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SundaySeptember 2, 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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Grenade Attack in Northern Colombia Kills 1, Injures 27

One person was killed and 27 others were wounded in a grenade attack at an entertainment center in Barrancabermeja, a city in northeastern Colombia, police said Sunday.

The attack occurred early Sunday in the Primero de Mayo district of Barrancabermeja, which is home to Colombia’s largest oil refinery, Magdalena Medio police chief Col. Ricardo Castrillon said.

Two unidentified men riding on a motorcycle threw the grenade at the establishment, “where one person died,” Castrillon said, citing eyewitness reports.

Police initially reported that 10 people had been wounded in the attack, but the Santander province Government Secretariat later raised the figure to 27, including two people who are listed in serious condition.

The wounded were treated at the Clinica La Magdalena and at Barrancabermeja Hospital, with the two seriously wounded individuals taken to Bucaramanga, the capital of Santander.

Officials, who are offering a reward of $5,400 for information leading to the arrests of the assailants, have not said who they suspect was behind the attack.

Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, and National Liberation Army, or ELN, urban guerrilla units operate in Barrancabermeja.

The Los Rastrojos and Los Urabeños gangs also operate in Barrancabermeja, which is on the Magdalena River, officials said.

Three attacks have now occurred in the past six weeks in Barrancabermeja, where state-controlled Ecopetrol operates Colombia’s largest oil refinery.

Read more by HS News Staff →

3 Nicaraguan Police Dishonorably Discharged for Raping Mentally Retarded Girl

3 Nicaraguan Police Dishonorably Discharged for Raping Mentally Retarded Girl

Photo: Nicaraguan Police

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Nicaraguan police announced Saturday the dishonorable discharge of three officers accused of raping a mentally retarded 12-year-old girl.

Police spokesman Fernando Borge told reporters that the dismissed cops had been guarding the premises of the general secretariat of the ruling Sandinista National Liberation Front, or FSLN, which the nation’s President Daniel Ortega occupies as the seat of government.

According to Borge, the three agents, who had only belonged to the National Police for “a short time,” were dishonorably discharged “immediately” because that institution cannot accept “such behavior.”

The girl’s father reported the incident, which occurred 20 days ago, to the National Police and to defenders of human rights organizations, which, together with the Network of Women against Violence, have condemned that act.

The case has gone to the Nicaraguan Attorney General’s Office, which will indict the three former police agents for the crime of rape, for which they could be sentenced to between 12-15 years in jail.

Read more by HS News Staff →

Clash Over Land Dispute in Honduras Kills Peasant, Injures Security Guard

Clash Over Land Dispute in Honduras Kills Peasant, Injures Security Guard

Photo: Honduras

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A peasant died and a security guard was shot and wounded when a group tried to occupy a palm-oil plantation in Honduras’s Caribbean region, police said.

The incident occurred Saturday at the Bolero plantation in Bajo Aguan, a region in Colon province, where armed individuals occupied private land, police spokesman Orlin Rosales told Efe.

The man killed in the clash was “a supposed peasant,” the police sokesman said.

More than 60 people, including peasants and security guards, have been killed in the region in the past three years, the National Human Rights Commission says.

Several people were wounded in the clash, Trujillo police chief Jose Mejia told reporters, without providing specific figures.

The security guard wounded in the incident is in serious condition, the police chief said.

The people who occupied the plantation warned that “no one is going to get them off” Bolero, Mejia said.

At least three peasants were killed when they tried to occupy private lands in Bajo Aguan on Aug. 9, police said.

The National Assembly approved legislation on Aug. 1 that limits the right to bear arms in Colon to military personnel, police and private security guards in an effort to end the conflict, but peasants said the measure would not work.

President Porfirio Lobo has said several times that the conflict is “a problem of national security” and criticized the fact that people calling themselves peasants are armed with AK-47 assault rifles.

Last year, the Honduran government, plantation owners and the Muca peasants organization signed an agreement calling for more than 4,000 hectares (9,876 acres) of land to be distributed among landless families in Bajo Aguan.

