Today in Latin America
Top Story — Haiti issued a diplomatic passport to ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, which his American lawyer picked up Tuesday from government authorities.
Aristide’s Miami attorney, Ira Kurzban, did not disclose when Aristide would return to Haiti, but said he was given the passport during a brief stopover in Haiti’s capital of Port-au-Prince.
“Yes, I have it,” Kurzban said during a quick phone interview with The Associated Press. The passport is good for five years.
Aristide, who left the country on a U.S. plane to exile in South Africa in 2004, asked the Haitian government to let him return after ex-dictator Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier returned from 25 years of exile amid the political crisis after the disputed Nov. 28 first-round presidential vote.
The return of the two former leaders comes at an unsteady moment for the country — in the midst of the second round of the presidential election and still reeling from last year’s devastating earthquake. A spokeswoman for Aristide, Maryse Narcisse, brushed aside suggestions that his return now would be ill-timed.
“Do you know a better time? I don’t know, but he is ready and willing to come back,” she said, according to The Los Angeles Times.
Headlines from the Western Hemisphere
- The undersecretary of the U.S. Army backed away from comments he made earlier this week suggesting the narcotics cartels in Mexico had become “a form of insurgency.”
- The U.S. Justice Department denied a claim that two guns sold in purchases sanctioned by federal firearms agents were used in a shootout near the Arizona-Mexico border that left a Border Patrol agent dead.
- Hispanic workers rallied on the Kentucky capitol steps Tuesday to protest Senate Bill 6, which would create state crimes for undocumented immigrants and those who harbor or transport them.
- Dissident blogger Yoani Sánchez said on Tuesday the Cuban government apparently has unblocked access to her blog, which had been off limits on the island’s Internet since 2008.
- Two prominent Roman Catholic bishops want Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to stop deporting Haitians.
- Prosecutors in Puerto Rico say a judge has ruled that a man accused of setting his family on fire on New Year’s Day is mentally fit to stand trial.
- At least four people were shot to death Monday in an ambush in a banana-growing area near the northern Honduran city of Olanchito, police said.
- Canada’s Ram Power Corp said its San Jacinto-Tizate project in Nicaragua encountered construction delays, and was also facing higher material and labor costs, sending shares of the company down to a nearly 21-month low.
- Venezuelan prosecutors have brought criminal charges against two retired generals for their roles in violence during unrest in 1989, the attorney general said Tuesday.
- Opponents of gold mining in Colombia and its accompanying mercury pollution say social mobilization against the practice is growing.
- Two Brazilian military helicopters bearing Red Cross markings arrived in Colombia where they will be used to fly out five hostages set for release by leftist rebels.
- A federal judge took the unusual step Tuesday of blocking a potential multi-billion-dollar judgment against Chevron for environmental damage in Ecuador at least 28 days after concluding that lawyers representing 30,000 Ecuadoreans were planning a “helter skelter” disruption of the oil giant’s business in the event of a lucrative award to force a settlement.
- Health authorities have declared a red alert in Peru’s northern Amazon jungle region following the outbreak of an “very aggressive” dengue strain that has killed 14 people and sickened thousands.
- A huge fire in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil destroyed more than 8,000 costumes created for the city’s famous carnival next month.
- Chile’s President Sebastian Piñera vowed Tuesday to help find out what really killed former President Eduardo Frei Montalva during the dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet.
- A Chilean judge suspended criminal trespassing charges Tuesday against a family of Easter Islanders who took over a $50 million hotel development on their ancestral land.
- Former Uruguayan President Tabare Vázquez said he may run again for the presidency in three years.
Image: Ben Piven @ Flickr.