‘Stolen friend’: Rapa Nui seek return of moai statue

Prominent among the eclectic hoard of treasures in London’s British Museum is the imposing figure of Hoa Hakananai’a, a four-tonne basalt statue from the Chilean Pacific territory of Rapa Nui – named Easter Island by European explorers.

The statues, known as moai, were carved by the island’s indigenous Rapa Nui people to embody the spirit of a prominent ancestor, with each considered to be the person’s living incarnation.

“The British taking the moai from our island is like me going into your house and taking your grandfather to display in my living room,” says Anakena Manutomatoma, who is a native of the island and serves on Rapa Nui’s development commission.

“For us, the repatriation of Hoa Hakananai’a is an absolute priority.”

Long way from home

The statue, along with a second, smaller moai known as Hava, were given as gifts to Queen Victoria in 1869 by the captain of HMS Topaze, Commodore Richard Powell.

You may also be interested in:

His crew excavated Hoa Hakananai’a from a cliff top near the Rano Kau crater in November 1868, and the Queen donated the two statues to the British Museum.

It has been on display 8,500 miles (13,700km) from its spiritual home ever since.

Alongside its clear cultural and spiritual importance, Hoa Hakananai’a is a particularly fine example of the statues that see thousands of tourists visit Rapa Nui each year.

“In some ways the statue is unique because it is made from a very hard basalt lava rock, unlike the majority of statues on Rapa Nui. As such, it is unusually well-preserved and its features are pristine,” says archaeologist Mike Pitts, who spent several nights at the museum in 2012 conducting a detailed scan of Hoa Hakananai’a.

“It also has a unique collection of petroglyphs on its back that almost certainly were not part of the original statue, so you have a second layer of history embodied in the stone.”

Calls for repatriation

There has been a recent awakening on the island with regard to repatriating the moai, which under Chilean law are considered to be part of the land.

Sculptor Benedicto Tuki, a Rapa Nui native who has dedicated his life to promoting and preserving the island’s indigenous culture, attributes the newfound interest in bringing the moai home to a generational shift.

“Perhaps in the past we did not attach so much importance to Hoa Hakananai’a and his brothers, but nowadays people on the island are starting to realise just how much of our heritage there is around the world and starting to ask why our ancestors are in foreign museums.”

In order to facilitate the return of the Hoa Hakananai’a, a name often translated as “lost” or “stolen friend”, Tuki has offered to make an exact replica to take the statue’s place in the British Museum, free of charge.

“Perhaps it won’t possess the same ancestral spirit, but it will look identical,” the sculptor says. “My only wish is for him to return home; for me this is worth far more than any amount of money. As long as I live, I will fight to see our ancestors returned to the island.”

Asking to be heard

Tuki made the offer after the mayor of Rapa Nui, Pedro Edmunds, sent a letter to the British Museum in August requesting the return of the two statues.

In response, the museum invited a delegation from Rapa Nui to visit the moai and discuss the request.

A group including Ms Manutomatoma will arrive in London on 19 November to propose to the museum’s directorate to have Hoa Hakananai’a returned to the island in exchange for Tuki’s replica.

Chile’s Minister for National Property Felipe Ward, who is leading the delegation, says he is optimistic. “The strong understanding and mutual respect between Chile and the UK can help in this instance.”

“We are not demanding anything as yet, just asking to be heard. We believe that when this happens, the museum and its authorities will understand the importance of the moai as the soul of the island,” he says.

For Tuki, bringing Hoa Hakananai’a back to Rapa Nui is just a first step. Eventually, he would like to see all moai which were removed from the island returned, starting with those that are currently on the Chilean mainland.

“In order for Chile to show that it is serious about supporting our cause, we need to have the moai on the Chilean mainland returned to the island,” he says.

Talks are currently under way to return a moai from the Chilean city of La Serena but there are also moai in Viña del Mar and also as far afield as the US, New Zealand, France and Belgium.

Anakena Manutomatoma says that while she, too, dreams of bringing all of her ancestors home to Rapa Nui, her gaze is firmly on Hoa Hakananai’a.

“We have mourned him for too long. It is time to stop crying and take action to bring him home.”

Source: Read Full Article

Welcome sight: Why some Jamaicans want the army to stay

Every morning, Pauline Perez walks past the bullet-ridden Denham Town police station to commute to work as a government clerk in West Kingston, Jamaica.

For the past year, she has passed by dozens of soldiers and police brandishing M-16s who now block every road to her community.

The government has selected the Denham Town neighbourhood for a crime-fighting plan called Zones of Special Operations (Zoso).

