Amy Goodman speaks to University of Chicago professor Bruce Cumings, author of several books on the Koreas, and Christine Ahn, founder and international coordinator of Women Cross DMZ, about ousted South Korean leader Park Geun-hye and North Korea’s latest missile test. (Democracy Now!)
An Indonesian woman arrested for suspected involvement in the killing of the North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un’s half-brother in Malaysia was duped into thinking she was part of a comedy show prank, Indonesia’s national police chief has said, citing information received from Malaysian authorities.
Meanwhile, Malaysian police said on Saturday they had arrested a North Korean man in connection with the murder.
The man was identified as Ri Jong Chol, born in 1970. He was arrested on Friday night in Selangor state, the police said in a statement. He is the fourth suspect to be arrested.
Indonesia’s national police chief, Tito Karnavian, told reporters in Indonesia’s Aceh province that the Indonesian woman, 25-year-old Siti Aisyah, was paid to be involved in pranks .
He said she and another woman performed stunts which involved convincing men to close their eyes and then spraying them with water.
The United States and China will fight a war within the next 10 years over islands in the South China Sea, and “there’s no doubt about that”. At the same time, the US will be in another “major” war in the Middle East.
Those are the views – nine months ago at least – of one of the most powerful men in Donald Trump’s administration, Steve Bannon, the former head of far-right news website Breitbart who is now chief strategist at the White House.
In the first weeks of Trump’s presidency, Bannon has emerged as a central figure. He was appointed to the “principals committee” of the National Security Council in a highly unusual move and was influential in the recent travel ban on citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries, overruling Department of Homeland Security officials who felt the order did not apply to green card holders.
While many in Trump’s team are outspoken critics of China, in radio shows Bannon hosted for Breitbart he makes plain the two largest threats to America: China and Islam.
At the Republican party convention in Cleveland last July, Trump donor Peter Thiel declared himself ‘“most of all, proud to be an American”. So it came as something of a surprise for New Zealanders to discover that the PayPal co-founder and Facebook board member had become an honorary Kiwi – joining a growing band of wealthy Americans seeking a haven from a possible global apocalypse.
Thiel was recently revealed to have bought a £4.5m lakeside property near the New Zealand town of Wanaka in 2015. When New Zealand Herald reporter Matt Nippert asked why Thiel had been allowed to buy land that appears to fit the classification of “sensitive” without permission from the country’s Overseas Investment Office, he was told it wasn’t necessary – Thiel was already a citizen.
The revelation was met with confusion. By the time of his appearance at the Republican convention, Thiel had already bought 193 hectares of pristine South Island land using his rights as a Kiwi. Politicians asked why a billionaire most famous for adamantly supporting Donald Trump and bankrolling the lawsuits that bankrupted Gawker Media had been allowed not only to buy land in New Zealand, but to make the country part of his future and identity. Winston Peters, leader of the New Zealand First party, accused the National government of “selling citizenship” to foreigners.
The new U.S. administration must fully understand the importance of the “one China” policy and appreciate that the issue of Taiwan is highly sensitive for the Beijing government, China said on Monday.
U.S. President Donald Trump, who was inaugurated on Friday, said in December the United States did not necessarily have to stick to its long-standing position that Taiwan is part of “one China”.
Earlier, Trump broke with decades of precedent by taking a telephone call from Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen.
According to Beijing’s one China principle, Taiwan and mainland China are inalienable parts of a single “China”. Beijing views Taiwan as a wayward province, to be brought under its control by force if necessary.
However, proudly democratic Taiwan shows no interest in being ruled by Beijing.
Over the weekend China used the Trump inauguration to warn about the perils of democracy, touting the relative stability of the Communist system as President Xi Jinping heads toward a twice-a-decade reshuffle of senior leadership posts.
Without directly referencing the new president, China wrote that democracy has reached its limits, and deterioration is the inevitable future of capitalism, according to the People’s Daily, the flagship paper of China’s Communist Party. It devoted an entire page on Sunday to critiquing Western democracies, quoting former Chairman Mao Zedong’s 1949 poem asking people to “range far your eyes over long vistas” and saying the ultimate defeat of capitalism would enable Communism to emerge victorious.
