Posts Tagged ‘Panama’

China-Taiwan Dispute: ‘Consensus’ not the solution after Burkina Faso became the fourth diplomatic ally to quit Taiwan

May 26, 2018

Beijing’s diplomatic oppression of Taiwan continues and members of Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Committee are saying concensus with China is impossible.

FALSE CLAIM?  Chen Ming-tong said former president Ma Ying-jeou did not mention ‘different interpretations’ during a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2015

By Stacy Hsu  /  Staff reporter
Taipei Times

Mainland Affairs Council Minister Chen Ming-tong talks to reporters at a news conference in Taipei yesterday. Photo: CNA

Acceptance of the so-called “1992 consensus” is not the answer to Taiwan’s diplomatic setbacks, Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) Minister Chen Ming-tong (陳明通) said yesterday, adding that the government plans to introduce new policies in addition to tightening its screening of applications by Chinese officials to visit Taiwan.

Chen made the remarks at an afternoon news conference in Taipei, hours after a number of Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT)-friendly experts attributed Burkina Faso’s decision to cut ties with Taiwan to President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) refusal to acknowledge the “1992 consensus” — a line usually adopted by the pan-blue camp when it comes to the Tsai administration’s diplomatic predicament.

Burkina Faso on Thursday became the fourth diplomatic ally the nation has lost since Tsai’s inauguration in May 2016, after Sao Tome and Principe in December 2016, Panama in June last year and the Dominican Republic on April 30.

“Will accepting the ‘1992 consensus’ solve the problem? Some blamed the losses of diplomatic allies on [the government’s] failure to accept the ‘1992 consensus,’ but what is the ‘1992 consensus’? Does it really allow for different interpretations of what ‘China’ means?” Chen said.

The “1992 consensus,” a term former MAC chairman Su Chi (蘇起) in 2006 admitted making up in 2000, refers to a tacit understanding between the KMT and the Chinese Communist Party that both sides of the Taiwan Strait acknowledge there is “one China,” with each side having its own interpretation of what “China” means.

However, Beijing has not acknowledged the “different interpretations” part and has only mentioned the “one China” element in its references to the “1992 consensus.”

While the KMT has repeatedly pressured Tsai to embrace the “1992 consensus,” not even its own members have dared to do so publicly in front of Beijing, Chen said.

He said that according to his understanding, former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) did not mention the “different interpretations” part as he had claimed during his historic closed-door meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) in Singapore in 2015.

“Ma’s omission surprised then-MAC minister Andrew Hsia (夏立言) and other participants at the meeting,” Chen said.

The “1992 consensus” was not what prompted Beijing’s diplomatic oppression of Taiwan, but rather its ultimate goal of unification, which Chen said the KMT is helping China achieve by humming to its tune.

“The opposition party has said whatever Beijing wants it to say, be it the ‘1992 consensus’ or ‘unification.’ What can Taiwan get out of all this?” Chen said, referring to KMT Chairman Wu Den-yih’s (吳敦義) remarks at a party meeting on Tuesday that the nation’s ultimate goal is unification, citing the Constitution.

The remarks marked a departure from Wu’s previous stance on the issue, as he used to cite the “1992 consensus” as the cornerstone of his cross-strait policy.

Chen said that due to the current situation across the Taiwan Strait, in addition to rigorously screening applications by Chinese officials to visit Taiwan, the council would soon release a series of new policies.

However, he stopped short of providing any details.

http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/front/archives/2018/05/26/2003693736

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European Union adopts blacklist of 17 tax havens

December 5, 2017

© Jewel Samad, AFP | Tourists play on the water along a beach as the sun sets in Bridgetown, Barbados, on March 24, 2017.

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2017-12-05

European Union finance ministers adopted on Tuesday a blacklist of tax havens which includes 17 extra-EU jurisdictions seen as not cooperative on tax matters, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said.

American Samoa, Bahrain, Barbados, Grenada, Guam, South Korea, Macau, Marshall Islands, Mongolia, Namibia, Palau, Panama, Saint Lucia, Samoa, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia and United Arab Emirates are the countries listed, officials said.

