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The Global Brief with Bianca Nobilo

Remaining Haiti Hostages Freed; UK Reports Record COVID Cases; Chile's Upcoming Election. Aired 5-5:30p ET

Aired December 16, 2021 - 17:00   ET


LYNDA KINKADE, CNN HOST: Hello and welcome to THE GLOBAL BRIEF. I'm Lynda Kinkade, in for Bianca Nobilo.

In today's daily briefing:

The remaining Haiti hostages are released. A correspondent is live in Port- au-Prince on having the bigger picture surrounding gang violence in the country.

Then, U.K. COVID infections break an all-time record for a second day in a row. Is it time to call off Christmas?

And a polarizing presidential election as Chile prepares to head for the polls. We're going to take a deep dive into the top two candidates vying

for the top job.

Well, a harrowing two-month ordeal finally coming to an end. Twelve hostages were kidnapped by armed gang members in Haiti and now being

released. The country's justice minister says all 17 missionaries kidnapped in October are now free. Sixteen Americans and one Canadian representing

Christian aid ministries were visiting an orphanage just outside Port-au- Prince when they were taken hostage.

A few of the missionaries were released earlier by the gang who initially demanded $1 million ransom per hostage.

We're joined now by Matt Rivers who is live for us in Port-au-Prince.

Matt, huge relief that the final 12 hostages were released. All 17 are now safe.

MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Lynda. And this is news that we have been expecting for a few weeks now, with sources in Haiti telling

us that the release of these hostages was imminent.


However, it did come as a surprise this morning when we got word that the remaining 12 hostages had been released. A source in Haiti security forces

telling us that the remaining dozen hostages were dropped off in a town outside Port-au-Prince, that they were walking the area, it was locals that

lived in the area that brought them to a police station, which is how authorities were alerted that this release happened. And that marked the

end of a two month ordeal, not only for hostages but for their families.


RIVERS (voice-over): A moment two months in the making with news that all 17 missionaries, including 16 Americans and one Canadian, kidnapped by

armed gang members in Haiti, are now free.

It started back on October 16th as the group was returning to their home base from visiting an orphanage east of Port-au-Prince. Among the

missionaries representing Christian aide ministries, five children, including an infant, a three-year-old, a six-year-old, and two teenagers.

The bus they were in got stopped by armed men as they drove through the suburb of Croix des Bouquets.

Several miles down the road is where our source in Haitian security forces says the kidnapping was carried out. In a more normal situation, we would

drive several miles down the road and go see exactly where this took place. But following the advice of both our Haitian producer and our security

team, we're not going to go any further than this because they say it's not safe. Down that road is a suburb of Croix des Bouquets, which is

essentially completely controlled by the 400 Mawozo Gang, the gang that authorities say carried out this kidnapping.

As the group was being kidnapped, this WhatsApp message obtained by CNN was reportedly sent by one of the missionaries. Please pray for us, we are

being harassed/kidnapped currently. They have control of our vehicle with 15 Americans, ladies, men, and children.

A few days later, the gang that took them seen in an older video said they would kill the missionaries if they didn't get paid ransom. As Christian

aid ministries quietly opened negotiations with the gang, we got insight into what conditions might be like for those kidnapped. We spoke to a

French priest who've been kidnapped by the same gang in Haiti earlier this year who told us about one of the places the gang held him.

He says it was like a dark hole, like a prison cell, the last place we were in with no windows. At the beginning, they were giving us food once a day.

By the end, they stopped feeding us, they forced us to go hungry, believing it was a negotiation tactic.

But the first sign of hope, two missionaries, both adults, freed by the gang on November 21st. Then came three more, freed exactly two weeks later.

And the remaining 12 would soon follow.

Meanwhile, Haiti's kidnapping crisis goes on unabated. An overmatched federal government is unable to quell the gangs behind the crimes. With

total kidnappings this year nearing a thousand, according to a Port-au- Prince NGO tracking that data, nearly 100 in November alone. The vast majority of victims are Haitians, not foreigners.

