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April 22, 2015
News Americas, HAVANA, Cuba, Weds. April 22, 2015: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo Governor Cuomo and members of the NYS Trade Mission yesterday returned to the US after a historic 25-hour trade mission to Cuba.
Cuomo said he believes his visit, the first by a sitting U.S. governor to the island since Obama’s December announcement, will increase the pressure on Congress to ease the U.S. embargo.
Cuomo’s visit included a round-table conversation between the New York business executives who visited as part of his delegation and their Cuban counterparts. On Tuesday, the governor traveled to the Port of Mariel for a tour and briefing of the Port’s facilities, history and economic significance.
Following the tour, he returned to Havana to meet with First Vice President Miguel Díaz-Canel and then delivered remarks and held a brief media availability at the Jose Marti Airport before returning to New York.
“Engagement and full relationships is the best way to have a dialogue on the issues that we agree with and on the issues that we disagree about,” Cuomo said Monday while praising President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro for seeking to normalize diplomatic relations between the two countries.
“I think this is now a question of building momentum,” Cuomo said. “And if the conversation is isolated in Washington and is a political conversation between President Obama and the Congress…that’s going to be the politics, the gridlock that we have seen from Washington all too often.”
Cuomo did not meet with Cuban President Raúl Castro.
April 22, 2015
News Americas, SAN JUAN, PR, Weds. April 22, 2015: Seven undocumented migrants from the Dominican Republic are currently in US immigration custody after landing on board a makeshift wooden vessel, off the northwestern coast of Puerto Rico.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Border Patrol Agents and Puerto Rico Police Department Officers arrested the 7 after receiving a call from a concerned citizen around 7 a.m. Tuesday morning that a “yola” type vessel had arrived to an area known as Bienvenidos beach in Aguadilla, with an unknown number of undocumented persons.
At the beach a 20ft wooden “yola” type vessel with a 40 horsepower engine was found, with debris and garbage.
An intensive search of the beach area later resulted in the arrest of six men and one woman who were trying to enter the US territory without legal papers.
Eighty nautical miles separate the Dominican Republic from Puerto Rico.
April 22, 2015
News Americas, CALEXICO, CA, Weds. April 22, 2015: A 29-year-old Mexican-born man is now being processed for ‘re-entry after removal’ as a convicted sex offender.
Luis Manuel Picaso Sandoval was arrested Monday near Calexico West Port of Entry in California.
Border Patrol agents apprehended the previously deported man approximately one-half of a mile east of the port where he illegally re-entered into the United States.
Picaso was a convicted sex offender charged for sexual assault of a minor under the age of fourteen and was sentenced to serve ninety days in prison on May 11, 2009 in Fresno.
April 20, 2015
News Americas, JAMAICA, N.Y., Tues. April 21, 2015: A Guyanese national now faces federal narcotics smuggling charges after being busted at the JFK Airport in New York for carrying cocaine within her girdle and underwear.
Olive Fowler, according to the U.S. Customs & Enforcement Agency, arrived at the John F. Kennedy International Airport from Georgetown, Guyana on April 11th and presented herself for inspection.
During the examination of Fowler’s suitcase, she exhibited numerous signs of nervousness, US Customs said.
Fowler was subsequently escorted to a private search room where CBP officers conducted a physical search and it was discovered she was wearing more than one undergarments beneath her clothing.
It was during this search that agents found packages concealed within her girdle and underwear. The packages produced a white powder that tested positive for cocaine. CBP estimates a total weight of approximately 4 lbs. of cocaine was seized, with an estimated street value of more than $73,000 according to the latest DEA statistics.
“This seizure is just another example of our CBP officers being ever vigilant in protecting the United States from the distribution of these illicit drugs,” said Robert E. Perez, Director of CBP’s New York Field Operations.
Fowler will be prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the U.S. Eastern District Court of New York.
April 20, 2015
News Americas, NASSAU, Bahamas, Tues. April 21, 2015: Two Bahamians have made the history by becoming the first Bahamians to ever journey to the North Pole. Now they are trying to get home.
Last week, Mark Roberts and Shaune Adderley made the journey to the North Pole. Now they’re battling blizzard conditions and are praying for a safe return.
“Today we are in blizzard conditions no planes can get us from Barneo. It is looking grim. The Russian base is friendly and we have barrack style tents but still no showers,” the crew wrote on their Facebook page yesterday. “We really need the prayers and positive vibes of our nation to send us a clear bit of weather so we can return home safely. We have accomplished an unbelievable challenge and took the flag to the top of the world. We are desperate to get home and are half dead from the Herculean effort to attain the goal. It was scary as I have ever been scared and so thankful we have made it this far.”
Roberts says he was “invited by a friend who has lived in The Bahamas for a number of years and he with a group of New Zealanders were going to the North Pole.”
“They had been to the South Pole and he called me up and asked me if I would be interested in going because two of the seats that he had filled were vacated,” Roberts added. “For two months I said ‘no it’s probably not a good idea’ and then he said ‘I feel bad for inviting you because I knew a Bahamian would not be able to cut the mustard.’ And that started the ball rolling in that direction that we were going to go and take on the challenge and have some fun with it.”
The average temperature on the North Pole is a blistering -20 F on a warm day to -80 F with wind chills. The duo first flew to London to begin their journey. Then it was off to Ausland, Norway and then to Russia.
They arrived at North Pole on Friday morning and will be there for seven days.
Follow their adventure at www.facebook.com/pages/Bahamas-North-Pole-Explorers/1585039308386803
April 19, 2015
News Americas, GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Mon. April 20, 2015: Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and officials from The Carter Center are set to be in Guyana as observers for the May 11 elections.
The Carter Center in a statement said the organization is observing the elections at the invitation of the government of Guyana.
President Carter will be part of the team assessing the voting, counting, and tabulation processes, the Center said.
“I look forward to leading our delegation to observe Guyana’s elections on May 11,” President Carter stated. “The Carter Center has a long history in Guyana and great respect for the Guyanese people. These will be the fourth elections we have observed there since 1992, and we trust they will be peaceful and inspire hope for the future.”
With the Guyana mission, The Carter Center reaches an important milestone: its 100th election observation. The first took place in Panama in 1989 during a hotly contested race that the Center declared fraudulent.
Since then, the Center has observed elections in 38 countries.
Guyana’s ruling People’s Progressive Party government is facing a tough challenge from the coalesced opposition parties, the APNU (A Partnership for National Unity) and the AFC (Alliance for Change.)
April 16, 2015
News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Fri. April 17, 2015: Alexander Hamilton might get another distinct honor this summer along with his extraordinarily popular play opening on Broadway but first …
Let me set the stage for today’s story logically with Cuba.
Yes, it was good to see President Barack Obama in the Caribbean last week finally confirming what he should have 6 years ago that it is in the U.S. interest to establish and then expand diplomatic relations with Cuba.
Here in Obama’s America I have been making the argument for 4 years now pointing out that Obama’s unwillingness to do so made no sense.
The fact is all the U.S. has done by isolating Cuba for the last 50 years is serve the interest of right wing ex-Cubans mostly centered in Florida and New Jersey who pine for the good old days of the 1950s and earlier when all but the rich in Cuba were treated like serfs and corruption ruled the island.
These rich ex-Cubans who left Cuba with their often misbegotten fortunes and have thrown campaign cash at American politicians in both parties to buy their support for their ant-Cuba venom. It is beyond absurd that Cuba has long been on a very short list of the most dangerous terrorist nations that does not even include North Korea. Just Sudan, Iran, Syria and Cuba!
An example of Cuba’s “terrorist” activities is that Cuba sent more doctors and medical personnel to fight the recent outbreak of Ebola in Africa than any other country on Earth, and whenever major disasters take place around the world Cuba is often among the most generous to respond.
Anyway, yes President Obama has seen the light finally and in the coming months Cuba will be off the terrorist list as Obama announced this week and yes we will finally have a full fledged U.S. embassy in Havana.
