Mexican elections agency: Over half of ballots to be recounted


More than half of the ballots cast in last weekend's presidential election will be recounted, a much higher percentage than initial estimates, Mexican elections officials said.

Some 54.5 percent of the elections packages, which were received from 78,012 polling places, "will be opened and recounted under full security," Federal Electoral Institute, or IFE, executive secretary Edmundo Jacobo said.

The figure exceeds the initial estimate released Tuesday by the IFE of 45,000 to 50,000 packages, representing one-third of the ballots cast at the nearly 143,000 polling places established for the general elections.

Recounts can be done for a number of reasons, including when there is a difference equal to or less than 1 percent separating the winner and the second-place finisher, when there are errors on ballots or when the number of void ballots is greater than the difference between the victor and the candidate who came in second.

Some 61.3 percent of the ballots cast in federal Senate elections and 60.3 percent of the ballots for races for the lower house of Congress will be recounted, Jacobo said.




49 Injured in protests in Peru


At least 49 people were injured in the city of Abancay, capital of the southern Peruvian Andean region of Apurimac, during clashes with police who were trying to open an important road blocked by protesting teachers, media reports said.

The teachers, called out by a sector of the education union (known as Sutep), blocked the highway linking Abancay with the southern city of Cuzco early Wednesday morning, preventing dozens of automobiles and passenger transport vehicles from moving through the area.

According to Radio Programas del Peru, the teachers took control of the highway as part of a strike they staged to demand salary hikes and the payment of a series of benefits.

A source in the area told Efe that the injuries occurred when the police tried to unblock the highway and the strikers said that one of the demonstrators received a gunshot wound, although that report has not been officially confirmed.




Raul Castro kicks off China visit


Cuban President Raul Castro arrived in this capital for his first official visit to China as head of state, a trip on which he will meet with the present and future leaders of the Asian giant to seek support for the communist island's economic reform process.

Castro, accompanied by the vice chairman of the Council of Ministers, Ricardo Cabrisas - who had traveled to Beijing in December 2011 - and Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, on Thursday will begin their agenda of official meetings with Chinese President Hu Jintao and another with the country's top legislator, Wu Bangguo.

Friday is a key day on the trip, with Castro scheduled to meet with Premier Wen Jiabao and with Vice President Xi Jinping (who has been tapped to move into the presidency in 2013), as well as with Vice Premier Li Keqiang, the main candidate to succeed Wen next year.

During these meetings, Castro will get to know the future leadership of the Chinese regime and will sign several cooperation agreements the content of which has not yet been revealed, although China observers expect the pacts to include ones in agriculture, energy and/or tourism.




11 Dead, 15 injured in traffic accident in southern Chile


Eleven people died and at least 15 were injured in a traffic accident in southern Chile when a small bus collided with a truck towing a trailer, the governor of Arauco province, Flor Weisse, confirmed to local media.

The two vehicles were traveling in opposite directions along the P-70 highway that connects the towns of Cañete and Tirua in Arauco province, which is in the Biobio region, some 700 kilometers (434 miles) south of Santiago.

The crash occurred when the trailer detached from the truck, shifted into the oncoming lane and hit the bus - which was transporting local residents - from the side.




Spain's high court opens probe of Bankia, names Rato a suspect


Spain's National Court agreed to open an investigation into the former management of recently nationalized Bankia, naming as suspects the ex-chairman of the banking conglomerate, Rodrigo Rato, and more than 30 of its erstwhile board members.

Judge Fernando Andreu made the decision after the anti-corruption prosecutor's office found that a suit filed by the small Union, Progress and Democracy, or UPyD, party over alleged fraud and other crimes merited investigation, judicial officials said.

Bankia, Spain's fourth-biggest financial institution, was nationalized in May and it subsequently announced that it would seek an additional 19 billion euros ($23.8 billion) in state aid, or the largest bank bailout in Spanish history.

Created from the merger of seven ailing regional lenders, Bankia was one of the banks hardest hit by the 2007 collapse of a long-building real-estate bubble.




3 More mining engineers kidnapped in Bolivia


Indians in the western Andean region of Bolivia kidnapped three more employees of the Canadian mining company South American Silver, bringing the number of hostages they are holding to five, officials and Indian leaders said.

The Indians are demanding the expulsion of the firm from that area.

Potosi Gov. Felix Gonzalez and one of the indigenous leaders, Benedicto Colque, confirmed separately to the media on Tuesday that three more people had been taken hostage, in addition to the two who have been held since late June.

The kidnapped men include three engineers, a technician and a driver who are in the hands of an "ayllu" (Indian clan) from northern Potosi, a region which borders on Chile and Argentina.

Gonzalez expressed confidence that he will be able to negotiate with the communities to resolve the conflict, but he said that dozens of police have been sent to the area to avoid more incidents.




Venezuela gets first female admiral


A total of 147 Bolivarian National Armed Forces, or FANB, officers were promoted to the ranks of general and admiral, including the first woman to hold the highest naval rank, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said.

Carmen Melendez de Maniglia is the first woman to hold the rank of admiral in Venezuela's history, the president said.

"Admiral Maniglia, first Venezuelan woman to make the rank of admiral, that deserves a round of applause for Venezuelan women," Chavez said during a ceremony Tuesday at the Bolivarian Military University that was carried live by state-owned Venezolana de Television, or VTV.

Chavez said he was aware of the "insane critics" who have been ripping him for handing out military promotions ahead of the presidential elections.