February 15th, 2012
08:17 AM ET

Nearly 300 killed in Honduras prison fire

At least 272 people were killed in a fire at a prison in central Honduras, a local fire department said Wednesday.

The blaze was under control, but the exact number of fatalities remained unknown, said Jose Turcios, spokesman for the Comayagua, Honduras, fire department.

Some 35 prisoners were transported to a local hospital, he said, and some were then taken to a hospital in the capital.

Five of the prison's units - more than half of the prison - were affected by the fire, Turcios said. The prison holds 851 prisoners.

The cause of the blaze is under investigation, he said.

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Filed under: Honduras
February 1st, 2012
08:56 AM ET

FARC delays hostage release

Colombian guerrillas have postponed the release of six hostages because of alleged militarization in the area where they operate, the group said Wednesday.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, are the nation's main leftist rebel group. In a statement, they accused the government of President Juan Manuel Santos of plotting a military rescue of the hostages despite plans for a unilateral release.

"The area we had chosen for the release of the prisoners... has been unjustifiably militarized by the Colombian government, which forces us to delay it," the statement said.

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Filed under: Colombia
January 27th, 2012
09:55 AM ET

Brazil search of collapsed buildings intensifies

Brazilian rescuers intensified their search for victims in the rubble of three collapsed buildings in Rio de Janeiro Friday, though they are yet to find any survivors.

Seven bodies have been recovered and 20 people are reported missing, the Rio de Janeiro fire department said, according to the state-run Agencia Brasil news agency.

It was not immediately clear what caused the collapse of a 20-story building and adjacent 10- and 4-story buildings on Wednesday night. Officials said they were investigating both the possibility of a gas leak and a structural failure.

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Filed under: Brazil
Van der Sloot needs more time to decide plea, attorney says
Joran van der Sloot was arrested in June 2010 in Stephany Flores' death.
January 6th, 2012
11:27 AM ET

Van der Sloot needs more time to decide plea, attorney says

[Updated, 11:27 a.m. ET] Joran van der Sloot's attorney, who earlier said his client was going to plead guilty to all charges in connection with the death of a Peruvian woman, has asked for a recess in his client's murder trial to give him more time to reflect on what plea he will put forth.

When asked for a plea by the magistrates, van der Sloot said he wanted to give a "sincere confession" - a type of guilty plea - but did not agree with all of the charges against him. When the judge asked for clarification, he said he needed more time to decide his plea.

[Initial post, 8:54 a.m. ET] In a last-minute defense strategy change, Joran van der Sloot is expected to plead guilty to all the charges against him in connection with the killing of a Peruvian woman, his lawyer told CNN Friday.

The original plan going into the trial, which was set to begin Friday, was to admit to killing 21-year-old Stephany Flores, but to fight more stringent charges that could land him more time in prison, attorney Luis Jimenez said.

Jimenez said the intention of the new strategy is to give a "sincere confession," which under Peruvian law can qualify him for a more lenient sentence.

If van der Sloot goes forward with this approach, he could be sentenced as early as next week.

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Filed under: Courts • Crime • Joran van der Sloot • Justice • Peru
January 4th, 2012
09:01 AM ET

Ecuador court upholds $8.6 billion ruling against Chevron

An Ecuadorian appeals court upheld an $8.6 billion ruling against oil giant Chevron stemming from claims that the company had a detrimental impact on Amazonian communities where it operated.

The judgment against Chevron is the latest in 19 years of litigation between Amazon residents and Texaco, which was later purchased by Chevron.

A three-judge panel handed down the ruling Tuesday, nearly a year after receiving the case, the state-run Andes news agency reported.

In addition, the appeals court ruled that Chevron must publicly apologize to Ecuador, and if it fails to do so, the fine will be doubled to nearly $18 billion, Andes reported.

In a statement, Chevron said the appeals court ruling "is another glaring example of the politicization and corruption of Ecuador's judiciary that has plagued this fraudulent case from the start."

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Filed under: Ecuador • Lawsuit
December 22nd, 2011
11:41 AM ET

U.S., Pakistan, at odds over airstrike report

A U.S. investigation into a November airstrike that killed 24 Pakistani troops points to "inadequate coordination" possibly exacerbated by Pakistani distrust of the Americans as one of the reasons behind the incident, the Pentagon said Thursday.

The findings are likely to further erode the already fragile relations between the United States and Pakistan, as sources within Pakistan disputed the U.S. findings.

The investigation found that the U.S. forces acted in self-defense, though poor coordination between the two militaries resulted in the incident.

An American team heading toward an Afghan town near the Pakistani border came under attack from machine gun fire, to which they responded by firing back and displaying a "show of force," with a U.S. aircraft that made its presence known and dropped flares illuminating the area, said Brig. Gen. Stephen A. Clark, who led the investigation.

What followed over the next hours were three engagements between the two sides as higher-ups tried to ascertain - unsuccessfully - if Pakistani forces were in the area.

The narrative of the timeline is complicated, Clark said, adding that "this is a fairly comprehensive report."

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Filed under: Military • NATO • Pakistan • Pentagon
December 20th, 2011
09:11 AM ET

Lori Berenson arrives in U.S. after 16 years

Lori Berenson, the American activist convicted of aiding terrorists in Peru, arrived in the United States Tuesday morning for the first time since her 1995 arrest.

Berenson arrived at the Newark Liberty International Airport just past 7:30 a.m. An hour later, she emerged from the terminal pushing a luggage cart and with her 2-1/2-year-old son at her side.

She exited the terminal without saying a word to reporters and boarded a waiting sedan with her mother and drove off.

A previous attempt by Berenson, currently on parole, to visit the United States for the holidays was foiled Friday because she lacked some paperwork.

She will spend the holidays with her family in New York.

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Filed under: Peru
December 14th, 2011
11:41 AM ET

Alleged cyberplot points to Venezuela, Iran, documentary says

It's the type of plot that defense hawks in the United States warn about: a potential cyberattack against the U.S. government orchestrated by none other than Venezuela, Iran and Cuba, with the help of a group of Mexican leftists.

The U.S.-based Spanish-language network Univision recently aired an investigative documentary alleging that Venezuelan and Iranian diplomats were interested in an offer from a group of Mexican hackers to infiltrate the websites of the White House, FBI, Pentagon and U.S. nuclear sites.

But the hackers were university students recruited to do the dirty work who decided instead to document the evidence to disrupt the plot, the documentary reported.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has called the report "lies." And one of the Iranian diplomats told Univision he indeed was presented with a hacking plot by the Mexican group but turned it down in part because he thought they were CIA agents.

The evidence that the plot was real, according to Univision, are secret recordings with diplomats who ask questions about what the hackers can do and promise to send information to their governments.

The United States said it did not know about the alleged plot but that it found the Univision allegations "very disturbing."

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Filed under: Cuba • Iran • Venezuela
Nationals catcher kidnapped in Venezuela
Washington Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos was kidnapped Wednesday in his home country of Venezuela.
November 10th, 2011
09:34 AM ET

Nationals catcher kidnapped in Venezuela

Gunmen kidnapped Major League Baseball catcher Wilson Ramos from his family home in Venezuela Wednesday night, a spokeswoman for his Venezuelan team said on her Twitter account.

Ramos, who finished his rookie season with the Washington Nationals this year, was back in his home country playing for the Aragua Tigers in Venezuela's winter league.

The Nationals could not confirm the kidnapping, but published a statement citing Tiger's spokeswoman Kathe Vilera.

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Filed under: Baseball • Sports • Venezuela
November 3rd, 2011
01:14 PM ET

Cubans allowed to sell real estate

In a move that could reshape the Cuban economy, the government on Thursday announced a new law that allows for the sale of real estate, a transaction that had been banned since the 1959 Cuban Revolution.

The National Assembly in August approved a plan to permit the sale of real estate, and the legislation itself officially was put on the books Wednesday. It goes into effect November 10, the state-run newspaper Granma reported.

The new law allows for the sale, exchange, donation and gifting of real estate even in cases of divorce, death, or the owner leaving the country permanently.

As stated, the goal of the law is to "eliminate prohibitions and make limitations (to property ownership) flexible."

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Filed under: Cuba
October 19th, 2011
12:45 PM ET

Central American rains a reminder of Mitch

The death toll from recent rain and flooding in Central America rose to at least 91 Wednesday as the deluge rivaled what the region witnessed during the deadly Hurricane Mitch in 1998.

The deadliness of the current disaster is much smaller than Mitch - which killed some 11,000 people - but the large amounts of rain are causing similar damage: washed out bridges, landslides, flooding and river overflows.

"We think of hurricanes as the thing that causes the most damage, but you can have rains that are just as damaging without the hurricane," Herman Rosa Chavez, El Salvador's minister of the environment and natural resources, told CNN.

Already, the rain in El Salvador has tripled the average rainfall for the month of October.

Gauges in the country were registering recent rainfall as high as 55 inches. In comparison, Hurricane Mitch dumped between 50 and 70 inches of rain in the Central American region.

"This phenomenon is of great magnitude," Rosa Chavez said.

A vital difference between the death toll now and in 1998 is that during Mitch, the rainfall came in a matter of a few days. This time, the precipitation has come over a period of more than a week.

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Filed under: Costa Rica • El Salvador • Flooding • Guatemala • Honduras • Nicaragua • Weather
September 8th, 2011
10:34 AM ET

Puerto Rico police blasted in report

Puerto Rico's police department has a long pattern of violating citizens' constitutional rights through excessive force and unwarranted searches, the Justice Department said in a report released Thursday.

The analysis by the department's civil rights division found that the U.S. territory's police force is "broken in a number of critical and fundamental respects."

Bucking the trend of decreasing crime in the United States, violent crime in Puerto Rico increased 17% between 2007 and 2009. The territory has also seen a number of large protests in past years over issues such as the cost of public education and job cuts.

Police confronted these challenges with too heavy a hand, the report states.

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Filed under: Crime • Puerto Rico
Libyan crisis sends gas prices up 33 cents in two weeks
March 6th, 2011
09:40 PM ET

Libyan crisis sends gas prices up 33 cents in two weeks

U.S. gasoline prices increased nearly 33 cents in two weeks, the second-biggest two-week jump in the history of the gasoline market, according to a new survey of filling stations.

The latest Lundberg Survey of cities in the continental United States was conducted Friday. It showed the national average for a price of self-serve unleaded gasoline at $3.51, an increase of 32.7 cents from the last survey two weeks earlier, survey publisher Trilby Lundberg said.

"This time around, the spike comes not from nature, but from people," Lundberg said. "The armed struggle in Libya has shocked international oil markets and here it is at the pump."

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Filed under: Dollars & Sense • Economy • Energy • Libya
November 2nd, 2010
12:59 AM ET

Republicans take House, CNN projects

Rep. John Boehner, Republican-Ohio, will be the new Speaker of the House of Representatives, replacing Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Democrat-California, as the GOP rolled in Tuesday's midterm elections, gaining a majority for the first time in four years.

Read the full story on CNN.com.

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Filed under: Elections • John Boehner • Nancy Pelosi • Politics • Republican Party
April 1st, 2010
11:02 PM ET

Rancher's death re-ignites immigration debate

The killing of an Arizona rancher on his property last weekend has re-ignited a national conversation about illegal immigration and border security. FULL POST

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Filed under: Immigration • U.S.
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