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Racism Played Part in Indigenous Woman’s Death, Coroner Finds

MONTREAL — It was a case that shook Canada: A 37-year-old Indigenous mother of seven died in a Quebec hospital last year after a nurse had taunted her, “You’re stupid as hell,” only good at having sex, and “better off dead.”

On Tuesday, a coroner said that the death of the woman, Joyce Echaquan, could have been prevented and that racism and prejudice had played a role in her treatment. Because of bias, she said, medical staff had erroneously assumed Ms. Echaquan was suffering withdrawal from narcotics.

But there was no evidence that Ms. Echaquan, who had a history of heart problems, was experiencing a narcotics withdrawal, the coroner, Géhane Kamel, said.

“This was a death that could’ve been prevented,” Ms. Kamel said Tuesday. In a report released last week that detailed lapses in Ms. Echaquan’s care, Ms Kamel said the evidence suggested that she had died of a pulmonary edema, an excess of fluid in the lungs.

On Tuesday, at a news conference explaining her findings, Ms Kamel called on the Quebec government to recognize “systemic racism” in the health care system and across the province.

If Ms. Echaquan were a white woman, Ms. Kamel said, she would still be alive today.

Ms. Echaquan died on Sept. 28, 2020, after capturing the medical staff’s taunts in a Facebook Live broadcast that went viral across Canada, spurring widespread anger. The video became a potent global symbol that Canada’s vaunted health care system was failing Indigenous people.

The retired Quebec Superior Court Justice Jacques Viens had already concluded in a 2019 report that “cultural barriers” and prejudice in the health care system in Quebec were having “dire consequences” for Indigenous people. He detailed numerous problems, including “delayed diagnoses” and the failure of medical staff to order necessary exams or medication.

Following the broadcast of Ms. Echaquan’s video, the hospital fired the nurse and an orderly. But the government of Quebec’s premier François Legault has not acknowledged the existence of systemic racism in the province.

It has also refused to adopt “Joyce’s Principle,” a set of policies aimed at providing fair access to health services for Indigenous people, because the document outlining the policies refers to “systemic racism.”

Mr. Legault said later Tuesday that racism and discrimination against Indigenous people were unacceptable. He said the health care authority that runs the hospital where Ms. Echaquan had died had taken several measures to combat racism, including instituting cultural sensitivity training for staff.

But Mr. Legault said he stood by his belief that there was not systemic racism in Quebec. “To say that the system in its entirety is racist,” he said, “I cannot accept that.”

The comments drew criticism from Indigenous leaders, including Chief Constant Awashish, the leader of Ms. Echaquan’s Atikamekw First Nations community, who said that Mr. Legault’s response showed that there was “a lot of work” to do.

In the case of Ms. Echaquan, prejudice had greeted her from the moment she entered Joliette Hospital, Ms. Kamel said. She said medical staff assumed she was suffering from a drug withdrawal and had treated her with contempt.

Ms. Echaquan was “infantilized and labeled as a drug abuser,” she told reporters, and the care she received was “tainted with bias.”

“Some were silent witnesses. Some just did not act,” Ms. Kamel said of the hospital staff. She added: “In this case we have proof that the system failed.”

Without Ms. Echaquan’s Facebook Live video of her treatment, she added, the circumstances of her death might never have been known.

In her report, Ms. Kamel called on the Quebec government take steps to eliminate systemic racism.

“We have witnessed an unacceptable death and we must ensure that it was not in vain and that we learn from this tragedy as a society,” she wrote in her report. “It is therefore unacceptable that broad swaths of society deny a reality that is so well documented.”

Carol Dubé, Ms. Echaquan’s husband, said on Tuesday that the coroner’s report was a vindication that his wife had been the victim of prejudice.

“The system today still allows people with prejudice to commit horrors,” he said.

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El Chapo’s Wife Sentenced to 3 Years in Prison

Emma Coronel Aispuro, the wife of the notorious Mexican drug lord best known as El Chapo, was sentenced on Tuesday to three years in prison on charges of helping run her husband’s multibillion-dollar criminal empire and playing a role in his escape from custody after he was captured in 2014.

