Mexico’s most-wanted: A guide to the drug cartels

More than 200,000 people have been killed or have disappeared since Mexico’s government declared war on organised crime in December 2006.

The military offensive has led to the destruction of some drug gangs, splits within others and the emergence of new groups.

With widespread corruption and impunity exacerbating Mexico’s problems, there is no end in sight to the violence.

Which are the most powerful cartels today? And who is behind them?

The Sinaloa cartel

Founded in the late 1980s, the Sinaloa cartel headed by Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán has long been considered Mexico’s most powerful criminal organisation.

Having outfought several rival groups, the Sinaloa cartel dominates much of north-west Mexico and makes billions of dollars from trafficking illicit narcotics to the United States, Europe and Asia.

However, the cartel’s future is uncertain after Guzmán was recaptured in 2016 following two daring prison breaks. He was extradited to the US in January 2017 and now awaits trial in New York.

The Jalisco New Generation

Sinaloa’s strongest competitor is its former armed wing, the Jalisco New Generation cartel. Formed around 2010, the Jalisco cartel has expanded rapidly and aggressively across Mexico and is now challenging Sinaloa for control of strategic areas, including Tijuana and the port of Manzanillo.

The Jalisco cartel is blamed for a series of attacks on security forces and public officials, including downing an army helicopter with a rocket-propelled grenade in 2015. Mexico’s Attorney General Raul Cervantes declared it the nation’s largest criminal organisation in 2017.

What happened after El Chapo’s arrest?

Guzmán’s latest arrest created a split within the Sinaloa cartel, fuelling rising violence in the region.

On one side were Guzmán’s sons, Iván Archivaldo and Jesús Alfredo. On the other side, his former associate Dámaso López Núñez, alias “El Licenciado”, and his son Dámaso López Serrano.

Guzmán’s sons were kidnapped at a restaurant in Puerto Vallarta in 2016 but released days later. López Nuñez was among the suspected culprits. Guzmán’s sons also accused him of leading them into a near-fatal ambush in February 2017.

López Nuñez was arrested in Mexico City in May 2016 and López Serrano – who used to brag about his lavish lifestyle on Instagram – turned himself in at the US border in July 2017.

Guzmán’s sons are believed to have assumed control of the cartel. His older brother Aureliano is another influential figure vying for control, while Fausto Isidro Meza Flores, alias “Chapo Isidro”, has emerged as one of the cartel’s powerful local adversaries.

Who are Mexico’s most wanted?

Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, an elusive veteran who ran the Sinaloa cartel alongside Guzmán, is one of the Mexican government’s primary objectives.

Aged 69, Zambada is nearing retirement but is said to retain strong influence behind the scenes. Mexico offers a 30m peso (£1.2m) reward for information leading to his capture.

Ruben Oseguera, alias “El Mencho”, the head of the Jalisco New Generation cartel, is another of Mexico’s most wanted kingpins. A former police officer and avocado vendor, he is the subject of a 2m peso (£82,000) state bounty.

Rafael Caro Quintero, the founder of the now-defunct Guadalajara cartel, is the US Drug Enforcement Administration’s most wanted fugitive.

Convicted of the abduction, torture and murder of DEA agent Enrique Camarena in 1985, he served 28 years of a 40-year sentence in Mexico before being released after a court ruled he should have been tried in a state rather than a federal court.

The US state department offers rewards of up to $20m (£14m) for information on Caro Quintero, and up to $5m each for Zambada or Oseguera.

What happened to Mexico’s other major players?

In eastern Mexico, the Gulf cartel and their fearsome former allies Los Zetas have been weakened by killings and arrests of top leaders, leading to splits within both groups.

In western Michoacán state, the pseudo-religious Knights Templar and La Familia cartels have been largely vanquished by vigilante groups, although the region remains contested by their remnants and several newer gangs.

To the north, the once mighty Juárez, Tijuana and Beltrán-Leyva cartels have all been weakened by Sinaloa cartel offensives.

How has the criminal landscape changed?

Mexico’s criminal landscape has grown more fragmented since then-President Felipe Calderón sent the army to combat the cartels in December 2006.

The government succeeded in capturing or killing the leaders of the biggest cartels, but this led to many smaller and often more violent gangs springing up in their place.

Without the capacity for transnational drug trafficking, these gangs deal in kidnapping, extortion, human trafficking, illegal logging and mining, and stealing oil from government pipelines.

Are things better or worse than they were?

The level of violence dropped after the election of President Enrique Peña Nieto in 2012, but it has shot up dramatically in the last two years, with 2017 on course to be the worst year on record.

Activists and journalists are routinely murdered, while corruption and impunity remain rampant.

The legalisation of marijuana in parts of the US has driven Mexico’s cartels to push harder drugs like methamphetamine, heroin, and fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid.

This has fuelled an epidemic north of the border, with provisional figures from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggesting that more than 64,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2016, up 21% from the previous year.

How violent are the cartels?

Mexico’s cartels are notorious for their extreme violence. Beheadings and torture have become commonplace over the past decade.

Victims are sometimes hung from bridges or dissolved in barrels of acid. Some cartels post graphic execution videos on social media to intimidate their enemies.

How many people have died?

Mexico registered more than 200,000 murders from January 2007 to December 2016, according to government records. More than 30,000 people are classified as having disappeared in that same timeframe.

2017 was the most violent year in two decades, with more than 25,000 murders, official figures suggest.

