Defending ‘Saint Death’: Two hundred worshippers of the Mexican folk goddess Santa Muerte—Saint Death—staged a protest this week after the army bulldozed 35 shrines to her as part of the government’s war on drugs. Santa Muerte, a skeletal figure also known wryly as La Flaca (the Skinny One), is considered the patron saint of criminals because she is said to honor evil requests as well as good ones. The protesters said most believers are ordinary, law-abiding people, but narcotraffickers often build altars to Santa Muerte in their safe houses and sport tattoos of her visage. The elaborate concrete shrines destroyed this month near the Texas border only served to glorify drug culture, said Tijuana Mayor Jorge Ramos. “Should we permit these spaces,” he said, “where hired assassins who kill children, families, and police seek protection?”
A thaw in U.S. relations? Fidel Castro this week called for direct negotiation with the U.S. as “the only way to secure friendship and peace among peoples.” The former Cuban leader’s surprisingly conciliatory statement was published as a delegation of congressional Democrats visited Havana and met with Castro’s brother, President Raúl Castro. “We talked in broad terms, more about principles than about details,” said Rep. Barbara Lee of California. President Obama has ordered a broad review of America’s policy toward Cuba, which includes a trade embargo and a travel ban. Last week, the administration said it would ease restrictions on Cuban-Americans who want to visit or send money to their families.
Fujimori guilty: A special tribunal has found former President Alberto Fujimori guilty of ordering mass killings during Peru’s “dirty war” against Maoist rebels in the 1990s, making him the first elected leader to be convicted of human-rights abuses in his own country. The court roundly rejected Fujimori’s defense that he “had to govern from a hell” that outsiders could not appreciate; he was sentenced to 25 years for ordering the death-squad murders of 25 people, as well as two kidnappings. Fujimori’s 34-year-old daughter, Keiko, a lawmaker who is planning to run for president in 2011, says that if she wins, she will pardon her father. Fujimori is already serving a six-year sentence for abuse of power.