Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Human Face Of The Colombia Plane Crash Victims

6 Survive Andean Plane Crash


6 survive Andean plane crash

Guillermo Ossa / Associated Press
Alan Ruschel, a defender for the Brazilian soccer team Chapecoense, is wheeled into a hospital in La Ceja, Colombia. He is in serious condition.
LA UNION, Colombia — Colombian authorities searched for answers Tuesday into the crash of a chartered airliner that slammed into the Andes mountains while transporting a Brazilian soccer team whose Cinderella story had won it a spot in the finals of one of South America’s most prestigious regional tournaments. All but six of the 77 people on board were killed.
The British Aerospace 146 short-haul plane declared an emergency and lost radar contact just before 10 p.m. Monday, according to Colombia’s aviation agency. It said the plane’s black boxes had been recovered and were being analyzed.
The aircraft, which departed from Santa Cruz, Bolivia, was carrying the Chapecoense soccer team from southern Brazil for Wednesday’s first leg of the two-game Copa Sudamericana final against Atletico Nacional of Medellin. Twenty-one Brazilian journalists were also on board the flight.
Colombian officials initially said the plane suffered an electrical failure but there was also heavy rainfall at the time of the crash. Authorities also said they were not ruling out the possibility, relayed to rescuers by a surviving flight attendant, that the plane ran out of fuel minutes before its scheduled landing at Jose Maria Cordova airport outside Medellin.
Whatever the cause, the emotional pain of Colombia’s deadliest air tragedy in two decades was felt across the soccer world.
Expressions of grief poured in as South America’s federation canceled all scheduled matches in a show of solidarity, Real Madrid’s squad interrupted its training for a minute of silence and Argentine legend Diego Maradona sent his condolences to the victims’ families over Facebook.
Brazil’s top teams offered to loan the small club players next season so they can rebuild following the sudden end to a fairy tale season that saw Chapecoense reach the tournament final just two years after making it into the first division for the first time since the 1970s. “It is the minimum gesture of solidarity that is within our reach,” the teams said in a statement.
Sportsmanship also prevailed, with Atletico Nacional asking that the championship title be given to its rival, whose upstart run had electrified soccer-crazed Brazil.
Rescuers working through the night were initially heartened after pulling three people alive from the wreckage. But as the hours passed, heavy fog and stormy weather grounded helicopters and slowed efforts to reach the crash site.
At daybreak, dozens of bodies scattered across a muddy mountainside were collected into white bags. They were then loaded onto several Black Hawk helicopters that had to perform a tricky maneuver to land on the crest of the Andes mountains. The plane’s fuselage appeared to have broken into two, with the nose facing downward into a steep valley.
Images broadcast on local television showed three of the six survivors on stretchers and connected to IVs arriving at a hospital in ambulances. Chapecoense defender Alan Ruschel was in the most serious condition, and was later transported to another facility to undergo surgery for a spinal fracture. Teammates Helio Zampier and Jakson Follmann also suffered multiple trauma injuries, with doctors having to amputate the goalkeeper Follmann’s right leg.
A journalist traveling with the team was recovering from surgery and two Bolivian crew members were in stable condition, hospital officials said.

Brazil: A Call For New President's Impeachment May Not Stick

Brazil: A Call For New President's Impeachment May Not Stick

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Trump Faces Clash With Business Over Cuba Threat

