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MondayFebruary 6, 2012

Latino Daily News: Bringing You the Latest Hispanic Current Events and News Stories 24/7

To reflect the dynamic interests of our audience, Latino Daily News is an online daily news source and virtual cultural center for and about Latinos. We offer the latest news headlines, as well as innovative and insightful Hispanic current events stories, photos, videos, and commentaries from a Latino perspective, 24/7.

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Dominican Republic Obtains $130 Million in Loans to Upgrade Toll Roads & Tourist Loaded Highways

Dominican Republic Obtains $130 Million in Loans to Upgrade Toll Roads & Tourist Loaded Highways

Photo: Dominican Republic Road Improvements

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The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) approved its largest single no-sovereign guaranteed transaction in the Dominican Republic with a $130 million senior secured loan for Dominicana de Vías Concesionadas, C. por A. to finance the rehabilitation, construction, operation and maintenance of a network of connecting toll roads, known as Viadom.

The IDB loan will help finance the rehabilitation of 199 kilometers of roads as well as the construction of 68 new kilometers of roads. Viadom links Santo Domingo to Santiago and the touristic area of Puerto Plata. It also includes the construction of a ring road around the city of Santiago and a road access linking Santo Domingo to the southern cities of San Cristobal and Bani.

“The project will help improve the connectivity of the country as Viadom represents the main north-south axis of the Dominican Republic, reducing travel time and facilitating commercial activities,’’ said Victor Salgado, the project team leader at the IDB’s Structured and Corporate Finance Department. “The new ring road will substantially alleviate traffic congestion and, as a result, reduce air pollution in the center of Santiago.”

The two-hour travel time from Santo Domingo to Santiago will be reduced by 24 minutes and better roads are also expected to cut 45 minutes of the three-hour travel time between Santo Domingo and the touristic enclave of Puerto Plata.

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Spanish Cyclist Alberto Contador Will Lose Tour de France Title for ‘Doping’

Spanish Cyclist Alberto Contador Will Lose Tour de France Title for ‘Doping’

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Spanish cyclist Alberto Contador will lose his 2010 Tour de France title and be excluded from this year’s Tour as well as the 2012 Olympics, the Court of Arbitration for Sport said Monday in its decision in a doping case that began 18 months ago.

Contador has a period of 30 days to appeal to Switzerland’s federal court, CAS Secretary-General Matthieu Reeb said in Lausanne.

The CAS imposed a two-year suspension on the Spaniard, but the sanction applies retroactively to Jan. 25, 2011, and is reduced by nearly six months in recognition of the provisional suspension Contador served last year.

He will be able to return to competition on Aug. 5, 2012, the CAS said.

Unless the suspension is overturned, he will miss both the 2012 Tour de France and the London Olympics.

Contador, who won the Tour de France in 2007 and 2009, tested positive for the performance-enhancing drug clenbuterol on the way to his victory in the 2010 Tour. He said he inadvertently consumed the substance on July 21 of that year by eating contaminated meat.

The cyclist was cleared of wrongdoing by Spain’s cycling federation on Feb. 15, but the World Anti-Doping Agency and the International Cycling Union appealed the ruling to the Lausanne-based CAS, which finally heard the case last November.

Besides losing his 2010 Tour de France title, Contador will also be stripped of his triumph in the 2011 Giro d’Italia.

Reeb said that the Contador case is not completely closed, since the CAS must still take its decision, by a date not yet determined, on the International Cycling Union’s demand that the Spaniard be fined at least 2.48 million euros ($3.26 million).

After months of deliberation, the CAS ratified the thesis that the Spanish cyclist tested positive on the 2010 Tour because he had consumed a contaminated nutritional supplement and not from eating contaminated meat.

Contador and the director of his Saxo Bank team, Bjarne Riis, plan to discuss the CAS decision at a press conference Tuesday in the cyclist’s home town of Pinto, near Madrid.

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Ricky Martin tops 5 M Twitter Followers And to be Sexy Teacher in “Glee” Tuesday

Ricky Martin tops 5 M Twitter Followers And to be Sexy Teacher in “Glee” Tuesday

Photo: Ricky Martin on Set of Glee

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Followers of singer Ricky Martin, who is in New York these days getting ready for his return to the Broadway stage, can view their idol this Tuesday on the popular television series “Glee” in the role of a sexy Spanish teacher.

