Argentine junta chief sentenced in baby-stealing case


Former junta leader Jorge Rafael Videla was sentenced to 50 years in prison for his part in a systematic plan to steal children from political prisoners during Argentina's 1976-1983 military regime.

The scheme, which often involved holding pregnant women until they gave birth and then executing them, was part of a "general plan of annihilation" targeting a segment of society seen by the military as subversive, the court found.

The trial involved more than 30 specific instances of child stealing.

Sentenced along with Videla were one of his successors as junta chief, Reynaldo Bignone, who received a 15-year term; Adm. Antonio Vañek, 40 years; Lt. Cmdr. Jorge Eduardo Acosta, 30 years; and Gen. Omar Riveros, 20 years.

The 87-year-old Videla, who listened impassively Thursday as the verdict was read, is already serving a life sentence for crimes against humanity.




Fox says Mexico should rally behind Peña Nieto


Former President Vicente Fox called for respect for the will of the people and urged Mexicans to close ranks behind the winner of last weekend's presidential election.

"Mexico has a new president," Fox said, referring to Enrique Peña Nieto, of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI.

Fox, a member of the National Action Party, or PAN, ended seven decades of PRI rule with his victory in the 2000 presidential election.

"Today, Mexico has taken the destiny of the country into its hands ... Today, the democrats are coming together and closing ranks behind the president-elect without wavering," Fox said in a post on his blog.

"The last three administrations (Ernesto Zedillo, Fox and Felipe Calderon) have ended frustrated because it was impossible to get approval for proposals submitted to Congress due to lack of consensus," the former president said.

Fox, who governed Mexico from 2000 to 2006, has come in for criticism from members of his party for supporting Peña Nieto.




Tainted booze suspected of killing 21 in Honduras


Health authorities and prosecutors in Honduras are investigating whether the deaths of 21 people over the past two weeks were due to tainted liquor.

Aurora Cubas, a prosecutor in the central city of Siguatepeque, where most of the deaths have been registered, told reporters that in coordination with municipal and public health authorities the cause of the deaths was being investigated.

Among other things, authorities have seized more than 800 cases of two brands of hard liquor produced in central Honduras and have prohibited its sale while the investigation is being pursued.

About 30 people have been poisoned and of those 21 have died in Siguatepeque and other nearby communities, media outlets have reported.




Costa Rica nabs Mexican drug kingpin


A high-ranking member of Mexico's Gulf drug cartel was arrested in Costa Rica, the Central American country's top counternarcotics official said.

Juan Manuel Garcia Hernandez organized and supervised overland shipments of cocaine from Colombia to Mexico, Commissioner Mauricio Boraschi told a press conference in San Jose.

"It's quite an important operation at the regional level," he said. "Garcia was sought by the DEA (U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration) and seven countries, but only Costa Rica has managed to amass evidence against him."

"Garcia Hernandez traveled alone constantly in Central America. He was a very slippery, low profile subject, with very advanced techniques of surveillance and counter-surveillance. He didn't attract attention and he didn't stay very long in one place," Boraschi said.

The investigation began in 2010 after Costa Rican authorities intercepted several truckloads of cocaine.




Colombian soldiers caught carrying hundreds of kilos of cocaine


An officer, a non-commissioned officer and three enlisted men were arrested along with four civilians when they were stopped at a checkpoint on a highway in northwestern Colombia while transporting 603 kilos of cocaine, the army's 4th Brigade said.

The arrests and seizure were made thanks to "intelligence and counterintelligence work" on the highway that links Medellin, the capital of the northwestern province of Antioquia, to the port city of Turbo, the army said.




Chilean cops break up march to demand higher minimum wage


Police used tear gas and water cannon here to break up an unauthorized march by workers demanding an increase in Chile's monthly minimum wage from the equivalent of $364 to $500.

Some 500 members of the CUT, the country's largest labor federation, gathered in Santiago's Heroes Square and set out for the presidential palace.

The marchers advanced less than a block before they were confronted by police in full riot gear, including some on horseback, who blocked the protesters' path before deploying tear gas and water cannon to disperse the crowd.




Cuba's Raul Castro secures cooperation commitments in China


Talks here between Chinese President Hu Jintao and Cuba's Raul Castro ended with the signing of eight accords, including one on a loan to finance improvements to health infrastructure on the Caribbean island.

The loan, the amount of which was not made public, was signed by the general director of the National Bank of Cuba, Juliana Maritza Martinez, and China Development Bank chief Chen Yuan after the meeting the two leaders held in the Great Hall of the People.

In addition, Cuban Vice President Ricardo Cabrisas and Chinese Trade Minister Chen Deming signed two economic and technical cooperation agreements that include donations and interest-free loans, but the amounts covered in these accords were not made public either.