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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Far-right former army captain Jair Bolsonaro sworn in as president of Brazil

Jair Bolsonaro has been sworn in as Brazil’s president and promised to overhaul several aspects of daily life and put an end to business-as-usual governing.

For the far-right former army captain, the New Year’s Day inauguration was the culmination of a journey from a marginalised and even ridiculed congressmen to a leader who many Brazilians hope can combat endemic corruption.

A fan of US President Donald Trump, the 63-year-old long-time congressman rose to power on an anti-corruption and pro-gun agenda that has energised conservatives and hard-right supporters after four consecutive presidential election wins by the left-leaning Workers’ Party.

Mr Bolsonaro was the latest of several far-right leaders around the globe who have come to power by riding waves of anger at the establishment and promising to ditch the status quo.

“Congratulations to President @jairbolsonaro who just made a great inauguration speech,” Trump tweeted. “The USA is with you!”

Tuesday’s festivities in the capital Brasilia began with a motorcade procession along the main road leading to Congress and other government buildings.

Mr Bolsonaro and his wife, Michelle, stood up in an open-top Rolls-Royce and waved to thousands of onlookers.

They were surrounded by dozens of guards on horses and plain-clothes bodyguards who ran beside the car.

Once inside Congress, Mr Bolsonaro and his vice president, retired Gen Hamilton Mourao, took the oath of office.

Mr Bolsonaro then read a short speech that included many of the far-right positions he staked out during the campaign.

He promised to combat the “ideology of gender” teaching in schools, “respect our Judeo-Christian tradition” and “prepare children for the job market, not political militancy”.

“I call on all congressmen to help me rescue Brazil from corruption, criminality and ideological submission,” he said.

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Chile: Pope arrives to protests over sex abuse scandal

Pope Francis arrives in Chile for first leg of Latin American tour, with more unrest expected in Santiago.

    Pope Francis has arrived in Chile for the first leg of his Latin American papal tour, with protests over alleged sexual abuse within the Catholic Church marking his visit.

    Demonstrations are expected to take place throughout the capital, Santiago, on Tuesday, where the pope is scheduled to conduct an open-air mass at 13:30 GMT.

    More than 500,000 people are expected to attend the ceremony in Santiago’s O’Higgins Park, according to Chilean newspaper The Santiago Times.

    Chilean parishioners criticised the Argentinean pontiff, the first Latin American leader of the Catholic Church, for his decision to appoint Juan Barros as Bishop of the Chilean city of Osorno in 2015.

    They say Barros covered up the sexual abuse of dozens of minors by Catholic priest Fernando Miguel Karadima, who was found guilty by the Vatican in 2011.

    Almost 80 Chilean priests, deacons and religious brothers who have been accused of molesting children were named in a database published by the Boston-based research group bishopaccountability.org on January 10.

    Anger grows

    Before the pope’s visit, his first to Chile since assuming the papacy in 2013, protesters vandalised four Catholic churches using firebombs in Santiago on January 12.

    They left a note at one site warning the Pope Francis “the next bomb will be in your robe”, according to Latin American broadcaster Telesur.

    Other messages called for “autonomy and resistance” from Chile’s indigenous Mapuche people, according to the Catholic News Agency.

    Roughly two-thirds of Chile’s 1.5 million Mapuches live in urban squalor and the remainder in impoverished rural communities. They are the country’s poorest and most marginalised segment of society.

    Outgoing Chilean President Michelle Bachelet described the attacks as “very strange” and said authorities had been unable to tie the incidents to a “particular group”, Telesur reported.

    “In a democracy, people can express themselves as long as it’s done in a pacifist way,” she said and called for a “climate of respect” during the pope’s upcoming visit.

    The pontiff will also visit Temuco, where he is expected to meet Mapuches, and Iquique, before travelling to Peru.

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    Haiti prisons: Overcrowding a major problem

    Haiti has some of the most overcrowded prisons in the world.
    Human rights groups say around 11,000 inmates live in inhumane conditions. Their plight is just one of the many problems being addressed by the new UN mission to the country.

      Haiti has some of the most overcrowded prisons in the world.

      Human rights groups say around 11,000 inmates live in inhumane conditions. Their plight is just one of the many problems being addressed by the new UN mission to the country.

      Al Jazeera’s Teresa Bo reports from the capital, Port-Au-Prince.

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      Colombia probes ‘plot to kill president’

      Colombia has condemned an alleged plot to assassinate its president, and says three Venezuelans have been arrested in connection with the plan.

      Foreign minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo said there were “credible” plans to target President Iván Duque.

      Without going into details, Mr Trujillo also said three Venezuelans had been arrested with “weapons of war”.

