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Argentine political prisoner Milagro Sala marks one year of arbitrary detention

Argentine indigenous rights activist and Parlasur parliamentarian Milagro Sala today marks one year of arbitrary detention at the behest of Jujuy Province Governor Gerardo Morales, a close ally of the right-wing administration of President Mauricio Macri.

Her detention, which took place at her home without a court warrant on January 16, 2016, has been condemned by the United Nations, the Organization of American States (OAS), Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and Pope Francis.

A press conference convened by the Committee for Freedom for Milagro Sala was held at the Buenos Aires offices of her co-operative, Tupac Amaru. Featured speakers included retired Supreme Court Justice Raúl Zaffaroni; Mothers of Plaza de Mayo - Founding Line leader Taty Almeida; the head of the Center for Legal and Social Studies (CELS, a leading Argentine human rights watchdog), Horacio Verbitsky; CTA labor federation leader Hugo Yasky; and the leader of the Suteba teachers' union, Roberto Baradel.

A popular cookout was also held in her honor in San Salvador de Jujuy, as well as events in cities nationwide.

The Sala case

Milagro Sala, 52, was arrested without a court warrant at her home in San Salvador de Jujuy on January 16, 2016, accused of "instigating" an protest camp in front of the Jujuy Government Palace, which lasted 52 days. The Provincial Prosecutor with jurisdiction in the area, Darío Osinaga, refused to order her arrest at the time, was later dismissed, and is now himself facing charges of "obstruction of justice, malfeasance, and abuse of authority."

Sala was ordered released for lack or charges on January 29. "But she was not released," CELS lawyers recalled, "because that day, a local judge was called back from holiday in order to approve a separate warrant accusing Sala of fraud, extortion, and conspiracy."

The judge (Gastón Mercau) is the son-in-law of a Morales appointee to the Provincial Supreme Court - which he expanded from five to nine members days before Sala's arrest. No evidence has been provided by the state for any of these charges, and no Habeas Corpus petitions filed by Sala's lawyer (Daniel Igolnikov) have been accepted by Jujuy courts.

Provincial authorities have pursued further charges against her based solely on testimony from two individuals who then received substantial benefits from Governor Morales - including an indigent man (René Arellano) who was awarded a public contract, and a convicted murderer (Jorge Paes) who was exonerated for a 2007 murder without a retrial or new evidence of any kind.

Sala remained in prison without sentencing until December 28, when she was issued a suspended sentence of three years based on this testimony. The charges stemmed from a 2009 egg-throwing incident against Morales.

Arbitrary detention

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention ruled on October 21 that Sala's arrest was in fact arbitrary, and urged Macri to release her immediately. This request was echoed by the Secretary General of the OAS and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which declared on December 4 that her detention violates international rights of protest and speech.

Journalist Raúl Noro, Sala's husband, was himself detained for four months without charges after leading a protest calling for her release on July 14.

"The province of Jujuy," Sala said in an interview with the Buenos Aires news daily Tiempo Argentino, "is a laboratory to put a brake on the fight for rights throughout Argentina."

At: https://translate.google.com/translate?sl=auto&tl=en&js=y&prev=_t&hl=en&ie=UTF-8&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.politicargentina.com%2Fnotas%2F201701%2F18882-milagro-sala-cumple-un-ano-detenida.html&edit-text=&act=url

Agroecology booming in Argentina

Organic agriculture is rapidly expanding in Argentina, the leading agro-ecological producer in Latin America and second in the world after Australia, as part of a backlash against a model that has disappointed producers and is starting to worry consumers.

According to the intergovernmental Inter American Commission on Organic Agriculture (ICOA), in the Americas there are 9.9 million hectares (25 million acres) of certified organic crops, which is 22% of the total global land devoted to these crops. Of this total, 6.8 million ha (17 million ac) are in Latin America and the Caribbean, and three million (7.5 million ac) in Argentina alone.

The Argentine National Agricultural Health and Quality Service (SENASA) reported that between 2014 and 2015, the land area under organic production grew 10%, including herbs, vegetables, legumes, fruits, cereals and oilseeds. Legumes and vegetables experienced the largest increase (200%).

There are 1,074 organic producers in Argentina, mainly small and medium-size farms and cooperatives. These still represent only 0.5% of the total cultivated area, however.

Agricultural engineer Eduardo Cerdá, vice president of the Graduate Centre of the Agronomy School at the National University of La Plata (UNLP), said there is growing interest in agroecology. “In 10 years the area receiving specialized advice (in organic farming) grew from 600 to 12,500 hectares,” he noted, adding that he and his few colleagues are not able to meet the demand.

