Tag Archives: United Nations

Colombia arrests suspected drug trafficker for major Mexico cartel

(Reuters) – Colombian authorities have arrested a Costa Rican man accused of trafficking shipments of cocaine to the United States on behalf of Mexico’s infamous Sinaloa cartel.

Oscar Antonio Berrocal, 52, was detained late on Thursday after arriving in the Colombian capital Bogota on a flight from Ecuador, where he lives.

“Berrocal, known to authorities under the aliases Charlie, the Chef, Finquero and Rolex, is required by U.S. authorities for alleged cocaine trafficking,” migration officials said in a statement. “In Colombia there is a valid order for his arrest and extradition.”

Cae presunto enlace del cártel del Pacífico en Colombia

Authorities said Berrocal is accused of coordinating the shipment of large quantities of cocaine to the United States for the Sinaloa cartel, one of the world’s largest drug trafficking organizations, often via smuggling networks in Central America.

The cartel is infamous in Mexico, where its leader Joaquin Guzman, alias ‘El Chapo’, was captured in February after 13 years on the run.


Colombia is a principal producer of cocaine, with an annual output of about 290 tons, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

The country’s once-prolific drug cartels have been weakened by U.S.-backed police offensives over the last two decades and now act mainly as suppliers for Mexican organizations.


Srebrenica memorial: Serbian PM chased away by angry crowd throwing stones

aleksandar vucic

A crowd throwing stones, shoes and bottles of water forced Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic to flee a memorial ceremony in Bosnia commemorating the 20-year anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre.

Mr Vucic had to be whisked away through a crowd of angry mourners after his glasses were broken when a stone, thrown from the booing crowd, hit him in the face.

People also carried banners reading a wartime quote from the Prime Minster: “For every killed Serb, we will kill 100 Bosniaks.”

The incident reveals the deep-seated anger over Serbia’s denial of the crime as genocide.

A group of women from the capital Belgrade, who are campaigning for Serbia to admit their role in the slaughter, shouted “responsibility” and “genocide” at Mr Vucic.

Tens of thousands of people were at the memorial marking the death of around 8,000 Muslim men and boys by Bosnian Serb forces during the break-up of the former Yugoslavia.

The United Nations had decalred Srebrenica to be safe for civilians, but on 11 July 1995 Serb troops attacked the Muslim area.

On Wednesday Russia vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution to describe the Srebrenica massacre as “genocide”.

Last month, Milorad Dodik, president of Bosnia’s autonomous Serb Republic, called the massacre “the greatest deception of the 20th century”.

14 people have been convicted at a UN tribunal in The Hague in connection to the Srebrenica killings.

The former Bosnian Serb army chief, Ratko Mladic, and former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic are both facing seperate trials at The Hague.

Both are accused of crimes relating to the Srebrenica massacre.

North Korea says hit by worst drought in 100 years

North Korea has been hit by what it describes as its worst drought in a century, which could worsen chronic food shortages in a country where the United Nations says almost a third of children under five are stunted because of poor nutrition.

The country suffered a devastating famine in the 1990s and has relied on international food aid, but support has fallen sharply in recent years, because of its curbs on humanitarian workers and reluctance to allow monitoring of food distribution.

The North’s KCNA news agency said late on Tuesday that paddies around the country, including the main rice farming regions of Hwanghae and Phyongan provinces, were drying up for lack of rain. Rice must be partly submerged in order to grow.

“The worst drought in 100 years continues in the DPRK, causing great damage to its agricultural field,” KCNA said, using the short form of the North’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

South Korea’s Unification Ministry, which handles ties with the North, did not have a comment on Wednesday about the report.

North Korea’s farm production periodically suffers from droughts and floods in the summer, although the state has learned to cut damage by updating farming methods and switching to crops other than rice in recent years.

Thomas Lehman, Denmark’s ambassador to both North and South Korea, told Reuters that on a visit to the North late last month he could “clearly see” attempts to deal with the drought in its fields.

“The lack of water has created a lot of damage to the so-called spring crop, and the rice planting is extremely difficult without sufficient water,” said Lehman, who has spoken to U.N. officials about the drought, and visited drought-hit areas.

North Korea has mounted a campaign encouraging the public to help out on farms, and is using mobile water pumps run on diesel and longer pipes to draw water into fields.

“Farm managers reported receiving training in dry rice planting techniques and other measures that they were trying to conserve water,” said Linda Lewis of the American Friends Service Committee, a group that runs farm projects in the North.

The U.N. resident coordinator for North Korea, Ghulam Isaczai, warned in a Reuters interview last month of a looming crisis due to last year’s drought, caused by the lowest rainfall in 30 years.

At the time, Isaczai said he thought the food situation would not be as bad as in previous major droughts, since communities were now more resilient and might have reserves.

In April, the United Nations called for $111 million to fund crucial humanitarian needs this year in North Korea, which it said remains drastically under-funded.

Funding for U.N. agencies in North Korea fell to less than $50 million in 2014, from $300 million in 2004.

