Mexico City, Jan 11 (AP/UNB) — Nicaraguan media reported Thursday that a Supreme Court justice has resigned with a scathing open letter to President Daniel Ortega, who faced down anti-government protests last year by unleashing security forces and allied groups against demonstrators.
The letter circulating widely on social media was accompanied by a photograph of judge Rafael Solis Cerda's government-issued ID. The letter's authenticity could not be independently confirmed. A message to Solis was not immediately answered.
The government did not immediately comment.
Solis is a long-time member of Ortega's Sandinista Front party, but his letter said Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo, are dragging Nicaragua toward a civil war.
"I fought against a dictatorship and I never believed that history would repeat itself on account of those who also fought against that same dictatorship," the letter said.
Solis noted the at least 325 people estimated by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to have died in the violent repression of street protests that began April 18, 2018, initially over since canceled social security cuts. Since the protests were banned and the government regained control of the streets, leaders and even participants of the public opposition have been arrested and jailed.
Last month, the government shut down several human rights groups and independent media outlets. It also expelled teams from two branches of the Organization of American States that were investigating allegations of human rights violations.
Solis' letter said he considered resigning last year, but had hoped Ortega and Murillo would enter a genuine dialogue with their opponents. He said suggestions that he offered Ortega on negotiating an end to the political crisis were disregarded.
The judge's resignation marks the highest level defection from Ortega's government since the crisis began. Still, Solis will likely still face harsh criticism from the opposition, because until his resignation he and the other justices have been seen as staunch backers of Ortega's government, including allowing him to run for re-election.
In his letter, Solis said the judiciary's compliance with Ortega owed to the "state of terror" created and the knowledge that any resistance would simply result in judges being removed from their positions.
The Organization of American States planned to discuss the situation in Nicaragua on Friday in Washington.
Seattle, Jan 10 (AP/UNB) — Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and his wife, MacKenzie, are divorcing, ending a 25-year marriage that played a role in the creation of an e-commerce company that made Bezos one of the world's wealthiest people.
The decision to divorce comes after a trial separation, according to a statement posted Wednesday on Jeff Bezos' Twitter account. He and his wife both signed the announcement, which ended with a vow to remain "cherished friends."
"If we had known we would separate after 25 years, we would do it all again," the couple said.
Left unanswered was one of the biggest sticking points in any divorce: How the assets amassed during the marriage will be divided.
And there may never have been more money than in this case.
Jeff Bezos is ranked at the top of most lists of the world's wealthiest people, and his fortune currently hovers around $137 billion, according to estimates by both Forbes and Bloomberg. Virtually all of that is tied up in the nearly 79 million shares of Amazon stock (currently worth about $130 billion) that Bezos owns, translating into a 16 percent stake in the Seattle company. Bezos, 54, also owns rocket ship maker Blue Origin and The Washington Post, which he bought for $250 million in 2013.
Because the pair were married before Amazon was founded, it's likely that MacKenzie Bezos, a 48-year-old novelist, holds a large claim to that fortune, though details hinge on where the couple files for divorce and if they had a prenuptial agreement.
King County, where their home is located, confirmed on Twitter Wednesday that the Bezoses had not filed for divorce in court. The couple own a home in a wealthy Seattle suburb within the county. Jeff Bezos also bought a mansion in a swanky Washington D.C. neighborhood last year for $23 million. The Bezoses have four children.
"The property acquired during the marriage is common property," said Jennifer Payseno, a family lawyer at the firm McKinley Irvin in Seattle. That includes stock ownership, although Amazon has not filed any regulatory documents to suggest Bezos' stake in the company has changed. Amazon didn't respond to inquiries about how the divorce may affect that stake.
The Bezoses will almost certainly settle the divorce outside of court, if they haven't already, said Jacqueline Newman, a Manhattan divorce lawyer and managing partner at Berkman Bottger Newman & Rodd.
"For the most part, they're going to want to keep things private and quiet," she said. "Especially in the case of a public company, they're not going to want information to leak because it could ultimately affect stock prices."
Amazon's stock edged up $2.84 Wednesday to close at $1,659.42. That left Amazon with a market value of $811 billion, more than any other publicly traded company in the U.S.
The amicable tenor of the Bezoses' divorce announcement makes it highly likely that the couple already has reached an agreement on how to divide their assets, Payseno said.
Jeff Bezos' tremendous wealth has magnified the focus on him, although his divorce seems unlikely to enthrall the public like high-profile breakups involving movie stars such as Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. Or even those of other billionaires, such as Donald Trump's tabloid-fodder split with his first wife Ivana in the early 1990s, long before he was elected president.
But the Bezos divorce seems likely to attract more attention than when Google co-founder Sergey Brin — currently worth $49 billion — divorced his former wife Anne in 2015.
