Today in Latin America
Top Story – Unidentified assailants threw an explosive over the fence of the U.S. Consulate in the border city Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, reigniting anxieties that U.S. authorities are being increasingly targeted by Mexican drug gangs.
A statement posted on the Consulate’s Web site said the attack occurred at around 11 p.m. on Friday and caused window damages, but no injuries.
The authorities are investigating the explosion and have temporarily closed the Consulate in Nuevo Laredo, as well as another in nearby Piedras Negras. “The Consulate General and Consular Agency will reopen when we are confident that we have adequate security to keep our visitors safe,” the press release said.
While the motive for the attack was not clear, The BBC reports that violence has escalated in recent weeks in northern Mexico, due to a conflict between the Gulf cartel and Los Zetas over control over smuggling routes to the United States, the primary market for illegal drugs.
The attack occurred less than a month after the murder of three people with connections to the U.S. Consulate in Ciudad Juárez. The killings, allegedly carried out by one of Mexico’s notorious drug gangs, prompted analysts to wonder if the U.S. was being targeted.
Mexico’s drug war has raged since December of 2006, when newly innaugurated President Felipe Calderón began an military offensive on the Mexican drug traffickers. The University of San Diego has recorded more than 10,000 drug-related murders since January 2007.
The U.S. has spent $700 million since 2008 through the Merida Initiative to aid Mexican security forces, but attacks on U.S. officials, buildings and citizens by drug traffickers have been rare until recently. The Obama administration has requested another $450 million this year to fund the Merida Initiative in Mexico.
First lady Michelle Obama is scheduled visit to Mexico City to meet with President Calderón on Tuesday.
Headlines from the Western Hemisphere
- A 4.4 magnitude earthquake hit the U.S.-Mexico border Sunday near the town of Calexico, Mexico. No damage or injuries was reported.
- Enrique Villicana Palomares, a journalist for the Mexican newspaper The Voice of Michoacan who was kidnapped last week, was found with his throat slit Saturday in the state capital, Morelia.
- Operations have begun to move temporary shelters for homeless Haitians from dangerous sites before the rainy season begins.
- Cuban folksinger Silvio Rodgríguez gave a speech rather than performing at the “Concert for the Fatherland” (Concierto por la Patria) organized by the Cuban government this weekend to counter what it calls a “media attack” by the U.S. and Europe over alleged human rights abuses.
- Nine people were killed in Tegucigalpa, Honduras by suspected drug hitmen as Mexican cartels escalate their battles over smuggling routes through Central America.
- Guns N’ Roses cancelled a show in San Jose, Costa Rica Saturday after the stage collapsed due to the weight of the screen the band uses as part of their live performances.
- Colombian presidential candidate and former mayor of Bogota, Antanas Mockus, said that he has been diagnosed with an earl stage of Parkinson’s disease.
- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez renewed the country’s emergency electricity rationing until June.
- Bolivia protested the cutting of $3 million in U.S. climate aid to the country, calling the move “a very bad practice.”
- A recently uncovered document shows that Henry Kissinger canceled an order to warn southern cone leaders against committing international murders, just days before the assassination of former Chilean Foreign Minister Orlando Letelier in Washington.
- The official death toll in Brazil due to mudslides and flooding rose to 224, according to reports from Rio de Janeiro’s fire department on Sunday.
- José Serra, representing Brazil’s Social Democracy Party, is the frontrunner in Brazil’s presidential race. Elections will be held in October, 2010.
- The Chinese government said it will halt imports of Argentine soybean oil.
- Chile’s president is looking to New Orleans and hurricane Katrina for lessons on earthquake and tsunami recovery. Sebastián Piñera was scheduled to meet with New Orleans’ Mayor Ray Nagin on Sunday.
- An ex-priest accused of raping three children in Bolivia has been living with his family in Uruguay, with the knowledge of Uruguayan church officials, for over a year.
- Paraguay banned smoking in all public places, including bars, restaurants, and private businesses.