      Tensions have risen between Colombia and Venezuela in recent months, with mutual expulsion of officials.

      Millions have fled Venezuela’s severe economic crisis in recent years, and many of those migrants have crossed into Colombia.

      Mr Duque was elected in August promising to isolate the country diplomatically.

      “Intelligence investigations into possible attacks have been going on for several months,” Mr Trujillo said in a video message, arguing the arrest of the three Venezuelans “further increases concerns”.

      Police and military sources in Colombia reportedly told Reuters news agency that three Venezuelan men were arrested earlier in December, two of whom were armed with rifles.

      President Duque has called on countries to not recognize Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro after his contentious re-election in May, and dubbed the leader a “dictator”.

      But Mr Maduro alleges that Colombia and the US have plotted to kill him and topple his government.

      The Venezuelan leader recently claimed US National Security Adviser John Bolton was personally involved in the assassination plan.

      The arrival of Russian long-range bombers in Venezuela has further increased tensions in the region.

      US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the Russian bombers’ visit amounted to “two corrupt governments squandering public funds”.

      But Venezuelan Defence Minister Vladimir Padrino said they were part of air force exercises with its Russian allies: “This we are going to do with our friends, because we have friends in the world who defend respectful, balanced relations.”

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      Why Venezuela’s exodus is set to continue

      In Venezuela, the discussion about how long to stay, or where to flee and how to begin a new life, is never far from many people’s minds. Every time I visit the country, there are fewer friends and contacts to catch up with.

      An estimated 5,000 people pack up their lives and leave every day, eager to flee the economic collapse and humanitarian crisis which has beset the oil-rich nation.

      More than 3m people have fled Venezuela in recent years. According to the UN, that number is expected to rise to more than 5m by the end of 2019,

      The vast majority of Venezuelans travel to other parts of South America. More than a million Venezuelans have chosen neighbouring Colombia as their new home, with half a million more travelling through it on their way further south to Ecuador, Peru and the countries beyond.

      The lucky ones, those with connections, family members already established and an education, have found work in other parts. But I’ve also met plenty of former professionals selling water or food on the streets of Peru and Colombia to make ends meet.

      “We are talking about people who are leaving not because of a natural disaster, not because of a war,” says Claudia Vargas Ribas, a migration expert at the Simón Bolívar University in Caracas.

      New year, new challenges

      The new year is widely expected to heap pressure on the Venezuelan government. On 10 January, Nicolás Maduro will be formally sworn in for another six years after being declared the winner in elections last May. These elections were largely boycotted by the opposition and were widely condemned by the US, the EU and most of Venezuela’s neighbours.

      President Maduro blames “imperialists” – the likes of the US and Europe – for waging “economic war” against Venezuela and imposing sanctions on many members of his government.

      But his critics say it is economic mismanagement – first by his predecessor Hugo Chávez and now President Maduro himself – that has brought Venezuela to its knees.

      “We are going to have critical days and weeks beginning in January,” says David Smolanksy, an exiled opposition leader and now the head of the Working Group on Venezuelan migration for the Organisation of American States.

      The leadership of the opposition-controlled National Assembly changes in early January and some believe this could be the cause of further tension.

      “Maduro is going to want to project a show of strength,” says Geoff Ramsey, the assistant director of the Venezuela Programme at the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA).

      “I think that’s going to create a new level of dissatisfaction and the few that don’t have an escape plan will be activating them after Maduro officially takes his new term.”

      The region reacts

      Venezuela’s crisis will continue to affect all of South America.

      “The countries in the region are developing countries, we can’t forget that,” says Claudia Vargas Ribas. “So receiving this quantity of people has made their internal affairs more complicated.”

      There have been efforts to co-ordinate the humanitarian response. There have been two meetings in Ecuador’s capital Quito and a recognition that countries need to work together to solve the crisis. A third is scheduled for the first half of 2019.

      “If you compare what Latin America has done with what Europe has done [with its migrants] – Europe which has better conditions and is more economically developed – the example that Latin America is showing is enormous,” says sociologist Tomás Páez, who co-ordinates the Global Project of the Venezuelan Diaspora.

      But with more and more Venezuelans arriving, could countries tighten their immigration rules?

      “If they put brakes on it, what will grow is irregularity,” says Mr Páez, adding that drug-trafficking, prostitution and illegal industries will grow.

      More to be done

      Some experts believe what’s been promised so far is a drop in the bucket compared to what is needed.

      “Regional governments are very interested in getting funding from the US and other donors” says Geoff Ramsey. “But they are much more apprehensive when it comes to providing mid- and long-term solutions to the crisis.”