Amazon's origins trace back to a road trip that the Bezoses took together not long after they met in New York while working at hedge fund D.E. Shaw. They got married just six months after they began dating, according to Bezos.
Not long after that, Jeff Bezos quit his job at Shaw and started an online bookstore. While his wife did the cross-country driving, Bezos wrote a business plan on the way to Seattle — chosen for its abundance of tech talent. By July 1995, Amazon was operating out of a garage, with MacKenzie Bezos lending a hand, according to a review she posted on Amazon in 2013 panning "The Everything Store," a book about Bezos and the company written by Brad Stone.
"I was there when he wrote the business plan, and I worked with him and many others represented in the converted garage, the basement warehouse closet, the barbecue-scented offices, the Christmas-rush distribution centers, and the door-desk filled conference rooms in the early years of Amazon's history," she recalled.
Amazon has since evolved from an upstart website selling books to an e-commerce goliath that sells virtually all imaginable merchandise and runs data centers that power many other digital services such as Netflix. It also has become a leader in intelligent voice-activated speakers with its Echo products, which are emerging as command centers for internet-connected homes — and a gateway to buying more stuff from Amazon.
Sao Paulo, Jan 10 (AP/UNB) — Brazil's new president blasted the United Nations' migration pact on Wednesday indicating that Latin America's largest nation will adopt a hard line on immigration.
President Jair Bolsonaro, who has promised to pull out of the U.N. deal, said on Twitter that he wants to ensure immigrants coming to Brazil not only abide by the laws, but also sing the national anthem and respect the country's culture.
"Immigration cannot become an indiscriminate act. It is imperative for us to establish proper criteria for each country," said Bolsonaro, a fan of U.S. President Donald Trump who took office Jan. 1. "If we control those who enter our homes, why should it be different with Brazil as a nation?"
The U.N pact signed by 164 countries in December recommends ruling out mass deportation policies and deems the deterrence of immigrants should be only a last resort.
Bolsonaro said he won't reject help for those crossing the border, an apparent reference to Venezuelans fleeing an economic and political crisis at home. In recent years, tens of thousands of Venezuelans have crossed into neighboring Brazil.
Brazil has also welcomed Syrian and Lebanese refugees in recent years, along with Haitians, Bolivians, Paraguayans and Peruvians seeking better economic opportunities.
Bolsonaro said Brazil and migrants both will be safer if the country adopts its own rules.
Brazil's outgoing government signed the U.N. pact weeks before Bolsonaro took office. As soon as the deal was signed in Morocco, the then president-elect said his administration would discard it.
Brazilian media reported several embassies received communication to inform them Bolsonaro's decision to leave the pact. Brazil's foreign ministry did not reply to requests for comment on Wednesday.
Maristela Basso, a law professor at Sao Paulo University, said that despite the heated rhetoric, the move wouldn't likely be adopted quickly. She said a formal withdrawal would need to be approved by Congress, where Bolsonaro's party controls about 10 percent of seats in the lower house and has 4 of 81 seats in the Senate. Congress doesn't convene until February.
"The president cannot leave the pact just with his pen," said Basso.
Former Foreign Minister Aloysio Nunes, who represented Brazil in the pact negotiations, recently said on Twitter that the pact does not "authorize indiscriminate migration" and "seeks to serve as reference for the organization of migration influxes."
Camila Asano, a coordinator at human rights nonprofit Conectas, said the move not only affects immigrants to the South American nation, but could also impact more than 3 million Brazilians.
"Nowadays there are more Brazilians living abroad than foreigners living in Brazil, Asano said. "This move undermines one of Brazil's main international credentials; we are a country of immigrants and our migration policies were seen as a reference."
Beijing, Jan 10 (AP/UNB) — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has reportedly told the leader of his only major ally, China, that he wants to "achieve results" on the nuclear standoff on the Korean Peninsula in a second summit with President Donald Trump.
The comments, contained in reports Thursday from Chinese and North Korean state media, came a day after Kim left Beijing on his special armored train for Pyongyang after a two-day visit to the Chinese capital.
Kim's trip to China — his fourth in the past 10 months — is believed to be an effort to coordinate with Beijing ahead of a possible second summit with Trump. It comes after U.S. and North Korean officials are thought to have met in Vietnam to discuss the site of the summit.
North Korea will "make efforts for the second summit between (North Korean) and U.S. leaders to achieve results that will be welcomed by the international community," Kim was quoted as saying by China's official Xinhua News Agency.
All sides should "jointly push for a comprehensive resolution of the Korean Peninsula issue" and North Korea would "continue sticking to the stance of denuclearization and resolving the Korean Peninsula issue through dialogue and consultation," Xinhua quoted Kim as saying.
Kim also said North Korea hopes its "legitimate concerns" would be given due respect, a reference to Pyongyang's desire for security guarantees and a possible peace treaty to formally end the 1950-53 Korean War.
