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Nisman: No Other DNA Found at Scene of Death

Prosecutor Viviana Fein is leading the investigations into Alberto Nisman's death (Photo: Claudio Fanchi/Télam)

Prosecutor Viviana Fein is leading the investigations into Alberto Nisman’s death (Photo: Claudio Fanchi/Télam)

The prosecutor leading the investigation into Alberto Nisman’s death revealed today that forensic tests had found only his DNA on the gun and clothes recovered from the scene.

A statement by Viviana Fein revealed that laboratory results “categorically” showed that traces of DNA found on the gun, its magazine and cartridges, and items of clothing matched Nisman’s genetic profile.

Fein also reported that full study of the security cameras at the Puerto Madero building in which Nisman lived concluded today, with initial reports indicating that there were no cameras in the staircases of the tower and that the cameras in the service lift may not have been working correctly.

Fein said the investigation would continue in the coming days with an analysis of the footage from all the cameras that were working, as well as a study of contents found in “telecommunication equipment” taken from the scene.

The prosecutor added that many more procedures were underway and that results would be released as they came in. She also made a specific request that her statement not be used or manipulated by politicians from any party.

Posted in News From Argentina, Round Ups Argentina0 Comments

13 Sayings that only Argentines Will Understand

13 Sayings that only Argentines Will Understand

Spanish. Español. And sometimes castellano. That weird, obscure Finno-Ugric language that only Argentines and Ukrainians speak, and which you once made a half-hearted attempt to learn but got bored and decided to soak it up through the wine instead. Spanish. A mystery to mankind. Tierra del Fuego. But a language that comes with many colourful idioms, presented here in a numbered list, because you wouldn’t read it otherwise:

Imagine wearing this around your neck (Photo: Alberto Araque, via flickr)

Literally the heaviest thing you can wear around your neck (Photo: Alberto Araque, via flickr)

1. Más pesado que un collar de sandías

While Argentine society is considerably more tolerant than other countries when it comes to endemic corruption, loud neighbours or shit driving, most Argentines draw the line at el pesado, a ballbreaker, a bore, a mithe. Pesado literally means “heavy”, and what could be heavier than a watermelon necklace? Literally nothing.

2. Ta fresco pa chomba

Argentines, especially porteños, have no tolerance for temperatures under 25C, and have lots of phrases about how cold it is, even though it isn’t. The literal English translation “it’s a bit chilly for a polo shirt” shifts the register up a couple of social classes, but in a nation where everyone plays polo from birth, the polo shirt is actually the symbol of the common man, like a Yorkshireman’s cloth cap or iPod.

3. Vos querés la chancha, los veinte, y la máquina de hacer chorizos

The equivalent of “you want to have your cake and eat it”, which has always struck the present author as a stupid saying (the English one) because most people who have cake have justified intentions re: eating. On the other hand, if one were to have a sow and twenty piglets, this might keep one busy enough to keep any sausage machine pretentions at bay, for the time being.

4. Con quince peso me hago alto guiso

An Argentine saying of more recent vintage, after a Youtube video went viral of a football supporter complaining about the price of hamburgers at the stadium, claiming that for the same price (either US$1 or US$1.80, depending on your politics) he could make quite the stew. The six-second video went viral, and for about three months was trotted out in any food-pricing and/or stew-making situation. The saying lives on, despite rampant inflation putting paid to any $15 stew fantasies.

5. Tampoco es la vaca del corso

It is well known that while the British celebrate the onset of Lent by eating pancakes, other cultures have far more fun. This sadly isn’t the case in Argentina, where carnaval consists of young people in stupid hats doing stupid dancing parades down your street with stupid music so loud you crave the simplicity of Pancake Day. This parade is known as a corso, which traditionally was led by a prize cow (though no porteños I asked were familiar with this phrase; it’s probably from Entre Ríos, where you can’t walk down the street for stray livestock). So when someone thinks something is really good, like say, carnaval, and you’re not all that impressed, you say “It’s hardly the carnival cow”.

6. Si yo digo que es carnaval, vos apretá el pomo

More carny talk. “El pomo” is the aerosol foam that Argentine kids, God love ‘em, spray at innocent bystanders, when they should be sweeping chimneys like useful children. The original pomo, for you carnaval pedants, was a tube of carnaval gunge, hence the squeezing. (NEVER SQUEEZE AN AEROSOL KIDS, NOT EVEN IN ARGENTINA). So “If I say it’s carnival, you squeeze the foam aerosol thingy” is basically a colourful way of saying “If say something’s this way, trust me”.

