- - Monday, December 10, 2012

CARACAS — President Hugo Chavez flew to Cuba on Monday for a third cancer operation after designating the vice president as his political heir.

State television showed images of Mr. Chavez hugging Vice President Nicolas Maduro and other aides before boarding the presidential jet.

Mr. Chavez raised a fist as he climbed the stairs alone. From the doorway of the plane, he waved and shouted “Long live our homeland!”

The president has said he will undergo cancer surgery in Havana in the coming days.

Mr. Chavez, who had returned from Cuba early Friday, said on television Saturday that tests had found a return of “some malignant cells” in the same area where tumors were previously removed.

He also said for the first time that if he suffers complications, Mr. Maduro should be elected as Venezuela’s leader to continue his socialist movement.

State television reported that Mr. Chavez departed for Cuba after 1 a.m. Monday. Video of his departure was shown hours later.


President eyes vote if court reject reforms

TEGUCIGALPA — President Porfirio Lobo says he will seek a referendum for police reform if the Supreme Court fails to back his plan.

The Supreme Court is expected to rule this week on the constitutionality of Mr. Lobo’s proposal to clean up Honduras’ notoriously corrupt national police.

Mr. Lobo says he will not let the plan’s opponents “take democracy from the people.”

He stepped up his rhetoric over the weekend against judges and businessmen he says are being led by publishing magnate Jorge Canahuati in a conspiracy against him, similar to the 2009 coup that removed his predecessor, Manuel Zelaya.

Mr. Lobo said Mr. Canahuati, who publishes Honduras’ two largest newspapers, is colluding with the judges.

Mr. Canahuati calls Mr. Lobo’s statements “reckless” and denies involvement in any conspiracy.


Mutilated bodies found in vehicles near border

MEXICO CITY — Police have found the mutilated bodies of 13 people inside two vehicles abandoned in separate towns of the northern border state of Tamaulipas.

Authorities first found the cut-up bodies of two women and three men late Thursday in a potato chip delivery truck abandoned in the parking lot of a supermarket in the town of El Mante, a Tamaulipas state official said.

The official said police also found a threatening message signed by the Gulf drug cartel.

An hour later, police found eight bodies in the town of Soto la Marina along with a message claiming the victims were members of the Gulf cartel.

Northeastern Mexico along the border with Texas has been a war zone of shootouts and gruesome mass killings, as the Zetas and Gulf drug cartels battle each other in the states of Coahuila, Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas.

The region is home to cattle ranches, sorghum fields and the industrial city of Monterrey. The Zetas were hit men for the Gulf cartel until they split in 2010, unleashing their bloody war.


Smugglers bring Gypsies through U.S. and Mexico

STANSTEAD, Quebec — Canadian immigration officials believe a Romanian smuggling ring has been bringing Gypsies into the United States through Mexico to eventually try for asylum in Canada.

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney says that 85 people who arrived in Canada over the past few months have now been classified as “irregular arrivals” and says 40 of them have been arrested under new immigration laws that allow for the mandatory detention of those suspected to have arrived in Canada via smugglers.

Irregular arrival means they cannot apply for permanent residence status for at least five years.

In recent months, cars loaded with ethnic Gypsy asylum seekers have run the border between Vermont and Quebec.


Islands angered by U.S. stand against online gambling

KINGSTON, JAMAICA — The twin-islands nation of Antigua and Barbuda will pursue trade sanctions against the United States as a result of its online betting ban.

Finance Minister Harold Lovell said Sunday that the Caribbean country has had its “back pushed right up against the wall.” He says it intends to pursue $21 million in annual sanctions on U.S. goods unless a last-minute settlement is reached.

Antigua and Barbuda’s access to the U.S. gambling market was effectively blocked by a 2006 U.S. law barring banks and credit card companies from processing payments to online gambling sites outside the country.

In 2007, the World Trade Organization awarded Antigua and Barbuda the right to target U.S. services, copyrights and trademarks. The ruling capped the annual trade sanctions at $21 million per year.


Treasury secretary expects less growth in 2013

MEXICO CITY — Mexican Treasury Secretary Luis Videgaray estimates the country’s economy will increase 3.5 percent next year, slightly less than the almost 4 percent growth in 2012.

He expects inflation to run at 3 percent.

Mr. Videgaray last week presented Congress with a balanced-budget plan for 2013. Lawmakers are expected to approve the budget by the end of this month.

Oil revenues finance about 30 percent of the federal government’s budget. The treasury secretary projects next year’s price for a barrel of oil at $84.90 and pegs output at 2.55 million barrels a day.

Mr. Videgaray said the budget includes more social spending, one of President Enrique Pena Nieto’s campaign promises.

Mr. Pena Nieto took office Dec. 1 and promised to raise pensions for the elderly and spend more on infrastructure.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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