jueves, 21 de febrero de 2013

El Salvador launches an anti-gangs court

El Salvador's state prosecution service (Fiscalía) headed by Luis Martínez has merged its homicides unit into a new specialised court that would investigate murders and gang activity, with fewer state prosecutors focusing on the mechanics and organization of gangs seen as the culprits in most murders in El Salvador. The Specialised Homicide Crimes and Anti-gang Unit (Unidad Espcializada de Delitos de Homicidio y Antipandillas) was to begin working on 20 February, using 19 instead of the 25 prosecutors who worked before in the Homicides Unit; that court's former head Óscar Torres was provisionally to head the new unit, El Salvador's El Mundo reported. Torres has been a state prosecutor since 1999 and worked in different areas of the state prosecution service. El Mundo suggested these changes may be in response to the fact that murder investigations in El Salvador generally lead to the Mara street gangs, which police figures indicate to be responsible for 85 per cent of homicides and up to 90 per cent of extortions. It added that many shooting deaths reported in the papers appear to be carefully planned assassinations. The daily cited the prisons authority as estimating at 60,000 the number of gang members in El Salvador, of whom 10,000 were jailed. The Minister of Justice David Munguía Payés separately admitted on 20 February that homicides slightly increased on average in February compared to January, and attributed this to recent vendettas among gangs. Speaking in Sopayango outside the capital, he said he hoped the figure would fall again, adding that the latest rate of 6.7 homicides a day remained 70 per cent lower than in the same period in 2012 before the ceasefire of gangs began in March 2012, El Mundo reported. He said the same day that the state would seek to increase to 60 the 18 districts initially designated sanctuaries from violent crime in cooperation with local gangs, though he said money was needed to do this, La Prensa Gráfica reported.

Diplomat says "time for decisions" in Venezuela

The President of the 33-member Organization of American States (OAS), José Miguel Insulza Salinas suggested on 20 February that Venezuelan authorities should take a decision on the country's future, now that the ailing President Hugo Chávez had returned from treatment in Cuba but remained bed-ridden and barely able to govern. Chávez has been absent since December when he had to undergo more surgery for a recurring cancer. Insulza told the BBC in London that Venezuela should consider the political aspect of Chávez's continued absence from office, not just the constitutional complications he said state powers had broadly resolved by keeping him as president. This he added had created a "waiting time" allowing people to see whether or not the "situation would normalize itself," but now they were expecting decisions. He did not mention elections, but he said that after 14 years of "undisputed" leadership by Chávez his partisans could not just "put him aside from one day to the next and name someone else." Insulza told the BBC he had not visited Venezuela for five years "as they have never invited me," a situation he attributed to critical comments he has made about censorship and elections in Venezuela. As head of the OAS he said, Venezuelan authorities had viewed him alternately as a "saint and a demon." Little information has been given out on the President's condition since his return and he remained practically inaccessible in the military hospital in Caracas where he was resting. The broadcaster Globovisión observed heightened security at the hospital entrance on 21 February, stating that only state television and radio were allowed into the building for reporting. Bolivia's President Evo Morales said in turn in New York on 20 February that could not see Chávez while in Caracas on 19 February for his fragile state, and spoke only to his doctors and family who said the President was "better than before." Nevetheless he assured CNN that "Venezuela's Bolivarian revolution" was "consolidated" even if the Left will need "other leaders" in Venezuela and Latin America. Beside the political opposition in Venezuela, one of those increasingly impatient with the president's absence was the Venezuelan singer and celebrity Diosa Canales, a woman dubbed "Venezuela's Sexy Bomb." Writing on the website Twitter on 19 February she threatened to "go naked" if she did not see Chávez, El Nacional reported; a brief search on the Internet indicated she was half-naked much of the time.