Tuesday, December 31, 2019


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Chile: was a young woman murdered for photographing anti-government protests?

Albertina Martínez found dead two days after covering a protest in Santiago amid speculation she was targeted because of her job

Charis McGowan and John Bartlett in Santiago

Tue 31 Dec 2019 
Albertina Martínez, who died in November. 
No arrests have yet been made over her murder. 
Photograph: Supplied

Photojournalists and press freedom activists have called on authorities in Chile to investigate the murder of a young photographer amid speculation that her death may have been linked to pictures she took during violent clashes between riot police and anti-government demonstrators.

Latin America's tumultuous year turns expectations on their head

The body of Albertina Martínez was found in her apartment in the Chilean capital, Santiago on 21 November, two days after she had been seen heading to a protest nearby. She had been beaten, and a bag containing her camera, laptop and phone were missing.

“The pictures she took that day have vanished,” said her sister, Priscilla.

Sources close to the investigation say the case is being treated as a robbery with homicide, but the timing of the murder has prompted speculation that Martínez was targeted because she had been photographing the protests.

“Chilean authorities should investigate the killing of Albertina Martínez Burgos thoroughly to determine if it was linked to her reporting, and do everything possible to recover her equipment and materials,” said Natalie Southwick from the Committee to Protect Journalists.

In more than two months of mass demonstrations against social and economic inequality, thousands have been injured and at least 27 people have died.

No arrests have yet been made over Martínez’s murder, and with the motive still unclear, friends and authorities have urged caution.
FacebookTwitterPinterest Friends from Martínez’s football team have said she was afraid to attend the protests. Photograph: Supplied

Friends from her football team have said she was afraid to attend the protests, but pictures on Martínez’s private Instagram feed from the week before her death show masked protesters shrouded in billowing clouds of smoke.

Martínez moved to Santiago from southern Chile 10 years ago to pursue a career in photography, working at Chile’s main daily, El Mercurio. She then moved on to work as a lighting assistant at a television studio.

“She was clearly happier taking pictures than working at the studio, and she had a good eye for photography, but opportunities in the field can be difficult to come by,” said Sergio López, who worked alongside Martínez at the newspaper.

He had spoken to her the week before her death. “She said she enjoyed taking pictures at the protests, even though she was a little afraid,” he said.

Photojournalists group Frente Fotograficó responded to Martínez’s death by sharing her pictures of the protests, along with the hashtag #JUSTICIAPARAALBERTINA.

“We will not forget her face or her name,” they wrote.

The photojournalism collective Migrar Photo called on investigators for transparency and truth, and warned photographers to “look after one another”.

The group said that police animosity towards photographers has intensified in recent weeks, as coverage of protests has provided evidence of human rights abuses by the security forces. Members of the group have received threats from the police, and have been shot with pellets, teargas and water cannons.

Chile is considered a safe country for journalists, ranked 46th out of 180 countries in the Reporters Without Borders 2019 World Press Freedom Index.

But since the unrest began 10 weeks ago, RSF has condemned a series of attacks on the press, including forced detention.

Freelance photographer Giovanny Valenzuela was covering the same protest as Martínez on 19 November, and described a heavy police presence and “strong repression”.

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He said news of her death and shaken other photojournalists covering the protests.

“The fact that we are in the middle of a social revolt, and a photographer was found dead without her equipment was very shocking. We feel threatened – and very sad.”

Other attacks on press include an incident in which a BBC team was apparently targeted with teargas rounds, the detention of two photojournalists, and a police assault on an Argentinian journalist who was hit in the face with a baton by officers who then destroyed her camera.

Martínez’s sister Priscilla said she had still not been contacted by prosecutors. “I can’t rule out anything because I don’t know anything,” she said.

CIA devised way to restrict missiles given to allies, researcher says
LEIPZIG, Germany (Reuters) - The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency has devised technology to restrict the use of anti-aircraft missiles after they leave American hands, a researcher said, a move that experts say could persuade the United States that it would be safe to disseminate powerful weapons more frequently.

The new technology is intended for use with shoulder-fired missiles called Man-Portable Air-Defense Systems (MANPADS), Dutch researcher Jos Wetzels told a cybersecurity conference here in Leipzig, Germany on Saturday. Wetzels said the system was laid out in a batch of CIA documents published by WikiLeaks in 2017 but that the files were mislabeled and attracted little public attention until now.

Wetzels said the CIA had come up with a “smart arms control solution” that would restrict the use of missiles “to a particular time and a particular place.” The technique, referred to as “geofencing,” blocks the use of a device outside a specific geographic area.

Weapons that are disabled when they leave the battlefield could be an attractive feature. Supplied to U.S. allies, the highly portable missiles can help win wars, but they have often been lost, sold, or passed to extremists.

For example, Stinger MANPADS supplied by the United States are credited with helping mujahedeen rebels drive Soviet forces out of Afghanistan in a conflict that spanned the 1980s and 1990s. But U.S. officials have since spent billions of dollars here to clear the missiles from the country - and from other conflict zones around the world.

Wetzels said it was unclear whether the CIA’s design ever left the drawing board or where it was meant to have been deployed, but he noted that the apparent period of development in the documents’ metadata - 2014 to 2015 - roughly coincided with media reports about the deployment of MANPADS to rebels in Syria. Geofencing might have been seen as a way of ensuring the missiles were used on the Syrian battlefield and nowhere else, he said.

The CIA declined to comment.

Outside experts who reviewed Wetzels’ analysis said they found it plausible.

N.R. Jenzen-Jones, who directs the British-based ARES intelligence consultancy, said geofencing has long been discussed as a safeguard to allow powerful weapons “into the hands of friendly forces operating in high-risk environments.”

Wetzels said geofencing was no panacea, running through a list of security vulnerabilities that could be used by insurgents to bypass the restrictions.

“It’s not a watertight solution,” he said.

Uber, Postmates sue to block California gig worker law, claiming it's unconstitutional

(Reuters) - Ride-hailing company Uber Technologies Inc and courier services provider Postmates Inc asked a U.S. court to block a California labor law set to go into effect on Wednesday, arguing the bill violates the U.S. Constitution.

In a lawsuit filed in Los Angeles federal court on Monday, the companies and two app-based drivers said the law, which would make it harder for gig economy companies to qualify their workers as independent contractors rather than employees, was irrational, vague and incoherent.

The office of California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a statement on Monday it was reviewing the complaint. The bill, called AB5, faces multiple legal challenges.

