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SaturdayMay 19, 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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Guatemalan Prosecutors and Police Arrested For Facilitating Drug Smuggling

Guatemalan Prosecutors and Police Arrested For Facilitating Drug Smuggling

Photo: Shipments from Asia went undetected with the help of the suspects

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Three Guatemalan prosecutors and four police officers were arrested Friday on suspicion of ties to drug trafficking, the country’s interior minister said.

The suspects “facilitated” the operations of a group that smuggled in precursor chemicals used to make synthetic drugs such as methamphetamine, Mauricio Lopez told a press conference in the capital.

He said the prosecutors and cops ensured that chemical shipments from Asia entered Guatemala undetected and made it safely to clandestine drug labs.

The arrests followed an investigation by the Interior Ministry and the Attorney General’s Office based on intelligence information, Lopez said.

The suspects are charged with criminal conspiracy and obstruction of justice.

Guatemalan security forces have seized more than 300,000 gallons of drug precursors so far this year and arrested a score of people in connection with those operations.

Read more by HS News Staff →

Brazilian Rights Group to Receive President Rousseff’s $10,000 Torture Compensation

Brazilian Rights Group to Receive President Rousseff’s $10,000 Torture Compensation

Photo: President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil

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President Dilma Rousseff will donate to a human rights organization the compensation she is to receive for having been tortured by the military regime that ruled Brazil from 1964-1985, her office said Friday.

The country’s first female head of state plans to give the 20,000 reais ($10,000) to the group Torture Never More.

The government of Rio de Janeiro state will pay that amount to each of 316 former political prisoners and loved ones of people who died in custody in that jurisdiction during the dictatorship.

Created in 1985, Torture Never More published the first report on deaths and disappearances under the junta and continues working to uncover the truth about the crimes of the military regime.

Rousseff, who belonged to a leftist resistance group, was arrested and tortured in 1970 and spent more than two years in custody.

The payment of compensation was ordered after a Rio state government panel reviewed the cases of 895 people who claimed to have been tortured or jailed in the state for political reasons.

News of the compensation comes two days after Rousseff inaugurated a seven-member truth commission charged with investigating human rights abuses between 1946 and 1988.

The commission will have two years to complete its work, which is expected to focus on the 1964-1985 period.

The leaders and agents of the junta are protected by amnesties and the truth commission has no authority to refer cases for prosecution.

Read more by HS News Staff →

Check Out ‘El Americano: The Movie’ First Animated 3D Film Made by Latinos

Check Out ‘El Americano: The Movie’ First Animated 3D Film Made by Latinos

Photo: El Americano: The Movie

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Olmos Productions and Animex are partnering on the 3D animated film “EL AMERICANO: THE MOVIE”, the first animated co-production between the US and Mexico.

The story will follow Cuco, a young Mexican parrot, whose epic quest to enlist the aid of an American crime-fighting TV celebrity, to defend his family in Mexico from bullies, teaches the young parrot to be a hero himself. The film will be directed by Ricardo Arnaiz (director of La Leyenda de La Nahuala and Nikte) and Mike Kunkel (animator of Disney’s Tarzan, and Hercules), with six-time Emmy Award winner Phil Roman (The Simpsons) serving as production supervisor and executive producer. Alex Flores, Gerry Cardoso and Michael D. Olmos spearheaded its development at Olmos Productions and Animex respectively, and will serve as producers.

Edward James Olmos will serve as executive producer and lend his voice to one of the main characters. Other cast members will be announced shortly.

Aleks Syntek, the Mexican singer, songwriter and producer who has been a member of the team from the project’s inception will compose the theme song for the film.

