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SundayNovember 11, 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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Spanish Officials Take Down Major Narco Gang from Serbia

Spanish Officials Take Down Major Narco Gang from Serbia

Photo: Spain Takes Down Serbian Drug Gang

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Spanish police said they broke up a network that financed the Serbian criminal outfit known as the Zemun clan with the profits from marijuana plantations on Gran Canaria island.

Police arrested 25 people and seized about 700 pot plants in greenhouses and open-air plots.

The investigation leading to the take-down of the criminal group was launched after the arrest last February of Luka Bojovic, mastermind of the 2003 assassination of Serbia’s then-prime minister, Zoran Djindjic.

Bojovic also arranged the subsequent killings of the assassin, Valadimir Milisavljevic, and two other hitmen, in a bid to prevent authorities from tracing the crime back to him.

Seventeen of the arrests were made in Las Palmas, in the Canary Islands, eight in the cities of Benidorm and Villajoyosa, in southeastern Spain, according to police, who said that officers carried out 33 raids in which they seized 840,000 euros (about $1.1 million) in cash, 65 grams of cocaine, luxury watches and jewelry in two bank safe deposit boxes.

The investigators located three pot plantations, the largest of them having almost 500 plants in a multi-story house located in Las Palmas.

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2 Major Drug Traffickers Apprehended in Colombia

2 Major Drug Traffickers Apprehended in Colombia

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Two drug traffickers suspected of having taken over for Diego Perez Henao, a Los Rastrojos gang boss arrested in Venezuela in June, have been captured by police, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said.

Nelson Mauricio Taborda and Jose Leonardo Hortua Blandon were arrested along with 25 other members of the Los Rastrojos gang, the president said.

The suspects were detained by the National Police in La Virginia, a town in the western province of Risaralda, Santos said during his regular Saturday public meeting.

Taborda and Hortua Blandon had succeeded Perez Henao, known as “Diego Rastrojo,” in the gang, which has its roots in the paramilitary movement and was recently blamed for the massacre of 10 peasants in the northwestern city of Santa Rosa de Osos, Santos said.

Perez Henao was arrested in early June in a binational operation in Venezuela and deported to Colombia, where he faces extradition to the United States on drug and money laundering charges.

Perez Henao, who was the target of an intense manhunt by U.S. and Colombian authorities, was hiding out at a ranch in Venezuela’s Barinas state.

The Los Rastrojos boss was the subject of a nearly $6 million reward.

Taborda may have been the leader of what is left of the Norte del Valle drug cartel, police said.

The arrests of Taborda and Hortua Blandon are a blow to the criminal organization’s leadership, the president said.

Los Rastrojos is one of a number of groups founded by veterans of the defunct United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, or AUC, militia federation.

Los Rastrojos and the other AUC successor groups, such as Los Paisas and Nueva Generacion, are responsible for a good deal of the criminal activity in Colombia, officials say.

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 Uribe administration to regulate the militiamen’s reinsertion into society, former AUC members faced 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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Rights Group Condemns School That Strip Searched Children Over Missing $14

Rights Group Condemns School That Strip Searched Children Over Missing $14

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The government of the western state of Michoacan should take action to “repair the damage done” to about 20 schoolchildren who were strip searched at a public school where 180 pesos ($13.80) had been reported missing, the Mexican National Human Rights Commission, or CNDH, said.

State officials should “take the necessary measures” to help the victims by providing “medical and psychological assistance,” the CNDH, Mexico’s equivalent of an ombudsman’s office, said.

The incident occurred on Sept. 23, 2011, when about 20 11-year-old students at the Club de Leones elementary school in the city of La Piedad were forced to strip because the small amount of money could not be found.

School officials initially threatened to call “the police to search them” and later forced the students to “remain seated, without moving, looking down and with their arms on their heads,” the CNDH said in a statement.

