The world at a glance ... Americas
HavanaEvery car a cab: In the latest sign of economic liberalization, Cuba has begun allowing owners of private cars to operate as cabbies and even set their own fare rates. Cubans with cars or motorcycle sidecars are being encouraged to apply for taxi licenses under the new, more relaxed regulations. The change is President Raúl Castro’s attempt to control the illegal “pirate cabs” that have sprung up in areas where government bus service was inadequate. “There’s going to be more cars and fewer passengers, but at least everyone will have a license,” said cabbie Jordan Marrero.
Guantánamo Bay, CubaObama to close camp: Barack Obama will issue an executive order to close the prison camp at Guantánamo Bay on his first day as president, advisors confirmed this week. But Obama acknowledged that the closure itself could take months. “It is more difficult than I think a lot of people realize,” Obama said. “We’re going to get it done, but part of the challenge that you have is that you have got a bunch of folks that have been detained, many of whom may be very dangerous, who have not been put on trial.” Over the past few years, the U.S. has asked dozens of countries to give asylum to some of the detainees; almost all have refused. There are 248 prisoners remaining.
Caracas, VenezuelaMurder rate soars: At least 10,000 Venezuelans have been murdered every year since President Hugo Chávez took office, in 1999, the Caracas Ultimas Noticias reported this week. The homicide rate is more than double what it was throughout the 1990s. The newspaper, which is usually pro-government, said it had to scrape together the statistics using medical and police sources. The government stopped issuing official figures several years ago, as they were becoming increasingly dire. In 2006, thousands of Venezuelans demonstrated in the streets against the rising violence. The reason for the higher murder rate is unclear, although guns and drugs are both prevalent in Venezuela.
Buenos AiresWhat’s wrong with the president? President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner last week canceled all her public appearances, including a planned trip to Cuba and Venezuela, sparking rumors that she was seriously ill. Her husband, former President Nestor Kirchner, said his wife had been “feeling sick” because she was “working 23 hours a day,” but denied anything was seriously wrong. The press speculated that she is suffering from anemia or depression, or possibly complications from cosmetic surgery. Fernandez “rarely rises” from her bed, Buenos Aires’ La Nacion reported, and is “still too weak to resume her walks.” But the president’s medical advisor said she has completely recovered.