Read more by HS News Staff →

Corrupt Puerto Rican Police Officer Sentenced to 24 Years for Being a Coke Distributor

Corrupt Puerto Rican Police Officer Sentenced to 24 Years for Being a Coke Distributor

Photo: The indictment is part of Operation Guard Shack, in which 133 defendants were indicted

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David González-Pérez, a former Puerto Rico Police officer from Arecibo, Puerto Rico, was sentenced yesterday to 24 years in prison by U.S. District Judge Aida Delgado-Colón for conspiracy and attempt to possess with intent to distribute controlled substances, announced U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez. González-Pérez was found guilty of 28 counts of conspiracy and attempt to possess with intent to distribute cocaine after a two-week trial in August 2011.

David González-Pérez was indicted in a 70-count indictment, along with 16 other individuals who were convicted on September 14, 2010. From in or about September 2009 until March 2010, González-Pérez participated in 15 drug transactions, which totalled over 200 kilograms of cocaine and received $36,000 in payments for his security services during the drug transactions. González-Pérez also recruited 15 others to provide armed security with him during these drug transactions, including his brother and sister-in-law.

The indictment is part of Operation Guard Shack, in which 133 defendants were indicted as the result of 125 undercover drug transactions conducted by the FBI in several locations in Puerto Rico from July 2008 to September 2010. The defendants’ participation in the drug transactions consisted of providing armed protection to a drug dealer during the sale of multi-kilogram quantities of cocaine. In exchange for the security services during the undercover drug transactions, the defendants received payments ranging from $500 to $4,500 per transaction.

Read more by HS News Staff →

The Ad Says, “No One Wants to be Called a Pig,” And Then Does Precisely That to All Mexicans

The Ad Says, “No One Wants to be Called a Pig,” And Then Does Precisely That to All Mexicans

Photo: Pro- Carpeting Ad

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The Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights demands an explanation and apology from Pro Carpet and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for the ad that appeared recently in AJC Reach.

The ad says, “no one wants to be called a pig,” and then does precisely that to all Mexicans by putting an image of a pig with a hat often associated with Mexicans, a cactus tree, and a Mexican flag. “Even if created with humorous intent, the ad is profoundly offensive to Mexicans and the entire Latino community,” said Adelina Nicholls, Executive Director of GLAHR. 

“We hope Pro Carpet will immediately apologize and stop using this sort of imagery in its advertising.”GLAHR President Teodoro Maus said he was shocked that the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the flagship newspaper of the Cox chain, would allow itself to be associated with such an image. “The AJC and Cox Enterprises must issue an immediate public apology to the Latino Community and explain what steps they are taking to make sure an incident like this never happens again.”The Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights (GLAHR) is this state’s leading Latino and immigrant rights organizationImage

Read more by HS News Staff →

J.T. Ready: The Link Between White Supremacy and Anti-Immigration Groups in Arizona

J.T. Ready: The Link Between White Supremacy and Anti-Immigration Groups in Arizona

Photo: Jason Todd Ready

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Jason Todd Ready was a neo-Nazi who didn’t try to hide the fact that he was ready and willing to use deadly force on the U.S.-Mexico border to stop the incursion of undocumented immigrants. That his life came to a violent end was no surprise to those who, over the years, had tried to raise awareness about the danger to society posed by Ready and his associates.

Posthumously, Ready is being investigated as the lead suspect in an alleged mass-murder suicide that took place on May 2, and that resulted in the death of Ready and four others including his girlfriend, Lisa Mederos, her daughter, her daughter’s boyfriend, and Mederos’ 18 month-old grandchild.

The crime has been deemed a domestic violence incident by the police, but it’s a case that opens the door for other questions about Ready’s involvement in domestic terrorist groups, and exposes clear ties between the anti-immigrant movement in Arizona and white supremacist groups that have found sanctuary in a state polarized by a divisive immigration debate.

Unanswered Questions

During their search of Ready’s house after the killings were reported, officers found six anti-tank grenades—U.S. military-issue, 40 millimeter projectiles that require a launcher to be used (no launcher was found at the home)—according the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). Authorities are still investigating where the grenades came from, why they were at Ready’s residence, and whether or not he planned to use them.