Now let’s leave Cuba for the rest of the Caribbean …
Guess what else is NOT happening yet? Almost 200 nations (some you have never heard of and never will) have a U.S. embassy and ambassador but which Caribbean nation – and a few others in the Caribbean – are among a very few countries on Earth that do not have a U.S. diplomatic presence?
And President Obama has done nothing to correct this yet.
It is the very place where The Savior of America, the author of Modern Capitalism & America’s Greatest Immigrant Alexander Hamilton was born, now the Caribbean island nation of St. Kitts & Nevis.
It turns out there is one member of the U.S. Congress is most concerned about this egregious omission as well as the lack of a U.S. embassies on four other prominent Caribbean island nations Dominica, Antigua & Barbuda, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent & Grenadines. He is none other than Congressman Eliot Engel of New York
These 5 Caribbean nations in one region are alone treated like diplomatic colonies. Officials and citizens of these 5 nations must fly to Barbados, which the U.S. has designated as “their” consular office.
Let’s call this what it is – an INSULT to these 5 nations and the Caribbean.
Among the co-sponsor of the Engel bill, H.R. 1579 – the United States – Caribbean Partnership Act of 2015, to correct, this are Congress members Yvette Clarke, and Gregory Meeks both of New York. All 10 co-sponsors joining Engel are Democrats and all come from New York, Florida, New Jersey, California and Texas. Engel is the ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Relations Committee where the bill has been submitted.
H.R. 1579 was submitted on March 24, 2015. Congressman Engel introduced an identical bill in the last Congress with just one co-sponsor Alcee Hastings of Florida but it never made it out of committee. Will it do better this time?
In an exclusive interview with one of the top staff members on the Democratic side of the House Foreign Relations Committee who works closely with Congressman Engel, who is the ranking Democratic member of the Committee, we learnt more detail and got a hint of optimism.
It seemed curious that Congressman Eliot Engel would be introducing legislation about the Caribbean and on his own initiative, not at the urging of others. But it turns out in Congress, Engel has a long history of involvement with the Caribbean, has traveled throughout the region and his district in New York, which covers the northern Bronx in New York City and southern Westchester County, contains a sizable number of Caribbean-Americans.
Engel has been trying to correct this absence of an adequate U.S. State Dept. presence in the Caribbean for a number of years in different ways before he came to the realization that this bill might be his best course of action. While first introduced in the last session of Congress; doing so late in the session left it on the cutting room floor with lots of other bills in those final days.
This time, in the new Congressional session, Congressman Engel is cautiously optimistic the result will be different. And in an example of strategic mastery, the bill itself may not be necessary to achieve its results.
Which brings us back to Cuba for a moment!
President Obama did not seek and does not require Congressional approval to establish an embassy in Cuba and appoint an ambassador. This is clearly within the purview of the Executive Branch to do so.
Yes you are right. President Obama could have expanded the State Dept. presence in the Caribbean anytime these last six years. but did not. We did not get any reason why from The White House. It is not surprising to some in that many criticize the U.S. for the amount of attention it gives the region. except in issues of security, drugs and guns. Maybe that will change now and it looks like the giant island of Cuba may be the catalyst.
Whatever the reason, Congressman Engel is in communication about his bill with staff in the White House and the State Dept. Those discussions include the possibility that President Obama will issue instructions to the State Dept. to implement Engel’s proposals without the need for this legislation. If that happens, the bill will be quietly withdrawn. It is not unusual for this kind of resolution regarding “minor” bills that can be addressed otherwise.
But let’s say that does not happen. What then?
Our inside contact explained Congressman Engel is quietly lobbying all other 43 members of the Foreign Relations Committee for support. More than likely, the support of all 18 of Engel’s Democratic colleagues on the committee is assured. What about the current majority the Republicans?
There are 25 Republicans led by committee chairman Congressman Ed Royce of California. The Republicans on the committee led by Congressman Royce have been vocally critical to – no surprise – President Obama’s recent actions on Cuba. At the same time, there is no movement on the committee or among Republicans in Congress generally to try and block President Obama from opening an embassy and appointing an ambassador to Cuba.
