Wednesday, May 20, 2015

MIDDLE EAST SECURITY EXPERT INTENDS TO SECURE ALL U.S. PUBLIC SCHOOLS

MIDDLE EAST TRAINED THREAT ASSESSMENT SPECIALIST INTENDS TO SECURE ALL U.S. PUBLIC SCHOOLS

May 20,2015 (datsyn.com) - LOS ANGELES, CA – RyPul Threat Assessments has partnered with U.S. bullet proof product manufacturing companies to develop effective bullet resistant products to protect local schools. THE NEW PUBLIC SCHOOL HERO - RyPul Threat Assessments comes to Southern California
Warren Pulley is the owner of RyPul Threat Assessments, which specializes in assisting clients in learning how to defend and protect themselves on their campuses, workplaces or residences. Pulley believes this is much a needed service in Southern California, the United States and around the world.  As a Certified Worldwide Protection Specialist, trained by the U.S. State Department, Los Angeles Police Department and the U.S. Military, Pulley has worked in high threat environments around the world. Through RyPul Threat Assessments Pulley has now brought his skills home from the war zone and other high threat areas into our schools, residences and businesses near you. Pulley stated “as our country continues to experience the pains of school shootings, take-over robberies and work place violence involving guns, I decided that I needed to share my experience, training and expertise with anyone ready to take defense of themselves, their students, their homes, their businesses and employees to the next level”.
RyPul Threat Assessments motto is “Detect, Design, and Defend
RyPul Threat Assessments has taken on several clients in Southern California since opening for business, RyPul has also partnered with a national bulletproof fabrication companies to help design cost effective bulletproof products for clients at all levels and financial means.  As the owner of RyPul Threat Assessments, Pulley has also appeared on network television, been interviewed by several regional media newspapers and visited local area schools to speak with students, teachers and administrators about the importance of being aware of security threats that may affect their environment. “
RyPul specializes in conducting School Threat Assessments, Residential Security Planning, Personal Protection Assessments, Site Security Planning, Asset Tagging and Tracking as well as providing physical Risk Mitigation Options.  RyPul Threat Assessments can be found on the Web at www.rypulassessments.com, also see RyPul’s blog at www.rypulassessments.blogspot.com.

Contact Details:

Name:Warren Pulley
Position:Media Contact
Company:RyPul Threat Assessments
Email:contact@rypulassessments.com
Country:United States of America
Website:http://www.rypulassessments.com
Contact No.:(951) 818-2005

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Brazil Arrests Police Following Soccer Club Massacre

The arrests of one current and one former police officer in connection to a recent soccer club massacre in São Paulo, Brazil add a new twist to an incident allegedly tied to the PCC criminal group. 
On May 7, Brazilian authorities arrested military police member Walter Pereira da Silva and a former member of the same branch Rodney Dias dos Santos. Investigators believe Santos planned and helped carry out the killing of eight soccer club members in April,AFP and NTN24 reported.  
On April 18, according to witnesses, gunmen entered the headquarters of Pavilhão 9, a fan group of soccer team Corinthians. The gunmen reportedly lined up and executed seven club members and wounded another who subsequently died in a hospital from gunshot injuries. 
Police have theorized that the massacre was related to a drug debt or a dispute over where drugs were to be sold, reports said. Santos has a criminal record and is allegedly involved in drug trafficking, while members of the Pavilhão 9 club are suspected of being involved in the drug trade as well as having connections to São Paulo-based criminal group First Capital Command (PCC). 

InSight Crime Analysis

The alleged involvement of a current and former member of the military police is particularly concerning given the force's checkered reputation. A 2014 report found thatmilitary police had killed over 10,000 people in São Paulo state since 1995. The report included allegations of extrajudicial killings and found that nearly 1,900 of the killings that occurred during the period were committed by off-duty officers. These latest arrests raise questions about whether or not a number of other past military police killings could have been drug-related as well. 
The incident also highlights the degree of control the PCC exerts over drug trafficking in São Paulo. According to some reports, the PCC is suspected of having ordered the massacre as a message to other soccer clubs with whom it conducts drug business. If true, this indicates not only that the PCC may have former and current military police members on its payroll, but that the criminal group also felt powerful enough to carry out such a high-profile incident regardless of the potential fallout from authorities. 