The law was signed by California Governor Gavin Newsom in September and has garnered national attention, largely owing to the size of California’s workforce and the state’s leadership role in establishing policies that are frequently adopted by other states.

Backers of the bill, including labor groups, have argued the law protects workers’ rights. By classifying the contractors as employees, the companies would be subject to labor laws that require higher pay and other benefits such as medical insurance.

The bill strikes at the heart of the “gig economy” business model of technology platforms like Uber, Postmates, Lyft Inc, DoorDash and others who rely heavily on the state’s 450,000 contract workers, not full-time employees, to drive passengers or deliver food via app-based services.

Uber, Postmates and other app-based companies said the legislation compromises the flexibility prized by their workforce, and that fewer workers would be hired were they considered employees.

The companies in their Monday lawsuit called AB5 a “thinly veiled attempt” to target and harm gig economy businesses. Singling out app-based workers violates equal protection guaranteed under the constitutions of the United States and California, the companies argued.

“It irreparably harms network companies and app-based independent service providers by denying their constitutional rights to be treated the same as others to whom they are similarly situated,” the lawsuit said.

The companies pointed to allegedly arbitrary exemptions of different non-gig worker groups, including salespeople, travel agents, construction truck drivers and commercial fishermen.

The full impact of the bill remains unclear in the short term, but the lawsuit cited a study saying the bill would increase ride-hailing company Lyft’s operating costs by 20% and lead to some 300,000 fewer drivers in California.

Ron Herrera, secretary-treasurer of Teamsters Local 396 and Teamsters International vice president, said in a statement late on Monday night, that the labour union objects the lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of AB-5.

“Teamsters Local 396 and the broader American Labor Movement must use all of the resources at our disposal to ensure that AB-5 is protected and that workers have a voice at the table,” Herrera added.

Uber, Lyft and food delivery company DoorDash have earmarked $90 million for a planned November 2020 ballot initiative that would exempt them from the law.

Tesla must face lawsuit claiming racism at California factory

(Reuters) - A federal judge rejected Tesla Inc’s effort to dismiss claims by two former workers that the California electric car factory where they worked was a hotbed of racial hostility, clearing the way for a possible trial.

In a decision on Monday, U.S. District Judge William Orrick in San Francisco found open questions over whether Owen Diaz and his son Demetric Di-az faced “severe and pervasive racial harassment” in 2015 and 2016 at Tesla’s factory in suburban Fremont, which employs more than 10,000 people.

The plaintiffs, who are black, said they were subjected to repeated racial epithets dozens of times, as well as racist cartoons, and that supervisors engaged in or did little to stop the racism.

Orrick said Diaz could pursue claims that Tesla allowed and did not take reasonable steps to stop racial harassment.

He said punitive damages might be available if Tesla must have known about the harassment and “ratified” it, even if only lower level workers were directly involved.

“The n-word is perhaps the most offensive and inflammatory racial slur in English, a word expressive of racial hatred and bigotry,” Orrick wrote. “This case will proceed to trial.”

A trial is scheduled for May 11, 2020.

Tesla and its lawyers did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The Palo Alto, California-based company has faced multiple racial harassment lawsuits, but is not the only automaker to face such claims in recent years.

In 2017, Ford Motor Co agreed to pay up to $10.1 million to settle a federal probe into alleged harassment at two Chicago plants.

Tesla has in court papers said it “did not hesitate” to address racial abuse at the Fremont factory, and there was no proof of “oppression, malice, or fraud.”

Orrick also said Diaz could pursue claims against a staffing agency that assigned him to the factory, and a liaison between Tesla and that agency.

Lawrence Organ, the plaintiffs’ lawyer, said his clients are seeking damages “in the millions” of dollars.

“Tesla is not sending a message that this kind of conduct in the workplace is not permitted,” he said in an interview.

Owen Diaz said he worked at Tesla for 11 months as an elevator operator, while Demetric Di-az spent two months as a production associate.

Allegations included a claim that Diaz’s supervisor admitted to drawing a cartoon of “a black face person with a bone in his hair” and captioned “booo,” supposedly short for “jigaboo.”

“You people can’t take a joke,” Diaz said the supervisor told him.

The case is Di-az et al v Tesla Inc et al, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, No. 17-06748.

Microsoft says North Korea-linked hackers stole sensitive information

(Reuters) - Microsoft Corp said on Monday it has taken control of web domains which were used by a hacking group called “Thallium” to steal information.

Thallium is believed to be operating from North Korea, Microsoft said in a blog post, and the hackers targeted government employees, think tanks, university staff members and individuals working on nuclear proliferation issues, among others.

Most of the targets were based in the United States, as well as Japan and South Korea, the company said. (bit.ly/2QB6CFc)

Thallium tricked victims through a technique known as “spear phishing”, using credible-looking emails that appear legitimate at first glance.

Microsoft said it now has control of 50 web domains used by the group to conduct its operations, following a case filed against the hacking group in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, and a subsequent court order.

Thallium also used malware to compromise systems and steal data, and is the fourth nation-state group against which Microsoft has taken legal action, the company said.

I wouldn't have wasted my time on Trump, says Greta Thunberg

LONDON (Reuters) - Teenage climate change activist Greta Thunberg said on Monday that talking to U.S. President Donald Trump at a United Nations summit on global warming would have been a waste of time since he would not have paid any attention.

In an interview with BBC radio’s Today program, for which she was the guest editor on Monday, Thunberg also said she regarded personal attacks on her as funny and that she hoped to go back to having a normal life.

A video of the 16-year-old Swedish campaigner giving Trump what media described as a “death stare” at a U.N. climate summit in New York in September went viral on social media. Trump has questioned climate science and is pulling the United States out of the 2015 Paris Agrement on global warming.

Asked what she would have said to the president if they had spoken, Thunberg said: “Honestly, I don’t think I would have said anything because obviously he’s not listening to scientists and experts, so why would he listen to me?

“So I probably wouldn’t have said anything, I wouldn’t have wasted my time,” she said.

This month Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro called Thunberg “a brat”. Trump has said on Twitter she needs to work on her anger management problem.

“Those attacks are just funny because they obviously don’t mean anything,” she said. “I guess of course it means something - they are terrified of young people bringing change which they don’t want - but that is just proof that we are actually doing something and that they see us as some kind of threat.”

Thunberg came to world attention when she began a grassroots campaign aged 15 by skipping school every Friday to demonstrate outside the Swedish parliament. The protests have inspired millions of young people to take action against climate change.


Thunberg, who was named Time Magazine’s Person of the Year for 2019, said becoming an activist had helped rescue her from the depression she had previously been suffering.