The final figures for the year are expected to be published in July 2018.

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Maduro's new term in crisis-hit Venezuela widely denounced

The US yesterday stepped up its criticism of Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro with an explicit call for the formation of a new government in the South American country.

The US state department said it stood behind the head of Venezuela’s opposition-run congress, Juan Guaido, who said last Friday that he was prepared to step into the presidency temporarily to replace Maduro.

And yesterday Brazil’s government said it recognised Venezuela’s congressional leader as the country’s rightful president.

The US statement was the latest in a series of Trump administration attacks on Maduro, whose inauguration to a new term as president last Thursday has been widely denounced as illegitimate.

“The people of Venezuela deserve to live in freedom in a democratic society governed by the rule of law,” State Department spokesman Robert Palladino said. “It is time to begin the orderly transition to a new government. We support the National Assembly’s call for all Venezuelans to work together, peacefully, to restore constitutional government and build a better future.”

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke to Guaido earlier last week shortly after the 35-year-old was elected to lead the National Assembly.

Pompeo told reporters traveling with him that the events taking place in Venezuela were “incredibly important”, adding: “The Maduro regime is illegitimate and the US will continue… to work diligently to restore a real democracy to that country.”

Guaido, speaking to a crowd blocking a Caracas street a day after Maduro’s inauguration, said he was willing to become interim leader. But he said he would need support from the public, the armed forces and other countries and international groups before trying to form a transitional government to hold new elections to replace Maduro.

Seventeen Latin American countries, the US and Canada denounced Maduro’s government as illegitimate in a measure adopted last Thursday at the Organisation of American States in Washington.

Guaido asked Venezuelans to mass in a nationwide demonstration on January 23 – the day when a mass uprising overthrew dictator Marcos Perez Jimenez in 1958.

The constitution assigns the presidency to the head of the National Assembly if Maduro is illegitimate.

The military generally has remained firmly behind Maduro so far despite some reports of small-scale attempts at revolt.

A once wealthy oil nation, Venezuela is gripped by a growing crisis of relentless inflation, food shortages and mass migration.

© Associated Press

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Fugitive militant arrested ‘with fake beard’

A former communist militant who Brazil’s new president had vowed to extradite has been detained in Bolivia, a Brazilian official said.

Italian Cesare Battisti is wanted for four murders in Italy during the 1970s, which he denies committing.

Battisti spent years in Brazil as a refugee, backed by former left-wing President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

But far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, who took office on 1 January, had pledged to send him back to Italy.

Filipe G. Martins, a senior aide on international affairs to President Bolsonaro, tweeted that Battisti “will be soon brought to Brazil, from where he will probably be sent to Italy to serve a life sentence”.

An arrest warrant had been issued for Battisti in December, when Brazil’s former President Michel Temer revoked his status as a permanent resident.

The 64-year-old went on the run, and both his lawyer and the police told the BBC they had no idea of his whereabouts.

Battisti, who has a five-year-old Brazilian son, told AFP last year he would face “torture” and death if he returned to Italy.

He was arrested by a special Interpol team formed by Italian investigators, Italian paper Corriere della Sera reports. He was wearing sunglasses and a fake beard at the time of his capture, the paper said.

In December, Brazil’s Federal Police had released a picture showing possible disguises that Battisti might use.

Brazilian police sources told local media Battisti was found in the Bolivian city of Santa Cruz de la Sierra.

The prison escapee who writes police novels

In 1979, Battisti was convicted of belonging to a far-left terrorist group outlawed in Italy – the Armed Proletarians for Communism (PAC). He escaped from prison in 1981.

Later, he was convicted in absentia for killing two Italian law officials, for taking part in a separate murder, and for planning another which left the victim’s 14-year-old son in a wheelchair after a shoot-out.

Battisti has admitted being part of the PAC but denies responsibility for the murders.

Since his escape, he has gone on to became a successful writer of police novels.

Battisti lived in France and Mexico before escaping to Brazil to avoid being extradited. He was arrested by Brazilian authorities in 2007, prompting the Italian government to request his extradition under an existing bilateral treaty.

But Brazil’s then president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva granted Mr Battisti refugee status in 2010, a move that drew strong criticism from Italy.

Battisti was arrested again in 2017 for carrying a large amount of undeclared cash whilst trying to cross into Bolivia from Brazil.

Mr Bolsonaro made his intentions clear in October 2018, tweeting (in Portuguese and Italian): “Here I reaffirm my commitment to extradite the terrorist Cesare Battisti, loved by the Brazilian left…

“We will show the world our total repudiation and commitment to the fight against terrorism. Brazil deserves respect!”

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Tourists killed in bus crash in Cuba

A bus crash in eastern Cuba has left at least seven people dead, including four foreigners, and dozens others injured, local media say.

Two of the foreigners were from Argentina while one was from France and another from Germany.

Some 33 people were injured, including citizens from the UK, the US, Canada, France, the Netherlands and Spain.

Thursday’s accident happened between the eastern cities of Baracoa and Guantánamo.

Five of the injured were said to be in critical condition.

The bus, from the state-owned company Viazul, was travelling from Baracoa to the capital, Havana, carrying 40 people, including 22 foreigners, state media say.

The driver told local media that he lost control on a wet section of the road. But witnesses said the accident happened after he tried to overtake another vehicle.

The UK Foreign Office said it was “seeking information from the Cuban authorities” and that it was “ready to assist any British people who require our help,” a spokesperson told the BBC.

