Articles by "Latin America"

A view of the National Assembly building in Caracas, Venezuela, on March 30, 2017 (photo by AFP)
Venezuela’s Supreme Court has taken over the legislative functions of the country’s parliament after ruling that the legislature is in contempt of court.
“As long as the National Assembly’s contempt of court and invalidity persist, parliamentary powers shall be exercised directly by [the Supreme Court’s] constitutional chamber or by the body it stipulates to safeguard the rule of law,” the Supreme Court announced in a ruling.
The court had ruled in August 2016 that the opposition majority in the National Assembly was in contempt for swearing in three lawmakers from the southern Amazonas State who had already been suspended over electoral fraud and vote-buying accusations.
The latest Supreme Court ruling is almost certain to worsen the political tensions gripping the South American country, where President Nicolas Maduro is facing fierce attempts by the opposition to force him from power.
The Supreme Court’s ruling came a day after it stripped lawmakers of their legislative immunity, clearing the way for them to face prosecution.
The main opposition coalition, the Democratic Unity Roundtable, won a landslide in legislative elections in December 2015 with a promise to oust Maduro from power. That forced Maduro and his United Socialist Party of Venezuela into sharing power for the first time since its founder, Hugo Chavez, surged to power in 1999.
Maduro has accused opposition lawmakers of treason for asking the Washington-based Organization of American States (OAS) to consider suspending Venezuela from the bloc.
In reaction to the Supreme Court’s ruling, the United States described the move as an effort to “usurp the powers” of the parliament.
The secretary general of the OAS, Luis Almagro, also accused Maduro’s government of carrying out a “self-coup.”
Peru also recalled its ambassador from Caracas in protest and promised to step up efforts to eject Venezuela from the OAS for what it called a “flagrant breach of the democratic order.”
Other regional powers such as Mexico, Brazil, and Argentina also warned that the de facto annulment of the Venezuelan parliament could be a threat to democratic governance in the country.
Venezuela’s Foreign Ministry accused the governments critical of Caracas of forming a "right-wing regional pact" against Maduro, who has called the OAS a pawn of US “imperialism.”
Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro speaks during a meeting with ministers at Miraflores Palace in Caracas, Venezuela, February 9, 2017. (Photo by Reuters)
In the December 2015 elections, in which Maduro lost control of the parliament, voters displayed their anger at soaring inflation, rising poverty, and severe shortages of medicine and basic commodities that have been going on in the country since before those polls.
Venezuela has the world's largest proven oil reserves.
Since then, relations between the executive and legislative bodies have been stuck in tensions.
Last year, the opposition launched an abortive attempt to force Maduro from power by seeking to hold a recall referendum.
The opposition has now called on Venezuelans to take to streets in rallies to oppose the recent ruling by the Supreme Court, which is allied to Maduro.

Thousands of Argentineans have poured into the streets of the capital, Buenos Aires, to express their dissatisfaction with President Mauricio Macri’s economic policies.
Demonstrators waved banners and national flags and blocked traffic along the main avenues of Buenos Aires during the Thursday march, which had been organized by the General Confederation of Labor (CGT) and backed by other unions.
The protesters also burned an effigy of Macri and chanted slogans against his government’s policies. They said they held the rally to oppose what they called dictatorship.
Those who took part in the march argued that workers were being indiscriminately fired and people were losing their purchasing power. The protesters also asked for the protection of national industry, urging government officials to raise salaries, stop lay-offs, and contain inflation.
A group of immigrants also took part in the march to protest against a recent presidential decree that changed deportation procedures, making it much easier to turn away or deport immigrants.
Thousands of teachers also took to the streets of the capital on Wednesday and Thursday as part of a two-day national strike demanding a 35-percent wage increase to keep pace with inflation. 
Teachers march during a nationwide strike demanding pay rises, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, March 6, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
Tens of thousands of state employees have been fired since Macri took office in 2015. He had vowed to reduce spending and consumer prices.
While Macri’s policies have led to massive protests in the country, he says the measures are needed to revive Argentina’s weak economy, attract investments, and end alleged economic failures by his predecessor, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner.
Lawmakers hold signs reading “I saw you getting the country back in debt again” in messages addressed to the President Macri, at the parliament in Buenos Aires, Argentina, March 1, 2017. (Photo by Reuters) 
Upcoming congressional elections are seen as crucial for Macri. His “Let’s Change” coalition needs a strong showing in the October polls for him to steam ahead with the free-market policy reforms.
Meanwhile, the country’s largest labor union has called a general strike for April 6.

