Don McCullin photo show looks at 6 decades covering conflict
By JILL LAWLESS
Monday, February 4
LONDON (AP) — Don McCullin’s most famous photographs burn with the physical and emotional brutality of conflict: a shell-shocked American soldier in Vietnam, a starving woman and child in Nigeria’s breakaway Biafra.
But don’t call him a war photographer.
“I hate that,” the 83-year-old British photojournalist said Monday, sitting in an exhibition of six decades’ worth of his images of damaged people, ravaged landscapes and scarred cities. “I’ve willfully changed direction because I didn’t want to get stuck in the war direction, people calling me a war photographer.”
The retrospective of more than 250 photographs opens Tuesday and runs to May 6 at Tate Britain , the country’s foremost gallery of U.K. art. But don’t call McCullin an artist.
“I hate that, too,” said McCullin, who is charming with a combative undercurrent. “I’m not an artist. I’m a photographer, and that’s all there is to it.”
McCullin’s career began almost by chance, with a photo of young gang members he knew from Finsbury Park, the tough London neighborhood where he grew up. A shot of the group — “The Guv’nors” — standing in a bombed-out building, had a powerful combination of squalor and swagger that caught the attention of British newspapers.
“Once that was published in The Observer, I could see a life for myself rather than hanging around with those boys,” McCullin said. “So I made this journey into photography, and it’s been extraordinary, really.”
McCullin plunged into many of the 20th century’s conflict zones: Cold War Berlin, Biafra, Vietnam, Cambodia, Congo, Lebanon, Northern Ireland, Iraq.
His images, always in black and white, powerfully capture the emotions of war — the raw grief of a woman in Cyprus who has just learned of her husband’s death; the devastation of an American GI; the exhilaration of youths in Northern Ireland throwing stones at soldiers.
His lens looked just as unflinchingly at his home country. From the 1950s onwards, McCullin captured a side of Britain scarred by poverty, violence and decay. It’s tough stuff, though his images of holidaymakers at the seaside have a defiant cheerfulness, and there is great dignity in his close-up portraits of careworn and homeless inhabitants of Britain’s cities.
McCullin survived physical danger and brushes with death. A glass case at the exhibition holds a Nikon camera that stopped a bullet hitting him in Cambodia.
He didn’t escape an emotional toll, and in recent years has turned to quieter subjects — “to eradicate the past,” McCullin says in an exhibition note. Recent works include photos of the strange, watery landscape of the Somerset Levels near his home in southwest England.
McCullin acknowledges that even these rural landscapes end up “looking like the First World War,” shot on black and white film — never digitally — and printed by McCullin with his signature in glowering intensity.
He hasn’t abandoned war zones altogether. There are images of devastated Homs in Syria taken on a trip last year.
McCullin has sometimes wondered if his work was worth it, since wars continue unabated. But he is amazed by how far it has taken him.
“It’s taken me all around the world many times,” he said. “And I’ve got a great love of culture now. I started out with nothing. There was never a book in my house; there was only violence in my house when I was a boy.”
He says he doesn’t suffer from post-traumatic stress: “I’ve cured myself by doing these landscapes.”
“I grew up with quite a strong backbone, and I’ve kept it going,” McCullin said. “Now I’m getting old and lame and I’m having heart attacks and all that kind of stuff. I just think that’s part of the stuff I have to beat.
“That sounds a bit macho,” he added, a touch apologetically. “But it’s not meant to be macho — it’s meant to be a ‘You can do it’ kind of thing.”
Follow Jill Lawless on Twitter at http://Twitter.com/JillLawless
Nissan decision seen as sign of Brexit business jitters
By JILL LAWLESS
Monday, February 4
LONDON (AP) — With Brexit just seven weeks away, Britain’s ruling Conservative Party was locked in tense negotiations with itself Monday to rework the U.K.’s divorce deal with the European Union — as the EU stood firm in ruling out any renegotiation.
Meanwhile, pro-EU and pro-Brexit U.K. politicians traded allegations about whether Nissan’s decision not to build a new SUV in northern England was the latest Brexit-induced damage to Britain’s economy.
Britain is due to leave the bloc on March 29, and many businesses fear economic chaos if there isn’t an agreement on the rules and conditions that will replace the 45 years of frictionless trade that came with being an EU member. The uncertainty has already led many firms to shift some operations abroad, stockpile goods or defer investment decisions.
Nissan announced over the weekend that it has decided not to build the X-Trail model at its existing U.K. plant in Sunderland, England, canceling plans announced two years ago after May’s government promised to ensure the carmaker’s ability to compete after Brexit.
The company said it instead plans to consolidate production of the next generation X-Trail at its plant in Kyushu, Japan, where the model is currently produced. It will continue producing three other models at the Sunderland plant, which employs 7,000 people.