The Lobo administration sent troops and police to the region last October, but the presence of the security forces has failed to stop the violence.

Under a new pact signed by Lobo on June 5, the government pledged $17 million to purchase 2,429 hectares of land from the Bajo Aguan plantation owners for distribution among poor peasants.

Read more by HS News Staff →

3 Chicagoans To Be Honored for Leadership At Hispanic Heritage Month Celebration

3 Chicagoans To Be Honored for Leadership At Hispanic Heritage Month Celebration

Photo: The honorees: Jerry Campagna, Diana Palomar, and Sylvia Puente

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Fifth Third Bank Chicago announced plans to honor three prominent leaders within Chicagoland’s Hispanic community at a special reception on Thursday, September 20, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Carnivale Chicago, 702 W. Fulton Market.   

This year’s honorees will each receive a $5,300 scholarship in their name that will be awarded to an area high school student:

Jerry Campagna, president, The Most Inc.

    Campagna is a well-known media and outreach expert and currently serves as Adjunct Faculty, Nonprofit Executive Education at the University of Notre Dame with a focus on Latino leadership and organizational development.

Diana Palomar, VP, Community Affairs, ABC 7 Chicago

    ABC 7 Chicago and its VP of Community Affairs, Diana Palomar work with non-profits to help them enhance their media/marketing efforts, resource development and advocacy.  Palomar sits on several boards YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago, National Museum of Mexican Art, Metropolitan Family Services and Casa Central.

Sylvia Puente, executive director, Latino Policy Forum

    In her role as Executive Director for the Latino Policy Forum, Puente works to improve educational outcomes for children and build the influence and leadership of the Latino Community.  She was appointed by Governor Quinn to serve as chair of the Education Funding Advisory Board and has been named a “Pioneer for Social Justice.”

“It will be our pleasure to acknowledge and celebrate the significant accomplishments and contributions of Jerry, Diana and Sylvia,” said Robert A. Sullivan, president & CEO, Fifth Third Bank Chicago. “Each has made an indelible mark in the community with their contributions of time, talent and treasure.  Their commitment to positive, impactful change inspires us.”

Read more by HS News Staff →

Latinos: Take New Survey on How to Improve Cancer Services for Spanish Speakers

Latinos: Take New Survey on How to Improve Cancer Services for Spanish Speakers

Photo: Livestrong

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Spanish-speaking Latinos, have you been affected by cancer?

If so, you’re invited to take a new survey about how to improve cancer-related services from LIVESTRONG.

LIVESTRONG, which is currently reaching out to Latinos to offer information about the Spanish services available to those being affected by cancer, hopes survey respondents will identify what additional or future actions need to be taken to improve the cancer community.

Find out more information in Spanish or take the survey here.

Read more at Salud Today →

Mexican Human Rights Lawyer Wins German Peace Prize

Mexican Human Rights Lawyer Wins German Peace Prize

Photo: Alejandro Cerezo

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Attorney Alejandro Cerezo received Germany’s Aachen peace prize on behalf of Comite Cerezo, which works to defend human rights in Mexico.

“This is recognition of a collective 11-year effort that has been marked by death threats, harassment and the denunciation of issues that few organizations, unfortunately, document,” such as forced disappearances, extralegal executions and imprisonment for political reasons, Cerezo told Efe.

“Resolving the structural violence, that is, the systematic violence against human rights” would be “a good start” in achieving respect for human rights in Mexico, Cerezo said.

An effort must also be made to fight poverty and provide alternatives for people, the human rights activist said.

Antonio Cerezo, Alejandro’s brother and a fellow activist, said authorities’ arbitrary acts would not end until “the Mexican state decides to stop putting into practice laws and actions that violate human rights.”

There were 29 extralegal executions between January 2011 and May 2012, mainly in the states of Oaxaca and Guerrero, Antonio Cerezo said, adding that such acts continue to be “a sad reality.”

