Mexican Congress approves budget after protests

FILE - In this Aug. 19, 2016 file photo, lettuce farmer Edgar Serralde sets out lunch for his workers and their son, in Mexico City's borough Xochimilco. On Friday, Nov. 22, 2019, Mexico’s lower house of Congress approved for the 2020 federal budget, to giving money directly to farmers and poor families, rather than distributing funds through groups that claim to represent them. (AP Photo/Nick Wagner, File)

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexico’s lower house of Congress approved the 2020 federal budget Friday in an all-night meeting at a convention center after protests and blockades by farm groups surrounding the Congress building.

The protests were sparked by President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s policy of giving money directly to farmers and poor families rather than distributing funds through groups that claim to represent them.

The farm groups often build autocratic fiefdoms in the Mexican countryside, forcing members to participate in protests in order to receive benefits.

Lopez Obrador’s Morena party instead focused on direct transfers and farm subsidies to prevent such groups from skimming aid money for themselves. Many of the farm groups also functioned as political allies of the old ruling party, which Morena displaced in 2018 elections.

But opposition legislators also criticized Morena for cutting funds for regulatory and watchdog agencies the president has tangled with.

The $315 billion federal budget includes deep cuts in funding for the judiciary, the federal electoral agency and the federal freedom of information agency.

Opponents said those cuts will make it hard to hold free, fair and reliable elections.

Rep. Fernando Galindo of the former ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party said the budget will cut about $77 million from the attorney general’s office at a time when crime is rampant, and about $55 million from the federal election agency.

However, the budget included a large 8.8% increase in the budget for the state-owned oil company, Petroleos Mexicanos, or Pemex. The money will help the heavily-indebted company build a controversial new oil refinery on the Gulf coast.

More important, from a U.S. perspective, is the $72 million budgeted for implementation of Mexico’s labor law reforms, which are intended to ensure that workers can really vote for the union representatives and labor contracts.

Mexico has attracted huge foreign investments in auto plants, in part because pro-company unions have been able in the past to sign low-wage contracts before plants even open.

U.S. legislators have been angered about U.S. manufacturing jobs moving to Mexico to take advantage of the low wages and have delayed approval of the new-negotiated U.S.-Mexico Canada Trade Agreement, in part, because of doubts about whether Mexico is doing enough to implement and fund the labor reforms.

  • Pressure rises on Canada's Trudeau as parliamentary rivals seize on charity controversy
    News
    Reuters

    Pressure rises on Canada's Trudeau as parliamentary rivals seize on charity controversy

    Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau came under pressure on Friday from opposition parties he depends on for support in parliament amid heightening controversy over his family's ties to a charity at the heart of his conflict-of-interest probe. The Bloc Quebecois said he should temporarily yield his post to his deputy, Chrystia Freeland, until the investigation is over, while the main opposition Conservative Party urged a criminal probe. The left-leaning New Democrats said the situation was "more than disturbing".

  • Venezuela oil minister El Aissami tests positive for COVID-19
    News
    Reuters

    Venezuela oil minister El Aissami tests positive for COVID-19

    Venezuelan oil minister Tareck El Aissami has tested positive for COVID-19, he said on Twitter on Friday, a day after the leader of the socialist party, Diosdado Cabello, tested positive for the virus as well. Omar Prieto, governor of western Zulia state, has also tested positive for the virus. Venezuela has reported 8,010 cases of the novel coronavirus so far, far fewer than other Latin American neighbors like Brazil, but its cases have risen at a brisker pace in recent weeks.

  • Trump to raise $10 million at in-person fundraiser in COVID-hit Florida
    Politics
    Reuters

    Trump to raise $10 million at in-person fundraiser in COVID-hit Florida

    President Donald Trump is expected to raise $10 million on Friday during a high-dollar fundraiser hosted by the chief executive of a snack company in coronavirus-stricken Florida, according to a Republican official. The in-person fundraiser, hosted by Troy Link, chief executive officer of Wisconsin-based Link Snacks Inc, comes after Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden outraised Trump for two consecutive months. Both candidates have largely ditched in-person fundraising during the coronavirus pandemic, though Trump has shown he is eager to return to more a more traditional campaign routine.