Le Maire said that another 47 jurisdictions are included in a public “grey” list of countries that are currently not compliant with EU standards but have committed to change their tax rules.

Following multiple disclosures of offshore tax avoidance schemes by companies and wealthy individuals, EU states launched a process in February to list tax havens in a bid to discourage setting up shell structures abroad which are themselves in many cases legal but could hide illicit activities.

Blacklisted countries could lose access to EU funds. Other possible countermeasures will be decided in coming weeks, Le Maire said.

(REUTERS)

Panama eyes trade deal with China after ditching Taiwan

November 17, 2017

AFP

© POOL/AFP | ‘China-Panama relations have turned over a new leaf,’ Chinese leader Xi Jinping said during talks with Panama’s President Juan Carlos Varela

BEIJING (AFP) – 

Panama and China agreed Friday to study the possibility of reaching a free trade agreement after the Central American nation ditched Taiwan and recognised Beijing.

The memorandum of understanding was among 19 cooperation agreements signed by the two countries as Panama’s President Juan Carlos Varela met Chinese leader Xi Jinping in Beijing.

The two nations also reached agreements related to agriculture, civil aviation and maritime transport, as well as tourism to facilitate visits by Chinese tour groups to Panama.

After the United States, China is the second-most frequent user of the Panama Canal.

“China-Panama relations have turned over a new leaf,” Chinese leader Xi Jinping said during talks with Panama’s President Juan Carlos Varela, according to the official Xinhua news agency.

Varela was treated to a state visit as he met Xi at the massive Great Hall of the People. On Thursday, Varela inaugurated his country’s new embassy in Beijing.

With Panama establishing relations with China in June, Taiwan is now only recognised by 20 nations.

Mainland China and Taiwan split after a civil war in 1949 and while Taiwan sees itself as a sovereign nation, it has never formally declared independence.

Beijing sees Taiwan as a renegade province that is part of Chinese territory and will be brought back into the fold at some point.

The power of China’s checkbook diplomacy

September 10, 2017

There are many ways a government can assert its interests on the international stage. Some use military muscle. Others use subversion or bluster. In Asia, Africa, Latin America, and even in Europe, China is using investment to get what it wants from countries and governments in need.

The most obvious examples are in Asia. Pakistan’s relations with the United States have deteriorated sharply in recent years for many reasons, and President Donald Trump’s warmer ties with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi have given Pakistan’s government and military good reason to invest more deeply in strong relations with China. In turn, Beijing’s investment in Pakistan has gathered momentum. An infrastructure development project, the US$55 billion (S$73.6 billion) China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, part of China’s broader One Belt, One Road Initiative, is generating growth and creating much-needed jobs in Pakistan. In return, China is developing the port of Gwadar, which will provide China a stronger presence in the Indian Ocean.

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Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte does not like criticism from the US and Europe, and Beijing has pledged to help him improve his country’s underdeveloped infrastructure. So far, China hasn’t delivered much, but the promise alone has persuaded the Philippine President not to push hard against China’s expansive claims in the South China Sea. He has also added the Philippines’ voice to a more pro-China stance from the 10-member Asean. Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has also added to Asean’s tilt towards China and likewise backed off rival claims in the South China Sea because his country also needs investment in roads, bridges and especially rail lines – and because the scandal involving misappropriation of funds from 1Malaysia Development Berhad, a sovereign wealth fund, has left Mr Najib and his government short of cash.

China’s deep pockets have long bought influence in Africa, where President Xi Jinping has pledged billions more in investment in coming years. China is also amplifying its voice across Africa via StarTimes, a state-backed, though privately owned, Chinese media and telecoms firm that beams Chinese content – and a Chinese worldview – via subsidiaries in 30 African countries into African households.

