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Honduras' Supreme Court approves extraditing ex-president

Honduras’ Supreme Court has approved the extradition of former President Juan Orlando Hernández to the United States to face drug trafficking and weapons chargesByThe Associated PressMarch 28, 2022, 9:32 PM• 2 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleTEGUCIGALPA, Honduras — Honduras’ Supreme Court on Monday approved the extradition of former President Juan Orlando Hernández to the United States to face drug trafficking and weapons charges.Melvin Duarte, spokesman for the court, said the justices rejected Hernández’s last appeal. Duarte said there were no further routes of appeal available to him.Hernández’s wife, former first lady Ana García, made public a letter in which the former president again asserts his innocence and claims to be the victim of “revenge and conspiracy.”“In the end I realize there is the possibility facing three life sentences, which could become a living death for me,” Hernández wrote.Garcia and the couple’s two daughters showed up outside the Supreme Court building with dozens of the ex-president’s followers and began to pray.The scene contrasted with how intensely Hernández was hated by many Hondurans. He left office in January at the conclusion of his second term.Earlier this month a judge decided to grant the U.S. extradition request, and apparently all that remains to be done is the paperwork.U.S. prosecutors in the Southern District of New York have accused Hernández in recent years of funding his political rise with profits from drug traffickers in exchange for protecting their shipments. He has strongly denied any wrongdoing.Hernández has maintained that statements against him have been made by drug traffickers extradited by his government who wanted to seek revenge against him. He denies having any ties to drug traffickers.Iván Martínez, one of Hernández’s lawyers, said that “even though we do not agree with any of the decisions … we have to respect it, that is the rule of law.”Hernández was arrested at his home Feb. 15 at the request of the U.S. government.The arrest came less than three weeks after he left office and followed years of allegations by U.S. prosecutors of his alleged links to drug traffickers. His brother, Juan Antonio “Tony” Hernández, was sentenced to life in a U.S prison on drug and weapons charges in March 2021.After his arrest the former president was led before cameras flanked by police, shackled at the wrists and ankles, and wearing a bulletproof jacket.

Mexico to rent out presidential jet for weddings, parties

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has now essentially given up on his quixotic bid to sell off the presidential jet, and will rent it out for weddings or coming-of-age partiesByThe Associated PressMarch 28, 2022, 8:32 PM• 2 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleMEXICO CITY — Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said Monday he has now essentially given up on his quixotic bid to sell off the presidential jet, and will rent it out for weddings or parties.López Obrador admitted the government has not been able to sell the Boeing 787 jet, which he calls too luxurious and refuses to use.Instead, the president said he will simply give the jet to a military-led company that will operate the new Mexico City Felipe Angeles airport. The plane will be parked there and will be available for people to rent to hold in-flight parties aboard.“The rental fees will pay for its expenses and maintenance,” López Obrador said. “It will be open to the public if anyone wants it, because they’re getting married … and they want to bring their friends and family … or coming of age parties, birthdays.”Mexican families frequently throw elaborate parties for their daughters when they turn 15.Since 2018, López Obrador has tried to lure corporations and business executives to buy the jet, and even held a symbolic raffle for it.López Obrador prides himself on his austerity, flies commercial flights and has made only one trip abroad.He has said the jet is hard to sell because it is too specialized and made-to-order. He said the government would still be open to offers for the plane, but after almost 3 1/2 years, that possibility seems remote.The plane was purchased for $200 million and was used by the previous president, Enrique Peña Nieto. It has been difficult to sell because it is configured to carry only 80 people and has a full presidential suite with a private bath. Experts say it would be costly to reconfigure into a typical passenger jet that would carry up to 300 passengers.

