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Equisoft Continues Successful Implementation of its SaaS Policy Administration System for Guardian Life Limited (Jamaica)

Equisoft Inc--Equisoft Continues Successful Implementation of it
Equisoft Continues Successful Implementation of its SaaS Policy Administration System for Guardian Life Limited (Jamaica) (CNW Group/Equisoft Inc.)

PORT OF SPAIN,  Trinidad, PHILADELPHIA and MONTREAL, Nov. 28, 2023 /PRNewswire-HISPANIC PR WIRE/ — Equisoft, a leading global digital solutions provider to the financial industry, is proud to announce the continuation of the successful implementation of its SaaS policy administration platform for Guardian Life Limited (Jamaica) (‘GLL‘), a member of Guardian Group, the region’s largest insurance organization. The rapid deployment of this complex project required integrations with several internal and external systems.

“Implementing Equisoft/manage from our legacy systems enables us to launch products faster and consolidate multiple PAS into one modern system,” says Eric Hosin, Group Head of Life, Health, and Pensions, Guardian Holdings Limited. “Equisoft’s insurance solutions, data migration expertise, and proven track record in the Caribbean offer us the best combination to implement our digital transformation strategy.”

In the first phase of the project, Equisoft implemented the Equisoft/manage policy administration system for GLL’s individual and Group Health products as well as Group Life products. It is built on the Oracle Insurance Policy Administration platform.

During the course of the project, Equisoft’s data conversion and migration company, Universal Conversion Technologies (UCT) will be a key partner for the successful implementation of the modernization program.

“We are proud to partner with Guardian Life Limited, a company that is committed to providing their customers with the best digital experience, and we are thrilled that this complex project was implemented in a short period of time,” said Ruben Veerasamy, Senior Vice President, Caribbean, Equisoft. “Consolidating their legacy systems into one modern, cloud-based platform will enable them to become even more agile, accelerate product innovation and streamline operations. This partnership adds to our growing list of more than a dozen projects completed in the region.”

To learn more about Equisoft/manage, click here.

About Equisoft 

Founded in 1994, Equisoft is a global provider of advanced insurance and investment digital solutions. Recognized as a valued partner by over 250 of the world’s leading financial institutions, Equisoft offers a complete ecosystem of solutions, from innovative front-end applications to extensive back-office services and unique data migration expertise. The firm’s flagship solutions include SaaS policy administration, CRM, financial needs analysis, financial planning, asset allocation, fund and portfolio analysis, quotes and illustrations, electronic application, agency management systems, as well as customer, agent and broker portals. Equisoft is also Oracle’s largest and most experienced partner for the OIPA platform. With its business-driven approach, deep industry knowledge, innovative technology, and multicultural team of experts based in North America, the Caribbean, Latin America, Africa, Asia and Australia. Equisoft helps its clients tackle any challenge in this era of digital disruption. For more information, please visit

About Guardian Life Limited

GLL is an assurance company established in Jamaica since August 1999. The company is engaged in the underwriting of all classes of long-term insurance business. GLL is managed by a President who is responsible to a Board of Directors for the operation of its business. GLL’s policies are sold by employed insurance advisers and brokers. We operate ten branches in Jamaica and deliver superior service by focusing on customer needs and operational excellence.

We are the company of choice in Jamaica for our insurance solutions, financial strength and outstanding service-delivery achieved through our superior team, corporate citizenship, and authentic appeal. GLL is the only harbor for your investments, allowing you to get on with living life to the fullest.

Photos: The Brazilian Amazon’s vast array of people and cultures

The content originally appeared on: Al Jazeera – Latin America News

Renowned for its stunning biodiversity, the Amazon rainforest region is also home to a vast array of people and cultures.

“People usually think that the environment doesn’t contain and include people, but it does,” said soil scientist Judson Ferreira Valentim, who lives in Brazil’s Acre state. “There are many different Amazonias and many different Amazonians.”

From small villages of thatched homes to the skyline of Belem rising above mist on the river – a view sometimes called “Manhattan of the Amazon” – Brazil’s slice of the Amazon is home to 28 million people.

Many communities are linked by water. Along the Tocantins River, a tributary of the Amazon, yellow school boats pick up children from wooden homes on stilts, and fishers throw scraps of the day’s catch to river dolphins that frequent the docks. Families linger beside river beaches at sunset, the water a relief from the heat of the day.

Other communities are linked by rural roads, which often wash out during heavy rains, or newly paved highways – which bring better access to schools and hospitals, but also, often, deforestation.

In the forest itself, there is often no path. Acai picker Edson Polinario spends his days under dappled sunlight that filters through the canopy of virgin rainforest, often with just the company of his large black dog.