The plan uses a heavy military presence to attempt to address the island’s spiralling murder rate, now the sixth highest in the world according to a 2017 report by the Small Arms Survey.

When Denham Town was first declared a Zoso last October, armed soldiers and police descended upon the community. They imposed curfews, searched residents, and detained suspects.

It was supposed to last only 60 days. But last month, just shy of the project’s first anniversary, Prime Minister Andrew Holness announced an extension until at least January 2019.

When it was first introduced, critics such as Human Rights Watch warned that the crime-fighting plan was “ripe for abuse”, pointing to the Jamaican police force’s reputation for brutality and corruption.

But there have been few complaints from residents, in fact, many say they never want the joint forces to leave.

Living in the midst of gang warfare, residents like Ms Perez argue that they are happy to trade a few civil liberties for temporary security.

“It’s the first I’ve slept without [hearing] gunshots in years,” she says. “But I’m not sure it’s a long-term fix.”

For the past few years, Ms Perez has been working as a “violence interrupter” with an NGO called Peace Management Initiative, a role in which she counsels youths and gunmen on how to renounce violence.

She feels many youths want to get out of violence but are not always sure how. She and her colleagues are hopeful about brokering a ceasefire between rival gang factions.

She says that the residents of Denham Town have learned to rely on themselves but that the Zoso has given them some peace and quiet to allow the talks to proceed.

Abandoned and neglected

Many locals say that before the arrival of the troops, they felt neglected by the police, abandoned by the state and left at the mercy of the powerful criminal gangs which serve as de-facto governments in many inner-city communities.

Earl is one of these residents. “Anything could go before,” he says as he works with a group of men shovelling mulch from a hopelessly blocked drain. The work is part of the crime-fighting plan which also attempts to improve conditions in the neighbourhood.

Earl says that this clean-up could not have happened before because of the violence. “It doesn’t matter that we’re in front of the police station, gunmen would still shoot you. The police can’t do anything about it.” Earl says they would have had to hire guards as lookouts.

While the main opposition People’s National Party has called it a publicity stunt and not viable as a long-term solution, its lawmakers have repeatedly approved the plan’s extension in parliament.

Last month, Prime Minister Holness announced that 20 more Zoso would be rolled out throughout the island.

Jamaica is not the first country to use soldiers to police its streets, Brazil, Mexico and the Philippines have all done so before.

You may also be interested in:

What is striking is how well the move has been received on the Caribbean island. A recent survey found that more than half of Jamaicans would even go as far as accepting military rule in order to rein in the country’s high crime levels.

Some academics put the warm welcome given to the military down to the failures of Jamaica’s police force, which has in the past struggled in areas like Denham Town.

Notorious neighbourhood

The government chose Denham Town for the Zoso after an explosion of gang violence in the area. It is an intricate maze of zinc fences and unpaved roads that criminals know intimately and police officers often struggle to navigate.

The drug don who ran Denham Town was Christopher “Dudus” Coke. He was extradited to the US on drug charges eight years ago, and it has been chaos ever since as gangs fight for power in the vacuum he left behind.

In this 10 block by 10 block space, 18 people were murdered last year. Since the Zoso was introduced, that number has dropped to 10. Residents say that number is still unbearably high but welcome the fact that shootings have dropped by 70%.

Since the crime-fighting plan was introduced, it has been eerily quiet in Denham Town, where 40% of youths are unemployed. The rum bars that usually blast dancehall music and the street corners that are normally filled with young people are now silent and empty.

The security forces believe they are beginning to mend what was a broken relationship with the community. “What we are trying to do here is build trust,” says Jamaican army spokesman Major Basil Jarrett.

He says that officers from the joint police and army force are receiving training in human rights before they enter the areas. They have also held several events such a marathon so that members of the security forces and residents can interact.

Development plans

To the west of Denham Town is Trenchtown, the birthplace of Jamaican singing legend Bob Marley and reggae. To the south is the waterfront of downtown Kingston which the current administration has been pushing to develop.

“They [are] not going to make the war here stop their plan for downtown Kingston,” says Ms Perez of the government’s new-found interest in driving down crime in Denham Town.

During the past year, the long struggling Jamaican economy has been growing, the poverty rate has gone down and debt has fallen but this prosperity has not reached Denham Town.

Many residents fear that the gunmen who used to rule this neighbourhood have only been temporarily displaced and are biding their time only to return once the joint forces leave.

“The politicians don’t live down here, and when they come it’s with bodyguards,” says Ms Perez. “It’s up to the residents to stop the violence now.”

Source: Read Full Article

Who supports Brazil’s new far-right president?

Brazilians have elected the far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro as their new president. Which groups support him and why?

