Dems tap Latino San Antonio mayor to give keynote speech at party convention

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Democrats have entrusted the weighty task of opening their party convention next month to the Mexican-American mayor of San Antonio, Julian Castro, a choice that shows that the road to the White House passes through the Hispanic vote.

Castro will give the keynote address on the evening of Sept. 4, kicking off the convention where President Barack Obama will accept his party's nomination for reelection in November.

It will be the first time in the history of the Democratic Party that a Latino leader has spoken in prime time at the national convention.

Castro, the mayor of the country's seventh largest city, will occupy the same place in the national political arena as Obama in 2004, when he was a candidate for the U.S. Senate.

The selection of Castro, experts say, points to the growing influence of Hispanics, who constitute the largest U.S. minority and who have steadily increased their numbers and percentage representation at all levels of government.

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Cuban dissident released after 36 hours under arrest

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Former political prisoner Jose Daniel Ferrer was released after being held in a police station for 36 hours in Cuba's eastern province of Holguin, he told Efe, suggesting the detention was aimed at disrupting his planned visit to Havana.

Ferrer said by telephone from his home in the eastern province of Santiago de Cuba that during his arrest "nobody ever told me a reason. The authorities told me that they were following orders without asking why."

"Since February they have made it clear to me that they don't want me in the capital and that they were going to prevent me from doing that," the dissident said.

The opposition figure said that he had intended to travel to Havana "because we were trying to coordinate a campaign for the citizen's 'Por otra Cuba' (For another Cuba) initiative."

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Spaniard held in Cuba after deadly crash hires a lawyer

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The family of the visiting Spaniard who was behind the wheel for the car crash that killed prominent Cuban dissident Oswaldo Paya has hired a Havana-based attorney to represent him, Spanish diplomats told Efe here.

Angel Carromero's family retained an attorney from a firm that specializes in representing foreign companies and individuals before the Cuban courts.

The priority at this stage is for the lawyer to be able to see Carromero as soon as possible in the jail where he is being held and to file a habeas corpus motion to get him released, Spanish Consul-General Tomas Rodriguez-Pantoja said.

Carromero, who heads a youth group in Spain's governing Popular Party, is being held on a potential charge of manslaughter for the July 22 accident in which Paya and his colleague Harold Cepero died.

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Top Mexican gen'l to be indicted for racketeering

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Retired Gen. Tomas Angeles Dauahare and five other high-ranking Mexican military officers are to be arraigned this week on drug and racketeering charges.

The exact nature of the accusations remains unclear, the general's lawyer, Ricardo Sanchez Reyes, told MVS radio on Wednesday.

Dauahare, a former deputy defense secretary, and the other officers were taken before dawn Wednesday to a maximum-security prison in the central state of Mexico.

A judge in the same state issued warrants for Dauahare, retired Maj. Gen. Ricardo Escorcia Vargas, Brig. Gen. Roberto Dawe Gonzalez and retired Lt. Col. Silvio Isidro de Jesus Hernandez Soto, the federal Attorney General's Office said Tuesday.

The four men have been in custody in the capital since May on suspicion of involvement in organized crime.

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10.5 Mn birds face flu threat in Mexico

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Some 10.5 million birds in the western Mexican state of Jalisco are at risk of contracting avian influenza and 6 million others have been destroyed to stop the spread of the virus, officials said.

The avian flu virus has been detected at just 41 of the 376 farms inspected in Jalisco, leaving "335 farms free of the virus," National Food Health, Safety and Quality Service, or Senasica, director Enrique Sanchez Cruz said.

A total of 299 poultry farms in 15 other states were also inspected and the H7N3 virus was not detected at any of them, Sanchez Cruz said.

"The scientific evidence points to the disease being contained in the region where it was detected last month," Sanchez Cruz said.

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Marines kill 6 in shootouts in eastern Mexico

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Marines killed six suspected criminals in two shootouts in Xalapa, the capital of the Mexican Gulf state of Veracruz, the Navy Secretariat said.

Five other people were arrested following the shootouts on Tuesday and marines seized three vehicles, seven rifles, a handgun, 900 rounds of ammunition and four grenades, the secretariat said.

Marines and Veracruz state police dismantled a suspected Los Zetas drug cartel cell, the secretariat said.

The shootout occurred near the limits between Xalapa and the city of San Andres Tlalnelhuayocan.

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Robbery attempt leaves 5 police officers dead in Mexico

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All five people killed in the attempted robbery of a vehicle used to transport money for a social welfare program in the Mexican Gulf coast state of Veracruz were police officers, officials said.

Initial reports said four police officers and a civil servant had been fatally shot in a remote rural area by assailants.

The five police officers were killed, but the gunmen came away empty-handed because the vehicle was on a return trip after the funds had been delivered.

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EFE