• AP PHOTOS: Pinata-making art lives on in Mexican family

    Updated: 2 hr ago

    MEXICO CITY (AP) — A Mexican party isn't complete without a piñata, and Melesio Vicente Flores and Cecilia Albarran Gonzalez have spent the last 25 years making high-end versions of the papier-mache figures to later be stuffed with candies and broken open with a stick or club. As they practice the centuries-old tradition of pinata-making, the couple caters to a smaller market of consumers demanding higher quality "artistic" figures that pay greater attention to detail. Still, competition is tight as more run-of-the mill pinata makers sell their creations more cheaply. Three other rooftops full of the drying figures are visible on the hillside below the couple's workshop and home.

  • Survivors recall panic before Mexico City hospital blast

    Updated: 3 hr ago

    MEXICO CITY (AP) — Inside the maternity hospital on the western edge of Mexico City, concern quickly turned to panic as the sour smell of propane seeped in and a vapor cloud grew at the emergency room's entrance. The crew of a gas tanker truck outside began yelling: "Call the firefighters! And tell people to get out!" A mammoth explosion shattered the morning, collapsing most of the hospital and sending flames and smoke boiling into the sky Thursday morning. Fatimas Parras, 16, was getting ready for school in her nearby home when the blast blew tiles off the roof. With her hair still wet, she ran outside where she encountered a boy of about 13 carrying an infant from the hospital. "The baby was covered in dust and the

  • Rio de Janeiro unnerved by wave of stray-bullet cases

    Updated: 3 hr ago

    RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — The bullet hit the 4-year-old girl as she waited to cross a street, holding hands with her stepfather and a cousin. The next day, a 9-year-old boy was shot dead at a swimming pool. Soon after, it was a 21-year-old mother of two who was killed by another stray bullet while sitting with a child in her lap. The three deaths are part of a wave of shootings this month that has residents on edge in metropolitan Rio de Janeiro, the host city for next year's Olympics. In addition to the fatalities, at least 10 other people have been wounded by stray bullets in recent days, prompting community leaders to complain that a police crackdown on criminal gangs is provoking heavy-powered gunbattles that are catching i

  • Gas blast wrecks Mexico children's hospital, killing 3

    Updated: 4 hr ago

    MEXICO CITY (AP) — Injured and bleeding, mothers grasping infants in their arms fled from a maternity hospital shattered by a powerful gas explosion Thursday, and rescuers began smashing sledgehammers through fallen concrete hunting for others who might be trapped. A nurse and a baby died in the blast and a second infant died Thursday night, Mexico City authorities said. More than 70 people were injured in the blast that collapsed about three-fourths of the hospital, but by late in the day rescuers determined no one was left trapped in the rubble. Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera said some of the injured were about to be released from area hospitals, including some mothers who suffered injuries while using their bodies to shield

  • German couple killed in Paraguay, apparently by guerrillas

    Updated: 6 hr ago

    ASUNCION, Paraguay (AP) — A German couple abducted from their cattle farm was found dead Thursday, apparently at the hands of a guerrilla group that earlier this week demanded the owner of an adjoining farm pay $300,000 and give food to the poor. Roberto Natto, 60, and Erika Reiser, 53, had been taken away Wednesday along with four workers on their farm outside Yby Yau in northern Paraguay, about 395 kilometers (245 miles) north of the capital, investigator Sandra Quinonez said. According to workers who managed to get free, "the captors wore camouflage uniforms and were apparently directed by Esteban Marin, a member of the criminal Paraguayan People's Army," Quinonez said Thursday. Both of the Germans were shot in the

  • Much confusion, few answers, in Argentine prosecutor's death

    Updated: 10 hr ago

    BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — Argentina has been rocked by the death of prosecutor Alberto Nisman, who was found in a pool of blood on Jan. 18 hours before he was to elaborate on his accusation that President Cristina Fernandez protected those responsible for a 1994 terror bombing. The case is shrouded in charges of a high-level cover-up and government suggestions that Nisman's death was orchestrated by rogue intelligence agents.

