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[00:00:01]

Hi, li steners, a quick note before we start a previous version of this episode implied that two people, Sergio Rodriguez and Mariano Diaz, had had direct telephone contact with one another. That section has been updated for clarity. Thanks. And here's episode three. Félix Molina is a former radio journalist who lives in Montreal, Canada, but his home is Honduras, where his family is his friends, the colleagues he worked alongside for decades. But that's the country he can't return to.

[00:00:39]

He says it just isn't safe for him, you know, to inside simply being assembled.

[00:00:45]

You always think about going back. It's just that living in exile isn't a solution. Exile is just a way to prolong my life.

[00:00:56]

Alexey Laois made the opera a prolonged karlov either.

[00:01:02]

The reason why Felix had to leave Honduras can't be separated from the story of Berta Cáceres murder.

[00:01:10]

The two of them met in the 1990s. Félix was working for a radio station where he covered human rights and indigenous issues.

[00:01:18]

Naturally, his path crossed with Berta's repartition on a flint importante.

[00:01:26]

She seemed like an important source for a subject that I was passionate about the visibility of those communities that were culturally distinct in Honduras, the ones that for years we'd been taught about or wrongly thought about in school or Apprendi, though Malapa indeed or less Quiller.

[00:01:45]

Over the next two decades, Félix went on to host a variety of radio programs in Honduras, and he often reached out to Berta.

[00:01:54]

She became something more than a source. She was also a good friend, one he respected.

[00:02:00]

Thania Characteristic are the real legacy siempre.

[00:02:06]

She had this characteristic where she'd laugh almost always, and I'd even say that included when she was going after people, giving them grief and reprimanding them. Even then, she'd be smiling. A también Suriya.

[00:02:22]

But the very last time Félix Sabata, that playful quality had been replaced by something heavier. He spotted her unexpectedly at an airport in El Salvador. Both of them were catching connecting flights. He guesses it was about a week before her murder.

[00:02:41]

Félix K-Tel Berita was worried about something, in fact, she straight up told him so.

[00:02:48]

Nunca commonness, our conversation, never before had she been so convinced she'd be assassinated as she was in that conversation, never DWC Natto Kananga Over the years, Félix had talked about her many times about the dangers activists faced in Honduras, but not with this sense of urgency. She seemed convinced something bad was going to happen. And soon Yayo anaesthetise out. She was certain of it. She said, They're going to kill me, Feliks. They're going to kill me no matter.

[00:03:26]

Feliks Minamata. When Bhatta said they were going to kill her, Félix says she was talking about the people working for DUSA, the company overseeing the hydroelectric project she'd been protesting about a week after that encounter at the airport, Berta was dead and Félix started digging into Dassa, trying to find out all he could about it.

[00:03:53]

He worked alongside an international human rights organization. He won't reveal the group's name, but says it had hired private investigators to poke around the company.

[00:04:03]

Joe Thania, winner young contest organization. I had a good relationship with this organization for the past 15 years. They trusted my work and my journalistic credibility and they shared with me the preliminary findings of their investigation. Those preliminary findings included the articles of incorporation for the company Disha Electic Constitutive Bodyline Press Adisa.

[00:04:37]

It was now Monday, May 2nd, exactly two months after Burrito's murder, and for the remainder of this episode, we're going to stay here on this day. It was Labor Day for much of Latin America, a day off, but not for Félix if it on the normal day travel.

[00:04:57]

Bahrami This was normal working day for me while everyone else was probably resting.

[00:05:04]

Probably meant to this concerned. He got out of bed that morning expecting a slow, easy day. Neither he nor the rest of Honduras could have realized how much would change over the course of that day. The lid would be ripped off.

[00:05:20]

Barrass investigation, new details and new evidence would be revealed in the lives of several people, Felix included, would permanently veer into new direction. I'm Montreal for Bloomberg Green and the story of May 2nd, 2016 is this episode of Blood River. Félix hosted a radio show in Tegucigalpa, the Honduran capital, as it happened, his guest on May 2nd was going to be Berta Casares, oldest daughter, Olivia. Not long after Felix got out of bed, he opened his computer a few days before that non-profit group he'd been working with had provided him a file, information they dug up about Dessa, the Hydro-Electric Company in Honduras.

