In Honduras, US Envoy Haley Tempers Trump Threat Over Drug Trafficking

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley pledged on Tuesday to raise the problem of drug trafficking at the United Nations after visiting Honduras and Guatemala this week and appeared to finesse a threat made by President Donald Trump to cut aid over the flow of drugs into the United States.

Trump this month criticized countries he did not name for “pouring drugs” into the United States and called for aid to be stopped. Trump made his remarks after a U.S. Customs and Border Protection official told him cocaine was primarily coming from Colombia and Peru, trafficked through Mexico and Central America.

“It’s everywhere and everyone’s feeling it,” said the usually tough-talking Haley, a former South Carolina governor, while in the Honduran capital Tegucigalpa on Tuesday.

“It is a conversation that needs to be taking place internationally.” Haley said. “We can’t just focus on the countries producing it, we do have to focus on the countries moving it and are we doing enough in the international community to stop it.”

As a high-profile cabinet member — in a role that has traditionally been shadowed by the secretary of state — Haley’s first visit to Central America is also shedding light on U.S. foreign policy for the second year of Trump’s administration.

“This is the year of the Americas,” Haley told reporters after meeting with Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez.

“You will see multiple members of the president’s cabinet making visits to Latin America to really talk about … what else we can be doing and how else we can be partnering.”

Her trip follows a visit by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to Peru and Colombia earlier this month.

Haley held up Colombia as an example for other countries in the region on how to tackle the drug problem and said she would discuss how that could be mirrored throughout the region with counterparts at the United Nations.

She said Hernandez did not mention Trump’s remarks about drug trafficking during their meeting.

She also praised Hernandez — and plans to do the same with Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales on Wednesday — for their opposition to a U.N. General Assembly resolution in December that called for Washington to drop its recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

“That was one that was not an easy decision for any country to have to vote on. But the people of Honduras stood with us in being able to make that decision for ourselves,” Haley told reporters as Hernandez stood beside her.

Guatemala and Honduras were among eight countries — and the only nations in the Americas — to vote no with the United States to reject the U.N. resolution, which was adopted with the support of more than 120 countries.

Hernandez said he had not yet decided on whether to move the Honduran embassy to Jerusalem, a move that Guatemala has said it would make. When asked if he expected anything from the United States in return for the support of Honduras on the issue, he said: “No, not at all, the same treatment as a sovereign nation.”

 

Ministry: Brazil’s Federal Police Chief Replaced in Fallout Over Interview

Fernando Segovia, the director general of Brazil’s federal police who spearheaded the country’s sprawling corruption cases, was replaced Tuesday, the press office of the newly created Public Security Ministry said in a statement.

Segovia, who took office in November, came under pressure from prosecutors, federal police investigators and local media after he told Reuters in an interview earlier this month that a bribery investigation into President Michel Temer had found no evidence of corruption.

Segovia was told by Raul Jungmann, the former defense minister who on Tuesday was sworn in as minister of public security, that he was being replaced by Rogerio Galloro, who has spent more than two decades with the federal police, including a 2011-2013 stint as the organization’s representative in the United States.

Reuters was not immediately able to contact Segovia for comment.

Brazil’s crackdown on graft in recent years has led to scores of convictions of senior politicians, government officials and corporate executives, inspiring many Brazilians to believe that a longstanding culture of impunity was changing.

It also helped spawn similar crackdowns elsewhere in Latin America.

But criticism of Segovia has been sharp since he was nominated to the position by Temer in November.

Raquel Dodge, Brazil’s top prosecutor, on Monday requested the Supreme Court issue an order to prevent Segovia from interfering in the criminal investigation that could result in new corruption charges against Temer.

Charges against Temer

That request related to the investigation Segovia discussed in his interview with Reuters. Authorities are probing whether Temer accepted bribes in exchange for extending a concession last year for operating services in the Port of Santos, Latin America’s busiest container port.

