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Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Massive Funeral Procession for President Chávez in Caracas

Venezuelan officials held a vigil around the coffin of late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez on Wednesday morning before beginning a funeral procession through the country’s capital, Caracas. The deceased leader’s casket was placed atop a hearse decorated with garlands and wreaths before slowly making its way from the city’s military hospital to Fuerte Tiuna Military Academy where he will lie in state for three days, with the state funeral to be held on Friday morning. Soldiers and citizens clad in the ruling party’s red colour followed the procession, some weeping as the casket passed them and many shouting “Chávez to the Pantheon!”, referring to the monument the late president built for the remains of Simón Bolívar, who led independence movements throughout Hispanic America and founded modern Venezuela. The presidents of Uruguay, José Mujica, Argentina, Cristina Kirchner, and Bolivia, Evo Morales, are already in Caracas for the upcoming funeral services.

UK to Supply Syrian Opposition with Armoured Vehicles

UK Foreign Secretary William Hague has told Parliament that the country will provide Syrian opposition forces with armoured vehicles and body armour “to help save lives”. It will also offer non-lethal equipment, such as medical supplies. Hague called it a “necessary, proportionate and lawful” action in the face of “extreme human suffering”. Lib Dem MP Sir Menzies Campbell said that many of his colleagues were concerned that this was the first step in a “drift” towards a deeper military involvement in Syria. Hague replied that “no Western government is advocating military intervention of Western nations into the conflict in Syria. The discussion is entirely focused on the degree of assistance that can and should be delivered to the opposition”. Labour MP Peter Hain called the conflict in Syria “a monumental failure in diplomacy”, accusing the government coalition of “making the situation worse” by pledging these new supplies. The announcement comes after the US pledged £40 million in non-lethal assistance last week.

Palestinian Children Suffering ‘Inhuman’ Treatment in Israeli Jails

A report by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has condemned the treatment of Palestinian children in Israeli jails, calling it “cruel, inhuman and degrading”. According to the report, approximately 700 Palestinian children aged between 12 and 17 are arrested by Israeli troops in the West Bank every year, with the ill-treatment carrying on throughout the arrest procedure up to prosecution and sentencing. Practices denounced by UNICEF include “blindfolding children and tying their hands with plastic ties, physical and verbal abuse during transfer to an interrogation site, including the use of painful restraints”. Children were also “threatened with death, physical violence, solitary confinement and sexual assault, against themselves or a family member” during interrogation sessions. The report also noted some minor improvements in Israeli procedures such as new hand-tying procedures to prevent pain and injury, the notification of arrest to parents and the right of the child to be informed of the right to a lawyer. Israel pledged to “work hard” to adopt the report’s recommendations.

Polar Bear Trade Ban Sparks Heated Debate

A meeting to review the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) being held in Thailand has sparked a battle on the ban on the international trade in polar bear parts. Those in favour of a ban say that it would be crucial to assure the survival of the species, while groups such as Canada’s Inuit say the trade is critical to their communal survival. There are approximately 25,000 polar bears left and an estimated 16,000 live in the Canadian Arctic, with Canada remaining the only country still permitting the trade of polar bear parts. The US and Russia argue that the number of bears killed every year in Canada, approximately 600, endangers the species and also claim that criminals use false Canadian export permits to trade Russian bear parts. Dr Colman O’Criodain, from the WWF, says that the international trade in bear parts would not impact the survival of the species, but that the agreement should be adhered to in any case. “We couldn’t be arguing that counties must follow the science on sharks and then saying we ignore it on polar bears”, said Dr O’Criodain.

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