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A Deadly Disease Is Wiping Out Caribbean Coral, Researchers Find

COZUMEL (Washington Post) A regionwide outbreak of coral disease in the Caribbean is killing off up to 94 percent of some coral species in what researchers say could become the “most deadly [such] disturbance ever recorded” in the area, according to findings published this week.

Stony coral tissue loss disease, first reported off Florida in 2014, has rapidly spread, diffusing across the Caribbean. The waterborne disease, researchers say, probably is made worse by coastal development and climate change — and human intervention probably is necessary to prevent regionwide extinction of some species.

Marine ecologist and researcher Lorenzo Álvarez-Filip and colleagues surveyed dozens of sites in the Mexican Caribbean before the outbreak, in 2016 and 2017, and after it began, in 2018 to 2020.

They found what they described as an “unprecedented loss of corals,” according to the new study showing the extent of the problem, published in the journal Communications Biology. Of more than 29,000 coral colonies assessed in the Mexican Caribbean after the start of the outbreak, 17 percent were dead and 10 percent were infected.

A Deadly Disease Is Wiping Out Caribbean Coral, Researchers Find
Several coral species afflicted by the disease in Cozumel, Mexico, in January 2019, as seen in the study published in Communications Biology. (Lorenzo Álvarez-Filip)

It’s a “very aggressive” disease, Álvarez-Filip told The Washington Post, adding that once coral is infected, it can die within weeks, even days. The infected corals’ living tissue begins to disintegrate, sometimes losing color. Of 48 recorded coral species in the area, more than 20 were affected — with varying mortality rates, some as high as 94 percent.

The disease was found to affect several species that are important builders in the ecosystem — posing a threat to the capacity of corals, which are animals, to build reefs that provide habitats for other organisms, offer coastal protection and drive tourism.

While the disease is relentless and its origins are not fully established, a key finding is that humans could be making matters worse: More corals appeared to become sick near areas of coastal development — around urban areas, hotels and tourism spots with pollution and runoff, Álvarez-Filip said.

He offered an example: If you go to a hospital where the underlying conditions are good, it’s more probable that you will recover. For the reefs, pollution is a compounding problem, making diseases harder to kick. “The problem is that everything is changing,” Álvarez-Filip said.

Robert H. Richmond, the director and a research professor at the University of Hawaii at Manoa’s Kewalo Marine Laboratory, said the wider region, including the coasts of the Caribbean, Florida and Mexico, has recently experienced a “triple whammy”: severe hurricanes that can topple or smother coral, coral bleaching tied to climate change and elevated seawater temperatures, and now the spread of disease.

“It was kind of insult and injury on top of insult and injury,” he said. “It’s driven these coral reefs and populations to the point where they’re no longer capable of self-sustaining. … They’ve been decimated. And it’s kind of a downhill spiral.”

Corals, Richmond said, require sufficient density to carry out their elegant once-a-year spawning, which is cued by the lunar cycle. They simultaneously release eggs and sperm — gametes — into the water. As corals are unable to move, their gametes float up to the water’s surface, fertilize, then drop back down to begin growing into new coral.

“As corals die and the distance between living colonies increases, the chance of spawning events succeeding drops precipitously,” Richmond said.

Some species’ populations are so low, and their ability to reproduce so compromised by changing environmental factors, including water quality — suffering under a “rogue’s gallery of chemicals” from sewer outfalls — that there is little hope for a recovery without some form of human intervention, he said.

A Deadly Disease Is Wiping Out Caribbean Coral, Researchers Find
Brain coral with full mortality after stony coral tissue loss disease in Cozumel, Mexico, seen in April 2019. (Lorenzo Álvarez-Filip)

Although it would be difficult to stop the spread of the contagious disease, Álvarez-Filip said efforts are underway — including reef restoration, the preservation of genetic material and the administration of probiotics to increase resilience.

But “these efforts will only succeed if we change the regional conditions,” Álvarez-Filip said. “We may invest a lot of effort, a lot of money to try to rescue and restore coral,” he said. “But at the end, if we still have climate change, we still have deforestation; we still have pollution.”

