Guatemalan Mara Gangs demand Christmas bonuses and Other Top News from Latin America

PHOTO: Mural in Antigua Guatemala, Sacatepequez, Guatemala.Xiaozhuli/Flickr
Mural in Antigua Guatemala, Sacatepequez, Guatemala.

Here at Univision/ABC, it's our responsibility to inform you what's going on across our southern border. And we invite you to take a look at the events that shape politics, the economy, drug wars, and culture in the region, because it affects us too.

So, without further adue, here's our roundup of the most interesting news in Latin America.

Guatemalan Mara Gangs Demand Christmas Bonuses

Members of the feared mara youth gangs in Guatemala are demanding that the local public transportation authority pay 100,00 quetzals ($12,700 dollars) as a "Christmas bonus". If the money is not delivered before December 15th, gang members threaten with kidnapping and killing drivers and passengers. An urban transportation spokesperson warned that if the government does not provide the necessary protection, they will stop providing transport services, affecting millions in the Guatemala City area. Guatemala is one of the most dangerous countries in the world with a weekly murder rate of 42 people per 100,00 residents in 2011, twice as high as Mexico's.

Halloween Bomb Kills 14 Children in Colombia

Thousands of children were celebrating Halloween in downtown Pradera, near Cali, Colombia, when a suitcase bomb exploded, killing 2 alleged bombers and injuring 37 people, among them 14 children. Police suspect that the bombers were members of a drug trafficking group allied with the marxist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, FARC. According to investigators, the bomb was triggered from a cell phone that was one block away from its intended target, Pradera's Central Police Station. The bombing occurs at a time when the Colombian government and the FARC are undergoing peace talks.

Bolivian Government Wants to Clamp Down on Facebook Users

The Bolivian government is preparing a law that will target internet users who slander the government on Facebook and other social media. The idea was first launched by Vice President Alvaro García and later backed-up by several senior members of Evo Morales party, which generated uproar on social networks, including Twitter. Free-speech advocates fear growing censorship and other forms of "authoritarian tendencies" from Morales' left-wing government.

Offshore oil Hunt Comes Up Short in Cuba

Cuban authorities announced that the third exploratory well drilled this year in deep waters off the North West coast of the island has failed to find the oil reserves they were hoping for. The costly exploration led by Venezuela State oil company PDVSA turned out unproductive and has temporarily sunk the hopes of the Cuban government that oil could provide the cash flow they need to jump start the island's economy. According to geologic surveys, 5 to 9 billion barrels of crude may lie deep below the Cuban Exclusive Economic Zone in the Gulf of Mexico.

$10 Virgin Scandal Shocks Brazil

Members of the military as well as local politicians and shopkeepers from the Amazonian town of San Miguel de Cachoeira, near the Colombia border, have been accused of sexual abuse by 12 indigenous girls between the ages of 10 and 14. Victims claim that the "nine white men" facing investigation bought their virginity for fees going from 20 reals ($10 dollars) to cell phones, clothes or even candy.

Paraguay Fights Over Dictator's Body

Hundreds of human rights activists and former political prisoners gathered in Asunción to protest the possible repatriation of the remains of military ruler Alfredo Stroessner. General Stroessner died in exile and was buried in Brasilia in 2006. One of his grandsons, also a member of the Paraguay Senate, is trying to repatriate the remains, which Stroessner's victims see as an intent to rehabilitate the dictator's political legacy. More than 400 people were executed or disappeared during Stroessner's 35-year rule from 1954-1989, according to a Truth Commission backed by the U.N.

Nine new species of tarantula discovered in Brazil

Nine new species of tree-dwelling tarantulas have been identified in central and eastern Brazil. Rogerio Bertani, a spider specialist in Sao Paulo, reported the discovery, bringing the total in the area to 16 species. These new species might very well be endangered ones, as their highly concentrated habitats is to be found in regions already suffering high pressure from human activities.