While much of the international press coverage of the region is focused on the kidnapping of French reporter Romeo Langlois by the FARC, another journalist has been kidnapped in Honduras. According to La Tribuna, HRN radio news manager Alfredo Villatoro was taken hostage by unknown abductors on his way to work Tegucigalpa yesterday morning.
Authorities arrested ex-police sergeant Gerson Basilio Godoy in connection with the kidnapping, but El Heraldo reports that he was released after ten hours in custody. Basillo was dismissed from the police force in September 2011 for his alleged links to a kidnapping and extortion network.
He initially drew the attention of officials when he was seen driving a Toyota pickup truck which had been seen parked in front of Villatoro’s house yesterday morning, and which bore a scratch on one side which featured paint residue presumably belonging to the journalist’s vehicle. There have been no other announced arrests in the case, and although Villatoro’s family has said they have been contacted by the kidnappers, his whereabouts are still unknown.
The incident is yet another reminder of the dangers faced by Honduran journalists, and comes just days the disappearance and subsequent murder of reporter Erick Alejandro Martinez. Martinez, a member of the Honduran resistance movement, went missing on Saturday and was found dead on Tuesday. Human rights groups say he was the 22nd journalist to have been killed in the past two years under the administration of President Porfirio Lobo. Honduras Culture and Politics seizes on the accusations made against ex-policeman Basilio Godoy, noting that through a combination of a lack of cooperation by police officials and the absence of international pressure, Lobo’s promises to reform the country’s notoriously corrupt police force have largely been unfulfilled.
· La Prensa Grafica and the Associated Press report that the Salvadoran Supreme Court has refused Spain’s request to extradite the 13 former military officers accused of murdering six Jesuit priests in 1989, ruling that the men were protected by the ban on extraditions that existed during that time.
· OAS Secretary General arrives in Ecuador today to meet with President Rafael Correa in order to discuss the role of the multi-lateral organization in the hemisphere. Correa has been a firm critic of the OAS and the Inter-American Human Rights System in general, which he says is “totally dominated by the influence of the US.” The Americas Quarterly blog has more on the visit.
· The New York Times takes a look at Cuba’s impressively low AIDs rate. While the country’s policies of quarantining HIV-positive individuals in the 1980s and early 1990s were widely criticized as heavy-handed, Cuba now has one of the smallest AIDs epidemics in the world, with only 14,038 documented cases. The HIV infection rate on the island is 0.1 percent, or one-sixth the rate of the United States and one-twentieth of nearby Haiti.
· The NY Times’ Ciudad Juarez Journal also has a feature on youth culture in Juarez, claiming that the relative decrease in violence in the border city has been accompanied by a kind of renaissance in street art and fashion.
· Mexican authorities found 15 dead bodies yesterday near Lake Chapala, in Jalisco state, according to El Universal. The LA Times’ World Now blog notes that the lake is a popular destination for American retirees, but has seen a sharp increase in violence in recent years, with three Americans being killed in shootouts in the area last year alone.
· The LA Times profiles the front-runner in Mexico’s upcoming presidential elections, the PRI’s Enrique Peña Nieto. According to the paper, only an unforeseen incident (such as Peña Nieto committing a major gaffe in the last remaining candidate debate, the arrest of a high-ranking PRI official for corruption, or the capture of Mexican fugitive Chapo Guzman) could have any chance of altering the election against him.
· Meanwhile, a poll conducted by GEA/ISA for Milenio suggests that leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is neck and neck with the PAN’s Josefina Vázquez Mota amongst decided voters. AMLO may have a slight lead with 24.9 percent, but is closely followed by Vazquez Mota with 24.1. AMLO is doing better amongst undecided voters, leading Vasquez Mota 19.5 to 18.8 percent among that demographic. Both polls show Peña Nieto with a 15 to 20-point lead, however.
· The Wall Street Journal reports on a series of energy agreements signed this week between Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and Chinese president Hu Jintao. According to the WSJ, the agreements “come as the U.S. ally rethinks its traditional reliance on markets in the north and west,” and could divert Colombian coal and oil exports away from the US and European markets in the future.
· Despite objections from religious groups concerned about promoting homosexuality, the Chilean Senate has passed a bill aimed at ending discrimination on the basis of race, gender, ethnicity, disability, religion and sexuality. President Sebastian Piñera has endorsed the bill and is expected to sign it into law shortly.
· Greg Weeks over at Two Weeks’ Notice blog has an interesting post up about the politicization of polls in Venezuela, and the huge differences between polls conducted privately and those done by state media.