[00:06:33]

It's not always easy to figure out who really runs a company or whose money is behind it. Records can be difficult to access, and even when they are available, they're often full of holes. But this document listed names of some of decis executives and shareholders. Many of those names hadn't been revealed to the public yet. As soon as he saw it, Félix had wanted to publish it, to send it out to the world, but a mentor of his warned there might be risks Americans to help Prudentia.

[00:07:07]

Maybe he'll get a peligro.

[00:07:08]

So she advised me to use caution. She said it was dangerous. And in fact, I understood that more effective, I meant the YOLO compendia.

[00:07:21]

But on that Monday morning, Félix opened his Facebook page and took the leap. He posted the document, then he got ready for work, stepped outside and flagged a taxi to go to the radio studio. Traffic was lighter than usual because of the holiday, but one road was still pretty busy. The one that runs right in front of the presidential palace and past some of the city's swankiest hotels established Berrendo could come loose in a similar photo. We were waiting at the stoplight for the light to change.

[00:07:58]

And truth is, I was distracted because it was a relaxed day.

[00:08:04]

And always in this intersection, there's constantly people around street vendors, people asking for money, jugglers, street artists. It's a stoplight that's always full of street performers. It was a spectacle that was too common for me to be concerned about the Malachy Komura spectacle of Etoile parameter Stour this confusable.

[00:08:28]

But the taxi driver was keeping an eye on the scene, and that's when he noticed a young woman with blond hair coming up behind the car. She was holding a gun, but before the driver could tell Félix about her, Euromoney is our protozoan diesel taxi and another man came from another direction toward the taxi and he tried to unexpectedly and forcibly grabbed my arm. I reacted by throwing myself all the way to the other side of the backseat of the taxi Improvisatory 40, Eurex, O'Neill and Sandomir.

[00:09:09]

Extremely Lasha. They attract the taxi. The driver slammed his foot on the gas to escape. Félix was still holding his cell phone as the taxi lurched forward. Tires squealing in small metal conductor and not any Abdula Gustavo almost Frenchtown I salto. At that moment, the taxi driver had no doubt that this was an assault and he fled the scene, as they say, and going the wrong way to get us to safety it. Buelow, Salyer, they'll they'll they'll say nothing harmless and contrary to the eponymous Ozalp.

[00:09:57]

Robberies are pretty common in Honduras, Félix figured the couple probably had just wanted to steal his cell phone. He considered himself lucky to have held on to it and to his life when he finally made it into the studio. Felix described the attempted robbery in a Facebook post. He ended it by typing, Oh, what a country we live in.

[00:10:20]

Ben Seki et al Gore Conemaugh Liposarcoma, I thought it was something that happened to thousands of people in Honduras, they robbed phones and if people resist, they kill them until telefono entrances to Martun.

[00:10:40]

Maybe it was just a routine, though terrifying example of petty street crime, or was there more to it than that for Félix? That question would grow bigger and scarier as the day pushed on. The morning of May 2nd also got off to a rocky start for Sergio Rodriguez, remember Sergio? He was Des's point man for the Iowa Arcadium in Rio Blanco, where Bhatta had rallied protesters against the project. Sergo had started off as the man in charge of environmental standards.

[00:11:26]

Later, his duties expanded to include community relations. After Berita was killed, some of her colleagues had told investigators that Sergo had threatened her. And so a couple of weeks after the murder, the investigators called him in to ask him about it. He denied the threats after that questioning.

[00:11:50]

They also made Sergo list his address in Tegucigalpa in case they needed to reach him. Sergio had an apartment in the capital, but that's not the address he listed. Instead, he told them the address of his mother's house. He says he wasn't trying to deceive them and he didn't really think anything about it until that morning on May 2nd, the same morning when Felix Molina had experienced that strange encounter in the taxicab.

[00:12:25]

That morning, Sergio's phone woke him up at about 530. It was his attorney calling. He told Sergio the police had a warrant to search what they thought was his house.

[00:12:39]

So Sergio got out of bed, put on a yellow polo shirt and a pair of khakis and went to his mom's condo at.