She also spoke in Monday’s BBC program with veteran British broadcaster David Attenborough, telling him how his nature documentaries had inspired her.

“You have aroused the world,” the 93-year-old Attenborough told Thunberg in reply, adding that she had achieved things “that many of us who have been working on the issue for 20 years have failed to do”.

Her father Svante Thunberg, also interviewed for the BBC program, said she had dealt very well with “the fake news, all the things that people try to fabricate about her, the hate that that generates” while in the global media limelight.

“Quite frankly, I don’t know how she does it, but she laughs most of the time. She finds it hilarious,” he said.

The teenager rejoined activists outside the Swedish parliament this month after four months of overseas trips to attend climate conferences in New York and Madrid.

“I hope I won’t have to sit outside the Swedish parliament for long. I hope I don’t have to be a climate activist any more,” she said on Monday, adding she was looking forward to returning to school in August.

“I just want to be just as everyone else. I want to educate myself and be just like a normal teenager.”
EPA scientific panel says some rollbacks of key air, water rules at odds with science

Valerie Volcovici

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A panel of scientific advisers, including several appointed by President Donald Trump, says some rollbacks of clean-air and vehicle rules proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency are based on weak scientific analysis and should be revised, according to draft reports published on Tuesday.

The EPA’s Science Advisory Board (SAB), which is tasked with providing independent input for agency policy, published four draft reports on the last day of the year analyzing the scientific underpinnings to the agency’s proposed changes to clean-water, mercury, vehicle fuel-efficiency and scientific transparency regulations.

In the case of the EPA’s proposed changes to mercury and air toxics regulations for power plants, the advisers told the EPA to “instigate a new risk assessment” of the scientific basis of its 2018 proposal that includes “all relevant health outcomes for neonates, children and adults” and widens its study of consumption of fish affected by mercury.

The mercury rule is due to be finalized in January.

In a separate report, the advisers proposed several recommendations aimed at strengthening the agency’s vehicle emission regulation, which would reduce the Obama administration’s vehicle emissions standards for cars and trucks for models up to 2026. The EPA said the changes would reduce vehicle costs and boost safety.

“Together with other smaller problems and inconsistencies, the issues are of sufficient magnitude that the estimated net benefits of the proposed revision may be substantially overstated,” the SAB report said.

In another report analyzing the agency’s changes to the Waters of the United States rule, which defines which waterways can be federally regulated, the board said the agency’s new definition was “not fully consistent with established EPA recognized science” ... “to restore and maintain the chemical, physical and biological integrity of the Nation’s waters.”

In response to the advisory board reports, an EPA representative defended the rulemakings analyzed by the advisers and said their findings were not final.

“EPA always appreciates and respects the work and advice of the SAB,” Corry Schiermeyer said. “The commentary and reports may potentially be revised by the SAB members as they strive for a consensus on these documents.”

She said in the case of the waters rule, the EPA was constrained by legal precedent.

The Science Advisory Board was created by Congress to serve as a check on EPA policies and research. The Trump administration has made changes to the board in a bid to “diversify” its composition.

It will hold four public meetings in January to discuss its reports.

Christianity Today's split with Trump highlights deeper issue in white evangelical America

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - After evangelical publication Christianity Today published a blistering editorial on what it called Donald Trump’s “grossly immoral character”, some church leaders and the U.S. president himself denounced the criticism as elitist and out-of-touch.

The Dec. 19 editorial sparked a Christmas holiday debate over religion in U.S. politics, and posed new questions about the close alignment between white evangelical voters and Trump, who has given their beliefs strong political support.

However, the coziness with the Republican president, who was impeached this month by the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives, is exacerbating a long-term crisis facing white evangelicalism, some Christians say - it is being abandoned by younger generations.

There has been a big drop-off in white evangelical church participation among adults under 40, and publications such as Christianity Today and religious leaders are struggling to engage “Gen Z,” or those born after 1996.

“One of the major factors is that the church is too tied up in right-wing politics,” said Greg Carey, a professor at Lancaster Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania. Evangelical activism against gay rights is particularly repellant to many members of a generation where “everyone has friends who are LGBTQ,” Carey said.

Trump’s presidency may make the age gap worse, some evangelical Christians believe. “Having to go out and defend this guy day after day, as many of these Trump evangelicals are doing, they’re just destroying their credibility,” said Napp Nazworth, who until Monday was politics editor of another publication, the Christian Post.

Nazworth resigned over the Christian Post’s plans to criticize Christianity Today for its anti-Trump editorial.

He told Reuters many younger evangelicals opposed Trump’s immigration and asylum policies and were concerned about alleviating poverty, in contrast to older members of the faith. Evangelical leaders standing with Trump “will have no moral authority to speak to moral issues of the day after defending him,” Nazworth said.

Evangelicalism, like all forms of Christianity in the United States, is struggling to attract younger members, amid an unprecedented surge in recent years of the number of people identifying as religiously unaffiliated.

White evangelical protestants declined as a proportion of the U.S. population between 2006 and 2018, falling to 15% from 23%, according to analysis by the Public Religion Research Institute.

Higher-than-average voter turnout among evangelicals means the group still represents more than a quarter of the U.S. electorate, but a failure to draw young worshippers means their electoral heft is set to diminish, said Robert P. Jones, chief executive and founder of PRRI.

(Chart: tmsnrt.rs/39jbIyP)

The median age of white evangelicals and white Christians overall is 55, according to PRRI data, compared with 44 for the overall white population.

The evangelical church’s “singular focus” on same sex marriage, relationships and abortion is failing to engage younger generations, said Randall Balmer, a professor of religion at Dartmouth College, and a former editor at Christianity Today.

They are motivated by a broader set of issues, he said, adding “in terms of sexual orientation the younger generation just shrugs about that.”

The perhaps unlikely alliance between conservative Christians and the twice-divorced New York real estate developer has been important for Trump in a country that is more religious than most other western democracies and where a president’s spiritual life is closely examined.

White evangelical Christians overwhelmingly voted for Trump in 2016, when exit polls showed he won 81% of their votes. They have mostly stuck with him despite the controversies over his harsh attacks on political rivals and demeaning comments about women, thanks largely to Trump appointing scores of conservative judges who support restrictions on access to abortion.

FILE PHOTO: Faith leaders place their hands on the shoulders of U.S. President Donald Trump as he takes part in a prayer for those affected by Hurricane Harvey in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, U.S., September 1, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Many U.S. evangelicals also strongly support conservatives in Israel, and hailed Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the U.S. embassy there.

