(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)
Deadly earthquake shakes southern Peru
(CNN)Two people were killed when a 7.1-magnitude earthquake shook Peru on Sunday, according to a regional governor.
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)
(CNN)Two people were killed when a 7.1-magnitude earthquake shook Peru on Sunday, according to a regional governor.
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)
(CNN)At least 48 people were killed Tuesday when a bus went over a cliff north of Lima, said Lewis Mejia, a top Peruvian fire official.
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)
(CNN)Hundreds of angry Peruvians packed streets for a second night to protest the release of ailing former President Alberto Fujimori from prison.
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS)
Peruvian Finance Minister Alfredo Thorne said on Monday that he would immediately resign if the opposition-controlled Congress disapproves of him in a vote of confidence that he had formally requested.
Opposition lawmakers from across the political spectrum have called on Thorne, one of President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski’s closest Cabinet members, to step down after, in a leaked audio recording, he appeared to ask the comptroller to approve a controversial contract in exchange for a bigger budget.
(This version of the story was refiled to correct dateline to LIMA instead of MEXICO CITY)
(Reporting By Mitra Taj; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC AND REUTERS NEWS AGENCIES AND GETTY IMAGES)
Rescuers are digging through mud and debris in the hunt for those missing after devastating mudslides in Colombia left more than 200 dead.
About 1,100 soldiers and police are involved in the relief effort.
Heavy rain flooded the city of Mocoa in the country’s south-west with mud and rocks burying whole neighbourhoods and forcing residents to flee their homes.
An army statement said there were at least 400 injured and 200 still missing in the capital of Putumayo province.
The exact death toll is hard to confirm with the rescue operation is still under way.
Some local media estimate up to 300 people have been killed, while the Colombian Red Cross has a total hovering above 200.
The Red Cross said it was working to help family members contact each other.
Video footage from the city showed residents crying over a list of missing children, along with their ages, pinned to a family welfare centre.
“We have lost a baby, who has gone missing,” one resident told reporters. “A little baby, we can’t find him anywhere.”
President Juan Manuel Santos declared a state of emergency in the region and flew in to oversee the rescue effort.
“We will do everything possible to help,” he said. “It breaks my heart.”
A senior UN official in Colombia, Martin Santiago, blamed climate change, saying it had caused “tremendous results in terms of intensity, frequency and magnitude of these natural effects” in the region.
Others said deforestation has also played a role. “When the basins are deforested, they break down. It is as if we remove the protection for avoiding landslides,” said Adriana Soto, a Colombian conservationist and former environment minister.
The Colombian Air Force is bringing supplies to the area as the search operation continues.
With no running water in Mocoa, one resident told El Tiempo newspaper that they had been collecting rainwater. Power lines are also out across the area.
Photos posted to social media by the air force showed some patients being evacuated by air.
“Our heroes will remain in the tragedy zone until the emergency is over,” the army’s statement said.
Colombia’s director of the National Disaster Risk Management Unit told the AFP news agency that a third of the region’s expected monthly rain fell during one night.
Although rainfall is abundant in the area, this downpour was unusually heavy and caused rivers to burst their banks.
The overflow then picked up mud and debris, creating a cascade.
Video footage of the aftermath showed currents so strong that abandoned lorries were propelled through the flooded streets.
Local resident Mario Usale, 42, told Reuters he was searching for his father-in-law.
“My mother-in-law was also missing, but we found her alive 2km (1.25 miles) away. She has head injuries, but she was conscious,” he said.
Landslides have struck the region several times in recent months.
In November, nine people died in the town of El Tambo, about 140km (90 miles) from Mocoa, during a landslide that followed heavy rain.
Less than a month before that, another landslide killed several people near Medellin, almost 500km (300 miles) to the north.
And in neighbouring Peru, more than 90 people have died since the start of the year because of unusually heavy rainfall, which also caused landslides and flash floods.
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)
After their ancestors journeyed across an ocean from the edge of the Sahara to the center of the Amazon, their current numbers have dwindled in the wake of grim economic prospects and geographic isolation. Yet the pulse keeps beating for the Jewish community of Iquitos, Peru.
