The week at a glance...Americas


Valencia, Venezuela

Beauty queen murdered: The apparently random highway killing of a former Miss Venezuela has shocked Venezuelans into renewed outrage over their country’s soaring murder rate. Monica Spear, 29, a popular soap opera star, was shot to death along with her British ex-husband by highway robbers who attacked their car as they returned to Caracas from a New Year’s vacation in the mountains. Their 5-year-old daughter was wounded. Responding to a national outpouring of grief, President Nicolás Maduro vowed to act “with an iron fist” to find the killers. More than 70 people were murdered across Venezuela in the first week of the year.

Bogotá, Colombia

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CIA assassinations: The CIA has been helping Colombia kill rebel leaders with smart bombs and other equipment not listed among the official U.S. military aid to the country. According to an investigation by The Washington Post, the 2008 assassination of FARC leader Raúl Reyes in Ecuador—an operation that caused a diplomatic flap between Ecuador and Colombia—was a U.S.-approved hit using U.S. bombs. The ongoing, multibillion-dollar CIA program is reportedly funded secretly and separately from the $9 billion in military aid the U.S. openly provides to Colombia. The Colombian government credits the program with forcing the FARC to the negotiating table last year.

Brasília, Brazil

Cuban doctors: Brazil’s plan to import more than 10,000 doctors from Cuba to treat the poor in urban slums and far-flung villages is causing an uproar. President Dilma Rousseff ordered the influx in response to last year’s street protests over the lack of services for the poor. It’s a great deal for the Brazilians, who face a chronic shortage of health-care providers, but not for the doctors, who will receive only one tenth of the $4,300 a month Brazil is paying Cuba for their labor. Brazilian physicians unions are protesting, calling the Cubans “slave doctors.” Union leader Geraldo Ferreira said the money would be better spent investing in clinics in the jungles. “This is the biggest labor fraud we have ever seen in Brazil,” he said.

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