Devastated Guatemala Hit by 5.6-Magnitude Earthquake

Disaster officials say there have been no reports of damages.

An earthquake measuring 5.6 has hit Guatemala as they recover from the devastating effects of Volcano Fuego, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) said.

RELATED:  Guatemala Volcano Search Called Off Despite 200 Unaccounted For

The tremor hit at late Sunday and was felt in El Salvador. According to authorities, strong shaking was felt from the earthquake which was located at a depth of 100 kilometers about 67 kilometers southwest of Guatemala City.

Disaster officials say there have been no reports of damages.

The quake came two weeks the volcano erupted leaving dozens dead, injured, or missing. Some 110 people died and about 200 are still missing following the eruption in May.

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Authorities, on Sunday, called off a search for the missing.

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US Should Stop Detaining Migrants, Separating Children: United Nations

Geneva: The United Nations called on the United States on Tuesday to stop detaining irregular migrant families and separating children on its frontier with Mexico, saying this broke the law.

Several hundred children crossing the southern U.S. border have been held in custody since October 2017 following an executive order issued by President Donald Trump when he took office in January 2016, it said.

"The U.S. should immediately halt this practice of separating families and stop criminalising what should at most be an administrative offence - that of irregular entry or stay in the U.S.," U.N. human rights spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani told a briefing in Geneva.

"Entering a country without the relevant papers should not be a criminal offence...so these people should not be detained," she said, adding that some children were very young, including a one-year-old infant.

Poverty, as well as deepening violence from criminal gangs and drug traffickers has driven hundreds of thousands of Central Americans to try to cross the U.S. border illegally or seek asylum in the country.

The Trump administration will soon begin fingerprinting parents claiming custody of children who entered the United States illegally without an adult relative, officials said a week ago, prompting criticism that children may be abandoned by those who fear being identified and deported.

Shamdasani, asked about comments by senior U.S. officials that it was normal to remove children from parents in custody, said: "There is nothing normal about detaining children.

"Detention is never in the best interests of the child and always constitutes a child rights violation," she said.

The United States - the only country in the world not to have ratified the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child - still has obligations as a signatory to that treaty and as a party that has ratified other rights treaties, Shamdasani said

"Our position is that preserving family unity is a fundamental tenet of refugee protection," U.N. refugee agency spokesman William Spindler said.

Most crossing the U.S. southern border are from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador where there is rampant violence and persecution targetting children and youth, he said.

"The fact that you have people coming from countries experiencing violence and might be subject to persecution by gangs and other criminal violence, would certainly ... give them the right to receive international protection," Spindler said.

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Opposition Alliance Candidate Leads Honduran Presidential Elections

Tegucigalpa, Nov 27 (Prensa Latina) The presidential candidate of the Opposition Alliance, Salvador Nasralla, is ahead by almost five points of the president Juan Orlando Hernández, of the ruling National Party, after the first result of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) of Honduras released today.

Judge David Matamoros said that Nasralla adds 855,847 votes, representing 45.17 percent, with 57 percent of the polling stations counted.

Hernandez, on the other hand, accumulates 761,872 votes, equivalent to 40.21 percent of the tables, he added.

Before the first cut of the vote count, presented by the TSE 10 hours after the closing of the polls, both candidates proclaimed themselves winners of the general elections held yesterday.

In third place is the candidate of the Liberal Party, Luis Zelaya, with 260,994 votes (13.17 percent).

The elections were held normally, according to national and international observers, despite the controversy over Hernandez's aspiration to be reelected in office, an unprecedented fact since the return of Honduras to democracy in 1980.

The opposition considers the postulation of the president institutional, because the Honduran Magna Carta, in force since 1982, prohibits re-election under any modality, but a ruling by the judiciary in 2015 left that possibility open.

Nine candidates from 10 political parties participated in the contest that called for more than six million citizens.

In addition to the presidency of the country, Hondurans voted for some 3,000 public offices, including the 128 deputies to the National Congress and 20 to the Central American Parliament, as well as the municipal councils of 298 mayoralties.

