Councilwoman shot dead outside her home in Mexico

CBS News

Councilwoman shot dead outside her home in Mexico

CBS News – June 10, 2024

A local councilwoman was gunned down Friday as she was leaving her home in the southern state of Guerrero, authorities and local media said, marking the second female politician to be killed in Mexico after Claudia Sheinbaum became the first woman to win the country’s presidency last week.

Esmeralda Garzon, a councilwoman in the municipality of Tixtla, was shot dead as she was leaving her house, local media reported. The Guerrero state attorney general’s office said in a statement that police were sent to the scene to gather evidence and find those responsible for the shooting.

Garzon, who led the equity and gender commission in Tixtla, had been elected under the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), the Reuters news agency reported. However, she eventually backed Sheinbaum’s Morena party in the June 2 elections, according to posts on social media. Garzon herself was not running in the elections.

Her murder comes a few days after the mayor of a town in western Mexico and her bodyguard were killed outside of a gym. Yolanda Sanchez Figueroa was killed just hours after Sheinbaum won the presidency.

Most violent elections in modern Mexican history

At least 23 political candidates were killed while campaigning before the elections, according to official statistics, marking the most violent elections in modern Mexican history, according to Reuters.

But some non-governmental organizations have reported an even higher toll, including Data Civica, which counted at least 30 killings of candidates. The toll increases to more than 50 people if relatives and other victims of those attacks are counted, according to Data Civica.

A few days before the elections, one mayoral hopeful’s murder was captured on camera — an assassination that came just one day after another mayoral candidate in the central Mexican state of Morelos was murdered.

The week before that, nine people were killed in two attacks against mayoral candidates in the southern state of Chiapas. The two candidates survived.

Last month, six people, including a minor and mayoral candidate Lucero Lopez, were killed in an ambush after a campaign rally in the municipality of La Concordia, neighboring Villa Corzo.

In April, one mayoral hopeful was shot dead just hours after she began campaigning.

Mexico’s new president ran on climate goals. Will she follow through?

The Guardian

Mexico’s new president ran on climate goals. Will she follow through?

Thomas Graham in Mexico City – June 10, 2024

<span>Claudia Sheinbaum in Mexico City, Mexico, last week.</span><span>Photograph: Raquel Cunha/Reuters</span>
Claudia Sheinbaum in Mexico City, Mexico, last week.Photograph: Raquel Cunha/Reuters

The month before Mexico’s 2 June presidential vote the country was bedeviled by water cuts and blackouts as a record heatwave took the country beyond red and into an ominous purple on the weather map.

As dehydrated monkeys dropped dead from trees, the landslide victory of Claudia Sheinbaum, a climate scientist, might look like salvation. But her record paints a more complicated picture – one where climate convictions have often, and may still, come second to political pragmatism.

Sheinbaum will inherit a country that has slipped from frontrunner to laggard on climate policy – in part due to the policies of her predecessor and ally, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, which she has promised to continue.

López Obrador, who comes from the oil-rich state of Tabasco, prioritised “energy sovereignty” by growing the role of state companies and striving for self-sufficiency.

Related: Mexico was once a climate leader – now it’s betting big on coal

This was manifested in a $17bn oil refinery and colossal injections of cash and tax cuts for Pemex, the most indebted state oil company in the world, and one of the biggest historical polluters.

One result was to entrench a dirty-energy matrix, with almost 80% coming from fossil fuels.

Meanwhile, Mexico’s climate commitments were left to languish. It is one of just two G20 countries not to have a net-zero target, and it’s a long way from reducing emissions by 35% by 2030, under the Paris agreement.

“Not only are we nowhere near it, but we don’t have any specific and detailed plans to achieve it, let alone financing and concrete infrastructure projects,” said Diego Rivera Rivota, a researcher at Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy.

This is despite the fact that Mexico is highly vulnerable to climate change – as was driven home by the extraordinary hurricane that hit Acapulco in October 2023, killing dozens and causing catastrophic damage.

“Acapulco taught us a big lesson. We weren’t prepared for that,” said Gustavo Alanís, general director of CEMDA, an environmental NGO. “These floods, droughts, hurricanes and heatwaves aren’t just going to continue, but possibly get more severe and frequent.”

Many hope Sheinbaum’s background as a climate scientist – one who contributed to the reports of the Nobel prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – will shine through once she takes office on 1 October, notwithstanding her reliance on López Obrador to win the presidency.

When she was mayor of Mexico City, there were certain signs of the approach she might take as president, with an emphasis on solar energy, electrified public transport and a new cable car line.

But then, the city saw no great improvement in either of its fundamental environmental problems: air pollution and water shortages.

Related: A tale of two cities: a month after Hurricane Otis, Acapulco exposes gaps in disaster response

Meanwhile, on the campaign trail, Sheinbaum promised all things to all people, saying she would both continue López Obrador’s policies but also do more for the environment.

This means the Maya Train – one of López Obrador’s flagship infrastructure projects to develop historically poorer regions – will continue to cut through Latin America’s second-largest tropical forest. Sheinbaum has even suggested expanding it to neighbouring Belize and Guatemala.