In the aftermath of the killings, the FBI revealed that Ready had been the subject of an investigation related to “domestic terrorism” over a nearly five year period, in connection to a militia group called the U.S. Border Guard, a group that Ready founded. Despite the amount of time spent on the case, the investigation yielded no criminal charges against Ready.

Ready was well known to be a former member of the National Socialist Movement (NSM), a neo-Nazi group. More recently, he’d come to be recognized as the leader of an armed militia known as the U.S. Border Guard, a group that patrolled the desert borderlands looking for migrants. On occasion, Ready would capture people crossing the border and turn them over to the U.S. Border Patrol.

In an article published in the local weekly Phoenix New Times, journalist Stephen Lemons revealed the FBI was warned over two years ago by an informant that Ready had intentions to conduct raids in Latino neighborhoods and kill people, and that he planned to do so while posing as an officer from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Last year, while the FBI was trying and failing to find evidence to bring down Ready, they did arrest Jeffrey Harbin, a former NSM member who Ready admittedly recruited to the organization. Harbin was arrested after police found him with twelve grenade-like explosives, ball bearings and an improvised fusing system. At that time, a local TV reporter from Channel 15 asked Ready if he knew what Harbin planned to do with the bombs, and Ready replied: “Things are still under investigation. You would have to talk to the feds and see what their official statement is on that, but I will say that domestic terrorism is real.”

A few months before Harbin’s arrest, at a Tea Party event, Ready and members of NSM had distributed fliers calling for the use of landmines on the border to stop illegal immigration.

Ties to the Anti-Immigrant Movement

Even though politicians that once befriended him, like former Senator Pearce, came to frown upon him, Ready’s activities closely fed off of and thrived on the growing anti-immigrant sentiment in Arizona.

He wasn’t one to shy away from the camera, and he used the polarizing issue of immigration in Arizona to propel himself into the national spotlight.

In 2010, he launched his U.S. Border Guard by inviting the national media to cover one of his patrols in a deserted area on a quest to capture what he called “narco-terrorists.”

At the time, politicians like Arizona’s Republican Governor Jan Brewer were making claims that law-enforcement was finding beheaded bodies in the desert, and that violent crime was going up in connection to illegal immigration. Subsequent media reports refuted both claims.

As much as Ready was considered to be at the fringe of the anti-immigrant movement, some of his tactics were indirectly embraced when governor Brewer signed SB 1495 into law last year, a bill that authorizes the creation of a state-operated border militia.

Critics argue that any such militia – it hasn’t yet been assembled—would attract the likes of Ready.

In addition to Pearce, Ready was drawn to public officials like Arpaio, who has made it his personal crusade to go after undocumented immigrants.

In the spring of 2009, Ready counter-protested during a march of 3,000 people to Arpaio’s Durango jail complex. Ready was joined by a handful of neo-Nazis that stepped on the Mexican flag while giving the Nazi salute and yelling racial slurs.

Photos and videos circulating on white supremacist web pages show Sheriff Arpaio getting his picture taken with them. During that time, Ready compared Arpaio’s actions to those of Adolph Hitler, saying the latter was his “hero.”

Like Pearce, Arpaio disassociated himself from Ready and his cohort during a press conference, and later complained that he hadn’t been aware of their stance when he got his picture taken.

Galindo said groups like the Minutemen opened their doors back in 2004 to extreme vigilante groups. Ready and Forde were among those who took up with the Minutemen at that time.

Galindo contends that Sheriff Paul Babeu and the U.S. Border Patrol allowed Ready’s group to operate in Pinal as a “legalized vigilante group.” And, said Galindo, some of Ready’s associates continue to do so.

“We need to hold local law enforcement responsible and say take your focus off chasing immigrants and start focusing on the true menaces of society, which are these legalized vigilante groups,” said Galindo.