[00:12:47]

You know, when I got there, I saw all the police cars and military vehicles, people wearing balaclavas from the federal agency of investigation and the prosecutors. I was there before 6:00 in the morning at my mom's and they told me I was being arrested for the death of Berta Caceres in the course of the murder.

[00:13:12]

Precocious.

[00:13:17]

As they read him his rights, Sergio, watch them search every corner of the house. They searched one bedroom at a time going through the closets, the bathrooms. Officers were noticing the colors of the closet doors and the bedspreads.

[00:13:33]

His mother struggled to sort through the confusion of the main dental line, presumed dead.

[00:13:40]

So obviously, I was concerned about the impression this had on my mom. My mom is an 84 year old woman.

[00:13:50]

I was worried about her health, so I asked them, please, please, could you avoid exposing me to the media to put forward a retirement plan that a man who's that the investigators had other priorities.

[00:14:06]

They were hunting for evidence. The only item of note they collected from this raid was Sergios cell phone, a gold Samsung Galaxy edge with a black case.

[00:14:19]

But this wasn't the only place being searched that morning at the exact same time, 10 separate teams of investigators and military police were launching simultaneous raids while Sergio watched them pick apart his mother's place.

[00:14:36]

Another team was rifling through the DEA offices inside a Tegucigalpa high rise and other teams were raiding the houses of five other men.

[00:14:46]

Three of those men would be arrested that same morning along with Sergio. You know, by the time the police escorted Sergio out of his mother's house, dozens of reporters were outside. Their cameras were ready as he was escorted past them, the police draped a fuzzy yellow blanket over Sergio's head and led him into the backseat of an unmarked car. Sergio's request to the police to keep things quiet apparently had backfired. Yeah, Luaka you got on e-mail from Icaza, the only place the media showed up was my house.

[00:15:35]

Sariego And the news of the arrests flooded the airwaves in Honduras that morning.

[00:15:41]

There being a practical matter, Lacassine, best thing that there's an organic US military spokesman listed the names of Sergio and the three others who'd been arrested that morning.

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The first was a former Honduran military officer who previously had been in charge of security for Dassa near the wall karki River. The second was a veteran of the Honduran special forces, an army major who worked in military intelligence. The third was a 25 year old, one of at least three suspected sicarios or hitmen hired to kill Obata. The police hauled all four men to a federal building in Tegucigalpa. Meanwhile, other officers were cataloguing the evidence collected during the raids.

[00:16:32]

They had cell phones, tablets and hard drugs. Agents turned the home of the accused hit man inside out, and then they searched the home next door where his twin brother lived. They stripped the sheets from the beds and lifted the mattresses underneath one mattress. They found something interesting a gun with a white plated handle. It was a Smith and Wesson 38 special, the same kind of gun that had killed Berita. Why don't you let me know and I got to go in there because the police called it Operation Jaguar for weeks, the investigators had been planning this morning of raids.

[00:17:32]

In the two months after the murder, the Casares family and really everyone in Honduras saw the investigation as a series of missteps. Those missteps were real and investigators wasted weeks following too many false leads. They'd seemed too suspicious of Bertus friends or colleagues, and especially of Gustavo Castro.

[00:17:57]

Tabatha's family and colleagues, it seemed in those early days that no one was looking at Dessa, the Hydro Electric Company, but now, exactly two months after the murder, it was clear that investigators had, in fact, shifted their focus away from Berta's close friends. Several disconnected clues had come together and police believed they pointed to Dessa. A couple of days after the murder, police had gotten their hands on a thumb drive, the kind you pop into a USB port on a computer.

[00:18:31]

This drive actually had been plugged into a security camera. That camera had captured grainy images of the road leading into Berta's subdivision. Investigators scanned the files on the thumb drive and found the footage from the night Berta was killed. On that video at 11 24 p.m., you see headlights from a vehicle nearing the subdivision. The vehicle stops and three people visible only as silhouettes run through the camera frame. You can't make out any faces. This was one of the first pieces of evidence they gave investigators an idea of what they now think really happened on the night of Berta's murder.