One evening in the small Tembe village of Tekohaw, Maria Ilba, a woman of mixed Indigenous and African heritage, watches as a wild green parrot feeds on salt on her windowsill.

“There is an evolution – in the past, the village culture was more traditional. Now it is more mixed,” she said. “There is a school, a little hospital, and a car that can take you somewhere else if you’re very sick.”

She said she is grateful for such additions, but also worries that “in the future, the young people could forget the language, the culture, the foods and the tattoos”.

Changes are inevitable. She only hopes that the future will preserve what’s most essential – for the people and the forest itself.


Mia Amor Mottley, Prime Minister of Barbados, joins GCA Advisory Board

Barbados' Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley speaks during the opening ceremony of the Paris Peace Forum at the Palais Brongniart in Paris, on November 10, 2023. (Photo by STEPHANIE LECOCQ/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

News Americas, Rotterdam/Bridgetown, Mon. Nov. 27, 2023: The Prime Minister of Barbados, Mia Mottley, has accepted an invitation from Ban Ki-moon, 8th Secretary-General of the United Nations and Chair of the Board of the Global Center on Adaptation (GCA)and Professor Patrick Verkooijen, CEO of GCA to become a member of the Advisory Board.

On accepting the invitation, Mia Mottley, Prime Minister of Barbados said: “For those who are becoming increasingly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and for whom the current system isn’t working, the stakes couldn’t be higher. I look forward to working with the Global Center on Adaptation to ensure governments engage with greater urgency to fix a broken financial system and fulfil their commitment to double adaptation finance by 2025.”

Ban Ki-moon commended the Prime Minister’s work to reform the global financial system through the Bridgetown Initiative, a proposal for the creation of new instruments and the reform of existing institutions to finance climate resilience and the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): “Prime Minister Mottley is shaking up the status quo to ensure inclusivity and that resilient finance will enable the GCA and climate vulnerable states to address the climate crisis effectively. I look forward to working closely with Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley at GCA to ensure funding reaches those who need it the most through our innovative and ground breaking adaptation programs.”

Professor Patrick Verkooijen, CEO of the Global Center on Adaptation said: “The world’s poorest and most climate-vulnerable nations are falling into a destructive debt and climate disaster trap. The economic cost of climate disasters in developing countries is projected to reach as much as $580 billion a year by 2030. I look forward to working with Prime Minister Mottley to break this vicious cycle. We need far greater investment in climate resilience – money invested in climate adaptation today will reduce the cost of dealing with climate disasters tomorrow.

About the Global Center on Adaptation (GCA)
The Global Center on Adaptation (GCA) is an international organization that works as a solutions broker to accelerate action and support for adaptation solutions, from the international to the local, in partnership with the public and private sectors. Founded in 2018, GCA operates from the largest floating office in the world, located in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. GCA has a worldwide network of regional offices in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire; Dhaka, Bangladesh, and Beijing, China with an Africa office due to open in Nairobi in January 2025.

Three Mexican journalists freed days after being kidnapped

The content originally appeared on: Al Jazeera – Latin America News

Three Mexican journalists, who were abducted over the past week, have been released after authorities launched search operations in the southern province of Guerrero, according to the state attorney general’s office.

The state’s prosecutor said on Saturday that Reporters Silvia Nayssa Arce, Alberto Sanchez and Marco Antonio Toledo were released unharmed.

Toledo, editor of the weekly newspaper El Espectador, was kidnapped by armed men on November 19 in the tourist town of Taxco, while Silvia Nayssa Arce and Alberto Sanchez, reporters for digital media site RedSiete, were abducted from their offices on Wednesday in the same city.

The prosecutor’s office also confirmed the release of Toledo’s wife, Guadalupe Denova, but said the couple’s son, who was kidnapped along with his parents, is still missing.

The Mexican army, police and national guard will “continue with search operations”, it said.

Mexico is considered one of the most dangerous countries in the world to practise journalism, according to the organisation Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

On November 16, photojournalist Ismael Villagomez was shot dead in the northern border city of Ciudad Juarez. Three people have been arrested over the killing.

At least five other journalists have been killed in Mexico this year, and more than 150 since 2000, according to the RSF.

Guerrero is a hotbed of gang activity and crime, with armed groups frequently carrying out kidnappings for ransom there.


Pakistan seeks BRICS membership, despite India roadblock

The content originally appeared on: Al Jazeera – Latin America News

Islamabad, Pakistan — Pakistan has formally sought membership in BRICS, the grouping of five emerging economies that includes rival India alongside Brazil, Russia, China and South Africa, at a time the body is fast gaining the status as the leading bloc of the Global South.

Calling BRICS an “important group of developing countries”, Mumtaz Zahra Baloch, spokesperson for Pakistan’s foreign ministry, disclosed that the country has made a “formal request” to join the group.

