Up to 17 American Missionaries Including Children Kidnapped in Haiti: Christian Group

As many as 17 American missionaries including women and children were reportedly kidnapped in Haiti over the weekend, according to a message sent to several religious missions.
The missionaries were on their way home from building an orphanage when the incident occurred, the Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries said in a message.
“This is a special prayer alert,” said a message on WhatsApp, a screenshot of which was seen by The Epoch Times. “Pray that the gang members would come to repentance.” The message also said that women and children were among those kidnapped.
The message stated that the mission’s field director is now working with the U.S. Embassy in Haiti. No other details were immediately available.
The U.S. State Department, in a statement to media outlets, confirmed it is aware of reports about the kidnapping. The Epoch Times has contacted the department for comment. capital
“The welfare and safety of U.S. citizens abroad is one of the highest priorities of the Department of State,” the spokesperson said in a statement, without offering additional comment.
The Washington Post and CNN first reported on the kidnapping.
The U.S. Embassy in Haiti has not responded request for comment. Christian Aid Ministries also did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Earlier this month, the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti said that kidnappings have sharply risen in Haiti in recent months—coming months after the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moise and a 7.2 magnitude earthquake.
Helen La Lime, Special Representative and head of the UN Integrated Office in Haiti, said that elections have been postponed again as  “insecurity has become rampant in Port-au-Prince, as kidnappings are once again on the rise and gangs have extended their control over large swaths of the city.”
“Political turmoil, the surge in gang violence, deteriorating socioeconomic conditions – including food insecurity and malnutrition—all contribute to the worsening of the humanitarian situation,” the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti said in a recent report on the poverty-stricken Caribbean country. “An overstretched and under-resourced police force alone cannot address the security ills of Haiti.”
At least 328 kidnapping victims were reported to Haiti’s National Police in 2021 so far, an increase from 234 in all of 2020, according to the report.
The Department of State currently lists Haiti as a “do not travel” country, noting high crime, kidnappings, civil unrest, and COVID-19.
“Kidnapping is widespread and victims regularly include U.S. citizens,” the agency warns on its website. “Kidnappers may use sophisticated planning or take advantage of unplanned opportunities, and even convoys have been attacked.”
Such “kidnapping cases often involve ransom negotiations and U.S. citizen victims have been physically harmed during kidnappings,” the warning continues, adding that “victim’s families have paid thousands of dollars to rescue their family members.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Jack PhillipsBreaking News Reporter
Follow
Jack Phillips is a breaking news reporter at The Epoch Times based in New York.

read more

No End in Sight to Volcanic Eruption on Spain’s La Palma: Canaries President

LA PALMA, Spain—There’s no immediate end in sight to the volcanic eruption that has caused chaos on the Spanish isle of La Palma since it began about a month ago, the president of the Canary Islands said on Sunday.
There were 42 seismic movements on the island on Sunday, the largest of which measured 4.3, according to the Spanish National Geographical Institute.
“There are no signs that an end of the eruption is imminent even though this is the greatest desire of everyone,” President Angel Víctor Torres said at a Socialist party conference in Valencia, citing the view of scientists.
The Cumbre Vieja volcano spews lava as it continues to erupt on the Canary Island of La Palma, as seen from Tajuya, Spain, on Oct. 17, 2021. (Susana Vera/Reuters)
Streams of lava have laid waste to more than 742 hectares (1,833 acres) of land and destroyed almost 2,000 buildings on La Palma since the volcano started erupting on Sept. 19.
About 7,000 people have been evacuated from their homes on the island, which has about 83,000 inhabitants and forms part of the Canary Islands archipelago off northwestern Africa.
Airline Binter said it had cancelled all its flights to La Palma until 1 p.m. on Sunday because of ash from the volcano.
Almost half—22 out of 38—of all flights to the island on Sunday have been cancelled, state airport operator Aena said, but the airport there remains open.
By Miguel Gutierrez

