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Total solar eclipse 2024: Where, when, and how to watch

The content originally appeared on: Latin America News – Aljazeera

Millions of people across North America will get the chance to experience a very special natural event on Monday when a total solar eclipse will be visible from parts of Mexico, the United States and Canada.

The total eclipse – which occurs when the moon completely blocks out the sun – will darken skies for a few minutes “as if it were dawn or dusk”, the US’s NASA space agency explains.

It will be visible from a 185km-wide (115 mile-wide) band that stretches from the western coast of Mexico, through the US, and up to Canada’s easternmost province of Newfoundland and Labrador – what’s known as the “path of totality”.

“Weather permitting, people along the path of totality will see the sun’s corona, or outer atmosphere, which is usually obscured by the bright face of the sun,” NASA says on its website.

The path of totality is really “where it’s at” on Monday, said Anthony Aveni, professor emeritus at Colgate University in New York and author of the book, In the Shadow of the Moon: The Science, Magic, and Mystery of Solar Eclipses.

“It’s that precious three minutes or so … of totality when you see a whole range of phenomena that you just don’t see in everyday life,” he told Al Jazeera. “It takes your breath away and you stop what you’re doing and gawk at nature.”

So how often do total solar eclipses occur? How long does it typically last? Where and how can you watch safely? Here’s everything you need to know.

A man uses protective glasses to observe the solar eclipse over South America, in Bariloche, Argentina, on December 14, 2020 [File: Carlos Barria/Reuters]

Monday’s total eclipse will be visible from parts of Mexico, the US and Canada.

It will enter continental North America in Mazatlan, in the northwestern Mexican state of Sinaloa, at 11:07am local time (18:07 GMT). It will exit the continent on the Atlantic coast of Newfoundland, Canada, at 5:16pm local time (19:46 GMT).

In the US, the eclipse will enter the state of Texas at 1:27pm local time (18:27 GMT) and exit in Maine at 3:35pm local time (19:35 GMT).

It will last only a few minutes, and the exact time it will be visible depends on where you are within the path of totality.

For example, in Erie, Pennsylvania, totality starts at 3:16pm local time (19:16 GMT) and ends at 3:20pm (19:20 GMT).

It will reach Buffalo, New York, a few minutes later: there, totality starts at 3:18pm local time (19:18 GMT) and ends at 3:22pm (19:22 GMT).

A partial eclipse also will be visible for about two hours on Monday, before and after totality.

What happens during a total solar eclipse?

While the Earth and moon both orbit the sun, the moon also circles the Earth each month.

During a total solar eclipse, the moon passes directly between the sun and the Earth, completely blocking the sun’s light on one side, and casting a shadow on a small area of Earth on its other side.

The dark inner part – the “umbra” – of this shadow creates a narrow track or “path” as the moon orbits the Earth. Areas on this path, and especially on its centreline, which fall directly under the shadow, are the ones from where the total eclipse will be visible.

This track is about 160km (100 miles) wide and 16,000km (10,000 miles) long.

“If it was a lunar eclipse, it would last for a few hours and people around the world could see it. But the difference is that total eclipses only happen over a specific path of that new moon,” said Khady Adama Ndao, a NASA eclipse ambassador.

This eclipse only occurs during a new moon. And the moon’s position in its orbit, relative to the sun and Earth, as well as the angles of all three at a specific time, are what create a total eclipse.

While the moon will be close enough to Earth so as to look as though it entirely covers the sun during an eclipse, in reality the moon is 400 times smaller than the sun. It’s the increased distance between the moon and the sun at the time of a total eclipse that makes the moon look like it is big enough to cover the sun.

Meanwhile, people who are close to the path of totality, but not directly in it, may see what’s known as a partial eclipse on Monday. That’s when only a part of the sun is obscured by the moon.

Areas from which a partial eclipse will be visible fall under faint parts of the moon’s wider shadow, called the “penumbra”.

What does a total eclipse look like?

As the moon moves past the sun during an eclipse, it will slowly obscure the sun – creating a dark sky – before reaching the moment of “totality”. That’s when almost the entirety of the sun will be covered, leaving only a faint circle of the sun’s light or the corona.

After a few minutes, people in the path of totality will see a partial eclipse again as the moon moves away. The sun will become fully visible again.

What else happens during the moment of totality?

There is a drop in temperature and animals also start to behave as if it’s nighttime.

The chirping patterns of birds may change, while nocturnal animals such as bats and owls may start to wake up and look for prey.

Stars and celestial objects hanging in the dark sky may also become more visible.

If a person were to stand on the moon or a space station orbiting Earth, they would also be able to see a dark shadow passing over the Earth.

The eclipse will go through several stages before and after totality [File: Ted S Warren/AP Photo]

How long will the total solar eclipse last on April 8?

A total solar eclipse can last between two to three hours, from the moment the moon first begins to cover the sun, until the time the moon crosses past the sun and stops obscuring it.

However, the period of totality in most places this year will last only between three and a half to four minutes.

Areas on and very close to the centreline will experience the longest period of totality while totality will last for shorter periods of time in areas farther from the centreline.

The longest period of totality on Monday – 4 minutes and 28 seconds – will occur near Torreon, Mexico. That’s because the area is closest to the point at which the shadow’s path is perpendicular to the Earth’s surface and near the central line of the umbral shadow.

In the past, totality in some places has lasted for as little as a few seconds, and as long as seven and a half minutes.

The durations of the eclipse and the period of totality differ due to a combination of factors, such as the curvature of the Earth and angle at which the moon’s shadow strikes.

Mobile applications such as “Totality” track eclipse start and end times, as well as totality durations for different cities on the total eclipse’s path.

