many of the same ships have recently started trading Venezuelan oil that is under U.S. sanctions.

The spread of AIS manipulation by E.U.-registered vessels shows how advances in technology allow some shipowners to earn windfall profits from commodities under sanction while benefiting from European financial services and legal safeguards.

Cyprus’s deputy shipping minister, Vassilios Demetriades, said illegal manipulation of on-ship equipment is punishable by fines or criminal penalties under the island’s laws. But he has downplayed the problem, saying AIS’s “value and trustworthiness as a location device is rather limited.”

According to Cyprus’s corporate documents, Reliable belongs to a company owned by Christos Georgantzoglou, 81, a Greek businessman. The ship crossed the Atlantic for the first time shortly after Mr. Georgantzoglou’s company bought it last year, and has transmitted locations around eastern Caribbean Islands since, according to Windward’s analysis.

But Venezuela’s state oil company records reviewed by The New York Times show that Reliable was working for the Venezuelan government in the country during that time.

Mr. Georgantzoglou and his company did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Their Venezuelan dealings appear to contradict a promise made by Greece’s powerful shipowners association in 2020 to stop transporting the country’s oil. The association did not respond to requests for comment.

Meanwhile, Reliable is still moving fuel around Venezuelan ports or loading crude onto Asia-bound ships in open waters to hide its origin, according to two Venezuelan oil businessmen, who asked not to be named for security reasons. It still broadcasts coordinates of a ship adrift in the Caribbean Sea.

Adriana Loureiro Fernandez and Eric Schmitt contributed reporting.

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Ukraine Steps Up Strikes in the South

Credit…Iranian Army, via Associated Press

Iran delivered to Russia the first batch of two types of military drones this month as part of a larger order totaling hundreds of the aerial war machines, according to an Iranian adviser to the government and two U.S. administration officials who were not authorized to speak on the record.

American officials said Russia could deploy the Iranian-made drones in its war against Ukraine to conduct air-to-surface attacks, carry out electronic warfare and identify targets.

Iran has officially said that it would not provide either side of the conflict with military equipment but has confirmed that a drone deal with Russia was part of a military agreement that predated the invasion of Ukraine.

Over several days in August, Russian transport aircraft loaded the drone equipment at an airfield in Iran and subsequently flew to Russia, according to the two U.S. officials.But the first shipments of Iranian-supplied drones, the American officials said, have had mechanical and technical problems.

The drone shipment, and the mechanical problems, was earlier reported by The Washington Post.

Iran’s military deal with Russia is part of a larger strategy by the Islamic Republic to pivot toward forming strategic economic partnerships with China and security partnerships with Russia.

This shift, analysts say, accelerated after President Donald J. Trump exited the nuclear deal and imposed tough sanctions on Iran. European companies, fearing secondary sanctions by the United States, then ended nearly all business transactions and investments with Iran, prompting the country to look east and north.

“From Iran’s perspective, relations with the U.S. cannot be improved, and the Europeans are not powerful enough to protect Iranian interests,” said Sina Azodi, a nonresident fellow with the Atlantic Council, an international affairs research institute. “But Russia and China can help Iran counter the West.”

Russia, for its part, has found a welcome new ally in Iran to help it evade the sanctions imposed by much of the world after its invasion of Ukraine. President Vladimir V. Putin traveled to Iran in July to meet with the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and other senior officials.

The two types of drones being provided to Russia are the Iranian-manufactured Mohajer-6 and Shahed series. Russian operators are receiving training on the drones in Iran, according to the Iranian adviser and American officials familiar with the transfer.

The Mohajer-6 has the capability to carry out surveillance and reconnaissance missions, and the Shahed series is considered among the most capable of Iran’s military drones, according to comments made by the Iranian military to local news media.

Iran is a pioneer in drone technology, with at least four decades of design and manufacturing experience, and it has been providing combat drones to military groups and proxy militia in Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Gaza.

Officials in Israel, the United States and some Sunni Arab countries like Saudi Arabia have said they are increasingly concerned that Iran’s advancing drone technology could destabilize the region and empower militias backed by Iran.

In the shadow war between Iran and Israel, Iranian drones have been involved in attacks on ships and have targeted U.S. military bases in Iraq and Syria. Israel has also attacked a secret facility in western Iran where hundreds of drones were believed to have been stored.

Iran has quietly ramped up its drone sales far beyond the region as it seeks to be a global player in the drone market. Iran has sold drones to Ethiopia, Sudan and Venezuela; in May, it inaugurated a joint drone-manufacturing factory in Tajikistan.

