Compiled by Jen O’Riordan, Eli Mangold and Libby Zay.
Every Friday, Viva Travel Guides combs the presses to round up the most relevant and recent Latin America news stories. Here are the Latin American news stories our office talked about during the week of July 11th to July 23rd. For more up-to-the minute news, follow us on Twitter!
News footage of the monkeys that were smuggled.
Man in Airport Found with 18 Endangered Monkeys Under His Clothes
[ Mexico / Peru ] A Mexican national was detained at Mexico City’s airport by customs officials after he was seen acting suspiciously in security. When officials pulled the 38-year-old aside they found 18 Titi monkeys hidden underneath his clothing in a girdle.
The man, who had arrived on a flight from Lima, Peru had previously kept the monkeys in his luggage but had later attached them to his person because he didn’t want the baggage x-ray machines to damage them. Two of the 18 monkeys had already died during the journey from Peru.
Titi monkeys, found in South and Central America, are regarded as an endangered species and protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
The man had paid $30 per monkey in Peru and expected to sell them in Mexico for between $775 and $1,550 each. In Mexico, having a wild animal as a household pet is a deep-rooted tradition, and animals smuggled to the US from Central or South America often come through Mexico. [Huffington Post]
1,600-year-old Royal Tomb Discovered in Guatemala
[ Guatemala ] Last week, Scientists in Guatemala revealed the discovery of an ancient, Mayan tomb that could have been the final resting place of a Mayan king. The discovery was made on the 29th of May, under the El Diablo pyramid in the city of El Zotz.
The archaeological team thought that ‘something odd’ was happening during the dig and eventually discovered the 6 feet high, 12 feet long, and four feet wide tomb after they lowered a light bulb through a small hole. The tomb was filled with carvings, ceramics, textiles, and the bones of six children, who might have been sacrificed at the time of the king’s death.
Scientists say they have a lot more work to do before they can confirm their suspicions, but findings such as an elaborate headdress and a sacrificial blade with what appears to be blood on it indicate that it may be the tomb of a king, only previously mentioned in hieroglyphic texts. [National Geographic]
A shortage of resources in Argentina means only two of 15 prison guard towers could be staffed. Photo courtesy AP.
Two Argentine Inmates Bust Out of Jail Right Under a Mannequin’s Nose
[ Argentina ] Due to budget shortages in the Nequén Province of Argentina, the local jail has had to substitute mannequins made of a football and an officer’s hat for actual guards. Two prisoners, Walter Pozo and Cesar Andres, must have noticed the shortcoming and climbed over the fence unopposed. Officials are hoping that this embarrassment will bring much-needed resources to the province. [Independent]
Honduras Returns to OAS, SICA
[ Honduras ] At a summit in El Salvador, Central America leaders decided to allow Honduras to continue participating in two major regional groups. Honduras had been expelled from both the Organization of American States (OAS) and the Central American Integration System (SICA) after President Manuel Zelaya was ousted in June 2009. [PeopleDaily]
Penguins Mysteriously Washing Up Dead on Brazilian Shores
[ Brazil ] Over 500 penguins have washed up on the beaches of Brazil, and scientists are trying to figure out why. Autopsies strongly suggest starvation, but they are still unsure why there is such scarcity in fish and squid. Some hypotheses include changing ocean currents, overfishing and colder water, which affect the penguins’ primary sources of food. [CBS News]
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, Courtesy AP
Hugo Chavez Opens Remains of Simon Bolivar, Announces it to the World on Twitter
[ Venezuela ] On Friday, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez tweeted that he was opening his idol’s remains to look for proof of foul play in his death. The eccentric head-of-state believes that Bolivar was murdered, and did not die of tuberculosis as history claims. He briefly displayed the remains on national television and passionately orated, “that glorious skeleton has to be Bolivar, because his flame can be felt. My God…it’s not a skeleton. It’s the Great Bolivar, who has returned!” [ AP ]
Venezuela Cuts Diplomatic Ties with Colombia
[ Venezuela ] In a bold move, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez severed ties with Colombia on Thursday just before the Colombian Ambassador, Luis Alfonso Hoyos, presented evidence to the Organization of American States (OAS) that Venezuela is currently harboring about 1,500 leftist guerrillas behind their borders. Colombia’s accusations against Venezuela caused Chavez to force the closure of Colombia’s embassy in Bogotá within 72 hours. The OAS stated that it could not investigate the sites without Venezuela’s consent. [BBC]
Cold Front Causes Death Across South America
[ Argentina / Bolivia / Chile / Paraguay / Peru / Uruguay ] South America is having a particularly hard winter, with some parts reporting the lowest temperatures in 29 years. In several countries, the mercury has dropped below freezing. Fatalities due to the cold have been reported in Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay and Argentina. Livestock is threatened in all of these areas, as well as in Chile and Peru. [CNN.com].
Watch a news report on the Mexican gun battle.
Border Clashes Along the Mexican / U.S. Border
[ Mexico / U.S. ] A gun battle went down in the rural town of Madera, about 230 kilometers (145 miles) south of the U.S. border. As the story goes, gunmen reportedly opened fire on an army patrol and eight men were killed—however, the U.S. Defense Department is not offering any information. On Wednesday, late-night gun battles broke out in the border town of Nuevo Laredo, which could be heard across the border in the U.S. In Nuevo Laredo, a gang forced people from their cars and buses to use the vehicles as barricades along the roads. Witness reports said several gunmen were killed, but no official number has been tallied by Nuevo Laredo officials. [AP]
Seventeen Die in Birthday Party Massacre
[ Mexico ] The bodies of 12 males and 5 females were found in a bloodstained party hall, along with at least a dozen injured, after a tragic gun attack on a birthday party in Torreon, Northern Mexico. More than 200 bullets were fired indiscriminately into the bar full of young party goers enjoying some birthday celebrations.
The massacre is the third such attack this year on bars in Torreon, an industrial city in Coahuila state. Coahuila Attorney General, Jesus Torres says the perpetrators, a prominent drug cartel, have been identified but he refused to identify the group publicly.
Mexico’s northern border has been the worst hit by the recent drug wars that have seen almost 25,000 killed since President Felipe Calderon launched a military crackdown on organized crime three and a half years ago. [LA Times]
US to Send Troops to Mexican Border
[ Mexico / U.S. ] 1,200 troops will be sent to the border next month in an effort to tackle illegal immigration and drug-trafficking in the four border states. Arizona will receive 524 troops; Texas 250, California 224 and New Mexico 72, while 130 will be part of a national liaison office.
In May, President Obama announced that he wanted to assign $500m (£350m) to new funding for the initiative and deploy US troops to help secure the border.
The soldiers will be armed but only permitted to fire in self defense and their main task will be to observe suspicious movement along the border and report it to Border Patrol agents.
A controversial new state law is due to come into effect in Arizona on 29 July making it a crime to be in the state without immigration papers.
Several lawsuits, including one by the federal government, have been filed against the legislation. The US justice department is challenging the law, arguing that it undermines the federal administration’s authority to set immigration policy. [BBC]
Did you miss last weeks news? Click here to read Latin American news stories from last week.