Martin will play David Martinez, a Spanish teacher at the fictional McKinley High School in Ohio, and will perform the bilingual version of “Sexy And I Know It” by the LMFAO electro pop duo, along with the Madonna hit “La Isla Bonita” (Beautiful Island), his press agent said in a communique.

The Puerto Rican is in the midst of rehearsals for his return to Broadway in the musical “Evita,” in which he will play Che Guevara alongside Argentine actress Elena Rogers in the title role.

Previews begin March 12 and opening night is scheduled for April 5.

The communique also said the artist topped 5 million followers on Twitter, where he can be found at www.twitter.com/ricky_martin.

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FC Barcelona (Barça) Named the Laureus Team of the Year

FC Barcelona (Barça) Named the Laureus Team of the Year

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The Barcelona soccer club and Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic were honored Monday at the Laureus Sports Awards as the Best Team and Best Male Athlete of 2011, respectively.

At a ceremony held in London, Djokovic won out over Argentine soccer star Lionel Messi, who was nominated for the third consecutive year for the prestigious trophy but who was bested in the last two editions of the awards by Spanish tennis star Rafael Nadal and Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt.

Barcelona had been nominated for the award along with U.S. pro basketball champions Dallas Mavericks, England’s national cricket team and the Red Bull Formula 1 racing team.

Spain’s World Cup-winning national soccer squad won the Laureus top team honors last year.

The Barcelona team won both the Spanish first division and the UEFA Champions League in 2011.

The 47 retired sports greats who voted on the prizes - among them Miguel Indurain, Michael Jordan and Boris Becker - emphasized that one of the “culminating moments” of last year was the “brilliant” Champions League final in Wembley in which Barcelona beat Manchester United 3-1 on goals by Messi, Pedro Rodriguez and David Villa.

The judging panel also took into account that Barcelona has won the Champions League crown in three of the last six seasons.

The delegation for Barcelona that traveled to London to receive the award was headed by club president Sandro Rossell.

The gala also included a tribute to the late Spanish golfer Severiano Ballesteros.

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Former Militaryman Sentenced to 24 Years in Prison for Killing of Colombian Journalist

Former Militaryman Sentenced to 24 Years in Prison for Killing of Colombian Journalist

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A former militiaman was sentenced to 24 years in prison for his role in the murder of journalist Alvaro Alonso Escobar, who was gunned down a decade ago in a coastal town in northern Colombia, the Attorney General’s Office said Monday.

Edgar Ariel Cordoba Trujillo was also ordered to pay a fine equivalent to $467,950.

The sentence and fine were handed down to Cordoba by a court in Santa Marta, the capital of Magdalena province, the AG’s office said.

Two unidentified individuals gunned down Escobar on Dec. 23, 2001, in Fundacion, Magdalena, where he edited and published the weekly Region.

Cordoba told investigators about “his role in the murder of a person protected (by international human rights law) and conspiracy to commit a crime in the role of a co-author,” the AG’s office said.

Escobar was the second journalist from Fundacion murdered by gunmen. Hernando Rangel Moreno was killed on April 11, 1999.

Over the past 20 years, 90 journalists have been murdered in Colombia, the Fundacion para la Libertad de Prensa said.

Cordoba, known as “Cinco Siete,” was in charge of a unit from the Northern Bloc of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, or AUC, militia federation.

The AUC, accused of committing numerous human rights violations, demobilized more than 31,000 of its fighters between the end of 2003 and mid-2006 as part of the peace process with former President Alvaro Uribe’s administration.

The group was made up of numerous rural defense cooperatives formed more than 20 years ago to battle leftist rebels.

Many of the militias, however, degenerated into death squads and carried out massacres of peasants suspected of having rebel sympathies, along with slayings of journalists and union members accused of favoring the leftist insurgents.

Under the terms of the 2005 Peace and Justice Law, pushed through Congress by the U.S.-backed Uribe administration to regulate the militiamen’s reinsertion into society, former AUC members face a maximum of eight years in prison if convicted of any of the scores of massacres of suspected rebel sympathizers attributed to the rightists over the years.

Colombia’s Constitutional Court upheld the law in 2006 but conditioned the sentence reductions on full disclosure and confession of crimes and reparations to victims.

On May 13, 2008, the Colombian government extradited 14 former AUC chiefs to the United States.

The former AUC commanders were wanted in the United States on drug, money laundering and other charges.