Read more about the J.T. Ready Exposé on New America Media

Read more by HS News Staff →

Hola Mexico Film Festival Announces Star Line-Up

Hola Mexico Film Festival Announces Star Line-Up

Photo: Hola Mexico Film Festival

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The Hola Mexico Film Festival (HMFF) announced the list of actors and filmmakers attending their film screenings at the festival and the eleven non-profit agencies selected as partners for the 2012 edition of the festival. HMFF returns for the fourth consecutive year to Los Angeles, California, offering an impressive selection of nine narrative and four documentary feature films by Mexican directors and film production companies.

Among them three USA premieres and eight LA premieres. Eight short films will also be showcased.

The 2012 Hola Mexico Film Festival takes place at the Ricardo Montalban Theatre in Hollywood, California from May 24th to 30th. The fastest growing Latino themed film festival in Los Angeles is also now the longest running with seven consecutive nights of film screenings.

The growing list of actors and filmmakers confirmed to attend the screenings of their respective films include: Dulce Maria and Carmen Salinas of ¿Alguien ha visto a Lupita? (Have You Seen Lupita?); Everardo Gout (director) and Tenoch Huerta of Días de gracia (Days of Grace); Alejandra Sanchez, director of Agnus Dei – Cordero de Dios; Pedro Pablo Ybarra (director), Aislinn Derbez and Mane de la Parra from El cielo en tu mirada (Heaven in Your Eyes); Juan Carlos Rulfo, director of De Pan6a6o (Barely Passing); Everardo Reyes, director of Cielo Abierto (The Open Sky); Kyzza Terrazas, director of El lenguaje de los machetes (Machete Language); Carmen Beato and Diana Garcia from Aquí entre nos (Just Between Us); Roberto Girault, director of Ella y el candidato (The Candidate’s Wife); Jack Zagha, director of Adiós mundo cruel (Good Bye Cruel World); Adriana Trujillo, director of Félix: Autoficciones de un traficante (Felix: Self-Fictions of a Smuggler); among others.

¡Adiós Clichés! ¡Hola México! is the theme of the 2012 edition of the Hola Mexico Film Festival that, by showcasing an array of important subjects explored by the best of today’s Mexican cinema, seeks to spark dialog and an introspective analysis of what it means to be Mexican in the 21st century and; celebrate the contrasting reality of Mexico.

Read more by HS News Staff →

Community Leader Freddy Balsera Defends Obama’s Cuba Policy Against Romney Attacks

Community Leader Freddy Balsera Defends Obama’s Cuba Policy Against Romney Attacks

Photo: Freddy Balsera

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In response to Romney Policy Director Lanhee Chen’s statement on the President’s policy on Cuba, Community Leader Freddy Balsera issued the following statement:

“This is yet another example of Mitt Romney’s campaign trying to score political points to distract from the fact that he has no policy ideas of his own to successfully confront the challenges of the future.  The President believes that the promotion of democracy and human rights in Cuba is in the national interest of the United States and that, while maintaining the embargo, decreasing the dependency of the Cuban people on the Castro regime is a means to obtaining the widely-shared goal of a Cuba that respects the basic rights of all its citizens.  It is clear that Gov. Romney and his advisors would rather bluster and score political points than say what kind of leader he would be in the world.”

President Obama’s Policies Have Decreased Cubans Dependency On The Castro Regime

    The President Is Committed To Supporting Policies That Advance The Cuban People’s Ability To Determine To Their Country’s Future And Lessen Their Dependence On The Cuban State.

    President Obama Changed Regulations On U.S.-Cuba Travel, To Enhance The Free Flow Of Information.

    Estimates Suggest 400,000 Americans Visited Cuba in 2011, Nearly 4 Times The Number Who Visited In 2008. “Economists and travel agents estimate that 400,000 passengers will fly to Cuba from the United States this year, nearly four times the number in 2008
    St. Petersburg (FL) Times: Obama Travel Changes Should “Foster Freedom On The Island In A Way The Failed 50 Year Old Embargo Has Not.”
    Tampa Tribune: President Obama’s Decision To Change Travel Rules Is “A Victory For Common Sense And Fairness.”

