Chavez in stable condition
President Hugo Chavez is in “stable” condition after being diagnosed with a respiratory infection following his latest cancer surgery in Cuba, an official said on Tuesday. Communications Minister Ernesto Villegas said doctors had treated the infection and brought it under control, adding that it was a common consequence of “complicated surgeries” and that the ailing leader required “absolute rest.” Chavez, 58, is due to be sworn in for a third presidential term on Jan. 10, but the country is now on tenterhooks to see if the outspoken, formerly tireless leader will remain their president, become incapacitated or worse.
Prison break kills 17
A shootout during a prison break at a penitentiary in the north of the country late on Tuesday has left at least 11 inmates and six guards dead, authorities said. Durango State Public Safety Department said guards foiled “a massive prison escape” at the Cereso No. 2 facility in the city of Gomez Palacio. The inmates tried to climb the prison’s back walls and when guards fired into the air to stop them, the firefight ensued, a statement from the department said. “The inmates started firing guns into the watchtowers and into custodian areas,” it said. Soldiers surrounded the prison and helped stop the prison break, it said, adding that the prison was back under the control of authorities.
Gulf sheen remains mystery
Underwater inspections at the site of BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig disaster have failed to identify the source of a persistent sheen on the surface of the Gulf of Mexico, officials said on Tuesday. The coast guard and BP both said the recent inspections confirmed that the company’s Macondo well, which blew out in April 2010 and spawned the nation’s worst offshore oil spill, remains secure and is not leaking oil. However, investigators collected samples of a white, cloudy substance that appeared to be coming from several areas on the overturned rig on the sea floor. Lab tests were planned on the samples of the substance, which is not believed to be oil. The coast guard has said the sheen cannot be recovered and does not pose a risk to the shoreline.
New abortion law proposed
The government said on Tuesday that it was preparing to allow abortion under limited circumstances in an effort to comply with demands by the European Court of Human Rights to clarify the country’s legal position on the issue. The proposed legislative and regulatory changes would allow abortion only in cases where there is a real and substantial risk to a woman’s life. The Supreme Court ruled in 1992 that abortion was permissible when risk was present, but the government never passed a law to that effect.
Inmates escape from prison
A massive manhunt is under way for two bank robbers who pulled off a daring escape from downtown Chicago’s high-rise jail on Tuesday by apparently squeezing through a narrow window and scaling down about 20 stories using a makeshift rope tied to the bars in a cell window. Police helicopters and canine units swarmed the area, but not until more than three hours after Joseph “Jose” Banks and Kenneth Conley went unaccounted for during a 5am headcount, Marshal’s Service spokeswoman Belkis Cantor said. Both men were still at large late on Tuesday night.