The company said it had made the decision “for business reasons,” and it comes amid falling sales of diesel vehicles in Europe. But Nissan added that “the continued uncertainty around the U.K.’s future relationship with the EU is not helping companies like ours to plan for the future.”
U.K. Business Secretary Greg Clark — a proponent of keeping close economic ties with the EU — said Monday that Nissan regarded the risk of a no-deal Brexit as “a source of damaging uncertainty.” He said executives at the firm had “commented on the need for us to come together and resolve the question of our future trade relationship with the EU.”
The automaker’s decision is a blow to the government, which in 2016 offered Nissan incentives to stay in Britain. On Monday, the government published a previously secret October 2016 letter from Clark to Nissan promising up to 80 million pounds ($105 million) in support for the Sunderland plant.
The letter also said Britain would “seek to maintain the closest possible economic relationship between the U.K. and our European partners” and would try to ensure that carmakers’ “ability to export to and from the EU is not adversely affected” by Brexit.
Carmakers are particularly concerned about Brexit because they rely on complex supply chains of parts from multiple countries.
With Britain’s Parliament at odds over Brexit, Prime Minister Theresa May gathered pro-Brexit and pro-EU Conservative lawmakers into an “alternative arrangements working group” seeking to break the deadlock. The group was holding three days of meetings with ministers and civil servants to investigate possible changes to the EU divorce deal, which was rejected by Parliament last month.
The changes center on replacing a measure known as the backstop, designed to keep an open border between the United Kingdom’s Northern Ireland and EU member state Ireland.
The border area was a flashpoint during decades of conflict in Northern Ireland that cost 3,700 lives. The free flow of people and goods across the near-invisible frontier now underpins both the local economy and Northern Ireland’s peace process.
May’s office said she plans to travel to Northern Ireland on Tuesday to meet business leaders and make a speech underscoring the government’s commitment to avoiding a hard border. But it’s less clear than ever how Britain plans to achieve this.
The EU insists the Brexit withdrawal agreement can’t be renegotiated, and has already rejected some of the arrangements under discussion in London, including a time limit on the backstop and unspecified technological solutions to customs checks.
EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said that backstop remains “the only operational solution available” for an orderly exit of Britain from the EU.
Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney accused some British politicians of seeking “to essentially do away with an agreed solution between the U.K. government and EU negotiators and to replace this with wishful thinking.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel also said the agreement couldn’t be renegotiated, although questions surrounding border arrangements could be addressed in a declaration on the future relationship between the EU and Britain.
Speaking during a trip to Japan, she said a Brexit agreement was still possible, but first “we must hear from Great Britain how they envision that.”
May hasn’t spoken to EU leaders since Wednesday, a day after British lawmakers instructed her to seek changes to the Brexit withdrawal agreement she had spent a year and a half negotiating with Brussels.
But May’s spokesman, James Slack, denied that the Brexit process was deadlocked. He said the government was working with “urgency” on border solutions.
“What we are doing right now is working at home on the proposal we will take to Brussels,” he said.
Raf Casert in Brussels, and Geir Moulson, in Berlin contributed to this story.
Follow AP’s full coverage of Brexit at: https://www.apnews.com/Brexit
AP Interview: Puigdemont says Catalan trial ‘vengeance’
By RENATA BRITO and JOSEPH WILSON
Monday, February 4
WATERLOO, Belgium (AP) — The leader of Catalonia’s failed secession bid in 2017 says that Spain will seek “vengeance” rather than justice when 12 of his separatist allies stand trial next week accused of rebellion and other charges.
Carles Puigdemont, who will follow the trial from self-imposed exile in Belgium, accused EU countries of double standards for recognizing Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido as that country’s interim president, while ignoring his attempt to declare independence for Catalonia.
“I was elected by a democratically impeccable parliament as president and I was sacked by a man who now only has four members of the regional parliament in Catalonia,” Puigdemont told The Associated Press on Sunday, referring to former Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. “This double standard is shameful for Europe.”
The former Catalan regional president slipped out of Spain after the government removed him from office following the regional parliament’s declaration of independence on Oct. 27, 2017. Twelve other separatists will go on trial in Spain’s Supreme Court on Feb. 12 on charges including rebellion and sedition.
“We are all supporting them, helping them because they are suffering a terribly unjust and humiliating situation and being used to set an example,” Puigdemont said in the interview in the Belgian town of Waterloo, south of Brussels.
The trial, he said, “will not be an act of justice but rather one of vengeance.”
Spanish Supreme Court President Carlos Lesmes has dismissed such claims, insisting the trial will follow the “highest standards set by the European Union.”
He recently told foreign journalists that discrediting the Spanish judiciary “is part of the defense’s strategy of advancing its political interests.”