President Obama Has Renewed The Embargo And Continued To Call For A Cuba That Respects The Rights Of The Cuban People

    President Obama Has Repeatedly Renewed The U.S. Trade Embargo On Cuba.
    President Obama Said It Was Time For Cuba To Emerge From Its Authoritarian Regime.

    President Obama Has Been Clear About Steps The Cuban Government Must Take Before He Would Consider Lifting The Embargo.

    President Obama Made Clear That He Did Not Believe Reforms In Cuba Have Been “Aggressive Enough.”
    President Has Promised To Support The Liberty Of The Cuban People And Will Continue To Reach Out To Cuban People And Provide Humanitarian Assistance To Dissidents.

Read more by HS News Staff →

Jessica Sanchez and Phillip Phillips Go Head-to-Head for ‘American Idol’ Title

Jessica Sanchez and Phillip Phillips Go Head-to-Head for ‘American Idol’ Title

Photo: Michael Becker / FOX

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The audiences have spoken and the final two on American Idol have been revealed to be Phillip Phillips and Jessica Sanchez.

Joshua Ledet was eliminated on Thursday night, and he wanted to keep it together and not shed any tears – but when he started to get comfort from everyone else he “lost it a little.”

“I felt good about the whole situation, but when people come up to you and try to comfort you and hug you, then the tears start coming, and then a whole bunch of other stuff,” he told People. “So just getting their support, it kind of took over, and I kind of lost it a little.”

He went on to say that there are no hard feelings between he and the top 2, Phillips and Sanchez.

“I’m not gonna say I was surprised, because Phillip and Jessica are great, and they have huge fan bases,” he said. “They deserve it just like anyone else.”

Ledet, who pulled his mom up on stage with him when he was eliminated, expressed his excitement for the remaining 2.

“I was super excited for Phillip and Jessica,” he added. “I was trying to hold a smile up, and I was definitely not upset. I felt relieved. A lot of pressure was off of me, and I feel really good.”

Switching gears to the upcoming finale, Reuters reports it will take place on Tuesday, and will last for two hours – with both Phillips and Sanchez performing most of the time.

The winner will be crowned on Wednesday of next week.

Read more by HS News Staff →

Infographic: Bilingualism Across the U.S.

Infographic: Bilingualism Across the U.S.

Photo: Bilingualism Across the U.S. by BestCollegesOnline.com

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While a majority of the country’s population spoke English in 2007, data reveals that the population that speaks a language other than english has been increasing for about 30 years.  While some may not like the sound of that, it does present the opportunity for those children to grow up as bilinguals.

For decades bilingualism has had a negative connotation; however, scientists have begun to prove that there are many advantages to being bilingual—namely, it makes you smarter.  Learn more.

Bilingualism Across the U.S.

More information about Bilingualism in the U.S. can be found here

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La Familia Narco Traffickers Plead Guilty to Operating in U.S.

La Familia Narco Traffickers Plead Guilty to Operating in U.S.

Photo: The Peralta-Saucedo brothers could face life in prison due to trafficking

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United States Attorney Robert E. O’Neill; Steven E. Ibison, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation Tampa Field Office; and Manatee County Sheriff Brad Steube announce today that two brothers, Victor Peralta-Saucedo (25) and Guillermo Peralta-Saucedo (32) pled guilty to drug and money laundering charges.

Both brothers are Mexican nationals residing in the United States illegally. Prior to their arrest, they lived in Bradenton.

According to the plea agreements, in 2011, Victor Peralta-Saucedo and Guillermo Peralta-Saucedo directed others to smuggle cocaine from Mexico to the United States for “La Familia” (the Mexican drug cartel known as La Familia Michoacan).