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Cuban Migrants Rescued by Mexican Navy off the Coast of Isla Mujeres

Cuban Migrants Rescued by Mexican Navy off the Coast of Isla Mujeres

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Six Cuban migrants were rescued over the weekend off the Mexican coast, the navy said Monday.

The migrants were found Sunday east of Isla Mujeres, off the eastern Yucatan Peninsula, after a recreational boater spotted them and alerted authorities.

The men, who range in age from 23 to 33, were aboard a rickety craft, the navy said.

The migrants were treated immediately and were found to only be suffering from slight dehydration, the navy said.

The migrants left Cuba on Jan. 25 and were bound for Honduras.

The men were turned over to the National Migration Institute, or INM, for processing.

Cubans enter Mexico illegally in an effort to make their way to the United States.

Mexico and Cuba signed an immigration agreement in October 2008 aimed at guaranteeing a legal, orderly and safe migration flow.

The pact calls for Havana to take back all illegal Cuban immigrants detained by Mexican authorities.

Previously, the island’s government took back illegal emigrants detained on the high seas, but it refused to accept Cubans detained on Mexican soil while en route to the United States.

Under Washington’s “wet foot, dry foot” policy, Cubans who reach U.S. soil are permitted to remain and become legal residents, while the vast majority of those intercepted at sea are sent back to the island.

Havana says the U.S. policy encourages Cubans to undertake risky voyages to Florida and, in recent years, to Mexico’s Caribbean coast.

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Brazilian Cops on Strike, Supporters Confront Military

Brazilian Cops on Strike, Supporters Confront Military

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Demonstrators supporting the policemen who have been on strike for six days in the northeastern Brazilian state of Bahia clashed briefly Monday with soldiers posted around the regional parliament in Salvador, which is occupied by disgruntled cops.

The protesters, mostly relatives of the striking cops, tried to keep the military from completely cordoning off the Regional Legislative Assembly this morning, the Bahia state government said.

The soldiers had to shoot rubber bullets in the air and push the demonstrators back in order to move forward.

The demonstrators fear that the close to 600 troops and 40 Federal Police agents surrounding the assembly are trying to occupy the building to arrest the organizers of the strike, which has been declared illegal by the courts.

The state government said the line of soldiers is there to guarantee the free flow of traffic in downtown Salvador and to facilitate the seizure of 11 strike leaders who have warrants out for their arrest.

The cops on strike, who kicked off the protest last Tuesday with demands for a pay raise of close to 30 percent plus better working conditions, repeated Sunday their decision to continue the walkout until the Bahia administration agrees to negotiate.

The strike continued despite the authorities’ order that the officers go back to work.

Bahia has seen 87 murders since the strike began, almost double the usual number for the period, as well as looting, robberies and acts of vandalism that have locals terrorized and business at a standstill.

Gov. Jacques Wagner blamed much of the lawlessness on the police themselves and said he will not discuss their demands until they’re back on the job.

Wagner was backed by federal Justice Minister Jose Eduardo Cardoso, who visited Salvador on Saturday and warned that the leaders of the movement could be arrested for leading a protest that he considered “unacceptable.”

Bahia security has been bolstered with close to 3,000 army troops and National Security Force agents ordered in from other states.

The strike worries the authorities not only because of the rampant insecurity in the streets, but also for the possible economic impact it could have on Salvador, with thousands of tourists set to arrive for Carnival two weeks from now.

The Carnival festivities in the Bahia capital are among the most massively attended in all Brazil.

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Murders in Puerto Rico Already Exceed 100 in 2012

Murders in Puerto Rico Already Exceed 100 in 2012

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Puerto Rico’s violent death toll so far this year exceeded 100 on Monday when a man was shot to death in Cataño, near San Juan, police said.

Marlon Rivera Torres was shot multiple times as he was riding along a highway in Cataño, and on Sunday night a 19-year-old man was also riddled with bullets and killed in the northern coastal town of Barceloneta.

The 100 violent deaths registered so far in 2012 amount to 36 fewer than had occurred last year by the same date.

Puerto Rico experienced the most violent year in its history in 2011 with 1,136 murders, or an average of more than three killings per day, an increase of 15 percent over 2010 and the highest figure since 1940.

Gov. Luis Fortuño has asked for more cooperation from authorities in Washington in battling the crime wave besetting the U.S. commonwealth.

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After Disappearing in December, Family of 5 May Have Been Found Dead in Honduras

After Disappearing in December, Family of 5 May Have Been Found Dead in Honduras

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Human remains found on a sugarcane plantation in the northern district of Rio Lindo may be those of a family of five who disappeared in December, Honduran police said.