When a search of the children’s belongings did not turn up the money, principal Maria Dolores Reyes Estrada and a teacher made the children get naked and inspected them, the CNDH said.

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Brazilian Architect Oscar Niemeyer Doing Well at 104

Brazilian Architect Oscar Niemeyer Doing Well at 104

Photo: Oscar Niemeyer and his design

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Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer has had a “marked improvement” in the kidney problems that are keeping him hospitalized, his doctor, Fernando Gjorup, said Sunday, adding that he had never feared for his life.

“At no time” did he think that the 104-year-old Niemeyer might die, although given his advanced age the medical team attending him considers all such cases to be “serious,” Gjorup said.

“At his age, everything is of concern, but the kidney function is improving in response to treatment ... Today’s tests are better, the progress is satisfactory and no indicator has worsened,” Gjorup said at a press conference at Rio de Janeiro’s Samaritano Hospital.

Niemeyer has been in the hospital since Nov. 2.

The architect came down with the flu last month and, since he was not eating enough, he suffered a bout of dehydration that affected his kidneys, the doctor said.

Niemeyer spent two weeks in the hospital in October and, after a brief period at home, he suffered a relapse that brought him back to the hospital for assorted tests.

The architect’s wife, Vera Lucia Cabreira Niemeyer, told reporters she was confident that her husband would celebrate his 105th birthday at home on Dec. 15.

Niemeyer is presently focusing on several projects, among which are a cultural center in Morocco and a library in Algeria, she said.

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IDB Loan Will Support the Productive Community Secondary Education Model in Bolivia

The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) has approved a loan for $40 million to finance the 2010 “Avelino Siñani-Elizardo Pérez” Education Law in Bolivia, which requires that secondary education be obligatory and that it follow a humanistic and technical model, among other things.

The new Productive Community Secondary Education (ESCP, after its initials in Spanish) model will train students in socio-productive skills. Diplomas will be earned in one of the following eight subjects: agriculture and livestock, industry, commerce, services, tourism, the arts, health, and physical education and sport.

The IDB will support the implementation of three secondary school models: Experimental Technology Centers in urban areas, Comprehensive Education in Technical Studies and the Humanities in rural areas and mid-sized towns, and technology workshops in lightly population areas.

The loan will also finance teacher training and support for management of the ESCP. The program will benefit 55 towns in nine departments, and will include impact evaluations.

In recent decades, access to primary education in Bolivia has improved significantly, with enrollment of more than 80 percent. These gains have produced anexplosion of demand for secondary education, where enrollment has doubled in the last 10 years.

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IACHR Commends Cuba’s Immigration Reform

IACHR Commends Cuba’s Immigration Reform

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The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) welcomes the reforms to Cuba’s Immigration Law that eliminate some restrictions for Cuban nationals seeking permission to travel outside the country.

The Commission believes that this is a positive step that should be followed by additional measures. It urges the State of Cuba to continue adopting reforms until it fully guarantees the right of all Cubans to leave the country, move about within their territory, choose their place of residence, and decide whether to enter or reenter the country of which they are nationals.

As is publicly known, on October 16, 2012, Decree-Law No. 302 was published in the Official Gazette of the Republic of Cuba, modifying Law No. 1312 (“Immigration Law”) of September 1976. The main changes introduced to the Immigration Law include the partial elimination of the requirement for permission to leave the territory; the extension, from 11 to 24 months, of the period a Cuban national who has traveled abroad is considered to have emigrated; the elimination of the need for an invitation letter from the destination country; and the possibility for children to travel on a temporary basis, once they have authorization from their parents or legal representatives. Decree-Law No. 302 will take effect on January 14, 2013.

On the other hand, the Commission observes that Decree-Law No. 302 keeps certain restrictions for reasons of defense and national security; the security and protection of official information; the public interest; and the need to maintain a qualified work force, among other grounds. The Commission believes that the generality of certain terms leaves a broad margin for the authorities’ discretion, and urges the State of Cuba to fully guarantee the right of all Cuban nationals to move about freely.

