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Protests choke communities in Haiti as aid, supplies dwindle
By DÁNICA COTO | 08:42 EDT
LEOGANE, Haiti (AP) — Gabriel Duvalesse squatted slightly as he prepared to push 50 gallons (190 liters) of cooking oil in an old wheelbarrow to an outdoors market an hour away so he could earn $1.
It was his first job in seven days as deadly protests paralyze Haiti’s economy and shutter businesses and schools. Opposition leaders and thousands of supporters are demanding the resignation of President Jovenel Moïse amid anger over government corruption, ballooning inflation and scarcity of fuel and other basic goods.
Seventeen people have been reported killed and nearly 200 injured in the protests.
The political turmoil is hitting cities and towns outside the capital of Port-au-Prince especially hard, forcing non-government organizations to suspend aid as barricades of large rocks and burning tires cut off the flow of goods between the city and the countryside. The crisis is deepening poverty in places such as Leogane, the epicenter of Haiti’s devastating 2010 earthquake.
“We are starving,” said 28-year-old Duvalesse, who has been unable to work. “I had to make $2 last one week.”
The United Nations said that before the protests even began, some 2.6 million people across Haiti were vulnerable to food shortages, adding that roadblocks have severely impacted some humanitarian programs. On Sept. 16, the World Food Programme was forced to suspend all food deliveries to schools as demonstrations started.
Meanwhile, cash transfers to some 37,000 people in need were postponed.
U.N. officials also said that private transporters are reluctant to deliver goods given the security situation, a problem that Leogane business owner Vangly Germeille knows well.
He owns a wholesale company that sells items including rice, soap, cooking oil and cereal to small markets. But his warehouse is nearly empty and he struggles to find truck drivers willing to go to markets to deliver the goods because of thieves and barricades.
“It’s an enormous economic loss,” said Germeille, a father of two who is thinking of moving to the Dominican Republic if things don’t improve soon. “If there’s no way to make a living here, I can’t stay.”
Rice, coconuts, milk and diapers are among the dozens of goods that people in this coastal community of more than 200,000 inhabitants say are hard to find since the protests began in mid-September.
On Saturday, a grocery store near the town’s center opened briefly to sell rice, said 40-year-old IT engineer Sony Raymond.
“In less than three hours it was gone,” he said. “Leogane is basically paralyzed.”
Security concerns grew on Sunday after onlookers said they saw two men fatally shoot a third to steal his bike in Leogane.
The crowd then went after the two men with machetes, dragging one of them through the street while witnesses said the other committed suicide. All three bodies still lay on the street hours after it happened, with one ambulance from the health department passing by without stopping.
The protests and barricades are increasingly isolating already struggling communities across Haiti, including those like Barriere Jeudi, where amateur bull fights on weekends provide some distraction from people’s financial problems.
Bruinel Jean-Louis, who repairs refrigerators and stoves, said he hasn’t been able to find much work because he can’t travel to find the parts he needs.
“It takes a very long time, and that also makes me suffer,” he said as several bulls brayed behind him.
To make up for the financial shortfall, he sells halters for horses.
In a small mountain village near the coastal city of Jacmel, some phones began ringing at 5 a.m. on Sunday as friends and family let each other know that a gas station would open that day and there was a limited supply.
The line already began forming as the sun came up.
Théodore Rathgens, a 53-year-old social worker and construction engineer, said that while protests and blockades had caused problems in Jacmel, he didn’t blame Moïse for the problems.
“It’s the political clans,” he said.
Rathgens said Haiti’s justice department should also take it upon itself and not wait for instructions from Moïse to investigate former top government officials accused of mismanaging millions of dollars in funds from a Venezuela-subsidized oil plan slated in part for social programs.
Haitian economist Kesner Pharel noted that Haiti is a country of nearly 11 million people where 60% make less than $2 a day and 25% make less than $1 a day. He said the problem is worsening now that food is not going to Haiti’s capital nor manufactured goods to rural areas, causing a stoppage to the economy.
The situation angers 62-year-old Carolle Bercy, who moved back to Haiti last year after working in financial services for 30 years in Connecticut, both in Stanford and Bridgeport.
She said she has seen people fighting over fuel on the rare instances that a gas station opens, and she worries about the future of Haitians.
“It’s unbelievable,” she said. “No country on earth should go what Haitian people are going through.”