For example, the brothers employed a courier who, on more than 20 occasions, used an automobile outfitted with a hidden compartment to smuggle cocaine. The courier smuggled two to four kilograms of cocaine at a time for distribution in Manatee County. Further, the brothers laundered drug proceeds by, among other things, converting small denominations of United States currency into large denominations, making the money easier to conceal, and then having a courier drive the money to Mexico.

In accordance with the plea agreements, multiple assets are to be forfeited to the United States. These assets were either used by the conspirators to facilitate their drug trafficking and money laundering or acquired with drug proceeds. They include three homes and a duplex in Bradenton.

Victor Peralta-Saucedo and Guillermo Peralta-Saucedo each face a mandatory minimum penalty of 10 years in federal prison, up to a maximum of life in federal prison for knowingly and willfully conspiring with each other, and others, to distribute, and possess with intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine.

They each face up to 20 years in federal prison for knowingly and willfully conducting and attempting to conduct financial transactions, affecting interstate and foreign commerce, involving the proceeds of a specified unlawful activity.

Read more by HS News Staff →

FARC Rebels Recruited Teens Against Their Will in Colombia

FARC Rebels Recruited Teens Against Their Will in Colombia

Photo: The FARC forcibly recruited teens in Putumayo

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Colombia’s FARC guerrillas pulled at least 13 teenagers out of boarding schools in the southern province of Putumayo and forced them to join the ranks of the insurgency, a prominent human rights activist told Efe on Friday.

The youngsters were taken from schools in a rural area near Puerto Guzman, sociologist and Andean Parliament member Gloria Ines Florez said by telephone from Putumayo, which borders Ecuador.

Fighters from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, burst into the schools a few days ago and left with at least 13 adolescents.

“They are students between the ages of 13 and 15, and the majority of them are girls,” Florez said. “I don’t have information on how many are indigenous.”

She said she learned of the forced recruitment from her contacts in the area, where the boarding schools - a recent phenomenon - “have become places of protection for school-boys and -girls, given the serious conditions of the armed conflict.”

Youngsters at the boarding schools have been relatively insulated from battles between rebels and security forces, the threat of landmines and forcible recruitment, Florez said, calling on the FARC and other parties to the conflict to respect international humanitarian law.

The FARC, now thought to number some 8,000 fighters, has battled a succession of Colombian governments since the mid-1960s.

Read more by HS News Staff →

Possible Attack Against MX Consulate in St. Paul, Minnesota Thwarted by FBI

Possible Attack Against MX Consulate in St. Paul, Minnesota Thwarted by FBI

Photo: Possible Attack Against MX Consulate in St. Paul, Minnesota Thwarted by FBI

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The FBI thwarted a possible attack against the Mexican Consulate in St. Paul, Minnesota, devised by a man suspected of belonging to a white supremacist group.

The media published details Friday of a sworn affadavit presented by the FBI before a federal court in Minneapolis with details of what Joseph Benjamin Thomas, 42, was planning.

According to the document, Thomas told an undercover agent that he wanted to steal an SUV, load it with barrels of oil and gas, and blow it up at the consulate on May 1, the day when pro-immigrant events typically take place.

The fuel would be lit with a sparkler to set off a huge fire to burn down the building, it said.

Thomas, also suspected of plotting to plant fake bombs all along the May Day parade route in the Twin Cities, supposedly told the agent that he had formulas for producing napalm, the document said.

Investigators said that Thomas suspended the projected attack for personal reasons but was arrested all the same in April, together with another person identified as Samuel James Johnson, 31.

The two supposedly planned to found a supremacist group called the Aryan Liberation Movement, with a military branch that would undertake acts of violence.

In the document, the FBI reports that Thomas has been followed since 2010 as part of an investigation into possible domestic terrorism. Last December, agents became suspicious that something was in the works when they saw him keeping watch on the Mexican Consulate.

