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Catalan leader defends push for independence on final day of trial


The former Catalan vice-president Oriol Junqueras has used the last day of landmark proceedings against him and 11 other separatist leaders to defend the failed push for regional independence but also to plead for a political solution to the crisis. The trial, which has lasted four months and heard testimony from 422 witnesses, has examined the events leading up to the unilateral independence referendum on 1 October 2017 and the Catalan parliament’s subsequent declaration of independence.

Nine of the 12 defendants – who include Junqueras; the former speaker of the Catalan parliament Carme Forcadell; and two influential grassroots activists, Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sànchez – are accused of rebellion, which carries a prison sentence of up to 25 years. Other charges include sedition and the misuse of public funds.

Addressing the judges at the supreme court in Madrid on Wednesday afternoon, Junqueras said: “Voting, or defending the republic in parliament, cannot constitute a crime. When it comes to human rights and fundamental freedoms, having the will to talk, to negotiate, to find agreement, should never be a crime.” He said that although he understood the court had a decision to make, the Catalan question required a political, rather than judicial, answer. “I genuinely believe that the best thing for all of us – for Catalonia, for Spain, for everyone – would be to see this issue returned to the sphere of politics – good politics – an area it should never have left,” he said.(TheGuardian)…[+]

CDB calls for embracing the opportunities in agriculture to reduce poverty


PORT OF SPAIN/ BRIDGETOWN – The Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) presented yesterday a study on the status of agriculture in the Caribbean as part of the 49th Annual Meeting of the Bank’s Board of Governors in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. The study highlights the critical role that agriculture plays to end poverty and build economic resilience.

“Growth in agriculture is the most efficient way to lift poor people in rural areas out of poverty,” said Luther St. Ville, CDB Senior Operations Officer (Operations). In the joint publication with the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, entitled “Study on the State of Agriculture in the Caribbean”, CDB shows that the Region has undergone dramatic changes in past decades. Since 2000, the food import bill of CDB’s Borrowing Member Countries (BMCs) has more than doubled from USD2.1 billion to USD4.8 billion. Food imports account for 60% of the food consumed in the Region. On the other hand, food exports of traditional crops dropped from 60% in 1990 to less than 20% in 2018. At the same time, agri-processed food exports increased from about 10-15% to 50%.

The picture is mixed across the Region. While the four BMCs Dominica, Guyana, Haiti, and Suriname are heavily dependent on agriculture, which accounts for 12%-17% of gross domestic product (GDP) and represents 10%-50% of employment, the contribution of agriculture is marginal in 10 BMCs, where the sector accounts for less than 4% of GDP. The study concludes that the agriculture sector needs to overcome a number of challenges if the agri-food system is to become more competitive, inclusive, and sustainable.

Productivity growth in the Caribbean is low. The value per worker has remained stable at less than USD25,000 for the last 30 years. In contrast, the value doubled in Europe and tripled in the United States over the same time period. Natural hazards also play a major role: while 40% of the sector is frequently hit by mild draughts and 10% by severe draughts, less than 5% of the farmers have irrigation…[+]


Regional workshop addresses planning for resilience in the Caribbean


Housing, infrastructure and development planning experts from across the Caribbean have come together to promote a coherent approach to resilience building, considering the specific context of informal settlements in the subregion.

The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) subregional headquarters for the Caribbean, together with the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN Habitat), organized the policy dialogue workshop focusing on the implementation of SDG 11 in the Caribbean, “Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable”, on 11 June 2019.

With over 70 per cent of its populations living in urban areas, the Caribbean population is today increasingly urban. As this population continues to grow, the majority come under a diversity of economic, social, cultural and environmental constraints heightened by climate change impacts. In many Caribbean countries, urban growth has frequently been characterised by the informal nature of human settlements, a demonstration of the inability of urban policies to face urbanization demands. This recent urbanization process has been associated with greater poverty, expansion of informal settlements and inadequate housing, collaborating to widen the urban divide.

Held at the Trinidad Hilton and Conference Centre, the joint ECLAC – UN-Habitat policy dialogue workshop was the key milestone for countries to agree on the priorities and major issues facing local and central governments in the Caribbean relating to resilience and the upgrading of informal settlements within the context of SDG 11…[+]

Brazil’s Moro, prosecutors scramble to react to leaked messages


SAO PAULO – Brazilian Justice Minister Sergio Moro and federal prosecutors scrambled to respond yesterday to reports published by news website The Intercept based on what it said were leaked messages from a corruption probe.

