August 16, 2005 [LINK]

Prison riots in Guatemala

At least 31 prisoners were killed in riots sparked by gang rivalries in prisons in Guatemala on Monday. Prisoners used cell phones to launch coordinated simultaneous attacks in several prisons. Honduras and El Salvador have suffered deadly gang-related prison riots in recent years, and the problem is spreading across borders. The largest of the Central American gangs, Mara Salvatrucha, is responsible for the recent surge in vicious knife attacks against Latinos in the United States.

Plane crash in Venezuela

[After midnight on Tuesday] a West Caribbean Airways jetliner heading from Panama to Martinique suffered engine failure and crashed in western Venezuela, close to the border with Colombia. None of the 160 passengers and crew survived. This was the deadliest plane crash in Venezuela's history and came only one day after a jet crash that killed 121 people in Greece.

Chile reforms constitution

Last week the Chilean Congress passed an amendment to the constitution that puts an end to the immunities of the armed forces and restores full civilian authority over the entire government and state apparatus. This rebuke to the conditions stipulated by former dictator Augusto Pinochet as he gave up power marks the end of the transition from authoritarian rule to liberal democracy in what is now considered one of the most successful countries in Latin America, even though it remains haunted by the state terror of the Pinochet era. The National Security Council, which Pinochet had created in the 1970s as a strong centralized tool of maintaining order and suppressing dissent, will be transformed into an advisory body. The presidential term was also reduced from six to four years, with the prohibition against immediate re-election being kept in place. Legal proceedings against Pinochet continue on an intermittent basis.