The news at a glance . . . Americas
TorontoRepentant terrorist: The ringleader of a foiled bomb plot apologized to Canadians this week before he was sentenced to life in prison. Zakaria Amara, 24, was arrested in 2006 and convicted of leading the “Toronto 18,” an Islamist group that plotted truck bombings at the Toronto Stock Exchange and other locations. Amara said he changed his jihadist views during his three years in prison, and even made Jewish friends. “I can only hope that when all of you, Muslim and non-Muslim, witness the type of man I will one day make out of myself and the type of activities I’ll be involved in, then you will perhaps contemplate accepting me once more into the fold,” he said. Amara, who was born in Jordan and came to Canada at age 13, will be eligible for parole in 2016.
Guantánamo Bay, CubaWere inmates murdered? U.S. officials may have conspired to conceal evidence that three Guantánamo Bay inmates were murdered during interrogations, an article in Harper’s magazine charges. When Salah Ahmed al-Salami, a Yemeni, and Yasser al-Zahrani and Mani Shaman al-Utaybi, both Saudis, died in June 2006, the camp’s commander said they had committed suicide by stuffing rags down their throats. But camp guards tell Scott Horton of Harper’s that while they doubted the story, they were ordered to corroborate it. The men’s bodies were sent home missing much of their throats, so complete autopsies could not be carried out. The article also said the deaths may have occurred at a previously undisclosed “black site” a mile from the main complex. Both the Justice Department and the Pentagon said the matter was fully investigated and that no wrongdoing is suspected.
Tegucigalpa, HondurasTop brass charged: A Honduran judge has charged the country’s entire Joint Chiefs of Staff with abuse of power for its role in spiriting President Manuel Zelaya out of the country last June. The case against the six top military commanders doesn’t dispute the legality of Zelaya’s ouster, which was sanctioned by the Honduran Supreme Court and the legislature, though it was condemned by most foreign governments, including the U.S. But the judge charges that the military went too far when it flew Zelaya out of the country against his will. President-elect Porfirio Lobo, who takes office later this month, has said he supports granting amnesty both to Zelaya and to the coup leaders.
Tambopata River, PeruGold rush: The high price of gold has inspired hundreds of thousands of Peruvians to become illegal prospectors, creating a new threat to Peru’s Amazon rain forest, environmental activists report. Small-time prospectors are dredging up mud from river bottoms and mixing it with poisonous mercury to extract bits of gold. Bigger cartels are bulldozing virgin forest to mine the dirt. Environmentalists say the local government is doing nothing to stop the damage. “The miners pool gold to pay off government officials,” activist Victor Zambrano tells The Christian Science Monitor. Environment Minister Antonio Brack Egg said he was working to identify the corrupt officials. He urged the international community to create a process to certify “conflict-free” gold, as it has done with diamonds.
Santiago, ChileBillionaire president: Billionaire conservative Sebastián Piñera won Chile’s presidential election this week, ushering in a new era in a nation that has been governed by leftists since military rule ended two decades ago. Piñera, 60, is an extreme-sports enthusiast whose business empire includes Chile’s largest airline, a TV station, and a soccer team. He defeated Eduardo Frei, a former president of Chile from the same leftist coalition as current President Michelle Bachelet, who was constitutionally barred from running for a second term. Piñera said he plans to be an “entrepreneurial president” and focus on streamlining the government and stimulating the economy.