Cerdá attributes the interest to the disappointment in the current model based on agrochemicals, which he considers to be exhausted. Pesticide use in Argentina jumped by 60% in 2016 alone, according to the Agriculture Ministry - creating an increase in reported intoxication-related illness in farming communities but with no increase in yields.

For Cerdá, agro-ecology “is not an alternative but the agriculture of the near future.”

At: http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/12/agroecology-booming-in-argentina/

Lava Jato scandal: Macri intelligence chief Gustavo Arribas collected $594,000 in Odebrecht bribes

The Director of Argentina's Federal Intelligence Agency (AFI), Gustavo Arribas, was discovered to have received $594,518 in bribes from Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht in 2013.

The bribe, collected before Argentine President Mauricio Macri appointed Arribas head of the AFI by decree in December 2015, is reportedly part of the Lava Jato (Car Wash) corruption scandal currently rocking Brazil.

Arribas, who lived in Brazil at the time, negotiated the sale of numerous Argentine football (soccer) players to European teams on behalf of Boca Juniors, a leading Argentine team partly owned by Macri. He currently resides in an apartment rented from Macri.

Revealed by investigative journalist Hugo Alconada Mon for the conservative Buenos Aires news daily La Nación, the payment involved five transfers totaling $594,518 between September 25 and 27, 2013, to Arribas' Swiss account from a Hong Kong account controlled by Odebrecht through the a cutout, RFY Import & Export Limited.

These payments took place the day after the announcement of a massive, $3 billion project for converting the Sarmiento commuter train line connecting Buenos Aires to its western suburbs into an underground line - a contract awarded to a consortium including Odebrecht and the Macri family's public works construction concern, IECSA.

IECSA's titular head since 2007, Ángelo Calcaterra, is a first of cousin of President Macri. The Macri administration has come under fire for awarding large public contracts for to IECSA throughout 2016, as well as for recently granting Calcaterra a permit to acquire a Cayman Islands bank (Banco Interfinanzas) that exists on paper only.

President Macri himself has been tied to 50 undeclared offshore bank accounts since the Panama Papers scandal become public this April.

Odebrecht CEO Marcelo Odebrecht was sentenced in March to 20 years in prison for distributing $600 million in bribes between 2007 and 2014 to officials in 12 countries, of which Argentine officials received $35 million.

At: https://translate.google.com/translate?sl=auto&tl=en&js=y&prev=_t&hl=en&ie=UTF-8&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.politicargentina.com%2Fnotas%2F201701%2F18800-el-jefe-de-inteligencia-de-macri-cobro-us600000-de-la-brasilena-odebrecht-investigada-por-sobornos-millonarios.html&edit-text=&act=url


Macri and his fixer, Arribas.[/center]

Prosecutor seeks testimony from Argentina's Macri for self-victimization incident.

The District Attorney for Argentina's Neuquén Province, José Geréz, requested a deposition from President Mauricio Macri and members of the presidential security detail.

The request follows an investigation by the D.A.'s office which revealed that a December 28 incident involving a shattered window in a van carrying the President, had been willfully misrepresented by Macri - and by extension much of the Argentine media - as an "stoning attack" by protesters belonging to the Argentine Teachers' Union (ATE).

The D.A.'s investigation established that the window in the van, a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Kombi belonging to the municipality, had been shattered from the inside.

Unscheduled stop

The incident, which took place in the scenic lakeside town of Traful, in Argentina's mountainous southwest, occurred after Macri attended a brief ceremony to open a new tourist information office. Macri, who was vacationing nearby with his family, reportedly ordered the driver to make an unscheduled stop at a local chocolate shop at around 11 a.m.

The detour inadvertently put the van within sight of a small group of ATE union protesters, who according to Macri attacked the vehicle after he had attempted to calm them. Cell phone video footage released that evening by the ATE instead shows local police acting preemptively to disperse them with rubber bullets before any contact could be made with Macri or the van; at least two protesters were injured by the rubber bullets.

"We were shot with rubber bullets and ran three blocks," Jorge Marillán, Deputy General Secretary of ATE Neuquén, told reporters. "Within minutes there were pictures of the van with a broken window."

Due process

Seven protesters were initially detained by local authorities, and Macri took to social media to demand "due process that ends up condemning them to suffer the consequences of what they did." He uploaded photos of the damaged van to social media within minutes of the incident, and media outlets supportive of the right-wing administration rapidly disseminated the official version of events.

All seven detainees were immediately released without charges, however, after it was established that the window was shattered from the inside. District Attorney Geréz announced on December 30 that a formal deposition was being requested of President Macri and members of his security detail.