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Latin Grammys Announce More Performers Including Prince Royce and Juanes

Latin Grammys Announce More Performers Including Prince Royce and Juanes

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Current nominees David Bisbal, Shaila Durcal (along with Mariachi Divas De Cindy Shea), Kany Garcia, Juanes, and Prince Royce, as well as Joan Sebastian, are the latest performers added to the lineup for the XIII Annual Latin GRAMMY Awards, it was announced today by The Latin Recording Academy. The Biggest Night in Latin Music is set for Nov. 15 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas and will air live on the Univision Network from 8 – 11 p.m. ET/PT (7 p.m. Central).

GRAMMY® and 17-time Latin GRAMMY® winner Juanes has four nominations: Record Of The Year and Song Of The Year for “Azul Sabina” (Featuring Joaquin Sabina), as well as Album Of The Year and Best Long Form Music Video for MTV Unplugged.

Latin GRAMMY winner David Bisbal has a nod for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album for Una Noche En El Teatro Real.

Shaila Durcal is up for Best Ranchero Album for Asi.

Two-time Latin GRAMMY winner Kany Garcia is nominated for Record Of The Year with “Que Te Vaya Mal.”

Prince Royce garnered a nod for Best Tropical Fusion Album for Phase II.

Previously announced performers include current nominees Sergio Dalma, Lila Downs (with Toto La Momposina and Celso Pina), Pedro Fernandez, Juan Luis Guerra, Jesse & Joy, Juan Magan, Victor Manuelle, Gerardo Ortiz, Pitbull, Alejandro Sanz, Michel Telo, and 3Ball MTY, as well as 2012 Latin Recording Academy Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Daniela Romo.

Previously announced presenters are actors Ninel Conde, Ana Brenda Contreras, Marcelo Cordoba, Galilea Montijo, Gabriel Soto, Mark Tacher, and Zuria Vega. Actors Cristian De La Fuente and Lucero once again will co-host the Latin music industry’s premier event.

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Mexican Pecan Exporter Sentenced to 4 Years For Scheme to Defraud Ex-Im Bank

The owner of a pecan brokerage company in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico, was sentenced today to serve 48 months in prison for his role in a scheme to defraud the Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im Bank) of approximately $400,000.

Leopoldo Valencia-Urrea, 50, was sentenced by Judge Kathleen Cardone in U.S. District Court in El Paso, Texas.  Valencia pleaded guilty on Oct. 13, 2011, to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, one count of wire fraud and one count of money laundering conspiracy in connection with a scheme to defraud the Ex-Im Bank of approximately $400,000. 

In addition to his prison term, Valencia was sentenced to serve three years of supervised release and was ordered to pay $58,000 in restitution and $399,075 in forfeiture.

According to court documents, Valencia, a U.S. citizen, was the owner of a pecan brokerage company in Ciudad Juarez and resided in El Paso.  Valencia admitted that in 2006, he applied for an Ex-Im insured loan for $406,258 through a bank in Miami. 

As part of his fraudulent loan application, Valencia and others submitted a fraudulent loan application, financial statements, invoices, letters and bills of lading to falsely represent to the Miami bank and the Ex-Im Bank the purchase and export of U.S. goods to Valencia in Mexico. 

After the exporter who conspired with Valencia received $399,075 from the Miami bank, Valencia and others diverted the loan proceeds directly to Valencia and others in Mexico.  As a result of the fraud, Valencia’s loan defaulted, causing the Ex-Im Bank to pay a claim to the lending bank on a $371,962 loss.

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Costa Rica to Improve Education Infrastructure with $167M Loan

Costa Rica to Improve Education Infrastructure with $167M Loan

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Costa Rica will improve the physical conditions of educational infrastructure, the learning environment, and the efficiency in elmentary and secondary schools with a $167 million loan approved by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).