Thirty-eight human rights defenders disappeared and 158 politically motivated arrests occurred during the same period, the activist said.

Comite Cerezo was founded in 2001 following the arrests of brothers Alejandro, Hector and Antonio Cerezo Contreras.

The organization documents arbitrary actions by authorities across Mexico.

The Aachen international peace prize, which carries a cash award of 1,000 euros ($1,257) went to Comite Cerezo, while the German prize went to Berlin-based Borderline Europe, which monitors human rights at European Union entry points.

Read more by HS News Staff →

Smithsonian American Art Museum Receives 2 Important Rafael Soriano Paintings

Smithsonian American Art Museum Receives 2 Important Rafael Soriano Paintings

Photo: "Un Lugar Distante" by Rafael Soriano

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This summer two major paintings by Cuban master Rafael Soriano were given to the Smithsonian American Art Museum for its permanent collection. These two works, Un Lugar Distante (A Distant Place) (1972) and Candor de la Alborada (Candor of Dawn) (1994), represent significant moments in Soriano’s artistic production.

“These important paintings by Rafael Soriano are excellent additions to the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s collection,” said Dr. E. Carmen Ramos, curator of Latino art at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. “While the museum’s collection includes important works by Cuban American artists—especially those that were educated in the United States like Ana Mendieta and Maria Brito—these Soriano acquisitions allow us to capture the perspective of the first generation of Cuban exiles who arrived as adults with significant careers in Cuba already under their belt.”

A founder and early director of the School of Fine Arts in his native Matanzas, Soriano was a committed member of the communal life of his city. A member of the third Cuban avant-garde, Soriano’s early work in Cuba was a manifestation of geometric abstraction. Throughout the 1950s, he exhibited and was associated with the Pintores Concretos group of artists that introduced geometric and concrete abstraction in Cuba.

Soriano’s art experienced an extraordinary transformation along with his personal life as a Cuban exile. Soriano developed rectilinear, angular compositions endowed with strong, flat colors and forms that gave way to organic ones, and color became simultaneously deep and diaphanous. Soriano transforms abstraction into a visual space where forms express metaphysical and spiritual concerns, not unlike those found in the works of his fellow Americans Mark Rothko and William Baziotes. Un Lugar Distante and Candor de la Alborada are excellent examples of these shifts and resolutions.

Un Lugar Distante will be featured in the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s forthcoming exhibition Our America: The Latino Presence in American Art, opening Oct. 25, 2013.

“Candor de la Alborada” by Rafael Soriano

Read more by HS News Staff →

Venezuela Investigates Alleged Massacre of Yanomami Indians

Venezuela Investigates Alleged Massacre of Yanomami Indians

Photo: Location of the Yanomami Indians

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The Venezuelan government sent a team of prosecutors, investigative police and military personnel to determine the facts about an alleged massacre of 80 Yanomami Indians in July that was reported by non-governmental organizations and an opposition lawmaker.

Interior Minister Tareck el Aissami said that the Bolivarian National Guard contacted Thursday seven of the nine Yanomami communities that inhabit the jungles of Amazonas state on the Brazilian border, but none of them reported any such incident.

None of those communities have experienced “a situation of violence,” he said, but added that another two isolated communities have yet to be contacted.

Representatives of the federal Attorney General’s Office, investigative police and the armed forces are currently visiting the nine Yanomami communities, the minister said Friday on state channel Venezolana de Television.

The goal of this multidisciplinary commission is to “verify, understand and obtain information” about the massacre reported to authorities.

“May God grant that the two communities we have yet to contact have not suffered any kind of violence either,” El Aissami said.

At least 80 Yanomami Indians died at the hands of purported illegal Brazilian miners in Amazonas state on July 5, indigenous leaders and a member of the opposition said Wednesday.

Opposition lawmaker Andres Avelino Alvarez of the single-chamber legislature’s indigenous peoples committee, said that only three members of the Irotatheri community in the municipality of Alto Orinoco survived the massacre by individuals aboard a helicopter with “Brazilian identification.”

