Things That Matter

Environmentalists Are Outraged At The US’s Latest Plans To Use The Galapagos Island As An Airstrip

Ecuador is receiving heavy criticism for giving the U.S. military permission to use a Galapagos island as an airfield. The proposed plan by Ecuador to allow the U.S. to use an airstrip on the Galapagos island of San Cristobal has drawn anger from local politicians and activists that say more harm than good will be done. The historic islands in Ecuador are one of the most biodiverse regions on the globe and are home to a number of species found nowhere else on the planet.

Ecuador and the U.S. plan on using the island as a way to stop drug trafficking flights.

Credit: guillaumelong/Twitter

Under the deal with Ecuador, the Pentagon will use the tiny airport on the San Cristobal island to “fight drug trafficking”, defense minister Oswaldo Jarrin told Latin American TV network Telesur.

Jarrín announced Ecuador President Lenín Moreno’s administration’s decision to expand an existing airfield on the San Cristobal Island for U.S. spy planes targeting drug traffickers on June 12. The aircrafts that would be used include a Boeing 777 and a Lockheed P-3 Orion.

According to the Los Angeles Times, multiple Latin American nations like Colombia, Peru, and Panama don’t allow the basing of U.S. anti-drug overflights controlled by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

Ecuador’s constitution, which was adopted in 2008, prohibits the installation of foreign military bases in the country.

Former Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa tweeted “Galápagos is NOT an ‘aircraft carrier’ for gringo use. It is an Ecuadorian province, world heritage site, homeland.”

Following mass criticism, Jarrin said that the Galapagos Islands would not become home to a U.S. military base or any kind of permanent post. “A base means permanence, there will be no permanence,” Jarrín said.

He added that flight crews would stay a week at most on the island and activities would be monitored by Ecuadorian authorities. The Pentagon would also have to pay for any needed “readjustments” to the airfield, which some fear could lead to environmental harm.

Critics of the proposed plan say the move could threaten the fragile environment of the island.

The Galapagos Islands are one of the world’s most famous areas known for its unique array of wildlife and natural plants. Famed for its rich biodiversity, which inspired Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, it was named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1978.

Many fear that construction or possible use of the island for military purposes will harm wildlife and other organisms there. The increasing number of tourists have already caused some concerns. The number of tourists visiting the islands rose from 161,000 in 2007 to over 225,000 in 2016, the International Galapagos Tour Operators Association said.

At this time, it’s unclear if Ecuador will proceed with its plans with the U.S. as many have criticized the proposed plans. The Pentagon has yet to comment or confirm any such agreement with Ecuador.

READ: New Research Shows Most Undocumented Immigrants Aren’t Coming From Mexico But Instead Central America

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Mexican Army Wants To Pay Off Murder Victim’s Family With One Million Pesos In Cash

Things That Matter

Mexican Army Wants To Pay Off Murder Victim’s Family With One Million Pesos In Cash

The family of a man who was shot in the back and killed by a Mexican soldier is demanding better support from the Mexican military after officials offer them one million pesos, or about $49,000 USD.

Officials say that the Guatemalan man was in retreat from a military checkpoint near the southern border, when they admit that a soldier wrongfully shot at the man killing him.

Military officials are offering $1 million pesos to family of the Guatemalan man the army murdered.

The Mexican Army is offering 1 million pesos (about $49,000 USD) in compensation to the family of a Guatemalan man who was shot and killed by a Mexican soldier along a stretch of Mexico’s southern border.

The man, Elvin Mazariegos, 30, was killed by the army in the state of Chiapas by a soldier who opened fire on a car in which he was traveling with two other people.

According to Defense Minister Luis Cresencio Sandoval, the soldier shot at the vehicle as it tried to escape in reverse from a military checkpoint. He said the decision to shoot was an “erroneous reaction” because the military personnel hadn’t come under attack. The solider who shot Elvin Mazariegos was turned over to the federal Attorney General’s Office.

The family is asking for more support since Mazariegos was the family’s sole income earner.

Olga Mazariegos told the newspaper Reforma that the Mexican army had offered a single 1-million-peso payment to her brother’s family. But the family is also demanding monthly maintenance payments for Mazariego’s daughters, aged 9 and 5, and 2-year-old son, she said. She said their father was the sole income earner in his family.

“What we want is monthly maintenance, but they say that they’ll only give [a single payment of] approximately half a million quetzales,” Mazariegos said. At today’s exchange rate, 1 million pesos is in fact 377,300 quetzales.

The slain man’s sister said the army’s proposed payment will be insufficient for the man’s widow to maintain her family. “She’s left alone with her three children; what happened to my brother is not fair,” she said, adding that it was insulting for the army to say that his life was worth 1 million pesos.

Mazariegos murder comes as police brutality gains greater attention across Mexico.

Credit: PEDRO PARDO/AFP via Getty Images

Residents near the border (including Guatemalans) have demanded justice. About 300 angry residents detained 15 other soldiers also deployed near the border. Nine soldiers were released about three hours after they were detained, while the others were set free in the early hours of Tuesday morning after Mexican officials reached a deal with the civilians to provide them with “economic reparation” for the killing. The army chief didn’t reveal how much money was paid to the angry residents.

The killing of Mazariegos came just two days after the death of a Salvadoran woman who was violently pinned to the ground while she was being arrested by municipal police in Tulum, Quintana Roo.

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Florida Moves To Ban Iguanas (Among Other Animals) As They Start Showing Up In People’s Toilets

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Florida Moves To Ban Iguanas (Among Other Animals) As They Start Showing Up In People’s Toilets

There’s never a dull moment in Florida. The state is well known for its fondness for all things exotic and/or strange, it has a long history of accommodating religious cults and now the ex-President Trump calls the state home. But now the state is trying to clamp down on another unwanted resident – invasive reptiles that are overrunning the state and literally showing up in people’s toilets.

Florida moves to ban iguanas as they become an invasive species in the state.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has ruled that within the next few weeks the breeding and dealing of 16 of the most ecologically-damaging non-native species must be brought to a halt. The ban will apply to several types of python that have proliferated to crisis point in the Everglades, as well as all types of tegu lizards, anacondas, Nile monitor lizards and green iguanas.

Green iguanas have multiplied in Florida to such a degree since they were first spotted there in 1960 that they are regarded as an environmental hazard. They puncture seawalls, tear up sidewalks and carry salmonella.

An animal once prized as an exotic curiosity is now widely decried as a pest. The iguanas hang out on roofs, dig under houses and to the horror of home owners can crawl into sewers only to emerge, thrashing around, in the toilet bowl.

The state conservation commission now encourages Floridians to humanely kill the lizards, which can grow up to 5ft and 17lbs, on their own property. No hunting licenses are required.

Iguanas are just one of many exotic animals that have become a problem for the state.

In an effort to protect local ecology, economy, and human health, the state is making it illegal for Floridians to breed or sell such animals as Burmese and scrub pythons, Green anacondas, Nile monitors, green iguanas, and tegus, among several other invasive species. Finalized on February 25, the new rules are meant to improve the regulations on the ownership of invasive reptiles in Florida, and they’re expected to go into effect later this summer. 

“Stringent biosecurity measures are required for those entities in possession of Prohibited species to limit escapes,” declares the Florida wildlife commission in its guidelines. 

These reptiles are becoming a major menace in the state, ravaging sensitive ecosystems and wreaking havoc in urban environments. The Burmese python, for example, is now endemic in the Everglades, where it consumes a wide variety of prey. 

But not everyone is onboard with the idea of banning the sale of these animals.

When the commission debated the rules last month it was inundated with comments, many from exotic pet owners and breeders pleading for the ban not to go ahead. As the Washington Post reported, one woman burst into tears over the idea of losing her pet iguanas and pythons.

“If you take them away, I would be really messed up,” she wailed.

But the spread of invasive species through sensitive ecosystems such as the Everglades is happening at such speed that the state felt duty bound to act. The reptiles are also causing havoc in urban areas.

To soften the blow to pet owners, a concession has been tucked into the new regulations. Anyone who cannot contemplate the thought of being parted from their iguana or tegu can apply for a free permit. But the reprieve will last only for the life of the animal. Once the critter is gone, it cannot be replaced by a new pet from the list of banned species.

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