  • Among those under age 65, COVID-19 takes greater toll on nonwhite Americans -CDC
    Health
    Reuters

    Among those under age 65, COVID-19 takes greater toll on nonwhite Americans -CDC

    Overall, 34.9% of Hispanic patients who died were younger than 65, while 29.5% of nonwhites who died were under 65, compared to only 13.2% of white, non-Hispanic decedents. Researchers analyzed 10,647 COVID-19 deaths between Feb. 12 and April 24 from 16 public health departments in 15 states. Most of those who died were older than 65 years and had underlying medical conditions such as cardiovascular disease or diabetes, according to the report in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

  • Tropical storm Fay to weaken, expected to dissipate on Sunday, NHC says
    News
    Reuters

    Tropical storm Fay to weaken, expected to dissipate on Sunday, NHC says

    The storm made landfall on Friday near Atlantic city, New Jersey, with heavy rainfall and gusty winds, according to an earlier bulletin issued by the NHC. Fay was located about 15 miles (24 km) northwest of New York City, with maximum sustained winds of 40 miles per hour, the latest advisory of the Miami-based weather forecaster said. NHC added that the center of the storm will move across portions of southeastern New York on Friday night and then across western New England into southeastern Canada on Saturday.

  • Bosnia Muslims mourn their dead 25 years after Srebrenica massacre
    News
    AFP News

    Bosnia Muslims mourn their dead 25 years after Srebrenica massacre

    Bosnian Muslims on Saturday mark 25 years since the Srebrenica massacre, the worst atrocity on European soil since World War II, with the memorial ceremony sharply reduced as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Then, at 1100 GMT, the remains of nine victims identified over the past year will be laid to rest at the memorial cemetery in Potocari, a village just outside Srebrenica that served as the base for the UN protection force, FORPRONU, during the conflict. On July 11, 1995, after capturing the ill-fated town, Serb forces killed more than 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica in a few days.

  • The quest to find signs of ancient life on Mars
    Science
    AFP News

    The quest to find signs of ancient life on Mars

    Mars may now be considered a barren, icy desert but did Earth's nearest neighbour once harbour life? Now three space exploration projects are gearing up to launch some of the most ambitious bids yet to find an answer. The new Mars probes from the United States, United Arab Emirates and China will launch this summer.

  • WHO urges aggressive virus measures as flare-ups spark new closures
    News
    AFP News

    WHO urges aggressive virus measures as flare-ups spark new closures

    The World Health Organization has urged countries grappling with coronavirus to step up control measures, saying it is still possible to rein it in, as some nations clamp fresh restrictions on citizens. With case numbers worldwide more than doubling in the past six weeks, Uzbekistan on Friday returned to lockdown and Hong Kong said schools would close from Monday after the city recorded "exponential growth" in locally transmitted infections. WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called on countries to adopt an aggressive approach, highlighting Italy, Spain, South Korea and India's biggest slum to show it was possible to stop the spread, no matter how bad the outbreak.

  • French bus driver dies after attack over mask-wearing rules
    News
    AFP News

    French bus driver dies after attack over mask-wearing rules

    A French bus driver who was badly beaten by passengers after asking them to wear face masks in line with coronavirus rules has died, his family said, sparking tributes from political leaders who condemned his "cowardly" attackers. Philippe Monguillot, 59, was left brain dead by the attack in the southwestern town of Bayonne last weekend and died in hospital on Friday, his daughter Marie said, after his family decided to switch off his life-support system. Two men have been charged with attempted murder over the attack and prosecutor Jerome Bourrier told AFP that he would ask for the charges to be upgraded following Monguillot's death.

  • International courts 'more needed than ever', 25 years after Srebrenica
    News
    AFP News

    International courts 'more needed than ever', 25 years after Srebrenica

    Twenty-five years after the Srebrenica massacre international courts like those which tried the perpetrators of the slaughter face an uncertain future but are needed more than ever, experts say. The now-defunct war crimes tribunal that convicted Bosnian Serb leaders like Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic over the murder of 8,000 Muslim men and boys was hailed at the time as a new era of post-Cold War accountability. The Srebrenica commemoration was a reminder that the need for such tribunals to tackle mass atrocities "has never been greater," said Nancy Combs, law professor at the William and Mary Law School in Virginia.

