The week at a glance...Americas


Acapulco, Mexico

Developers blamed: As the national death toll from last week’s two hurricanes rose to 130, Mexican activists blamed poor flood planning and corrupt development for exacerbating the destruction. Landslides that buried entire villages in mud occurred, they said, because developers pay off politicians to get logging and building permits in unsafe areas. “We develop in unbuildable locations, we build with garbage, and we design without planning,” said law professor Jesús Silva-Herzog Márquez in Reforma.

Caracas, Venezuela

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Soldiers as dealers: U.S. drug authorities have long suspected that corrupt military officers have turned Venezuela into a major drug transit hub, and now they may have evidence. French customs officials found 31 suitcases stuffed with 1.4 tons of cocaine in an Air France plane that had flown to Paris from Caracas. Six people—Italians and Britons with alleged Mafia connections—were arrested in France, and three low-level soldiers were arrested in Venezuela. Venezuela’s military handles baggage security at Caracas’s Simón Bolívar International Airport, and it’s unlikely that soldiers acted without the collusion of higher officers. “It’s not normal that you can carry more than a ton of cocaine on an Air France plane,” said French Interior Minister Manuel Valls.

São Paulo

Nun killer sentenced: A wealthy Brazilian rancher has been sentenced to 30 years in prison for ordering the 2005 killing of American-born nun Dorothy Stang. It’s the fourth trial for Vitalmiro Bastos de Moura, who appealed two earlier convictions and had an acquittal overturned, and his lawyer says he’ll appeal this verdict. Stang, 73 when she was killed, worked as an environmental and human rights activist in Brazil for decades, trying to preserve the Amazon rain forest and defend the rights of workers. One of the hit men convicted of shooting her was freed this year after serving six years of a 27-year sentence.

Rio de Janeiro

Where is Amarildo? The disappearance of a father of six has become a flash point for protests against alleged abuses by police in the slums of Rio. Amarildo Gomes da Silva, 43, was heading out to buy groceries when he was stopped by police officers at a checkpoint in Rio’s Rocinha favela in July, and he never returned. His wife, Elizabete, launched a nationwide campaign to demand that authorities account for her husband’s whereabouts, and the question “Where is Amarildo?” now appears on posters at every Brazilian protest and all over social media. So-called Pacification Police Units were created to take back the slums from drug lords ahead of the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics.

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