North Korea relies heavily on hydroelectric power and suffers from chronic electricity shortages, which can be exacerbated by periods of no rain.

South Korea has also received sharply lower rainfall, particularly in the northern regions, which have got about half the rain of an average year, the national weather agency says.

In early June, Pyongyang’s propaganda officials produced two new posters and slogans to spur the fight on drought.

“Let’s mobilise the masses and fight with all our strength against the drought,” read one poster that showed a smiling farmer gesturing towards a field of workers with red flags and spades.

The Vatican and the Palestinians

The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, left, and Pope Francis.

The practical effect of the Vatican’s decision to sign a treaty recognizing the state of Palestine is debatable, but it is a symbolic victory for Palestinians who are struggling to keep alive their dream of a Palestinian state, which has been thwarted by the Israeli government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The Vatican has effectively treated Palestine as a state since the United Nations General Assembly voted in 2012 to recognize Palestine as a nonmember observer state. It has been referring unofficially to the state of Palestine for at least a year.

But the new treaty, addressing issues like properties, taxes and protocol at holy sites, will make clear the Vatican has formally switched its diplomatic relations from the Palestine Liberation Organization, which was named in earlier drafts, to the state of Palestine.

The announcement on Wednesday comes at an especially bleak moment for Israel-Palestinian peace efforts. American-led negotiations collapsed 13 months ago and Israel is about to install a new government that is widely considered more hard-line and hostile to a two-state solution than its predecessors.

On the eve of the March 17 elections, Mr. Netanyahu said flat out that no Palestinian state would be established during his tenure, and while he later softened his position, the possibility of any serious negotiating initiative seems dead. The guidelines for Israel’s new government even omitted the term “Palestinian state.”

Many experts believe that Israel’s expansion of housing units for Israelis in the West Bank and East Jerusalem has made establishing a territorially coherent Palestinian state nearly impossible. All of which has set the Palestinians on a quest for international recognition and support for sovereignty, ultimately to pressure Israel into talks.

Not surprisingly, Israel expressed disappointment at the Vatican’s decision and said it would not advance the cause of peace. Morton Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America, was less restrained, telling The Washington Post the treaty represents a resurgence of the “historical Catholic enmity towards Jews.”

But Pope Francis has made it a point to improve relations with other religious denominations and has described the spiritual bond between Catholics and Jews as “very special.”

Last month, he condemned anti-Semitic incidents in Europe and declared that Christians and Jews must defend one another from discrimination and persecution.

He has also repeatedly demonstrated a commitment to social and humanitarian issues, speaking out with his moral authority on the need to confront inequality around the world.

While the Vatican’s announcement may carry special weight, it’s far from the only government to recognize Palestine. Some 135 nations have recognized a state of Palestine since 1988. In October, Sweden formally recognized the Palestinian state.

In recent months, parliaments in Britain, Spain, France and Ireland have urged their governments to do the same. Meanwhile, international efforts are underway to increase pressure on Israel through boycotts and United Nations resolutions.

A negotiated Israeli-Palestinian deal on a two-state solution is the best chance for justice and peace. But given the complete breakdown of negotiations, it is likely that more governments, in supporting the claims of the Palestinian people, will formally accept Palestine as a state.

Fearing Russia may be arming Argentina, Britain beefs up Falkland Islands defences

A 2013 referendum found that 99.8% of Falkland Island residents want to remain a British territory.

Argentina’s cabinet chief says Britain’s £180m plan to bolster the Falklands’ defences over 10 years is ‘cheap nationalism’ before the 7 May general election

Argentina has branded Britain’s plans to beef up defences in the Falklands a provocation and a pre-election stunt .

The British defence secretary, Michael Fallon, said on Tuesday that the UK would spend £180m over 10 years to counter “continuous intimidation” from Argentina. The two countries went to war over the islands in 1982.

Daniel Garcia/AFP/Getty Images

“This business from Great Britain is a provocation, not just to Argentina but also to the United Nations,” Argentina’s foreign minister, Hector Timerman, said on Wednesday.

The UN’s decolonisation committee adopted a resolution last year calling on Britain to negotiate with Argentina on the islands’ status, as Buenos Aires has long demanded.

Britain argues the islanders should decide for themselves which country they want to belong to. In a 2013 referendum, 99.8% voted to remain a British overseas territory.

Timerman said the British defence initiative made “no sense”. “We are committed to dialogue and international law,” he told Radio del Plata.

Timerman said Argentina would file a formal complaint with the decolonisation committee, saying Britain was “expressly violating UN regulations on not altering the situation when there is a state of controversy regarding a territory’s sovereignty”.

President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s cabinet chief, Aníbal Fernández, said the plan was less about Argentinian threats and more about the campaign for Britain’s general election on 7 May.

BCRA/AFP/Getty Images

“They’re facing elections, so they resort to cheap nationalism to put all of British society on tenterhooks over a military matter,” he told a press conference.

Argentina invaded the Falklands, which it calls the Malvinas, in April 1982, sparking a war that it lost in just over two months.

The conflict claimed the lives of 649 Argentinian soldiers, 255 Britons and three islanders.

Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

Humans of New York Shares Powerful Portraits of People in the Middle East

Since 2010, Humans of New York (HONY) photographer Brandon Stanton has been faithfully documenting the people he meets in the Big Apple, one poignant portrait and story at a time.

“I want to be a pilot so I can fly everywhere.” (Dhana, Jordan)

While this project has mostly taken him around the streets of New York or even among celebrities at the Met Gala, HONY’s newest endeavor has resulted in some of his most revealing portraits yet.

“I’m a student. My parents didn’t want me sitting around the house all summer, so they made me be a shepherd.” (Kalak, Iraq)

In partnership with the United Nations and supported by the Secretary General’s MDG Advocacy Group,

“I would give my soul if I could fix her brain.” (Dohuk, Iraq)

HONY has embarked on a 50-day trip to 10 different countries. In addition to gathering portraits and stories from individuals around the world, the purpose of the trip is to raise awareness for the Millennium Development Goals and to inspire a global perspective.

“What happened to your arm?” “I was walking down the stairs and looking at the stars.” (Amman, Jordan)

So far, HONY’s trip has taken him to Iraq and Jordan—right in the midst of the ongoing Middle East crisis. With his signature combination of intimate portrait and a revealing quote or observation,

“My parents were captured when I was sixteen. They both died in prison.” “What do you remember about the day they were taken?” “I’m sorry. I don’t think I can do this. Can we stop?” (Shaqlawa, Iraq)


HONY captures the joys, sorrows, revelations, and struggles of people from all walks of life. His snapshots of humanity are extraordinarily powerful in this context, providing an eye-opening look at the personal lives of individuals whose stories have often been neglected by the media.

“I worry about the day they start to want things that I can’t afford.” (Shaqlawa, Iraq)

“The point of the trip is not to ‘say’ anything about the world,” says Stanton. “But rather to visit some faraway places, and listen to as many people as possible.” He told ABC News, “What’s struck me the most is how much a humanitarian tragedy is magnified when you break it into individual stories. Everyone who is suffering from the turmoil in Iraq, or from war in general, has been deeply hurt in a very individual way. Hearing these stories, one at a time, in unforgiving detail, has been quite sobering.”

“We were engaged for six months, but her parents made her marry a richer man.” “What’s the last thing you said to her?” “I told her: ‘I’ve done all that I can do. I wish you happiness in your life.'” (Petra, Jordan)

To follow HONY’s world tour, be sure to join his 9 million other fans on Facebook or Tumblr.

Above: “If you speak gently, you’ll find good people wherever you go. If you find a bad person, just move on to the next person.” (Petra, Jordan)

“We live in a very conservative culture, but I want my children to be open minded. I try to bring them to as many places as possible: big malls, art galleries, concerts. We want them to see as many types of people as possible, and as many types of ideas as possible.” (Erbil, Iraq)

“Whatever We Decide Is A Disaster For Us” France Admits Putin Is Winning, Europe “Blinked”

While the analogy of Vladimir Putin playing geopolitical chess (while the rest of the world plays checkers) has been a popular one, the French ambassador Gerard Araud has a different – somewhat stunningly honest  – persepctive: Putin “is more a poker player really, putting all the money on the table; saying,

‘Do the same’ and of course we blink. We don’t do the same.”


As Bloomberg reports,

Vladimir Putin has outmaneuvered his opponents and humiliated Ukraine by continuing to back pro-Russian separatists and flouting a cease-fire, making it crucial that sanctions on Russia remain firm, France’s ambassador to the U.S. said.

The Russian president “has won because we were not ready to die for Ukraine, while apparently he was,” Ambassador Gerard Araud said yesterday at a Bloomberg Government breakfast in Washington… Echoing the view of other European envoys in Washington, Araud expressed concern that the Ukraine conflict has hit an impasse, leaving Putin the winner by default.

Poroshenko is “kneeling in front of Putin with the cord around his neck and saying, ‘You know, you have won,’” and Putin is still not backing down, Araud said.

While many observers have called Putin a geopolitical chess player, he said, the Russian leader is more a “poker player really, putting all the money on the table, saying, ‘Do the same,’ and of course we blink. We don’t do the same.”

The economic sanctions against Russia must stay in place to prevent Putin from going further, said Araud, who moved to Washington in September after serving as the French ambassador to the United Nations.

“Whatever we decide is a disaster for us,” Araud said, again expressing his personal view. On one side, he said, lies France’s credibility as an arms supplier who delivers on contracts, and on the other, the difficulty of delivering a weapons system to Putin, who might use it against Ukraine or a European ally.

Araud concludes – rather ominously – and far too honestly for a paid-up member of the European elite:

“The question is there on the table: When is Putin going to stop?” Araud said. “That’s the reason that we need to keep the sanctions” because, “let’s be frank, it’s more or less the only weapon that we have. We are not going to send our soldiers in Ukraine.

It does not make sense to send weapons to the Ukrainians, because the Ukrainians would be defeated real easily, so it will only prolong the war” and lead to a “still bigger Russian victory.”