Thankfully, the ordeal for 17 foreign missionaries is over, but for many Haitians, the nightmare continues.


RIVERS (on camera): And, Lynda, the status of these 12 hostages that were released according to our source when seen by authorities, they looked,

quote, skinny and they are currently undergoing medical checks at this point before presumably most if not all of them will head back to their

respective home countries.

KINKADE: Yeah, such a huge relief for their families, no doubt. I understand this gang is responsible for most of the abductions in Haiti and

they want a million dollars per hostage in order to release them.

Do you have any details on the negotiations, and what led to the outcome today?

RIVERS: Yeah. What we do know and can confirm through a source in Haiti security forces is that ransom was paid to release these people over the

past several weeks. In terms of amount, it's something that we're not revealing at this time. But I can tell you it was far less than original

demand of $17 million in total, $1 million per hostage. It did not come close to that amount.

However, ransom was paid and that led to release of these hostages earlier today.

KINKADE: Matt Rivers for us in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, good to have you on the story. Thanks so much.

The death toll is now at 75 after the fuel tank explosion in northern Haiti. We want to warn you, images surrounding the story are graphic. The

truck derailed on Tuesday while trying to avoid running over a motor bike. Haiti's fire brigade chief says the driver warned people to not go near the

truck to collect leaking gas. The truck then exploded, damaging cars, houses and shops.


Haiti has been suffering from fuel shortages and rising gas prices due in part to gangs blocking fuel terminals.

Well, the U.K. is feeling a dizzying sense of deja vu. This time last year, talk of whether Christmas could happen despite concerning cases of COVID

dominated the news cycle. One year later, it's exactly the same story. The country seeing a record number of new daily infections for a second

straight day, some 88,000.

Only about 2 percent of those confirmed to be the omicron variant. But health officials say the variant has an R rate of 3 to 5. An infected

person is likely to spread the coronavirus to 3, 4, 5 other people. That means it's very contagious.

Well, since omicron was first identified, Britain's prime minister has been urging people to get boosters which experts say can significantly raise

one's levels -- one's -- a person's level of protection. The government says 25 million Britons have now gotten booster shots.

CNN's Salma Abdelaziz is in London for us.


SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): COVID cases once again reached record levels in the U.K., with nearly 90,000 positive tests

recorded on Thursday.

Despite the worrying surge, Boris Johnson says Christmas is still on for now.

BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: It is very different from last year. What we have is additional protection of the vaccines, and the

ability to test.

ABDELAZIZ: His chief medical officer sounded more cautious during a parliamentary committee on Thursday, and urged people to limit their


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think people should prioritize what matters and cut down on things that don't.

ABDELAZIZ: More concerning, for every one person infected, on average, they will infect three to five others, a health expert said.

DR. SUSAN HOPKINS, UKHSA CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER: With a doubling time of every two days, the R value for omicron is estimated to be much higher,

very broad brush estimates between three and five at the moment.

ABDELAZIZ: In Scotland, residents were asked to stay home as much as possible, and warned that vaccines were not enough.

NICOLA STURGEON, SCOTTISH FIRST MINISTER: We are in a situation now no matter how fast we go with vaccines, this variant of the virus is at the

moment running faster.

ABDELAZIZ: As precaution over rising cases, Queen Elizabeth cancelled a pre-Christmas family lunch, a Buckingham palace source told CNN.

The source said it was felt the lunch would put too many people's Christmas arrangements at risk if it went ahead.

And across Europe, leaders are watching the UK's battle with Omicron very closely. France announced tourism from Britain would be limited, and those

arriving would need a compelling reason for entry. Vaccination has also been ramped up with Italy vaccinating children between 5 and 11.

And Germany expanding its booster vaccine campaign to avoid its healthcare system being overwhelmed. Across the region, governments are preparing for

a tidal wave of omicron during the holiday season.