The federal AG’s office designated a special commission this week to determine exactly what happened, after receiving a complaint on Monday filed by representatives of the Horonami organization, according to which “the Yanomamis were at an indigenous encampment that was attacked from a helicopter.”

Read more by HS News Staff →

UN: Guatemalan Children Still Facing Sexual Exploitation, Forced Labor

UN: Guatemalan Children Still Facing Sexual Exploitation, Forced Labor

Photo: UN Rapporteur Najay Maalla M’jid

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In spite of protection measures by the Guatemalan Government, many children are still victims of sexual exploitation and forced labor, a United Nations independent expert warned today.

Special Rapporteur on child trafficking, prostitution and child pornography, Najay Maalla M’jid underlined that it is still difficult to determine the extent of the trafficking and exploitation of children due to the lack of systematic denunciations, as people fear stigmatization and retaliation.

She also noted a lack of access to mechanisms that guarantee rapid protection and security for victims outside the capital, Guatemala City, pointing out that there is a transnational dimension to the issue which translates into using minors for sexual tourism, online pornography and organized crime.

The Special Rapporteur recognized that there have been numerous legal reforms and measures adopted by various actors at a central and local level.

Ms. Maalla M’jid also emphasized that slow judicial investigations and the current impunity enjoyed by many perpetrators impede the rapid and efficient protection of victims and witnesses, and called on the Government to adopt a strategy with a global and integrated focus to guarantee the protection of children who have been victims or are at risk of abuse.

During her visit to the country, Ms. Maalla M’jid met with Government officials, as well as with representatives from civil society and the private sector. She also talked to young teenagers who have been victims of violence and abuse when she visited child protection centres in the country.

Independent experts, or special rapporteurs, are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back, in an unpaid capacity, on specific human rights themes.

Read more by HS News Staff →

Activist Dolores Huerta, Latinos for Obama Promote Voter Registration in North Carolina

Activist Dolores Huerta, Latinos for Obama Promote Voter Registration in North Carolina

Photo: Barack Obama and Dolores Huerta

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Civil rights activist Dolores Huerta urged North Carolina’s Hispanics to register, vote and support President Barack Obama to “make the difference” in the November elections.

“We know the president won this state in the last election thanks to Latinos,” Huerta said in an interview with Efe. “If we come out to support him again, together with women, young people and African-Americans, we’ll win again.”

Huerta, co-founder of the United Farm Workers union with its leader Cesar Chavez, took part here Saturday in a day of getting voters to register, organized by Latinos for Obama, at which she was accompanied by Univision TV host Raul de Molina.

Charlotte will be the setting next week for the Democratic National Convention, in which Barack Obama’s candidacy for reelection will be made official.

According to figures of the North Carolina Board of Elections, 91,554 Hispanics are registered to vote in November, but a recent study by an organization without political affiliation, Democracy North Carolina, estimated that as many as 100,000 could be registered.

“We have to get organized and educate people about how important our vote is - we can’t stay at home and be afraid. I see North Carolina like California was years ago when Latinos decided elections,” said Huerta, who was decorated by Obama with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

For his part, the Cuban-American De Molina reaffirmed his support for Obama, for whom he voted in 2008 and plans to do so again in November because, he said, “he’s the only candidate who has supported the undocumented community.”

“We Latinos must first register and vote in the name of those who can’t do so, the people without papers, and above all, the young dreamers so they may live the American dream,” the charismatic host of “El Gordo y la Flaca” (Fatty and Skinny) said.

De Molina said he knows at first hand the cost of medical treatment after suffering a bout with cancer, which he survived, and considers that the health-care reform enacted by Obama comes to the rescue of people who have no insurance coverage.

“An operation like I had cost $200,000, which is the price of a house, the American dream,” he said.

Marcela Cortez, 25, who had just arrived in Charlotte from New York, used the occasion to register.

“We’re going through a crucial time in this country and we as Hispanics and citizens must do our duty and vote,” she said.

