The week at a glance...Americas


Mexico City

U.S. agent killed: Jaime J. Zapata, an agent of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement based in the Mexican capital, was shot and killed this week on a highway in northern Mexico; another agent was wounded. Mexican news accounts said the two men had been stopped at a roadblock set up by drug traffickers posing as military officials. The killing is expected to spark a massive crackdown by U.S. and Mexican law enforcement. The last time a federal agent was killed in Mexico, in 1985, the U.S. launched the largest DEA investigation to date and arrested Mexico’s top drug lord. “You start killing U.S. officials and that really turns up the heat,” said George Grayson, a Mexico expert at the College of William and Mary.

Cartagena, Colombia

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Panama Canal alternative: China and Colombia are planning to build a railway that would link the Atlantic and Pacific oceans as a “dry canal” rival to the Panama Canal. The two governments said this week they plan to lay tracks from Cartagena, on Colombia’s Caribbean coast, to an unspecified port on the country’s Pacific coast. The railway would facilitate both Colombia’s exports of raw materials and China’s imports to Latin America. It could also provide an alternative route for Chinese companies that ship through the Panama Canal or transport goods overland from California ports to the U.S. East Coast. “It makes a lot of sense,” said Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos. “Asia is the new motor of the world economy.”

Santiago, Chile

Miners tell of dark thoughts: The 33 Chilean miners trapped underground for 69 days last year “had a pot and a saw ready” to cook and eat the first man who died, a new book reveals. In 33 Men, based on exclusive interviews with the miners, American journalist Jonathan Franklin describes the despair that gripped the men until a probe reached them, after their first 17 days underground. The men had considered cannibalism and suicide. The mood improved dramatically once supplies began to trickle in, but there were conflicts, especially after some of the men received marijuana in letters from home and refused to share it.

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