Follow

read more

2 Arrested in Athens for Protesting Beijing Olympics

ATHENS, Greece—Two women attempted to hang a banner from the Acropolis in Athens Sunday morning in protest at the upcoming Beijing Winter Olympics, and were detained by Greek police.
The activists, 18-year-old Tibetan student Tsela Zoksang and 22-year-old exiled Hong Kong activist Joey Siu, both American citizens, are members of the “No Beijing 2022” campaign, a statement from the New York-based organization Students for a Free Tibet said.
They, and a third person, entered the archeological site as paying customers, and then Zoksang and Siu climbed up some scaffolding, from which they attempted to unfurl the banner.
A security officer rushed to them and took the banner away. The two women remained on the scaffolding and deployed a Tibetan flag and a smaller banner proclaiming, “Free Hong Kong Revolution.” They also chanted slogans including “Free Tibet,” “Boycott Beijing 2022,” and “No freedom, no Games.” Police arrived and detained the protesters.
Security staff try to take a banner from protesters on scaffolding at the Acropolis hill, in Athens, Greece, on Oct. 17, 2021. (Yorgos Karahalis/AP Photo)
The whole incident lasted about 10 minutes.
“Now it is time for the international community, and all people of conscience, to take a stand and boycott Beijing 2022; anything less will be a clear endorsement of China’s genocidal regime,” Zoksang was quoted as saying in the statement. “The IOC is sending the world a message that it is OK to turn a blind eye to genocide and crimes against humanity in Hong Kong, Tibet, East Turkestan, and Southern Mongolia,” added Siu.
The Olympic flame for the 24th Winter Games will be lit at Ancient Olympia Monday and handed over to the Chinese at a ceremony in Athens’ Panathenian Stadium Tuesday. The International Olympic Committee’s Executive Board met in Athens Saturday. The board will gather at Ancient Olympia later Sunday to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Executive Board’s founding. The dress rehearsal for the Olympic flame ceremony will also take place Sunday.
A protest against the staging of the summer Olympic Games by China previously took place in Athens in March 2008; a couple of dozen Greek and Tibetan activists tried unsuccessfully to interfere with the torch relay for that year’s Summer Olympics.
The Beijing Winter Games are scheduled to run from Feb. 4—20, 2022, with the Paralympics set to follow from March 4—13.
By Demetris Nellas

The Associated Press
Follow

read more

Russian Filmmakers Land After Shoot Aboard Space Station

MOSCOW—A Soyuz space capsule carrying a cosmonaut and two Russian filmmakers has landed after a three-and-a-half-hour trip from the International Space Station.
The capsule, descending under a red-and-white striped parachute after entering Earth’s atmosphere, landed upright in the steppes of Kazakhstan on schedule at 4:35 a.m. GMT Sunday with Oleg Novitskiy, Yulia Peresild, and Klim Shipenko aboard.
Actress Peresild and film director Shipenko rocketed to the space station on Oct. 5 for a 12-day stint to film segments of a movie titled “Challenge,” in which a surgeon played by Peresild rushes to the space station to save a crew member who needs an urgent operation in orbit. Novitskiy, who spent more than six months aboard the space station, is to star as the ailing cosmonaut in the movie.
After the landing, which sent plumes of dust flying high in the air, ground crews extracted the three space flyers from the capsule and placed them in seats set up nearby as they adjusted to the pull of gravity. They were then taken to a medical tent for examination.
In this photo taken from video footage released by Roscosmos Space Agency, Russian space agency rescue team members help film director Klim Shipenko out from the capsule shortly after the landing of the Russian Soyuz MS-18 space capsule, southeast of the Kazakh town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, on Oct. 17, 2021. (Roscosmos Space Agency via AP)
All appeared healthy and cheerful. Peresild smiled and held a large bouquet of white flowers as journalists clustered around her. But she said she also felt a touch of melancholy.
“I’m feeling a bit sad today. It seemed that 12 days would be a lot, but I did not want to leave when everything was over,” Peresild said on state TV.
In this photo taken from video footage released by Roscosmos Space Agency, the Russian Soyuz MS-18 space capsule lands, southeast of the Kazakh town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, on Oct. 17, 2021. (Roscosmos Space Agency via AP)
The transfer to the medical tent was delayed for about 10 minutes while crews filmed several takes of Peresild and Novitskiy in their seats, which are to be included in the movie. More scenes remain to be shot on Earth for the film whose release date is uncertain.
Seven astronauts remain aboard the space station: Russia’s Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov, Americans Mark Vande Hei, Shane Kimbrough, and Megan McArthur, Thomas Pesquet of the European Space Agency, and Japan’s Aki Hoshide.
By Jim Heintz