Read more by HS News Staff →

Ecuadorian-American Hostage Released in Ecuador, $3 Million Ransom Requested

Ecuadorian-American Hostage Released in Ecuador, $3 Million Ransom Requested

Photo: Police Press Conference in Ecuador (DNCE PNE)

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Police in Ecuador freed an “Ecuadorian-American” citizen after 40 days in captivity and for whom his captors demanded a $3 million ransom, police said.

Citizen F.B. was kidnapped on July 23 in the city of Nueva Loja in the Ecuadorian Amazon, when four individuals burst into the premises of the foundation “For the Survival of the Cofan People” and shackled the employees.

“Relatives of the victim received several calls from a person with a Colombian accent,” both from Ecuador and from Colombia, requesting $3 million in exchange for the hostage’s release, the National Police said on its Web site.

Investigations led authorities to discover that the citizen was being held in the jungles of Sucumbios province.

“After 40 days of intense investigations and feeling the pressure from the National Police, the kidnappers proceeded to release their captive under pressure,” that institution said.

On Friday morning the “Ecuadorian-American” citizen was left “in the dense jungle,” and with the help of a National Police airplane was located in the Jehova grounds of the Concha de Vetano sector.

Read more by HS News Staff →

Colombia Captures 18 Gang Members With Links to 17 Murders

Colombia Captures 18 Gang Members With Links to 17 Murders

Photo: Arrested "Urabeños"

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Colombian authorities arrested 18 suspected members of the Los Urabeños criminal gang who are accused in connection with 17 murders, tracking them down in three separate parts of the country, the National Police said Saturday.

The operations were carried out in the southwestern city of Cali, the northern city of Monteria and the Caribbean island province of San Andres, National Police director Gen. Jose Roberto Leon Riaño told reporters.

He said that thanks to intelligence work the suspects - including two women - were identified as members of the armed wing of the Urabeños gang, a so-called paramilitary successor group that emerged following the ostensible demobilization of the AUC militia federation.

Leon said that the suspects are linked to “17 documented crimes,” including the killings of “three minors four months ago” in southwestern Colombia.

Bogota daily El Tiempo said the slayings of the minors were part of a drug-related turf battle.

The general said most of the 17 killings occurred in the southwestern province of Valle del Cauca, the northern provinces of Cordoba and Sucre and in San Andres, but he did not indicate in which year they occurred.

Authorities said the detainees took orders from Dairo Antonio Usuga and had previously answered to Juan de Dios Usuga, who was killed in a police operation early this year in the northwestern province of Choco.

Separately, El Tiempo reported Friday that the arrests of top leaders of the Los Rastrojos gang have brought that criminal outfit to the brink of collapse.

The newspaper said at least 300 members of the gang were looking to turn themselves in to authorities.

A report from the Indepaz think tank released in February said the paramilitary successor groups Los Rastrojos, Los Urabeños, Las Aguilas Negras, Los Paisas and ERPAC had a presence in 2011 in 406 municipalities in 31 Colombian provinces.

That means their presence expanded by 147 municipalities compared to 2008, when they were active in 259 of the Andean nation’s 1,110 municipalities.

Los Rastrojos have a presence in 23 provinces, Los Urabeños in 18, Las Aguilas Negras in 23, Los Paisas in 14 and ERPAC in 14, according to the study.

More than 31,000 AUC fighters laid down their arms between the end of 2003 and mid-2006 as part of a peace process with former President Alvaro Uribe’s administration.

The AUC, which arose in the mid-1980s to protect landowners and businesses from Marxist rebels but degenerated into a fractious coalition of death squads whose chiefs grew rich from drug trafficking, land grabs and extortion, has been blamed for more than 20,000 deaths.

Read more by HS News Staff →

“Yo Soy 132” Student Movement Protests Calderon Government in Mexico

“Yo Soy 132” Student Movement Protests Calderon Government in Mexico

Photo: Protests in Mexico

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Hundreds of people demonstrated outside Mexico’s Congress Saturday against President Felipe Calderon, a protest coinciding with the presentation of his final state-of-the-nation report.