What are some of the cultural and historical beliefs around total solar eclipses?

Total solar eclipses have captivated people for thousands of years. But in ancient civilisations, the phenomenon was often viewed as a bad omen.

In ancient China, for example, people believed that solar eclipses happened because “a celestial dragon” was eating the sun, according to NASA. As a result, people made loud noises during eclipses “to frighten the dragon away”.

The Inca people of South America believed solar eclipses were a sign of the sun god Inti’s anger.

And in ancient Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq), a solar eclipse was thought to signal that the ruler was in grave danger – leading decision-makers to put a system in place known as the “substitute king”.

In order to prevent the real Assyrian king, for example, from being harmed, a substitute would be dressed up and ultimately offered as a sacrifice “for the evil fate that was destined for the true king”, explained Sarah Graff, a curator in the Department of Ancient Near Eastern Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

According to Aveni at Colgate University, there is a tendency to view people in the past as being less intelligent or more superstitious about eclipses than people today. “But in every case, it’s an occasion to have a conversation,” he told Al Jazeera.

For instance, people made noise in the ancient Andean world during an eclipse “to alert the sun not to believe what the moon is whispering in his ear, which is that we people that live down here on Earth do bad things at night”, Aveni said. “This becomes an occasion to have a discussion about lying – that’s really what it’s about.”

A woman views a solar eclipse at Times Square in Manhattan, New York, on August 21, 2017 [File: Shannon Stapleton/Reuters]

Can you watch a total solar eclipse without glasses?

Experts stress that safety is critical.

During the brief time in which the moon completely blocks out the sun, people can view the total eclipse with their naked eye.

But during the partial eclipse before and after totality, you should use specially designed, protective solar glasses or a handheld solar viewing device.

“If people look without the proper protection, they run the risk of injuring their eyes,” said B Ralph Chou, president of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada.

“And if they get an injury, depending on how often and how long they look at the sun without the protection, they do have a substantial risk of developing a permanent loss of vision.”

This risk is due to a number of factors such as the intensity and radiation of the sun’s light, as well as the absence of pain receptors in the eye, which makes it easier to stare for too long.

Compared with a regular day, pupils may also be less dilated during an eclipse, making the bright light that enters more dangerous. “It’s like being in the dark, when all of a sudden, someone just flashes a flashlight in front of your eyes”, Ndao, the NASA eclipse ambassador, said.

How are people preparing?

Cities and towns across the path of totality have been distributing eclipse glasses to residents in the weeks leading up to Monday’s event. Museums, science centres and other institutions are holding viewing parties.

Schools in the US and Canada have announced closures on Monday to allow students to participate in eclipse-watching events. The closures also aim to avoid safety issues, as schools have raised concerns that the total eclipse coincides with school dismissal times.

Groups of people are also flying in private planes to watch the totality, said Barbara Gruber, assistant director of education and public outreach at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) in the US.

While this is permitted, the US Federal Aviation Authority has put out safety advisories about flying during totality.

People watch the solar eclipse from the observation deck of The Empire State Building in New York City,  on August 21, 2017 [File: Brendan McDermid/Reuters]

Are you guaranteed to see the total eclipse if you’re in the path of totality?

Unfortunately not. Weather conditions will play an important factor in what hopeful eclipse-watchers will be able to see on Monday.

In other words, if it’s cloudy, that could ruin the visibility.

If you’re not in North America, several institutions will be hosting live coverage of the total eclipse, including NASA.

How often does a total solar eclipse happen?

While Monday may be the last time the US sees an eclipse for at least another nine years, a total solar eclipse generally occurs every 18 months.

Many total eclipses are only visible at sea and may not be seen by anyone at all, according to Ndao.

Additionally, once a particular area experiences a total eclipse, it may not see the return of the phenomenon for hundreds of years.

“On average a single location will experience a total solar eclipse about every 350 years, but averages can be misleading and some lucky places will get an eclipse in just a few years”, Gruber told Al Jazeera.

When is the next total solar eclipse?

The next total solar eclipse will take place on August 12, 2026, over Greenland, Iceland, and Spain. Almost exactly a year later, on August 2, 2027, one will be visible from northern Africa, Gibraltar, and the Saudi peninsula.

In the US, the next total eclipse will occur in 2033 but will only be visible from Alaska.

Western Canada, Montana and North Dakota will witness a total eclipse in 2044 and, the following year, people in the US will be able to see a total eclipse from coast to coast, according to NRAO.

Experts say a day will come, however, when total eclipses will stop occurring altogether – but not for quite a while.

As the universe expands with the moon moving further away from the Earth each year, and the sun gets bigger, the moon will eventually become too small in the sky to block the whole sun.

That day is still a distant reality though. A NASA study in 2017 estimated that total eclipses would end in 563 million years.



Mexico withdraws diplomats from its embassy in Ecuador after raid

The content originally appeared on: Latin America News – Aljazeera

Mexico has withdrawn personnel from its embassy in Ecuador following the unprecedented storming of the building by security forces, Mexico’s Foreign Minister Alicia Barcena said.

The two countries severed ties after the raid made on Friday in a bid to arrest former Ecuadoran Vice President Jorge Glas, who was sheltering at the embassy.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador called the arrest an “authoritarian” act and a violation of international law and Mexican sovereignty. He also instructed Barcena to suspend diplomatic ties with Ecuador.

Shortly afterwards, on Saturday, the Mexican foreign minister announced the “immediate” suspension of diplomatic ties with Ecuador.

“Our diplomatic staff are leaving everything in Ecuador and returning home with their heads held high … after the assault on our embassy,” Barcena added on Sunday.