Tourists run amid bangs at airport in Mexico's Cancun resort

Tourists have been sent scrambling by loud bangs heard at the international airport in the Mexican resort of CancunByThe Associated PressMarch 28, 2022, 8:08 PM• 2 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleMEXICO CITY — Tourists were sent scrambling by loud bangs heard at the international airport in the Mexican resort of Cancun Monday.Flights were briefly suspended after authorities received reports of gunshots at the airport, the National Guard said in a statement.Videos posted on social media showed travelers scrambling and rushing out of a terminal.The Guard said there was no evidence of any gunshots having been fired, and said the bangs may have occurred after someone knocked over three free-standing vertical display stands in the terminal.But the nervousness also reflects the wave of violence and deaths that have blotted Cancun’s reputation as a laid-back get-away.Last week, authorities found four bodies dumped in undergrowth in Cancun, and said they were part of a total of 13 murders committed by the Jalisco cartel in the resort since September. Most of the bodies were found in vacant lots or houses.The Caribbean coast, Mexico’s top tourist money-maker, has been hit by rampant violence.In January, prosecutors said the killing of two Canadians near Cancun was motivated by debts between international gangs apparently dedicated to drug and weapons trafficking.In late October, farther south in the laidback destination of Tulum, two tourists — one a California travel blogger born in India and the other German — were caught in the apparent crossfire of rival drug dealers and killed.

19 killed in Mexico at clandestine rooster fight

Nineteen people are dead after gunmen burst into a clandestine rooster fight in western MexicoByThe Associated PressMarch 28, 2022, 8:13 PM• 1 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleMEXICO CITY — Nineteen people were killed when gunmen burst into a clandestine rooster fight in western Mexico, prosecutors in the western state of Michoacan said Monday.The attack occurred late Sunday near the town of Zinapecuaro, Michoacan.The dead include 16 men and three women, and a number of people were wounded in the attack.The office said that drug cartels and gangs had been fighting in the area.Michoacan has been the scene of a longstanding turf battle between local cartels and the Jalisco cartel, from the neighboring state of Jalisco. The fighting has included the use of bomb-dropping drones, landmines and home-made armored cars.Cockfighting, while illegal in many areas, remains a popular pastime in parts of Mexico, though the fights between roosters are usually held clandestinely.

Experts say Mexican probe into missing students falsified

A group of international experts say that the Mexican government falsified investigations into the disappearance of 43 students in 2014 from the startBy MARIA VERZA Associated PressMarch 28, 2022, 7:29 PM• 2 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleMEXICO CITY — A group of international experts said Monday the Mexican government falsified investigations into the disappearance of 43 students in 2014 from the start.Former Colombian prosecutor Ángela Buitrago said the experts found evidence that authorities withheld or falsified evidence from the start of the search.“It was falsified from the first day to the last day,” said Buitrago, who is part of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights group supporting the investigation.Buitrago said investigators, prosecutors and military personnel altered crime scenes and records. A government drone video obtained by the experts showed marines and police climbing around the area where the students were allegedly killed with little control.The students from a radical teachers’ college were abducted by local police in southern Guerrero state who presumably killed them and burned their bodies.But investigators sought to quickly resolve the crime through illegal searches, detentions and torture of suspects.Mexico has asked the Israeli government to extradite a former top security official, Tomás Zerón, who was the head of the federal investigation agency at the time of the abduction. He is being sought on charges of torture and covering up those disappearances.Zerón fled to Israel in August 2019, where he may have connections to an Israeli firm that sold the Mexican government spyware during his time in office.Zerón oversaw the criminal investigation agency of the Attorney General’s Office and also its forensic work in the 2014 case. Most of the students’ bodies have never been found, though burned bone fragments have been matched to three students.The investigation had long been criticized by the families of the 43 students who disappeared in September 2014 after they were detained by local police in Iguala, in the southern state of Guerrero. They were allegedly handed over to a drug gang and slain, and have not been heard from since.Zerón was at the center of the government’s widely criticized investigation, which has failed to definitively determine what happened to the students. Two independent teams of experts have cast doubt on the insistence of Mexican officials that the students bodies were incinerated in a huge fire at a trash dump.Many of the suspects arrested in the case were later released, and many claimed they had been tortured by police or the military.