The United States has been warning since last month that Russia intended to receive drones from Iran. The Russian military is experiencing major supply shortages in Ukraine, in part because of sanctions and export controls, forcing Russia to rely on countries like Iran for supplies and equipment.

The terms of the Iran-Russia drone deal were not immediately clear. The adviser to the government said no money had yet been exchanged.

Iran’s foreign minister, Hossein Amir Abdollahian, will travel to Moscow on Wednesday to meet his Russian counterpart, Sergey V. Lavrov, to discuss the latest negotiations for a nuclear deal, Iran’s foreign ministry announced on Monday.

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Rising dollar may stymie Venezuela’s efforts to combat inflation

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CARACAS, Aug 25 (Reuters) – Efforts by the administration of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to tamp down inflation by increasing supplies of foreign currency may be at risk amid economic growth after years of stagnation, analysts said.

Maduro’s government has succeeded in lowering consumer price growth, which was 137% year-on-year through July, by increasing the supply of foreign cash in local banks, limiting the expansion of credit, reducing public spending and increasing taxes.

But in recent weeks the central bank has sold fewer dollars and the government has increased spending, raising demand and sending the official dollar exchange rate soaring by 21.7% in six days.

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“It’s impossible to think of exchange stability with the level of prices in Venezuela,” said economist Luis Arturo Barcenas. “The balance between the official rate and the non-official one was very fragile because it was based on the injection of foreign currency.”

The central bank on Wednesday proposed a new strategy to deal with demand for dollars, asking banks to share the foreign currency figure needed by businesses and propose an exchange rate that will then be evaluated by the government, two sources said.

The central bank did not respond to a request for comment.

“The changes this week (in the dollar) have been very strong and those who are disadvantaged are those of us who earn bolivares,” said 62-year-old snack seller Alicia Rodriguez, who feared the cost of her merchandise may increase by up to 30%.

The minimum wage in local currency is equivalent to some $19 per month.

Venezuela’s economy grew 17.04% year-on-year in the first quarter of 2022, the central bank said on Tuesday. read more

“All the indicators show progress in the first half of the year,” said economist Leonardo Vera, referring to food production, tax collection and other indicators.

But oil production may stagnate in the coming months, he added, which would diminish growth.

Faced with lower oil production and U.S. sanctions, Maduro in 2019 relaxed currency controls, breathing new life into certain sectors.

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Reporting by Mircely Guanipa, Vivian Sequera and Mayela Armas
Writing by Julia Symmes Cobb
Editing by Matthew Lewis

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Venezuelan Migrants Faced Dangerous Journey To Flee Country

Hundreds of asylum-seeking migrants continue arriving in New York City in what has become a crisis in the big apple.

Michel, a Venezuelan migrant, says leaving Venezuela with his wife and five children was not an easy decision. 

“When you make the decision to leave your country, it is not easy for us. It is not easy,” said Michel.  

Francelys Guedez says she didn’t want to see her 12 year-old son continue living under a dictatorship in Venezuela. 

“I don’t want the dictatorship that exists in my country to live,” said Guedez. 

Michel Sagues is a Venezuelan migrant. 

“I regretted it after being there,” said Sagues. 

For Sagues, the dangers he and his family could encounter on their journey gave them pause about leaving Venezuela. But home was too far away to turn back, and the future of his 20-month-old son was in his hands. 

All of these parents are bound by the same conviction: their love for their children. 

And they are some of more than 6,300 migrants seeking asylum in New York City in recent weeks.

“They already asked me for some documents, I think for registration,” said Sagues. 

Michel says he started the process of enroll his five children in school. 

But for all of the migrants, language is a major obstacle. 

NEWSY’S AXEL TURCIOS: How was the process when you tried to enroll your child in school?

MICHEL SAGUES: To be honest, it was a bit complicated because the school district doesn’t have many people on staff who speak Spanish. I think one of the staff got kind of annoyed because he couldn’t understand me, and I wasn’t able to understand him. 

The New York City Department of Education announced Project Open Arms, a support plan for asylum-seeking families. 

It’s a program that allocates more bilingual staff to help these migrants enroll their children in schools. 

However, Murad Awawdeh, the executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition, says the Department of Education needs to do more. 

“We need them to take this on more aggressively to ensure that the students are not just getting the basic educational supports in school, but that they’re also getting the services in school that are going to help them continue to succeed in the educational environment,” said Awawdeh. 

The migrants are being bused to New York City from the Texas-Mexico border by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. 

Abbott has acknowledged it’s a protest against what he calls President Joe Biden’s out-of-control border policies overwhelming Texas communities. 

