Relatives of Mexico drug-war victims call for national unity pact

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Family members and activists representing more than 50,000 victims of drug-related violence in Mexico in recent years held a testy meeting with the four presidential hopefuls and called for a "national unity" pact to restore peace.

During Monday's gathering, organized by prominent poet Javier Sicilia's Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity, or MPJD, the activists demanded the candidates move away from President Felipe Calderon's military-based approach to combating powerful drug cartels so that Mexico's domestic policy will not "remain subjugated to U.S. interests," the MPJD said in a statement.

Frontrunner Enrique Peña Nieto, of the once-dominant Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI; Josefina Vazquez Mota, of the governing conservative National Action Party, or PAN; Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, of the leftist Party of the Democratic Revolution, or PRD; and Gabriel Quadri, of the small New Alliance Party, or Panal, took part in the meeting at the Chapultepec Castle in Mexico City.

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State of emergency declared in Peruvian region following protests

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The government declared a state of emergency in a southern Peruvian province after two people died in clashes between police and local residents, who have been protesting for days against a mining company.

In addition to the two fatalities, the confrontations with police have left dozens of people injured and spurred President Ollanta Humala's administration on Monday to declare the state of emergency, which hands the control of local order to the police for 30 days.

The public in the province of Espinar, in the Cuzco region, is demanding an investigation into alleged environmental damage caused by the copper mining firm Tintaya, which belongs to Swiss mining company Xstrata, and that the firm's contribution to local authorities for development be raised 3 percent to 30 percent.

Two people died in clashes with police, apparently from gunshots, and dozens of civilians and officers were injured to varying degrees.

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Brazil police kill 6 suspected gang members

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At least six suspected members of the First Capital Command, or PCC, gang died and three other people were arrested during and after a shootout with police in Sao Paulo, officials said.

A team comprised of 26 police officers on Monday night raided a parking garage near the Tiquatira "favela" or shantytown on the city's east side after receiving an anonymous tip that people alleged linked to the PCC, a gang devoted to drug trafficking, cargo robbery and other crimes, were meeting at the site.

Police spokesman Marcelo Gonzales - as quoted by Agencia Estado, Brazil's largest news agency - said that the suspects were crafting a plan to rescue a prisoner who was going to be transferred from a police lockup to a prison in Sao Paulo.

According to his account, after the officers burst into the parking garage, the suspects opened fire on them.

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Spain's Repsol weighs further drilling off Cuba after dry well

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Spanish oil company Repsol's CEO, Antonio Brufau, said that "the reasonable thing" is not to undertake any more activities in Cuba after the first well drilled in deep ocean waters near the island came up "dry."

At the press conference to present the company's petroleum exploitation strategy through 2016, Brufau acknowledged that after this first drilling attempt the safest thing is simply not to continue.

Repsol said on May 18 that it had not met with success on the first oil well - known as Scarabeo-9 - drilled in deep Cuban waters and that, in fact, the well had produced no oil at all.

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Cuba's sugar harvest disappoints

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The 2011-2012 sugar harvest in Cuba was 16 percent bigger than the year before, but the results were "modest" and "insufficient" following a disappointing growing season, government officials said.

Harvest results were analyzed at a meeting of managers in the sector, at which two of the country's vice presidents, Jose Ramon Machado Ventura and Marino Murillo, complained about the deficiencies in sugar production, state television reported.

"We could have produced more sugar and we didn't do it, it escaped us, we lost it and we could have done more...We have to change, really change and we have to do things differently from the way they've been done up to now - we can't keep believing in stories and promises," Machado Ventura, the No. 2 man in the Cuban government, told managers of the sector.

The latest harvest, according to Cuban television, fell short by 68,000 tons of sugar, and though production grew by 16 percent over the previous year, "these modest results are still insufficient for the economic progress the country requires."

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Venezuela's Chavez gets 3 mn followers on Twitter

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President Hugo Chavez's Twitter account - @chavezcandanga - has attracted 3 million followers a little more than two years after it went online and became the Venezuelan leader's means of making announcements, celebrating, offering condolences and reporting on his illness.

"To the 3 million Candangueros and Candangueras go my very special thanks! And let's keep fighting, here as well, the battle of ideas!" Chavez said in a posting Monday.

In a subsequent telephone call to the headquarters of his United Socialist Party of Venezuela, or PSUV, to answer reporters' questions, the president said that "@chavezcandanga is a vehicle for doing battle."

"We can't leave these spaces to the right only, they are spaces where the people must carry on the battle, our battle," Chavez said.

Twitter has enabled interaction, problem solving and "has helped some people, but above all it has strengthened the connection of the government, and in this case the president, with the people, with society and, beyond that, with different international dignitaries," Chavez said.

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Man shot at polling place during Texas primary

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An Hispanic man was shot from a vehicle at the door of a polling place in the Texas town of San Juan during the state's primary election, police confirmed to Efe.

The 55-year-old man, who was one of several workers being paid to carry signs for police post candidate Hector "Jojo" Mendez, was struck by one bullet in the leg and taken to the hospital from the polling place, which is the local police station and fire department building.

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Spanish father rips Qatari firefighters in children's deaths

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Camilo Travesedo, the father of the three Spanish brothers who died in a fire in a Doha shopping mall, told Efe that firefighters took far too long to get the children out of the burning complex.

Fire-rescue personnel "took an hour and a half to get them out, and when they did most of them were dead," Travesedo said.

Travesedo's statement coincides with the testimony of witnesses who reported delays in evacuating the daycare center, where his children, ages 7, 5 and 2, died.

Travesedo said he feels "devastated" after Monday's tragedy at the upscale Villaggio Mall where a total of 19 people, including his boys and a 7-year-old Spanish girl, lost their lives.

"Our kids were in a small enclosure for playing games on the first floor when the fire broke out. They didn't let us go in to get the children, the place filled up with smoke and neither the firefighters nor emergency management personnel were able to find them," Travesedo, who works in the OHL construction company and has lived 3 1/2 years in Qatar, said.

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EFE