There will also be more backing for Sembrando Vida, López Obrador’s pet forestry and rural development initiative that has had money plowed into it as budgets for state environmental agencies have been slashed – even though its results are little understood, and there are reports it even promotes deforestation.

And there will be more public money for Pemex as it staggers on under its debt burden and tries to increase its oil output.

On the other hand, Sheinbaum has also suggested that Pemex expand its remit to include mining for lithium, a crucial element of electric batteries.

And there was a campaign pledge to spend $14bn on clean-energy projects. That would mark a radical change from López Obrador’s government, which not only invested very little in renewables, but also revoked or blocked permits for private projects.

Experts also expect to see more action on the demand side of the equation, with an emphasis on electrification of public transport and incentives for residential solar panels. “This is a country with 300 days plus of sun,” said Rivera Rivota. “It has massive potential for that.”

Although Sheinbaum’s proposals lack detail at this stage, she has repeatedly emphasised the need for long-term planning for both energy and water – looking not just to 2030, but to 2050 and beyond.

“[Long-term planning] was not guaranteed during the current administration. We had several legal and regulatory changes, and other attempts at change that led to battles in court,” said Rivera Rivota. “As long as it’s clear what the rules of the game are, what the legal framework is, I think Mexico has enormous potential for investment in renewable energy.”

The scale of victory for Sheinbaum’s Morena party, which seems to have given it a supermajority in one and perhaps both houses of congress, as well as the governorships of 24 of Mexico’s 32 federal entities, has given Sheinbaum a huge mandate as president-elect.

But whether she wants or will be able to move away from her predecessor’s policies is an unknown.

López Obrador will remain a powerful figure – and his continued support may be needed to help hold together Morena, the party that he founded but has since expanded to house disparate ideologies, and fractious groups.

“She was never going to contradict the president during the campaign,” said Rivera Rivota. “But who knows what will happen when she’s sitting in the Palacio Nacional and making the calls herself.”

“There is hope, and there is a vote of confidence [in Sheinbaum],” said Alanís of CEMDA. “But here we will be vigilant, and we will be checking the actions of her administration every day.

“And if necessary, we will raise our voice.”

Macron’s election call unsettles Paris Olympics build-up


Macron’s election call unsettles Paris Olympics build-up

Cyril Touaux – June 10, 2024

France will hold snap elections just weeks before the Paris Olympics (Ludovic MARIN)
France will hold snap elections just weeks before the Paris Olympics (Ludovic MARIN)

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo on Monday described the prospect of French parliamentary elections just weeks before the start of the Paris Olympics as “extremely unsettling”, while the International Olympic Committee played down any direct impact on the event.

“Like a lot of people I was stunned to hear the president decide to do a dissolution (of parliament),” Hidalgo said of Emmanuel Macron’s decision to call snap parliamentary elections on Sunday.

The surprise announcement came after hugely disappointing European parliament election results for the centrist president which Hidalgo said meant the president “could not continue as before”.

“But all the same, a dissolution just before the Games, it’s really something that is extremely unsettling,” the 64-year-old Socialist, a domestic political rival of the president, added during a visit to a Paris school.

The two-round parliamentary elections have been called for June 30 and July 7, with the Paris Olympics set to begin less than three weeks later on July 26.

The vote could lead to political instability in the event of another hung parliament in which no party wins a majority, or a seismic change if the far-right National Rally party of Marine Le Pen emerges as the biggest party nationally.

Rumours in Paris had previously suggested Macron might dissolve parliament after the Games, with the 46-year-old head of state possibly eyeing a bounce in the polls if the first Games in France in 100 years were deemed a success.

Hidalgo stressed that from an operational perspective the elections would not affect the Olympics, a message echoed by the president of the IOC, Thomas Bach, who was with her during the school visit.

“I think that all the work of installing, of preparing the Games, the infrastructure, is behind us and what remains is to welcome the entire world and we will do it with the joy that we have to host these Olympic and Paralympic Games in Paris,” Hidalgo said.

Bach said the elections are “a democratic process which will not disturb the Olympics”.

“France is used to doing elections and they are going to do them once again. We will have a new government and a new parliament and everyone is going to support the Olympics,” Bach said.

– Divided country –

The Paris Olympics begin with an unprecedented open-air ceremony on the river Seine on July 26, the first time the opening festivities for a Summer Olympics have taken place outside the main stadium.

Organisers have consistently talked up the ambitions of their vision, promising “iconic” Games that will see the world’s biggest sports event play out against the historic backdrop of the City of Light.

Worries so far had focused on security arrangements for the opening ceremony, and whether the river Seine would be cleaned up in time to hold the open-water swimming events and triathlon as expected.

Repeated strike threats from trade unions have also cast a shadow over preparations, as did public feuding over the choice of music for the opening ceremony and the official poster — indicators of France’s starkly divided political class.

Those divisions were illustrated during Sunday’s European elections, in which anti-immigration and far-right parties won almost 40 percent of the vote, inflicting heavy defeat on Macron’s centrist allies.