Salma Abdelaziz, CNN, London.


KINKADE: Well, two new studies of the omicron variant are clearly illustrating the need to get booster shots. U.S. researchers say the

variant appears markedly resistant to two doses of four major vaccines to most antibody therapies and also to most antibodies acquired through

infection. Well, boosters can help raise the level of protection. This study we must point out has not been reviewed by other experts or edited by

a scientific journal.

And in Hong Kong, scientists say omicron appears to infect human cells 70 times faster than delta variant, but it may do less damage to lungs. And

that supports the theories that it's a lot more contagious but may cause less severe illness. And the detail of that last study has not yet been

published or peer reviewed.

Well, more nations are expanding vaccination campaigns to try to get COVID- 19 infections under control. Italy is now vaccinating children between the ages of 5 and 11. The same goes for Spain and a handful of other EU

countries. Peru is planning to get that age group vaccinated as well, starting in January.

Let's look at the big picture. These are the countries that have nationwide campaigns to protect young children against the coronavirus. Well, some

question whether children should be vaccinated to begin with. Most kids don't get seriously ill, but they can infect others without knowing and

they do account for majority of cases in some countries.

In the last two weeks, for instance, children between 5 and 11 in Ontario had the highest infection rate of any age group. And Canadian leaders are

now trying to ramp up vaccinations, and urging people not to leave the country.

CNN's Paula Newton joins me live from Ottawa.


Good to see you, Paula.

So, less than ten days to Christmas. The government there is telling citizens: now is not the time to travel.

PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, listen, Lynda, this has been a bitter pill to swallow for so many across Canada. But right now, when you

look at the modeling that's happening, most public health officials here believe that even though they have a high degree of vaccination, that with

waning immunity, it means that Omicron will hit the country hard, and they are expecting a surge in ICU occupancy definitely by January, perhaps as

soon as mid to late January.

And for that reason, they've issued what they are calling a travel advisory. Now, what does it mean? We actually had a travel advisory in

Canada for well over a year since the pandemic started. It was only lifted a few months ago.

But what it means is that Canadians should avoid all international travel unless it is absolutely necessary. It is at this point only an advisory. I

think what's key here too, Lynda, remembering is foreigners can still enter the country, as long as you're fully vaccinated and arrive with a test, as

of right now, there still isn't a quarantine requirement.

What's happening, though, Lynda, is that things are assessed literally by the hour. I've got another press conference coming up from the province of

Quebec, Ontario, had another one today, we're still awaiting those in Western Canada. And as they see that information from Omicron, even, you

know, the officials, politicians, prime minister, Justin Trudeau, have warned this could change at any time.

So, be aware if you do travel those restrictions could change.

KINKADE: All right. Very valid points.

Paula Newton, as always, good to have you with us. Thank you.

Well, I want to take a look at some of the key business stories making international news.

The Bank of England is raising interest rates to fight off surging consumer prices. Now, this is the first such move by a major central bank since

start of the pandemic. Inflation jumped to 5.1 percent in November, more than double the bank's target. And that's leaving the British economy at

risk of stagflation, weak growth and rising prices.

Europe's central bank says it's going to keep its interest rates where they are at record lows. Even projections showing inflation is likely to rise

above target levels. They're ending asset purchases and its pandemic stimulus program in March.

And Turkey central bank is cutting interest rates the fourth straight month, despite inflation hitting 21 percent in November. Now the Turkish

lira has dropped to an all-time low. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has long gone against conventional practices, believing rate cuts can fight


Now to heartbreak in Australia. A party marking end of the school year ended with five children killed, four more seriously injured. It happened

at a school celebration in the state of Tasmania. Police say the students were inside an inflatable jumping castle lifted in the air by strong wind.

It then fell to the ground. The students inside were in final years of primary school. The government is expressing shock and heartbreak.


SCOTT MORRISON, AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER: The events that occurred today in Davenport in Tasmania are shattering. They are just unthinkably

heartbreaking. And young children, on a fun day out together with their families, and it turns to such horrific tragedy at this time of year.


