A magnitude 3.9 aftershock rattles Morocco as rescuers seek survivors

A magnitude 3.9 aftershock rattled Moroccans on Sunday as they prayed for victims of the nation’s strongest earthquake in more than a century. More than 2,000 people are dead – a number that is expected to rise.

The United Nations estimated that 300,000 people were affected by Friday night’s magnitude 6.8 quake and some Moroccans complained on social networks that the government wasn’t allowing more help from outside. International aid crews were prepared to deploy but remained in limbo waiting for the Moroccan government to request their assistance.

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“We know there is a great urgency to save people and dig under the remains of buildings,” said Arnaud Fraisse, founder of Rescuers Without Borders, who had a team stuck in Paris waiting for the green light. “There are people dying under the rubble, and we cannot do anything to save them.”

Those left homeless – or fearing more aftershocks – from Friday night’s earthquake slept outside Saturday, in the streets of the ancient city of Marrakech or under makeshift canopies in Atlas Mountain towns like Moulay Brahim, among the hardest-hit. The worst destruction was in small, rural communities that are hard for rescuers to reach because of the mountainous terrain.

Those same areas were shaken anew Sunday by a magnitude 3.9 quake, according to the US Geological Survey. It wasn’t immediately clear if the temblor caused more damage or casualties, but it was likely strong enough to rattle nerves in areas where damage has left buildings unstable and people have spoken of their fears of aftershocks.

The earthquake on Friday toppled buildings not built to withstand such a mighty quake, trapping people in the rubble and sending others fleeing in terror. A total of 2,012 people were confirmed dead and at least 2,059 more people were injured – 1,404 of them critically – Morocco’s Interior Ministry reported Saturday night.

“We felt a huge shake like it was doomsday,” Moulay Brahim resident Ayoub Toudite said. “Ten seconds and everything was gone.”

Flags were lowered across Morocco, as King Mohammed VI ordered three days of national mourning starting Sunday. The army mobilized specialized search and rescue teams, and the king ordered water, food rations and shelter to be provided to those who lost their homes.

The king called for mosques across the kingdom to hold prayers Sunday for the victims, many of whom were buried Saturday amid the frenzy of rescue work nearby.

Aid offers have poured in from around the world and the U.N. said it had a team in Morocco coordinating with authorities about how international partners can provide support. About 100 teams made up of a total of 3,500 rescuers from around the world are registered with a UN platform and ready to deploy in Morocco when asked, Rescuers Without Borders said.

In a sign that Morocco may be prepared to accept more help from outside, the Spanish military said it had sent an air force plane carrying an urban search and rescue team of 56 soldiers and four dogs to Marrakech to help. Foreign Minister José Manuel Albares said in a radio interview that the deployment was in response to a bilateral request for help from Moroccan authorities. Another rescue team from Nice, France, also was on its way.

In France, home to many people with links to Morocco, towns and cities have offered more than 2 million euros in aid, and popular performers are rallying to collect donations. The Moroccan king ordered the opening of special bank accounts to allow donations to help those in need.

The epicentre of Friday’s quake was near the town of Ighil in Al Haouz Province, roughly 70 kilometres south of Marrakech. Al Haouz is known for scenic villages and valleys tucked in the High Atlas Mountains.

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About 45 kilometres northeast of the quake epicentre, fallen walls exposed the innards of damaged homes, and piles of rubble blocked alleys. In Moulay Brahim, a poor rural community of less than 3,000 people, many of the homes made of clay brick and cinder block were no longer safe or no longer standing.

Devastation gripped each town along the High Atlas’ steep and winding switchbacks, with homes folding in on themselves and people crying as boys and helmet-clad police carried the dead through the streets.

”I was asleep when the earthquake struck. I could not escape because the roof fell on me. I was trapped. I was saved by my neighbours who cleared the rubble with their bare hands,” said Fatna Bechar in Moulay Brahim. “Now, I am living with them in their house because mine was completely destroyed.”

Hamid Idsalah, a 72-year-old mountain guide, said he and many others remained alive, but had little future to look forward to as they lack the financial means to rebound.

Some Marrakech shop owners returned to work Sunday morning after the king encouraged economic activities to resume nationwide and ordered plans to begin to reconstruct destroyed buildings.

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For much of Saturday in historic Marrakech, people could be seen on state television clustering in the streets, afraid to go back inside buildings that might still be unstable.

The city’s famous Koutoubia Mosque, built in the 12th century, was damaged, but the extent was not immediately clear. The famous red walls that surround the old city, a UNESCO World Heritage site, were also damaged.

Police, emergency vehicles and people fleeing in shared taxis spent hours traversing unpaved roads through the High Atlas in stop-and-go traffic, often exiting their cars to help clear giant boulders from routes known to be rugged and difficult even before the earthquake.

“It felt like a bomb went off,” 34-year-old Mohamed Messi said.

The quake had a preliminary magnitude of 6.8 when it hit at 11:11 p.m., with shaking that lasted several seconds, the USGS said. The agency added that a magnitude 4.9 aftershock hit 19 minutes later. The collision of the African and Eurasian tectonic plates occurred at a relatively shallow depth, which makes a quake more dangerous.

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It was the strongest earthquake in terms of magnitude to hit the North African country in more than 120 years, according to the USGS, which has records dating back to 1900.

But in 1960, a magnitude 5.8 temblor struck near the Moroccan city of Agadir and caused thousands of deaths. That quake prompted changes in construction rules in Morocco, but many buildings, especially rural homes, are not built to withstand such tremors.

In 2004, a magnitude 6.4 earthquake near the Mediterranean coastal city of Al Hoceima left more than 600 dead.

Friday’s quake was felt as far away as Portugal and Algeria, according to the Portuguese Institute for Sea and Atmosphere and Algeria’s Civil Defense agency, which oversees emergency response.

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Hurricane Hilary weakens but fears of ‘catastrophic flooding’ remain

Forecasters said the storm was still expected to enter the history books as the first tropical storm to hit Southern California in 84 years, bringing flash floods, mudslides, isolated tornadoes, high winds and power outages.

Hurricane Hilary roared toward Mexico’s Baja California peninsula early Sunday as a weakened but still dangerous Category 1 hurricane likely to bring “catastrophic and life-threatening” flooding to the region and cross into the southwestern US as a tropical storm, the National Weather Service said.

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The National Weather Center in Miami said in the most recent advisory at 12 a.m. that the maximum sustained wind speed was 137 kph, down from 145 kph hours earlier. The storm was about 145 kilometres south of Punta Eugenia, Mexico, and 720 kilometres from San Diego, California.

Meteorologists warned that despite weakening, the storm remained treacherous.

One person drowned Saturday in the Mexican town of Santa Rosalia, on the peninsula’s eastern coast, when a vehicle was swept away in an overflowing stream. Rescue workers managed to save four other people, said Edith Aguilar Villavicencio, the mayor of Mulege township.

It was not immediately clear whether officials considered the fatality related to the hurricane, but video posted by local officials showed torrents of water coursing through the town’s streets.

Forecasters said the storm was still expected to enter the history books as the first tropical storm to hit Southern California in 84 years, bringing flash floods, mudslides, isolated tornadoes, high winds and power outages. The forecast prompted authorities to issue an evacuation advisory for Santa Catalina Island, urging residents and beachgoers to leave the tourist destination 37 kilometres off the coast.

Elizabeth Adams, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service San Diego office, said rain could fall up to 37.62 centimetres an hour across Southern California’s mountains and deserts, from late Sunday morning into the afternoon. The intense rainfall during those hours could cause widespread and life-threatening flash floods.

California Governor Gavin Newsom proclaimed a state of emergency, and officials urged people to finish their preparations before sundown Saturday. It would be too late by Sunday, one expert said.

