- - Monday, January 16, 2012

VENEZUELA

Miami consulate personnel sent back home

CARACAS — Venezuela is withdrawing personnel from its consulate in Miami more quickly than planned because the personnel have been threatened by exiles with links to terrorism, the Foreign Ministry announced Monday.

“With the intention of preserving their physical and moral integrity, the government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela has decided to withdraw its consular personnel,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.

The decision was announced shortly after President Hugo Chavez said his government would close the consulate in response to Washington’s expulsion of a diplomat there.



The accused exiles reject the terrorism charges.

Livia Acosta Noguera, Venezuela’s consul general in Miami, was ordered out of the U.S. last weekend after an FBI investigation into suspicions that she discussed a possible cyberattack on the U.S. government while she was assigned to the Venezuelan Embassy in Mexico.

The allegations were detailed in a documentary aired by the Spanish-language broadcaster Univision.

The documentary was based on recordings of conversations with her and other officials, and suggested that Cuban and Iranian diplomatic missions were involved.

Citing audio and video obtained by students at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, Univision said Ms. Acosta was seeking information about the servers of nuclear power plants on U.S. soil.

The Foreign Ministry said the consulate will cease functioning once its personnel have returned to Venezuela.

CANADA

Harper will go to China, talk energy next month

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Stephen Harper will head to China next month in a visit likely to be dominated by discussion of energy issues.

Mr. Harper announced Wednesday that he will meet with Chinese President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao.

China is Canada’s second-largest trading partner and has invested billions of dollars in energy projects in its western provinces.

Mr. Harper said his government is focusing on deepening economic ties with China, including opening more markets.

Relations between the two countries were strained by Canada’s recognition of the Dalai Lama as an honorary Canadian citizen and its lengthy extradition of a Chinese man wanted on charges of corruption and smuggling.

MEXICO

Guatemalan president says drug gang seeks control

MEXICO CITY — Guatemala’s newly inaugurated president said Mexico’s Zetas drug cartel has sought to take over the drug trade in Guatemala by co-opting or killing local traffickers.

President Otto Perez said the Zetas has offered deals for gangs willing to form part of their network, and killed those who refused.

The Zetas have been blamed for Guatemala’s biggest drug-related massacre, the slaughter of 27 cattle ranch workers in May.

Mr. Perez said he is seeking to verify reports from former President Alvaro Colom that rival drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman has been in Guatemala.

Mr. Perez told the Mexican television network Televisa on Monday that the Zetas started moving into Guatemala about four years ago.

EL SALVADOR

President apologizes 20 years after massacre

SAN SALVADOR — El Salvador’s president formally apologized for the 1981 El Mozote massacre and acknowledged the government’s responsibility for killing 936 civilians in a counterinsurgency operation.

President Mauricio Funes said the army committed “the biggest massacre of civilians in the contemporary history of Latin America.”

Mr. Funes was elected on the ticket of the former leftist rebels. He was a journalist at the time and did not take part in the country’s 12-year civil war.

Mr. Funes spoke Monday on the 20th anniversary of the 1992 peace accords that ended the conflict.

He asked forgiveness on behalf of the government from relatives of the estimated 75,000 people killed and 12,000 who disappeared in the conflict.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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