Mexico is home to the hemisphere’s largest, most sophisticated and violent organized criminal gangs

Mexico is home to the hemisphere’s largest, most sophisticated and violent organized criminal gangs. These organizations have drawn from Mexico’s long history of smuggling and its close proximity to the United States, the world’s largest economy, to grow into a regional threat. Their networks stretch from Argentina into Canada and Europe. They traffic in illegal drugs, contraband, arms and humans, and launder their proceeds through regional moneychangers, banks and local economic projects. Their armament, training and tactics have become increasingly sophisticated as the Mexican government has ramped up efforts to combat them, and they have faced increased competition within Mexico. They have penetrated the police and border patrols on nearly every level, in some cases starting with recruits for these units. They play political and social roles in some areas, operating as the de facto security forces.

Mexico Factbox

Homicides
Criminal Activities
Drug transit, kidnapping, domestic drug sales, drug production, human trafficking, money laundering
Principal Criminal Groups
ZetasSinaloa CartelGulf CartelFamilia MichoacanaJuarez Cartel, Beltran Leyva Organization (BLO), Knights Templar(Caballeros Templarios)

Geography

With 9,330 km (5,797 miles) of coastline and a 3,141 km (1,952 mile) border with the United States, Mexico has become the gateway for illicit goods and migrants into the world’s largest economy. The country’s mountainous terrain, largely unguarded border with its Central American neighbors, and vast coastlines offer criminal networks numerous smuggling routes for illegal drugs, natural resources, arms and humans.

Criminal Groups

Several large drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) dominate the Mexican underworld. Other, smaller groups traffic contraband, weapons, humans and other illegal goods through and across the country’s borders. These groups operate with the complicity of, and often in conjunction with, government officials and members of the security forces.

Security

Mexico has about 80,000 armed forces and another 370,000 police, split into federal, border, traffic, state and municipal police, although President Enrique Peña Nieto began his presidency by announcing that he would unify the latter two under a single command and would create a national gendarmerie. The police divide their functions between preventative and investigative. Mexico has increased its ties with the United States, although the U.S. drug, customs and intelligence agents have a limited capacity to operate in the neigboring country. The government has a $4 billion annual security budget.
us-
military-aid-colombia-mexico-ca-helmets

