By Marcos Ommati/Diálogo May 22, 2017 In early 2016, Nicaraguan Army General Julio César Avilés, commander-in-chief of the Army, and Honduran Army Major General Francisco Isaías Álvarez Urbina, chief of the Joint Staff of the Honduran Armed Forces, signed a working protocol creating the Sandino-Morazán Joint Task Force. This represented one more step in the fight against transnational organized crime by Central American countries. To discuss this and other matters, Diálogo spoke with Maj. Gen. Álvarez during the 2017 Central American Security Conference (CENTSEC) in Cozumel, Mexico, last April.Diálogo: What is your main challenge as chief of the Joint Staff of the Honduran Armed Forces?Major General Francisco Isaías Álvarez Urbina: One of the main challenges faced by any chief of staff is having a force that is capable of confronting threats. It’s having a force that is capable of efficiently completing its missions. That’s what we’re working on – guiding our forces so that they can confront threats. Of course, you have to study and understand the threat in order to develop forces and capabilities to be able to operate.Diálogo: Are you referring to transnational organized crime?Maj. Gen. Álvarez: Yes, and I think it’s not just in Honduras. It’s a very big threat, especially drug trafficking. Looking at drug trafficking in and of itself, it’s the head of the beast, very powerful, with lots of financial resources. It transcends the territory of any single state; it has no borders. Its financial resources enable it to influence the authorities, to buy people’s wills… So I think we’re facing a very strong opponent. It’s a force that must be fought with resolve. Soldiers confronting the drug-trafficking threat have to know what they are facing. They must also reject any temptation that might come from this monstrosity.Diálogo: And do you agree with Admiral Kurt Tidd, commander of U.S. Southern Command, and with other CENTSEC participants that this is a common challenge that all nations have and that they must work together to fight this scourge?Maj. Gen. Álvarez: Yes. I believe that we all share the same view, and we are also glad that there are nations interested in this joint struggle. The Northern Triangle, comprising Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras, presented an initiative at the highest level, with our shared responsibility to face any threats. It is our people who are suffering. So they have a responsibility. So a concern was aroused at the highest level. We assume that concern, which is then conveyed to our institutions. We train ourselves to confront it, and indeed we are confronting it. We have mounted a united front, not only in Central America but there are also other countries with shared responsibilities on this issue of drug trafficking that are working with us. Colombia is a great help to Central America. The United States is a great help to Central America. Canada is a great help. Brazil is a great help to us. That’s why I think that it is precisely these meetings that allow us to see how big the threat we are facing is. [We must] be aware of the global perspective. It’s larger than what we can perceive as a state or as a country. And we can draw lessons from that to confront it in the best way possible.Diálogo: How is this struggle going in Honduras?Maj. Gen. Álvarez: In Honduras, we are doing this as a joint operation. We created an interagency task force in which we in the Armed Forces are just cooperating with those forces, with our soldiers, and with our resources. That’s where we are. But in reality, it’s not exactly the Armed Forces running this in Honduras. The struggle is being fought by a national interagency security force in which all state institutions associated with our justice officials are involved. What’s happening, I think, is that people see a visible and highly credible face in the Armed Forces. But we cannot underestimate the hard work that is being done by our justice officials, such as public prosecutors at the Office of the Attorney General, judges, the investigative bodies of the state, and the National Police.Diálogo: In 2016 you held bilateral meetings with Nicaraguan Army General Julio César Avilés Castillo, chief of the Army, in which you formalized compliance with the agreements for conducting coordinated operations in border zones. Can you talk a little about that?Maj. Gen. Álvarez: We have agreements with all of the nations with which we share a border, in order to confront that threat in all spheres, from the political sphere to the economic sphere and the national security sphere. Military forces are operating at the border, on the international frontier, in order to keep not-so-nice people from crossing over from one country to another. So that is the agreement that we have with these countries. With Nicaragua, we have reached some similar agreements within the framework of the Central American Armed Forces Conference (CFAC, per its Spanish acronym), which Nicaragua is also a party to so that we can conduct certain operations. We carried out Operation Sandino-Morazán in the first, second, third, and fourth phases. As needed, we exchange information. That’s something that we do within the framework of CFAC, not only with Nicaragua. We do it with Guatemala and El Salvador as well. I mean, that’s part of the trust-building effort –patrolling and conducting operations in border zones. Each on their own side, so that the people in the area can also feel that they are being supported by the security and defense agencies.Diálogo: What is the importance of Mexico co-hosting this security conference for the first time?Maj. Gen. Álvarez: Look, we see it as a very good thing. Just today Minister Díaz Celaya, the Honduran minister of defense, was saying that “we hope that Mexico will be an integral part of CFAC.” It’s extremely important when the government and the armed forces can join these regional bodies to fight these threats. So Mexico is always welcomed. We have always looked at Mexico, and also Brazil, as having tremendous potential for cooperation. We already have that in the area of education. Here, as I was saying, we must join forces to confront this common threat.
Careful about ‘noble’ plans to end sufferingGeorge Santyana was a famous philosopher, poet and novelist who was most noted for his quote “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”It seems that we now have a group of good-doers who want to end sufferings of individuals before their natural time is up.It’s supposedly a very noble idea, as we already have those on the other end of the spectrum who are disposing of pre-term individuals to satisfy someone else’s suffering.If you are aware of any history except your own, you will be aware that between the years 1937and 1939 was the starting point of a great experiment called national socialism. This was headed by a man called Adolph Hitler.Their idea was also to help individuals who were suffering and really of no use to society, and to make their sufferings go away.Again, a very noble idea? Later this was expanded to getting rid of anyone they felt needed to be eliminated. Be careful what you ask for.It’s a slippery slope from helping those through a noble idea and the government using that idea to eliminate you. Think it can’t happen here? Think again.Bob NicolellaGlenvilleMove Lady Liberty back to original homeJames Wilson’s Jan. 1 letter (“Put Lady Liberty back where she belongs”) regarding moving Lady Liberty back to her rightful, former spot in Freedom Park could not have been written better.Come on, Schenectady, let’s get her back where she belongs, where she can stand proudly and be admired by all. She looks so sad and forlorn in her new location. Let’s start our “Roaring 20s” off right and move her back to her original, proper home.Sally CoteNiskayunaUse stock tax to pay for infrastructureWhen the Erie Canal was proposed, critics scoffed at the immensity of the project. Ditto with the possibility of high-speed rail in New York state.The Daily Gazette is absolutely correct that New York does not have the money for such a project and that raising this issue is a distraction, especially when the issue has been studied before.Lack of funding is also an obstacle to the recent proposal to study replacing/eliminating I-787 along the Hudson River in downtown Albany. The Europeans and Japanese seem fully capable of realizing their high-speed rail projects.Why can’t we? The answer is simple: They have the political will, and we don’t.Once upon a time, New York state had the will. From 1905 to 1981, we imposed a tiny one-quarter-of-1% tax on the sales of stocks and bonds (originally introduced by the Republican Party), which caused no harm to anyone.The Stock Transfer Tax, if reinstated, would raise an average of $13 billion annually.Under the bill I have introduced in the Assembly, in coordination with Sen. James Sanders in the Senate, all that money would be dedicated to infrastructure, including 10% to rail.The governor has decried this as a tax increase. Let’s put this in perspective. I pay a fee of $250 per year for my retirement stock account. My share of the STT would be $50.If we do not reinstate the STT, all of these infrastructure proposals will be purely political and aspirational.Phil SteckLoudonvilleThe writer represents the 110th Assembly District in the state Legislature.More from The Daily Gazette:EDITORIAL: Make a game plan for voting. Do it now.Foss: Schenectady homeless assistance program Street Soldiers dealing with surge in needEDITORIAL: Take a role in police reformsHIGH NOTES: PPEs, fighting hunger, backpacks and supplies for kidsEDITORIAL: Don’t repeal bail reform law; Fix it the right way Categories: Letters to the Editor, OpinionNeed major effort to stop school violenceSchenectady and I have a relationship much like siblings do.There are things I love about the city, such as Proctors, Central Park and our farmers markets, and things I don’t. There are things I love about the Schenectady schools and things that scare me.However if an outsider dare to speak an ill word about the city, the gloves go on.With a child at Mont Pleasant and a child at Schenectady High, I’ve much of the same concerns about each school.The behavior at each school is terrifying and unacceptable. My son was violently attacked because of a missed goal in gym class which was so bad the school called me to get medical attention for him. His classmate was charged with assault.Some teachers hand out earbuds to block out the noise from the hallways during class so they can test. While I applaud the teachers’ creative efforts, what are administrators doing to clear the hallways?What are parents doing?The problems in our schools are society’s problems, not just schools’. Therefore, we need an all-hands-on deck approach so results can happen. We need kids, parents, teachers, administrators and community members, including police, to be at the schools and available.I’m encouraged that the district has publicly admitted that we have issues. I’m encouraged by the gang prevention group starting up again. But it can’t stop here. Every kid has the right to learn in a place where they feel safe.Theresa DotySchenectady
Analysis by the UK government has shown charging in both trust and insurance defined contribution (DC) schemes stands higher than estimates – and on the cusp of, or above, a proposed charge cap.The Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) conducted more than 1,300 interviews with trust and contract schemes, as well as the 11 largest insurance DC providers in the UK.Through its research, and analysis of scheme data, the department found the average annual charge for members was 75 basis points in trust schemes and 84bps in insurance schemes.Previous estimates by the Association of British Insurers (ABI), a lobby group for insurance-based pension providers, said the average charge among its members was 52bps. Average figures also differed significantly when split by the size of the scheme.A small insurance scheme (six to 11 members) was paying as much as 91bps, while a trust scheme (with 12-99 members) was paying 94bps.Average annual charges fall as scheme size increases, the government said.An insurance scheme with more than 1,000 members fell below the 75bps threshold recently touted by the DWP.Charges for the largest trust schemes marginally fell below those of the larger contract-based schemes, with an average charge of 42bps.The government had been consulting on implementing a cap on member charges within DC schemes.The cap, which was initially expected to be between 50bps and 100bps, was aimed at schemes used for the rollout of auto-enrolment, with expectations for its application across all schemes.However, the cap was expected to be implemented by April this year, until it was announced by pensions minister Steve Webb that complications had forced the government to delay by at least a year.This sparked a backlash from opposition ministers in the UK Parliament, amid accusations the government had given in to vested interests in the insurance industry.In its research, the department added that the size of the scheme, along with adviser commissions, contributions and when the scheme was set up, impacted the most on charging levels.Trust schemes set up before 1991, on average, had a higher charge by 10bps to those set up after 2001.The difference between schemes in the insurance sector was 20bps.The use of active member discounts (AMDs), which results in non-contributory members facing additional charges, and another aspect the current government aimed to abolish, were also analysed.Government research showed only 3% of trust schemes operated such a policy, with marginally more insurance providers doing so, at 10%.On average, non-contributory members faced an additional 38bps charge in their DC fund compared with active members.
The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission has issued a recall on Tango Mini Strollers. Both of the stroller’s hinge joints can release and collapse under pressure, posing a fall hazard to children in the stroller.This recall involves four models of black Tango Mini Strollers, each with its own model number and identifiable by a uniquely colored bonnet top sold in Quartz Pink (Model Number ST31D09A), Sedona Gray (Model Number ST31D10A), Jet Black (Model Number ST31D11A), and Purest Blue (Model Number ST31D03A). Model numbers are printed in black on a white sticker located on one of the stroller’s legs. Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled strollers and contact Baby Trend for a replacement or full refund. No injuries have been reported as of yet. Over 2000 units are being recalled for a full refund. These strollers were sold at Amazon.com, Target stores and online at www.target.com from October 2019 through November 2019 for between $100 and $120.