“We as a community in Iquitos are trying to create a Jewish life, which is not easy, because the conditions for it do not exist,” said community leader Rebecca Abramovitz in an interview in Spanish.
Located in Loreto, Peru’s northernmost region, Iquitos is the largest city in the world unreachable by road. Visitors must either fly in or arrive by boat along the Amazon River.
Jews constitute only a fraction of a percent of the city’s population, which numbered just under 440,000 last year. The Jewish community of Iquitos consists of about 70 individuals, led by president Jorge Abramovitz, Rebecca’s husband. (There is also a smaller population of under 40 Jews in the city of Pucallpa to the south.)
The Iquitos community does not have a rabbi, and meets for worship in the Abramovitz house. Its members represent a fraction of the hundreds of people who once practiced Judaism by the banks of the Amazon.
Yet if their numbers are small, their story is compelling. They are the descendants of entrepreneurs who left Morocco for the promise of riches in the Amazon rubber boom in the late 19th century. Their Judaism has been revived by visits from rabbis elsewhere in Peru, as well as Argentina, the United States and Israel. Some have even undertaken another journey, to Israel, where they have made aliyah or are striving to do so.
Earlier this year, a media report had forecast a bleak future for the community. But those members who stay in Iquitos continue to practice Judaism together, and regularly convene for events such as High Holiday services. In so doing, they preserve their ties with their ancestors who arrived in the Peruvian Amazon almost 150 years ago.
The first Jew to immigrate to Loreto was Alfredo Coblentz, a German Jew who arrived in the city of Yurimaguas, southwest of Iquitos, in 1880. In 1885, the first year of the Amazon rubber boom, the Pinto brothers — Moses, Abraham and Jaime — immigrated to Iquitos itself. While they only lived there for five years, “they opened the road for the arrival of new immigrants,” Abramovitz said.
The rubber boom caused a mass migration of people representing different countries and religions.
“It brought businessmen and rubber workers from distinct regions of the world [to Iquitos], and among them, Jews from Morocco came,” said Rabbi Ruben Saferstein of Buenos Aires, who has been assisting the Jews of Iquitos for 15 years.
It was not an easy journey. Jews from Rabat, Tetuan, Tangier and Casablanca arrived in the Brazilian coastal city of Belen do Para and trekked along the Amazon — the second-longest river in the world, after the Nile — further inland to Manaus.
From there, Abramovitz said, “they scattered throughout the Peruvian Amazonian rainforest.”
“There was a tremendous amount of money to be made there, in the rubber industry in the Amazon, in Peru and Brazil,” said Rabbi Andrew Sacks, Jerusalem-based director of the Rabbinical Assembly in Israel for the Masorti Movement, who visited Iquitos last Pesach.
Luxurious mansions soon lined the streets of Iquitos, including the Casa Fierro (Iron House) designed by Gustave Eiffel, whose namesake tower in Paris earned architectural immortality. The Casa Fierro remains an Iquitos landmark.
But the rubber boom also had adverse effects. One Iquitos-based company with a British board of directors, the Peruvian Amazon Company (PAC), was the subject of critical reports by Roger Casement, the British consul in Peru. Casement found that the PAC abused its indigenous workers. After public outcry, the company closed in 1913.
The Amazon rubber boom itself had collapsed by 1912, owing to several factors, including a drop in the price of rubber; the emergence of larger zones of production, such as Indonesia; and the arrival of synthetic rubber.
Many Jews in Iquitos returned to their countries of origin — but not all.
By January 1909, enough Jews had begun residing in Iquitos to establish a formal community, the Sociedad Beneficencia Israelita de Iquitos.
The Jews who stayed after the boom were in an uncertain position. The rubber industry that fueled their commerce with Europe had vanished, and their legacy as Jews was in question.