Trump, who describes himself as Presbyterian and whose advisors include evangelical figures such as Florida televangelist Paula White, dismissed Christianity Today as “far left”.

A group of nearly 200 leaders from the conservative wing of evangelicalism defended him in a letter to the magazine, praising the president for seeking the advice of “Bible-believing Christians and patriotic Americans”.

Franklin Graham, son of the magazine’s founder Billy Graham, who advised both Republican and Democratic presidents over several decades, said the editorial was a “totally partisan attack.”

Meanwhile, other religious scholars and leaders have signed a petitihere in support of Christianity Today, stating that the "United States evangelical and Christian community is at a moral crossroads."

Younger evangelicals are put off by church leaders’ seemingly unconditional support for Trump despite his “cruel” treatment of migrants and deregulation that could damage the environment, said Marlena Graves, a Christian author on faith, culture and justice, who signed the petition.

“No political party embodies Jesus’s teaching closely. You can’t depend on government to do what Jesus says because, oftentimes, you have to go against the government,” she said, citing evangelical believers who worked to abolish black slavery and Christians who resisted Nazism in Germany.

The Trump campaign did not respond to a request for comment. It announced on Friday the Jan. 3 launch of “Evangelicals for Trump”, a coalition to support the president in the November 2020 election.

Trump will attend the launch at King Jesus International Ministry, a megachurch in a Miami suburb with a large Spanish-speaking congregation, according to a church official.

Protesters burn security post at U.S. Embassy in Iraq; Pentagon sending additional troops to region
Protesters and militia fighters gather to condemn air strikes on bases belonging to Hashd al-Shaabi (paramilitary forces), outside the main gate of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad
BAGHDAD/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Protesters angry about U.S. air strikes on Iraq hurled stones and torched a security post at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad on Tuesday, setting off a confrontation with guards and prompting the United States to send additional troops to the Middle East.

The protests, led by Iranian-backed militias, posed a new foreign policy challenge for U.S. President Donald Trump, who faces re-election in 2020. He threatened to retaliate against Iran.

The State Department said diplomatic personnel inside were safe and there were no plans to evacuate them.

Embassy guards used stun grenades and tear gas to repel protesters, who stormed and burned the security post at the entrance but did not breach the main compound.

The Pentagon said that in addition to Marines sent to protect embassy personnel, about 750 soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division were being sent to the Middle East and that additional troops were prepared to deploy over the next several days.

“This deployment is an appropriate and precautionary action taken in response to increased threat levels against U.S. personnel and facilities, such as we witnessed in Baghdad today,” U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said in a statement.

U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the 750 troops would initially be based out of Kuwait. The officials said that as many as 4,000 troops could be sent to the region in the coming days if needed.

More than 5,000 U.S. troops are stationed in Iraq supporting local forces.

The unprecedented attack on an American diplomatic mission in Iraq marked a sharp escalation of the proxy conflict between the United States and Iran - both influential players in the country - and plunged U.S. relations with Iraq to their worst level in years.

The United States and its allies invaded Iraq in 2003 and ousted Saddam Hussein. But political stability has been elusive.

Trump, on a two-week working vacation in Palm Beach, Florida, spoke by phone to Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi of Iraq. “President Trump emphasized the need to protect United States personnel and facilities in Iraq,” the White House said.

Trump accused Iran of orchestrating the violence.

“Iran will be held fully responsible for lives lost, or damage incurred, at any of our facilities. They will pay a very BIG PRICE! This is not a Warning, it is a Threat,” Trump said in a tweet.

Protestors set fire to an entry control point at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq, December 31, 2019. U.S. Army/Staff Sgt. Desmond Cassell/Task Force-Iraq Public Affairs/Handout via REUTERS.
Iran, under severe economic duress from punishing U.S. sanctions put in place by Trump, denied responsibility.

“America has the surprising audacity of attributing to Iran the protests of the Iraqi people against (Washington’s) savage killing of at least 25 Iraqis,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said.

The embassy incident came seven years after the 2012 attack by armed militants on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, that resulted in the death of the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans and led to multiple congressional investigations.

The protests followed U.S. air strikes on Sunday on bases operated by the Iranian-backed militia Kataib Hezbollah inside Iraq, which killed at least 25 fighters and wounded 55. The strikes were retaliation for the killing of a U.S. civilian contractor in a rocket attack on an Iraqi military base, which Washington blamed on Kataib Hezbollah.

“Iran killed an American contractor, wounding many. We strongly responded, and always will,” Trump said in a tweet. “Now Iran is orchestrating an attack on the U.S. Embassy in Iraq. They will be held fully responsible.”

Democrats upset that Trump ditched the Iran nuclear deal negotiated by Democratic President Barack Obama in 2015 were quick to pounce on the incident as a failure of Trump’s Iran policy.

“The predictable result of the Trump administration’s reckless bluster, escalation and miscalculation in the Middle East is that we are now hurtling closer to an unauthorized war with Iran that the American people do not support,” said U.S. Senator Tom Udall, a Democratic member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The protesters, joined briefly by Iranian-backed Shi’ite Muslim militia leaders, threw stones at the embassy gate, while others chanted: “No, no, America! No, no, Trump!”

Iraqi special forces prevented protesters entering, later reinforced by U.S.-trained Iraqi Counter Terrorism forces.

Protesters set fire to an entry control point at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, December 31, 2019. U.S. Army/Staff Sgt. Desmond Cassell/Task Force-Iraq Public Affairs/Handout via REUTERS

The embassy has been hit by sporadic but non-lethal rocket fire in recent months, and was regularly shelled following the U.S.-led invasion of 2003, but had not been physically attacked by demonstrators in that way before.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told CBS News that U.S. officials never contemplated evacuating the embassy and had kept the heat on Iraqi officials to ensure the compound was safe.

“We reminded them throughout the day of their continued responsibility,” he said.

The Popular Mobilisation Forces, an umbrella grouping of the militias that have been officially integrated into Iraq’s armed forces, said 62 militiamen and civilians were wounded by the tear gas and stun grenades fired to disperse the crowd.

A Reuters witness saw blood on the face of one wounded militiaman and on the stomach of the other as their colleagues carried them away.

Iraqis have been taking to the streets in the thousands almost daily to condemn, among other things, militias such as Kataib Hezbollah and their Iranian patrons that support Abdul Mahdi’s government.

Kataib Hezbollah is one of the smallest but most potent of the Iranian-backed militias. Its flags were hung on the fence surrounding the embassy.

