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THE NEW 7 SEVEN NATURAL WONDERS OF THE WORLD

The Swiss organization, New 7 Wonders (www.new7wonders.com), announced last Saturday the preliminary results of the New 7 Natural Wonders of the World.

 

Of the 28 finalists, two of the winners came from South America, four from Asia and one from Africa.

 

And the winners are (in alphabetical order):

 

A bird-eye's view of the mighty Amazon River.

The Amazon (South America)

Halong Bay (Vietnam)

Iguazú Falls (Argentina, Brazil)

Jeju Island (South Korea)

Komodo (Indonesia)

Puerto Princes Underground River (Philippines)

Table Mountain (South Africa)

 

 

Iguazú Falls, another of the New 7 Natural Wonders.

The online voting was open to the public-at-large and closed last Friday, November 11. The official tally will be released in early 2012, during the inauguration ceremonies.

 

Yván Vásquez Valera, president of Loreto región in Peru, was happy with the results and hopes it will bring more tourism to his area. It will be an economic boon to one of Peru’s poorest regions.

 

The big surprise to many is that Ecuador‘s Galápagos Islands were not among the New 7 Natural Wonders of the World.

On the Road – Colombia: A Tempestuous Child, Holy & Holidays, & Great American Pastimes

La Niña will continue her tempestuous wailing and kicking until May, meteorologists say. Since the end of last year, she has wreaked havoc on Colombia. A small respite of sorts came in January and February. Road crews could begin repairing roads, bridges and levees that she damaged. I saw them laboring on the road between Barranquilla and Cartagena.

For the last few weeks, though, the annual rainy season (invierno, or winter) has provoked La Niña into another fit. In Western Colombia, especially the Zona Cafetera and Valle del Cauca, landslides and other disasters have wiped away homes and thoroughfares. A bus wending from Bogotá to Manizales met its fate on the morning of April 13. An earthen avalanche swept it into an abyss. Eighteen persons died.

Downpours in Southern Colombia have swollen the already-overflowing Cauca and Magdalena Rivers, causing extensive flooding in the Lower Magdalena Valley near the Caribbean coast. According to news reports, Magangué, a major transit point between Cartagena and Mompós, is totally isolated. The route is further complicated by a washed-out bridge between La Bodega and Mompós. Authorities have established an alternative route to ensure the safe arrival (and departure) of tourists arriving to Mompós for its traditional Semana Santa processions. A good source of information on how to travel to that colonial city is Richard McColl, owner of Casa Amarilla hostel (and co-author of the first edition of V!VA Colombia).

These rains have made Easter vacation holidays, well, more adventuresome. Eleven national highways are closed. Over 250 other roads have restricted passage. Every corner of the country is affected, from Antioquia in the West, to the central Departments of Boyacá and Santander, to Meta and Arauca in the Llanos. For up-to-date information on road conditions nationwide, consult Invías website.

Going home with blessed boughs on Palm Sunday. Photo by Lorraine Caputo

Indeed, we are well into Holy Week. It began two days ago with Palm Sunday, marking Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem (and the end of Lent’s 40 days of fasting). Here in Cartagena, the faithful gathered at Iglesia de la Santísima Trinidad, La Popa and other temples, as well as in Plaza de Bolívar, to have their sheaths of palm and boughs of greenery blessed by the priest. These they put in their homes to bring good tidings in the coming year.

Jueves Santo (Maudy Thursday) features a reenactment of the Last Supper and washing of feet, and often is followed by a procession. Good Friday (Viernes Santo) is the most important day, with the Vía Crucis, or Stations of the Cross, cortege through the city’s streets. (For a calendar of processions in Cartagena, see below.) Easter falls on the last Sunday of the month, when many of Cartagena’s museums and fortresses are free.

Sexteto Tabalá of Palenque, Colombia. Photo by Lorraine Caputo

Another great Cartagena celebration during Semana Santa is the Festival de los Dulces, featuring sticky sweet delights from throughout the region. Cartagena is a big town for all sorts of festivals and conventions. Many occur outside the eye of casual tourists. Last week, the city hosted the First International Caribbean Festival of Stage Arts. This meeting of theater, dance and musical acts culminated in a free concert on Plaza de la Trinidad, featuring El Conjunto Folklórico de Cuba, Teatro Negro de Barlovento (Venezuela) and Sexteto Tabalá (Palenque, Colombia).

This Holy Week finds Cartagena opening the stage to Festival de Voces del Jazz. On April 20 and 21, groups that fuse jazz with traditional Colombian folk rhythms will compete at the Centro Comercial Caribe Plaza (Calle 29D, 22-108, La Popa. Tel: 669-2332, URL: www.cccaribeplaza.com).

But until the Semana Santa processions and jazz festival roll around, kids are enjoying a week off from school. In the narrow streets of Getsemaní neighborhood, you can find boys playing a pick-up game of baseball. Baseball in Colombia? Indeed – Cartagena’s own native son, Orlando Cabrera, plays shortstop for the Cleveland Indians. The Cincinatti Reds’ Edgar Rentería (of Barranquilla) won the 2010 MVP award. Plus, there’s Ernesto Frieri of the San Diego Padres.

Play ball! Photo by Lorraine Caputo

Baseball and jazz: two great, truly American pastimes, having roots in not only the United States, but also in other parts of the Americas. Since the days of Ragtime and Ty Cobb, these two institutions traveled from port to port, growing and changing into what we know of them today. The first ragtime hit, “The Peanut Vendor,” was a Cuban habanero, and in the 1950s Dizzy Gillepsie, Mario Bauza and other musicians formed the Afro-Cubop movement. The rosters of today’s major league baseball teams show the continuing exchange between American countries, and in the off-season, many US players come to play in Colombia. (Hmmm – perhaps a topic for a future blog …)

Until next week, travel safe – and Happy Passover, Easter and holidays to you all!

Processions in Cartagena:

During the week, churches will be hosting corteges in their neighborhoods. Below are te major evnts.

Jueves Santo (Maudy Thursday), the Last Supper and washing of feet reenactment, followed by a procession, will occur at Iglesia Santo Domingo at 4 p.m. and the Catedral at 6 p.m.

Good Friday’s (Viernes Santo) Vía Crucis, or Stations of the Cross, cortege through the Old Town’s streets begins at 8 a.m. from Templo Santo Toribio. At 7 p.m., a procession leaves from Iglesia San Pedro Claver.

On Holy Saturday is another solemn procession, from Santo Domingo (7 p.m.) and the Cathedral (9 p.m.).

Editor’s note: Lorraine Caputo is one of V!VA’s longest-tenured writers. These days, she’s back on the road in Colombia, updating our 2011 edition of the book. Check the blog for more of her updates from the road.

Latin America News Update: March 5th-11th

TSUNAMI UPDATE

While the destruction in Japan appears catastrophic, it appears that Latin America might be spared major damage from the tsunami. While tsunami waves have reached the Mexican coast, they were not large enough to cause serious damage. Countries in Central and South America are bracing for the arrival of the tsunami waves on their Pacific coastlines this evening.

Thanks to Lorraine Caputo for compiling these other stories.

BOLIVIA

Bolivia’s controversial president, Evo Morales, has decided to keep the US Drug Enforcement Agency out of his country.

BRAZIL

A Brazilian judge has reversed a lower court ruling, and it appears work will begin on the enormous Monte Belo dam after all.

COSTA RICA and NICARAGUA

The International Court of Justice has ordered both sides out of a disputed border region.

CUBA

The US government has given permission to airlines to fly charter flights between Cuba and eight additional US cities.

MEXICO

Attempts to ban the screening of a documentary about the corrupt and inefficient Mexican justice system have backfired, as the film has become a major hit in the country.

Latin America News Updates: February 26th- March 4th

Thanks again to Lorraine Caputo.

ARGENTINA

A new film starring Matthew Rhys will highlight Patagonia’s Welsh roots.

BOLIVIA

Flooding and mudslides around La Paz have killed dozens, left thousands homeless and disrupted travel around Bolivia’s capital.

BRAZIL

The planned dam at Belo Monte, in Brazil’s Amazonian basin, has been halted by a judge so that more environmental impact studies can be made.

CHILE

Chile’s president faces tough questions about reconstruction one year after his country was struck by a devastating earthquake. For information about Chile’s tourism infrastructure after the quake, check out VIVA’s Chile guidebook.

COSTA RICA

A border dispute with Nicaragua has many in Costa Rica reconsidering their country’s commitment to fielding no standing army.

MEXICO

Billionaire Carlos Slim has opened a new art museum in Mexico City.

PANAMA

Cannons found in a Panamanian river might have belonged to the famed pirate Henry Morgan.

PERU

Archeologists working at the Inca site of Vilcabamba have uncovered tombs from a much earlier culture.


Latin America News Update: January 29th- February 4th

Thanks once again to Lorraine Caputo for compiling these links.

BRAZIL

Photos of an uncontacted indigenous group living on the border between Brazil and Peru have been released in an effort to protect their traditional lands.

Brazilian lawmakers are looking to enshrine the right to pursue happiness in the country’s constitution.  In other (possibly related) news, a clown was seated in Congress after having been found to be literate.

CHILE

Despite the earthquake last year, Chile is still at risk for a major quake.

COLOMBIA

Afro-Colombian hip hop group ChocQuibTown is in the running for a Grammy and has already brought attention to life in the impoverished Chocó region. Check out the single here.

CUBA

A Cuban woman has turned 126 years old, though the Guinness Book of World Records refuses to recognize her as the world’s oldest person. Capitalist pigs!

ECUADOR

The Devil’s Nose train route, a popular tourist destination in Ecuador’s central sierra, has reopened today. Trust us, that’s what this article says.

MEXICO

A rare snowfall has caused major disruptions in northern Mexico.

Mexico will launch a new PR campaign to woo tourists back to the violence-plagued country.

Englishman Ed Stafford Successfully Walks Entire Length of the Amazon River

By Eli Mangold, Viva Editorial Intern

Ed Stafford and his companion, Cho. Image courtesy Walking the Amazon.

After 859 days, Ed Stafford completed his goal of walking the entire length of the Amazon River on August 9th. His journey, which spanned 4,000 miles, was full of countless run-ins with less-than-savory reptiles and insects, as well as Amazonian tribes.

Before beginning his walk, Stafford was a captain in the British Army until 2002 and was a UN security advisor in Afghanistan. According to his blog, Walking the Amazon, he had run remote expeditions all over the world, including various countries in Latin America.

His primary motivation for the trek was not to raise awareness or charity money, rather, in the spirit of a true adventurer he just wanted to do something no one else had accomplished before. However, during the course of the trip Stafford witnessed vast swaths of logged rainforest and hopes that his expedition will help connect more people to the environmental problems facing the Amazon. He also wants the feat of endurance to inspire people into setting out on adventures of their own.

The journey began on April 2nd, 2008 on the coast of Peru, with a fellow companion that dropped out after three months. Five months into in the journey, Stafford was joined by a Peruvian forestry worker, Gadiel “Cho” Sanchez Rivera, and the two completed the trek together. However, along the way they were joined by hundreds of people that walked with them for a few hours—and some even for a few months!

Stafford’s trek was fraught with microscopic, reptilian and human dangers, including stomach illnesses, giant caimans and anacondas, skin-boring insects and territorial local tribes. At one point, the two were seized by a remote tribe and stripped-down in front of the tribal elder. Ultimately they received the tribe’s blessing after they explained their purpose. On some days, the team would burn 6,000 calories apiece, but only consume half of that.

The incredible physical stress of the journey caught up Stafford just 53 miles from the finish line, when Stafford collapsed from exhaustion on the side of the road. He suffered from severe disorientation and developed a mysterious full-body rash, but after a few hours of rest was able to set off again. Trailed by a carload of Brazilian reporters and other news organizations, Stafford and Cho walked 53 miles in 21 hours on the last day. Upon reaching the Atlantic Ocean, Stafford and Cho sprayed each other with champagne and swam in the ocean.

Stafford hopes to set off on another record-breaking journey in September of 2011, but will not disclose its details so that somebody doesn’t beat him to it.

Latin American News Briefs: Protesting Tribes, Prison Takeovers, and the Plague

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 stories our office talked about during the week of July 30th to August 6th. For more up-to-the minute news, follow us on Twitter!

Awá child. Photo courtesy Twilight Earth.

Awá Tribe Emerges from Amazon to Show They Exist

[BRAZIL] Last Sunday, fifty-five members of a small indigenous tribe emerged from the Amazon rainforest to prove they exist and highlight the fact that their home is being mercilessly destroyed. Many of the tribe members left the rainforest for the first time in their lives to join 150 supporters in the town of Zé Doca, Maranhão, where the local Mayor’s office had previously denied the Awá people even exist. Local authorities have recently opposed a federal court ruling that ranchers, loggers and settlers who have occupied Awá lands should leave. Along with witnessing the destruction of up to 50 percent of their home, the tribe (believed to be one of Brazil’s two remaining nomadic hunter-gatherer tribes) has also been subject to massacres by settlers and have fallen victim to illnesses such as the common flu for which they have little or no immunity. [Indigenous People’s Issues]

Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa May Face Brother in 2014 Election

[ECUADOR] Strangely enough, the only significant opposition to Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa’s administration is his own kin; his old ally and older brother Fabricio. The brothers worked together to get Rafael elected in 2006, but after a rather nasty corruption charge (Fabricio’s engineering business supposedly boomed just after the younger one was elected), their relationship unraveled. There has been macho posturing on both sides, and Fabricio is quoted as saying “Nobody has so far had the testicular competence to sue me.” Should be in interesting election to watch. [BBC]

Mexico City Upholds Gay Marriage Law

[MEXICO] Eight out of ten  justices in Mexico’s highest court decided to uphold a law allowing same-sex marriages in the capital. The law was passed seven months ago, but federal prosecutors said it “went against the principle of protection of the family,” according to the BBC. [BBC]

Thirty Trapped in Chile Mine

[CHILE] A small mine collapsed in northern Chile late Thursday, leaving 30 miners trapped. Rescuers believe the trapped men may have taken refuge in an underground shelter that has oxygen and food “for them to last for some time,” but no further details have been released. [Reuters]

Guatemala Willing to Meet with the U.S. About Labor Dispute

[GUATEMALA] There is a possibility that the Guatemalan government is facing hefty fines for violating terms of the joint free-trade agreement with the U.S. The U.S. AFL-CIO labor federation and six Guatemalan unions first lodged the complaints in April 2008 over the violation of labor conditions, including failure to implement laws regarding the rights of workers to bargain collectively and organize, as well as the right to acceptable working conditions. According to the International Confederation of Trade Unions, Guatemala is the second most dangerous country for workers after Colombia. Sixteen workers are thought to have died in labor-related incidents in 2009 alone. [Global Post]

The Plague Surfaces in Peru

[PERU] Both the bubonic and pneumonic plagues have appeared in Peru, killing one 14-year-old boy and infecting 31 others. The disease is carried by fleas and transmitted by their bites, and Peruvian authorities are looking into sugar and fish meal imports from the Ascope province. But don’t worry about another Black Death, the plague is easily treatable with antibiotics if found early. [AP]

Troops Found $7 Million in Cash at Home of Drug Lord

[MEXICO] Troops who raided the house of drug kingpin Ignacio “Nacho” Coronel last week found $7 million in cash. They also seized jewelry, three expensive cars, and several weapons. Coronel, who died in the gunfight, was third in line in the Sinaloa drug cartel. [AP]

Fidel Castro Plans to Address Cuban Assembly on Issue of Foreign Affairs

[CUBA] After falling ill and conceding power to brother Raul, Fidel Castro is now healthy enough to address the National Assembly. Although not officially confirmed, the state media has reported that the ex-head of state plans to orate on the impending nuclear crisis between North Korea, Iran, Israel and the US. The session will be held on Saturday, August 7th. [BBC]

Prison in Brazil Found to be Run by Inmates

[BRAZIL] Police raided a prison in Rio de Janeiro to find inmates had overrun the place. The facility, which held 150 prisoners awaiting trial, had only one guard when police arrived. Police seized keys from the prisoners, as well as a pistol, ammunition, mobile phones, and records that detailed payments made by prisoners for larger cells and better conditions. [BBC]

Baby Revives Inside Coffin at Wake in Mexico

[MEXICO] A Mexican baby who was declared dead by doctors revived inside her coffin while her wake was in progress. Apparently, during the ceremony, parents heard a strange noise coming from the casket and opened it up to find their baby very much alive. The baby was born prematurely Monday, and is now in stable condition at a hospital. The doctor who pronounced her dead is being investigated for possible negligence. [AP]

Diego Forlan in Calcutta. Courtesy BBC.

Soccer Star Diego Forlan Visits Calcutta

[URUGUAY] Diego Forlan’s visit to one of India’s few football-crazy cities has caused much excitement in recent days. The 31-year-old Uruguayan player was named player of the 2010 World Cup after scoring no less than 5 goals for his country in the tournament. Forlan’s visit was part of a football talent hunt where many of the participants come from underprivileged backgrounds. “I’ve had the opportunity to see them playing, and I’m surprised how organized the young players are. You can see real talent,” he said. A large number of followers greeted the Atletico Madrid forward on his arrival in Calcutta, and his visit to the headquarters of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity also drew large crowds of well-wishers. Forlan became a hero in his home country after his performance in South Africa and joins a list of football favorites that have visited Calcutta in recent years, including Diego Maradona, Branco, Romario, Oliver Kahn, and Gerd Muller. [BBC]

Former Chilean Secret Police Chief Blames CIA for 1974 Murders

[CHILE] General Manuel Contreras, the former chief of Chile’s feared secret police, said the CIA is to blame for the assassination of General Carlos Prats. At the time, Prats was the biggest enemy of General Augusto Pinochet, who proceeded him as head of Chile’s army. Contreras is serving combined sentences of 100 years for murders and kidnappings that took place while Pinochet headed the army. [AP]

No Oil Drilling in Ecuadorian Amazon Reserve

[ECUADOR] Ecuador decided the value of an Amazon Reserve was worth more than the oil money it would receive, and ruled against drilling in the area. It is estimated there are 846 million barrels of crude oil under the reserve, which is home to several indigenous tribes, as well as tons of flora and fauna. Under Ecuador’s new agreement with the UN, the reserve will remain untapped for at least 10 years. [V!VA]

Indigenous Mexicans Want Conquistador Monument Removed

[MEXICO] Mayan Indians in the Mexican state of Yucatan have signed a petition calling for the removal of two life-sized bronze statues from the state capital. The statues were erected in June in honor of the conquistador Francisco de Montejo and his son. In the mid-16th century, both Montejo and his son were responsible for many vicious battles and the deaths of thousands of indigenous during their quest for control of the area. The local council agreed to consider the petition on Wednesday which was signed by over 100 Mayan groups and many more individual Yucatan citizens. Over the years, Mexicans have avoided any attempt to praise or commemorate those that invaded the country and statues in their honor are rare. [AP]

Need to catch up on the news? Check out our archive of Latin American News Briefs.

Latin American News Briefs: Titi Monkeys, Tomb Discoveries, and Temperature Drops

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.