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Posts tagged as Colombia

Thousands of Venezuela volunteers receive US aid

CARACAS: Thousands of volunteers in Venezuela will begin mobilizing on Sunday to bring American aid into their crisis-hit country despite a blockade by President Nicolas Maduro who claims the assistance could be cover for a US invasion.
But even as the political battle pitting Guaido against Maduro continued to deepen, Caracas confirmed talks had taken place with an envoy for US President Donald Trump’s administration.The oil-rich country’s economic meltdown under Maduro has left millions in poverty facing shortages of medicine and food, with hyperinflation making purchases impossible.US aid that has been piling up in the Colombian border town of Cucuta has become the frontline of the confrontation between Guaido and Maduro.
“Venezuela is preparing for the humanitarian avalanche,” Guaido told about 4,000 supporters clad in white T-shirts and green scarves who gathered Saturday to sign up as volunteers.The throng included doctors, nurses and students.Six hundred thousand people have registered to help bring aid in through border points, Guaido told the Caracas rally, asking the volunteers to meet in town councils on Sunday to get instructions about the process.Without revealing details that could jeopardize the operation, Guaido said volunteer brigades will travel in a bus caravan to entry points for the aid which he wants to come in next Saturday.
Coromoto Crespo, 58, told AFP he volunteered because of the urgent need for supplies. “To find medicines requires a miracle.I need tablets for high blood pressure, and what I find, I cant pay for,” Crespo said.”One of my relatives died because of a lack of antibiotics.” Guaido has targeted February 23 for entry of the aid, more of which arrived for the stockpile on Saturday. Three US military cargo planes delivered several dozen more tons (tonnes) of food assistance to Cucuta.
Another US aircraft is due in the Caribbean island of Curacao from Miami on Tuesday, and a collection center for Brazilian aid will open Monday on the border, Guaido’s team said. The US shipment Saturday was accompanied by a delegation led by Mark Green, head of the US Agency for International Development.
US assistance has been blocked by containers which Maduro loyalists placed on a border bridge to prevent access. On another front, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza confirmed having held two meetings with special US envoy Elliott Abrams.
Arreaza, who traveled to New York on February 13, said he held the talks with Abrams at the request of the State Department. He declined to comment on the substance of their discussions.Guaido repeated his call on Venezuelas military — whose support for Maduro has been crucial — to let the aid pass. “You have, in your hands, the possibility of fighting alongside the people who are suffering the same shortages you are,” Guaido said in a tweet addressed to soldiers.A State Department spokeswoman, Julie Chung, issued a similar plea during a news conference in Cucuta, urging the military to stand aside at a time when Venezuelans are “dying of hunger.”Maduro asserts that aid could be used as a way for the United States to invade.
He called for reinforced border security and dismissed the arriving “crumbs” as “rotten and contaminated food.”On Friday Maduro instructed his army to prepare a “special deployment plan” for the 2,200-kilometer (1,370-mile) border with Colombia.He said he would examine “what new forces” might be needed to keep the frontier “inviolable.”Maduro has assailed the US aid as a “show” but Arreaza said he would be willing to meet with “the devil” if it helped ensure Venezuelan sovereignty.About 2.3 million Venezuelans have fled the country since 2015 as the crisis intensified, according to the United Nations.Guaido accuses Maduro of being a “usurper” over his controversial reelection last year in polls widely branded as fraudulent. Maduro, the hand-picked successor to socialist firebrand Hugo Chavez, blames Venezuelas woes on US sanctions, more of which were added on Friday.He said six million families had benefited from subsidized food boxes and he claimed to have bought 933 tons of medicines and medical supplies from China, Cuba and Russia, his main international allies. “We paid for it with our own money because we’re beggars to no one,” Maduro said.