The port investigation is separate from other corruption cases that have resulted in charges, but no trials or convictions, against Temer.

Congress voted twice to block him from standing trial on those prior charges while in office. Temer could face trial once he leaves the presidency.

Brazil’s former top prosecutor, Rodrigo Janot, under whom the country’s unprecedented anti-corruption push began, told Reuters in a December interview that “Segovia was named to complete a mission — to divert the focus of the investigations.”

Segovia rejected the criticism at that time and said he would strengthen the fight against corruption.

Venezuela Says US Sanctions Hampering Debt Renegotiation

Venezuela’s foreign minister said Tuesday that U.S. sanctions against the ailing oil nation were making foreign debt renegotiation more difficult and causing “panic” at global banks.

Venezuela is undergoing a major economic crisis, with millions dealing with food and medicine shortages, and President Nicolas Maduro’s socialist government is late in paying interest of $1.9 billion on its debt.

The U.S. government imposed financial sanctions on Venezuela in August, prohibiting dealing in new debt from the Venezuelan government or state oil company PDVSA, in an effort to halt financing that Washington said fuels a “dictatorship.”

Venezuela has repeatedly said Washington is trying to force a default.

“The renegotiation of external debt is underway, but it has been made more difficult by U.S. sanctions,” Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza told reporters in Geneva. “It’s incredible how global banks have reacted with panic. If a bank somewhere in the world works with Venezuela, they feel they are going to be sanctioned.”

According to Arreaza, global banks have opted to close accounts belonging to the government, business people and embassies. He added that some U.S. companies were unable to pay for Venezuelan oil.

Earlier this month, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson raised the specter of sanctions on Venezuela’s oil industry. The OPEC nation obtains 95 percent of its export revenue from oil, though production is down significantly in recent months.

“If the international financial system blocks Venezuela, we are working with Russia, China and Turkey to find new mechanisms,” said Arreaza.

Ambassador’s ‘Diplomacy By Design’ Fashion Event Aims to Change Haiti Narrative

Haiti’s ambassador to Washington, Paul Altidor, has been on a mission to show his native country’s best and brightest side since mid-January, in response to U.S. President Donald Trump’s reported disparaging remarks about Haitian immigrants.

Trump’s reported use of a vulgar term to describe Haiti and African nations angered the Haitian-American community, sparking rallies in Port-au-Prince, New York, Palm Beach and Boston to denounce racism. Altidor said the comments about Haiti “hurt the country.”

“So for those who think Haiti is a sh**hole country, let me tell you, my country is a beautiful country,” Altidor exclaimed to applause and cheers in his opening remarks to the large crowd of Washington locals, Haitian-American celebrities, dignitaries and fashionistas at a recent “Diplomacy by Design” event at the Haitian embassy.

The runway show, held during DC Fashion Week, featured the collections of four of Haiti’s top designers — Victor Glemaud, Prajje Oscar, Azede Jean-Pierre and Kerby Jean-Raymond of Pyer Moss.

“The eyes and ears of the world have been focused on Haiti during the last few weeks,” Altidor noted. “Most of the world has a singular view of our country that we are looking to reshape.”

Haitian flare

Veteran designer Victor Glemaud’s colorful knitwear line in eye popping reds, blues, orange, yellows and fuschia, mixed with black and white separates, were up first. Female and male models turned heads as they strutted down the embassy’s long, winding, red carpeted staircase and into the various rooms where seated guests responded with oohs and aahs.

Glemaud, a Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) graduate who moved to the United States at age 3, began his love affair with knitwear after cutting up his father’s old sweaters. He was one of the 2017 finalists for the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund, an annual competition hosted by the non-profit Council of Fashion Designers of America with the goal of cultivating “the next generation of emerging American design talent.” Glemaud worked for Paco Rabanne, Versace, Marc Jacobs and Helmut Lang before starting his own line.

Women’s wear designer Azede Jean-Pierre, whose fashions were worn by former U.S. first lady Michelle Obama, did not present a runway show but had a few outfits on display in a special room set up by the embassy for guests to see.