  • Brazil: Petrobras case had $800M in kickbacks found so far

    Updated: 11 hr ago

    RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Brazilian prosecutors said Thursday that a kickback scheme at state-run oil company Petrobras involved at least $800 million in bribes and other illegal funds. They expect that figure to grow as they keep investigating. Federal prosecutors said they've recovered about $170 million involved in the scheme, that over 230 businesses of all sizes are being investigated and that 86 people are facing charges so far. Several top executives from Brazil's biggest construction and engineering firms remain jailed as the investigation continues, with a judge saying they're a flight risk and cannot be freed. The accounting of the investigation was made public on a special website prosecutors created for the pu

  • Argentina buries prosecutor who accused gov't of cover-up

    Updated: 14 hr ago

    BUENOS AIRES (AP) — Family and friends paid final respects Thursday to the Argentine prosecutor who was found dead after alleging that President Cristina Fernandez agreed to protect those responsible for a 1994 bombing, the worst terrorist attack in the country's history. Mourners and observers lined Buenos Aires streets to watch the funeral motorcade that carried the body of Alberto Nisman to a Jewish cemetery on the edge of the city. Some chanted "Nisman is present!" while others cried or sang the national anthem. "This is burying part of our republic," said Patricia Bullrich, an opposition member of Congress, before entering the cemetery. "It's a day of reflection and sadness for all of Argentina." Nisman, 51

  • AP PHOTOS: Chilean kids cool off during summer heat wave

    Updated: Wed, Jan 28, 2015

    SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) — When the news spreads through the neighborhood that a small aquatic park is being installed in the local plaza, the children are the first to show up and excitedly watch a water truck fill up inflatable swimming pools. For a few hours, the kids play in the cool water during the hot Southern Hemisphere summer, forgetting they live in a concrete city. Their parents are relieved they no longer have to explain that they don't have the time or money to go to the beach in one of the most economically unequal countries in the world as the temperatures here reach 38 degrees centigrade (100 degrees Fahrenheit).

  • Panama high court OKs corruption probe of ex-president

    Updated: Wed, Jan 28, 2015

    PANAMA CITY (AP) — Panama's Supreme Court voted Wednesday to open a corruption probe against former President Ricardo Martinelli, a move likely to rally popular support in a nation where the politically powerful rarely face justice for misdeeds. A statement from the court said all nine judges voted to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Martinelli over allegations he inflated contracts worth $45 million to purchase dehydrated food for a government social program. The accusation is based on the testimony of a political ally, Giacomo Tamburelli, the former head of the National Assistance Program who has said he was taking orders from the then president to inflate contracts. He is now under house arrest.

  • Chilean lawmakers approve same-sex civil unions

    Updated: Wed, Jan 28, 2015

    SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) — Chilean lawmakers gave final approval on Wednesday to a bill that recognizes civil unions between same-sex couples. The legislation now goes to President Michelle Bachelet, who is expected to sign it. Government spokesman Alvaro Elizalde welcomed the bill's passage as "a breakthrough that we are proud of as a government." The measure has been in the works for four years and will give same-sex and unmarried couples many of the rights granted to married couples. Among the changes, it will allow civil union partners to inherit each other's property, join a partner's health plan and receive pension benefits. Civil unions have been recognized in several countries across South America, but conservativ

  • Rights groups also doubt Mexico account on missing students

    Updated: Wed, Jan 28, 2015

    MEXICO CITY (AP) — International human rights groups on Wednesday questioned the Mexican government's official account of the disappearance of 43 college students last fall in the southern state of Guerrero. Hours after parents of the missing young men rejected the attorney general's declaration that investigators were sure the students were dead, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International supported the families' demand that the investigation remain open. Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam reassured Mexicans that the case had not been closed. He said a news conference he gave Tuesday was intended only to update the country on evidence he considers sufficient to conclude the students were killed and their bodies incinera

  • Aide says Argentine prosecutor didn't trust security detail

    Updated: Wed, Jan 28, 2015

    BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — The man who gave prosecutor Alberto Nisman the pistol that killed him said Wednesday that Nisman feared for the safety of his daughters and didn't trust the policemen protecting him. Diego Lagomarsino said at a news conference that Nisman borrowed the gun Jan. 17, the day before he was found dead with Lagomarsino's gun by his side. The prosecutor was scheduled to appear before congress the next day to detail his allegations that President Cristina Fernandez conspired to protect some of the Iranian suspects in the 1994 bombing of a Jewish center. Lagomarsino, a computer specialist and long-time acquaintance of Nisman, said he had asked Nisman why he wanted the gun. He said Nisman told him it wa

  • Venezuela's No. 2 distances himself from defecting bodyguard

    Updated: Wed, Jan 28, 2015

    CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — The powerful head of Venezuela's congress moved Wednesday to distance himself from a bodyguard who defected to the United States and reportedly has implicated his former boss as head of drug ring of political and military officials. National Assembly chief Diosdado Cabello, who has denied the drug allegation, told Blu Radio of Colombia that former bodyguard Leamsy Salazar was never his head of security, as had been reported. He acknowledged that Salazar worked for him, but added, "They want the world to understand that he was the person closest to me. It's a lie, a lie." The newspapers ABC of Spain and the Miami-based El Nuevo Herald reported this week that Salazar had gone to the U.S.