Members of the Yo soy 132 student movement, which arose in May as a reaction to the Mexican mass media’s bias in favor of now-President-elect Enrique Peña Nieto and his Institutionary Revolutionary Party, or PRI, began the march Saturday morning on this capital’s south side.

They were later joined by other groups who denounced the six years of Calderon, who will step down on Dec. 1.

A period full of “hunger, exclusion, misinformation, inequality, illness, plundering, repression and death,” one member of the group said, reading from a so-called “counter-report” on Calderon’s term.

“Calderon is responsible for these six years of decisions taken behind society’s back,” the document read, adding that his administration “has been the continuation of a corrupt system where a few have imposed their interests above the needs of the majority.”

Calderon will submit his sixth and final state-of-the-nation report to Congress on Saturday, when a new session of the legislature begins.

The report, which will be presented to a congressional committee by Government Secretary Alejandro Poire, is expected to tout the Calderon administration’s economic, political and security achievements.

“Six years of lies and false promises, of simulation, corruption, complicity and a state of emergency imposed on us,” the document said, slamming Calderon as “a cowardly president talking about valor while we, the society, supply the deaths, the displaced persons, the kidnap victims, the persecuted.”

“Six years of obscene wealth for the few, while we suffer hunger, are excluded, unemployed, young people without opportunities,” it said.

The young people also provided a detailed analysis of Calderon’s policies in different areas, including the news media, education, science and technology, art and culture and public safety.

The “counter-report” also had words for future Mexican head of state Enrique Peña Nieto, who was declared president-elect Friday after the TEPJF electoral court rejected legal challenges to the result of the July 1 balloting filed by runner-up Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and his Progressive Movement leftist coalition.

“We know that with Peña Nieto this system will simply take on a new face and once again we, the society, will pay the costs imposed by this political class,” the document said, urging society at large to join in “a fraternal struggle” for Mexico’s transformation.

Peña Nieto’s victory has been attributed in part to voter frustration over persistently high levels of drug-related violence during the tenure of Calderon, who was constitutionally barred from seeking re-election.

Since the conservative Calderon took office on Dec. 1, 2006, as many as 60,000 people have lost their lives in turf battles among drug cartels and clashes between the gangs and the security forces.

But despite the high murder toll Calderon has consistently defended his government’s decision to militarize the struggle against the mobs.

The Yo soy 132 movement started on May 11, when Peña Nieto visited the Universidad Iberoamericana and was jeered by students, who accused him of being a candidate “manufactured” by the powerful Televisa network, accusations supported by Britain’s The Guardian newspaper, which has published e-mails about a secret unit at the network whose mission was to promote the PRI hopeful.

Those in Peña Nieto’s inner circle and some media pundits downplayed the incident, accusing the students of being agitators.

The students counterattacked by making a video that was posted on YouTube.

The criticism led to the birth of the “Somos mas de 131” (We Are More Than 131) movement, which took its name from the number of students who appeared in the video and later evolved into the Yo soy 132 (I Am 132) movement when students from other universities joined the protests.

The movement opposes the return to power of the PRI, which governed Mexico from 1929 to 2000.

Read more by HS News Staff →

Grupo Aeromexico, Delta to Construct $40 M Maintenance Facility

Grupo Aeromexico, Delta to Construct $40 M Maintenance Facility

Photo: Grupo Aeromexico

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Grupo Aeromexico and Delta Air Lines announced plans to invest $40 million to build and jointly operate an aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul, or MRO, center in the central Mexican state of Queretaro.

The two airlines said in a joint statement that they will invest equal amounts in the facility, which will be used to service their respective fleets and those of other airlines.

The MRO center will be built at the Queretaro International Airport next to that state’s Aerospace Park, Mexico’ largest aerospace manufacturing cluster.