“I’m thrilled to be here at the embassy to participate in this event and to show a different Haiti,” Azede told VOA Creole. “I know everyone’s talking about Haiti these days, but we want to show that we have a beautiful country and that there are people who are doing great things. “

Azede, who emigrated to the United States at age 5, said in the fashion world, designers who are unique are sought out, and being Haitian gives her an advantage.

We asked how she came to dress Michelle Obama.

“I sent her a few messages, and then she accepted for me to make her something. I had 10 days to do it,” she said cryptically. “And I completed the outfit, and she liked it. And then she invited us to the White House to talk to children. And I had a second opportunity to dress her, and it was a great experience.”

Kerby Jean-Raymond, whose menswear label is called Pyer Moss, also did not present a runway show, but he made special outfits for the “Diplomacy by Design” event.

Showstopper

The night’s showstopper was women’s wear designer Prajje Oscar, who wowed the audience with his Ezili collection. Elegant hand-beaded floor-length gowns, sexy pantsuits, jumpsuits and knee-length skirts in reds, pinks, whites and turquoise were presented, as traditional Haitian rara music filled the room.

Prajje, who was adopted by a French couple when he was 12 years old and reared in the U.S., has been described as one of Boston’s “most promising young designers.” The Massachusetts College of Art and Design graduate, who holds a degree in fashion design, said he always remained connected to his Haitian roots and wanted to honor that with this collection, which bears the name of the voodoo priestess of art, romance, love and sex.

When Altidor heard about Prajje’s concept for the collection, he said, “You have to make it happen,” the designer recalls.

“This is a way to show that Haiti is not what Donald Trump called us. Perhaps Haiti doesn’t have a Bill Gates – I mean, not people who will say openly they are [as rich as] Bill Gates – but we know there are a lot of rich people in Haiti.”

Prajje said he was in Haiti when the ambassador asked him to participate in the fashion event.

“He asked me, ‘Do you want to [participate]?’ And I said yes. Whatever you’re doing, I support you, Mr. Ambassador. I’ll be there.”

Haitian-American NFL star player Pierre Garcon was one of the ambassador’s celebrity guests. The former Washington Redskin, who currently plays for the San Francisco 49ers, said he was happy to attend the fashion show.

“I was in Miami when I got the call, and I told the ambassador, ‘You know I’ll support you.’ So, here I am.”

Garcon graciously declined to name a favorite among the designers. “I’m not really good at that kind of thing. Just give me a team uniform to wear. That’s the fashion I know best,” he said.

Rave review

A Nigerian-American guest at the embassy, who identified herself as Kydele, acknowledged she was impressed by the show.

“It was fascinating. It really gave you an earful and an eyesight into what Haiti’s all about. And I thank God that DC was able to host that,” she told VOA Creole.

Kydele also spoke about Altidor’s stated goal at the beginning of the evening – to change the Haiti narrative.

“The ambassador has brought on a different perspective about what government is about,” she said. “He’s so open-minded and has his arms open to everyone coming to Haiti. He’s very approachable, so I believe he’s letting us know Haiti welcomes you. Haiti wants you to come, and we’re all one. So, I really felt that with his spirit tonight. “

PM: Macedonia Has Four Options to Resolve Name Dispute With Greece

Macedonia is looking at four options to settle a decades-long dispute with Greece over its name, Prime Minister Zoran Zaev told Reuters in an interview Tuesday.

The small ex-Yugoslav republic and its southern neighbor Greece have agreed to step up negotiations this year to resolve the dispute, which has frustrated Skopje’s ambition to join NATO and the European Union.

Athens, which like all members of both organizations has a veto over admissions, objects to the use of the name Macedonia, arguing that it, along with articles in Skopje’s constitution, could imply territorial claims over a northern Greek region of the same name.

