Mexican tourism: it’s time for a new focus

OECD says tourism’s growth has not kept up with the global economy
 Flag of Mexico.svg

Chile launches probe of Bachelet’s daughter-in-law for fraud

Flag of Chile.svg

Chile launches probe of Bachelet's daughter-in-law for fraud

Chile launches probe of Bachelet’s daughter-in-law for fraud

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet’s daughter-in-law Natalia Compagnon may face up to five years of imprisonment due to accusations of fraud.

SANTIAGO — Chilean prosecutors have launched a new formal criminal investigation targeting President Michelle Bachelet’s daughter-in-law.

Natalia Compagnon, the wife of Bachelet’s oldest son, and her business partner Mauricio Caval attended a court hearing Friday. They’re suspected of participating in illegal dealings through Caval, a company that provided real estate and consulting services for mining companies.

Prosecutor Emiliano Arias says they are suspected of fraud during 2012-2013 in dealings with a businessman, selling him eight reports for $1.7 million with information lifted online from a copper company. They could face up to five years in prison.

Compagnon and Caval face another criminal probe following allegations of tax evasion in a real estate venture. They have been banned from leaving Chile during the case.

The unfolding scandal has hurt Bachelet’s popularity.

 

Source : Santiago Times

Lesados avançam na justiça para impedir venda do Novo Banco em partes

Flag of Portugal.svg

Clientes lesados pelo papel comercial vendido pelo BES colocaram providência cautelar por considerarem que ficariam prejudicados

Quase 500 clientes lesados pelo papel comercial vendido aos balcões do BES colocaram uma providência cautelar para impedir que o Banco de Portugal possa vender o Novo Banco de forma fracionada, considerando que ficariam prejudicados no reembolso dos seus créditos.

“Pretendem, nesta medida, que a Entidade Requerida [Banco de Portugal] se abstenha de vender a entidade de transição Novo Banco através de um método que pressuponha a seleção de ativos e subsequente venda dos mesmos de forma desintegrada”, lê-se no documento que deu entrada no Tribunal Administrativo de Círculo de Lisboa e a que a Lusa teve acesso.

Os clientes lesados que moveram esta ação consideram que, a forma de alienação, colocaria em causa a “capacidade para o reembolso de créditos” por parte do Novo Banco.

Estes 452 clientes fazem parte dos 4.000 investidores a retalho que, através de 2.000 aplicações, investiram no total 434 milhões de euros em papel comercial das empresas Espírito Santo International e Rio Forte, através dos balcões do Banco Espírito Santo (BES), dinheiro dado praticamente como perdido aquando da queda do Grupo Espírito Santo (GES).

Desde então que estes clientes lesados reclamam, tal como explicam nesta nova ação judicial, que é do Novo Banco – o banco de transição do BES – a responsabilidade de pagar o valor em causa.

Lembram também que, após a resolução do BES, o Novo Banco chegou a contactá-los, dizendo que continuava “a trabalhar, conjuntamente com as entidades de supervisão, na procura de uma solução comercial a apresentar aos seus clientes”, admitindo noutra ocasião que ficou consigo o papel comercial da Espírito Santo International (ESI) e Rio Forte e que mantinha a “intenção de assegurar o reembolso”.

Aliás, recordam mesmo que a Comissão do Mercado de Valores Mobiliários (CMVM) considerou em abril de 2015 que a responsabilidade do reembolso era do Novo Banco, acrescentando então que havia uma provisão no BES, antes da resolução, precisamente para pagar esses créditos e que também essa provisão devia passar para o Novo Banco.

Esse processo acabou por não avançar, já que o Banco de Portugal defendeu que o Novo Banco só podia assumir esse compromisso se não implicasse prejuízos financeiros e foi no final de 2016 negociado um mecanismo de solução que permitirá aos clientes que o aceitem recuperar parcialmente as perdas.

Contudo, estes 452 clientes avançam com uma nova ação judicial, já que têm receio de que a venda do Novo Banco ponha em causa os seus direitos.