Once-wealthy Venezuela is gripped by a power struggle between socialist leader Maduro and Juan Guaido, the head of the National Assembly who proclaimed himself interim president last month and now has the backing of more than 50 countries.But even as the political battle pitting Guaido against Maduro continued to deepen, Caracas confirmed talks had taken place with an envoy for US President Donald Trump’s administration.The oil-rich country’s economic meltdown under Maduro has left millions in poverty facing shortages of medicine and food, with hyperinflation making purchases impossible.US aid that has been piling up in the Colombian border town of Cucuta has become the frontline of the confrontation between Guaido and Maduro.
“Venezuela is preparing for the humanitarian avalanche,” Guaido told about 4,000 supporters clad in white T-shirts and green scarves who gathered Saturday to sign up as volunteers.The throng included doctors, nurses and students.Six hundred thousand people have registered to help bring aid in through border points, Guaido told the Caracas rally, asking the volunteers to meet in town councils on Sunday to get instructions about the process.Without revealing details that could jeopardize the operation, Guaido said volunteer brigades will travel in a bus caravan to entry points for the aid which he wants to come in next Saturday.
Coromoto Crespo, 58, told AFP he volunteered because of the urgent need for supplies. “To find medicines requires a miracle.I need tablets for high blood pressure, and what I find, I can´t pay for,” Crespo said.”One of my relatives died because of a lack of antibiotics.” Guaido has targeted February 23 for entry of the aid, more of which arrived for the stockpile on Saturday. Three US military cargo planes delivered several dozen more tons (tonnes) of food assistance to Cucuta.Another US aircraft is due in the Caribbean island of Curacao from Miami on Tuesday, and a collection center for Brazilian aid will open Monday on the border, Guaido’s team said. The US shipment Saturday was accompanied by a delegation led by Mark Green, head of the US Agency for International Development.US assistance has been blocked by containers which Maduro loyalists placed on a border bridge to prevent access. On another front, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza confirmed having held two meetings with special US envoy Elliott Abrams.
Arreaza, who traveled to New York on February 13, said he held the talks with Abrams at the request of the State Department. He declined to comment on the substance of their discussions.Guaido repeated his call on Venezuela´s military  whose support for Maduro has been crucial — to let the aid pass. “You have, in your hands, the possibility of fighting alongside the people who are suffering the same shortages you are,” Guaido said in a tweet addressed to soldiers.A State Department spokeswoman, Julie Chung, issued a similar plea during a news conference in Cucuta, urging the military to stand aside at a time when Venezuelans are “dying of hunger.”Maduro asserts that aid could be used as a way for the United States to invade.He called for reinforced border security and dismissed the arriving “crumbs” as “rotten and contaminated food.”On Friday Maduro instructed his army to prepare a “special deployment plan” for the 2,200-kilometer (1,370-mile) border with Colombia.He said he would examine “what new forces” might be needed to keep the frontier “inviolable.”Maduro has assailed the US aid as a “show” but Arreaza said he would be willing to meet with “the devil” if it helped ensure Venezuelan sovereignty.About 2.3 million Venezuelans have fled the country since 2015 as the crisis intensified, according to the United Nations.Guaido accuses Maduro of being a “usurper” over his controversial reelection last year in polls widely branded as fraudulent. Maduro, the hand-picked successor to socialist firebrand Hugo Chavez, blames Venezuela´s woes on US sanctions, more of which were added on Friday.He said six million families had benefited from subsidized food boxes and he claimed to have bought 933 tons of medicines and medical supplies from China, Cuba and Russia, his main international allies. “We paid for it with our own money because we’re beggars to no one,” Maduro said.

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GoTrendier raises $3.5 million to take on Spanish-language fashion marketplaces

GoTrendier, a peer-to-peer fashion marketplace operative in Mexico and Colombia, has raised $3.5 million USD to do just that. And investors are 5 million to take on Spanish-language fashion marketplaces 14 hours Thanks to environmentally conscious young buyers, throwaway culture is dying not only in the U.S. but also in Latin America and startups are poised to jump in with services to help people recycle used clothing. GoTrendier, a peer-to-peer fashion marketplace operative in Mexico and Colombia, has raised $3.5 million USD to do just that.And investors are eyeing the startup as the digital fashion marketplace growth leader in Spanish-speaking countries. GoTrendier, founded by Belén Cabido, is a platform that lets users buy and sell secondhand clothing. Cabido tells me that the new capital will enable GoTrendier to expand deeper into Mexico and Colombia, and launch in a new country: Chile. GoTrendier enables users to buy and sell used items through the GoTrendier site and app.The platform categorizes users as either salespeople or buyers. Salespeople create their own stores by uploading photos of garments along with a description and sale price.
Buyers browse the platform for deals and once a buyer bites, the seller is given a prepaid shipping label. Sound familiar? Businesses like Poshmark and GoTrendier have no actual inventory, which allows the companies to take on less of a risk by having smaller overhead costs.In turn, the company acts as more of a social community for fashion exchanges.In order to make money, Poshmark takes a flat commission of $2.95 for sales under $15. For anything more than that, the seller keeps 80 percent of their sale and Harvard Business School study.GoTrendier has a similar commission pricing strategy, taking 20 percent off plus an additional nine pesos (about 48 cents in U.S currency) for all purchases. But these companies are also largely venture-backed.In the case of GoTrendier, tGoTrendier amassed a user base of 1.3 million buyers and sellers throughout its four years of existence.
The service operates in Mexico and Colombia, and will use its newest capital to launch in Chile another market Cabido says is experiencing high demand for a secondhand fashion buying and selling service.Online marketplace companies are growing in Latin America as smartphone adoption and digital banking services multiply in the region.But international expansion has proven to be an issue. EnjoeiMany have remarked that Latin Americas tech scene is filled with copycats or companies that emulate the business models of American or European startups and bring the same service to their home market.
In order to secure bigger foreign investment checks, founders from growing tech regions like Latin America certainly must invent proprietary technologies. Yet theres still value and capital in so-called copycat businesses.
Why? Because the users are there and in some cases its just easier to start up.According to investor Sergio Pérez of Sabadell Venture Capital, The volume of the market for buying and selling second-hand clothes in the world was 360 million transactions in 2017 and is expected to reach 400 million in 2022.
A 2018 report from ThredUp also claimed that the size of the global secondhand market is set to hit $41 billion by 2022. The throwaway culture is disappearing thanks to environmentally conscious millennial buyers.As designer Stella McCartney famously said, The future of fashion is circular – it will be restorative and regenerative by design and the clothes we love never end up as waste.” By buying on GoTrendier, the company claims its users have been able to save USD $12 million and have avoided more than 1,000 tons of CO2 emissions.
Founders building companies in Latin America arent necessarily as capital-hungry as Silicon Valley-based founders, (where a Series A can now equate to $68 million, apparently). Cabido tells me her company is able to fulfill operations and marketing needs with a lean staff of 30, noting that theres a lot of natural demand for buying and selling used clothing in these regions, thus creating organic growth for her business.
She wasnt looking to raise capital, but investors had their eye on her. [Investors] saw the tension of the marketplace, and we demonstrated that GoTrendiers user base could be bigger and bigger, she says.With sights set on new markets like Chile and Peru, Cabido decided to move forward and close the round.  Poshmark, which benefits from indirect and same-side network effects, has raised $153 million to date from investors like Temasek Holdings, GGV and Menlo Ventures.

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The Rushdie Fatwa, Thirty Years Later

Thirty years ago today, the then ruler of Iran, the Ayatollah Khomeini, sent a valentine to Salman Rushdie in the form of a fatwa.His fourth novel, The Satanic Verses (1988), featured a storyline about Muhammed and the Koran that was deemed blasphemous throughout the Muslim world, leading the novel to be banned in over a dozen countries.The fatwa condemned Rushdie, his publishers, and his editors to death, and called on “all valiant Muslims wherever they may be in the world to kill them without delay, so that no one will dare insult the sacred beliefs of Muslims henceforth.” Khomeini’s government announced that anyone who assassinated Rushdie would receive $6 million, if he survived, and instant martyrdom in Heaven, if he didn’t.The fact that Rushdie, an outspoken leftist, had joined many other cultural-elite types in supporting the overthrow of the Shah apparently didn’t impress Khomeini enough to keep him from ordering Rushdie’s murder. At that time, the word fatwa was unfamiliar outside the Muslim world.Indeed, for most people in the West, the idea of the long arm of Islam reaching out from that primitive corner of the planet and into the civilized West was a relatively new idea – even though, in historical terms, it was a very old idea, dating back to Islam’s seventh-century founding. Even the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre was widely seen not as a strike against the Free World that was motivated by Islamic ideology but, rather, as an act of Palestinian Jew-hatred There was also, of course, the Iran hostage crisis of 1979-81, but that event, although it involved the detention of fifty-two Americans and had been in the news for 444 days straight, had occurred in Tehran, not in the West, and, in any event, hadn’t exactly been perceived as an act of terrorism.
So it was that at the time of the Rushdie fatwa, terrorism was still associated in the Western mind less with Islam than with the Irish Republican Army, with FARC and other groups in Colombia, with Basque separatists in Spain, with Shining Path in Peru, and with the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing by Timothy McVeigh. Hence the idea of some religious leader in Iran ordering the death of a prominent British subject struck many in the West as grotesque, absurd – a joke, even.
But it soon became clear that this was no joke. Bookstores in the U.S. and Britain were bombed.Copies of the book were publicly burned in a number of British cities. Across the Muslim world, dozens died in anti-Rushdie riots.
In 1991, the book’s Italian translator was beaten and stabbed and its Japanese translator murdered; in 1993, William Nygaard, its Norwegian publisher, was shot several times outside his home, but survived. (Nygaard would live to publish the 2004 memoirs of child-murdering terrorist Mullah Krekar and to host Krekar at a garden party.) The fatwa also exposed for the first time the readiness of many Western political leaders and cultural icons to appease Islamic bullies – a readiness that, thirty years later, continues to define much of the Western establishment. Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter called The Satanic Verses “a direct insult to millions of Muslims.” Muslim leader Iqbal Sacranie, whom Tony Blair would later award with a knighthood, said that death was perhaps too easy a punishment for Rushdie. Hugh Trevor-Roper, one of Britain’s most respected historians, said he “would not shed a tear” if a pack of Muslims “were to waylay [Rushdie] in a dark street.” Archbishop of Canterbury Robert Runcie denounced the book. So did John Cardinal O’Connor, Archbishop of New York.
So did John Paul II’s Vatican. Its importation into Canada was forbidden.
Major U.S.bookstore chains stopped carrying it, and publishers in France, West Germany, and other countries dropped plans to publish it. To their credit, most Western governments criticized the fatwa, with some of them temporarily withdrawing their ambassadors to Tehran.
A great many writers also (eventually) voiced their solidarity with Rushdie. But not all of them did: children’s author Roald Dahl called Rushdie an “opportunist,” the premise apparently being that he had deliberately invited the fatwa in order to garner free publicity, while Germaine Greer refused to stand up for him, saying he was a “megalomaniac.” As for Rushdie himself, he and his wife went into hiding immediately after the fatwa was declared, and were given full police protection by orders of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (whom Rushdie despised); understandably, Rushdie offered Khomeini an apology, but the ayatollah was having none of it, and reiterated the need to “send him to Hell.” The Rushdie affair, as I have noted, taught many Westerners a new word: fatwa.
But at the time, relatively few people in the West recognized it as a lesson in a much broader topic – namely, Islam. Yes, the episode taught millions that Islam takes blasphemy very seriously and that Muslim leaders feel empowered to order hits on their enemies.
But few high-profile Western commentators extrapolated very far beyond the particulars of the episode. Since no modern Western cultural production had sparked anywhere near such fury in the Islamic world, most Westerners, I gather, developed the impression that Khomeini was a particularly testy kind of a Muslim and that Rushdie, who had been raised in that faith, had knowingly ventured out onto a minefield.This was not to say that people in the West thought Rushdie had it coming, but rather that they considered it unlikely that such a case would arise again anytime soon. Rare indeed were those in the West who seriously entertained the possibility that this was not a one-off but the beginning of a new chapter in the history of relations between Islam and the West.
And why should that possibility have occurred to them? In 1988, almost no one in the West was aware of the core Islamic concept of jihad, or of the long history of jihad against the West that dated back to Islam’s birth. Although the Rushdie affair made worldwide headlines for months, there were few if any informed attempts in prominent Western media to contextualize it by enlightening the general public about Islamic law and doctrine.
Consequently, few in the West imagined that the Rushdie fatwa, coming at a time when Communism was beginning to fall in Eastern Europe, might mark the rekindling of a centuries-long war with another totalitarian enemy. Even at the height of the fatwa drama, then, virtually nobody in the West could have foreseen what the next three decades would bring on this front.Who imagined that, on a September morning twelve years after the ayatollah announced his fatwa, Islam’s contempt for Western freedom and Western lives would be manifested in an attack more breathtaking than any in human history, and that that attack, which took thousands of lives, would be followed by dozens of deadly, large-scale jihadist assaults on Western metropolises? Who imagined that, despite these acts of mass murder, Western countries would continue to welcome to their shores armies of Muslim immigrants, shower them with welfare benefits, tolerate their violent crimes, and surrender to their increasingly aggressive demands that Western society and culture be made sharia-compliant? Who imagined that mainstream Western publishers, news media, and film and TV producers would routinely celebrate Islam, even as they systematically smeared its critics and denied them a platform? Who imagined that people in Western countries who dared to speak the truth about Islam would be harassed by the police and dragged into court? Who imagined that countless Western political leaders, law-enforcement officers, social workers, and journalists would cover up the brutal organized rape of thousands of “infidel” girls by Muslim rape gangs? And, having asked all of the above questions, let us ask one more: now, in 2019, who among us would dare to predict what the Western world will look like thirty years from now?

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