Weekly News Summary: Dec. 11, 2009 – Dec. 18, 2009

This section contains brief summaries of the main stories to come out of Latin America this week. Compiled by the staff of the Latin America News Dispatch.

Argentina:

A former Argentine naval officer went on trial last Friday, Dec. 11, for his alleged involvement in the torture and disappearances of dissidents during Argentina’s military dictatorship. Alfredo Astiz, known as the “Angel of Death,” is accused of the torture and death of two French nuns and the death of three of the founders of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, among other crimes. For more information, visit the Huffington Post website to read the Associated Press story.

Brazil:

Brazil is revamping its space program as part of a wider plan to defend its natural resources against the possibility of foreign usurpation, the L.A. Times reports. The Defense Ministry plans to launch a series of satellites to improve surveillance over the country’s vast Amazon territory.

Colombia:

A Colombian man, who masterminded a pyramid scheme that defrauded thousands of people, received 30 years in prison. David Murcia Guzmán, former head of the DMG group, was also ordered to pay $12.5 million in fines and expects extradition to the United States where he faces money-laundering charges. For more information, visit the BBC website.

Cuba:

A United States citizen, who was arrested in Cuba, was moved to a high security prison, said U.S. congressional officials on Monday, Dec. 14. Cuban authorities arrested the unnamed U.S. government subcontractor for allegedly handing out laptops and other electronic devices as part of a U.S. government program to support democracy in Cuba. For more information, visit the Miami Herald website.

El Salvador:

On Dec. 16 police in El Salvador arrested 10 Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) gang members in relation to the September murder of French journalist, Christian Poveda. Poveda had spent years filming the MS-13 gang for a documentary entitled “La Vida Loca” and it is alleged that he was killed because some gang members did not approve of the film. For more information, visit the New York Times website.

Honduras:

A meeting between deposed Honduran president Manuel Zelaya and his recently elected successor, Porfirio Lobo was postponed after the interim Honduran government refused to allow Zelaya to travel without fear of arrest. The meeting was scheduled to take place in the Dominican Republic on Monday, Dec. 14 and Dominican President Leonel Fernández arranged for the two to meet. For more information, visit the BBC website.

Mexico:

One of Mexico’s top drug cartel leaders, Arturo Beltrán Leyva, was killed in a firefight with Mexican Special Forces troops in Cuernavaca, Mexico on Dec. 16. Beltrán Leyva, one of the five brothers who run the Beltrán Leyva cartel, died in his apartment along with six other alleged drug traffickers. He is the highest-level drug lord killed since Mexican President Felipe Calderón began his offensive against the drug cartels in 2006. For more information, visit the New York Times website.

Mexico:

President Felipe Calderón proposed on Tuesday, Dec. 15, political reforms that would allow federal lawmakers and other elected officials to be reelected and provide for runoff elections for president if no candidate garnered more than 50 percent of the votes. Calderón hopes these reforms make Mexican elected officials more accountable to the Mexican public. For more information, visit the Los Angeles Time website.

Panama:

A Virginia man is charged with bribing Panamanian government officials for maritime contracts. John Warwick, president of Ports Engineering Consultants Corp. is accused of allegedly paying officials to maintain buoys and lighthouses in Panamanian waters. Panama gave the company a 20-year no bid contract but rescinded on it after the alleged bribe was revealed. For more information, visit the United Press International website.

Uruguay:

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Arturo Valenzuela, visited Argentina and Uruguay this week to discuss climate change, nuclear proliferation and the United States role in the region. Valenzuela said that the U.S. has no solutions for the region’s problems and that Latin America must find it’s own, according to the Buenos Aires Herald. For more information, visit the Buenos Aires Herald website or for Spanish-language coverage in Uruguay, visit El Nuevo Herald.

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