The week at a glance ... Americas



Brothels legalized: The “Bondage Bungalow” and other brothels across Ontario were effectively decriminalized, after an Ontario judge overturned laws prohibiting bawdy houses, saying that they endanger prostitutes by forcing them to work on the streets. Judge Susan Himel ruled that the national criminal code on prostitution, which also prohibits solicitation and procuring, violated the constitutional right to life, liberty, and security. Prostitution is legal in Canada, but most activities facilitating it had been prohibited. Bondage Bungalow dominatrix Terri-Jean Bedford, one of three Toronto-area plaintiffs, said she had been beaten and raped many times while working the streets. It’s “like emancipation day” for sex workers, she said. The ruling takes effect in a month if the government doesn’t appeal.

Tancitaro, Mexico

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Death by stoning: A small-town mayor was stoned to death last week, presumably by drug traffickers, becoming the fifth Mexican mayor to be murdered in six weeks. Gustavo Sanchez, 29, became acting mayor of Tancitaro in December after the town’s city council leader was kidnapped and killed, prompting the mayor and city council to resign in fear. Police found the bodies of Sanchez and an aide this week, their heads crushed by rocks. “We’ve had executions of people, a town official, a councilman, but always shot to death, never anything like this,” Michoacan state prosecutor Jesus Montejano said. Michoacan is the territory of La Familia Michoacana, a crystal meth cartel that typically carves initials into the heads of its victims.

Caracas, Venezuela

Setback for Chávez: President Hugo Chávez this week suffered his worst election night since taking power in 1999. In parliamentary elections, his United Socialist Party of Venezuela retained its majority in the legislature, winning 98 of 165 seats. But the party lost the two-thirds supermajority that had previously enabled it to pass legislation at will. The election results were especially surprising because Chávez had recently redrawn the country’s legislative districts, adding seats in his rural strongholds while eliminating them in urban areas where his support is weakest. The Obama administration welcomed the outcome. “President Chávez and his administration will have to govern as a part of a functioning democracy, and can’t just dictate policies to a compliant legislature,” said State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley.

San Jose Mine, Chile

Life underground: After living for nearly two months in a collapsed mine, the 33 Chilean miners trapped there at last have some creature comforts, provided by hundreds of support staff aboveground. The miners now sleep on cots that were lowered, in pieces, through a narrow hole and reassembled underground. Laundry is sent up, and hot meals are sent down. The miners can even watch uplifting movies and prerecorded TV programs on small screens. The rescue effort’s lead psychiatrist, Alberto Iturra Benavides, won’t allow headphones or hand-held videogames, though, because he says such devices tend to isolate people. “What they need is to be together,” Iturra said. “Surviving means discipline, and keeping to a routine.” Officials say a rescue tunnel should be completed by early November.

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