Detectives and personnel from the medical examiner’s office were already at the scene to begin the investigation, National Police spokesman Oscar Aguilar told journalists in San Pedro Sula, the main city in the north.

The press reported Dec. 2 on the disappearance of a couple and their three children as they were driving to Tegucigalpa from the Caribbean town of Puerto Cortes.

The family’s van was discovered in the central province of Comayagua, but the occupants were apparently intercepted by assailants traveling in two other vehicles.

Clothing and a bag were found with the remains in Rio Lindo, Aguilar said.

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Mexican University Presents Israel’s Pres. Peres With Honorary Degree

Mexican University Presents Israel’s Pres. Peres With Honorary Degree

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Mexico’s Anahuac University of the Legionaries of Christ awarded an honorary doctorate to Israeli President Shimon Peres in a ceremony over the weekend in Jerusalem that noted his “noble contribution to world peace.”

During the solemn event held Sunday at a hotel in the city, the president of the institution, Jesus Quirce, presented Peres with the degree followed by the honorary biretta to “crown his studies and merits,” a doctoral medal and a pair of white gloves, “a symbol of the purity his hands must preserve and a sign of his eminence.”

All that symbolized the university’s “recognition of his distinguished merits and his noble contribution to world peace and to the universal friendship of all peoples,” according to the statement read by the vice president emeritus, Carlos Lepe.

The president and Nobel Peace Prize winner, 88, expressed his gratitude for the award in an address during which he slipped up in calling Mexican writer Octavio Paz, winner of the 1990 Nobel Prize for Literature, “Octavia Paz.”

“You’re a great university. One hundred thousand students who can make a difference to the future of Mexico and to an even more widespread public,” Peres said.

“Mexico has a strong Jewish community and at your university there are many Jewish students, the Jewish holidays are observed, so your trip to Jerusalem is very moving for all of us,” he said.

Quirce had previously lauded Peres’ virtues, defining him as a “statesman, chief executive, strategist and moral leader” with a “vital career worthy of praise and emulation.”

The university president singled out the Israeli’s “ironclad social conscience” and his “incessant, tireless search for peace among peoples” as Peres’ “two most inspiring and honorable aspects among the almost innumerable positive aspects of his genius.”

The event, also attended by the chief justice of the Israeli Supreme Court, Dorit Beinisch, did not take place at Anahuac University in Mexico as was always done previously because Peres’ “responsibilities” as head of state prevented him from making the trip, the center’s director of institutional development, German Campos, said before the ceremony began.

The seeds of this honorary doctorate were sown back in 1999, when Peres gave a masterful lecture at the university before 2,000 students in a first contact that left an “excellent mutual impression,” he said.

Anahuac, founded in 1964 and which today has 1,200 students enrolled at its principal campus in Mexico City, established three years after his visit a “Shimon Peres Peace Lecture” aimed at disseminating “a culture of peace,” he said.

The nation’s Public Education Secretariat recently ruled that books of the lectures, which deal with human rights, tolerance and the resolving of conflicts, be made available in all public libraries, Campos said.

Anahuac has 15 campuses, of which nine are in Mexico, one is the Finis Terrae in Santiago, Chile, another is Spain’s Francisco de Vitoria in Madrid, while there are two each in Italy and the United States.

The university has granted 20 honorary doctorates, the first of them to Mikhail Gorbachev.

Despite the bitter feelings prevalent in the Middle East conflict, the center isn’t worried that this honor will spark controversy in Mexico because Peres is “a very respected statesman,” Campos said.

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Colombian Boy Dies, Brother Injured After Stepping on Rebel Landmine

Colombian Boy Dies, Brother Injured After Stepping on Rebel Landmine

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One indigenous person was killed and another three were injured when they stepped on landmines planted by leftist FARC rebels in the mountains of the southwestern Colombian province of Valle del Cauca, community leaders said.

The incident occurred Sunday as the victims were returning from visiting sacred sites of their community, Nilson Quitumbo, treasurer of the Orivac indigenous organization, told Efe on the telephone from Cali, the provincial capital.

Quitumbo said the landmines killed a 15-year-old boy and injured his brother and two other teenage relatives.

The victims belonged to the Altamira community, one of the 17 settlements grouped in the five administrative domains of the Paez people, Quitumbo said, adding that some 5,400 Indians of that ethnicity live in the area.

