The week at a glance...Americas


Mexico City

Officers tried for torture: In a victory for human rights advocates, Mexico’s Supreme Court has ruled that military officers suspected of torture can be tried in civilian court. Activists say the military justice system has been covering up thousands of cases of soldiers abusing, torturing, and executing citizens since the government began its military assault on the drug cartels. Troops are accused of rounding up innocent people along with criminals in towns where drug gangs are active and then beating false confessions out of them. The military investigated nearly 5,000 cases of alleged abuse over a five-year period, but convicted only 38 soldiers.

Caracas, Venezuela

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American arrested: President Hugo Chávez says Venezuelan authorities have detained an unnamed American on suspicion of plotting to destabilize the country. Chávez said the man was arrested while illegally crossing into Venezuela from Colombia bearing a U.S. passport with stamps from Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya. “He has all the appearances of a mercenary,” Chávez said. “The man has military training, and he refuses to give information.” The president alleged, without offering evidence, that the American was recruited by the Venezuelan opposition to instigate violent protests if Chávez wins re-election in October. Opposition lawmaker Pedro Pablo Alcántara rejected the allegations. “It’s the president who has promoted violence,” he said.

Rio de Janeiro

Next Olympics in sight: Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes brought the Olympic flag home from London this week as his city began preparing to host the 2016 Olympics. The city, which has a population of 6.2 million but only two subway lines, is known for its gridlocked traffic. “We are not like London, which just needed to make very small additions to its transport network for the Olympic Games,” said Deputy Sports Minister Luis Fernandes. “In Rio we need to see a massive improvement.” Rio expects to spend about $25 billion preparing to host soccer’s World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics two years later.

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