Five people were shot dead in central Mexico City, the local security secretariat said Saturday, a rare attack in the capital and likely linked to organized crime, according to local media.
The attack occurred late Friday at the town hall in Miguel Hidalgo, one of the most prosperous districts of Mexico City.
Police responding to an alert found “five people on the ground with gunshot wounds,” according to a statement.
Medical services certified three men dead at the scene while the other two were transferred to a nearby hospital where they later died due to the seriousness of their injuries, the security secretariat said.
Local media reports said one of the victims was a member of the local Union Tepito cartel but city authorities have not confirmed this.
Despite growing drug cartel violence in Mexico over the last decade, shootings and multiple killings are rare in the capital compared to other areas of the country.
However, the city was shocked by an attack in June last year on its security chief, Omar Garcia Harfuch, by heavily armed gunmen who killed two of his bodyguards and a passerby. Garcia Harfuch, who was wounded, blamed the attack on the powerful Jalisco New Generation drug cartel.
More than 300,000 people have been murdered since Mexico deployed the military to fight the drug cartels in 2006, with most of the killings blamed on organized crime.
Mexico on Monday authorized the coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford for emergency use in the country, which has one of the world’s highest Covid-19 death tolls.
Deputy health minister Hugo Lopez-Gatell announced on Twitter that Mexican regulators had approved the vaccine, which has also been authorized by Britain, India and Argentina.
Lopez-Gastell said the vaccine could be available in March. “It depends on the private entities that work on it to specify the production capacity,” he explained later during a routine afternoon conference.
It is the second coronavirus vaccine authorized by Mexico, which on December 24 began a mass immunization program using the Pfizer-BioNTech shot, with priority given to health workers.
Some 30,000 workers, about a quarter of what was planned in the first stage, had received the vaccine by Sunday, according to the government.
Mexico, which has reported more than 127,000 Covid-19 deaths and around 1.4 million cases, has an agreement with AstraZeneca to buy 77.4 million doses of its vaccine.
Mexico on Monday offered political asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange after a British judge blocked his extradition to the United States to face espionage charges.
“I’m going to ask the foreign minister to carry out the relevant procedures to request that the UK government releases Mr. Assange and that Mexico offers him political asylum,” President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador told reporters.
He said Mexico would ensure “that whoever receives asylum does not intervene or interfere in the political affairs of any country.”
This Latin American country has previously offered political asylum to high-profile international figures such as former Bolivian president Evo Morales.
Assange is wanted on 18 charges in the United States relating to the 2010 release by WikiLeaks of 500,000 secret files detailing aspects of military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq.
If convicted in the US, the 49-year-old Australian publisher faces up to 175 years in jail.
British District Judge Vanessa Baraitser said Monday that Assange’s actions in leaking secret documents went “well beyond” that of a journalist, and he would have been “well aware” of the dangers the leak posed.
But facing the “harsh conditions” likely in the US jail system, Assange’s mental health would deteriorate, “causing him to commit suicide” with the determination of a person with autism spectrum disorder, she ruled, siding with a diagnosis by psychologists.
Clinical trials to determine the safety and efficacy of a Covid-19 vaccine candidate from American biotech company Novavax have begun in the United States and Mexico, the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced Monday.
A similar Phase 3 trial for the same vaccine, called NVX-CoV2373, is also under way in the United Kingdom, where about 15,000 volunteers have been recruited.
In the US and Mexico, the new trials will include around 30,000 volunteers over the age of 18.
Two-thirds of the participants will receive the vaccine and one-third a placebo. None of them will know, for the duration of the trial, what was in the injection they received.
“The launch of this study — the fifth investigational COVID-19 vaccine candidate to be tested in a Phase 3 trial in the United States — demonstrates our resolve to end the pandemic through development of multiple safe and effective vaccines,” said leading US immunologist Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the NIH.
The goal is that at least 25 percent of the participants in the US and Mexico trials should be aged 65 and over, the statement said.
Emphasis will also be placed on recruiting people who are more exposed to Covid-19 — African-Americans and Hispanics in particular — or who present with underlying health conditions that put them at higher risk, such as obesity or diabetes.
The vaccine is taken in two doses three weeks apart. It can be stored between two and eight degrees Celsius (35 and 46 degrees Fahrenheit) — much warmer temperatures than already approved vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna, meaning it could be more easily distributed.
The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are based on a new technology, messenger RNA, while the Novavax vaccine is a recombinant protein vaccine.
The coronavirus has spikes (viral proteins) on its surface that come into contact with cells it infects. These proteins can be reproduced and presented to the immune system so that it can later recognize them and react if it is actually infected.
Two other vaccines that have conducted Phase 3 trials, those from Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca/Oxford, are expected soon to seek emergency authorization for distribution in the US, the country most affected by the pandemic in absolute numbers worldwide.
Mexico will begin Covid-19 immunizations on Thursday, a day after the country receives its first batch of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines, Undersecretary of Health Hugo Lopez-Gatell said.
“Tomorrow (Wednesday) the first consignment of the Pfizer vaccine against SARS-CoV-2 arrives,” he said Tuesday on Twitter.
“There will be a press opportunity and then the vaccine will be safeguarded until its use on Thursday, December 24, the day vaccinations start,” Lopez-Gatell said.
Earlier, Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said 1.4 million doses will arrive from Belgium of the 34.4 million that the company has agreed to deliver.
The first vaccines will be destined for frontline medical personnel, and administered in Mexico City and the northern state of Coahuila due to the logistics related to the frigid temperatures required for the shots.
Mexico also has preliminary purchase agreements with the Chinese-Canadian project CanSinoBio for 35 million doses and with Britain’s AstraZeneca for 77.4 million doses.
Mexico’s leader Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador congratulated US President-elect Joe Biden on Tuesday, over a month after the Democrat won the US election.
Lopez Obrador, who has nurtured a cordial relationship with incumbent US President Donald Trump, was one of the last remaining high-profile leaders yet to congratulate Biden on his victory, which was confirmed on Monday by the US Electoral College.
Earlier in the day, Russia’s Vladimir Putin also congratulated Biden, although Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro, a staunch Trump ally, has yet to do so.
“I express my appreciation for his stance on Mexican migrants around the world, which will … promote the development of communities in southeastern Mexico and Central America,” said Lopez Obrador.
“We rulers must work to maintain good bilateral relations based on collaboration, friendship and respect for each other’s sovereignty.”
The Mexican leader said he was looking forward to speaking with Biden, especially about migration.
The two countries share a 3,200-kilometre-long border which is crossed illegally by drug-traffickers heading north and arms dealers moving the other way, as well as by many legal migrants from Mexico and Central America seeking a better life or fleeing violence and poverty.
Mexico surpassed one million Covid-19 cases on Saturday, registering 5,860 new infections over the previous day in a country with one of the world’s highest death tolls from the virus, the government said.
A total of 1,003,253 people have now tested positive for the virus in Mexico, said health ministry official Ricardo Cortes.
The death toll meanwhile reached 98,259, including 635 registered over the past day, he added.
Mexico has the world’s fourth-highest death toll from the virus behind the United States, Brazil and India, according to an AFP tally based on official figures.
It also has the 11th highest number of infections.
Cases have been spiking in a number of areas of the country.
“We probably still need to see the worst,” Alejandro Macias, former national commissioner against the AH1N1 influenza pandemic in Mexico City in 2009, told AFP.
The government earlier declared a lockdown on March 23, although essential economic activities remained open, with no sanctions for non-compliance.
The mayor of Mexico City, Claudia Sheinbaum, announced on Friday the closure of bars for 15 days and earlier closing times for restaurants, cinemas and gyms due to the spike in infections and hospitalizations over the last week.
Sheinbaum also said that daily tests will be increased to 10,000.
The capital has seen an increase in infections since mid-October and remains the epicenter of the pandemic in Mexico.
The Latin American roll-out of a potential COVID-19 vaccine made by AstraZeneca could be set back after the biotech company announced a pause in tests, the government of Mexico, which is involved in developing the drug alongside Argentina, said Tuesday.
AstraZeneca, which is working on a vaccine in conjunction with Oxford University, said that a volunteer had developed an undiagnosed illness and that, in line with security protocols, it was delaying further tests until an independent panel had studied the case.
Pausing vaccine trials “is not an unusual occurrence… and as a consequence the vaccine’s arrival may be delayed” across the region, said Hugo Lopez Gatell, Mexico’s undersecretary for health, at a press conference on the latest development.
