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Wednesday:  July 23, 2014

When Will Chile's Post Office's Re-open? 

(PHOTO: Workers set up camp at Santiago's Rio Mapocho/Mason Bryan, The Santiago Times)Chile nears 1 month without mail service as postal worker protests continue. This week local branches of the 5 unions representing Correos de Chile voted on whether to continue their strike into a 2nd month, rejecting the union's offer. For a week the workers have set up camp on the banks of Santiago's Río Mapocho displaying banners outlining their demands; framing the issue as a division of the rich & the poor. The strike’s main slogan? “Si tocan a uno, nos tocan a todos,” it reads - if it affects 1 of us, it affects all of us. (Read more at The Santiago Times)

WHO convenes emergency talks on MERS virus

 

(PHOTO: Saudi men walk to the King Fahad hospital in the city of Hofuf, east of the capital Riyadh on June 16, 2013/Fayez Nureldine)The World Health Organization announced Friday it had convened emergency talks on the enigmatic, deadly MERS virus, which is striking hardest in Saudi Arabia. The move comes amid concern about the potential impact of October's Islamic hajj pilgrimage, when millions of people from around the globe will head to & from Saudi Arabia.  WHO health security chief Keiji Fukuda said the MERS meeting would take place Tuesday as a telephone conference & he  told reporters it was a "proactive move".  The meeting could decide whether to label MERS an international health emergency, he added.  The first recorded MERS death was in June 2012 in Saudi Arabia & the number of infections has ticked up, with almost 20 per month in April, May & June taking it to 79.  (Read more at Xinhua)

LINKS TO OTHER STORIES

                                

Dreams and nightmares - Chinese leaders have come to realize the country should become a great paladin of the free market & democracy & embrace them strongly, just as the West is rejecting them because it's realizing they're backfiring. This is the "Chinese Dream" - working better than the American dream.  Or is it just too fanciful?  By Francesco Sisci

Baby step towards democracy in Myanmar  - While the sweeping wins Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy has projected in Sunday's by-elections haven't been confirmed, it is certain that the surging grassroots support on display has put Myanmar's military-backed ruling party on notice. By Brian McCartan

The South: Busy at the polls - South Korea's parliamentary polls will indicate how potent a national backlash is against President Lee Myung-bak's conservatism, perceived cronyism & pro-conglomerate policies, while offering insight into December's presidential vote. Desire for change in the macho milieu of politics in Seoul can be seen in a proliferation of female candidates.  By Aidan Foster-Carter  

Pakistan climbs 'wind' league - Pakistan is turning to wind power to help ease its desperate shortage of energy,& the country could soon be among the world's top 20 producers. Workers & farmers, their land taken for the turbine towers, may be the last to benefit.  By Zofeen Ebrahim

Turkey cuts Iran oil imports - Turkey is to slash its Iranian oil imports as it seeks exemptions from United States penalties linked to sanctions against Tehran. Less noticed, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in the Iranian capital last week, signed deals aimed at doubling trade between the two countries.  By Robert M. Cutler

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Entries in Colombia (9)

Wednesday
May232012

Malaria spread feared as WHO releases action plan to tackle global spread of insecticide-resistant mosquitoes (REPORT) 

(Video World Malaria Day, 2012/WHO)

By Amy Maxmen

The war to bring malaria to heel has made slow but steady progress during the past decade, with the overall mortality rate dropping by more than 25% since 2000. A key factor in this progress has been improved control of mosquitoes, which transmit the Plasmodium parasite — a potent killer that claimed an estimated 655,000 lives in 2010 alone. But health officials fear that the spread of insecticide-resistant mosquitoes could bring about a resurgence of the disease. To help combat this threat, on May 15, the World Health Organization (WHO), based in Geneva, Switzerland, issued a strategic plan to curb the spread of resistance.

“We don’t want to wait for failures to happen,” says David Brandling-Bennett, the senior adviser for infectious diseases at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in Seattle, Washington, who advised on the document.

Such failures could reverse the recent drop in malaria mortality credited to insecticide spraying in the home and coating of bed nets, which save about 220,000 children’s lives each year, according to the WHO. Insecticide resistance could also result in as many as 26 million further cases a year, the organization predicts, costing an extra US $30 million to $60 million annually for tests and medicines.

The WHO report says that insecticide-resistant mosquitoes already inhabit 64 malaria-ridden countries (see map).

The problem is particularly acute in sub-Saharan African countries such as Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Ethiopia and Uganda, where mosquitoes are frequently resistant to compounds known as pyrethroids and even to the organochloride DDT, venerable tools of mosquito control. Because they are extremely safe for children, effective against mosquitoes and affordable, pyrethroids are the only insecticides used to treat bed nets, as well as the first choice for household spraying.

Health authorities in Somalia, Sudan and Turkey have also reported sporadic resistance to the two other classes of insecticides recommended by the WHO for safe and effective household spraying: carbamates and organophosphates. Resistance has probably evolved several times independently, and is now spreading as extensive use of pyrethroids and other insecticides favors resistant mosquitoes. “In 2004, there were pockets of resistance in Africa, and now there are pockets of susceptibility,” says Janet Hemingway, chief executive of the Innovative Vector Control Consortium (IVCC), a product-development partnership based in the United Kingdom.

(MAP: Global malaria map, 2012/WHO) Among other things, the WHO recommends rotating the classes of pesticides used to spray houses, and developing safe and effective non-pyrethroid insecticides that can be used to treat bed nets. To implement all of the WHO’s suggestions would cost $200 million - on top of the $6 billion that the WHO requested last year to fund existing malaria-control programs. Rob Newman, director of the Global Malaria Program at the WHO, hopes that the report will draw more funds to the table as donors grasp the situation. “If we can stop pyrethroid resistance from spreading, it will be cheaper in the long run,” Newman says.

“In 2004, there were pockets of resistance in Africa, and now there are pockets of susceptibility.”

But the two largest players in malaria aid - the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and the US President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) - have not yet pledged additional money to fight resistance. Their spending on mosquito control is already high - in 2009, 39% of the Global Fund’s malaria expenditures went towards insecticide-treated bed nets and household spraying, as did 59% of the PMI’s in 2010.  

For now, pyrethroids are the only class of insecticides approved by the WHO for bed nets, and where spraying is concerned they are less costly than the alternatives. Vestergaard Frandsen, a company based in Lausanne, Switzerland, says that it has in the pipeline a bed net coated with a non-pyrethroid insecticide - one that does not belong to any of the four WHO-approved classes - and that the company expects to bring this to market within the next five years. It is also one of several companies partnering with the IVCC to create innovative mosquito-control products.

(PHOTO: Malaria `home test'/NoProphalactics)In the meantime, health officials may be able to keep malaria at bay by swapping insecticides. The report notes that in Colombia, for instance, mosquitoes regained susceptibility to pyrethroids after five years of treatment with an organophosphate. But some African countries lack the surveillance needed to spur such an approach. To address that deficiency, the report urges that a global database be set up to track the spread of resistance, and that entomologists be trained and hired at surveillance stations. That could prove the most challenging goal of all.

“Nobody wants to fund capacity building,” says Newman. “Donors would rather say they purchased $10,000 in bed nets than pay a salary.”

African ministers of health realize the need to manage resistance but can’t do much without outside funds, explains Maureen Coetzee, a medical entomologist at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. “In some countries, malaria control means one person sitting in one room, and he’s lucky if he’s got a chair,” she says.

- This report originally appeared by Amy Maxmen at Nature.

Monday
Apr162012

Nigeria: World Bank Presidency - US vs the World? (PERSPECTIVE) 

By Yemi Ajayi

(PHOTO: Dr. Jim Yong Kim, new World Bank President/Dartmouth College) *Since this article posted on Monday, the World Bank board voted to confirm Jim Yong Kim as the next World Bank President. He will start his tenure on June 30 when Robert Zoellick steps down from this same post.

The race for the World Bank presidency will enter the homestretch Monday when the bank's 25-member executive board votes on who succeeds its outgoing president, Robert Zoellick.

It is a defining race for the Bretton Woods institution (comprising the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund) founded in 1944. It is also a race that has assumed the character of a clash between an arcane tradition and the quest for change in the way the international finance institution with the official goal of fighting poverty picks its president.

In the race for the World Bank presidency were initially three candidates: Nigeria's Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a former Colombian Minister of Finance, Jose Antonio Ocampo and a public health expert and president of Dartmouth College in the United States, Jim Yong Kim. The number was reduced to two last Friday with Ocampo's withdrawal for the post.

However, the candidates are merely instruments in a proxy war between Washington and its European allies, which has traditionally produced the president and the rest of the world that is clamouring for a paradigm shift in how the leadership of the World Bank emerges.

The clamour has pitted the rest of the world against the US, which is out to defend its tradition of producing the World Bank president since foundation.

(PHOTO: Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala of Nigeria/NigeriaMailOnline)For US President Barack Obama, he cannot afford to fail where his predecessors had succeeded. Losing out in the jostling for the post, especially in a crucial election year, is to hand the Republicans the ammunition to make a bid at undoing his attempt to renew his tenancy at the White House.

Withdrawing from the race last Friday, Ocampo, in a letter to the World Bank, said he was doing so because "it is clear that this is becoming no longer a competition on the merits of the candidates, but a political exercise."

"For me, as an economist and as a Colombian, it has been a great honour to participate in this first open competition for the presidency of the World Bank... to facilitate the desired unity of the emerging and developing economies around a candidate, today (last Friday) I am retiring from the race to support the minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who I wish the best of luck in this final stage."

If it were going to be a straight fight based on merit on a level playing field for the candidates, Okonjo-Iweala could start preparing her handover notes for her successor in Nigeria and return to the organization where she was managing director before her call to national duty last year.

Even though she was reluctant to join the race some weeks ago, her candidacy has gathered rave endorsements from the media at home and abroad, 35 former World Bank economists and managers, Africa and other developing nations since she threw her traditional headgear into the ring.

She is the official candidate of Africa and its allies who have canvassed the argument that someone with high-flying credentials and requisite experience like hers is better placed to make the World Bank deliver on its goals of helping developing nations to improve on their peoples' wellbeing.

Since March when Obama picked him as the US candidate for the post, Kim has come under global scrutiny. Despite his credentials and achievements, especially in public health, including his stint as a director of HIV/AIDS at the World Health Organization, he is considered as one who lacks the "appropriate finance and economic credentials" to lead the World Bank.

(PHOTO: Jose Antonio Ocampo of Colombia/Columbia Univ) In contrast, Okonjo-Iweala has institutional knowledge, hands-on experience in development economics and public finance and has proven to be reform minded. In her first appointment as Nigeria's Minister of Finance, she superintended over the country's historical debt relief, an exercise that earned her global accolades; spearheaded the reform of the public sector in Nigeria leading to greater transparency and the monetization policy of the federal government; and championed the creation of the Excess Crude Account that largely provided a buffer for Nigeria during the global economic crisis between 2008 and 2009.

Notwithstanding his diminished credentials, Kim, by some quixotic arrangement, is most likely to succeed Zoellick who bows out on June 30 after a five-year term during which the bank provided over $247 billion to help developing countries boost growth and overcome poverty. His being the US candidate, which some analysts have described as a "wrong call," guarantees him victory under the weighted voting system that Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa are calling for a review.

Under the voting system, the US, which is the bank's largest shareholder, Europe and Japan control 54 per cent of the votes. The trio has formed an alliance which ensures that the bloc votes are delivered to the US' candidate. Europe is under obligation to back the US as repayment for its support in always ensuring that the headship of the International Monetary Fund, is held by the continent under an informal pact.

According to reports at the weekend, so far, US, Russia, Canada and Japan are lining up behind Kim alongside Spain, Mexico, New Zealand, Australia and South Korea. This follows a move last Friday by the US members on the World Bank executive board to block the board from transparently assessing the outcome of the interviews of the three candidates, which took place earlier last week.

With Ocampo's withdrawal for Okonjo-Iweala, his backers - Brazil and Argentina - may team up with the three African constituencies to vote for the Nigerian minister.

However, the straw poll held by the bank's board last Friday before Ocampo's withdrawal, showed that Kim was guaranteed 36 per cent of the votes, Okonjo-Iweala about five per cent and six per cent for Ocampo. The votes reflect the voting rights of the countries or regions backing each of the candidates.

The undecided were the European Union with 29.2 per cent; India, 4.6 per cent; China, 3.4 per cent; Switzerland, 3.0 per cent; Saudi Arabia, 2.4 per cent; and Asia, 9.5 per cent bloc votes.