Macedonia hopes the issue can be resolved in time for an EU meeting in June and a NATO summit in July, and is proposing a geographical “qualifier” to ensure there is clear differentiation in the two names.

“The suggestions are Republic of North Macedonia, Republic of Upper Macedonia, Republic of Vardar Macedonia and Republic of Macedonia (Skopje),” Zaev said in a television interview after attending a summit on the Western Balkans in London.

Asked whether Greece would be happy with one of these options he added: “Yes … they have more preferred options and some not so preferred options [in terms of the name].”

He said the question that remained was whether there was “a real need” to change Macedonia’s constitution, something Greece had also asked for in recent months.

Dignity

Greece’s demand for an amendment of references to the “Republic of Macedonia” in the national constitution could prove the toughest issue, although there seems to be some room for maneuver.

The foreign ministers of the two countries are due to hold further talks and Zaev also plans to meet Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in March.

“Of course, we hope we would find a solution [on the constitution]. But we must take care about the dignity and identity of both sides because friends take care of each other,” he said.

Several thousand people gathered in Skopje on Tuesday evening to protest negotiations with Greece. They waved Macedonian flags and held banners reading “Stop Greek racism” and “Stop negotiations.” A Greek flag was set on fire during the protest.

Asked what changes Greece wanted to the name in the constitution and what issues Skopje might have with that, Zaev used the examples of Germany and Greece which also have national variations in their own constitutions.

“We are prepared to do a change [of the constitution],” Zaev said, adding that it would not be by very much “because it is very difficult.”

“They [Greece] don’t have a region of the Republic of Macedonia, they are the Republic of Greece. And inside [our country] how we use it to communicate, from ministries to municipalities and other institutions, is really our right and doesn’t have implications for anybody.”

Referendum

The Macedonian government later said in a statement that Zaev had not stated there could potentially be a small change to the constitution but was referring instead to the broader name issue that had been discussed earlier.

If an agreement between the two countries can be found, Macedonia will hold a referendum to ask its population of around two million to back the change.

“I think if we save dignity — that is the important thing — of course the citizens will support it. Why? Because it is that [on which] depends our integration in NATO and the European Union.”

Ford, Miami to Form Test Bed for Self-driving Cars

Ford Motor Co. is making Miami-Dade County its new test bed for self-driving vehicles.

The automaker and its partners — Domino’s Pizza, ride-hailing company Lyft and delivery company Postmates — are starting pilot programs to see how consumers react to autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicles. Self-driving startup and Ford partner Argo AI already has a fleet of cars in the area making the highly detailed maps that are necessary for self-driving. Ford also will establish its first-ever autonomous vehicle terminal in Miami, where it will learn how to service and deploy its test fleet.

More services will likely be introduced as the partnership goes on, including Chariot, an app-based shuttle service owned by Ford. It’s all part of Ford’s effort to find viable business models for fully autonomous vehicles and get them on the road by 2021.

“This is, I think, the future of any automotive company or mobility company. If a majority of the world’s population is going to be living in cities, we need to understand how to move those people around,” said John Kwant, Ford’s vice president of city solutions, who inked the deal with Miami-Dade.

Ford isn’t the first automaker to run test fleets of autonomous vehicles. General Motors Co. will start testing autonomous vehicles in New York City this year, while Nissan Motor Co. is launching an autonomous taxi service in Yokohama, Japan, next week. Technology companies like Waymo — a division of Google — are also testing self-driving vehicles on public roads in Phoenix, San Francisco and Singapore, among other cities.

But the partnership with a specific metropolitan is less common. Both sides envision a deep relationship where Ford can help Miami-Dade solve specific issues, like how to most efficiently move people from its suburbs to its downtown monorail, and Miami-Dade can offer solutions like dedicated lanes for automated vehicles or infrastructure projects like advanced traffic lights that can send signals to connected cars. 

“We want to be on the forefront of this because we want to give our people choices,” said Carlos Gimenez, the mayor of Miami-Dade County, which is home to 34 cities and 2.7 million people. 