The trial will be broadcast on TV from Madrid. A request by defense lawyers to have Puigdemont testify via video conference was refused.
Instead, he will watch the proceedings from his home in Waterloo, a two-story brick house bordered by trimmed hedges. The lease is paid for by private donations, according to Puigdemont. A plaque on the front door reads “The House of the Republic.” Inside, the walls are covered with artwork exalting Catalonia’s struggle for independence and in a corner of the living room stands an empty ballot box used in the referendum.
Puigdemont said that what he expects will be a guilty verdict for his fellow separatists, including members of his defunct Cabinet, would only provide momentum to the separatist movement, which he predicted would gain the support of a clear majority of Catalans.
“That moment will arrive and when it does we will have all the legitimacy to take the decisions that we have already decided in parliament and have ratified in a plebiscite,” he said, adding that the declaration of independence was still valid.
“So we are on this path and don’t let anyone forget it because despite the inconveniences, it is valid and it can be activated when we have the conviction and the certainty that it should be,” he said.
The “yes” vote won in a landslide in the October 2017 referendum, during which hundreds of people were injured in a police crackdown. But those in favor of remaining with Spain largely stayed home, and Spain’s central government declared the vote illegal and unconstitutional.
Subsequent regional elections indicated that Catalonia is evenly split between those in favor and those against independence.
Traveling around Europe to drum up support for his cause, Puigdemont was arrested in Germany on a European warrant issued by Spain last March. A German court, however, ruled it would only extradite him on charges of misuse of public funds to hold the referendum, not the more serious charge of rebellion. That led a Spanish judge to withdraw the arrest order for Puigdemont in July, along with five other separatists who fled Spain.
Puigdemont said he wouldn’t be surprised if Spain reactivated the European arrest warrant after the trial concludes, saying “we take it for granted” and are prepared to fight it. The alternative, however, is to remain far from his wife and two young daughters, who visit him but continue to live in northeastern Spain.
“To let me rot in exile so that nobody listens to me, that too is a kind of punishment,” he said. “(But) the best case scenario is that they don’t extradite me. I am going to spend many years here.”
Joseph Wilson reported from Barcelona, Spain.
French yellow vest protesters condemn injuries, blame police
By SYLVIE CORBET
Saturday, February 2
PARIS (AP) — France’s yellow vest protesters were back on the streets Saturday to keep the pressure on French President Emmanuel Macron’s government and to decry the number of people being injured by police during anti-government demonstrations.
Multiple protests were taking place in Paris and other cities to denounce Macron’s economic policies, which they view as favoring the rich, for the 12th straight weekend of demonstrations.
In Paris, scuffles broke out between some protesters and police around the Republic plaza, northeast of the city center, where hundreds of demonstrators headed on Saturday afternoon. Police appeared to be trying to disperse the crowd.
Thousands of demonstrators in the French capital paid tribute to the yellow vests injured during clashes with police, an effort to unify growing divisions in the grassroots movement.
Several competing groups of yellow vests said they are getting ready to present candidates for the European Parliament election in May, while other figures insist the movement must remain non-political.
The government says around 2,000 people have been injured in protests since the movement began Nov. 17, including at least four serious eye injuries. Separately, 10 people have died in traffic accidents related to yellow vest actions.
Jerome Rodrigues, a prominent member of the movement who suffered an eye injury last week, was widely applauded by the crowd.
A French police investigation was still ongoing to determine how Rodrigues was injured. Video images show Rodriguez collapsed on the ground last Saturday near the Bastille monument, where protesters throwing projectiles clashed with police seeking to disperse them.
Franck Dideron, a 20-year-old protester, said he was protesting peacefully, speaking on the phone to his mother, when his eye was injured by a rubber bullet fired by police during a Dec. 1 protest near the Arc de Triomphe monument in Paris.
“The policeman shot me voluntarily. And I was just turning around — how was that violent behavior? How was I dangerous for him?” he asked The Associated Press. “Today, I would like to see this policeman come and stand in front of me, look me in the eye and tell me why he shot me.”
Antonio Barbetta, 40 year-old protester with injured foot, call the French police’s response to the yellow vests marches “excessive.”
“I’m in contact with a large number of injured people and I can tell you that these were non-violent people. I myself am against all forms of violence on either side,” he said.
France’s Council of State ruled Friday that security forces have a right to use controversial high-velocity rubber bullets for crowd control.
Benjamin Cauchy, a yellow vest spokesman from southern France who came to the Paris protest, called it a “regrettable decision.”
The weapon “is extremely harmful, imprecise and in the end is causing more sorrow than security,” he told BFM television.