Monday's decision by the bank's executive board was some three weeks ago clearly encapsulated for the members by the Financial Times. The newspaper in an editorial on March 27, in which it endorsed the candidacy of Okonjo-Iweala, said: "In this less than ideal world, Mr. Kim's appointment seems inevitable. But if the Bank's shareholders wanted the best president, they would opt for Ms. Okonjo-Iweala."

Will the board heed the voice of reason as the World Bank, for the first time in its 68 years of existence, chooses between candidates?

Well, if the Nigerian minister loses, as that fact cannot be discounted, given the high stakes politics, she can take solace in the immortal word of American journalist and writer, Damon Runyon, "The race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong...."

--- This editorial originally appeared in AllAfrica HERE

Friday
Apr132012

48 Hours in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia (FEATURE)

(Video Get Up and Go Films)

With this weekend's Summit of the Americas taking place in Cartagena, Colombia - a series of international summit meetings bringing together the leaders of countries in North America, Central America, South America and the Caribbean, though no representative from Cuba has participated and this year, due to the situation with  the Communist island nation, President Rafael Correa of Ecuador has said he will not attend in protest - a look at the city where the summit is taking place was tempting.

HISTORY

A declared UNESCO World Heritage site since 1984, Cartagena de Indias is South America's best preserved walled city, now a large Caribbean beach resort city on the northern coast of Colombia in the Caribbean Coast Region and capital of Bolívar Department.  The city had a population of 892,545 as of the 2005 census, making it the fifth-largest city in Colombia.  Activity and development of the Cartagena region is dated back to 4000 B.C. around Cartagena Bay by varying cultures of indigenous peoples.

(PHOTO: Cartagena, Colombia Panorama/Wikipedia) The Spanish colonial city was founded on June 1, 1533 and named after Cartagena, Spain. Cartagena served a key role in the development of the region during the Spanish eras; and was a center of political and economic activity due to the presence of royalty and wealthy viceroys.

The Walled City

The walls aren’t just a photogenic artifact—they’re the reason Cartagena de Indias is still standing. Founded in 1533, the town was sacked repeatedly during its first 100 years, including a 1585 raid by Sir Francis Drake, known in these parts as `El Pirata Drake'. But then the cartageneros built the walls and finished the Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas, one of the largest fortresses in the Spanish empire (which I explored one tranquil, sultry afternoon, amazed that it was constructed with coral mined from the reefs).

(PHOTO: Cartagena walls/Flickr) By the early 1700’s Cartagena was impregnable: in 1741 it held off 186 British warships, the biggest fleet assembled prior to World War II, and in 1811 the city earned the nickname `La Heróica', when Simón Bolívar made it the headquarters for his campaign to liberate Colombia and Venezuela from Spain. It was also excessively wealthy, thanks to a combustive economy of gold, sugar, and slavery.

TRAVELLING IN CARTAGENA - A HIDDEN RETREAT

Take a dash of faded colonial grandeur, then add a dose of sultry nightlife and an influx of cosmopolitan travelers seeking the next great Caribbean hot spot.

The first time I went to Cartagena, back in 2003, I was taken straight from the airport to Restaurante la Vitrola, a convivial spot with potted palms and a dapper six-man Cuban band stationed by the door. It’s the Caribbean city’s unofficial clubhouse, a place where dignitaries and journalists trade off-the-record jokes and women in expensive sandals pick at complicated salads.

This was a few years ago, and it was one of those times when the host has already taken care of the ordering: there was carpaccio de mero—grouper sliced paper-thin and dressed with lime and olive oil; and then there were grilled langostinos. At some point, after the band had struck up a rumba and waiters had brought us coconut flan and a bottle of aged rum with a wine bucket stuffed with chilled bottles of Coca-Cola, I thought about my friends in New York, the ones who thought traveling in Colombia meant bouncing around in armored SUV’s, and that this was a country best summed up by Pablo Escobar and Romancing the Stone.

Not that they knew anything about Cartagena de Indias, a walled city of 18th-century mansions and suffocatingly hot afternoons. It’s one of the most important ports in the history of the New World, and one of the prettiest cities anywhere: Imagine Havana with a fraction of the population, or San Juan unmolested by modernity, or New Orleans without the sophomores on spring break.

(PHOTO: Open-air stalls on Calle Primera de Badilla/David Nicolas).Every season the crowd grows a little bigger and a little more glamorous, and from December to March finding a table at of-the-moment restaurants like 8-18, Palma, or La Vitrola can be tricky. But the busiest time is New Year’s Eve, when rooms are booked months in advance and a famous Colombian pop star holds a concert on the city walls next to the Hotel Charleston Cartagena, a 300-year-old convent turned luxe hotel also known as the Santa Teresa. On that night, everyone drags their tables into the streets, transforming the entire city into a sinuous all-night dinner party.

The architecture of Cartagena is the lasting relic of historic colonial prosperity, and if you stay in one of the chic smaller hotels, such as the stylish but private Hotel Agua or the exquisite Casa Pestagua, you’ll sleep under a frescoed ceiling and eat your breakfast in a lush, columned courtyard.

If there’s a turning point in the story of modern Cartagena, it’s 1995, when Sofitel opened the Santa Clara, a 121-room luxury hotel in the shell of a 17th-century convent. To my mind, the hotel is uneven: the older part is grand enough to host a head of state, but most rooms are undistinguished (if comfortable), as if they’d been plucked from a Florida resort. Building the Sofitel in the old city was a bold move for a town whose colonial center had been largely abandoned for crisp apartment towers in the nearby Bocagrande neighborhood, a curling finger of land with a skyline comparable to that of Panama City. Residents are still moving to Bocagrande, but over the past 15 years a cadre of taste-making Colombians has returned to the city inside the walls.

Like author Gabriel García Márquez, the city's most famous resident. He set Love in the Time of Cholera in a fictionalized Cartagena (the movie version, starring Javier Bardem, was filmed on location here), and his house, Casa del Escritor, is the work of Rogelio Salmona, Colombia’s greatest architect. It’s all cubes and arches, Louis Kahn with palm trees and a view to the sea. There’s a guard posted by the house, but like a character from one of Gabo’s books, he’s too skinny for his pants, and while tourists snap pictures in front of the rust-colored walls he rocks on his feet and daydreams.