The hurricane is the latest major climate disaster to wreak havoc across the US, Canada and Mexico. Hawaii’s island of Maui is still reeling from last week’s blaze that killed over 100 people and ravaged the historic town of Lahaina, making it the deadliest US wildfire in more than a century. In Canada, firefighters on Saturday continued to battle blazes during the nation’s worst fire season on record.

Hilary brought heavy rain and flooding to Mexico and the southwestern US on Saturday, ahead of the storm’s expected Sunday border crossing. Forecasters warned it could dump up to 25 centimetres — a year’s worth of rain for some areas — in southern California and southern Nevada.

“This does not lessen the threat, especially the flood threat,” Jamie Rhome, the US National Hurricane Center’s deputy director, said during a Saturday briefing to announce the storm’s downgraded status. “Don’t let the weakening trend and the intensity lower your guard.”

Meteorologists also expected the storm to churn up “life-threatening” surf and rip currents, including waves up to 12 metres high, along Mexico’s Pacific coast. Dozens sought refuge at storm shelters in the twin resorts of Los Cabos at the southern tip of the Baja peninsula, and firefighters rescued a family in San Jose del Cabo after the resort was hit by driving rain and wind.

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In Tijuana, fire department head Rafael Carrillo voiced the fear at the back of everyone’s mind in the border city of 1.9 million people, particularly residents who live in homes on steep hillsides.

”If you hear noises or the ground cracking, it is important for you to check it and get out as fast as possible because the ground can weaken and your home could collapse,” Carrillo said.

Tijuana ordered all beaches closed Saturday and set up a half dozen storm shelters at sports complexes and government offices.

Mexico’s navy evacuated 850 people from islands off the Baja coast and deployed almost 3,000 troops for emergency operations. In La Paz, the picturesque capital of Baja California Sur state on the Sea of Cortez, police patrolled closed beaches to keep swimmers out of the whipped-up surf.

The US hurricane centre posted tropical storm and potential flood warnings for Southern California from the Pacific coast to interior mountains and deserts. The San Bernardino County sheriff issued evacuation warnings for several mountain and foothill communities ahead of the storm, while Orange County sent out its own alert for anyone living in a wildfire burn scar in the Santa Ana Mountains’ Silverado and Williams canyons.

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Authorities in Los Angeles scrambled to get the homeless off the streets and into shelters, and officials ordered all state beaches in San Diego and Orange counties closed.

Across the region, municipalities ran out of free sandbags and grocery shelves emptied out as residents stockpiled supplies. The US National Park Service closed California’s Joshua Tree National Park and Mojave National Preserve to keep visitors from becoming stranded amid flooding.

Major League Baseball rescheduled three Sunday games in Southern California, moving them to Saturday as part of split doubleheaders, and SpaceX delayed the launch of a satellite-carrying rocket from a base on California’s central coast until at least Monday.

The White House said President Joe Biden had been briefed on the latest preparedness plans ahead of the hurricane’s turn to the US. “I urge everyone, everyone in the path of this storm, to take precautions and listen to the guidance of state and local officials,” he said.

Hilary on Friday had rapidly grown into an exceedingly dangerous Category 4 major hurricane, with its top sustained winds peaking at 230 kph. Its winds dropped to 185 kph early Saturday as a Category 3 storm, before further weakening to 1161 kph as a Category 2.

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By late afternoon Saturday, it was centred 965 kilometres south-southeast of San Diego, California. Moving north-northwest at 28 kph, the storm was expected to turn more toward the north and pick up forward speed.

The hurricane was expected to brush past Punta Eugenia on the Pacific coast before making a nighttime landfall along a sparsely populated area of the peninsula about 330 kilometres south of the Pacific port city of Ensenada.

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Brazil’s Nubank Is Leaving U.S. Digital Banks In The Dust

David Vélez has built an $8 billion fortune turning nearly half of Brazil’s adults into users of his credit card, digital banking and loan products. Why can’t American fintechs do the same?

By Jeff Kauflin, Forbes Staff


David Vélez has delivered a string of surprises since leaving his nascent venture capital career in 2013 to start a Brazilian digital bank. The most recent came on May 15, when his company Nubank blew away analysts’ expectations by posting $142 million in net profits for the first quarter and $1.6 billion in revenue, an 87% increase from the year before. The results were all the more striking given how many other fintechs are mired in slow growth and slim or no profits. Nubank’s stock, which trades on the New York Stock Exchange, has surged 30% since that report, pushing its market value to $37 billion and Vélez’s 21% stake to nearly $8 billion.

“To be frank, it should not really come as a surprise,’’ the 41-year-old CEO told analysts, adding that it’s “consistent” with what he’s been saying for years: once his low-cost, digital-only, data-dependent model reached maturity in a market, it would produce a high return on equity. Nubank now claims an astonishing 46% of Brazil’s adults as customers. In just the past two years, it has more than doubled its customer base to 80 million people in Brazil, Mexico and Colombia–all served by just 8,000 employees. By contrast, Chime, the most successful digital bank in the U.S, likely has fewer than 20 million registered users (it doesn’t disclose the number), laid off 12% of its staff last year amid slowing growth and is probably worth a lot less now than the $25 billion it was valued at in a 2021 fundraise, during the pandemic-fueled fintech boom.


Vélez, in his analytical, measured way, frames it as entirely predictable that Nubank would outpace its Yankee counterparts. “We thought this would happen faster in emerging markets than in developed economies like the U.S. or Europe, because the consumer pain you’re addressing in emerging markets is much, much bigger,” the Colombian-born, Stanford-educated MBA tells Forbes.

A decade ago, when Nubank first launched, five Brazilian banks controlled 80% of that market, earning fat profits by lending at 200% to 400% annual interest rates, charging monthly fees for everything from fraud protection to text-message alerts and delivering lousy customer service. The U.S. market was much more competitive, with 5,800 traditional banks, more digital bank startups in the works and a generally higher standard of service—despite consumers’ gripes about overdraft and other fees.

Vélez not only chose his target market wisely, but also smartly tailored his strategy to meet both the opportunities and pain points in Brazil. Most U.S. digital banks have started out with a checking account and debit card. But Nubank launched with a no-fee credit card, because it didn’t need a banking license to issue a card and because almost all the Brazilian card issuers charged fees. Still, it was an arguably risky move, since credit card losses “can really kill your company,” says Nubank cofounder and chief growth officer Cristina Junqueira. She’s a 40-year-old Brazilian engineer with an MBA from Northwestern’s Kellogg School who was recruited by Vélez specifically for her credit card expertise—at a young age, she ran the largest credit card division of Itaú, Brazil’s largest bank. Now, she’s got a 2.7% stake worth $1 billion in Nubank.

One advantage of launching with credit cards is that, unlike its U.S. counterparts, Nubank wasn’t burdened with high upfront marketing costs. Instead, it started with a classic “velvet rope” strategy, inviting early adopters (and then their friends) to apply for its distinctive purple credit cards. “Telling customers, ‘Come and give me your money. Deposit your money here,’” is a more difficult sale than offering them credit, Junqueira observes.

Such strategic and marketing insights have helped make Nubank the second most valuable financial services company in Latin America, behind only 78-year-old Itaú. True, with its stock trading around $8, Nubank is still down 12% from its initial offering price of $9 in December 2021. But that’s impressive compared with a 54% drop for the fintech category in the same time period.

The big question now is whether Nubank can repeat its Brazilian success in the Mexican and Colombian markets while continuing to grow and become even more profitable in Brazil.