Trump faces clash with business over Cuba threat

President-elect says Havana must negotiate better deal with US over detente
Donald Trump has threatened to abandon US efforts to restore trade and diplomatic ties with Cuba unless Havana makes new concessions, setting the stage for a clash with a US business community eager to exploit the opening up of the island economy. 
“If Cuba is unwilling to make a better deal for the Cuban people, the Cuban/American people and the US as a whole, I will terminate deal,” Mr Trump tweeted on Monday, responding to a debate set off by the death on Friday of former Cuban leader Fidel Castro. 
Mr Trump’s threat to unwind years of work by President Barack Obama to restore normal relations with Cuba drew a plea from business leaders for the president-elect to take a more considered view. 
“We’ve now gotten to a point where we have an embassy and we have commercial flights that are starting [and] US companies managing hotels [in Cuba]. To unwind all of that and go back to the Cold War would be a shame,” former commerce secretary and Kellogg chief executive Carlos Gutierrez told the Financial Times. 
With the backing of powerful agricultural and business lobbies, Mr Obama has been pushing since 2014 for a resumption of normal relations with Cuba and in March became the first American president to visit the island in almost a century. 
In a sign of the changes under way, air carriers JetBlue and American Airlines on Monday flew their first regularly scheduled flights between New York and Havana.
There has also been a procession of business delegations to Havana, with a trip organised by the US Chamber of Commerce earlier this month including representatives from companies such as American Airlines, Dow and GE. 
But with Republicans in Congress continuing to resist calls for an end to a 55-year-old trade embargo, Mr Obama’s efforts to normalise relations with Cuba have depended on tweaks to regulations and executive orders he can implement without congressional approval. 
This could be quite an opportunity for someone who came out of business — our first businessman president — to be able to promote the benefits of free enterprise in a country like Cuba
Carlos Gutierrez, former US commerce secretary
Mr Gutierrez said the result of this month’s election, which saw influential Cuban-American legislators, such as Marco Rubio, re-elected, meant that resistance to lifting an embargo was likely to only grow stronger. And that meant that Mr Trump would hold the key for a business community that wants the US to continue its efforts to open up the Cuban market. 
“It will depend on the executive to take the lead and right now the president-elect seems to be taking the lead from those members of Congress who have advised him to take a very hard line and to just go back to where we were … five years ago,” said Mr Gutierrez, a Republican who was born in Havana and chairs the US-Cuba Business Council, which lobbies for stronger commercial ties. 
“This could be quite an opportunity for someone who came out of business — our first businessman president — to be able to promote the benefits of free enterprise in a country like Cuba.” 
Those calls for Mr Trump not to act rashly were echoed on Monday by farm groups who see Cuba as an untapped market. 
According to David Salmonsen, senior director of congressional relations at the Farm Bureau, the US’s largest agricultural lobby group, US farmers export just $200m annually to Cuba under a humanitarian exception written into the embargo almost a decade ago.
But Cuba represents a $2bn market, he said, and US farmers were losing out to the EU, Canada and other competitors because of bans on export credit financing and other restrictions. 
Doug Keesling, a Kansas farmer who grows wheat, corn and other grains and is a member of the US Ag Coalition for Cuba, said Mr Trump’s potential opposition would only make what was already an uphill political battle more difficult. 
But he remained hopeful that Mr Trump’s business background would help him see the opportunity in Cuba. “I think he wants what’s best for America and he will try to negotiate a deal that’s best.” 
Pedro Freyre, chairman of the international practice at Ackerman, a law firm in Miami, said that Mr Trump faced clashing demands from powerful political constituencies.
While he now appeared to be playing to Cuban-American Republicans in the wake of Castro’s death, the reality was that as president he would need the backing of business and from farm states that he won in this month’s election. 
“There is a political cost if he says to US business interests that he is just going to change the law,” he said. “Is he really going to kill a number of big business deals just in order to satisfy some Cuban-American voters?” 
“Trump is a real estate developer. It is in his nature to look to make new deals in Cuba.” 