The diplomats and their families went to Quito airport accompanied by the ambassadors of Germany, Panama, Cuba and Honduras, as well as the president of the Ecuador-Mexico Chamber, and are scheduled to travel on a commercial airline to Mexico City, the country’s foreign ministry added in a separate statement.

Glas, a 54-year-old left-wing politician twice convicted of corruption, had been holed up in the Mexican embassy in Quito since seeking political asylum in December after an arrest warrant was issued against him. Mexico granted Glas asylum earlier on Friday, before the raid.

Equipped with a battering ram, Ecuadoran special forces surrounded the Mexican embassy, and at least one agent scaled the walls, in an almost unheard-of raid on diplomatic premises that are considered inviolable sovereign territory.

In a statement, Ecuador’s presidency accused Mexico of “having abused the immunities and privileges granted to the diplomatic mission that housed the former vice president, and granting diplomatic asylum contrary to the conventional legal framework”.

Mexico’s Lopez Obrador has said that he will file a complaint against Ecuador at the International Court of Justice.

His country also denounced “physical violence” against head of mission Roberto Canseco, who was pushed to the ground by officers while trying to prevent the invasion.

“How is it possible, it can’t be. This is crazy!” a shaken Canseco told local television after the raid.

On Saturday, the Mexican embassy remained surrounded by police and the country’s flag was taken down.

Sonia Vera, the international lawyer for Glas, told Reuters by telephone that his team was requesting help from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, as well as assistance from the United Nations Security Council and General Assembly.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was “alarmed” by the raid, while Spain and the European Union both issued stinging statements condemning it as a violation of the Vienna Convention.

The 1961 convention, a treaty governing international relations, states that a country cannot intrude upon an embassy on its territory.

“Protecting the integrity of diplomatic missions and their personnel is essential to preserve stability and international order, promoting cooperation and trust between nations,” the EU said.

Governments across Latin America have also rallied around Mexico after the incident.

Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela sharply rebuked Ecuador on Saturday within hours of Glas’s seizure, with Nicaragua joining Mexico in severing diplomatic ties with Quito.

The United States also said it condemns any violation of the Vienna Convention protecting diplomatic missions and encouraged “the two countries to resolve their differences in accord with international norms”.

Daniel Noboa became Ecuador’s president last year, and in January, he declared the country to be in an “internal armed conflict” against drug-trafficking gangs.

Will Freeman, a fellow for Latin American studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, told the Associated Press that the decision to send police to Mexico’s embassy raises concerns over the steps Noboa is willing to take to get re-elected.

His tenure ends in 2025, as he was only elected to finish the term of former President Guillermo Lasso.

“I really hope Noboa is not turning more in a Bukele direction,” Freeman said, referring to El Salvador President Nayib Bukele, whose tough-on-crime policies have been heavily criticised by human rights organisations. “That’s to say, less respectful of rule of law in order to get a boost to his popularity ahead of the elections.”

Meanwhile, Vera, Glas’s lawyer, said she fears “something could happen” to him while in custody considering the track record of the country’s detention facilities, where hundreds of people have died during violent riots over the past few years. Those killed while in custody include some suspects in last year’s assassination of a presidential candidate.

“In Ecuador, going to jail is practically a death sentence,” Vera said. “We consider that the international political and legal person responsible for the life of Jorge Glas is President Daniel Noboa Azin.”



Latin American countries condemn Ecuador raid on Mexico embassy

The content originally appeared on: Latin America News – Aljazeera

Governments across Latin America have rallied around Mexico after security forces in Ecuador stormed the Mexican embassy in Quito to arrest a controversial politician who had been granted political asylum there.

Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela sharply rebuked Ecuador on Saturday, hours after the seizure of Ecuador’s former Vice President Jorge Glas, with Nicaragua joining Mexico in severing diplomatic ties with Quito.

During the incident, which took place late on Friday night, special forces equipped with a battering ram surrounded the Mexican embassy in Quito’s financial district, and at least one agent scaled the walls to extract Glas.

The 54-year-old politician is wanted on corruption charges and has been holed up inside the Mexican embassy since seeking political asylum in December.

Mexican authorities granted that request on Friday.

Following his arrest, Glas could be seen on video circulating on social media being taken by a police convoy to the airport in Quito, flanked by heavily armed soldiers. He then boarded a plane en route to a jail in Guayaquil, the Andean nation’s largest city.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador blasted the unusual diplomatic incursion and arrest as an “authoritarian” act as well as a breach of international law and Mexico’s sovereignty, while the government of Ecuador’s President Daniel Noboa argued asylum protections were illegal because of the corruption charges Glas is facing.

Still, under international law, embassies are considered the sovereign territory of the country they represent, and the Vienna Convention, which governs international relations, states that a country cannot intrude upon an embassy on its territory.

Brazil’s government condemned Ecuador’s move as a “clear violation” of international norms and said the action “must be subject to strong repudiation, whatever the justification for its implementation”.

Colombian President Gustavo Petro argued in a post on X that Latin America “must keep alive the precepts of international law in the midst of the barbarism that is advancing in the world”, while his government said in a separate statement that it will seek human rights legal protections for the now-detained Glas.

The United States also said it condemns any violation of the convention protecting diplomatic missions and encouraged “the two countries to resolve their differences in accord with international norms”.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, meanwhile, said he was “alarmed” by the raid, and urged both sides to show moderation in resolving the dispute, according to a spokesman.

The Washington-based Organization of American States also issued a call for dialogue to resolve the escalating dispute, adding in a statement that a session of the body’s permanent council will be convened to discuss the need for “strict compliance with international treaties, including those that guarantee the right to asylum”.