KINKADE: Absolute tragedy. Our heart goes out to those families.

Well, Typhoon Rai is lashing the Philippines after hitting the island as a category 5 super typhoon. Tens of thousands were evacuated in the face of a

storm that gained strength rapidly.


KINKADE (voice-over): This is what Super Typhoon Rai felt like as it slammed into the eastern coast of the Philippines Thursday. The storm

intensified rapidly, going from barely a category one to five in just 24 hours. Before making landfall on Siargao Island with sustained winds

reaching 260 kilometers an hour. It was the strongest typhoon to hit the Philippines in December since Bopha struck the nation in 2012. The storm

brought torrential rain and a threat of widespread flooding across the popular tourist and surfing destination.

Rescue efforts are underway. An infant floated through the high water in a small tub, rescued by members of the Philippine coast guard. An elderly

woman was carried to safety, others escaped rushing water and ushered to a Coast Guard truck.

The Red Cross says helping people in the community is a top priority.

RICHARD GORDON, CHAIRMAN & CEO, PHILIPPINE RED CROSS: Right now, there's no power, they've cut or they've lost power simply because of the rains.


There are certain areas are without water. And certainly, a lot of people have to be looked at, at the evacuation center because we still have COVID

in this country. And we want to make sure that they're fine.

KINKADE: Many residents evacuated their homes earlier in the week as heavy rain fell in the region. Government officials say nearly 200,000 are in

shelters. About 70 households rode out the storm in a cave.

In central Misamis Oriental, one river began overflowing Tuesday, flooding streets and homes. This man took solace playing the piano as he watched his

home fill with muddy, brown water.

Having went through typhoons before, many were well-prepared. Red Cross teams readied rescue equipment and fishing boats were secured. Philippines

is one of the most climate vulnerable nations. And warmer oceans from climate change are making typhoons like this more intense and destructive.


KINKADE: Well, still to come, a leftist former student leader versus far right former congressman, which one will become Chile's next president

after the country's most polarizing election in decades. We're going to go live to Santiago, next.


KINKADE: Welcome back.

Voters in Chile have a stark choice electing a president. And so much as stake, the winner could shape the country's future for years to come.

Leftist lawmaker and former student activist Gabriel Boric is facing off against far right former congressman Jose Antonio Kast. Sunday's runoff is

expected to be a nail biter with the race too close to call. At an age 35, Boric would be Chile's youngest ever president. And he heads a coalition

that includes the Communist Party, which is promising to tackle economic inequalities and improve social rights.

His opponent is running on a law and order platform, running a wave of anger over immigration and crime. Kast has been likened to Brazilian leader

Jair Bolsonaro and even Donald Trump. He's a defender of formal Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet and he's crediting him with spurring economic

growth during his bloody rule. But the candidates held final debate Monday night and it got pretty heated.

Boric accusing Kast of spreading lies, while Kast issued this personal challenge when speaking to reporters.


JOSE ANTONIO KAST, CHILEAN PRESIDENTIAL CANIDDATE (through translator): I trust what he says, that he is not a drug user, but to remove any doubt and

to avoid this back and forth and him having to apologize every time caught by surprise, he should take the hair test.

GABRIEL BORIC, CHILEAN PRESIDENTIAL CANIDDATE (through translator): The remaining days of the campaign should be focused on positive proposals, not

on personal attacks so the Chileans can decide on the Chile of the future, what we want to build, not the defamation that's pursued by Jose Antonio

Kast and his followers.



KINKADE: Well, the U.N. Commission of Human Rights is taking sides. Michelle Bachelet, a former Chilean president, put out a video endorsing

Boric, saying, he would insure a path of progress for all. She also urged people to get out and vote, saying there's too much at stake to remain


We're joined now by Rafael Romo in the Chilean capital of Santiago.

Good to have you with us.