Peru's New Leader Champions Trade In The Trump Era

Peru’s new leader champions trade in the Trump era

Former World Bank economist vows to push back on protectionism and deepen China ties
Peru’s new president Pedro Pablo Kuczynski is gearing up for the challenges posed by Brexit and the election of Donald Trump. His crammed desk is piled with books such as The Populist Deception, along with Peru and the United States: The Condor and the Eagle.
Uppermost in his mind is the threat of rising protectionism. Hosting this year’s Apec summit in Lima this November, the former World Bank economist emerged as Latin America’s champion of free trade.
“In the US and Britain, protectionism is taking over,” he told delegates from the 21 nations gathered at the summit. “It is fundamental that world trade grow again and that protectionism be defeated.”
Speaking to the Financial Times at his offices after the summit, Mr Kuczynski says: “If the Apec meeting was going to do anything of international relevance, it had to warn against the dangers of protectionism in view of these recent elections.”
Mr Kuczynski’s stance on global trade should come as no surprise. Elected in June after pledging to deliver economic growth to fund social investment, and seen as a centrist, pro-market figure, the new president has an exalted internationalist background.
The son of a German-Polish migrant, he is a cousin of French-Swiss film director Jean-Luc Godard, attended the Royal College of Music, and studied at Oxford university in the UK and Princeton in the US.
In the past four decades, the 78-year-old president has worked as a mine manager in Guinea, a Wall Street investment banker, and served as Peru’s prime minister, and finance and mining minister. A former US citizen, he relinquished his nationality a year ago to stand for election in Peru.
Peru’s top trading partners are China and the US. But although the country’s relationship with the US remains strong, Mr Kuczynski says, he is seeking to deepen ties with Beijing: “We are putting due emphasis where it belongs, which is our biggest market.”
Following June’s elections, the new president visited China before any other country. Peru hosted Xi Jinping, the Chinese president, on a state visit on Monday last week, the day Mr Trump vowed to scrap the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), of which Peru is a signatory.
Chinese investment in Peru currently stands at about $14bn. But even with low prices for natural resources weighing on his country’s copper-dependent economy, Mr Kuczynski is confident he can entice China to invest more. “The Chinese feel good that my first visit was to them, not to America,” he says.
Peru’s economy is forecast to grow 4 per cent this year, making it Latin America’s fastest major economy. But, says the president, that would be “disappointing” and he aims to lift it to 5 per cent by 2018.
Given the uncertainty surrounding the future of the TPP, Peru is considering the merits of a rival Chinese initiative, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. But Mr Kuczynski has not given up on the TPP. “It’s not the end of the world [if the US does not join TPP]. Some of us at Apec had a discussion on whether you could do TPP without the US,” he says.
Mr Kuczynski also criticised Mr Trump’s plan to build a wall along the Mexican border. “This talk about a wall is nonsense. First, the idea that walls deter people is questionable. It did deter East Germans from leaving through Berlin, but there are not going to be armed Stasi guards along 3,500km of wall. You have to forget about the wall.”
Mexican immigrants are not a problem for the US, he says, adding: “Latin American immigration into the US, on balance, has been highly positive, because it has made the profile of the population much younger; you can argue Latin American immigrants saved US social security.”
This talk about a wall is nonsense. The idea that walls deter people is questionable. It did deter East Germans from leaving through Berlin, but there are not going to be armed Stasi guards along 3,500km of wall
Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, Peru’s president
Mr Kuczynski does not spare his Latin American neighbours from criticism, particularly crisis-ridden Venezuela. While other new leaders in the region have flip-flopped in their stance towards Caracas, the Peruvian leader has been consistent.
“My concern is when people say ‘Venezuela is not my issue’. But it is your issue, it is an important country in Latin America, it has the world’s largest oil reserves yet people get no medicine, hospitals are collapsing. We have a problem and we have to face it.”
His solution for Caracas would be to establish a transitional government that could work the country out of the collapse. When he suggested this to Venezuela's President Nicolás Maduro, he was roundly condemned as “a tool of American propaganda” — an impossibility, he argues, since “no American official has talked to me about Venezuela”. 
Given Mr Kuczynski’s internationalist connections, Caracas could perhaps be forgiven for its assumptions. But despite his exalted background, he remains resolutely down to earth.
“I hate protocol,” he grumbles. “The other day, as I left the meal I offered Xi Jinping, I saw a line of Chinese cars going around the square waiting for him. I only had a police car and a motorbike to flank me.”
This relaxed attitude, he believes, will be key to helping him tackle one of Peru’s most intractable problems, a series of simmering mining conflicts, and open the door to fresh investment. “We have to get some mining projects unstuck,” he says.
He plans to pay a visit himself to Cocachacra, a farming town close to the Tía María copper and gold mine, owned by Southern Copper, to meet locals who have clashed with security forces amid concerns over water resources. Last year, three were killed and hundreds wounded in violent clashes, and riot police are now stationed in the area.
“I’m going to go to Cocachacra and talk to the people there,” he says. “Of course everybody wants to do it with protocol, a lot of security, that’s nonsense. If the guys want to feel you are doing something for them, you sit down with them like a human being,” he adds. “I have always been pretty loose.”