Chile's President Michelle Bachelet addresses a special session of the UN Human Rights Council on March 29, 2017 at the UN Offices in Geneva, Switzerland. (AFP photo)
Chile's President Michelle Bachelet has vowed to continue the fight for protection and boost of trade between Asian and Latin American countries.
Bachelet, who was addressing a special session of the World Trade Organization in Geneva on Wednesday, said, "Regional integration is crucial ... this is not an option. It is an absolute necessity."
Her remarks come amid efforts to compensate for the United States’ withdrawal from the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). US President Donald Trump decided in January to pull the US out of the pact, making the highly-touted agreement effectively defunct. Washington has even warned that it could ignore the WTO decisions, as it was promoted by Trump during his presidential campaign.
Bachelet, who did not specifically mention the US and Trump, said "protectionist trade policies in some countries" would not deter efforts to boost Asia-Pacific trade.
"We are at an inflection point", Bachelet told the WTO, adding that Chile hosted a meeting earlier this month involving 11 countries that had been part of the TPP in a bid to revive some of the gains made during the deal’s negotiations. During the meeting, officials said they could engineer a new pact with China replacing the US as the major power in the deal.
Chile's President Michelle Bachelet (R) shakes hands with Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Brazilian Roberto Azevedo upon her arrival in Geneva to address the trade organization on March 29, 2017. (AFP photo)
The former US administration had hoped that TPP could slash tariffs and tighten trade ties between the countries that account for some 40 percent of the world economy. The deal was regarded as a major deterrent against China and its rising economic influence.
Bachelet said that Chile and allies in Latin America "will offer an alternative platform for promoting trade liberalization in the Asia-Pacific region", adding that those countries would do their utmost to "strengthen the very principles of multilateralism."

Thousands of Venezuelans have taken to the streets of the capital, Caracas, in condemnation of ongoing talks by the Organization of American States (OAS) to potentially suspend Venezuela’s membership in the body.
The demonstrators marched in Caracas on Tuesday hours after an OAS meeting kicked off in Washington to discuss the invocation of the Inter-American Democratic Charter against Venezuela’s government, which would suspend Venezuelan membership.
Venezuelan Vice President Tareck El Aissami addressed the crowd, condemning as “a mercenary of imperialism” the secretary general of the OAS, Luis Almagro, who had sought to invoke the charter.
Almagro has called for suspending Venezuela from the OAS if the country does not hold new elections. But the call failed to gain support during the OAS Permanent Council in Washington on Tuesday, with the member countries urging dialog between the Venezuelan government and opposition to settle the crisis.
The US representative, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Michael Fitzpatrick, said the special session’s goal “is not immediate suspension.”
“It will consider all the tools available to the OAS to help the people of Venezuela,” Fitzpatrick said. “We encourage Venezuela to participate in a productive discussion on ways to solve the economic and humanitarian crisis.”
A statement during the meeting also urged the OAS to come up with “concrete proposals to define a course of action that contributes to the identification of diplomatic solutions in the shortest possible time within the institutional framework of our organization and through inclusive consultation with our member states.”
Venezuela’s Vice President Tareck El Aissami delivers a speech during a rally against ongoing talks by the Organization of American States (OAS), in Caracas, March 28, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
A total of 20 countries voted to open the Tuesday special session of the OAS Permanent Council in Washington. Eleven countries voted against, two abstained, and one was absent.
Bolivia and Nicaragua called to suspend the session, saying it would violate the sovereignty of Venezuela.
Venezuela lashed out at the organization for what it said was interference in the country’s internal affairs in “flagrant violation of its principles.”
If two thirds of the 34 members of the OAS vote to invoke the charter, Venezuela will be suspended from the organization.
Venezuela, which has the world’s highest inflation rate, is facing severe shortages of food, medicine, and basic household goods after a slump in global oil prices. The country is also grappling with a high unemployment rate.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro blames the economic crisis on what he says is a US-sponsored ploy, which according to him is aimed at destabilizing the country.
The opposition has been calling for the resignation of Maduro, who was elected in 2013 for a six-year term. There have been protests for and against the Venezuelan president in recent months.
Venezuela’s opposition has also been demanding a recall referendum against Maduro, who was elected in 2013 for a six-year term.
Last week, 14 countries in the OAS, including the United States, called for increasing pressure on Venezuela’s socialist government and urged it to release political prisoners and “reestablish democracy” by holding elections.
Maduro threatened to quit the organization, saying it was time for a debate on whether Venezuela should remain a member given the OAS’s “aggression.”