A separate ATE demonstration was held in front of the Education Ministry in Buenos Aires on January 2 to protest the dismissal of 3,000 tutorial and music education staff.

At: https://translate.google.com/translate?sl=auto&tl=en&js=y&prev=_t&hl=en&ie=UTF-8&u=http%3A%2F%2Frevistanorte.com.ar%2Fmacri-mintio-se-comprobo-que-el-vidrio-de-la-camioneta-se-rompio-desde-adentro%2F&edit-text=&act=url


Lake Traful: trouble in paradise?[/center]

U.S. official in Mexico shot in chest, in stable condition

A U.S. consular official in the Mexican city of Guadalajara was shot by a gunman but was in stable condition, Mexican authorities said on Saturday, prompting the FBI to offer a reward for information.

The victim was gunned down on Friday evening in Mexico's second largest city, in the often violent western state of Jalisco, according to Mexico's Attorney General and the U.S. Embassy.

The unidentified official was shot in the chest, said a source familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity. A video posted online by the consulate in Guadalajara shows the shooter appearing to wait for the official's car to pull up to a car park barrier before shooting directly at the driver and running away.

Jalisco is one of the engines of the Mexican economy; but the state's southern border turned into a battleground between rival drug cartels - the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (JNG) and the Michoacan-based Knights Templar.

In May, 2015, JNG gunmen shot down an army helicopter in southwestern Jalisco, claiming the lives of six military personnel.

At: https://www.yahoo.com/news/u-consular-official-shot-mexico-stable-condition-174919016.html?ref=gs

Originally posted by marylandblue at LBN: http://www.democraticunderground.com/10141658981

Portugal's democracy founder Mario Soares dies aged 92

Source: Yahoo News

Portugal's former President Mario Soares, widely seen as the father of the country's modern-day democracy, died Saturday aged 92 in Lisbon, a fortnight after being admitted to hospital.

The founder of Portugal's Socialist party, Soares spent decades in politics and spearheaded the country's entry into the European Union. He was president from 1986 to 1996 after serving as foreign minister and prime minister, and later became a European lawmaker.

Portugal declared three days of national mourning from Monday for the deceased leader.

"We have lost today someone who has so many times been the face and the voice of our freedom, for which he fought all his life," said the country's current prime minister and fellow socialist Antonio Costa.

Read more: https://www.yahoo.com/news/portuguese-ex-president-mario-soares-dies-aged-92-160641015.html


Mario Soares and Jimmy Carter in 1977.[/center]

Ex-MI6 boss warns over electronic voting risk

Sir John Sawers told the BBC that casting a ballot with pencil and paper was "actually much more secure." He warned: "The more things that go online, the more susceptible you are to cyber attacks."

Campaigners for electronic voting said there was "no evidence" it was more open to fraud. Electronic voting allows people to make their choices via a computer or smartphone, instead of people having to go to a polling station.

'Robust systems needed'

Sawers' warning comes after the US government accused Russia of hacking into the emails of leading Democrats and interfering in the recent presidential election. This has increased concerns among security experts as to whether vital national electronic systems are vulnerable to malicious disruption by other countries.

Sawers, head of MI6 from 2009 until 2014, told the BBC Radio 4 documentary The New World: Axis of Power, which examines the state of international tensions between the world's leading powers: "We need to have systems which are robust," he said. "The only trouble is, the younger generation of people expect to be able to do things remotely and through electronic devices."

"Bizarrely the stubby pencil and piece of paper that you put your cross on in the ballot box is actually much more secure than anything which is electronic."

At: http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-38408296

Mexicans protest gas price hikes as poor set to suffer most

Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets across Mexico for the second day in a row to protest a spike in fuel prices that critics say will batter the country’s agricultural sector and food security. Transport workers, campesino (smallholder) organizations and other demonstrators blocked highways and supply terminals in Chihuahua and Morelos states, among other locations, local media reported.

On Sunday, hundreds of protesters marched in Mexico City carrying signs and shouting slogans including “Out with Peña,” targeting Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, and “No to the Gasolinazo,” as the price hikes imposed on January 1 have been dubbed.

The growing show of anger and frustration came after Mexico’s Ministry of Finance announced last week that gasoline prices would jump by 20.1% and diesel prices by 16.5% at the beginning of 2017 as years of state-regulated fuel prices come to an end.

Critics have accused Peña Nieto and other government officials of ransacking Mexico’s state oil company, Pemex, which has undergone a gradual privatization process in recent years that has broken up the longstanding monopoly. Recent reforms have opened the door for private companies to set up gas stations and extract fossil fuels for the first time since the 1930s, busting Pemex control.