And it’s targeting Democratic city mayors like Eric Adams in New York City. 

“Texas Gov. Abbott is using asylum seekers as political pawns in his efforts to build his own profile across the nation and also to get his poll numbers to increase in the state of Texas,” said Awadeh. 

Most of the migrants are from Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador and Cuba and crossed the Darién Gap, a lawless stretch of dangerous, mountainous rainforest standing across Colombia and Panama.  

Jaison Manrrique crossed the region with his five-year-old daughter and wife.

“As a father I never thought to put my daughter through those conditions, sleeping on the bank of a river without knowing if in the early morning the water level was going to rise and drag us,” said Manrrique.  

According to UNICEF, at least 5,000 children entered the jungle between January and June 2022. 

“In the group that came behind us, there were many women, and they were all raped. Even 13-, 14-year-old girls who came in the group were raped. The men in the group were beaten,” said Guedez.  

After crossing the Mexico border into Texas, the migrants say they were seeking asylum, which allows them to legally stay in the U.S. before seeing a judge.

Immigration Attorney Isadora Velazquez says these migrants go through a process called “credible fear interview.” 

“They determined that this person could qualify for potential asylum. This may also apply to parents that come with their children and even if they have removal orders their children may qualify for a benefit. They don’t want the child to be at burden so the parent might be allowed in,” said Velazquez. 

The immigration attorney says having an asylum claim doesn’t give them automatic benefits.  

“When they do file property, they still have to wait 150 days to get a chance to apply for the work permit. Once they apply for a work permit the average wait is at least three months,” said Velazquez. 

Without a work permit, they can not legally work in the country.

In the meantime, five-year-old Jaisbeli Manrrique knows what she wants. 

She wishes to go to school and learn English. 


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129 More Migrants Arrive In New York City From Texas

The New York City mayor’s office says 129 people arrived at the Port Authority Bus Terminal Wednesday looking for asylum in the U.S.

Dozens of migrants continue to arrive in Washington D.C. and New York City by bus, being shipped from Texas by Gov. Greg Abbott as a protest to what he has called President Joe Biden’s “irresponsible open border policies.” 

Visibly exhausted, dozens of migrants — adults, children, babies — waited for help at a bus station in midtown Manhattan after the three-day, hundreds-of-miles-long trip.

Most of them are from Venezuela, Cuba, Colombia, Haiti or West Africa.

Pedro Gutierrez is one of the thousands. He arrived in Manhattan last week. He says it took him almost two months to make it to the U.S.-Mexico border after he left Venezuela. He described crossing a jungle where he feared for his life, witnessing death, abuse and robberies to migrants.

Gutierrez planned for Miami, Florida to be his destination, but authorities in Texas told him he was going to get the help in New York to travel to south Florida.

A week later, however, he’s still in New York.

Manuel Castro, commissioner of the New York City Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, says the mayor is concerned about the treatment migrants are receiving on these long trips.

“Gov. Abbott is weaponizing the situation, and he’s using human beings to make a political statement,” Castro said. “We were learning that there’s armed security on these buses. Apparently, the state of Texas has hired a private security firm. People need to be treated with dignity, with humanity.”

Castro says the Texas governor’s move is meant to keep migrants from hopping off the buses before they arrive in New York.

The New York City mayor accuses the Texas authorities of forcing migrants into the “Big Apple” when in some cases their final destination is another state.

“They’re asked to sign these documents under duress that say that they want to come to New York and that they waive certain rights, and people don’t know exactly what they’re signing off,” Castro said.

In Texas, the governor’s office says the migrants are traveling to New York voluntarily. However, Gov. Abbott also recently announced he was busing migrants from the Mexican border to New York City in what he calls a response to the Biden administration’s open border policies overwhelming Texas communities. The migrants are receiving food, clothing, medical care and legal assistance.

“It’s very devastating to see small kids making long journeys to the border and then from the border to be bused this way, very troubling,” said Alexander Rapaport, executive director of Masbia Relief Team. “Some people came without any shoes, just barefoot.”

The migrants released from federal custody after they crossed the border were able to avoid deportation — for now. They are given paperwork allowing them to remain in the U.S. and ordering them to appear before a judge to make their case for asylum.

Castro told Newsy they have assembled a group of immigration lawyers ready to assist the migrants. 

Some of them have upcoming court appearances in other states and were brought to New York City instead, so if they decide they want to remain in the state, they have to change their court dates. But for those who will continue their journey, local organizations are offering financial support to purchase their travel tickets.


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