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Briefly: Americas

- - Monday, February 13, 2012

VENEZUELA

Capriles wins primary, faces Chavez in election

CARACAS — Henrique Capriles, a youthful state governor, won Venezuela's first opposition presidential primary Sunday by a wide margin, emerging as the single candidate who will try to end President Hugo Chavez's 13 years in power.

Mr. Capriles, the 39-year-old governor of Miranda state who describes himself as a center-left progressive, faces a tough task in ousting Mr. Chavez, a charismatic campaigner with a loyal following and the full powers of the state to back his candidacy in Oct. 7 elections.

Opposition election chief Teresa Albanes announced the preliminary results, saying Mr. Capriles won about 62 percent of the vote, beating Zulia state Gov. Pablo Perez by more than 30 percentage points.

Mr. Chavez's opponents lined up to vote in many areas, surpassing most expectations with a turnout of about 2.9 million ballots cast out of Venezuela's 18 million registered voters.

Mr. Capriles had been the front-runner in pre-election polls among five contenders, presenting a younger, energetic alternative to the 57-year-old Mr. Chavez, who has recently battled cancer.

Thousands of supporters celebrated the win outside Mr. Capriles' campaign headquarters, some holding small flags bearing the slogan "There is a way." Fireworks exploded in the sky overhead.

"I aim to be the president of all Venezuelans," he told the crowd, wearing a baseball cap emblazoned with the yellow, blue and red of Venezuela's flag.

"It isn't the time of lifts or rights. It's the time of all Venezuelans."

His four defeated rivals promptly united behind Mr. Capriles and joined him on the outdoor stage. Standing side-by-side, they grasped hands and raised them.

"In union there's strength," Mr. Capriles shouted.

PERU

Troops capture leader of Shining Path rebels

LIMA — Peruvian troops captured the wounded leader of a remnant of the once-powerful Shining Path rebel group, effectively dismantling a well-armed outlaw band that lived off the cocaine trade, President Ollanta Humala said over the weekend.

Mr. Humala, a former army lieutenant colonel, flew to the remote coca-growing Upper Huallaga Valley of central Peru to congratulate the police and soldiers who had snared the 50-year-old rebel, Comrade Artemio, and two of his confederates Sunday.

Artemio, whose given name is Florindo "Jose" Flores, was later flown to Lima where doctors at a police hospital operated on him to remove two bullets from his torso, said Raul Sanchez, spokesman for the chief prosecutor's office. Artemio also had shrapnel wounds in both hands, he said.

Analysts consider Artemio's capture a crippling blow to a roughly 150-strong band that represented about half of what remains of the Shining Path, which killed thousands during the 1980s and 1990s.

BRAZIL

Plane makes forced landing after passenger attacks pilot

SAO PAULO — A Brazilian airliner safely made a forced landing over the weekend after a passenger had a "psychotic attack," entered the cockpit and assaulted a pilot, crew members and passengers who tried to subdue him, witnesses said.

The TAM Airlines jet was en route from Montevideo, Uruguay, to Sao Paulo when a man got into the cockpit because the door was open. Shortly after, the plane dived to the right, causing passengers to scream and the pilot to yell for help over the speaker system.

The jet safely landed at the Porto Alegre airport in southern Brazil about 20 minutes later with the man subdued in the rear of the plane, a police spokesman said Sunday. Police took the suspect to a mental care facility.

COSTA RICA

Earthquake hits coastal, central regions

MEXICO CITY — The U.S. Geological Survey said a magnitude 5.8 earthquake shook the central and Pacific coastal regions of Costa Rica early Monday morning. There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage.

The geological survey said the quake, which hit at about 6 a.m., was felt moderately in central and western parts of the Central American country.

The epicenter was 46 miles south of the capital of San Jose at a depth of 17 miles.

From wire dispatches and staff reports