The snap parliamentary elections raise question marks over the government that will be in place at the time of the Olympics, with ministers such as transport and interior set to play key roles in ensuring the smooth functioning and safety of the event.

The two-stage election will also mobilise hundreds of thousands of security forces, further straining resources.

“For the preparations, the installations are ready, accreditations have been sent, plans put in place for transport: everything is primed, it remains only to be put in place,” Jean-Loup Chappelet, an Olympics expert at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland, told AFP.

He also played down the impact of any personnel changes in the cabinet.

“Nothing will change between now and July 8 in the preparations of the Games and afterwards it will be absolutely too late to change anything,” he added.

David Roizen, an Olympics expert at the left-leading Jean Jaures Foundation think-tank in Paris, said the political turmoil would put an end to a “largely successful” phase for organisers, including the ongoing Olympic torch relay.

“It risks ending the positive dynamic, meaning that people only talk about the Olympics from a security perspective,” he told AFP.

N. Korea sends more balloons as Kim’s sister warns of ‘new counteraction’


N. Korea sends more balloons as Kim’s sister warns of ‘new counteraction’

Hieun Shin and Cat Barton – June 10, 2024

In recent weeks, North Korea has sent hundreds of balloons into the South, carrying trash like cigarette butts and toilet paper (Handout)
In recent weeks, North Korea has sent hundreds of balloons into the South, carrying trash like cigarette butts and toilet paper (Handout)

North Korea has sent hundreds more trash-carrying balloons toward South Korea, Seoul’s military said Monday, after Kim Jong Un’s powerful sister warned of further responses if the South keeps up its “psychological warfare”.

In recent weeks, North Korea has sent hundreds of balloons into the South, carrying trash like cigarette butts and toilet paper, in what it calls retaliation for balloons laden with anti-Pyongyang propaganda floated northwards by activists in the South, which Seoul legally cannot stop.

The South Korean government this month fully suspended a 2018 tension-reducing military deal and restarted loudspeaker propaganda broadcasts along the border in response to Pyongyang’s balloons, infuriating the North which warned Seoul was creating “a new crisis”.

Kim’s sister and key government spokeswoman Kim Yo Jong said in a statement released early Monday that South Korea would “suffer a bitter embarrassment of picking up waste paper without rest and it will be its daily work”.

In the statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency, she slammed the activists’ leaflets as “psychological warfare” and warned that unless Seoul stopped them and called off the loudspeaker broadcasts, the North would hit back.

“If the ROK simultaneously carries out the leaflet scattering and loudspeaker broadcasting provocation over the border, it will undoubtedly witness the new counteraction of the DPRK,” she said, referring to both countries by their official n

Seoul’s military said the North had sent more than 300 trash-carrying balloons overnight, but that the winds had not worked in Pyongyang’s favour.

“Although they launched over 310 balloons many of them flew toward North Korea,” the Joint Chiefs of Staff said, adding that around 50 had landed in the South so far, with more expected.

They said that the latest batch of trash balloons had been found to contain waste paper and plastic, but nothing toxic.

“So far we haven’t seen any special movement within the North Korean military,” a JCS official said, adding that they had “detected signs of North Korea installing loudspeakers to broadcast to the South in the front area.”

North Korea has also used its own loudspeakers along the border since the 1960s, typically broadcasting praise of the Kim family, but it suspended them in 2018 as ties warmed

– ‘Beyond our imagination’ –

The statement from Kim’s sister shows that “North Korea is raising its voice in order to shift the blame for the current situation to South Korea and also to justify their provocation,” Kim Dong-yub, professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul, told AFP.

The cycle of escalation will likely continue and “North Korea will do something beyond our imagination,” Kim said.

Pyongyang could do “something creative like throwing flour (which) will cause absolute panic in the South which they will be happy about,” Kim added, referring to the possibility of the North faking a biological attack on the South.

The tit-for-tat balloon blitz started in mid-May when activists in the South — including North Korean defectors — sent dozens of missives carrying anti-Kim propaganda and flash drives of K-pop music northwards.

In 2018, during a period of improved inter-Korean relations, the leaders of the two Koreas agreed to “completely cease all hostile acts”, including stopping the leaflets and broadcasts.

The South Korean parliament passed a law in 2020 criminalising sending leaflets to the North, but activists did not stop and the law was struck down by the Constitutional Court last year as an undue limitation on free speech.

In 2018, Seoul also dismantled some of the loudspeakers, a tactic that dates back to the Korean War and which infuriates Pyongyang, which previously threatened artillery strikes against the loudspeaker units unless they were switched off.

Both sides are now facing a risky proposition, said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul.

“Seoul does not want military tension at the inter-Korean border, and Pyongyang does not want outside information threatening the legitimacy of the Kim regime,” he said.

“North Korea may have already miscalculated, as South Korea’s democracy cannot simply turn off NGO balloon launches the way an autocracy would expect.”