The health of corals can be likened to that of a bank account, with live corals as the principal and reproduction the interest, Richmond said.

“If you put corals back into an area of poor water quality next to an urbanized area, you’re basically putting it into a bank account that not only has no interest but has a high monthly fee,” he said. “Nothing that’s produced there is going to end up receiving a population, and, eventually, those corals are going to die and need to be replenished. And so you go bankrupt.”

By SAMMY WESTFALL/Washington Post

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FEMA and USVI Run Disaster Simulations To Prepare For Hurricane Season

CHRISTIANSTED The majority of the people living in the territory — regretfully — know what happens when a major hurricane strikes.

As the June 1 start date of the Atlantic hurricane season approached … governmental agencies rehearsed in detail — the steps to take — should history repeat itself … and the USVI become plunged into a disaster once more.

The government of the Virgin Islands, its agencies, and federal partners from across the country gathered in the U.S. Virgin Islands recently to finalize preparation efforts in advance of hurricane season.

In a simulation of real-life hurricane response, participants worked from Emergency Operations Centers on St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas and FEMA facilities in the territory while practicing their ability to work together over a large area with degraded communications.

“For the over two years, we’ve had lots of practice working with the federal government to beat COVID-19 and we know that practice will make our response better if a hurricane brings its winds and rains to our shores,” said Governor Albert Bryan. “Last week, GVI, led by VITEMA, worked together with FEMA to conduct multiple exercises to test and practice our hurricane response plans and I have been briefed on their plans for the season. While we always have more work to do, I’m confident we are moving the territory in the right direction.”

This weeklong series of exercises is the capstone event of a nearly six month-long planning effort to prepare for the 2022 hurricane season. Preparedness is an ongoing process and last week’s event provided opportunities to integrate lessons learned from the Irma/Maria response efforts, address gaps with territorial or local resources and then identify federal resources necessary to respond to destructive storms in the territory

“FEMA is committed to helping Virgin Islanders before, during and after a disaster,” said Mark A. Walters, FEMA’s Virgin Islands Caribbean Area Office Coordinator. “A partnership with a focus on year-round planning with real-time response exercises puts the federal government and the territory in a position to respond to hurricanes that approach the U.S. Virgin Islands. FEMA is ready to support the U.S. Virgin Islands with requests to support the territory with its response to storms and all hazards.”

Topics covered during the event included food/water distribution, patient movement, route clearance, debris removal, temporary power and power restoration, emergency responder communications as well as public information and warning.

“For the past six months, we have worked closely with USVI territorial agencies and our FEMA partners to get the territory ready for hurricane season,” said Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency Director Daryl Jaschen. “As Director of VITEMA, my goal is to continue to build on our successes and identify opportunities to improve. As we continue to prepare, VITEMA reminds the Virgin Islands community to Be Prepared, to Stay Informed and Be Vigilant. VITEMA knows that the USVI community understands the importance of preparedness and moving forward, we will use new and innovative ideas to keep our community engaged and strengthen our core capabilities.”

Virgin Islanders should prepare to be self-sufficient in the immediate aftermath of a hurricane and take steps to protect their property. Those with disabilities and others with access and functional needs might have additional considerations.

Build a kit. Families should be prepared to shelter in a secure and safe location for up to five days after a disaster. Remember roads might be impassable, gas stations and grocery stores could be closed, power might be out, and communications could be interrupted.

  • Store a gallon of water for each person per day for five days, for drinking and sanitation.
  • Gather a five-day supply of nonperishable food and medications.
  • Have enough antibiotic ointment, hygienic products, diapers and wipes available.
  • Store supplies to meet the needs of individual family members, including infants and young children, seniors, persons with disabilities, and pets or service animals.
  • The Virgin Islands Department of Health has recommended people include additional items in their kits to help prevent the spread of coronavirus or other viruses and the flu, items can include:
    • Cloth face coverings (for everyone ages 2 and above), soap, hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes to disinfect surfaces.
  • Protect important documents such as vital records, insurance policies, medical information and property and financial records, by storing copies in a safe deposit box or another location separate from your home. These items might be necessary for survivors who could be eligible to apply for disaster assistance.
    • Keep your home and vehicle insured against wind and flood damage. Also, remember to update your property insurance to cover current construction costs and be aware that a property insurance policy does not offer coverage for flood damage. For more information about getting flood insurance, visit floodsmart.gov.

