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El Salvador’s Bukele Has Everyone’s Attention As He Seeks Reelection In Spite Of The Constitution

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San Salvador — Nayib Bukele is the centre of attention whether you like him.

Many consider El Salvador’s president to be a national hero who relentlessly combated the country’s vicious gangs. Others see the populist as a 21st-century tyrant who has perpetrated vast human rights violations and manipulated the rules of the game to consolidate power in his own hands.

Bukele has recently captivated the world’s attention like few other Latin American politicians.

The self-described “world’s coolest dictator” is expected to handily win a second term in the presidential election on Sunday. According to current research, Bukele enjoys the support of seven to nine out of every ten voters by circumventing El Salvador’s constitution, which prohibits reelection in six separate areas.

Alex Cisneros is among many who want to vote for Bukele, with many citing a lack of alternatives after years of corruption and violence under El Salvador’s established parties.

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El Salvador’s Bukele Has Everyone’s Attention As He Seeks Reelection In Spite Of The Constitution

“He’s done many good things and many bad things,” Cisneros, 32, admitted. “People criticise him, but he’s at least changed something.”

Growing up in one of San Salvador’s most dangerous neighbourhoods, Cisneros escaped to the United States at the age of 20 after the Mara Salvatrucha gang killed his cousin. Now back home, he says he was worried when police arrested an elderly neighbour for defending her son, a suspected gang member, but he also says he can stroll the streets freely at night for the first time in his life.

Bukele’s nearly inevitable triumph will strengthen his grip on power as his severe tactics spread from this small Central American nation to other countries facing security difficulties, such as Ecuador, Honduras, and the Dominican Republic. This concerns rights advocates across the area.

According to Tyler Mattiace, Americas researcher at Human Rights Watch, Bukele poses “one of the biggest risks for human rights and democracy that we see in Latin America right now.”

“Bukele is incredibly popular, not only at home in El Salvador,” Mattiace said. “We see a growing number of people in countries across Latin America who are supporting this kind of authoritarian populism because they believe that it could be the only way to address rising levels of violence.”

When elected in 2019, Bukele, a former publicity manager of Palestinian heritage, became Latin America’s youngest leader. He enjoys spectacle and has hosted the Miss Universe pageant and a pre-season match with football great Lionel Messi.

However, his rise to prominence came in 2022, when he waged a hard fight against the gangs that had long terrorised El Salvador.

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El Salvador’s Bukele Has Everyone’s Attention As He Seeks Reelection In Spite Of The Constitution

Under a state of emergency, his administration has imprisoned 76,000 people, or more than 1% of the population, in jails where rights groups have documented acts of torture and the deaths of over 150 inmates. The government has also been accused of systemic human rights violations.

In an interview with The Associated Press on Tuesday, Félix Ulloa, Bukele’s vice presidential running mate, admitted that the administration “made mistakes” by holding thousands of people who had committed no crimes. He also acknowledged that officials may have set arrest quotas.

He disputed that the government had curtailed the rights of “honourable” Salvadorans. He described the crackdown as being for the betterment of the country and largely supported it.

“This is not a police state, it’s a state that provides security,” he remarked.

El Salvador’s homicide rate has dropped to one of the lowest in the Americas, even though the country was formerly considered one of the most dangerous in the world.

Bukele has won the hearts of millions of Salvadorans, including Paola Ventura, by keeping his pledge to deliver security, which the country’s two major parties failed to do.

The 25-year-old’s workplace in downtown San Salvador is adorned with the president’s visage on hats and football jerseys that read ‘Bukele 2024’. It originally sold Bukele scarves and blankets, but they were all snapped up by visitors from other nations.

Ventura claims her boss also painted one entire wall of his adjoining pupusa shop with a mural of Bukele, attracting customers.

“He’s famous,” she remarked. “Bukele’s face sells.”

Others told AP they were too afraid to discuss the election because of the widespread detentions.

Bukele has focused his campaign on the gang crackdown, telling Salvadorans that if his New Ideas party does not win the election, the “war against the gangs” will be jeopardised.

“The opposition will be able to achieve its true and only plan, which is to free the gang members and use them to return to power,” he stated in one video, as his message spread across television, radio, and social media platforms.

bukele

El Salvador’s Bukele Has Everyone’s Attention As He Seeks Reelection In Spite Of The Constitution

According to constitutional experts, analysts, and opposition politicians, people are less aware of the long-term democratic hazards associated with the charismatic leader.

Bukele’s popularity grew, and his party gained control of El Salvador’s government branches.

Bukele and his men entered the Legislative Assembly in 2020 after members refused to approve a security loan request. During the pandemic, he clashed with the then-opposition-controlled congress numerous times, attempting to impose some of the region’s harshest restrictions and being denied emergency powers.

