International roundup

By Agencies
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A journalist who ran an online local news program was shot to death Monday in southern Mexico, making him the 15th media worker killed so far this year nationwide.

Prosecutors in the southern state of Guerrero said that Fredid Román was gunned down in the state capital, Chilpancingo.

Román’s program, “The Reality of Guerrero,” focused heavily on state-level politics.

He also wrote a column.

Guerrero is a state where drug gangs, armed vigilantes and other groups regularly clash.

This year particularly, has been one of the deadliest ever for journalists in Mexico, which is now considered the most dangerous country for reporters outside a war zone.

Prosecutors did not immediately offer any further details on the killing of Román, who local media said had previously published a newspaper under the same name and was shot inside his vehicle.

The killing comes just one week after independent journalist Juan Arjón López was found dead in the northern border state of Sonora. 

Prosecutors said he died from a blow to the head. 

His body was found in San Luis Rio Colorado, across the border from Yuma, Arizona.

At the beginning of August, a journalist was among four people killed inside a beer shop in the central Mexico state of Guanajuato.


Colombia has suspended forced eradication of coca fields and will focus on intercepting cocaine shipments while providing farmers with incentives to adopt legal crops, the nation’s new police director said.

In an interview with the Bogota newspaper El Tiempo, national police director Henry Sanabria said eradication operations aimed at coca leaf plantations in remote areas were suspended recently.

Sanabria, who was named to the post last week, said eradication was halted to lessen the impact of anti-narcotics policies on people who “have the least responsibility for drug trafficking.”

The move marks a significant shift in drug policy in the Andean nation, which has struggled to slow cocaine exports to the United States. 

Colombia’s newly inaugurated leftist president has said he wants to change how the nation fights drug trafficking.

Previously, governments in Colombia set annual targets for eradicating coca crops and deployed thousands of police and soldiers to manually pull coca bushes out of the ground. 

They also killed coca plants with crop dusting planes and most recently drones.

Forceful eradication sometimes led to violent confrontations between police and farmers, who argued that the lack of infrastructure in remote parts of Colombia made other crops economically unviable. 

Over the years, dozens of police officers who participated in eradication operations were killed by snipers or injured by landmines.

The eradication programs received financial and technical support from the United States, but failed to make a significant dent on the cocaine trade.

According to the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy, Colombia’s cocaine annual production potential rose from 273 tons in 2011 to 972 tons last year. 

The agency estimates the amount of land used to grow coca tripled in the same period.

In his inauguration speech earlier this month, President Gustavo Petro said that the “war on drugs had failed” and that it was time for nations around the world to find new ways of addressing substances like cocaine.

On Tuesday, Justice Minister Nestor Osuna said cocaine will continue to be illegal in Colombia though some permits could be granted to farmers who grow coca leaves for medicinal products.

Osuna added that police and judges will focus on dismantling drug gangs and businesses that launder money for traffickers.


Cubans lined up by the dozens at exchange houses on Tuesday for the chance to buy dollars and other hard currency from the government for the first time in two years.

The new policy announced Monday night comes almost three weeks after the communist government began buying hard currency from the public at 110,40 pesos per dollar — a rate similar to that of the black market and more than four times the rate used for official transactions.

Under the new policy, meant to help combat the illegal market in hard currency, individuals can buy up to $100 in cash a day at a rate of 123,60 to the dollar in 37 designated state CADECA exchange shops.

The official rate used by government industries and agencies that dominate the economy remains 24 pesos to the dollar.

“I want (euros) to be able to buy snacks for my grandchildren,” said Maricela Prado, a 62-year-old state worker who was among the first in line at an exchange house in central Havana. 

Jam is one of myriad products hard to find at subsidized state stores.

But 32-year-old camera operator Juan Pérez was dissatisfied with the new measure, arguing the limits on sales would just increase the price of dollars on the black market.

At the start of 2021, Cuba eliminated a longstanding dual currency system, dropping a special type of convertible peso supposedly aimed largely at tourism and foreigners and changing all operations into local currency.

But prices rose much faster than the new higher wages adopted under the reform, which coincided with an economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and reduced support from Cuba’s ally Venezuela, which was also struggling, as well as continuing U.S. sanctions that had limited money sent to Cubans by relatives in the U.S.

Growing shortages led to increasing prices for goods bought from private sellers and to a street-level devaluation of the peso, making dollars and other hard currency sent or brought in from abroad more valuable. That led to long lines and growing public frustration.

The low, fixed official rate meant people avoided exchanging money through the government, starving it even further of hard currency and its ability to import needed products.