Casa del Escritor is in San Diego, the quietest of the old city’s four quarters. It’s also where I found the best arepas in town: on the advice of a friend in Bogotá, I went to the Plaza de San Diego after dark, where a family-run stand with a cult following sets up on the corner closest to the Escuela de Bellas Artes, yet another converted convent.

(PHOTO: Overlooking Cartagena/David Nicolas) Most visitors tour the neighborhood in one of the horse-drawn carriages that clop-clop past the bright-colored walls and overgrown balconies. But I prefer to explore the narrow streets on foot at dusk, after the day’s heat has faded. This offers a surprisingly intimate view of domestic life: the clatter of families eating dinner, children on a threadbare antique settee watching TV with the volume on too high. Then there are the houses that have been tastefully renovated and give glimpses of exposed beams and wall-size art through ornate window grates.

This is the private Cartagena of houseguests and weeklong parties, and my entrée to that world came courtesy of Chiqui de Echavarria, a legendary hostess whose home is a jasmine-scented pile by way of World of Interiors: instead of doing the expected thing and revamping a colonial mansion, she joined seven houses into a leafy labyrinth of landscaped terraces and half-ruined walls. It took three tours for me to get my bearings. There’s a dance floor on the roof, and the former cistern is a swimming pool. We spent the evening outside in the almost-too-humid night air, sitting under a brick vault 30 feet tall, enjoying a meal of lobsters bought off the boat that morning.

The busy Centro district revolves around the Plaza de Bolívar, an overgrown public square where teenage couples kiss and palenqueras - women who sell fruit from enameled tubs balanced on their heads  - amble past old men playing chess on rickety card tables.

Cartagena was a stronghold of the Inquisition, and one side of the square is dominated by the imposing Baroque façade of the Palacio de la Inquisición. It’s now a museum, with historical dioramas and crude 18th-century portraits of governors and generals upstairs; the first floor displays torture devices that illustrate how a little wrought iron might shape one’s faith.

In recent years, the streets around the Plaza de Bolívar have seen a handful of exquisite 400-year-old houses turned into intimate hotels.

(PHOTO: Chef Juan Felipe Camacho at 8-18 restaurant, on Calle Gastelbondo/David Nicolas).They call themselves bed-and-breakfasts, but there’s nothing frumpy about the 20-foot-high ceilings and tastefully minimal furnishings. At the newest, Casa Pestagua, the stately upstairs rooms are furnished with 19th-century antiques that smell like beeswax. Then there’s the quiet and understated La Merced Hotel Boutique, across from the Teatro Heredia Adolfo Mejía, one of the city’s architectural gems, which has recently been restored to its original off-white. But a clear favorite is Agua, whose rooms are filled with dark antiques and soft white bedding. Here, you spend most of your time outdoors, either in sitting rooms that open onto the courtyard, or on the rooftop terrace, where the pool has a view of the cathedral tower. Each of the six bedrooms is decorated with art and Colombian furnishings from the collection of the owners; one has a painting by Botero. Like the others, Agua hides behind a heavy wooden door marked with a sign discreet enough to miss amid the crush of university students and fruit carts.

Of all the city’s grand hotels, my preference is the Santa Teresa, the more diminutive rival of the Santa Clara. Every afternoon, the plaza in front of the persimmon-colored building is colonized by chairs, and a makeshift bar serves drinks with the languid pace of an Italian café - a friend took me to a table and proudly said, “This is where I had a conversation with Carlos Fuentes that lasted all day.”

Dinner starts late in Cartagena, and after a morning spent exploring and napping I fell into the habit of taking a dip in the Santa Teresa’s rooftop pool, then nursing a glass of limonada de coco (lime juice and coconut milk whipped up in a blender) while watching the sun set over the unmatched vista of the colonial skyline of church domes and bell towers.

The city’s stylish restaurants have a few things in common: good tropical-weather cocktails (white sangrias, caipirinhas), sophisticated Caribbean cuisine (fish grilled to a perfect rare, crowned by crispy plantains), and full reservation lists. If you want something more affordable, there’s Restaurante Casa de Socorro, a cheerful place in the working-class quarter of Getsemaní is on the friendly edge of the Getsemaní district, an area that’s barely been touched by Cartagena’s renaissance, where the streets are empty and forbidding at night. So, of course, it’s where you find the best bars and clubs.

At Quiebra Canto, dancing couples spill out onto the balcony and salsa music lasts late into the night. A half-bottle of a Colombian rum like Tres Esquinas costs around $15 (though you might splurge on a superior Cuban label), and you’ll get looked at funny if you order anything less.

(PHOTO: Salsa band Cuba Swing performs at La Vitrola, in Cartagena, on Colombia's Caribbean coast/David Nicolas)Farther along the unwelcoming Calle de la Media Luna is Café Havana, a bright and friendly place where the walls are covered with black-and-white photos of the greats of Cuban music, like Celia Cruz and Ibrahim Ferrer, and the bar is the size of a bowling lane bent into a U.  On the weekends, when it fills to a critical mass, Café Havana turns from a tavern into a dance hall.

It was just the latest beautiful moment in the history of this heartbreaking city.

Guide to Cartagena

When to Go - The city is at its best from December through April, when daily temperatures range from the mid 70’s to the high 80’s and the humid days give way to breezy nights. Christmas, New Year’s, and Easter are especially busy, and hotels book up months in advance.

Where to stay - Top among the city’s many new downtown properties is the 24-suite Anandá Hotel Boutique (doubles from $395), a quiet retreat in a restored Spanish-colonial building with carved-wood balconies and three breezy roof terraces. Tcherassi Hotel & Spa (doubles from $355), owned by Colombian fashion designer Silvia Tcherassi. Each of the seven rooms reflects her uniquely modern sensibility.” Casa Pestagua, this intimate and luxurious hotel opened in 2007; some upstairs rooms have antiques original to the building. doubles from $356. El Marqués Hotel Boutique, the most reasonably priced of the small hotels. doubles from $205.

Hotel Agua, great value. A favorite of the fashion set. doubles from $388. Hotel Charleston Cartagena, known as the Santa Teresa, this former convent has more character than its larger competitor across town. doubles from $350. La Heróica, an agency offering Cartagena’s best rental options, including stately mansions and one-bedroom apartments. houses from $700, apartments from $400. La Merced Hotel Boutique, on a quiet corner by the city walls. doubles from $323. Sofitel Cartagena Santa Clara, Cartagena’s first luxury hotel is in a peaceful part of town with a view of the sea, but most of the rooms are boxy and bland. doubles from $350.