Make a Family Communications Plan. Identify alternate ways of staying in touch with loved ones.

  • Choose an out-of-town friend or relative as a point of contact.
  • Ensure children have emergency contacts memorized or saved in a secure place
  • Determine a safe, familiar place the family can go for protection or to reunite.
  • Make sure the location is in a central and accessible location for all family members, including family members with disabilities.
  • If you have pets or service animals, make sure the location is animal-friendly.
  • For more information on making a family communication plan go to Family Communication Plan.

Stay Informed. Listen to local officials’ bulletins for the most up-to-date information before, during and after a disaster. It’s a good idea to have a battery or solar-powered radio to receive disaster notices and updates.

Follow VITEMA on Facebook, Twitter (@readyusvi) and on TikTok (vitema_usvi) to receive up-to-date preparedness and emergency information.

Also, sign up for emergency alerts and notifications on www.vitema.vi.gov . You can get emergency alerts delivered to you via text message or email.

Download the FEMA app on your smartphone and receive real-time alerts from the National Weather Service for up to five locations nationwide. Check the settings on your mobile phones to make sure you can receive Wireless Emergency Alerts, which require no sign-up.

SOURCE: Homeland Security

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2022 Atlantic Hurricane Season Begins Today

MIAMI — There is an 80 percent chance that a hurricane will form in the next 48 hours from an area of low pressure located near the east coast of the Yucatan Peninsula and the southeastern Gulf of Mexico, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said today.

“This system is likely to become a tropical depression while it moves slowly northeastward over the northwestern Caribbean Sea and southeastern Gulf of Mexico during the next day or two,” the Florida-based forecaster said.

Although the NHC continues to monitor the area of disturbed weather near the Gulf of Mexico with a high chance of development, no impacts are expected for the U.S. Virgin Islands or Puerto Rico.

Near the Yucatan Peninsula and southeastern Gulf of Mexico: A large area of disturbed weather located near the Yucatan Peninsula is interacting with an upper-level trough over the Gulf of Mexico and producing a broad region of disorganized showers and thunderstorms.

Environmental conditions appear marginally conducive for gradual development, and this system is likely to become a tropical depression by the weekend as it moves northeastward into the northwestern Caribbean Sea, southeastern Gulf of Mexico, and crosses the Florida Peninsula.

2022 Atlantic Hurricane Season Begins Today
Truecolor satellite image from NOAA

Regardless of development, locally heavy rainfall is likely across portions of southeastern Mexico, the Yucatan Peninsula, Guatemala, and Belize during the next couple of days, spreading across western Cuba, southern Florida, and the Florida Keys on Friday and Saturday. Interests in the Yucatan Peninsula, western Cuba, the Florida Keys, and the Florida Peninsula should monitor the progress of this system.

* Formation chance through 48 hours…medium…50 percent. * Formation chance through 5 days…high…70 percent. 2. Southwestern Atlantic northeast of the Bahamas: A weak surface trough located around 200 miles northeast of the central Bahamas is producing disorganized shower activity as it interacts with an upper-level trough. Surface pressures are currently high across the area, and significant development of this system appears unlikely as it moves generally east-northeastward over the next several days away from the southeastern United States.

* Formation chance through 48 hours…low…10 percent. * Formation chance through 5 days…low…10 percent.

Today marks the first day of the Atlantic hurricane season, which will run until November 30. Long-term averages for the number of named storms, hurricanes, and major hurricanes are 14, 7, and 3, respectively. The list of names for 2022 is as follows:

2022 Atlantic Hurricane Season Begins Today
St. Thomas St. John adjacent Islands-St Croix-
Nearshore Atlantic and adjacent Caribbean Coastal Waters-
5:28 AM AST Wed Jun 1 2022

This Hazardous Weather Outlook is for the U.S. Virgin Islands and the adjacent Coastal Waters.

.Day One...Today and Tonight

.Rip Currents...There is a moderate risk of rip currents for 
all local beaches today.

