The week at a glance...Americas
Pennies for charity: After the last Canadian penny was minted last week, officials urged Canadians to donate their obsolete coins to charity. “We hope all Canadians will consider putting their last pennies to good use by donating them,” Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said. “I consider it fitting they could have a lasting impact on causes that Canadians believe in.” Canada announced earlier this year that it was abolishing the penny because each one-cent coin cost 1.6 cents to produce. Canadians who aren’t feeling generous can trade in their penny stockpiles at any bank or use them as currency.
Debate won by hostess: The first debate of Mexico’s presidential campaign was overshadowed by its opening moments, when a model in a skin-tight, cleavage-baring dress presented the box containing the debate order. The next day’s coverage of the event all but ignored the actual debate and centered on the edecán, a type of sexily clad hostess common at Mexican conferences and parties. The edecán, Julia Orayen, a former Playmate for Mexican Playboy, said that she had simply been told to bring her own white dress and didn’t plan to cause a stir. The debate organizers said they’d chosen Orayen only because she was shorter than other applicants, and therefore less likely to loom over the four candidates who are vying to replace President Felipe Calderón in July.
San Juan, Puerto Rico
English lessons: The governor of Puerto Rico wants the island to be fully bilingual in 10 years. Luis Fortuño, who supports eventual statehood for the U.S. territory, has proposed an ambitious plan to require public schools to teach all classes in English except for Spanish grammar and literature. “Bilingualism provides opportunity to our children so they can succeed in an increasingly competitive and globalized labor market,” he said. Critics—including teachers’ groups—say the plan is far-fetched. Only 12 of the island’s 1,472 schools offer an all-English curriculum, and almost everyone in Puerto Rico speaks Spanish at home.
Justice at last: Two former Brazilian military police officers were finally jailed for ordering the 1996 killing of 19 landless protesters in the Amazon. Col. Mário Colares Pantoja and Maj. José Maria Pereira de Oliveira were sentenced a decade ago to 258 and 158 years in jail, respectively, but remained free while pursuing legal appeals. The two commanded a police battalion to open fire on unarmed protesters from the Landless Workers Movement, who were blocking a road. The long delay in jailing them has spotlighted flaws in Brazil’s legal system. “It is regrettable,” said prosecutor Marco Aurélio Nascimento. “People are found guilty, sentenced, and yet remain free for years while their lawyers appeal.”