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Briefly: Americas

- - Monday, December 26, 2011

MEXICO

Army: Ally's arrest is blow to 'El Chapo'

MEXICO CITY — The Mexican army has announced that it had captured the head of security for Sinaloa drug cartel head Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, one of the world's most wanted men.

Felipe Cabrera Sarabia, whose nickname is "the Engineer," was captured in the Sinaloa state capital of Culiacan and was presented to the media Monday morning.

Guzman, Mexico's top drug lord, is one of the world's richest men. He has eluded authorities by moving around and hiding since his 2001 escape from prison in a laundry truck.

The army said Mr. Sarabia also ran cartel activities in Durango and southern Chihuahua state, and was responsible for carrying out secret burials of cartel victims, kidnapping, extortion and arson.

They did not say if the arrest moved the military closer to capturing Guzman, an arrest that would be seen as a major victory for the government of President Felipe Calderon.

Guzman is worth more than $1 billion, according to Forbes magazine, which has listed him among the "World's Most Powerful People." He has a $7 million bounty on his head, and thousands of law enforcement agents from the U.S. and other countries are working on capturing him.

His cartel controls cocaine trafficking on the Mexican border with California and has moved eastward to the corridor between the Mexican state of Sonora, which borders Arizona.

Separately, Mexican soldiers discovered 13 bodies in an abandoned truck Sunday along with a message that they were killed in a war between rival drug cartels in the eastern state of Veracruz, officials said.

The bodies were found in Tamaulipas state, a few hundred yards from its border with Veracruz, according to the Tamaulipas attorney general's office.

The area has been the scene of bloody battles between the Gulf and Zetas cartels, and a pair of banners alluding to a rivalry were found in the truck, the statement from the attorney general's office said.

CANADA

Premier: Canada concerned about Egypt's future

OTTAWA — Canada is concerned that forces worse than deposed strongman Hosni Mubarak could rise to power in a newly democratic Egypt, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in an interview.

"There are obviously forces who want democracy and progressive change [in Egypt], but there are clearly some forces that would want something that's probably worse than what we had before," Mr. Harper said in a taped interview with CTV News aired Monday.

"So we've always been a little bit hesitant on Egypt."

Mr. Harper was not specific about which forces concerned him.

But liberals have warned about the rise of groups that advocate a fundamentalist interpretation of Islam that could lead to a more conservative and overtly religious new parliament.

Liberals and Islamists also have united to condemn the military's handling of the transition to democracy that lead deadly clashes.

Mr. Mubarak is facing a murder trial before an Egyptian court and may get the death sentence if found complicit in the killings of some 850 people who died during 18 days of protest that ousted him from power in February.

Mr. Harper said he has spoken to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about Israel's security amid the sweeping changes shaping its ally and neighbor.

ARGENTINA

'Dirty war' suspect arrives to face charges

BUENOS AIRES — An Argentine ex-military officer extradited from Bolivia on Sunday was "very much sought after" in connection with torture and other crimes committed during the dictatorship from 1976 to 1983, an official said.

Luis Enrique Baraldini, linked to crimes committed during his country's "dirty war" in the 1970s and 1980s, was to face justice in Argentina after being arrested in Bolivia, said Argentine Security Minister Nilda Garre.

Baraldini has been "very much sought after as a longtime fugitive ... for personally torturing people, according to witness accounts," Ms. Garre told a news conference after Baraldini was handed over.

The former soldier is accused of human rights violations committed in Argentina's La Pampa province, where he served as chief of police during the military dictatorship.

Ms. Garre also said that Baraldini "actively participated in the training of Bolivian army officers" under Operation Condor, a coordination effort by military rulers in South America at the time.

Baraldini was arrested in Bolivia's economic capital of Santa Cruz, where he allegedly lived under a false name for half a dozen years.

Argentina had offered a reward of some $23,000 for information leading to his arrest.

Argentina's Justice Ministry linked him to human rights abuses committed by former Gen. Guillermo Suarez Mason, accused of ordering the killing of thousands of dissidents.

Bolivian officials said they located Baraldini by tracking his wife, who traveled from Argentina to spend Christmas with him.

Argentine prosecutor Marta Odasso said officials learned about the wife's visit from Interpol.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports