Saturday, January 26, 2013

55 Killed in Venezuelan Prison Riot (UPDATED)

At least fifty people died in a prison riot on Friday in Barquisimeto, Venezuela when armed inmates reportedly fought with National Guard troops.

According to Ruy Medina, a Lara state hospital official interviewed by the AFP, most of the approximately ninety casualties suffered from gunshot wounds.

He called the death toll "alarming," and also noted that fourteen of the injured had wounds severe enough to require surgery.

Penitentiary Service Minister Iris Varela blamed the incident on social networks and several local media outlets including the Globovision TV network.

In a statement issued on state TV, Varela claimed that these outlets reported that a weapons search would take place in the prison and this served as a "spark" for the riot to occur.

A BBC News correspondent said that "prisoners who had heard about the search in advance from news reports were waiting for the National Guard when they arrived."

Opposition leader and former presidential candidate Henrique Capriles pointed his finger at an "uncapable and irresponsible" federal government. He also mentioned how families of some inmates had "desperately" contacted him seeking information about their loved ones.

A 2012 report from the Amnesty International human rights group on Venezuela highlighted that "violence remained endemic in the chronically overcrowded prisons."

Update: On Saturday, Penitentiary Service Minister Iris Varela announced that the Uribana prison will be shut down in the wake of Friday's deadly prison riot.

Among those who will be transferred out are 125 women who were imprisoned in the female-only wing of Uribana.

Vice President Nicolas Maduro called the violence of Friday's riot "tragic" and said authorities have launched an investigation.

"The prisons have to be governed by law," said Maduro who has stood in for an ailing President Hugo Chavez for over six weeks.

A report in USA TODAY claimed that in 2012 "the Uribana prison reportedly held gladiatorial contests, fights organized by gang leaders in which contenders battled to the bloody end for the entertainment of inmates, according to local media reports. It was one of these bouts that left two dead and 128 injured in February at the site."bUnofficially at least 55 people were killed and 90 others wounded in this latest incident of violence in Venezuelan prisons.n prisons.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Today's Video: Deadly Dengue

Numerous countries throughout the Americas including Brazil, Paraguay and Venezuela are on high alert due to the latest outbreak of dengue in the region.  As the below video shows, the dengue outbreak in Peru has hit residents of the remote Amazon region particularly hard:

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) dengue has the potential to become a global epidemic since last year it was the "fastest spreading vector-borne viral disease" in the world.  The WHO blamed climate change and greater migration between countries as the causes of the increase in the mosquito-borne disease.

Unfortunately, dengue has no cure and the development of a vaccine is very difficult according to National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Anthony Fauci:
“The problem with a dengue vaccine is that unlike other viruses where if you get infected with one or vaccinated with one you’re protected, period, after you recover.  Whereas with dengue since there are four types, a vaccine needs to protect you against all four, because if you are only protected against one or two, you are still susceptible to one or the other of the three or four viruses,” Fauci said.
Online Soures -, Mercopress, Globovision, France24, Voice of America

Video Source - YouTube via Al Jazeera English     

Daily Headlines: January 25, 2013

* Mexico: Florence Cassez returned to her native France hours after being freed by Mexico’s top court and described her seven-year imprisonment as an “injustice”.

* Cuba: Officials in Cuba confirmed that an underwater fiber optic Internet cable connected to Venezuela was activated this month.

* Colombia: Peace talks between the Colombian government and the FARC rebels reportedly “advance in a climate of respect and of broad dialogue.”

* U.S.: A new report released this week found that the Latino on-time high school graduation rate increased by 10% between 2006 and 2010.

Video Source – YouTube via euronews

Online Sources- NBC Latino, Hispanically Speaking News, The Latin Americanist, Reuters, LAHT

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Daily Headlines: January 24, 2013

* Venezuela: Spanish newspaper El Pais issued an apology after publishing a fake photo on the cover page of its Thursday first edition depicting an ailing Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

* Colombia: U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton praised U.S. collaboration with Colombia during Congressional hearings focused on last year’s deadly attack on a consulate in Benghazi.

* Bolivia: Women’s rights groups called for authorities to investigate an alleged sexual assault in a legislative chamber that was recorded by security camera footage.

* Chile: President Sebastian Piñera visited a new Antarctic base that will be operated by the Chilean military.

Video Source – YouTube via user cablenoticiastv (The image published in El Pais on Thursday that also briefly appeared on the daily’s website was taken from a 2008 YouTube video).

Online Sources- UPI, CNN, Reuters, Fox News

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Mexican High Court Orders Release of Florence Cassez

Mexico’s top court ordered the immediate release of Florence Cassez, a Frenchwoman convicted five years ago for participating in a kidnapping ring.

Three of the five Mexican Supreme Court justices agreed with the motion by Justice Olga Sanchez that alleged that that the case against Cassez was riddled with irregularities.  Her motion, which was first presented last year, alleged that the victims’ testimony against Cassez was contradictory. Furthermore, some of the testimony against her was based on a staged TV raid of the kidnapping gang that gave the false impression that Cassez was part of that arrest.  (Portions of that faked raid including Cassez’ shocked reaction in from of the cameras can be seen in the above embedded video).

Cassez was originally sentenced in 2008 to ninety-eight years in prison in a closed-door, non-jury trial.  Last March the top court rejected an appeal in Cassez’ name but accepted reviewing her case.  Nevertheless, the court’s decision this afternoon was reportedly a surprise since it was expected that they would order a retrial instead of overturning her sixty-year prison sentence and calling for Cassez to be freed.  

Her case has led to diplomatic tensions between France and Mexico; for instance, then-French president Nicolas Sarkozy suggested dedicating the 2011 “Year of Mexico in France” cultural festival in honor of Cassez.

The court’s decision will likely be a black eye against a Mexican justice system allegedly plagued by problems.  Yet as noted by Spanish daily El Mundo, today’s ruling also represents a black eye to a key figure of the administration of ex-President Felipe Calderon:

Daily Headlines: January 23, 2013 (We’re Back!)

* Guatemala: Pre-trial hearings began in a case against former dictator Efrain Rios Montt who has been accused of genocide related to his brief rule in the midst of Guatemala’s bloody civil war.

* Venezuela: Venezuelan officials and Bolivian President Evo Morales have provided optimistic assessments of President Hugo Chavez who has not been seen publicly since undergoing cancer surgery about six weeks ago.

Update: Is the photo in this article a recent picture of a recuperating Hugo Chavez walking with his brother in Cuba or is it an image originally taken in 2011?   

* Mexico: The dean of Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government defended the appointment of former Mexican President Felipe Calderon to a teaching fellowship despite opposition from several anti-violence activists.

* Colombia: Pop music star Shakira gave birth to her first child, Milan Piqué Mebarak, at a hospital in the Spanish city of Barcelona.
Video Source – YouTube via user povborders (Excerpt from “Granito”, a 2011 documentary that focused on the efforts to gather evidence against former Guatemalan dictator Efrain Rios Montt.)

Online Sources including Update-, Huffington Post, NPR, Fox News Latino, USA TODAY