This program will finance the construction of 79 educational centers as well as the creation of 24 cultural and sports facilities. Seventeen of the new buildings will be used for primary education, special education, and basic education, and will replace poor quality rented or borrowed infrastructure. The new facilities will include academic classrooms, restrooms, administrative areas, dining rooms, recreational spaces, complementary works, and, depending on enrollment, school libraries and computer labs.

One of the most important challenges facing Costa Rica in its efforts to improve educational quality and equity is to reduce the deficit in the sector’s infrastructure. In recent years, the promotion of flexibility in secondary education, conditional cash transfers in the Avancemos Program, and curricular reforms introduced by the Ministry of Public Education, have succeeded in retaining and attracting students that would otherwise remain outside the system.

This increase in retention and promotion has increased the deficit in educational infrastructure, which presently totals some $1 billion, according to the State of Education study.

The project will finance the construction of 52 schools and high schools, rural secondary schools, secondary distance learning programs, and technical schools that currently use poor quality rented or borrowed facilities. 

An additional 10 buildings will house new high schools in areas with high population density and numbers of students. Five of these will be academic high schools (7th through 11th grade) and the other five will be technical schools (10th to 12th grade).  Each school will have an average student body of 850 pupils. The buildings will include classrooms, restrooms, and administrative, dining and recreation areas.

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Penelope Cruz, La Tienda Raise Funds For Spanish Food Banks

Penelope Cruz, La Tienda Raise Funds For Spanish Food Banks

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La Tienda CEO Tim Harris and actress Penelope Cruz announced today the launch of the 2012 “Campaign for Spain” to help Spanish food banks over the holiday season.

The “Campaign for Spain” will raise funds to bring aid to families in Spain. La Tienda will match, dollar for dollar, donations given on the website, up to $25,000 through January 31, 2013.

“Together we can bring assistance to those families who need it most.” says Academy Award winning actress Penelope Cruz.

Spain is suffering through its worst social crisis in at least a generation, and La Tienda is uniquely positioned to help. The money you donate will go to the Spanish Federation of Food Banks (FESBAL), which directly coordinates the efforts of food banks across all of Spain.

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Juanes, Juan Luis Guerra Will Donate Proceeds from NY Concert to Sandy Relief

Juanes, Juan Luis Guerra Will Donate Proceeds from NY Concert to Sandy Relief

Photo: Juan Luis Guerra and Juanes

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Colombian pop star Juanes and Dominican merengue icon Juan Luis Guerra said they will donate the entire box-office receipts from their Nov. 24 concert in New York to the victims of Hurricane Sandy.

“With so many people from these regions now facing immense hardships, we want to show our deep appreciation by utilizing our music to both raise spirits and more importantly, raise much-needed funds to help them through these times of great need,” Juanes and Guerra said in a joint statement Friday.

When Sandy blasted through the U.S. Northeast late last month, it left more than 100 people dead and hit tens of thousands with heavy material damages, as well as costing the state of New York more than $33 billion in economic losses.

The concert will be held on Nov. 24 in the newly opened Barclays Center in the New York borough of Brooklyn.

The promoters announced that the entire box-office take of the show, which will be the first big concert of Latin American music in that multi-purpose arena, will go to the U.S. Red Cross to help hurricane victims.

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Chevron Subsidiaries Appeal Asset Embargo in Argentina

Two Argentine subsidiaries of Chevron Corp. have appealed a court ruling freezing the U.S. oil supermajor’s assets in the South American country.

An Argentine judge ordered the asset embargo this week after being petitioned by a court in Ecuador, where Chevron has been ordered to pay $19 billion for irreversible environmental damage in the Amazon between 1964 and the early 1990s by Texaco.

The subsidiaries - Chevron Argentina and Ing. Norberto Priu - argued in their appeal that the embargo is “not applicable due to the existence of widely documented fraud perpetrated by the plaintiffs, as well as the lack of jurisdiction and erroneous application of the law,” Chevron’s spokesman for Latin America, James Craig, told Efe Friday.