[00:19:20]

It was just the start. Days after the murder, police pulled data from the cellular phone towers closest to Barrett's house, but it took them about five weeks to analyze it. Aside from the other residents of the subdivision, five cell phones had been active near Berta's house around the time of the murder. The police believe that three of those phones belonged to the hit men, including one who'd been arrested on May 2nd at the same time as Sergio Rodriguez.

[00:19:59]

Sergio's phone could not be traced to the subdivision that night, but that didn't mean he was cleared. There was still more evidence to collect breadcrumbs. The police were following clues that seemed to connect Dessa to the others who'd been at the scene of the crime. One of the other three men arrested in the early morning raids of May 2nd was name d Marianne Odiase He was the Army major, the guy who worked in military intelligence. But months before Bertus murder, Honduran investigators had started keeping an eye on him.

[00:20:34]

This had nothing to do with Bhatta, at least not at first. They thought Diaz might be linked to a drug trafficking and kidnapping ring. They began tracing his phone calls. That phone tap turned out to be an incredible stroke of luck after Batta was killed. Investigators realize that Diaz had been in contact with people connected to Dessa.

[00:21:03]

The more they looked at the phone records, the more connections emerged.

[00:21:08]

Both Sergio and Diaz had also been talking to the former decis security chief, a man named Douglas Bustillo. He also would be arrested in the raids of May 2nd.

[00:21:21]

Bustillo, in turn, had also been in regular contact with two suspected gunman that police had tracked about his house the night of the murder.

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All of this information justified the warrant the police used for the May 2nd raids. Investigators laid out a hypothetical plot.

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They believed Sergio and Diaz, the expert in military intelligence, were each involved in planning separate aspects of the murder. Sergio, they said, helped surveil Baretta through a network of informants. Diaz had handled other details, like getting the guns in the vehicle used for the crime. Both of them separately were in contact with the former decis security chief who still the police alleged Bustillo helped put together the team of sicarios, low level criminals willing to kill for a payday.

[00:22:19]

The company immediately denied all involvement in the murder and continues to dispute this interpretation of events. But for investigators, it emerged as a working theory. They still needed proof, of course, and that was the mission of the raids that morning to collect cell phones, computers and tablets, anything that might be hiding more evidence.

[00:22:45]

That 38 special they found under a mattress seemed to back up the investigators theory, or at least it didn't contradict.

[00:22:55]

A ballistics expert would later examine the gun alongside some of the spent shell fragments collected in Berta's house they matched.

[00:23:13]

That afternoon, Sergio and the other three men were locked behind bars.

[00:23:20]

Victor Naprosyn, apparently. They held me in preventative detention.

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And took me to a maximum security prison.

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It was a huge shock and impact of it, and if you listen to other inmates screaming and then all of a sudden everything went dark.

[00:23:42]

So when the electricity went out and the first thing I thought was that they were going to kill me. Because of all the stories you hear about what it's like in a federal penitentiary, in a penitentiary and nationally, it's late afternoon now on May 2nd, Felix Molina is inside the radio studio like everyone else.

[00:24:07]

He's been following the news, catching reports about the raids and the arrests. Felix had planned to talk to his oldest daughter, Olivia, on his show that afternoon, but the Casares family had been caught off guard by the events of that morning. They first learned of the raids when reporters started calling them. Olivia and her sisters said that because they didn't know anything about the arrests, they couldn't be sure that the true architects of the assassination had been captured.

[00:24:38]

Olivia said that the four men arrested might have been fall guys in the system who had been arrested. We don't trust the judicial system in this country. We don't believe in it.

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And they must get little thing is the system. Felix also had his doubts. And after the attempted robbery that morning, he was thinking a lot about his own safety.

[00:25:02]

Elopements your now lady. I mentioned it on there and there were people who heard this and who saw my Facebook post and who were worried for me.

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It gave me pause except a couple.

[00:25:16]

Those calls from concerned listeners included one from members of a local human rights organization. They invited Felix to their office to tell them more about the assault. They knew Felix had publicly posted the names of Decis executives and investors earlier that morning, and they suspected the assault might be connected to that. So late that afternoon, Felix caught another cab to their office. He told them all the details of the hold up once he got there about how the woman and the man had threatened him at gunpoint, how his quick thinking taxi driver had sped away just in time.

