Tag Archives: latin america news stories

New Species Discovered in Peru

National Geographic reports that a new species of night monkey has been discovered in a cloud forest in northern Peru.

The as-yet unnamed species was found by a team of Peruvian and Mexican scientists during a 2009-2011 expedition in Tabaconas Namballe National Sanctuary, which lies east of Huancabamba, near the Euadorian border.

In total, the biologists found eight new species of mammals related to the common shrew opossum, enigmatic porcupine, small-eared shrew, gray fox, olingo (related to raccoons), and four types of rodents. Additionally, three new varieties of frogs were encountered, including Pristimantis bustamante.

The 28,000-hectare (70,000-acre) Santuario Nacional Tabaconas Namballe protects not only cloud forest, but also páramo grasslands. It is home to an estimated 326 species of bird, 85 species of mammals and 23 species of amphibians and reptiles. The threat of deforestation endangers this reserve, which is also habitat for the mountain tapir and the spectacled bear, both endangered species.

The team of researchers will be returning to Tabaconas Namballe National Sanctuary this November to continue their explorations for more new species, including an orange-skinned porcupine that locals report seeing.

To get a look at these new discoveries, check out the photos at Mongabay.

 

The new edition of V!VA Travel Guides Peru will soon be hitting bookshelves! Be sure to pick up yours – in print of e-book format – before heading out to Peru’s great national parks and ruins.

The Cartagena-Colón Ferry Returns

After 16 years, ferry service between Cartagena, Colombia, and Colón, Panamá, has resumed. This service, which will begin May 10, now will give travelers the most economical way to travel between South and Central America.

 

For a short time in the mid-1990s, travelers could rely on the Crucero Express to safely shuttle them from Central America to South America. At the time, it was a god-send: Just a few years earlier, it became prohibitively dangerous to walk the Darien Gap, the jungle between the two countries, and most backpackers could not afford the airfare between Panama and Colombia. The only other choice was to find a way to Puerto Obaldía, the last Caribbean Coast town in Panama, then take the chalupas (twin-engine speedboats) down the coast to Turbo. In that decade, though, that trip was not without its adventures. But suddenly, without reason, the Crucero Express ceased operations in November 1996.

 

Now the Greek-staffed Nissos Rodos will be making the trip. Service begins May 10, 2012. The passenger-cargo ferry has a capacity for 1,484 passengers, 500 autos and 2,000 meters of cargo space, with the capacity to haul 175 shipping containers. The ship will sail from Cartagena, Colombia, on Tuesday, Friday and Sunday, and from Colón, Panamá, on Monday, Thursday and Saturday. It will leave port at 6 a.m. and arrive at approximately 6 p.m.

 

Passengers have the choice of traveling in reserved seat ($99-119), dormitory ($209) or private cabin ($598-678). Reservations must be made at least 48 hours in advance, with payment.

In Cartagena, reservations may be made with Promised Land Tours (Calle de la Media Luna 10-113, Getsemaní. Tel: 57-5-660-2565, Cel: 57-300-449-1906 / 317-355-1186, E-mail: reservas.promisedlandtours@gmail.com, URL: http://promisedlandtours.webnode.es). The agent in Panama City is Pan American Seaways (Tel: 209-2000 / 380-0900 and via or E-mail: reservas@panaferry.com, URL: www.panaferry.com).

 

Find out more about the Colombia-Panama Border Crossings and Colombia in VIVA’s new Colombia Adventure Guide, available in a variety of e-book applications directly from VIVA, as well as in print format from Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.

 

On the Road – Peru: Rains Complicating Travel Plans in Latin America

Another year of the La Niña weather system continues to batter Latin America, complicating travel plans in Peru and other countries.

 

Mexico and Nicaragua are reporting damaging flooding caused by heavy rains. In South America, Colombia is once more experiencing not only flooding, but also landslides, all of which has caused over 700 deaths in recent months. La Paz, Oruro and other places in Bolivia are also suffering, and a state of emergency has been declared in Pando department. It’s even raining in the driest place on the planet: the Atacama Desert in northern Chile. The government there had to close major attractions until it could work on roads. Once more, tourists can get out to the region’s riches.

 

Peru has not been exempt from these damaging rains. Overflowing rivers, crop destruction and other damages are being reported in many parts of the country. The Amazon Basin is affected, from Tingo María in the central jungle down to Puerto Maldonado in the southern jungle. Southern Lima, Áncash and Madre de Dios Departments are under states of emergency, as is Ica, which suffered a 6.2 earthquake on January 30.

 

Archaeologists are concerned of damages to Chan Chan and other ruins along the north coast.

 

Roads in the Huaraz, Cusco, Arequipa and Colca Canyon areas are periodically blocked by landslides. Earlier this week, the border crossing between Peru and Chile had to be closed temporarily after intense rains unearthed anti-personnel mines that had been laid in 1975, during the Pinochet dictatorship.