Traffic congestion a concern

Sherif Marakby, Ford’s vice president of autonomous vehicles and electrification, says the company also intends to work closely with local businesses. The company wants to learn, for example, how a florist might use an autonomous delivery vehicle.

“Autonomous vehicle technology is interesting, but it’s a whole lot more interesting with a viable business model,” he said.

The city of Miami is the fifth-most congested in the U.S., according to a recent traffic study by the consulting firm Inrix. After more than a century of selling people vehicles, Kwant says Ford now wants to figure out ways to move people more efficiently in order to cut down on that time in traffic.

Making money

Sam Abuelsamid, a senior research analyst with the consulting firm Navigant Research, says Ford and others must figure out how to make money on self-driving cars.

“If this does take off, if people do adopt automated vehicles and use them for ride-hailing, that’s going to result in a decline in retail vehicle sales,” Abuelsamid said. “They need to figure out, if we’re going to have a decline in the number of vehicles we sell to consumers, how do we keep our business stable?”

Kwant says the testing will also help Ford determine what its future self-driving vehicles need to look like and how they must perform.

“If you don’t have steering wheels, how do you begin to use that package space? How do you begin to look different in terms of carrying more people?” he said.

Ford won’t say how many vehicles it will have on the road in Miami-Dade, but says it will be Ford’s largest test bed for autonomous vehicles by the end of this year. 

Backup safety drivers

All of the vehicles will have backup safety drivers. Domino’s experimental vehicles aren’t even technically autonomous; they’re equipped to be, but for now they have actual drivers. The windows are blacked out so customers can experience how to get pizza from the car without dealing with a person.  

Miami will give Ford new challenges. Previously, it tested Domino’s cars in suburban Michigan, where parking wasn’t an issue. But in busy Miami Beach, the cars will have to figure out where they can go to allow apartment-dwellers to safely retrieve their pizzas. An autonomous delivery vehicle from Postmates might have to switch between Spanish and English commands when it picks up a meal and delivers it to a customer. Self-driving Lyft vehicles will be tasked with mapping out the best places to wait for customers without causing more traffic headaches.

Kwant says Ford will announce more city partnerships as this year progresses. But Miami-Dade was a natural, since it has good weather, lots of different urban and suburban terrain and support from Gimenez and other government leaders.

Cheaper and safer

Gimenez, who began talking to Ford in 2017 at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, says he’s not worried about consumer acceptance of self-driving cars. He thinks his community will embrace them as companies prove that shared autonomous vehicles can be cheaper and safer than regular ones.

Gimenez says self-driving vehicles also can potentially improve traffic flow without significant new investments in roadways. They can travel more closely together, for example, because they’re always watching the car in front of them and can brake automatically.

“That’s why I’m really high on this technology,” he said.

 

 

 

Mexico City ‘Much Better Prepared’ for Earthquakes, Mayor Says

Five months after a large earthquake shook Mexico City, the capital is better prepared to deal with future tremors and is focused on tightening up building codes and improving its emergency response, said Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera.

Improving air quality in the city of over 21 million people and securing enough water to supply the population remain chronic problems, he said, as do cleaning up dirty industries and switching to greener energy supplies.

“It’s a city that has to become more resilient to earthquakes … the city is responding well, it’s much better prepared,” Mancera told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“The city’s strengthening itself … economically, preparing funds, creating insurances, but also implementing stricter construction rules because we know it could shake again.”

Residents had just a few seconds warning of the 7.1 magnitude tremor that struck the nearby state of Morelos on September 19 killing more than 330 and damaging 11,000 homes in the capital and surrounding states.

Demolishing damaged properties and rebuilding were slow processes, said Mancera, adding the city still needed to boost its civil protection and was writing a new emergency response plan drawing on its experiences of September’s quake.

“The reconstruction is not fast – it is not from one day to another. I said that this reconstruction could take the city five or six years,” Mancera said on the sidelines of a Women4Climate conference in the city on Monday.