EarthLink – News
Austria’s Kurz given task of putting together new government
Mon, October 7, 2019 07:44 EDT
VIENNA (AP) — Austrian center-right leader Sebastian Kurz embarked Monday on what could be the lengthy task of forming a new government, citing a looming economic downturn, unregulated migration and climate change among the challenges the next administration will face.
President Alexander Van der Bellen formally tasked Kurz, 33, with putting together a government after his People’s Party emerged from an election a week ago as the strongest by far.
The resounding win left him poised to return to government after a scandal surrounding his junior partner in the last administration, the Freedom Party, led to the government’s collapse in May.
Kurz can choose between reviving his previous coalition with the Freedom Party, forming a coalition with the center-left Social Democrats, or allying with the resurgent Greens.
Although Kurz is in a comfortable position, all three options carry risks. It is questionable how stable a new coalition with the Freedom Party would be, particularly after it suffered significant losses in the Sept. 29 election.
An alliance with the Social Democrats, a familiar and unloved combination that has frequently run post-World War II Austrian governments, could undermine Kurz’s image as a fresh face bringing change to the country.
And Kurz might struggle to bridge policy differences with the Greens, who are confident after seeing their support soar and returning to parliament following a two-year absence.
Kurz said he will open formal discussions with other party leaders this week.
“The biggest challenge that faces us immediately is the question of how best to deal with the looming economic downswing,” he said, pointing to U.S.-Europe trade tensions, uncertainty over Brexit and weak economic data in bigger neighbor Germany.
He insisted that the new government must also continue to reduce Austrians’ tax burden.
Kurz also said that “it will be important to continue along our determined path of combating illegal migration in Austria and in Europe,” which was a prominent feature of his previous government with the Freedom Party, and to take national and international action against climate change.
The non-partisan interim government of Chancellor Brigitte Bierlein, installed following a parliamentary no-confidence vote that brought down Kurz after he pulled the plug on his last coalition, will remain in place until a new administration is ready.
Van der Bellen said he would be in regular contact with Kurz “over the coming days and weeks — I don’t want to talk about months” on his progress.
EarthLink – News
Venezuelan ambassador to Japan says bank account is frozen
By YURI KAGEYAMA 04:00 EDT
TOKYO (AP) — The Venezuelan ambassador to Tokyo says his bank account has become inaccessible in Japan in what he said was apparently a consequence of President Donald Trump’s decision to freeze Venezuelan assets in the United States.
Ambassador Seiko Ishikawa told The Associated Press that the accounts of two other Venezuelan diplomats in Japan and that of his wife, a Japanese citizen, were also frozen.
He said the frozen accounts were all personal, and the embassy’s account was still working.
President Donald Trump’s administration issued a broad ban blocking companies and individuals from doing business with Maduro’s socialist government in August.
That put the nation on a short list of U.S. adversaries — including Cuba, North Korea and Iran — targeted with such aggressive financial measures.
As a U.S. ally, Japan would face pressure to comply with such sanctions.
Officials at the Foreign Ministry and the bank, SMBC Trust Bank, declined comment.
Ishikawa said he contacted the Foreign Ministry and bank after the problems with the accounts surfaced last month.
“We explained that for us it was an unacceptable measure taken by the bank, a unilateral decision, first of all because it is an extraterritorial application of a measure that originated in the U.S.,” he said.
Ishikawa stressed he and the diplomats have proper credentials from the Japanese government, but the inconveniences they suddenly faced were enormous.
“Just imagine not being able to operate your bank account,” he said.
“That’s a big problem, of course.”
EarthLink – News
Climate activists block roads, march in global protests
By GEIR MOULSON | Mon, October 7, 2019 02:06 EDT
BERLIN (AP) — Activists with the Extinction Rebellion movement blocked roads and staged demonstrations in big cities around the globe Monday, part of a wide-ranging series of protests demanding much more urgent action against climate change.
Demonstrators stopped traffic in European cities including Berlin, London, Paris and Amsterdam. In New York, activists smeared themselves — and emblems of Wall Street — in fake blood and lay in the street.
In some cities, activists chained themselves to vehicles or pitched tent camps and vowed not to budge.
“You might come from a variety of different groups, but we all stand against a system that’s destroying the planet and mankind, and we’re looking to change that because we can’t just have little changes, we want a real big change,” said Pierrick Jalby, a 28-year-old nurse from eastern France who joined the demonstration in Paris. “We don’t want reforms, in fact, we want a revolution.”