When his party won the 2021 legislative elections, the newly elected legislature removed judges from the country’s constitutional court, replacing them with loyalists who later declared that Bukele could compete for a second term despite the constitutional bar on reelection.

Bukele recently enacted electoral amendments, reducing the number of municipalities in a way that analysts say improves his chances, particularly in the next congressional and local elections in March.

The president has created a sophisticated communication engine that spews out highly crafted government misinformation, while his administration has hounded journalists, political opponents, and critics.

“These cumulative efforts, or changes, are part of a strategy. The goal is to maintain complete political control. … render any protest almost ineffective,” said Oscar Picardo, director of investigations at El Salvador’s Universidad Francisco Gavidia.

Bukele’s running mate denies that the administration has taken undemocratic actions to solidify power. “There is nothing we have done that does not have a legal foundation,” Ulloa told the Associated Press on Tuesday.

Given Bukele’s growing popularity, other regional authorities have resorted to “The Bukele Model” to solve their security challenges.

Following a terrible gang-related jail killing, the government in neighbouring Honduras rounded up gangsters and threatened to imprison them on an isolated island.

With Haiti facing a rising security issue, the neighbouring Dominican Republic’s popular leader, Luis Abinader, has increasingly echoed Bukele’s rhetoric while promoting his own “fight against crime.”

As Ecuador struggles with a surge in violent crime, new President Daniel Noboa has announced a crackdown on proliferating gangs, with spectacular scenes of police raids reminiscent of the early days of Bukele’s state of emergency.

Bukele may be popular both at home and abroad, but other Salvadorans believe he has spent too much time focusing on his worldwide image rather than on the country’s underlying problems, such as poverty, which has forced Salvadorans to flee over generations.

Despite efforts to project affluence, such as adopting Bitcoin as an official currency and hosting several major events, El Salvador’s economic growth has halted, while global inflation has risen. In 2023, about half of Salvadorans were food insecure.

Julio Eduardo Durán, 57, has spent 40 years selling and repairing watches, and his revenues have plummeted since the government banned street vendors from the capital’s main plaza to clean up the area.

“They’ve forgotten the poor,” Durán explained. “Our government does not support us; it is all a fraud. They want El Salvador to become like the United States, but we’re going hungry.”

Durán declined to specify how he would vote in Sunday’s election.

SOURCE – AP

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Putin Says Russia Has No Intention Of Putting Nuclear Weapons In Space, Denying US Claims

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MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday that Moscow has no plans to put nuclear weapons in space, asserting that the country has just acquired space capabilities equivalent to those of the United States.

Putin’s warning comes after the White House confirmed last week that Russia had received a “troubling” anti-satellite weapon capability, albeit such a weapon is not currently operational. White House national security spokesperson John Kirby stated that it would violate the international Outer Space Treaty but declined to comment on whether the weapon is nuclear-capable.

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Putin Says Russia Has No Intention Of Putting Nuclear Weapons In Space, Denying US Claims

The deployment of “nuclear weapons or other types of weapons of mass destruction” in orbit as well as the stationing of “weapons in outer space in any other manner” are both prohibited by the convention, which more than 130 nations have signed, including Russia. The White House stated that it would seek to engage the Russians directly on the issues.

“Our position is quite clear and transparent: we have always been and remain categorically opposed to the deployment of nuclear weapons in space,” Putin said in a statement. “Just the opposite, we are urging everyone to adhere to all the agreements that exist in this sphere.”

During a meeting with his defence minister, Sergei Shoigu, Putin stated that Russia has only achieved space capabilities that “other nations, including the United States, have.”

putin

Putin Says Russia Has No Intention Of Putting Nuclear Weapons In Space, Denying US Claims

“And they know it,” he added.

“We haven’t deployed any nuclear weapons in space or any elements of them to use against satellites or to create fields where satellites can’t work efficiently,” Shoigu said in an interview.

Shoigu claimed that the White House may have concocted assertions about a new Russian space capacity to pressure Congress to back Ukrainian aid and to convince Moscow to resume nuclear arms control talks, which Russia has postponed due to tensions with the U.S. over Ukraine.

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Putin Says Russia Has No Intention Of Putting Nuclear Weapons In Space, Denying US Claims

Putin did not rule out future discussions with the United States, but he restated his belief that Washington’s determination to Russia’s defeat in Ukraine makes them impossible at the moment.

“The U.S. and the West, for one thing, are calling for Russia’s strategic defeat, while, on the other hand, they would like to have a dialogue on strategic stability, pretending that those things aren’t connected,” Mr Putin said. “It won’t work.”

SOURCE – (AP)

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RUSSIA: The Kremlin Has Never Been Richer – Thanks To A US Strategic Partner

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Russia is entering its third year of war in Ukraine with an unprecedented amount of cash in government coffers, bolstered by a record $37 billion in crude oil sales to India last year, according to a new analysis, which concludes that some of the crude was refined in India and then exported to the United States as oil products worth more than $1 billion.

This cash flow, which ultimately benefits Moscow, stems from India raising its purchases of Russian crude by more than 13 times its pre-war levels, according to a study by the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA) shared exclusively with CNN. According to the study, it amounts to US strategic partner New Delhi stepping in to replace crude purchases by Western purchasers, which have been decreased due to sanctions imposed in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Despite the fact that Russian crude sales to India are not subject to sanctions and are entirely legal, experts’ examination of shipping lanes indicates that this significant amount of shipments may involve the Kremlin’s so-called “shadow fleet” of crude tankers, which Moscow specifically created to try to conceal who it is trading with and how while also maximizing the Kremlin’s profits.

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RUSSIA: The Kremlin Has Never Been Richer – Thanks To A US Strategic Partner

CNN spotted a possible component of that intricate exchange off the Greek port of Gythio earlier this month. Two oil tankers, one large and the other smaller, sat next to each other for a ship-to-ship transfer, which entails transporting crude oil between vessels, often to conceal its origin and ultimate destination.

The two tankers have a colourful history. Both had departed from Russia weeks before. According to shipping tracking agency Pole Star Global, one is owned by an Indian corporation accused of sanctions violations, while the other was previously controlled by a person subject to separate US penalties.

“Transfers are (sometimes) done legally, but they’re also used as an illicit tactic to evade sanctions,” said Pole Star Global’s David Tannenbaum. “You’re adding multiple layers to the shell game of vessels as they try and confuse authorities as to where this oil is coming from and who’s buying it at the end of the day.”

Analysts claim dozens of identical transfers occur each week in Greece’s Laconian Gulf, a convenient stop on the way to the Suez Canal and Asian markets.

Earlier in February, the US Treasury imposed a new set of penalties on ships and organizations suspected of assisting in the movement of Russian oil in violation of US sanctions to impede the operation of Russia’s shadow fleet.

In late 2022, the United States led a coalition of countries that agreed to a “price cap,” promising not to buy Russian crude for more than $60 per barrel. These countries also prohibited their shipping and insurance companies, which are major players in global shipping, from assisting the movement of Russian crude beyond that price.

“The price cap was the real trigger for the creation of the shadow fleet,” stated Viktor Katona, head of crude oil analysis at trade research firm Kpler. “The longer the supply chains, the more difficult it is to disentangle ship-to-ship transfers, the more difficult it would get… to determine the real cost of a Russian barrel.”

Some oil trading between Russia and India is open and transparent. Windward, a maritime artificial intelligence company, analyzed global shipping movements for CNN and discovered 588 direct voyages by oil tankers from Russia to India last year.

However, some trade between the two countries is more complicated, as CNN discovered off the Greek coast. Pole Star Global investigated the same route last year and discovered over 200 journeys by Russian ships that made a transfer in the Laconian Gulf to another ship that continued to India.

Tannenbaum of Pole Star Global stated that the business “suspected” that the primary motivation for these transfers was to avoid sanctions because “almost all of these vessels” had ties to the United States or the European Union and would be subject to the price cap. “The bay is fenced. It is out of the way. And so they can carry out this activities in a pseudo-anonymous manner.”

Windward CEO Ami Daniel concurred, saying, “That is part of a Russian methodical, systemic effort to just make everything much more complicated.” He described the motive for Russia and oil dealers to avoid sanctions as “gigantic,” saying: “You really needed to have a reason to transfer 60-plus million barrels in the middle of the ocean and export them to India because it’s much easier not to do that – to sail directly.”

russia

RUSSIA: The Kremlin Has Never Been Richer – Thanks To A US Strategic Partner

The shadow fleet has allowed Russia to establish a parallel shipping network that can withstand Western sanctions’ shifting tactics and focus, with hundreds of tankers owned in secret and operating on convoluted routes. Windward estimates that the fleet increased to 1,800 vessels last year.

India’s crude purchases have had the overall effect of lessening the burden of oil sanctions on Russian President Vladimir Putin. Russia’s federal revenues soared to a record $320 billion in 2023 and are expected to increase even further. According to some estimates, around one-third of the money was spent on the Ukrainian war last year, and a larger part is expected to be spent on the fight in 2024.

The funds at the Kremlin’s disposal place Moscow in a better position to sustain a long war than Kyiv, battling to retain the urgently required flow of Western funding.

According to RAND economist Howard Shatz’s examination of public statistics from the Russian finance ministry, Russian government revenue and expenditure reached all-time highs in 2023. However, Moscow has yet to balance its books, indicating the war’s high cost and the impact of sanctions on oil earnings.

