Church announces release of prisoners
HAVANA | The Roman Catholic Church on Monday announced the names of three more Cuban political prisoners who will be released from jail as the government rapidly makes good on a promise to free 52 dissidents arrested in a 2003 sweep.
The three men, Horacio Julio Pina Borrego, Fidel Suarez Cruz and Alfredo Felipe Fuentes, will be released in the coming days.
Like the 36 let go before them, the men have all agreed to be sent to Spain, Cuban church official Orlando Marquez said in a statement Monday.
The men were among a group of 75 activists and opposition leaders rounded up in a 2003 crackdown on dissent and sentenced to long jail terms. Mr. Fuentes was serving a 26-year sentence, while Mr. Borrego and Mr. Suarez had each received 20-year jail terms.
In July, Cuba’s government agreed to release, over a period of three or four months, all 52 of those arrested in 2003 who remained in jail. About halfway through that process, just 13 remain behind bars.
Opposition senator kicked out of Congress
BOGOTA | Colombia’s inspector general ousted an outspoken opposition senator Monday, barring her from public service for 18 years for purportedly “promoting and collaborating” with Latin America’s last remaining rebel army.
Sen. Piedad Cordoba gained international notice by brokering the release of more than a dozen hostages held by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.
A flamboyant Afro-Colombian known for her trademark turban, Mrs. Cordoba has been a polarizing force in domestic politics and is a close ally of Venezuela’s leftist president, Hugo Chavez.
Mrs. Cordoba, 55, has not been charged with any crime.
But Inspector General Alejandro Ordonez is constitutionally empowered to dismiss her — and any other member of Congress — by virtue of his jurisdiction over nearly all public servants save the president and top judges.
Mrs. Cordoba has been in the Senate since 1994 and last year was mentioned as a possible Nobel Peace Prize candidate.
Coffee crops safe after storms
TEGUCIGALPA | Honduras, one of Central America’s top coffee producers, said its crops largely survived the weekend’s heavy rains from Tropical Storm Matthew, but damaged roads could slow the harvest next month.
Because the crop losses were not expected to be significant in volume, coffee dealers said the storm did not impact Arabica coffee futures trading on ICE Futures U.S. Monday.
Coffee prices soared to a 13-year top earlier this month, underpinned by fund buying and tight global supplies of washed Arabica beans ahead of Colombia’s and Central America’s upcoming growing seasons.
Gasoline prices rise 10 percent
HAVANA | Cuba already has increased high gasoline prices by about 10 percent amid sweeping changes to the economy, a move that could lead to grumbling among some cash-strapped islanders, particularly private taxi drivers, who are not allowed to raise their own prices.
The changes, which took effect Monday, were announced in the Communist Party newspaper Granma, which cited rising international prices for the move. It was the first time prices have risen since September 2008, when crude oil internationally sold for about a third more than it does now.
The cost of diesel fuel — used by many of the old cars that populate Cuba’s streets — rose to $4.50 a gallon, about 42 cents a gallon higher than previously. The highest-octane fuel rose even more, to $6.54 a gallon from $5.72 a gallon.
The prices approach those paid in Europe and apparently are the highest in the hemisphere, topping pump prices in Brazil and Bermuda. They are a fortune for Cubans, who make the average salary of just $20 a month.
• From wire dispatches and staff reports