Death toll rises to 29 in blast at Mexican gas plant


State-owned Petroleos Mexicanos said that 29 people perished in an explosion and subsequent fire at a gas plant in the northeastern state of Tamaulipas, three more than the company reported earlier.

Pemex employees accounted for four of the dead, while the other 25 were contractors, the state oil monopoly said in a statement.

Six people injured in the accident are being treated at the Pemex regional hospital in Tamaulipas and another worker was taken to a specialized medical facility in Mexico City.




Fast and Furious probe clears U.S. attorney general


A U.S. Justice Department investigation said that Attorney General Eric Holder did not know about Operation Fast and Furious, a federal undercover sting that allegedly allowed some 2,000 weapons to be smuggled into Mexico.

The much-awaited report documented mistakes by several officials, but found "no evidence that Attorney General Eric Holder knew of the botched effort to trace the flow of guns to Mexico's drug cartels prior to its unraveling in January 2011."

Holder said the report confirms what he and other officials in his agency had been saying for many months: that top Justice Department officials were not aware of and did not authorize the strategy behind Fast and Furious.

A U.S. congressional committee filed a civil suit last month against Holder demanding that he hand over additional documents concerning Fast and Furious.




Inmates walked out prison gate, Mexican officials say


The more than 100 inmates who escaped this week from a prison in the Mexican border city of Piedras Negras walked out through the main gate, a senior official said.

The escapees "did not leave through the tunnel," Coahuila state Public Safety Secretary Jorge Luis Moran said, contradicting his own earlier statements.

Statements from three fugitives who were recaptured Wednesday indicate the mass escape took place via the prison gate, the secretary said, adding that "there was a betrayal by (prison) personnel."

Sixteen prison employees remained in custody Wednesday on suspicion of aiding the escape.




Puerto Rico led U.S. in public corruption cases in 2011


The U.S. Attorney's Office brought 130 prosecutions for official corruption in 2011, more than any one of the country's 92 other judicial districts, according to a report from the Justice Department's Public Integrity Section.

Going back to 2002, Puerto Rico has seen 396 public corruption cases, second only to New Jersey, with 429.

"It is our obligation to prosecute corrupt conduct that reduces public trust (in government)," the U.S. attorney for Puerto Rico, Rosa Emilia Rodriguez Velez, said in a statement.

"When that trust is broken, it is the responsibility of the Department of Justice to bring those who corrupt the system before the courts," she said.




ICE suspends enforcement of 287(g) in North Carolina county


U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has suspended the 287(g) program in a North Carolina county where the sheriff's office was cited by the Justice Department for discriminatory practices against Latinos.

The decision comes with the release of the results of the two-year investigation into the actions of the office of Alamance County Sheriff Terry S. Johnson, whose deputies have made a disproportionate number of unnecessary arrests of members of the local Hispanic community with an eye toward increasing the number of deportations of undocumented immigrants.

"The Department of Homeland Security is troubled by the Department of Justice's findings of discriminatory policing practices within the Alamance County Sheriff's Office," ICE spokeswoman Barbara Gonzalez said in a statement.

"Accordingly, and effective immediately, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is terminating ACSO's 287(g) jail model agreement and is restricting their access to the Secure Communities program," she said.




1 Bolivian miner killed, 9 injured in La Paz attack


One state miner was killed and nine others were injured when their union offices came under attack during a huge march by dynamite-hurling protesters affiliated with private mining cooperatives, the Bolivian government said.

Tuesday's incident stems from a dispute over control of the Colquiri tin and zinc mine, which President Evo Morales' administration expropriated from Swiss commodities giant Glencore in June.

A man identified as Hector Choque died after being in a coma for several hours, while two other miners suffered serious - though non-life-threatening - injuries, Deputy Interior Minister Jorge Perez said in a press conference.

One of the dynamite sticks launched by the cooperative miners exploded near Choque, causing severe damage to his liver and one of his lungs.




Brazil's economy growing again, finance chief says


The Brazilian economy is accelerating after a slow first half of 2012 and will remain on a growth trajectory, the country's finance minister said in Paris.

"By 2020, Brazil will be the world's fifth-largest consumer market," Guido Mantega said at a press conference after meeting with executives from 14 French-based multinationals that have interests in the South American nation.

He said he told the business leaders that thanks to "sound fundamentals" and the absence of the budget deficits plaguing Europe and the United States, Latin America's economic giant is poised to continue growing despite global headwinds.

Brazil can afford to combine cost-cutting measures with new spending on infrastructure and has a strong domestic market that will continue to expand as more and more Brazilians enter the middle class, Mantega said.




Notorious Colombian drug lord captured in Venezuela


Daniel "El Loco" Barrera, described by Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos as the last of his country's major drug traffickers, has been captured in Venezuela.

In a radio and television address Tuesday night, Santos said the arrest was made in the western Venezuelan city of San Cristobal in a multinational operation in which the United States and Britain also provided support.

"I want to thank the Venezuelan government, President (Hugo) Chavez and his team for this great collaboration," Santos said.

He hailed the role the neighboring country played in capturing the suspect, described by intelligence agencies as Colombia's most powerful drug trafficker in the past 10 years.