Bank of Mexico hikes interest rate a half-point to 4.75 pct

MEXICO CITY – Mexico’s central bank has raised its inter-bank interest rate a half-point to 4.75 percent, seeking to shore up a weak peso and prevent a rise in inflation.

The Bank of Mexico says in a Thursday statement that prospects for global growth continue to suggest a moderate rate of economic activity. It says growth forecasts for advanced economies have been reduced.

The peso has depreciated significantly against the U.S. dollar and shown high volatility. The bank says it has had "one of the least favorable performances among emerging economy currencies."

The bank says it foresees continued risk of greater volatility in financial markets especially if there is increased "nervousness derived from the possible consequences" of the U.S. election. It added that the implications for Mexico "could be particularly important."


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Matthew grows to hurricane strength in Caribbean

Hurricane Matthew's projected path

Hurricane Matthew’s projected path (National Hurricane Center)

ORANJESTAD, Aruba – People in the Dutch Caribbean islands reinforced their homes and stocked up on emergency supplies Thursday as Hurricane Matthew took a rare turn through the southern Caribbean ahead of an expected shift to the north.

Matthew was passing to the north of the islands of Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao during the night, before shifting on a course predicted to take it toward Jamaica, Cuba and Haiti over the weekend.

By late Thursday, Aruba was seeing some rain and sea surge had covered part of a road on the northwest side of the island. There were no reports of evacuations. In Curacao, some streets were flooded, and there was a light rain falling on Bonaire.

The so-called "ABC islands" of the Dutch Caribbean, which were under a tropical storm watch, are usually spared from tropical storms. Matthew’s approach prompted long lines at gas stations and supermarkets. Authorities in Aruba said government offices would be closed Friday and Curacao’s parliamentary elections were postponed until next week.

The government of Colombia also issued a tropical storm watch for its coast from Riohach to the Venezuelan border.

Matthew passed over the eastern Caribbean on Wednesday, causing at least one death. Officials in St. Vincent said a 16-year-old boy was crushed by a boulder as he tried to clear a blocked drain.

At 8 p.m. EDT, the storm had maximum sustained winds of 75mph and was centered 150 miles north-northeast of Curacao, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami. It is traveling westward at 15 mph.

Hurricane-force winds extended out for 70 miles and tropical storm-force winds extended outward up to 185 miles.


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Group calls for Darfur chemical weapons investigation

UNITED NATIONS – Amnesty International is calling on the U.N. Security Council to take action over reports that the Sudanese government has used chemical weapons in Darfur.

The British-based human rights group released a report Thursday detailing at least 30 chemical attacks they say took place in the Jebel Marra area over the past eight months. Amnesty estimates that chemical weapons may have killed some 200 to 250 people, with many or most being children.

"The world cannot stand idly by any longer. The U.N. needs to act. A cloud of suspicion hangs over the Sudanese authorities’ conduct in Darfur," said Tirana Hassan, adding the alleged attacks have "every sign of being a war crime."

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the world body was "extremely and particularly concerned" by the report.


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Belgium to expand targeted security measures in Brussels

Commuters walk past soldiers on duty at Brussels Central Station as they return to work in Brussels.

Commuters walk past soldiers on duty at Brussels Central Station as they return to work in Brussels. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

Belgian authorities plan to expand their intensified law-enforcement efforts beyond Molenbeek, the Brussels neighborhood that was home to several suicide bombers, said officials, who also publicly detailed steps taken in recent months to curb terror threats.

The “Canal Plan”—so called because a canal separates Molenbeek from the center of Brussels—was implemented in February after the November terrorist attacks in Paris revealed that several of the Islamic State fighters had grown up in the Brussels neighborhood. Some left for Syria and came back undetected by using fake documents provided by friends who stayed in Molenbeek.

The Canal Plan was gradually rolled out just weeks before the March Brussels bombings, which killed 32 people.

As part of the plan, an additional 50 police officers were deployed in Molenbeek and a joint task force focusing on suspected foreign fighters was established, officials said on Thursday. The task force has been examining whether the suspects receive welfare benefits and what links they may have to criminal networks supplying weapons and false documents.

The Molenbeek initiative has proven successful in getting the police, welfare offices and financial-investigation units to cooperate on specific terrorism cases, Belgian Interior Minister Jan Jambon said at a news conference presenting the results of Canal Plan.

In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, Mr. Jambon had announced a bolder plan, aimed at checking every address in Molenbeek and investigating which residents had traveled back and forth to Syria.

But political quarrels and financial constraints slimmed down the plan to 50 extra officers, down from the 126 officers the Molenbeek police chief had requested.

Click for more from The Wall Street Journal.


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US raises concerns to Venezuela about jailed Utah man

FILE - In this July 30, 2016, file photo, Laurie Holt, the mother of Josh Holt, an American jailed in Venezuela, cries during a rally at the Utah State Capitol, in Salt Lake City.

FILE – In this July 30, 2016, file photo, Laurie Holt, the mother of Josh Holt, an American jailed in Venezuela, cries during a rally at the Utah State Capitol, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

WASHINGTON – U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry raised concerns during a meeting this week with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro about a Utah man jailed in the South American country for three months.

Kerry called on Venezuela to respect due process and human rights in the case of Joshua Holt, 24, State Department spokesman John Kirby said Wednesday. Kirby would not provide details about the conversation, but said the department is following the case closely.

Kerry’s involvement has raised hopes for Holt’s mother and members of Utah’s congressional delegation.

His mother, Laurie Holt, said Thursday that she’s pleased her son’s case has reached the top levels of governments in both countries. State Department officials called her about the development, but said they did not know details of what Kerry and Maduro discussed, she said.

"I feel like this is a step in the right direction," she said. "President Maduro will see Joshua’s case and the type of person he is."

U.S. diplomats visited Holt in a Caracas prison last month but the U.S. government had previously avoided ratcheting up public pressure on Venezuela amid already strained relations between two countries that haven’t swapped ambassadors since 2010.

Holt was arrested on June 30 on suspicion of weapons charges after traveling to Venezuela to marry a woman he met online while looking for Spanish-speaking Mormons to help him improve his Spanish. His wife, Theresa Caleno, is also jailed as an alleged accomplice.

Venezuela authorities contend Holt was using his wife’s apartment in Caracas to stockpile weapons and have suggested his case was linked to other unspecified attempts by the U.S. to undermine President Maduro’s rule amid deep economic and political turbulence.

His mother said she thinks an assault rifle and a grenade found in the apartment her son shared with his wife were planted.

Holt said her son is depressed, suffered from kidney stones and respiratory illness and has lost weight, dropping from a pant size 40 to 30. She said life has come to a standstill for her, her husband and their other children as they focus on trying to free Joshua Holt and raise money to pay lawyer fees.

A court hearing on his case in Venezuela scheduled for earlier this month was canceled. A new hearing has been set for Oct. 11, she said.

Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah said in a statement Thursday he received a phone call from Vice President Joe Biden about Kerry’s conversation with Maduro. Hatch said Biden is committed to working with Secretary Kerry to return Holt to his family.

U.S. Rep. Mia Love has worked on Holt’s behalf, co-sponsoring a resolution that passed the House this week calling for the release of Holt and other "political prisoners" in Venezuela.


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