7. Tiene más mentiras que el truco

Some would argue that a card game consisting of sitting around doing nothing but lying, would be the ideal card game for Argentines. You’ll get no such prejudice from this author, only to say that a lot of Argentines really enjoy playing truco, hence the popularity of the phrase “he has more lies than truco”.

Suck on these... (Photo: Pietro Izzo, via flickr)

Suck on these… (Photo: Pietro Izzo, via flickr)

8. Me chupa un huevo

Like the English counterpart “I don’t give a x”, Argentines have many phrases for expressing their indifference and apathy, including not giving a cumin (me importa un comino), or an amaranth (me importa un bledo). No one knows how we got from that kind of thing to “It sucks one of my testicles”, but we did.

9. Mas caliente que china en baile

Argentines are always thinking about sex, and when they’re not thinking about sex they’re talking about how someone else is always thinking about sex, which is pretty much the same thing. If someone is described as “hornier than a gaucho (NB: not Chinese) girl at a dance”, it’s fair to say they’ll probably be chupando on someone’s huevos soon, and not in an indifferent way.

10. Cualquier bondi le deja bien

You’d think that if someone had the good fortune of finding that all buses took them where they wanted to go, this would be a good thing, like living in Plaza Italia, say, or Villa 31. Sadly, this saying carries more of a sense of “any port in a storm”, i.e., to put it politely, you’re not fussy about who you sleep with.

11. Dios está en todas partes pero atiende en Buenos Aires

Roughly translates as “God is everywhere but his office is in Buenos Aires”, meaning that no matter what you need to do, you have to go to Buenos Aires to do it, whether it’s a complicated surgical procedure, legal matters, or any other trámite, which is an Argentine word for procedures automatic in the rest of the world but which take a whole two days of your life to perform here. As long as here is Buenos Aires. FACT: Before 1983, you even had to go to Buenos Aires to give birth.

12. Es lo que hay

A brilliantly versatile phrase for dismissing anyone’s pretentious claims: “It’s what there is.” As in “The header promised 13 sayings that only Argentines understand, but there were only 12.” “Eh, es lo que hay.”

Daniel Tunnard is the author of ‘Colectivaizeishon, el inglés que tomó todos los colectivos de Buenos Aires’. Good look finding it. Probably best to try on mercadolibre.com.ar.

Lead image by Eduardo Amorim.

 

Posted in Expat, TOP STORY2 Comments

Mexico: Families of 43 Students Contest Prosecutor’s Claim

Protesters march for the 43 missing students in Mexico City (photo: AFP Photo/Ronaldo Schemidt)

Protesters march for the 43 missing students in Mexico City (photo: AFP Photo/Ronaldo Schemidt)

Mexican authorities have affirmed that, officially, the 43 missing students from Ayotzinapa were murdered and incinerated in Cocula. However, the parents of the students rejected this conclusion, and vowed to continue searching for their children until they obtain scientific evidence of their death.

In a press conference yesterday, General Prosecutor Jesús Murillo Karam said that “it can be concluded that the students were detained, murdered, and incinerated in Cocula.” The arrest of Felipe Rodríguez Salgado (aka ‘El Cepillo’) on 15th January and his subsequent confession –consistent with that of the other suspects– was key for the authorities to reach this conclusion. According to the prosecutor, it was Rodríguez Salgado who led the operation, for which he could get a 140-year prison sentence.

Tomás Zerón, head of the Criminal Investigation Agency at the General Prosecutor’s Office, also explained that scientific evidence shows that there was a massive fire at the Cocula municipal rubbish dump, where the suspects confessed to having burnt the bodies of the victims.

“The finding of human bones in the rubbish dump and in the San Juan river confirms the versions and prove the presence of a large group of people who were killed in that place,” said Murillo Karam, who also stated there is no evidence linking the Mexican Army with the disappearance of the students.

The Prosecutor clarified that the case will not be closed until the remaining suspects are arrested.

The families of the students rejected the prosecutor’s statement and claimed “we will not let them close the investigation with just the declarations of the detainees.”

Vidulfo Rosales, the lawyer representing the families of the students, said: “We can’t let them close the case and tell us ‘there’s your dead’, but they won’t tell us where their bodies are, where there remains are.”

