Venezuela's Hugo Chavez dominated headlines in Latin American this week as he underwent a delicate cancer operation. Also, protests broke out in Argentina after courts refused to condemn suspected members of a prostitution ring, banking firm JP Morgan was accused of laundering money for Mexico's Zetas Cartel, and US border patrols agents found Marijuana tins launched across the border by air pressurized cannons.
Because the action never stops south of the border, here's our weekly Latin American news round-up.
Hugo Chavez Could Miss Swearing-in-Ceremony
Hugo Chavez's health condition is still the most talked about secret in the world, and rumors are now circulating that he may not be able to inaugurate his fourth presidential term on January 10, 2013. According to Venezuela's constitution, new elections must be held within 30 days if Chavez is not able to attend the swearing-in ceremony. If he dies before that date, elections must also be held within 30 days.
On Wednesday, Venezuelan Vice President Nicolás Maduro announced on national television that President Chavez was facing a "complex and hard" recovery process after undergoing his 4th cancer surgery in Havana, Cuba, on Tuesday. Chavez's designated political successor had tears in his voice while calling for unity within Bolivarian ranks.
Violent Protests in Argentina Against Verdict in Sex Slaves Trial
The acquittal of 13 people accused of having kidnapped and forced a young girl into prostitution provoked clashes between demonstrators and police forces in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The BBC reports that 23-year-old María de los Ángeles Veron disappeared 10 years ago and is said to be one of the many victims of a human trafficking gang providing young prostitutes to rich clients.
Marita Veron's mother Susana Trimarco infiltrated herself into sex slave networks pretending to be interested in buying women and managed to produce hundreds of sexually-exploited women as witnesses to the trial. Judges said the evidence was insufficient to link the accused to Marita Veron's specific case beyond any reasonable doubt.
Mexican Drug Cartels Launder Money Through JP Morgan Accounts
Mexico's "Zetas" cartel transferred drug money through a JP Morgan account to buy race horses in the US, the Justice Department said. The account was opened in March 2012 and immediately received a $250,000 transfer from Integra Logística Aduenara, a front business for Zetas' money laundering operations.
Next month, transfers for up to $600,000 were made on the account from various sources in Mexico. According to the accusation against Zetas' financial operator Erick Lozano Díaz, JP Morgan was not the only bank used by drug cartels: of the 12 Zetas' bank accounts under scrutiny in the US, six were from Bank of America and five from Well's and Fargo.
Software Tycoon John McAfee Deported From Guatemala to the US
John McAfee, founder of the anti-virus brand that bears his name, was deported from Guatemala and landed on US soil in Miami airport on Wednesday night. The software tycoon fled from Belize where he was wanted by questioning in the case of his neighbor's murder. McAfee fears he would be framed by Belize's authorities and fled to Guatemala where he asked for political asylum. Guatemalan authority treated him as an illegal immigrant and deported him back to the US. Guatemalan authorities "took me out of my cell and put me on a freaking plane, I had no choice in the matter" he told ABC News.
Former Brazil President Luiz Ignacio "Lula" Da Silva "Aware" of Corruption Scheme, Defendant Says
Marcos Valerio, one of the defendants in Brazil "Mensalao" case, a major bribe and money laundering scheme involving top public servants, allegedly provided information about former president Luiz Ignacio "Lula" Da Silva's involvement in the scheme in exchange for a reduction of his 40-year prison sentence. According to Valerio, not only was Lula aware of the scheme but he personally benefited from part of the laundered money. Interviewed in Paris, Lula discarded the accusation as a "desperate attempt" by Valerio to reduce his sentence.
85 Pounds of Marijuana Cannons Fired Above Mexico-US Border
Thirty cans of marihuana worth $42,500 landed in Arizona after being fired out of an air-pressurized cannon on the Mexican side of the border. Border patrol agents where looking for the device after they found 33 marijuana packed cans near a border fence last week. "We have never seen this before," US Border Patrol spokesperson Kyle Estes told Reuters, "we have seen catapults but nothing like this, that's for sure."