Delta and Aeromexico added that the project will involve moving their current MRO installations at the Guadalajara International Airport to the new facility, which could start operating in 2013 with a capacity to service up to seven airplanes simultaneously.

“With the site selection, the joint efforts now move to begin constructing this facility that will usher in lower maintenance costs without compromising the very high quality work that Aeromexico provides Delta,” Delta Air Lines President Ed Bastian said.

For his part, Grupo Aeromexico CEO Andres Conesa said the Queretaro center represents one of Mexico’s biggest aerospace investment projects in recent years.

The project is part of a memorandum of understanding that was signed in 2011 and included the purchase by Delta of a 4.17 percent stake in Aeromexico for $65 million.

Grupo Aeromexico has four subsidiaries and offers 550 daily flights to different cities in Mexico, the United States, Canada, Central and South America, Europe and Asia. It recently announced the purchase of 100 Boeing aircraft.

Delta, the world’s largest airline, transports 160 million passengers annually, employs more than 80,000 people and has a fleet of 700 aircraft.

Read more by HS News Staff →

Hundreds of Undocumented Immigrants Protest Loss of Free Health Care in Spain

Hundreds of Undocumented Immigrants Protest Loss of Free Health Care in Spain

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Hundreds of people protested in downtown Madrid Saturday against a measure that will leave undocumented immigrants without access to free health care, saying the decision by Spain’s governing Popular Party amounts to “health apartheid.”

The demonstrators cried out against Saturday’s enactment of a measure that will strip the more than 150,000 illegal immigrants in Spain of their national health cards.

It was included in a government decree imposing urgent savings measures to safeguard the future of public health care amid a severe financial crisis and an unemployment rate of nearly 25 percent.

Some 30 organizations and civil society groups, immigrant and refugee associations and defenders of human rights, grouped as the Network for the Right to Have Rights, rallied in front of Madrid’s Gregorio Marañon Hospital.

Those taking part, many of them foreigners living in Spain, chanted slogans like “No human being is illegal” and “Popular Party, Ku Klux Klan,” while demanding the resignation of Health Minister Ana Mato.

Joining in the protest were opposition politicians including the Socialist Party’s executive secretary for cooperation and immigration, Marisol Perez, who demanded that the administration “correct” what it has done and put and end to this “health apartheid,” which she described as “cruel, inhuman and ineffectual.”

Yoro, 22, an immigrant from Gambia, spoke in the name of his best friend who is suffering from liver cancer and has no papers, out of fear that he will be left without treatment under the new regulation.

“We’ll die if they don’t treat us; the government has to correct what it did, it can’t leave us to our fate because we have no money to pay for treatment,” the young man told Efe.

The health minister annulled Saturday the health cards of all foreigners who pay no contributions to Spain’s Social Security and of Spaniards who have never worked and have incomes above 100,000 euros ($125,000) a year.

Foreigners without papers will only be eligible for urgent care in the case of accidents, serious illnesses, or pregnancy, birth and puerperium, except in the case of minors under age 18, who will received the same services as other Spaniards.

From Doctors of the World, spokesman Mario Perez asked the government to repeal the decree because, he said, it violates the right to health care and will collapse the urgent care centers because undocumented immigrants will now have nowhere else to go, thus leading to “costs rather than savings.”

No official data exist about people living in Spain without a visa, though comparing the number of foreigners in the National Statistics Institute with those who do not figure in the registry of Spain’s Employment Ministry shows 569,946 people “without papers.”

Of these, some 153,469 are illegal immigrants from Latin America and other non-European Union countries, the hardest hit by this measure, since they belong to a vulnerable group with little money, while the rest are foreigners of irregular status from other EU countries.

Several medical organizations have launched a conscientious objection campaign declaring they will not obey the decree, to which some 1,800 health professionals have joined in.

At the same time, the regional governments of Catalonia, Galicia, the Basque region, Castilla y Leon, Navarra, Andalusia and Asturias have already announced that they will continue treating the undocumented.

Read more by HS News Staff →

SundaySeptember 2, 2012