So logically, why would Republicans not support after all these years of neglect, opening small embassies in very friendly Caribbean island nations? In fact for those Republicans most critical of Obama on Cuba, here is an opportunity to show the Administration where they think Obama should be directing our positive actions in the Caribbean region.
Hopefully this is true. It is certainly logical but our determined attempts to reach the Republicans Communications Director on the Committee, Shane Wolfe and others on the Republican side, proved unsuccessful.
As for Congressman Engel, he remains optimistic and his goal is to have Congress approve the legislation by the August recess. Whenever the committee takes up the bill, it will be a low key affair. Don’t expect high powered witnesses from the Caribbean or anywhere else testifying before a packed committee chamber.
All that is likely is some brief quiet conversation among Congress members on the committee followed by either unanimous consent or a vote whether to approve and send to the Floor.
If President Obama decides to act and take care of these diplomatic needs of St. Kitts & Nevis, Dominica, Antigua & Barbuda, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent & Grenadines without Congressional action, that vote will never take place.
For right now, the final word goes to Congressman Engel who told us today: “Just as you can’t conduct diplomacy from a bunker, you can’t conduct diplomacy from hundreds of miles away. My bill would strengthen diplomatic ties with our Caribbean neighbors so that we can work even more closely on a range of issues, from promoting economic development and combating drug trafficking to our shared work through the OAS.”
Congressman Engel did not add, but he might well have, that it is worth him noting that among these 5 Caribbean nations without a U.S. diplomatic presence which the passage of H.R. 1579 will address, is the island nation that is the birth place of a great American Founding Father Alexander Hamilton who many also consider America’s greatest immigrant.
All Engel’s colleagues should appreciate Hamilton as an issue here.
With the brilliant new contemporary musical by Lin-Manuel Miranda about Hamilton moving to Broadway on July 13, 2015, now is a very good time to correct a neglect and place a permanent American presence on Hamilton’s islands of St. Kitts & Nevis with an embassy and an ambassador.
We will soon find out if President Obama and Congress agree.
April 15, 2015
News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Thurs. April 6, 2015: The United Nations is urging a swift investigation into the shooting death of a Chilean peacekeeper in Haiti.
The Chilean soldier of the UN Mission for Stabilization in Haiti (MINUSTAH), Second Sergeant Rodrigo Andres Sanhueza Soto died after fatal injuries from a gunshot wound he received on Monday when his military vehicle was fired upon by violent protesters in the area of Ouanaminthe.
Soto’s killing prompted strong condemnations from the UN mission on the ground as well as the Secretary-General and Security Council at the world body’s Headquarters.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday called for a swift investigation and urged the Haitian authorities to do everything possible to bring those responsible to justice.
His Special Representative in Haiti, Sandra Honoré, offered UN police support in this regard and called for the perpetrator to be brought to justice without delay.
“Armed violence is a criminal act which not only endangers people’s security but also the gains in peace and stability which the Haitian population has achieved so far,” Honoré said.
In New York, members of the UN Security Council issued a statement saying they looked forward to the completion of a full and comprehensive investigation to determine the facts and circumstances of the incident.
April 15, 2015
News Americas, HOUSTON, Texas, Thurs. April 16, 2015: Two Salvadoran men wanted for the aggravated homicide of three men in 2011 in their home country were deported Wednesday by officers with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO).
Carlos Gomar-Castro, 26, and Willfredys Castro-Villalobos, 33, were flown to El Salvador April 15 onboard a charter flight coordinated by ICE’s Air Operations (IAO) Unit. Upon arrival, both were turned over to officials from El Salvador’s Policia Nacional Civil (PNC).
Both Gomar-Castro and Castro-Villalobos were encountered and arrested Feb. 19 by ERO’s Fugitive Operations officers in Houston. Salvadoran authorities issued a warrant Jan. 10, 2015 for their arrest for aggravated homicide in September 2011.
According to the Salvadoran warrant, Gomar-Castro and Castro-Villalobos were travelling in a vehicle that struck three men on a bicycle. One of the men on the bike was run over and killed, while two others fled on foot. Gomar-Castro and Castro-Villalobos gave chase, ultimately catching and killing the two men.