“The great majority of Jews who came [to Iquitos] were men who could not leave Jewish descendants because they could not take Jewish women as wives, and settled down with women of the region,” Abramovitz said. However, she added, “they undoubtedly tried to keep their Jewish identity and pass it on to their children.”
Each year, she said, the Jews of the region celebrated Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur with religious services.
But their numbers plummeted.
Abramovitz said that emigration to the capital of Lima was “massive” in the 1950s, and by the 1960s, centers of Jewish life in almost every Peruvian province had disappeared.
“Our community stayed dormant for many years,” she recalled.
It was not until the 1980s that the community of Iquitos was able to reawaken.
When several community members traveled to Lima, Peru’s capital, for medical treatments in 1987, they made contact with Rabbi Guillermo Bronstein, chief rabbi of the Asociacion Judia. Lima has the largest population of Peruvian Jews (3,000), and with about 223 families, Bronstein’s synagogue is the largest in the capital.
In a Skype conversation from Lima, Bronstein told The Times of Israel he felt “curiosity” and that he exchanged letters with the community of Iquitos before deciding to visit in 1991. Then, Bronstein found a community of people who wished to identify as Jews but were not recognized as Jews.
As Sacks described it, “there is a large percentage of people in that town who have a Jewish grandparent or great-grandparent, [and are now] practicing Catholics, who have recently connected to a Jewish community or to the Jewish world.”
When Bronstein made his first visit to Iquitos, he laid the groundwork for the community to formally confirm its Judaism — individually and collectively. Members organized themselves as a kehila, a Jewish community of partners recognized by the Republic of Peru. They achieved this status about a year and a half later, in 1994.
Bronstein then helped the kehila prepare for a formal conversion by a beit din, or rabbinical court. This process took much longer.
“It was 11 years after [my first visit],” he said. “It was very difficult. I couldn’t visit there [more than] two or three times in 11 years. I sent them materials, siddurim [prayer books]. They wrote to me with their [preparation] work.”
These were not the only challenges.
“Circumcision was the hardest of all,” Bronstein said. “The adults did not have a mohel [circumciser].” And, he added, a mohel he located in Lima “was not going to go for less than a month for 40 to 50 people.”
‘Circumcision was the hardest of all’
By August 2002, Bronstein had found a qualified mohel willing to travel to Iquitos. A beit din followed, assisted by Rabbi Claudio Kupchik of Temple Beth El of Manhattan Beach.
“If we had not had the help of Rabbi Guillermo Bronstein, the community of Iquitos would not still exist,” Abramovitz said.
About a century after Jews had first arrived in Iquitos, the kehila and its members were formally recognized. Over the next few years, the congregation benefited from outreach by rabbis from other countries.
In December 2004, Bronstein presided over a second beit din with his brother Marcelo, who serves as a rabbi in New York, as well as Saferstein, of Buenos Aires. Over three days, they evaluated around 180 candidates from Iquitos and neighboring regions.
In February 2009, the kehila received a Torah scroll over 100 years old from Rabbi Fabian Zaidemberg of La Asociacion Israelita de las Pampas in Argentina. David and Nilma Igdaloff, an American Jewish couple, had donated the Torah to Zaidemberg after it had been rescued from Nazi Germany.
A third beit din was held in 2011. And, as the Jews of Iquitos continue to rediscover and reconnect with their roots, there is an increasing interest in making aliyah.
The story of the Amazonian aliyah is an unfolding one and includes community members now living in Israel as citizens, members who would like to make aliyah, and individuals in Israel who are not currently recognized as Israeli citizens.
The Interior Ministry has recognized Iquitos as a Jewish community and its members as eligible for aliyah, but it took a “long battle,” said Sacks, the director of the Rabbinical Assembly in Israel.
The majority of olim from Iquitos live in Ramla.
“The mayor was happy to receive them,” Sacks said. “There were social, employment programs. They were absorbed in order to be more successful.”
However, Sacks is unhappy with the Interior Ministry and its treatment of Jews from Iquitos who wish to join their fellow Iquitenos in Israel.