South Korea to resume loudspeaker broadcasts over border in balloon row

BBC News

South Korea to resume loudspeaker broadcasts over border in balloon row

Shaimaa Khalil and Thomas Mackintosh – June 9, 2024

A balloon carrying various objects including what appeared to be trash, believed to have been sent by North Korea, is pictured at the sea off Incheon, South Korea
The move comes as North Korea continues to send balloons carrying rubbish across the border into South Korea [Reuters]

South Korea has said it will resume propaganda broadcasts against North Korea for the first time in six years in response to Pyongyang’s campaign of sending rubbish-filled balloons across the border.

Over 300 North Korean balloons were detected over Saturday and Sunday with around 80 landing in the South carrying scrap paper and plastic sheets.

North Korea is yet to respond to the announcement, but Pyongyang considers the loudspeaker propaganda broadcasts an act of war and has threatened to blow them up in the past.

Last month North Korea appeared to send at least 200 balloons carrying rubbish over the border in retaliation for propaganda leaflets sent from the south.

I recent weeks Pyongyang has launched around one thousand sacks of waste paper, cigarette butts and excrement across the border
South Korean officials warn the public not to touch the balloons, but to report them [Reuters]

Over the weekend North Korea resumed its waste campaign against its neighbour by sending balloons carrying sacks of rubbish over the border into South Korea.

It was in retaliation for activists in the South sending 10 balloons containing leaflets critical of the North Korean regime on Friday, according to AFP news agency.

South Korea’s military said there are no more balloons in the air adding that no hazardous materials have been found.

It has warned the public not to touch the balloons and to be aware of falling objects.

The public should report any sightings to the nearest police or military unit, the military added.

Following the latest batch of balloons, South Korea’s National Security Council said loudspeaker broadcasts on the border would resume on Sunday after agreeing to restart the loudspeakers for the first time since 2018.

On Thursday an activist group in South Korea said it had flown balloons into North Korea carrying leaflets criticising the leader Kim Jong Un, dollar bills and USB sticks with K-pop music videos – which is banned in the North.

In recent years, the broadcasts have included news from both Koreas and abroad as well as information on democracy and life in South Korea.

The South Korean military claims the broadcasts can be heard as much as 10km (6.2 miles) across the border in the day and up to 24km (15 miles) at night.

In May, a South Korea-based activist group claimed it had sent 20 balloons carrying anti-Pyongyang leaflets and USB sticks containing Korean pop music and music videos across the border.

Seoul’s parliament passed a law in December 2020 that criminalises the launch of anti-Pyongyang leaflets, but critics have raised concerns related to freedom of speech and human rights.

North Korea has also launched balloons southward that attacked Seoul’s leaders.

In one such launch in 2016, the balloons reportedly carried toilet paper, cigarette butts and rubbish. Seoul police described them as “hazardous biochemical substances”.

Russia is trying to scare people away from the Paris Olympics, report says

NBC News

Russia is trying to scare people away from the Paris Olympics, report says

Ken Dilanian – June 4, 2024

New warnings of Russian threats to Paris Olympics

Banned from the 2024 Olympics over the war in Ukraine, Russia has mounted a secret influence campaign seeking to discredit the Games and sow fears of terrorism, according to a new report from Microsoft’s threat intelligence unit.

The report tracks what it calls “prolific Russian influence actors” that last summer began focusing on disparaging the 2024 Olympic Games and French President Emmanuel Macron, including by posting a bogus documentary featuring a deepfake of actor Tom Cruise.

“These ongoing Russian influence operations have two central objectives: to denigrate the reputation of the [International Olympic Committee] on the world stage; and to create the expectation of violence breaking out in Paris during the 2024 Summer Olympic Games,” the report says.

“Russia has a decades-long history of undermining the Olympics, but for the Paris Games, we’ve observed this old playbook has been updated with new generative AI tactics, “ said Clint Watts, a former FBI agent who directed the study. “They want to scare spectators from attending the Games for fear of physical violence breaking out.”

Most recently, the Russian campaign has sought to capitalize on the Israel-Hamas war by impersonating militants and fabricating threats against Israelis who attending the 2024 Games, the report found. Some images referenced the attacks at the 1972 Munich Olympics, where an affiliate of the Palestine Liberation Organization killed 11 members of the Israeli Olympic team and a West German police officer.

Munich Olympics 1972 Hostage Crisis (Russel McPhedran / Fairfax Media via Getty Images file)
Munich Olympics 1972 Hostage Crisis (Russel McPhedran / Fairfax Media via Getty Images file)

The fake documentary, posted online last summer, was titled “Olympics Has Fallen,” a play on the 2013 movie “Olympus Has Fallen.” Designed to resemble a Netflix production, it used AI-generated audio resembling Cruise’s voice to imply his participation, the report says, and even attached sham five-star reviews from The New York Times, The Washington Post and the BBC.

YouTube took it down at the behest of the International Olympic Committee, but it remains available on Telegram, Microsoft says.

“The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has recently been faced with a number of fake news posts targeting the IOC,” the committee said in a statement last fall, citing “an entire documentary produced with defamatory content, a fake narrative and false information, using an AI-generated voice of a world-renowned Hollywood actor.”