Improving air quality remains a key priority, said Mancera in an interview held in the city center museum, as Greenpeace activists outside carried a banner reading “In Mexico City the air is killing us.”

Cleaning up industry remains a major hurdle, as does plugging the leaks responsible for the loss of at least 35 percent of the city’s water as it travels through 12,000 km (7,500 miles) of pipes, he said.

Engineers are drilling 2-kilometer-deep wells to find new water sources, said Mancera, who noted greater investment in the network and more water reuse could alleviate shortages.

Despite the lack of water in the capital – where aquifer depletion is causing subsidence – Mancera dismissed any possibility that Mexico City could run dry and face its own “day zero” like South Africa’s Cape Town.

“I don’t think we’ll reach ‘day zero’ but we need more investment and we also need to reuse water – it’s another very important point that should be on government agendas,” he said.

 

Britain Hit by ‘Beast From the East’ Blizzards

Snow fell over swaths of Britain on Tuesday as freezing weather dubbed “the Beast from the East” swept in from Siberia, forcing some schools to close and snarling the travel plans of thousands.

Parts of eastern Britain have seen up to 10 cm (4 inches) of snow this week and temperatures could fall towards minus 10 Celsius in some rural areas, Britain’s weather service said.

“Bitterly cold easterly winds maintain their grip across the U.K. and we will see further snow showers in some places,” said Aidan McGivern, a meteorologist at the Met Office. “It is bitterly cold out there.”

Train services and some flights were cancelled while police warned drivers to take care as they battled blizzards and ice.

In London, snow covered some parts of Westminster and a blizzard briefly swept through the Canary Wharf financial district.

The freezing weather was expected to last for the rest of the week.

 

Polish President Visits Jewish Center Amid Holocaust Dispute

Poland’s president visited a Jewish community center Tuesday amid an upsurge of domestic anti-Semitism and international criticism of a new law that makes it a crime to blame Poland for the Holocaust crimes of Nazi Germany.

In a conciliatory gesture, President Andrzej Duda visited the Jewish Community Center in Krakow, the southern Polish city that was home to a vibrant Jewish community before it was decimated during World War II.

Elderly Holocaust survivors gather at the center, but it also houses a nursery and preschool – a reflection of the re-emergence of a Jewish population in Poland.

During his visit, Duda stressed his appreciation for Jewish culture and its role in Poland.

“Many people in Poland’s culture, (like) wonderful poets with Jewish roots, had a great contribution to what we today call Poland,” Duda said.

The new law, which allows prison sentences of up to three years for falsely attributing the Holocaust crimes of occupying German Nazis to Poles, has angered Israeli officials. Their vocal opposition sparked anti-Jewish remarks in Poland’s public media by some right-wing commentators and elected officials.

“Anti-Semitism must be fought on the social and on the state level,” Duda said at the center.

Polish officials have said the law was needed to fight untrue statements about Poland’s part as a state in the Holocaust. Critics in Israel say it could stifle research and have alleged it is an attempt to whitewash the wartime deeds of some Poles who turned against their Jewish neighbors.

Duda expressed hope that the “dissonance, not a crisis” with Israel will be resolved. He said he thinks the bilateral relations laboriously built in the decades since Poland became a democracy won’t suffer.

“It is a heartache to think that anything of that could be lost,” Duda said.

A team of Polish historians is traveling to Israel Wednesday to discuss the law. The Israeli and Polish prime ministers agreed in January that such a meeting could help reduce tensions over the law.

“The purpose of the dialogue is preserving historical truth and preventing damage to freedom of research and speech,” the Israeli Foreign Ministry said.

In a tweet marking the anniversary of the rekindling of official bilateral ties in 1990, the Israeli Embassy in Warsaw said it was “looking to the future with hope for the return of a constructive cooperation and a friendly dialogue.”