      Earlier this month, 95 organisations, co-ordinated by the UN Refugee Agency – the UNHCR – and the International Organization for Migration, launched the so-called Regional Response Plan for Refugees and Migrants from Venezuela.

      The idea is to help respond to needs of those Venezuelans who are migrating as well as call on the international community to help fund aid efforts.

      Geoff Ramsey says it is a great start but promises on paper are not enough.

      “A meaningful solution to Venezuela’s displacement crisis will require Latin America to integrate these communities into their formal economies and job markets.”

      The region doesn’t just need to respond to the crisis, it needs to keep up the pressure against Mr Maduro too, says David Smolanksy.

      “You need the strong arm and the friendly hand,” he says.

      “The region needs to be firm against the dictatorship – as long as it continues, people are going to flee.”

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      Items that survived devastating Brazil museum blaze recovered

      The museum was gutted by fire in September, which destroying the vast majority of its 20 million piece collection.

        Researchers from Brazil’s National Museum said on Monday that they had recovered more than 1,500 pieces from the debris of the building following a massive fire.

        The September 2 blaze, which gutted one of the world’s oldest museums, destroyed much of the 20-million-piece collection, and recovering objects from the ashes has been a slow process.

        “The work must be done very carefully and patiently,” said Alexander Kellner, director of the museum.

        The items recovered so far include indigenous arrowheads from Brazil, a Peruvian vase and a pre-Colombian funeral urn

        In October, researchers recovered skull fragments and a part of the femur belonging to “Luzia”, the name scientists gave to a woman who lived 11,500 years ago. The fossils are among the oldest ever found in the Americas.

        The update on recovery efforts on Monday was accompanied by details of a $205,385 donation from the German government for conservation equipment.

        Klaus Zillikens, the German consul general to the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro, said his government was committed to the rehabilitation of the museum.

        “For us, watching over our culture is both a political and societal duty, and in such, immediately after the fire we looked into helping the museum with the restoration,” he said at a press conference to announce the partnership.

        Zillikens said the donation was the first part of a potential $1.3m made available for the restoration, depending on need.

        Authorities have yet to say how the blaze started, but for many Brazilians, the fire became a symbol of endemic negligence and underfunding by successive governments.

        Museum officials have said that the 200-year-old building was lacking many necessary security features, including a sprinkler system, and that the fire safety risks were well known.

        The disaster prompted an outpouring of international support, including a visit by a group of UNESCO specialists in recovery and reconstruction. 


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        Thousands of dead fish wash up in Rio de Janeiro lagoon

        The lagoon has seen similar fish die-offs in previous years and biologists believe that extreme heat is the culprit.

          Residents of a luxury, high-end neighbourhood in Rio de Janeiro awoke Friday to the unpleasant odour of 13 tonnes of dead fish floating in the water of the Rodrigo de Freitas lagoon.

          One of the city’s picture postcard locations, the lagoon has suffered similar fish die-offs in previous years and biologists believe that extreme heat is the culprit.

          Mass die-offs, or “kills”, happen periodically throughout the world. They can be caused by pollution or toxic spills, but can also be triggered by natural phenomena, such as hot weather.

          Heat reduces the amount of oxygen dissolved in the water, which can prove fatal to marine life.

          It is currently summer in Brazil, as it is the rest of the southern hemisphere, and with El Nino emerging in the Pacific Ocean, the season is expected to be hot.

          El Nino is the warming of the waters of the Pacific Ocean and is known to affect the weather around the globe. In Brazil, it usually brings hotter weather than usual to the southeast and makes the coastal waters around Rio stagnant.

          Biologist and ecosystem specialist Mario Moscatelli told the Associated Press news agency that he is convinced that climate change is heating up the basin of the lagoon.

          “We need to modernize and rethink the situation of Rodrigo de Freitas lagoon because the basin is becoming too hot,” he said. “Even if we stop the pollution by sewage completely, even if the canal (the canal that connects the lagoon to the ocean) is cleared, it might not be enough in the new climate reality. We have to think and react or this will become a fish cemetery again.”

          Globally, there are regular fish die-offs throughout the year, but the numbers are thought to be increasing.

          In October, hundreds of thousands of fish were found dead in a lake in Metapan, El Salvador, when the oxygen levels dropped.

          In November, tens of thousands of dead starfish washed up on a beach in Lincolnshire in the UK. They are believed to have been ripped from the seabed in rough seas and dumped on the sand.

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          Pablo Escobar's legacy 25 years on: Tributes and disgust

          On December 2, 1993, Pablo Escobar was killed, ending the life of one of the world’s most notorious outlaws.

            Drug lord Pablo Escobar was killed 25 years ago, ending the life of one of the world’s most notorious outlaws, responsible for an unprecedented number of deaths and a bomb attack in Colombia.