“The pace of aliyah has slowed to a trickle,” Sacks said. “There have been all sorts of excuses. I found it to be a problem.”
The Legal Aid Center for Olim, a project of the Israel Reform Movement, has petitioned the Supreme Court to hear a case involving two sisters from Pucallpa who converted to Judaism in Iquitos in 2011. They have been in Israel since February 2014.
“At the moment one of the two sisters from Pucallpa has a working visa after she began a serious relationship with an Israeli and in fact has given birth to his child,” said Nicole Maor, a lawyer with the Legal Aid Center for Olim. “The other sister is here with no status at all, under the protection of a Supreme Court order preventing her deportation.”
The Interior Ministry “has argued that the community in Pucallpa was not a ‘recognized’ community at the time of the conversion and therefore although the conversion itself was performed in Iquitos, they refuse to recognize them,” Maor said.
‘The great majority of Iquitenos have gone to live in Israel’
The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear the petition in January 2017.
Asked how strong the current desire is to make aliyah among the Jews of Iquitos, Sacks said, “Almost all of the young ones desire to leave. The opportunity to advance professionally and socially is very limited. They seek a second chance everywhere in Latin American countries. Many have gone, and in fact would go, to Israel.”
“The jungle is not a pleasant place to live,” he said. “The opportunities are rather limited. People realize, they are the third generation of a Jewish grandfather, grandmother, and eligible to make aliyah. Many did, many converted to Judaism and ultimately made aliyah. About 150 left for Israel.”
Indeed, he noted, the current community in Iquitos is “much reduced, owing to aliyah.”
“The great majority of Iquitenos [people from Iquitos] have gone to live in Israel,” Saferstein said. “There are some other people who are waiting for their conversion process, and desire to go to Israel, as well, to live there.”
Saferstein expressed hope for another beit din to visit Iquitos in January 2017, but said that economic assistance is needed for this.
Despite gloomy predictions for the future of Iquitos’s Jews due to their shrinking population, Bronstein, who led the first beit din 14 years ago, is more hopeful.
‘They will continue with their Jewish identity. Even if three, four, five people remain, they have the structure, the community’
“They will continue with their Jewish identity,” he said. “They already have an organization. They are smaller, but I believe they will continue. Even if three, four, five people remain, they have the structure, the community.”
Last year, Sacks experienced this community firsthand.
“When I arrived at the airport, probably most of the community, around 40 people were there, with Israeli flags, singing, welcoming me,” he said.
Asked whether the community identifies as Sephardic, he said, “Many of them have a great-grandparent who was Sephardic (usually from Morocco), but the Jews are removed from many of those traditions. They have been Jewishly educated, primarily by Masorti rabbis. So, while they have some Sephardic tunes, it is very much a mix.”
On Shabbat, he said, “The davening was identical to pretty much any other synagogue.”
He joined the community for a Passover seder in the Abramovitz house, with fish and vegetarian options, “no bread on the table” and locally-flavored charoset.
“They kashered everything,” he said.
He noted a community custom. An Israeli flag is displayed atop a table “every year till the last Jew from Iquitos who wishes to make aliyah is able to do so,” he said.
More recently, the community has been busy again, this time for the High Holidays.
In an October 3 photo of the Rosh Hashanah dinner, over 30 community members are sitting down to eat at tables, welcoming the new year 5777. There are national and international symbols — Peruvian and Israeli flags — as well as religious and cultural decorations such as cutouts of shofars and a glowing Star of David.
As the Jews of Iquitos celebrated the new year, it showed that even in the isolation of the Amazon, a Jewish community can survive. Though its numbers may be diminished, inextinguishable sparks of communal life continue to be stoked on the edge of the rainforest.
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SHANGHAI DAILY NEWS)
LEADERS of 21 Asia-Pacific nations ended their annual summit with a call to resist protectionism amid signs of increased free-trade skepticism, highlighted by the victory of Donald Trump in the United States presidential election.
The Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit closed on Sunday with a joint pledge to work toward a sweeping new free trade agreement that would include all 21 members as a path to “sustainable, balanced and inclusive growth,” despite the political climate.
