A fire at a prison in southwestern Colombia has killed at least 51 people and injured a dozen more, prison authorities reported Tuesday.
The director of the national prison system, Tito Castellanos, told Radio Caracol that it’s not clear if all of the dead were prisoners.
Castellanos initially said 49 had died, but the Justice Ministry hours later raised the toll to 51.
The Director stated the fire broke out during what appeared to be an attempted riot early Tuesday at the medium security prison in the city of Tulua.
He said inmates had set mattresses on fire without considering the consequences.
Justice Minister Wilson Ruiz added that more than 20 inmates were being treated for injuries in hospital, and said that two prison guards sustained minor injuries.
President Iván Duque expressed condolences to the families of those who died and said he had ordered investigations into the cause.
Two Jesuit priests killed last week in remote mountains of northern Mexico were buried Monday in the lawn of the church where a gunman attacked them last week.
The Revs. Javier Campos, 79, and Joaquín Mora, 80, had spent much of their lives serving Indigenous Raramuri people of the region. On Sunday, their friends, colleagues and parishioners mourned the priests’ return to Cerocahui in wooden caskets.
Last Monday, a local crime boss pursuing a tourist guide who sought refuge in the church facing Cerocahui’s central square, killed the guide and the two priests.
Their bodies were initially taken by their attacker, but were recovered days later.
The attack has drawn strong criticism from the Roman Catholic church to Mexico’s security situation and the federal government’s strategy.
Organized crime has a firm hold on communities in the Tarahumara mountains of Chihuahua state, where they support illegal logging, extory money from local businesses and grow marijuana and opium poppies.
Colleagues said Campos and Mora provided a moral balance in the marginalized communities controlled by gunmen.
In a Mass Saturday for the priests in the state capital Chihuahua, Rev. Javier Ávila, referenced President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s saying of “hugs not bullets,” lamented that “there aren’t enough hugs anymore to cover the bullets.”
From there, the caskets made their way up the winding roads into the mountains where the priests had worked for decades among the impoverished Raramuri.
They were buried later Monday in Cerocahui on the grassy lawn of the church, amid shouts of praise from parishioners.
The leader of the Jesuit order in Mexico, Rev. Luis Gerardo Moro, pledged during the funeral that the Jesuits will not be frightened off.
The order has been active in the Tarahumara mountains since the 1600s.
“We are not leaving here,” Moro said. “We want to continue here near you, learning from you.”
Yolanda Torres, one of the mourners who attended the funeral Monday, said “all of us in the Tarahumara mountains, we are very, very sad, very upset … we are here, united in grief.”
A court in Paris found the French government guilty of wrongful negligence involving the former use of a banned pesticide in the French Caribbean islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique but denied compensation to those affected, officials announced Monday.
The ruling was bittersweet for activists and attorneys who argued that the French government’s authorization to use chlordecone in those islands was illegal as they sought damages for the defendants.
“This decision is a significant step forward in the sense that the fault of the state is recognized,” Christophe Leguevaques, one of the attorneys involved in the case, told The Associated Press.
“On the negative side, the court does not recognize financial reparations for the victims… . However, West Indians have been exposed and are still exposed to this dangerous product.”
The lawsuit is one of at least two filed against the French government involving the use of chlordecone in Guadeloupe and Martinique.
The first lawsuit, filed in 2006, is still pending before the courts and accuses the French government of failing to protect the health of its people and not doing enough to identify and limit the effects of chlordecone pollution in both islands.
Senior U.S. government officials have quietly traveled to Caracas in the latest bid to bring home detained Americans and rebuild relations with the South American oil giant as the war in Ukraine drags on, forcing the U.S. to recalibrate other foreign policy objectives.
A U.S. State Department spokesperson described the trip as a welfare visit focused on the safety of several U.S. citizens detained in Caracas, including a group of oil executives from Houston-based Citgo jailed more than four years ago.
The delegation includes Roger Carstens, the special presidential envoy on hostage affairs, as well as Ambassador James Story, who heads the U.S. government’s Venezuelan Affairs Unit out of neighboring Colombia.
President Nicolás Maduro confirmed the visit during televised remarks, saying the delegation would meet with a trusted ally, National Assembly President Jorge Rodríguez, to “give continuity to the bilateral agenda between the government of the United States and the government of Venezuela.”
The visit follows a surprise trip in March by the two officials and Juan Gonzalez, the National Security Council director for the Western Hemisphere.
That was the first White House trip to the county in more than two decades.
That trip resulted in the release of two American citizens who the U.S. considered unjustly detained and a promise from Maduro to jumpstart talks with his opponents.
Months earlier, he had suspended the negotiations, led by Norwegian diplomats in Mexico, after a key ally was extradited to the U.S. on money-laundering charges.
It’s unclear what else the officials are seeking to accomplish during the mission. But high on the list are likely to be Maduro’s demand that the U.S. lift crippling oil sanctions that have exacerbated hardships in what was once South America’s most prosperous nation.
Upon arrival in Caracas, Story met for two hours with Juan Guaidó, according to someone close to the leader of the U.S.-backed opposition.
The two discussed efforts to jumpstart negotiations in Mexico, according to the person on the condition of anonymity to discuss the private meeting.
Since the March trip, both the Biden administration and Venezuela’s socialist government have shown a willingness to engage after years of hostilities between Washington and Caracas over Maduro’s 2018 re-election, which was marred by irregularities. The U.S. and other nations withdrew recognition of Maduro after that election, and instead, recognized Guaidó as Venezuela’s legitimate leader.