“Porque sendo os ativos do Novo Banco alienados a diferentes compradores e sendo a própria entidade desintegrada, com que possibilidades ficam os requerentes? Por essa altura, mesmo que os requerentes consigam um reconhecimento do seu direito relativamente a esta entidade de transição ou a própria anulação da resolução, de nada vai servir a sentença se não para encaixilhar”, afirmam na ação judicial interposta, acrescentando que nessa altura, “possivelmente, a entidade já nem existirá”.

Estes clientes têm já uma ação a correr no Tribunal Administrativo, na qual pedem que seja o Novo Banco a reembolsá-los do dinheiro em dívida que dizem crer que irão ganhar.

Contudo, como estimam que essa decisão só seja definitiva em três a quatro anos, querem evitar uma alienação parcial do Novo Banco que possa pôr em causa os seus direitos.

Assim, pedem ao Tribunal Administrativo uma “tutela antecipatória dos seus direitos”, de modo a garantirem “o efeito útil da sentença que vier a ser proferida nas ações administrativas de que são requerentes”.

Deste modo, através de uma providência cautelar, querem que seja exigido ao Banco de Portugal que “se abstenha de vender os ativos da entidade de transição Novo Banco de forma fracionada através de um mecanismo de seleção de ativos, implicando tal procedimento, a adjudicação dos mesmos a diferentes compradores”.

Estes clientes do papel comercial poderão ser incluídos na solução para o papel comercial negociada em 2016 (entre a Associação de Indignados e Enganados do Papel Comercial, Banco de Portugal, CMVM e ‘banco mau’ BES, com mediação do Governo).

O mecanismo de compensação foi anunciado em dezembro, está agora a começar a ser operacionalizado e passa por devolver aos clientes 75% do valor investido, num máximo de 250 mil euros, naqueles que têm aplicações até 500 mil euros, e 50% para as aplicações acima dos 500 mil, valor que será pago até 2019.

Os clientes que quiserem aderir a este mecanismo terão de cumprir uma série de obrigações, entre as quais comprometer-se a renunciar a reclamações e processos judiciais contra uma série de entidades, que, para já, são o Banco de Portugal, a CMVM, o Fundo de Resolução bancário, o Estado, o Novo Banco e o seu futuro comprador.

Contudo, esta solução não está a agradar a todos os clientes lesados, sobretudo àqueles com aplicações mais altas, acima de 500 mil euros, que não concordam com o valor que lhes seria devolvido caso aceitassem o acordo proposto.

Contactado pela Lusa, o advogado Nuno Vieira, que representa os clientes da providência cautelar, afirmou que esta ação judicial “nada põe em causa no acordo com o Governo”, uma vez que os lesados têm direito a “garantir os direitos” até ao momento em que efetivem o contrato de adesão ao mecanismo de compensação.

“Admito que este procedimento seja mais importante para aquelas pessoas que não pretendem aceitar a solução, mas eu não faço distinção de clientes”, afirmou o advogado, acrescentando que mesmo com “um só cliente insatisfeito com a solução nunca deixaria de exercer os seus direitos no tribunal”.

Diário de Notícias

Inside the Desperate Battle against Sports Doping

Wild Wild West

A special unit of investigators and medical professionals in the U.S. is on the hunt for sports cheats. Internal emails that DER SPIEGEL has examined show how assiduous the inspectors are in their pursuit — and how frustrating it can be.

Flag of Germany.svg

Nine months before the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, a small victory in the epic fight against the dark side of sports seemed to be at hand. A victory over the army of cheats who seek an unfair advantage by injecting blood booster EPO and testosterone or by taking anabolic steroids.

“Hilton Hotel Security found another syringe in the room of two athletes.” That’s how Victor Burgos, an investigator for the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), began an email he sent on Nov. 22, 2015, at 5:24 p.m. A former policeman from New York, Burgos wrote: “I passed the information, athlete names and room number to Brad and he is picking up the evidence and handling test planning.”

