Calderon plays name game
Nothing against the neighbors, really. Outgoing President Felipe Calderon has suggested that the country change its name from the United States of Mexico to plain Mexico. “It is time for us Mexicans to reclaim the beauty and simplicity of our country’s name: Mexico. A name we chant, we sing, that fills us with joy and pride,” Calderon said last week in the waning days of his term. Mexico, which means “Navel of the Moon” in the indigenous Nahuatl language, was called the Mexican Empire after winning independence from Spain in 1821. Yet since 1824, it has been called the United States of Mexico. Calderon said it was time for Mexico to stop imitating other nations. However, his idea has spawned widespread criticism. “A president who really was not able to change the country for the better ... in the end said: ‘OK, if we can’t really change it, let’s change its name,’” historian Lorenzo Meyer told media. At about the turn of the 20th century, then-president Porfirio Diaz lamented: “Poor Mexico, so far from God and so close to the United States.”
Montreal ‘don’ to testify
The reputed don of Montreal’s mafia, Vito Rizzuto, has been summoned to testify at a corruption inquiry, the state public broadcaster said on Saturday. Rizzuto, 66, returned to the country last month after serving a decade in a US prison for his role in the 1981 murders of three members of New York’s Bonanno crime family. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation said he was served on Nov. 19 with a subpoena to appear before the commission headed by Superior Court Justice France Charbonneau. The commission is investigating alleged graft, bid rigging and kickbacks in the awarding of government construction contracts. Witnesses have testified that construction executives colluded with bureaucrats and politicians in a scheme to embezzle public funds. Federal police surveillance videotapes and wiretaps showed executives handing over cash to Rizzuto’s father and mobsters using threats to steer the bidding.
Drug money unearthed
Authorities found more than half a million US dollars buried underground that belong to traffickers who ship drugs from Colombia to Central America, police said on Saturday. The US$550,000 in cash was buried at an illegal camp near the Meta River in the western state of Apure, the anti-drug office said in a statement. The gang uses the country as a stopover spot to ferry drugs from Colombia to Central America, it added. In addition to the money, officers found 1.5kg of cocaine, an assault rifle, five ammunition magazines, two cars and satellite phones. While the country is designated by the UN as free of illicit crops, it is considered to be a major transit point for drugs into the largest consumer markets in the US and Europe.
Cigar rollers in UNESCO bid
The shifts are long and dull at the nation’s cigar factories, so for 150 years, it has been a tradition to have someone read to the cigar rollers as a way to ease the grind — anything from literature to recipes. Now, an idea has emerged to make that custom part of UNESCO’s world cultural heritage. Miguel Barnet, a poet and ethnologist and president of the Cuban Writers’ Federation, said the country hopes UNESCO will honor the custom by declaring it one of the world’s intangible treasures, the newspaper Granma reported on Saturday. The custom started in Havana in 1865 and spread rapidly. Now, about 300 people work as readers.