Viazul is run by the military’s tourism wing and is one of the preferred ways for visitors to travel the island, the BBC’s Will Grant in Havana reports.

Cuba’s roads are notoriously poor with many of them badly-lit and poorly maintained, especially in that region of the country, our correspondent adds.

Traffic accidents are common in Cuba and have resulted in some 4,400 deaths since 2012, according to official data cited by EFE news agency.

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Top Venezuela judge defects to US

Venezuela Supreme Court judge Christian Zerpa has fled to the US to protest over President Nicolás Maduro’s second term in office.

Last year’s election “was not free and competitive”, the former Maduro loyalist told a Florida radio station.

And he accused President Maduro of systematically manipulating the affairs of the Supreme Court.

In response, the court said Mr Zerpa was fleeing allegations of sexual harassment.

Opposition parties boycotted the 2018 vote, calling it a sham.

Mr Zerpa had been a crucial ally for Mr Maduro on the court, writing a key legal opinion in 2016 justifying the president’s decision to strip congress of its powers.

His ruling Socialist party had lost control of the legislature to the opposition in a landslide vote earlier that year.

But in an interview with Miami broadcaster EVTV on Sunday, Mr Zerpa called the Supreme Court “an appendage of the executive branch”, saying the president would tell justices how to rule on certain cases.

He said he had not publicly criticised the 2018 election result to ensure he and his family could safely flee to the US.

Mr Maduro is due to be formally inaugurated to a second term on 10 January.

Fourteen countries recalled their ambassadors from Caracas in protest at the result of the vote last May, and the US imposed fresh economic sanctions on the country.

Before the election even took place, the United States, Canada, the European Union and a dozen Latin American countries said they would not recognise the results.

The opposition had boycotted the poll while the government barred many others from taking part.

Millions of people have fled Venezuela in recent years amid skyrocketing inflation and chronic food shortages.

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Fury at Venezuela leader’s Salt Bae feast

Video of Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro eating in an upscale steak restaurant in Turkey has caused outrage in crisis-hit Venezuela.

The images show Turkish celebrity chef Nusret Gokce, also known as “Salt Bae” carving meat in front of the president and his wife, Cilia Flores, at Gokce’s Nusr-Et restaurant in Istanbul.

Almost two-thirds of Venezuelans have reported losing weight as shortages of food worsened in recent years.

Red meat is especially scarce.

‘Lifetime moment’

Chef Nusret Gokce posted three videos of Mr Maduro’s visit on Instagram, but has since deleted them. But many social media users reposted the video:

The chef, who has been dubbed Salt Bae for his stylised way of sprinkling salt on his meat, is seen carving meat in front of the couple with dramatic flair.

President Maduro can be heard saying: “This is a once in a lifetime moment.”

Other videos show President Maduro smoking a cigar taken from a box with his name engraved on a plaque, and Cilia Flores holding up a T-shirt with the chef’s image.

Find out more about Venezuela’s crisis:

Gokce owns several luxurious restaurants in the US, the Middle East and Turkey, and videos of him carving meat have been watched by millions of people.

His restaurants sell some cuts of meat for several hundred dollars.

Lunch stopover

The presidential couple were in Istanbul on a stop-over from China, where the president was trying to drum up investment.

The videos were shared widely by critics of Mr Maduro.

Opposition leader Julio Borges, who is living outside Venezuela for fear of arrest, tweeted: “While Venezuelans suffer and die of hunger, Nicolás Maduro and Cilia Flores have a good time in one of the most expensive restaurants in the world, all with money stolen from the Venezuelan people.”

US Republican senator Marco Rubio, a vocal opponent of President Maduro, laid into the Turkish chef on Twitter.

I don’t know who this weirdo #Saltbae is, but the guy he is so proud to host is not the President of #Venezuela. He is actually the overweight dictator of a nation where 30% of the people eat only once a day & infants are suffering from malnutrition.

End of Twitter post by @marcorubio

But criticism was heaviest in Venezuela, where 64% of people have reported losing significant amounts of weight, 11kg (24lbs) on average, amid worsening food shortages.

Child malnutrition is at record levels and 2.3 million people have left the country since 2014.

Cartoonists have pounced on the incident to highlight the disparity between the president’s meal and the fact that many Venezuelans are having to search the rubbish for food.

President Maduro spoke about the now-controversial lunch during a televised news conference, confirming that he had eaten there during his stopover from China.

“Nusret attended to us personally. We were chatting, having a good time with him,” Mr Maduro said.

He also said that Gokce had told him that “he loves Venezuela”. The chef has not commented.

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‘Flayed god’ temple uncovered in Mexico

Archaeologists in Mexico say they have made an important discovery, uncovering a temple to Xipe Totec – the pre-Hispanic “Flayed lord”.

Historically, throughout the region, priests paid tribute to the deity by wearing the skin of human sacrifices.

Items relating to the deity were discovered at a site in Puebla state, and believed to date from 900-1150 AD.

Mexican archaeologists say the find may be the earliest dedication to Xipe Totec discovered in Mexico.

Worship of the God, who represents fertility and regeneration, is known to have later spread throughout Mesoamerica during Aztec times.

The INAH say the 85cm (33in) ceramic effigy of the god was found in relatively good condition, though some parts are unattached.

They say a right hand was hanging by his left arm, symbolising the skin of a sacrificed person hanging over him.