Creditors Look To Brasilian Authorities To Act In Oi Debt Talks

Creditors look to Brazilian authorities to act in Oi debt talks

Talks in country’s largest debt restructuring case grind to a halt
Creditors in Brazil’s biggest corporate debt restructuring case, the R$65bn default of leading telecom operator Oi, are looking to the government for a way out after talks ground to a halt.
Few bankruptcy cases are being watched as closely around the world. Apart from the creditors, which range from international bondholders and export credit agencies to Brazil’s top six banks and Anatel, the regulator, potential acquirers are circling Oi. These include the other three big foreign-owned operators in Brazil, and Naguib Sawiris, the Egyptian billionaire.
With 138,000 direct and indirect employees, as well as operations throughout Brazil, the government sees Oi’s survival as crucial at a time when the economy is suffering its deepest recession in more than a century.
In a sign of frustration with the faltering pace of talks since June, when Oi filed for judicial reorganisation — Brazil’s version of the Chapter 11 bankruptcy procedure in the US — Anatel last week warned it might use its regulatory powers.
“Anatel is ready to intervene in Oi if necessary,” Juarez Quadros, the agency’s head, told Congress.
Oi was born from government efforts to create a national champion in telecoms, loading up on debt along the way, through deals such as a 2013 attempted merger with Portugal Telecom.
The government wanted a local operator to take on the dominant foreign rivals, among them the Brazilian subsidiaries of Telecom Italia, Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim’s América Móvil and Spain’s Telefónica.
But Oi struggled to compete, due partly to an antiquated concession system covering fixed-line operations in Brazil that required investment in universal coverage and public telephones in an age when customers prefer mobile phones.
While Brazil’s ruling coalition is studying regulatory changes to ease these requirements, the company’s first priority is to agree on debt restructuring terms with creditors, analysts say.
Bondholders are estimated to control about R$32bn of Oi’s debt, Brazilian banks R$11bn and export credit agencies R$5bn. Anatel claims it is owed more than R$20bn in fines and other charges, while the government could be owed between R$5bn and R$10bn in unpaid taxes, people involved in the talks say.
One person close to the creditors said a haircut of about two-thirds was required to reduce Oi’s debt to manageable levels.
“In the end, the pie is not that big,” he said.
Adding to the complications is that Brazilian bankruptcy law gives shareholders inordinate power in negotiations, lawyers say. Oi, whose largest shareholders include Portugal Telecom and Société Mondiale, a fund owned by Nelson Tanure, a Brazilian businessman, proposed in September a plan creditors rejected as unfavourable.
The company offered unsecured creditors such as bondholders R$10bn in convertible bonds, implying a 70 per cent writedown. Only if the company failed to pay these off would the creditors receive any equity.
Creditors said the plan gave existing shareholders all the upside. Existing shareholders could use the improved financial conditions achieved through the debt restructuring and regulatory changes to refinance the convertible bonds and redeem them, emerging with 100 per cent of their equity while creditors took a haircut.
“It leaves existing equity holders largely unimpaired,” said the so-called ad hoc group of Oi bondholders, which claims to represent about 40 per cent of note holders.
The group, whose financial adviser is Moelis & Company, said it is working on an alternative plan with other creditors. Other international lenders are being represented by FTI Consulting. Complicating the situation is a split among the creditors, with another group including Aurelius Capital Management, the hedge fund, forming a rival faction.
Oi management, for its part, has insisted it is open to creditors’ suggestions, saying it had appointed a new financial adviser, Laplace Finanças, a Brazilian firm, last week to help.
“Oi is completely interested in talking and hearing the suggestions and proposals of creditors,” Marco Schroeder, chief executive, said in an emailed statement to the FT.
He questioned the likelihood of intervention from Anatel, saying this would only be justified if there was a threat to the continuity of the company.
“Oi’s cash increased in the third quarter of this year … and there were no additional losses of customers. These factors give us reason for calm,” he said.
In the end, creditors believe, it is not just Oi that is on trial in the reorganisation, but Brazil’s bankruptcy system. Revised 10 years ago, analysts say it is better than before but still leaves shareholders holding too many of the cards, analysts say.
“If you start getting large bondholders in a bankruptcy being held hostage and subordinated to the equity, that’s going to set a terrible precedent for the country,” said one person involved in the talks for the creditors.

