Today in Latin America
Top Story — A gas explosion at the Mexican resort area of Playa del Carmen killed at least seven people and injured 20 others. Five Canadians and two Mexicans are confirmed dead.
A likely buildup of naturally occurring gas ignited and caused a stove or gas line to explode at Playa del Carmen’s Grand Riviera Princess, Police Commander Arturo Guillermo said.
Army and police personnel arrived quickly to the blast area and cordoned off the resort, which is located on the Yucatán peninsula on Mexico’s east coast. A premeditated attack was ruled out as the cause of the explosion.
The dead Canadians were tourists and the Mexicans included a tour guide and the resort’s security chief, according to Quintana Roo state attorney general Francisco Alor Quezada. Two U.S. citizens were injured, along with 17 Canadians and eight Mexicans.
“I looked and you could see that the roof (of the restaurant) had collapsed. There was a large crater in the area, debris,” said guest James Gaade, according to the Globe and Mail. “Everyone said their hotel room shook. The glass at neighbouring restaurants all cracked and blew out. The tiki hut that was in the area, that was on fire.”
Many of the guests at the Grand Riviera Princess were Canadians, including a group on a wedding party and another on a company vacation.
Playa del Carmen is about 56 miles from the resort hotspot Cancún, which will host the next round of United Nations climate talks on carbon emissions and global warming later this month.
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Headlines from the Western Hemisphere
- A neo-Nazi rally in Phoenix protesting a federal judge’s ruling weakening Arizona’s tough immigration bill turned violent as counter-demonstrators began heckling the group and police took action with tear gas.
- The Mexican government passed a law restricting the amount of U.S. dollars that can be exchanged in the country to $1,500 per month.
- Gunmen killed a high-level Mexican prison official and wounded his son Saturday in the northern state of Chihuahua.
- The Cuban government has freed one of 13 dissidents who have been refusing a government deal to go into exile in exchange for their freedom.
- More than 400 Haitian-Americans gathered at a South Florida university Sunday to hear speeches from a handful of Haiti’s presidential candidates.
- The official death toll from Haiti’s epidemic jumped to 917 on Sunday, but aid groups fear the actual death toll may be substantially higher as the illness ravages remote, rural areas and many of the dead go uncounted.
- A 5.6 magnitude earthquake shook the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico early Saturday morning.
- Panama hired two banks to arrange meetings with bond investors in Japan this week, according to a person with direct knowledge of the matter.
- Late Friday night, 22 of the 27 members of the Permanent Council of the Organization of American States voted that Nicaraguan troops should evacuate their post on the Isla Calero, the disputed parcel of land in the recent Costa Rica and Nicaragua border conflict on the Río San Juan.
- The death toll from the prison fire last week in El Salvador has risen to 20, a hospital spokesman said.
- A U.N.-backed investigative team that has been effective in prosecuting criminals is suddenly meeting stiff resistance from the very people who should stand to gain from a stronger rule of law: Guatemala’s political and business elite.
- President Hugo Chávez praised a top military aide Sunday for pledging not to cooperate with Venezuela’s opposition should one of its leaders win the country’s next presidential vote, further angering critics who argue the general demonstrated disrespect for democracy.
- Japan and Peru have reached an agreement on a free-trade deal, their leaders said Sunday after talks at a Pacific Rim summit in Japan.
- The capital of Bolivia could face a near-term catastrophic drought, U.S. researchers studying the historical ecology of the Andes Mountains say.
- The foreign ministers of Chile and Russia signed an accord to increase political dialogue at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum summit in Japan.
- Brazilian Finance Minister Guido Mantega announced that Brazil could afford to cut its benchmark interest rate next year.
- The state of Rio de Janeiro says that it is unconstitutional for the state oil company, Petrobras, to swap company shares for oil development rights.