Latam News: Mexico is Becoming Less Dangerous and Other Top Stories

PHOTO: An armed vehicle parades the streets of Mexico City during recent independence day celebrations. Over the past six years the Mexican government has increasingly deployed the military to fight drug gangs around the country.

Manuel Rueda/ABC-Univision

While we were away for Thanksgiving lots was happening in Latin America. Violence seems to be decreasing in Mexico,a judge in New York ordered Argentina to pay its debt, and scientists are studying a fungus that could cripple the region´s bananana industry. Check out this compilation of stories from Latin America to get you back on track.

Is Mexico Reaching the End of its Security Crisis?

Official crime statistics from the Mexican National Public Security System are revealing an interesting trend: drug violence would have slowed down in Mexico in 2011 and 2012. Mexican security analyst Alejandro Hope takes a close look at these figures in a recent article, now translated by Insight Crime. Hope points out that the murder rate has decreased significantly in previous hotpoints like Ciudad Juarez, and that over the past year or so, violence in some parts of the country has failed to spread to more peaceful areas. "It may be necessary to refine the analysis of the security policy of the current administration," Hope writes. "Did something finally start to work?," he inquires.

PEMEX Discovers Huge Oil Deposit

Mexican state-owned oil company PEMEX, announced the discovery of a huge crude deposit in Tabasco State. Situated 3.7 miles deep, the new well could hold from 500 million up to 1 billion barrels of reserves, which makes it the company's most important solid-ground discovery of the last decade. PEMEX has invested almost 10 billion dollars in exploration since 2009. According to President Felipe Calderón, this strategy is starting to pay off.

Colombian Guerrillas Free Four Chinese Oil Workers

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, FARC, have released four Chinese nationals kidnapped 17 months ago. The oil workers are supposed to be the last foreign hostages held by the FARC, although former guerrillas who have recently quit the FARC's ranks, told local media that several Colombian nationals are currently held hostage by the group. The FARC are currently in peace talks with the Colombian government and last week declared a two-month truce. Back in September, the rebels had -- falsely -- announced that they no longer held any hostages.

Brazil Engulfed in Corruption Scandal

In a crucial decision, Brazilian President Dilma Roussef dismissed every senior official suspected of having links to "mensalao" a scheme through which public officials sold government permits in return for bribes. This decision takes place after the top aid of former President Luis Ignacio "Lula" Da Silva was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment for using public funds to pay coalition parties for political support. Among the sacked is Rosamaria De Noronha, another close aid to the former president.

Judge Orders Argentina to Pay its Massive Debt

U.S. federal judge Thomas Griesa of New York ordered Argentina to pay its 1.3 billon dollars foreign debt before December 15th. The debt has been pending since Argentina's historical default a decade ago. But this time around, Judge Griesa could force the Bank of New York, which processes Argentina's bond payments, to pay back money owed to vulture funds and other creditors, before it honors payments owed to investors who have recently bought Argentine bonds. The Argentine government said that it will not follow the judges orders, which it described as "judicial colonialism." Argentina is also considering appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Mexico Name Change Proposal Unleashes Endless Jokes

Last week Mexican President Felipe Calderon proposed changing his country´s official name from The United States of Mexico, to simply Mexico. The proposal would simplify government business, but it it is difficult to implment. It has also unleashed a series of jokes in Twitter and other socila media sites, with web users coming up with their own alternative names for the country, as the Voice of America reports. Criticism showered on Calderon in the media as well. "A President who could not change the country for good, is saying at the end of his term, well, If I can´t change reality, at least let´s change the country´s name," political anlayst Lorenzo Meyer said on the radio show MVS noticias.

Asian Fungus Threatens Latin American Banana Industry

The Tropical Race Four fungus has devastated Asia's banana plantations and experts now fear that it can reach Latin American shores. There is no cure yet for this plague that attacks and kills banana trees at incredible speed and has devastated millions of acres of bananas in Asia. According to scientists, it is only a matter of time until travelers bring the fungus across the Pacific. Banana companies in Latin America, depend largely on just one variety of the fruit, making the whole supply chain incredibly vulnerable to plagues such as Race Four. U.S. supermarkets overwhelmingly depend on bananas from the Western Hemisphere.

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