History

Mexico’s role in organized crime has been defined by its neighbor’s status as the most powerful consumer economy in the world. The country’s 3,141 km (1,952 mile) border with the United States has long constituted one of the most prolific contraband routes in the world. For two centuries, entrepreneurs and contraband traders have moved goods across the vast, mostly ungoverned territories. Migrants have long crossed the·border, many remaining in places like California where agricultural work was steady.
region-military-vs-social-aid
By the 1960s, illicit drugs like marijuana and then heroin were being produced in Mexico, mostly in·Sinaloa state along the western coast, and smuggled into the southwest of the United States. These patterns repeated themselves on a larger scale as drug traffickers from Colombiamoved their trafficking routes from the Caribbean towards Mexico in the early 1980s.
The shift opened the way for Mexico’s first large drug trafficking organizations. Honduran Juan Ramon Matta Ballesteros, for instance, split his time between Honduras, Colombia and Mexico, providing a bridge between the Medellin Cartel and what would become the Guadalajara Cartel. The Guadalajara Cartel was made up of a tightly knit group of traffickers from·Sinaloa·state. Many were related, by marriage or otherwise, or were acquaintances from small, rural farming towns where marijuana and poppy were cultivated. Under the leadership of Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo, alias "El Padrino," the cartel flourished in the early 1980s, providing the roots for nearly all of today’s drug trafficking activities. Around the same time, Jose·Garcia Abrego, one of the few criminal bosses who did not come from Sinaloa, established his operations in·Tamaulipas state on the Gulf Coast. Garcia·Abrego worked closely with Colombia's·Cali Cartel, rivals to the Medellin Cartel. He also developed powerful political allies, including Raul Salinas de Gortari, the brother of Mexico's future president, Carlos Salinas de Gortari.
The brazen way these drug trafficking organizations operated contributed to their later downfall. An undercover agent from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) infiltrated Abrego’s organization. The agent’s tape recordings would play a major role in the conviction of Abrego years later in a Houston courtroom. In February 1985, Guadalajara Cartel members kidnapped Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent Enrique Camarena, tortured and killed him. The U.S. pressured Mexico to act swiftly, and the traffickers went on the run. During the years that followed, many of them were arrested, including then nominal leader Rafael Caro Quintero, who was detained in Costa Rica in April 1985. Almost exactly four years later, Mexican authorities captured the Guadalajara Cartel head, Felix Gallardo.
From jail, Felix Gallardo attempted to divvy up the territory. There were three major groups: the Tijuana-based Arellano Felix clan; the Juarez-based Carrillo Fuentes clan; and the Sinaloa-based group led by Joaquin Guzman Loera, alias "El Chapo,"·and his partner Hector Luis Palma Salazar, alias "El Güero." The competition among them sparked conflict almost immediately. The Arellano Felix clan and the Sinaloa Cartelbegan a tit-for-tat that included a massacre at a Puerto Vallarta nightclub and the death of a Mexican archbishop who was supposedly mistaken for Guzman. Guzman was arrested shortly thereafter, in 1993, and the Arellano Felix operation flourished.
Still, the most lucrative and powerful of these groups was the Juarez-based cartel led by Amado Carrillo Fuentes, alias "El Señor de los Cielos." Named for his use of airplanes to move product into the United States, his empire rivaled that of his former partner, Pablo Escobar of the Medellin Cartel. For a time, Carrillo Fuentes was able to create a so-called “federation” that kept most of the factions from fighting with one another. But his death in July 1997, following plastic surgery, opened the way for many of his associates to strike out on their own, including the Beltran Leyva clan; Ismael Zambada Garcia, alias "El Mayo;"·and Juan Jose Esparragoza Moreno, alias "El Azul."·Bloodshed inevitably followed, and has continued as the large organizations position and reposition themselves, especially along the U.S.-Mexico border.
In the middle of most of these battles was the Sinaloa Cartel, led by Guzman. The cartel's power stems from its control over marijuana and poppy cultivation in the so-called Golden Triangle, which is made up of Sinaloa, Durango and Chihuahua states; as well as on the cartel's ingenuity and multinational approach. Guzman, for instance, commandeered an entire hangar at the Mexico City airport to serve his interests and built long tunnels into the United States from Mexico to get his product to market. While his 1993 arrest slowed his rise, he remained a force even while behind bars. His brother, Arturo Guzman Loera, alias "El Pollo," took control of the operations. His cohorts, in particular Zambada, the Beltran Leyva clan, and Esparragoza kept him flush with cash. And when it seemed that Guzman might be extradited to face trial in the United States, these allies engineered his escape from a high-security prison in 2001.
The escape set the stage for another “federation,” this time led by Guzman himself. The new "federation" was developed after an meeting in 2002 that included the Beltran Leyva clan, Zambada, Esparragoza and remnants of the Carrillo Fuentes clan in Juarez. It quickly took control of the Arizona-Mexico border area and also competed with the Tijuana faction for control of the Baja California entryway, sparking another round of fighting between Guzman and the Arellano Felix clan. At the same time, the “federation” sought to win corridors in the east from Gulf Cartel, provoking a battle over perhaps the border’s most prized legal passageway, Nuevo Laredo, which plunged that area into violence in 2003-2004.
