Venezuela asks Gulf oil nations to cut back output


Venezuela will urge fellow OPEC members to reaffirm the current ceiling on oil production, the Andean nation's energy minister said here as he called on Gulf countries to stop exceeding their output quotas.

"We believe we should maintain the production ceiling of 30 million (barrels per day), which was agreed at our last meeting last December. We see no reason to deviate from this," Rafael Ramirez told reporters in Vienna, where officials from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries are meeting Thursday.

Venezuela, which by some measures has the world's largest reserves of crude, is a charter member of OPEC.




Gov't postpones deportation of recent high school grad


An undocumented immigrant from Guatemala who was going to be deported a few days after graduating with honors from a Virginia high school has received a 1-year postponement so she can find work and avoid being sent back to Central America, The Washington Post said.

Heydi Mejia, 18, was only 4 years old when here mother, Dora Aldana, brought her to the United States.

The teenager, who graduated last Friday from Richmond's Meadowbrook High School and had plans to go to college, received a visit in December from immigration officials who notified her that she would be deported.

Mejia's case is an example of the thousands of young people brought to the United States by their parents when they were children and who grew up and were educated in the United States.




Mexican mayoral candidate accused of murder


The Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, candidate for mayor of Villaflores, a city in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas, has been accused by an official of the rival National Action Party, or PAN, of murdering a member of that political party.

Ulises Grajales Niño murdered PAN member Edgar Hernandez Corzo, the 25-year-old nephew of congressional candidate Roger Decoss Corzo, early Monday, the PAN's leader in Chiapas, Carlos Palomeque, said.

Hernandez Corzo was murdered at the El Sinaloense ranch on the Villaflores-Chanona highway as he returned with three other people from painting PAN campaign slogans in the area, Palomeque said.




Remains of 14 people found in Mexican Gulf state


Police found the remains of 14 people stuffed into an abandoned SUV on a highway in the Mexican Gulf state of Veracruz, state officials said.

The grisly discovery was made on the Alamo-Potrero del Llano state highway near Los Cuates, a ranch in northern Veracruz close to the border with Tamaulipas state, the state government said in a statement.

The statement refers to "remains" and not bodies, indicating that the victims may have been dismembered.

Initial reports said the remains of at least six people had been found in the vehicle.

Officials have not said whether any messages had been left with the bodies, a common practice used by drug cartels to intimidate rivals.




Guatemala busts gang that extorted $500k from bus operators


Eight people, including a minor, were arrested in Guatemala for allegedly extorting about $500,000 from bus drivers and operators over the past four years, officials said.

National Civilian Police, or PNC, officers and prosecutors made the arrests during searches of about a dozen dwellings in poor Guatemala City neighborhoods, an Interior Ministry spokesman told Efe.

"Via intelligence work, it was established that members of this gang got their orders from maras (youth gang members) being held in prison," the Interior Ministry spokesman said.

The gang, according to investigators, extorted money from bus drivers and operators in western and southwestern Guatemala City, demanding average payments of 50,000 quetzales (about $6,250) monthly in exchange for not killing them.




Brazilian governor denies links to organized crime


The governor of the central Brazilian state of Goias proclaimed his innocence here before a special congressional commission that is investigating alleged links between politicians and an illegal gaming outfit.

Marconi Perillo, along with Brasilia district Gov. Agnelo Queiroz, is suspected of being involved in the business activities of businessman Carlos Augusto Ramos, a.k.a. Carlinhos Cachoeira, reputed boss of a gambling racket with tentacles reaching into the ranks of the police.

Perillo categorically denied any links to Cachoeira, whom he said he saw personally only a few times, although he admitted that last year he telephoned him to wish him happy birthday.




Labor, civil rights group launch voter protection campaign


The AFL-CIO and several Latino civil rights organizations launched a campaign against laws that restrict the vote and announced that they will intensify their efforts to get new voters registered.

"This year we will be running the strongest voter protection program ever. This will be our most aggressive push, and we have never done anything on this scale before because the attacks that we are seeing on the right to vote are unprecedented," AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Arlene Holt Baker said at a press conference in Washington.

In recent years, numerous states have approved laws and regulations that increase identification requirements for those seeking to register to vote, as well as demanding proof of identity and place of residence when it comes time to vote.

Though no proof exists that voter fraud is a real problem, promoters of this addition to ID requirements say that the purpose is to defend the legitimacy of the vote.