“Chevron Corp, the sole judgment debtor, has no assets in Argentina. All operations in Argentina are conducted by subsidiaries that have nothing to do with the fraudulent judgment in Ecuador,” the spokesman added by e-mail.

Judge Adrian Elcuj Miranda handed down his ruling Wednesday after an Ecuadorian court petitioned him under the terms of a regional treaty, the attorney representing the Ecuadorian plaintiffs in Argentina, Enrique Bruchou, said in a press conference.

The 47 named plaintiffs represent some 30,000 Amazon villagers who say Texaco, which Chevron acquired in 2001, spoiled their lands and damaged their health by dumping billions of gallons of toxic drilling waste in a 480,000-hectare (1,850-sq.-mile) area of the Ecuadorian Amazon.

They are seeking to enforce a January 2012 appeals court judgment against Chevron in countries such as Argentina, Canada and Brazil because the U.S. company has few assets in Ecuador.

The embargo covers 100 percent of Chevron Argentina’s stock - valued at roughly $2 billion - and all of its dividends, its 14 percent stake in the company Oleoductos del Valle, 40 percent of the company’s oil sales to refineries and 40 percent of the funds it has deposited in Argentine banks, Bruchou said.

Chevron is the fourth-largest oil producer in Argentina with output of 35,000 barrels per day in 2011, according to the company’s Web site.

The case in Ecuador is currently before the National Court of Justice in Quito, but the judgment is already enforceable because Chevron has refused to post a bond with the high court to halt enforcement of the appellate court’s ruling.

On Oct. 16, an Ecuadorian judge issued a ruling ordering the U.S. multinational to turn over its assets in the Andean nation, which the plaintiffs say total some $200 million.

The pollution case was initially filed in New York in 1993, but Chevron succeeded in having it moved from the United States to Ecuador in 2003, four years before President Rafael Correa came to power amid voter anger at corruption and traditional politicians.

But Chevron now says that the case has become politicized under the leftist Correa and that it cannot receive a fair trial.

Although the oil company maintains that Texaco was cleared of any liability for damages, plaintiffs say that mid-1990s agreement with the government did not release it from third-party claims and that Chevron is reneging on its pledge to abide by whatever decision was handed down by Ecuadorian courts.

Chevron said on its Web site after the initial 2011 verdict by a court in the Ecuadorian Amazon town of Lago Agrio that state oil company Petroecuador should be the target of local communities’ legal action.

It noted then that Texaco ceased operating in Ecuador in 1992 and that Petroecuador has been “the sole and exclusive owner and operator of greatly expanded operations in the area from (that year) to the present.”

Chevron has appealed the Ecuador pollution verdict to the World Bank’s International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes, or ICSID.

The San Ramon, California-based company also has brought legal action in a U.S. federal court in New York against the plaintiffs’ U.S. and Ecuadorian lawyers for violations of the federal racketeering statute, accusing them of trying to extort a financial settlement from the company.

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Spanish Companies Invest $15 Billion in Chile, Says Rajoy

Spanish Companies Invest $15 Billion in Chile, Says Rajoy

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Accumulated Spanish investment in Chile exceeds $15 billion, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said in a message to the Spanish Chamber of Commerce in the South American country.

The Spanish premier said Friday that an increasing number of small- and medium-sized enterprises in the Iberian nation are setting up shop in Chile because the country’s “exemplary legal security” makes it attractive “not only to the big multinationals.”

Chile also is appealing due to economic woes in Spain, where businesses’ access to credit is severely limited after the collapse of a long-building, massive property bubble left banks saddled with non-performing loans.

Unemployment, meanwhile, stands at more than 25 percent in Spain.

Rajoy’s message was read during the annual meeting of the Santiago-based business network.

According to Chilean media, Spain has been the country’s second-largest foreign investor after the United States since 1974.