.Days Two through Seven...Thursday through Tuesday

A moderate risk of rip currents is expected for most of the local 
beaches during most of the period.

.Spotter information statement...

Spotter activation is not anticipated. Please relay any information
about winds, waves, and rip currents to the National Weather Service
in San Juan while following all local and state guidelines.

This report, the Tropical Weather Outlook, briefly describes significant areas of disturbed weather and their potential for  tropical cyclone formation during the next five days.  

The issuance  times of this product are 2 AM, 8 AM, 2 PM, and 8 PM EDT.  After the  change to standard time in November, the issuance times are 1 AM, 7  AM, 1 PM, and 7 PM EST. A Special Tropical Weather Outlook will be issued to provide  updates, as necessary, in between the regularly scheduled issuances  of the Tropical Weather Outlook.  Special Tropical Weather Outlooks  will be issued under the same WMO and AWIPS headers as the regular  

Tropical Weather Outlooks. A standard package of products, consisting of the tropical cyclone  public advisory, the forecast/advisory, the cyclone discussion, and  a wind speed probability product, is issued every six hours for all  ongoing tropical cyclones.  In addition, a special advisory package  may be issued at any time to advise of significant unexpected  changes or to modify watches or warnings. 

The Tropical Cyclone Update is a brief statement to inform of  significant changes in a tropical cyclone or to post or cancel  watches or warnings.  It is used in lieu of or to precede the  issuance of a special advisory package.  

Tropical Cyclone Updates,  which can be issued at any time, can be found under WMO header  WTNT61-65 KNHC, and under AWIPS header MIATCUAT1-5. All National Hurricane Center text and graphical products are available on the web at https://www.hurricanes.gov. More information  on NHC text products can be found at  https://www.hurricanes.gov/aboutnhcprod.shtml, while more  information about NHC graphical products can be found at  https://www.hurricanes.gov/aboutnhcgraphics.shtml. 

You can also interact with NHC on Facebook at  https://www.facebook.com/NWSNHC. Notifications are available via  Twitter when select National Hurricane Center products are issued.   Information about our Atlantic Twitter feed (@NHC_Atlantic) is  available at https://www.hurricanes.gov/twitter.php. 

CNH vigila zona cerca del Golfo de México con potencial alto de desarrollo, pero no se espera impactos en PR o USVI. #prwx #usviwx
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Queen Conch Season Over Until November

Commissioner Jean-Pierre L. Oriol of the Department of Planning and Natural Resources said that the annual queen conch seasonal closure begins today for the St. Croix and St. Thomas/St. John Districts, as established by regulation effective July 1, 2008.

Harvesting of queen conch is prohibited from June 1, 2022, through October 31, 2022.

Possession of queen conch is prohibited from June 15, 2022, through October 31, 2022.

Seasonal harvest closures conserve fished populations and help sustain and improve the fisheries of the Virgin Islands. The conch season will reopen on November 1, 2022, and will remain open until midnight, May 31, 2023, or until the 50,000 lb. quota per district is reached, whichever comes first.

Commissioner Oriol also reminds the public that harvesting and/or possession of Mutton and Lane Snapper are prohibited territory-wide from April 1 to June 30, 2022.

The commissioner asks for everyone’s cooperation to protect Virgin Islands resources for the present and future benefit of the people of the Virgin Islands.

For more information about queen conch or other fishing regulations, please contact the Division of Fish and Wildlife at 340-773-1082 in St. Croix and 340-775-6762 in St. Thomas or the Division of Environmental Enforcement at 340-773-5774 in St. Croix and 340-774-3320 in St. Thomas.

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DPNR To Celebrate Exotic Pet Amnesty Week

FREDERIKSTED — Commissioner Jean-Pierre L. Oriol of the Department of Planning and Natural Resources (DPNR) announces that Division of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) will celebrate Exotic Pet Amnesty Week from May 28 to June 4, 2022, to bring attention to the impact of invasive species on the Virgin Islands natural environment.  

Residents are invited to bring in their rare, non-native animal species from birds to snakes for a free permit without penalty, to the Division of Fish & Wildlife. The list does not include livestock such as chickens, ducks, and other farm animals which are permitted through the Department of Agriculture. 