For its part, the Gulf Cartel had morphed since the arrest of Abrego. The new Gulf Cartelleader, Osiel Cardenas Guillen, alias "El Mata Amigos," had beefed up his own personal security, luring 31 members of Mexico’s special forces into his group in the late 1990s. The new paramilitary group took on the name the Zetas, a reference to their government radio handles, and quickly spread the cartel’s reach using military tactics and macabre displays of force that included beheadings and targeting of rival cartel members' families. The Zetas also trained an upstart group of traffickers in Michoacan state along the eastern seaboard, an important cocaine depot and hub of methamphetamine production long controlled by an organization known as the Milenio group. The new group would soon break out on their own, overtaking both the Milenio organization and their progenitors the Zetas, and calling themselves the Familia Michoacana, the “family” part being a reference to the pseudo-religious philosophy espoused by its leaders. The Familia’s debut: rolling several severed heads into the middle of a crowded night club in 2006.
The breach of the drug traffickers’ “code” changed the fight, and the war among them worsened. Sinaloa responded with their own brand of paramilitary group. Under the leadership of Arturo Beltran Leyva, alias "El Jefe de Jefes," Sinaloa formed gangs and “special forces” that responded in kind to the Zetas’ use of force. The terror inevitably spread, as did the drug traffickers' business interests. Soon both the Zetas and the Familia were into other illicit businesses like kidnappingextortion and piracy.
In the meantime, the large drug trafficking organizations began to fragment. The “federation” split in 2004 when Guzman allegedly ordered a hit on Rodolfo Carrillo Fuentes, alias "El Niño de Oro," the brother of Juarez Cartel leader Vicente Carrillo Fuentes. The Juarez Cartel responded by killing Guzman’s brother, Arturo, who was jailed in a maximum security prison. The fight has trickled into Ciudad Juarez, now considered one of the most dangerous cities in the world, in large part because of the battles between these two drug trafficking organizations.
The traditional cartels also fractured. When authorities arrested the youngest of the Beltran Leyva clan, Alfredo Beltran Leyva, alias "El Mochomo," in January 2008, Alfredo’s older brother, Arturo, blamed Guzman. The Beltran Leyva Organization (BLO) began an all-out battle against Guzman, Zambada and Esparragoza that has left hundreds dead throughout the country. The BLO also allied themselves with their former rivals, the Zetas, who were breaking from their former masters, the Gulf Cartel. The split came to a head in 2010, when the Gulf Cartel killed a Zeta operative and refused to turn over the commander who had carried out the hit. Battles between the Zetas and the Gulf Cartel for control of Tamaulipas and Nuevo Leon have followed. Tijuana was also hit by violence when the the Arellano Felix clan began battling their former top hitman, Teodoro Garcia Simental, alias "El Teo."
The fighting accelerated after the Mexican government developed a policy of taking the battle to the criminal gangs. First the Vicente Fox administration and then the Felipe Calderon administration made it a priority to disrupt drug traffickers’ operations inMexico using more army and police, better intelligence gathering equipment, more training and new laws that gave more tools to the justice system to develop cases against these traffickers. After six years of what became known as "Calderon's War", and over 47,000 organized-crime-related deaths, President Enrique Peña Nieto took office in January 2013 with promises of a paradigm shift. The central tenant of this shift was to focus on crime prevention, in contrast with the reactionary strategy of Calderon.
Since 2002, the Mexican government has arrested or killed several top drug traffickers, among them Osiel Cardenas Guillen, arrested in 2003 and later extradited to the United States; Arturo Beltran Leyva, killed by Mexican marines in December 2009; Teodoro Garcia Simental, arrested in January 2010; Jorge Eduardo Costilla Sanchez, arrested in September 2012; Heriberto Lazcano, killed in October 2012; and Guzman himself, arrested in February 2014 after rising to become the world's most wanted criminal.Mexico has also increased its cooperation with the United States government, which, under the Merida Initiative, is sending almost as much aid to Mexico as to Colombia under Plan Colombia. It has increased the number of extraditions to the United States and is overhauling its justice systems and police units.
In response, the Mexican criminal organizations have adapted. They have positioned themselves throughout the Andes to take advantage of a shakeup in the distribution chain. In Colombia, these Mexican organizations are now negotiating directly with the Colombian cocaine hydrochloride (HCl) providers such as the Rastrojos and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia - FARC). The economics are simple: What is a 20 to 30 percent stake for transporting cocaine from Mexico to the United States becomes a 70 to 80 percent stake by obtaining it at the source. They are also establishing permanent bases in Central America, undermining governments in those smaller, less stable nations. Finally, they are moving into new businesses such as the mass production of synthetic drugs, human trafficking, and kidnapping to make up for lost revenue. Still, the in-fighting continues. And the new alliances -- the Sinaloa-Gulf-Familia (and possibly Tijuana) versus BLO-Zetas-Juarez -- seem as tenuous as the old.