Muddy water spilled onto streets and into homes on Thursday in a new round of unusually heavy rains that has killed at least a dozen people in Peru and now threatens flooding in the capital.
The intense rains and mudslides over the past three days have wrought havoc around the Andean nation and caught residents in Lima, a desert city of 10 million where it almost never rains, by surprise.
In one of the more dramatic incidents, stunned residents watched and took out cellphone cameras as a woman escaped after being swept into an avalanche of mud, wood debris and farm animals about 53 kilometers (32 miles) south of downtown Lima.
Evangelina Chamorro, 32, had just dropped her two daughters at school and was feeding her pigs alongside her husband when they were pulled into a landslide.
Armando Rivera, Chamorro’s husband, told RPP radio they climbed a tree but the trunk broke. They held on to each other’s hands but Chamorro eventually lost his grip and got separated.
She emerged near a bridge, lifting herself from a current of wooden planks and walking toward the shore covered head to toe in mud.
“There’s a person there!” an onlooker cried out.
Rescue workers take a rest at the Peruvian Panamerican highway after a landslide, in Arequipa, southern Peru, January 27, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
Chamorro collapsed as she reached land and was quickly carried by several men to an ambulance. She sustained only minor injuries.
Authorities said Thursday they expect the rains caused by El Nino, which generates a warming of surface waters in the eastern Pacific Ocean, to continue for another two weeks.
Thus far, officials say a total of 62 people have died and 12,000 homes have been destroyed in storms this year.
In Lima, the swelling Huaycoloro River swept away two trucks and threatened to destroy a bridge. Schools nationwide have suspended classes. And seven of the nation’s most dangerous criminals were temporarily transported to another facility after a river near the prison threatened to overflow.
Resident Pedro Pablo Kuczynski said late Wednesday that authorities are prepared to provide shelter and relief to those left homeless.

Tens of thousands of people have held separate protest rallies across Brazil to express their strong dissent against the austerity measures being implemented by President Michel Temer’s government.
Demonstrations were staged in more than 20 cities on Wednesday, with the largest being held in Brazil’s most populous city of Sao Paulo, where, according to organizers, some tens of thousands of protesters snarled traffic in the business hub, chanting anti-government slogans and calling on Temer to step down immediately.
Speaking to a cheering crowd, the fiery, leftist former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said Temer intended to “end the achievements of the working class over the past years.”
He said the protesters “will only stop when they choose a government democratically,” in an apparent admonition of Temer’s manner of rise to power. A vice president under former president Dilma Rousseff, Temer automatically took over after Rousseff was impeached and removed from office over allegations of financial wrongdoing in August last year.
Rousseff, who was Lula’s chosen successor, has denied any wrongdoing and called her impeachment trial a “coup.” At the time, Temer campaigned heavily for the removal from office of his boss.
Lula, who served as president for two terms from 2003 to 2011, aspires to become president again and currently leads in the polls ahead of presidential elections set to be held next year.
Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (L) delivers a speech as he takes part in a protest in Sao Paulo, Brazil, March 15, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
As part of austerity policies, Temer’s government has proposed to limit social welfare and pension benefits and to raise the retirement age from 65 to 70. Brazil would become a country with the highest retirement age in the world if that plan is carried out.
Protesters, including teachers, workers and social activists, say Temer’s new changes would reduce job security for Brazilian workers, and his pension proposal would force many people to extend their minimum working years to become qualified for obtaining full retirement benefits. They also oppose any decision to freeze public spending and say such measures would hamper efforts to create jobs amid an unemployment rate of nearly 13 percent.
Officials, however, claim that the enactment of the policies would revive the South American nation’s economy, which has been grappling with seemingly unending recession. Brazilians “little by little will understand that it’s necessary to support this road to put the country back on the rails,” Temer said on Wednesday.

