LatAm News: Cuban Embargo, Juarez's Missing and More

PHOTO: Esperanza Lozoya wraps tortillas packaged with advertisements that ask for help to find missing women and children, at the Hermanos Escobar Tortilla shop in the northern border city of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, Tuesday Nov. 13, 2012.Raymundo Ruiz/ AP Photo
Esperanza Lozoya wraps tortillas packaged with advertisements that ask for help to find missing women and children, at the Hermanos Escobar Tortilla shop in the northern border city of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, Tuesday Nov. 13, 2012.

Here's a roundup of the latest headlines from Latin America, covering everything from labor laws in Mexico to the addition of Venezuela to the U.N. Human Rights Council.

Missing People Now Appear on Ciudad Juarez Tortilla Wrappers

Information about women and children who have gone missing is now appearing on tortilla wrappers in Ciudad Juarez, one of Mexico's most violent cities. Like photos on milk cartons in the U.S., the idea is for everyone in this border city to be aware of the problem and report any disappearance or sighting of missing people to the phone numbers printed on the wrappers. Since 1995, 341 women have been reported as disappeared in Ciudad Juarez. Of those, 316 have been found either dead or alive, while 25 cases remain unsolved. According to human rights activists, women continue to disappear.

Mexico Approves New Labor Laws for the First Time in 40 Years

The Mexican Senate approved a new package of labor laws on Tuesday that make it easier for companies to hire and fire workers. The labor reform, which has been the subject of several protests, will allow companies to hire workers part-time for the first time in decades. Companies will also be able to subject new employees to a trial period upon hire. According to USA Today, the laws may be "the first step toward strengthening the formal economy" in Mexico, where approximately a third of the population works in the informal economy without job contracts, pensions or health benefits. The labor law is now awaiting approval from President Felipe Calderon.

Amid Controversy, Venezuela Is Elected to the U.N. Human Rights Council

Venezuela was elected to the U.N. Human Rights Council earlier this week. The 47-nation Human Rights Council is the U.N.'s ultimate voice on human rights issues, but in the past it has included countries with questionable records on that matter, such as Libya, Russia and China. Venezuela's election was widely criticized by human rights groups, who claim that the country's government has clamped down on freedom of speech and jailed political opponents. The Washington Post and the Miami Herald both published op-eds this week that claim adding Venezuela to the council weakens the international human rights system.

Three Weeks After Sandy, Power Returns in Cuban City

Cuban offiials said power has been almost completely restored in Santiago de Cuba, the country's second-largest city, nearly three weeks after Hurricane Sandy hit the island. The storm killed 11 people on the island, damaged more than 200,000 homes and caused significant crop losses. U.N. estimates say Sandy might have been the most devastating storm to hit Cuba in the last 50 years.

U.N. Votes Against the Cuba Embargo for the 21st Year in a Row

On Tuesday, the U.N. General Assembly overwhelmingly condemned the U.S. commercial, economic and financial embargo against Cuba for the 21st year in a row. Only the U.S., Israel and Palau voted against the motion, while the Marshall Islands and Micronesia abstained. Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla appealed to reelected President Barack Obama to fulfill his 2008 promise of a "new beginning" with the island.

Top Adviser to Former Brazilian President Gets 10 Years for Corruption Charges

Brazil's Supreme Court sentenced former president Luis Inácio "Lula" da Silva's chief of staff José Dirceu to 10 years and 10 months in jail and a $330,000 fine. Dirceu was found guilty of setting up an illegal scheme that used public funds to pay coalition parties for political support. The former adviser maintained that the scheme never existed, and accused Brazil's conservative media of bias against the left-wing government.

Yale University Returns 35,000 Archeological Pieces to Peru

The last of the artifacts taken from Peru by the U.S. archeologist who discovered Machu Picchu have been returned by Yale University. The pieces had been taken from the ancient city by archaeologist Hiram Bingham in 1911. A deal was signed in 2010 after Peru took legal actions against the university in order to recover the Incan treasures. The best pieces will now be on display in a newly built museum in the nearby city Cusco.