The Associated Press
Follow

read more

UK to Ensure Lawmakers Remain Accessible to Public Despite MP’s Killing

The UK government will ensure lawmakers remain accessible to the public following the killing of Conservative MP Sir David Amess by a suspected terrorist, Home Secretary Priti Patel said on Sunday.
Amess, 69-year-old MP for Southend West, was fatally stabbed on Friday at Belfairs Methodist Church in the English town of Leigh-on-Sea. He was holding a so-called “constituency surgery,” which is held regularly by elected politicians so their constituents can meet and speak with them.
Conservative MP David Amess with his pugs, Lily and Boat at the Westminster Dog of the Year competition at Victoria Tower Gardens in London on Oct. 10, 2013. (Geoff Caddick/PA via AP)
A 25-year-old man was arrested at the scene and is being held under the Terrorism Act.
Speaking to Sky News’s “Trevor Phillips On Sunday” programme, Patel said she did not believe the murder of Amess should change the relationship between MPs and their constituents.
“I’ve been a member of Parliament for just over 10 years and we are part of the fabric, the DNA of society, our democracy, freedom, the chance for people to engage with us,” she said.
Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson (R), Britain’s main opposition Labour Party leader Keir Starmer (L), Speaker of the House Lindsay Hoyle (2R), and Britain’s Home Secretary Priti Patel (2L) lay floral tributes as at the scene of the fatal stabbing of Conservative British lawmaker David Amess, at Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea, southeast England, on Oct. 16, 2021. (Tolga Akmen/AFP via Getty Images)
Patel said that, following the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox in 2016, “We have all changed our ways of working because of changing concerns, threats in society.”
But she added, “This should never ever break that link between an elected representative and their democratic role, responsibility, and duty to the people who elected them.”
Patel said “practical measures” were already being taken to “close any gaps” around the safety of MPs and politicians.
She said MPs were being asked to share their whereabouts with police as part of increasing their security.
“We are making sure that members of Parliament have the confidence to go around in their constituencies and having that advice from police and security about how to keep themselves safe.”
Labour’s shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy said she was not sure the threat to MPs could ever be eliminated.
Also talking to Sky News, she said, “MPs are well known in our constituencies, people tend to know where we live, we are out and about, we’re normal human beings, we go out and about on the weekends and go to the local shops.”
Nandy said increasing security at the surgeries is a good idea, because the meetings “can become a magnet for people who want to come and cause trouble.”
Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Friday’s fatal attack must not result in democracy being “diminished.”
“This is an attack on our democracy, so the answer cannot be less democracy,” he told Sky News.
PA contributed to this report.

Alexander Zhang
Follow

read more

China Could be Exploiting Internet Security Process to Steal Data, Cyber Experts Warn

