Today in Latin America
Top Story — Former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier was charged with corruption and the theft of his country’s funds yesterday during a hearing before a judge in the capital of Port-au-Prince.
The charges come two days after the former dictator and son of François “Papa Doc” Duvalier returned to Haiti for the first time after being overthrown by popular uprising in 1986.
“His fate is now in the hands of the investigating judge,” said Aristidas Auguste, Haiti’s chief prosecutor, according to The Telegraph newspaper.
Duvalier was expected to give a press conference explaining his return, but was instead apprehended at Hotel Karibe, where he has been staying since his unexpected return to the country from exile in France.
While it unclear how much he is accused of taking from Haiti, in 2004 Transparency International estimated that he embezzled between $300-$800 million while in power.
Groups of supporters remained in the area around the prosecutor’s office to give support to Duvalier, while human rights activists gathered at the doors of the institution to protest the ex-dictator.
“Duvalier was the ringleader for many crimes that were committed between 1971 and 1986, which may be characterized as crimes against humanity,” said Pierre Esperance, executive director of the National Network for the Defense of Human Rights, according to Fox News.
Duvalier’s lawyers remain optimistic that the former dictator will not see any prison time and that the charges against him will not amount to anything.
“I have seen the positions (of the government) and I can say that they cannot be prosecuted now,” said Gervais Charles, Duvalier’s lawyer.
Headlines from the Western Hemisphere
- Mexican federal police arrested Flavio Mendez Santiago, who allegedly helped start the Zetas drug gang, on Monday outside Oaxaca.
- The bodies of five men who had their arms and legs chopped off were found in the town of Montemorelos south of the city of Monterrey, Mexico’s richest city.
- A group of House Republicans announced Tuesday a plan to put forward a package of at least 16 bills aimed at undocumented immigrants.
- Venezuela will connect Cuba to a high-speed fiber optic cable next month undermining U.S. sanctions prohibiting Cuba’s access to nearby underwater lines, the head of the project said on Tuesday.
- The Dominican Republic Health Ministry announced Tuesday that it will invest 1.2 billion pesos ($32 million) to combat cholera, which has affected 189 people in the country, though no one has died of the disease.
- Guatemalan President Álvaro Colom said he is extending a state of siege in a violent province on the border with Mexico that has been taken over by Mexico’s brutal Zetas drug gang.
- Honduras’ leader is barring his Cabinet ministers from bringing relatives or friends to the presidential palace.
- Venezuela plans to discuss providing oil to Turkey in exchange for funding for housing and other infrastructure projects needed after devastating floods in the South American country, the government of President Hugo Chávez said on Tuesday.
- U.S. drugs czar Gil Kerlikowske hailed progress in reducing the cocaine trade during a visit to Colombia on Tuesday and said a new U.S. policy would place more focus on prevention and treatment for addicts.
- Colombia’s government Tuesday got rid of a years-long policy of setting minimum freight prices for the trucking industry, saying months of rains that destroyed highways and bridges caused a spike in transportation costs and rendered the minimum-price statutes unnecessary.
- Ecuador’s president appealed to citizens in a televised address, saying that the constitutional changes he seeks are in the best interest of the country.
- Peru’s Finance Minister Ismael Benavides said on Tuesday that high international food and energy prices will impact inflation in Peru.
- Paraguay granted political refugee status to a key opponent of Bolivia’s leftist President Evo Morales on Tuesday, sheltering him from corruption charges across the border.
- Police arrested nine regional leaders of the opposition UNT party on suspicion they were involved in arson at a government office, Venezuelan Interior Minister Tareck El Aissami said.
- The death toll from flash floods and mudslides outside of Rio de Janeiro rose to 702 on Tuesday.
- Wine exports from Argentina to the United States topped those from neighboring Chile last year.
- Chilean officials reached agreement with the Citizens Assembly of Magallanes Tuesday over an increase in natural gas prices that led to a week-long general strike.
- Stora Enso plans to build a pulp mill at Punta Pereira in Uruguay in a joint venture with Celulosa Arauco y Constitución.
- Paraguay granted political refugee status Tuesday to an opponent of Bolivia’s President Evo Morales who is facing corruption charges.
Image: a-birdie @ Flickr.