“The emergence of capitalism’s social crisis is the most updated evidence to show the superiority of socialism and Marxism,” said one of the People’s Daily articles.
“Western style democracy used to be a recognized power in history to drive social development. But now it has reached its limits,” said another article on the same page. “Democracy is already kidnapped by the capitals and has become the weapon for capitalists to chase profits.”
Donald Trump has begun his effort to dismantle Barack Obama’s legacy, formally scrapping a flagship trade deal with 11 countries in the Pacific rim.
The new president also signed executive orders to ban funding for international groups that provide abortions, and placing a hiring freeze on non-military federal workers.
Trump’s decision not to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) came as little surprise. During his election campaign he railed against international trade deals, blaming them for job losses and focusing anger in the industrial heartland. Obama had argued that this deal would provide an effective counterweight to China in the region.
“Everyone knows what that means, right?” Trump said at Monday’s signing ceremony in the White House. “We’ve been talking about this for a long time. It’s a great thing for the American worker.”
Within mere minutes of his inauguration, President Trump’s White House website laid out a series of new policy positions, including a promise to develop a “state-of-the-art” missile defense system to protect against both Iran and North Korea.
The statement was prominently positioned, underscoring it as a point of emphasis for the new administration, but provided no details on what the announcement actually means, and indeed whether or not it marks any change from the existing missile defense systems the US has been throwing money at over the years.
The US started bankrolling anti-Iran missile defense systems way back in the Bush Administration’s waning years, a sore subject in US-Russia relations because Bush was positioning them all right along the Russian frontier, and far outside the range of Iran’s best missiles. In more recent years, the US has been scrambling to get a system in place in South Korea targeting their neighbor to the north as well.
Dark clouds are gathering overhead for the world’s women. With the inauguration of Donald Trump the state of global gender relations will probably face another onslaught.
We’ve seen the bad behaviours against women that he has exhibited at a personal level.
Now what we must face up to is that his powerful public leadership status underscores a resurgence of the demagogic “strongman” in global politics. Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump, Xi Jinping, and of course the persistence of the strongman in the Middle East affects the tenor of global politics.
The macho leader, egotistic, unilateral and chest-thumping, worries us because of the grandstanding, bullying and violence that all too often follows in their wake.
What a strongman at the head of a nation also does is to impact our ideas of what it means to be a “man” and what is acceptable male behaviour at an ordinary day-to-day level. It sets a precedent about how men can or even must behave in order to be men and gives permission for treating women – or minorities – badly. It gives permission to regressive notions of gender relations which still fall desperately short of balance for the genders.
Japan has one of the lowest rates of gun crime in the world. In 2014 there were just six gun deaths, compared to 33,599 in the US. What is the secret?
If you want to buy a gun in Japan you need patience and determination. You have to attend an all-day class, take a written exam and pass a shooting-range test with a mark of at least 95%.
There are also mental health and drugs tests. Your criminal record is checked and police look for links to extremist groups. Then they check your relatives too – and even your work colleagues. And as well as having the power to deny gun licences, police also have sweeping powers to search and seize weapons.
That’s not all. Handguns are banned outright. Only shotguns and air rifles are allowed.
Happy New Year! May yours be peaceful, safe and impactful!
As tumultuous as last year was from a global political perspective on the back of a rocky start market-wise, 2017 will be much more so. The central bank subsidization of the financial system (especially in the US and Europe) that began with the Fed invoking zero interest rate policy in 2008, gave way to international distrust of the enabling status quo that unfolded in different ways across the planet. My prognosis is for more destabilization, financially and politically. In other words, the world’s a mess.
Over 2016, I circled the earth to gain insight and share my thoughts on this path from financial crisis to central bank market manipulation to geo-political fall out, while researching my new book, Artisans of Money. (I’m pressing to hand in my manuscript by February 28th – the book should emerge in the Fall.)
I traveled through countries Mexico, Brazil, China, Japan, England and Germany, nations epitomizing various elements of the artisanal money effect. I spoke with farmers, teachers and truck-drivers as well as politicians, private and central bankers. I explored that chasm between news and reality to investigate the ways in which elite power endlessly permeates the existence of regular people.
