Spanish gov't says too early to evaluate bank rescue plan


Spain's government called for prudence at the end of a week of mounting pressure on the country's bonds, saying rash conclusions should not be drawn about a plan to shore up its ailing banks with euro zone funding.

Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria said in a press conference after the weekly Cabinet meeting that it is too soon for a verdict on a plan - approved last weekend by euro zone finance ministers - to recapitalize Spain's struggling banking sector with a European loan of up to 100 billion euros ($126 billion).

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's government said last Saturday it will ask for the assistance, but it is waiting for the results of two independent audits of Spain's banks before putting in the formal request.

Uncertainty surrounding the lack of details about the plan roiled Spain's bond markets, which were further affected by Moody's decision this week to lower Spain's sovereign credit rating by three notches to Baa3, or one level above junk status.




Mexico cancels controversial mega-resort project


Mexico's government announced the cancelation of the proposed Cabo Cortes mega resort at the southern tip of the Baja California peninsula, saying the Spanish developer has not scientifically shown the project would not threaten a nearby marine reserve.

In a ceremony at the Los Pinos official residence, President Felipe Calderon said there still was no "absolute certainty" that the Cancun-style development "will not cause irreversible damage" to the environment.

"A few years ago, the company Hansa Baja began steps for the construction of a tourist mega-development called Cabo Cortes," Calderon said in reference to Hansa Baja Investments, a unit of Spain's Hansa Urbana.

"Because of the ecological significance of (the nearby) Cabo Pulmo (marine reserve), the possibility that the Cabo Cortes tourist development would be built on 3,800 hectares (9,380 acres) adjacent to the national park sparked concerns among the local communities, academics and environmental groups," he added.




Cuba rejects U.S. claim that Gross in failing health


U.S. contractor Alan Gross, behind bars here since December 2009, is in "normal" health, the Cuban government said, dismissing Washington's recent statements to the contrary as "distortions."

"The state of Mr. Alan Gross' health is normal. He suffers from chronic illnesses characteristic of his age, for which he is receiving treatment," the foreign ministry said in a statement.

The U.S. government said Thursday that Gross' health has deteriorated to the point that he is unable to walk.

Now 63, Gross was arrested in Havana on Dec. 3, 2009, in possession of satellite communications equipment he said he was planning to distribute among Cuba's Jewish community.

Havana says he was illegally aiding dissidents and inciting subversion on the Communist-ruled island. Last August, Cuba's highest court upheld the 15-year jail sentence imposed on Gross five months earlier.




16 Die in clash between police and squatters in Paraguay


Seven police and nine squatters were killed when security forces tried to evict landless peasants from a rural estate in the northeastern province of Canindeyu, Paraguayan authorities said.

Around 100 people were wounded in a gunbattle between the cops and the squatters.

The clash took place on the Morumbi property, a spread of 2,000 hectares (4,938 acres) located some 380 kilometers (236 miles) northeast of this capital.

Authorities sent 321 police officers backed by helicopters to clear the peasants off the estate, pursuant to a court order obtained by Morumbi's owner, prominent politician and businessman Blas N. Riquelme.




Video links Mexican cops to triple-murder


Mexicans have been scandalized by the release of surveillance video showing seven uniformed police officers taking custody of three men who were later found dead.

The cops seen in the video were themselves arrested last week, the spokesman for the Jalisco state Attorney General's Office told Efe on Friday.

The officers have already admitted links to criminals and could face charges for homicide, Lino Gonzalez said. The images were captured the night of Jan. 20 by security cameras at a hotel in Lagos de Moreno, Jalisco, where the three men were staying.

The men, handcuffed and wearing only their underwear, are loaded onto a police vehicle by the cops, who appear to be taking direction from three other civilians also seen on the video. The men were found dead hours later inside a van belonging to one of them.




Mexican magnate Carlos Slim takes stake in Argentina's YPF


Mexican multi-billionaire Carlos Slim has acquired a nearly 8.4 percent stake in recently nationalized Argentine oil company YPF as part of a loan settlement.

Two Slim companies - Grupo Financiero Inbursa and Inmobiliaria Carso - acquired 6.59 percent and 1.77 percent stakes, respectively, in the country's largest oil and gas producer, YPF said in a filing Thursday with the Buenos Aires stock exchange.

YPF said in a press release that with this transaction Slim has begun "a long-term investment in one of the most important companies in Latin America's hydrocarbons sector."

In a conversation Thursday afternoon with new YPF CEO Miguel Galuccio, Slim's representatives said they see the Argentine firm as a solid company with good growth potential, the release said.