Within three years of launching its credit card in 2014, Nubank had nearly two million customers. In addition to the absence of annual fees, its mobile app, which lets customers do everything from applying for a card and requesting credit-limit increases to reporting fraud, has helped Nubank build a broad, loyal customer base. The company says between 80% and 90% of its customers have come through word of mouth or unpaid referrals, and it has 35 million active credit cardholders today. Last year, about 45% of Nubank’s $4.8 billion in revenue came from interest income on consumer loans (both credit card and personal loans), according to Mario Pierry, a research analyst at Bank of America who covers Latin American financial services companies. The rest was a mix of the interest it earns on customers’ cash balances, the card-swipe interchange fees paid by merchants, fees it receives through its life insurance and investing services, late fees it charges to consumers and other fees.

By contrast, U.S. neobanks have largely avoided credit–most began with debit cards by partnering with traditional banks to offer checking and savings accounts. They chose that path for many reasons. Lending isn’t just risky–it’s also expensive, because neobanks need to rely on debt funding from Wall Street and other financial firms and pay hefty prices for it, especially when interest rates are high. Lending startups also don’t generally command big valuations relative to the revenue they bring in. They’re capital-intensive and cyclical. The list of highly successful fintech companies that have started with credit is small, Vélez notes. He cites Tinkoff in Russia, Kaspi in Kazakhstan and Capital One, which was founded in Virginia in 1994 by Richard Fairbank and Nigel Morris, an early Nubank investor and the managing partner of venture capital firm QED, which focuses on fintechs.

“Venture capital and credit are a marriage made in hell,” Morris quips. “Venture capital is by its very nature impatient. It wants to see results and wants to see accelerated growth … whereas lending requires you to be incredibly meticulous, logical, linear and exhaustive.” Learning to lend profitably requires giving money to people who won’t pay you back, then figuring out who they are so you don’t give them money again. “Training that mathematical model doesn’t take weeks. It doesn’t take months. It takes quarters or years,” Morris says from experience.

While many fintech experts say U.S. neobanks aren’t set up to become good lending businesses because their customers are low- and middle-income, Vélez counters that Nubank has many low-income customers. Lower income doesn’t mean bigger lending losses, just as higher income doesn’t lead to smaller losses, Vélez says, as long as you’re extending the right amount of credit. Nubank starts some customers at a limit as low as $10, and for higher-risk customers, it only offers them a secured card, meaning they must make a cash deposit before using it. Then it ramps up a card’s limits–sometimes after just 15 or 30 days–as it collects more data on both a particular user and users in general. This patient approach means you must be willing to lose money for a significant period of time among low-income customers, Vélez notes.

Another difference in Nubank’s approach also took a lot of patience (and four years of effort): it obtained its own banking payments license, rather than partnering with incumbents to offer bank-like services, as most fintechs in developed economies have. That license boosts Nubank’s profitability since it can fund its own loans, rather than relying on outside investors. It also gives the operation more control over the customer experience, Junqueira says. For example, Nubank lets customers dispute charges from within the app, which wouldn’t be possible otherwise.

In the U.S., fintech startup Varo tried to pursue this strategy, spending three years and nearly $100 million to get its own bank charter. But it hasn’t worked out, likely because steep competition and rising costs to acquire customers have hampered growth. As of the end of March 2023, Varo reported 5.2 million total accounts, down from 5.3 million in December 2022.


While Nubank’s growth so far has been stunning, keeping up that pace will be tough. It launched its credit card in Mexico and Colombia in 2020, yet in the first quarter of 2023, $1.5 billion of its $1.6 billion in revenue still came from Brazil. So far, Nubank counts just 3% of Mexican adults and 2% of Colombians as customers, compared with its 46% penetration in Brazil—though Vélez told analysts he expects reaching critical mass in those countries will be faster than it was in Brazil. “So far, the experience we are having in Mexico and in Colombia is more positive than what we saw in Brazil in the first few years,’’ he said. “Mexico and Colombia are beating Brazil at effectively all metrics, from customer growth to early monetization, and plans for these countries are ahead of expectations.”

One challenge for Vélez and his team as they expand: the incumbent players, having taken note of Nubank’s success, are reacting faster than Brazil’s banks did. In Mexico, Banorte, the second largest bank by assets, has a three-pronged strategy to digital banking: it has its own mobile app, a home-grown, independent digital bank called Bineo and a joint venture with ecommerce startup Rappi, says Bank of America’s Pierry. Startups are growing there, too–Stori, a credit card startup led by Bin Chen, a former manager at Capital One and executive at MasterCard, recently reached two million customers, it says. Nubank reached 3.2 million customers in Mexico at the end of March 2023.

Another tall order for Nubank: profitably expanding its variety of offerings. “You have to diversify away from being a one-product player,’’ says Pierry. He notes its newer financial products like life insurance and its investing platform have grown more slowly. Nubank “is still in the early days of its product development lifecycle, having begun the expansion beyond core products only in 2020,” a Nubank spokesperson says. “The pace at which we are developing and launching new products is accelerating over time.”

Nubank has been offering personal loans for the past several years, but it had to pull back on them when delinquencies and interest rates rose sharply in mid-2022, says Pierry, who notes that Nubank’s average monthly revenue per customer is about $8, while it’s roughly $30 for Brazil’s incumbent banks. Of course, its expenses per customer are a lot lower, too–just one twentieth those incurred by brick-and-mortar banks, according to Vélez.

Another pitfall is one that can come with such outsized success—regardless of industry. “Nubank needs to make sure that its culture continues to promote entrepreneurship and scrappiness,” says venture capitalist Morris. “They need to make sure they don’t start to believe their own publicity and get intoxicated by their own success.”

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Does this video prove that a Mexican cartel has a working AT4 rocket launcher? Here’s what we know

A video widely shared on social media in late May shows a man, wearing a bulletproof vest marked with the logo of a Mexican cartel, carrying a weapon that looks like an AT4 anti-tank rocket launcher. The Russian ambassador to Mexico joined in the debate about the video on Twitter, hypothesising that the weapon was likely sent to Ukraine by the West and that the cartel had bought it on the black market. We investigated this video.

On May 29, a Twitter account called “Sin Censura Tamaulipas” (“Uncensored Tamaulipas”) published a video showing two heavily armed men wearing bullet proof vests marked with cartel logos walking alongside a road carrying weapons. The caption of the tweet reads: “These are special forces 19 of #Matamoros #Tamaulipas. You can see a hitman carrying a AT-4 bazooka of gringa origin.” Gringa describes something of foreign origin, usually American.

This tweet has already garnered 118,000 views. And there are a number of other tweets featuring the video that have also garnered hundreds of thousands of views, like this one or this one.

1. When and where was this video filmed? Who are the men in it?

This video was probably filmed in Tamaulipas state, Mexico. The Twitter account “Sin Censura Tamaulipas”, where it was first published, specialises in sharing information about this area.

Moreover, the logo on the men’s bullet-proof vests looks a lot like the one belonging to the Scorpions, a faction of the Gulf Cartelone of the most powerful criminal organisations in Mexico. This cartel is primarily based in Tamaulipas state, especially in the towns of Matamoros, Nuevo Laredo and Reynosa. One of its primary activities is drug trafficking. In early March, the Scorpions kidnapped four Americans, ultimately killing two of them in Matamoros.

The image at the left shows a screengrab of a video published on May 29. At right, you can see the logo of the Scorpions, a faction of the Gulf Cartel. The image features ta scorpion and the letters “C.D.G” (the abbreviation in Spanish for Gulf Cartel), “XIX” (a reference to “El 19”, the nickname of the leader of the cartel) and the words “respect”, “loyalty”, “discipline”, “courage”, “strength and immortality” and “transformation”. Twitter / Sin Censura Tamaulipas

Our team spoke to a resident of Matamoros, who spoke to us anonymously:

The Gulf Cartel is present in our town, especially the Scorpion faction. The leader of the faction is known as “La Kena” or “El 19”. This armed group controls a lot of the business in the city. Many of its members are based in Matamoros and many of them are from here. Even earlier today, I came across several armed men – the kind that you see in the video – in town, just five minutes from my home. It’s normal to see them in the street. When you run into them, you have to just act as if they weren’t there and get as far away from them as possible.

