- The Washington Times - Monday, May 2, 2005

MEXICO

Monterrey killings delay gambling vote

MEXICO CITY — The gruesome lunchtime slayings of three would-be casino developers outside a popular restaurant in northern Mexico has delayed a congressional vote to amend a gambling ban and prompted calls for stricter controls on the few places Mexicans are allowed to bet.

The proposal to legalize casinos, on and off the congressional agenda for a decade, is a political hot potato in a country riddled with organized crime but desperately in need of jobs. The latest bill was working its way through a committee, but stalled after the gang-style slayings April 14 in Monterrey.

In that crime, three Mexican developers seeking to build gambling establishments met with two investors from Las Vegas to compare notes before heading to lunch at a seafood eatery. The Americans then walked to a nearby betting parlor to have a look. As the Mexicans waited in the restaurant parking lot, two assailants moved in shooting, said Jorge Cantu, a spokesman for the Nuevo Leon state attorney general’s office.

HONDURAS

Passport chief held in U.S.-entry probe

TEGUCIGALPA — The government’s top immigration officer was arrested Sunday as part of an investigation into non-Hondurans being sold Honduran passports so they could gain easier entrance to the United States.

Ramon Romero, director of immigration and foreign affairs, was arrested at his home on charges he abused his authority, said attorney Doris Aguilar. “He is being interrogated about passport sales to foreigners that we think entered, or want to enter, the United States,” she said.

Mr. Romero, a member of President Ricardo Maduro’s National Party, is the second high-ranking immigration officer arrested in the past two weeks over the passport scandal. He also has been accused of using his authority to allow 14 Colombians, most of them relatives of a drug kingpin imprisoned in the United States, to enter Honduras illegally.

Weekly notes

A small plane carrying Honduran President Ricardo Maduro went down in the Caribbean Sea near shore Sunday after its engine failed, and Mr. Maduro was taken to a hospital with minor injuries, his spokesman said. The single-engine Cessna carrying Mr. Maduro, his daughter, a pilot and a friend splashed down about 150 yards from shore at Tela. All were able to leave the plane with only minor scrapes with help from city residents. … Twelve journalists and two assistants working with them were killed in Latin America last year, up from seven in 2003, Reporters Without Borders said. Press freedom is “disastrous” in Cuba and “frequently violated in Colombia,” the group said in its annual report on press freedom, issued every May 3.

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