February 26th, 2013
06:05 PM ET

Missing since January, U.S. couple found in Peru

An American couple that had gone missing in Peru has been found safe, Peru's Ministry of Tourism and Commerce told CNN Tuesday.

Jamie Neal and Garret Hand, both 25 and from the San Francisco area, left the United States last November and chronicled their trip through South America on social media until last month.

That's when their Internet postings stopped and calls to their cell phones went unanswered. A spokesman for Peru's Ministry of Commerce and Tourism told CNN the couple, located in the Amazon region of Peru, told authorities they had no idea their families considered them missing.

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At least 48 dead after 7.4-magnitude quake off Mexico-Guatemala border
November 7th, 2012
09:28 PM ET

At least 48 dead after 7.4-magnitude quake off Mexico-Guatemala border

Editor's note: A 7.4-magnitude earthquake hit Wednesday off the coast of Guatemala, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Guatemalan officials say at least 48 people died and about 125,000 people were without power. The quake, centered about 15 miles from the coastal city of Champerico at a depth of 26 miles, was felt throughout Central America and as far north as Mexico City. Below are updates:

[Updated at 9:27 p.m. ET] At least 48 people were killed as a result of the earthquake, Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina said.

[Updated at 5:07 p.m. ET] The death toll in the Guatemalan quake has risen to at least 29, said David de Leon, a spokesman for the country's disaster relief agency.

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Uruguay poised to legalize abortion
The Uruguayan Senate passes a law legalizing abortion in Montevideo on Wednesday.
October 17th, 2012
01:55 PM ET

Uruguay poised to legalize abortion

Uruguay's senate passed a bill Wednesday that would legalize abortion during the first trimester of pregnancy.

Leftist President Jose Mujica has said he will sign the bill into law, which will make it the latest in a number of laws in the region that go against the grain of the traditionally very Catholic, socially conservative Latin America.

Most countries in Latin America allow abortion only in cases of rape, incest, to save a woman's life, or when a fetus is malformed. Uruguay would become just the second Latin American country where abortion is legal on request.

The bill sparked heated debate in the South American country. The senate passed the bill by a 17-14 vote. The  lower legislative house in August passed it by a 50-49 vote after a 16-hour session.

August 2012: Uruguay takes step to legalize abortion

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October 27th, 2011
08:39 AM ET

Hurricane Rina nears Cancun

Hurricane Rina neared some of Mexico's most popular beaches Thursday, sending residents fleeing inland.

The Category 1 hurricane was packing 75 mph winds Thursday morning, but forecasters said it could weaken into a tropical storm later in the day.

Rina is expected to skim the east coast of the Yucatan Peninsula Thursday night and into Friday, forecasters said.

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October 11th, 2011
08:51 AM ET

Jova's outer rainbands reach Mexican coast

Hurricane Jova closed in on Mexico's Pacific coast early Tuesday, a weakening but still powerful Category 3 storm, the National Hurricane Center said.

Jova was about 130 miles southwest of the resort town of Manzanillo at 8 a.m. ET, according to the hurricane center. It was moving north-northeast at about 6 mph, with 115 mph winds.

The outer bands of the hurricane were moving onshore Tuesday morning, the hurricane center said.

"Jova is expected to reach the coast of Mexico near major hurricane strength," the center said. The center of the hurricane will be near the Mexican coast by Tuesday afternoon or evening, it said.

A hurricane warning was in effect from Punta San Telmo north to Cabo Corrientes, near Puerto Vallarta, forecasters said. A tropical storm warning was in effect for Lazaro Cardenas to south of Punta San Telmo and north of Cabo Corrientes to El Roblito.

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October 10th, 2011
09:21 AM ET

Hurricane Jova packs 120 mph winds

Emergency officials scrambled to open shelters as Jova rapidly strengthened off Mexico's Pacific coast early Monday, becoming a major hurricane with 120 mph winds, forecasters said.

Mexican authorities described the storm as a "great danger" and warned that the hurricane could intensify before it makes landfall Tuesday.

The Category 3 storm was about 255 miles southwest of the resort town of Manzanillo at 8 a.m. ET, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami. It was moving east at about about 6 mph.

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Teen guilty of beheading at least 4 in Mexico
A 14-year-old suspected hit man was captured near Mexico City in December.
July 26th, 2011
04:55 PM ET

Teen guilty of beheading at least 4 in Mexico

A 14-year-old born in the United States has been found guilty in a Mexican court of torturing and beheading at least four people and kidnapping three others.

The teenage hit man was sentenced to three years in a correctional facility, the maximum allowed under Mexican law. He also has to pay a 4.5 million Mexican peso fine ($387,500 U.S.).

The defendant, known as "El Ponchis" ("The Cloak") is a 14-year-old boy from San Diego. Because he is a minor, his trial in Cuernavaca, Mexico, was closed to the public.

He was captured near Mexico City in December. In an on-camera interrogation by Mexican military authorities, the youth admitted to brutally killing people - the victims all were beheaded. The video shows a military interrogator asking the slim teenager with curly hair several questions.

"How many have you killed?," he asks.

"Four," he responded calmly.

"How did you execute them?"

"I slit their throats."

A YouTube video that circulated last year purportedly showed the teenager beating a man with a two-by-four while the man was tied at the wrists and hanging from the ceiling, as other young people watched.

The teen was accused of of crimes related to drug trafficking specifically cocaine and marijuana illegal possession of military weapons, and violations against federal organized crime law "with the objective of committing kidnappings and aggravated murder," juvenile court spokesman Juan Carlos Castro said before the trial.

"El Ponchis" is not the only minor in Mexico allegedly involved with drug cartels. Social media pictures have surfaced in the last year showing teenagers and young men holding high-caliber assault weapons and wearing masks.

Six youths were captured last October in a town about 30 miles south of Mexico City. Graffiti in the house where they were hiding linked them to the so-called South Pacific Cartel, a splinter group that formed after cartel leader and drug lord Arturo Beltran Leyva was killed in a shootout with the Mexican military in December of 2009.

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10 questions for the U.S. drug czar
CNN's Rafael Romo talks with Gil Kerlikowske, Director of the White House’s National Office of Drug Control Policy.
January 20th, 2011
08:57 PM ET

10 questions for the U.S. drug czar

Gil Kerlikowske, Director of the White House’s National Office of Drug Control Policy, concluded Thursday a three-day visit to Colombia to assess the progress the South American country has made in its fight against drug trafficking and Marxist guerrillas. Under an agreement known as “Plan Colombia,” the United States has provided the country with more than seven billion dollars in aid in the last ten years.

CNN’s Rafael Romo sat down with Kerlikowske in the capital city of Bogota to talk about the United States’ role in tackling drug trafficking in Latin America.

Romo: Has Plan Colombia been worth it?

Kerlikowske: I think that the reduction in violence is very significant and is well noted by the citizens. I mean, [Colombia] is now a very viable country.

Q: Michael Shifter from the Inter-American Dialogue says that Plan Colombia has failed in reducing the production of drugs. Is that the case?

A: Cocaine consumption is down dramatically in the United States.  We have less of an appetite for cocaine. We use cocaine at far lower levels, particularly over the last four years. What we have seen is an increase in cocaine consumption in Europe.

Q: Are you really satisfied that the Colombian government is doing the best they can with the funding provided from the United States and that they’re not just telling you what you want to hear?

A: All my meetings with government officials here is clear that they’re doing everything possible to improve.

Q: What did Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos tell you about the future of the binational relationship?

A: He knows all of the issues.  He recognizes the importance of the relationship. I think he also clearly understands the changing nature of drug trafficking, which is so much more international, less focused on a particular country.

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