Activities

Drug Trafficking

Mexico has long been a transit country for contraband of all types. It has also produced marijuana and heroin for decades. The two have merged in recent years to makeMexico an epicenter of drug trafficking activity, and the heart of the mega-operations in the region.
colombia-poppy
culltivation
The function as a transit country for mostly cocaine traffickers gave the criminal organizations in Mexico a point of leverage with their sellers that grew with time: since they were taking the risk, they would reap the rewards. Rather than simply providing the transportation service, the Mexican organizations also began to set up their own distribution networks in the United States. Organizations involved in the heroin trade were particularly quick to enter into the cocaine trade because of their experience controlling the entire chain of distribution. The result, some say, was the inevitable transformation of the Mexican transportation network into large, mega-operations that now go all the way to the source countries to obtain cocaine hydrochloride (HCl), therefore gaining more of the profit at the sales point.
Meanwhile, Mexican production of illegal drugs has grown. The U.S. government estimates that poppy production doubled between 2008 and 2009 to 15,000 hectares. And the United Nations says that Mexico, with an estimated 15,000 hectares of illicit poppy cultivation, is now the third largest cultivator in the world after Afghanistan and Myanmar, and the largest in the hemisphere by far. Marijuana production, which began en masse in the 1960s to feed the United States consumption, continues to provide a steady revenue stream for criminal organizations in Mexico. The most recent U.S. estimates say there were 12,000 hectares cultivated in 2009, up 35 percent from 2008.Mexico is also the largest producer of synthetic drugs in the region. Methamphetamine availability is at its highest in five years, the U.S. government said in a recent study, mostly due to the Mexican traffickers' ability to circumvent local laws restricting the importation of the precursors, development of new sources for the precursors, the use of substitute precursors, and the development of large-scale laboratories.

Kidnapping

Mexico has one of the highest kidnapping rates in the world, and the most recent government assessment by a congressional committee indicated that it had increased five-fold in the last five years, with complaints rising from 0.89 per day to 3.72 per day. This, however, does not reflect the true number of kidnappings, which Mexico’s Human Rights Commission says is three times as high. The crime is concentrated in eight states: Chihuahua, Distrito Federal, Baja California, Michoacan, Guanajuato, Guerrero, and Tamaulipas. These eight states are also where many drug trafficking groups operate. However, the congressional study said that the majority of the kidnappers were not linked to major criminal organizations, and 80 percent of them had a job and a family. Twenty percent were members of law enforcement, military or other government entity. The biggest proportion of victims were between 21 and 35 years old.

Human Trafficking

Ninety percent of illegal immigrants going into the United States enter through Mexico. The result, the United Nations says, is a $7 billion market in trafficking people. This lucrative trade has drawn the attention of large criminal organizations in recent years, most notably the feared Zetas drug cartel, which has its base in border states of Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas. International gangs, such as the Mara Salvatrucha 13 or MS-13, also participate in the trade, which specializes in mostly poor Latin American migrants that brave the trip usually using multiple forms of transportation including boats, trains, trucks and on foot.

Money Laundering

The U.S. government estimates that Mexican criminal organizations make between $10 billion and $15 billion annually from drug trafficking alone. Human trafficking is a $7 billion market just in this hemisphere, according to the United Nations, and arms trafficking is a $1 billion market worldwide. Tighter controls and restrictions in the U.S. have it imperative to move money back to Mexico. Mexican cartels also have to move money to source countries. The result is the development of a multiplicity of ways to move money electronically, through moneychangers or via bulk cash shipments in vehicles moving south. Control of this money is more difficult given the numerous ways to camouflage or move it. Once in Mexico, there are less controls, enforcement is more lax and corruption higher, giving the Mexican criminal organizations ample opportunity to hide it in capital investments throughout the country.

Are FARC Rebels Training Mexican Drug Cartels?

Two US intelligence officers have reportedly told a Mexican newspaper members of the Jalisco Cartel were trained by Colombian rebels, which if true could have significant implications on the guerrillas' potential for criminalization should a peace agreement be signed. 
The unidentified government officials reportedlytold Proceso US intelligence reports indicate in recent months the FARC have trained Mexico's Jalisco Cartel - New Generation (CJNG, for its Spanish acronym) and their close ally, Los Cuinis, in remote areas of the Colombian jungle. 
"The reports we obtained in Colombia show various bosses of the Jalisco Cartel - New Generation and Los Cuinis were trained by the FARC in assault tactics [to be used against] members of the military," one official is quoted as saying. 
Another intelligence official reportedly stated the number of cartel members instructed by the FARC amounts to "a few dozen, no more than 50 individuals, perhaps." 
These reports are timely considering the CJNG recently shot down a military helicopter using a rocket-propelled grenade launcher (RPG), an attack that killed eight Mexican soldiers and police officers.