Reporting by Ahmed Rasheed in Baghdad and Idrees Ali in Washington; Additional reporting by Jeff Mason in Palm Beach, Fla. and Daphne Psaledakis, Doina Chiacu, Diane Bartz in Washington; Writing by Steve Holland; Editing by Rosalba O'Brien and Peter Cooney

Warren warns 'democracy hangs in the balance' in New Year's Eve speech

Joseph Ax, Amanda Becker

BOSTON (Reuters) - Democratic presidential contender Elizabeth Warren sought to re-energize her White House campaign in a New Year’s Eve speech on Tuesday, warning that “democracy hangs in the balance” five weeks before nominating contests begin in early February.

In her home state of Massachusetts on the first anniversary of her campaign launch, Warren said President Donald Trump would “try to cheat his way through yet another election” if he is not removed from office after his impeachment by the Democratic-controlled U.S. House of Representatives.

“In the past 12 months, the president has become bolder with his lies and more brazen in his law-breaking,” said Warren, who as a U.S. senator will vote on whether to convict Trump of improperly pressuring Ukraine for political favors. “Meanwhile, the Republicans in Congress have turned into fawning, spineless defenders of his crimes.”

The race for the Democratic nomination remains fluid as the calendar turns to 2020, with 15 Democrats still in the running and a majority of voters telling pollsters that they have yet to settle on a final choice. The nominating contests in Iowa and New Hampshire in early February will be critical tests of candidates’ viability.

Warren’s address took place in front of a crowd of nearly 700 people at a church in downtown Boston known as a gathering place for revolutionary colonists in the 1770s.

“We are a nation that fights back,” she said. “Fighting back is an act of patriotism.”

Warren remains a top Democratic candidate in national opinion polls but her standing slipped in autumn after a months-long surge that briefly vaulted her to front-runner status.

She is in third place behind Joe Biden, the former vice president, and fellow U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, according to the website RealClearPolitics’s national polling average.

Warren’s momentum stalled under sustained attacks from more moderate Democratic candidates like Pete Buttigieg, the outgoing mayor of South Bend, Indiana, over her support for Medicare for All, the healthcare overhaul that would eliminate private insurance in favor of a single government-run plan.

In response, Warren has revised her rhetoric on healthcare, emphasizing her intention to phase in Medicare for All over several years to preserve “choice” for Americans.

She has also sought to return to the theme of economic populism that animated the early part of her campaign.

Warren, who has sworn off high-dollar fundraisers, argued on Tuesday that other candidates who “kiss the rings” of the wealthy are beholden to rich donors and corporate interests.

“The billionaires, the corporate executives and their favorite presidential candidates have one clear goal: to convince you that everything you imagine is impossible,” Warren said.

Slideshow (12 Images)

While she did not name any rivals, her remarks were likely aimed at Biden and Buttigieg, whom she has previously criticized for holding high-priced fundraisers.

In recent months, Warren has seen a slowdown in her fundraising pace. The campaign said last week it had raised just over $17 million in the fourth quarter with a few days to go, lower than the $24.6 million she raised last quarter.
Commodities  LITHIUM 

SQM slapped by Chilean environmental court ruling

Dec. 27, 2019 10:41 AM ET|About: Sociedad Química y Minera d... (SQM)|By: Carl Surran, SA News Editor

Lithium producer Sociedad Quimica y Minera (SQM -1.1%) is lower after Chile's First Environmental Court upheld a complaint by indigenous communities in the Atacama Desert about the company's use of water.

The court ruled SQM's compliance plan, which had been presented in response to a multi-year investigation by Chile's SMA environmental regulator that found the miner had overdrawn lithium-rich brine, was "insufficient,"

The decision could jeopardize SQM's $400M plan to expand its lithium carbonate production plant to help meet demand for the battery metal.

Water has become a key sticking point for expansion plans of SQM and rival Albemarle, both of which operate in the salt flats of Atacama, the world's driest desert.

AJ Impact

Chile lithium miner SQM dealt blow by environmental court ruling

Court points to 'particular fragility' of Atacama desert's ecosystem in reaching its decision.

26 Dec 2019

A Chilean court ruled that a compliance plan presented by
 SQM in response to an investigation by Chile's SMA 
environmental regulator that found the miner had overdrawn 
lithium-rich brine, seen here in pools in the Atacama desert,
 was 'insufficient' [File: Ivan Alvarado/Reuters]
MORE ON CHILEDespite unrest, Chile courts billions in foreign investment yesterdayChile plans to be carbon neutral by 2050 yesterdayProtests in Chile as Pinera sets April vote to draft new charter 3 days agoChile: Helicopters douse fire that destroyed dozens of homes 5 days ago

A Chilean environmental court has upheld a complaint by indigenous communities in the country's northern Atacama Desert about the use of water by SQM, the world's second-largest producer of lithium.

The decision by the First Environmental Court in the nearby city of Antofagasta calls into jeopardy SQM's $400m plan to expand its lithium carbonate production plant to feed appetite for the ultralight battery metal.

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Water has become a key sticking point for the expansion plans of both SQM and top competitor Albemarle, both of which operate in the salt flats of the Atacama, the world's driest desert, which supplies more than one-third of the global supply of lithium, a key ingredient in the batteries that power electric vehicles.

Soaring lithium demand has raised questions about whether Chile's arid northern desert can support current and future levels of lithium production along with the needs of sprawling nearby copper mines, a booming tourism industry and indigenous communities.

The court ruled that a compliance plan presented by SQM in response to a multi-year investigation by Chile's SMA environmental regulator that found the miner had overdrawn lithium-rich brine was "insufficient".

The plan included a new online system to monitor extraction rates of brine, which holds lithium in suspension, and the shutting down of one of its freshwater wells.

The court said its decision was based on a "precautionary principle", taking into account the "particular fragility" of the Atacama's ecosystem and the "high level of scientific uncertainty" about the behaviour of its water table. It said SQM had no way of proving that the measures it had proposed were capable of "containing and reducing or eliminating the negative effects generated by the breaches of the company".

"We must protect sensitive ecosystems even more when they constitute the ancestral habitat of our native peoples whom the State of Chile is obliged to protect," the court president, Mauricio Oviedo, said in a statement.

The complaint was brought by indigenous people living in surrounding communities of Peine and Camar, and the Indigenous Advisory Council of Atacameno People.

The SMA must now resume its sanctioning of SQM for the original infractions, the court said, which could involve fines of more than $3m, the closure of its operations or revocation of its environmental permits.

Neither SQM nor the SMA could immediately be reached for comment.