USADA headquarters is located in an office complex in the town of Colorado Springs at the edge of the Rocky Mountains. The men and women who work here are considered the most tenacious doping investigators in the world. In recent years, the agency has uncovered the doping practices of some of the biggest names in sports, including cyclist Lance Armstrong and the world-class sprinters Tyson Gay and Marion Jones.

The message sent by Burgos electrified the headquarters staff and USADA head Travis Tygart wanted to know where the athletes were from. Bradley Guye, who took the lead on the case, replied that they were two female weightlifters from Egypt. The pair was staying at a Hilton Hotel in Houston, where the world championships were taking place.

Guye inquired as to whether he should perform a drug test. “Yes,” answered USADA headquarters, adding that, in addition to urine, blood samples were also necessary to determine by way of a DNA test which of the athletes had used the syringe that had been found.

In a message a short time later, Guye reported that there were anonymous eyewitnesses claiming to have seen a male weightlifter injecting himself with something before weighing in prior to competition.

There was quite a bit going on, it seemed, at the world championships in Houston. USADA head Tygart was stunned. “Wow … this is the Wild Wild West!” he wrote in an email.

The names of the two weightlifters, in whose room the syringe was found, are unimportant. They only made a brief appearance on the investigators’ radar before disappearing again. They were tested in their Houston hotel room, but the results were negative. The investigation had been in vain.

In a report to the global weightlifting federation, USADA wrote that it might make sense for the organization to introduce a “no-needles policy” for the sport. But they couldn’t do much else.

The fight against doping is comparable to the battle against drugs: There is no real way to win it. But it must be fought nonetheless. Otherwise, all control would be lost.

Dopers have become increasingly unconscionable. They continually find new methods and they can count on an army of accomplices to aid them in their fraud: dealers, doctors, trainers and officials who supply their clients with the necessary substances — and charge a fair amount for doing so.

Most countries that send athletes to the Olympic Games have special institutions that are responsible for going after the dopers. These national anti-doping agencies are akin to small outposts on a vast front line. Some of them take their jobs seriously, but not all.

USADA is among the most effective organizations in the fight against doping. It employs medical professionals, chemists and forensic experts who are intimately familiar with the lists of banned substances and the active ingredients they contain in addition to the doping practices used by athletes. The agency’s 100 or so employees send out investigators to check on athletes who have fallen under suspicion.

Until now, little had been known about how the agency goes about hunting down suspected dopers. But in December, the hacker group Fancy Bears provided SPIEGEL with several sets of data containing PDF and Word documents in addition to hundreds of internal emails from USADA and WADA, the World Anti-Doping Agency. The material provides a look at the day-to-day work of the agencies during the Olympics year of 2016: how they did their research, the tactics they used and the actions they took if they suspected a violation.

The data also reveals the frustration they experienced when investigators were on the heels of a doping cheat, but were unable to bring him or her to justice — and their frustration that such failures lead to ongoing sordidness in the sporting world.

Ozone Therapy

WADA is the umbrella organization of all doping investigators. Each year, it publishes a list of banned substances and treatments and currently, there are around 300 substances on the index. More are added all the time. A drug that may have still been allowed at the beginning of the year could result in a doping ban just a couple of months later.

It is up to the athletes to keep track of what is allowed and what is not, but for many of them, doing so is apparently a significant challenge. USADA staff is frequently surprised by how little some athletes know of the rules — or want to know.

In early May, three months before the opening ceremony in Rio, the phone rang at the information hotline run by USADA. An athlete was on the other end of the line and mentioned during the conversation that he had used ozone therapy. The USADA employee was shocked.

Ozone therapy involves withdrawing blood, enriching it with an ozone-oxygen mixture and then reintroducing it into the veins. The method is considered a form of blood doping and has been banned by WADA since 2011. The athlete on the phone, though, claimed he had “no idea.”