To access data from unsuspecting users, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) could be exploiting a universal authentication process that is thought to be secure, but in reality may not be, cybersecurity experts warned.
While encryption remains the preferred method to secure digital data and protect computers, in some cases, the very digital certificates used for authentication on the Internet are allowing the Chinese regime to infiltrate various computer networks and wreak havoc, they said.
Bodies around the world, known as “Certificate Authorities” (CA), issue digital certificates that verify a digital entity’s identity on the Internet.
A digital certificate can be compared to a passport or driver’s license, Andrew Jenkinson, CEO of cybersecurity firm Cybersec Innovation Partners (CIP) and author of the book “Stuxnet to Sunburst: 20 Years of Digital Exploitation and Cyberwarfare,” told The Epoch Times.
“Without it, the person or device they are using cannot be according to industry standards and vital data encryption could be bypassed leaving what was assumed to be encrypted in plain text form,” he said.
Through cryptography, digital certificates are used to encrypt internal and external communications that prevent a hacker, for example, from intercepting and stealing data. But invalid or “rogue certificates” can manipulate the entire encryption process, and as a result, “millions of users have been given a false sense of security,” Jenkinson said.
Layers of False Trust
Michael Duren, executive vice president of cybersecurity firm Global Cyber Risk LLC, explained that digital certificates are typically issued by trusted CAs, and equal levels of trust are then passed on to intermediate providers. However, there are opportunities for a communist entity, a bad actor, or another untrustworthy entity to issue certificates to other “nefarious folks” that would appear to be trustworthy but are not, he said.
“When a certificate is issued from a trusted entity,” Duren said, “it’s going to be trusted, but what the issuer could actually be doing is passing that trust down to someone that shouldn’t be trusted.”
Duren said he would never trust a Chinese certificate authority for this reason, adding that he is aware of a number of companies that have banned Chinese certificates over issuing them to entities that cannot be trusted.
Chinese certificate authorities, Jenkinson said, make up a small proportion of the overall sector, and the certificates they issue are typically confined to Chinese entities and products.
Prince, a member of the hacking group Red Hacker Alliance who refused to give his real name, uses his computer at their office in Dongguan, China’s southern Guangdong province on Aug. 4, 2020. (Nicolas Asfouri/AFP via Getty Images)
In 2015, certificates issued by the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC), the state-run agency that oversees China’s domain name registry, were called into question. Google and Mozilla banned CNNIC certificates upon unauthorized digital certificates connected to several domains. Both Internet firms objected to CNNIC delegating its authority to issue certificates to an Egyptian company, which issued the unauthorized certificates.
According to Jenkinson, the CNNIC certificates were banned because “they had back doors in them.”
“A back door means [the Chinese certificate authority] could literally take over administration access and send data back to the mothership,” he said.
Since 2016, Mozilla, Google, Apple, and Microsoft have also banned Chinese Certificate Authorities WoSign and its subsidiary StartCom over unacceptable security practices.
Security Flaw
Despite these bans on Chinese digital certificates in recent years, the CCP has not been deterred and is playing the long game, Jenkinson warned.
He pointed to an alarming discovery made by his cybersecurity firm two years ago affecting a multinational consulting company.
Typically digital certificates are valid for a couple of years, depending on the certification authority, and renewal is required to keep them valid and the data they are supposed to protect secure, he said.
“But in 2019, CIP Chinese discovered certificates that were in place for 999 years,” Jenkinson said.
His firm made this discovery when examining the laptops of a prominent global consulting company.
Signs that depict the four members of China’s military indicted on charges of hacking into Equifax Inc. and stealing data from millions of Americans are seen shortly after Attorney General William Barr held a press conference at the Department of Justice in Washington on Feb. 10, 2020. (Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images)
Jenkinson brought this security flaw to the firm’s attention, and offered services to secure its computer and customer networks. But the company declined.
“Either they are incredibly complacent, or they are complicit,” he said, adding that the company’s clients include U.S. government entities.
This multi-billion-dollar company’s failure to remedy this issue means that hundreds of thousands of people could be exposed to Chinese infiltration via this firm’s lax security, Jenkinson said.
The firm is compromising its customers every time someone uses one of their laptops, he added. For instance, companies or clients using the company’s services could be held to ransom, have their intellectual property stolen, or be the recipient of malicious codes planted for later use.
This company is “in breach of every regulation of privacy known to man—and they just want to dismiss it,” the cybersecurity professional said, particularly pointing to the European Union’s strict data protection laws.
And if this information were made public, Jenkinson said, the repercussions would be extensive.
“Imagine a waterhole attack or a drive-by attack, one where a cyber criminal can just sit there and easily gain access to capture data without even thinking about it or having to decrypt it—because it’s all in plain text [due to a rogue certificate or configuration error],” he said.
For such a large reputable company to choose not to protect their clients is “madness,” Jenkinson said.
A ‘Slippery Slope’
Economic losses from cyber crimes are far from trending in the right direction, Jenkinson noted.
Global losses from cyber crime exceeded $1 trillion in 2020, according to a report from computer security company McAfee. In 2021, losses are expected to escalate to over $6 trillion, research firm Cybersecurity Ventures said.
Jenkinson predicts that economic losses will exceed $10 trillion by 2025. At this pace, “this will impact every man, woman, and child,” he said. “The slippery slope we’re on, well, we’re greasing it ourselves.”
To reverse this trend, as a start, “people should not be using CNNIC digital certificates,” Jenkinson said.
Duren of Global Cyber Risk agreed, saying, “Anything coming out of a state-controlled entity like communist China acting as a certificate authority should not be trusted.”
CAs need better controls and oversight, Jenkinson said. “Without this nobody has any chance of knowing what digital certificates are being used, considering that a standard laptop contains hundreds of thousands of digital certificate instances.”
He noted that Chinese computer products will predominately use Chinese digital certificates. Therefore, he said, users of such products should be aware that their security could be compromised as a result.

