The week at a glance...Americas


Oshawa, Ontario

Woman freed: After 13 years in prison, a Canadian woman convicted of murdering her 2-year-old son was freed this week when new evidence showed that the child may have died of an epileptic seizure. The original case against Tammy Marquardt rested on the testimony of now-disgraced pathologist Charles Smith, who lost his license earlier this year after an investigation found that he had routinely lied on the stand to gain convictions of innocent parents. Smith was a star witness for the prosecution in dozens of child-death cases spanning two decades; seven convictions based on his testimony have been overturned. In the worst example, he testified confidently that a woman had stabbed her 7-year-old daughter to death with scissors. Later it was proved that the girl had been mauled by a pit bull.

Camargo, Mexico

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Narco-tanks: The Mexican military has discovered that drug cartels are building assault vehicles complete with gun turrets, inch-thick steel armor, and battering rams. Two of the vehicles, called “monstruos,” or monster trucks, in the Mexican press, were confiscated in a military raid on a border town last week. “These behemoths indicate the ingenuity of the cartels in configuring weapons that are extremely effective in urban warfare,” said George Grayson, a professor at the College of William and Mary and a specialist on Mexico’s drug war. More than 35,000 Mexicans have died of drug-related violence in the past four years.

Lima, Peru

Leftist president: Peru this week became the latest Latin American country to lurch leftward when Ollanta Humala beat conservative Keiko Fujimori in a presidential runoff. A former army officer, Humala led an unsuccessful revolt in 2000 against then-President Alberto Fujimori, Keiko’s father, who is now in prison for corruption. In his first bid for president, in 2006, Humala emphasized his affinity with socialist Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez—and lost. This time around, he downplayed the Chávez link. Humala has pledged to make the country “more just and less unequal” by raising corporate taxes and building more schools. The Peruvian stock market greeted his victory by plunging 12 percent, its biggest single-day loss.

Puyehue National Park, Chile

Volcano erupts: Chile’s Puyehue volcano erupted this week, shooting ash six miles into the air; much of it came down in neighboring Argentina. Flights were grounded in both countries. In Argentina’s Patagonia region, the ash settled a foot deep and had to be cleared from highways with snowplows. In Chile, some 4,000 people fled their homes as ash-clogged rivers began overflowing their banks. Chilean vulcanologist Jorge Muñoz said the eruption had been moderate so far, but could worsen. He said the volcano would begin to expel lava in coming days.

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