            But overcoming Escobar’s legacy is not easy and in his hometown of Medellin, residents who live in homes he built for them are planning heartfelt tributes to mark Sunday’s anniversary.

            “He was a good person who also had to do bad things, otherwise he would have been killed earlier. He helped many,” Emanuel Lara Rodriguez, a Mexican tourist in Colombia told Al Jazeera.

            Escobar was killed in a rooftop shoot-out with police and army soldiers in Medellin on December 2, 1993, one day after his 44th birthday and five months after he appeared on Forbes magazine’s list of the world’s richest people for the seventh time.

            The mansion where Escobar lived with his family was bombed in 1988 and abandoned, but today it has become a symbol of Escobar’s era – one the authorities want to get rid of.

            The home has become a top tourist attraction in Medellin’s El Poblado neighbourhood. But it will soon be replaced with a public park that will be dedicated to the thousands of people killed in Colombia by drug gang disputes.

            “It’s a tribute to the victims and all the people that defended legality,” Daniel Vasquez, collaborator at Colombia’s Memory House Museum, told Al Jazeera.

            “We have moved forward but we still have huge challenges because the violence and drug trafficking are still here.

            “They’ve changed and are less intense but we need to keep working on our culture so that it will always be less present,” he added.

            The park will cost an estimated $2.5m. Renovating and reinforcing the mansion would have cost $11m, according to the city.

            Complicated legacy

            Twenty-five years ago, Medellin, Colombia’s second-largest city, was infested with drug violence, car bombs and regular shootouts, as drug gangs, state forces and private militias fought for supremacy.

            In 1991, at the height of Escobar’s conflict with authorities, Medellin had recorded 6,349 murders.

            But the fascination with the legend of Escobar has overshadowed this reality for many, and stories around him are still popular.

            In Antioquia, an area surrounded by drugs, many still speak about the fact that it has the biggest concentration of hippopotamus outside of Africa – animals that, having escaped from Escobar’s ranch, were left to roam wild instead of being transferred to the zoo, according to reports from El Pais.

            According to Netflix, more than 60 million viewers have been attracted to the eccentric details of his life through hugely successful series such as Narcos and other TV series and documentaries.

            And for many, he is still the “Colombian Robin Hood”, particularly in the neighbourhood that bears his name, where he donated 443 houses to people who earlier lived at the local dump.

            “I see him like a second God,” resident Maria Eugenia Castano, 44, told AFP news agency, as she lights a candle at an altar that bears Escobar’s photograph. “To me, God is first, and then him.”

            But the damage he inflicted is also remembered. Escobar’s victims are still seeking justice and a balanced narrative of what really happened.

            “Pablo will confuse you,” Yamile Zapata a stylist in Medellin said.

            “If you want to look at the good side, he was very good. If you want to look at the bad, he was very bad.”


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            People smugglers arrested across Americas

            A crackdown on migrant smuggling networks across the Americas has resulted in 49 arrests.

            The operation was co-ordinated by Interpol which said organised crime networks were helping to smuggle South Asian migrants into the US.

            Nearly $2m (£1.6m) has been recovered during anti-smuggling operations across 11 countries, Interpol says.

            The arrests come amid rising tensions over US immigration policy along its southern border.

            They also highlight how the US-Mexico frontier is still a major entry point for illegal immigration from outside the continent.

            Interpol’s four-day Operation Andes was co-ordinated across nearly a dozen countries in South America and the Caribbean, including Brazil and the Dominican Republic.

            Migrants from India, Nepal and Bangladesh were reportedly paying between $15,000 and $30,000 for each journey into the United States.

            Chilean authorities also found Bangladeshi migrants trying to obtain temporary visas by posing as crew members of a shipping company with the help of smugglers.

            Interpol says 22 African and Haitian migrants were also rescued in Nicaragua after being “left to their fate in the mountains” by smugglers.

            “With another 13 investigations opened across the region, what we are seeing is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Jürgen Stock, the agency’s Secretary General.

            Immigration, especially across the US southern border, has been a central issue of Donald Trump’s presidency.

            Last month, Mr Trump sent nearly 6,000 troops to the US-Mexico border to help authorities deter what became known as a caravan of migrants trying to enter from South America.

            He also signed a proclamation denying asylum for migrants crossing the US-Mexico border illegally. The decision was later blocked temporarily by a federal judge.

            This week, the US government faces a potential shutdown during national budget talks as Democrats hope to block plans to build a border wall with Mexico.

            In a tweet, President Trump said illegal immigration costs the United States more than $200bn (£158bn) a year, adding: “How is this allowed to happen?”

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