InSight Crime Analysis

If the reports of FARC rebels training Mexican cartels are true, it is unlikely these actions were sanctioned by the guerrilla group's central command, known as the Secretariat. However, it would not be unprecedented for a member of the Secretariat to establish connections with a Mexican drug cartel. Before his death in 2010, the FARC's top military commander, Victor Julio Suarez Rojas, alias "Mono Jojoy," reportedly ordered a FARC doctor to make contacts with Mexico's Tijuana Cartel in 2000. Still, examples ofFARC leadership agreeing to work with Mexican cartels are rare and especially unlikely under Colombia's current political climate.
For over two years the FARC have been engaged in peace talks with the Colombian government, and the Secretariat is unlikely to approve any contacts with Mexican cartels, an action which could antagonize the state and the international community. The peace process suffered a major setback following the killing of 11 soldiers by a FARCmobile column in April, and the rebel's central command would surely face yet more criticism if it were found to have sanctioned the trianing of  Mexican drug cartels. 
This raises the possibility that low-level FARC commanders have been organizing training sessions for the CJNG without the consent of the Secretariat. This would be a concerning development, given the potential criminalization of some FARC units in a post-conflict environment. In one possible scenario, rogue FARC elements would work directly with Mexican cartels, cutting out the middleman -- currently Colombia's neo-paramilitary groups, known as the BACRIM -- in the regional cocaine trade, thereby generating higher profits for both the guerrillas and the cartels. 

UNICEF: Children in South Sudan Being Raped, Killed

File - Residents displaced due to the fighting between government and rebel forces in the Upper Nile capital Malakal wait at a World Food Program outpost.
File - Residents displaced due to the fighting between government and rebel forces in the Upper Nile capital Malakal wait at a World Food Program outpost.
Lisa Schlein
The United Nations Children’s Fund reports dozens of children in South Sudan’s Unity State have been killed, raped, and abducted during the past two weeks by armed groups. It was not clear whether the attackers support government or rebel forces.
Fighting in South Sudan’s Unity and Upper Nile States has been escalating in recent weeks. Attacks against civilians also have happened with frightening regularity and with increasing ferocity.  
UNICEF Representative in South Sudan Jonathan Veitch said the situation has deteriorated as both government and rebel forces try to gain ground before the rainy season stops their advances.

Vicious attacks
Speaking on a telephone line from the capital, Juba, he said there are only losers in this fight, especially children in Unity State who are being viciously attacked and abused.
“Survivors reported to UNICEF that whole villages were burned by armed groups while large numbers of girls and women were taken outside to be raped and killed, including children as young as seven," said Veitch. "Many boys, some as young as 10 years of age and seven girls are confirmed killed.”  
Witnesses told UNICEF they believe the attacks were carried out by groups "aligned with the Sudan People's Liberation Army." But the U.N. agency could not specify whether the groups back government or rebel forces. Members of the SPLA can be found on both sides of South Sudan's conflict.
Veitch calls these attacks clear breaches of humanitarian law and said the government of South Sudan and opposition forces should use their influence to protect children.
He noted that about 4,000 people have taken refuge in the U.N. mission in Bentiu, while others are hiding in swamps and other places.

Children targeted
Veitch called the level of violence by armed men against the children staggering. He told VOA he does not understand why this is taking place.
"In some of the interviews that we have done with women who have survived has been that they have said that the soldiers were killing the children because they will eventually come back for revenge attacks, so it is better to kill them now," Veitch said. "I would definitely say that this is an unprecedented use of children in this particular conflict.”  
Since the conflict between the government and rebels began 20 months ago, UNICEF has registered almost 13,000 children who have been recruited and are being used by all sides of the conflict. Many of the children are used as soldiers, others as cooks, messengers, and porters. Many of the girls are used as sex slaves.  

Greece Teeters Towards Bankruptcy

Henry Ridgwell
Greece’s finance minister said Thursday he wished his country had never joined the euro currency — and warned international creditors that he would refuse to sign any bailout plan that would send Greece into a "death spiral."  With a bailout agreement still seemingly a long way off, there are dangers that Athens could run out of money in the coming days.
Hundreds of former employees of Greece’s public broadcaster, ERT, stormed their old workplace earlier this week, after the government voted to re-open the 60-year-old TV station.