The Intercept said it was only beginning to report on an “enormous trove” of leaked messages between Moro and prosecutors on Telegram, an encrypted messaging platform, that it had received from an anonymous source. It said the messages raise serious questions about the impartiality of Moro, a former judge who sent ex-President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva to prison.

The excerpts, released on Sunday, included exchanges in which Moro made suggestions to prosecutors about the focus, pace and sequence of investigations. Attorneys for Lula, a leftist icon who remains one of the most influential opposition figures in Brazil, have been petitioning the Supreme Court for his release and seized on the reports to argue that his sentence should be overturned. Moro, speaking at an event in Brasilia on Monday, argued that the messages published so far showed no improper conduct on his part.(Reuters)…[+]

Trinidad man makes his mark on Canadian Navy


Justin Sow­ley was de­ter­mined to make the most of the op­por­tu­ni­ties avail­able to him as he cared for his broth­er who was un­der­go­ing phys­io­ther­a­py in Cana­da fol­low­ing a car ac­ci­dent in Trinidad in 2005. The re­sult has been pro­fes­sion­al suc­cess for him since join­ing the Roy­al Cana­di­an Navy (RCN). His achieve­ments were high­light­ed in May when Lt Lin­da Cole­man post­ed a short bio of Sow­ley’s pro­fes­sion­al achieve­ments to the RCN’s web­site in which she de­scribed his com­mit­ment and ded­i­ca­tion to the job.

Sow­ley and his broth­er were grant­ed Cana­di­an cit­i­zen­ship through their fa­ther but grew up in T&T. He ad­mit­ted that he nev­er had any in­ten­tions of per­ma­nent­ly re­lo­cat­ing there. How­ev­er, his broth­er’s cir­cum­stances led to that de­ci­sion which changed the course of his life. While help­ing to care for his broth­er in Cana­da, Sow­ley de­cid­ed to start look­ing for a job af­ter set­tling in Burling­ton, On­tario, dur­ing his broth­er’s phys­io­ther­a­py treat­ments. “Liv­ing in Cana­da full time was a bit of an ad­just­ment. My first im­pres­sion was that it was ex­treme­ly cold. But, my thoughts were that this was a de­vel­oped coun­try with ex­cel­lent in­fra­struc­ture and a lot of op­por­tu­ni­ty for peo­ple will­ing to work,” he said.(Trinidad Guardian)…[+]

Trump calls off tariffs after Mexico vows to tighten borders


WASHINGTON – U.S. President Donald Trump yesterday predicted Mexico would strongly enforce a new deal under which it agreed to expand a controversial asylum program and boost security on its southern border to stem Central American migrants trying to reach the United States.

The deal, announced on Friday after three days of negotiations in Washington, averted Trump’s threatened imposition of 5 per cent import tariffs on all Mexican goods starting Monday. “Mexico will try very hard, and if they do that, this will be a very successful agreement between the United States and Mexico,” Trump wrote in a tweet yesterday morning.

The Trump administration believed the deal would “fix the immigration issue,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said yesterday in a Reuters interview on the sidelines of a G20 finance meeting in Fukuoka, Japan. Mnuchin warned, however, that Trump retained the authority to impose tariffs if Mexico failed to enforce the new agreement. Trump also tweeted yesterday that Mexico would immediately begin buying “large quantities” of agricultural goods from U.S. farmers, who have been hit hard by his trade war with China and risked a new blow from Mexican retaliation if Trump had imposed tariffs.(Reuters)…[+]

Trinidad: Venezuelan’s boyfriend killed her, say cops


A Venezuelan mother of three was shot dead allegedly by her Venezuelan boyfriend in Carapichaima early ­yesterday. Evelyn Mata Rojas, 29, was shot twice in the chest and died in a laundry area ­outside her rented apartment at Ojar Maharaj Extension, Waterloo Road. Police are searching for the boyfriend who also lived in one of the apartments, as well as another man, in  connection with the incident.