On Saturday, the Mexican embassy remained surrounded by police and the Mexican flag had been taken down.

Mexico’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said late in the day that diplomatic personnel and their families would leave Ecuador on a commercial flight on Sunday, adding that personnel from “friendly and allied countries” would accompany them to the airport.

In Mexico City, about 50 demonstrators rallied outside Ecuador’s embassy, accusing Quito of being “fascist”.

In an interview with national broadcaster Milenio, Mexico’s top diplomat Alicia Barcena expressed shock at Ecuador’s incursion into the country’s embassy, adding that some embassy personnel were injured in the raid.

She added that Glas was granted asylum after an exhaustive analysis of the circumstances surrounding the accusations he faces.

Glas was vice president under former leftist president, Rafael Correa, between 2013 and 2017.

He was released from prison in November after serving time for receiving millions of dollars in kickbacks in a vast scandal involving Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht. He faces another arrest warrant for allegedly diverting funds that were intended for reconstruction efforts after a devastating earthquake in 2016.

Glas has claimed he is the victim of political persecution, a charge Ecuador’s government has denied.

Former President Correa, who has been exiled in Belgium since 2017 and was sentenced in absentia to eight years in prison for corruption, wrote on X that “not even in the worst dictatorships has a country’s embassy been violated”.

He said Glas “was struggling to walk because he was beaten”.



When is Eid al-Fitr 2024 and how is it celebrated?

The content originally appeared on: Latin America News – Aljazeera

As the fasting month of Ramadan comes to an end, Muslims around the world are preparing for Eid al-Fitr, the “festival of breaking the fast”.

According to astronomical calculations, the month of Ramadan is expected to last 30 days this year, making the first day of Eid in Saudi Arabia and many neighbouring countries likely to be on Wednesday, April 10.

The first day of Eid al-Fitr is determined by the sighting of the crescent moon marking the start of the month of Shawwal, the 10th month of the Islamic (Hijri) calendar.

Lunar months last between 29 and 30 days so Muslims usually have to wait until the night before Eid to verify its date.

After sunset prayers on Monday, April 8, the 29th day of Ramadan, moon sighters will face west with a clear view of the horizon for a first glimpse of the crescent moon. If the new moon is visible, then the next day will be Eid, if not, Muslims will then fast one more day to complete a 30-day month.

Other countries follow independent sightings.

When the sighting has been verified, Eid is declared on television, radio stations and at mosques.

Muslim worshippers prepare to take part in a morning prayer on the first day of Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan, at the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, on April 21, 2023 [Yasin Akgul /AFP]

How do Muslims celebrate Eid?

Traditionally, Eid is celebrated for three days as an official holiday in Muslim-majority countries. However, the number of holiday days varies by country.

Muslims begin Eid day celebrations by partaking in a prayer service that takes place shortly after dawn, followed by a short sermon.

Palestinian Muslims perform the morning Eid al-Fitr prayer, marking the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan in Gaza City on May 2, 2022 [Mahmud Hams / AFP]

On their way to the prayer, which is traditionally held in an open area, Muslims recite takbeerat, praising God by saying “Allahu Akbar”, meaning “God is great”.

It is customary to eat something sweet before the prayer, such as date-filled biscuits known as maamoul in the Middle East. This particular festival is known as the “sweet” Eid – and the distribution of sweets is common across the Muslim world.

Muslims usually spend the day visiting relatives and neighbours and accepting sweets as they move around from house to house.

Each country has traditional desserts and sweets that are prepared before Eid or on the morning of the first day.

Children, dressed in new clothes, are offered gifts and money to celebrate the joyous occasion.

Children ride a swing on the first day of Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan, in the rebel-held town of Maaret Misrin in Syria’s northwestern Idlib province, on April 21, 2023 [Abdulaziz Ketaz / AFP]

Girls and women in many countries decorate their hands with henna. The celebration for Eid begins the night before as women gather in neighbourhoods and large family gatherings for the application of henna.

A girl shows her hand decorated with henna at a market area ahead of Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the Muslim holy festival of Ramadan, in Srinagar, on April 20, 2023 [Tauseef Mustafa / AFP]

In some countries, families visit graveyards to offer their respects to departed family members right after the morning prayers.

It is common for Muslim-majority countries to decorate their cities with lights and hold festivities to commemorate the end of the fasting month.

A general view shows the Alif Ki mosque illuminated during the holy month of Ramadan, ahead of Eid al-Fitr, in Ahmedabad on April 19, 2023 [Sam Panthaky / AFP]

Eid amid the onslaught in Gaza

For some 2.3 million Palestinians in Gaza this Eid, this will be the first Muslim religious holiday after more than 33,000 people have been killed in Israeli attacks. With little food aid, and very limited water, Gaza’s Eid al-Fitr will be mired in destruction amid the continuing attacks.

What are common Eid greetings?

The most popular greeting is “Eid Mubarak” (Blessed Eid) or “Eid sa’id” (Happy Eid). Eid greetings also vary depending on the country and language.

The video below shows how people say Eid Mubarak in different languages around the world.



Mexico suspends ties with Ecuador after police raid embassy

The content originally appeared on: Latin America News – Aljazeera

Mexico has suspended diplomatic relations with Ecuador after police forcibly broke into its embassy in Quito and arrested former Ecuadorian vice president Jorge Glas who had sought political asylum there.

Glas, who had been convicted twice of corruption, has been staying in the Mexican embassy since December, claiming he was being persecuted by Ecuadorian officials.

Mexico’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement on Friday that it had offered political asylum to Glas, calling on Ecuador to grant him “safe passage” out of the country.