Gerardo Noriega Altamirano, a professor and researcher at the Mexico’s Chapingo Autonomous University, warned that the price increases could jeopardize agricultural production and food security. The expert argued that the fuel price changes is set to increase the price of tortillas, a staple food product in Mexico, while spiking the cost for corn producers by 20%.

Increases in the price of basic food stuffs like tortillas will hit Mexico’s poor the hardest.

The latest blow to poor Mexicans and the country’s agricultural producers could add to Peña Nieto’s dismal approval ratings amid discontent over widespread human rights violations, corruption scandals and unpopular neoliberal reforms that have embattled the government.

Last August, Peña Nieto’s approval rating dipped to 23%, according to Mexico’s Reforma - a low not seen since the newspaper began polling in 1995.

At: http://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/Mexicans-Protest-Gas-Price-Hikes-as-Poor-Set-to-Suffer-Most-20170102-0006.html

Trump Tower project in Buenos Aires cancelled

Source: La Nacion

A few days after the shocking victory of Donald Trump in the United States presidential election, a rumor began circulating that Trump planned to disembark in Buenos Aires with a luxury tower. The rumor was confirmed at the time, and ground-breaking was expected to begin in mid-2017 on the tower.

The $100 million project included a 35-story tower with a total of 47,000 m² (505,000 ft²) of floor space, was scheduled for completion in 2020. The project, according to its Argentine developers however, was suspended indefinitely.

"The Trump family decided to cancel all works outside the United States that had not yet begun," Juan José Cugliandolo, CEO of YY Development Group, told the media today. "The reality is that due to the changing political landscape in the United States, we'll leave any decisions as to future steps to them (Trump). There is nothing concrete."

The controversy in the United States over Trump's potential conflicts of interest reached Argentina on November 20 when Jorge Lanata's current events program, Periodismo para todos ('Journalism for All'), aired a segment by Romina Manguel that revealed that in the first telephone conversation between Trump and Argentine President Mauricio Macri after the election, Macri had received a special request to expedite the necessary permits for the project - a prerogative of the City of Buenos Aires, not the Argentine president.

The news had repercussions in American media, and the project - which the city never approved - has not been discussed since.

Read more: https://translate.google.com/translate?sl=auto&tl=en&js=y&prev=_t&hl=en&ie=UTF-8&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.lanacion.com.ar%2F1972497-desactivaron-el-proyecto-de-la-torre-trump-en-buenos-aires&edit-text=&act=url

Macri, top officials, and tennis great Gaston Gaudio charged with fraud in Qatar offshore trust case

Argentine President Mauricio Macri, Vice President Gabriela Michetti, Foreign Minister Susana Malcorra, and numerous other Macri administration officials and associates were charged with governmental fraud today in a case stemming from a November 6 agreement signed with Qatar involving the creation of a new, offshore investment trust with no stated purpose.

The case, overseen by the Third Federal Criminal and Correctional Court presided by Judge Daniel Rafecas, also resulted in charges for Foreign Ministry official Horacio Reyser, the recently dismissed Social Security fund director Luis María Blaquier, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman José Ortíz Amaya (of Macri's "Let's Change" coalition), Macri business associate Diego Rosendi, and former tennis pro Gastón Gaudio.

Gaudio, a vocal supporter of the right-wing Macri administration, is acquainted with the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, and is believed by prosecutors to have acted as a lobbyist and unofficial intermediary. He faces possible additional charges of influence peddling, given that he handled and shared confidential state information without having an official post himself.

Negotiations for this agreement began during Sheikh Al-Thani's state visit to Buenos Aires on July 28. The Argentine government ultimately entered into a then-secret agreement with Qatar on November 6 to create an offshore investment trust funded with $300 million from Argentina's social security fund (FGS) and $1 billion from the Qatari Investment Authority (QIA). The fund, to be administered through an unnamed third party, had no official purpose or mandate.

Following a criminal complaint filed on November 30 by Fernando Míguez of the Foundation for Peace and Climate Change, Prosecutor Paloma Ochoa requested that a formal investigation be opened to determine possible commission of crimes in the signing of the agreement with Qatar. A stay against any implementation of the agreement was furthermore requested until the case can be closed.

At: https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=es&tl=en&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.politicargentina.com%2Fnotas%2F201612%2F18629-imputaron-a-macri-michetti-malcorra-e-incluso-al-extenista-gato-gaudio-por-firma-del-memorando-con-qatar.html


The three moneyteers: Sheikh Al-Thani; tennis pro Gastón Gaudio; and Mr. Panama Papers, President Macri.[/center]
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