“We reaffirm our commitment to keep our markets open and to fight against all forms of protectionism,” the APEC leaders said in a joint statement.
APEC noted the “rising skepticism over trade” amid an uneven recovery since the financial crisis and said that “the benefits of trade and open markets need to be communicated to the wider public more effectively, emphasizing how trade promotes innovation, employment and higher living standards.”
Speaking to journalists at the conclusion of the summit, Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski said the main obstacle to free trade agreements in Asia and around the world was the frustration felt by those left behind by globalization.
“Protectionism in reality is a reflection of tough economic conditions,” said Kuczynski, the meeting’s host.
Referring to Britain’s vote to leave the European Union and Trump’s election win in the US, he said those results highlighted the backlash against globalization in former industrial regions in America and Britain that contrasted with support for trade in more-prosperous urban areas and developing countries.
“This is an important point in recent economic history because of the outcome of various elections in very important countries that have reflected an anti-trade, anti-openness feeling,” he said.
Chinese officials said more countries were looking to join a China-led trading bloc after Donald Trump’s election victory had raised fears the US would scrap free trade deals.
Trump campaigned for president on a promise to pull out of the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, and also threatened to impose steep tariffs against China and Mexico.
China is not part of the TPP and has been pushing an alternative vision of free trade in Asia under the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, which does not currently include countries in the Americas.
Tan Jian, a member of China’s delegation at the summit, said more countries were now seeking to join the 16-member bloc, including Peru and Chile, and that current members wanted to reach a deal as soon as possible to counter rising protectionism.
In a final declaration, APEC leaders said the TPP and RCEP were both valid paths to a broader Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific, which had long been a goal of the APEC bloc that accounts for 57 percent of the world economy.
“We encourage that all regional undertakings, including TPP and RCEP, remain open, transparent and inclusive and draw on each other,” they said.
The APEC statement also said the members would adhere to the carbon reduction goals set in Paris last year to address climate change, a problem that they called a threat to food production and food security.
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS NEWS AGENCY)
Chinese President Xi Jinping on Saturday called for a “smooth transition” in Beijing’s relationship with Washington and praised outgoing President Barack Obama for strengthening ties between the two nations.
During a meeting in Peru, Obama repeated the U.S. urging that all sides in the dispute over the South China Sea reduce tensions and resolve their disputes peacefully.
The meeting is expected to be the last between the two leaders before President-elect Donald Trump enters the White House. Trump has been sharply critical of China.
“We meet at a hinge moment in the China-U.S. relationship,” Xi said at the start of the meeting, through an interpreter.
“I hope the two sides will work together to focus on cooperation, manage our differences and make sure there is a smooth transition in the relationship and that it will continue to grow going forward,” he said.
Trump, a Republican, has accused China of being a currency manipulator and promised to slap big tariffs on imported Chinese goods. He has also called climate change a “hoax” designed to help Beijing.
“The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive,” Trump wrote in a tweet in 2012.
Obama and Xi pushed for the international community to back an agreement forged in Paris to combat global warming. Obama called that an example of the benefits of the two countries working together.
“Now we face the work of making sure our economies transition to become more sustainable,” he said.
Trump’s election has raised questions about whether the United States would try to pull out of the accord, a key legacy accomplishment for Obama, a Democrat.
China also helped negotiate the Iran nuclear agreement, another big piece of Obama’s foreign policy that Trump has threatened to dismantle.
Neither Xi nor Obama mentioned Trump in their remarks in front of reporters.
“Mr. President, I would like to commend you for the active efforts you’ve made to grow this relationship,” Xi said to Obama.
Obama noted that the two leaders would discuss areas of disagreement, including “the creation of a more level playing field for our businesses to compete, innovation policies, excess capacity and human rights,” he said.
“I continue to believe that a constructive U.S.-China relationship benefits our two people’s and benefits the entire globe,” he said.
(Reporting by Jeff Mason; Editing by Mary Milliken and David Gregorio)
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