7.0 Magnitude Earthquake Recorded Near Chilean Antarctic Base

A 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck Saturday off the coast of Antarctica, with authorities issuing a tsunami warning for Chile’s Eduardo Frei base on the frigid continent, emergency officials said.The quake struck at 8:36 p.m. local time (2336 GMT) about 210 kilometers east of the base at a depth of 10 kilometers, Chile’s National Emergency Office (Onemi) said, urging evacuation from “the beach area of the Antarctic” ahead of a possible tsunami.The Chilean air force’s base is the country’s largest in Antarctica and includes a village, hospital, school, bank, post office and chapel.The maximum population in summer is 150 people, and the average population in winter is 80.An unrelated 5.9-magnitude earthquake struck near Santiago on Saturday night, but Onemi said no significant damage or impact was reported.Chile is one of the most seismically active countries in the world. An 8.8 magnitude temblor in Concepcion on February 27, 2010, left more than 500 dead.The country suffered the most powerful earthquake ever recorded 60 years ago — measuring 9.6 magnitude — in Valdivia. 

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Biden Talks to Trudeau, Lopez Obrador, Johnson in First Calls to Foreign Leaders

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson made clear to President Joe Biden on Saturday that he’s eager to forge a new U.S.-Britain trade deal.Johnson’s push for a deal came during a wide-ranging call between the two leaders that touched on the global response to the coronavirus pandemic as well as the Biden administration’s announcement this week that the U.S. would rejoin the Paris climate accord and the World Health Organization, according to a statement from Downing Street.A new trade agreement between the allies is a higher priority for Johnson than it is for Biden. Britain regained control over its national trade policy at the start of the month following the end of a post-Brexit transition period.White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Friday that the administration had no timeline for forging a new trade deal because Biden’s attention was largely focused on getting the coronavirus pandemic under control and pressing Congress to pass the president’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan.The call with Johnson was at least Biden’s third call with a foreign counterpart since Friday. The president spoke with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador on Friday evening.Aid to halt immigrationOn Saturday, Lopez Obrador said Biden told him the U.S. would send $4 billion to help development in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, nations whose hardships have spawned tides of migration through Mexico toward the United States.López Obrador said that during their Friday call, the two discussed immigration and the need to address the root causes of why people migrate. Mexico has stopped recent attempts by caravans of Central American migrants to cross Mexico.FILE – Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador gives his daily news conference at the presidential palace in Mexico City, Dec. 18, 2020.Biden’s call with López Obrador came at a tense moment, days after the Mexican president accused the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration of fabricating drug trafficking charges against the country’s former defense secretary.But López Obrador said in a statement Friday that the conversation with Biden was “friendly and respectful.”Biden’s call to Trudeau came after the Canadian prime minister this week publicly expressed disappointment at Biden’s decision to issue an executive order halting construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline. The long-disputed project was projected to carry about 800,000 barrels of oil a day from the tar sands of Alberta to the Texas Gulf Coast, passing through Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma.Biden told Trudeau that by issuing the order he was following through on a campaign pledge, a senior Canadian government official told The Associated Press. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the private conversation.The White House said in a statement that Biden acknowledged Trudeau’s disappointment with his Keystone decision.’Perfect alignment’ is rareTrudeau told reporters before the call Friday that he wouldn’t allow his differences with Biden over the project to become a source of tension in the U.S.-Canada relationship.FILE – Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attends a news conference in Ottawa, July 13, 2020.”It’s not always going to be perfect alignment with the United States,” Trudeau said. “That’s the case with any given president, but we’re in a situation where we are much more aligned on values and focus. I am very much looking forward to working with President Biden.”Biden and Trudeau also discussed the prospects of Canada being supplied with the COVID-19 vaccine from pharmaceutical giant Pfizer’s facility in Kalamazoo, Michigan, according to a second senior Canadian government official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe a private conversation.Canada has been getting all of its Pfizer doses from a Pfizer facility in Puurs, Belgium, but Pfizer has informed Canada it won’t get any doses next week and will get 50% less than expected over the next three weeks. Ontario Premier Doug Ford has publicly asked Biden to share a million doses made at Pfizer’s Michigan facility.The U.S. federal government has an agreement with Pfizer in which the first 100 million doses of the vaccine produced in the U.S. will be owned by the U.S. government and will be distributed in the U.S.The two leaders also spoke broadly about trade, defense and climate issues. Trudeau also raised the cases of two Canadians imprisoned in China in apparent retaliation for the arrest of a top Huawei executive, who was apprehended in Canada on a U.S. extradition request, according to the prime minister’s office.  

