Turkish gov't offers concessions to park protesters

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Redevelopment plans for Istanbul's Gezi Park will be postponed until a court rules on a challenge brought by environmentalists, the Turkish government said, also pledging to launch an investigation into police violence during more than two weeks of civil unrest.

The government sounded a conciliatory tone after an overnight meeting in Ankara with protest leaders, abruptly changing tack after issuing stark warnings to demonstrators earlier in the week.

Representatives of the Taksim Solidarity network, an umbrella group for protesters who have camped out for two weeks in Gezi Park, said they were satisfied with the meeting.

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5 Slain in southern Mexico

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Five people were fatally shot in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca, the regional Attorney General's Office said.

The killings took place Thursday night on Highway 90 in the municipality of San Pedro Totolapan. Police found around 70 shell casings from AK-47 and AR-15 assault rifles at the murder scene, the AG's office said in a statement.

Those weapons are favored by drug cartels and other organized crime outfits. Assailants in an SUV and a compact car pulled up next to the victims' vehicle and opened fire, killing five males ranging in age from 19 to 65.

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Drug traffickers blamed for massacre of cops in Guatemala

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Drug traffickers were behind the killings of eight police officers in the western province of Quetzaltenango, Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina said.

Three distinct drug outfits operate in the region and the intelligence services are "investigating which one is responsible" for Thursday night's attack on the police barracks in the town of Salcaja, the president said.

The commander of the police unit in Salcaja, Carlos Augusto Garcia, was taken captive by the assailants. His police radio was found later in a home near the barracks, investigators said.

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Brazil roiled by protests on eve of soccer tourney

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Social movements launched protests here as Brazil readied for the start of the Confederations Cup soccer tournament.

The mobilization in Brasilia was meant to highlight the amount of public money spent on the competition and the evictions of mainly low-income people the six cities that are hosting matches.

Brazil's minister of sport, Aldo Rebelo, said neither the demonstrations in Brasilia nor Thursday's disturbances in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo over a hike in transit fares will disrupt the Confederations Cup, which is seen as a dress rehearsal for the much bigger 2014 World Cup tournament in the South American nation.

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Tourists try to smuggle protected species out of Galapagos Islands

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Ecuadorian authorities arrested seven foreigners after finding a total of 1,313 processed sea cucumbers inside their luggage, the Galapagos National Park Service said Friday.

Airport X-ray scanners detected "strange packages" inside the baggage of the seven passengers boarding a flight to mainland Ecuador, the park management said in a statement.

The tourists were taken into custody and will faces charges.

The sea cucumber is a protected species included in Appendix III of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, of which Ecuador is a signatory.

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Nicaraguan lawmakers OK canal concession amid protests

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Nicaraguan lawmakers passed two bills that give a Chinese company an up to 100-year concession to build and operate an inter-oceanic canal, despite protests by opponents who called President Daniel Ortega a "traitor."

In a marathon session, Nicaragua's Sandinista-controlled unicameral legislature approved the awarding of a 50-year concession - renewable for another 50 years - to Hong Kong-based HK Nicaragua Canal Development Investment Co. Limited.

The legislation grants the company the rights to build both the waterway and supplemental works including ports, airports and roads.

The company's chairman, Wang Jing, said in a statement he was "honored to be given the opportunity to develop this transformational project that has the potential to bring tremendous, long-term economic benefits to Nicaragua, to the region, and to international shippers and consumers around the world."

EFE