The week at a glance ... Americas
HavanaCardinal calls for reform: In an unusually direct criticism of Cuba’s communist authorities, the head of the Cuban Catholic Church this week called for wide economic and social reforms. Cardinal Jaime Ortega told the church newspaper Palabra Nueva that the government should “make the necessary changes quickly” to end “economic and social difficulties” in Cuba. “Our country is in a very difficult situation, certainly the most difficult we have lived in this 21st century,” he said. Cuba is still reeling from three hurricanes that struck in 2008, as well as from the global financial crisis. Ortega also said the church believes Cuba should release its estimated 200 political prisoners, and he called for the U.S. to do more to improve relations.
Caracas, VenezuelaBoxing champ commits suicide: Former world lightweight boxing champion Edwin Valero hanged himself in his jail cell this week after being arrested for stabbing his wife to death. Valero, 28, was a Venezuelan national hero who sported a huge tattoo of President Hugo Chávez on his chest. But he had struggled with cocaine addiction and alcoholism, and had a history of violence. Last month he was charged with assaulting his wife and then attacking workers at the hospital where she was being treated. This week, authorities said, he stabbed his wife to death in a hotel room and immediately confessed to hotel staff. His lawyer said he used the sweatpants he was wearing to hang himself from a bar in his cell.
Cochabamba, BoliviaThe ‘people’s’ climate summit: Thousands of environmental activists, scientists, and indigenous leaders gathered in Bolivia this week to agitate for “climate justice.” Bolivian President Evo Morales convened the event, the People’s World Conference on Climate Change, as an alternative to the U.N. climate summits that he contends have shortchanged poorer nations. Participants want rich countries to pay reparations to poor countries for damage done to the environment. Bolivian villagers, for example, are demanding compensation for the melting of Andes glaciers, which has wreaked havoc on their farming. Morales proposed creating an International Climate Justice Tribunal that would prosecute governments or companies for transgressions against the environment.
Buenos Aires, ArgentinaEx-dictator jailed: Argentina’s last dictator was sentenced to 25 years in prison this week for ordering kidnappings, torture, and murder. Reynaldo Bignone, 82, was convicted along with six other former officials accused of ordering beatings and electrocutions of dissidents. Bignone was the last of four officers to rule during the 1976–83 right-wing military regime, which collapsed after Argentina’s defeat in the war against Britain over the Falkland Islands. During that era, known as the Dirty War, more than 15,000 leftists and other opponents of the junta died or disappeared. “Justice was slow in coming,” said Estela de Carlotto, head of the human-rights group Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, “but it has finally arrived.”