Venture off the coast to the Islas de Rosario - a chain of 27 mostly uninhabited islands that are home to the country's largest coral reef. With their mangrove-dotted white-sand beaches, they're also known as paradise for in-the-know Colombians. Stay at the tropical-chic San Pedro de Majagua Hotel (57-5/664-6070; doubles from $290), on Isla Grande. There, you'll find 17 white-on-white rooms with nautical accents (wooden oars, stripped lamps) and panoramic Caribbean views, and a restaurant that serves regional dishes such as fresh-caught snapper, grilled whole and served with coconut rice. Of note: the hotel organizes snorkeling and diving excursions in 45 different locations where you can spot butterfly fish, stone bass, sea turtles, and about 1,300 other tropical species. 

Where to Eat - Restaurante DonJuan (dinner for two $100), chef Juan Felipe Camacho—who apprenticed at Spain’s Michelin-starred Arzak—dishes up Spanish-inflected Caribbean fare (think grilled shrimp with pico de gallo). 8-18, the sophisticated Caribbean fare draws a chic crowd. dinner for two $75.  Palma, as urbane as 8-18 but more subdued. dinner for two $60. Restaurante Casa de Socorro, traditional Caribbean cazuelas—spicy seafood stews—are served without fuss at a restaurant that deserves its reputation for having the most authentic food in town. dinner for two $25. Restaurante La Vitrola, Cartagena’s see-and-be-seen power spot; the atmospheric setting makes up for less-than-dazzling food. dinner for two $81. Vera,  (57-5/664-4445; dinner for two $100), does an excellent penne arrabbiata with fresh mozzarella.

Where to Go Out - The bars by the Portal de los Dulces are always rowdy, and most nights out include a drink at one of the sidewalk tables set up at the Baluarte Santo Domingo fortress by Café del Mar, but skip the tourist traps on the Plaza de Santo Domingo. Housed in a 17th-century monastery, El Coro bar (cocktails for two $24), at Hotel Sofitel Santa Clara, lures locals and guests alike with pitch-perfect mojitos and the prospect of glimpsing writer and occasional barfly Gabriel García Márquez. Quiebra Canto - A lively bar with music on Fridays, a short taxi ride from the central city. Parque Centenario; 57-5/664-1372; drinks for two $7.

What to Do - Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas - this 300-year-old man-made mountain of coral and brick is one of the most formidable Spanish forts in the Americas. Bring a penlight to navigate the dimly lit passageways. 17 Pie del Cerro; 57-5/666-4790Catedral de Cartagena - the tropical-fruit–colored façade hides a marble interior that offers a cooling respite from the hot city streets. Plaza de Bolívar; no phone. Iglesia de San Pedro - claver moldering but imposing, the church contains the relics of the 17th-century Jesuit who baptized thousands of slaves. Plaza San Pedro Claver; 57-5/664-7256Isla Barú, off Colombia’s Caribbean coast, and stay at the eco-friendly Hotel Agua (doubles from $560).

Shop - Bill Gates and Spanish King Juan Carlos I are devotees of Ego, the pint-size workshop where tailor Edgar Gómez Estévez has been creating his white linen guayabera shirts for 35 years.  Galería Cano, “For inspiration I head to this jewelry and art boutique, where they reproduce gold and emerald pre-Columbian pieces.” Teatro Adolfo Mejía “The theater was built in 1911 to celebrate 100 years of Colombian independence. It’s an architectural treasure.” 

--- A version of this article by Oliver Schwaner-Albright appeared in HERE in Travel & Leisure

Monday
Apr022012

FARC: Colombia Prepares For `Humanitarian' Hostage Release (NEWS)

(Video: ICRC)

Colombia's largest rebel group, The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), agreed to release the last ten hostages -- all soldiers and policemen, many of whom have been held in captivity for 14 years.

Set to be released on Monday and Wednesday in two groups, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) along with the former Colombian senator Piedad Córdoba  have coordinated the pick-up. Two Brazilian military helicopters are positioned near a Colombian jungle to collect the first set of hostages.

The helicopters arrived in Villavicencio airport.  The International Committee of the Red Cross is facilitating this operation after agreement between the parties involved.

The FARC rebel group is notorious for their use of kidnapping as a coercive tactic and a strategy to pressure the Colombian government, abducting 4,000 individuals in the year 2000 alone, including soldiers, police, political figures, and even civilians.

In fact, FARC rebels make a point to refer to their captives, not as hostages, but instead as "prisoners of war."

This particular release sets the stage for possible peace negotiations, after five decades of conflict between FARC rebels and the Colombian government. Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos asserted that the release was a necessary condition for peace-talks.

Ms. Córdoba, who is overseeing the hostage hand-over, considers it a "unilateral gesture of peace" and stated: "Once this is finished, we'll keep working toward negotiations."

Indeed, FARC rebels have already promised to end their practice of kidnapping for ransom.

Meanwhile, the top priority for the government will be to bring these 10 hostages -- who, in Colombian foreign minister Angela Holguín's words, have "suffered such inhuman conditions" -- to safety.

Cartagena, Colombia will host the Sixth Summit of the Americas April 14th and 15th.

---HUMNEWS (A version of this article appeared on the International Business Times)

Monday
Mar262012

Guatemala President Calls for Drug Legalization Ahead of Summit Of The Americas (NEWS) 

(PHOTO: Guatemalan President Otto Molina & Honduras' Vice President Samuel Reyes speak during an anti-drugs summit at the Santo Domingo Hotel, Antigua, Guatemala/IBT)(HN, March, 26, 2012) - This past weekend, three Central American heads of state attended a regional summit to discuss the drug issue which has plagued their nations and their neighbors for decades.  In Antigua, Guatemala, Saturday for the first time, leaders met explicitly to discuss ending the war on drugs as we know it.

Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina said the war on drugs has "failed", and it's time to end the "taboo" on discussing decriminalization for the Americas.

Also in attendance were Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla and Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli. Former Colombian President Cesar Gaviria, a harsh critic of US-style drug policies and a member of the Global Commission on Drug Policy was an invited guest and addressed the summit. Outside of Central America, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and Mexican President Felipe Calderon have expressed support for the meeting.