Tom Cruise in
Tom Cruise in

The Russian campaign also put out videos designed to look like news reports that suggested intelligence about credible threats of violence at the Paris Games, Microsoft found.

One video that purported to be a report from media outlet Euronews in Brussels falsely claimed that Parisians were buying property insurance in anticipation of terrorism.

In another spoofed news clip impersonating French broadcaster France 24, the Russian campaign falsely claimed that 24% of purchased tickets for Olympic events had been returned due to fears of terrorism.

A third Russian effort consisted of a fake video news release from the CIA and France’s main intelligence agency warning potential attendees to stay away from the 2024 Olympics due to the alleged risk of a terror attack.

Microsoft says Russia, like the Soviet Union before it, has a long history of attacking the Olympics.

“If they cannot participate in or win the Games, then they seek to undercut, defame, and degrade the international competition in the minds of participants, spectators, and global audiences,” the report says. “The Soviet Union boycotted the 1984 Summer Games held in Los Angeles and sought to influence other countries to do the same.”

At the time, according to Microsoft, U.S. officials linked Soviet actors to a campaign that covertly distributed leaflets to Olympic committees in countries including Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka and South Korea, claiming that nonwhite competitors would be targeted by American extremists if they went to Los Angeles.

In 2017, the IOC banned Russia from the 2018 Winter Games after finding widespread use of performance-enhancing drugs by Russian athletes.

But the current ban is over the war in Ukraine. The committee decided that qualifying athletes from Russia and close ally Belarus may compete in the 2024 Summer Games only as “individual neutral athletes,” prohibited from flying their national flags.

Microsoft said the online influence campaign picked up shortly afterward.

The Russian Embassy did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Sheinbaum Makes History as First Woman Elected to Lead Mexico

The New York Times

Sheinbaum Makes History as First Woman Elected to Lead Mexico

Natalie Kitroeff – June 3, 2024

A young girl with the name of Claudia Sheinbaum, a climate scientist and former mayor of Mexico City, on her face attends Sheinbuam’s election night event in Mexico City, on Sunday, June 2, 2024. (Fred Ramos/The New York Times)
A young girl with the name of Claudia Sheinbaum, a climate scientist and former mayor of Mexico City, on her face attends Sheinbuam’s election night event in Mexico City, on Sunday, June 2, 2024. (Fred Ramos/The New York Times)

MEXICO CITY — Claudia Sheinbaum, a climate scientist and former mayor of Mexico City, won her nation’s elections Sunday in a landslide victory that brought a double milestone: She became the first woman, and the first Jewish person, to be elected president of Mexico.

Early results indicated that Sheinbaum, 61, prevailed in what the authorities called the largest election in Mexico’s history, with the highest number of voters taking part and the most seats up for grabs.

It was a landmark vote that saw not one, but two, women vying to lead one of the hemisphere’s biggest nations. And it will put a Jewish leader at the helm of one of the world’s largest predominantly Catholic countries.

Sheinbaum, a leftist, campaigned on a vow to continue the legacy of Mexico’s current president and her mentor, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, which delighted their party’s base — and raised alarm among detractors. The election was seen by many as a referendum on his leadership, and her victory was a clear vote of confidence in López Obrador and the party he started.

López Obrador has completely reshaped Mexican politics. During his tenure, millions of Mexicans were lifted out of poverty and the minimum wage doubled. But he has also been a deeply polarizing president, criticized for failing to control rampant cartel violence, for hobbling the nation’s health system and for persistently undercutting democratic institutions.

Still, López Obrador remains widely popular and his enduring appeal propelled his chosen successor. And for all the challenges facing the country, the opposition was unable to persuade Mexicans that their candidate was a better option.

“We love her, we want her to work like Obrador,” Gloria Maria Rodríguez, 78, from Tabasco, said of Sheinbaum. “We want a president like Obrador.”

Sheinbaum won with at least 58% of the vote, according to preliminary results, while her closest competitor, Xóchitl Gálvez, an entrepreneur and former senator on a ticket with a coalition of opposition parties, had at least 26.6%.

If early returns hold, Sheinbaum will have captured a broader share of the vote than any candidate in decades.

Speaking to supporters early Monday, Sheinbaum vowed to work on behalf of all Mexicans, reaffirmed her party’s commitment to democracy and celebrated her groundbreaking ascension to the nation’s highest office.

“For the first time in 200 years of the republic, I will become the first female president of Mexico,” she said. “And as I have said on other occasions, I do not arrive alone. We all arrived, with our heroines who gave us our homeland, with our ancestors, our mothers, our daughters and our granddaughters.”

Sheinbaum said she received calls from Gálvez and the third-place candidate, Jorge Álvarez Máynez, to congratulate her on the victory. Shortly after Sheinbaum’s speech, Gálvez told supporters that the early returns were “not favorable to my candidacy,” and “irreversible,” noting that she had just communicated with Sheinbaum.