Over the past few weeks, there have been a lot of clashes between the Scorpions and other factions who are fighting for control of territory in the towns of Valle Hermoso and San Fernando [Editor’s note: Valle Hermoso is located around 47 km to the south of Matamoros, while San Fernando is about 140 km away]. It’s possible that the video was filmed there.

Our team wasn’t able to identify the exact location where the video was filmed in Tamaulipas state, nor the exact date when it was filmed. However, when we carried out a reverse image search, we didn’t find any instances of the video online before May 2023. 

Our team contacted the city government in Matamoros as well as the Secretary for Public Security in Tamaulipas, but we didn’t get a response from either.

2. What are the weapons seen in the video?

The video includes footage of three different weapons. Our team spoke to several weapons experts, who said that the man on the left is carrying what seems to be an AR-15M4 or SCAR rifle. All of these are military-grade weapons. The man on the right is carrying a Kalashnikov as well as what looks like an AT4, an 84mm anti-tank rocket launcher, which is able to penetrate armoured vehicles.

You can see three different weapons in the video published on May 29.
You can see three different weapons in the video published on May 29. Twitter / Sin Censura Tamaulipas

What can we tell about the AT4 visible in this video?

Our team spoke to specialists who said that there are a few possibilities for the AT4 in the video. The first is that it is a real AT4, capable of firing an explosive projectile. The second is that it is a training model of the weapon, which wouldn’t actually be able to shoot. And finally, it could be an “airsoft”, a replica used for recreational purposes. 

This website is selling an airsoft replica of the AT4 for 850 dollars.
This website is selling an airsoft replica of the AT4 for 850 dollars. © Evike.com

Even if the weapon is a real AT4, it is impossible to know if it has been used or not.  

“The AT4 is a disposable weapon,” said Andrei Serbin Pont, the director of a research centre in Argentina called CRIES. “Once the ammunition has been fired, the tube is useless. And, actually, it very common for discarded tubes to end up in the hands of civilians or armed groups in, for example, Venezuela [Editor’s note: as in this example.] I have a feeling that the AT4 shown in the video has already been used or that it is a replica. It’s actually pretty common for paramilitary groups to show off discarded tubes on social media to make themselves look powerful.”

However, there is a clue that provides us with a bit more information about the AT4: the black and yellow band on it.

We zoomed in on the black and yellow band on the weapon at two different points in the video published on May 29.
We zoomed in on the black and yellow band on the weapon at two different points in the video published on May 29. Twitter / Sin Censura Tamaulipas

A US army manual published in 2010 explains that when there is a black and yellow band on an AT4, it can fire real ammunition. A gold band indicates that the weapon would be used for training purposes (FHT: Field Handling Trainer) and that it doesn’t fire projectiles. Another online manual, this one on Globalsecurity.org, says that training models have gold or yellow bands on them.

Screengrab of the online manual
Screengrab of the online manual “Shoulder-Launched Munitions” published in 2010. US Army

Theoretically, an AT4 with a black and yellow band could fire a real projectile – unless it is airsoft. Ryan MacBeth, a US army veteran, pointed out that the yellow stripe visible in the video is particularly large, if you compare it with other images of AT4s with black and yellow bands (like this or like this). This could indicate that the band was added later.

The photo at the left, taken in 2019, shows an American soldier with an AT4. The image at the right is a screengrab taken from the video posted on May 29.
The photo at the left, taken in 2019, shows an American soldier with an AT4. The image at the right is a screengrab taken from the video posted on May 29. © DVIDS (Defense Visual Information Distribution Service) and Twitter / Sin Censura Tamaulipas

What more do we know about the AT4?

The AT4 is manufactured in Sweden by the company Saab Bofors Dynamics. It’s also manufactured in the United States. This weapon is only used by militaries. 

According to the website of the manufacturer, Saab Bofors Dynamics, the AT4 is used by militaries of more than 15 countries. It is currently being used in Ukraine against the Russians. This company also sold this weapon to Venezuela back in the 1980s. The Colombian guerilla group, the FARC, also got their hands on some AT4s – as reported back in 2009. The arms experts who spoke to our team said that it is possible that the AT4 in the video comes from Colombia or another Latin American country.

The Mexican army doesn’t use AT4s. However, there have been a number of videos that have circulated in the past that show narco-traffickers with weapons that look like the AT4 (like this video or this one, both filmed in 2022). Again, however, it is impossible to know if the weapons shown are real rocket launchers or replicas.  The specialists who spoke to our team don’t think that cartels have ever used this type of weapon. However, Mexican authorities did seize a number of rocket launchers back in 2020, including several from Tamaulipas.

3. Unfounded claims about the weapon in the video

Shortly after the video was posted online in late May, the Russian embassy in Mexico published a tweet in which it insinuated that the AT4 visible in the footage is likely a weapon sent to Ukraine by the West that was then put up for sale on the global black market by corrupt Ukrainian officials. The tweet was viewed 1.2 million times and garnered more than 13,000 likes.

In this tweet, the Russian embassy in Mexico said, “We’d like to point out [these] anti-tank rocket launchers (probably) AT4 [...]. This type of weapon is sent to Ukraine. [...] It’s been clear for some time to everyone that corrupt Ukrainian officials established channels to supply the global black market with weapons received by the West […] which undermines security in different regions of the world [...].
In this tweet, the Russian embassy in Mexico said, “We’d like to point out [these] anti-tank rocket launchers (probably) AT4 […]. This type of weapon is sent to Ukraine. […] It’s been clear for some time to everyone that corrupt Ukrainian officials established channels to supply the global black market with weapons received by the West […] which undermines security in different regions of the world […].” © Twitter / Embajada de Rusia en México

According to the arms experts who spoke to our team, it’s unlikely that the weapon in the video comes from Ukraine. 

“If the cartels could buy weapons destined for Ukraine, we’d see other weapons also proliferating like MANPADS [man-portable air-defence systems]”, said Andrei Serbin Pont.

4. Conclusion

This video was likely filmed in Tamaulipas state, in Mexico, by members of a faction of the Gulf Cartel. However, it is impossible to determine if the weapon shown in the footage is a real AT4, a model to be used for training or a BB gun-like replica.

If it is a real AT4, there is also a chance that it has already been used and is thus obsolete. Finally, it is very unlikely that this weapon is linked in any way to weapons sent to Ukraine by the West, even though AT4 are often used there.



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Analistas: “Urge a PRI, PAN y PRD un presidenciable competitivo” para el 2024

La oposición se mueve entre la marea de la 4T. Para los especialistas en ciencias políticas, el reto de PRI, PAN y PRD no es encontrar a un candidato presidencial entre la decena de interesados, sino que sea un personaje capaz de darle batalla al partido en el poder que lidera las preferencias. 

Durante las últimas semanas, la oposición ha arreciado su desfile de figuras políticas y civiles en diversos eventos con la intención de perfilarlos, ya que deberán definirse a finales de 2023.

En la lista

Desde perfiles como los panistas Santiago Creel, Lilly Téllez o Francisco García Cabeza de Vaca; los priistas Enrique de la Madrid, Beatriz Paredes o Claudia Ruiz Massieu, y los perredistas como Silvano Aureoles o Miguel Ángel Mancera, han alzado la mano para encabezar la posible candidatura presidencial de  la oposición. 

También, figuras de la sociedad civil como Gustavo de Hoyos, expresidente de Coparmex. Sin embargo, Lilly Téllez y Santiago Creel se encaminan en las encuestas. Incluso, AMLO también los ha incluido en la lista de 42 precandidatos del bloque conservador a la Presidencia de la República, que presentó este lunes en su conferencia matutina.  