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By the time the meeting was over and it was time for him to go, Félix actually felt a little nervous.

[00:26:03]

He the those personas Gustav anthologized how old I am.

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And I asked two people who were there at the office at the time if they'd come with me outside to look for a taxi. And it took a long time to find a cab to take me back to my house. Finally, I grabbed the street taxi like I always do.

[00:26:25]

A final minute, me Comalco Mahdavi to taxi the Elachi on his way home, he realized he was seeing the same familiar buildings, the same familiar streets that he'd passed by earlier in the day on his way to work.

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This was the avenue where he'd been assaulted that morning near the presidential palace by the five star hotel.

[00:26:52]

The taxi made its way to the very streetlight where Félix had narrowly escaped danger. Earlier that morning, he sat there in the taxi waiting for the light to change, just like before. But this time he was paying attention.

[00:27:08]

His eyes scanned the street. He noticed movement around the car. It didn't feel right.

[00:27:15]

Yalea Mizzima loose IEI stories Jarno those personas, you Nosenko persona, 009 a taxi and that same street light. This time it wasn't to people, but rather five people who surrounded the taxi while we waited for the light to change. They told me This time you won't escape. He may be a donkey. Estévez Snowman's Coppola, a man reached into the taxi and grabbed Félix with one hand. In his other hand, the man held a pistol. He made the sparrow a camera.

[00:27:52]

He shot me point blank. Elavil, Lucky Despommier, Travis Solis Doyle, spareness, the bullet that he shot at me went through both my legs, the assailants fled and a group of bystanders rushed to Felix's taxi to see if they could help eliminate them, pull the they randomly in a taxi at the NIYA.

[00:28:25]

I really could have bled to death in the taxi. I was scared, crying. I didn't know what to do. The people insisted, taking me to the hospital because I couldn't move. I couldn't get up from the seat. I couldn't feel my legs. So finally, I got to the public hospital, the teaching hospital. And just as I got to the entrance of the hospital, I lost consciousness, stopped Dr. Daniel Conergy, Mintel International.

[00:28:53]

I lost Battal.

[00:28:55]

Félix had spent that late morning devouring media reports about the arrests in Berta's murder case. Now, as evening approached, he himself had become part of the news in Honduras.

[00:29:09]

A prominent radio journalist has been shot four times but survived. Felix Molina was reportedly attacked twice in the same day Monday. He was shot twice in each leg and a statement released by a human rights group. Melena said he believed he was directly targeted and vowed to continue practicing journalism without fear. He said, quote, I declare myself a survivor of the insecurity that the majority of the country faces. Melena shooting came on the eve of World Press Freedom Day.

[00:29:42]

So Félix is in his hospital bed and he's replaying everything in his mind.

[00:29:48]

The news that morning suggested that current and former military officials, including at least one in military intelligence, had been detained in Berta's murder. And Felix begins to think about the assault on him. It seems so organized, so preplanned. And he's growing convinced both of the assaults against him that day were connected to Berta's murder.

[00:30:16]

Después, they'll say, under attack this you're yesterday in the hospital after the second attack, after I was in the hospital, I started to reflect on this, on the modus operandi of criminal organizations in Honduras. It was all there in assassination of Bertha. You had military men who were experts in intelligence, trained by the special forces, and then you had hired hitmen without experience as a way to mislead investigations.

[00:30:46]

So I started to reflect that. What happened to me wasn't just an everyday crime, that it was a consequence of my coverage of the story of Berta Caceres. His assailants were never caught and he can't prove they were connected to the company or its shareholders who completely deny all involvement. But Félix is convinced that the events of that day amounted to more than a chain of coincidences.

[00:31:18]

And now now I can say without any doubt that I suffered the consequences of reporting on the work and on the assassination of Berta Cussedness. Definitely go back to the international Ultracal E-L assassinator the definitive moment that. It's nighttime now on May 2nd, the president of Honduras, Juan Orlando Hernandez, held a press conference a few hours earlier to celebrate the four arrests. Now he's preparing for a trip. The next morning, he needs to be in Washington, D.C., That's where an energy summit is being held for leaders from the U.S., Mexico and the Caribbean.