In last year’s roadmap, I wrote we were in a “transitional phase of geo-political-monetary power struggles, capital flow decisions, and fundamental economic choices. This remains a period of artisanal (central bank fabricated) money, high volatility, low growth, excessive wealth inequality, extreme speculation, and policies that preserve the appearance of big bank liquidity and concentration at the expense of long-term stability.”
That happened. Going forward, as always, there’s endless amount of information to process. The state of economies, citizens and governments remains more precarious than ever. Major areas on the upcoming docket include – central bank desperation, corporate defaults and related job losses, economic impact of political isolationism, conservatism and deregulation, South America’s woes, Europe’s EU voter rejections, and the ongoing power shift from the West to the East.
For now, I’d like to share with you some specific items – which are by no means exhaustive, that I’ll be analyzing in 2017.
It is not true that humanity cannot learn from history. It can and, in the case of the lessons of the dark period between 1914 and 1945, the west did. But it seems to have forgotten those lessons. We are living, once again, in an era of strident nationalism and xenophobia. The hopes of a brave new world of progress, harmony and democracy, raised by the market opening of the 1980s and the collapse of Soviet communism between 1989 and 1991, have turned into ashes.
What lies ahead for the US, creator and guarantor of the postwar liberal order, soon to be governed by a president who repudiates permanent alliances, embraces protectionism and admires despots? What lies ahead for a battered EU, contemplating the rise of “illiberal democracy” in the east, Brexit and the possibility of Marine Le Pen’s election to the French presidency?
What lies ahead now that Vladimir Putin’s irredentist Russia exerts increasing influence on the world and China has announced that Xi Jinping is not first among equals but a “core leader”?
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The political tumult that rocked the world in 2016 might be an appetizer for 2017.
Crucial elections loom this year in France and Germany, where the same anti-establishment backlash that produced Donald Trump and Brexit could offer an opening to nationalist leaders who oppose Muslim immigration and further erode the European unity that has been a signature of the post-World War II era.
The Middle East is spiraling deeper into the mire of fraying borders and sectarian disorder while violence in places such Syria is unleashing a tide of desperate refugees that is destabilizing Europe. Meanwhile, rising powers such as China, Russia and Iran are closely watching the developments to determine whether the convulsions in the West give them an opening to advance their own interests.
U.S. unilateralism under Donald Trump, China’s growing assertiveness and a weakened German Chancellor Angela Merkel will make 2017 the “most volatile” year for political risk since World War II, according to Eurasia Group.
“In 2017 we enter a period of geopolitical recession,” the New York-based company said in its annual outlook. International war or “the breakdown of major central government institutions” isn’t inevitable, though “such an outcome is now thinkable.”
With Trump’s ascent to the presidency on an America First platform, the global economy can’t count on the U.S. to provide “guardrails” anymore, according to Eurasia, which advises investors on political risk. Trump’s signals of a thaw with Russia, skepticism toward the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and his “alignment” with European anti-establishment parties such as France’s National Front could weaken the main postwar alliance protecting the global order, according to the report released Tuesday.
The heir apparent to the Samsung empire, Jay Y. Lee, was trying to push through a corporate merger seen as critical to his plans to succeed his father as chairman.
For months, key shareholders fought the move. Then, suddenly, the standoff broke as South Korea’s government-controlled pension fund, which held the shares to cast the deciding vote, endorsed Mr. Lee’s deal.
A week later, President Park Geun-hye invited Mr. Lee to her office and asked for Samsung’s help with a campaign to promote South Korean culture and sports. Within months, Samsung had donated $17.4 million to two foundations controlled by the president’s confidante, Choi Soon-sil, and $6.2 million for the training of Korean equestrians, including Ms. Choi’s daughter.
Those donations — and whether they were part of a quid pro quo — are now at the heart of the impeachment case against Ms. Park. The nation’s full Constitutional Court will begin formal hearings on Tuesday into the case, the biggest influence-peddling scandal in South Korea’s history.
The court has never before ousted a president, though seven of the last eight have left office tainted by allegations of corruption. Whatever the court decides, the Park scandal has already put recurring collusion between big business and government in South Korea under intense scrutiny and could reshape the nation’s flawed, young democracy.
Water is life. Water is the new oil. Water is power.