DECEMBER 31, 2019 / 6:02 AM / UPDATED 12 HOURS AGO
Chile mining activity, copper production fall in November amid protests

SANTIAGO (Reuters) - Chilean mining activity fell 7.1% in November, government data showed on Tuesday, plagued in part by operational issues at major mines during a tumultuous month of protests, road and port blockades and worker strikes in the South American nation.

The world’s top copper producer reported that production of the metal fell 6.7% in November from the same month a year earlier to 504,366 tonnes. Government statistics agency INE noted the fall in mining activity was in part due to an unfavorable basis of comparison, a reflection of strong production the previous November.

Chile’s vast copper mines largely maintained production and kept operations running normally through early November, amid the brunt of unrest, though there have been isolated incidents at some operations and uncertainty lingers.

Chile´s Codelco COBRE.UL, the world’s top copper miner, and BHP (BHP.AX), which owns the sprawling Escondida copper mine, both reported increases in output in October despite riots that threw much of the country into chaos. November production figures for the mines are expected in early January.

But Chile´s Antofagasta (ANTO.L), another of the world´s top copper miners, warned in November of larger than anticipated impacts on output from the Chile protests.

Chilean manufacturing production CLMFG=ECI in November surprised analysts, jumping 3.2 percent compared with the same month the previous year, according to government data, bucking predictions of a sharper drop in output.

The unexpected increase was driven primarily by a year-on-year rise in the production of chemical products, INE said.

Protests in Chile have led to at least 26 deaths and billions in losses to private businesses and public infrastructure. The prolonged demonstrations and sometimes violent riots and looting prompted the central bank last week to slash forecasts for growth, investment and demand through 2020.

Chile to push lithium carbonate production
Published: Monday, December 30, 2019
Chile to push lithium carbonate production
Chile plans to increase production of lithium carbonate from the current 96,000t/y to 232,000t/y by 2027 - making it the world’s No. 2 producer.

Chile to push lithium carbonate production

Mining minister Baldo Prokurica told Radio Agricultura on Monday that “we want to do more than just exporting lithium carbonate. We aim to be part of the lithium added value chain and we already implement this decision in Enami's and Codelco's lithium production.”

To boost production, the mining ministry is developing new projects through national mining company Enami and state copper miner Codelco. The ministry also works on agreements with Germany and is participating in the creation of the US$193mn lithium and clean technology center led by development agency Corfo.

Copper commission Cochilco forecasts investments of US$1.8bn in lithium by 2022.

Prokurica said Codelco will invest over US$10mn in exploration at Salar de Maricunga, for which it is in talks with Minera Salar Blanco to develop a project.

Enami is also in negotiations with Vancouver-based Wealth Minerals to jointly explore, develop, produce and export lithium. Last October, Wealth Minerals started a negotiation process with Russian state company Rosatom to sell 51% of its Atacama lithium project. 

“We believe that the state asset must be in production and generating resources for Chilean families and the country,” Prokurica said during the Radio Agricultura interview.

Chilean lithium analyst Daniela Desormeaux said the local lithium industry is smaller than copper but can expect a bright future.

“Over the long-term, world copper demand will grow 3% but lithium demand will grow 12%. In 20 years, the lithium batteries industry will be 85% bigger,” she said.


Last week, a Chilean environmental court accepted an indigenous communities’ complaint against the use of water by the world's second largest lithium producer, SQM. 

The company, which is carrying out a US$400mn expansion of its lithium carbonate plant in Atacama region, has not made any adjustments to its production or sales plans yet. 

“SQM has a really aggressive expansion plan. It is currently producing 48,000-49,000t/y of lithium carbonate and aims to reach up to 100,000t/y in the coming years, which will have a bigger impact on the salt flats,” Desormeaux told Radio Infinita. 

A-Desert-Love-Story-10 (1)

The Salar of the Atacama is rich in geochemical features and contains 27% of the world’s lithium reserve base, the key ingredient required in the manufacture of rechargeable batteries. While the mining here is drawing attention for its controversial effect on the desert’s precious water source, the region’s lithium is also playing a key role to combat the current climate crisis. Lithium from Atacama Desert mines is going into batteries to power electric vehicles and to store precious renewable energy, therefore helping the planet transition to a more sustainable energy future and eradicating our dependence on fossil fuels.

A-Desert-Love-Story-02 (1)

Valle de La Luna in the Heat of the Day

The daytime sun warms the ground to an unimaginable temperature but you can’t help but explore this magical landscape. The landscape of the Valley de La Luna (Valley of the Moon) has been carved by harsh winds and displays colors and textures believed to be similar to the surface of the moon.

Massive rally in Chile
SANTIAGO, CHILE - DECEMBER 30 : A protester runs from a water cannon vehicle during a massive rally for the permanent defense of human rights and for a new constitution in Santiago, Chile on December 30, 2019. ( Cristobal Venegas - Anadolu Agency)

Protesters at US embassy in Baghdad gear up for sit-in
Demonstrators demand end to US 'intervention', as Iraqi protesters elsewhere distance themselves from embassy tensions.

by Arwa Ibrahim
31 Dec 2019 19:01 GMT

Hundreds of protesters surrounded the United States embassy in Baghdad on Tuesday to demand an end to US "intervention" in the country.

Raising flags of the powerful paramilitary group Hashd al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilization Forces), the crowds chanted "down, down USA".

Tuesday's rally was completely distinct from the recent, months-long protest movement which has seen tens of thousands of Iraqis demonstrate against the political establishment.

Most at the US embassy, supporters of the Hashd Al-Shaabi, were dressed in army fatigues as they gathered around the heavily fortified embassy in the Green Zone, where government buildings and foreign embassies in Baghdad are based, arguing in favour of a state-backed militia.

Within hours, dozens had broken into the embassy compound after smashing a main door and setting fire to the reception area, according to witnesses.


Protesters storm US embassy compound in Baghdad

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Protesters told Al Jazeera that they stormed the embassy in response to US air attacks over Kataib Hezbollah positions in Iraq and Syria.

At least 25 members of Kataib Hezbollah forces, which belongs to the PMF, were killed and 51 others were injured in the attacks on Sunday.

The US said it launched the air attacks in retaliation to a rocket attack on Friday near Kirkuk - a raid that killed an American civilian contractor, and that Washington blamed on Kataib Hezbollah.

"We are the Hashd and we are here to take revenge," said a protester in his 40s, who refused to give his name for security reasons.

"We [are] protesting here to condemn the US strikes on the Hashd," said Haydar, a protester in his 20s. "The Hashd are the ones who protected Iraq against terrorism."