J.M. PhelpsFreelance reporter
Follow
J.M. Phelps is a writer and researcher of both Islamist and Chinese threats.

read more

Nigerian Military Says Leader of ISIS-Linked Group Is Dead

LAGOS, Nigeria—Nigeria’s military claimed Thursday that Abu Musab al-Barnawi, the leader of an ISIS-linked extremist group blamed for killing hundreds in the northeast, had died. There was no immediate confirmation from the militants.
At a news conference, Nigeria’s chief of defense staff, Gen. Lucky Irabor, told reporters: “I can authoritatively confirm to you that Abu Musab is dead.” He gave no further information and it was not possible to independently corroborate the claim.
The announcement came only five months after al-Barnawi and his forces claimed responsibility for killing rival extremist leader Abubakar Shekau.
Some reports said al-Barnawi had been fatally wounded during clashes with yet another rival extremist faction, but the military gave no details about how it had confirmed his death.
Al-Barnawi was just a teenager when his father, Mohammed Yusuf, was killed by Nigerian security forces in 2009. The death of the founding Boko Haram leader has fueled a more than decade-long insurgency against the Nigerian government, ultimately expanding to neighboring Niger, Chad and Cameroon as well.
Shekau took command of the group after Yusuf’s death, but clashed frequently over the years with al-Barnawi, who was reportedly at one point was picked instead by the ISIS organization to lead Boko Haram. Instead, a breakaway faction was formed in 2016 that became known as the Islamic State in West Africa Province, or ISWAP.
Unlike Shekau’s group, which often violently targeted civilian populations, ISWAP under al-Barnawi targeted the Nigerian military and those who aided the soldiers. But it drew heightened global concern when it began targeting civilians working for international aid organizations in the northeast in a series of kidnappings and killings.
The faction still led by Shekau, meanwhile, weakened in recent years and his death was announced in May. ISWAP then sought to expand its reach but al-Barnawi failed to win over thousands of Shekau’s followers and many surrendered to the Nigerian military instead.
The conflict in northeast Nigeria has directly caused the death of 36,000 people, according to U.N, officials, with more than 2.3 million people displaced.
By Chinedu Asadu

The Associated Press
Follow

read more

6 Fighters, 2 Workers Killed in Violence in Kashmir

SRINAGAR, India—Assailants fatally shot two non-local workers in two targeted attacks in Indian-controlled Kashmir on Saturday night, police said, days after five people were killed in a similar fashion in the disputed region.
The killing comes hours after police said government forces killed four suspected militants in the last 24 hours and claimed three of them were involved in last week’s killings of three members of minority communities.
Police blamed militants fighting against Indian rule for the Saturday attacks in the region’s main city and a village in southern Kashmir and called the killings “terror attacks.”
In the first incident in Srinagar, police said militants fired at a Hindu street vendor from India’s eastern state of Bihar. He died on the spot, police said.
An hour later, a Muslim worker from northern Uttar Pradesh state was shot and critically wounded in southern Litter village of Pulwama district. Police said he later died at a hospital.
Last week, assailants fatally shot three Hindus, a Sikh woman, and a local Muslim taxi driver in the region in a sudden rise in violence against civilians that both pro- and anti-India Kashmiri politicians widely condemned.
Also Saturday, two militants were killed in a gunfight with government forces in southern Pampore area, police said. Another two rebels were killed in two separate gunbattles with Indian troops in Srinagar and southern Pulwama district on Friday.
Police said three among the slain rebels were involved in the killings of a prominent local Hindu chemist and two schoolteachers of Hindu and Sikh faiths.
Following the spate of killings last week, authorities have detained over 1,000 people in a sweeping crackdown across the Kashmir Valley.
Meanwhile, the Indian army said the death toll in a gunfight with rebels that raged on Thursday in a forested area of southern Mendhar town climbed to four as troops Saturday recovered the bodies of two soldiers missing in action.
On Monday, five Indian soldiers were killed in the deadliest gun battle with militants this year in a contiguous forested area of Surankote town.
Lt. Col. Devender Anand, an Indian army spokesman, said troops continued with search operations in both the areas.
India and Pakistan claim the divided territory of Kashmir in its entirety.
Rebels in the Indian-controlled portion of Kashmir have been fighting New Delhi’s rule since 1989. Most Muslim Kashmiris support the rebel goal of uniting the territory, either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country.
India insists the Kashmir militancy is Pakistan-sponsored terrorism. Pakistan denies the charge, and most Kashmiris consider it a legitimate freedom struggle. Tens of thousands of civilians, rebels, and government forces have been killed in the conflict.