This year’s observance will kick off at the 50th Virgin Islands Agriculture and Food Fair on St. Croix at the DPNR tent. “We’re excited to offer this opportunity at the reopening of the Ag Fair to allow residents and visitors to register their exotic animals free of charge and legally possess them in a responsible manner,” Commissioner Oriol said. “The following week, the public can visit other permitting stations on St. Croix, St. Thomas and St. John,” continued Oriol. 

Permitting stations will be staffed by the DFW staff on St. Croix from May 28th to May 30th from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the DPNR tent at the Ag Fair or throughout the week at the Mars Hill office from May 31st to June 3rd from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. On St. Thomas and St. John, from June 1st to 3rd, from 4 -7 p.m. at the Coral World Parking Lot and on June 4th, from 12- 3 p.m., at the National Park Visitors Station. Pets must be brought in a secure carrier, otherwise photos should be brought instead. Live animals will be microchipped and or photographed. 

The initiative is funded through a grant from the Department of Interior. For more information, call the office at 340-773-1082 or visit www.dpnr.gov.vi/fish-and-wildlife

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FEMA Obligates $30M To VIWMA On St. Croix For Wastewater Treatment System Design

KINGSHILL  The Federal Emergency Management Agency has jumpstarted the replacement of the St. Croix Wastewater system with a $30 million award to the Virgin Islands Waste Management Authority. VIWMA can now begin the architectural and engineering design work for the island of St. Croix. These funds will allow the territory to begin the design in advance of the obligation for the system-wide replacement projected at $1.5 billion.

Late last year, FEMA determined that the damages caused by the storms in 2017, coupled with the age and deterioration of the island’s wastewater facilities, made full replacement the most cost-effective option to meet industry standards, stop frequent sewage overflows and resolve the need for recurring repairs.

“The award provides critical funding to assist the Authority with the procurement of a design firm to engage in proper planning as we begin the arduous process of modernizing the wastewater infrastructure throughout the Territory,” said Roger E. Merritt, Jr., Executive Director of the Virgin Islands Waste Management Authority (WMA). He further explained that the Authority is now closer to construction as the WMA is working to solicit a firm to provide the design work.

“This is not just one step forward for the Waste Management Authority. It is also a critical piece to addressing the “One Dig” mandate,” said Adrienne L. Williams-Octalien, Director of the Office of Disaster Recovery. “The identification of funding to begin design work ensures that the replacement of wastewater lines is included in other infrastructure projects for electrical undergrounding and water line projects already on the drawing board. The Office of Disaster Recovery thanks FEMA for their proactive approach to addressing this issue and will continue to coordinate with consultants Witt O’Brien’s to identify solutions to moving the Recovery forward.”

The wastewater replacement determinations for St. Thomas and St. John are expected by the end of the year.

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Celebrate Hashtag National Turtle Day Today!

Today is #NationalTurtleDay! If you’re in the Caribbean, that’s reason enough to start celebrating!

Anyone who is lucky enough to come across these gentle creatures in their underwater world feels excited and blessed to have experienced the encounter.

If you have photos of your turtle encounter, share them with us!

#NationalTurtleDay

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New York Times Reveals How Haiti Became The Poorest Country In The Americas

By GERMAN LOPEZ/New York Times

France’s ransom
Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the world, and a new Times investigative series explores why. One stunning detail: France demanded reparations from Haitians it once enslaved. That debt hamstrung Haiti’s economy for decades — and kept it from building even basic social services, like sewage and electricity.
The series is based on more than a year of reporting, troves of centuries-old documents and an analysis of financial records. I spoke to my colleague Catherine Porter, one of the four reporters who led the project, about what they found.
Why tell Haiti’s story now?
I’ve been covering Haiti since the earthquake in 2010, and returned dozens of times. Any journalist that spends time in Haiti continually confronts the same question: Why are things so bad here?
The poverty is beyond compare to anywhere else. Even countries that are impoverished compared to the United States or Canada, or many Western countries — they still have some level of social services. Haiti just doesn’t.
Even if you’re rich, you have to bring in your own water, and you need a generator for electricity. There’s no real transportation system; it’s basically privatized. There’s no real sewage system, so people use outhouses or the outdoors. There’s no real garbage pickup, so trash piles up. There’s little public education — it’s mostly privatized — so poor people don’t get much, if any, formal schooling. The health care is abysmal.
The usual explanation for Haiti’s problems is corruption. But the series suggests something else is also to blame.
Yeah. This other answer lodged into the side of my mouth as I read more history books on Haiti. One by Laurent DuBois mentioned this “independence debt,” but he didn’t go into much detail. That was the first time that I read about it and was like, “What is this?”
So what was it?
After Haiti’s independence in 1804, France came back and demanded reparations for lost property — which turned out to include the enslaved humans. French officials encouraged the Haitian government to take out a loan from the French banks to pay.
It became known as a double debt: Haiti was in debt to former property owners — the colonists — and also to the bankers. Right from the get-go, Haiti was in an economic hole.
It is wild: The colonists asked the former slaves for reparations.
You have to remember that, at the time, no one came to help Haiti.
It was the only Black free country in the Americas, and it was a pariah. The British didn’t want to recognize it because they had Jamaica and Barbados as colonies. The Americans most certainly did not want to recognize it; they still hadn’t ended slavery.
What might Haiti look like today without this double debt?
One example is Costa Rica. It also had a strong coffee export industry, like Haiti does. When Haiti was spending up to 40 percent of its revenue on paying back this debt, Costa Rica was building electricity systems. People were putting in sewage treatment and schools. That would be closer to what Haiti could have been.
We haven’t even gotten into the U.S. occupation from 1915 to 1934 and Haiti’s dictator family, both of which further looted the country. It was one crisis after another inflicted on Haitians.
That’s true. A dictator, François Duvalier, came into power in 1957. Before that, the Haitian government had finally cleared most of its international debts. The World Bank had said that Haiti should rebuild. Instead, Duvalier and then his son put the country into increased misery.
As if that wasn’t enough, after Haiti’s president asked for reparations in 2003, France removed him from office, with U.S. help. Have France and the U.S. owned up to the damage?
France has had a slow softening. In 2015, its president, François Hollande, said that France had imposed a “ransom” on Haiti, and that he would pay it back. But very quickly, his aides corrected him, saying that he meant he was going to pay the moral debt back; he wasn’t talking about money.
The Times is translating these stories to Haitian Creole. What’s the goal?
If I’m talking to anyone on the street in Haiti, they’ll speak only Haitian Creole. So I felt that if we’re going to do a story about Haitian history, surely it should be accessed by the people of that country.
The most popular form of media in Haiti is the radio, especially in rural areas where illiteracy is high. My hope is that we can get the Creole version in the hands of some people to read parts of it over the radio, so people in Haiti can hear it and debate it and form their opinions.
This is a Haitian history. It should be made as accessible as possible to Haitians.
More on Catherine Porter: She grew up in Toronto and got her first full-time journalism job at The Vancouver Sun. In 2010, she went to Port-au-Prince for The Toronto Star to report on the earthquake — an assignment that changed her life. She has returned more than 30 times and written a memoir about her experiences there. She joined The Times in 2017, leading our Toronto bureau.
The Haiti series
The Times this weekend published several articles on Haiti’s history, including:
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U.S. To Ease A Few Economic Sanctions Against Venezuela

CARACAS — The United States government is moving to ease a few economic sanctions on Venezuela in a gesture meant to encourage resumed negotiations between the U.S.-backed opposition and the government of President Nicolás Maduro.

The limited changes will allow Chevron Corp. to negotiate its license with the state-owned oil company, PDVSA, but not to drill or export any petroleum of Venezuelan origin, two senior U.S. government officials told The Associated Press late Monday. The officials spoke under the condition of anonymity because the formal announcement had not been made.

Additionally, Carlos Erik Malpica-Flores — a former high-ranking PDVSA official and nephew of Venezuela’s first lady — will be removed from a list of sanctioned individuals, they said.

Hours after the announcement Tuesday, the opposition and Venezuela’s government acknowledged they had begun conversations on possibly restarting negotiations.

The moves follow goodwill gestures by Maduro after meeting in March with representatives of the administration of President Joe Biden and a recent gathering in Central America between U.S. officials and the main Unitary Platform opposition coalition to discuss a path forward.

“These are things that … the Unitary Platform negotiated and came to us to request that we do in order for them to be able to return to the negotiating table,” one of the officials said.

Scores of Venezuelans, including the country’s attorney general and the head of the penitentiary system, and more than 140 entities, among them Venezuela’s Central Bank, will remain sanctioned. The Treasury Department will continue to prohibit transactions with the Venezuelan government and PDVSA within U.S. financial markets.

Maduro himself is under indictment in the United States, accused of conspiring “to flood the United States with cocaine” and use the drug trade as a “weapon against America.”

Venezuela’s government suspended talks with the opposition in October after the extradition to the U.S. of a key Maduro ally on money laundering charges. Maduro at the time conditioned his return to the negotiating table on the release from custody of businessman Alex Saab, who was extradited from the African nation of Cape Verde.

The negotiations took place in Mexico City under the guidance of Norwegian diplomats.

California-based Chevron is the last major U.S. oil company to do business in Venezuela, where it first invested in the 1920s. Its four joint ventures with PDVSA produced about 200,000 barrels a day in 2019, but the U.S. government ordered it in 2020 to wind down production, and since then, it has only been allowed to carry out essential work on oil wells to preserve its assets and employment levels in Venezuela.

The change allows “Chevron to negotiate the terms of the potential future activities in Venezuela,” a senior U.S. official told reporters Tuesday. “It does not allow entry into any agreement with PDVSA or any other activity involving PDVSA or … Venezuela’s oil sector. So, fundamentally, what they are doing is just allowed to talk.”

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Prenatal Ward At Juan F. Luis Hospital Shut Down Due To Cleanliness Concerns Of Staff

CHRISTIANSTED — The Juan F. Luis Hospital closed its prenatal ward two weeks ago and moved it to the post-partum unit of the medical facility, the Juan F. Luis Hospital management said Saturday.

Concerns with the cleanliness of its Labor and Delivery (L&D) unit of the hospital were reported by the staff on duty the previous weekend, according to the Juan F. Luis Hospital.

The executive team was notified and took immediate action to ensure the care and safety of staff and patients, the hospital said in a prepared statement:

The Labor and Delivery (L&D) unit of the hospital was safely relocated to the Post-Partum unit on April 18, 2022.  Assessments and terminal cleaning of the L&D unit have been implemented by the Facilities and the Environmental Services Team.

These interim procedures are ongoing as part of environmental safety measures. The Hospital is presently in the process of procuring the services of a qualified vendor to complete comprehensive environmental cleaning and restoration of the L&D unit.

The scope of services for this project will include pre and post remediation indoor air quality testing. The safety of our patients and staff continues to remain a top priority at the hospital as we manage the physical infrastructure challenges of this campus.  

“At JFL, patient and staff safety is top priority,” said Doug Koch, Chief Executive Officer. “We are following our internal mitigation plan along with all governing body protocols in this situation.  Our leadership team acted quickly with no disruption in patient care.  I am proud of their response time, and their unwavering commitment to their patients. 

I am often asked about the status of JFL North.  Every single one of us shares the same united goal of moving into our new structure as soon as possible.  This project has obviously been delayed over the years, but every pathway is being explored to open this facility.  We anticipate the move to JFL North later this year.  The CMU building which houses all of the critical mechanical components to support JFL North is presently in the construction phase with a projected timeline for completion by the end of July. Once that is complete, the building needs to be commissioned and certified before we can move in. The exact timeline for these processes is yet unknown, but past experience shows that it will take a few months.  We acknowledge the concerns and frustrations with the delays of this temporary hospital.  The journey towards a new replacement hospital will be filled with highs and lows and also with questions and anticipation. We will travel this journey together. While we have experienced some setbacks, we know that brighter days are in front of us. ”

Doug Koch is open to comments via email.  Please remit all questions and comments to legal@jflusvi.org.