The Iran-backed Shia paramilitary group was aligned with the Iraqi government in its battle against the ISIL (ISIS) group. It was formally incorporated into the Iraqi military in July 2019.

As the sun set on Baghdad, members of the crowd told Al Jazeera they would try to erect tents for the night and that they were prepared to launch an open-ended sit-in around the embassy until they saw action taken to "end US presence and intervention in the country".

"We call on the Iraqi parliament to take action against the US. We want the Americans out," said Haydar.

Ali, who described himself as a PMF supporter, said: "We came to mourn the people who died as a result of the US strikes in Qaim and to condemn the source [US] of all evil in Iraq since 2003.

"We are here because we are against US presence in Iraq and its targeting of the Hashd al-Shaabi and we won't leave until parliament and the government puts an end to that."
Distinct crowds

The escalation in the Iraqi capital comes on the heels of months-long anti-government protests that have gripped Baghdad and Iraq's south since early October, with demonstrators calling for basic services, employment opportunities and an end to corruption.

The protesters' calls quickly developed into demands for a complete overhaul of the political system, which they view as corrupt and sectarian.

At least 470 protesters have been killed and more than 20,000 others were injured in a crackdown on the movement.

Renad Mansour, director of the Iraq Initiative at Chatham House in London, said it was important to distinguish between the protest movement and the crowds that gathered in the Green Zone on Monday.

"Although the protesters in Tahrir Square are against US interference, they represent a generation of young, disenfranchised Iraqis that stand against the ruling elite, the militias and armed groups," said Mansour.

"On the other hand, the protesters outside the US embassy support the PMF and their allied forces.

"Rather than being anti-establishment, they support the Iraqi ruling elite."

Mansour said that the tensions around the US embassy in Baghdad might affect the protest movement across Iraq.

"The risk of this development is that it may divert focus from what are legitimate concerns ... to a focus on US intervention and demands for a withdrawal of American forces from Iraq."
'They don't represent us'

Meanwhile in Tahrir Square, the epicentre of the protest movement in Baghdad, protesters distanced themselves from the crowds near the US embassy in the Green Zone.

"Demonstrations at [the] US embassy are a natural response to the US strikes over Hashd positions in Iraq," 27-year-old Ali Khraybit told Al Jazeera.

"We, the protesters of Tahrir Square, condemn the strikes of course, whether it be Iran or the US who was responsible for them," said Khraybit. "But we are staying here in the hub of the peaceful protest movement.

"The crowds in the Green Zone do not represent us. We want peaceful change," he added.

Khraybit said he worried the escalation would lead to chaos in Baghdad.

"We all know the Hashd has weapons. If the security forces try to disperse the crowds, we might see a lot of blood," he said.

Noor al-Araji, a 30-year-old protester in Tahrir Square said: "The protesters in the Green Zone do not represent us. They belong to and represent the Shia parties that we want overhauled."

"We condemn the spilling [of] blood and we stand against foreign intervention in Iraq. These escalations are due to an ongoing conflict between Iran and the US and we want to stay out of it.

"The world doesn't realise that the people in the Green Zone are not the same as the protesters in Tahrir Square. We are peaceful and that's why we've stayed away from the Green Zone today."

Abdallah al-Salam contributed to this report from Baghdad

SEE https://plawiuk.blogspot.com/search?q=IRAQ

SEE https://plawiuk.blogspot.com/search?q=IRAN

SEE https://plawiuk.blogspot.com/2006/09/us-war-on-capitalism-in-iran.html
Written by Richard Villegas | 2 weeks ago

At the top of the 2010s, Shakira’s “Waka Waka” was a chart-topping World Cup anthem, Calle 13’s Calma Pueblo was giving Latin American hip-hop a conscientious thesis statement, and rising superstars like Carla Morrison, El Guincho and Bomba Estéreo were still finding their critical and commercial footing. At the same time, a handful of Chilean musicians began quietly crafting a blueprint for indie pop nirvana armed with little more than synthesizers and adolescent angst. Up until the new millennium, Chile was best known as the cradle of the 1960s Nueva Canción movement by virtue of folk icons Violeta Parra and Victor Jara. Later, in the 1980s, the country became more closely associated with political strife – a central theme in the lore of rock en tu idioma revolutionaries, Los Prisioneros. However, over the past decade, the remote South American nation has experienced an artistic renaissance that completely overhauled its standing in the international community.

Seeds that have blossomed into some of the finest pop records in the country’s history can be traced back to 1988, when General Augusto Pinochet’s bloody and insidiously oppressive 17-year regime was ousted via a landmark plebiscite that ushered a gradual return to democracy two years later. Steady economic growth and a slow cultural thaw followed, bearing fruit through a generation that grew up in the shrinking shadow of the dictatorship while enjoying unprecedented freedom of expression. By the time these artsy, counterculture kids started making noise, social media had become an innovative marketing tool and rising independent publications like Club Fonograma and Remezcla (yes, we’ve been on the ground since Day One) were feverishly documenting the vibrant new wave.

“In those days, the underground scene was really prolific,” folk-revival trailblazer Gepe told Remezcla in a 2016 interview. “I remember instances where Javiera Mena would play with a 10-piece orchestra, followed by an experimental pianist and then a rap group.” Beyond avant explorations, Chile’s pop golden age was characterized by inexplicably relatable storytelling, subversive queer edge, orchestral arrangements influenced by disco and chamber pop, and bass lines designed for packing hipsters onto dance floors. In a later interview, foundational producer Cristián Heyne described the tightly knit network of local artists as a “workshop,” highlighting Chilean indie’s modest beginnings and the constant collaboration that spurred rapid maturity and increasingly polished releases. Heyne is often regarded as the architect behind the scene’s distinctly glossy sound, with production credits on emblematic records by Gepe, Javiera Mena, Alex Anwandter and Dënver – a creative pseudo-monopoly that led to criticisms of sonic homogenization.

Keep in mind your favorite stars were far from the only forces reshaping the Chilean indie landscape. As Heyne described, it was a collective effort. Venues like Bar Loreto, Cine Arte Alameda, Blondie and defunct DYI haven Espacio Cellar allowed kooky experimentation and raucous performances to thrive and proliferate. Small but influential imprints like Quemasucabeza, Cazador and Discos Pegaos exported the diverse sounds brewing in the underground, which extended far beyond synthpop with acts like Ana Tijoux, DJ Raff and Ases Falsos. A visual signature also began to emerge, with director Bernardo Quesney and production house Enciclopedia Color creating cinematic clips and designs to accompany each new evocative release. Even festivals like Fauna, Neutral, Fluvial and Feria Pulsar prospered thanks to the bevy of readily available homegrown talent. In fact, Mexico’s NRMAL was notably ahead of the curve when their 2012 edition featured scene pioneers such as Astro, Adrianigual and Javiera Mena, doubling down the following year with a follow up showcase that included MKRNI, Fakuta and Alex Anwandter.