‘Disagree’ Banned on China Social Media

Authorities in China have launched an intense crackdown on online commentary in the wake of a proposal by the country’s communist party leaders to amend the constitution and scrap a two-term limit on the president’s time in office.

A wide range of phrases in Chinese have been banned such as “constitutional amendments,” “constitution rules,” “emigration” and “emperor.” Even the phrase “I disagree” has been blocked from China’s SinaWeibo social media site.

Many were caught off guard by the announcement and the response online has been persistent, despite efforts to silence the debate.

The announcement comes a little more than a week ahead of meetings for China’s rubber-stamp legislature, the National People’s Congress. During the gathering, which wraps up around mid-March, the proposal is widely expected to become China’s new reality.

And while party backed media have said the amendments have the public’s broad support, clearly there is much more to the debate than the communist party is letting on.

On social media, some phrases and comments were taken down shortly after they were posted. However, phrases in Chinese such as “lifelong tenure,” “emigration” and “disagree” are blocked immediately when a user attempts to post the phrase.

Of those posts that managed to make it past authorities’ dragnet, some called the decision to allow Xi Jinping to stay in office indefinitely a “step backward,” others argued that China is becoming more like North Korea.

In one comment, a user said: “5,000 years of civilization and in one night, a step backwards 5,000 years.”

For some critics, the proposal to allow Xi to stay in office indefinitely and scrap what has become a predictable system of two five-year terms, marks a worrisome return to the days of Mao Zedong. Some argue the move is a sign that Xi may want to become emperor for life.

On the streets in Beijing, those we spoke with, who were willing to talk — despite the sensitivity of the issue — voiced similar concerns.

“It was a very sudden and bold move that has raised many questions and concerns and there are some who cannot understand,” why the change is needed, said one man surnamed Ding, who works in the finance sector.

Ding said China’s communist party leaders need to answer the public’s questions and concerns and clarify whether the move is meant to give Xi lifelong tenure or just to allow him to stay in office a little longer.

“The public will undoubtedly draw comparisons and have thoughts about what is happening now and China under the leadership of Mao Zedong,” Ding said.

One said emigration was something he was now considering. Others said they were taking a wait and see approach, and that they were willing to see how Xi used his extra time in office to promote more difficult reforms.

One woman surnamed Gan, an unemployed petitioner, said more time in office could be a good thing.

“If a leader is constantly being changed every two to three years, can they really do a good job and be responsible? If a leader can really focus on his work more can get done,” Gan said.

But now, given that the proposal is unlikely to be stopped, that is something that will only become clearer over time.

The New York-based rights advocacy group Freedom House warns that the end of term limits is a sign that stepped up control and repression under Xi is likely to worsen.

And the implications are both regional and global.

In a statement, Freedom House President Michael Abramowitz said, “the decision sends a chilling message to democratic voices in Hong Kong and to Taiwan, both of which have come under intense pressure from Beijing.

He said it also “signals that Beijing’s drive to create a new world order in which democratic institutions and norms play little or no role will be accelerated.”

Party controlled media in China have rejected suggestions that the proposed amendments mean Xi is aiming to become China’s next emperor or its leader for life.

Willy Lam, a veteran China watcher based in Hong Kong said that it looks like Xi will at least stay on for a third term until 2028, and perhaps one more until 2033 if health permits. At that point, Xi would be 80 years old.

Yang Kai-huang, head of Ming Chuan University’s Cross-Strait Research Center in Taiwan said that Xi does not strike him as someone who wants to repeat the mistakes of Mao, nor is he someone who wants to honor the two-term limit former leader Deng Xiaoping established.

“Judging from Xi’s past traits, the abolishment [of term limits] may have paved an easy path for Xi to seek his third term, but I don’t think Xi wants to be an emperor for life,” Yang said.

Xi is impatient and eager to get things done and put his own thoughts of governance into practice, Yang adds. And that’s why the announcement of the constitutional amendment package was so sudden.

Allen Ai contributed to this report.