“We believe that by joining BRICS, Pakistan can play an important role in furthering international cooperation and revitalising inclusive multilateralism. We also hope that BRICS will move forward on Pakistan’s request in line with its commitment to inclusive multilateralism,” Baloch said, while addressing a news briefing in Islamabad on Thursday.

The spokesperson added that Pakistan had warm ties with “most” BRICS members.

The confirmation comes two days after Muhammad Khalid Jamali, Pakistan’s designated envoy to Russia, disclosed that the country has applied to join the group in an interview with TASS, the Russian state-owned news agency.

“Pakistan would like to be part of this important organisation and we are in process of contacting member countries for extending support to Pakistan’s membership in general and Russian Federation, in particular,” the ambassador told TASS.

Many analysts view BRICS as challenging a world order dominated by the United States and its Western allies in important policy decisions.

During the last BRICS summit which took place in South Africa in August, the group’s popularity was evident with at least 40 countries showing interest in joining.

At the end of the three-day summit, the grouping announced that six countries – Egypt, Ethiopia, Argentina, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Iran – would join it next year.

Mushahid Hussain Sayed, chairperson for the Pakistani Senate’s Foreign Affairs Committee, was in South Africa earlier this year to attend events which took place on the sidelines of the leadership summit.

“The world is moving towards regionalism, and now countries are cooperating for connectivity with each other,” Sayed told Al Jazeera, applauding the government’s move to join the body.

Salma Malik, associate professor at Qauid-e-Azam University in Islamabad and an expert in strategic affairs, also agreed with Sayed, and said that such “regional, economic and cultural unions” would be beneficial for Pakistan.

“This is a time of multilateralism. You are heard better in small blocs, and you can voice larger concerns. You can build common consensus on various issues of concerns,” the academic told Al Jazeera.

Earlier this week BRICS nations — including the six that will join in 2024 — joined a virtual meeting where they near-unanimously called for a ceasefire in Israel’s war on Gaza.

However, Muhammad Faisal, a foreign policy analyst, did not share their enthusiasm.

“Realistically speaking, aside from reiterating political statements, such as Pakistan is dissatisfied with West-led global order, there wouldn’t be significant benefits,” he told Al Jazeera.

Faisal further said that while the country has requested to join the group, its membership was far from certain.

“The path forward for Pakistan now is quite challenging and a long one. It involves a significant degree of politics among the founding members on induction of new members. Pakistan’s case is particularly beset by Indian opposition, which could depend on the health of the India-China relationship,” he added.

The concerns are not unfounded. Last year in June, the Pakistani foreign office said that its participation in a major policy dialogue event, which took place on the sidelines of the BRICS leadership summit in China, was blocked by “one member”.

While Pakistan did not name India as the country, it expressed hope that future engagement of the bloc would be based on the principles of “inclusivity” and in the interests of the developing world.

If India plays “spoiler” over Pakistan’s membership request, Sayed said, it would only be adding to a string of such incidents.

“Be it a matter of cricket, diplomacy or politics, India will always cause hurdles. But they are not the only game in town,” he said.

“The current Middle East crisis has shown India to be more on the American or Israeli camp than being part of the larger global south. If you look at the big picture, India is on the wrong side of history.”


Amid Gaza war, activists in Argentina aim to expel Israeli water company

The content originally appeared on: Al Jazeera – Latin America News

Buenos Aires, Argentina – The upscale neighbourhood of Recoleta was pulsing with the sound of drums and chanting last month, as protesters gathered outside the Palestinian embassy in Buenos Aires to call for an end to Israel’s war in Gaza.

But amid the sea of Palestinian flags, Silvia Ferreyra gripped a different symbol of solidarity. Above her head, she held a banner depicting a blue ribbon of water trapped behind a lock and chain. Printed above the picture in large red type was the phrase, “Fuera Mekorot”.

Ferreyra, 52, had a simple message. She wanted Mekorot, Israel’s state-run water company, out of Argentina.

Since September 2022, seven Argentinian provinces have signed wide-ranging agreements granting Mekorot significant influence over how they allocate water resources.

Yet, with Israel drawing outcry for its deadly military campaign in Gaza, Argentinian activists are looking to leverage the public attention to pressure the government into cutting ties with the company.

“We are trying to [spread] the information that this is not only something completely foreign to our country, but that in our country there is a business … causing conflict in Palestine,” said Ferreyra, a longtime organiser who works in the Argentinian Chamber of Deputies’s environmental commission.

Mekorot’s future in Argentina cannot be evaluated “without taking into account the current situation and the context of the conflict there in the Gaza Strip”, she added.

“We have to discuss the origins of this conflict more deeply.”