“Sculpturally it is a very beautiful piece,” leading archaeologist Noemi Castillo said in a press release.

“It measures approximately 80cm (31in) and has a hole in the belly that was used, according to the sources, to place a green stone and ‘endow them with life’ for the ceremonies. “

Two large skulls, believed to be carved from imported volcanic stone and weighing about 200kg (440lb) each were also discovered.

Archaeologists from INAH believe the skulls were used as covers for holes placed in front of two sacrificial alters where they believe sacrifices to him were buried.

All of the materials discovered have been sent to laboratories for official registering and further analysis.

Who was the ‘The Flayed one’?

Xipe Totec is thought to have first appeared in the pre-Aztec era and is usually depicted in sandals, a loincloth and wearing the skin of human sacrifice.

The festival of Tlacaxipehualiztli, which means to wear the skin of the skinning, was dedicated to him during spring during the Aztec period.

It involved selected captives being sacrificed, sometimes by staged gladiatorial fights, before they were skinned and hearts cut out in homage of the God.

Priests commemorating the festival then wore the skins during ceremonies in dedication.

The archaeologists behind the find in Mexico believe the sculpture they found of him is the earliest ever recovered.

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The Brazilian footballer who never was

Football has quasi-religious status in Brazil and becoming a professional player is every Brazilian boy’s dream. But prejudice within the game – and wider Brazilian society – means that, for some, that dream is cut short.

When Douglas Braga arrived in Rio de Janeiro at the age of 12, he was filled with excitement. “I had a lot of hope,” he says. “I came here with a dream – I was ready to fight for it.”

He’d been scouted by third-division Madureira, and after six years in the youth teams there, Douglas’s dream started to become a reality.

At 18, he was signed by Botafogo, one of Rio’s top clubs, which had recently won the Brazilian league. But something else was happening to Douglas at the same time.

‘Toughest decision of my life’

“I started discovering my sexuality,” he says. “I started seeing that I had desires and that it was for men.”

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As his career progressed, training with players who would go on to play for Brazil, and making appearances for the first team, Douglas realised he could not carry on playing football and be an out gay man.

“It was a choice that either you’re yourself, or you’re a footballer. It just wasn’t possible to be both.” At 21, he quit football. It was the toughest decision of his life.

“That day that I decided not to play, I cried so much,” he remembers. “I walked around for hours crying.”

For all the flamboyance of its annual carnival, Brazil is a deeply homophobic country, particularly when it comes to football. The people we speak to tell us what seems obvious – of course there are gay men playing professional football in Brazil. But no top level player has ever come out.

Listen to the chants at a football match or talk to the fans here and it is not hard to see why.

One of the most common taunts directed at opposing players is “viado”, which translates as “faggot”.

At a home game of the table-topping São Paulo team Palmeiras, supporters tell us there is “not really space” for gay men to play professional football in Brazil and that the supporters would not want to watch gay guys playing.

‘Macho sport’

One fan, wearing the branded vest of the Palmeiras supporters’ club, says there is no chance a gay man could ever play for his team: “Football is a macho sport. It’s a place for men.”

During the recent presidential election campaign in Brazil, some other Palmeiras fans were filmed on a mobile phone in a São Paulo metro station chanting: “Look out queers, Bolsonaro’s going to kill the faggots!”

Jair Bolsonaro, who was elected president last year and took office on 1 January, has described himself as a “proud homophobe” and said that if he saw two men kissing he would physically attack them.

Watch: Four things about Brazil’s new president

According to one Brazilian human rights group, 387 LGBT Brazilians were murdered in trans- and homophobic attacks in 2017, a significant increase on the previous year.

Despite this hostile atmosphere, Douglas is part of a group of men fighting back against homophobic prejudice in Brazilian football and wider society.

Back on the pitch

Fifteen years after that gut-wrenching decision to leave football behind, he is back on the pitch, playing for a gay amateur team called BeesCats.

His teammate, André Machado, founded BeesCats so LGBT footballers could come together to play in Rio. It was such a success, he helped other gay teams to form around the country and then, just over a year ago, started an LGBT tournament called the Champions LiGay.

“The LiGay is made for us to play soccer,” André says. “We want to play soccer in a safe place.”

The third Champions LiGay, held in São Paulo, is the biggest yet. There’s a loud, colourful, party atmosphere, and the football is of a high standard.

BeesCats get knocked out in the quarter-finals and Douglas is frustrated they did not do better. But deeper down, there is a bigger disappointment – that his dream of being a pro was cut short.

“It hurts, seeing my friends from back then still playing as professionals,” he says. “It really does still hurt today.”

In the hostile landscape in which gay Brazilians now find themselves, the prospects for the Douglases of the future look uncertain at best.

But, despite the election of a new homophobic president, the tournament’s founder, André, is defiant. “Now I’m so sad with Bolsonaro,” he says.

“But I think the resistance will grow a lot in the next few years.”

Is the Champions LiGay part of the resistance? “Totally. I think we have in these two days, maybe 1,000 people here. And I think in the other Champions LiGay we will be more and more people who want to be a part of this.”

Find out more: Listen to David Baker’s report, The Brazilian Footballer Who Never Was, on Listen to David Baker’s report, The Brazilian Footballer Who Never Was, on Crossing Continents on BBC Radio 4 if you are in the UK or on Assignment on BBC World Service.

