- Moderate earthquake strikes western Mexico, no major damage
- Hospitalised suspect in Boston bombings awaits charges under guard
- Central bank's Merentes named new Venezuela finance minister
Posted: 21 Apr 2013 08:47 PM PDT
MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - A magnitude 5.9 earthquake struck western Mexico on Sunday, shaking buildings in the capital, but there were no reports of significant damage or injuries, officials said.
The quake, initially reported as a magnitude 6.2 off the coast, was centred 33 km (20 miles) northwest of La Union, on the border between Guerrero and Michoacan states, close to the Pacific coast, the U.S. Geological Survey said.
State oil monopoly Pemex said shortly after the quake that the power supply to its Tula refinery was interrupted. Not long after, it reported electricity was coming back on line again.
Pemex said it was unclear if the tremor had caused the break in energy supply at the Tula refinery, Mexico's second biggest. It has a production capacity of 315,000 barrels per day.
A Pemex official could not say whether production had been affected, but added that any loss would be made up.
The quake was felt in Mexico City, about 325 km (200 miles) away from La Union. Buildings shook and residents briefly ran outdoors, but most returned inside shortly afterwards.
Several senior Mexican officials, including Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chong, said via Twitter there were no immediate reports of injuries or significant damage.
(Reporting by Dave Graham and Adriana Barrera, Editing by Eric Beech)
Copyright © 2013 Reuters
Posted: 21 Apr 2013 08:29 PM PDT
BOSTON (Reuters) - Federal prosecutors prepared criminal charges on Sunday against an ethnic Chechen college student suspected in the deadly Boston Marathon bombings as he lay severely wounded, unable to speak and hospitalised under heavy guard two days after his dramatic capture.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, whose tongue was injured in a gunshot to the throat before his arrest, was initially under sedation and incapable of being interviewed by investigators, authorities said. He also had been shot in the leg.
But the ABC and NBC news networks reported late on Sunday that Tsarnaev had regained consciousness and was responding in writing to questions put to him by authorities, who are seeking to determine if the suspects they have identified acted alone.
Much of investigators' attention has focused on a trip to Russia last year by his older brother and fellow suspect, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who is now dead, and whether Chechen separatists or Islamist extremists may have influenced or assisted the siblings.
The two brothers emigrated to the United States a decade ago from Dagestan, a predominantly Muslim region in Russia's North Caucasus mountains.
They are accused of planting and setting off two homemade bombs near the crowded finish line of the Boston Marathon last Monday, killing three people and injuring more than 170 others.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, died after a gunfight three nights later with police on the streets of Watertown, the Boston suburb where authorities finally cornered his younger brother, ending a massive manhunt that shut down much of greater Boston on Friday.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, a naturalized U.S. citizen, was found spattered with blood and hiding inside a covered boat parked in a Watertown back yard on Friday evening.
He apparently was hit by gunfire in the shootout that left his brother dead the day before, but it was not clear whether he suffered additional wounds in a final hail of bullets that preceded his capture.
Tsarnaev was shot in the throat, U.S. Senator Dan Coats, a member of the Intelligence Committee, told ABC. A source close to the investigation told Reuters he had damage to his tongue.
INTENSIVE CARE UNDER ARMED GUARD
The suspect was placed under armed guard in the intensive care unit of Boston's Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, where his brother was pronounced dead early on Friday.
U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz, the federal prosecutor for the Boston area, was preparing criminal charges, according to Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis. It was not clear when charges would be filed. Prosecutors did not plan any news conference or announcements on Sunday.
Whether prosecutors ultimately decide to seek the death penalty if Tsarnaev were convicted hinges on various factors, such as his age, his apparent lack of a prior criminal history and whether he might have information leading to other suspects, legal experts say.
Photographs of the two brothers, allegedly in the act of planting bombs at the Boston Marathon, were circulated by the FBI on Thursday, with an appeal to the public for help in locating the then-unidentified pair.
The suspects surfaced late that night when they allegedly shot a campus police officer to death at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, then hijacked a sport utility vehicle before opening fire and hurling explosives at pursuing law enforcement.
During this confrontation, according to police, a transit cop was badly injured and the older Tsarnaev, walking toward officers and firing until he ran out of ammunition, was tackled by a police sergeant, only to be struck by the SUV as his brother sped away.
The younger Tsarnaev later abandoned the vehicle and vanished, leading authorities to impose a lockdown on the city of Boston and its suburbs before he was found and arrested in Watertown some 20 hours later.
Students returning to campus on Sunday at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth, where Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was enrolled, recalled seeing him back in the dorm, at class and even working out in the gym a day or two after the bombings before realizing he was suspected in the crime.
Boston's police commissioner said investigators discovered at least four unexploded devices, including one similar to the two pressure cooker bombs detonated at the Boston Marathon.
"I personally believe they were (planning other attacks)," he said Sunday on CBS television's "Face the Nation."
Later on CNN, Davis said he was "confident" the two brothers "were the two major actors in the violence that occurred."
The men's parents, who moved back to southern Russia, have said their sons were framed.
Runners in the London Marathon observed 30 seconds of silence before starting their race on Sunday, while people from the greater Boston area remembered the victims in church services.
"We must be people of reconciliation and not revenge," Roman Catholic Cardinal Sean O'Malley told a packed Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston. "The crimes of the two young men must not be justification for violence against Muslims."
