The week at a glance...Americas


Amuay refinery, Venezuela

Blast kills dozens: A huge explosion at Venezuela’s biggest oil refinery killed 41 people and raised concerns about industry safety. The blast, caused by a gas leak, shook the earth for miles. Critics of President Hugo Chávez said his policies were to blame for shoddy maintenance at the plant. Chávez fired thousands of skilled workers from the state-run oil monopoly a decade ago and replaced them with political allies who are expected to proselytize for his government, in addition to doing their refinery duties. Oil output is nearly 20 percent lower than it was when Chávez took power, in 1999.

Santiago, Chile

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School protests: Several hundred teenagers have been arrested in Santiago over the past two weeks as student protests turned violent. Chile has notoriously poor public schools, and its private schools are extremely expensive. Several months ago, students began occupying high schools and colleges, demanding that the government provide free, quality education for all. After police stormed the schools last week, thousands of students protested in the streets, burning city buses and injuring dozens. Police cracked down with tear gas and water cannons. “If we’re coming to this extreme, this level of anger among students, it’s because this government has been unable to give us any answers,” said student activist Gabriel Boric.

Buenos Aires

Sanford to wed: Former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford is marrying the Argentinean woman he was having an affair with when he went missing for five days in 2009. At the time, Sanford said he’d been hiking the Appalachian Trail, when he was actually in Argentina with María Belén Chapur. Sanford’s marriage ended shortly afterward, along with his hopes of becoming a Republican candidate for president. Last week, Clarín reported, Sanford proposed in a Buenos Aires restaurant, hiding in the bathroom while a waiter told Chapur she’d won a prize and handed her a bag with the ring in it. “Yes, we are engaged, and I’m both happy and excited for what that means,” Sanford said. “She’s a wonderful person.”

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