Ms. Coronel, a former beauty queen who married El Chapo — whose real name is Joaquín Guzmán Loera — in 2007, on her 18th birthday, was arrested at Dulles International Airport, near Washington, in February, two years after her husband was convicted at a trial in New York City and sentenced to life in prison.

She had been in the cross-hairs of U.S. authorities for months. She ultimately pleaded guilty in June to helping Mr. Guzmán smuggle drugs across the U.S. border and make his dramatic flight from a high-security Mexican prison, an operation that involved a self-powered rail cart, a watch outfitted with a GPS device and a mile-long tunnel dug into the shower of his cell.

A dual U.S.-Mexican citizen, Ms. Coronel has, like her husband, long been a figure of public fascination, a role that she has often stoked by her lavish lifestyle and her laissez-faire attitude toward paparazzi. At her sentencing hearing in Federal District Court in Washington, she expressed “true regrets” for her crimes and begged Judge Rudolph Contreras to ignore the fact that she was the wife of an infamous drug lord.

“Perhaps because of this, there is reason for you to be harder on me,” Ms. Coronel said. “But I pray that you do not do that.”

While it is unusual for law enforcement to go after the spouses of drug-world figures, prosecutors at Mr. Guzmán’s trial offered substantial evidence that Ms. Coronel, while still in her 20s, was deeply enmeshed in her husband’s criminal business.

They introduced BlackBerry messages, for instance, that made clear that she had helped Mr. Guzmán conduct his illicit operations, sometimes alongside her own father, Inés Coronel Barreras, who was one of her husband’s top lieutenants and was taken into custody in 2013 in Mexico.

Other messages indicated that Ms. Coronel was intimately involved not only in Mr. Guzmán’s famous 2015 tunnel escape from Altiplano prison in Toluca, Mexico, but also in helping him to evade capture by American and Mexican authorities after a botched raid in 2012 in the Mexican resort town Cabo San Lucas.

At Mr. Guzmán’s trial, his onetime chief of staff, Dámaso López Núñez, told the jury that Ms. Coronel had sought to help her husband escape from prison yet again after he was recaptured in 2016 and returned to Altiplano. According to Mr. López, Ms. Coronel hatched a plot to bribe Mexico’s top prison official, but Mr. Guzmán was extradited to the United States to stand trial before the plan could be carried out.

As part of her plea deal with the government, Ms. Coronel agreed to turn over about $1.5 million in illicit proceeds from her husband’s illegal operations. While she admitted to helping him move at least 450 kilograms of cocaine, 90 kilograms of heroin and nearly 90,000 kilograms of marijuana into the United States over the years, she still received a relatively light sentence in part because her role in smuggling even that amount of drugs made her a “minimal participant” in a much larger criminal enterprise, according to her plea deal.

“The defendant was not an organizer, leader, boss or other type of manager,” Anthony J. Nardozzi, a federal prosecutor, told the court. “Rather she was a cog in a very large wheel of a criminal organization.”

In the wake of Ms. Coronel’s arrest, there was widespread speculation that she — like so many of Mr. Guzmán’s former allies — had decided to cooperate with U.S. authorities against other members of the organization he once led, the Sinaloa drug cartel. But in court papers filed this month, prosecutors said she had helped the government only in the prosecution of her own case.

Ms. Coronel’s lawyer, Jeffrey Lichtman, called the allegations that she had cooperated with the government “garbage,” adding that they had put his client’s life in danger. “I don’t know if she can ever go back to her home in Mexico,” Mr. Lichtman said.

The Sinaloa cartel remains one of Mexico’s most powerful criminal mafias, even in Mr. Guzmán’s absence. It is said to be run by an uneasy alliance of his sons, one of his brothers and his longtime partner, Ismael Zambada García, all of whom have been indicted in the United States.

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U.S. Removes Colombia’s FARC Rebel Group From Terrorist List

WASHINGTON — The State Department removed the Revolutionary Forces of Colombia from its list of foreign terrorist organizations on Tuesday, as many of the group’s former commanders have turned to conventional politics after a decades-long conflict.

In a statement, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said the group, known as FARC, had “formally dissolved and disarmed” and “no longer exists as a unified organization that engages in terrorism or terrorist activity or has the capability or intent to do so.”