Gálvez had said in an interview days before the vote Sunday that “an anti-system vote” against López Obrador could help propel her to victory. In reality, it appeared that many Mexicans still associate the parties backing her with a system they see as inept and corrupt.

“Xóchitl Gálvez has been unable to represent change because the parties backing her embody the establishment,” said Carlos Bravo Regidor, a political analyst based in Mexico City. “Most Mexicans want a continuity of the change brought by López Obrador.”

Many voters seemed to endorse Sheinbaum as an agent of institutionalizing the changes brought about by her mentor. “We need to bring about more change to the country,” said Evelyn Román, 21, a chemical engineering student in Mexico City who supports Sheinbaum. “We did notice the progress in these six years.”

Sheinbaum’s experience is ample: She has a doctorate in energy engineering, participated in a United Nations panel of climate scientists awarded a Nobel Peace Prize and governed the capital, one of the largest cities in the hemisphere.

Known as a demanding boss with a reserved demeanor, Sheinbaum has risen through the ranks by aligning herself completely with López Obrador, who built an entire political party around his outsize personality. During the campaign, she backed many of his most contentious policies, including a slate of constitutional changes that critics say would severely undermine democratic checks and balances.

As a result, the president-elect battled the perception among many Mexicans that she will be little more than a pawn of her mentor.

“There’s this idea, because a lot of columnists say it, that I don’t have a personality,” Sheinbaum complained to reporters earlier this year. “That President Andrés Manuel López Obrador tells me what to do, that when I get to the presidency, he’s going to be calling me on the phone every day.”

Even with the broad mandate voters granted her, she faces significant challenges when she takes office in October.

López Obrador benefited “from the invincible popularity that comes from being a very charismatic leader — something that Claudia is not,” said Paula Sofía Vásquez, a political analyst based in Mexico City.

Cartel violence continues to torment the country, displacing people en masse and fueling one of the deadliest campaign cycles in recent Mexican history, with more than 36 people vying for public office killed since last summer.

Carlos Ortiz, 57, a municipal official working for the Iztapalapa borough in Mexico City, said that such bloodshed compelled him to vote against Sheinbaum.

“I want everything to change,” Ortiz said, recalling the dozens of aspirants for public office killed in recent months. “I don’t want a country on fire anymore.”

López Obrador has directed government attention to addressing the drivers of crime instead of waging war on the criminal groups, a strategy he called “hugs not bullets.” Homicides declined modestly but remain near record levels, and reports of missing people have spiked. Insecurity was a top concern for voters.

Sheinbaum has said she would continue his focus on social causes of the violence, while also working to lower rates of impunity and building up the national guard.

On the economy, the opportunities are clear: Mexico is now the largest trading partner of the United States, benefiting from a recent shift in manufacturing away from China. The currency is so strong it’s been labeled the “super peso.”

But there are also problems simmering. The federal deficit ballooned to around 6% this year, and Pemex, the national oil company, is operating under a mountain of debt, straining public finances.

“The fiscal risk we’re facing at the moment is something we haven’t seen for decades,” said Mariana Campos, director of Mexico Evaluates, a public policy research group.

It’s unclear how Sheinbaum would make good on a range of campaign promises — from building public schools and new health clinics to expanding social welfare programs — given the current state of public finances.

“The problem I see is that a lot of proposals are oriented toward spending and there is nowhere to get the money from,” said Vásquez.

Another challenge involves the broad new responsibilities granted to the armed forces, which have been tasked with running ports and airports, running an airline, and building a railroad through the Mayan jungle. Sheinbaum has said “there is no militarization” of the country, while suggesting she’s open to reevaluating the military’s involvement in public enterprises.

Beyond the domestic strains, Sheinbaum’s destiny will be intertwined with the outcome of the presidential election in the United States.

A reelection victory for President Joe Biden would provide continuity, but a return of Donald Trump to the White House would likely be far less predictable. Trump’s plans to round up people living in the country illegally on a vast scale and deport them to their home countries could target millions of Mexicans living in the United States. He has already threatened to slap 100% tariffs on Chinese cars made in Mexico.

Then there’s the festering issue of fentanyl, which cartels produce in Mexico using chemicals imported from China, the U.S. government says. Trump has suggested taking military action to combat the fentanyl trade.

Sheinbaum has said Mexico would have “good relations” with either Trump or Biden as president, and her campaign team has said it will continue to work to contain flows of migrants.

But handling such pressure from Washington, even in the form of incendiary campaign rhetoric, could prove complicated.

Voters expressed faith in Sheinbaum’s ability to deal with such challenges. Daniela Mendoza, 40, a psychologist who lives in Villahermosa, in Tabasco state, said she had long supported López Obrador, including during his previously unsuccessful bids to win the presidency.

Pleased with his social welfare programs, Mendoza voted for Sheinbaum.

“Claudia follows that line, perhaps with better ideas,” Mendoza said. “And having the first woman president in the country is an accomplishment.”

North Korea Sends Poop Balloons to South


North Korea Sends Poop Balloons to South

Chad de Guzman – May 29, 2024

Don’t look up. South Korean authorities warned residents along the border with North Korea that an “air raid” was underway. But it wasn’t rockets that were incoming. Rather: floating overhead were more than 150 balloons carrying trash and what’s believed to be feces.