The Associated Press
Follow

read more

17 Missionaries Including Children Kidnapped in Haiti, Says US Christian Group

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico—A group of 17 U.S. missionaries, including children, was kidnapped by a gang in Haiti on Saturday, according to a voice message sent to various religious missions by an organization with direct knowledge of the incident.
The missionaries were on their way home from building an orphanage, according to a message from Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries.
“This is a special prayer alert,” the one-minute message said. “Pray that the gang members would come to repentance.”
The message says the mission’s field director is working with the U.S. Embassy, and that the field director’s family and one other unidentified man who stayed at the ministry’s base while everyone else visiting the orphanage, was abducted.
No other details were immediately available.
A U.S. government spokesperson said they were aware of the reports on the kidnapping.
“The welfare and safety of U.S. citizens abroad is one of the highest priorities of the Department of State,” the spokesperson said, declining further comment.
Haiti is once again struggling with a spike in gang-related kidnappings amid political and social turmoil like the fatal shooting of President Jovenel Moïse at his private residence on July 7, and a 7.2-magnitude earthquake that struck southwest Haiti in August, killing more than 2,200 people.
Gangs have demanded ransoms ranging from a couple hundred dollars to more than $1 million, according to authorities.
Last month, a deacon was killed in front of a church in the capital of Port-au-Prince and his wife kidnapped, one of dozens of people who have been abducted in recent months.
At least 328 kidnapping victims were reported to Haiti’s National Police in the first eight months of 2021, compared with a total of 234 for all of 2020, according to a report issued last month by the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti known as BINUH.
Gangs have been accused of kidnapping schoolchildren, doctors, police officers, busloads of passengers, and others as they grow more powerful. In April, one gang kidnapped five priests and two nuns, a move that prompted a protest similar to the one organized for this Monday to decry the lack of security in the impoverished country.
“Political turmoil, the surge in gang violence, deteriorating socioeconomic conditions—including food insecurity and malnutrition—all contribute to the worsening of the humanitarian situation,” BINUH said in its report. “An overstretched and under-resourced police force alone cannot address the security ills of Haiti.”
On Friday, the U.N. Security Council voted unanimously to extend the U.N. political mission in Haiti.
The kidnapping of the missionaries comes just days after high-level U.S. officials visited Haiti and promised more resources for Haiti’s National Police, including another $15 million to help reduce gang violence, which this year has displaced thousands of Haitians who now live in temporary shelters in increasingly unhygienic conditions.
Among those who met with Haiti’s police chief was Uzra Zeya, U.S. under secretary of state for civilian security, democracy, and human rights.
“Dismantling violent gangs is vital to Haitian stability and citizen security,” she recently tweeted.
By Dánica Coto

The Associated Press
Follow

read more

Maduro Regime Suspends Negotiations With Opposition as Venezuelans Continue to Suffer 76 Percent Poverty