But Ecuadorian special forces, wearing tactical gear including bulletproof vests and helmets, forcefully entered the embassy on Friday night and arrested Glas.

“Ecuador is a sovereign nation and we are not going to allow any criminal to stay free,” Ecuador’s presidency wrote in a statement shortly before the raid.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador wrote in a post on X that the storming of the embassy and arrest of Glas constitute an “authoritarian act” and “a flagrant violation of international law and sovereignty of Mexico”.

Roberto Canseco, head of the Mexican consular section in Quito, condemned the raid, talking to the local press while standing outside the embassy right after the incident.

“This is not possible. It cannot be. This is crazy,” Canseco told local press while standing outside the embassy right after the raid.

“I am very worried because they could kill him. There is no basis to do this. This is totally outside the norm.”

Mexico to take case to ICJ

For many Ecuadorians it seemed like a “mockery of justice” that the convicted former vice president was being granted political asylum by Mexico, especially considering that he is an ally of the Mexican president, said lawyer and political commentator Adrian Perez Salazar.

“But the fact that there was this grievance does not – at least under international law – justify the forceful breach of an embassy,” Salazar told Al Jazeera from Guayaquil, Ecuador.

Alicia Barcena, Mexico’s foreign minister, said on X that a number of diplomats suffered injuries during the incident – which she called a violation of the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations.

Mexican diplomatic personnel will “immediately” leave Ecuador, Barcena said, adding that Mexico will appeal to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to hold Ecuador accountable for violations of international law.

“International law is very clear that embassies are not to be touched, and regardless of whatever justifications the Ecuadorian government might have, it is a case where the end does not justify the means,” Salazar told Al Jazeera.

The situation had escalated a day earlier after the Mexican president made remarks about Ecuador’s elections which the South American country said it considered “very unfortunate”.

Lopez Obrador had commented on the assassination last year of Ecuadorian presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio, comparing it with recent violence in the run-up to the current election cycle in Mexico, which had seen several local candidates shot.

He implied that frontrunner Luisa Gonzalez ultimately lost the election because of Villavicencio’s murder and the media speculation it produced.

Obrador also took aim at “owners of media outlets” and those that he deemed were responsible for an “atmosphere of violence” throughout election campaigns.

Ecuador’s government subsequently declared Mexican ambassador Raquel Serur Smeke as persona non grata and directed her to leave the country “soon”.


Ecuador has been dealing with a new wave of violence since earlier this year, when riots erupted in prisons across the country, criminal leaders escaped custody and masked gunmen stormed a live television broadcast and took hostages.

On Saturday, four leftist governments in Latin America – Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela and Cuba – criticised the arrest of Glas, who had sought refuge in the embassy since December.

The Organization of American States in a statement reminded its members, which include Ecuador and Mexico, of their “obligation” to not “invoke norms of domestic law to justify non-compliance with their international obligations.”

“In this context, it [the OAS] expresses solidarity with those who were victims of the inappropriate actions that affected the Mexican Embassy in Ecuador,” according to the statement released on Saturday.



Colombia seeks to join Gaza genocide case against Israel at ICJ

The content originally appeared on: Latin America News – Aljazeera

Colombia has asked the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to allow the country to join South Africa’s case accusing Israel of genocide in the Gaza Strip.

In its application to the court on Friday, Colombia called on the ICJ to ensure “the safety and, indeed, the very existence of the Palestinian people”.

“Colombia is deploying efforts directed at fighting the scourge of genocide and, as a result, making sure Palestinians enjoy their right to exist as a people,” the document said.

“Colombia’s ultimate goal in this endeavour is to ensure the urgent and fullest possible protection for Palestinians in Gaza, in particular such vulnerable populations as women, children, persons with disabilities and the elderly,” the Colombian declaration added.

The ICJ, the highest United Nations court, may allow states to intervene in cases and give their views.

Several states, such as Ireland, have said they would also seek to intervene in the case, but so far, only Colombia and Nicaragua have filed a public request.

“Colombia is seeking to actively intervene in the process, supporting South Africa. It’s hoping to offer tangible support to the Palestinian cause while also sending a message to Israel that it cannot continue with its actions in Gaza,” said Al Jazeera’s Alessandro Rametti, reporting from Bogota on Friday.

“This is not a surprising stance given what we have heard from the president of Colombia, Gustavo Petro … Since the start of the war, he has denounced Israel; he was the first South American president to talk about genocide, denouncing the actions in Gaza by Israel.”

Last week, ICJ judges ordered Israel to take all necessary and effective action to ensure basic food supplies arrive without delay to Palestinians in Gaza.

In January, The Hague-based ICJ, also known as the World Court, ordered Israel to refrain from any acts that could fall under the Genocide Convention and ensure its troops commit no genocidal acts against Palestinians in Gaza.

Israel’s offensive in Gaza has killed at least 33,091 people, mostly women and children, according to the Ministry of Health in Gaza.

Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have also been displaced, and aid organisations warn that the strip is on the brink of famine.

Israel’s military campaign in Gaza has brought “relentless death and destruction” to Palestinians, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said earlier on Friday in a speech marking six months since the war in Gaza started.

Israel denies targeting Palestinian civilians, saying its sole interest is to annihilate the group Hamas.

South Africa brought its case accusing Israel of state-led genocide in Gaza in December. Lawyers for Israel have dismissed it as an abuse of the Genocide Convention.



Amid diplomatic spat, Mexico grants former Ecuadorian vice president asylum

The content originally appeared on: Latin America News – Aljazeera

Amid a developing diplomatic spat, Mexico has granted asylum to a former Ecuadorian vice president accused of bribery while in office.

