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Colombia, UN to combat cocaine production

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The government of Colombia signed a $315 million USD deal with the United Nations on Friday to compensate farmers switching to safer crops from coca, used to make cocaine. 

“This historic agreement is a unique opportunity to turn the tide against Colombia’s coca cultivation and help farmers embrace alternative development,” said the head of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, or UNODC.

Executive Director Yury Fedotov said in a statement in Vienna that he “congratulated the Colombian government not just for its ceaseless efforts to find peace, but also for its recognition that the pursuit of peace requires tangible solutions to the crimes that fuel and feed conflict.”

The UN considers the reduction of illegal drug crops to be part of its mission to reduce violence in the country.

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Mr Fedotov signed the deal with Colombian leadership in Vienna as part of his organization’s mission to “monitor the country’s policy to reduce illicit crops and to strengthen rural development, as a crucial part of the country’s ongoing peace-building efforts.”

Currently, farmers earn $300 per month for every hectare of of the raw cocaine crop of coca they grow. The government in Bogatá and the UN want growers to switch to coffee and cacao.

However, Bogatá says it is being challenged by armed militant groups that aim to capture areas where coca is traditionally grown to take advantage of the financial gain cocaine can return.

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Image of soldier overlooking people removing coca crop NE of Medellin from Time Magazine.

Colombia has made progress in this area as the communist Farc rebel group gave up their final weapons over the summer of 2017 ending 52 years of guerrilla warfare with the state.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or Farc, once controlled much of the coca growing territory.

However, upon the group’s disbandment of its armed wing, it agreed to give up its control over the drug production zones and promote the switch to safer crops.

Observers say the delays in the Farc deal were taken advantage of by local farmers who planted coca with hopes of being offered subsidies later to switch to other crops.

The armed groups Bogotá warn of are others who have taken advantage of Farc’s disarmament.

The issue of illegal drugs, particularly cocaine, goes back to the control of substances by international criminals, such as billionaire Pablo Escabar in the 1980s and 90s, and their powerful cartels.

The United States has been heavily involved in the anti-drug campaign in Colombia for some 50 years, even during the reign of corrupt administrations and a scared populace.


More details to follow. Image 1 of Colombian government and UNODC from UNODC Twitter.  ■

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Americas

Brazilian presidential frontrunner stabbed at rally

Jair Bolsonaro, the right-wing frontrunner in Brazil’s presidential elections, survived a stabbing attack on Friday at a rally held in Juiz de Fora.

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Jacob Argintaru | Report

Jair Bolsonaro, the right-wing frontrunner in Brazil’s presidential elections, survived a stabbing attack on Friday at a rally held in Juiz de Fora.

A surgeon said the presidential frontrunner suffered life-threatening injuries to his upper and lower intestines. However, Bolsonaro is currently in stable condition and will be in hospital for at least the next seven days.

Police charged Adelio Bispo de Oliveira, 40, for the attack.

According to police, Oliveira claims he was on “a mission of God.” Police found that Oliveira  is a radical socialist, whose Facebook page is filled with posts opposing Bolsonaro and his party.

The 63-year-old was a long-serving member of congress prior the running for president.

He is generally described as a “populist” by mainstream news media, and is even referred to as “Brazil’s Trump” for his similarities to the United State’s president.

Bolsonaro’s party is currently leading the polls with 22% of support, his closest competition only polling at 12%.

Brazil’s presidential elections will begin on October 7th, 2018.


More details to follow | Image of Jair Bolsonaro moments before being attacked, from SkyNews.

 

 

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Pence: Thanks Canada for support, NAFTA deal is close

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Vice President Mike Pence of the United States thanked Canada for its support of the allied strikes against Syrian government chemical weapons-related targets and said a North American Free Trade Agreement deal was close. 

The comments came as the vice president held talks with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on the sidelines of the Summit of the Americas, where Mr. Trudeau reiterated Canadian support of its traditional allies and their Syrian offensive.

The Canadian prime minister said the strikes were “unfortunate but necessary” as part of the effort to stop the Syrian government from utilizing chemical weapons on its civilians, which Damascus denies.

Canada gave a formal statement of support for the allied effort on Friday when the strikes were carried out.

Both leaders said that they were dedicated to a quick and successful NAFTA deal, with Mr. Pence saying the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump was encouraged by progress that had taken place thus far.

Reports indicated that there might have been a final agreement signed at the summit in Peru but nothing was signed in South America, however, negotiators from the U.S., Canada and Mexico are currently working on a deal in Washington.

Mr. Trump was also set to appear in person in Peru, but cancelled his trip due to the allied strikes on Syria early on Saturday local time where the U.S., United Kingdom and France fired 105 weapons on government positions.

The pair also discussed Venezuela and Pence expressed condolences for those affected by the Humboldt bus crash back in Canada’s Saskatchewan.


More details to follow. Image of Justin Trudeau and Mike Pence from Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press.  ■

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Pope apologizes for disbelieving Chile sex abuse victims

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Eli Ridder | The Avro Post

Pope Francis, head of the Roman Catholic Church, apologized on Wednesday for comments he made earlier this year when he accused victims of alleged child sex abuse of committing slander against a bishop who covered for a priest.

In a letter to the South American country’s bishops, Francis said he felt “sadness and shame” over the “serious mistakes” he made in January defending Juan Barros by saying “there is not a single piece of proof against him. Everything is slander.”

The Pontiff has invited some of the victims of the abuse suffered under priest, Fernando Karadima, who molested young boys in Santiago since the 1980s while Bishop Barros was present.

Father Karadima will never face prosecution due to the length of time, but the judge who heard victim testimonies described them as “truthful and reliable”, and victims told news media that the Pope’s demand they provide evidence “offensive”.

At the end of the Pope’s Latin America tour, he apologized for his harsh words but maintained that Barros was innocent, however, in Wednesday’s letter he said he “made serious mistakes in assessing and perceiving the situation”.


More details to follow. Image of Pope Francis in Chile from Crux Now.  ■

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