Gatell asked that people avoid speculation about the safety of the vaccine, especially given that it is considered to be one of the most promising projects under development in the western world.
Mexico and Argentina have signed an agreement to work together with the Swedish-British pharmaceutical company.
Under the plan, some 250 million doses of the vaccine would be sold at cost across Latin America, with the exception of Brazil, which has its own agreements.
Mexico will also work with other labs in Europe, China and Russia in vaccine development projects, although AstraZeneca is the only one that has guaranteed distribution across Latin America.
With a population of almost 129 million people, Mexico had suffered 68,484 fatalities from the virus by Tuesday, with 642,860 cases of Covid-19.
Former top Trump aide Steve Bannon was on Thursday arrested and charged along with three others for defrauding hundreds of thousands of donors in a Mexico border wall fundraising campaign — a blow to the Republican incumbent.
The online crowdfunding campaign known as “We Build the Wall” raised more than $25 million, prosecutors said, which the defendants said would be used on construction but was instead used for their own profit.
The arrest is the latest in a string of high-profile legal battles faced by members of Trump’s inner circle as the Republican runs for re-election in November.
Manhattan federal prosecutors said Bannon, the organization’s founder Brian Kolfage, Andrew Badolato and Timothy Shea “received hundreds of thousands of dollars in donor funds from We Build the Wall, which they each used in a manner inconsistent with the organization’s public representations.”
The initiative began in 2018 as a GoFundMe campaign to raise money organizers said would go towards the border wall Trump had promised during his 2016 campaign, which Bannon orchestrated.
Kolfage, a 38-year-old based in Florida, had vowed that all funds raised would go to the wall and he would not take compensation — but according to the indictment, he took more than $350,000 for his own use and worked to hide his actions.
After calling the effort a “volunteer organization,” Bannon, 66, received over $1 million of the donations which he funneled through a non-profit he controlled, using some of it for his personal expenses, prosecutors said.
All four men are charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.
“Not only did they lie to donors, they schemed to hide their misappropriation of funds by creating sham invoices and accounts to launder donations and cover up their crimes, showing no regard for the law or the truth,” said Philip Bartlett, head of New York’s division of the US Postal Inspection Service which worked on the investigation.
Prior to leading Trump’s 2016 presidential bid, Bannon — a brash, aggressively conservative voice of US nationalism — headed the far-right outlet Breitbart News.
Once a prominent voice in the president’s ear, Bannon was behind some of Trump’s most controversial moves, including his ban on some travelers from abroad and the decision to pull the United States out of the Paris climate change agreement.
After frequent clashes with others in the White House including Trump, Bannon was pushed out in August 2017.
A staggering 900-plus girls and women are missing and feared dead in Peru since COVID-19 confinement began, authorities said Monday.
The Andean nation home to 33 million people long has had a horrific domestic violence problem.
But COVID-19, which has compounded home confinement combined with job losses and a health crisis, has seen an already scary situation grow worse in just 3-1/2 months, according to Eliana Revollar, who leads the women’s rights office of the National Ombudsman’s office.
Seventy percent of that figure are minors, she added.
“During the quarantine, from March 16 to June 30, 915 women in Peru were reported missing,” and feared dead, said Revollar.
Before COVID-19, five women were reported missing in Peru every single day; since the lockdown, the number has surged to eight per day.
Revollar said Peru’s situation was grim because the lack of a national missing persons registry made it hard for authorities to keep track of the crisis.
Walter Gutierrez, the ombudsman, told RPS Radio: “We need to know what has happened to them.”
Revollar said she would push for the creation of a missing persons registry.
Women’s rights groups and NGOs however say that very often police refuse to investigate domestic violence, make fun of victims, or claim that the missing have left their homes willingly.
But that doesn’t address the fact that Peru has a problem with domestic violence and other violence against women, as well as human trafficking and forced prostitution.
In January, the case of a university student and activist for women’s rights and safety, Solsiret Rodriguez, was in the headlines here — but only when her body was found three years after she went missing.
Last year there were 166 killings of women in Peru; just a tenth of those were cases of a person first being reported missing. And there were just under 30,000 calls to report domestic violence, according to the Women’s Ministry.
And coronavirus hasn’t spared Peru: it has had more than 384,000 coronavirus cases and 18,229 deaths. It is the third-hardest hit country in Latin America behind Brazil and Mexico.