Protester Silvia Ferreyra is part of a backlash to the Israeli national water company Mekorot and its work in Argentina [Victor Swezey/Al Jazeera]

Controlling Palestinian water resources

Though widely seen as a world leader in water management technology, Mekorot has drawn international condemnation for its policies in Gaza and the West Bank. It has controlled water supplies in the two Palestinian territories since Israel occupied them in 1967.

Though not directly named, the company’s activities were referenced in a 2022 report by United Nations Special Rapporteur for Human Rights Michael Lynk, which accused Israel of implementing a system of “apartheid” against Palestinians.

The report identified access to water as a major source of inequality.

“The utilities and services which the [Israeli] settlements enjoy — water, power, housing, access to well-paid jobs, roads and industrial investment — are far superior to those available to the Palestinians,” it explained.

The Israeli nonprofit B’Tselem also blamed “Israel’s deliberately discriminatory” policies for water shortages in the West Bank.

In an April report, B’Tselem found that only 36 percent of Palestinians in the area had running water throughout the year. There were also wide discrepancies in water usage.

Israeli settlers in the West Bank consumed an average of 247 litres (65 gallons) of water per capita each day, while Palestinians used just 82.4 (21 gallons) — limiting their ability to meet their basic needs for hydration, hygiene, sanitation and everyday chores.

“To make up for the shortage, the Palestinian Authority is forced to purchase water from Israel’s national water company, Mekorot, at a much higher cost,” the report explained.

When Israel began its military campaign last month, it used Mekorot to cut the water supply to Gaza completely, forcing residents to drink polluted water. Hospitals, meanwhile, were left without proper sanitation.

“Israel is using its strategic control over water resources on the one hand, and water distribution on the other, as a geopolitical tool and does so in highly unequal ways,” said Erik Swyngedouw, a geographer at the University of Manchester who researches the intersection of water and politics.

Mekorot did not respond to a request for comment about its humanitarian record in Gaza and the West Bank, nor about concerns over its expansion in Argentina.

A metal barrier in Buenos Aires displays photographs of protesters opposing Mekorot’s presence in Argentina [Victor Swezey/Al Jazeera]

International backlash

The accusations that Mekorot has contributed to the oppression of Palestinians have prompted some groups to sever ties with the Israeli water company over the past decade.

In the Netherlands, the water company Vitens announced in 2013 that it would end relations with Mekorot after consulting with the Dutch foreign ministry. The next year, in Portugal, EPAL — the company that provides water to the city of Lisbon — likewise ended a technology exchange deal over Mekorot’s actions in the Palestinian territories.

And in 2014, the Argentinian province of Buenos Aires scrapped a deal with the company to build a desalination plant after public protests.

However, Mekorot continues to enjoy partnerships around the world. Its projects range from a water system in Mexico to a desalination plant in Morocco.

Further support comes from Argentinian governmental institutions, including the Ministry of the Interior. In February, Interior Minister Eduardo de Pedro led the country’s national water authority and a public-private investment body in signing agreements to transfer control over water administration in multiple provinces to Mekorot.

With the world’s sixth-largest Jewish population, Argentina has traditionally been an ally of Israel, and the countries maintain strong bilateral relations through institutions like the Argentine-Israeli Chamber of Commerce.

As Argentina faces a historic drought, government officials have praised Mekorot for its efficiency and technological prowess, with Interior Minister de Pedro saying that Israel offers an “example” for “managing a resource as scarce as water”.

Silvia Muñoz, a food kitchen worker in Buenos Aires, heard about Mekorot’s involvement in Argentina through a panel discussion held by the ‘Fuera Mekorot’ campaign [Victor Swezey/Al Jazeera]

Water as a commodity

Yet organisers of “Fuera Mekorot” — the movement to expel Mekorot from Argentina — are concerned about the impact the company might have on the country.

Marta Maffei, a former deputy in the National Congress, is among those who oppose Mekorot’s expansion in Argentina. She has advocated for a law to protect water access as a basic human right.

“Why should a state enterprise that manages water as a form of social control come to Argentina?” Maffei said. “In our territories, there are also Indigenous peoples, there are poor peasant communities, who demand their water.”

Maffei’s home province of Rio Negro signed an agreement with Mekorot in February to transfer a number of responsibilities to the company, including calculating the “economic value” of water and drafting a proposal for an authority to regulate drinking water and sanitation services.

The area is already a hotspot for fracking, an industry that uses large amounts of water to extract oil and natural gas, and clashes have erupted between local groups and police over water access.

Mekorot’s representatives have indicated they would approach water as a commodity to finance future growth, a prospect that has alarmed some advocates.

“The water bill has to cover all costs plus the costs of future investment,” Diego Berger, Mekorot’s international coordinator for special projects, said in a March interview with the YouTube channel Alterrados.