Members of Extinction Rebellion, a loose-knit movement also known as XR that started last year in Britain, have staged a series of flashy protests this year to demand action on manmade climate change, often featuring marchers in white masks and red costumes and copious amounts of fake blood.
In Berlin on Monday, around 1,000 people blocked the Grosser Stern, a traffic circle in the middle of the German capital’s Tiergarten park dominated by the landmark Victory Column. That protest began before dawn. Another 300 people blocked Berlin’s central Potsdamer Platz, placing couches, tables, chairs and flowerpots on the road.
Over the weekend, demonstrators had set up a tent camp outside German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s office to prepare for the protests, reflecting dissatisfaction with a climate policy package drawn up last month by her government.
Merkel’s chief of staff, Helge Braun, criticized the group’s tactics.
“We all share an interest in climate protection, and the Paris climate targets are our standard in this,” he told ZDF television. “If you demonstrate against or for that, that is OK. But if you announce dangerous interventions in road traffic or things like this, of course that is just not on.”
He dismissed the idea of declaring a “climate emergency,” saying that the German constitution doesn’t provide for such a thing and it wouldn’t translate into “concrete action.”
Around 1,000 protesters blocked the area around Chatelet in central Paris and vowed to stay at least the night in the makeshift camp they had pitched. Some were seated, some chained to a barrel.
Demonstrators playing steel drums marched through central London as they kicked off two weeks of activities designed to disrupt the city.
London police said some 135 climate activists had been arrested. Extinction Rebellion said protesters were arrested as they blocked Victoria Embankment, outside the Ministry of Defense.
Among those arrested was 81-year-old Sarah Lasenby, a retired social worker from Oxford.
“It is imperative the government should take serious actions and put pressure on other states and global powers to radically reduce the use of fossil fuels,” she said.
In New York City, protesters doused a famous statue of a charging bull near Wall Street with fake blood. One protester waving a green flag climbed on top of the bull. Other activists splashed with red dye staged a “die-in” in front of the New York Stock Exchange — lying down as if dead while tourists gawked.
Afterward, a few participants were seen mopping the fake blood off the ground.
“The blood of the world is here,” said Justin Becker, an organizer who made a link between the fossil fuel industry and the financial interests of Wall Street. “A lot of blood has been spilled by the decisions of the powerful and the status quo and the toxic system that we live in.”
In Amsterdam, hundreds of demonstrators blocked a major road outside the Rijksmuseum, one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions, and set up tents. The protest went ahead despite a city ban on activists gathering on the road. The protesters ignored police calls for them to move to a nearby square.
In Spain, a few dozen activists briefly chained themselves to each other and to an elevated road over a major artery in the Madrid, snarling traffic during the morning rush hour. The National Police said 33 activists were taken to their premises and three were arrested for resisting orders by anti-riot officers.
A few hundred other protesters camped out in 40 tents at the gates of Spain’s Ministry of Ecological Transition.
Those at the Berlin protests included activist Carola Rackete, best known as the German captain of a humanitarian rescue ship who was arrested for docking in an Italian port without authorization this year to disembark migrants rescued at sea.
“We must stay here and rebel until the government proclaims an ecological emergency and acts accordingly,” Rackete said.
Founded in Britain last year, Extinction Rebellion now has chapters in some 50 countries. The group said the protests Monday were taking place in 60 cities worldwide in countries including Turkey, Canada, South Africa, Mexico and elsewhere.
Mike Corder in The Hague, Netherlands, Danica Kirka in London, David Rising in Berlin, Jim Mustian in New York, Alex Turnbull and Oleg Cetinic in Paris, and Aritz Parra in Madrid, contributed to this report.
Read more stories on climate issues by The Associated Press at https://www.apnews.com/Climate
EarthLink – News
UK leader presses for US diplomat’s wife to face charges
Mon, October 7, 2019 07:59 EDT
LONDON (AP) — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says he will speak with the U.S. ambassador to the U.K. about a case involving an American diplomat’s wife who left the country after reportedly becoming a suspect in a fatal crash.
Johnson said Monday he doesn’t think it is right to “use the process of diplomatic immunity for this type of purpose.” The prime minister says he will raise the issue with the White House if necessary.
Johnson urged the woman to return to the U.K. to face investigation.
The crash on Aug. 27 killed 19-year-old Harry Dunn after his motorcycle collided with a car near RAF Croughton, a British military base near Oxford. The base is home to a signals intelligence station operated by the U.S. Air Force.