The week at a glance...Americas


Campbellton, New Brunswick

Python kills little boys: In an attack that has baffled snake experts, a 14-foot African rock python apparently strangled two Canadian brothers in their sleep. Noah Barthe, 4, and Connor Barthe, 6, were sleeping over at the apartment of a friend whose father owned an exotic pet shop downstairs. The pet snake escaped from a huge glass tank in the apartment and into the ventilation system; it then fell through the ceiling of the room where the boys were asleep. The boys had been playing with goats at a farm earlier that day, and experts said the python may have attacked them because they smelled like prey. The 100-pound snake has been put down, and police are treating the deaths as criminal. Jean-Claude Savoie, owner of the apartment and store, did not have a permit to keep the snake at home.


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Che is a world treasure: UNESCO has included the writings of Ernesto “Che” Guevara, the Argentine-born Marxist who became a leading militant in the Cuban revolution, to its Memory of the World Register. The U.N. agency’s designation, given to works of “world significance and outstanding universal value,” protects Guevara’s original documents, including the manuscript of The Motorcycle Diaries, his memoir of riding across South America as a young medical student and seeing the poverty that inspired his political awakening. Cuban-Americans criticized the U.N.’s action. “This decision is more than an insult to the families of those Cubans who were lined up and summarily executed by Che and his merciless cronies,” said U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.).

Bogotá, Colombia

River blindness gone: Colombia has become the first country in the world to clear its territory of the pathogen that causes river blindness. The insect-borne disease, onchocerciasis, is endemic in Latin America and much of Africa, and it had a stronghold in western Colombia until health workers from the U.N. and the Carter Center began administering anti-parasitic drugs in the affected area every six months starting in 1993. “Colombia’s achievement demonstrates that a future free from river blindness is possible for everyone in the Americas,” said former U.S. President Jimmy Carter.

Copiapó, Chile

No charges: No one will be held responsible for the 2010 mine collapse that stranded 33 miners deep underground for 69 days and launched an international rescue effort. Prosecutors said there wasn’t enough evidence to try either the owners or the regulators for negligence—even though a 2011 government report found that the mine owners and company officials “did not adopt the work safety measures required by the authorities” and fraudulently “blamed government agencies and then the workers” for the accident. The miners are bitter. The mine owners are “free and happy going on with their lives, even though they left us buried underground,” said miner Mario Sepúlveda.

Montevideo, Uruguay

The state as dealer: Uruguay has created the world’s first state-run market for non-medical marijuana. In an effort to kill off the criminal drug trade by robbing it of its market, the parliament last week voted to legalize the drug and set up government regulation to produce and distribute it at a price of about $2.50 a gram, the cheaper end of the street rate. Consumers will have to register with the state to buy the drug at pharmacies, and will be limited to 40 grams a month for personal use. Officials hope that since the state pot will be guaranteed to be fresh and pure, users will opt to purchase from the government rather than the black market.

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