“Despite the jump in revenues, the federal budget deficit was at its third-highest… larger only in 2022 and 2020,” added Mr. Obama. “Tax on domestic production and imports are both high and effective, which means they are taxing their population to pay for this war,” he said.

India has defended its purchases from Russia as a way to keep world prices down by not competing with Western nations for Middle Eastern oil. Hardeep Singh Puri, India’s Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas, told CNBC this week that if the country starts importing more Middle Eastern oil, the price will be less than $75 or $76. “It will cost $150.

India’s intricate involvement in global oil trading is reflected in the fate of the oil products produced from Russian crude. Some crude is converted into oil products at refineries along India’s western coast before being transported to the United States and other nations that have imposed sanctions on Russian oil. Sanctions do not affect products refined outside Russia, which critics call a “refinery loophole.”

The CREA estimated that the US was the largest consumer of refined products from India derived from Russian crude last year, worth $1.3 billion between early December 2022, when the price cap was implemented, and the end of 2023. The projections are based on publicly available shipping and energy statistics.

kremlin

RUSSIA: The Kremlin Has Never Been Richer – Thanks To A US Strategic Partner

The value of these oil product exports increases dramatically when US partners imposing sanctions on Russia are added. The CREA anticipated that these countries would buy $9.1 billion in oil products derived from Russian crude oil in 2023, a 44% increase over the previous year.

Moscow has developed a way to profit from the refining and export process. One of the Indian refineries and ports that handle Russian crude is in Vadinar and is operated by Nayara Energy, a 49.1 %-%-owned subsidiary of Russian state oil major Rosneft. The CREA anticipated that the US will import $63 million in oil products processed in Vadinar in 2023, with Russian crude accounting for roughly half of the crude utilized in the plant. Everything is above board.

However, the organization’s assessment stated that exports from Vadinar “lead to significant tax revenues for the Kremlin in the form of taxing the exported Russian crude oil” and profits Rosneft gained from refining and reselling to Moscow’s Western opponents.

Nonetheless, researchers say the profits that may be earned from even the tiniest evasion of sanctions against Russia are enormous, given the large sums involved in selling a single oil tanker’s cargo. “You’re talking about something which is amazingly lucrative,” remarked Daniel at Windward. “Traders face significant temptation to engage in such behaviour.” They earn $10 to $40 million in four or five months. I don’t think there’s any other opportunity in the world to achieve it.”

SOURCE – (CNN)

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Sacked Twitter Staff In Ghana Finally Get Pay-Off

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X, then known as Twitter, has finally paid out the employees it fired from its African offices more than a year ago, according to the agency that represents them.

Most had just been with the social media network in Ghana’s capital, Accra, for a few months before they were let go in November 2022.

They had threatened to sue X for failing to pay the redundancy money they said they were promised.

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Sacked Twitter Staff In Ghana Finally Get Pay-Off

The corporation has yet to respond.

X previously stated that it had paid ex-employees in full.

Elon Musk, who took over the corporation in 2022, launched a large global workforce layoff, dismissing almost 6,000 individuals. He said he was losing more than $4 million (£3.5 million) daily.

The African contingent, which numbered fewer than 20, had only recently relocated to X’s new office in

Accra after eight months of working from home during the COVID-19 outbreak.

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Sacked Twitter Staff In Ghana Finally Get Pay-Off

Agency Seven, the organisation providing legal representation to the workforce, stated that it had successfully obtained a redundancy settlement and repatriation fees for foreign employees but did not indicate the payout size.

“They are very pleased to finally be able to get their due, put this behind them, and look forward to the future,” Agency Seven Seven spokesperson Carla Olympio told the BBC.

Last year, terminated employees told the BBC that their treatment at X had impacted their mental health and money.

“It’s difficult when it’s the world’s richest man owing you money and closure,” one of them stated.

They claimed they were initially assured that they would be paid to work for one more month while their contracts were being terminated. However, they were instantly shut out of their emails, and no more wage payments were issued.

Since then, the crew has reported a difficult battle for compensation.

Some had migrated from adjacent nations, such as Nigeria. Their contract was terminated, leaving them and their families stuck in Ghana.

In a rare interview with the BBC last April, Mr Musk revealed that the social media powerhouse had 1,500 staff, down from just under 8,000 when he bought the company.

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Sacked Twitter Staff In Ghana Finally Get Pay-Off

When the news of Mr Musk’s extreme workforce reduction broke, he tweeted that laid-off employees received three months’ severance compensation.

However, staff members in the Africa office claim they still need this.

According to Agency Seven Seven, X only started negotiating with the terminated African staff after the BBC publicised the news.

Last year, ex-employees filed a complaint in a California court accusing X of failing to pay at least $500 million in promised severance benefits.

SOURCE – (BBC)

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