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BLACKWATER USA | DAILY BRIEF


COVID-19

  • A new study published in The Lancet Global Health found that 22% of the world’s population has at least one underlying condition that could worsen cases of coronavirus (their count included people with diseases that affect the heart and lungs like diabetes and heart disease, but not healthy seniors or poor / obese people).

North Korea

  • Still upset about anti-government leaflets dropped weeks ago, North Korea dramatically blew up a four-story joint liaison office in Kaesong that was previously used for talks with South Korea—and had been paid for by South Korea. The building had been closed since Jan. 30th due to coronavirus, so there was nobody inside at the time of the explosion, but it’s still an odd message to send when South Korea keeps turning the other cheek.

Afghanistan

  • Afghanistan won the awful honor of being named the deadliest country in the world for children for the fifth year in a row. Over 3,000 Afghan children were killed in violence in 2019, and around the same number were maimed.

China

  • Three Indian soldiers were killed in clashes with the Chinese military along the Himalayas (China may have had casualties, too). The two sides had begun a “deescalation process” in recent weeks, but tensions are still high. These are the first military casualties on that border in over 45 years.

  • There are rumors that the latest COVID-19 cluster in Beijing came from imported salmon, but the WHO has suggested that’s unlikely. Any kind of imported meat explanation—even if unproven—could lead to severe supply restrictions and meat price inflation in China.

U.S.

  • The Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that the Civil Rights Act of 1964—which prohibits workplace discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin—also applies to gay and transgender employees. It was a surprising Pride Month victory from a conservative court: Chief Justice Gorsuch even wrote the clear, concise decision.

  • The U.S. Air Force identified the pilot who crashed in the North Sea yesterday as 1st Lt. Kenneth Allen. Allen died in the crash, which is still being investigated (there are no signs of foul play at this point).

Brexit

  • PM Johnson agreed to try to reach a trade deal with the EU before the end of the year. The EU is hoping for a more comprehensive trade deal, while the UK would prefer a simpler one that adds side deals for certain issues.

Sahel

  • Human Rights Watch accused Niger of summarily executing two suspected (unarmed and wounded) Boko Haram fighters last month by running them over with tanks. The Nigerien government confirmed the incident, which happened near the border with Nigeria.

Guyana

  • Exxon reduced crude output at its Liza field in Guyana because of issues with its gas reinjection equipment that would’ve forced it to flare unacceptable quantities of gas (its agreement with Guyana limits it to flaring less than 15 million cubic feet per day). Liza was producing around three times as much in early May (75,000 – 80,000 bpd) as it is now (25,000 – 30,000).

Venezuela

  • SecState Pompeo directly accused Pres. Maduro of seeking to illegally rig this year’s parliamentary election because of Maduro’s recent move to appoint an electoral council (Pres. Guaido’s National Assembly is supposed to appoint that council).

  • According to Reuters sources, Iran wants to keep sending 2-3 tankers per month of gasoline to Venezuela to offload a glut in Iran and fill a gap in Venezuela. Notably, two of the story’s sources said Iran’s IRGC—which leans conservative and is controlled by Ayatollah Khamenei—is responsible for Iran’s policy on Venezuela, which suggests that policy will remain belligerent.

  • Mexico’s Pres. AMLO, a populist, told a crowd that Mexico would be willing to sell gasoline to Venezuela “if it were a humanitarian necessity,” but noted that Venezuela hadn’t asked for Mexican gas yet.

Mexico

  • A short article pasted below details newly-declassified information about how convicted drug lord “La Barbie” incriminated former Mexican president Felipe Calderon and several of his government officials for protecting cartels by identifying law enforcement agents to them (one DEA agent was killed).

Strategic Minerals

  • Tesla announced a deal to use up to 6,000 tons of cobalt per year from Glencore’s DRC mines in its new Gigafactories in Berlin and other cities (Tesla already uses Glencore cobalt at its Shanghai Gigafactory).

Other News

  • A court in the Philippines convicted journalist Maria Ressa and a colleague of cyber libel, raising concerns that the government will continue to threaten and intimidate journalists.

A convicted drug lord nicknamed 'La Barbie' linked a former Mexican president to drug cartels (Mexico News Daily)

A convicted drug lord provided information to United States authorities between 2008 and 2010 that linked former President Felipe Calderón and members of his government to Mexican drug cartels.

Edgar Valdez Villarreal, a United States citizen nicknamed "La Barbie" because of his fair skin, collaborated with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) while he was working as a drug trafficker with the Beltrán-Leyva Cartel.

That information has only recently come to light because court documents from Valdez's 2018 sentence hearing in Atlanta, Georgia — at which he was sentenced to almost 50 years in jail — have been declassified.

Valdez told US authorities that corrupt officials in the Calderón government revealed the identity of DEA agents in Mexico to the Sinaloa Cartel and the Beltrán-Leyva Cartel. The corrupt officials also supplied the cartels with photographs of the agents and told them where they were located, Valdez told authorities.

One DEA agent was murdered in the period in which the officials were supplying the confidential information to the cartels.

In a report published Thursday on the news website Aristegui Noticias, Mexican journalist Anabel Hernández noted that a lawyer for Valdez gave her a letter in 2012 in which the trafficker-cum-informant claimed that he had given multimillion-dollar bribes to Genaro García Luna, Calderón's security minister who was arrested in the United States last December.

In the letter, published in November 2012 by the newspaper Reforma, Valdez also claimed that Calderón, the president who launched the so-called war on drugs shortly after he took office in late 2006, had personally met with drug traffickers.

Hernández wrote that Valdez most probably shared that information with the DEA and FBI between 2008 and 2010.

A lawyer for Valdez said in 2018 that Calderón's crackdown on cartels was not in fact a war against drugs but a "war for drugs."

In the letter given to Hernández, Valdez said that his arrest in Mexico in 2010 came about because he refused to cooperate with Calderón.

"My arrest was the result of political persecution by Felipe Calderón Hinojosa, who initiated harassment against me because I refused to be part of the agreement that Mr. Calderón Hinojosa wanted to have with all the organized crime groups," he wrote.

Calderón has steadfastly denied any involvement with criminal groups and has also said that he had no knowledge of García Luna's alleged collusion with cartels.

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