Luis Antonio González Tule, doctor en ciencia política y académico del Iteso, señaló que elegir a un candidato no será complicado para la oposición, pero “que esta candidatura sea competitiva, esto sí es mucho más complicado”, apuntó. 

¿Influyentes?

Aunque mencionó que aún es temprano para hacer una especulación sobre la capacidad que tiene PAN, PRI y PRD, de agrupar al electorado y ganar las elecciones en 2024, analizó que tal y como están en este momento, es complicado que puedan ganar. 

Criticó que la oposición ha sido hasta irresponsable porque no solo se trata de criticar por criticar al actual gobierno, sino que deben de presentar una alternativa viable. “Es insuficiente si es que quieren ser competitivos”, sostuvo el investigador del Iteso. 

González Tule argumentó que la mayoría de los interesados tienen carrera política, mayor trayectoria, pero también una mayor exposición mediática y política. “Silvano Aureoles, por ejemplo, terminó mal como gobernador de Michoacán… y además es del PRD, que es el que menos puede aportar a la coalición”, señaló.  

En el PRI, consideró que Enrique de la Madrid, exservidor público, no está tan posicionado y tiene por encima a otras figuras como Beatriz Paredes o Claudia Ruiz Massieu. 

Son personajes poco menos relevantes en el ámbito de la política nacional, no dentro del partido, porque ahí sí pueden ser influyentes, pero no en la política nacional”, añadió.  

PAN

Juan Pablo Navarrete, especialista en ciencia política y académico en la Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana, destacó que en el caso de Santiago Creel, ya fue secretario de Gobernación durante el sexenio de Vicente Fox. De hecho, rememoró que era el preferido de Vicente Fox para ser candidato presidencial en 2006, pero no ganó la interna  en el PAN frente a Felipe Calderón.

Es un candidato muy al estilo conservador, de regresar al statu quo que se contaba por lo menos en los dos sexenios del PAN. No veo un candidato disruptivo, un discurso que pudiera jalar a los segmentos electorales que por lo menos ahorita tiene muy arraigado Morena”, opinó Juan Pablo Navarrete, académico de la UAM. 

Caso Lilly Téllez

Si bien dijo que su perfil se ajusta al proyecto de derecha, con experiencia en legislaturas, consideró que no le alcanzaría para cerrar la brecha con el candidato o la candidata que pueda seleccionar Morena.  

Por otra parte, el analista cuestionó la estrategia de confrontación que hasta ahora ha mantenido la senadora Lilly Téllez, otro de los perfiles del PAN que lidera las encuestas en su partido. “En ese sentido le veo más posibilidades a Santiago Creel que a Lilly Téllez, sobre todo por la parte de la confrontación, la polarización y el insulto a los demás”, expuso.  

Al respecto, rememoró que al propio López Obrador, siendo candidato presidencial en 2005, ese nivel de confrontación, con el “cállate chachalaca”, por ejemplo, que era la dinámica del candidato de la izquierda, versus el presidente Vicente Fox, no le trajo más que puntos negativos. 

Alianza

Para la doctora en ciencia política Mónica Montaño, Va por México sigue confundiendo a los ciudadanos. Analizó que aunque se conforma por diversas figuras importantes y muy relevantes, la coalición como tal está desgastada al tener a los tres partidos, PAN, PRI y PRD.

Consideró que eventos como los Foros de Unidad y Gobiernos de Coalición son un buen esfuerzo democrático, pero insistió en que los partidos están un poco contaminados por el pasado. 

“Es bueno para la democracia en términos de que al menos hay un debate entre quién está favor y en contra del partido actual en el gobierno”, opinó.  

La también académica de la Universidad de Guadalajara dijo que un punto relevante es el candidato que ponga Morena para que se defina la oposición y pueda colocar a alguien que dé la batalla. 

Nueva coalición

Sin embargo, Mónica Montaño, académica de la UdeG, enfatizó que los resultados en las últimas elecciones de Va por México no han sido en crecimiento. “Aunque sean personajes muy relevantes, en el imaginario de la gente, pues son los mismos partidos, los partidos tradicionales contra un partido nuevo. Siempre en el comportamiento electoral es más atractivo”, dijo la especialista. 

Tanto Mónica Montaño como Luis Antonio González Tule coincidieron al destacar que Movimiento Ciudadano podría cambiar este panorama. González Tule enfatizó que quizá Movimiento Ciudadano pueda aceptar una coalición únicamente con Acción Nacional, dejando de lado la mala imagen que arrastra el PRI. Sin embargo, hasta ahora Movimiento Ciudadano se ha deslindado de una posible alianza con Va por México o alguno de los partidos que la conforman. 

Contexto

Los aspirantes conservadores, según AMLO

Aunque en diferentes conferencias de prensa matutinas el presidente López Obrador ya se ha lanzado contra figuras de oposición al señalar que sólo están buscando la candidatura a la Presidencia en 2024, esta vez el mandatario enlistó a 42 personajes. “Son como 50 del bloque conservador, y por el lado de… por el flanco izquierdo, pues se habla de Marcelo Ebrard, de Adán Augusto, de Ricardo Monreal, de Claudia Sheinbaum, no son muchos, pero por el otro lado sí son bastantes”, expresó.

Además de los personajes que aparecen en este artículo, incluyó otros como Damián Zepeda, Dante Delgado, Demetrio Sodi de la Tijera,  Diego Fernández de Cevallos y el gobernador de Jalisco, Enrique Alfaro. Los dirigentes del PRI y el PAN, Alejandro Moreno y Marko Cortés, así como los gobernadores de Acción Nacional Maru Campos y Mauricio Kuri. Sin embargo, mientras el presidente hacía  lectura de la lista, descartaba a algunos en el momento.

“Pero todos, como ya no hay tapados, porque eso viene de la época del porfiriato, ya no debe de haber tapados ni dedazo, todas esas prácticas antidemocráticas, pues no debe de causarnos ninguna preocupación, es normal. Sólo que no se use presupuesto público, que no se compren votos”, dijo el presidente de México.  

Quería ver una explosión nuclear en realidad virtual sin saber lo que le esperaba 

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U.S. immigration system under strain as pandemic-related asylum restrictions known as Title 42 expire

As pandemic-era asylum restrictions ended early on May 12, migrants in northern Mexico faced more uncertainties about a new online system for appointments to seek asylum in the U.S.

Some migrants still waded apprehensively into the Rio Grande, defying officials who shouted for them to turn back, while elsewhere along the U.S.-Mexico border people hunched over cell phones trying to access an appointment app that may change their future.

President Joe Biden’s administration introduced the new asylum rules in a bid to get asylum-seekers to stop coming across the border illegally by reviving and sharpening pre-pandemic penalties and creating new legal pathways to asylum that aim to cut out unscrupulous smugglers.

The transition to the new system unfolded in the night amid legal challenges and last-ditch efforts by migrants to cross a border fortified with barbed wire and troops.

A federal judge in Florida dealt a potentially serious legal setback to the plan by temporarily blocking the administration’s attempt to release migrants more quickly when Border Patrol holding stations are full.

Texas National Guard members stand along a stretch of razor wire as migrants try to cross into the United States on the banks of the Rio Grande, as seen from Matamoros, Mexico, Thursday, May 11, 2023.
| Photo Credit:
AP

At Matamoros, Mexico, across the Rio Grande from Brownsville, Texas, migrant families — with some parents holding children — hesitated only briefly as the deadline passed before entering the waters of the Rio Grande, clutching cell phones above the water to light the way toward the U.S.

U.S. authorities shouted for the migrants to turn back.

“Be careful with the children,” an official shouted through a megaphone. “It is especially dangerous for the children.”

