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Latin America Weekly News Summary: Jan. 23 – Jan. 29, 2010

January 28, 2010 By Staff

North America

Mexico

Federal prosecutors in Mexico City announced Wednesday that they will advocate to overturn the city’s new gay marriage law on grounds that it violates the constitution, the Washington Post reports.

The federal Attorney General’s office reportedly stated that the law “strays from the constitutional principle of protecting the family.”

The Roman Catholic Church also criticized the law, and Calderon’s National Action Party has joined in the opposition. Mexico city legislators have responded that the law simply affords gay couples the same rights as straight couples when it comes to social security and other benefits.

United States

Special envoy Daniel Fried said that the Obama administration hoped to close the military prison at the U.S. base in Guantánamo, Cuba, within Obama’s term of office, according to Reuters. President Obama pledged to close the prison within a year of taking office, but so far he has only managed to relocate less than 50 detainees. Nearly 200 more remain imprisoned.

Caribbean

Cuba

Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez announced on Wednesday that a second round of immigration talks will take place with U.S. officials in Havana, Reuters reports. The Cuban government aims to convince the Obama administration to revise the longstanding “wet foot, dry foot” policy, which facilitates the naturalization of undocumented Cuban immigrants who make it U.S. soil.

Haiti

The Center for Responsible Tourism became the latest group to criticize Royal Caribbean’s controversial decision to resume cruise ship stops at Haitian ports of call, according to a blog post at U.S.A. Today. Royal Caribbean has pledged to use part of its profits to contribute to the relief effort and has argued that revitalizing tourism will Haiti Haiti recover from the disaster, but the Center said “the unsightly image of thousands of cruise passengers lounging on beaches, sipping margaritas, and shopping for trinkets while being heavily guarded by Haitian forces hardly looks like a recipe for economic recovery” in a press release that can be downloaded in PDF here.

Central America

El Salvador

President of El Salvador Mauricio Funes said Tuesday that the country will reestablish ties with neighboring Honduras after the inauguration of Honduran president Porfirio Lobo, according to an Associated Press story in the Washington Post.

Some Latin American countries did not recognize the Honduran elections because the vote took place under the interim government after the ouster of Manuel Zelaya.

Guatemala

Guatemalan authorities arrested former president Alfonso Portillo Tuesday after the United States ordered an extradition request for money-laundering charges during his 2000-2004 presidency, according to Agence France-Presse.

Authorities found Portillo in the northeastern beach resort of Punta de Palma on Guatemala’s Caribbean coast, said Guatemala’s Attorney General Velásquez Zarate.

“Now that he’s under arrest, the US government has 40 days to formalize its extradition request, according to evidence and documents they have,” Velásquez said in a radio interview.

Honduras

Hours after the newly inaugurated president of Honduras Porfirio Lobo took office, former president Manuel Zelaya flew into exile on plane bound for the Dominican Republic, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Zelaya, accompanied by his wife, two children and Dominican president Leonel Fernández, safely boarded a plane in Tegucigalpa as part of a deal brokered by Fernández.

“We’ll be back,” Zelaya said before boarding the plane.

Panama

The United States Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal from Manuel Noriega, Panama’s former leader, against his extradition to France, The BBC reports.

Noriega, convicted in a U.S. court in 1990 of laundering drug money and sentenced to 30 years which was later reduced to 17 years, was also convicted in France in 1999 of money laundering through French banks.

His lawyer argued international law says that he be returned to Panama, where Noriega faces a 20 year sentence for ordering the murder Hugo Spadafora, a opponent of Noriega, in 1985.

Andes

Bolivia

The Bolivian government has announced a state of emergency due to torrential rains, causing floods and mudslides, the BBC reports. The inclement weather has already destroyed 72 houses outside the capital of La Paz and rains are expected to worsen. In neighboring Peru, a group of foreign tourists were trapped by the weather when visiting Machu Picchu.

Colombia

Panama’s national police force allegedly killed three Colombian guerrillas in the frontier region between the two countries, according to an Associated Press story in the New York Times.

The ministry of the Interior and Justice identified the men killed as members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and police shot them after the guerrillas opened fire from a small boat in Panama’s Darién Province.

Along with the three FARC members killed, Panamanian authorities captured two more while one man escaped.

The FARC are known to use Panama’s Darien province as a hiding place and conflict along the border is not uncommon.

Venezuela

Venezuelan police used tear gas to break up a nonviolent student march against President Hugo Chávez, according to Reuters.

The group of several thousand students were protesting electricity shortages.

According to local reports, two students and a police officer were injured. A new plan for power-rationing is reportedly underway, after Chávez repealed his previous plan due to popular discontent. The goal of the student protesters was to enlist the help of university experts in creating a new plan in the face of what many perceive as deteriorating public services.

Southern Cone

Argentina

“Pork consumption improves sexual activity,” Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner told business leaders at a meeting to announce a price reduction for the meat, reports Agence France Presse. Citing anecdotal evidence gathered last weekend during a trip to Patagonia with her husband and ex-president Néstor Kirchner, she said “some nicely grilled pork is much more gratifying than taking viagra.”

Chile

The Chilean peso has dropped in value for nine straight days, according to a report from Bloomberg, which cited slumping industrial production as the cause. It is the Chilean peso’s longest fall for over a year and one of the steepest, according to Bloomberg.

Paraguay

Paraguayan striker Salvador Cabañas might have dared a man to shoot him in the head in the bathroom of a Mexico City bar, Reuters reports. A bathroom attendant told Mexican daily Reforma that a man pulled a gun on Cabañas after insulting his recent professional performance.

Uruguay

President-elect José Mujica invited Argentine soccer star and recovering cocaine addict Diego Maradona to participate in an anti-drug campaign, the Associated Press reports.

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