The Wednesday rally in Rio de Janeiro turned violent as some protesters clashed with police. They threw rocks, lit flares, and set dumpsters on fire, prompting riot police to respond by firing tear gas canisters and stun grenades to control and disperse the rowdy crowd.
In Brasilia, about 5,000 people demonstrated outside the Finance Ministry building, chanting anti-government slogans overnight. They then stormed the building and occupied it for a while, inflicting some damage on the building.
“There were many things that this government did that must be stopped at all costs. We are on the streets to make our rights count. The struggle will always continue,” one protester said.
People have been staging crippling protests in various Brazilian cities over the past several weeks, demanding a halt to the government's austerity measures. Brazil normally uses troops to police cities as the country is struggling to contain crimes and rising popular discontent with austerity.

Mexican politician Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (photo by Reuters)
A Mexican presidential hopeful has officially filed a petition with an international human rights commission, denouncing US President Donald Trump’s planned construction of a wall on the US-Mexico border.
The petition was filed by Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the leader of the left-wing political party MORENA and the front-runner in Mexico’s 2018 presidential race, with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on Wednesday.
On January 25, the US president ordered executive actions to begin the construction of the border wall on the Mexican border to stop illegal immigrants from entering the US and increase the number of immigration enforcement officers who carry out deportations in the US.
Lopez Obrador said he expected the commission to “speak out in accordance with the law to protect immigrants from the harassment they are suffering since Trump took office.”
The leftist leader said he hoped the commission, which is tasked with the promotion and protection of human rights in the Americas, would view Trump’s moves as a “violation of human rights and discriminatory.”
Some 12,000 people, including Mexican and US citizens, have signed the petition.
US President Donald Trump speaks during a rally in Nashville, Tennessee, March 15, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
During his 2016 election campaign, Trump had described illegal Mexican immigrants entering the US as “rapists” and “murderers” and insisted that Mexico would have to pay for his planned wall, generating diplomatic tensions with Mexico City.
Lopez Obrador also took a jab at Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, saying that the Mexican president was acting submissively and not defending the human rights of immigrants.
“We are proceeding legally against the complete absence of the Mexican government,” the opposition leader said.
He also accused Mexican government officials of lacking moral authority to speak up on behalf of immigrants in the US because of what he said was corruption in the government.
Nieto canceled a planned January visit to Washington after Trump said it would be better for the Mexican leader not to visit if Mexico was not going to pay for his wall. Mexican officials, including Pena Nieto himself, had made it clear on a number of occasions that Mexico would not be paying for the project, which is estimated to cost at least eight billion dollars.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro delivers a speech during a summit at the presidential palace in Caracas, March 5, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro has called the head of the Organization of American States (OAS) “garbage” for highlighting the crisis in the Latin American country.
Maduro used the insulting word to describe OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro during a government event in the northern Venezuelan state of Miranda on Wednesday after the high-ranking official called on Caracas to hold elections or be suspended from the regional diplomatic body.
Almagro, a Uruguayan, had said elections were crucial to paving the way for overcoming severe food shortages and soaring inflation in Venezuela, calling on authorities to hold the vote “as quickly as possible.”
Venezuela, which has the world’s highest inflation rate, is facing severe shortages of food, medicine, and basic household goods after a slump in global oil prices. The country is also grappling with a high unemployment rate.
Maduro blames the economic crisis on what he says is a US-sponsored ploy, which according to him is aimed at destabilizing the country.
The opposition has been calling for the resignation of Maduro, who was elected in 2013 for a six-year term. There have been protests for and against the Venezuelan president in recent months.
Venezuela’s opposition has been demanding a recall referendum against Maduro, who was elected in 2013 for a six-year term.