The commodification of water resources, however, comes with risks, according to Swyngedouw, the Manchester University geographer.

It could have “profound negative social [and] ecological consequences for small peasants, Indigenous people and others who depend on water access for their livelihoods”, he said.

A business-based approach to water access also threatens to conflict with traditional Indigenous views.

“From the Western perspective, [water] is called a ‘resource’,” said Miriam Liempe, the Indigenous relations secretary for the Argentine Workers’ Central Union and a member of the Fuera Mekorot coalition.

“However, [Indigenous] peoples call it a brother, like something that has life — like the trees, like the birds.”

A member of the Mapuche people, Liempe said what worries her most about Mekorot is what she calls the company’s failure to consult Indigenous groups when planning water management projects.

If projects like diverting rivers lead to the displacement of Indigenous groups, Liempe said they could violate international law.

According to the International Labor Organization’s 1989 Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention, Indigenous peoples “shall not be removed from the lands which they occupy”, and any attempt at relocation requires “free and informed consent” from the groups involved.

Activists in the ‘Fuera Mekorot’ movement, including Silvia Ferreyra, right, hold a panel discussion in Buenos Aires, Argentina Victor Swezey/Al Jazeera]

Organising against Mekorot

As Mekorot continues to make advances in Argentina, Ferreyra said her organisation’s biggest obstacle has been a general lack of awareness among Argentinian people. After the war in Gaza broke out, she and other activists held a series of events about Mekorot’s activities in Argentina.

“We have been in a process of trying to establish an awareness of what Mekorot is,” Ferreyra said. “It’s not a very well-known company.”

Hasan Najjar, an Argentinian who was born in Gaza, said he only found out about Mekorot’s presence in Argentina when he attended a protest where Fuera Mekorot organisers were present. But the company’s actions did not surprise him.

“They have experience against Indigenous people, in killing us slowly, like with food and water or with bombs,” Najjar said.

Silvia Muñoz, who works at a food kitchen in the suburbs of Buenos Aires, said she heard about Mekorot for the first time at a panel discussion in the city’s historic San Telmo neighbourhood.

“It’s a business for them, but a mafia business,” Muñoz said. “It makes me concerned.”

Ferreyra believes she has made progress in raising awareness of Mekorot’s presence in Argentina. But she has no illusions that blocking the company’s business ambitions will be easy.

“We know that this is not something simple, because we understand the involvement and weight that Israel has in a lot of aspects that make up the economic life of our country,” Ferreyra said. “We still have a lot to do.”


Business heir Daniel Noboa sworn in as Ecuador president

The content originally appeared on: Al Jazeera – Latin America News

Daniel Noboa has been sworn in as Ecuador’s new president, promising to reduce violence and create jobs in the country gripped by a bloody drug war.

The 35-year-old heir to a banana business empire won a run-off vote in October on promises to restore security and boost employment in the South American country, which has faced economic challenges since the coronavirus pandemic, pushing thousands to migrate.

He was sworn in on Thursday at a ceremony attended by Colombian President Gustavo Petro, after former President Guillermo Lasso called snap elections to avoid possible impeachment. He will serve only 18 months, the remainder of Lasso’s term.

“To fight violence we must fight unemployment; the country needs jobs and to create them I will send urgent reforms to the assembly,” Noboa said during his maiden speech in front of National Assembly lawmakers in Quito.

Once considered one of the safest countries in the region, Ecuador has seen violence explode in recent years driven by rival drug-trafficking groups. Bloodshed reached an unprecedented crescendo with the murder of presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio.

Drug violence has led to some 3,600 murders so far this year, reports the Ecuadorian Observatory of Organised Crime.

Noboa has said he will implement a state of emergency, suspend some citizen rights such as freedom of movement, and deploy the military to the streets.

During his campaign, he said he wanted to create offshore prisons on barges to isolate the most violent inmates.

Noboa was born in the port city of Guayaquil into his billionaire father Alvaro’s banana empire.

His father, who did not attend the ceremony, tried unsuccessfully to become president five times.

Noboa holds a degree in business administration from New York University and three master’s degrees, from Harvard, Northwestern and George Washington universities.

At the age of 18, he created his own events company before joining the Noboa family business.

Noboa’s newly formed National Democratic Action alliance won only 17 of 137 parliamentary seats in the October election.

On Friday, he allied himself with the leftist movement of former President Rafael Correa and the right-wing Social Christian Party, to have a majority when it came to making key political appointments.


What’s behind efforts to strip Guatemala’s president-elect of his immunity?

The content originally appeared on: Al Jazeera – Latin America News

Guatemala City, Guatemala – Blockades were set up around campus. Banners were unfurled. And key buildings at the University of San Carlos (USAC), Guatemala’s sole public university, came under student occupation.

