreign trip as president would be to Israel.

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        Honduras: 7.6 earthquake triggers Tsunami alert

        A magnitude 7.6 earthquake struck near the coast of Honduras, briefly prompting a tsunami warning.

          A magnitude 7.6 earthquake has struck near the coast of Honduras, according to the US Geological Survey (USGS), which said it was registered at 20:50 local time.

          The earthquake on Wednesday was felt across northern Central America, briefly prompting a tsunami warning in Puerto Rico, and the Caribbean Islands.

          The tremor occurred in the sea between the island of Cuba and the coasts of Honduras and Belize, according to maps published by USGS.

          The epicenter was located 202 kilometres from the Honduran town of Barra Patuca, and 245 kilometres from the municipality of Puerto Lempira (Honduras). 

          Translation: In face of the earthquake registered in our country, we have activated the emergency system, please remain calm, report any emergency to @ 911Honduras, Honduran president Juan Orlando tweeted. 

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          Why are there so many murders in Brazil?

          As Brazilians vote for a new president, senators and deputies on Sunday, one issue in particular might determine their choice: violent crime.

          Two recent surveys strongly suggest increasing concern among Brazilians about rising levels of violence.

          Candidates across the political spectrum have promised in their campaigns to address the issue.

          Far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro, who’s leading in the polls, wants to bolster police forces, but also to relax gun-control laws.

          “Safety is our priority! It is urgent! People need jobs, they want education, but it’s no use if they continue to be robbed on the way to their jobs; it’s no use if drug trafficking remains at the doors of schools,” he tweeted in September.

          Left-wing candidate Fernando Haddad described the challenge Brazil faces from the drugs trade. “We’re deluding people that we’re fighting something. We’re not fighting anything. We’re losing the war,” he said.

          Environmentalist and candidate Marina Silva has highlighted violence against women – in 2017, Brazil registered more than 60,000 cases of rape, but experts say the true figure could be higher.

          Reality Check investigates the scale of the problem.

          There were more than 60,000 killings in the country in 2017, according to a study by the Brazilian Public Security Forum, which collects and analyses crime data from state and federal government. This figure includes killings linked to police interventions.

          The national rate was up to 30.8 killings per 100,000 people last year.

          Data from the government-affiliated IPEA in 2016 reveals that most of the victims were male and about half were aged between 15 and 29.

          The rate in 2016 among black Brazilians was more than double that of other racial groups.

          Of the five states with the highest murder rate, four are in the north-east of Brazil.

          Rio Grande do Norte earned the unenviable title of having the country’s highest murder rate – 68 per 100,000 people.

          Over the past decade the murder rate in that state has soared by more than 250%, according to the IPEA.

          The state of Acre on the north-western border with Peru had the second highest murder rate.

          Each of the top five states recorded an increase compared with the previous year – Acre and Ceará by more than 40%.

          Read more about Brazil’s election:

          ‘Crime is a choice for young males’

          What has caused this explosion of violence?

          The lucrative drugs trade is a major factor. Rival cartels fight for control of the routes that transport cocaine arriving from Colombia, Bolivia and Peru.

          The UN has increasingly highlighted Brazil’s role in the international cocaine trade – not as a producer but as a transit country.

          Brazilians in the wealthier south-east of the country are increasingly becoming consumers of cocaine, and large quantities are also shipped to Europe, Africa and Asia.

          Clamping down on the drugs trade has contributed to a ballooning prison population.

          Fernando Haddad, from the same left-wing party as ex-president Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva, said during the campaign that the prison population had pretty much doubled in 10 years. And he was about right.

          It’s the third highest in the world, according to World Prison Brief.

          The number of people in Brazil’s prisons per 100,000 of the population was 353 in 2016, up from 137 in 2000.

          The dominating presence of gangs in prisons strengthens the ties that inmates have with crime. This is difficult to undo, says Roberta Astolfi, a crime expert at the Brazil Public Security Forum.

          But the escalation of violence is also linked to multiple socio-economic factors, experts say.

          “We didn’t think violence would increase in the northern states,” says Ms Astolfi.

          Economic growth in the 2000s led to improved living standards even in the poorest parts of Brazil. But opportunities are still very limited for young people and many young people drop out of school at around 15, she says.