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Haiti Senator Released From Jail After President Orders Arrest

Former Haitian opposition Senator Nenel Cassy was freed Friday, hours after he was arrested in Miragoane, a town on Haiti’s west coast, on orders of President Jovenel Moise.Cassy, who represented former President Jean Bertrand Aristide’s Lavalas party in parliament and is a native of the region, had traveled to Miragoane on Thursday to seek the release of political activists who had been arrested during an anti-government protest earlier in the day. They were charged with committing “flagrant delinquent acts” but were released with Cassy.”What happened yesterday is unfathomable; even under the Duvalier regime this was never done,” the former senator said in recounting his ordeal for reporters during a press conference on Friday.”The attorney general arrived at the police station where lawyer Andre (Michel) and I were talking to the departmental director. Two policemen were present, and Andre was asking them to release the activists. When he (Jean Ernest Muscadin, the attorney general for Miragoane) arrived, he said, ‘We’re going to arrest the senator.’ He said, ‘The president of the republic has asked me to arrest Senator Cassy.’ When I asked him, ‘Which president? Jovenel?’ He responded, “Yes, Jovenel said I must arrest you today,’” Cassy said.The former senator said when he asked Muscadin what he was to be charged with, he was told, “This is an order from the president.””He (the attorney general) told me tremendous pressure had been exerted by the president to make the arrest and he (Moise) threatened to fire him if he didn’t do it,” Cassy said. “‘If I went against the order, I’d have to flee the country,’ he told me.”Cassy said the attorney general then handcuffed him.Muscadin, during an interview on a Haitian radio show, confirmed that Moise had asked him to arrest Cassy.No commentMoise has not commented on the arrest. But in a Jan. 18 speech, Moise warned his political opponents that the country’s new intelligence agency was keeping watch and that any “vagabonds” found to be handing out money to encourage people to protest would face consequences.News of Cassy’s arrest spread quickly on social media, sparking outrage from Haitians and the diaspora. VOA Creole reporters said they saw tires burning on some streets of the capital and that makeshift barricades were erected, including in front of the police station where Cassy was being held.Meanwhile, opposition politicians, who tend to disagree on most topics, rallied to support the senator, calling on Moise to rescind the arrest order.”Senator Nenel Cassy has just been arrested in Miragoane at the office of the director of the police department in accordance with an order from President Jovenel Moise,” lawyer and opposition leader Andre Michel tweeted from Miragoane. “The battle for the respect of the constitution must be sped up. Unacceptable. Shut down the country.”Le Sénateur Nenel Cassy vient d’être arrêté à Miragoane au bureau du Directeur départemental de la Police, conformément aux instructions du Président Jovenel Moise. La bataille pour le respect de la constitution doit prendre sa vitesse de croisière. Inacceptable!! Bloke peyi a .— Me. André Michel (@avokapepla) Senator Youri Latortue says the opposition stands united against President Jovenel Moise, Jan. 22, 2021. (Matiado Vilme/VOA)During his press conference Friday, Cassy decried the harassment he and his family have endured at the hands of the Moise government.”My security guards were arrested and released after six months because they couldn’t find anything to charge them with. They arrested my mother a few days ago in Miragoane, they shot at me, they arrested me, the country has become a living hell for me under the PHTK government (Pati Ayisyen Tet Kale – President Moise’s ruling party),” Cassy said.In the past, the opposition leader, who has frequently participated in anti-government protests, has criticized Moise for not curbing crime, addressing the economic crisis or human rights abuses and for ruling by decree. On Wednesday, he joined a group of peaceful protesters near the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince to call on the new Biden administration not to support the Moise government and to demand Moise resign on Feb. 7.Pressure from US, international communityIn 2020, Haiti faced increased pressure from the Trump administration, the Organization of American States and the United Nations to hold elections as soon as possible. On the campaign trail, then-candidate Joe Biden had promised Haitians and Haitian Americans that he would work with Haiti’s government to hold elections as soon as possible.A few days before the Christmas holiday, a joint statement issued by Representatives Andy Levin, a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee; Gregory Meeks, incoming chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee; and Albio Sires, chair of the Western Hemisphere civilian security and trade subcommittee, said they were watching events unfold in Haiti with “growing concern.”“Haitian President Jovenel Moise is pursuing an increasingly authoritarian course of action, issuing a series of recent decrees that include creating an extraconstitutional domestic ‘intelligence’ force,” the statement said. “His latest actions are reminiscent of past anti-democratic abuses the Haitian people have endured, including the run-up to the Duvalier dictatorship. We will not stand idly by while Haiti devolves into chaos.”Haiti’s ambassador to the United States, Bocchit Edmond, expressed outrage about the statement in an exclusive interview with VOA in December.“It saddens us to see democratic officials call for a transitional government. We don’t think that going through a transition again will help Haiti,” Edmond said.The ambassador questioned the feasibility of the January 2021 timeframe suggested by the U.S. to hold elections. He told VOA the Moise government believes an overhaul of the current constitution is necessary first and that there are plans to hold a referendum on that in spring 2021.“I think we have already met them in the middle,” Edmond told VOA. “We have agreed to elections. President Moise has done his job in naming an electoral council. We are working on possible calendars to submit now.”Haiti’s presidential and legislative elections are now scheduled for September 2021.In the meantime, the newly reinvigorated and united opposition vows to keep protesting in the streets to demand Moise respect the constitution and step down on Feb. 7.  

