Colombian gov't, rebels open peace talks in Cuba


The Colombian government and the FARC guerrillas launched the second phase of their peace talks here with a negotiating session that will start with a discussion of the concentration of land ownership in the Andean nation.

The start of the meeting was preceded by the announcement by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, of a unilateral cease fire lasting from Nov. 20 until Jan. 20, 2013.

One of the members of the rebel delegation was carrying a life-size cardboard silhouette of Juvenal Ovidio Ricardo Palmera, alias "Simon Trinidad," another of the negotiators designated by the FARC but who is in prison in the United States.

Cuba and Norway are acting as guarantors of the dialogue, and Chile and Venezuela are support countries.




2 More Tibetans set themselves ablaze to protest China's rule


The weekend deaths of two people in the northwestern Chinese province of Qinghai raises to 14 the number of self-immolations by Tibetans over the past 12 days, the exile news agency Phayul said.

Buddhist monk Sangdag Tsering, 24, burned himself to death in Dokar Mo hours after a female taxi-driver, Chagmo Kyi, died in the city of Rongwo by immolating herself at the doors of a government building.

Chinese authorities barred Tibetans from visiting the victims' families to stop them from offering condolences, and at the same time closed several monasteries.

The news agency said that thousands of citizens gathered at the place where Sangdag set himself ablaze in order to carry his body to a nearby monastery.




13 People gunned down in Brazil


The wave of violence in Sao Paulo claimed the lives of 13 more people between Sunday night and the early hours of Monday, Brazilian police said.

The latest killings raised the death toll from the weekend's violence to at least 23, with 12 of the murders committed by gunmen traveling on motorcycles or in automobiles.

The wave of violence that started last month in Brazil's largest city has left about 300 people dead, unofficial tallies show.

Officials have not released complete murder figures for the urban violence.




Obama hails Myanmar's transition to democracy


U.S. President Barack Obama praised in Yangon the transition to democracy that began in Myanmar with the dissolution of the military regime 20 months ago.

Obama, the first U.S. head of state to visit the nation formerly known as Burma, met with President Thein Sein, considered the architect of the reforms, and also with Aung San Suu Kyi, Nobel Peace laureate and leader of the democratic movement.

"(O)ur goal is to sustain the momentum for democratization," Obama said after meeting with Suu Kyi at her Yangon residence, where she remained for almost 15 years under house arrest.




Leader of Mexican left launches new party


The dominant figure on the Mexican left for a decade, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, said here that the new party he plans to launch will aim to become the "moral benchmark" for politics in the Aztec nation.

Lopez Obrador, who barely lost the 2006 presidential election and attributed his second-place finish in this year's vote to corrupt machinations by the victorious PRI, spoke at the opening of a congress of his National Regeneration Movement, or Morena.

Founded almost two years ago as the former Mexico City mayor geared up for his second presidential bid, Morena is now in the process of applying for formal registration as a political party, which would make the organization eligible for government funding.

Though he was one of PRI renegades who established the nominally leftist PRD in the late 1980s, Lopez Obrador quit the party in September.

The current PRD leadership is significantly to the right of the 59-year-old Lopez Obrador.




U.S. archdiocese sends aid to Cuba for Sandy victims


The Catholic Archdiocese of Miami sent to Cuba a shipment of more than 4 tons of provisions for the victims of Hurricane Sandy.

Archbishop Thomas Wenski told a press conference that the aid included powdered milk, rice, grains, canned tuna and sausages, and was flown to Cuba in a plane provided by the Miami Air Cargo company.

More than 100,000 homes and some 13 churches were damaged by Sandy's violent winds, which left 11 people dead on the Caribbean island, the prelate said.




Inmates at Guatemalan prison take 8 guards hostage


Rebellious inmates at a maximum-security prison in Guatemala took eight guards hostage and threatened to kill them if their demands for better food and more family visits are not met.

Most of the inmates involved in the uprising at Fraijanes II prison, located on the outskirts of the capital, are members of youth gangs.

Interior Minister Mauricio Lopez Bonilla is leading negotiations with the hostage-holders.

The mutiny broke out early Monday and the guards taken captive "are well," prison service spokesman Rudy Esquivel told reporters as riot police and soldiers surrounded Fraijanes II to prevent escapes and prepare for a possible intervention.




World court rules for Colombia in dispute over Caribbean isles


The International Court of Justice ruled that seven Caribbean islets belong to Colombia, ending a three-decade-long dispute between the Andean nation and Nicaragua.

"Colombia and not Nicaragua has sovereignty over the keys Albuquerque, Este Sudeste, Roncador, Serrana, Quitasueño, Serranilla and Bajonuevo," Court President Peter Tomka said as he read the verdict.

The ICJ had earlier confirmed Bogota's claim to the larger islands of San Andres, Providencia and Santa Catalina, part of an archipelago that lies 775 kilometers (480 miles) from mainland Colombia and 220 kilometers (140 miles) from the coast of Nicaragua.

While giving the islets to Colombia, Monday's decision also significantly expanded the waters under Nicaraguan control.

The ruling, which is not subject to appeal, allows Managua to claim an area extending outward 200 nautical miles from its Caribbean coast, with the exception of the waters immediately surrounding San Andres, Providencia and Santa Catalina.