Today in Latin America
Top Story— Facing international accusations that his government was cracking down on press freedoms, Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa announced Monday that he would issue pardons in two controversial criminal libel cases. Last year, Ecuadorian courts ordered a columnist and three executives at El Universo newspaper to pay a $42 million fine and serve 3 years in prison for editorials they published criticizing the president. The columnist, Emilio Palacio, later fled the country to seek political asylum, as did a judge connected to the case who says the government bribed her. Correa cast the pardon as a victory, saying,“We have shown that you can sue and beat the abusive media” and said that the libel cases showed that powerful media companies are accountable to the public. Correa also said he would pardon two authors who published a book alleging that the president’s brother had won millions in state contracts during Correa’s government. They were later fined $1 million each.
Read more from the Miami Herald.
Headlines from the Western Hemisphere
- U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano said the U.S. and Mexico had not failed in their efforts to combat drug cartels.
- The U.S. will begin to repatriate undocumented immigrants from Mexico by plane to reduce traffic at busy border crossings.
- Demonstrators arrested in Alabama in November for protesting that state’s controversial immigration law received suspended sentences on Monday.
- Former Haitian President Jean Bertrand Aristide is facing charges of drug trafficking and other corruption after an investigation was launched against him on Monday.
- Cuban dissidents reported that the Cuban government arrested more than 100 people over the weekend for protesting.
- The son of a member of the influential Jamaican ska and reggae band The Skatalites was shot at his doorstep on Sunday after accepting a music award on behalf of his father.
- Puerto Rican mayoral candidate Hector Ferrer said he was a victim of politics after he was arrested for a domestic dispute last Thursday.
- Panama Minister of Foreign Affairs Roberto Henriquez said that Panama was opposed to the legalization of drugs after Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina said the issue should be discussed.
- U.S. authorities returned eight ancient Mayan artifacts to Guatemala after they were discovered in the suitcase of a traveler in Houston, Texas.
- Guatemalan fruit bats are carrying a new influenza virus, H17. It is still not determined whether the virus could eventually be a threat to humans.
- “Comrade Artemio”, the captured leader of Peru’s Shining Path guerrilla group, was formally charged with terrorism and drug trafficking and may face life in prison.
- Two Aymara radio station employees were murdered in El Alto, Bolivia, in part of a tide of violence against minibus commuters by gang members.
- Venezuelans are anxiously awaiting news about Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez’s medical tests scheduled in Havana over the weekend. The president is expected to go into surgery for a recurrent tumor this week.
- Argentine authorities blocked two British-linked cruise ships from docking in Tierra del Fuego on Monday, worsening tensions between Argentina and the United Kingdom.
- Brazilian Transportation Minister Paulo Sergio Passos said that a high-speed train would be completed between Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo by 2022.
- Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner addressed the public and urged investigations to continue after the deadly train crash in Buenos Aires last week.
- About 120 acres and 73 homes have been destroyed by a forest fire near Viña del Mar, Chile.
Image: Presidencia de la República del Ecuador @ Flickr.