          “Crime is a choice on the table for young males in the peripheries of cities,” she added.

          Experts also blame poorly implemented gun laws and dwindling police resources.

          However, there has been a steady decline in murders in Brazil’s most populous state of São Paulo, which includes the city of the same name with 13 million inhabitants. The level of crime is still high though – there were more than 4,000 killings in the state in 2017.

          In Rio de Janeiro, murders are down compared with the highs of the late 1990s but the state still recorded one of the highest murder counts. Police struggle to control parts of the city, say experts, especially the poorest districts of the city known as favelas.

          “Organised criminal groups such as the Red Command and the Third Command increasingly challenge the authorities and are themselves in a territorial conflict for control of favelas,” says Antonio Sampaio, a conflict and security researcher at the International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS).

          Police interventions

          The role of the police has featured heavily in pre-election campaigns and debates.

          Mr Bolsonaro wants tougher police tactics against urban crime and drug-trafficking.

          Other candidates suggest changing the way different branches of law enforcement handle investigations into organised crime.

          There are an increasing number of deaths linked to police interventions, both military and civil branches. The numbers went up from 2,212 in 2013 to 5,159 in 2017, according to the Brazil Public Security Forum.

          Last year, 367 police officers were killed, a decrease on the previous year. The majority of deaths occurred among off-duty police officers.

          Given the importance placed on this issue in a country with one of the highest murder rates in the world, Brazil’s next president will be judged on the success of policies implemented to tackle violent crime.

          Read more from Reality Check

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          Peruvians vote in referendum on fighting corruption

          Most of the proposed measures are expected to pass in a nation where trust in elected officials is low.

            Polls have opened in Peru’s referendum aimed at curbing corruption as the South American nation tries to put an end to the scourge that has landed politicians, judges and even former presidents behind bars.

            Voters headed to 5,398 polling stations that will close at 21:00 GMT across the country on Sunday in addition to stations set up in embassies and consulates for Peruvians living abroad.

            Casting a vote is mandatory and failure to comply with it is punishable with a fine. The national office of electoral processes will deliver the first results at 01:00 GMT on Monday. 

            The four questions on the ballot include measures that would prohibit legislators from immediate re-election, create stricter campaign finance rules and reform a scandal-tainted council charged with selecting judges.

            Most of the proposed measures are expected to pass in a nation where trust in elected officials is low.

            But analysts caution that the referendum is not an end-all fix that can reverse decades of deeply entrenched political misconduct.

            “What this referendum is potentially giving the government and maybe even the political system is a little breathing room,” Steve Levitsky, a Havard University political scientist told Associated Press news agency.

            “A little burst of confidence and public trust that it can potentially use to get up and running,” he added.

            Corruption scandals

            In recent years, Peru has been jolted by the Odebrecht corruption scandal, which has toppled some of Latin America’s highest-ranking politicians.

            The Brazilian construction company has admitted to paying $800m to officials throughout the region in exchange for lucrative public works contracts, including $29m to win contracts in Peru over the course of three administrations.

            The scandal has tainted the careers of nearly every former living Peruvian president, with four ex-heads of state under probe for ties to Odebrecht.

            President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski resigned in March after opposition politicians revealed previously undisclosed ties between Odebrecht and his private consulting firm.

            Prosecutors are also investigating former leader Alan Garcia after revelations that bribes were made during the construction of Lima’s metro under his tenure.

            Ollanta Humala, who was briefly jailed, and Alejandro Toledo are also being probed for allegedly receiving illegal payments.

            Meanwhile, former first daughter Keiko Fujimori, the nation’s top opposition leader and a two-time presidential candidate, is under investigation for allegedly laundering Odebrecht money for her 2011 campaign.

            Those probes, along with a series of leaked wiretaps showing judges and lawyers making backroom deals on matters as grave as the sentence for a man accused of raping a young girl, have unleashed the fury of a Peruvian public fed up with corruption.

            A recent survey by Latinobarometro, a respected regional polling firm, found that just eight percent of Peruvians trust the legislature, the lowest rate in the region.

            “The entire system is rotten,” said Gerardo Polo, 40, who works at an import company and was eager to cast his ballot on Sunday.

            While he conceded that the measures won’t guarantee future abuses he said: “It is a scream of rage.”

            People & Power

            Peru: Undermining Justice

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