Those worried about rising violence

For many Brazilians, tackling violence is the number one priority. Mr Bolsonaro put tackling crime at the centre of his campaign.

Last year, there were a record 63,880 murders in Brazil, and his supporters say violence has got out of hand. Mr Bolsonaro wants to liberalise gun laws, reduce the age of criminal responsibility to 16 and give more powers to the police to shoot criminals.

Alessandra Uberaba lives in Tijuca, a neighbourhood of Rio de Janeiro where drug and street violence have been on the rise.

“People don’t go out at night anymore,” Ms Uberaba says. “The people in the building I live in have been robbed at gunpoint, we live with this fear in Rio every day and Bolsonaro is our salvation.”

In February, the army was put in charge of security in Tijuca, but Ms Uberaba thinks it has not made much of a difference.

“I think the armed forces and police need to be better equipped to be able to compete with this violence. We can’t cope with it anymore.”

Those sick of the Workers’ Party

When Workers’ Party candidate Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva became president in 2003, there was huge hope he would change the country. Lula governed during a time of great economic growth and millions of people were lifted out of poverty with help from his government-run social programmes.

But the good times did not last and Brazil fell into the worst recession in its history, from which it is only slowly emerging now.

Lula was found guilty of corruption and is serving a 12-year prison sentence. His Workers’ Party successor in office, Dilma Rousseff, was impeached for illegally manipulating the government budget. This has led to a lot of hatred towards the Workers’ Party.

Tomé Abduch, who owns a construction company in São Paulo, is one of those who is fed up. “We can no longer have a leftist government in Brazil, it destroyed our country,” he says.

“It put corrupt people in positions of power in Brazil and corruption is one of the biggest reasons why Brazil has failed to develop.

“Bolsonaro has a very clear and transparent way of doing politics. He’s run a completely impartial campaign, he’s not accepted public money or money from businesspeople, so he’s been able to run a campaign that’s completely free of any compromises or political agreements,” he says.

Businesspeople

As Jair Bolsonaro rose in the polls, so too did Brazilian stocks. Investors saw the far-right candidate as a safer pair of hands than his left-wing rival Fernando Haddad.

Leo Fração is a wealthy Brazilian businessman from Porto Alegre. He runs an investment fund focused on Brazil and has also donated $3.77m (£2.9m) to fund the military police of Rio Grande do Sul. Thanks to his donation, they now have Glock pistols and better body armour.

“Brazil is probably the wealthiest country in the whole world, by natural means,” he says. “You don’t need to be a miracle performer to build a huge economy, you just need the government out of the way.”

He sees Mr Bolsonaro as the only candidate with the guts to make the changes he wants to see.

“He is the first person that says that criminals should to go to jail,” he says.

Mr Fração says he also has great trust in Mr Bolsonaro’s economic adviser, Paulo Guedes.

“I don’t need a genius to run my country, I just need someone with initiative not to mess it up,” he concludes.

Evangelicals

Evangelical Christians – who make up 29% of all Brazilians – were one of the groups who supported Mr Bolsonaro in greatest numbers. According to the last pre-election Datafolha poll, 61% of evangelicals were planning cast their votes for him.

Mr Bolsonaro himself describes himself as Roman Catholic, but his Christian rhetoric and his slogan “Brazil above everything, God above all” won over many in the evangelical community.

Luceni Alves is a presenter on Radio Relogio, an evangelical station in Rio de Janeiro.

“He believes in the word of God and in my principles,” she says. “He’s against the legalisation of abortion because that goes completely against God’s word. He’s also against the legalisation of drugs.”

Ms Alves is also critical of what she calls the “sexualisation of children”.

“The Bible says God made man and woman and in my opinion, gender ideology confuses children, it deconstructs what God built,” she says.

During the campaign, Mr Bolsonaro alleged that the rival Workers’ Party had handed out “gay kits” in schools, something he strongly criticised.

He was referring to a Workers’ Party plan to launch a “Brazil without homophobia” programme in schools. As part of the programme, material to promote respect for diversity and end discrimination was designed for teachers.

The material was never distributed and Brazil’s Superior Electoral Court debunked talk of the “gay kit” as fake news.

Nevertheless, it continued to be a talking point with Mr Bolsonaro’s supporters such as Ms Alves. “It’s totally against biblical principles and Bolsonaro agrees with me, so he represents me.”

“He’s a candidate who respects God,” she says. “A person who doesn’t respect God respects nobody.”

The farming lobby

Brazil’s farming lobby, which represents the country’s powerful agribusiness sector in Congress, earlier this month endorsed Mr Bolsonaro.