Top diplomats from Egypt, Qatar discuss ties in Cairo

Egypt’s foreign minister has held talks with his Qatari counterpart that focused on improved ties between the two countriesByThe Associated PressMarch 28, 2022, 7:09 PM• 2 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleCAIRO — Egypt’s foreign minister held talks with his Qatari counterpart Monday that focused on improved ties between the two countries.Foreign Minister Sameh Shukry met with Qatar’s Foreign Minister Mohammad bin Abdulrahman Al Thani in Cairo.It was the second visit for Qatar’s chief diplomat since Egypt and three Gulf nations ended their dispute with the energy-rich country last year.Al Thani told a joint news conference that Qatar’s ties with Egypt were improving “after we overcame the previous period, which was marred by some tensions.”Shukry said they have “great ambitions” to further improve ties on all levels and announced a joint committee co-chaired by the two ministers with the aim of achieving that goal.A declaration in January 2021 ended a diplomatic crisis that began in 2017 with a rift between Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain on one side and Qatar on the other.The four countries had jointly boycotted Qatar and hoped an embargo and media blitz would pressure it to end its close relations with Turkey and Iran.Since the dispute ended, ties between the five countries have improved and top officials exchange visits. Al Thani visited Cairo in May and met with President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi.

EU wants to end golden passport schemes, targets Russians

The European Commission has recommended that the bloc’s 27 nations end golden passport schemes that allow wealthy people — among them Russian oligarchs — to buy their way to EU citizenshipBy SAMUEL PETREQUIN Associated PressMarch 28, 2022, 6:58 PM• 3 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleBRUSSELS — The European Commission recommended Monday that EU nations end golden passport schemes that allow wealthy people to buy their way into the bloc’s citizenship, and urged them to assess whether Russian oligarchs linked to the Kremlin or who support the war in Ukraine should be stripped of citizenship rights previously granted.The European Commission launched infringement procedures against Cyprus and Malta in 2020 about their golden passports schemes, and the Russian war in Ukraine has put an increased focused on the topic.The Commission warned that some Russian or Belarusian citizens who are among the 877 individuals targeted by asset freezes and travel bans imposed since 2014, or who support the Russian invasion of its neighbor, might have acquired EU citizenship or had access to the Schengen area via these schemes.The EU’s executive arm said the countries should now consider whether they should withdraw golden passports issued to such individuals. In addition, it recommended immediately taking away residence permits that have been granted under an investor scheme to Russian or Belarusian citizens supporting the war or subject to sanctions.Malta and Bulgaria currently have citizenship by investment plans in operation, while Cyprus which scrapped its own program in November 2020 is only processing applications submitted before that date. Bulgarian lawmakers recently backed a decision to end its golden passport program.Cyprus cancelled the program after an undercover TV report allegedly showed the parliamentary speaker and a powerful lawmaker claiming that they could skirt rules to issue a passport to a fictitious Chinese investor who had supposedly been convicted of fraud at home.A 2021 report found that more than half of a total 6,779 passports were issued unlawfully to relatives of wealthy investors over the program’s 13-year run that generated over 8 billion euros. The report said the government had incorrectly interpreted the law on issuing passports to relatives and also found that nearly 770 foreigners were wrongly granted citizenship primarily because of inadequate vetting.Cyprus’ Interior Minister Nicos Nouris confirmed to The Associated Press that there are four Russians who have been sanctioned and received a Cypriot passport under the island nation’s investment scheme.According to the EU Parliament, twelve EU countries operate residence by investment schemes. The minimum investment levels range from 60,000 euros to 1,250,000 euros.“European values are not for sale. We consider that the sale of citizenship through ‘golden passports’ is illegal under EU law and poses serious risks to our security,” said Didier Reynders, the Commissioner for Justice and Consumers. “It opens the door to corruption, money laundering and tax avoidance.”The commission’s recommendation came after European lawmakers called earlier this month for an end to the sale of citizenship through investment schemes, and for a better regulation of residence by investment programs.In addition to its call “to immediately repeal any existing investor citizenship schemes,” the commission also urged EU countries to conduct strict checks before issuing any residence permit for investors.———Menelaos Hadjicostis in Nicosia, Cyprus, contributed to this report.———Follow all AP news on the effects of Russia’s war on Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine.