Armed robbers in Mexico steal $2.5 million in gold coins

Robie de Guzman   •   August 7, 2019   •   365

Courtesy: Reuters

Armed robbers broke into a Mexican government coin manufacturer on Tuesday (August 06) and filled a backpack with more than $2 million worth of gold coins from a vault that had been left open, security officials said.

The daylight robbery was the latest high-profile crime to hit Mexico City, where crime has increased during record lawlessness plaguing the country.

Two people, one wielding a firearm, broke into a “Casa de Moneda” branch in the morning after throwing a security guard to the ground and taking his gun, Mexico City police said.

One of the robbers then went to the vault, which was open, and filled a backpack with 1,567 gold coins, police said.

The coins, known as “centenarios,” have a face value of 50 pesos, but trade for 31,500 pesos ($1,610) apiece, according to Mexican bank Banorte. That makes the total value of the haul at least $2.5 million.

The coin was first minted in 1921 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Mexico’s independence from Spain, according to the central bank.

Production was suspended in 1931, but the coin was re-minted beginning in 1943 due to demand for gold coins.

One side bears Mexico’s coat of arms, with an eagle perched atop a cactus, and the other features the capital’s iconic Angel of Independence monument backed by the majestic Iztaccihuatl and Popocatepetl volcanoes.

The coins, 37 mm (1.46 inches) in diameter, have a gold fineness of 0.900, or 90% purity.

Mexico is suffering from record murder levels that have made the capital, long regarded as a relatively safe haven, increasingly prone to violent crime. (REUTERS)

(Production: Alberto Fajardo)

Hong Kong leader says she would ‘quit’ if she could; fears her ability to resolve crisis now ‘very limited’

Robie de Guzman   •   September 3, 2019

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam

Embattled Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said she has caused “unforgivable havoc” by igniting the political crisis engulfing the city and would quit if she had a choice, according to an audio recording of remarks she made last week to a group of business people.

At the closed-door meeting, Lam told the group that she now has “very limited” room to resolve the crisis because the unrest has become a national security and sovereignty issue for China amid rising tensions with the United States.

“If I have a choice,” she said, speaking in English, “the first thing is to quit, having made a deep apology.”

Lam’s dramatic and at times anguished remarks offer the clearest view yet into the thinking of the Chinese leadership as it navigates the unrest in Hong Kong, the biggest political crisis to grip the country since the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989.

Hong Kong has been convulsed by sometimes violent protests and mass demonstrations since June, in response to a proposed law by Lam’s administration that would allow people suspected of crimes on the mainland to be extradited to face trial in Chinese courts.

The law has been shelved, but Lam has been unable to end the upheaval. Protesters have expanded their demands to include complete withdrawal of the proposal, a concession her administration has so far refused. Large demonstrations wracked the city again over the weekend.

Lam suggested that Beijing had not yet reached a turning point. She said Beijing had not imposed any deadline for ending the crisis ahead of National Day celebrations scheduled for October 1.

And she said China had “absolutely no plan” to deploy People’s Liberation Army troops on Hong Kong streets.

World leaders have been closely watching whether China will send in the military to quell the protests, as it did a generation ago in the bloody Tiananmen crackdown in Beijing.

Lam noted, however, that she had few options once an issue had been elevated “to a national level,” a reference to the leadership in Beijing, “to a sort of sovereignty and security level, let alone in the midst of this sort of unprecedented tension between the two big economies in the world.”

In such a situation, she added, “the room, the political room for the chief executive who, unfortunately, has to serve two masters by constitution, that is the central people’s government and the people of Hong Kong, that political room for maneuvering is very, very, very limited.”

Three people who attended the meeting confirmed that Lam had made the comments in a talk that lasted about half an hour. A 24-minute recording of her remarks was reviewed by Reuters.

The meeting was one of a number of “closed-door sessions” that Lam said she has been doing “with people from all walks of life” in Hong Kong.

China’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, a high-level agency under China’s cabinet, the State Council, did not respond to questions submitted by Reuters. China’s State Council Information Office did not immediately respond to questions from Reuters. (Reuters)

(Production: Hyunyoung Yi)

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Trump warns residents to heed hurricane Dorian evacuation orders

Robie de Guzman   •   September 2, 2019

U.S. President Donald Trump

U.S. President Donald Trump warned on Sunday (September 1) that Hurricane Dorian would likely impact the eastern seaboard from Florida to North Carolina.

“It’s one of the largest we’ve ever seen. Its effects will be felt hundreds of miles or more from the eye of the storm and long before it potentially makes landfall,” Trump said during a briefing with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Hurricane Dorian became the strongest storm in modern records to hit the northwestern Bahamas and is expected to pound the islands with up to two days of torrential rain, high waves and damaging winds as parts of Florida evacuated before it took aim at the U.S. mainland.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) said Dorian made landfall on Elbow Cay in the Abaco Islands as a Category 5 storm on Sunday with maximum sustained winds of 185 miles per hour (295 km per hour) and gusts of more than 220 mph (354 kph).

“Millions of people from Florida to North Carolina were bracing to see whether Dorian avoids a U.S. landfall and, as predicted, veers north into the Atlantic Ocean after hitting the Bahamas. Even a glancing blow from one of the strongest storms ever to menace Florida could bring torrential rains and damaging winds, and “a Florida landfall is still a distinct possibility,” the Miami-based NHC warned.

FEMA is moving food, water and generators into the southeastern United States, said acting Administrator Peter Gaynor has said. (Reuters)

(Production: Arlene Eiras)

Saudi-led airstrike on Yemeni prison kills at least 100

Robie de Guzman   •   September 2, 2019

At least 100 prisoners of war were killed and about 50 others were injured when a Saudi-led coalition launched an airstrike overnight on a prison in Yemen’s central province of Dhamar, the Houthi-controlled health ministry said in a statement early Sunday morning.

According to the Houthis, the targeted prison housed about 170 people who had been captured while fighting alongside government forces. The prisoners were about to be released in a few days in a prisoner swap.

Rescue teams are still searching for possible survivors.

“At midnight, the roaring coalition warplanes awoke the residents in Dhamar. The warplanes flew past and dropped bombs directly at the college building, where 170 prisoners were in custody,” said Abbas Al-Amadi, undersecretary of Dhamar.

The college building was transformed into a prison by the Houthis after it was attacked by coalition airstrikes about half a year ago. The college was then transferred to the safety area.

Local authorities and the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) are attending to the scene.

“The rescue work is still ongoing. What you are seeing now is the real disaster scene. It is a crime against humanity and this was just a shameless act,” added Al-Amadi.

Saudi Arabia has been leading an Arab military coalition against Iran-allied Houthis in Yemen for more than four years, in support of the internationally-recognized government of Hadi.

In Stockholm last December, Yemeni rival parties agreed to a United Nations (UN)-brokered deal of major prisoner swap and mutual troops withdrawal from the key lifeline Red Sea port city of Hodeidah, just days after the government forces advanced into the southern outskirts of the rebel-held port city. However, both sides have failed to implement the deal.

“The ICRC knows this place. They know that it is where the prisoners were held. People who carried out the airstrikes surely knew the situation here,” said Ahmed Abu Hamra, a member of the National Committee for Prisoners Affairs.

The Houthi-run al-Masirah television reported on its website that the targeted prison is located inside a complex of the Community College in the center of Dhamar and that the ICRC has visited it several times.

However, the Saudi-led coalition said its airstrikes overnight on Dhamar targeted a Houthi location for hostile air defense missiles and drone storages, Saudi-owned AL Arabiya television reported on Twitter.

Dhamar is about 100 kilometers south of the capital Sanaa. Both Dhamar and Sanaa, as well as several other northern provinces have been under Houthi’s control since late 2014 after they forced Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi and his government into exile. (Reuters)

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