My Rio de Janeiro Son Pedro Is Now A Full Professor In Canada!

Everyone I just got a wonderful surprise. My son Pedro has been given a full professorship in zoology at Concordia University in Montreal. After getting his Ph.D. in zoology in 2002, he held several positions with increasing responsibility at various Canadian universities. He was born and raised in Rio de Janeiro, Brasil.

Brasilian Footballers Among 75 Dead In Colombian Air Crash

Brazilian footballers among 75 dead in Colombia air crash

Charter jet carrying team to South America cup final comes down on Medellín approach
A plane carrying a Brazilian football team crashed on its approach to Medellín airport, killing 75 people, Colombian police said on Tuesday.
The chartered aircraft from Bolivia, with members of the first division Chapecoense club and journalists on board, came down in mountainous terrain near Colombia’s second city.
Six people survived among the 72 passengers and nine crew aboard the aircraft, said authorities. Four were members of the Chapecoense squad that was due to play in the final of the Copa Sudamericana, a South American football competition, on Wednesday.
Michel Temer, Brazil’s president, said: “I express my solidarity in this sad hour during which tragedy has beset dozens of Brazilian families.” Brazil’s foreign ministry and air force were assisting relatives, he said.
“The government will do all it can to alleviate the pain of the friends and family of sport and national journalism.”
Early rescue efforts were hampered by poor visibility and weather conditions, and the crash site, close to the city of Cerro Gordo, could only be reached by land, according to news reports.
Federico Gutierrez, mayor of Medellín, said: “It’s a tragedy of huge proportions.”
The Chapecoense football team pictured last week © EPA
The British Aerospace 146 short-haul plane, operated by Lamia, a Bolivian charter airline, declared an emergency around 10pm on Monday local time due to an electrical failure, aviation authorities said.
But the head of Colombia’s civil aviation agency said authorities were not ruling out the possibility the flight ran out of fuel, according to press reports.
There are reports that Argentina’s national team flew to Brazil on this same aircraft for a qualifying match for the Russia 2018 World Cup.
The mayor of Medellín, Federico Gutiérrez, said: “It would be ideal to find more survivors but the hopes are fading.”
Dozens of rescuers from the Red Cross and local organisations, including national police and the air force, are continuing their search for further survivors.
Captain Misael Cadavid, commander of the Itagüí firemen corps, told El Tiempo newspaper that “the chances of survival are really difficult … The plane crashed on a hill at 200 metres of height, got stuck in a canyon, and part of the plane was on unstable terrain.”
Chapecoense issued a statement on its Facebook page saying it would comment when the situation became clearer and that it was awaiting official announcements.
“May God accompany our athletes, officials, journalists and other guests travelling with our delegation,” the post said.
The team from the small city of Chapecó in the southern state of Santa Catarina made it to the country’s first division in 2014 for the first time since the 1970s.
It reached the Copa Sudamericana final last week after defeating San Lorenzo of Argentina.
Ivan Tozzo, Chapecoense’s vice-president, told cable channel SporTV: “There are a lot of people crying in our city. We could never imagine this. Chapecoense is the biggest reason for joy here.”
Alan Ruschel, a Chapecoense defender, was confirmed as one of the survivors.
Condolences poured in on Twitter.
“The greatest tragedy of Brazilian football was revealed this morning. We are praying for you. Força [be strong] Chapecoense,” said one tweet.
“Chapecoense needs help. If this is not the moment for unity between Brazilian clubs, there never will be such a moment,” said another.
Major European teams such as Barcelona held a minute’s silence during training to mark the tragedy.
The South American Football Confederation said it was suspending “all activities” following the crash.