The week at a glance...Americas
OttawaOpposition loses leader: Jack Layton, leader of Canada’s largest opposition party, the New Democrats, said this week he would take a leave of absence to battle cancer. The charismatic Layton led his party to its best-ever showing in elections last May, blasting ahead of the Liberals to become the second-largest party in Parliament, after the ruling Conservatives. Most observers credited the surge to Layton’s personal popularity, particularly among French speakers, rather than to the party’s platform, which means that without Layton the party could slump back to its humbler former status. Layton, 61, had prostate cancer last year, but refused to say what this new type of cancer was. His leave means that neither opposition party has a permanent leader, since the Liberals’ Michael Ignatieff stepped down after leading the party to a humiliating loss.
Bogotá, Colombia Drug fortune lost: Colombia is dismantling the agency that oversaw assets seized from drug lords, after revelations that the agency lost much of the loot through corruption and mismanagement. The National Drug Office was established 20 years ago to manage the massive mansions, ranches, artworks, sports cars, private jets, and other booty impounded from arrested criminals. But the agency’s new head, Juan Carlos Restrepo—who was appointed after President Juan Manuel Santos took office last fall—found that billions of dollars worth of seized riches have gone missing. Restrepo said that as soon as he began looking through agency documents, he realized he was in charge of “the mother camp, the starship, of corruption.” The Santos administration plans to conduct an audit, sell off whatever assets it can, and give the proceeds to victims of drug violence.
Los Ríos, EcuadorDeadly moonshine: Tainted homemade liquor has killed at least 29 people and sickened more than 100 in Ecuador, as authorities struggle to track down the lethal brew. Police have arrested one distributor and impounded more than 25,000 gallons of alcohol to test it for methanol, a toxic chemical cousin of drinkable ethanol. Methanol poisoning can cause blindness, seizures, and death. The outbreak began last month at a festival in the southwestern province of Los Ríos, but last week fatalities occurred in other parts of the country, indicating possible wide distribution of the adulterated liquor. The government has banned all liquor sales in Los Ríos until the source of the moonshine can be pinned down. Ecuadorians are urged to dump any homemade brew they have bought or made.