Caribbean News Round – up

O'Neil Bell

Barbados to hike cell phone tax

Finance Minister Chris Sinckler
Finance Minister Chris Sinckler

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (CMC) – Finance Minister Chris Sinckler says the plan to impose a new tax on cellular phone calls is still on the table, but a different method will be used to collect the Value Added Tax (VAT).

Earlier this year, the government had an initial plan of a three-cent tax on mobile airtime.

However, on Wednesday, Sinckler proposed a 4.5 per cent rise in the VAT on mobile phone service, to take effect from January 1, 2016, raising the tax from 17.5 per cent to 22 per cent.

The Finance Minister told the Barbados Today publication, that the previous plan was proving too difficult and expensive for the telecommunications companies to implement.

“Subsequently, at the request of cell phone companies and others, we met with them to look at that excise. It was felt that given the way in which the billing structure for the companies is done, it would mean an additional cost to them to do a new billing system to accommodate the new excise at three cents.

“They also indicated that they would prefer if it were a percentage, rather than a real figure. It was recommended that the easiest and cleanest way to do this would be to do an increase on the VAT, because VAT is already charged on those services,” Sinckler said.

The finance minister said the additional tax will raise between BD$15 and BD$16 million, but the original plan would have cost Barbadians twice as much.

“People would be happy to note though, because I know that this was going to be a concern that would be raised, that you would have been paying more if we had used the proposal presented in the Budget,” Sinckler explained.

The Minister of Finance disclosed that when the numbers were tallied, it was discovered that some of the losses could be recouped “elsewhere” without having to make any major changes.

In June during his Budget presentation, Sinckler announced that a mobile airtime excise duty on cellular phones would be imposed at a rate of three cents per minute and would take effect from August 1.

Information gathered from the Telecommunications Unit showed that LIME (now FLOW) subscribers used 575.9 million minutes last year and Digicel customers used 514.5 for the same period, Sinckler said the new measure would have generated $32.7 million for the treasury annually.


Former J’can boxing champion shot dead in Atlanta

O'Neil Bell
O’Neil Bell

ATLANTA (AP) — Police say a former Jamaican boxing champion has been shot to death during a robbery in Atlanta.

Atlanta Police Sergeant Warren Pickard says 40-year-old O’Neil Bell was gunned down Wednesday morning. Pickard says Bell and another person were shot while getting off a bus before two suspects robbed them. Bell was pronounced dead at the scene in southwest Atlanta.

Bell had held four different titles during his 13-year boxing career, including the WBA, WBC, and IBF cruiserweight titles. In his last match, Bell beat Rico Cason with a technical knockout in the first round in 2011. Bell finished his boxing career with a 27-4-1 record.

Pickard says the second victim, who wasn’t identified, was shot in the hip and was taken to a hospital. Police say the investigation is still ongoing.


Teen cancer survivor gunned down

[Trinidad Newsday] – From the age of five, Denzil Guy bravely fought with and eventually survived a rare type of kidney cancer. But on Tuesday night he had no chance whatsoever when confronted by two gunmen outside his family’s mini-mart at the front of their Michael Terrace, Nimblette Street, Enterprise Village, Chaguanas home.

Guy, seeing the gunmen approaching, tried to run into the house but never made it as bullets struck him. As Guy fell, one of the bandits stood over him and fired his gun until it was emptied of bullets.

Guy died on the ground of the family’s shop, “Sherry Ann’s Mini Mart”. Thirteen spent shells were found around his body.

Guy’s pregnant mother Sherry Ann Samuel, 38, who relatives said is due to give birth “anytime now” was inside the house resting when gunmen ended her son’s life.

Newsday was told that at the age of five, Guy was diagnosed with a rare kidney cancer known as Wilms’ Tumor and as a result had one of his kidneys removed. It is reported that Wilms’ tumor also known as nephroblastoma is a cancer of the kidney that afflicts only children.

Happy to have seen him beat the cancer, grieving relatives said they never expected Guy to lose his life in such a violent manner. Yesterday, relatives especially grandmother of three Gertrude Sammy, 53, were inconsolable as they said while Guy was a quiet person, he at times followed bad company. “He was my eyeball and they killed him,” Sammy cried.

“They stand over grandson and emptied their guns to make sure he dead…oh God, oh God,” she cried. A police report stated that at about nine o’clock Tuesday night, the tenager was outside his home when two gunman dressed in black clothing and with hoodies pulled over their head approached.

As Guy turned to run into the house, gunshots were heard. After committing murder, the gunmen escaped by running east along Michael Terrace. It is believed they got into a car parked higher up along the road and sped off.

District Medical Officer Dr Kavita Maharaj-Khan ordered the body removed to the Forensic Science Centre in St James where an autopsy will be performed today.

Snr Supt Jason Forde, Insp Corbett- Villaruel, Sgts Toolaram, James and Jodhan and PC Girwara visited the scene. Relatives believe that Guy’s involvement with a young woman in the community may have led to his execution. Investigators however are yet to establish a motive.

YOUNG PEOPLE, SEEK GOD! Speaking yesterday, the distraught grandmother said she was fed-up of the killings and shootings which have made Enterprise a warzone. She called on young men in the area to put down their guns and turn their lives around.

No arrests have been made and investigations are continuing. Police sources said that for the year, 376 murders have been committed.


Venezuela opposition politician gunned down

The shooting happened at a rally in Guarico state attended by Lilian Tintori
The shooting happened at a rally in Guarico state attended by Lilian Tintori

[BBC] – A regional opposition leader in Venezuela has been shot dead at a campaign rally less than two weeks before parliamentary elections. The Democratic Action party says Luis Manuel Diaz was killed by attackers in a car as he was holding a public meeting in central Guarico state.

Opposition leaders blamed militias supporting the governing United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV). The party of President Nicolas Maduro has so far made no public comment.

Election monitors sent to Venezuela by the regional bloc Unasur condemned the killing in the town of Altagracia de Orituco. “We express our most energetic rejection of all types of violence which could affect the electoral process,” they wrote on Twitter.

They also demanded that the authorities carry out a thorough investigation into Mr Diaz’s killing. The Democratic Action party leader, Henry Ramos Allup, said Mr Diaz had been shot dead by “armed PSUV gangs” from a vehicle.

Mr Diaz was reportedly sharing the stage with Lilian Tintori, the wife of jailed opposition leader, Leopoldo Lopez.

Opposition politicians say their candidates have been attacked on numerous occasions in the past weeks.

Miguel Pizarro, an opposition politician running for re-election in Caracas, said he was confronted by armed men who shot into the air in the neighbourhood of Petare on Sunday.

Miranda state governor Henrique Capriles said he was attacked by a group of masked men in the town of Yare earlier this month. Mr Capriles said the men, who he alleged were government supporters, had opened fire to stop him from holding a campaign rally.

The government has denied any involvement in any of the attacks and accused the opposition of trying to provoke PSUV supporters. The PSUV currently holds a majority of seats in parliament.

But some recent opinion polls suggest that if the elections set for 6 December were held now, the opposition coalition would win convincingly.

Venezuela’s rampant crime, the drop in oil revenues and chronic shortages of some basic goods have hurt President Maduro’s approval ratings.



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