[00:32:09]

Hernandez is scheduled to meet with some very high profile attendees at that conference. Vice President Joe Biden is one of them. Hernandez wants to assure him that renewable energy projects like hydroelectric dams are developments worth backing. An integrated North America working to promote energy security beyond our borders can be a major asset for the entire hemisphere and is profoundly is profoundly in the self-interest of the United States to see the Caribbean countries succeed.

[00:32:45]

Secretary of State John Kerry has been optimistic about energy partnerships with Central American countries, especially those countries encouraging private sector involvement.

[00:32:57]

Every one of us, I think, should take note of the fact that the Caribbean and Central American nations continue to pursue legal, regulatory and policy reforms, are going to modernize and integrate their energy systems and make private sector clean energy more attractive.

[00:33:13]

And all of those places clean energy for Hernandez's government. Hydroelectric projects like the Iwazaki Dam were supposed to be the linchpins in Honduras's economic renaissance. Fernandez himself, back when he was the head of the Honduran National Congress, had been the one to draft that strategy. But now Berta's killing was a black cloud over all of that. Hernandez like to say that Honduras was open for business, but who is going to pour money into a local industry that was marred by high profile scandal and violence?

[00:33:54]

The timing of all of this didn't sit right with baratz. His family, was it all a big coincidence? Exactly. One day before the president of Honduras attends a summit to promote his renewable energy agenda, his government to great fanfare announces the arrests of Berta's killers.

[00:34:19]

The Casares family issued a statement online and above it they posted photos, the ones that the government released that day of agents standing next to a handcuffed Sergio Rodriguez.

[00:34:31]

The statement began, The Honduran government made a surprise announcement on Monday morning, claiming to have caught the culprits who assassinated Berita. The most impressive detail is that they were able to snap many well posed photos of those culprits alongside federal agents despite this show. We continue our call for an independent international investigation. Even after the arrests, the family still didn't trust the Honduran investigators. That evening, Berta's daughter, Martita Izabel, was monitoring everything that was unfolding from thousands of miles away in Barcelona.

[00:35:22]

She and others from campaign that met with members of the European Parliament that week, they were lobbying for support. Battuta was calling for an international investigation into her mom's murder. The arrest that morning didn't satisfy her. On the night of May 2nd, Martita Isabelle stood on a concert stage. She was next to Manukau, a French and Spanish rock star who sold millions of albums in Europe and Latin American.

[00:35:56]

We know that when you get like Partita, Isabelle is saying that her mother didn't die, she multiplied.

[00:36:07]

That's become a rallying cry that Berta's family and their backers have spread around the world. The family is trying to assemble an international team of lawyers and investigators to re-examine the evidence in the case, to look at it all with fresh eyes. Even after the arrests of that day, she and her family believe the Honduran investigation has been corrupted from the start. Sergio Rodriguez was a mid-level employee of the Hydro Electric Company. Birch's family suspects he was a puppet following a plan that had been masterminded by his superiors.

[00:36:45]

Perhaps some of the same people whose names had appeared on the document that Felix Molina had posted on his Facebook page earlier that morning. In the next couple of months, the family would continue to travel to the United States and around the world, and that international team of investigators would take shape after the raids of the morning of May 2nd. Honduran investigators, as well as that international team, would have a lot more information to sift through the phones that had been confiscated or full of information.

[00:37:20]

The most interesting evidence by far was the WhatsApp text messages pulled from them.

[00:37:27]

And so we got 55 gigs of data they had extracted from their cell phones, which was a tiny fraction of the data. There's about 40000 pages.

[00:37:44]

Those messages will become the foundation of the case in new, far more dramatic story will take shape, one that will lead investigators toward the person they'll describe as the mastermind behind the murder.

[00:38:00]

That's next time on Bloodworth. What River is written and reported by me material tofor Forras is our senior producer, Maya Cueva is our associate producer. A theme was composed and performed by Cynthia Rubinos special Thanks to Carlos Rodriguez. Francesca Levy is the head of Bloomburg podcast. Be sure to subscribe if you haven't already and if you like what you hear, please leave us a review. It helps others find out about the show. Thanks for listening.