The Orivac spokesman said that these communities have suffered the devastation of armed conflict at least since 1998, with explosives going off, including anti-personnel mines that have left eight people dead including the latest fatality.

Another three Indians have lost limbs in the minefields, Quitumbo said.

“Minefields have always been planted by the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia). They make war on the Indian communities, which we condemn,” the indigenous leader said.

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Julio Iglesias to Perform a Number of Concerts in Argentina

Julio Iglesias to Perform a Number of Concerts in Argentina

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Spanish singer Julio Iglesias on Sunday will give a free concert in the Argentine city of Tandil, where an audience of some 15,000 is expected, among them Buenos Aires provincial Gov. Daniel Scioli, authorities said.

The concert in Tandil, a mountain tourist center located 375 kilometers (232 miles) from the Argentine capital, will be the first of three shows Iglesias will present in Buenos Aires province to promote his latest album “1.”

The provincial government confirmed Scioli would attend on Sunday, after having met with Iglesias on Saturday.

The Spanish singer next Tuesday will appear at the Plaza Grigera in the nearby town of Lomas de Zamora, on the capital’s southern periphery, and next Saturday he will give a show at the Paseo Hermitage in the city of Mar del Plata, located 400 kilometers (248 miles) south of Buenos Aires.

The shows coincide with the launching of the second volume of “1,” which contains 14 songs and on which Iglesias rerecords some of the many hits he has had in his lengthy musical career.

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Members of Colombian Soccer Team Arrested for Rape of Teen

Members of Colombian Soccer Team Arrested for Rape of Teen

Photo: John Fredy Pajoy among members of Colombian soccer team arrested for rape of teen

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Four players from Colombia’s Once Caldas soccer team are being accused by a woman of raping her, the Manizales-based team said.

The Attorney General’s Office said Friday it was opening an investigation of players Jefferson Cuero Castro, John Fredy Pajoy and Carlos Rivas.

Once Caldas management did not reveal the identity of the fourth player, but team officials confirmed that the players were temporarily removed from the roster by coach Pompilio Paez.

A woman, identified as Luisa Fernanda Oviedo Zea, 18, provided “serious, credible and convincing” testimony about the alleged rape, AG’s office spokesman Nestor Armando Novoa said Friday.

The incident occurred on Wednesday after the Libertadores Cup match in which the Colombian team tied in Manizales 2-2 with Brazil’s Internacional, Novoa said.

There is evidence showing that the players are innocent, their lawyer, Aristides Betancourt, said.

“We will demonstrate that she (the accuser) made herself available to have sexual relations with other completely different people whose names I cannot give due to confidentiality,” the attorney told reporters.

Once Caldas is “willing to cooperate with the authorities so that the investigation can be carried out without delay and so that the material facts in the case can be clarified as quickly as possible,” the team said in a statement.

The case involving the Once Caldas players arises at the beginning of the week when the officials of the Boyaca Patriotas, a team that recently ascended into the First Division, expressed their support for Paraguayan player Marcos Lazaga, who is facing legal proceedings in Chile for alleged rape.

An Argentine woman accused Lazaga of raping her, although that did not prevent the officials of the Colombian team from moving forward with the negotiations to sign him for the current season.

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Protesters Call for End to Bullfighting in Mexico City

Protesters Call for End to Bullfighting in Mexico City

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About 1,000 animal rights activists staged a protest over the weekend in Mexico City to demand an end to bullfighting, a deep-rooted tradition in Mexico.

The majority of the people who took part in Sunday’s protest showed up at a plaza on the Paseo de la Reforma partially clothed and with simulated blood smeared on their bodies.

The animal rights activists spent about an hour lying on the ground completely silent to simulate the slaughter of bulls, while other protesters chanted slogans against bullfighting.

Animal rights activists are trying to convince lawmakers in Mexico City to ban bullfights, AnimaNaturalis president Leonora Esquivel told reporters.

Mexico City is home to the Plaza Monumental, which can seat 40,000 people and is considered the world’s largest bullfighting ring.

The Plaza Monumental opened on Feb. 5, 1946, with a card that featured bullfighters Luis “El Soldado” Castro, Manuel “Manolete” Rodriguez and Luis Procuna.

The capital should become the “vanguard city” in doing away with bullfights in Mexico, following the example of the northeastern Spanish region of Catalonia, Esquivel said.

Most Mexicans oppose bullfighting, according to Esquivel, who did not provide any statistics to support her statement.