CARACAS/PRAIA—Venezuela on Saturday said it would suspend negotiations with the opposition that were set to resume this weekend.
The announcement was made by Socialist party legislator Jorge Rodriguez, who heads the Maduro regime’s negotiating team. Rodriguez said the Venezuelan government would not attend the talks set to begin on Sunday after Cape Verde extradited Colombian businessman Alex Saab, a Venezuelan envoy who is close to Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro, to the United States on money laundering charges.
The Maduro regime in September named Saab—who was arrested in June 2020 when his plane stopped in Cape Verde to refuel—as a member of its negotiating team in talks with the opposition in Mexico, where the two sides are looking to solve their political crisis.
Rodriguez, reading from a statement, called the decision to suspend negotiations “an expression of our deepest protest against the brutal aggression against the person and the investiture of our delegate Alex Saab Moran.”
Opposition leader Juan Guaido condemned the decision.
“With this irresponsible suspension of their assistance in Mexico, they evade once again urgent attention for the country, which currently suffers from extreme poverty of 76.6 percent,” he said on Twitter. Guaido said he would continue to insist on finding a solution to the country’s crisis.
Hours after Saab’s extradition, Venezuela revoked the house arrest of six former executives of refiner Citgo, a U.S. subsidiary of state oil company PDVSA, two sources with knowledge of the situation and a family member told Reuters.
The U.S. Justice Department charged Saab in 2019 in connection with a bribery scheme to take advantage of Venezuela’s state-controlled exchange rate. The U.S. also sanctioned him for allegedly orchestrating a corruption network that allowed Saab and Maduro to profit from a state-run food subsidy program.
Saab’s lawyers have called the U.S. charges “politically motivated.”
In a Twitter post, Colombian President Ivan Duque called Saab’s extradition “a triumph in the fight against drug trafficking, money laundering, and corruption by the dictatorship of Nicolás Maduro.”
Read MoreBritain Sanctions Venezuelan President Maduro’s Envoy Saab
Cape Verde national radio reported the extradition on Saturday. The government of Cape Verde was not immediately available to comment.
The U.S. Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Americans Not a ‘Bargaining Chip’
The former Citgo executives, who were arrested in November 2017 after being summoned to a meeting at PDVSA headquarters in Caracas, were taken from their homes to one of the headquarters of the intelligence police, two sources said on Saturday.
The six former executives had been released from jail and put on house arrest in April.
The group is made up of five naturalized U.S. citizens and one permanent resident. The U.S. government has repeatedly demanded their release.
“My father cannot be used as a bargaining chip,” said Cristina Vadell, daughter of former executive Tomeu Vadell. “I’m worried for his health, even more given the country’s coronavirus cases.”
The Ministry of Communications and the Attorney General’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The Epoch Times contributed to this report.

Follow

read more

Italy’s Business Lobby Sees Stronger Economic Growth, GDP up 6.1 Percent in 2021

ROME—Italy’s business lobby Confindustria said on Saturday the country’s growth this year would be more robust than expected, mainly due to a more contained impact of the COVID-19 Delta variant and stronger-than-expected economic indicators.
In a report, the association’s research unit CSC forecast gross domestic product (GDP) would rise 6.1 percent this year and 4.1 percent next year, going above pre-pandemic levels in the first half of 2022.
In April, the research unit had said Italy’s GDP would be up 4.1 percent in 2021.
Its forecasts for this year are now just above the 6 percent expected by the national unity government lead by Mario Draghi.
Last year, the COVID-hit economy contracted by 8.9 percent, the steepest recession in Italy’s post-war history. The firm pick-up now in place is seen resulting in lower-than-expected public deficit and debt ratios this year.
The CSC report cautioned that, starting from the last quarter of this year, GDP growth would have a more “moderate profile.”
It said that its estimates took into account Italy’s multi-billion euro recovery plan, partly funded by the European Union.
It added that, despite the “positive perspectives,” the forecasts had downside risks that were linked to the possibility of new COVID-19 restrictions, the lack of raw materials that could bog down production, and more structural inflation.
Confindustria President Carlo Bonomi said that recovery was well underway but that it was important to “keep the guard up.”
“Italy must go back to growing at a yearly pace of at least 1.5–2 percent, an achievable goal, equal to the annual growth registered between 1997 and 2007,” he said.

Follow

read more