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Trudeau's plea to U.S. to secure detained Canadians' release 'doomed to fail,' China says –



Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s appeal to the U.S. to help secure the freedom of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor is “a waste of time” and “doomed to fail,” China’s foreign ministry said Friday.

Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang delivered the remarks at a media briefing one day after Trudeau urged Washington to delay finalizing a trade deal with China until the detained Canadians have been released.

“If you pull chestnuts out of the fire for others, you will end up being the one getting burned,” Geng said. He wouldn’t clarify whether the comment was a direct threat aimed at Canada. 

Trudeau told TVA’s Salut Bonjour program Thursday that his government asked the Trump administration to hit pause on signing a final trade agreement.

The U.S. and China agreed on the first phase of a trade deal on Dec. 13 which includes a reduction in U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods.

Geng was critical of Canada’s move, warning that it was tantamount to “ganging up on China by forming cliques.” 

‘Nothing to add’: PMO

When asked whether the U.S. had made any appeals for Kovrig and Spavor’s release, Geng evaded the question.

“We have said many times before, reaching Phase One serves the interests of China, U.S. and the world,” he said.

The Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement Friday that it had “nothing to add” regarding whether Trudeau had received any kind of commitment from the Trump administration.

“You will recall that the U.S., along with other allies, raised the cases of our detainees both publicly and privately,” the statement says.

Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne said that Canada takes instruction from no other country when it comes to foreign policy.

“The only one who [is] going to dictate the foreign policy of Canada is the Government of Canada,” he said in an interview with CBC Radio’s The House, airing Saturday.

‘I hope that Mr. Trump would think twice’: Guy Saint-Jacques

According to former Canadian ambassador to China Guy Saint-Jacques, it would be in the Trump administration’s best interest to intervene on Canada’s behalf.

“I think they would run the risk of being alone themselves, because countries would say, ‘Why would we help you after what we have seen what you did to the Canadians?'” Saint-Jacques said. “I hope that Mr. Trump would think twice.”

The former ambassador said Trudeau’s request of the U.S. government is in line with Canada’s actions since relations with China began to fray late last year.

“The campaign that Canada has followed since the start of this crisis to seek support from allies … has had success,” he said.

As for China’s comments, Saint-Jacques said that they “reflect the new Chinese diplomatic style, which is more in your face than trying to save face. It shows that the relationship is not very good.”

Kovrig, Spavor now facing trial

Earlier this month, China transferred Spavor and Kovrig’s cases to prosecutorial authorities for investigation and prosecution. The two will now go to trial on charges connected to national security.

Kovrig’s case is related to allegations of “covertly gathering state secrets and intelligence for foreign sources,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said Dec. 10.

Spavor’s case involves allegations of “stealing and illegally providing state secrets to foreign forces.”

Conservative foreign affairs critic Erin O’Toole has tabled a motion to strike a special committee calling it an “all party approach” to conduct hearings to review the Canada-China relationship. 0:37

Kovrig and Spavor have been detained for more than a year. They were taken by Chinese authorities days after Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou was arrested in Canada at the request of the U.S.

The federal government said the men only have limited access to consular assistance and have not had contact with lawyers or family members.

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New migrant caravan in Mexico pushes past blockade to head north



Several thousand migrants from Haiti, South America and Central America set off from southern Mexico headed north on Saturday, clashing with law enforcement trying to hold the caravan back.

Some people among the latest mass movement of migrants trying to pass north through Mexico said they hoped to eventually reach the U.S. border, where the number of migrants trying to gain entry was already hitting new records.

Some 3,000 people, including families with young children, began trekking on foot on Saturday from the city of Tapachula near the Guatemala border toward Mexico’s capital.

One of the caravan’s organizers, Irineo Mujica, said he was leading the group to Mexico City in protest of the lack of government assistance in the south, where officials have attempted to contain thousands of migrants, and to demand legal documents that would let migrants move freely in the country.

A highway checkpoint in Tapachula with some 400 law enforcement officers aimed to block their path, but many migrants managed to break past. A Reuters video showed people carrying backpacks and with children on their shoulders pushing through a cluster of officers in anti-riot gear who attempted to contain the crowd.

One family, including a woman and small children, were knocked to the ground in the crush of people, their belongings scattering.

Some migrants who attempted to leave Tapachula in September to head north were subject to brutal treatment by Mexican officials, and the government’s National Migration Institute condemned incidents of violence captured on video.

U.S. authorities arrested more than 1.7 million migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border this fiscal year, the most ever recorded


(Reporting by Jose Torres, Additional reporting by Lizbeth Diaz, Writing by Daina Beth Solomon; Editing by David Gregorio)

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Seven prisoners found dead in Ecuador jail affected by riots



Ecuador‘s SNAI prison authority has found the bodies of seven prisoners in the same jail where violence between gangs lead to the deaths of 119 inmates last month, it said on Saturday.

The seven bodies were found in the Penitenciaria del Litoral, located in the southern city of Guayaquil, which has become Ecuador’s most violent prison.

The riot at the end of last month also left dozens of prisoners injured.

The seven prisoners discovered dead on Saturday were found in a pavilion used for conjugal visits, the SNAI authority said in a Twitter message without elaborating.

The deaths of four other prisoners in the jail during October are also under investigation.

The SNAI will work alongside police and prosecutors as it investigates the inmates’ deaths, it said.

Ecuador’s President Guillermo Lasso declared a state of emergency for the country’s penitentiaries last month in order to free up resources and increase control inside prisons.

Members of the military have also been brought in to help control prisons across the country.

Officials say gangs have alliances with transnational criminal groups and are battling over drug trafficking routes.

Since the beginning of the month Ecuador’s police have brought violence in Penitenciaria del Litoral under control, it said, adding that other prisons were also under control.


(Reporting by Alexandra Valencia; Writing by Oliver Griffin, Editing by Franklin Paul)

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Spain vows to speed up aid to volcano-hit La Palma



Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said Spain would speed up aid to the hard-hit agriculture and fishing industries on the island of La Palma, where part of the volcano’s cone collapsed on Saturday and red hot lava continued to flow over a month after the eruption began.

Lava has covered almost 900 hectares of land, destroying over 2,000 buildings and many banana plantations. More than 7,000 people have had to leave their homes since the eruption started on Sept. 19.

“At the cabinet meeting next Tuesday we are going to make a budgetary modification to accelerate the arrival of economic resources for both the Employment Plan and aid for the entire agriculture and fishing sector,” Sanchez said at a press conference during his fifth visit to the island since the eruption began.

In early October, Sanchez announced 206 million euro ($239 million) in government funding for the island to rebuild infrastructure and boost employment, agriculture and tourism. [L1N2QZ06F]

The Canary Islands Volcanology Institute said that part of the main cone had collapsed on Saturday morning. It tweeted footage of dark ash clouds billowing from the volcano.

Reuters footage showed lava engulfing buildings and a dog who appeared to have had a narrow escape after running away from the fast-moving flow.

The eruption has been devastating some of the island’s banana crops, which account for around half its economic output. [L8N2QQ2J0]

Sanchez paid tribute to all those working to tackle the eruption, which has caused no deaths.


(Reporting by Antony Paone; Writing by Jessica Jones; Editing by Christina Fincher)

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