- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 22, 2008

MEXICO

Criminal penalties lifted for illegals

MEXICO CITY | Mexico will no longer jail illegal immigrants detained within its borders.

A measure that takes effect Tuesday eliminates jail times for illegal immigrants caught in Mexico. Most are crossing the country from Central America en route to the U.S.

Undocumented immigration will now be considered a minor offense, punishable by fines equal to $500 to $2,400. Illegal immigrants previously faced up to 10 years in prison, though most were simply deported.

Mexican legislators who backed the revision say Mexico’s previous penalties complicated efforts to lobby for better treatment of Mexican immigrants in the U.S.

Activists want more to be done to protect migrants in Mexico, where many are robbed and abused on their way north.

BOLIVIA

President’s helicopter crashes

LA PAZ | A Venezuelan military helicopter often used to transport Bolivian President Evo Morales crashed in central Bolivia, but Mr. Morales was not aboard and is safe, Bolivia’s Defense Minister Walker San Miguel said Monday. Five crew members were reported killed.

Mr. Morales had used the Super Puma helicopter Saturday and was scheduled to fly in it again Monday, Mr. San Miguel said. He said those killed were “people linked to presidential transport.”

The cause of the accident has not yet been determined.

Mr. Morales visited a part of Bolivia’s Amazon region Monday and asked for a moment of silence for the crew that originally had been scheduled to fly him there. He said he felt “great pain” at their loss and expressed condolences to the Venezuelan government.

Mr. Morales uses two Super Puma helicopters lent by the government of leftist ally Venezuela for his travel within Bolivia.

VENEZUELA

Ex-defense minister says he was shot at

CARACAS | A former Venezuelan defense minister who has become a prominent critic of President Hugo Chavez says he was attacked by unidentified gunmen but escaped unscathed.

Gen. Raul Isaias Baduel says gunmen shot at him from a sport utility vehicle Monday, when he was driving with his son near Venezuela’s capital.

Gen. Baduel left the military last year and led opposition to constitutional reforms that would have let Mr. Chavez run for re-election indefinitely. Voters rejected the reforms in December.

Venezuela’s military is investigating Gen. Baduel for purported corruption during his tenure as defense minister. Gen. Baduel calls it a case of political retaliation.

COLOMBIA

Military accord signed with Brazil

BOGOTA | Colombia’s U.S.-backed president entered into a defense pact with the left-of-center government of Brazil on Saturday, marking a step in regional cooperation aimed at fighting cocaine-funded Marxist rebels.

Conservative President Alvaro Uribe announced the deal in Bogota during a visit by Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

The accord stands in stark contrast with Colombia’s diplomatic wrangling with the leftist governments of its other neighbors, Ecuador and Venezuela.

Mr. Uribe said Colombia will join the agreement only after receiving assurances that Marxist rebels fighting a 44-year-old insurgency in the country will never be allowed to join the pact, although other governments may participate in the future.

Colombia’s relations with Ecuador and Venezuela have been troubled over the issue of security. Mr. Uribe accuses them of not doing enough to help Colombia fight the rebels while Ecuador and Venezuela have portrayed Mr. Uribe as a pawn of the United States.

BRAZIL

Actress Goncalves dies at 101

SAO PAULO | Brazilian actress and comedienne Dercy Goncalves, known for her vulgar wit and scandalous behavior, has died. She was 101.

Rio de Janeiro’s Hospital Sao Lucas says Miss Goncalves died Saturday of respiratory problems after being hospitalized the same day with pneumonia.

Miss Goncalves was known for speaking her mind, often peppering her conversation with obscenities. In 1991, she shocked Brazil by parading topless on a Carnival float. She was 84 at the time.

Miss Goncalves kept working late in life and made several TV appearances after turning 100.

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on Sunday said all Brazilians will miss her “irreverence and strength.”

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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