Alessandro Fernandes Pimenta is landowner who keeps cattle, pigs and chickens in Goiana in central Goias state.

“I’m fed up with these shameless corrupt politicians,” he says. “At the moment if you want to develop land, it’s really bureaucratic. I wanted to but it’s impossible. Bolsonaro wants to cut taxes and make things less bureaucratic.”

“The government talks about environmental protection but doesn’t do anything to make things better. There has to be a bigger incentive,” he explains.

Additional reporting by Tatiana Polastri.

Source: Read Full Article

Chile hails historic Mapuche lawmakers

Emilia Nuyado and Aracely Leuquén on Sunday became the first two women of the indigenous Mapuche group to become members of Chile’s Congress.

They received rapturous applause from their fellow lawmakers when they cast their first votes in the lower house.

Both Ms Nuyado and Ms Leuquén represent the southern Araucanía region, where a conflict between the Mapuche and the state has been intensifying.

President Sebastián Piñera referred to the conflict at his inauguration.

The president said that he would make solving the centuries-old conflict with the Mapuche one of his priorities.

Who are the Mapuche?

In recent years, the Mapuche have waged a sometimes violent campaign to win back that land.

The issue recently came to global attention when Pope Francis travelled to the region and said that “destructive violence” between the indigenous Mapuche people and the state was not the answer.

Tensions between the Mapuche and the state have increased in recent years, with armed groups burning houses, churches, lorries and forest plantations with increasing frequency.

While President Piñera did not say how he would go about solving the conflict, which centres around issues of land ownership and the recognition of the Mapuche language and culture, the fact that he mentioned it among the five main priorities for his administration nevertheless surprised many Chileans.

“Every time we have divided, we have reaped our most bitter and painful defeats,” Mr Piñera said.

Ms Leuquén, who is part of President Piñera’s Chile Vamos (Let’s go, Chile) coalition said the government would face “a great challenge” in Araucanía but that she proposed “dialogue and tolerance” as the way forward.

Ms Nuyado, of the Socialist Party, attended the first session of Congress wearing a traditional Mapuche outfit.

She has a long history of championing Mapuche issues, such as increasing the number of scholarships for the community and opposing the use of anti-terrorist legislation to deal with the Mapuche conflict.

Source: Read Full Article

First refugees of 'Central American exodus' arrive at US border

Hundreds of asylum seekers fleeing violence, poverty arrive in Tijuana to begin the long wait to apply for asylum in US.

    After a month-long journey, Central American migrants and refugees fleeing violence and poverty in large groups are beginning to arrive at the southern border of the United States to seek asylum.

    Hundreds of asylum seekers have reached the border this week and thousands more are on their way to Tijuana, in the northwestern corner of Mexico. They face long wait times at the San Ysidro port of entry, asylum restrictions, potential indefinite detention and a heavily fortified border.

    Thousands of active-duty US troops have been deployed along the southern border with Mexico, including to several ports of entry that likely won’t see asylum seekers from the largely Honduran exodus, previously dubbed the migrant caravan.

    US officials shut down three lanes at the San Ysidro crossing on Tuesday, and it and other border gates and fences have been fortified with concertina wire. Hundreds of asylum seekers who arrived at San Ysidro prior to the collective exodus faced an estimated one-month wait time.

    In response to the Central American exodus, which Donald Trump falsely deemed “an invasion”, the US president and his administration implemented restrictions on asylum claims, limiting processing to asylum-seekers arriving at official ports of entry.

    Tent camps are also being set up in US border areas for the indefinite detention of asylum-seekers while their claims are being processed, US officials announced earlier this month.

    The measures to restrict asylum claims and potentially indefinitely detain asylum seekers, including children, are unlawful, rights groups have pointed out.

    Both US and international law establish that anyone has the right to seek asylum regardless of how they enter the US, and US courts have set restrictions on the immigration detention of children, including a 20-day limit, adequate temperature controls and properly licensed management. The announced plans for indefinite detention in tent camps are undergoing a court challenge.

    Fears of transphobic violence

    The first Central Americans to arrive in Tijuana ahead of the main wave were part of an LGBTI group comprised of several dozen people, a majority of whom are transgender women. The group had been travelling together for safety in the face of frequent harassment from men in the main group. 

    RAICES, a Texas-based migrant support group, raised funds to provide buses from Mexico City to Tijuana for the LGBTI group. The long wait times for asylum claim processing at the border place the group at further risk of violence, according to migrant rights groups.

    “The last time a trans group came through, [people] tried to burn their shelter down with them inside. They are not safe in Tijuana and have few options for shelter,” Al Otro Lado, a cross-border legal services organisation for refugees and separated families, tweeted on Monday.