The athlete’s doctor, who then contacted USADA, likewise professed to being “completely surprised” that blood treatment was not allowed for athletes. Fully five years ago, 30 German athletes had been under suspicion of doping because they had had their blood treated by a medical professional.

A USADA agent wrote a friendly letter to the American Association of Ozonotherapy. “We have unfortunately witnessed situations where health care providers have unwittingly jeopardized athlete eligibility as a result of unfamiliarity with the fact that that IV infusions, the delivery of blood products and other therapies involving the blood, such as ozone therapy, are ‘prohibited methods’ according to the World Anti-Doping Agency. … Health care providers in your organization may be unaware (of) that.”

The letter also included the terse observation that doctors who perform unauthorized procedures on athletes are punishable by law.

Fish Oil and Cortisone

Doping investigators are well aware of just how corrupt the top levels of sports are. But part of their job is helping athletes and informing them of what is allowed and what is not. Often, athletes contact the agency to ask about whether certain cough medicines can be taken without fear of reprisal. On one occasion, a world-class triathlete sent an email because she wanted to know the blood values from a doping test that she had undergone. She was politely informed that USADA does not provide such data for fear that it might be used for “self-diagnosis” or self-treatment. Have a nice day.

A what point, though, does doping actually begin? As part of each doping test, athletes have to fill out a “Declaration of Use” (DOU) form in which they must indicate which medicines and other substances they have taken in the past seven days.

SPIEGEL is in possession of the DOU forms submitted by dozens of American athletes, including cyclists, soccer players and track-and-field athletes. They show that in the run up to Rio, athletes took pretty much everything that was available on the legal market.

There are weightlifters who take milk protein to build up their muscles, tennis players who use acylcarnitine to improve their concentration and triathletes who swear by fish oil, for no discernible reason.

Some DOUs are rather questionable. Galen Rupp, who won the marathon bronze in Rio and who is considered the fastest white long-distance runner in the world, takes the asthma medicine Advair. He also takes Combivent, a medicine that expands the airways, and Cytomel for weight loss.

On his form, Rupp wrote that he takes the medications merely to treat conditions such as asthma and an underactive thyroid gland. “None of the medicines … are banned.”

That is true. Most of the substances listed by athletes in their DOUs are allowed. But it is nevertheless a gray area because the consumption of such medications has become so excessive. Most athletes seem to follow the strategy of taking as much as possible. They swallow all manner of substances in the hope of seeing some sort of benefit.

Like Justin Gatlin. The 100-meter Olympic gold medalist in 2004 apparently eats dietary supplements like they are candy. In his DOU from spring 2016, he listed all of the products that he had consumed:

Beta-alanine, amino acid, one spoonful;
Calcium and magnesium, one spoonful;
EPIQ 3X Muscle, a muscle-growth supplement, one tablet;
EPIQ HEAT GC, a weight-loss supplement, one tablet;
EPIQ Ripped, another weight-loss supplement, one tablet;
EPIQ Protein, a regenerative supplement, one spoonful;
EPIQ Test, a testosterone booster, one tablet;
MD Plus Test, another testosterone booster, one tablet;
MD Plus G Boost, a muscle-growth preparation, one tablet;
MD Plus Lipoflush, a substance to promote the burning of fat, one tablet;
MD Plus Power Drink, one spoonful;
MD Plus Thermo Cell, another weight-loss supplement, one tablet.

All of the above preparations can be ordered with just a few clicks on the internet. Gatlin reported that he took all of the substances on April 18 — eight tablets and four powders, all in just one day.

The transition from such legal performance enhancement to actual doping is sometimes rather fluid. World-class athletes spend a significant amount of time searching for new preparations and methods that aren’t yet on the list of banned substances and practices — anything that promises some sort of positive effect.

The Fancy Bears documents show that U.S. sprinters Allyson Felix and Sanya Richard-Ross, both of whom have won multiple Olympic gold medals, have taken dexamethasone, known as dex for short. It is a cortisone preparation that helps mountain climbers combat the effects of altitude sickness, improves concentration and accelerates recovery.