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Tropical Storm Nate Prompts Gulf Coast Hurricane Warnings Ahead of Weekend Landfall; Hurricane Threat For Cancún Tonight

The center of Tropical Storm Nate is churning over the Caribbean Sea north of Honduras.

Nate will make its closest approach to Cancún and Cozumel Friday night, where a hurricane watch and tropical storm warning is in effect.

Preparations should be rushed to completion in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula.

Nate will then make landfall along the northern Gulf Coast late Saturday night or early Sunday as either a hurricane or a tropical storm.

Hurricane and storm surge warnings and watches have been issued for the U.S. northern Gulf Coast.

Nate will produce a swath of heavy rain from the Gulf Coast to the Appalachians and possibly parts of the Northeast.

Torrential rain will also trigger serious flash flooding and mudslides in much of Central America the next few days.

Tropical Storm Nate has is gaining strength over the warm water of the northwest Caribbean Sea, poised for a strike on Cancún and Cozumel tonight, then on the northern Gulf Coast Saturday night and Sunday, where hurricane warnings have now been posted.

This is a developing weather story, for the latest forecast on Nate, including expected impacts along the U.S. Gulf Coast, check out our latest forecast article here.

 

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New Investigation Exposes US Support for 2009 Honduras Coup

U.S. officials were more concerned with maintaining military power in Honduras than overturning the coup, the investigation reveals.

A new investigation conducted by the Center for Economic and Policy Research, CEPR, reveals key details involving U.S. officials and their support for the 2009 coup in Honduras that ousted former President Manuel Zelaya.

RELATED: Honduran General Election Campaigning Kicks Off

The investigation, published by The Intercept, was based on military intelligence documents and interviews with Honduran and U.S. officials. It focuses on the Pentagon and the United States Southern Command, SOUTHCOM, and their interests in ensuring the success of the coup against Zelaya by the country's military.

Here’s what CEPR found:

- A top U.S. military official met with Honduran coup plotters a day prior to the coup, demonstrating that they knew about the forthcoming ouster. 
- A Honduran military official’s warning to the U.S. ambassador was met with “indifference.”
- A retired U.S. general provided assistance to Honduran military leaders advocating for the coup, according to interviewed sources, confirming previous allegations.
- U.S. military officials were guided by an “obsessive concern” with former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s growing influence in the region as opposed to domestic Honduran issues. 

Overall, what the investigation demonstrates is that the Pentagon's main interest was to maintain close relations with close Honduran military allies, rather than overturning the coup.

“This is a story that reveals much about how foreign policy works in general, not just in Honduras,” CEPR Research Associate Jake Johnston said in a statement.

“The investigation shows the often hidden roles that various actors within the U.S. foreign policy establishment play in determining and carrying out policy. What’s clear is that personal relationships matter just as much as any official policy position announced in Washington.”

RELATED: Honduras Marks 8 Years Since US-Backed Coup Against Zelaya

Prior to his removal, Zelaya sought to hold a non-binding, nationwide poll on whether to include a fourth ballot box in the forthcoming elections to usher in a National Constituent Assembly for the rewriting of the country’s constitution. The effort was intended to democratize the country’s laws, which have traditionally favored the Honduran elite. 

Zelaya had also begun forging ties with progressive Latin American governments — like Venezuela, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Cuba and Bolivia — while joining the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America, ALBA.

On June 28, 2009, high ranking army officials received orders issued by the Supreme Court to detain Zelaya and transferred him, by force, to Costa Rica.

In 2010, Zelaya was allowed to return to Honduras, a country that plunged into rampant violence following the coup. Since then, hundreds of social activists and dozens of journalists have been killed by suspected right-wing death squads.

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Adrian becomes earliest tropical storm on record in eastern Pacific

The official start of the eastern Pacific hurricane season is May 15, but the first tropical system of the year has already formed.

An area of showers and thunderstorms rapidly organized on Tuesday, becoming the earliest tropical depression and tropical storm on record in the eastern Pacific Ocean since reliable data began in 1966. The previous record for the earliest tropical depression was on May 12, 1990. This depression strengthened to Tropical Storm Alma on May 14.

“With water temperatures off western Central America above normal and relatively low wind shear, conditions will be conducive for further strengthening,” AccuWeather Meteorologist Steve Travis said.

As a result, Adrian is forecast to strengthen into a hurricane prior to threatening land.

While the storm is currently located well off the coast of Mexico and Central America and moving west-northwest, a northward turn is expected later this week.

This turn to the north will bring the strengthening cyclone closer to the coast of southern Mexico this weekend and early next week.

“The most likely area to endure significant impacts from this system extends from southern Mexico to Guatemala,” said AccuWeather senior Meteorologist Rob Miller.

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Nicaragua Condemns Proposed Imperial US Sanctions as Irrational

The reintroduction of the “Nica Act” in U.S. Congress is seen as part of an ongoing threat to destabilize Nicaragua's government.

Nicaragua’s National Assembly on Thursday approved a statement to reject U.S. financial sanctions on the country, known as the “Nica Act,” which is seen as an attack to destabilize the country and President Daniel Ortega’s government.

RELATED: Here We Go Again: Washington's War on Democracy in Nicaragua

The statement against the sanctions was approved by 91 members of the National Assembly, from both members of the ruling Sandinista National Liberation, FSLN, and the opposition Constitutionalist Liberal Party.

“The Nica Act appears as a proposal, blind, deaf, and irrational, conceived by insensitive minds, troublemakers, and completely closed to recognize the rights of Nicaraguans to live away from the conflicts of the past,” the Nicaraguan statement read.

On Wednesday, a group of Congress members in the U.S. reintroduced the Nicaraguan Investment Act Conditionality Act, which will aim to slap Ortega's government with financial sanctions for alleged human rights violations and an erosion of democratic standards. The 71-year-old Ortega, a former Sandinista guerrilla who won with 72.5 percent of the vote in his November re-election, has been in Washington's crosshairs since the 1980s when President Ronald Reagan was in office.

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Sanctions could block Nicaragua from requesting loans from the Inter-American Development Bank and the World Bank, which currently contributes around US$250 million dollars annually to the country.

Nicaraguan Vice President Rosario Murillo labeled the move to reintroduce the act “reactionary and interventionist” and sought to “undermine the right of Nicaragua to continue developing the socialist model.”

RELATED: Meet the Sex Workers Replacing Cops in Sandinista-Run Nicaragua

Second Secretary of the National Assembly Wilfredo Navarro warned that the sanctions could roll back the achievements of the Ortega government, which has been able to reduce poverty, improve security, lower crime, stamp out illiteracy and boost economic growth. 

The Organization of American States last year urged U.S. Congress to reconsider the Nica Act, arguing that it would not be a “constructive contribution” to strengthen democracy in Nicaragua. OAS head Luis Almagro again reiterated these concerns on Wednesday in light of the act being introduced, even though he is leading efforts to undermine democracy in Venezuela. 

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Greater Integration, Central America's Challenge

Consolidating unity and meeting the demands of the people are today two of the greatest challenges for the Central American Integration System (SICA, in Spanish), whose member States have agreed to push forward a sustainable development.

On closing last night in Managua the 48th SICA Summit, Nicaragua's President Daniel Ortega said that the global economy imposes new challenges on the region's nations.

He suggested to work on re-founding SICA because despite advances the System is not meeting the demands of the regional people and those the global economy imposes.

Nicaragua has handed over SICA's pro-tempore Presidency to Costa Rica that will lead the bloc during the next six months.

Founded in February 1993, SICA is made up of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Belize and Dominican Republic.

In the face of today's challenges, the more integrated and united we are, the better and stronger we'll be to deal with global trade, tackle poverty, hunger and provide better welfare for our people, stressed the Nicaraguan President.

Ortega insisted that despite the region's economic indicators are not bad and they have been able to sort out the international crisis, we can do better and advance even more through integration a unity.

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