- - Monday, October 22, 2012

HAVANA — Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro said he doesn’t even suffer from a headache in an article he published in state media Monday criticizing those who spread rumors he was on his death bed.

The article is accompanied by photos taken by son Alex Castro that show the 86-year-old revolutionary icon standing outside near some trees wearing a checked shirt and cowboy hat, including one in which he is seen reading Friday’s copy of the Communist Party newspaper Granma.

“I don’t even remember what a headache feels like,” Mr. Castro claims, adding that he was releasing the photos to show “how dishonest” the rumor mongers have been.

The article was published on the state-run Cubadebate Web site early Monday. It is the latest evidence that the former president is alive and seemingly well after more than a week of intense speculation he was seriously ill.

Twitter and other social media websites have been abuzz with claims of Mr. Castro’s demise.


Martelly under fire for rising prices, corruption

PORT-AU-PRINCE — Less than 18 months after taking office on a wave of populist support, Haitian President Michel Martelly now is facing protests in a country still trying to rebound from the massive 2010 earthquake.

For three weeks, protesters have marched regularly in Haiti’s biggest towns, furious about what they see as the government’s inaction in the face of the rising cost of living in what is already one of the world’s poorest nations.

The demonstrators also denounce politicians for lavish spending on luxury cars and official travel that they say brings no practical gain to the Caribbean country.

The grass-roots movement was quickly joined by political groups hostile to Mr. Martelly’s administration, which they accuse of trying to “install a dynastic and dictatorial regime.”


German sect members face prison sentences

SANTO DOMINGO — A judge in the Dominican Republic has ordered two more German members of a doomsday sect to jail after police accused them of participating in a deadly shootout.

Daniel Brunck joins his father Peter Brunck in a yearlong preventive detention while police investigate. Isabella Dietrich, 46, faces three months.

Peter Brunck is the apparent leader of a sect called the “Academy for Future Health.”

Police said last week that Ms. Dietrich was the girlfriend of Peter Demetrick, who was killed during Wednesday’s gunbattle at an upscale house in Sosua.


Government, rebels start peace talks in Norway

HURDAL, Norway — Colombian government and rebel negotiators on Thursday formally launched peace talks aimed at ending the South American nation’s complex, nearly half-century-old conflict.

Seven hours of talks, held at a secret venue outside Oslo, focused chiefly on logistics, and determined that the next phase of negotiations would begin Nov. 15 in the Cuban capital of Havana.

First on the agenda there will be “comprehensive rural development,” the parties announced at a news conference at a hotel north of the Norwegian capital.

Norwegian and Cuban diplomats attended the talks as facilitators. They will be joined by Venezuelan and Chilean officials at the talks’ next stage.

The facilitators’ exact role in the negotiations has not yet been explained.


Crew of seized navy ship in Ghana told to evacuate

BUENOS AIRES — Argentina announced the immediate evacuation Saturday of about 300 crew members from the ARA Libertad, a navy training ship seized in Ghana nearly three weeks ago as collateral for unpaid bonds dating from the South American nation’s economic crisis a decade ago.

Only the captain and a few other members of the crew of 326 sailors will remain on the three-masted tall ship, a symbol of Argentina’s navy.

Argentine President Cristina Fernandez decided to pull the rest out after failing to persuade Ghanaian authorities to reverse a judge’s decision to seize the ship.


Supreme court rejects ‘model cities’ idea

TEGUCIGALPA — Honduras’ supreme court has struck down a plan to build a series of model cities with their own independent tax and justice systems, a proposal that was meant to spur economic growth in a country struggling with corruption and criminality.

Court spokesman Daniel Aguirre said the justices declared that a law that permits the creation of special development zones outside the jurisdiction of ordinary Honduran law is unconstitutional.

Authorization for the private cities was passed by the Honduran Congress in January 2011 amid controversy that included objections to handing over control of Honduran territory.

A U.S.-based investment group had been expected to invest $15 million to begin building basic infrastructure for the first model city near Puerto Castilla on the Caribbean coast.


Press group says violence threatens media

SAO PAULO — The Inter American Press Association says violence and authoritarian governments are the main problems independent press outlets face in Latin America.

A statement with the conclusions of the organization’s 68th General Assembly that ended last week in Sao Paulo says: “Violence against the physical integrity of journalists and a growing intolerance of authoritarian governments constitute the primary problems that face the independent press today on the continent.”

It says that in the past six months 13 journalists have been murdered in Mexico, Honduras, Brazil, and Ecuador “for the simple fact that they were doing their work.”

It criticizes the presidents of Venezuela, Argentina and Ecuador for “trying to silence” independent journalism in their countries.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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