Dozens of people out for a Sunday stroll in the capital stopped by to take a look at the protesters and listen to their message.

About 9,000 bulls are slaughtered every year at rings in Mexico, where bullfighting dates back to the 16th century, AnimaNaturalis says.

Mexico, Colombia, Peru and Ecuador are the Latin American countries where bullfighting is most deeply rooted.

Chile, however, banned bullfighting shortly after it gained its independence from Spain in 1818, but rodeos, another target of animal rights activists, are popular in the South American country

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Police in Venezuela Arrest 3 in Kidnapping of Mexican Ambassador and his Wife

Police in Venezuela Arrest 3 in Kidnapping of Mexican Ambassador and his Wife

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Venezuela’s interior minister announced that early Monday morning police arrested the people who briefly abducted Mexican Ambassador Carlos Pujalte and his wife on Jan. 29.

Among those arrested is “the head of the criminal band who participated in the ambassador’s kidnapping,” Tareck El Aissami said.

He said five other people involved in the couple’s abduction have been fully identified and are being sought by Venezuelan security forces.

“From the moment when we learned of the deeds, we have not rested ... We have identified those who participated in the kidnapping,” the minister told Union Radio.

Pujalte and wife Paloma Ojeda were kidnapped shortly after midnight when they left a reception in a residential neighborhood in northern Caracas.

Pujalte, an attorney and career diplomat, and his wife were held by their four male and “heavily armed” captors for four hours but they were then released in the Las Mayas sector in western Caracas.

An official with the Mexican Embassy in Caracas told Efe that when the ambassador’s vehicle turned up in the Chapellin area, near the spot where the kidnapping took place, authorities were alerted and an investigation was launched.

Several hours after the release of the couple, the Venezuelan government announced in a communique the beginning of a search to capture the kidnappers.

Meanwhile, the Mexican government acknowledged the contribution of the Venezuelan authorities in the locating and release of the envoy and it called for an “exhaustive investigation” of the facts in the case.

Pujalte’s kidnapping came two months after the Chilean consul in Caracas, Juan Carlos Fernandez, was shot, beaten, threatened and held hostage for two hours.

Venezuela has a homicide rate of 48 per 100,000 residents and Caracas is considered one of the most dangerous cities in Latin America.

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Josefina Vazquez Mota to Run for President in Mexico as PAN Candidate

Josefina Vazquez Mota to Run for President in Mexico as PAN Candidate

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Josefina Vazquez Mota was selected as the presidential candidate of Mexico’s governing National Action Party, or PAN, in a primary election held over the weekend.

Vazquez Mota, a former social development secretary and education secretary, won Sunday’s election by a wide margin over rivals Ernesto Cordero and Santiago Creel, PAN officials said.

Vazquez Mota garnered 54.6 percent of the vote, while Cordero got 38.4 percent and Creel received 6 percent, with 89 percent of the ballots counted, PAN chairman Gustavo Madero said.

Some 1.8 million PAN members were eligible to vote in the primary election.

Vazquez Mota, an economist, businesswoman and politician, is aiming to become Mexico’s first female president.

She will face Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, presidential candidate Enrique Peña Nieto and former Mexico City Mayor Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who is the candidate of a leftist coalition, in the July 1 general elections.

The PRI, which governed Mexico from 1929 to 2000, is trying to regain the presidency after two straight losses to the conservative PAN.

Vazquez Mota will be “Mexico’s first female president,” Madero said during an appearance with the candidate and her two rivlas at PAN headquarters.

The candidate wasted little time taking aim at Peña Nieto, who is leading in the polls among likely voters.

The primary election opens “the path to defeat the real adversary of Mexico,” Vazquez Mota said, referring to the PRI candidate.

Peña Nieto represents “a return to systemic corruption and impunity,” Vazquez Mota said.

The PAN candidate, however, did not mention Lopez Obrador, who is running third in the polls.

“The time has come to close a chapter and open another. To build the most powerful campaign team,” Vazquez Mota told hundreds of supporters gathered at PAN headquarters.

“This is the time for unity, the time to come together,” Vazquez Mota said.

Vazquez Mota has vowed to fight corruption, calling for life prison terms “for politicians who cut deals with organized crime groups.”

She has also proposed expanding scholarship programs and reforming the labor code to add 400,000 people annually to the formal labor market.

In 2000, Vazquez Mota became the first woman to head the Social Development Secretariat, and she served as education secretary from 2006 to 2009.