    Transgender women also often experience violence, discrimination, and medical neglect in detention. Roxana Hernandez, a Honduran transgender woman who travelled to the US with a migrant and refugee caravan earlier this year, died in Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody from health complications suspected to have been aggravated by her detention in freezing cold conditions in New Mexico detention facilities. 

    Central American LGBTI asylum-seekers risk the dangers of travel and detention because the situation at home in many countries is drastically more dangerous, especially for gay men and transgender women.

    “Trans people in my neighbourhood are killed and chopped into pieces, then dumped inside [100-pound sacks],” Hernandez said in an interview with Buzzfeed News before crossing into the US and dying in ICE custody.

    Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala have had some of the world’s highest per capita homicide rates for years, but LGBTI residents are disproportionately targeted. Local LGBTI groups estimate that more than 250 LGBTI people have been murdered in Honduras alone over the past decade.

    Homophobic and transphobic government discourse helps fuel and encourage violent attacks, according to Adriana Munoz, a spokeswoman for the Reinas de la Noche (Queens of the Night) trans association in Guatemala.

    “There’s a cascade of violence against LGBTI people,” she told Al Jazeera.

    Reinas de la Noche and many groups affiliated with REDLACTRANS, a Latin American and Caribbean network of transgender people and organisations, have been involved in gender identity bill proposals in their respective countries, to ensure transgender people can exercise basic rights to gender identity, including the right to accurate updated gender identification on government documents.

    In Guatemala, the bill, which faced strong opposition from the governmen, right-wing parties in Congress and religious groups, did not pass, further entrenching the discrimination trans individuals face in the country.

    The continued discrimination and violence Central American LGBTI refugees face when they flee home for the US to seek asylum was highlighted by Amnesty International in a November 2017 report dedicated to the issue.

    “Terrorised at home, and abused while trying to seek sanctuary abroad, they are now some of the most vulnerable refugees in the Americas. The fact that Mexico and the USA are willing to watch on as they suffer extreme violence is, simply, criminal,” Amnesty International Americas Director Erika Guevara-Rosas said in a statement when the report, No Safe Place, was published.

    ‘The exodus will continue’

    LGBTI migrants and refugees are particularly targeted with violence, but safety is numbers is a driving factor behind the new form of collective migration in general. 

    Over the past two decades, thousands of migrants and refugees have been killed or disappeared along the route north.

    Rates of homicide and forced disappearance are particularly high in northeastern Mexico, which prompted the current group’s decision to travel more than 1,000km further to the Pacific coastal crossing in Tijuana.

    Many Central Americans have also died from exposure to the elements while crossing into the US through desert areas between official ports of entry. The current exodus has always planned to arrive at an official port of entry to seek asylum.

    The exodus is highly visible due to international media attention and is a significant shift in the way people migrate north, but the mass migration itself from northern Central America is not extraordinary. Hundreds of people flee Honduras alone every day, according to rights groups.

    Media attention has largely focused on the first wave of the exodus now gradually beginning to arrive in Tijuana, but the group of more than 6,000 asylum-seekers is just the first wave of a larger trend.

    Thousands more migrants and refugees, mainly from Honduras and El Salvador, are heading north through Mexico in subsequent groups. A second wave of people has reached Mexico City, a large Salvadoran group is close behind, and others are making their way up through southern Mexico. 

    There are also preparations for further collective departures. A new group plans to depart San Salvador on Sunday, and planning is under way in Honduras and El Salvador for others through January of next year.

    The phenomenon is not going to stop anytime soon, according to Ruben Figueroa, the Mesoamerican Migrant Movement coordinator for Central America and southeastern Mexico.

    “The exodus is going to continue,” he told Al Jazeera.

    Source: Read Full Article

    Can a referendum help root out corruption?

    Mention corruption and most Colombians will agree that it is a massive problem.

    Fifty trillion pesos ($16.8bn, £13bn) have been lost from public resources to corruption, according to Colombia’s comptroller general, Edgardo Maya Villazón.

    There have been attempts to tackle the problem through laws, more thorough investigations and even by raising public awareness through campaigns.

    On Sunday, Colombia is going to try something different. Voters will head to the polls in a referendum that its supporters hope will bring about tougher anti-corruption legislation.

    But even though polls suggest that corruption is Colombians’ top concern a “yes” vote is not a foregone conclusion by any means.

    What are people being asked?

    Voters will be asked whether they agree to seven measures:

    1. A pay cap limiting salaries of members of Congress to 25 times the national minimum wage

    2. That individuals convicted of corruption serve their full sentence in jail

    3. That public entities be open and transparent when hiring contractors

    4. Letting citizens have a say on the budget

    5. Require members of Congress to be open about which bills they proposed, how they voted and who lobbied them

    6. For elected officials to disclose their assets, income, and the taxes paid

    7. To restrict elected officials to three terms in the same legislative body

    What happens next?

    The referendum is binding but it is only valid if a third of all voters take part – just over 12 million.

    For each individual measure to be adopted, it needs to receive 50% of valid votes plus one.

    Congress then has one year to turn the measures into law and make them legally binding. If that does not happen, the president has 15 days to do so through a decree.

    Can the measures really curb corruption?

    Non-governmental organisation Transparency for Colombia, says some of the proposed measures would go some way towards rebalancing the ethical relationship between elected officials and the people.

    But the country’s prosecutor-general, Nestor Humberto Martinez, said the steps were “limited and insufficient”.

    He has called on President Iván Duque to appoint special anti-corruption judges to handle the growth in the number of corruption cases.

    Senator Claudia López – one of the proponents of the referendum – argues that the initiative was “not intended as the sole solution against corruption”.

    “We need political-electoral reform and judicial reform. But [the referendum] is a start,” she said.

    Who opposes the measures in the referendum?

    All parties say they support fighting corruption – the referendum bill cleared the Senate with an impressive 84-0 vote.

    However, six out of the seven questions had previously been introduced in Congress and defeated in the lower chamber.

    Germán Manga, a columnist with weekly Semana, has called the questions “irrelevant, anodyne, almost childish”.

    He says most of the measures proposed are already covered by current laws.

    Joaquín Vélez Navarro, a columnist with El Tiempo, has branded the proposals “pure populism”.

    His criticism of the referendum includes an attack on the measure to cut the salaries of state officials – which in his view could backfire.

    “Such a law could generate incentives for some officials to ‘adjust their salaries’ through corruption. Or they could put off honest people from dedicating their professional life to public service.”

    President Iván Duque entirely eschewed the issue in his inauguration speech on 7 August.

    Two days later, he presented to Congress a package of four legislative bills aimed at fighting corruption – three of which were included in the points of the referendum.

    Mr Duque now says he will vote on Sunday – but his governing Democratic Centre party is not actively campaigning for it.

    Will the referendum succeed?

    Supporters of the referendum want voters to come out in numbers exceeding 15 million. But that turnout will not be easy to achieve.

    Last June, 19.5 million – or 53% of voters – took part in the second round of presidential elections but turnout at elections tends to draw many more voters than referenda.

    Meanwhile, Colombian social media is awash with fake news aimed at undermining the vote.

    One widely circulated myth is that the proposal to lower the salaries of members of Congress would result in a pay cut for ordinary Colombians and pensioners.

    “Many [people] are trying to discredit the referendum with fake news,” Ms López tweeted. “Do not believe in lies!”

    She has urged voters to come out to support the proposals.

    “The referendum would be unnecessary if they didn’t steal 50 trillion [Colombian pesos] from us.”

    Source: Read Full Article

    What is the migrant caravan heading to US?

    Thousands of migrants from Central America are trudging north towards the US-Mexico border.

    They say they are fleeing persecution, poverty and violence in their home countries of Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador.

    The journey poses a host of dangers, such as dehydration and criminal gangs, but many of the migrants say they feel safer travelling in numbers.

    Here’s what you need to know about the convoy of people known as the migrant caravan.

    How did it begin?

    On 12 October, in the crime-ridden Honduran city of San Pedro Sula, a group of 160 people gathered at a bus terminal and prepared to set off on the dangerous journey.

    They had been planning the trek for more than a month, in an attempt to escape unemployment and the threat of violence in their home country.

    Most previous migrant caravans have numbered a few hundred people, but after a former politician posted about the plan on Facebook, news of it quickly spread and the numbers swelled.

    By the time the group set off in the early hours of 13 October, more than 1,000 Hondurans had joined.

    They have since crossed into neighbouring Guatemala and then Mexico, with thousands more people joining along the way.

    Those moving fastest, a group of more than 400 mainly men and boys, reached the Mexican capital, Mexico City on Sunday 4 November.

    Why did they form a caravan?

    Most of the migrants say they are seeking a new life and better opportunities in the US or Mexico.

    Others say they are fleeing violence in their home country and intend to apply for asylum.

    Honduras, which has a population of about nine million, has endemic problems with gang violence, drug wars and corruption. The wider region has one of the highest murder rates in the world.