He also credited President Xi Jinping with helping reduce regional tensions, saying "the Korean Peninsula situation has been easing since last year, and China's important role in this process is obvious to all."
It wasn't clear from the reports if Kim was in back in the North, but his train presumably would arrive sometime Thursday.
Xi was quoted as saying that China supports the U.S.-North Korea summits and hopes the two sides "will meet each other halfway." The North said in its report that Xi accepted an invitation to visit North Korea, although details of when he might come were not given.
Xi has yet to visit North Korea since taking office in 2012.
Trump and Kim met in Singapore in June for the first-ever leaders' meeting between their nations, but there has been a standoff ever since, with dueling accusations of bad faith.
Kim's Beijing visit was seen as part of an effort to win Chinese support for a reduction of U.N. sanctions imposed over his nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs, which have severely impacted his country's already ailing economy.
While North Korea hasn't conducted any launches or detonations in more than a year, it's displayed no real intention of abandoning the programs that are seen as guaranteeing the government's survival.
The trip also came after he expressed frustration in his annual New Year's address over the lack of progress in negotiations with Washington since the Singapore summit, saying that if things don't improve — meaning that if sanctions relief and security guarantees aren't in the offing — Pyongyang might have to find "a new way" forward.
While Trump says he considers Xi key to enticing Kim into taking concrete steps toward denuclearization, the president's own relationship with his Chinese counterpart has frayed over the U.S.-China trade war.
Officially, at least, China says it considers the tariff battle and North Korea's weapons programs to be entirely separate.
South Korea's Yonhap News Agency said Kim visited a technology development zone on the outskirts of Beijing on Wednesday and spent around 20-30 minutes touring a factory run by famed traditional Chinese medicine maker Tong Ren Tang.
Yonhap said Kim met with Xi for about an hour on Tuesday and later attended a dinner at the Great Hall of the People in central Beijing hosted by Xi and his wife, Peng Liyuan. Kim was accompanied by his wife, Ri Sol Ju, the news agency said.
At Tuesday's daily Foreign Ministry briefing, spokesman Lu Kang said Beijing remains supportive of efforts to end tensions over U.S. demands for a halt to North Korea's nuclear and missile programs.
"We always believe that, as key parties to the Korean Peninsula issue, it's important for the two sides to maintain contact and we always support their dialogue to achieve positive outcomes," Lu said.
Tuesday was Kim's birthday but there was no word of any official celebrations.
Guatemala City, Jan 10 (AP/UNB) — Guatemala's highest court issued a ruling Wednesday blocking President Jimmy Morales' decision to unilaterally end a U.N. anti-corruption commission.
The commission, known by its Spanish initials as CICIG, has angered Morales by investigating him, his sons and his brother on accusations of corruption, which they deny.
Guatemala's Constitutional Court overruled Morales' decision after all-night deliberations on five appeals against the president's cancellation of the agreement with the United Nations.
Hours later, Guatemala's Supreme Court announced that it would let a petition by a group of lawyers to strip the Constitutional Court justices of their immunity from prosecution advance to the nation's congress.
Supreme Court spokesman Mario Siekavizza said late Wednesday the lawyers were accusing the constitutional justices of interfering in the president's foreign policy decisions. The congress has the power to lift the justices' immunity and Morales and his allies control a majority of the votes.
It was not immediately clear what could happen if the nation's top court was suddenly open to investigation.
Morales has argued the commission had violated Guatemala's sovereignty and violated the rights of suspects.
Given the government's refusal to guarantee the commission's security, the U.N. has withdrawn the commission's members.
U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the United Nations would not comment on the court's ruling, calling it an "internal legal issue." And he said managing the commission, including the return of its personnel, is up to its chief, Ivan Velasquez.
Dujarric said Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has made clear that the U.N. expects Guatemala's government to respect its commitment for the commission to continue working until September 2019, and that includes "ensuring the safety and security of all staffers."
The court has tussled with Morales before over the commission, though he has sometimes tried to ignore its rulings. The court has said the commission's mandate is valid through 2019.
Guatemala's human rights prosecutor, Jordan Rodas, said Morales' administration has to obey the new ruling.
"The government is under obligation to comply," said Rodas, who presented one of the appeals to the court. "If it doesn't obey, that is a whole other matter, and would constitute a coup, because the cornerstone of the rule of law is respect for the judicial branch."
During its 11 years operating in Guatemala, CICIG has pressed corruption cases that have implicated some 680 people, including top elected officials, businesspeople and bureaucrats. The commission said in November that it has won 310 convictions and broken up 60 criminal networks.
The commission participated in investigations that forced former Vice President Roxana Baldetti and President Otto Perez Molina to step down from office in 2015 to face fraud and corruption charges.