Gomar-Castro was previously encountered by U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) Border Patrol (BP) agents and charged with being inadmissable to the U.S. and was placed on bond in January 2013.
Castro-Villalobos was previously encountered by BP agents in September 2005 and charged with being inadmissible to the U.S. He was released on his own recognizance, but failed to appear at his immigration hearing. On Dec. 1, 2005, an immigration judge ordered his removal in absentia. In April 2008, Castro-Villalobos was encountered at the Harris County (Texas) Jail and turned over to ICE. He had been previously deported to El Salvador May 5, 2008.
The deportations of Gomar-Castro and Castro-Villalobos are examples of expanded bi-national cooperation to identify, arrest and repatriate Salvadoran criminal suspects who have fled to the United States to avoid prosecution in their home country. As part of this effort, ICE officers are working closely with PNC, the Salvadoran National Interpol Office and Salvadoran immigration.
“Identifying and removing foreign fugitives from the United States is an ICE priority,” said Steven P. Boll, field office director of ERO Houston. “The cooperation between the United States and the El Salvadoran government resulted in these foreign fugitives being safely returned to their home country where they will face justice.”
In fiscal year 2014, ERO removed 315,943 individuals from the United States.
April 15, 2015
The mother of Odin Lloyd, Ursula Ward, l, speaks after the verdict was handed down. A photo of Lloyd is at right. (CNN Image)
News Americas, BOSTON, MA., Thurs. April 16, 015: Former tight end for the New England Patriots, Aaron Hernandez, will likely spend the rest of his life in jail without the possibility of parole after being convicted Wednesday of first-degree murder in the late-night June 2013 shooting of USVI-born Odin Lloyd.
Hernandez, 25, who was born in Bristol, Connecticut to a father with Puerto Rican roots, appeared to shake his head slightly as the verdict was read but otherwise showed no emotion.
His mother Terri and fiancée, Shayanna Jenkins, however, gasped and sobbed loudly as the verdict was read.
A jury in Fall River, Massachusetts, had deliberated 36 hours over seven days.
Hernandez was also convicted of gun charges in the killing of Lloyd, 27, who was a semipro player and landscaper dating the sister of Hernandez’s fiancée.
Ursula Ward, who was born in the USVI, told Bristol Superior Court Judge E. Susan Garsh before the formal sentence, that her son was the “backbone of the family.”
In her victim impact statement, Ward said “The day I laid my son to rest — I felt my heart stop beating.” She added “I miss my baby boy so much. I wanted to go into that hole with him.” But she told the court that she forgives Hernandez.
ABOUT ODIN LLOYD
Lloyd was born to Odin Leonardo John Lloyd and Ursula in Saint Croix, the U.S. Virgin Islands. The family moved to Antigua when Odin was a baby before the family moved to Massachusetts. He has two sisters, Olivia Thibou and Shaquilla Thibou.
Speaking during the sentencing phase, sister, Olivia Thibou, choked back tears and recalled how close they were, calling or texting every day.
“At the age of 25, I was asked to write my brother’s eulogy, the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life,” she said. “And I wrote it with a smile because I got to write all the great memories that I had of him.”
“It doesn’t feel like Odin’s not here,” she said. “It feels like just a bad dream.”
The jury heard that on the night of June 17, 2013, Hernandez, along with two other friends, Carlos Ortiz and Ernest Wallace, picked Odin Lloyd up at his home in Boston, MA. He thought he was going out partying with his friends but Hernandez drove him to an abandoned lot in North Attleborough, Massachusetts. There, he shot-and-killed his former friend six times. Hernandez was formally charged with murder on July 26, 2013.
At the time of his arrest, Hernandez had just been awarded a $40 million contract with the Patriots, one of the most celebrated organizations in sports.
Hernandez now faces a second trial later this year in Boston, where he is charged with shooting two men to death outside a nightclub. He also still faces a lawsuit in the death of Lloyd, who was found shot near the athlete’s North Attleborough home — one of several cases still pending.