The previous government closed it down in 2013 and fired 2600 people — to satisfy spending cuts demanded by Greece's creditors.

Its reinstatement is part of the anti-austerity Syriza-led government’s plans to roll back spending cuts. Former ERT technician Panagiotis Hasapis had mixed feelings.

“After 23 months we enter the building of ERT again, from where the riot police took us out,” he said. “I would like to say I feel like a winner, but this homecoming has a bitter taste,” he said.

Back in recession
Greece’s crisis is far from over. The economy is back in recession. Analyst Raoul Ruparel of the London-based policy group Open Europe blames the prolonged debt negotiations between Athens and the EU.

“Confidence is draining out of the economy as these things drag on,” he said.

Greece made a loan repayment worth $858 million to the International Monetary Fund Monday — but only by tapping emergency reserves held at the IMF itself.

Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis has warned that the country could run out of cash to pay its bills within the next two weeks. Speaking Thursday, he explained why Greece has rejected EU demands for deeper reforms.

He said that if he signs such a deal, he would be just another finance minister who signed a medium-term fiscal adjustment program while knowing it is not feasible. And math proves that it is not feasible.

Short of cash
Greece must find the equivalent of $2.2 billion by the end of May to pay salaries and pensions. In July and August, Greece must pay US$7.7 billion worth of bonds to the European Central Bank. The consequences of failing to pay would be dire, says Raoul Ruparel.

“If it misses another payment to the IMF, it probably has a bit of leeway," he said. "If it misses some payments of wages and pensions to its citizens, there will be political fallout but maybe less economic fallout. But if it ended up missing a payment to say the ECB in July or August, or a payment on its bonds, then the market impact would certainly be much larger.”

Greeks are bracing for bad news, says Professor Ioannis Kokkoris of Queen Mary University London, who spoke via Skype from Athens.

“People keep withdrawing money. There have been a lot of initiatives to actually try to recapitalize the banks from deposits," he said. "It hasn’t been working so well because of this uncertainty, because we do not know what will happen next Monday and the Monday after and the Monday after that.”

Unless Greece and EU reach a last minute deal, the debt crisis could come to a head in the coming days as the cash finally starts to run out.

Macedonian Political Leaders Meet in Response to Crisis

A man on a bicycle passes by tents, posted by the opposition supporters, in front of the government building in Skopje, Macedonia, May 19, 2015.
A man on a bicycle passes by tents, posted by the opposition supporters, in front of the government building in Skopje, Macedonia, May 19, 2015.
VOA News
Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski and main opposition leader Zoran Zaev began talks mediated by European Union officials Tuesday in an attempt to find a solution to the crisis in the country.
Rival political groups camped in the capital Skopje ahead of the meeting in Strasbourg, France.
Under European Union pressure, leaders of the four main political parties — two Macedonian and two Albanian (Nikola Gruevski, Zoran Zaev, Ali Ahmeti, Menduh Thaci) — met Monday, but the 90-minute talks did not result in a breakthrough.
The United States, European Union and NATO have called for calm, saying they are following the developments closely.
The United States has called on all sides of the Macedonian conflict to “respect the rights of freedom of assembly and the peaceful protest” and refrain from violence.
US reaction
U.S. State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke said Monday American and European partners have urged Macedonian authorities "to make progress toward accounting for allegations of government wrongdoing that arise from the recent disclosures" of wire-tapping.
The United States has also urged the opposition party to return to parliament to participate in the inquiry of those disclosures.
Pressure on Gruevski has been building since a wire-tapping scandal broke earlier this year, prompting questions about how tightly the government controls the media, judges, and elections during his nine years in power.
Zaev, the leader of the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia has vowed the demonstrations would continue until the prime minister steps down.
The protests come a week after tensions flared north of the capital. Clashes between gunmen and police in the city of Kumanovo earlier this month killed eight police and 14 assailants.
Macedonian authorities have said the gunmen were trying to cause chaos and fear, but Albanian sources in the country said authorities instigated the clash to save the Gruevski government.
Macedonia narrowly avoided a 2001 civil war, when an ethnic Albanian armed uprising demanded greater political rights. The insurgency lasted for months before a cease-fire was reached.
VOA's Macedonian Service contributed to this report. Some information was provided by AFP.