“Since it’s well known that Mexican prosecutors are specialists in fabricating crimes and since renowned scientists have expressed doubts about this hypothesis, the families will not accept these results until we get independent experts’ opinions,” said Rosales, who also considered that the prosecutor’s case is too heavily based on the suspects’ statements, which could have been obtained under duress.

Rosales accused the government of being in a hurry to close an investigation that is not conclusive, and which should also study accusations against the Army and against former Guerrero governor Ángel Aguirre Rivero and prosecutor Iñaki Blanco.

The 43 students from Ayotzinapa disappeared in the town of Iguala, Guerrero, on 26th September. The prosecutor accused former Iguala mayor José Luis Abarca Velázquez and his wife, Ángeles Pineda Villa, of masterminding their kidnapping and murder, with help from the local police (from Iguala and Cocula) and criminal organisation Guerreros Unidos.

Journalist Found Dead

In another case involving local authorities in Mexico, journalist Moisés Sánchez Cerezo was found dead on the weekend in the state of Veracruz. DNA and fingerprint tests confirmed the identity of the body.

The murder of the journalist was allegedly ordered by the mayor of the town of Medellín de Bravo, Omar Cruz Reyes, on 2nd January, according to the prosecutor in charge of the case.

A former police officer, Clemente Noé Rodríguez Martínez, was arrested in connection with the murder. He confessed to having killed the journalist, together with other people. The prosecutor, Luis Angel Bravo, said on a press conference: “Noé Rodríguez also pointed out that the death of Moisés Sánchez was carried out by a direct order of the Medellín mayor’s driver in exchange for police protection so that his gang could sell drugs in the town without any problems.”

Bravo will request that mayor Cruz Reyes be stripped of his immunity so that charges can be brought against him.

According to Animal Político, 11 journalists have been killed in the state of Veracruz since 2010, under the administration of PRI governor Javier Duarte.

 

Posted in News From Latin America, Round Ups Latin America0 Comments

President Announces Bill to Overhaul State Intelligence Services

President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner announces reform of intelligence services (Photo via CFKargentina)

President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner announces reform of intelligence services (Photo via CFKargentina)

President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner announced yesterday that she was sending a bill to Congress to reform the country’s intelligence services.

Speaking to the nation in a TV broadcast, the president said the existing Intelligence Secretariat (SI) would be dissolved and replaced by a new Federal Intelligence Agency with “completely different governing principles”.

“This is a debt in our democracy that all governments have carried since 1983,” said President Fernández, who appeared in a wheelchair due to a broken ankle suffered last month.

The new Federal Intelligence Agency will be led a director and assistant director that are appointed by the Executive but require approval from the Senate to start performing their duties. Both positions will have a mandate of four years.

Meanwhile, control of the current System of Judicial Observations, which is responsible for tapping phones, will be transferred to the Public Prosecutor Ministry. The president said this was because the ministry operates uniquely outside of the executive, judicial, and legislative branches of government.

Other reforms in the proposed bill include: a ban on interactions between public officials and intelligence agents, unless conducted via the director or assistant director of the agency; the creation of data protection banks to ensure that private information is gathered and stored only when necessary; prison sentences of up to ten years for those who illegally intercept communications; and criminal charges for any public official or employee who makes contact with intelligence agents outside of institutional channels.

The proposal comes a week after the sudden death of AMIA prosecutor Alberto Nisman, which the government, including President Fernández, has linked to recent personnel changes made in the SI. The president also claimed yesterday that the Intelligence Secretariat was behind a “bombardment” of accusations against the Executive since the 2013 Memorandum of Understanding was signed with Iran as part of the investigation into the 1994 AMIA bombing.

“I will not bow to extortion, or intimation,” said Fernández. “I’m not afraid – they can say what they want, or make the accusations they want. I’m not interested whether judges call me to court, or prosecutors make accusations about me, I’m not going to change my mind one bit.”

The initiative was applauded by ruling party legislators, but some opposition candidates criticised the president’s message.

“The State Intelligence cannot be corrected with a law, but with a change of government,” said presidential hopeful Ernesto Sanz, of the Radical (UCR) Party.

“There is no substantial change,” declared PRO Senator Gabriela Michetti. “Phone tapping by the judiciary will now have to go through [Public Prosecutor] Alejandra Gils Carbó, and we all know by now who Gils Carbó responds to and about the problems of keeping the Public Prosecutor’s Office independent of the Executive.”