The prime minister, who will make an official visit to Chile on Jan. 26, also said Spain offers many possibilities for Chilean companies.

He noted that, despite the Iberian nation’s severe economic crisis, Chilean exports to Spain rose by more than 10 percent in the first half of 2012.

That increase occurred even as the South American country’s exports to the European Union as a whole fell in that same period by nearly 20 percent, Rajoy said.

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Dutch Firm To Expand Mexican Shipping Port with $2 Billion Investment

Dutch Firm To Expand Mexican Shipping Port with $2 Billion Investment

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Netherlands-based APM Terminals plans to invest $2 billion to expand the containers terminal of the Mexican Pacific port of Lazaro Cardenas, a project that will create 3,000 direct jobs, officials said.

APM Terminals, a unit of Grupo Maersk and one of the largest firms in the world, said it will invest $900 million in the first stage of this expansion, the Economic Development Secretariat of the western state of Michoacan said in a statement.

State authorities and company executives laid the cornerstone for the expansion of the terminal, which will make the port of Lazaro Cardenas the port of choice for importing products from Asia to Mexico and the U.S. East Coast.

The state’s development secretary, Ricardo Martinez, said the terminal will operate the unloading of giant new-generation freighters, the world’s biggest.

During the first stage a container yard covering some 43 hectares (106 acres) and a 650-meter (2,100-foot) wharf will be built.

The new complex also includes an administration building, warehouse, access gates, and a modern railroad terminal next to the wharf that will allow an ever-greater volume of intermodal cargoes.

At the ceremony, APM Terminals CEO Tiemen Meester said that the company’s investment reflects confidence in the future of the Mexican economy.

During the construction phase, the project will immediately create 900 direct jobs in the area.

APM Terminals, which also operates the port terminals of Ensenada and Manzanillo, reported $4.7 billion in revenue and $649 million in net income in 2011.

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Police Operation Kills 6 in Rio de Janeiro Slums

Police Operation Kills 6 in Rio de Janeiro Slums

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Brazilian police killed at least six suspected drug-gang members in two operations early Saturday in Rio de Janeiro slums.

The first operation, conducted in the pre-dawn hours in the Vila Kennedy shantytown on Rio’s outskirts left four dead and one wounded, the Military Police said in a statement.

In that operation, authorities confiscated three handguns, a revolver, a grenade, ammunition and a small consignment of cocaine, marijuana and crack.

Two other suspected drug-gang members died in a shootout with police in a second operation Saturday morning in the nearby Rola and Antares shantytowns, also on Rio’s outskirts.

Lt. Col. Friedrick Bassani told O Globo daily that two handguns were seized in that operation and a large quantity of drugs.

The second operation involved a large deployment of police, including 80 Military Police officers, and two armored vehicles, the statement said.

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Red Cross Rescues 47 Immigrants Crossing Strait of Gibraltar in Fragile Boats

Red Cross Rescues 47 Immigrants Crossing Strait of Gibraltar in Fragile Boats

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A total of 47 immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa were saved on Saturday by a Spanish maritime rescue unit as they were crossing the Strait of Gibraltar in three fragile boats.

As Spain’s emergency management agency told Efe, the first of the boats was located 2 miles at sea from the port of Tarifa in southern Spain, and was carrying 28 people - 14 women, nine men and five babies.

It was members of the ship’s crew that alerted the Spanish Civil Guard of the situation, after which the vessel’s positioning device was activated to pinpoint its whereabouts.

All on board were in good health and have been taken to Tarifa to be attended by the Red Cross.

After bringing those migrants ashore, the maritime rescue unit kept the operation going and found a second boat with 12 immigrants aboard, all sub-Saharan men who are now also being cared for by the Red Cross after landing at the port of Tarifa.

Then a third vessel was located carrying seven immigrants, but since it is still in Moroccan waters, only two of the passengers have been taken to the port of Tarifa for medical attention.

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SundayNovember 11, 2012