In a statement on Friday, Mexico’s foreign ministry said it had offered political asylum to Jorge Glas, who has been staying in Mexico’s embassy in Quito since late last year.

The statement called on Quito to grant “safe passage” to Glas, who had twice been convicted of corruption, to leave the country.

“Once asylum is granted, the asylum state can request the departure of the asylum seeker to a foreign territory, and the territorial state [Ecuador] is obliged to immediately grant the corresponding person safe passage,” Mexico’s foreign ministry wrote.

The ministry also condemned what it described as an “increase in the presence of Ecuadorian police forces” outside of its embassy in Quito. Ecuadorean authorities have continually sought permission to enter the embassy and arrest Glas, who was sentenced to six years in prison in 2017.

The announcement has come at a moment of heightened tension for the two countries. On Thursday, Ecuador declared Mexico’s ambassador a “persona non grata”, in response to comments made by Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

What did Lopez Obrador say?

The remarks that set off the diplomatic incident were aired on Wednesday, during Lopez Obrador’s daily news briefing.

Speaking to reporters, the left-leaning Mexican president implied that violence had affected the outcome of Ecuador’s recent presidential elections.

“In a very strange way, there were elections in Ecuador,” Lopez Obrador explained. He then proceeded to address the assassination of Ecuadorean presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio in August 2023, weeks before the first round of voting.

Lopez Obrador implied that frontrunner Luisa Gonzalez ultimately lost Ecuador’s election because of Villavicencio’s murder and the media speculation it produced.

Villavicencio had been a longtime anticorruption campaigner and was a vocal critic of Gonzalez’s left-wing party, the Citizen Revolution Movement.

“A male candidate who speaks ill of the female candidate who was on top is suddenly murdered,” Lopez Obrador said, without naming either Villavicencio or Gonzalez. “And the female candidate who was at the top falls.”

In the run-off vote in October, Gonzalez narrowly lost the Ecuadorian presidency to centre-right businessman Daniel Noboa, a relative newcomer to national politics and the heir to a banana industry fortune.

What was the reaction?

The Ecuadorian foreign ministry followed Lopez Obrador’s statements on Thursday by declaring Mexico’s ambassador to Ecuador, Raquel Serur Smeke, persona non grata and telling her to leave the country “soon”.

It also acknowledged Villavicencio’s assassination, which took place outside of a political rally in Quito on August 9.

“Ecuador is still mourning this unfortunate event that caused shock in Ecuadorian society and threatens democracy, peace and security,” the ministry wrote. It also called Lopez Obrador’s statements on the matter “unfortunate”.

Supporters of the Mexican president, however, defended his remarks, saying that he was attempting to compare the situation in Ecuador to the recent violence Mexico has faced in the run-up to its June 2 elections.

Several local candidates in Mexico have already been killed, including Bertha Gisela Gaytan, a candidate representing Lopez Obrador’s Morena party in the race to be mayor of Celaya.

Critics have also pointed out that Lopez Obrador’s statements appeared to be largely critical of the media. In his Wednesday remarks, Lopez Obrador accused media companies of whipping up a “heated atmosphere” in Ecuador before the vote.

On Friday, Lopez Obrador said Mexico would not expel Ecuador’s ambassador in retaliation.

Speaking shortly before his foreign ministry made the announcement on Glas, he shrugged off the suggestion that there was any dispute between the two countries.

“For there to be a fight, there need to be two parties involved,” he said. He also called Mexico’s ambassador to Ecuador, Serur Smeke, an “exceptional person”.

Known for his outspokenness, Lopez Obrador has spurred tensions in recent years with his comments about regional politics. Last year, for instance, he provoked ire in Peru after offering asylum to impeached former President Pedro Castillo, who is currently in jail.

He also questioned the legitimacy of Castillo’s successor, current President Dina Boluarte. “So long as there isn’t democratic normalcy in Peru, we don’t want economic or trade relations with them,” he said.

Peru’s Congress responded by declaring Lopez Obrador a “persona non grata”.



Caribbean Nationals From Three Countries Lead US Naturalization Total In 2023

Michele Gray (C), originally from Jamaica, joins with other people during a ceremony to become American citizens at a U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services naturalization ceremony in a Miami Field Office in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

News Americas, WASHINGTON, D.C., Fri. April 5, 2024: Caribbean immigrants from three countries in the region lead the top 10 nations with the most naturalizations for Fiscal Year 2023.

Hector Morejon, orginally from Cuba, and others become American citizens during a U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services naturalization ceremony at the Hialeah Field Office on January 12, 2018 in Hialeah, Florida. 150 people from different countries around the world took part in the Oath of Allegiance. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Immigrants from the Dominican Republic, Cuba and Jamaica rank in the Top 10 list of countries whose nationals qualified for US cirtizenship and took the oath of naturalization in Fiscal Year 2023.

The Dominican Republic led the Caribbean with 35,200 naturalizations to rank at number 4 on the Top 10 list.

Cubans ranked at 5th with 33,200 naturalizations.

Jamaicans rounded out the list for the Caribbean, ranking at 9 out of 10 with 20,200 naturalizations in the last fiscal year. They, however, had the shortest time on the path to becoming a citizen of the United States at 7 years.

By contrast, Cubans waited 7.9 years while nationals from the DR waited 9.5 years.

Indigenous survivors pursue justice at genocide trial in Guatemala

The content originally appeared on: Latin America News – Aljazeera

Warning: This article contains details of violence that may be upsetting.

Guatemala City, Guatemala – Jesus Tecu remembers wrapping his little brother in his arms in an attempt to protect the two-year-old from the horrors unfolding around them.

