Paris, Aug 23 (AP/UNB) — Rarely have French President Emmanuel Macron and superstar soccer players including Cristiano Ronaldo been on the same page, but when it comes to the fires that are devastating the Amazon, they're uniting in sounding the alarm.
Five-time world player of the year Ronaldo beat Macron to the punch with his tweet urging action on the Amazon that, by Friday morning, had already racked up more than a quarter-million likes.
Ronaldo tweeted: "The Amazon Rainforest produces more than 20% of the world's oxygen and it's been burning for the past 3 weeks. It's our responsibility to help to save our planet."
Macron's tweet later was similarly urgent, saying "Our house is burning. Literally." Macron put the Amazon fires on the agenda for the G-7 summit of world leaders that France is hosting this weekend.
Other soccer stars chimed in, too — unusual in the sport whose professionals are often reluctant to express views about off-pitch issues.
Paris Saint-Germain's Kylian Mbappe, a World Cup winner with France, tweeted a composite photo of rainforest in the shape of human lungs , lush and green on one side, consumed by flames on the other, and the words: "Pray for Amazonia."
And from the world of tennis came a straight-to-the point tweet from top-ranked Novak Djokovic. "Heartbreaking," the winner of 16 majors wrote above a photo of forests aflame.
But beyond sports stars lamenting the Amazon's pain to their global audiences, it wasn't obvious what, if anything, Europe could immediately do about the situation.
Brazil was unlikely to ask for fire-fighting assistance, given how conservative Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has bristled over Macron's intervention.
The Brazilian leader accused Macron of sensationalism and of seeking "personal political gains in an internal matter for Brazil and other Amazonian countries." Brazil contains about 60% of the Amazon rainforest.
Even if Amazon nations did seek help, amphibious planes widely used in Europe to dump water and retardants on wildfires don't have the range to cross the Atlantic Ocean, Col. Grégory Allione, head of France's national federation of firefighters, told The Associated Press.
Larger, land-based fire-fighting planes could only reach the Amazon from Europe via a circuitous route over Greenland, North and Central America, which "would take an eternity," he said.
And European governments might not have much firefighting expertise and manpower to spare after another scorching European summer that saw record heatwaves and left many areas of Europe tinder-dry, another consequence of climate change.
"We're already very busy," Allione said. "We've always had fires but now we have giant infernos."
Environmental campaigners said longer-term solutions were needed to preserve the Amazon. Some have accused Macron of hypocrisy, arguing that while he's adept at using Twitter to position himself as a champion for the planet, his domestic record on green issues is spotty at best. His first environment minister quit abruptly, frustrated by the slow progress fighting climate change under Macron's government.
"Beautiful speeches are no longer deluding anyone," the French branches of Greenpeace and Oxfam said in a joint appeal for stepped-up action from G-7 nations against climate change. "Emmanuel Macron cannot content himself by playing the servant at international summits to come. He must end France's inaction on the climate to be credible."
Mexico City, Aug 5 (AP/UNB) — Mexico's government said it considers a shooting at a crowded department store in El Paso, Texas that left seven of its citizens dead an "act of terrorism" against Mexicans and hopes it will lead to changes in U.S. gun laws.
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said Monday that Mexico will respect the debate that will unfold in the United States following Saturday's attack that killed a total of 21 people, but he believes the discussion could lead to change north of the border.
"There could be a change to their laws because it is stunning what is happening, unfortunate and very powerful," López Obrador said. "I don't rule out that they could change their constitution and laws. These are new times; you have to always be adjusting the legal framework to the new reality."
Many in Mexico were reeling Sunday from revelations that the shooting appeared to have been aimed at Hispanics — and Mexicans in particular.
Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard urged the U.S. government to establish a "clear and convincing position against hate crimes" after what he labeled "an act of terrorism" against Mexicans
Late Sunday, Ebrard raised the death toll of Mexican citizens to seven, along with seven wounded. The government said the change was the result of the identification process. Ebrard was scheduled to travel to El Paso later Monday to meet with families of the victims.
"Mexico is outraged," he said.
On Monday, El Paso police raised the total toll to 21, saying via Twitter that another victim died at a hospital early Monday.
Ebrard said Mexico would take legal action against the business that sold the shooter the gun and that its Attorney General's Office would declare it an act of terrorism against Mexican citizens. This would give Mexican prosecutors access to information about the case, Ebrard said. Then the Attorney General would decide whether to pursue the shooter's extradition to Mexico.
"For Mexico this individual is a terrorist," he said.
Just minutes before the rampage, U.S. investigators believe the shooter posted a rambling online manifesto in which he railed against a perceived "invasion" of Hispanics coming into the U.S. He then allegedly targeted a shopping area in El Paso that is about 5 miles (8 kilometers) from the main border checkpoint with Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.
Tens of thousands of Mexicans cross the border legally each day to work and shop in the city of 680,000 full-time residents, and El Paso County is more than 80% Latino, according to the latest census data.