Separately, at an outdoor encampment of migrants beside a border bridge in Ciudad Juárez, across from El Paso, Texas, cell phones were alight as migrants attempted to book an asylum appointment online through an app administered by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

“There’s no other way to get in,” said Venezuelan Carolina Ortiz, accompanied by her husband and children, ages 1 and 4. Others in the camp had the same plan: keep trying the app.


ALSO READ | Explained | Why are migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border in record numbers?

The expired rule, known as Title 42, was in place since March 2020. It allowed border officials to quickly return asylum seekers back over the border on grounds of preventing the spread of COVID-19.

While Title 42 prevented many from seeking asylum, it carried no legal consequences, encouraging repeat attempts. After Thursday, migrants face being barred from entering the U.S. for five years and possible criminal prosecution.

At the U.S. border with Tijuana, as Title 42 expired, there was no visible reaction among hundreds of migrants who were in U.S. custody between two border walls, many of them for days with little food. They slept on the ground under bright lights in cool spring air. Shelters across Tijuana were filled with an estimated 6,000 migrants.

It was not clear how many migrants were on the move or how long the surge might last. By Thursday evening, the flow seemed to be slowing in some locations, but it was not clear why, or whether crossings would increase again.

A U.S. official reported the Border Patrol stopped some 10,000 migrants on Tuesday — nearly twice the average daily level from March and only slightly below the 11,000 figure that authorities have said is the upper limit of what they expect after Title 42 ends.

More than 27,000 people were in U.S. Customs and Border Protection custody, the official said.

Migrants wait outside a gate in the border fence to enter into El Paso, Texas, to be processed by the Border Patrol, Thursday, May 11, 2023.

Migrants wait outside a gate in the border fence to enter into El Paso, Texas, to be processed by the Border Patrol, Thursday, May 11, 2023.
| Photo Credit:
AP

“Our buses are full. Our planes are full,” said Pedro Cardenas, a city commissioner in Brownsville, as recent arrivals headed to locations across the U.S.

The administration hopes that a new system will be more orderly, and will help some migrants to seek asylum in Canada or Spain instead of the U.S. But Mr. Biden has conceded the border will be chaotic for a while. Immigrant advocacy groups have threatened legal action, and migrants fleeing poverty, gangs and persecution in their homelands are still desperate to reach U.S. soil at any cost.

Holding facilities along the border already were far beyond capacity. But late Thursday, U.S. District Judge T. Kent Wetherell, an appointee of President Donald Trump, halted the administration’s plan to begin releasing migrants with notices to report to an immigration office in 60 days when holding centers reach 125% capacity, or where people are held an average of 60 hours. The quick releases were to also be triggered when authorities stop 7,000 migrants along the border in a day.

In a statement, Customs and Border Protection said it would comply with the court order, while calling it a “harmful ruling that will result in unsafe overcrowding … and undercut our ability to efficiently process and remove migrants.”

Weatherell blocked the releases for two weeks and scheduled a May 19 hearing on whether to extend his order.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas had already warned of more crowded Border Patrol facilities to come.

“I cannot overstate the strain on our personnel and our facilities,” he told reporters on Thursday.

On Wednesday, Homeland Security announced a rule to make it extremely difficult for anyone who travels through another country or who did not apply online to qualify for asylum, with few exceptions. It also introduced curfews with GPS tracking for families released in the U.S. before initial asylum screenings.

Minutes before the new rule took effect, advocacy groups sued to block it.

Migrants wait to board a bus in downtown Brownsville, Texas to arrive at their final destination in the United States on May 11, 2023 as Title 42 comes to an end.

Migrants wait to board a bus in downtown Brownsville, Texas to arrive at their final destination in the United States on May 11, 2023 as Title 42 comes to an end.
| Photo Credit:
AP

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in San Francisco by the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies and other groups, alleges the Biden administration “doubled down” on a policy proposed by President Donald Trump that the same court rejected. The Biden administration has said its new rule is substantially different.

The administration also said it is beefing up the removal of migrants found unqualified to stay in the U.S. on flights like those that sent nearly 400 migrants home to Guatemala from the U.S. on Thursday.

Among them was Sheidi Mazariegos, 26, who arrived with her 4-year-old son just eight days after being detained near Brownsville.

“I heard on the news that there was an opportunity to enter, I heard it on the radio, but it was all a lie,” she said. Smugglers got her to Matamoros and put the two on a raft. They were quickly apprehended by Border Patrol agents.

Mazariegos said she made the trek because she is poor and hoped to reunite with her sisters living in the U.S.

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador noted an uptick in smugglers at his country’s southern border offering to take people to the United States, and said they were telling migrants the U.S. border was open.

At the same time, the administration has introduced expansive new legal pathways into the U.S.

Up to 30,000 people a month from Haiti, Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela can enter if they apply online with a financial sponsor and enter through an airport. Processing centers are opening in Guatemala, Colombia and elsewhere. Up to 1,000 can enter daily though land crossings with Mexico if they snag an appointment on an online app.

At shelters in northern Mexico, many migrants chose not to rush to the border and waited for existing asylum appointments or hopes of reserving one online.

At the Ágape Misión Mundial shelter in Tijuana, hundreds of migrants bided their time. Daisy Bucia, 37, and her 15-year-old daughter arrived at the shelter over three months ago from Mexico’s Michoacán state fleeing death threats, and have an asylum appointment Saturday in California.

Bucia read on social media that pandemic-era restrictions were ending at the U.S.-Mexico border, but wasn’t sure if it was true and preferred to cross with certainty later.

“What people want more than anything is to confuse you,” Bucia said.

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Medical tourism to Mexico is on the rise, but it can come with risks | CNN



CNN
 — 

One of the four Americans who were kidnapped in Mexico last week was traveling for medical tourism, a friend said. A growing number of US residents are traveling internationally to seek more affordable medical care, more timely care or access to certain treatments or procedures that are unapproved or unavailable in the United States.

Latavia “Tay” Washington McGee, 33, drove to Mexico with Shaeed Woodard, Zindell Brown and Eric Williams for cosmetic surgery that was scheduled to take place Friday, according to a close friend of Washington McGee’s who did not want to be identified.

The four Americans were found Tuesday near the border city of Matamoros, officials said. Washington McGee and Williams were found alive, and Woodard and Brown were found dead, a US official familiar with the investigation told CNN. Investigators are still piecing together what happened after they were abducted.

Medical tourism takes people all over the world, including to Mexico, India and Eastern Europe. Violence against medical tourists is generally thought to be rare, but the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns about other risks such as quality of care, infection control and communication challenges with medical staff.

“It’s on the daily, without a doubt. There are people going daily to get this kind of stuff done,” said Dr. Nolan Perez, a gastroenterologist in Brownsville, Texas, which is across the border from Matamoros. “Whether it’s primary care provider visits or dental procedures or something more significant, like elective or weight loss surgery, there’s no doubt that people are doing that because of low cost and easier access.”

One study published in the American Journal of Medicine estimated that fewer than 800,000 Americans traveled to other countries for medical care in 2007, but by 2017, more than 1 million did.

More current estimates suggest that those numbers have continued to grow.

“People travel because there may be a long waiting time, wait lists or other reasons why they can’t get treatment as quickly as they would like it. So they explore their options outside the United States to see what’s available,” said Elizabeth Ziemba, president of Medical Tourism Training, which provides training and accreditation to international health travel organizations.

Also, “price is a big issue in the United States. We know that the US health care system is incredibly expensive,” she added. “Even for people with insurance, there may be high deductibles or out-of-pocket costs that are not covered by insurance, so that people will look based on price for what’s available in other destinations.”

The most common procedures that prompt medical tourism trips include dental care, surgery, cosmetic surgery, fertility treatments, organ and tissue transplants and cancer treatment, according to the CDC.