Invited to attend but who didn't were El Salvador President Mauricio Funes, Honduran President Porfirio Lobo, and Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega.  While Funes initially expressed support for the summit, he has since backed away. Lobo and Ortega have opposed the idea from the beginning.  Funes and Ortega did send lower ranking members of the governments to the meeting, and the Salvadoran delegation called for a future meeting on the subject, saying it remained a topic of great interest and importance to the region.

"We have realized that the strategy in the fight against drug trafficking in the past 40 years has failed. We have to look for new alternatives," said President Molina, a former army general who first called for such a meeting last month, shortly after taking office. "We must end the myths, the taboos, and tell people you have to discuss it, debate it."

(PHOTO: Costa Rica's President Laura Chinchilla attends Saturday's drugs summit at the Santo Domingo Hotel in Antigua/CRTV)He said that drug use, production, and sales should be legalized and regulated and suggested that the region jointly regulate the drug trade, perhaps by establishing transit corridors through which regulated drug shipments could pass.

But US-backed drug policies in the region have in recent years brought a wave of violence to the region, which is used as a springboard for Colombian cocaine headed north to the US and Canada, either direct or via Mexico. Mexican drug cartels have expanded their operations in Central America in the past few year, perhaps in response to the pressures they face at home.

High levels of poverty and the strong presence of criminal gangs, particularly in El Salvador and Honduras,  combined with the cartel presence is making the region one of the world's deadliest.

El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, along with Jamaica, have the world's highest murder rates; and Guatemala recently has been saying it is being "outgunned by gangs".

In its most recent annual report, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said violence linked to the drug wars has reached "alarming and unprecedented" levels in the region.

"How much have we paid here in Central America in deaths, kidnappings, extortion?" asked Chinchilla. "Central America has to ask whether it is time that we raise this issue at the Security Council of United Nations."

President Molina also suggested that, barring legalization and a regulated drug trade, consumer countries should be taxed for the drugs seized in the region on their behalf - including the United States.

"For every kilo of cocaine that is seized, we want to be compensated 50% by the consumer countries, he said, adding that the has a "responsibility" because of its high rates of drug use.

While Saturday's summit produced no common platform or manifesto, it is an important step in the fight for a more sensible, effective, and humane response to drug use and the regional drug trade.

Some leaders are pushing for a discussion on alternatives to the drug war to be on the agenda at next month's Organization of American States (OAS) summit in Cartagena, Colombia, April 14-15 where President Santos has also been signaling an openness to debate on the issue. 

Members of the OAS include 35 countries:  Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico,      Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, United States, Uruguay, Venezuela, Barbados, Trinidad & Tobago, Jamaica, Grenada, Suriname, Dominica, Saint Lucia, Antigua & Barbuda, Saint Vincent & the Grenadines, Bahamas, Saint Kitts & Nevis, Canada, Belize, and Guyana.

The White House says US President Barack Obama will host Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada and President Felipe Calderon of Mexico for a North American summit in Washington on April 2. The meeting is expected to focus on economic growth and competitiveness, security, energy, and climate change; along with North America’s role in the upcoming Summit of the Americas

Ahead of the summit, Obama said Monday he was suspending trade benefits for Argentina from the U.S. Generalized System of Preferences program, which waives import duties on thousands of goods from developing countries because of the South American country's failure to pay more than $300 million in compensation awards in two disputes involving American investors; effective in 60 days.

Argentina's top exports under the program were grape wine, prepared or preserved beef, sugar confections and olive oil. Washington waived about $17.3 million in duties on those goods from Argentina last year.

--- HUMNEWS (c) 2012

Monday
Feb272012

Colombia's FARC rebel group says `kidnapping days are over' (NEWS) 

(VIDEO: Life Inside FARC/AlJazeera, May 2011)

This weekend, Colombia's main armed opposition group announced that it is abandoning the practice of kidnapping and will soon free its last remaining "prisoners of war" - 10 security force members held for as long as 14 years.

The left-wing Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc) announced on its website that it would no longer kidnap civilians "for financial ends," unequivocally renouncing for the first time a tool it long used against Colombia's elite as well as foreigners.

"We wish to announce that in addition to our plans to free six prisoners of war, we will free the four others who remain under our power," the Farc said.

It did not provide a date for the release of the 10 security force members, two fewer than the government has said the guerillas hold.

Kidnapping civilians for ransom had helped sustain the armed struggle against the Colombian state, it said, but "from this day on we are halting the practice in our revolutionary activity."

It was not clear whether an order had been given to release ransom-kidnap victims currently held by the guerillas.

The organisation is known to currently hold four foreigners, all Chinese oil workers abducted last June. Sunday's announcement could advance prospects for a peace dialogue sought by the Farc.  

The government has insisted that it end all kidnappings as a first step.  But the rebels did not say that they were abandoning hostilities.

They have recently stepped up hit-and-run attacks and the military blames them for a bombing and mortar attack on two police posts in the past month that killed 15 people and wounded nearly 100, most of them civilians.

The Farc has been releasing captives piecemeal since early 2008 and some have been rescued by the military in operations such as the July 2008 ruse that freed a group including former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt and three US military contractors.

The guerillas and the government have not provided any figures on how many civilians are currently held.

Colombian police said the Farc kidnapped 72 people during the first 11 months of 2011.

-- Originally published by The Morning Star

Friday
Jun102011

(HEADLINES) - The Americas - June 11, 2011

THE AMERICAS

(File: Eva Peron) Latin ladies take crack at presidential glass ceiling

EU challenges and opportunities with LatAm

Latin America ponders role of the renminbi

Brazil, Uruguay, Chile and Peru shoppers, most promising for retail expansion

New South American exchange opens with uncertainty

Visit of EC Vice-President Tajani to Chile, Argentina and Brazil

UPS expands Latin American capacity

UN chief starts tour of four Latin American nations

Rainforest Leaders to Sign Sustainability Action Plan in 2012

Latin America’s Glossed Decade  

Central America losing war on crime (commentary)

Argentina

(Photo: NASA, A cloud of ash billows from the erupting Puyehue volcano in southern Chile)Flights resume tonight in Argentina from Aeroparque, Ezeiza airports after Chile Volcano eruption

Argentine satellite launches to monitor ocean saltiness from US base

Yum! Brands looks to Argentina for expansion

Israel and Argentina 'most engaged' on Facebook

Argentina's Film `COLD SWEAT’ Will Dynamite U.S. This Fall

Argentinean doctors claim they have cloned the world’s first cow capable of producing human breast milk