Fresh, life-sustaining water is draining away. It’s becoming an increasingly scarce resource across the globe through overuse and pollution. As these issues become more acute, tensions that have already begun will escalate, and this will affect us all.
Some say water is the new oil. But unlike oil, water is essential for survival.
A deep dive into the planet’s water situation reveals that in the coming decades, every country, including the United States, will have to determine how to treat water as an economic good, a human right, and a depleting resource.
A look at three key areas—United States, the Middle East, and China—shows the range of challenges.
Army Veteran William Penner used to jokingly call the thick yellow crust that crept across his young son Matthew’s scalp “Agent Orange” after the toxic defoliant sprayed on him in Vietnam before the boy was born. The joke turned sour a few years ago, when Matthew, now 43, was diagnosed with a host of serious illnesses, including heart disease, fibromyalgia and arthritis.
Similar worries struck vet Mike Blackledge when staffers at a local Veterans Affairs hospital suggested his children’s diseases could be linked to his time in Vietnam. His son has inflammatory bowel disease so advanced he wears a pouch to collect his waste, and his youngest daughter has neuropathy, spinal problems and gastrointestinal issues. His oldest daughter — the one born before he went to fight in Vietnam — is fine.
They, like thousands of others, are grappling with a chilling prospect: Could Agent Orange, the herbicide linked to health problems in Vietnam veterans, have also harmed their children?
For decades, the Department of Veterans Affairs has collected — and ignored — reams of information that could have helped answer that question, an investigation by ProPublica and The Virginian-Pilot has found.
Following up on Friday’s Pentagon report China “stole” an underwater surveillance drone in the South China Sea, the Chinese government today accused the US of “hyping up” what was actually a fairly minor matter, saying that the drone would be returned.
The drone, estimated to cost about $150,000 and be made of purely civilian components, was carrying out military surveying of the South China Sea. The exact location was not clear, but Pentagon indications may put it near the China-controlled Spratly Islands.
Two drones were in the water, about 500 meters from a US Navy ship, and one was scooped out of the water by China, while the other returned to its ship. Chinese officials claimed the boat crew didn’t know what the drone was, and scooped it out to ensure it wouldn’t pose a danger to passing ships in the region.
Pentagon officials confirmed that China has agreed to return the drone, but continued to rail on about China’s “unlawful seizure” of the device. Chinese officials have asked the US to stop carrying out military surveying in the presence of Chinese ships in the future to avoid such incidents.
The American press duly notes Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s barbarous crackdown on alleged drug dealers, addicts and enablers — perhaps 5,800 summary executions by both his cops and vigilantes since early summer.
And it’s far worse than most media report.
Outlets of very different sensibilities — Foreign Policy and Al Jazeera — now take audiences far deeper into this horror. They include looks at the killers, the self-justifying police and the substantial public support for what’s playing out.
For starters, Filipina journalist Ana Santos profiles Ronald dela Rosa, director general of the Philippine National Police (PNP), who is Duterte’s chief executioner and, yes, “treated more like a rock star than a policeman.”
“Women sometimes scream or cry tears of joy when they see him; crowds flock to him in public, forcing his own men to huddle around him to protect him from adoring hands. A trail of fans follows him around the country.”
The high-rise coastal city of Dubai plays host to all kinds of luxury oddities: indoor ski slopes, gold-bar vending machines, vast artificial archipelagoes shaped like palm trees. But six miles inland, something just as unusual, if far less gaudy, is taking shape—the first coal-fired power plant in the Middle East.
The United Arab Emirates, to which Dubai belongs, need to diversify their energy mix. By 2030, Dubai hopes to balance natural gas and solar and get 7% of its energy from coal. Its first step: a massive “clean coal” project. Workers broke ground in early November for a plant expected to be finished in 2023.
In this petroleum-dominated region, there isn’t much coal-power expertise. But that won’t be a problem for Dubai, thanks to help from unusual sources. The nearly $2 billion project is backed by $1.4 billion in funding from the Chinese government and banks and is being built by Chinese construction crews.