 

Travelers are advised to keep an eye on the news. You can get to any part of the country, but you might be delayed because of road conditions.

 

Safe Journeys!

 

Lorraine Caputo is one of V!VA’s longest-tenured writers. These days, she’s back on the road, updating our 2012 edition of  V!VA Peru. Check the blog for more of her updates from the road.

 

Lima’s Big Sunday Fest: The Dakar Arrives

Waiting to get into the Plaza de Armas.

Instead of heading to the beaches yesterday, Lima’s residents headed to the streets to welcome the arrival of the 2012 Edition of the Dakar rally.

 

The city dawned under a foggy shroud. Already lines of Limeños stretched for several blocks, waiting to enter Plaza de Armas where the awards ceremonies would be held. After the city’s main plaza was full, spectators were left to line the avenues, hoping to see the rally’s finishers.

 

The Dakar race, which had started January 1 from Mar del Plata, Argentina, and shot across the deserts of northern Chile and southern Peru, ended at Asia, some hundred kilometers (61 miles) south of Lima. From there, the racers made a more leisurely entry into the city. All along the route, people cheered the participants on, giving them a warm welcome to the capital.

 

The prime viewing spot was on Avenida Talca, near Jirón Callao. Here, the motorcycles, quads, cars and massive trucks parked until their call to enter the Plaza. Racers bought snacks at local stores and sat on curbs relaxing. The challenge was over and now it was time to relax. They heeded the calls of tourists from their home countries and locals to pose for photos.

 

 

Liparoti posing with a child.

 

The French had a strong finish. Stéphane Peterhansel carried home the car division crown for a record tenth time and Cyril Despres took the motorbike trophy, his fourth victory. Rounding out the car winners were Joan (Nani) Roma (Spain) and Giniel de Villiers (South Africa). Second and third place in motos were taken by Marc Coma (Spain) and Helder Rodrigues (Portugal).

 

Second place, trucks went Hans Stacey of the Netherlands.

Winners of the car division.

 

 

Argentina dominated the quad division: brothers Alejandro and Marcos Patronelli took first and second place, and fellow countryman Tomás Maffei took third. The Dutch came out strong in the big trucks, with Gerard de Rooy winning and Hans Stacey in second. Artur Ardavichus (Kazakhstan) was third.

 

The Dakar, which began with a total of 443 participants in the four categories, ended with 249. Among the 10 women who signed in, five finished, including Eulalia Sanz Pla-Gilibert of Spain, who was the only woman to finish in the motorcycle division (39th place of 97), and Franco-Italian journalist and photographer Camelia Liparoti, who finished 10th in the quad competition.

 

Sanz Pla-Gilibert was one of five women to finish the 2012 Dakar.

 

The 2013 edition of the Dakar will begin in Lima, Peru, and finish in Santiago, Chile.

 

The road rally, though, is not without its controversy. Last year, archaeologists in Chile filed a complaint with President Sebastián Piñera about the destruction of the Alto Yape geoglyphs near Iquique. Before and after photos of the site may be seen here.

 

Here are some more shots to close out V!va Travel Guides‘ coverage of the 2012 Dakar.

 

 

 

 

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.

South American Freeze Out

While North America is experiencing an infernal summer, with temperatures in the upper 30s and even 40ºs C (90s-100ºs F) with severe droughts, it’s hard to believe that South America is suffering through the other version of Hades: It has frozen over there.

Since late June, Chile, Argentina and Bolivia have been having their worst cold spell in 16 years. Border crossings between the countries are more frequently closed than usual.

Winter began with a bang, when Volcán Puyehue and the Cordón de Caulle erupted June 4. Flights in Chile, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay were canceled because of volcanic ash.

Then it went from fire to ice. A polar front moved into Argentina the end of June. Heavy snows fell in the mountain areas of Patagonia, Cuyo and the Northwest. Snow and sleet were common in Buenos Aires. Many parts of the country experienced below-freezing temperatures.

Ever since, other polar fronts have crept up from Antarctica, affecting South America.

In mid-July, the Uyuni salt flats and southwest Bolivia were slammed with unusual snows and temperatures. Local residents and tourists were stranded for days until rescue teams could arrive. Alpacas, llamas and other livestock suffered from food shortages. Even the super-dry Atacama Desert in northern Chile and western Bolivia received over 80 centimeters (32 inches) of the white stuff.

On July 21, Chile’s Lake District was whacked with a blizzard. Over two meters (7 feet) of snow was dumped was dumped over the region. More than 12,000 people in Curacautín, Lonquimay and other villages were isolated, and left without electricity and communications. The Chilean government declared the region a disaster area, and had to airdrop food supplies until roads and passes could be cleared. Chillán received three meters (10 feet) of snow in four days. Even temperatures in Santiago, the nation’s capital, plummeted to -4ºC (25ºF).

The storms continue. This past weekend, Paso Internacional Los Libertadores, the major border crossing between Mendoza, Argentina, and Santiago, Chile, was closed to snows. To keep up-to-date on the latest border crossing closures between the two countries, click here.

The upside to all this? Snow bunnies are guaranteed prime skiing and snowboarding conditions throughout the region, including Bariloche. Just be sure to bundle up tight!

And according to Pilar Cereceda, professor of bio-geography at the University of Chile, the Atacama Desert will begin blooming between August and September, and last until November.

Chilean Ash Cloud Continues Its Circuit Around the Globe, Grounding Travelers

Since Southern Chile’s Puyehue-Cordón Caulle volcano complex erupted on June 4, its ash cloud has accomplished a feat many travelers daydream about: Circling the globe. And it didn’t even have to buy a round-the-world ticket.

On its leisurely cruise around the Earth, the cloud first grounded flights in Chile, Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay. It blanketed Bariloche with ash and cinder, and closed the Cardenal Samoré border crossing. After drifting over the Atlantic Ocean, South Africa and other countries on that continent were affected. Across the Indian Ocean, then, to cause Qantas and other airlines to cancel flights in Australia and New Zealand last week.

Within two weeks, Puyehue-Cordón Caulle’s ash cloud made full circle, re-entering South America near Coyhaique, Chile. Once again, South American air traffic was affected.


As if never ceasing on its enviable journey, the ashes arrived once again to Africa and Asia, causing the full moon to appear blood red during the June 15 lunar eclipse.

This past Monday, Virgin Australia, Qantas and other air lines once more canceled over 200 flights, affecting the travel plans of more than 40,000 passengers.

According to Australia’s Volcanic Ash Advisory Center, the ash cloud is traveling some 4,000 kilometers (2,400 mi) per 24 hours, pushed on by strong winds. Satellite images still clearly show the plume, and pilots have reported seeing it.

In the meantime, Puyehue Volcano’s eruption continued to pump out more smoke. Yesterday morning, fine ash fell upon Villarrica, Pucón and the Ranco Lake area. Northwesternly winds pushed the cloud towards Valdivia.

It appears, though, that Puyehue-Cordón Caulle’s cloud will be running its course soon. Chile’s Servicio Nacional de Geología y Minería (Sernageomin) announced yesterday that the volcano has had a significant lava flow, which should stop the volcano from pumping out more ash. Nonetheless, the Puyehue and Ranco Lake districts are still under red alert.

Hopefully as Puyehue-Cordón Caulle settles down and unpacks its bags, human travelers will be able to get one with their journeys around the globe.

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: Murder Mysteries, Marsupials, and Maradona

Compiled by Jen O’Riordan 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 24th to July 29th. For more up-to-the minute news, follow us on Twitter!

Cristina Calcieta’s mystery has been solved. Photo courtesy AFP.

34 Years Later, Argentine Students Crack Murder Mystery

[ARGENTINA] The families of a young couple who disappeared in 1976 can finally lay the remains of their loved ones to rest after their bodies were identified by a group of students and community members in the small town of Melincue. The students linked the timing of the couple’s disappearance with a discovery of two brutalized bodies a rural farmer had made in 1976, and DNA tests proved their suspicions. Under the Argentine military dictatorship that ruled at the time, tens of thousands of suspected left-wing activists were murdered or disappeared. [AP]

Other South American Countries Attempt to Diffuse Venezuela/Columbia Feud

[COLOMBIA / VENEZUELA] After Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez severed ties with Colombia last Thursday, South American foreign ministers failed to bring the two countries back together at a meeting in Quito, Ecuador Thursday. Brazil President Lula da Silva plans to speak with Chavez on August 6th. Venezuela and Colombia have a long history of mixed feeling toward each other, and on Thursday Colombia accused Venezuela of harboring around 1,500 leftist guerrillas and closed the consulate. [Colombia Reports / Reuters]

Troops Kill Mexican Drug Kingpin

[MEXICO] Soldiers gunned down Ignacio “Nacho” Coronel, a leader of the Sinaloa cartel during a raid of his hideout in the western city of Guadalajara. In an attempted to escape, Coronel fired on soldiers as helicopters hovered overhead. One soldier was killed and another wounded. “The scope of [his] influence and operations penetrate throughout the United States, Mexico, and several other European, Central American, and South American countries,” said the FBI in a statement. [AP]

A marsupial. Photo courtesy www.animalspix.com.

Ancestors of Australian Marsupials Arrived from the Americas

[GERMANY] According to genetic research from Germany, well known Australian species such as kangaroos, possums, koalas and wombats share a common ancestor that must have traveled to the region from the Americas. “I think this is pretty strong evidence now for the hypothesis of a single migration [to Australia] and a common ancestor,” said Juergen Schmitz, of the University of Muenster research team. The DNA analysis unfortunately does not tell us when this migration to Australia occurred, but researchers speculate that it may have taken place some 30-40 million years ago. [Discovery News]

Catalan Bullfight Ban Raises Debate in Latin America

[LATIN AMERICA] After Catalonia, Spain banned bullfighting last Wednesday, many bullfighting enthusiasts and animal rights groups throughout Latin America are having heated debates about the support. The tradition of bullfighting dates back to Spanish colonization in countries like Peru, Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela, and Mexico, which is home to the world’s largest bullring. Michel Lagravere, father of Franco-Mexican child bullfighting star Michelito, said the Catalan parliament vote was “more anti-Spanish than anti-bullfight.” [Montreal Gazette]

Diego Maradona’s Tenure Ends as Argentina’s Coach

[ARGENTINA] Diego Maradona confirmed the end of his time as Argentina’s coach on Wednesday. Maradona accused Julio Grondona, president of the Argentinian Football Association, of lying to him and Carlos Bilardo, the national team’s general manager, of betraying him. Although many are blaming Maradona for Argentina’s loss in the World Cup, Maradona pointed out: “Not since 1990 has Argentina made it past the quarter finals.” [guardian.co.uk]

The Finnish paper mill. Photo courtesy www.elrevolucionario.org.

Argentina and Uruguay Reach Agreement on Pollution Monitoring

[ARGENTINA / URUGUAY] An agreement has finally been reached in the 7-year dispute between Argentina and Uruguay regarding pollution of the shared Uruguay River. The controversy began when Argentina raised concerns about contamination of the river from a Finnish paper mill on the Uruguayan side. The agreement was signed at the presidential palace and calls for a joint-scientific committee to monitor and identify pollution from all farming, industrial and urban centers that spill their waste into the Uruguay River and its tributaries. Argentina hopes the agreement will please environmentalists who have been blocking a bridge linking Gualeguaychu to Fray Bentos in Uruguay for the past three years. The UPM mill was built there seven years ago despite Argentina’s objections that it would pollute the river. [Global Times]

UNESCO Takes Galapagos Islands Off the Threatened List

[ECUADOR] After a 14-5 vote, the United Nations has voted to remove the Galapagos Islands from its list of endangered sites. The committee believes Ecuador has made significant progress in protecting and preserving the Islands. The Galapagos Islands had been on the list since 2007 after threatened by tourism, over-fishing and the introduction of invasive species. The Galapagos Islands has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1978. [Voice of America]

United States Closes Consulate in Ciudad Juarez

[U.S. / MEXICO] The United States announced closure of its consulate in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico indefinitely. A U.S. official said the consulate was closed due to a “credible threat.” Last year, more than 2,600 people were killed in drug-related violence in the city. In March, the consulate closed for several days after a U.S. employee, her husband, and the husband of another staff member were killed. [BBC]

Watch a news report on the situation in Arizona. Video courtesy MSNBC.

Illegal Immigrants Prepare to Leave Arizona as New Law Takes Effect

[U.S. / MEXICO] A controversial immigration law, which could see an influx of deportees returning to Mexico, took effect in Arizona yesterday. Shelters across the border in Mexico are gathering supplies and preparing for a 20-25% increase in occupancy in the coming months. However, some say that many illegal immigrants will simply move from Arizona to another American state rather than return to Mexico. Mexico already extended its annual voluntary repatriation program in anticipation of the Arizona law, beginning the initiative earlier than usual in June. Other Mexican states such as Guanajuato and Chihuahua have also announced employment programs for possible returnees. [ABC News]

Chilean President Rejects Calls to Pardon Officials

[CHILE] In a televised address to the nation last Sunday, Chile’s President Sebastián Piñera stated the sweeping pardons requested by the Catholic Church for military prisoners would not be granted under his government. The 60 military prisoners were convicted of humans rights abuses during the ear now known as the “Dirty War.” The majority of the prisoners live in a comfortable, well-equipped prison build especially from them. Standing up to the Catholic Church was a bold move, however, recent scandal and sexual abuse claims against Chilean priests have tarnished the Church’s reputation in recent years. Despite the rejection, the Church reacted positively saying that at least now the issue of overcrowding and conditions in Argentina’s prisons had been put on the national agenda. [NY Times]

Cuban Hunger Striker Departs Hospital

[CUBA] Guillerrno Farinas, an opposition activist who went on a 134-day hunger strike, has departed the hospital after three weeks of treatment. The 48-year-old psychologist and journalist began accepting food and water on July 8 after an agreement was reached between the Catholic Church and President Raul Castro to release 52 political prisoners. Twenty prisoners have so far been flown in exile to Spain with their families. [AP]

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.