Welcome to Thursday, where Poland says it will stop supplying Ukraine with weapons, India suspends visas for Canadians as diplomatic row escalates, and Kyrgyz shepherds come to Sicily’s rescue. Meanwhile, Laura Rique Valero of independent Spanish-language media El Toque tells the story of skilled Cuban workers forced by the government to take jobs abroad, and then preventing them from ever coming home.
[*Atikamekw, Quebec, Canada]
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• Poland to halt supply of weapons to Ukraine amid grain row: Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki was reported as saying the country will halt its supply of weapons to Ukraine and will instead focus on its own defense, amid growing tensions over Warsaw’s ban on Ukrainian grain imports. Poland had summoned Ukraine’s ambassador on Wednesday following remarks from President Volydymyr Zelensky who said, speaking about grain exports, that some nations feigned solidarity with Ukraine. Meanwhile, at least two people were killed and 21 wounded as Russia carried out its biggest missile attack in weeks across Ukraine, including in the eastern city of Kherson. For more, we offer this recent OpEd from French daily Les Echos about the necessity to keep supporting Ukraine.
• Nagorno-Karabakh peace talks begin: Delegations from Azerbaijan and Armenia will start peace talks on Thursday in the Azeri city of Yevlakh after the warring sides reached a ceasefire agreement to end the fighting in the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh. Baku has claimed it has regained control over the territory one day after launching its “anti-terrorist” operation which reportedly left 200 people dead. Meanwhile, thousands of protesters gathered in Armenia’s capital Yerevan on Wednesday to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and denounce the government's failure to support Armenian separatists in the region.
• India suspends visas for Canadians in escalating diplomatic row: India’s visa processing center in Canada has suspended services until further notice citing “operational reasons” amid a growing rift between the two countries over the killing of a Sikh leader on Canadian soil. This comes one day after India warned its citizens against visiting parts of Canada because of “politically condoned hate crimes and criminal violence.”
• Syria's Assad in China for first time in 20 years: Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad has landed in the Chinese eastern city of Hangzhou on Thursday, his first official trip to China since 2004, as the leader seeks financial support to help rebuild his country and end diplomatic isolation amid Western sanctions. Read more about Assad’s return to the world stage.
• U.S. allows half million Venezuelans in country to work legally: The Biden administration announced it will grant temporary deportation relief and access to work permits to nearly half a million Venezuelans already in the U.S., as the country grapples with growing numbers of people fleeing Venezuela and elsewhere.
• Japan's Toshiba set to go private after 74 years: Toshiba, one of Japan's oldest and biggest firms, announced a $14 billion deal with a group of investors had ended in success, paving the way for the embattled electronics conglomerate to end its 74-year history as a publicly traded company. The consortium led by private equity firm Japan Industrial Partners has purchased 78.65% of Toshiba’s shares.
• Sardinia turns to Kyrgyz shepherds to revive farming tradition: The local branch of the national farmers' union in Italy’s Sardinia has struck a deal with the Kyrgyzstan’s Minister of Labor to bring about 100 Kyrgyz shepherds and their families to their island, in an effort to maintain its declining farming tradition.
Dutch daily NRC Handelsblad pays tribute to Erwin Olaf on its front page, the renowned Dutch photographer who died unexpectedly at age 64. His death came just a few weeks after he had a lung transplant. Olaf was known for his portraits, which were considered provocative and erotic, often including nudity. A vocal LGBTQ+ activist, he photographed marginalized people, to “celebrate diversity in all its forms.”
Morocco’s King Mohammed VI has said that the country will spend 120 billion dirhams ($11.6 billion) to rebuild and restore the regions destroyed by the devastating Sep. 8 earthquake. The funds will be used for temporary shelter, reconstruction of homes and restoration of infrastructure over a five-year period, and will also be used to support the 4.2 million people in provinces most impacted by the earthquake. The earthquake destroyed major infrastructure and more than 50,000 homes in the High Atlas Mountains. Morocco has received $700 millions in donations so far, and plans to make up the deficit using their government funds, international aid and continued donations.
The Cuban professionals sent abroad to work, never to return
Noel, a Cuban engineer who had to emigrate to the faraway island of Saint Lucia, tells about the Cuban government's systematic intimidation techniques and coercion of its professionals abroad. He now knows he can never go back to his native island — lest he should never be allowed to leave Cuba again, reports Laura Rique Valero for independent multimedia platform elTOQUE.
🇨🇺 In 2020, Noel was offered a two-to-three-year employment contract on a volcanic island in the Caribbean, some 2,000 kilometers from Cuba. The family needed the money. What came next was never in the plans. Unlike other Cuban workers on the island, Noel felt comfortable because he had an apartment to himself. Still, some rules had bothered him since the beginning. Above all, workers had to ask for permission and inform the head of the mission every time they were going to leave the house, partly for security, but also for control.
💼 Everything went more or less well until in June 2021, when Noel was told that his contract was going to end. They gave him a week's notice. He would complete just a year of work, when initially they had promised him two to three. That was not in his plans, and he had not saved enough. This was happening amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, and there were no regular flights to Cuba. Noel decided to stay in Saint Lucia, filled with fear and stress. Included in the disciplinary regulation for Cuban workers is the obligation to return to Cuba at the end of the mission.
❌ Under the regulations, being expelled from a mission and returned to Cuba is the most severe disciplinary measure available. The Cuban government has also prohibited entry to Cuba for up to eight years for those who leave an official mission, although this is not written into the law. By prohibiting the entry to Cuba of nationals who abandon the mission or do not wish to return to the island, the government has created a strategy of stigmatization and disqualification. "Deserters", they call them. The engineer knew that if he returned, they would not let him leave Cuba again.
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Officials working at Poland’s Foreign Ministry and at the Polish consular service are being accused of corruption linked to the granting of visas, in what is being referred to as a cash-for-visa scandal (Afera wizowa in Polish, literally “the visa affair”). According to allegations leveled by the opposition, thousands of work visas for migrants were issued without proper checks in exchange for money. Brussels has asked Poland’s Law and Justice party for "clarifications", in what could turn to be a serious blow for the ruling party ahead of Oct. 15 national elections.
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