“With Mexico and Costa Rica, it’s overwhelmingly dental and cosmetic surgery. However, certain countries are known for specialties. For example, in Singapore, stem cell and oncology is huge. In India, South India and Chennai Apollo hospitals does incredible work with hip and knee surgeries,” said Josef Woodman, founder of Patients Beyond Borders, an international health care consulting company.

“In Eastern Europe, a lot of people from the UK – but also people from the United States – travel to Hungary, Croatia and Turkey for everything from dental to light cosmetic surgery,” he said.

Mexico is the second most popular destination for medical tourism globally, with an estimated 1.4 million to 3 million people coming into the country to take advantage of inexpensive treatment in 2020, according to Patients Beyond Borders.

Matamoros – where officials said the four kidnapped Americans were found – is “not considered a primary medical travel destination,” Woodman said, “largely because there are no internationally accredited medical centers/specialty clinics there or in the immediate region.”

Mexico City, Cancun and Tijuana are more frequented and reliable destinations in the country, Woodman said.

On average, Americans can save 40% to 60% across the most common major procedures received by medical tourists in Mexico, according to an analysis of 2020 health ministry data conducted by Patients Beyond Borders.

Woodman said that violence against medical tourists was extremely rare, but he added that “price shopping” – searching for the cheapest location for a procedure – is a “blueprint for trouble,” namely substandard medical care.

Medical tourism can be dangerous, depending on the destination and the person’s condition.

“There are the complexities of traveling if you have a medically complex situation. There are fit-to-fly rules. And your health care providers should take into consideration the impact of traveling if you have orthopedic injuries or issues,” Ziemba said.

“The quality of care may be an unknown,” she said. “It may be that the quality of care is not up to the standards that you would like. So there’s a bit of an unknown there, and then the last thing I would say is, if something goes wrong, what’s going to happen?”

Perez said he commonly manages complications from medical tourism in his practice.

“There are a lot of bad outcomes. There are a lot of infections and a lot of botched procedures gone wrong, and patients have to come back to the United States and then have a revision of the surgery,” he said. “So it’s really unfortunate.”

Yet Ziemba added that there can be benefits to medical tourism, including that someone could receive a service that they need faster overseas than locally.

“And price: If you simply can’t afford the out-of-pocket costs of health care in the United States, and assuming the risks involved, it may make much more sense for you financially to travel outside the United States,” she said.

Medical tourism is not just for people traveling around the world. Many living along the US-Mexico border, where access to health care can be scarce, cross into Mexico for care.

The Rio Grande Valley, at the southernmost point of Texas, is considered to be a medically underserved area. The region has some of the nation’s highest rates of comorbidities, including obesity and diabetes, and one of the lowest physician-to-patient ratios.

There is a “dire need” for health care professionals along the border, Perez said.

“There are not as many doctors given our big and our growing population down here. So the demands on primary care doctors and specialists are very high because there are not enough of us for this population,” he said. “So that’s one reason why people end up going to Mexico to visit with physicians, because of easier access.”

People interested in medical tourism can take some steps to help minimize their risk, the CDC says.

Those planning to travel to another country for medical care should see their health care provider or a travel medicine provider at least four to six weeks before the trip and get international travel health insurance that covers medical evacuation back to the United States.

The CDC advises taking copies of your medical records with you and checking the qualifications of the providers who will be overseeing your medical care. Also, make sure you can get any follow-up care you may need.

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Being a digital nomad isn’t just for singles. Here’s how families make it work

To many, the lifestyle of a “digital nomad” is an aspirational one — you can live anywhere in the world, visa permitting, with your laptop as your office.

Forget the daily grind of the rush hour commute. As long as there’s decent Wi-Fi, simply pick a coffee shop, park or pool and get to work.

The lifestyle has become more popular in the wake of the Covid pandemic, which accelerated the trend of remote working. The number of American digital nomads increased 9% in just 12 months from 2021 to 2022, to a total of almost 17 million, according to the jobs platform MBO Partners.

But one factor deters many from the lifestyle: kids.

Whether it’s schooling, health and safety concerns, or the question of a child’s ability to develop lasting friendships, parents face multiple barriers.

But some have taken the plunge anyway. Two families tell CNBC Travel how they’ve made it work.

Keller family: French Polynesia

Sam Keller is the founder and CEO of Working Without Borders, which calls itself “the world’s first company providing coworking retreats for families with culturally immersive programming for kids and teens.” 

He’s also a dad of two kids under the age of 12.

Sam Keller, founder of Working Without Borders, which organizes coworking retreats for families.

Working Without Borders

“My wife and I each had living abroad experiences, but we couldn’t figure out how to make it happen” again, he said. “Then we had kids.”

The couple scoped out a school while on vacation in French Polynesia, thinking it could be “the place where we can go live,” he said.

Another factor worked in their favor: Keller’s wife Pascaline Cure works for Airbnb, which allows her to work anywhere she wants.

So together they made a big move from California to French Polynesia. And not just at any time — they moved during the pandemic.

“The stars aligned, we made it onto the plane and decided we’re going to make lemonade out of lemons of this pandemic.”

Sam Keller with his family in Bora Bora.

Working Without Borders

Education is regularly cited as the biggest challenge for digital nomads with children. Navigating an unfamiliar school system, often in an entirely new language, can be a struggle.

“We found that [in French Polynesia] there are a fair number of private schools that will accept kids for as short a time as a couple of weeks or a month. Then there are plenty of schools set up to provide online support, or online-only schools with really good teaching and instruction and curricula,” Keller said.

Homeschooling is another option for some, but Keller prefers to call it “world schooling,” which he says “embraces this notion of viewing the world as your classroom.”

“From the playground you could see stingrays swimming by,” he said. “Kids are out as part of the curriculum, so we’re paddling outrigger canoes in the lagoon, seeing sea turtles and dolphins. It was just magical in so many respects.”

He added that now more resources exist to help people learn about the digital nomad lifestyle, thanks to its growing popularity. Companies, like this own, let families “dip their toes in the water,” and some Facebook groups for world schooling have more than 50,000 members — so there’s always someone to answer a question, he said.

Elledge-Penner family: 20 countries

The beautiful Indonesian island of Bali, famed for its laidback lifestyle, is a popular destination for digital nomads.

Martin Penner and Taryn Elledge-Penner from the boutique travel agency Quartier Collective call it home, along with their three children, aged between seven and 12.

Since leaving Seattle in 2018, the family has visited nearly 20 different countries, including Japan, Ireland, Portugal, Greece, Mexico, Morocco, Turkey and Sri Lanka. Sometimes they stay a few weeks, but typically they’re in one place for one to three months.

Taryn Elledge-Penner and her son Viggo in Ahangama, Sri Lanka.

Quartier Collective

Penner said his children were part of the reason they decided to leave the United States.

“We traveled a lot as individuals and just felt that the world was this big, wild place — and that our world in Seattle had shrunk in a way,” he said. “We had to show them the world and didn’t want to miss this connection to something bigger.”

Elledge-Penner said they wanted more time with their kids, to make their journey sustainable and, critically, to connect with other families.

“When we left it was lonely for families like ours on the road,” she said. “Now that has really changed and a lot of families have realized this is an option, going longer and deeper.”

The family of five have enjoyed a range of experiences: living on a farm in Japan where they slurped soba noodles from a 30-foot hollowed-out bamboo pole; making pottery in Mexico; and taking in a shadow puppet show in the Cyclades in Greece — though they didn’t understand a word.

Penner said the key to making the lifestyle work for them is “connecting with people” and not approaching places “as a travel highlight hit list.”

Martin Penner walking with two of his children in Japan.

Quartier Collective

But it’s not all fun and games. There are also practicalities to be reckoned with, Elledge-Penner said.

“One of the challenges has been finding a balance with time and space on our own — and away from each other and the kids,” she said. “We’ve gone such long periods being together, every waking moment of a day.”