An emergency disaster text alert was sent across cities on Tuesday night, according to South Korean newspaper Hankyoreh, ordering residents to “refrain from outdoor activities and report [objects] to military bases when identified,” along with the message in English: “Air raid preliminary warning.”

The incursion comes days after North Korea warned it would retaliate against anti-Pyongyang leaflets sent over by activists in South Korea earlier this month.

South Korean news agency Yonhap reported that South Korea’s military detected the balloons flying and falling in various locations across the country from Tuesday evening to Wednesday morning local time, going as far as South Gyeongsang, a province more than 180 miles from the demilitarized zone border between the two countries.

The balloons appeared to carry trash—like plastic bottles, batteries, shoe parts, and even feces—a South Korea Joint Chiefs of Staff official said. The military is working with police to collect the materials for analysis, local paper Chosun Ilbo reported, and has advised residents not to come into contact with the droppings and instead report them to authorities.

This photo provided by South Korea Defense Ministry, shows trash from a balloon presumably sent by North Korea, in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, May 29, 2024. <span class="copyright">South Korea Presidential Office—AP</span>
This photo provided by South Korea Defense Ministry, shows trash from a balloon presumably sent by North Korea, in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, May 29, 2024. South Korea Presidential Office—AP

“Tit-for-tat action will be also taken against frequent scattering of leaflets and other rubbish by [South Korea] near border areas,” North Korea’s vice minister of national defense said on Sunday. “Mounds of wastepaper and filth will soon be scattered over the border areas and the interior of [South Korea] and it will directly experience how much effort is required to remove them.”

South Korea’s military condemned the act, saying on Wednesday that the balloons “clearly violate international law and seriously threaten our people’s safety.”

It’s not the first time North Korea has flown in garbage through balloons: in 2016, it sent what were initially feared to be biochemical substances but eventually turned out to be cigarette butts and used toilet paper.

North Korean defectors and activists in South Korea have also flown balloons the other way with propaganda payloads for years, in hopes of convincing North Korean residents to stand up against Kim Jong-un’s totalitarian regime. Pyongyang has long bridled against the practice, which it has labeled “psychological warfare.”

Park Sang-hak, center, a refugee from North Korea who runs the group Fighters for a Free North Korea, and South Korean activists prepare to release balloons bearing leaflets during an anti-North Korea rally near the border village of Panmunjom in Paju, South Korea, on April 15, 2011.<span class="copyright">Lee Jin-man—AP</span>
Park Sang-hak, center, a refugee from North Korea who runs the group Fighters for a Free North Korea, and South Korean activists prepare to release balloons bearing leaflets during an anti-North Korea rally near the border village of Panmunjom in Paju, South Korea, on April 15, 2011.Lee Jin-man—AP

Earlier this month, a group of North Korean defectors sent about 20 large balloons carrying some 300,000 leaflets criticizing Kim. The balloons also reportedly carried about 2,000 USB sticks containing K-pop content, including songs from members of Korean boyband sensation BTS. (Kim has called South Korean K-pop a “vicious cancer.”)

As tensions escalate between North and South Korea, experts emphasize that this kind of exchange of balloons remains far preferable to missiles. Peter Ward, a research fellow at the Sejong Institute, told Reuters: “These kinds of grey zone tactics are more difficult to counter and hold less risk of uncontrollable military escalation, even if they’re horrid for the civilians who are ultimately targeted.”

North Korean trash balloons are dumping ‘filth’ on South Korea


North Korean trash balloons are dumping ‘filth’ on South Korea

Jessie Yeung and Yoonjung Seo – May 29, 2024

North Korean trash balloons are dumping ‘filth’ on South Korea
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff
South Korean authorities said the balloons, which landed in several locations, were filled with "filth and garbage." - South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff
South Korean authorities said the balloons, which landed in several locations, were filled with “filth and garbage.” – South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff
The deflated balloon that carried the North Korean trash bags. Balloons have previously been used by South Korean activists to send materials across the border. - South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff
The deflated balloon that carried the North Korean trash bags. Balloons have previously been used by South Korean activists to send materials across the border. – South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff

North Korea has adopted a new strategy to contend with its southern neighbor: sending floating bags of trash containing “filth” across the border, carried by massive balloons.

The South Korean military began noticing “large amounts of balloons” arriving from the North starting Tuesday night, detecting more than 150 as of Wednesday morning, according to the country’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS).

Photos released by the JCS show plastic bags carried by two giant balloons, with some broken packages spilling scraps of plastic, sheets of paper, and what appears to be dirt onto roads and sidewalks.

The balloons so far contain “filth and garbage” and are being analyzed by government agencies, said the JCS, adding that the military was cooperating with the United Nations Command.