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Brazil to Receive More COVID-19 Vaccines Friday as President Defends Government Effort

Brazil expects to receive 2 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine Friday in its buildup to launching a mass immunization program.
 
The vaccine is due to arrive a day after President Jair Bolsonaro fended off criticism by health officials over whether Brazil has enough vaccine to begin its nationwide immunization program.
 
Bolsonaro, who has long played down the impact of the coronavirus, even after he contracted the disease, said the government will provide the vaccine to all Brazilians free of charge.    
 
However, health officials say the country’s 6 million doses of the China-based Coronavac vaccine and nearly 5 million doses of the vaccine on order is well below what is needed to immunize Brazilians.
 
A second wave of coronavirus cases and concern over the government’s ability to secure more vaccine prompted the new mayor of Rio de Janeiro, Eduardo Paes, to tweet Thursday that it will not be possible to host annual carnival celebrations in July.
 
Brazil has more than 8.6 million coronavirus cases and 212,831 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University Resource Center.  
 
Brazil’s COVID-19 mortality total is second only to the United States’ 406,417 deaths as of Thursday evening.

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Brazil to Receive More COVID-19 Vaccine Friday

Brazil expects to receive 2 million doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine Friday in its buildup to launching a mass immunization program.The vaccine is due to arrive a day after President Jair Bolsonaro fended off criticism by health officials over whether Brazil has enough vaccine to begin its nationwide immunization program.Bolsonaro, who has long played down the impact of the coronavirus, even after he contracted the disease, said the government will provide the vaccine to all Brazilians free of charge.However, health officials say the country’s 6 million doses of the China-based Coronavac vaccine and nearly 5 million doses of the vaccine on order is well below what is needed to immunize Brazilians.A second wave of coronavirus cases and concern over the government’s ability to secure more vaccine prompted the new mayor of Rio de Janeiro, Eduardo Paes, to tweet Thursday that it will not be possible to host annual carnival celebrations in July.Brazil has more than 8.6 million coronavirus cases and 212,831 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.Brazil’s COVID-19 mortality total is second only to the United States’ 406,417 deaths as of Thursday evening.

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Latin American Leaders Congratulate Biden, Harris

Latin American leaders from Peru, Venezuela and Colombia are extending congratulations to U.S. President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.Colombian President Ivan Duque described Biden’s inaugural speech as transcending, saying his call for unity among the people of the United States and his call for the construction of common goals in the midst of differences has important repercussions in the world.Duque also said the 200-year-old diplomatic relationship between the United States and Colombia continues to strengthen toward common goals.Peruvian President Francisco Sagest said, his country is optimistic about a future of greater cooperation, investment, and trade with the United States.Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro wished Biden luck with a direct appeal to change the U.S. policies toward Venezuela.Biden has not commented publicly on U.S. policy toward Venezuela since taking office Wednesday, but his nominee for secretary of state, Antony Blinken, showed support for Maduro’s rival, Juan Guaido during his Senate confirmation hearing, according to ABC news.The U.S. and several western nations have favored opposition leader Guaido as Venezuela’s recognized leader, following the disputed 2018 presidential elections.

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