Argentinean Air Force launches new UFO commission

Belize

University of Belize Makes History, Offers First Masters Degree

(Photo: ZUMA Press)Destination of the week: Belize

Overturning the Belize Constitution (commentary)

Bolivia

Bolivia switches on modified foods ban

Bolivia asks Iranian official to leave country after Argentine complaint

Bolivia to strengthen ties with Peru's new government

Swapping sugar cane fields for school in Bolivia

Bolivia's stunning salt flats

(Photo: Bolivia's `Bus-train', JALOPNIK)Take a scenic ride in Bolivia’s bizarre Mercedes bus-train

Brazil

Amazon Deforestation Increases Alarming

Brazil to fight drugs with drones

Italy recalls ambassador to Brazil

Brazil is improving on human rights (Commentary)

Rio's Favela Tours: Helpful or Just an Exercise in Voyeurism? (Commentary)  

Canada

Ensure measles shots up to date, health officials urge, as Quebec cases top 300

Vancouver still leads country in reported gay bashings

The Third International Symposium on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide - a tremendous success (Blog)

Chile

Chinese VP Xi visits 'gateway to Latin America'

(Photo: The Nilahue River, Chile. EPA)Chilean volcanic eruption turns waterway into a steaming torrent

Protest at world’s largest underground copper mine in Chile, drags on (Blog)

(Photo: Lollapalooza, Santiago Chile 4/3/11. Jane's Addiction. Credit: Jeremiah Alexis)Lollapalooza Evolution

Colombia

Ban Ki-Moon arrives in Colombia

Colombian gunman kills victims' rights campaigner

Land and Victims Law Crucial for Millions of Displaced Farmers in Colombia

Costa Rica

Energy expert: Costa Rica needs to define path

(Photo: Containers of Hope. Benjamin Garcia Saxe. INHABIT) Containers of Hope: Cool Costa Rican Shipping Container House Only Costs $40,000

A fair deal for Costa Rica’s indigenous artisans

Ecuador

Ecuador: Correa’s Economic Legacy

Germany's Withdrawal of Funding Threatens Plan to Save Ecuador Forest

The UN Permanent Forum on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and Ecuador's 17 year battle against Chevron

Ecuador's vice president to head country’s Special Olympic delegation

El Salvador

Journalist Slain in El Salvador

El Salvador Investigates Mysterious Deaths of Sea Turtles

OAS and El Salvador Work together for a Greener General Assembly

Canada to Give $1 Million to El Salvador to fight crime, human trafficking (blog)

Falkland Islands

(Photo: Gilbert House, Falkland Islands Legislative building. MERCOPRESS)Falklands tells OAS sovereignty is “non negotiable”, but seek “neighbourly relations” with Argentina

Obama Administration Votes Against England, Supporting Argentine-Backed Resolution on the Falkland Islands (commentary)

French Guiana

Astra 1N readies for a July 1 liftoff in French Guiana

Guatemala

Future Interoceanic Corridor in Guatemala Will Rival Panama Canal

Guyana

President Jagdeo named first Goodwill Ambassador for global tropical forest

The Guyana Geology and Mines Commission is advocating the marketing of non- traditional minerals

Land is the most valuable asset a person can have (commentary)

Honduras

'Up in Smoke' Chronicles Slash and Burn Agriculture in Honduras

Zelaya returns to Honduras

Honduras Levies Security Tax to Pay for Prison

Spain to aid Honduras on basic education

Honduras Readmitted to OAS (commentary)

Mexico

Bank of Mexico Gov. Agustin Carstens Remains on IMF Chief Short List

(Photo: US Mexico Ambassador Nominee, Earl Anthony Wayne, Foreign Policy) Obama nominates new ambassador to Mexico

Mexico tourism chief blasts 'ludicrous' travel warnings

Twitter Saves Lives in Mexico (blog)

Nicaragua

Nicaragua to begin cotton production

Nicaragua, Honduras Restore Bilateral Trade

Nicaragua, Ecuador Condemns U.S. Threats against Venezuela at OAS

Solidarity Plan with Cuba Approved in Nicaragua

Panama

More than 60,000 Children Work in Panama

Panama’s “litter pigs” get tongue lashing from Mayor Bosco

Dam construction threatens Ngöbe

Citizens’ groups fight on as government steams ahead with Cinta Costera

Paraguay

Under UN pressure, Paraguay agrees to ‘open debate’ on abortion issue

Indigenous still marginalized 200 years later (commentary)

Paraguayan Senate approves Unasur charter; new Venezuela Mercosur bid

Peru

Humala: 'Peru's economy is rock solid'

Peru’s Humala Visits Brazil To Meet With Rousseff; Looks To Distance Himself From Chávez

(Photo: Lima skyline. Peru is expected to grow by 6.9% this year. LivinginPeru.com) World Bank says that Peru will be star performer in South America

Suriname

Significant mining pollution in Suriname

Heavy rain triples price of some Suriname vegetables

Suriname soccer chief describes alleged bribery attempt

Suriname not giving up claim to New River – Bouterse

United States

Mexicans protest against Alabama's new anti-illegal immigration law

Cancer patients struggle as drug costs soar

Endless 'war on (some) drugs' fills our prisons, wrecks lives and wounds society (commentary)

Uruguay

Hundreds of Dead Penguins Wash Up on Uruguay Shore

(Photo: Uruguay President Jose Mujica received Vice President Xi Jinping of China. MERCOPRESS)China and Uruguay sign 17 cooperation accords and 530m USD trade package

Uruguay: A Bitter Lesson in Forgiving (analysis)

Venezuela

Venezuela ranks sixth in Gallup wellbeing survey

Venezuela-Iran ties go beyond the oil issue

Venezuelan government to borrow additional USD 10.5 billion

Venezuela’s Chavez and Senior Officials in Cuba for Talks (Commentary)

Sunday
Jun202010

World Refugee Day - (VIDEO REPORT) UN warns that many displaced are unable to return home

The video story below of Somalian refugees fleeing to Dadaab, Kenya is but one example of the work UNHCR is doing and the condition many refugees from around the world live in today.

(HN, June 20, 2010) -- Today marks the 10th year that World Refugee Day will be recognized around the globe. From June 18 to 20 the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) commemorates World Refugee Day encouraging people from around the globe to host events in order to draw the public’s attention to the millions of refugees worldwide who are forced to flee their homes.