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Bolsonaro takes office in Brazil, says nation 'liberated from socialism'

Brazil’s newly inaugurated President Jair Bolsonaro said this week his election had freed the country from “socialism and political correctness,” and he vowed to tackle corruption, crime and economic mismanagement in Latin America’s largest nation.

Bolsonaro, a former army captain turned lawmaker who openly admires Brazil’s 1964-1985 military dictatorship, promised in his first remarks as president to adhere to democratic norms, after his tirades against the media and political opponents had stirred unease.

While investors hope Bolsonaro’s free-market stance will reinvigorate Brazil’s economy – the eight largest in the world – environmentalists and rights groups are worried he will roll back protections for the Amazon rain forest and loosen gun controls in a country that already has the world’s highest number of murders.

“This is the beginning of Brazil’s liberation from socialism, political correctness and a bloated state,” Bolsonaro, 63, said in an address to the nation made after he donned the presidential sash.

A seven-term congressman who spent decades on the fringes of Brazilian politics, Bolsonaro was swept to power in October by voters’ outrage with traditional political parties, making him Brazil’s first right-wing president since the dictatorship.

Voters punished mainstream parties following more than four years of graft investigations that laid bare the largest political corruption scheme ever discovered. Centrist parties were trounced, reshaping Brazil’s political landscape and polarizing Congress.

Following a knife attack during the presidential campaign that left Bolsonaro hospitalized for weeks, security was tight for his inauguration. Some 10,000 police officers and soldiers were deployed on the streets of Brasilia, the capital, as Bolsonaro and his wife rode in an open-topped Rolls-Royce to Congress.

His voters are now impatient for Bolsonaro to make good on ambitious promises to tackle graft and violent crime and revive an economy still sputtering after the collapse of a commodities boom led to Brazil’s worst recession on record.

As thousands of supporters, many with the Brazilian flag draped around their shoulders, chanted “the captain has arrived!,” Bolsonaro launched into a fiery speech.

“We have the great challenge of taking on the effects of an economic crisis, of facing the distortion of human rights and the breakdown of the family,” he said. “We must urgently end ideologies that defend criminals and penalise police.”


Bolsonaro, who was sworn in before a joint session of Congress, called on lawmakers to help him “free the nation definitively from the yoke of corruption, crime, economic irresponsibility and ideological submission.”

On the economic front, the new leader promised to open foreign markets for Brazil and enact reforms to reduce a yawning budget deficit, putting government accounts on a sustainable path.

Bolsonaro plans to realign Brazil internationally, moving away from developing-nation allies and closer to the policies of Western leaders, particularly U.S. President Donald Trump, who sent Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to his inauguration.

Trump congratulated Bolsonaro in a Twitter message, writing “The USA is with you”.

As a clear sign of that diplomatic shift, Bolsonaro plans to move the Brazilian embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, breaking with Brazil’s traditional support for a two-state solution to the Palestinian issue.

Backed massively by conservative sectors of Brazil, including Christian evangelical churches, Bolsonaro would block moves to legalize abortion beyond even the current limited exceptions and remove sex education from public schools, opposing what he calls “cultural Marxism” introduced by recent leftist governments.

One-third of his Cabinet are former army officers, mostly fellow cadets at the Black Needles academy, Brazil’s West Point, all outspoken backers of the former military regime.

Bolsonaro has faced charges of inciting rape and for hate crimes because of comments about women, gays and racial minorities. Yet his law-and-order rhetoric and plans to ease gun controls have resonated with many voters, especially in Brazil’s booming farm country.


In an interview with Record TV on the eve of his inauguration, Bolsonaro lashed out at Brazil’s notorious bureaucracy, which makes doing business difficult and expensive. He vowed to strip away the so-called “Brazil Cost” that hamstrings private enterprise.

“The government machine is really heavy,” he said. “There are hundreds of bureaucratic governing bodies across Brazil, of regulators as well. … We have to untangle the mess.”

Bolsonaro’s vow to follow Trump’s example and pull Brazil out of the Paris climate change agreement has worried environmentalists. So have his plans to build hydroelectric dams in the Amazon and open up to mining the reservations of indigenous peoples who are seen as the last custodians of the world’s biggest forest.

Brazilian businesses are eager to see Bolsonaro take office and install a team of orthodox economists led by investment banker Paulo Guedes, who has promised quick action in bringing Brazil’s unsustainable budget deficit under control.

Guedes plans to sell as many state companies as possible in a privatisation drive that he forecasts could eventually bring in up to 1 trillion reais (202.3 billion pounds)

That would help restore order to government finances. The key measure, however, for reducing the deficit and stopping a dangerous rise of Brazil’s public debt will be the overhaul of the costly social security system.

Pension reform will be Bolsonaro’s biggest challenge since he has yet to build a base in Congress, where he has eschewed the political horse-trading that traditionally helped Brazilian presidents govern the nation of nearly 210 million people.

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Cuba profile

A chronology of key events

1492 – The navigator Christopher Columbus claims Cuba for Spain.

Guerrillas on the go

Revolutionaries led by Fidel Castro staged a successful revolt against dictator Fulgencio Batista

1511 – Spanish conquest begins under the leadership of Diego de Velazquez, who establishes Baracoa and other settlements.

1526 – Importing of slaves from Africa begins.

1762 – Havana captured by a British force led by Admiral George Pocock and Lord Albemarle.

1763 – Havana returned to Spain by the Treaty of Paris.

Wars of independence

1868-78 – Ten Years War of independence ends in a truce with Spain promising reforms and greater autonomy – promises that were mostly never met.

1886 – Slavery abolished.

1895-98 – Jose Marti leads a second war of independence; US declares war on Spain.

1898 – US defeats Spain, which gives up all claims to Cuba and cedes it to the US.

US tutelage

1902 – Cuba becomes independent with Tomas Estrada Palma as its president; however, the Platt Amendment keeps the island under US protection and gives the US the right to intervene in Cuban affairs.

1906-09 – Estrada resigns and the US occupies Cuba following a rebellion led by Jose Miguel Gomez.

Fulgencio Batista

US-backed leader who was eventually toppled

On this Day: Rebels edge closer to capital

1909 – Jose Miguel Gomez becomes president following elections supervised by the US, but is soon tarred by corruption.

1912 – US forces return to Cuba to help put down black protests against discrimination.

1924 – Gerardo Machado institutes vigorous measures, forwarding mining, agriculture and public works, but subsequently establishing a brutal dictatorship.

1925 – Socialist Party founded, forming the basis of the Communist Party.

1933 – Machado overthrown in a coup led by Sergeant Fulgencio Batista.

1934 – The US abandons its right to intervene in Cuba’s internal affairs, revises Cuba’s sugar quota and changes tariffs to favour Cuba.

1944 – Batista retires and is succeeded by the civilian Ramon Grau San Martin.

1952 – Batista seizes power again and presides over an oppressive and corrupt regime.

1953 – Fidel Castro leads an unsuccessful revolt against the Batista regime.

1956 – Castro lands in eastern Cuba from Mexico and takes to the Sierra Maestra mountains where, aided by Ernesto “Che” Guevara, he wages a guerrilla war.

Cuban missile crisis

US accusations – backed up by aerial pictures – that Russia was installing missiles on Cuba brought the superpowers to the brink of war

BBC History: Kennedy and Cuban missile crisis

Timeline: US-Cuba relations

1958 – The US withdraws military aid to Batista.

Triumph of the revolution

1959 – Castro leads a 9,000-strong guerrilla army into Havana, forcing Batista to flee. Castro becomes prime minister, his brother, Raul, becomes his deputy and Guevara becomes third in command.

1960 – All US businesses in Cuba are nationalised without compensation.

1961 – Washington breaks off all diplomatic relations with Havana.

The US sponsors an abortive invasion by Cuban exiles at the Bay of Pigs; Castro proclaims Cuba a communist state and begins to ally it with the USSR.

1962 – Cuban missile crisis ignites when, fearing a US invasion, Castro agrees to allow the USSR to deploy nuclear missiles on the island. The crisis was subsequently resolved when the USSR agreed to remove the missiles in return for the withdrawal of US nuclear missiles from Turkey.

Organisation of American States (OAS) suspends Cuba over its “incompatible” adherence to Marxism-Leninism.

1965 – Cuba’s sole political party renamed the Cuban Communist Party.

1972 – Cuba becomes a full member of the Soviet-based Council for Mutual Economic Assistance.

Interventions in Africa

1976 – Cuban Communist Party approves a new socialist constitution; Castro elected president.

1976-81 – Cuba sends troops first to help Angola’s left-wing MPLA withstand a joint onslaught by South Africa, Unita and the FNLA and, later, to help the Ethiopian regime defeat the Eritreans and Somalis.

1980 – Around 125,000 Cubans, many of them released convicts, flee to the US.

1982 – Cuba, together with other Latin American states, gives Argentina moral support in its dispute with Britain over the Falkland Islands.

1988 – Cuba agrees to withdraw its troops from Angola following an agreement with South Africa.

Surviving without the USSR

1991 – Soviet military advisers leave Cuba following the collapse of the USSR.

1993 – The US tightens its embargo on Cuba, which introduces some market reforms in order to stem the deterioration of its economy. These include the legalisation of the US dollar, the transformation of many state farms into semi-autonomous cooperatives and the legalisation of limited individual private enterprise.

1994 – Cuba signs an agreement with the US according to which the US agrees to admit 20,000 Cubans a year in return for Cuba halting the exodus of refugees.

Fidel Castro

Revolutionary and unchallenged leader for decades

On this Day: Castro sworn in

Profile: The great survivor

BBC Archive: Cuba and the Cold War

1996 – US trade embargo made permanent in response to Cuba’s shooting down of two US aircraft operated by Miami-based Cuban exiles.

1998 – Pope John Paul II visits Cuba.

1998 – The US eases restrictions on the sending of money to relatives by Cuban Americans.

1999 November – Cuban child Elian Gonzalez is picked up off the Florida coast after the boat in which his mother, stepfather and others had tried to escape to the US capsized. A huge campaign by Miami-based Cuban exiles begins with the aim of preventing Elian from rejoining his father in Cuba and of making him stay with relatives in Miami.

2000 June – Elian allowed to rejoin his father in Cuba after prolonged court battles.

2000 October – US House of Representatives approves the sale of food and medicines to Cuba.

Poster boy for revolution

Argentina-born Che Guevara was a close aide to Fidel Castro and became an icon of revolutionary spirit

2000 December – Russian President Vladimir Putin visits Cuba and signs accords aimed at boosting bilateral ties.

2001 October – Cuba angrily criticises Russia’s decision to shut down the Lourdes radio-electronic centre on the island, saying President Putin took the decision as “a special gift” to US President George W Bush ahead of a meeting between the two.

2001 November – US exports food to Cuba for the first time in more than 40 years after a request from the Cuban government to help it cope with the aftermath of Hurricane Michelle.

Spotlight on Guantanamo

2002 January – Prisoners taken during US-led action in Afghanistan are flown into Guantanamo Bay for interrogation as al-Qaeda suspects.

2002 January – Russia’s last military base in Cuba, at Lourdes, closes down.

2002 April – Diplomatic crisis after UN Human Rights Commission again criticises Cuba’s rights record. The resolution is sponsored by Uruguay and supported by many of Cuba’s former allies including Mexico. Uruguay breaks off ties with Cuba after Castro says it is a US lackey.

2002 May – US Under Secretary of State John Bolton accuses Cuba of trying to develop biological weapons, adding the country to Washington’s list of “axis of evil” countries.

Musical legend

Compay Segundo was part of the 1990s Cuban music revival

Buena Vista legend laid to rest

BBC Music: Compay Segundo

2002 May – Former US president Jimmy Carter makes a goodwill visit which includes a tour of scientific centres, in response to US allegations about biological weapons. Carter is the first former or serving US president to visit Cuba since the 1959 revolution.

2002 June – National Assembly amends the constitution to make socialist system of government permanent and untouchable. Castro called for the vote following criticisms from US President George W Bush.

Dissidents jailed

2003 March-April – ”Black Spring” crackdown on dissidents draws international condemnation. 75 people are jailed for terms of up to 28 years; three men who hijacked a ferry to try reach the US are executed.

2003 June – EU halts high-level official visits to Cuba in protest at the country’s recent human rights record.

2004 April – UN Human Rights Commission censures Cuba over its rights record. Cuban foreign minister describes resolution – which passed by single vote – as “ridiculous”.

2004 May – US sanctions restrict US-Cuba family visits and cash remittances from expatriates.

2004 October – President Castro announces ban on transactions in US dollars, and imposes 10% tax on dollar-peso conversions.

Dissident writer

Writer Raul Rivero, one of 75 dissidents rounded up in 2003

Cuba frees dissident

2005 January – Havana says it is resuming diplomatic contacts with the EU, frozen in 2003 following a crackdown on dissidents.

2005 May – Around 200 dissidents hold a public meeting, said by organisers to be the first such gathering since the 1959 revolution.

2005 July – Hurricane Dennis causes widespread destruction and leaves 16 people dead.

2006 February – Propaganda war in Havana as President Castro unveils a monument which blocks the view of illuminated messages – some of them about human rights – displayed on the US mission building.

Castro hospitalised

2006 July – President Fidel Castro undergoes gastric surgery and temporarily hands over control of the government to his brother, Raul.

2006 December – Fidel Castro’s failure to appear at a parade to mark the 50th anniversary of his return to Cuba from exile prompts renewed speculation about his future.

2007 April – A lawyer and a journalist are given lengthy jail terms after secret trials, which rights activists see as a sign of a crackdown on opposition activity.

2007 May – Castro fails to appear at Havana’s annual May Day parade. Days later he says he has had several operations.

Anger as the US drops charges against veteran anti-Castro militant Luis Posada Carriles, who is a former CIA operative and Cuba’s “Public Enemy No. 1” accused of downing a Cuban airliner.

2007 July – First time since 1959 that Revolution Day is celebrated without Castro present.

2007 December – Castro says in a letter read on Cuban TV that he does not intend to cling to power indefinitely.

Fidel steps down

2008 February – Raul Castro takes over as president, days after Fidel announces his retirement.

2008 May – Bans on private ownership of mobile phones and computers lifted.

Anger as US frees militant

Cuba condemned US “double standards” for freeing ex-CIA operative accused of downing Cuban airliner

US drops Cuban militant’s charges

Profile: Cuban ‘plane bomber’

2008 June – Plans are announced to abandon salary equality. The move is seen as a radical departure from the orthodox Marxist economic principles observed since the 1959 revolution.

EU lifts diplomatic sanctions imposed on Cuba in 2003 over crackdown on dissidents.

2008 July – In an effort to boost Cuba’s lagging food production and reduce dependence on food imports, the government relaxes restrictions on the amount of land available to private farmers.

2008 September – Hurricanes Gustav and Ike inflict worst storm damage in Cuba’s recorded history, with 200,000 left homeless and their crops destroyed.

2008 October – State oil company says estimated 20bn barrels in offshore fields, being double previous estimates.

European Union restores ties.

Ties with Russia revitalised

2008 November – Russian President Dmitry Medvedev visits. Two countries conclude new trade and economic accords in sign of strengthening relations. Raul Castro pays reciprocal visit to Russia in January 2009.

Chinese President Hu Jintao visits to sign trade and investment accords, including agreements to continue buying Cuban nickel and sugar.

2008 December – Russian warships visit Havana for first time since end of Cold War.

Government says 2008 most difficult year for economy since collapse of Soviet Union. Growth nearly halved to 4.3%.

Capital: Havana

Havana in the 1920s. Many Spanish colonial buildings still stand in old Havana

2009 March – Two leading figures from Fidel era, Cabinet Secretary Carlos Lage and Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque, resign after admitting “errors”. First government reshuffle since resignation of Fidel Castro.

US Congress votes to lift Bush Administration restrictions on Cuban-Americans visiting Havana and sending back money.

2009 April – US President Barack Obama says he wants a new beginning with Cuba.

Crisis measures

2009 May – Government unveils austerity programme to try to cut energy use and offset impact of global financial crisis.

2009 June – Organisation of American States (OAS) votes to lift ban on Cuban membership imposed in 1962. Cuba welcomes decision, but says it has no plans to rejoin.

2009 July – Cuba signs agreement with Russia allowing oil exploration in Cuban waters of Gulf of Mexico.

2010 February – Political prisoner Orlando Zapata Tamayo dies after 85 days on hunger strike.

2010 May – Wives and mothers of political prisoners are allowed to hold demonstration after archbishop of Havana, Jaime Ortega, intervenes on their behalf.

2010 July – President Castro agrees to free 52 dissidents under a deal brokered by the Church and Spain. Several go into exile.

2010 September – Radical plans for massive government job cuts to revive the economy. Analysts see proposals as biggest private sector shift since the 1959 revolution.

2011 January – US President Barack Obama relaxes restrictions on travel to Cuba. Havana says the measures don’t go far enough.

2011 March – Last two political prisoners detained during 2003 crackdown are released.

Reforms gather pace

2011 April – Communist Party Congress says it will look into possibility of allowing Cuban citizens to travel abroad as tourists.

2011 August – National Assembly approves economic reforms aimed at encouraging private enterprise and reducing state bureaucracy.

2011 November – Cuba passes law allowing individuals to buy and sell private property for first time in 50 years.

2011 December – The authorities release 2,500 prisoners, including some convicted of political crimes, as part of an amnesty ahead of a papal visit.

2012 March – Pope Benedict visits, criticising the US trade embargo on Cuba and calling for greater rights on the island.

2012 April – Cuba marks Good Friday with a public holiday for the first time since recognition of religious holidays stopped in 1959.

2012 June – Cuba re-imposes customs duty on all food imports in effort to curb selling of food aid sent by Cubans abroad on the commercial market. Import duties had been liberalised in 2008 after series of hurricanes caused severe shortages.

2012 October – Spanish politician Angel Carromero is jailed for manslaughter over the death of high-profile Catholic dissident Oswaldo Paya. Mr Carromero was driving the car when, according to the authorities, it crashed into a tree. Mr Paya’s family say the car was rammed off the road after he had received death threats.

The government abolishes the requirement for citizens to buy expensive exit permits when seeking to travel abroad. Highly-qualified professionals such as doctors, engineers and scientists will still require permission to travel, in order to prevent a brain drain.

2012 November – President Raul Castro says the eastern province of Santiago was hard hit by Hurricane Sandy, with 11 people dead and more than 188,000 homes damaged. A United Nations report says Sandy destroyed almost 100,000 hectares of crops.

Raul’s second term

2013 February – The National Assembly re-elects Raul Castro as president. He says he will stand down at the end of his second term in 2018, by which time he will be 86.

2013 July – Five prominent veteran politicians, including Fidel Castro ally and former parliament leader Ricardo Alarcon, are removed from the Communist Party’s Central Committee in what President Raul Castro calls a routine change of personnel.

2014 January – First phase of a deepwater sea port is inaugurated by Brazil and Cuba at Mariel, a rare large foreign investment project on the island.

2014 March – Cuba agrees to a European Union invitation to begin talks to restore relations and boost economic ties, on condition of progress on human rights. The EU suspended ties in 1996.

2014 July – Russian President Vladimir Putin visits during a tour of Latin America, says Moscow will cancel billions of dollars of Cuban debt from Soviet times.

Chinese President Xi Jinping visits, signs bilateral accords.

2014 September/October – Cuba sends hundreds of frontline medical staff to West African countries hit by the Ebola epidemic.

Rapprochement with USA

2014 December – In a surprise development, US President Barack Obama and Cuba’s President Raul Castro announce moves to normalise diplomatic relations between the two countries, severed for more than 50 years.

2015 January – Washington eases some travel and trade restrictions on Cuba.

Two days of historic talks between the US and Cuba take place in Havana, with both sides agreeing to meet again. The discussions focus on restoring diplomatic relations but no date is set for the reopening of embassies in both countries.

President Raul Castro calls on President Obama to use his executive powers to bypass Congress and lift the US economic embargo on Cuba.

2015 February – Cuban and US diplomats say they have made progress in talks in Washington to restore full relations.

2015 May – Cuba establishes banking ties with US, which drops country from list of states that sponsor terrorism.

2015 July – Cuba and US reopen embassies and exchange charges d’affaires.

2015 December – Cuban and US officials hold preliminary talks on mutual compensation.

2016 January – US eases a number of trade restrictions with Cuba.

2016 March – Cuba and the European Union agree to normalise relations.

US President Barack Obama visits Cuba in the first US presidential visit there in 88 years.

2016 May – Cuba takes steps to legalise small and medium-sized businesses as part of economic reforms.

Fidel Castro’s death

2016 November – Fidel Castro, former president and leader of the Cuban revolution, dies at the age of 90. Cuba declares nine days of national mourning.

2017 January – Washington ends a long-standing policy which grants Cuban immigrants the right to remain in the US without a visa.

2017 June – US President Donald Trump overturns some aspects of predecessor Barack Obama’s policy on Cuba which brought about a thaw in relations between the two countries.

2017 October – Diplomatic row over mysterious sonic attacks which are said to have affected the health of US and Canadian embassy staff in Havana.

2018 April – Senior Communist Party stalwart Miguel Diaz-Canel becomes president, ending six decades of rule by the Castro family.

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