So, I want to start on the two candidates that seem to be complete opposite. What do we need to know about the men on the ballot?

RAFAEL ROMO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, that's a very good point, Lynda. They could not be more different from each other. And it is very

interesting because when the process started, they started with field of seven candidates, including just about every position on the political

spectrum and voters chose the two extremes.

Jose Antonio Kast is 50 years old. He's an attorney. He's a father of nine, he is Catholic. He says that the government should be smaller and he is

also advocating for law and order kind of government. He's also talked about going as far as building a ditch to prevent immigrants coming from

other countries on Chile's northern border.

On the other hand, you had Boric, he is 20 years younger than Kast. His political experience has to do with the fact he was student leader for

many, many years, and he is asking for the exact opposite. He wants bigger government that takes care of the people better, bigger welfare programs.

And as you pointed out, as part of his coalition, the communist party is there. So, very different candidates and both are trying to become the next

president of Chile. Now you have about -- an electorate of about 6 million people last time around. Half of that participated. It's anybody's guess

what's going to happen this Sunday, Lynda.

KINKADE: Yeah. And, Rafael, I have to ask you, given that they are pitching very different platforms to voters, what are the issues concerning

voters right now?

ROMO: I was talking to a local political analyst. And he was telling me that if he were to summarize the feeling, both sides is fear, because on

one hand, Boric's supporters are afraid that Chile is going to go back to the era of dictatorship of Pinochet. And he's going to bring back that sort

of repressive regime that people suffered through during the entire dictatorship.

On the other hand, Kast voters point out that Chile has been chaotic the last two years, especially during very violent protests at the end of 2019.

He says that -- they say he is going to bring communism to Chile, that this country is going to become, they coined the term, Chinezuela, comparing it

to Venezuela, Chilezuela, I should say. Forgive me.

And these are very polarized opinions from people. The main thing that we have to remember is that part of the electorate, 25 percent of people have

not made up their minds yet. Both candidates are counting that those undecided voters are going to go their way on Sunday selection, Lynda.

KINKADE: And, Rafael, we're seeing parallels to the U.S. election, you have one party already trying to sow the seeds of distrust in the electoral


ROMO: Yeah, that's true. Well, for one thing, polarization just like in the United States.

But on the other hand, and it was just about an hour ago that candidate Kast was speaking at a local radio station when he was being interviewed

and he says that if he is not -- if the margin of victory for either candidate is not significant enough, he's going to ask for a recount, and

he has been talking about this already for the last few weeks. He is not going as far as questioning the integrity of the electoral system, but is

definitely already saying that he is going to ask for recount if the vote is close enough, Lynda.

KINKADE: All right. We will see how it plays out. No doubt. Talk to you soon.

Rafael Romo, thanks so much. That election, of course, is happening on Sunday.

You are watching THE GLOBAL BRIEF. We're taking a quick break. We'll be right back.



KINKADE: Well, the Boss will no longer be the boss of his own music.

But he has plenty to dance about, with half a billion dollars instead. Bruce Springsteen reportedly sold his catalogue to Sony Music Entertainment

for some $500 million. The sale includes rights to use iconic albums, "Born to Run" and "The River." It would be the largest ever sale of a single

musician's work.

Well, the taste of music fans in Australia seem to be, well, for the birds. Flutter aside, Justin Bieber, take flight, Abba, a flock of high flying

birds have just nudged you aside on the Australian Music Channel. Take a listen.

Yeah. That's a recording of endangered Australian bird songs, soaring to number five in the country. It's called "Songs of Disappearance" because it

features the sounds of 53 of Australia's most threatened species. Researchers say one in six Australian birds is now in danger in part due to

climate change. So, music lovers and bird lovers alike, it's helped raising awareness, that these songs can help change the tune.

Well, I am going to take flight. That was THE GLOBAL BRIEF. I'm Lynda Kinkade. Thanks so much for watching.

"WORLD SPORT" is coming up next.