Today in Latin America
Top Story — Cuba’s Catholic Church announced Wednesday that the communist government has agreed to release up to 52 political prisoners that were arrested in 2003, accused of plotting against the Castro government.
The decision was announced after a meeting between Cuban head of state Raúl Castro, Cardinal Jaime Ortega, and other officials, according to The Associated Press.
Cuba has come under fire internationally for its treatment of political dissidence since the death of Orlando Zapata Tamayo in February. The Catholic Church has played a key role in mediating the conflict, negotiating the release of one prisoner and the transfer of others to facilities closer to their home towns.
The announcement followed the news, first reported by Cuba’s government-run newspaper, Granma, that political dissident Guillermo Fariñas had developed a potentially fatal blood clot. Fariñas, who has been on a hunger strike since February, has vowed to refuse food until the Cuban government releases its political prisoners.
According to Cardinal Ortega’s announcement, the first five prisoners would leave Cuba for Spain upon their release. Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos attended the meeting with Castro and Ortega, The BBC reports.
The Cuban government does not recognize the prisoners in question as dissidents, referring to them instead as common criminals and alleging that they accepted support from the U.S. government to oppose the communist regime.
Other Top News — A Paris court convicted former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega of laundering drug money in France in the 1980s, sentencing him to seven years in prison.
Just Published at the Latin America News Dispatch
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Headlines from the Western Hemisphere
- Heavy rains have threatened to flood towns along the Rio Grande, forcing neighborhood evacuations and the closure of two bridges across the U.S.-Mexico border Wednesday.
- There is an 80 percent chance that a low-pressure region in the Gulf of Mexico could develop into a tropical cyclone, according to the National Hurricane Center.
- The Venezuelan government extradited Salvadoran national Francisco Chávez Abarca to Cuba to face charges including the bombings of a hotel and a government office in 1997.
- Ambassador Luis CdeBaca, who heads the State Department´s Offce to Combat Trafficking in Persons, will travel to Haiti and the Dominican Republic this week.
- Former Guatemalan soldier Gilberto Jordan, on trial in Miami, pleaded guilty Wednesday to the 1982 massacre of hundreds of men, women, and children living in the village of Dos Erres. He may be extradited to Guatemala.
- Guatemala faces one of the highest murder rates in the Western Hemisphere, with an average of 18 people killed every day and only two percent of its crimes ever prosecuted.
- Arturo Valenzuela, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, stated that Honduras’ return to the OAS is “only a matter of time”.
- 13 Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC) guerrillas were reported killed when a rebel camp near Cartagena was bombed by the Colombian Armed Forces.
- A helicopter crash killed a sailor and injured 9 civilians Tuesday during an anti-drug operation in Bolivia.
- Four Spanish aid workers were killed when their van drove off a cliff and crashed into a ravine in Peru.
- The Roman Catholic Church in Chile is petitioning President Sebastian Piñera to pardon prisoners convicted of crimes against humanity during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.
- The Argentine government announced that it will sue JP Morgan Chase and other companies for fraud.
- Star Brazilian goalie Bruno Fernandes is being investigated by police in connection with his ex-lover’s disappearance.
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