Besides the plot against the consulate, Thomas also noted down the license numbers of cars with Obama stickers, while an associate asked him to get a list of customers at a bookstore they considered leftist.

Ana Luisa Fajer, the Mexican consul in St. Paul, told reporters that her office was alerted about “the time and method” of the supposed plot, and that the consulate boosted security measures because, she said, “we take these threats very seriously.”

Read more by HS News Staff →

Four Killed In Helicopter Crash During Air Force Exercises in Venezuela

Four Killed In Helicopter Crash During Air Force Exercises in Venezuela

Photo: The crash occurred in the western state of Yaracuy

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Four air force personnel were killed and another injured Friday when their helicopter crashed during exercises in the western state of Yaracuy, Venezuela’s defense minister said.

The aircraft, a Russian-made MI 17, was maneuvering at an altitude of about 10 meters (33 feet) when it suddenly plunged to the ground, Gen. Henry Rangel Silva told state television.

An investigation is under way to determine the cause of the crash, he said.

“We deeply regret that once again, in the deployment of the armed forces, these things occur, and we move forward,” the general said, stressing that his immediate priority is attending to the victims’ families.

Read more by HS News Staff →

Mayan Celebrations Begin in Mexico With Traditional Events

Mayan Celebrations Begin in Mexico With Traditional Events

Photo: Ixchel, goddess of fertility, Earth and the moon, is important in this weekend's celebrations

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A pre-Columbian market, dances and offerings to the goddess Ixchel were the first events of the Sacred Maya Crossing, a tradition restored several years ago that is the first big event of the Maya year celebrations in Mexico.

Tradition has it that Ixchel, goddess of fertility, Earth and the moon, lived on the Caribbean island of Cozumel and that members of mainland communities made the crossing to have her foretell their future.

More than 700 people are taking part until Saturday in the activities at the Xcaret ecological park in the Caribbean state of Quintana Roo.

“The idea is to recover something that belongs to us Quintana Rooans that was lost for many years. Today Quintana Roo is populated by immigrants and we need events that anchor us to what is really ours, to something that belongs to our communities, and that is what we seek with this crossing,” the Xcaret communications and public relations director, Iliana Rodriguez, said.

And that’s why everyone taking part in the activities is a volunteer from one of the indigenous communities that still preserve many of their ancestral customs and languages.

On Thursday a market was installed to sell products made with ancestral ingredients like maize and cocoa beans - in fact the latter were once used as money for making payments.

Typical pre-Columbian dances were performed while stories were told of the goddess Ixchel, the chief oracle of the Mayas on the Yucatan Peninsula.

In Friday’s crowning event, more than 300 people in canoes recreated the Sacred Maya Crossing, setting set out before dawn and rowing across the water to Cozumel from the resort town of Playa del Carmen.

This is the sixth year the crossing has been performed, but on this occasion it had a special significance since it comes in the year 2012, a time signaled by the Mayas as the end of the current calendar cycle.

“This year’s crossing is to prepare ourselves to end this cycle and begin the one that follows,” Rodriguez said, adding that despite popular belief that the Mayas predicted the end of the world this year, that’s not what they were saying.

Unlike current thinking that time is lineal, for the Mayas, she said, it was circular and everything would be repeated.

“When you look back on your past, you have the chance to prepare yourself for the future and perform certain rituals to prevent the bad things” from happening again, she said.

To commemorate such an important date, which will fall on Dec. 21, numerous activities have been organized by the governments of the five states that make up the so-called Maya World: Campeche, Chiapas, Tabasco, Yucatan and Quintana Roo.

The Mexican government expects that some 52 million tourists will visit the area in 2012.

Read more by HS News Staff →

2 Suspects Apprehended In Connection With Murder of Honduran Journalist

2 Suspects Apprehended In Connection With Murder of Honduran Journalist

Photo: Alfredo Villatoro's body was found May 15th

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Two people have been arrested and two others are being sought in connection with the abduction and murder of journalist Alfredo Villatoro, the head of the Honduran National Police said.

