- - Monday, June 21, 2010

COLOMBIA

Santos vows to press rebels

BOGOTA | Backed by a landslide victory, Colombia’s president-elect Juan Manuel Santos vowed no let up in the fight against leftist guerrillas but held out hope for better relations with neighboring Venezuela and Ecuador.

The conservative former defense minister swept to victory late Sunday with 69 percent of the vote, crushing Green Party rival Antanas Mockus in the second round of elections to replace immensely popular President Alvaro Uribe.

Mr. Santos, 58, Mr. Uribe’s pick in the race, benefited from the broad public support for his former boss and pledged to carry on the outgoing president’s legacy of improved security and a more stable economy in a country where nearly half the population live in poverty.

“To the FARC, to the violent ones, your time is over. And Colombians know well that I know how to fight you,” he said in a victory speech.

He said he would work to perfect relations with the United States, which has poured billions of dollars into the country over the past decade to help it fight insurgents and drug trafficking cartels.

EL SALVADOR

Gang burns bus, kills 10

SAN SALVADOR | Police say gang members set a bus afire near El Salvador’s capital, killing at least 10 of the people aboard.

National Police Commissioner Carlos Ascencio said the gang members tossed gasoline on the bus full of passengers and set it afire in a gang-plagued part of the municipality of Mejicanos.

In addition to those who died, several others were severely hurt.

Commissioner Ascencio said police who reached the scene late Sunday had to break glass to free passengers from flames.

He said three people had been detained and one smelled of gasoline.

PERU

Van der Sloot refuses to talk to judge

LIMA | Murder suspect Joran van der Sloot has refused to discuss his case with the Peruvian judge assigned to it.

Judge Carlos Morales visited the 22-year-old Dutchman on Monday at Castro Castro prison in eastern Lima.

Mr. van der Sloot is charged with murder in the May 30 killing in his hotel room of a 21-year-old Lima woman he met playing poker.

He also remains the prime suspect in the 2005 disappearance in Aruba of U.S. teen Natalee Holloway.

The Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf reported Monday that Mr. van der Sloot retracted his confession to police in the killing of the Peruvian woman, Stephany Flores.

His lawyer has petitioned for the confession to be declared invalid because the defense lawyer present during it was state appointed.

COLOMBIA

Rescuers dig for dead after mine blast

BOGOTA | Colombian rescuers Monday vowed to pull out the remaining bodies from a coal mine so that distraught relatives can give them a proper burial after an explosion killed some 70 miners.

Emergency workers, clad in plastic suits and oxygen masks to withstand the stench of decaying bodies, have retrieved at least 30 bodies and believe another 40 are still in the mine, five days after one of Colombia’s worst mining disasters.

“We are working as hard as possible so they can give a proper Christian burial to all of those who lost their lives down in the mine,” said Dario Vieira, head of a rescue team struggling with gas build-ups in the mine to recover bodies.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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