The world at a glance ... Americas
Cocaine sub nabbed: Acting on a U.S. tip, the Mexican navy this week captured a makeshift submarine off its Pacific coast loaded with 6 tons of cocaine. Soldiers rappelled from helicopters onto the deck of the sub and arrested four Colombian smugglers. Colombian drug cartels are believed to have at least three dozen of the custom-made ships, which do not submerge completely but stick out just a foot above the surface, thus avoiding radar detection. The sub was traveling from Colombia to Mexico, but the cocaine was ultimately destined for the U.S. About 50 percent of the world’s cocaine is consumed in the U.S. and Canada.
Guantánamo Bay, Cuba
Trial of bin Laden’s driver: The Bush administration suffered a legal setback this week as Osama bin Laden’s former driver went on trial before the first U.S. military commission to convene since World War II. At the start of what is expected to be a month-long trial, Navy Capt. Keith Allred, the presiding judge, ruled that prosecutors cannot use statements that defendant Salim Ahmed Hamdan made when he was first captured, in Afghanistan, because they were obtained under “highly coercive” conditions. Assuming a similar standard would be applied at subsequent trials of alleged al Qaida conspirators, including 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, some evidence against the defendants could be inadmissible. “Hamdan’s treatment was as favorable as anyone we intended to prosecute,” said former military prosecutor Col. Morris Davis. “If the judge has a problem with Hamdan, there are probably equal or greater problems with other cases.” Hamdan is charged with “supporting terrorism” through his work as bin Laden’s driver and aide.
Rally against rebels: Millions of Colombians throughout
the country protested this week against the FARC rebel group,
which is still holding scores of hostages. President Alvaro Uribe
has seen his popularity soar as he has taken an increasingly hard line against the FARC, bombing rebel camps in neighboring countries and, last month, sending in the military to liberate some of the most prominent hostages, including French citizen Ingrid Betancourt. “Colombia is united,” said opera singer Valeriano Lanchas, addressing a rally in Bogotá. “We want the people who are kidnapped in the jungle freed. Now.” Rallies were held across Colombia as well as in dozens of cities around the world.
Government seizes TV stations: Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa has ordered the seizure of nearly 200 companies, including two television stations and a radio station that had been critical of his leadership. Correa said the takeovers were part of an investigation into businesses with ties to corrupt bankers. But critics called them politically motivated, and even some officials in Correa’s administration agreed; Finance Minister Fausto Ortiz resigned in protest. “We are beginning to live what is common in Venezuela,” said Blasco Peñaherrera Solah, president of Quito’s Chamber of Commerce, “and what happened in Cuba and what has been experienced in all totalitarian countries.”