It was 2022, and the campus was in uproar over the election of a new rector, Walter Mazariegos, to lead the school.

Critics, including the United States State Department, had denounced the selection process as “fraudulent”. Among those raising their voices in outrage was a member of Guatemala’s Congress, little known outside his country at the time.

But now, the dark-horse progressive Bernardo Arevalo has rocketed into the international spotlight as Guatemala’s president-elect — and his statements about the protests are at the centre of a new controversy erupting in the country.

On November 17, prosecutors filed a request to strip Arevalo and his running mate Karin Herrera of their political immunity for supporting the student protests on social media.

Human rights advocates and observers have warned that the request is the latest attempt to derail Arevalo’s presidency, as the political establishment reels from his surprise victory in August’s election.

“It is really a veiled threat to the transition,” Luis Mack, a Guatemalan independent political analyst and political science professor at USAC, told Al Jazeera.

“The case has no legal basis. But any excuse can serve to criminalise you and intimidate you.”

Arevalo, an anticorruption candidate, has faced a series of legal actions since emerging as a frontrunner in the June 25 general elections.

As he advanced to the run-off race, prosecutors sought to suspend his political party, the Seed Movement. Police also raided the party’s offices, and his opponents have publicly questioned the vote tally, even filing complaints of fraud.

But the latest move against Arevalo heightens the legal jeopardy he and his political party face, leaving him vulnerable to criminal investigation — and potentially prosecution.

Guatemala’s President-elect Bernardo Arevalo, centre, and Vice President-elect Karin Herrera, right, arrive for a press conference in the Plaza of Human Rights in Guatemala City on November 16 [Santiago Billy/AP Photo]

A wide-ranging investigation

The request to remove Arevalo’s political immunity comes as part of a larger investigation into the occupation at USAC, which lasted over 380 days. It ended in June.

Cultural Heritage prosecutor Angel Saul Sanchez has accused participants of aggravated usurpation, destruction of cultural property, illicit association and sedition.

But he cast a wide net as well, using legal means to pursue supporters of the protest movement as well as active participants.

Already, the Guatemalan national police have carried out 31 raids as part of the case. Sanchez has also obtained arrest warrants for 27 people, including members of the Seed Movement.

When outlining his case in a press conference on November 16, Sanchez alleged that Arevalo and Herrera were part of the protesters’ political backing, helping to manage the university takeover from the sidelines.

“We clearly establish that there is a timeline in which the university is a political looting,” Sanchez said, projecting images onscreen of Herrera attending a protest and Arevalo speaking on the video platform, TikTok.

Their actions, Sanchez warned, could lead to charges of illicit association and influence peddling.

But before that happens, Sanchez’s request to revoke Arevalo’s immunity would have to overcome several hurdles, according to political analyst Marielos Chang.

“Right now, the Supreme Court of Justice has to authorise the stripping of his immunity,” Chang said. “And after, Congress has to vote.”

If both steps are successful, a court case against Arevalo can move forward, but Gabriela Carrera, a professor at Rafael Landivar University, said a trial could stretch on for years.

In the meantime, stripping Arevalo’s and Herrera’s immunity could still disrupt the transition of power. “This would be the consolidation of the current coup,” Carrera said.

Pro-Arevalo graffiti on a Guatemala City street reads, ‘No to the coup, yes to democracy’, on November 21 [Moises Castillo/AP Photo]

Free speech implications

Critics, however, have denounced the whole investigation into the protests as an attempt to suppress free speech and political dissent in Guatemala. The rector whose election sparked the protests is seen as an ally of the ruling conservative party, Vamos.

“This, after many years, is the first case of massive criminalisation of protest,” Claudia Samayoa, a Guatemalan human rights activist, told Al Jazeera.

Guatemala began its transition to democracy in 1985. In the years prior, however, dissent had been censored and suppressed under a series of violent dictatorships.

But even after democracy was established, activists, journalists and public figures continued to face intimidation, despite free-speech protections enshrined in the constitution.

For Samayoa, the case against the university protesters is particularly jarring because of its wide scope.

“Not only those who protest are being criminalised, but also those who support the protesters,” Samayoa said. “This case is completely against freedom of speech.”

Arevalo was indeed a vocal supporter of the university protests, using his online platforms to denounce what he considered evidence of “corruption and authoritarianism”.

“[President Alejandro] Giammattei has captured USAC. Mazariegos is an illegitimate rector,” Arevalo said in one social media post. “I am with the students.”

But he has denied committing any criminal actions, calling the latest accusations “spurious and unacceptable”.

A banner on October 6 denounces Attorney General Maria Consuelo Porras, the head of Guatemala’s Public Ministry, as a ‘terrorist’ [Josue Decavele/Reuters]

The limits of immunity

However, Attorney General Maria Consuelo Porras — Sanchez’s boss — and Giammattei have rejected criticism that the legal actions against Arevalo are politically motivated.