    “It’s our dream to reach the United States, we want to give our children a better future and here [in Honduras] we can’t find work,” one mother of two told local newspaper El Heraldo.

    While Central Americans have long fled their homelands for the US and have sometimes joined forces along the way, the organised nature of this caravan is relatively new.

    Migrants are often kidnapped by people traffickers and drugs gangs who force them to work for them. A large group such as this one is harder to target and therefore offers more protection.

    César Gómez, a 20-year old from Guatemala, said he jumped at the chance of joining the caravan to avoid the dangers of travelling alone and paying thousands of dollars to people smugglers.

    How big is the group?

    There are several caravans moving north. The first and biggest is the one that left San Pedro Sula on 13 October but two more have formed since and are following behind the first one.

    The main caravan is estimated to have 5,000 people, the two others are smaller.

    What is life like for the migrants?

    The journey is gruelling and poses a number of challenges for those who decide to join the caravan. The hot weather means sunburn and dehydration are a constant risk.

    The migrants have mainly been sleeping on the streets or in makeshift camps and there is a lack of clean water and sanitation. At times, food has been in short supply.

    As the caravan has progressed, the towns they pass through have become more organised about providing shelter and food.

    At least two migrants died when they slipped from the vehicles they had boarded and were run over.

    What happens if they reach the US?

    There is a legal obligation to hear asylum claims from migrants who have arrived in the US if they say they fear violence in their home countries.

    Those seeking asylum must be fleeing due to a serious fear of persecution. Under international law, these are considered refugees.

    If an asylum seeker enters the US illegally, they are still entitled to a hearing of their claim.

    But those seeking a better quality of life – even if they are fleeing devastating poverty – are not considered refugees and do not have the same protections.

    US Attorney General Jeff Sessions says the “credible fear” asylum rule has been exploited in the past, and announced in June that victims of domestic abuse and gang violence would no longer generally qualify under it.

    This “Turn-back Policy” is currently subject to a lawsuit from the Southern Poverty Law Center, which accuses immigration officials of unlawfully delaying access to the asylum process.

    Why are we hearing so much about this caravan?

    Unlike previous smaller convoys of migrants, this one has drawn the attention of US President Donald Trump.

    He has criticised a number of Central American countries for allowing people to leave the region and come “illegally” to the US.

    Mr Trump has also threatened to cut off foreign aid to these countries, but he has not specified what money will be cut and it is unclear how he would do so.

    Curbing illegal immigration was one of the main campaign promises Mr Trump made when he ran for president.

    His Republican Party is facing mid-term elections on 6 November and could be unseated by Democrats in the House of Representatives.

    Mr Trump has said the “invasion” of migrants would find the US military waiting for them and, on 29 October, it was announced that the US would send 5,200 troops to the border with Mexico.

    The president also told Fox News that “tent cities” would be built to house migrants seeking asylum in the US.

    Source: Read Full Article

    Migrant caravan rests in Mexico City

    Thousands of Central Americans who form part of a migrant caravan moving north to the United States are resting in a stadium-turned-shelter in the Mexican capital, Mexico City.

    The authorities in Mexico City have turned the sports stadium into a temporary shelter for the migrants. Those arriving are provided with mattresses, blankets, food and water.



    Most of the migrants are from Honduras, in Central America. They say they left their home country because they live in fear of Honduras’s violent gangs or to seek better employment opportunities.

    The caravan left San Pedro Sula, in eastern Honduras, on 13 October. Many of the migrants are exhausted after having travelled 1,600km (1,000 miles) in less than a month.

    While the migrants have at times been able to catch lifts in lorries and cars, most of their journey has been on foot. Not surprisingly, many are suffering from sores and blisters after their long trek.

    Despite setting off on such a long walk, many of the migrants, especially the children, do not have proper shoes.

    While the Jesús Martínez “Palillo” sports stadium has become increasingly crowded since the first migrants started arriving on Sunday, many of them say they are grateful for being able to rest here.

    There are many families with young children making their way north and they seemed particularly relieved at being able to take a break from the walking.


    Officials estimate 4,500 migrants have now gathered at the stadium, most of them formed part of the first caravan of migrants who set off from San Pedro Sula on 13 October.

    Two more groups of migrants are currently moving north towards Mexico City and it is expected that all three will join up in the capital.

    Both of the later caravans are currently in southern Mexico where they are having to bathe in rivers and contend with the local wildlife.


    US President Trump has put pressure on the Mexican authorities to stop the migrant caravan, which he has called “an invasion”.

    He has also said that he will use the military to completely close the US-Mexico border if necessary, to stop the migrants crossing into the US.

