- - Monday, March 5, 2012

PORT-AU-PRINCE — Haiti has seen a dramatic increase in violent crime in the shanties of its major cities over the past six months, helping undermine faith in the country’s police force, according to a study released Sunday.

The preliminary findings in the report titled “Haiti’s Urban Crime Wave?” speak to rising concerns among Haitians that their country is entering a period of political turmoil that could thwart efforts to help rebuild in the aftermath of the powerful January 2010 earthquake.

Homicides in the heavily populated areas of Haiti’s biggest cities appear to have increased sharply from August 2011 to last February, according to the study written by social scientists Athena Kolbe and Robert Muggah, and backed by the Canadian government’s International Development Research Center and the Brazil nonprofit, the Igarape Institute.

While the homicide rate in Port-au-Prince is lower than that of some other Caribbean cities, Haiti’s capital saw 60.9 murders per 100,000 residents over the year leading up to February 2012, the highest recorded murder rate since 2006, according to the study.

For example, the Bel Air district of Port-au-Prince saw homicides jump from 19 per 100,000 people in 2010 to 50 per 100,000 people near the end of 2011.

“This murder rate is not just high - it’s enormous,” Ms. Kolbe said.

By comparison, New York City’s homicide rate was less than 7 per 100,000 in 2011, while Oakland, Calif., had 23 homicides per 100,000 residents.

The bulk of the Haiti murders happened in densely populated areas in the cities where there are high levels of social marginalization and poverty, which included Cap-Haitien, Les Cayes and Gonaives, among others.

BOLIVIA

President getting medical tests

LA PAZ | President Evo Morales suspended official activities for a second day Sunday, according to Vice President Alvaro Garcia, who said the nation’s leader was undergoing “routine” medical exams.

Mr. Morales checked into a private clinic Friday in Cochabamba and Saturday skipped a planned inauguration of public works in El Alto, near the capital La Paz. He missed another event Sunday, but the vice president said Mr. Morales is in “very good health.”

Mr. Garcia, standing in for Mr. Morales in El Alto, said “doctors asked President Evo to continue his rest in the city of Cochabamba.”

It was not immediately clear what type of exams Mr. Morales was undergoing.

PERU

Police arrest Shining Path leader

LIMA | Peruvian police Sunday said they had arrested a suspected leader of a Maoist faction of the Shining Path rebel movement who was the apparent successor to Comrade Artemio, who was captured last month.

National Police Director Raul Salazar told local media that Walter Diaz Vega, also known as “Freddy” or “Percy,” was snared in the mountainous jungle region of Alto Huallaga.

Mr. Diaz Vega “was the successor of Artemio and responsible for organizing an armed column in Alto Huallaga,” Mr. Salazar said.

“His capture took place on Saturday,” and Mr. Diaz Vega “had intended to annihilate the informants who infiltrated [the rebels]to allow the capture of Artemio in February,” the police director added.

Mr. Diaz Vega will face multiple terrorism charges, Mr. Salazar said.

Comrade Artemio, whose real name is Florindo Eleuterio Flores, was captured Feb. 12 after a fierce gun battle against government forces in which he was wounded. He is to be tried on charges of terrorism and drug trafficking.

Artemio, 47, led one of two splinter groups of the Maoist insurgency that terrorized Peruvians in the 1980s and 1990s.

The Shining Path suffered a crippling blow when its founder and leader, Abimael Guzman, was captured in 1992. Authorities soon discovered other group leaders, and the remaining fighters fled into the jungle where they survived as hired guns for drug traffickers.

VENEZUELA

New tumor was cancerous, Chavez says

CARACAS | President Hugo Chavez revealed Sunday that a new tumor recently removed from his pelvic region was of the same type of cancer as a baseball-sized growth extracted from that part of his body about eight months ago.

In his first TV appearance in nine days, Mr. Chavez said the surgery and follow-up tests showed the tumor was “a recurrence of the initially diagnosed cancer.”

The 57-year-old president said he would spend several weeks recovering.

BRAZIL

Police arrest drug lord in Rio shantytown

RIO DE JANEIRO | Rio de Janeiro police say they’ve arrested the former chief drug dealer of a notorious slum located five miles from this city’s iconic Maracana stadium.

Police said Everton Mesquita was arrested Saturday night inside the Morro dos Macacos slum. The shantytown is southwest of the stadium, where some events of the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games will be held.

Drug gangs in Morro dos Macacos shot down a police helicopter in October 2009, two weeks after the International Olympic Committee awarded the games to Rio. Three police were killed, and 21 people died in a related shootout between gangs and police.

PERU

President’s brother moved from maximum-security prison

LIMA | The jailed brother of Peru’s president was transferred Saturday from a maximum-security prison to a special lockup on a military base to serve his 19-year-sentence for leading a failed uprising.

Prisons director Jose Perez said in a radio interview that the transfer of Antauro Humala was “strictly for security reasons.”

He said the 48-year-old retired army major was moved because Shining Path rebels were housed near him in Piedras Gordas prison and President Ollanta Humala’s government had recently captured their leader, Comrade Artemio.

Antauro Humala led a New Year’s Day takeover in 2005 by 100 army reservists of a police station the Andean town of Andahuaylas to demand the resignation of then-President Alejandro Toledo.

The action failed to trigger a general uprising and four police officers and two army reservists were killed.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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