The tactics used in Villatoro’s kidnapping were “atypical, as if (meant) to confuse” authorities, Jose Ricardo Ramirez told the international press at a session arranged by President Porfirio Lobo.

Ramirez described the two people arrested Thursday only as a man and a woman.

Police on Wednesday questioned two people serving time at Danli prison in eastern Honduras on suspicion that they were involved in relaying ransom demands to Villatoro’s family.

The 47-year-old Villatoro was kidnapped May 9 in Tegucigalpa while driving to radio station HRN, where he had been employed for two decades and worked as news coordinator.

His body was found around 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, a few hours after Lobo said there was evidence the journalist was still alive.

The kidnappers placed a red bandana on Villatoro’s head and dressed him in a National Police uniform, media reports said.

The captors were not really after money, according to Lobo and Ramirez, who said the 2 million lempiras ($103,359) demanded for Villatoro’s safe return was a paltry amount given that at least a dozen people were involved in the crime.

“We can’t say for sure what is happening until we conclude the investigation, we can have ideas,” Ramirez said, suggesting the journalist’s murder was a reaction to the recent passage of laws making it easier to extradite suspected drug traffickers and racketeers.

Lobo echoed that notion and said he and his advisers were convinced the only way forward “is to remain in the struggle, not let ourselves be intimidated and to know that in this, as in other struggles, there are also martyrs.”

The manner of Villatoro’s killing - two shots to the head - and the fact that the killers dressed him in a police uniform indicate the involvement of organized crime, Ramirez said.

At about the same time the police director was talking to reporters, his official driver was dying after being shot with his own gun.

Francisco Pavon was shopping at the Alvarez market in Tegucigalpa when three men accosted him “to rob his gun, with which they shot him,” the victim’s daughter, Miriam Pavon, told reporters.

The 54-year-old officer died shortly after the shooting, according to the police report.

Read more by HS News Staff →

Poverty and Destitution Plagues More Than a Third of Colombians

Poverty and Destitution Plagues More Than a Third of Colombians

Photo: Colombia suffers from large income inequality

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More than a third of the close to 46 million Colombians are living in poverty or destitution, conditions particularly oppressive in small towns and rural areas, according to a study released in Bogota by the government statistics service.

According to the report, last year in Colombia the poor and destitute numbered some 19.98 million people, of whom some 15.24 million were poor and another 4.74 destitute.

The study, prepared by the Dane national statistics agency using a new measurement methodology and released on Thursday, shows that Colombia’s national poverty index stood at 34.1 percent last year, compared with 37.2 percent in 2010.

In cities the index dropped to 30.3 percent, while in rural areas it jumped to 46.1 percent, according to the study presented by Dane director Jorge Bustamante.

The official said that more than 1.21 million Colombians emerged from poverty during that period, some 857,000 of them in urban areas.

According to the report, the figures were calculated using the multidimensional income-poverty measurement, or IPM, which guages the problem “through five dimensions involving 15 indicators.”

Educational conditions, environment during childhood and youth, work history, health, public services and living conditions are the dimensions considered in the IPM, developed in 2007 by University of Oxford experts and adapted for Colombia by the National Planning Department, or DNP.

The study also offers a progress report on Colombians’ per-capita income, whose national total last year was around 478,658 pesos ($266.86) per month.

In urban areas, income per capita in 2011 reached 566,192 pesos ($315.67) per month, compared with 196,675 pesos ($109.65) in rural areas.

Meanwhile in the country’s 13 largest cities and their metropolitan areas, average income rose to 692,762 pesos ($386.23) monthly.

In a study of poverty covering the 2002-2010 period, the DNP concluded that the population living under the poverty line dropped in eight years from 56 percent to 37 percent.

According to the World Bank, Colombia suffers more economic inequality than any other country in the region except Haiti.

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SaturdayMay 19, 2012