Briefly: Strong aftershock felt in Mexico City

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MEXICO CITY — Mexico was shaken Monday afternoon by a strong apparent aftershock from a powerful earthquake late last month.

Office towers rocked back and forth for several seconds in the center of Mexico City on Monday afternoon and workers evacuated their buildings and gathered in the street.

Mexico City Mayor Marcelo Ebrard said via Twitter that no major damage had been reported by a helicopter overflight of the city.

The U.S. Geological Survey reports a preliminary magnitude of 6.3. The epicenter was in southern Mexico near the border of Guerrero and Oaxaca states, very close to the epicenter of a strong quake nearly two weeks ago.

At least two people died as a result of that quake and hundreds of homes were damaged near its epicenter.

The quake was one of the strongest in Mexico since an 8.1-magnitude temblor killed an estimated 10,000 people in Mexico City in 1985.

Mexico has been shaken by a series of strong aftershocks since the March 20 quake.

NICARAGUA

Businessman charged with drug trafficking

MANAGUA — A businessman who was the apparent target of an attack that claimed the life of Argentine folk singer Facundo Cabral last year is being charged with drug trafficking.

Henry Farinas and six others are accused of trafficking, money laundering and ties to organized crime, said police spokesman Fernando Borge.

Mr. Farinas was believed to be the intended target of last year’s ambush in Guatemala that killed Cabral. The businessman was driving the folk singer to the airport when their car was ambushed by gunmen. Mr. Farinas survived.

Mr. Borge said the accusations against Mr. Farinas were presented to a judge by a special prosecutor from the anti-corruption unit. Among the six others accused is Mr. Farinas‘ brother, Joaquin Farinas Fonseca, and a man identified as American Gerald James Shackelford.

Three of the suspects - the Farinas brothers and a nightclub manager - are in detention while the others are still being sought, Mr. Borge said. Henry Farinas was detained Thursday.

CUBA

Good Friday a holiday again after pope’s visit

HAVANA — Cuba has honored an appeal by Pope Benedict XVI and declared this week’s Good Friday a holiday for the first time since the early days following the island’s 1959 revolution, though a decision on whether the move will be permanent will have to wait.

The communist government said in a communique Saturday that the decision was made in light of the success of Benedict’s “transcendental visit” to the country, which wrapped up Wednesday. It said the Council of Ministers, Cuba’s supreme governing body, will decide later whether to make the holiday permanent.

Benedict’s appeal was reminiscent of his predecessor John Paul II’s 1998 request that Christmas be restored as a holiday. Religious holidays were abolished in the 1960s after brothers Fidel and Raul Castro came to power, ushering in a Marxist government.

COLOMBIA

Helicopter departs to retrieve captives

VILLAVICENCIO — A helicopter took off Monday to pick up the first of a group of hostages to be released by leftist Colombian guerrillas.

The Brazilian air force Cougar helicopter left the Villavicencio airport some 70 miles south of Bogota for an undisclosed jungle location as part of the planned release.

The mission, delayed more than two hours because of bad weather, included members of the International Committee of the Red Cross and mediator Piedad Cordoba of Colombians for Peace.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia had announced it would free 10 military hostages held in the jungle for at least 12 years in two stages Monday and Wednesday.

Two Brazilian Air Force helicopters arrived Sunday in the city of Villavicencio for the mission.

The Cougar aircraft, on loan by neighboring Brazil, flew in members of a humanitarian commission that is to meet the hostages upon their release.

CANADA

Lebanon frees farmer who sold bad potatoes

TORONTO — A government official says a Canadian farmer has been released from a Lebanese jail after being held for a year on allegations he exported rotten potatoes to Algeria.

Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Diane Ablonczy confirmed over the weekend that the farmer, Henk Tepper, was released from a Beirut jail.

Mr. Tepper, of Drummond, New Brunswick, had been in custody in Beirut since March 23, 2011, on an international arrest warrant from Interpol on allegations he exported rotten potatoes to Algeria in 2007 and forged export documents.

Since his arrest in Beirut, Mr. Tepper has been in a legal limbo because Lebanon has no extradition treaty with Algeria.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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