The move, which drew criticism from several prominent Republicans, is a sign of the Biden administration’s support for a fragile peace deal that the Colombian government signed with the FARC in November 2016. The agreement officially ended a five-decade conflict in which the U.S. military backed the government against a left-wing fueled insurgency that was funded by the drug trade. The fighting left more than 220,000 people dead.

Colombia had urged Washington for years to remove the FARC from its official list of terrorist groups, and Mr. Blinken said in his statement that the shift would allow the United States to “better support implementation of the 2016 accord, including by working with demobilized combatants.” Many of the FARC’s former top military commanders are now prominent politicians.

Under the deal, more than 13,000 FARC rebels agreed to lay down their arms in return for more government investment in neglected rural areas. But implementation of the accord has been shaky. Government aid has been slow to materialize in remote areas, and pockets of armed rebels carry on their fight.

After a helicopter carrying Colombia’s president, Iván Duque, was attacked in July, the government arrested 10 former FARC rebels and charged them with attempted assassination and a car bombing at a military base.

Mr. Blinken said two rebel groups formed by former FARC commanders who refused to demobilize were designated terrorist organizations. Segunda Marquetalia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia — People’s Army, or FARC-EP, are responsible for armed attacks, assassinations and hostage-takings, he said.

The United States also designated several leaders of the two groups as terrorists.

Some Republicans have criticized the Biden administration’s decision to remove the FARC’s terrorist group designation. After the planned action was first reported last week by The Wall Street Journal, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Representative Mike McCaul of Texas, called the move “an exercise in appeasement.”

FARC members “have not exercised remorse or acts of contrition for their ongoing narco-terrorism against innocent Colombians & Americans,” Mr. McCaul wrote on Twitter.

“President Biden’s decision to remove the FARC from the State Department’s list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations will embolden terrorist groups throughout Latin America, empower narco-traffickers and pave the way for Castro-chavismo in Colombia,” Florida’s Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, said in a statement.

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Barbados Drops the Queen and Becomes a Republic

In the early hours of Tuesday, at a ceremony attended by hundreds of masked officials, a prince and at least one pop star, the Caribbean island of Barbados became a republic, cutting ties with Queen Elizabeth II and casting off the last major vestige of its colonial past.

The nation swore in its first president, Sandra Mason, a former governor general who had been appointed by the queen. A 21-gun salute rang out as the national anthem played. The red, yellow and navy blue royal flag was lowered — exactly 55 years after the country gained independence from Britain.

“Today, debate and discourse have become action,” Ms. Mason, 72, told the onlookers gathered in the capital, Bridgetown. “Today, we set our compass to a new direction.”

Ms. Mason received a majority vote in Parliament in October to take on the role. In a speech afterward, Prime Minister Mia Mottley said: “We believe that the time has come for us to claim our full destiny. It is a woman of the soil to whom this honor is being given.”

The island nation, a democracy of about 300,000 people, announced in September that it would remove Queen Elizabeth as head of state, the latest Caribbean island to do so. It joined Guyana, which gained independence in 1966 and became a republic in 1970; Trinidad and Tobago, which became independent in 1962 and a republic in 1976; and Dominica, which gained full independence as a republic in 1978.

Australia, Canada, Jamaica, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea are among the nations that still call the queen their head of state. Barbados will remain part of the Commonwealth, a voluntary association of 54 countries with roots in the British Empire.

On Tuesday, thousands celebrated across Barbados as nearly 400 years of British rule ended.

In the audience to witness the uncoupling in Bridgetown was a representative of Britain: Prince Charles, Elizabeth’s eldest son and heir. He received the Order of Freedom of Barbados.

In a speech, Charles delivered a message from his mother, conveying the “warmest good wishes.” He also congratulated Barbadians and said, “From the darkest days of our past, and the appalling atrocity of slavery, which forever stains our history, the people of this island forged their path with extraordinary fortitude.”

“Tonight you write the next chapter of your nation’s story,” he added. “You are the guardians of your heritage.”

Also among the crowd was the global pop star Rihanna. During the ceremony, the singer, who was born Robyn Rihanna Fenty in Barbados, was declared a national hero.

She received the honor, Prime Minister Mottley said, for commanding “the imagination of the world” with her excellence, creativity, discipline and, “above all else, her extraordinary commitment to the land of her birth.”

“May you continue to shine like a diamond,” Ms. Mottley added.

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