  • California to release 8,000 prisoners to slow pandemic
    News
    Reuters

    California to release 8,000 prisoners to slow pandemic

    Several California prisons have suffered large coronavirus outbreaks and the state corrections department said inmates could be eligible for release by the end of August. The release marks the biggest move yet by California to "decompress" prison populations and reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission by creating more space for social distancing and quarantines. "These actions are taken to provide for the health and safety of the incarcerated population and staff," California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Secretary Ralph Diaz said in a statement.

  • Prosecutor whose star has risen under Trump named Brooklyn-based acting U.S. Attorney
    Politics
    Reuters

    Prosecutor whose star has risen under Trump named Brooklyn-based acting U.S. Attorney

    U.S. Attorney General William Barr on Friday named Seth DuCharme, a prosecutor who has risen rapidly in the Justice Department under the Trump administration, as acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York. DuCharme, who for the last six months has been principal associate deputy attorney general in Washington, is swapping roles with Richard Donoghue, the current U.S. Attorney for the Brooklyn-based Eastern District. The Justice Department earlier this month announced shorturl.at/inqL3 Donoghue's move to Washington.

  • Russia, China veto Syria aid via Turkey for second time this week
    News
    Reuters

    Russia, China veto Syria aid via Turkey for second time this week

    Russia and China vetoed a last-ditch attempt by Western members of the U.N. Security Council to extend approval - which expires on Friday - for humanitarian aid to be delivered across two border crossings into Syria from Turkey for the next six months. The United Nations says millions of Syrian civilians in the country's northwest depend on the humanitarian aid delivered from Turkey, describing it as a "lifeline."

  • Indonesia 'dog doctor' rescues canines from pandemic peril
    News
    AFP News

    Indonesia 'dog doctor' rescues canines from pandemic peril

    Indonesian doctor Susana Somali and her staff cut tightly-bound plastic ropes off dozens of whimpering dogs rescued from the butcher's block after being sold or abandoned during the coronavirus pandemic. Animal welfare organisation Four Paws has warned that thousands of strays in Bali were at risk of starving or being snatched by dog meat traders, as a plunge in tourism hammers the holiday island.

  • Brazilian environmentalist Sirkis killed in car crash
    News
    Reuters

    Brazilian environmentalist Sirkis killed in car crash

    Environmentalist Alfredo Sirkis, a founder of Brazil's Green Party and a tireless campaigner for policies to curb climate change, died on Friday in a car crash, television network TV Globo said. Sirkis, 69, was killed when the car he was driving hit a post on a highway outside his hometown Rio de Janeiro, broadcaster TV Globo reported, citing firemen at the crash. A former leftist guerrilla, Sirkis was involved in the kidnapping of foreign diplomats to secure the release of political prisoners during Brazil's 1964-1985 military dictatorship.

  • UN fails to find consensus after Russia, China veto on Syrian aid
    News
    AFP News

    UN fails to find consensus after Russia, China veto on Syrian aid

    The UN Security Council failed to find a consensus on prolonging cross-border humanitarian aid to Syria on Friday after Russia and China vetoed an extension and members rejected a counter proposal by Moscow. Without an agreement, authorization for the transport of aid to war-torn Syria, which has existed since 2014, expired Friday night.

  • Pandemic exposes scientific rift over proving when germs are airborne
    Health
    Reuters

    Pandemic exposes scientific rift over proving when germs are airborne

    The coronavirus pandemic has exposed a clash among medical experts over disease transmission that stretches back nearly a century - to the very origins of germ theory. The Geneva-based World Health Organization acknowledged this week that the novel coronavirus can spread through tiny droplets floating in the air, a nod to more than 200 experts in aerosol science who publicly complained that the U.N. agency had failed to warn the public about this risk. "WHO's slow motion on this issue is unfortunately slowing the control of the pandemic," said Jose Jimenez, a University of Colorado chemist who signed the public letter urging the agency to change its guidance.