Meanwhile, former Supreme Court judge Raúl Zaffaroni said the initiative “takes the bull by the horns”. He added: “judging by the development of the current Intelligence Secretariat, any change will be positive.”

Posted in News From Argentina, Round Ups Argentina1 Comment

Cuba: US Talks ‘Productive’, but ‘Profound Differences’ Remain

US and Cuban delegates open historic talks in Havana  (Photo: Adalberto Roque/AFP/via Télam)

US and Cuban delegates open historic talks in Havana (Photo: Adalberto Roque/AFP/via Télam)

Delegates from the US and Cuba have described two days of historic talks in Havana as “productive”, though acknowledged “profound differences” on issues such as human rights.

The talks were part of the first official face-to-face bilateral meeting of high-level diplomats in decades, coming a month after the historic decision by Cuban President Raúl Castro and his US counterpart, Barack Obama, to reopen dialogue.

US Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roberta Jacobson and Cuba’s foreign minister, Josefina Vidal, said that discussions had centred on taking the first formal steps to normalising diplomatic relations between the two countries, including the re-opening of embassies.

Other issued explored included the potential for greater business ties and co-operation in areas such as aviation security, drug trafficking, and epidemics. Vidal, meanwhile, also urged Obama to remove Cuba from its list of states that sponsor terrorism and to push US Congress towards ending the embargo of the island economy.

However, there was already evidence of some of the major differences between the two sides in a dispute over discussions about human rights.

In a statement issued at the conclusion of the talks, Jacobson noted that: “As a central element of our policy, we pressed the Cuban government for improved human rights conditions, including freedom of expression.”

However, in the Spanish version of the statement this was translated as ‘presionar‘ which can mean “to pressure”. Vidal responded by denying that this vocabulary had been used during the talks, adding that “Cuba has never, and will never, respond to pressure”.

Vidal also indicated that dialogue must continue “without interfering with national independence and the sovereignty of our people.”

US officials later stated that the Spanish translation of the statement was unintentionally misleading.

Both parties recognised that these talks were just the very beginning of what will be a lengthy process.

“We have to overcome more than 50 years of a relationship that was not based on confidence or trust,” said Jacobson. “This will be a long and complex process that will require work from both sides, and which must resolve ongoing issues in the bilateral agenda,” added Vidal.

So far a date have not been set for the next round of talks between the two sides.

Posted in News From Latin America, Round Ups Latin America1 Comment

Nisman: Investigation Continues into AMIA Prosecutor’s Death

Nisman: Investigation Continues into AMIA Prosecutor’s Death

Prosecutor Viviana Fein is leading the investigations into Alberto Nisman's death (Photo: Claudio Fanchi/Télam)

Prosecutor Viviana Fein is leading the investigations into Alberto Nisman’s death (Photo: Claudio Fanchi/Télam)

Investigations are continuing into the sudden death of special AMIA prosecutor Alberto Nisman, a day after protests broke out across Argentina.

Nisman’s body was found locked inside his apartment in Puerto Madero on Sunday night. An initial autopsy yesterday indicated that he had died from a single gunshot to the head. The bullet came from the .22 calibre gun found near the body, and there were no indications of third party involvement.

In developments today, the prosecutor investigating Nisman’s death, Viviana Fein, told local media that no traces of gunpowder had been found on Nisman’s hands. Fein added that this was common with a gun of that calibre and that “this does not prove that he did not fire the gun,” as the autopsy suggests.

Fein said she will be taking the testimony of the two police officers that were on duty on Sunday as part of a team of ten assigned to protect the prosecutor. Fein will also speak to Nisman’s relatives and ex-wife, who arrived in the country earlier today.

Also today, officers conducted a search of Nisman’s office in order to take any computers or other items that could support the investigation.

Reactions and Protests

Many people reacted angrily to the news of Nisman’s death, with protests staged across several Argentine towns and cities last night.

“We’re protesting because the Kirchnerist government has set a new record for corruption and hostility,” Pablo Pampin, a health insurance employee who took part in the protest in Plaza de Mayo, told The Argentina Independent. “On Wednesday a prosecutor accuses the president of a cover up in the AMIA case and on Sunday he is found dead. He allegedly committed suicide, but the question is why he did? What did they threaten him with?”

Meanwhile, President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner released a statement lamenting the death of Nisman, saying that his suspected suicide prompted “first stupor and then questions”.