A Brazilian woman has told an Australian court of the moment the Salt Creek accused attacked, bound and sexually assaulted her, comparing the experience to "a horror movie".
The woman, whose identity is suppressed, told a Supreme Court jury in South Australia she was attacked from behind by the man she had trusted to drive her from Adelaide to Melbourne.
She said that, as he stabbed a knife into the sand and bound her hands and feet with precut lengths of nylon cord, she focused on survival - and escape.
A bikini bottom was found at the site. Photo / News Corp

The man, 60, whose identity is suppressed, has pleaded not guilty to one count each of aggravated kidnapping, indecent assault and causing harm with intent to do so.

Prosecutors allege that, on February 9 last year, he attacked a Brazilian and a German backpacker at an isolated spot on the Coorong.He has further denied counts of attempted murder, aggravated causing serious harm with intent to do so, endangering life and aggravated assault.
The duo had travelled to the spot with the man as part of a ride-share to Melbourne that had been arranged online.
Prosecutors allege the Brazilian's clothes were cut from her body with a knife before she was bound and sexually assaulted.
They further allege the German was struck four times in the head with a hammer and repeatedly "mowed down" by the man's vehicle.
At yesterday's hearing, the Brazilian said she started her 20-day Australian holiday in Adelaide, where she met the German woman who was to join her on the ill-fated trip to Salt Creek.
At the suggestion of another friend, the Brazilian advertised for a travel partner on the Gumtree website.
She received several offers, including one from the accused.
She decided to go with someone she had met face-to-face, but that offer fell through because of car troubles.
A 4WD found at Salt Creek had bloodstains on the door. Photo / News Corp

The woman then contacted the accused, who had offered tents and sleeping bags, and asked him to take her and the German woman.
She said the group arranged to meet at the Mawson Lakes railway station.
"When I saw him, it was a bit weird. He was a bit older than I was expecting," she said.
"I had been travelling a lot using this app, when I meet people they are maximum 30."
She told the court he was "quiet" when they met and "most of the time really focused on driving".
Upon the group's arrival at Salt Creek, they noticed another four-wheel drive was parked near the gate to the beach.
"[The accused] said 'ah, let's keep driving a little bit' and I thought 'that's normal, when you go to camp you want a little bit of privacy'," she said.
But when he stopped just a few minutes later, she said, she found that "a bit weird".
"I remember asking him 'are we going to camp here?' and he said 'yes'," she said.
"I thought 'he said no before and now he says yes, is everything okay?'."
The Brazilian said that, after they made camp, the man set up his fishing rods as she changed into her bikini between the tents.
"I was thinking it was a bit weird to be in the middle of nowhere with people who were not really my friends," she said.
"It wasn't exactly what I had planned but it was okay-ish.
"Then [the German] raised a question 'don't you think it was a bit weird?'."
She said the man returned, and she shared some wine with him, before the German went to sleep and he suggested looking for kangaroos in the sand dunes.
"I said that would be really nice - you come to Australia, you want to see kangaroos," she said.
"He was just, like, normal. Nothing stood out to me. [His demeanour] was just regular, normal, nothing negative or positive.
"I didn't see any kangaroos so I said 'let's go back'. Suddenly, I felt him on my back and he had his arm along my neck.
"I was just saying 'no, stop that, it's not cool, it's not fine' but he kept doing it so I couldn't walk."
The Brazilian said she fell onto the sand and the man got on top of her.
"Suddenly, from somewhere, he got a knife and put it in the sand," she said, making a downward stabbing gesture as she spoke.
"He didn't threaten me with the knife or anything but for me, I felt like he was saying 'I'm the power, I have a knife'. I felt genuinely threatened.
"Something was happening, something dangerous."
Salt Creek roadhouse owner Adam Stewart gave evidence yesterday. Photo / News Corp

