lunes, 18 de febrero de 2013

Ten killed in suspected crimes around Colombia

Unidentified individuals killed four people on 17 or 18 February in two country houses in the district of Barbosa in the northern department of Antióquia, Caracol television reported. Police provisionally said the four may have been domestic staff at the houses where they were found, but were investigating. In the departmental capital Medellín, two children aged 11 years were found dead on 17 or 18 February after they were reported missing on 16 February; they were believed killed by local gangs, it appears for unwittingly trespassing a gang's territory. The suspected killers released a younger child who was with them so he could relate the events, Caracol television cited relatives of the children as saying. The broadcaster observed the two children may themselves have been in a gang. Caracol also reported the death of a woman in shootouts between gangs in Commune 13, a neighbourhood of Medellín. Three were killed in the district of Tuluá in Valle del Cauca south-west of Bogotá over 16-18 February; one was a bus driver shot by two passengers who were later detained, Caracol television reported. In the department of Meta south-east of Bogotá, police and state agencies found two arms caches suspected to belong to a criminal group and to FARC guerrillas, after launching simultaneous operations. The stores yielded a range of assault weapons, rocket and grenade launchers, grenades and ammunition, RCN La Radio reported on 18 February.

Visits to Peruvian citadel fall after travel warning

Visits to the 15th century Inca citadel at Machu Picchu reportedly plummeted after the US embassy in Lima warned US nationals on 13 February not to travel there for a "potential kidnapping threat" in the area. Peruvian officials said the warning was baseless and the local mayor asked the embassy to retract its communiqué, as it was "killing" local livelihoods. The embassy's Security Message, accessible also on the US State Department website, cited the "credible" threat of a "criminal organization" kidnapping US tourists in the Cusco and Machu Picchu area; its warning was valid at least for February. The identity of the criminal organization was not immediately clear. President Ollanta Humala was reported as saying on 15 February that there was "no substance" to the claim, while his prime minister, Juan Jiménez Mayor, told the press on 14 or 15 February that the rumoured threat was not "corroborated by the security forces," Europa Press reported. The government he said strove to protect Peru's historical sites and "of course" tourists visiting them. The foreign trade and tourism minister, José Luis Silva Martinot also said "we have referred to our sources and there is no information in that sense, so we ask for calm and that tourism continue as normal." The district mayor of Machu Picchu Elvis La Torre said in turn that visits to the citadel were almost halved after the warning, Correo reported on 18 February. He said the citadel would usually receive 1,500-2,000 visits a day this time of the year but now receives 700-800 visits. "Almost half have cancelled their tour packages," he said. Peru was overall expecting a record number of tourists in 2013, perhaps more than three million. Tourism Minister Silva said Peru hoped tourism would become its second source of foreign exchange earnings by 2016, after mining; it was currently its third source of foreign exchange, El Peruano reported on 18 February. He said American Airlines would within weeks begin "seven flights" between Houston and Lima - presumably one a day - and become an air link to Peru for travellers from Japan and South Korea. These flights could bring in 70,000-80,000 more travellers to Peru annually, he said.

Hugo Chávez returns to Venezuela, taken to hospital

Venezuela's ailing President Hugo Chávez Frías returned to Caracas early on 18 February after weeks of treatment and care in Cuba following surgery for cancer on 11 December; he was taken to a military hospital for further rest and care, the Venezuelan state news agency reported. The return was announced by a comment appearing on the president's personal page on the website Twitter. Chávez thanked Cuba and its two leaders, President Raul Castro and his brother Fidel Castro, for their hospitality but also Venezuelans for "so much love;" he assured them "I am holding onto Christ and keep my trust in my doctors and nurses." The country's acting leader Vice-President Nicolás Maduro Moros, called Chávez an example of a "permanent battle" and urged Venezuelans to pray for him "with the heart," the agency reported. The president's absence has fuelled political tensions between the socialist government and liberal opposition parties, which have criticized the lack of clear information on the president's health and the prolongation of a de facto regime. The leading opposition politician and governor of the northern state of Miranda also wrote on Twitter that he hoped the president's return was permanent and would prompt his government to start working to solve Venezuela's problems, El Nacional reported on 18 February. He wrote that he hoped the return of Chávez would end the "red package" or economic policies opposition forces allege are being dictated from communist Cuba.

Ecuador re-elects its president

With a little over half the votes counted on 18 February, President Rafael Correa Delgado was declared winner in Ecuador's general elections of 17 February, leading his rivals by a wide margin, Europa Press reported. The agency cited provisional figures given by the state electoral agency CNE, which stated that with a little under 4.76 million votes counted that day - a little over half of all votes cast - Correa had won 2.49 million or 56.93 per cent of the votes. The second candidate in terms of votes was Guillermo Lasso with 23.7 per cent of votes counted thus far. The president said the night before speaking in northern Quito that "there is no stopping the citizens' revolution" and that his victory belonged to "all Ecuadoreans." Several Latin American leaders congratulated Correa on his victory, as did Spain's Foreign Minister, Europa Press reported. The elections were for 143 public offices, and a little over 11.6 million Ecuadoreans voted inside and outside the country, the daily El Universo reported on 18 February.