As a member of the Brics group since 2010, South Africa has given China a gateway into the Southern African Development Community, which provides access to natural resources that support China’s growth and boosts its political influence across the region. China is South Africa’s largest trade partner, and the two countries signed commercial deals in 2015 worth US$6.5 billion. South Africa’s government has rewarded China’s willingness to invest by denying Tibet’s Dalai Lama, who is persona non grata in China, entry into South Africa on three separate occasions since 2009, though South African officials deny this.

Chinese trucks at Pakistan’s Gwadar port in Pakistan. Beijing’s investments in the South Asian nation has grown, with China developing the port and the $73.6 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. PHOTO: DAWN/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta was one of just two African leaders offered a seat at the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing earlier this year, and Kenya can expect to be a major recipient of Chinese infrastructure investment as part of the maritime route of the One Belt, One Road project. China has already built a high-speed rail connection between the Kenyan cities of Nairobi and Mombasa, and Kenya’s government has expressed thanks with support for China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea and for Beijing’s bid to persuade the International Monetary Fund to add China’s currency to its Special Drawing Rights basket.

China has also spent considerable time and money building its influence in Latin America. China has become the largest export market for Brazil, Chile, Cuba, Peru, and Uruguay. But this is no longer simply a story of China buying commodities. These same countries, plus Bolivia, now import more from China than from anywhere else. Panama has also become part of the story, in part because China’s investment in the expansion of the Panama Canal has allowed Chinese mega-freighters to reach the Atlantic and eastern seaboard of the US. Earlier this year, Panama announced it would no longer recognise Taiwan, providing China with another diplomatic victory.

Beijing has even extended this strategy into Europe, where leaders still act as though the world is hoping to follow their lead. The most recent Chinese investment is in cash-strapped Greece, a country fed up with imposed austerity and bitter criticism from the European Union. Greece has won Chinese investment through the One Belt, One Road project. In particular, a Chinese state-owned firm now operates the Greek commercial port at Piraeus, the busiest in the Mediterranean. Earlier this year, Greece blocked an EU statement to the United Nations Human Rights Council that criticised Mr Xi’s crackdown on domestic political dissent and joined Hungary to support China’s South China Sea territorial claims at The Hague.

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A senior Greek official last month said: “While the Europeans are acting towards Greece like mediaeval leeches, the Chinese keep bringing money.”

There is a lesson here for the US, the EU and any other international player that would condition badly needed investment on domestic political behaviour. Mr Trump boasts of American power, but he has made clear he has no interest in writing large cheques. Now look at China from the recipient’s point of view. China offers good deals for governments and countries that need them – and it does not demand risk and sacrifice in return.

The only question about this strategy’s future is where it will succeed next.

http://www.straitstimes.com/opinion/the-power-of-chinas-chequebook-diplomacy

The writer is the president of Eurasia Group and author of Superpower: Three Choices For America’s Role In The World.

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Shiite corridor from Tehran to Damascus)

 (John Bolton)

(Includes John Bolton’s Plan for Iran and the Nuclear Deal)

Magnitude 8 earthquake strikes off Mexico’s southern coast

September 8, 2017

The shock of the quake was felt as far away as Mexico City. The government has said that at least five people were killed in the country’s south as a result of the tremor.

Rescue workers standing in rubble in Mexico (picture-alliance/ZumaPress/A. Salinas)

The quake struck late on Thursday, and was recorded as a magnitude 8.4 on the Richter scale according to Mexico’s National Seismological Service. Government officials said that at least five people died in the country’s south.

President Enrique Pena Nieto said that the quake, the biggest the country has seen in a century, had caused major damage and caused 1 million people to lose power, though it has been restored to about 800,000 already.

The US Tsunami Warning Center has cautioned that widespread, devastating tidal waves were possible on Mexico’s coast, as well as in Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama, Honduras and Ecuador.

Shortly thereafter, authorities reported a tsunami was indeed headed towards the coast, fortunately only 0.7 meters (2.3 feet) tall.

The quake’s epicenter was about 123 km (76 miles) south of the town of Pijijiapan in Chiapas state, but the shock was felt 1000 km (650 miles) as far away as Mexico City, sending residents fleeing swaying buildings and knocking out electricity in parts of the city. The quake was also felt in much of Guatemala, which borders Chiapas.