    Many of those gathered at the stadium say that they are determined to continue on to the US but others say they are considering staying in Mexico and asking for asylum there.

    All pictures subject to copyright.

    Source: Read Full Article

    ‘Deeds not words’: The single dad teaching men to be fathers

    Parenting, as the saying goes, does not come with an instruction manual.

    So when single dad Stevan Lynn introduced his successful New York-based “fatherhood training” to the Caribbean he rightly anticipated an influx of participants.

    Over the last 20 years, Mr Lynn says he has taught more than 10,000 men how to be good fathers using the motto “deeds not words”.

    In many Caribbean countries mothers are often the main caregivers and, according to Unicef, as few as three in 10 children in some islands live with both parents.

    But Mr Lynn is keen to end the perception that a lack of concern is the reason.

    Vicious cycle

    “Many fathers I’ve met grew up without a father themselves, raised mainly by their mothers,” he tells the BBC.

    “So when it comes to knowing how to be a dad, it’s a bit like visiting China without speaking Chinese.”

    His Deeds Driven Dads programme brings Mr Lynn’s sporting background as a football coach into play. Men do not attend “meetings” but “team practice” where they are encouraged to share their parenting experiences with other fathers during a stint of “locker room talk”.

    There are practical workshops too, covering everything from cooking and doing laundry to CV-writing and job interview skills to give out-of-work fathers a helping hand.

    Sessions are free to attend and funded via a combination of government agencies and Mr Lynn’s own work as a coach and motivational speaker.

    You may also be interested in:

    Deeds Driven Dads is now underway in six Caribbean nations including Antigua and Barbuda where government officials say female-headed households make up the bulk of families living in poverty.

    “Culturally in the Caribbean, we see a lot of men having children and then moving on, to another household, area or even country,” says youth officer Daryl George.

    “Young boys without a positive male role model are more likely to gravitate towards gangs and other negative influences. With no one to show them how to be that role model themselves, it can become a cycle which they end up repeating.”

    Mr George adds: “There’s a notion that the dads don’t care but most want to be involved in their children’s lives, and giving them the chance to do so and showing them how will make a big difference.”

    Precious time

    For busy police officer and father-of-five Nick Christopher, the programme is a reminder of the importance of making time for his youngsters.

    “I know what it’s like growing up with a father who’s around but always working,” he recalls. “Many times my father would promise me a trip to the beach on Sunday but then Sunday would come and he would have to work.

    “I know it was to make my life better but when I got to spend time with him it was worth more than anything.”

    These days, Mr Christopher’s children, aged six to 13, know that on Sundays they have their dad all to themselves.

    Ten-year-old twin Da’quan’s favourite way to spend the day is playing football.

    “It’s been a great bonding experience,” Mr Christopher continues. “As a police officer I see first-hand the heavy toll an absent father has on a child.

    “For a kid, spending time with their dad is priceless; it forms memories and builds character. And for a father too, however busy you are, sitting and laughing with them even for a few minutes is precious.”

    Mr Christopher’s wife Rika agrees. “Homework time was traditionally my role. Now Nick’s often the one to ¬help the kids with their school projects which they love,” she says.

    “It’s made us more aware of the need for family time too; we’ve started family movie nights where we make our own popcorn and drinks,” she adds.

    The only dad at ballet practice

    Mr Lynn agrees. He became a single parent 25 years ago when daughter Margurite was born to a drug-addicted mother.

    Two decades on from being the “only dad at ballet practice”, he continues to share his experiences via public-access television while Deeds Driven Dads, which started in the Bronx, has expanded to a core team of 10 mentors.

    “The dialect may be different in the Caribbean but when it comes to fatherhood everything else is the same,” Mr Lynn says.

    “My five keys to success are faith, sacrifice, patience, commitment and unconditional love. If just one is missing, there’s a hole.”

    Men “listen differently and open up more when it’s man to man”, he argues.

    “I tell the fathers, until they take care of their family, nothing else in their life will go right; they will always be off course.”

    Being “Mr Sunshine” is key too, Mr Lynn believes, a stance he says is embodied in his own upbeat demeanour. “You can’t be down when you’re responsible for someone else; you have to stay positive.”

    It may sound outdated to some but he asserts fathers bring “backbone and support” to a child’s life.

    “Boys manifest a father not being there with anger and deviant behaviour,” he says. “For girls, it manifests in pain and hurt. Both have devastating lifelong effects.”

    In addition to seminars and practical advice, team sports are suggested to fathers too.

    “To be a good dad, you have to be energetic and in playing shape,” Mr Lynn adds. “I remind fathers they are the manager of their team; if the team loses, it’s on them.”

    Source: Read Full Article