 

Source : Der Spiegel

The Treasure Guardian: Keeping the Kremlin Jewels Safe

The woman entrusted with preserving Tsarist Russia’s masterpieces enjoys a famous name and the support of the President. But that doesn’t make her job easy.

Flag of Russia.svg

For 15 years Yelena Gagarina has done her best to preserve and expand the collection of Tsarist-era treasures. TASS

People might think that a museum situated at Vladimir Putin’s front doorstep could not have a care in the world. But here lies the paradox: living next to the symbol and seat of Russian power creates its own problems.

Comparable in significance to the Tower of London, Versailles, Château de Chambord or Kensington Palace, the Kremlin museums were founded in 1806 by Emperor Alexander I as a place to house the treasures of Tsarist Russia.

Today, they share their living space with Russian history, a medieval castle and an acting Russian President. This is not a desirable situation for a museum, admits the museums’ director, Yelena Gagarina.

The museums are necessarily cramped, and struggle to cope with visitor numbers. The ubiquitous Presidential Guard makes wearying demands for official passes at every turn. Each step requires approval from the commandant’s office. And the museums can only remain open until 6 p.m. at the latest (other museums “on the outside” sometimes work at night.)

Moscow’s other premier visitor attractions have it comparatively easy. The Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts and the Tretyakov Gallery have grown to become whole mini-districts devoted to art. People constantly speak and write about them. The Kremlin Museums, however, are necessarily cloaked in relative silence, and live a very different life.

There are other difficulties. For example, there is no way of maintaining temperatures inside the ancient chambers in order to display fine paintings, scrolls, or wooden objects. That said, conditions are perfect for exhibiting the Kremlin’s many other priceless pieces—its collections of diamonds, gold and silver items and textiles. Russian emperors, and the foreign ambassadors who brought so many of the items as gifts, spared no expense on these artisan masterpieces.

“We are always greatly limited in what we can exhibit,” says Gagarina. “We can’t show collections of oriental works or icons, since they are enormous. There’s no space to display or properly restore the stunning banners in our collection. But just imagine their beauty—made from silk and decorated with exceptionally sophisticated embroidery.”

Gagarina has on multiple occasions tried to move the museum beyond the walls of the medieval fortress. In the most recent attempt, authorities promised to build a new facility right next to the Kremlin on Borovitsky Hill. However, leaders found the idea of erecting a controversial monument to Prince Vladimir too alluring, and so his statue now stands on the site of Gagarina’s proposed museum.

Gagarina did, however, receive a consolation prize. By presidential decree, the Kremlin Museums will now receive part of the building on Red Square right in front of St. Basil’s Cathedral.

This new space will house facilities for storage, restoration, and temporary exhibitions. Eventually, part of the Patriarch’s Palace and Armoury exhibitions will be relocated there.

The Armoury building inside the Kremlin walls will, however, retain a large proportion of its current exhibits. The royal carriages, for example, will stay where they are, because it is simply too problematic to dismantle and reassemble them elsewhere. The Armoury will add exhibitions of state regalia and coronation ceremony items to augment the current collection of medals, which date back to the time of Peter the Great.

This is not the first time that President Vladimir Putin has intervened to play a central role in Yelena Gagarina’s life. As is well known, the president sees himself as the guardian of Russia’s greatness. His choice of Gagarina—the daughter of Soviet hero Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space—to take care of some of Russia’s most historic relics is no accident.

Fifteen years ago, on the 40th anniversary of that historic spaceflight, the president paid a home visit to offer her the job. At the time, Gagarina was working as a specialist in English book graphics for the Pushkin Museum.

From time to time, Putin drops in to view the collections under Gagarina’s watch.

“The last time the president stopped by, we showed him a large collection of state orders and medals that a private individual had donated,” Gagarina says. “The President took great interest. It was the same in pre-revolutionary times. Tsars closely followed the expansion of the collection and did not allow just any old thing to be included.”