Rojas’ landlord, Jeffrey Dyette, who lives upstairs the apartment complex, said Rojas, her children, her boyfriend and ­other relatives moved into the apartment last month. Dyette said Rojas had been living in Trini­dad for about three years and spoke ­English well.

The landlord said for the past month she had not worked and did not go anywhere, and that she had several visitors during that time. Dyette said he spoke to her hours ­before her death about people coming to see her. “I told her that when woman have three and four men, that does cause death and fighting. I didn’t know I was talking to her about her death,” he said. “She used to call me ‘Daddy’. She said, ‘Daddy, me eh understand.’ She say, ‘I love you, love you.’”(Trinidad Express)…[+]

Vybzing 2019 Participants Share Powerful, Regional Experience


PORT-OF-SPAIN-Vybzing 2019 has ended; but for the dozens of young people who took part in the Caribbean Development Bank’s (CDB) flagship youth engagement forum this year, the experience was one that will live on with them.

Barbadian student and entrepreneur, Britney Sealy said the three-day event which ended on Monday, June 3, gave her an expanded sense of possibility. “One of my big takeaways was that anyone can go forward and achieve their goals. Seek those resources, seek the help that you need but you can do it,” said Sealy.

Vybzing, now in its 18th year, had a new feel and format this year. For the first time, the Bank expanded the annual event, which takes place ahead of its Annual Meeting, to include participants from the across Region. Young people from 17 of CDB’s 19 Borrowing Member Countries received the opportunity to go to Trinidad and Tobago for the event.

Cherline Dabel, a 21-year-old civil servant and culinary entrepreneur had previously participated when the Turks and Caicos Islands hosted the Meeting in 2017. She said she found the broadened regional scope to be “powerful.” “It was nice to experience what the other countries are experiencing and realising that it’s not really different to what we’re experiencing. We came together and made unique solutions to those problems and that was pretty amazing. [It’s] more powerful I think when you have diverse opinions coming together,” shared Dabel.

On the forum’s first day, 50 young people from Trinidad and Tobago joined the residential participants for the event, which was held this year under the theme ‘Youth-Led Innovation, Regional Transformation!’ During the event, the group of activists, entrepreneurs and innovators learned how to leverage technology and innovation to further their causes and enterprises…[+]

Venezuela’s ‘staggering’ exodus reaches 4 million, UN refugee agency says


More than 4 million Venezuelans have now fled economic and humanitarian chaos in what the UN’s refugee agency called a “staggering” exodus that has swelled by 1 million people since last November alone. The number of Venezuelan migrants and refugees stood at about 695,000 at the end of 2015, the UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) announced on Friday.

Three and a half years later – with Venezuela immersed in a seemingly intractable social and political crisis – that number has “skyrocketed” to more than 4 million, the groups said. About half of that total have sought shelter in two South American countries – Colombia and Peru – which host about 1.3 million and 768,000 respectively. Many others have made for Chile (288,000), Ecuador (263,000), Brazil (168,000) and Argentina (130,000). The humanitarian groups said “significant” numbers were also heading to the Caribbean, Central America and Mexico. Venezuelan activists and officials in Mexico estimate the exile community there has grown to about 40,000 in recent years.(theguardian)…[+]

Russia and US warships almost collide in East China Sea


A Russian warship and a US warship have come close to collision in the western Pacific Ocean, with each side blaming the other for the incident. Russia’s Pacific Fleet said the cruiser USS Chancellorsville crossed just 50m (160ft) in front of the destroyer Admiral Vinogradov at 06:35 Moscow time (03:35 GMT).

It was forced to perform “emergency manoeuvring” to avoid the US ship. But US forces blamed the Russians, claiming their ship was responsible. US Seventh Fleet Commander Clayton Doss called the Russians “unsafe and unprofessional”, saying their destroyer “made an unsafe manoeuvre against USS Chancellorsville”. He dismissed the Russian allegation as “propaganda”.

Admiral Vinogradov came within 50 to 100 feet (15m-30m) of the USS Chancellorsville in the Philippine Sea, the US said. The Russian Pacific Fleet meanwhile said the incident took place in the southeast of the East China Sea, and added they had sent a message of protest to the US ship’s commanders. In a statement it said the US warship had “suddenly changed direction and crossed the path of Admiral Vinogradov just 50m away,” forcing the Russian crew to make a quick manoeuvre.(BBC)…[+]