  • Brazil's biggest city may cut water service to 2 days a week

    Updated: Wed, Jan 28, 2015

    SAO PAULO (AP) — The worst drought to hit Brazil's biggest city in decades may leave residents with water service only two days a week. Sao Paulo water utility company Sabesp says a five days-off, two days-on system would be a last-ditch effort to prevent the collapse of the Cantareira water system. The reservoir is the largest of six that provide water to some 6 million of the 20 million people living in the metropolitan area of Sao Paulo. The utility says Cantareira is now down to 5.1 percent of its capacity of 264 billion gallons (1 trillion liters). Sabesp official Paulo Massato Yoshimoto said Wednesday that "rationing could happen if rainfall does not increase in the reservoir area soon.

  • TV star's plastic surgery disaster tests Brazil

    Updated: Wed, Jan 28, 2015

    SAO PAULO (AP) — Andressa Urach went from being a single teenage mom nicknamed "Beanpole" to a reality TV bombshell in Brazil thanks to silicone implants, anabolic steroids, a nose job, and gel and botox injections, a fact she wasn't ashamed to share with fans. "There are plenty of ugly women," she said last year. "If you have the money, you can be beautiful. This pretty face you see here, my dear, it costs some." More, it turns out, than she bargained for.

  • Petrobras releases profit drop in 3rd quarter 2014

    Updated: Wed, Jan 28, 2015

    SAO PAULO (AP) — Brazil's scandal-plagued state-run oil company Wednesday released its third quarter report for 2014, showing that profits dropped 9 percent compared to the same period in 2013. Petrobras' quarterly results were released two months late amid ongoing investigations into a massive corruption scandal. Third quarter profits totaled 3.1 billion reals ($1.2 billion), down 38 percent from those posted in the second quarter of 2014. In a letter to investors and shareholders, chief executive Maria das Gracas Foster said corruption-related payments were wrongly recorded in the past as legitimate costs.

  • Mexico: Captured drug lord 'Chapo' Guzman to stay put

    Updated: Tue, Jan 27, 2015

    MEXICO CITY (AP) — Captured Sinaloa drug cartel leader Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman will not be extradited to the United States anytime soon, Mexico's top prosecutor said Tuesday. Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam said he was expecting to receive a formal request later in the day from Washington, which also wants to prosecute Guzman on drug trafficking charges. But U.S. authorities will have a long wait. "I could accept extradition, but at the time that I choose. 'El Chapo' must stay here to complete his sentence, and then I will extradite him," Murillo Karam told The Associated Press in an interview. "So about 300 or 400 years later — it will be a while.

  • Argentine Jewish groups boycott commemoration in protest

    Updated: Tue, Jan 27, 2015

    BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — Jewish groups boycotted the Argentine government's Holocaust Day commemoration Tuesday in protest over the mysterious death of prosecutor Alberto Nisman, while skepticism grew over President Cristina Fernandez's plan to reform intelligence services that she has suggested were behind the prosecutor's death. The annual commemoration, which is normally co-hosted by the government and several Jewish groups, was held Tuesday night at the Foreign Ministry. A government statement said a representative of the Israeli Embassy attended the official event. But it was shunned by local Jewish leaders. Earlier in the day, about 500 people gathered for a ceremony at a Jewish community center that was bombed

  • Mexico: Investigation shows that all 43 students are dead

    Updated: Tue, Jan 27, 2015

    MEXICO CITY (AP) — Investigators are now certain that 43 college students missing since September were killed and incinerated after they were seized by police in southern Guerrero state, the Mexican attorney general said Tuesday. It was the first time Jesus Murillo Karam said definitely that all were dead, even though Mexican authorities have DNA identification for only one student and a declaration from a laboratory in Innsbruck, Austria, that it appears impossible to identify the others. The attorney general cited confessions and forensic evidence from an area near a garbage dump where the Sept. 26 crime occurred that showed the fuel and temperature of the fire were sufficient to turn 43 bodies into ashes.