Why such largesse for an emirate swimming in oil wealth? Because Dubai is one of the nations China is targeting as part of One Belt, One Road, an ambitious foreign-investment project designed to boost China’s trade and diplomatic ties with more than 60 countries in the Middle East, Europe, and Africa. China is opening up its checkbook for this group of potential allies: It’s committing $1 trillion through the program in the next decade—and as much as $3 trillion over the long term—to huge infrastructure investments, in locations that stretch from China’s coast through the deserts of Xinjiang province and the steppes of Central Asia as far west as Spain and Scandinavia.
[…] In the last few years, the Obama administration and the Pentagon have used China’s expanding military might and the never-ending standoff with nuclearizing North Korea to incorporate Japan and South Korea ever more fully into a vision of an American-dominated Pacific. One stumbling block has been the deep animosity between the two countries, given that Japan colonized Korea from 1910 to 1945; later, during the Korean War, which devastated the peninsula, Japan profited handsomely by supplying US forces with vehicles and other military supplies. In addition, Korean anger over Japan’s refusal to apologize for its use of Korean sexual slaves (“comfort women”) during World War II remains a powerful force to overcome.
Until recently, the US has had the help of a compliant leader, President Park Guen-Hye who, just as the Trumpian moment begins, finds herself scrambling for her political life as the first Korean president to be legally toppled since 1960. (An interim president, Park’s conservative Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn, will run the government until the Constitutional Court reviews the legality of her impeachment, a process that could take up to six months.) Despite all these problems, and while never quite publicly stating the obvious, American officials have been focused on putting in place a triangular alliance that would transform the Japanese and South Korean militaries into proxy forces capable of helping extend US power and influence ever further into Asia (and also, potentially, elsewhere in the world).
On the eve of Donald Trump‘s election, such arrangements were quickly reaching fruition. As 2016 draws to an end, the Pentagon appears to be rushing to make Obama’s Asian pivot and the militarization of the region that goes with it permanent before Trump can act or, for that matter, the United States can lose its Korean political allies (which could happen if Park’s conservative ruling party is replaced in next year’s elections).
Afshin Rattansi speaks to award winning journalist and filmmaker John Pilger about his newest film, ‘The Coming War on China’. (Going Underground)
The United States has warned China it will blacklist Chinese companies and banks that do illicit business with North Korea if Beijing fails to enforce U.N. sanctions against Pyongyang, according to senior State Department officials.
The tougher U.S. approach reflects growing impatience with China and a view that it has not strictly enforced existing sanctions to help curb Pyongyang’s nuclear program, which a U.S. policy of both sanctions and diplomacy has failed to dent.
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken gave the message to Chinese officials in meetings in Beijing in October after North Korea conducted its fifth and largest nuclear test, the officials said.
U.S. National Security Adviser Susan Rice and Secretary of State John Kerry stressed the importance of choking off financial flows to Pyongyang during a meeting with Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi in New York on Nov. 1.
In response to the U.S. warning, Chinese officials said they believe pressure alone on North Korea will not work, and that they oppose any U.S. action that would hurt Chinese companies, officials said.
President-elect Donald Trump stepped on a land mine today, when he exposed the facade of America’s “One China Policy” during the course of his continued phone conversations with foreign leaders, he called Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen. It was the first US presidential call to his Taiwanese counterpart since 1979, despite the US military commitment to them. The call sparked a flurry of condemnation from diplomats who saw the call as upsetting the delicate balance of diplomacy with China and military support for Taiwan against them, and had many warning China might “retaliate” in some way.
The reaction to the call reflects the paradoxical nature of US policy in the region, as there is major trade between the US and Taiwan, and the US is committed to provide for their unconditional military defense and selling large amounts of arms to them annually, but there is no “official” diplomatic relationship between the two, with President Jimmy Carter cutting diplomatic ties in 1979.
[…] An investigation with the US-based NGO China Labor Watch reveals that toys including Barbie, Thomas the Tank Engine and Hot Wheels were made by staff earning as little as 86p an hour.
Overtime can run to nearly three times the legal limit. In some factories – including one producing Happy Meal toys for McDonald’s from the new DreamWorks movie Trolls – that means some are on 12-hour shifts and have to work with hazardous chemicals.
According to China Labor Watch, the world of toys may be heaven for children, but it is a world of misery for toy factory workers.
The group’s founder and executive director, Li Qiang, said: “We can’t tolerate that children’s dreams are based on workers’ nightmares, and we must fight against the unfair oppression of workers who manufacture toys.”