South Korean authorities said the balloons, which landed in several locations, were filled with
South Korean authorities said the balloons, which landed in several locations, were filled with “filth and garbage.” – South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff

“North Korea’s actions clearly violate international law and seriously threaten the safety of our citizens,” it added. “All responsibility arising from the North Korean balloons lies entirely with North Korea, and we sternly warn North Korea to immediately stop its inhumane and low-level actions.”

Local governments also sent messages to residents in the northern Gyeonggi and Gangwon provinces to warn of the “unidentified objects,” and advised against outdoor activities. The packages risk damaging residential areas, airports and highways, said the JCS.

The move, according to North Korean state media KCNA, was to retaliate against South Korean activists who often send materials to the North – including propaganda leaflets, food, medicine, radios and USB sticks containing South Korean news and television dramas, all prohibited in the isolated totalitarian dictatorship.

Campaigners in the South, including defectors from North Korea, have long sent these materials through balloons, drones, and bottles floating down the cross-border river – even after South Korea’s parliament banned such actions in 2020.

“Scattering leaflets by use of balloons is a dangerous provocation that can be utilized for a specific military purpose,” said Kim Kang Il, North Korea’s Vice Minister of National Defense, KCNA reported on Sunday.

He accused South Korea of using “psychological warfare” by scattering “various dirty things” near border areas, declaring that the North would take “tit for tat action.”

The deflated balloon that carried the North Korean trash bags. Balloons have previously been used by South Korean activists to send materials across the border. - South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff
The deflated balloon that carried the North Korean trash bags. Balloons have previously been used by South Korean activists to send materials across the border. – South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff

“Mounds of wastepaper and filth will soon be scattered over the border areas and the interior of (South Korea) and it will directly experience how much effort is required to remove them,” Kim said, according to KCNA. “When our national sovereignty, security and interests are violated, we will take action immediately.”

Kim also decried joint US-South Korea military drills, which have increased in recent years as tensions have risen in the Korean peninsula.

The 2020 law that prohibited sending leaflets also restricted loudspeaker propaganda broadcasts, which the South’s military once championed as part of psychological warfare against the North until it withdrew the equipment following a 2018 summit between the two Koreas.

But even after parliament passed the ban, activists told Reuters they planned to continue – including the defector Park Sang-hak, who had been sending materials back to his homeland for 15 years, vowing to continue in an effort to give North Koreans a rare glimpse of the outside world.

Earlier this month, Park’s organization Fighters for a Free North Korea said in a statement it had sent 20 balloons toward North Korea, containing 300,000 leaflets that condemned Kim Jong Un and 2,000 USB sticks containing K-pop and music videos.

“In order to appeal and urge the North Korean people to rise up and put an end to Kim Jong Un … the group is sending the leaflets to the compatriots in North Korea,” the organization said in a statement.

For decades, North Korea has been almost completely closed off from the rest of the world, with tight control over what information gets in or out. Foreign materials including movies and books are banned, with only a few state-sanctioned exceptions; those caught with foreign contraband often face severe punishment, defectors say.

Earlier this year a South Korean research group has released rare footage that it claimed showed North Korean teenagers sentenced to hard labor for watching and distributing K-dramas.

Restrictions softened somewhat in recent decades as North Korea’s relationship with China expanded. Tentative steps to open up allowed some South Korean elements, including parts of its pop culture, to seep into the hermit nation – especially in 2017 and 2018, when relations thawed between the two countries.

But the situation in North Korea deteriorated in the following years and diplomatic talks fell apart – prompting strict rules to snap back into place in the North.

North Korea Accused of Launching Floating Poop Balloon Attack

Daily Beast

North Korea Accused of Launching Floating Poop Balloon Attack

Dan Ladden-Hall – May 29, 2024

Yonhap via Reuters
Yonhap via Reuters

South Korea’s military on Wednesday accused North Korea of floating balloons loaded with trash and manure across the border and immediately demanded that Pyongyang halt its “inhumane and vulgar” operation.

More than 260 balloons have already been detected in South Korea since the operation began on Tuesday night, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said. Images released by the military appear to show the balloons carrying plastic bags—one of which had the word “excrement” written on the side, according to Reuters.

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A JCS official told the Seoul-based Yonhap News Agency that the balloons—all of which have fallen to the ground—carried trash, including bits of shoes, plastic bottles, and manure.

No damage or injuries have been reported so far in connection with the balloons, but the military has deployed bomb disposal units and other experts to collect them. Residents have been warned against touching the objects.

“These acts by North Korea clearly violate international law and seriously threaten our people’s safety,” the JCS said, adding a stern warning to “North Korea to immediately stop its inhumane and vulgar act.”

The balloons started arriving days after Kim Kang Il, North Korea’s vice defense minister, slammed propaganda leaflets criticizing the Pyongyang regime that North Korean defectors in the South have been attaching to balloons and sending northward for years.

The minister on Sunday accused Seoul of “despicable psychological warfare” by “scattering leaflets and various dirty things near border areas” and vowed to deliver “tit-for-tat action” in response.

“Mounds of wastepaper and filth will soon be scattered over the border areas and the interior of [South Korea] and it will directly experience how much effort is required to remove them,” he said.