She described the man taking a length of blue nylon rope "from somewhere", saying it 
was an "exact piece, not the whole rope" and trying to bind her wrists behind her.
"It looked like he had planned," she said.
She said they struggled over the ropes, as she tried to throw them away or prevent him reaching them. She stopped when he threatened to break her arm.
It was then, she said, she tried to form an escape strategy and "kept talking" to the man, saying he did not "need to do this" while she tried not to "freak out".
She said he used the knife to cut her off bikini and began to touch, kiss and lick her.
"He was around my mouth saying 'kiss me back' and I started giving him excuses: 'my hands are tied, so sore, I can't kiss you'," she said.
"He started getting really angry with me. He spat on me, he spat on my face. He started punching me on my left side, maybe five to 10 times.
"I don't think he wanted to listen to what I was saying so he got the bottom of my bikini and tried to put it in my mouth and tie it [around my head], but he couldn't do it."
She continued to try to reason with the man, eventually suggesting it would be "more pleasurable" if they went back to the tents.
"That was the first time he was interested - he asked 'how?'," she said.
The Brazilian said her sole interest was survival, and her strategy was to get as close as she could to the German - and help.
However, the man used a second piece of nylon to tie one of her ankles, create a hook, and attach it to her other ankle so she could only hobble, not run.
They began to make their way back to camp but, she said, the man appeared to change his mind.
"I started screaming [the German woman's name] because it could be my last opportunity," she said.
"He got really angry and pushed me down into the sand. He punched me again maybe five times," she said.
"He grabbed some sand and said 'if you do that again, you're going to eat sand'."
She said her screams woke the German who ran from the camp yelling "let her go, let her go".
"He started going toward her direction and, I couldn't see what it was, but he had something in his pants," she said.
"It was the handle of a tool, it was wood, so I yelled 'he has a hammer, he has a hammer, run away'."
As the man and the German faced off, the Brazilian tried to pass her wrists under her bottom and legs to get free, but could not.
She was able, however, to untie her ankles - but she still could not run in the deep, soft sand as she had no balance without her hands.
She said she did not see what happened between the man and the German, but did see the German woman come towards her, bleeding, and untied her hands, saying, " he hit me".
"It was the exact moment when you're watching a horror movie and the guy is going to follow the girls and they do that stupid thing," she said.
"At that moment we saw him coming with the car. We thought we need to go in separate directions, otherwise he's going to get both of us."
The Brazilian woman said she headed towards the gate to Salt Creek and hid, "totally naked", in a bush on the dunes.
She told the court a white car drove by and she ran to it and climbed in, screaming: "He tried to kill me, he will kill all of us, let's go because he will kill us."
The Brazilian told the court the men in the car gave her a jumper to wear. She insisted they go look for the German woman.
"She was there by herself, she was on the trip because I invited her," she said.
But there was no sign of her or the accused.
As they left Salt Creek, the group encountered a group of off-duty police officers fishing - but the Brazilian woman didn't trust them.
"I thought, 'is this the part of the movie where you think you are getting away and then something bad happens?'"
The police officers convinced the rescuers they were legitimate, and the Brazilian was taken back to the Salt Creek roadhouse.
The man's defence lawyer, Bill Boucaut SC said events had not happened as the woman outlined and his client "did no such thing".
"I suggest to you that you took your bikini off. You were strutting around with no clothes on," he said.
The Brazilian replied: "No, I got naked when he ripped my bikini off with a knife."
Boucaut suggested events had not unfolded as she had described, saying his client "did no such thing".
"I suggest there was no knife [and] nothing like that happened. You had an argument about the cooking and ran off into the sand dunes," he said.
"I suggest to you that the very last time you saw [the man] was at the camp, and you ran off into the sand dunes without any clothes on."
The Brazilian said that was incorrect.
"The last time I saw [the accused], he was inside the car, driving towards our direction," she said.
Earlier, the owner of the Salt Creek roadhouse told a court he felt a shiver up his spine when he saw footprints and tyre tracks suggesting one of the alleged victims had been chased and run down by a car.
Adam Stewart said he had inspected sand dunes near an isolated camp immediately after the arrest of the alleged kidnapper.
"As a hunter who follows a lot of footprints, I would say they were running," he told jurors.
"I thought that was pretty heavy. I got a shiver up my spine at that moment."
"I pictured something in my mind that was not very nice."
"The footprints were running south. The tyre marks were running alongside them, on top of them or across them."
Stewart also said he tried to comfort the Brazilian woman, telling her "you're safe".
"The first thing I told her was that her friend was safe, she was waiting at the roadhouse, everything's okay," Stewart said.
Steward said he had seen the accused at Salt Creek twice, 12 to 18 months before the alleged attack on the two backpackers.
The trial, before Justice Trish Kelly and a jury of eight men and four women, continues.


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