The Mexican victims were identified as Sara Esther Regalado of Ciudad Juarez; Adolfo Cerros Hernández of Aguascalientes; Jorge Calvillo García of Torreon, Coahuila; Elsa Mendoza de la Mora of Yepomera, Chihuahua; Gloria Irma Marquez of Ciudad Juarez; María Eugenia Legarreta of the city of Chihuahua; and Ivan Filiberto Manzano of Ciudad Juarez. Other victims may have also been of Mexican descent.
As the news dominated weekend headlines, some in Mexico said the shooting was the result of the simmering resentment that President Donald Trump had stirred early into his presidential campaign when he called Mexicans coming into the U.S. "rapists" and "criminals." The U.S.-Mexico relationship was only further strained after he took office and vowed to build a border wall and slap tariffs on Mexican imports.
On Sunday, López Obrador chose his words carefully when speaking of the shooting.
"In spite of the pain, the outrage" that Mexicans are feeling, he said, the U.S. is headed toward elections and Mexico doesn't want to interfere in the "internal affairs" of other countries. He also said the events in Texas reaffirmed his conviction that "social problems shouldn't be confronted with the use of force and by inciting hate."
Former President Felipe Calderón said via Twitter that regardless of whether the shooting is a hate crime, Trump "should stop his hate speech. He should stop stigmatizing others."
Amatza Gutiérrez, a student from the Mexican capital, said the idea of a shooter targeting Mexicans because of their ethnicity gives her goose bumps.
"I don't understand why anyone would go to that extreme," the 24-year-old said.
Ciudad Juarez, Aug 2 (AP/UNB) — The Mexican government opened its first shelter Thursday in the border city of Juarez to house Central Americans and other migrants seeking asylum in the United States who have been sent back to Mexico to await the process.
Government officials said the shelter at a former assembly plant in the city across from El Paso, Texas, can house 3,500 migrants.
Labor ministry official Horacio Duarte Olivares said the facility will provide shelter, meals, medical attention and access to the local labor market for migrants.
Duarte said that similar shelters would open in the coming days in Tijuana and Mexicali and that there are plans for one in Nuevo Laredo.
The U.S. government has returned more than 20,000 asylum seekers to wait in Mexico since the program began in January.
Geneva, July 5 (AP/UNB) — A top Venezuelan diplomat on Friday blasted what he called the "biased vision" of a report by the U.N. human rights chief chronicling torture, sexual abuse and extrajudicial killings in the country, and demanded it be "corrected."
Deputy Foreign Minister William Castillo insisted the report from High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet "does not reflect the reality in our country." He said Venezuela would heed "constructive" recommendations.
"We demand that its contents be corrected, and we urge you to act in a balanced and respectful way," Castillo told the U.N-backed Human Rights Council through a translator.
"The content of this report is incomprehensible, dominated by a selective and biased vision," Castillo said. "It's a text lacking in scientific rigor, with serious errors in methodology and which seems like a carbon copy of previous reports."
Bachelet, after presenting the report published Thursday to the council, insisted that she heard from victims on both government and opposition sides, and defended the methodology. Since taking office last year, Bachelet said, she has emphasized that staffers need to get the facts right to show balance.
The rights chief said her teams had been working on the report, which covers a period from January 2018 nearly to the present, for a long time. She insisted upon the validity of the reporting, based on hundreds of interviews and meetings with government officials, Maduro's opponents, as well as victims, their relatives, rights defenders and many others.
She also expressed hope that the report could help pave the way toward improvements in the rights situation in Venezuela, and noted that her office now has an office in Venezuela — access not granted for many years.
She summarized her team's findings about a "pattern of torture" under President Nicolas Maduro's government, citing violations like arbitrary detention, extrajudicial killings, sexual violence and enforced disappearances.
Witnesses recounted "in every case" how special forces known as FAES "manipulated the crime scene and evidence," the report said. "They would plant arms and drugs and fire their weapons against the walls or in the air to suggest a confrontation and to show the victim had 'resisted authority.'"
"In many cases, FAES brought the victims to hospital even though they were already dead, apparently with the intention of manipulating the bodies and modifying the crime scene," it added.
Venezuela's government acknowledged nearly 5,300 killings during security operations last year alone linked to "resistance to authority," the report said, and added that another 1,569 took place from Jan. 1 to May 19 this year.
Mexico City, Jul 4 (AP/UNB) — Some of Mexico's federal police remain in revolt over the force's planned dissolution and absorption into the newly created National Guard.
Striking police continued to hold a federal police command center in the Mexico City borough of Iztapalapa Thursday morning. Meanwhile, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador repeated his suggestion that rank-and-file police were being manipulated by his political adversaries.
López Obrador declined to name the "dark forces" he says are responsible, but says his security secretary Alfonso Durazo will provide details later.
On Wednesday, federal police held the command center and blocked key highways around the capital. They expressed concerns about potentially losing their salaries, benefits and seniority if they transferred to the National Guard and being left unemployed if they don't join the new force.