Mexico’s civil protection agency reported that the last comparable tremor was a 1985 earthquake that killed thousands and destroyed entire buildings in the country’s heavily populated capital.

Impresionante, un hotel en Matías Romero, OAXACA esta inclinado, huéspedes y personal al interior. Están evacuando huéspedes. Vía @rioaxaca

Civil Defense officials wrote on Twitter that their personnel were patrolling the streets in Chiapas aiding residents and looking for damage. They also issued a warning for aftershocks, several of which themselves registered a 5.0 magnitude according to the US Geological Survey (USGS).

Chiapas Governor Manuel Velasco told broadcaster Televisa some homes had been damaged and a shopping center had collapsed in the town of San Cristobal.

“Homes, schools and hospitals have been affected,” Velasco said.

In Tabasco state, next to Chipas, Governor Arturo Nunez said two of the dead were small children who were residents of his state. One child was crushed by a falling wall while the other was an infant who perished when his ventilator stopped functioning after a power outage in a hospital.

There were also reports of bad damage in Oaxaca state, with buildings collapsed and reduced to rubble. Throughout all three southern states, rescue workers rushed to check for anyone trapped by the debris.

Karte Mexiko Erdbeben ENG

es/ng (AP, AFP, Reuters)

http://www.dw.com/en/magnitude-8-earthquake-strikes-off-mexicos-southern-coast/a-40409831

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Deadly earthquake hits off the coast of southern Mexico

September 8, 2017

Updated 4:05 AM ET, Fri September 8, 2017

(CNN) — A massive 8.1-magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of southern Mexico early Friday morning, killing at five people and triggering tsunamis.

The quake, which was felt as far as Mexico City and Guatemala City, struck 74 miles (120 kilometers) off the Pacific Coast at 12:49 a.m. ET Friday, when many people would have been sleeping.

Latest updates

— Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto said three people died in the state of Chiapas and two in Tabasco. Gov. Manuel Velasco said two of them died in a house collapse.
— Some 23,000 people likely experienced violent shaking, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS). The USGS Pager system, which predicts economic and human loss following earthquakes, issued a red alert. “High casualties and extensive damage are probable and the disaster is likely widespread. Past red alerts have required a national or international response,” it said.
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— A tsunami has been confirmed in Mexico, with one wave coming in at 3 feet (1 meter), according to a tweet from the National Weather Service’s Pacific Tsunami Warning Center’s verified account.
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— The main quake had a depth of 69.7 kilometers (43 miles), according to the USGS. It was a particularly shallow quake, according to Jana Pursely, a geophysicist at the USGS.
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— The epicenter was in the Pacific Ocean 600 miles (1,000 kilometers) southeast of Mexico City, close to both the Mexican states of Chiapas, which borders Guatemala, and Oaxaca, in the Middle America trench.
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— The USGS has reported multiple aftershocks, including four with tremors measuring above 5.0 in magnitude.
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— Gov. Velasco told Foro TV that there have been reports of damage, including hospitals that have lost power and buildings with collapsed roofs. He said that he will cancel school on Friday.
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— A tsunami threat is being evaluated by the Tsunami Warning System. The Tsunami Warning Center advised the public that tsunami waves could hit within three hours off the coasts of Mexico, Guatemala, Panama, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras and even Ecuador.
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— Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales activated security personnel to assess the damage.
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A dark street can be seen in the street in Mexico City.

Chiapas hit hard

Gonazalo Segundo was awoken by the shaking.
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“I was already in bed. I was in my place so we were expecting to have a tranquil night but suddenly … everything breaks apart, glasses, furniture and everything,” he told CNN over the phone from Chiapas.
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The states of Chiapas and Oaxaca, home to at about 9 million people, are both located close to the earthquake’s epicenter. They are two of the impoverished areas in Mexico, and were likely hit the hardest.
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First responders at the scene after the quake.

“We have experienced earthquakes before, but not like this. It was so intense,” Segundo said. “We are alive, that’s the important thing.”
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Many of those in Chiapas may not have been so lucky. The earthquake struck in the early hours of the morning when most people would have been sleeping. Chiapas is Mexico’s poorest state.
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Pursely of the USGS told CNN she expects damage along the coast, meaning a costly cleanup could be on the way. These types of shallow quakes have the potential to be very dangerous, she said.
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CNN attempted to contact two seaside hotels in Chiapas but the lines appeared to be down.
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People gather on a street in downtown Mexico City during the quake.

Mexico City shakes

On his verified twitter account, Mexican President Peña Nieto tweeted, “Civil protection protocols are activated, including the National Emergency Committee.”
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It appears even the capital, hundreds of miles away, was not spared from the quake’s tremors. Mexico CIty Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera said parts of the city are without in an interview on Foro TV.
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Videos on social media showed significant tremors in various parts of the country as well as major damage to buildings and infrastructure, including traffic lights shaking.
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Paulaina Gomez-Wulschner was driving when it struck. She heard an earthquake alarm go off on the radio, parked her car and joined others stood in the middle of the street to avoid falling objects.
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“This was a very, very strong earthquake, one of the strongest I’ve felt, and I was here in 1985 when that earthquake collapsed Mexico City,” she told CNN.”It was very scary,” she said.
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Gomez-Wulschner said she could hear sirens, ambulances and helicopters in the aftermath, but did not see any immediate damage near her.
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But a receptionist at the Intercontinental in Mexico City said he only felt light shaking.

http://www.cnn.com/2017/09/08/americas/earthquake-hits-off-the-coast-of-southern-mexico/index.html

See also:

Powerful Earthquake Strikes Southern Mexico; Tsunami Warning Issued

https://www.wsj.com/articles/mexico-city-shaken-by-strong-earthquake-1504848320

In Latin America, VP Pence Threads Needle on Venezuela

August 14, 2017

CARTAGENA, Colombia — Vice President Mike Pence is demonstrating the delicate balancing act that has thus far defined his term, walking a line during a trip to Latin America between the region’s opposition to possible U.S. military intervention in Venezuela, and President Donald Trump’s surprising refusal to rule out that option.

Speaking during a joint news conference with Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos shortly after his arrival Sunday, Pence also declined to rule out possible military action against Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, whose efforts to consolidate power in the country have drawn alarm. Still, Pence stressed the U.S. would much prefer what he called a “peaceable” solution to the growing political and humanitarian crisis.

“President Trump is a leader who says what he means and means what he says,” Pence said. “But the president sent me here to continue to marshal the unprecedented support of countries across Latin America to achieve by peaceable means the restoration of democracy in Venezuela, and we believe it is achievable by those means.”

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U.S. Vice President Mike Pence listens to Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos during a joint press conference at the presidential guesthouse in Cartagena, Colombia, Sunday, Aug. 13, 2017. Cartagena is the first stop of Pence’s weeklong trip to Latin America, that will also take him to Argentina, Chile and Panama. (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara).

Trump’s startling comments Friday sparked backlash across the region, including from Venezuela’s chief opposition coalition and the Colombian government.

Standing at Pence’s side in Cartagena after the two met, Santos said he had repeatedly told Pence in no uncertain terms that the U.S. must not even consider military action in response to Venezuela’s crisis.

The two countries are important allies, Santos said. “But since friends have to tell each other the truth, I have told Vice President Pence that the possibility of a military intervention shouldn’t even be considered, neither in Colombia nor in Latin America,” Santos said through a translator. “America is a continent of peace. It is the land of peace. Let us preserve it as such.”

Analysists said Trump’s comments played into Maduro’s hands by awakening dark memories of U.S. intervention in the region and making it harder for other Latin American countries to join the anti-Maduro coalition. “The phantom of military interventions in Latin America disappeared a long time ago, and we don’t want it to return,” Santos said.

Pence emphasized the U.S. will work together with many nations in Venezuela’s “neighborhood” to pressure Maduro so that democracy can be restored. “We simply will not accept the emergence of a dictatorship in our hemisphere,” he said, continuing the tough talk that has been Trump’s approach to Maduro. “The United States will not stand by as Venezuela crumbles,” he said.

Pence also addressed the deadly violence that broke out Saturday during a march by white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia, using words the president would not. “We have no tolerance for hate and violence, white supremacists or neo-Nazis or the KKK,” Pence said. “These dangerous fringe groups have no place in American public life and in the American debate, and we condemn them in the strongest possible terms.”

Trump has been criticized by both Democrats and Republicans for not singling out those groups directly in a lengthy Saturday statement and instead blaming “many sides” for the violence.

Pence also addressed a spike in coca production in Colombia, saying the worsening crisis required “swift action to protect the people of both our countries.” A July report from the United Nations showed that coca production in Colombia had reached levels not seen in two decades, complicating Colombia’s efforts to make its vast, lawless countryside more secure.

Image may contain: 3 people, people standing, shoes and outdoor
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, right, and Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos, arrive to give a joint press conference at the presidential guesthouse in Cartagena, Colombia, Sunday, Aug. 13, 2017. Cartagena is the first stop of Pence’s weeklong trip to Latin America, that will also take him to Argentina, Chile and Panama. (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara).

Venezuelan Vice President Tareck El Aissami lashed out at Pence, rejecting what he called “interventionist” comments intended to hide the failure of US anti-narcotics policies in Colombia. He dismissed Pence’s meeting with Santos as “an encounter between the world’s largest producer of drugs and the nation with the most consumers.”

El Aissami was sanctioned by the Trump administration in February for allegedly running a drug trafficking network of corrupt officials in Venezuela.

Pence and his wife, Karen, arrived Sunday in Colombia for a six-day, four-country trip through the region. Pence has other stops scheduled in Argentina, Chile and Panama, giving speeches and meeting with leaders.

White House officials tried Sunday to explain Trump’s decision to raise the prospect of possible military action in Venezuela. CIA Director Mike Pompeo said Trump was trying “to give the Venezuelan people hope and opportunity to create a situation where democracy can be restored.” Pompeo told “Fox News Sunday” that Venezuela “could very much become a risk” to the U.S. if it descended into further chaos.

Yet a Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee who calls himself “a pretty hawkish guy” expressed skepticism about the idea of American troops in Caracas.

“I have no idea why we would use military force in Venezuela. I’m open-minded to a reason, but at the end of the day, our military should be deployed when there’s a national security interest that can be articulated to the American people,” South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham told “‘Fox News Sunday.”

Trump’s national security adviser, who has previously warned against military talk, said the Trump administration wants to get a handle on the current situation under Maduro’s embattled government and “understand better how this crisis might evolve.”

“The president never takes options off the table in any of these situations and what we owe him are options,” H.R. McMaster told ABC’s “This Week.”

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Associated Press writer Joshua Goodman in Caracas, Venezuela, contributed to this report.

US Vice President Mike Pence Starts Latin American “Reassurance Tour” — Following President Donald Trump’s threat of a possible “military option” against Venezuela

August 13, 2017

AFP

© GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP/File | US Vice President Mike Pence’s tour would be dominated by the crisis in Venezuela and how US “partners and friends” were looking to the “future” regarding that country, while others were stuck in the “past,” a senior US administration official said

BOGOTA (AFP) – US Vice President Mike Pence launches a Latin America tour Sunday that has taken on new significance following President Donald Trump’s threat of a possible “military option” against Venezuela.

The weeklong trip, aimed at coordinating a regional diplomatic action to the political crisis in Caracas, begins in Colombia, a strong US ally that takes hundreds of millions of dollars a year in funding from Washington and which has little liking for leftist Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

The other stops were Argentina, Chile and Panama.

The tour would be dominated by the crisis in Venezuela and how US “partners and friends” were looking to the “future” regarding that country, while others were stuck in the “past,” a senior US administration official said.

“We’ve been firm in both word and deed against the Maduro regime, and it’s important to get others in the region. And these four countries have, but we want to continue to put the pressure on the Maduro regime,” he told reporters on condition of anonymity.

“We’ll talk to economic options, diplomatic options — every tool that’s available. It’s not only the United States putting forth pressure on Maduro, but that he’s getting it from all sides of the region as well.”

But, thanks to Trump’s warning on Friday that he was considering various measures to tackle Venezuela “including a possible military option if necessary,” Latin American nations — including those who are scolding Caracas for “breaking democratic rule” — are united against the use of American force.

Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru all issued messages rejecting such a step.

– Bitter memories –

For many Latin American countries, bitter memories of past US military adventures in the region have resurfaced as a result — including the 1989 invasion of Panama to topple and capture its leader, Manuel Noriega — as well as CIA involvement in bloody guerrilla and counter-guerrilla campaigns, and Washington’s propping up of military dictators.

The United States has slapped sanctions on Maduro — an extremely rare punishment against a head of state — as well as two dozen of his officials.

The measures were for the establishment of a new assembly of Maduro loyalists that bypasses the legislature controlled by opposition. The body, which started work this month, has set about clamping down on dissent and opposition politicians.

With Trump’s threat of possible military action, Maduro’s regime has intensified arguments that the United States is plotting with the opposition to oust the president and grab Venezuela’s oil reserves, the largest in the world.

It also said the threat was not just against it, but against all of Latin America.

“The reckless threat by President Donald Trump aims to drag Latin America and the Caribbean into a conflict that would permanently alter stability, peace and security in our region,” Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza told a news conference on Saturday.

The defense minister, General Vladimir Padrino, called Trump’s talk “craziness.”

– Force rejected –

Leftist allies Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador and Nicaragua have backed Venezuela in a confrontation against its “imperialist” foe.

Other Latin American nations strongly opposed to Venezuela’s political move have also condemned the prospect of the US military being deployed to impose Washington’s will.

“The repudiation of violence and whatever option involving the use of force is resolute and constitutes a fundamental basis of democratic cohabitation, both in domestic contexts as well as in international relations,” Brazil’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

“The crisis in Venezuela can’t be resolved through military actions, internally or externally,” Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray wrote on Twitter.

China Says Taiwan Should Make ‘Wise Choice’ on One China Principle — Panama cuts diplomatic channel to Taiwan

June 13, 2017

BEIJING — China’s Taiwan Affairs Office said on Tuesday that Taiwan should make a “wise choice” on recognising the one China principle, after Panama dropped ties with the self-ruled island in favour of formal relations with Beijing.

The Taiwan Affairs Office posted the statement to its website.

China distrusts Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen and her ruling party, which traditionally advocates independence for Taiwan. Soon after Tsai took power, Beijing cut official communication channels with her government to try to pressure her to concede that Taiwan is part of China.

(Reporting by Michael Martina; Editing by Christian Schmollinger)

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Panama Establishes Ties With China, Further Isolating Taiwan

TAIPEI, Taiwan — Panama has severed diplomatic relations with Taiwan in favor of recognizing China, the latest in a series of developments adding to the island’s isolation on the world stage.

Only 19 countries and the Vatican now recognize Taiwan, officially known as the Republic of China. Many of those countries are in Central America, including Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, and the decision by Panama, announced on Monday, appeared to put those relationships in doubt.

China refuses to have diplomatic ties with countries that officially recognize Taiwan, which Beijing considers part of its territory and has threatened to annex by force, if necessary. Since 1945, Taiwan has been ruled by the Republic of China government, which lost the Chinese civil war and fled the mainland in 1949.

The news is a major setback for Taiwan’s president, Tsai Ing-wen. She visited Panama last summer, shortly after taking office, for the inauguration of President Juan Carlos Varela and the opening of an expanded Panama Canal. The first ship to sail through the expanded canal was a Chinese one.

