Friday, October 19, 2012

Oct. 17-19: Where is Zeta Leader's Body?; Nicaragua Pursues Pipeline; Controversy Over Fujimori Pardon Request

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SourceMex, October 17, 2012

In a bizarre set of circumstances, Heriberto Lazcano, one of the founders of the ruthless Zetas cartel, was apparently killed in a shoot-out with Mexican special forces, but the government has no body to prove his death because the body mysteriously disappeared from a local funeral home. Lazcano, known by his nickname "El Lazca,"had been identified through fingerprints taken before the body disappeared. Lazcano's possible Ideath has led to speculation that the cartel might weaken. But other leaders, including Miguel Ángel Treviño, are expected to gain control. -Carlos Navarro

The state-run oil company PEMEX has announced the discovery of a large reserve of crude oil in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico, a development that adds credibility to the theory that a massive supply of oil exists in the region just south of Mexico’s maritime border with the US. PEMEX discovered the new reserve while conducting tests on the Supremus-1 well, about 250 km east of Matamoros, Tamaulipas state. President FelipeCalderón, who announced the discovery on Oct. 5, said tests indicate the well might contain between 75 million and 125 million barrels of reserves. -Carlos Navarro

NotiCen, October 18, 2012

Just months after pledging to build a long-dreamed-about "Nicaragua Canal," the government of President Daniel Ortega is now turning its attention to another dizzyingly expensive megaproject: a Venezuelan-backed oil pipeline and refinery scheme called the Supremo Sueño de Bolívar (Bolívar’s Supreme Dream). Clearly behind schedule, the multibillion-dollar dream has not, however, been abandoned. Backers of the project point to a pair of construction contracts signed earlier this year with the Chinese firm China Camc Engineering as proof that the venture is back on track. -Benjamin Witte-Lebhar -

Costa Rica stands out, according to a recent US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) report, as one of the countries worldwide that last year destroyed the highest number of marijuana plants. As he announced the good news, Costa Rican Security Minister Mario Zamora stressed that this Central American nation would keep up its incessant effort in this regard. But the problem shows a couple worrisome sides to the country’s security and health authorities. One is that large, illegal marijuana plantations are usually hard to find, since growers pick mountain spots, usually on the Cordillera de Talamanca, often inside indigenous territory, where they displace the population from certain areas and, in some cases, recruit local cooperation. -George Rodríguez

NotiSur, October 19, 2012

Venezuelans decided on Oct. 7 by an overwhelming majority that Hugo Chávez would continue in the presidency for another six years. The governing party won in 22 of the country's 24 states. The opposition, besides losing its hope for the presidency, lost three of the five states that it had controlled, including Miranda, where the last elected governor was Henrique Capriles, Chávez's opponent in this election. The elections, in which Chávez defeated the Mesa de Unidad Democrática (MUD) candidate by more than 11 percentage points, were the first in the Bolivarian era in which the opposition attempted to set aside its jealousies, ambitions, and grudges to defeat the president. -Andrés Gaudín

Many have used the term "political expediency" in the context of the request for a humanitarian pardon made on Oct. 10 by relatives of former President Alberto Fujimori, who is serving a 25-year sentence for crimes against humanity and corruption. After months of debate on the issue of a pardon for Fujimori, President Ollanta Humala said in late September that he hoped the discussion about a pardon was not political expediency, given that the request had not been made despite Fujimori's followers' insistence on putting it on the political agenda. Now that the request has been submitted, Fujimoristas say that, if Humala does not grant Fujimori the pardon, it is because of political expediency. There are also those who say that if Humala grants the pardon even if the team of doctors that reviews the case says that the prisoner does not have terminal cancer, that will make it a politically expedient decision. -Elsa Chanduví Jaña

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Oct. 10-12: U.S.-Mexico Tomato War; Guatemala's Sierra Caral Threatened; Peace Talks in Colombia

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SourceMex, October 10, 2012

In late August, Nicaraguan authorities arrested 18 Mexicans in Managua on charges of drug trafficking. The arrests, while not routine, might have gone unnoticed if the suspects had not been using vehicles that displayed the logo of Televisa, Mexico’s largest television network. Subsequent investigations have centered on whether Televisa employees, including a high-level executive, and officials from Mexico City’s transit department (Secretaría de Transporte y Vialidad, Setravi) were involved in the operation. -Carlos Navarro

The US Commerce Department has reignited the tomato war with Mexico by announcing preliminary plans to scrap a bilateral trade agreement that has been in place since 1996. The timing of the announcement left US President Barack Obama’s administration vulnerable to charges of election-year politics, since the decision was a response to a request from tomato growers in Florida. Obama faces a tight race in Florida in the Nov. 6 US presidential election, and appeasing a powerful group such as the Florida Tomato Exchange is seen as essential to the president’s chances of winning Florida, a swing state in this year’s election. -Carlos Navarro

NotiCen, October 11, 2012

Inocente Orlando Montano is by no means the only former Salvadoran military official implicated in the infamous 1989 massacre of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper, and her teenage daughter. But the 70-year-old retired colonel is the only one currently awaiting sentencing--albeit not for human rights abuses. During a court hearing last month in Massachusetts, Montano pled guilty to several counts of immigration fraud and perjury, admitting he willingly and repeatedly lied when applying throughout the years for Temporary Protected Status (TPS). Montano could end up doing a stint in US federal prison. face deportation to El Salvador, or extradition to Spain. -Benjamin Witte-Lebhar

Sierra Caral, in the department of Izabal on Guatemala’s Atlantic coast, is the most biodiverse forest remnant in Caribbean Guatemala. Environmentalists warn that the area, home to several endangered species, is under threat because "campesinos are invading Sierra Caral and are making their way up the mountains because they have been forcibly evicted by narco-ranchers in the Motagua Valley." Legislation to protect the area, was introduced in 2011, but did not move forward. And the measure remains stalled because the members o the lower house who took over in the January 2012 election appear to have no interest in this issue. -Louisa Reynolds

NotiSur, October 12, 2012

After a half century of internal war, and much more importantly--50 years that cover one-quarter of the country's history since independence--Colombia seems finally on the road to ending a conflict that has cost three generations of Colombians thousands of lives and displaced millions more. Colombians have demanded a gesture of peace from the parties in conflict: the state, whose first independent government was installed in August 1819, and the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) guerrillas, who came onto the scene in June 1964 in the Andean jungle of Marquetalia. -Andrés Gaudín

Ecuadorr's electoral maneuvering is beginning to take shape ahead of the February 2013 elections, amid accusations of fraud and falsifying signatures for registering movements and political parties that want to participate in the electoral contest. Government propaganda says that only President Rafael Correa seems honest; however, this hides what is really at play since the right is trying on various fronts to retake control of the government and the indigenous movement's participation is aimed at displacing Correa to radicalize the social-transformation process, using as its base the 2008 Constitution. Correa accuses both these tendencies of being corrupt. -Luis Ángel Saavedra