In Guatemala, elected officials and political candidates generally receive immunity from prosecution, in order to stop their rivals from using the legal system against them.

But in recent years, a number of politicians have faced attempts to strip them of immunity.

One of the most high-profile cases was that of former President Otto Perez Molina. During his presidency, in 2015, Guatemala’s congress voted to remove his political immunity after allegations emerged that he helped lead a corruption ring within the government.

Facing a criminal investigation, Perez Molina resigned from office the very next day. He was convicted and sentenced to 16 years in prison in 2022.

Mack, the political analyst, believes the legal immunity Guatemalan politicians receive has contributed to the country’s larger problems with corruption. It allows politicians who face legitimate accusations to avoid investigation.

“The right to immunity is a reasonable protection in a democratic system,” Mack said. “However, in the last few years, it went from being a protection against spurious trials to something that promotes impunity.”

But Mack draws a distinction between legitimate corruption charges and the allegations Arevalo faces.

The recent arrest warrants, raids and public accusations indicate that the Public Ministry — helmed by Attorney General Porras — is willing to forge ahead regardless of Guatemala’s immunity law, he explained.

“The fact that the Public Ministry has advanced with an investigation without having removed [the right to immunity] demonstrates once again with which the Public Ministry is acting on bad faith,” he said.

Supporters attend Bernardo Arevalo’s press conference at Guatemala City’s Plaza of Human Rights on November 16 [Santiago Billy/AP Photo]

An international crisis

The question of whether the Public Ministry will succeed in lifting Arevalo’s immunity is one that could have massive implications for Guatemala’s democracy — and stability across Central America.

Critics question whether the legal proceedings will ultimately prevent Arevalo from taking office on January 14.

“There is a lot of concern,” said Ana Maria Mendez Dardon, the Central America director for the Washington Office on Latin America, a US-based advocacy organisation.

“Obviously the democratic deterioration that Guatemala is experiencing affects the population but also the interests of the international community.”

She explained that Guatemala has become a “priority” for foreign policy, particularly in the US, which is grappling with a crisis at its southern border, driven by migration through Central America.

The US government also collaborates with Guatemala to combat transnational crime organisations linked to drug trafficking and other illegal enterprises.

“To address organised crime and irregular migration, you need to have a strengthened state, a strong state,” Mendez Dardon said.

Already, members of the US State Department have slammed Guatemala’s Public Ministry, calling its attempt to strip Arevalo of his immunity a “malign request”.

“The US rejects continued egregious attempts to undermine democracy in Guatemala. These actions threaten the stability of not only Guatemala but the region as a whole,” Brian Nichols, the assistant secretary for the Western hemisphere, posted on social media.

According to Mendez Dardon, the US sees its ideals reflected in Arevalo — and that gives it a strong incentive to back Guatemala’s president-elect.

“I think that the United States identifies Bernardo Arevalo as an anticorruption candidate and more democratic promise, and he will be a perfect interlocutor to move forward.”


The Take: In Guatemala, will a new presidency be ended before it begins?

The content originally appeared on: Al Jazeera – Latin America News

Podcast, The Take

Guatemalans have elected Bernardo Arevalo as their next president. He promises to fight poverty and corruption and to improve governance in the Central American country. But now, his supporters say Guatemala’s ruling class is trying to prevent Arevalo from taking office in January. So why has the tide turned on newly elected Arevalo, and will his presidency be over before it even begins?

In this episode: 

John Holman (@johnholman100), Al Jazeera correspondent
Jose Carlos Zamora (@jczamora), journalist

Episode credits:

This episode was produced by Fahrinisa Campana, Sarí el-Khalili and our host Malika Bilal. Miranda Lin fact-checked this episode.

Our sound designer is Alex Roldan. Our lead of audience development and engagement is Aya Elmileik, and Adam Abou-Gad is our engagement producer.

Alexandra Locke is The Take’s executive producer, and Ney Alvarez is Al Jazeera’s head of audio.

Connect with us:

@AJEPodcasts on TwitterInstagram, FacebookThreads and YouTube


Curaçao’s New Dawn: Direct Licensing Reshapes Caribbean Gaming


News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Weds. Nov. 22, 2023: As the clock struck midnight on September 1, 2023, the Caribbean’s gaming industry witnessed a transformative change. The Curaçao Gaming Control Board (GCB) took a decisive step, beginning to issue gaming licences directly to operators. This pivotal move aligns with a period of rapid growth in the Latin American betting market, where gross gaming revenue is anticipated to more than double by 2025.