  • Prosecutors may not get Trump tax records until after election, experts say
    Politics
    Reuters

    Prosecutors may not get Trump tax records until after election, experts say

    New York City prosecutors are very likely to obtain President Donald Trump's tax returns after a major U.S. Supreme Court ruling, but it may not happen before the Nov. 3 election if he argues in lower courts as expected that their request was too broad and made in bad faith, legal experts said. Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance is seeking eight years of Trump's business and personal tax returns and other financial documents as part of a criminal investigation involving a grand jury into the Republican president and the Trump Organization, his family's real estate business. "I believe the district attorney and the grand jury will get the requested documents, but not right away," said Jessica Roth, a professor at Cardozo School of Law in New York and a former federal prosecutor.

  • WHO official cites AIDS as guide to addressing coronavirus pandemic
    Health
    Reuters

    WHO official cites AIDS as guide to addressing coronavirus pandemic

    Dr. Michael Ryan of WHO, speaking during a video panel session organized by the International AIDS Society, said world leaders grappling with the current pandemic "need to take a leaf out of the HIV/AIDS activist book" and make sure access to healthcare is equitable and evidence-based. The coronavirus pandemic, which has not yet peaked in many parts of the world, has exposed weaknesses and left billions of people without reliable and affordable access to essential health services, he said. Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the virus that causes AIDS, was often a fatal infection when it emerged in the 1980s, but today is considered manageable with antiretroviral drugs.

  • Liverpool addresses its slave trade past
    News
    AFP News

    Liverpool addresses its slave trade past

    Anna Rothery is the first black woman to hold the position of Lord Mayor of Liverpool, a largely ceremonial role for elected councillors to promote the interests of the city. "It's an awful, wicked history for the city," the city council member told AFP, pointing to a street sign named after one of Liverpool's leading slave-trading dynasties. At the junction of Cunliffe Street and Sir Thomas Street, she points out that both were named after owners of the first registered slave ships to leave the city in northwest England.

  • Trump's planned order on 'dreamer' immigrants will not include amnesty - White House
    Politics
    Reuters

    Trump's planned order on 'dreamer' immigrants will not include amnesty - White House

    "This does not include amnesty," White House spokesman Judd Deere said in a statement, after Trump said in a television interview his planned order would include a road to citizenship for such immigrants, known as "Dreamers." In the interview with Spanish-language TV network Telemundo, Trump said his executive order would involve Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), the program that protects hundreds of thousands of such immigrants from deportation.

  • Trump says he will create path to citizenship for 'Dreamers'
    Politics
    AFP News

    Trump says he will create path to citizenship for 'Dreamers'

    President Donald Trump said Friday he would soon issue an executive order on immigration that includes a path to citizenship for people brought to America illegally as children. It began in 2012 under then-president Barack Obama and has allowed some 700,000 people brought without papers to the United States as children to live, work and study without danger of being deported.

  • 'A free man': Trump commutes longtime adviser Roger Stone's prison sentence
    Politics
    Reuters

    'A free man': Trump commutes longtime adviser Roger Stone's prison sentence

    President Donald Trump commuted the sentence of his longtime friend and adviser Roger Stone on Friday, sparing him from prison after he was convicted of lying under oath to lawmakers investigating Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election. Trump's decision to commute Stone's sentence days before he was due to report to prison marked the Republican president's most assertive intervention to protect an associate in a criminal case and his latest use of executive clemency to benefit an ally. Democrats condemned Trump's action as an assault on the rule of law.

  • Parents face dilemma as US schools seek to reopen
    News
    AFP News

    Parents face dilemma as US schools seek to reopen

    With the start of the US school year only weeks away, Marina Avalos still has no idea how or where her 7-year-old daughter will attend classes. Like many mothers, Avalos is reluctant to send her child back to school at a time when coronavirus across the country has surged past three million cases, including 130,000 deaths. On Tuesday, California -- where she lives -- set a new daily cases record, with 11,694 infections.

  • In India-China crisis, an India-US bonanza in view
    News
    AFP News

    In India-China crisis, an India-US bonanza in view

    A border clash has plunged ties between India and China to their lowest point in decades. Experts say India could finally end equivocation about openly aligning itself with the long-eager United States, although there will still be disagreements -- which, paradoxically, are now mostly due to Washington. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters that China "took incredibly aggressive action" in a hand-to-hand battle in the remote Himalayas on June 15 that killed 20 Indian soldiers.