In 2000 The United Nations General Assembly, in Resolution 55/76 decided that from 2001, June 20 would be celebrated as World Refugee Day. UNHCR was originally established in 1950, to help an estimated 1 million Europeans uprooted as a result of World War II to return home. In the 1960’s, the decolonization of Africa produced the beginning of the continent’s many refugee crises. New waves of refugees emerged in the following decades as a result of displacement issues arising in Asia and Latin America, continuing in Africa and turning full circle, at the end of the century, in Europe from the series of wars in the Balkans.

Today the refugees of concern to the UNHCR span the globe. More than half are in Asia and another twenty-two percent in Africa. Latin American countries host hundreds of thousands of refugees, asylum-seekers and internally displaced persons (IDP’s); most come from Colombia. In the Middle East there are an estimated 1.8 million Iraqi’s seeking shelter overseas – while the largest number of refugees are from Palestinian territories with an estimated 4.7 million seeking a home. In Eastern Europe, statelessness, particularly as a result of the dissolution of the former Soviet Union, remains an issue of concern throughout the region. The precise number of people who are fleeing their homes in Eastern Europe is not known - but may be as high as 120,000 - as UNHCR is only beginning to quantify the problem. 

Refugees live in a wide variety of conditions, from well-established camps and centers to makeshift shelters to living in the open. The United Nations Refugee Agency operates in 110 countries, this year, has a record annual budget of $3.058 billion (U.S.) for 2010 in order to help an estimated 40 million people return to their home of origin, integrate locally or resettle in a third country.

Among the longest-standing refugee camps are the ones located in the countries adjacent to the Palestinian Territories - Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. There is now an entire generation of young people who know no life outside the walls of a refugee camp. In some of the countries, the refugees are banned from working and their children have limited access to services.

The latest wave of refugees to become part of UNHCR's case load are the more than 100,000 refugees that have fled Kyrgyzstan because of ethnic violence.

So heavy is the strain on UNHCR's resources that the Geneva-based agency suffers from a chronic shortage of donor funds.

On World Refugee Day, Seeking a Place to call "Home" (VIDEO REPORT)  

(UN News) -- The United Nations is marking World Refugee Day by urging governments and individuals not to forget the 15 million men, women and children who have been uprooted by conflict or persecution and are unable to return to their homes.

The theme for this year’s observance on 20 June is “Home,” and highlights the need to ensure that all refugees can have a place to call home, whether they return to their places of origin, settle in host countries or re-settle in a third country.

“Refugees have been deprived of their homes, but they must not be deprived of their futures,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a message to mark the Day, calling for working with host Governments to deliver services, and intensifying efforts to resolve conflicts so that refugees can return home.

A recent report by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) noted a decline in the number of refugees who are able to go home. In 2005, more than a million people returned to their own country on a voluntary basis.

Last year, only 250,000 did so – the lowest number in two decades. The reasons for this include prolonged instability in Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and southern Sudan.

“Despite the decline in voluntary repatriation opportunities for refugees, UNHCR is working hard on solutions,” High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres said in his message.

Mr. Guterres is marking the Day in Syria, which, according to Government estimates, hosts over 1 million refugees, the majority from Iraq. It was announced today that 100,000 Iraqi refugees have been referred for resettlement from the Middle East to third countries since 2007, a major milestone for one of the world’s largest refugee populations.

He stressed the need to find solutions to help ensure that refugees have a place to call home, to do more to combat misunderstandings about refugees, and to provide education and other skills training so that even if they do not have homes they can still have a future.

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador and award-winning actress Angelina Jolie is in Ecuador, where she is highlighting the challenges facing refugees.

“Having a home, a place where we belong, a place where we feel safe is something most of us take for granted,” she said on the occasion of World Refugee Day. “Yet those who flee from conflict and persecution no longer have their homes, and it will be years before they can even return. In fact, many may never go home again.”

There are around 51,000 registered Colombian refugees in Ecuador, but UNHCR estimates that about 135,000 people are in need of international protection. This makes Ecuador the country with the largest refugee population in Latin America.

Mr. Guterres and Ms. Jolie are taking part today, along with United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in a live video link – “WRD Live” – which will connect with Washington DC, Malaysia, Syria, northern Ecuador and DRC to talk to refugees about their experiences.

For the first time, the 79-year-old Empire State Building in New York will be lit blue on 20 June to honour the world’s refugees. Other global landmarks that will turn blue include the ancient Coliseum in Rome and – also for the first time – the bridge across the Ibar River in the divided Kosovo town of Mitrovica.

World Refugee Day activities also include film screenings, photography exhibitions, food bazaars, fashion shows, concerts and sports contests across countries in the Middle East, Asia-Pacific, Europe, the Americas and Africa.

Source: UN News, UNHCR, staff files

Wednesday
Apr282010

As Killings of Journalists Rise, More Local Reporters Targeted

(HN, April 28, 2010) - Most deaths of journalists are now among locals covering sensitive stories such as high-level crime and corruption for national media.

The finding was announced on the eve of World Press Freedom Day by the Geneva-based International News Safety Institute (INSI). It said that so far this year, at least 42 journalists have been killed worldwide - with April the bloodiest month fort media in five years, with 17 journalists killed.

With a journalist being killed every 1.5 days in April, INSI said today the numbers have reached "shocking new levels."

Said INSI Director Rodney Pinder: "Freedom shrieks whenever a journalist is kiled for doing their job."

But it is local journalists that are bearing the brunt of the violence against media representatives. So far this year, seven journalists have been killed in Honduras, six in Mexico, and four in Pakistan. Three died in Colombia and Nigeria and one each in Nepal, Venezuela, Cyprus, Russia, Ecuador and Turkey.

The latest targeted killing of a journalist occurred April 25 in Lagos, Nigeria. Edo Sule Ugbagwu, 42, a senior judiciary correspondent working for The Nation newspaper, was shot in his dwelling. His gruesome death occurred just a year after the killing of another Nigerian journalist, Bayo Ohu, assistant Politics Editor of the Lagos-based Guardian Newspaper.

It is not clear whether fewer foreign correspondents are being targeted due to the decline of foreign news coverage by major western news organizations.

On May 3 - World Press Freedom Day - INSI is calling for a minute silence in newsrooms around the world.

Staff, agencies, INSI