It was March 13, 1982, and their village of Rio Negro — a Maya Achi community situated along a river in central Guatemala — was under attack. Guatemala was in the midst of a grisly civil war, and army and paramilitary forces had been stalking the countryside, razing Indigenous villages to the ground.

Already, Tecu’s parents had been among the dozens of Rio Negro residents slaughtered just one month prior in another village. But now soldiers and paramilitary patrolmen were in the town, and 10-year-old Tecu hoped to shield his brother from the killings and rapes they were witnessing.

A patrolman decided to take Tecu to be his household servant, but he did not want to bring home a toddler too. Ignoring Tecu’s desperate pleas, the patrolman grabbed the two-year-old from his arms, smashed him against rocks and threw his body into a ravine.

An estimated 107 children and 70 women died in Rio Negro that day. Tecu and 16 other children survived only because they were chosen to be servants.

Now, Tecu hopes a criminal case in Guatemala can offer a shred of accountability for atrocities thousands of Indigenous people experienced during that period.

“We have never stopped seeking justice,” said Tecu, who has spent the last 30 years as a human rights activist and advocate for community rebuilding.

On Friday, Manuel Benedicto Lucas Garcia, the former head of Guatemala’s army, is slated to stand trial for genocide. It is the latest chapter in the country’s fitful, stop-and-start efforts to achieve justice for the systematic killing of Guatemala’s Indigenous peoples.

An estimated 200,000 people were killed during the war, which stretched from 1960 to 1996. More than 80 percent were Indigenous Maya.

A United Nations-backed truth commission found that the military committed acts of genocide against five of the country’s 22 different Maya peoples between 1981 and 1983. That period overlaps with Lucas Garcia’s tenure as the chief of the general staff of the army.

For seven months between 1981 and 1982, Lucas Garcia helmed Guatemala’s forces, as part of the administration of President Romeo Lucas Garcia, his brother. He now stands accused of genocide, crimes against humanity, forced disappearances and sexual violence.

But Tecu points out that time is running out for survivors to find justice. Decades have passed since the war’s end. Alleged perpetrators like Lucas Garcia, 91, are growing old — and in many cases, dying.

“The importance of this case is that there is an intellectual author alive,” Tecu told Al Jazeera. “He needs to be held accountable for what happened with the deaths of so many children, women and men.”

Benedicto Lucas Garcia, second from right, walks with a fellow military leader, Manuel Callejas, on their way to court in Guatemala City, Guatemala, on November 25, 2019 [Moises Castillo/AP Photo]

Delay tactics

Lucas Garcia, however, has denied wrongdoing. Rather, in a live video feed on March 25, he told Guatemala’s High Risk Court A, “I am a national hero”, though he later clarified he meant it in reference to accomplishments unrelated to the armed conflict.

The March 25 hearing came after a year of postponements. Expecting the trial to start, genocide survivors had gathered outside the courthouse in Guatemala City to hold a ceremony in support of the proceedings.

But one of Lucas Garcia’s two lawyers had announced her resignation just days ahead of the hearing, and then the other quit too — something critics believe was a tactic to further delay the trial.

Ultimately, Lucas Garcia accepted to use a public defender and was permitted to continue to attend hearings by video conference while recovering from surgery. The trial’s start date was rescheduled for April 5, to give the new lawyer time to prepare.

“We know these are all manoeuvres and strategies that Benedicto Lucas Garcia is using,” said Diego Ceto, a Maya Ixil leader providing support for witnesses and survivors during the trial.

Speaking to Al Jazeera on the courthouse steps right after the postponement, Ceto explained that other defendants have likewise used stalling techniques to evade justice.

After all, one of Lucas Garcia’s co-defendants — a former head of military operations — died in 2020. And in January, another — a former head of military intelligence — was found mentally unfit to stand trial and will face separate proceedings.

“They look for any justification to avoid the start of the trial,” Ceto said. “Nevertheless, as Ixils we will continue to insist on the pursuit of the truth.”

Maya Ixil women take part in a ceremony outside the Guatemala City court complex on March 25, before the genocide trial of Benedicto Lucas Garcia was postponed to April 5 [Sandra Cuffe/Al Jazeera]

From the Ixil region and beyond

The area Ceto is from is at the heart of the ongoing case. Prosecutors are focusing on crimes allegedly committed in the Maya Ixil region, 225km (140 miles) northwest of the capital.

More than 30 massacres were carried out under Lucas Garcia’s command and at least 23 Ixil villages were completely destroyed, the plaintiffs’ lawyers have said. The prosecution plans to present more than 80 experts and 150 witnesses as part of the trial.

Evidence also includes forensic reports from exhumations and military documents lawyers say will help establish the genocidal intent behind the crimes.

Atrocities in the Maya Ixil region also formed the centrepiece of another historic trial: that of the late military ruler Efrain Rios Montt, who took power from Romeo Lucas Garcia in a military coup.

In 2013, Guatemala made history when a court convicted Rios Montt of genocide. But the verdict was overturned soon after in a widely-questioned ruling, illustrating the difficulties of prosecuting such a case.

Rios Montt died before a partial retrial could end in 2018. On September 27 of that year, a tribunal ruled the military did commit genocide, but no one was convicted.

Advocates, however, emphasise that the atrocities perpetuated by Rios Montt and others extended beyond the Mayan Ixil people, also targeting other Indigenous peoples, unions, clergy, student movements and other groups.

For example, in a separate case from 2018, Lucas Garcia was convicted of rape, forced disappearance, and crimes against humanity for actions taken against an activist and her family. He was sentenced to 58 years in prison.