Only rarely do the Kremlin museums have an opportunity to augment their collections. It is, after all, difficult to rival the extraordinary resources that were made available to the Russian emperors. The Kremlin museums, for example, house 10 Fabergé Easter eggs—famous masterworks that once formed part of the Russian Emperor’s treasury. In 1922, part of this treasury was sold at export auctions, but Fabergé eggs still adorn the exposition of the Armory.

Adding another Fabergé masterpiece or two to the collections is no simple matter. No matter how much the art market may have slipped into crisis, works created by the worldfamous jewelry brand still attract eye-watering prices.

Gagarina, however, has developed a few tricks for reaching out and acquiring valuable new exhibits without dipping into state coffers.

“When we stage commercial exhibitions of contemporary works, we ask jewelry houses to leave us a historical item, one with both a name and an interesting story as our compensation,” Gagarina says. “So when we organized a Cartier exhibition, they gave us a diamond brooch from the 1930s. We did an exhibition for Buccellati, and so now we have a Buccellati original. We staged an exhibition for Carrera y Carrera, and they gave us us one of their original pieces too.”

The museums have also benefitted from the generosity of various collectors and philanthropists. Just recently, major collector Andrei Leonidovich Khazin left a chain that had been awarded to the last Russian Emperor, Nicholas II, by Queen Victoria. By tradition, such gifts are returned to the Royal Chapter House in Britain after the death of a monarch. But the revolution struck, and the chain was passed from one Soviet institution to another, before being sold in a Stalin-era sales, from where it ended up in Khazin’s collection.

It was not a straightforward process to transfer the piece to the museum collection, however.

“According to the rules, this piece should have been returned to the U.K. and the property of the Crown,” says Gagarina. After long and complex negotiations, however, a way to allow the chain to remain on display in Russia was found. The chain would be “returned” to Queen Elizabeth, who would then “return” it back to the museum to use indefinitely.

“[Queen Elizabeth] wrote a wonderful letter saying that she wanted as many people in Russia as possible to see this chain and to recall the tragic story that occurred to a member of her family 100 years ago,” says Gagarina.

Following Perestroika in the late 1980s, the descendants of the Romanov family have visited the Kremlin Museums on several occasions. They admired the crown jewels of their ancestors, stood gazing for a long time at Monomakh’s Cap, the oldest of the crowns currently exhibited, and stared in wonder at the family jewels. They have also issued claims of ownership.

The Russian State is unlikely to ever recognize the claims. For Gagarina, the royal descendents are just tourists, “no different” from the 2.2 million other visitors the museum receives every year. (This is about 400,000 more than the Kremlin can easily handle.)

In recent years, a huge wave of Chinese tourists has descended on the Kremlin, far outnumbering the previous flows of American visitors.

The Chinese visits are usually organized by Communist labor unions. Most of these tourists are elderly, and still remember the period of Chinese-Soviet friendship. “They always ask where Lenin and Stalin lived, and are disappointed when I tell them that the Lenin exhibit has been moved to his residence at Gorki Village near Moscow,” Gagarina says.

The sensibilities of these new tourists is also markedly different from those of previous visitors.

“[The Chinese] are completely uninterested in Russian churches and religious art, which they find boring and incomprehensible, but they like everything connected with weapons and state regalia,” Gagarina says. “They love to take photos next to the Tsar Cannon.

Like other museums housing royal treasures, the Kremlin museums serve as the guardian of imperial ceremony. First and foremost, this means coronations. Gagarina, however, says that she isn’t satisfied with the Kremlin Museums’ coronation exhibition.

“We had to put it in very small rooms, but it requires a grand scale,” she says. “It is impossible to present a coronation in 200 meters of space.”

And coronation is only part of a monarch’s life cycle. Royal weddings, births, and the baptism of heirs are no less important moments. “I am particularly interested in state funerals, which are increasingly becoming a focus of research around the world,” says Gagarina. “I’m certain that, one day, people will be lining here to see the funerals too.”

 

Source : Moscow Times