“We all need a break and space, normally by going to work or school. Even though this is what we’re choosing, it still requires some balance and that can be difficult to find and that can lead to tension.”

The pre-teen marker is a natural point when pressures mount.

She also touches on what she calls “decision fatigue.”

“The time to plan out the logistics, getting from A to B, where to stay, it can literally be a full-time job and really exhausting,” she said.

Once again, education is one of the biggest questions for global nomads with kids, but — like Keller — Elledge-Penner said there are plenty of options.

“Things have changed a lot from when we first set out. It’s tenfold the number of options you can find and plug into as a world schooling family,” she said.

“We’ve dropped into schools in different countries around the world. There are accredited distance learning programs too and home-schooling pods. For literally anybody who wants to untether from their current school system, it’s totally possible to find whatever you’re looking for.”

The couple noted that the family dynamic has changed since they started traveling in 2018. Their daughter, for example, now wants more long-lasting friendships, while the idea of having a dog — and a bedroom she doesn’t have to share with her brothers — is a big draw.

“The pre-teen marker is a natural point when pressures mount. Lots of families we see stop traveling when [kids] are that age. Now they want to spend more time around friends [which is] a big shift from when we started out.”

 



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Armed with new tech, families track down Mexico’s missing

It takes painstaking leg work — grieving mothers knocking door to door with photos and bereft wives scouring mass graves for clues. Now victims of Mexico’s missing persons crisis can also use technology to track down their loved ones.

From chatbots to mass texts, social media to online guides, tech has transformed the painful hunt that thousands of Mexicans must undertake to find a ransomed relative. Or unearth their corpse.

“Technology is how we learn from cases around the country; we come together to share experiences and provide guidance to other families,” said Maricel Torres, whose son was kidnapped in 2011 at the age of 17.

A dozen years later and Ms. Torres remains in limbo. From her son’s kidnap, however, came hope for others.

After the teenager vanished, Ms. Torres spent all her days — and sleepless nights — riding cabs around Poza Rica, a city in the eastern state of Veracruz, going house by house for any clues to the whereabouts of her missing son.

All she knew was that on the night of May 25, 2011, Iván Eduardo Castillo Torres went out for tacos with friends then was kidnapped off the street by members of the local police force.

Giving chase was a lonely task for Ms. Torres, who said she felt abandoned by the authorities and sidelined by society.

“I looked for him in every town, house by house, in every public market and every church. But I found no answers; only people who sought to extort us,” she said.

The Torres family used all its savings to pay people who claimed to be the kidnappers or said they had information on his whereabouts. The last time she paid someone for information, she was told her son had been murdered and his remains dissolved.

But a decade on and some things have changed, even if the crisis of Mexico’s missing has only grown worse.

More than 40 collectives — made up of families who have lost a relative — are now using tech to kickstart mass searches and do so within hours of a disappearance to increase life chances.

The same apps, online templates and chat groups are also used to pressure police and officials into more speedy action.

The collective that Ms. Torres launched — Familias en Búsqueda María Herrera Poza Rica (Families in Search María Herrera Poza Rica) — relies on social media to organise relatives of the missing and coordinate search operations in the Veracruz state.

Her group has found execution sites and illegal graves belonging to criminal groups — a job the authorities should be tackling with vigor given the number of missing persons topped 110,000 past year, a 3,207% increase since 2006.

Instead, the search is mostly pursued by ordinary Mexicans, largely women, who band together to scour the country for illegal mass graves hidden in mountains, wasteland or dry lakes.

The government, too, is using tech to track the missing – from a national DNA database to AI software that seeks out patterns in documents and databases which hold clues on the location of the missing.

The National Search Commission, which coordinates federal and local efforts to search for the missing, did not reply to a request for comment.

Missing Mexicans

As the crisis worsens, civil society groups have launched digital platforms to help Mexicans take immediate legal action and speed up what tends to be an arduous, slow process.

In January, human rights organisation Centro Prodh released No Somos Expedientes (We are not files), a website that tells families exactly what to do if a person goes missing and how to follow up on a case.

“In a country with dozens of thousands of missing persons, we assume that everyone knows what to do. The truth is that nobody should know what to do, as the responsibility belongs to the authorities,” María Luisa Aguilar, coordinator at Centro Prodh, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Families, however, often face obstacles from local authorities who are charged with leading missing person cases.

She said authorities are often late to launch any search, fail to notify families of breakthroughs or neglect to carry out the basics of an investigation.

Last year, the Mexican government announced investments in human and material resources around the country to improve the searching capacities of local authorities.

The No Somos Expedientes website tells families what they can demand within the first hours of a disappearance, be it official analysis of social media, phone tracking or a review of local CCTV footage.

The platform also provides templates of legal documents that families can use to press officialdom and gather evidence.

It shows families how to make authorities follow up on tips and search for illegal graves, or report their case to human rights commissions and so pressure police into greater action.

“The platform does not substitute the actions of the government or the families’ right to have quality legal advice. However, we think it is useful for those families who don’t have access to that,” said Ms. Aguilar.

Three other non-profits last year banded together to set up SocorroBot, a WhatsApp chatbot that shows distraught families how to file a missing person report and explains what to do should they come upon corrupt police or military.

“These platforms have been important for us to learn about our rights. They help defend ourselves better to the authorities,” said Ms. Torres.

In 2022, after Mexico reached the 100,000 missing persons’ mark, the United Nations called on the Mexican government to fight impunity, as sentencing has only followed in 35 cases.

Networks

Along with offering tips and how-to guides, tech has become the main tool for families to coordinate what are often messy searches that were once full of holes or fat with duplication.

Facebook and Twitter have for years been used to promote the name and face of missing Mexicans, with photos of lost loved ones now a common on social media.

Last year, missing teenager Debanhi Escobar went viral after family and friends turned to social media. Following a review of CCTV footage, authorities found the 18-year-old’s beaten corpse in a cistern near where she had last been seen. Eager to discover the fate of their relatives, Torres said, the collectives map out specific regions in the country that may hide illegal graves or execution sites formerly used by criminal groups.

“That is how we discovered one of the largest cemeteries in the region, where we found fragments of bodies that still need to be identified,” said Ms. Torres.

Years of experience have taught families like hers how to identify grave sites and to distinguish human from animal bones.

“They have learned to read Google Maps… to use GPS to locate coordinates, to keep photographic records,” said Jesús Peña, representative of the United Nation’s human rights office at a recent press conference.

Such advances, however, are lost on many in Mexico, where rural poverty and digital illiteracy keep millions cut off from the technical advances that might help them uncover loved ones.

“We still need to get to those places where people do not have Internet and disappearances are rampant, and give them the guidance they can’t get,” said Ms. Torres.

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Activan Protocolo Alba en Irapuato Guanajuato por localización de Mariana Esquivel y Verónica Rivera



Irapuato, Guanajuato.- Activan Protocolo Alba para localizar a Mariana Regina Esquivel Nava, de 22 años, y a Verónica Rivera Zavala, de 39 años. Mariana está desaparecida desde agosto y Verónica desde octubre de 2017. 

El 9 de octubre de 2017 fue el último día que vieron salir de su casa a Verónica.

Es de cabello negro, ojos café oscuro, mide 1.58 metros y como seña particular tiene un lunar en la frente y otro en el cuello. 

Mariana Regina Esquivel salió de su casa el 1 de agosto, usaba vestido azul con rayas blancas y tenis rojos. 

Tiene el cabello negro, ojos cafés oscuro y tiene una cicatriz en el abdomen, un lunar en la mejilla derecha y varios tatuajes en el cuerpo.

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Ambos protocolos fueron publicados entre las 11 de la noche del viernes y los primeros minutos de este sábado. Si tienes información sobre el paradero de Mariana Regina o Verónica llama al 911 o al 800 368 62 42.



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