In January, Ms. Tsai returned to the region to attend the inauguration of President Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua. She also made stops in Guatemala and Honduras, during a trip that was presented domestically as shoring up Taiwan’s alliances in Central America.

Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed “indignation and regret” at the decision. It said that in addition to withdrawing its diplomatic mission, it would cease all bilateral cooperation and aid.

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Pope Francis’ Homily for Palm Sunday, April 9, 2017 — “We must carry our own cross, not refuse it or set it aside, but rather, in looking to him, to take it up and to carry it daily.”

April 9, 2017

The Vatican

Today’s celebration can be said to be bittersweet.  It is joyful and sorrowful at the same time.  We celebrate the Lord’s entrance into Jerusalem to the cries of his disciples who acclaim him as king.  Yet we also solemnly proclaim the Gospel account of his Passion.  In this poignant contrast, our hearts experience in some small measure what Jesus himself must have felt in his own heart that day, as he rejoiced with his friends and wept over Jerusalem.

For thirty-two years now, the joyful aspect of this Sunday has been enriched by the enthusiasm of young people, thanks to the celebration of World Youth Day.  This year, it is being celebrated at the diocesan level, but here in Saint Peter’s Square it will be marked by the deeply moving and evocative moment when the WYD cross is passed from the young people of Kraków to those of Panama.

The Gospel we heard before the procession (cf. Mt 21:1-11) describes Jesus as he comes down from the Mount of Olives on the back of a colt that had never been ridden.  It recounts the enthusiasm of the disciples who acclaim the Master with cries of joy, and we can picture in our minds the excitement of the children and young people of the city who joined in the excitement.  Jesus himself sees in this joyful welcome an inexorable force willed by God.  To the scandalized Pharisees he responds: “I tell you that if these were silent, the stones would shout out” (Lk 19:40).

Yet Jesus who, in fulfilment of the Scriptures, enters the holy city in this way is no misguided purveyor of illusions, no new age prophet, no imposter.  Rather, he is clearly a Messiah who comes in the guise of a servant, the servant of God and of man, and goes to his passion.  He is the great “patient”, who suffers all the pain of humanity.

So as we joyfully acclaim our King, let us also think of the sufferings that he will have to endure in this week.  Let us think of the slanders and insults, the snares and betrayals, the abandonment to an unjust judgment, the blows, the lashes and the crown of thorns…  And lastly, the way of the cross leading to the crucifixion.

He had spoken clearly of this to his disciples: “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Mt 16:24).  Jesus never promised honour and success.  The Gospels make this clear.  He had always warned his friends that this was to be his path, and that the final victory would be achieved through the passion and the cross.  All this holds true for us too.  Let us ask for the grace to follow Jesus faithfully, not in words but in deeds.  Let us also ask for the patience to carry our own cross, not to refuse it or set it aside, but rather, in looking to him, to take it up and to carry it daily.

This Jesus, who accepts the hosannas of the crowd, knows full well that they will soon be followed by the cry: “Crucify him!”  He does not ask us to contemplate him only in pictures and photographs, or in the videos that circulate on the internet.  No.  He is present in our many brothers and sisters who today endure sufferings like his own: they suffer from slave labour, from family tragedies, from diseases…  They suffer from wars and terrorism, from interests that are armed and ready to strike.  Women and men who are cheated, violated in their dignity, discarded…  Jesus is in them, in each of them, and, with marred features and broken voice, he asks to be looked in the eye, to be acknowledged, to be loved.

It is not some other Jesus, but the same Jesus who entered Jerusalem amid the waving of palm branches.  It is the same Jesus who was nailed to the cross and died between two criminals.  We have no other Lord but him: Jesus, the humble King of justice, mercy and peace.

Libreria Editrice Vaticana

 

http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/homilies/2017/documents/papa-francesco_20170409_omelia-palme.html

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Jesus gets help from Simon of Cyrene by Tiziano Vecelli or Tiziano Vecellio, known in English as Titian.

Art below by Anatoly Shumkin