The new licences are set to fortify the framework within which operators work, with stringent measures to address anti-money laundering and enforce responsible gambling. What does this mean for the regional market and the allure of progressive jackpots?

Lets delve into the intricacies of the updated licensing regulations and their potential to reshape the gaming landscape in the Caribbean and Latin America.

The Surge of Progressive Jackpots in the Region

Progressive jackpots have carved a niche in the Caribbean and Latin American gaming scene. Their appeal lies in the life-changing sums they offer—sums that escalate with each play. This mechanic has not only captivated players but also mirrored the robust expansion of the region’s betting market.

Growth Amid Regulation

The ascent of progressive jackpots has been meteoric. A simple concept: the more people play, the higher the potential jackpot climbs. It’s a powerful draw. Yet, this rise occurs on the cusp of a regulatory shift. September 1, 2023, marks a significant pivot point. The Curaçao Gaming Control Board will enact new licensing measures. These measures—rigorous and direct—aim to tighten the reins on the sector.

Licensing and Its Impact

What does this mean for progressive jackpots? The new framework will usher in a fresh era of oversight. Anti-money laundering protocols; responsible gambling tenets—these will be woven into the fabric of gaming licences. Operators must navigate this landscape, balancing the allure of their jackpots with the rigidity of compliance.

Player Experience in Focus

For the player, the experience may shift. The thrill of the chase for that ever-increasing prize pot remains; however, the backdrop is evolving. With the Curaçao Gaming Control Board’s hand steering the helm, the industry braces for change. The question lingers—how will these regulatory waves alter the progressive jackpot phenomenon?

Market Dynamics

The betting market’s pulse beats stronger, with gross gaming revenue on an upswing. Progressive jackpots, a heartbeat of this growth, now face a regulatory check-up. As the rules set in, the industry watches. Will the new order stifle or sustain the jackpot’s momentum? Only time—and the market’s response—will tell.

Understanding the New Licensing Features

The Curaçao Gaming Control Board (GCB) is set to introduce a new wave of gaming licences, each with distinct characteristics. These licences differ from their predecessors in several key ways.

Current Legislation as the Foundation

The first notable feature is the adherence to existing legislation. These new licences are not a breakaway from the past but rather a continuation under the established legal framework. The significance? Stability. Operators can expect a degree of familiarity with the rules and regulations that govern their activities.

Direct Issuance to Operators

Secondly, the direct issuance of licences to operators marks a departure from the previous system. This change means a more streamlined process—no middlemen, no sub-licenses. The impact? Enhanced regulatory oversight. Operators must now engage directly with the GCB, ensuring a clearer regulatory environment.

Enhanced Ethical Obligations

Finally, the inclusion of anti-money laundering and responsible gambling provisions signals a shift towards ethical gaming practices. These provisions are not just a nod to global trends. They’re a commitment. A commitment to transparency, to integrity, and to the protection of consumers within the gaming sector.

The ripple effect of these features will likely be felt across the Caribbean and Latin American betting markets. With the GCB’s new licensing approach, the aim is clear: to foster a more responsible and regulated gaming environment that aligns with international standards.

The Application Process for Operators

After September 1, the landscape of gaming licensing in Curaçao will take a new shape. The Curaçao Gaming Control Board (GCB) is set to streamline the process for operators seeking to enter the burgeoning Latin American betting market. Legal advisor Sixiènne Jansen has provided clarity on the steps involved.

Online Gaming Application

The initial hurdle for prospective licensees is the online gaming application. Here, the GCB requires a thorough analysis. Operators must dissect their business operations. Detail marketing tactics. Elucidate on distribution channels. And, importantly, set forth growth targets. This form serves as a blueprint of the operator’s intended trajectory within the industry.

Personal Declaration

Next, a personal declaration. The form’s purpose: to identify the individuals steering the company. It’s not just names and titles; the GCB mandates a financial deep dive. Stakeholders with significant influence—those with a 10% or greater stake—must disclose their financial pedigree. Source of wealth. Source of funds. Verifiable identities. Transparency is non-negotiable.

Corporate Disclosures

Finally, corporate disclosures. A necessity, as licences are a privilege reserved for Curaçao entities. Operators must furnish the GCB with comprehensive corporate information. This ensures that only legitimate businesses, firmly rooted in Curaçao soil, are granted the keys to the gaming kingdom.

The new application process mirrors its predecessor in structure, yet it is refined to align with contemporary regulatory demands. Anti-money laundering measures. Responsible gambling practices. These are not mere buzzwords; they are integral components of the new licensing ethos.

Operators must navigate this tripartite application with precision. Each form is a pillar supporting their case for a license. The GCB’s scrutiny is rigorous; the operator’s preparation must match. With gross gaming revenue on a steep incline, the stakes are high. But for those who succeed, the rewards could be substantial.

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