- - Monday, October 10, 2011

MEXICO

Hurricane Jova to hit Mexico’s Pacific coast

PUERTO VALLARTA — Hurricane Jova strengthened to a major, Category 3 hurricane Monday as it blew toward Mexico’s Pacific coast, threatening the idyllic beach resort of Barra de Navidad and one of the nation’s biggest cargo ports.

Jova’s maximum sustained winds built to near 125 mph by Monday morning, and the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said it could reach Category 4 strength, with winds greater than 131 mph, on Tuesday before hitting land.

The forecast track would carry its center near Barra de Navidad, south of the larger resort of Puerto Vallarta, late Tuesday.

CHILE

Students reject restarting negotiations

SANTIAGO — Chilean student groups that have been protesting more than five months to demand that the government improve education have refused the president’s request to resume negotiations and say they won’t go back to class.

A confederation of 36 student groups at Chile’s 25 state universities made the decision during a meeting Sunday.

President Sebastian Pinera had urged the groups to restart talks that the students broke off last week and to resume their studies.

Striking students are demanding that the government provide free public education for all students, not just the poorest.

They also want state subsidies for private colleges reduced and the government to improve the quality of education.

PARAGUAY

Early returns support giving expats the vote

ASUNCION — A proposal to allow Paraguayans living abroad to vote in elections at home won overwhelming support Sunday after most ballots were counted from a lightly attended national referendum.

Electoral officials said the measure was supported by nearly 78 percent of the ballots counted, with the rest opposed. They said more than 90 percent of the nation’s 5,309 polling stations had reported.

The electoral agency estimated only about 10 percent of the South American country’s 3 million eligible voters cast ballots Sunday.

Paraguay’s Congress also will have to approve the plan for it to take effect. The proposal was supported by President Fernando Lugo.

Paraguay saw an estimated 1.5 million citizens flee during a 1954-89 dictatorship, and the outflow has remained strong under democracy because of economic reasons.

MEXICO

City’s police force held for investigation

MONTERREY — The entire police force of the northern Mexico city of Linares is being held for investigation of possible corruption and ties to organized crime.

Mexican soldiers and Nuevo Leon state police are patrolling instead.

The detention of more than 100 officers comes after a rise in kidnapping and extortion in the area. A series of investigations in other towns already has put hundreds of officers in custody.

Linares Mayor Francisco Medina Quintanilla told Milenio Television on Sunday that his city’s police officers were put on buses and driven to another town.

They will be held there by state investigators while they are investigated.

Linares is about 75 miles southeast of the northern industrial city of Monterrey.

CUBA

Official: Cuba won’t free Gross unilaterally

MEXICO CITY — The United States should not expect Cuba to make a unilateral humanitarian gesture to release an imprisoned American government contractor, a senior Cuban official said Sunday.

Cuban Parliament President Ricardo Alarcon told the Associated Press in an interview that to expect such a gesture on behalf of Alan Gross “would not be reasonable.”

Mr. Gross was sentenced to 15 years in prison in March for crimes against the Cuban state. He was arrested in December 2009 after getting caught illegally bringing communications equipment onto the island while on a USAID-funded democracy-building program.

Cuba’s Supreme Court upheld Mr. Gross’ sentence in August, and U.S. efforts turned to winning his release on humanitarian grounds.

Both his elderly mother and adult daughter are battling cancer, and his family has suffered financial hardship since his arrest, says his wife, Judy Gross.

During a visit to Mexico, Mr. Alarcon said the U.S. government “should get a good armchair and sit down to wait” if it is hoping for a humanitarian release.

“To expect a unilateral gesture wouldn’t be reasonable,” Mr. Alarcon said.

He also had harsh words for former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who visited Cuba in early September to negotiate Mr. Gross’ release.

Cuban officials rebuffed his efforts, and Mr. Richardson went home without seeing Mr. Gross.

Mr. Alarcon said Mr. Richardson went to Cuba on a private trip and not as part of a U.S. mission. Mr. Richardson’s trip “was like doing amateur diplomacy, and that doesn’t exist, that’s Bill’s invention,” Mr. Alarcon said.

Mr. Richardson has said he was invited to the island by Cuban officials to negotiate Mr. Gross’ release.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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