Some 80 million Mexicans will be eligible to vote for a new president, 628 legislators and thousands of other officials in the general elections.

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18 Now Confirmed Dead in Dominican Shipwreck

18 Now Confirmed Dead in Dominican Shipwreck

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Eighteen people are now confirmed dead in a shipwreck over the weekend off the northeastern Dominican Republic, while rescue teams continue to search for dozens of people missing in the accident, officials said Monday.

The small boat, which was carrying more than 70 illegal immigrants bound for Puerto Rico, sank early Saturday.

Eight survivors have been accounted for, but up to 20 people may have made it ashore alive, Hato Mayor province emergency management chief Luis Armando Frias told Efe.

Some survivors may not have been reported missing by relatives who feared they might be arrested, Frias said.

The vessel’s stern began breaking up due to strong waves and the weight of the passengers, causing it to sink off the coast of the northeastern province of Samana and the eastern province of Hato Mayor, survivors said.

Navy cutters, a private plane, emergency management office personnel and a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter based in Puerto Rico resumed the search and rescue operation early Monday, Frias said.

People smugglers charged between 30,000 and 40,000 pesos ($770 and $1,025) to get the Dominicans into neighboring Puerto Rico, survivors said.

The homemade boat sailed early Friday from Maria Trinidad Sanchez province, which is adjacent to Samana.

The bodies of six men and five women were recovered on Saturday from the Caribbean Sea, the navy spokesman said.

Thousands of Dominicans try to reach the U.S. commonwealth of Puerto Rico every year, preferring to risk their lives rather than continue living in poverty in their homeland.

Many migrants drown each year on the treacherous journey across the 100-kilometer (62-mile) Mona Passage on the rickety wooden boats known as “yolas.”

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Even In Spain, Girls Still Face Ancestral Practice of Sexual Mutilation

Even In Spain, Girls Still Face Ancestral Practice of Sexual Mutilation

Photo: Though Now in Spain, African Immigrant Girls Still Face Ancestral Practice of Sexual Mutilation

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In Spain, thousands of African immigrant girls are facing the danger of becoming victims of female genital mutilation, an ancestral practice that sub-Saharan immigrants have brought with them and which several non-governmental organizations and public agencies are fighting to eradicate.

Senegalese, Malian and Nigerian girls, among others, are the ones whose traditions include removing the clitoris and vaginal labia as part of the ritualistic passage to adulthood, to maintain good hygiene, keep them chaste and desirable to males, according to their beliefs.

Monday is the International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation, a practice internationally recognized as a human rights violation.

According to figures from the World Health Organization, or WHO, every year 5 million girls suffer the partial removal of their external genitals.

Although no official figures exist for Spain, experts at Barcelona’s Autonomous University calculate that some 10,000 girls are at risk of genital mutilation, all of them originally from one of 27 countries in the world - most of them in the sub-Saharan region - where the practice is widespread.

“When you see a genital mutilation for the first time, you remain in a state of shock,” said Catalonian assistant regional police inspector Rosa Negre, who is heading the operation to eradicate the practice in the northeastern region of Spain.

In charge of the Citizens Attention Unit in Gerona, Negre participated in the drafting of a pioneer action plan coordinating the work of educators and health, police and judicial personnel to protect girls in Spain.

“We’re all devoted to the girls and paying close attention to their progress - doctors, nurses, teachers - insofar as when we suspect a change, we act,” Negre said regarding the functioning of the program in which last year judicial proceedings were opened against 25 families in Gerona and the possibility of genital mutilation for 36 girls was prevented.

“Threatening (the parents) with the law and jail doesn’t work. You have to convince the mothers and fathers that genital mutilation is bad for the health of their daughters, that it’s an attack on their integrity and that it has deep physical and psychological consequences,” Negre said.

Negre has not only conducted seminars, conferences and discussions, but she has also personally visited the homes of immigrants and gone on vacation with them to their countries of origin along with their daughters.

She urges them to sign a document in which they commit themselves to ensuring that their daughter will return to Spain intact and warning them that the Spanish Criminal Code establishes penalties of between six and 12 years in prison for people found guilty of performing, consenting to or facilitating genital mutilation, even if it is performed outside Spain.

Proof of that is the sentence of six years in prison the Teruel court imposed last November on the father of a girl who was subjected to genital mutilation at the age of eight months in Gambia, a country in which 80 percent of girls are subjected to the practice.

Casilda Velasco, head nurse, professor of nursing and volunteer at Medicus Mundi Andalucia, has worked for 30 years in Africa and knows very well the influence of the older people there.

She recalled the case of a family from Burkina Faso in which the parents had stopped the genital mutilation of their 18-year-old daughter, but one weekend when they returned to their village “the old women of the town took her and did it to her by force.”

“Elderly African women have a great deal of importance and (exert much) social pressure to mutilate the girls, even though they live in Spain,” Bombo N’dir, a Senegalese activist who has lived in Spain for 13 years and is the vice president of the Awareness Team against Female Genital Mutilation, or EQUIS, said.

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Cuba Using “Sulfurizing” Method on Sugar, Will Reduce Cost to Manufacturers

Cuba Using “Sulfurizing” Method on Sugar, Will Reduce Cost to Manufacturers

Photo: Cuba Using "Sulfurizing" Method on Sugar to Reduce Cost to Manufacturers

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Cuba has begun to employ a new technology to produce white sugar, a measure that improves its quality, avoids the refining process and reduces the cost of manufacture, local media reported Sunday.

The technology, which to date had never been used in the island’s sugar industry, uses a sulfur salt produced in Guatemala that - once dissolved in water - directly adds to the bleaching, according to official daily Juventud Rebelde.

The procedure replaces the method of “sulfurizing” the sugarcane juice via the combustion of sulfur, which is very damaging to the environment, the report says.

The daily also reported that the sugar produced with this method can be sold for a higher price than either crude or standard refined sugar on the world market and that its use is spreading rapidly.

Rigoberto Toledo, the director of the Melanio Hernandez sugar refinery in central Sancti Spiritus province, the first to use the new technology, said that using it they will be able to optimize the production process and avoid refining the raw sugar, a situation that will reduce production costs.

That refinery is scheduled to produce between 15,000 and 17,000 tons of white sugar during the current harvest, all of which will be destined for local consumption.

Cuba is carrying out its current sugar harvest at a time when it is in the midst of restructuring the sector by replacing the Sugar Ministry with the Sugar Agro-industry Business Group with the aim of achieving more efficient management, employing new technologies and generating exports to finance its own expenses.

According to government forecasts, this harvest should see a 20 percent rise in sugar production, after the country in 2011 experienced a slight recovery and after the drastic plunge in the sugar harvest registered in 2010, the worst in 105 years.

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Former Panamanian Dictator Gen. Noriega May Have Suffered a Stroke

Former Panamanian Dictator Gen. Noriega May Have Suffered a Stroke

Photo: Former Panamanian Dictator Gen. Noriega May Have Suffered a Stroke

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Former dictator Gen. Manuel Antonio Noriega, who has been in prison in Panama since last December, was transferred on Sunday to a hospital in this capital with a diagnosis of “hypertension with the possibility of a cerebral hemorrhage,” the government announced in a communique, although initial medical exams performed on him there found that his condition was “normal.”

Noriega, who will be 78 on Feb. 11, was moved “from his cell in the El Renacer Penitentiary Center - located about 30 kilometers (19 miles) from the capital - to the Santo Tomas Hospital” in Panama City after a diagnosis of hypertension and a possible stroke, according to a National Police communique citing a member of the prison’s medical staff.

Panama’s health minister, Franklin Vergara, reported that Noriega was subjected to a series of exams that determined his condition was “normal,” but he will be kept under observation for at least 24 hours to see how his situation evolves.

The former general “is conscious, oriented, he has not had any injury with any effect. After the 24-hour observation the angioresonance (test) will be repeated (to determine) if he has any vascular problem that may be permanent,” Vergara told reporters in the capital.

Noriega, who was the de facto leader of Panama from 1983 to 1989, was returned on Dec. 11 to the country after serving 21 years in U.S. and French prisons for drug trafficking and money laundering.

Deposed in 1989 by a U.S. invasion, the former general faces in Panama a total sentence of 60 years behind bars for assorted crimes ranging from murder and human rights violation to deforestation.

The Government Ministry announced on Dec. 14 that a medical examination revealed Noriega was suffering from arterial hypertension, cerebrovascular accident (i.e. stroke), peptic ulcers and allergic rhinitis.

The former strongman’s attorneys have said that he should be placed under house arrest - rather than continue to live in a prison cell - due to his advanced age and poor state of health, a request rejected by relatives of his regime’s victims.

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MondayFebruary 6, 2012