Undercover investigators infiltrated four factories, and the group shared wage slips and pictures with the Observer to support their findings.
- Protests over South Korea’s mysterious presidential scandal enter their fifth week
- ‘Choi Soon-sil linked to Lockheed Martin’
- Samsung is sucked into South Korea’s political crisis
- K-pop video director charged in South Korean corruption scandal
- ‘We followed our orders,’ say Park officials
- South Korean president’s approval rating tanks at 4%
- A Million in South Korea’s Streets
- Choi Soon-sil given time to destroy evidence
- Woman at centre of South Korean row says she ‘deserves death’
When I first went to Hiroshima in 1967, the shadow on the steps was still there. It was an almost perfect impression of a human being at ease: legs splayed, back bent, one hand by her side as she sat waiting for a bank to open. At a quarter past eight on the morning of 6 August, 1945, she and her silhouette were burned into the granite. I stared at the shadow for an hour or more, unforgettably. When I returned many years later, it was gone: taken away, ‘disappeared’, a political embarrassment.
I have spent two years making a documentary film, The Coming War on China, in which the evidence and witnesses warn that nuclear war is no longer a shadow, but a contingency. The greatest build-up of American-led military forces since the Second World War is well under way. They are on the western borders of Russia, and in Asia and the Pacific, confronting China.
The great danger this beckons is not news, or it is news buried and distorted: a drumbeat of propaganda that echoes the psychopathic campaign embedded in public consciousness during much of the 20th century.
Like the renewal of post-Soviet Russia, the rise of China as an economic power is declared an ‘existential threat’ to the divine right of the United States to rule and dominate human affairs.
To counter this, in 2011 President Obama announced a ‘pivot to Asia’, which meant that almost two-thirds of US naval forces would be transferred to Asia and the Pacific by 2020.
I was recently in the Marshall Islands, which lie in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, north of Australia and south of Hawaii. Whenever I tell people where I have been, they ask, ‘Where is that?’
When I mention Bikini, their reference is the swimsuit. Few seem aware that the bikini was named after the nuclear explosions that destroyed life on Bikini atoll; its Paris designer hoped his ‘unique creation’ would ‘cause an explosion right round the world’. Sixty-seven nuclear bombs – each of them massive – were exploded in the Marshall Islands between 1946 and 1958: the equivalent of more than one Hiroshima every day for 12 years.
As my aircraft banked low over Bikini lagoon, the emerald water beneath me disappeared into a vast black hole, a deathly void. This is the crater left by the 1954 Hydrogen bomb known as Bravo. When I stepped out of the plane, my shoes registered ‘unsafe’ on a Geiger counter. Palm trees stood in unworldly formations. There were no birds.
I trekked through the jungle to the bunker where, at 6.45 on the morning of 1 March 1954, the button was pushed on the most powerful force on earth. That morning, the sun had risen; then it rose again as apocalypse. Now claimed by the undergrowth, the concrete bunker is like a capsule to modern times. There are cartons of Milkmaid powered milk, packets of Lucky Strike cigarettes and a sign that is beyond irony: ‘Please leave this property as you find it. Thank you for kindness and understanding.’
The explosion vaporized an entire island, its fall-out spreading over a vast area. There was a ‘miscalculation’, according to the official history; the wind ‘changed suddenly’. These were the first of many lies, as declassified documents and the victims’ testimony have since revealed.
The potential for conflicts of interest between President-elect Donald J. Trump and his family’s business ventures emerged again Thursday evening, when a photograph was distributed that showed his daughter Ivanka at a meeting between Mr. Trump and the prime minister of Japan.
News reporters were not allowed to attend the session, Mr. Trump’s first with a foreign head of government, and no summary was provided about what was discussed. A separate photograph was distributed — press photographers were not allowed to cover the event — showing that Jared Kushner, Ms. Trump’s husband, was present for at least part of the gathering.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan said after the meeting that he had a “very candid discussion” with Mr. Trump. He did not discuss who else attended the gathering or elaborate on the topics discussed.
Ms. Trump will be among the members of the president-elect’s family who will be placed in charge of Mr. Trump’s business enterprises, which include an international chain of hotels with operations in Latin America, Europe and North America.