In the neighbouring city of Cambridge, police stationed themselves across from a home where various members of the Tsarnaev family had lived, advising bystanders to move on.
Patricia McMillan, who lives two doors down, said she last saw Tamerlan Tsarnaev in the neighbourhood the Wednesday before the bombing, noting he had shaved off his beard and that he was smoking.
TRIP TO RUSSIA
Tamerlan Tsarnaev travelled to Moscow in January 2012 and spent six months in the region, a law enforcement source said.
That trip, combined with Russian interest in Tamerlan communicated to U.S. authorities and an FBI interview of him in 2011, have raised questions whether danger signals were missed.
It was unclear if he could have had contact with militant Islamist groups in southern Russia's restive Caucasus region.
A group leading an Islamist insurgency against Russia said on Sunday it was not at war with the United States, distancing itself from the Boston bombings.
"We are fighting with Russia, which is responsible not only for the occupation of the Caucasus but for monstrous crimes against Muslims," said a statement from Caucasus Emirate militants operating in Dagestan.
The insurgency is rooted in two separatist wars that Russian troops waged against Chechen separatists following the fall of the Soviet Union.
The brothers spent their early years in a small community of Chechens in the central Asian country of Kyrgyzstan, a mainly Muslim nation of 5.5 million. They moved in 2001 to Dagestan, a southern Russian province where their parents now live.
Neighbours said they noticed nothing unusual about Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who this summer helped his father renovate his first floor apartment in Makhachkala, a bustling city in Dagestan.
"They say he was a fanatic. I didn't see that," said Madina Abdulayeva, 45, who runs a small grocery shop across the pot-holed street where he used to come to chat. "We're all Muslim here. We're all part of Islam. We all pray.
(Additional reporting by Mark Hosenball in Washington; Writing by Daniel Trotta and Steve Gorman; Editing by Vicki Allen, Doina Chiacu and Eric Beech)
Back at college, suspect called Boston bombs "crazy" - classmate
Prosecutors face tough call on death penalty in Boston case
Boston Marathon case prosecutor known for aggressive record
Copyright © 2013 Reuters
Posted: 21 Apr 2013 08:17 PM PDT
CARACAS (Reuters) - President Nicolas Maduro replaced Venezuelan Finance Minister Jorge Giordani on Sunday, appointing central bank chief Nelson Merentes in his place two days after being sworn in as the late Hugo Chavez's successor.
It will be the third stint as finance minister for Merentes, a mathematician by training who is seen as a more pragmatic economist than his ideologically driven counterpart Giordani, a Marxist academic who was nicknamed "the Monk."
"I've great faith in Nelson Merentes. We've known each other for many years," Maduro said in a nationally televised address.
In his speech, he also confirmed Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez, Defence Minister Diego Molero, Foreign Minister Elias Jaua and Vice President Jorge Arreaza in their current roles.
Merentes faces private sector complaints about lack of access to hard currency, persistent shortages of basic goods from flour to medicines, slowing growth, and one of the highest inflation rates in the Americas.
Consumer prices rose 7.9 percent in the first three months of 2013 alone, the central bank said last week.
"We need to control inflation, the speculative factors that influence prices, ensure that there are more domestic products, and an economy that can move," Maduro said.
The economy grew 5.6 percent in 2012, but most private economists expect that to slow this year as the government pares back after heavy state spending last year that was a key driver of the economy and helped the ailing Chavez win re-election.
Meanwhile, annual inflation may head toward 30 percent thanks to a currency devaluation and expanding money supply.
Giordani, who had been finance minister since 2008, was seen as one of the architects of the OPEC nation's complicated system of price and currency controls.
He will now become planning minister, a senior position in the economic Cabinet that Giordani held on and off in Chavez's government.
SEEN AS PRAGMATIC
Merentes, who has been president of the central bank since 2009, completed a PhD. in mathematics in Budapest in 1991 before returning to Venezuela as a university professor.
"I think Merentes' pragmatism is positive. He is one of the best options they have," said financial analyst Henkel Garcia of Econometrica.
Maduro has vowed to continue Chavez's hardline socialism. Ecoanalitica director Asdrubal Oliveros said no one thought the move would lead to a change in Venezuela's leftist model.
"But the weakening of Giordani is positive," Oliveros said.
Voters were showered with state spending in 2012 as Chavez sought re-election, financed in part by billions of dollars in bond issuance and loans from China.
Many private economists expect to see the economy grow by 2 percent or less this year when the administration slows spending, as it normally does after presidential races.
The government maintains growth projections of 6 percent for this year, and Maduro's allies dismiss talk of a slowdown as a politically motivated smear campaign.
A veteran of Venezuela's polarized political scene, Merentes ran a polling organisation in between government jobs that produced data usually favouring Chavez, who died on March 5 after a two-year battle with cancer.
Opposition leader Henrique Capriles has refused to recognize Maduro's narrow win in an April 14 election triggered by Chavez's death, and alleges that there were thousands of voting irregularities. He was dismissive of Maduro's new Cabinet.
"Members of the 'for now' government are being announced," Capriles said on Twitter. "Result: more of the same."
(Additional reporting by Marianna Parraga and Brian Ellsworth; Editing by Stacey Joyce and Sandra Maler)
Copyright © 2013 Reuters
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