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Central America

Guatemalan journalist critical of president charged with four felonies

AFP

Guatemalan prosecutors on Monday charged journalist Jose Ruben Zamora with crimes including money laundering and blackmail.

Zamora was arrested last week and the offices of El Periodico, a newspaper he founded that has accused key political figures in the country of corruption, were raided.

The publication’s staff denounced the actions as retaliation for its previous reporting on President Alejandro Giammattei, as well as Attorney General Consuelo Porras, whom the United States designated earlier this year for “significant corruption.”

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Prosecutor Cinthya Monterroso charged Zamora with money laundering, conspiracy, influence peddling and blackmail.

At the time of his arrest, a spokesman for the Public Prosecutor’s Office told AFP Zamora was being investigated “not for his journalist work, but as a businessman.”

According to Monday’s charges, Zamora had asked a banker to help him deposit 300,000 Quetzals ($37,500) into the Guatemalan banking system in order to hide “the true origin” of the funds.

At the hearing, prosecutors presented as evidence the cash Zamora had allegedly delivered to the banker via a courier.

Monterroso said the banker, Ronald Garcia, had told prosecutors that Zamora had possibly obtained the money from several businessmen whom he had “blackmailed” not to publish negative information about them.

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Zamora has said that the case against him was a “set-up” by Giammattei and Porras.

The Guatemalan government has distanced itself from Zamora’s arrest, which has sparked a wave of calls to respect freedom of expression, as well as warnings of attacks against independent media.

In June, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights added Guatemala to its list of countries where it has noted serious human rights violations, a charge Giammattei rejects. Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua are also on the list.

The public prosecutor’s office, under the leadership of Porras, has been criticized for arresting and prosecuting several anti-mafia judges and prosecutors.

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Central America

Netherlands condemns ‘regrettable’ Nicaragua schism

AFP

The Dutch foreign ministry on Saturday condemned Nicaragua’s decision to sever diplomatic relations over what the central American country called the Netherlands’ “neocolonialist” attitude.

Nicaragua’s government broke off ties after the Netherlands said it would not fund a hospital there over rights concerns, while President Daniel Ortega lashed out at the “interventionist” Dutch.

“The severing of diplomatic ties is an exceptional step and highly unusual. Nor is it the wish of the Netherlands,” a Dutch foreign ministry spokesman told AFP via email.

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“It is regrettable that Nicaragua has chosen to respond in this disproportionate way to a critical message about democracy and human rights.”

The Netherlands said it had decided to permanently end funding for the construction of a hospital in Nicaragua — on hold since 2018 — because of the “deteriorating situation in the field of democracy and human rights.”

It said it had given Managua several warnings but now Nicaragua was “closing the door”.

The Dutch said the decision was “not in isolation”, saying Nicaragua had asked the EU’s ambassador to leave earlier this week and refused entry to the new US envoy.

“The Netherlands is discussing with the EU partners how we will respond to this move by Nicaragua,” it said.

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The Dutch foreign ministry added that it would be “keeping an eye” on the situation of the estimated 100 Dutch people living in Nicaragua and “if necessary we will adjust the travel advice”.

The Nicaraguan government had on Friday blamed the “repeated meddling, interventionist and neocolonialist position of the Kingdom of the Netherlands” for the row.

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Sports

FIFA suspends Indian football federation over third-party influences

AFP

FIFA on Monday suspended the Indian football federation with “immediate effect due to undue influence from third parties”, jeopardising the country’s staging of the U-17 Women’s World Cup in October.

World football’s governing body called the infraction a “serious violation of the FIFA Statutes”.

The suspension will remain in place until the All India Football Federation (AIFF) regains full control of its daily affairs, FIFA said in a statement.

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The AIFF is in disarray and being run by administrators after former chief Praful Patel stayed in office beyond his term without fresh elections, which courts ruled invalid. 

India is due to host the U-17 Women’s World Cup from October 11-30. The 2020 tournament in India was cancelled and then postponed because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

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Sports

Nadal missing from Spain’s Davis Cup squad, Zverev to play for Germany

AFP

Rafael Nadal will sit out the group stage of the Davis Cup finals next month after not being named in the Spain team on Monday, while Alexander Zverev will lead the German side.

The 36-year-old Nadal won the Australian Open and French Open titles earlier this year to take his men’s record tally of Grand Slam singles triumphs to 22.

But he was forced to withdraw from Wimbledon with an abdominal injury before his scheduled semi-final against Nick Kyrgios.

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Nadal is making his return this week at the Cincinnati Masters as he prepares for the US Open, but will not make a first Davis Cup appearance since winning the tournament for the fifth time with Spain in 2019.

Spain will instead be looking to teenage sensation Carlos Alcaraz for inspiration.

Sergi Bruguera’s team will face Canada, Serbia and South Korea in Group B which is being staged in Valencia from September 13-18.

The top two in each of the four groups will progress to the knock-out phase in Malaga in November.

Zverev has not played since suffering a horrible ankle injury during his Roland Garros semi-final against Nadal in June.

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The world number two though will feature on home soil in Group C matches against France, Belgium and Australia in Hamburg.

Andy Murray will play for 2015 winners Britain who face Kazakhstan, the United States and the Netherlands in Glasgow.

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