martes, 1 de enero de 2013

Officials see fall in murders, extortion in El Salvador

The office of the Prosecutor-General of El Salvador issued a report on 27 December observing a dramatic fall in reported murders and extortions in 2012, attributed in the former case to a truce between gangs that began in March and to police action. The head of the Anti-homicide Unit at the prosecutor-general's office Oscar Torres told the press that day that there were 2,517 registered homicides in the country from 1 January to 19 December, 1,728 cases less than in the same period in 2011, El Salvador's El Mundo reported the next day. Torres said that 2,573 arrest warrants against murder suspects had led to 1,703 arrests and ultimately, to 922 convictions. The officer dealing with extortions at prosecutor-general's office, Allan Hernández, separately cited a 10 per cent drop in reported cases of extortion, presumably in the same period, and a 40-per-cent increase in related convictions. He said however there were no figures or any "real documented form" to show a direct link between this and the gangs' ceasefire. Salvadorean authorities have in recent months expressed satisfaction at the apparent fall in violent crime in the country even though certain critics intermittently insist many crimes go unreported. The recent homicide figures were deplorable compared to those of Costa Rica, where the local Red Cross reportedly counted 211 killings in 2012. But they were better than those of the most crime-ridden Latin American states like Venezuela or Honduras where 50 or so were reported killed over Christmas. No killings were apparently reported during the 22-30 December period in El Salvador, with police counting 33 deaths in car crashes or drownings.

Venezuelans pray for ailing leader's recovery

At the close of 2012 many Venezuelans prayed for the recovery of President Hugo Chávez Frías, apparently in a fragile state following a recent operation for a recurring cancer, while officials issued messages to dismiss rumours of his deterioration. Venezuela's Science Minister Jorge Arreaza Monserrat wrote on the website Twitter that the president had spent "a quiet and stable day in the company of his children" on 31 December and Venezuelans should disbelieve "malicious rumours" to the contrary. On 30 or 31 December, an oecumenical mass was held at a church in Caracas for Chávez, while residents gathered in the Plaza Bolívar to sing for the president, the state news agency AVN reported. Chávez followed the service on television from Cuba where he was operated, according to the Venezuelan communications minister Ernesto Villegas; on 30 December he urged unspecified critics not to "play" with the president's health by spreading rumours on websites like Twitter. It seemed improbable that Chávez could return to Venezuela to be officially sworn in for another presidential term on 10 January as scheduled; Vice-President Nicolás Maduro most recently described his physical state as "delicate." The Colombian broadcaster Caracol separately cited a physician José Rafael Marquina as saying that the recent surgery had been an "absolute failure" and that "Cuba does not have enough experience to treat" the president's "unusual cancer;" he said he believed Chávez was "very probably" living his "last days." It was not immediately clear if Marquina's assertions were based on reliable information, but Caracol described him as "known" to have previously revealed "privileged information" on the president's health. He told Caracol on 31 December that he did not believe rumours of Venezuelan officials concealing the president's death while preparing opinion for the news, observing that already "the country and the world are prepared for the death of Chávez."

Over 530 were killed in Caracas in December 2012

The Bello Monte forensic facility in Caracas was reported to have received 15 bodies - of presumed victims of criminal incidents in the capital - in the 12 hours from six in the evening on 30 December to six in the morning the next day, the broadcaster Globovisión reported on 31 December. It qualified the figures given by the morgue as unofficial but the movement of bodies into the morgue is reported in Venezuelan media and apparently considered a daily gauge of the state of violence in Caracas, which has the highest homicide rate in Venezuela. Citing the morgue's figures, Globovisión gave 532 as the number of violent deaths in Caracas in December 2012.

Killings reported across Mexico end of year

The review Proceso reported 15 or more criminal executions across the country on 30-31 December observing that "the last day of the year ended like the preceding 364 days: drenched in blood." Six of the fatalities were in the central Estado de México, with two people shot to death and four found decapitated. Five were found dead on 30 December in the district of Balleza in the northern state of Chihuahua, while two men were shot dead on 30 or 31 December in the district of Gómez Palacio in the state of Durango, Proceso reported. The website reported gun attacks on police and judiciary installations in Durango on 29-30 December, without casualties. Two gunmen were shot dead by police in the Mesa del Seri locality outside the north-western city of Hermosillo, on 30 or 31 December. In the district of Buenaventura in Chihuahua, members of The Zetas drug cartel recently murdered four women they had kidnapped, throwing their bodies into a ditch, Proceso reported on 31 December, citing declarations by the Chihuahua prosecutor's office. The ditch was found after marines arrested on 30 December four purported Zetas in the northern city of Monclova who also revealed a safe house holding three or four more hostages and an arsenal including assault rifles, hand grenades and ammunition. The hostages told police they too were to be murdered.

Army reported bombing guerrillas in northern Colombia

The Colombian armed forces were reported to have struck at the rebel Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in rural areas of the northern department of Antioquia on 31 December, with differing figures given for purported casualties. Army and air-force units bombarded positions or a camp belonging to the FARC's Fifth Front in or near the district of Chigorodó; 13 guerrillas were provisionally counted as killed according to the broadcaster Caracol although RCN La Radio reported three fatalities. The armed forces reportedly remained cautious about President Juan Manuel Santos's count of 13 deaths written on the website Twitter, before troops had arrived to verify the scene. RCN cited a senior air-force officer General Hugo Acosta Téllez as saying that searches following bombardments had yielded armaments; he said the raid could prove fatal to the Fifth Front, which he added had few guerrillas left in its ranks.