Chile remains a musical powerhouse to this day, though in recent years popular trends have evolved in a more urbano oriented direction. Many of the scene’s standard bearers have also disbanded, most notably Dënver, Miss Garrison and Astro, while others simply left the nest, like Javiera Mena who spends most of her time in Spain, Alex Anwandter who’s lived in Los Angeles and New York City, and (Me Llamo) Sebastián who morphed into a one-man gypsy caravan. Now, as we enter a new decade, Chile faces the most challenging socio-political chapter of it’s post-dictatorship history.

Before fully diving into this brave new world, we wanted to take one final look back at some of the artists that defined one of Latin America’s most swoon-inducing musical chapters in recent memory. Don’t worry; it’s Ok to get swept up in the nostalgia. We won’t judge you.

Check out our playlist of Chilean Indie pop’s golden era here:

Javiera Mena

The first resounding star to emerge from the Chilean indie pop explosion, Javiera Mena captured our hearts with the clammy-handed earnestness of her 2006 debut, Esquemas Juveniles. But it was later albums like Mena (2010) and Otra Era (2014) that anointed her as Chile’s undisputed disco goddess – each new production stacked with robust synth-driven walls of sound and enough dramatic disco strings to make Donna Summer jealous. 

Alex Anwandter

Chile’s crowned prince of political pop first stepped into the spotlight fronting hitmaking rock band Teleradio Donoso – later breaking out on his own with the sublime dystopian soundscapes of his cryptic electronic solo project Odisea. However, with his albums Rebeldes (2012) and Amiga (2016), which were released under his own name, Alex Anwandter finally cemented himself as a pop wunderkind with an incisive, critical voice, ready to take on archaic political institutions on record and the dance floor.


One of the most fascinating musical trends to take hold of Latin America in recent years is the folk revival wave that has integrated roots music with catchy pop songwriting and modern production techniques. In Chile, no one stretched the margins of tradition further than Gepe – a force of nature that seamlessly collides Andean music and nueva canción with everything from reggaeton to merengue and hip-hop. Check out his albums Audiovison (2010) and GP (2012) for some of the most refreshingly inventive fusions of the decade.


The embodiment of star crossed lovers as twee pop idols, Dënver were possibly the most musically voracious band to emerge from this scene. From the folky minimalism of their 2008 debut, Totoral, to the melancholy chamber pop of 2010’s Música, Gramática, Gimnasia, and the extraordinary cinematic world building of 2013’s Fuera de Campo, every new Dënver album was a master class in artistic evolution with a hefty dose of romanticism. 


Not until bands like Föllakzoid and The Holydrug Couple came around did psych become a major topic of conversation in Chilean indie. But when rowdy space cadets Astro first broke out, we were treated to a delightfully mind expanding wormhole of surrealist lyrics and titillating sonic journeys. Their self-titled 2012 debut album remains a monument to the eclectic originality of the time, proving that oddball humor and Andres Nusser’s cartoonishly high voice can be as intoxicating as any hallucinogenic.

Ana Tijoux

Brazen and unflinching, Ana Tijoux was a much-needed shock to the Chilean musical system. After parting ways with influential hip-hop crew Makiza, Tijoux became one of Chile’s principal purveyors of artistic dissent – unraveling patriarchal oppression, capitalist violence and post-dictatorship trauma across riveting albums like La Bala (2012) and Vengo (2014). Tijoux was also one of the first Chilean indie artists to gain stateside attention when her politically searing hit song “1977” was featured on popular TV drama Breaking Bad.

Francisca Valenzuela

Francisca Valenzuela has always been poised for pop greatness – a charismatic performer with catchy and incisive self-penned tunes and movie star good looks. And yet, unyielding creative control and her formidable body of work helming feminist music festival Ruidosa have canonized her as an indie patron saint. We highly recommend checking out her excellent 2011 album Buen Soldado and recent singles “Ya No Se Trata de Tí” and “Héroe” to grasp the full extent of Valenzuela’s winding artistic journey.

Ases Falsos

Cristobal Briceño is one of the most prolific minds in Chilean music, paving riveting yet completely different career paths with Ases Falsos (formely Fother Muckers), Los Mil Jinetes and as a solo performer. The first is no doubt his longest and most beloved venture, completely reshuffling the band’s name, sound and mystique with the release of 2012’s absolutely perfect Juventud Americana, and its possibly better follow up Conducción (2014). Power chords, classic rock hooks and an unmistakable falsetto all make Ases Falsos a band of legend.


When Fakuta came on the scene with her 2011 debut Al Vuelo, the architect turned pixie-voiced pop ingenue seemed like an uncharacteristically timid new player entering the fray. That all changed with her 2014 follow up Tormenta Solar, a bold maelstrom of crashing synth melodies, abrasive percussion and head-turning features from buzzy contemporaries such as Bronko Yotte, Coiffeur and Violeta Castillo. And for the savvy fans at home, we guarantee your stomach still flutters every time the opening bass lines of “Juntapena” hit your eardrums.


With a weighty co-sign from Alex Anwandter and underground dance pop hits “Arde Santiago” and “Me Gusta La Noche,” the hyperbolic proclamation of Adrianigual’s sophomore album Exito Mundial (2011) seemed entirely possible. However, music videos, festival appearances and Latin American tours weren’t enough to keep the deliciously disparate pairing of vocalist Diego Adrian and multi-instrumentalist Nacho Aedo together for long. That doesn’t mean they were any less fun to watch.

Kali Mutsa

Chile’s high priestess of bizarro pop first boggled minds with her 2011 debut Ambrolina and its hair-raising lead single “Tunupa,” which was directly influenced by Roma culture and pre-colonial folk legends. After that, the curve balls just kept coming. From the psychedelic cumbia and bangra-soaked diatribes of 2016’s Mesmer, to Imaab’s aggressive ballroom production on 2017’s La Devoración, and the ghostly Japanese tinges of this year’s Madre del Agua, which she has declared her final album – Kali Mutsa will be forever remembered as a shapeshifting human collage of art history and global wonder.

synthpop. Friday, December 20, 2019 at 10:24 AM EST