In June 2023, however, an appeals court ordered Lucas Garcia’s release, along with that of his co-defendants. However, he remained in custody due to a pretrial detention order in the genocide case.

In another case that has yet to go to trial, Lucas Garcia is one of several former officials accused of crimes in connection with more than 550 human remains exhumed from mass graves on a military base.

“Right now we are on the Ixil case, but the destruction was not just in the Ixil area,” said Eleodoro Osorio, a representative of the Association for Justice and Reconciliation (AJR), an organisation of survivors and relatives from five of the hardest-hit Indigenous regions.

More than 200,000 people, most of them Indigenous Maya civilians, were killed during the armed conflict in Guatemala between 1960 and 1996 [Sandra Cuffe/Al Jazeera]

Power of grassroots movements

Osorio’s group formed in 2000. That same year, it filed a formal legal complaint against Romeo Lucas Garcia for genocide, followed by one against Rios Montt the following year. Those legal actions eventually led to the prosecutions of Rios Montt and Benedicto Lucas Garcia, the army leader currently facing charges.

AJR has joint plaintiff status in Lucas Garcia’s trial, allowing its own legal team to intervene on behalf of victims alongside the prosecution.

The group’s participation improves the outlook for a successful conviction, according to Naomi Roht-Arriaza, a law professor at the University of California College of the Law in San Francisco.

She pointed out that grassroots movements can help exert pressure on Guatemala’s legal system, which has seen the erosion of judicial and prosecutorial independence in recent years.

“In the trials that we’ve seen in Latin America, that has been the case. It’s been the lawyers for the victims that have basically carried the lion’s share of the actual work,” said Roht-Arriaza, who was a legal adviser in a similar case brought against Rios Montt in Spain.

She sees the pursuit of justice in Guatemala as part of a broader regional phenomenon.

“I think Latin America has been the leader in holding national trials around massive violations of human rights. So it’s not just Guatemala. It’s also Argentina and Chile, Colombia, [and] to some extent Peru,” she told Al Jazeera.

The bulk of genocide prosecutions have been in international courts, not domestic ones, according to Mark Berlin, a political science professor at Marquette University in Wisconsin whose research focuses on accountability for human rights violations and war crimes.

He explained that “atrocity crimes” — including genocide and crimes against humanity — are usually committed by state actors, and states are unlikely to prosecute themselves.

So when a country does prosecute genocide within its own borders, it is often the result of shifting power dynamics in the government itself.

“It’s usually when a group that was previously targeted is able to come to power and use that power to then target for prosecution those who were previously in power,” Berlin told Al Jazeera, pointing to the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide as an example of that dynamic.

The situation in Guatemala was different, though, he said. “Given that those conditions do not exist in Guatemala, the odds were stacked against the possibility for Guatemala to be able to carry out genocide prosecutions.”

Still, Berlin said other factors, including foreign assistance and forensic work, helped enable the genocide prosecutions to move forward.

“Guatemala did have kind of a perfect storm of other kinds of factors that did make it able to carry out these prosecutions,” he said.

“One was — or continues to be — the existence of a very active and well-organised social movement, a very tenacious and persistent social movement that has been calling for accountability for decades.”

Grassroots movements are credited with driving legal campaigns to prosecute the civilian deaths and forced disappearances during the decades-long Guatemalan civil war [Sandra Cuffe/Al Jazeera]

Half the battle

But now that Lucas Garcia is about to be brought to trial, efforts to secure a conviction present new hurdles.

Prosecuting genocide is considered more complex than it is for other human rights violations and crimes against humanity, due to legal elements set out in the 1948 Genocide Convention and incorporated into Guatemala’s criminal code in 1973.

“You have to demonstrate that the actor or the accused had the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a group of people,” said Geoff Dancy, a political science professor at the University of Toronto.

“That is very difficult to demonstrate and has only been successfully demonstrated in a few cases, really.”

There have been about 105 trials involving genocide charges in 15 countries around the world, according to Dancy, who is a principal investigator in a research project compiling and analysing global data on transitional justice mechanisms, including human rights prosecutions.

But even if prosecutors are not successful in convicting figures like Lucas Garcia of genocide, Dancy said the trials can still be useful tools for justice.

He pointed out that even though leaders like Guatemala’s Rios Montt, Serbia’s Slobodan Milosevic and Chile’s Augusto Pinochet died while prosecution efforts were still under way, the cases were still incredibly important, helping to unearth injustices and put them into the public record.

Ultimately, Dancy said, it is “really important to get these things on the map and have the evidence produced and considered by a court”.



New Caribbean Music Alert

Sukihana is out with Pilates.

News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Fri. April 5, 2024: Three new singles from Caribbean dance hall and soca artists are out this weekend.

They include Pilates – the sexy and playful new release from rapper, social media & viral reality star Sukihana, one of the most prolific and legendary Jamaican dancehall artists of all time, Vybz Kartel, and international super producers Jonny Blaze & Stadic.

Also out is “I Want You,” the electrifying new track by iconic Jamaican artist iNi Kamoze and rising star Lila Iké, produced by the visionary Kareem ‘Remus” Burrell under the esteemed label XTM.Nation. “I Want You” is a soul-stirring masterpiece that seamlessly blends iNi Kamoze’s legendary presence with Lila Iké’s captivating vocals, all set against the backdrop of Kareem Burrell’s masterful production. This dynamic collaboration showcases the best of reggae music, combining classic elements with a contemporary twist to create a sound that is both timeless and cutting-edge.

Listen HERE

And Patrice Roberts is back with Cook It. The song was produced by: Rohan “Patexx” Rankine / Journey Records and written by: Josiah Noray. Check it out now.

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