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Briefly: Bolivia polls natives on jungle highway

- - Monday, July 30, 2012

OROMOMO — President Evo Morales is taking his campaign to build a highway through pristine Amazon jungle directly to the affected communities.

Officials and international observers came to Sunday's meeting in the jungle town of Oromomo.

It's one of 69 communities in the Isiboro Secure National Park and Indigenous Territory reserve that are to decide by Aug. 20 whether they want the 200-mile highway that is funded by Brazil.

Each community gets one vote. The Morales government said the project will develop the country, but Bolivia's main lowlands Indian federation says it will cause environmental damage.

It urges a boycott of the consultation, saying the process allows voting by recently arrived ranchers, coca farmers and other settlers whose connection to the land is less intense.

MEXICO

Most attacks on reporters unpunished

MEXICO CITY — Mexico's governmental human rights commission says about 70 percent of attacks on journalists go unpunished, largely because authorities fail to adequately investigate those crimes.

The commission says 82 journalists have been killed and 16 have gone missing since 2000.

In that period there have been 28 attacks on media offices or vehicles.

But suspects have been charged in only about one-fifth of the crimes, and less than 1 in 10 of the attacks have resulted in convictions for the perpetrators.

The commission expressed hope Thursday that a new law to protect journalists and human rights activists will help reduce the level of impunity.

Estimates of the number of attacks vary.

The government's special prosecutor for crimes against journalists says 67 journalists have been killed and 14 have disappeared since 2006.

Quake near Guatemala; no harm seen

MEXICO CITY — A moderately powerful earthquake shook the Mexico-Guatemala border region Sunday, but there are no reports of damage.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the 7:22 a.m. quake had a magnitude of 6.0. Mexico's seismology service calculated it at 5.7 magnitude.

The quake was just a few miles off the coast at the border, with a depth of 22 miles.

Chiapas state civil defense spokesman Jose Manuel Aragon said there were no reports of damage.

CUBA

Survivors say Paya crash was accident

HAVANA — The car crash that claimed the life of leading Cuban opposition figure Oswaldo Paya was accidental, two Europeans who were in the vehicle at the time told a news conference Monday.

Cuba's dissident community suspected another vehicle might have forced the one carrying Mr. Paya off the road, but the two surviving occupants said that no other cars were involved.

"There was no other vehicle that struck us from behind," said Angel Carromero of Spain, who was at the wheel at the time of the accident, which killed a fourth occupant in the car, in addition to Paya.

The rental car crashed in Bayamo, in eastern Cuba, on July 22, slamming into a tree.

Mr. Carromero faces charges of traffic violations resulting in death, which can carry up to 10 years in prison under Cuba's penal code.

Mr. Paya, 60, a leading opponent of the one-party rule of the Cuban Communist Party, was the 2002 recipient of the European Parliament's prestigious Sakharov prize, which is awarded for defending human rights and freedom of thought.

ECUADOR

WikiLeaks founder suffering, mom says

QUITO — The mother of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said Monday that her son's health is suffering after more than a month confined to the Ecuador Embassy in London.

Christine Assange is in Ecuador to meet with officials about her son's political asylum request. Ecuadorean officials have said they will not announce a decision until after the London Olympics end in mid-August.

The mother told an Ecuadorean TV station that her son is under extreme psychological stress because of his cramped living conditions in the embassy and his inability to exercise.

The activist who published secret U.S. documents took refuge in the embassy on June 19 to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning about allegations of sexual misconduct.

PUERTO RICO

With record murders,penal code updated

SAN JUAN — An updated penal code signed into law Monday by the Puerto Rican governor increases prison sentences for homicide, assault and other offenses, as the U.S. island territory struggles to contain crime and the widespread perception that violence is out of control.

The new penal code establishes fixed sentences on a range of offenses that are substantially higher than those that have been in place since the last time the laws were updated in 2004, Gov. Luis Fortuno said.

Puerto Rico had a record number of homicides last year and the island has been struggling with rising crime for several years, largely as a result of the island's role as a transshipment point for South American drugs bound for the U.S. mainland.

From wire dispatches and staff reports