“What was it that leads a person to make the terrible decision to take their own life?” President Fernández wrote in a message published on her official Facebook page. “In the case of the suicide(?) of the prosecutor in charge of the AMIA case, Alberto Nisman, there is not only stupor and questions but a story too long, too hard, and above all very sordid: the tragedy of the worst terrorist attack carried out in Argentina.”

In her message, President Fernández recalled the alleged cover up in the original investigation into the 1994 AMIA bombing, the trial for which includes as suspects ex-president Carlos Menem and former judge Juan José Galeano, and which is expected to begin later this year.

“Today, more that ever, we cannot allow them to do the same with the trial over the cover up as they did with the original case. We will discover who carried out the [AMIA] attack when we know who covered for them.”

The president concluded her statement with several unanswered questions about Nisman’s behaviour in the days before his death that she said must be investigated by the judiciary.

Secretary General for the Presidency, Aníbal Fernández, also spoke about question marks over Nisman’s accusations against the president last week, after the prosecutor had returned early from holidays to present the lawsuit.

“Why was he so desperate to return [to Argentina] in those terms? It doesn’t make sense,” he told reporters this morning. “He was made to come back and present the suit,” Fernández said, adding that the incident was linked to “top-level structures like the Intelligence Secretariat.”

‘Truth and Justice’

In other developments, members of the Jewish community in Buenos Aires have called for a march to the AMIA centre on Wednesday to demand “truth and justice”.

Reacting to yesterday’s shock revelation, the AMIA and the Delegation of Israeli Associations in Argentina (DAIA) released a joint press statement calling Nisman’s death “a blow for the AMIA case”.

“[We will] redouble their commitment to clarify what happened in the attack and bring those responsible to justice. The AMIA and DAIA demand that the special prosecution unit continues to work so that the physical disappearance of Nisman does not signify the death of a case that left 85 fatalities and hundreds injured.”

Lead image by Claudio Fanchi, via Télam.

Posted in News From Argentina, Round Ups Argentina0 Comments

Guatemala: Ex-Police Chief Given 90 Years for Embassy Massacre

Rigoberta Menchú's father was one of the victims of the Spanish Embassy Massacre (photo: Wikipedia)

Rigoberta Menchú’s father was one of the victims of the Spanish Embassy Massacre (photo: Wikipedia)

A court in Guatemala has sentenced ex-police chief Pedro García Arredondo to 90 years in prison for his role in the so-called ‘Spanish Embassy Massacre‘ in 1980.

Arredondo was handed a 40-year sentence after being found responsible for ordering the attack on the embassy, starting a fire that would kill 37 activists and embassy staff occupying the building. He was given another 50 years in prison for the killing of two students while they attended the funeral of the victims of the fire.

Indigenous activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Rigoberta Menchú, whose father Don Vicente Menchú was killed in the blaze, told Democracy Now! that the verdict was “historic”.

“This trial and verdict are huge. We waited 16 years for this verdict to be handed down… and this verdict has been issued 36 years after the event itself. So we are deeply moved, and this is a very special moment in our history.

“The truth is foremost, because they accused us of being liars. They tried to denigrate the memory of the victims. They even said that the victims had burned themselves. But the truth has come forward with this verdict from the court that holds not just García Arredondo responsible, but holds the state of Guatemala responsible for the massacre,” said Menchú

The deadly fire broke out as armed police stormed the diplomatic headquarters where a group of indigenous peasant farmers, student organisations, and unionists had gathered to protest human rights violations committed by the Guatemalan armed forces.

As the fire consumed the building, police blocked those inside from escaping and prevented firemen from tackling the blaze.

Arredondo is the only person to have been tried for the massacre, after being formally charged during a separate trial for the disappearance of student Edgar Saenz Calito in 1981, in which he was sentenced to 70 years in prison.

“This is a victory for the victims and shows again that Guatemala’s justice system is – when there is no political interference – fully capable of prosecuting the worst human rights violations from the country’s dark past,” said Erika Guevara Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.

“We hope that other cases of serious human rights violations currently in Guatemala’s justice system, including that of [ex-dictator] José Efraín Ríos Montt, are resolved in a timely manner that provides justice, truth and reparation to the many thousands of other victims and survivors of the conflict’s abuses.

Posted in News From Latin America, Round Ups Latin America0 Comments

Indy Eye: Protests Break Out in Argentina After Nisman Death

Indy Eye: Protests Break Out in Argentina After Nisman Death

Protests broke out in towns and cities across Argentina yesterday evening, as people took to the streets to demonstrate against the government following the death of special prosecutor Alberto Nisman. In Buenos Aires, protesters gathered in front of the presidential palace on Plaza de Mayo, many holding signs saying ‘Yo Soy Nisman’ and accusing the government of some involvement in his sudden death. Later in the evening there were clashes between some protesters and police.

Nisman was found dead in his apartment late on Sunday night, just hours before he was due to speak in Congress about accusations he made last week against President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and other high-ranking officials of an alleged cover up to protect Iranian officials suspected of being involved in the 1994 AMIA attack.

Photographer Patricio Murphy was at Plaza de Mayo and shares some of his photos with The Indy.

Nisman1 Pat Murphy

Nisman2 Pat Murphy

Nisman3 Pat Murphy

Nisman4 Pay Murphy

Nisman5 Pat Murphy

Nisman6 Pat Murphy

Nisman7 Pay Murphy

Nisman8 Pat Murphy

Nisman9 Pat Murphy

All images ©Patricio Murphy

Posted in Photoessay, TOP STORY0 Comments

Rousseff ‘Outraged’ After Indonesia Executes Brazilian National

Dilma Rousseff's personal appeals to the Indonesian government were dismissed. (photo: Presidency of Brazil)

Dilma Rousseff’s personal appeals to the Indonesian government were dismissed. (photo: Presidency of Brazil)

Brazil has recalled its ambassador to Indonesia after a Brazilian national was executed for drug trafficking over the weekend.

Marco Archer Cardoso Moreira was among six people, including five foreigners, executed by firing squad just after midnight on Saturday (local time). Moreira, 53, was caught entering the country with more than 13kg of cocaine in 2003 and was sentenced to death a year later.

He is the first Brazilian national to be executed in a foreign country.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, who had appealed for clemency from the Indonesian government on Friday, said she was “saddened and outraged” by the execution. “The use of the death penalty, increasingly condemned by the international community, will seriously affect the relationship between our two countries,” said Rousseff in an official statement.

The other foreigners executed on Sunday were from the Netherlands, Vietnam, Malawi, and Nigeria, and had all been convicted of drug-related crimes.

The Brazilian government said it would continue to appeal on behalf on another citizen, Rodrigo Gularte, who is also on death row in Indonesia and facing “imminent” execution.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo said his country would continue to enforce its strict drug laws. On Sunday, the leader wrote on his official Facebook page: “There is no room for half-measures in the war against the drugs mafia, because drugs destroy the lives of the users and their families.”

 

Posted in News From Latin America, Round Ups Latin America0 Comments

Cuba: US Eases Travel and Trade Restrictions

Raul Castro announces the reestablishment of diplomatic relations with the US (photo: EFE/Ernesto Mastrascusa/telam/dsl)

Raul Castro announces the reestablishment of diplomatic relations with the US (photo: EFE/Ernesto Mastrascusa/telam/dsl)

New rules for trade and travel between the US and Cuba came into force today, as part of the recent bilateral decision to restore diplomatic ties after more than 50 years.

From today, US citizens will be able to travel to Cuba without the need for a specific licence, provided the journey is taken for any of 12 authorised reasons. These include: family visits, journalistic activity, humanitarian projects, support for Cuban people, and for certain export transactions.

Travellers will also now be able to use US credit and debit cards when in Cuba, and there will be no limits on how much can be spent in a single day. Tourists will also be able to import up to US$400 in goods acquired in Cuba for personal use, though the limit for alcohol and tobacco is US$100.

“We’re trying to make it much more flexible for people to visit the islands,” a White House official told the press yesterday. “Behind all of our actions was an effort to try to increase U.S. contact with the Cuban people, between our respective populations, and respective citizens.”

It will also be easier for people in the US to send money to Cuba. The new trade rules will allow the US to export certain goods, such as selected telecommunications or construction materials, while US financial institutions will be able to open accounts in Cuban banks so as to facilitate transactions.

The easing of regulations comes days after Cuba confirmed the release of 53 political prisoners, as part of the agreement made between the two countries at the end of last year.

The new measures were welcome cautiously by Cuban authorities. “They mark a step in the right direction,” said an editorial today in the Cuban state-run publication Granma. “But there is still a long way to go to remove other facets of the economic, trade, and financial embargo using the president’s executive powers, and for the US Congress to finally put an end to this policy.”

Posted in News From Latin America, Round Ups Latin America0 Comments

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