The Council of State noted the frequency of violence and property destruction at protests. It concluded that authorities’ use of the devices doesn’t constitute a “grave attack” on the freedom to demonstrate or the right not to be exposed to inhuman or degrading treatment.
Interior Minister Christophe Castaner tweeted Friday that “if the law was respected, there would be no injured.”
A bill is under debate in the French parliament to strengthen measures against troublemakers who use protests to attack police. Rights groups and opposition lawmakers, however, say it goes too far in restricting the right to protest.
The bill could authorize local prefects to prevent people they see as a serious threat to public order from taking part in protests. It could also make it a crime for protesters to conceal their faces during demonstrations.
Around 69,000 people nationwide took part in protests last week, down from more than 80,000 during the previous two weekends, according to the French Interior Ministry.
The yellow vests movement began in November and was named after the fluorescent safety vests that French motorists must carry in case of emergency.
Alexander Turnbull and Milos Krivokapic contributed to the story.
European nations raise pressure on Venezuela’s Maduro
By BARRY HATTON
Monday, February 4
LISBON, Portugal (AP) — A key group of European Union countries endorsed Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido as the country’s interim president on Monday, piling the pressure on embattled President Nicolas Maduro to resign and let the country hold a new presidential election.
Maduro, for his part, stood defiant, accusing the United States of preparing a coup in the South American country and rejecting a U.S.-backed effort to send emergency food and medicine into his country.
“We are not beggars,” Maduro said on Venezuelan state TV.
Spain, Germany, France and Britain delivered diplomatic blows to Maduro’s rule by publicly supporting Guaido after giving Maduro a Sunday deadline to call a presidential election, which he didn’t heed. Sweden, Denmark, Austria, the Netherlands, Lithuania, Finland, the Czech Republic and Portugal also lined up behind Guaido, the self-declared interim president who also has the support of the United States and many South American nations.
The European countries urged Guaido to hold free and fair elections as soon as possible.
“We are working for the return of full democracy in Venezuela: human rights, elections and no more political prisoners,” Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said in a televised announcement.
He said Spain, which has a large Venezuelan community, is also working on a humanitarian aid program for Venezuela, where shortages of basic items are acute. Critics of Maduro blame the Venezuelan government’s mismanagement for the lack of food and medical supplies.
British Prime Minister Theresa May’s spokesman, James Slack, said Britain is considering imposing sanctions to help bring about change in Venezuela.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said during a visit to Japan on Monday that Guaido “is the legitimate interim president.”
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, speaking to France Inter Radio, appealed for an early presidential election that will ensure “the Venezuelan crisis ends peacefully.”
Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom said the election that brought Maduro to power was neither free nor fair and told Swedish broadcaster SVT on Monday that Venezuelans “now must get new, free and fair elections instead.”
Guaido’s backers say he is the legitimate leader because he is president of Venezuela’s congress, which they regard as the only lawfully elected power in the country.
Around 1 million people resident in Venezuela also possess a European passport, Portuguese Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silva told a news conference in Lisbon.
Western Hemisphere nations were set to add to the pressure Monday during a meeting in Canada of the Lima Group, which includes 13 countries that have been vocal in denouncing Maduro.
But the socialist leader showed no signs of caving in and lashed out at the EU and the Trump administration, which has also put pressure on the Venezuelan government by imposing sanctions on Venezuelan oil exports and demanding Maduro’s departure.
“I don’t accept ultimatums from anybody,” Maduro told Spanish TV channel La Sexta in an interview broadcast late Sunday. “Why should the EU be giving ultimatums to a country?”
He added that Venezuela is being “threatened by the biggest powers in the world.”
Turning to Washington’s role in the Venezuelan crisis, Maduro claimed that “the military option is on (U.S. President) Donald Trump’s table.”
“The United States wants to return to the 20th century of military coups, subordinate puppet governments and the looting of resources,” Maduro said.
Maduro said Monday he has written to Pope Francis asking for help in fostering dialogue. Maduro said in an interview with Italy’s Sky TG24 that he hopes the letter is in route or has reached the Vatican.
Maduro said he has asked Francis to “facilitate and reinforce” dialogue on Venezuela’s crisis.
In an appearance later on state television, Maduro was especially harsh on fellow socialist and Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, saying he would have “blood on his hands” if a coup is carried out against him.
Some of the EU countries backing Guaido are part of a newly formed “International Contact Group” of eight European and four Latin American nations. It aims to address the crisis in Venezuela and is due to hold its first meeting in Uruguay on Thursday.
Santos Silva, the Portuguese diplomat, said the Contact group wants to end Venezuela’s political stalemate through the ballot box, preventing a civil war or an “illegitimate foreign intervention.”
Guaido on Twitter expressed his gratitude to the EU leaders for supporting Venezuela’s fight for freedom.