Colombian FARC Rebels Declare Ceasefire and Other Top News From Latin America

PHOTO: Ivan Marquez, right, and Ricardo Tellez, members of the negotiation team for Colombias Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, wave as they arrive for peace talks in Havana, Cuba, Monday, Nov. 19.Ramon Espinosa/AP Photo
Ivan Marquez, right, and Ricardo Tellez, members of the negotiation team for Colombia's Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, wave as they arrive for peace talks in Havana, Cuba, Monday, Nov. 19.

Colombian Guerillas Declare Christmas Ceasefire

Colombia's FARC guerrillas declared a unilateral ceasefire that would last for two months. The bombshell announcement comes as peace talks between the rebels and the Colombian government recommence in Havana, Cuba. The series of meetings began earlier this year in Oslo, Norway, and aims to put an end to a five decades-long conflict that has claimed close to 600,000 lives. Government delegates stressed that FARC rebels must agree to surrender their weapons and that the army will not withdraw from strategic areas around the country until a peace deal is signed.

Brazilian Police Leads Offensive Against Largest Gang

On Monday, published a multi-media feature on Operation Saturation, a massive operation in which Brazilian police is attempting to tackle the PCC, Brazil's largest gang. Nearly 100 police officers have been murdered in Sao Paolo this year, most of them ambushed off duty by drug dealers and gang members. Operation Saturation was launched after Marta Umbelina, an office worker at Sao Paolo's military police, was shot dead in front of her house and in sight of her 11-year-old daughter. In one of the operation raids, military police found a possible hit list with the names and addresses of 40 officers. See more here.

Uruguay Congress to Discuss Pot Law.

A few days after a Mexican Congressman proposed a law that would legalize Marijuana, Uruguay's House of Representatives is about to discuss a very liberal framework for regulating the production, sale and consumption of pot in that country. The law would create a National Cannabis Institute to license individuals and companies to produce and sell marijuana for recreational, medicinal or industrial uses. It would allow anyone to grow a certain amount of marijuana in their own homes and possess marijuana for their own consumption. As in Mexico, the objective is to promote public health through responsible consumption and to drive drug traffickers out of the lucrative marijuana market. But unlike in Mexico, this proposal actually has a chance of becoming a law, as it is backed by a coalition which holds a majority in congress, and is also backed by Uruguayan President José Mujica.

Soccer Star Become's Brazil's OJ Simpson

Bruno Fernandes, a former goalkeeper of the Flamingo soccer club, and one of Brazil's more popular soccer players, has been accused of ordering the 2010 murder of his former lover Eliza Samudio. Police said Samudio's body was fed to dogs to destroy evidence. The young woman claimed to have a child fathered by Fernandes, who was then a married man. According to police, this gave Fernandes motive to get rid of Samudio to avoid scandal. The trial is attracting massive media interest in Brazil where it has been compared to the OJ Simpson case in the U.S.

Is Mexico's Left Wing Party Headed for a Big Schism?

Martí Batres, one of the founding members of Mexico's left wing PRD party, announced on Monday that he will leave the PRD to join Morena, a political movement headed by former presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. Morena was previously a social movement allied with the PRD, but it is now in the process of becoming its own political party. Analysts say that Morena is dividing the Mexican left, and creating a schism between Lopez Obrador's supporters, and followers of Mexico City mayor Marcelo Ebrard, who has been signaled as a possible presidential candidate in the 2018 elections.

Bolivian Community Will Punish Thieves by Chopping off their Hands

In the mountain city of El Alto, Bolivia, the National Council for the Ayllu y Marka people will implement a law that has thieves hands cut off and has convicted rapists chemically castrated. The law, which generated huge controversy in Bolivia, is possible thanks to the "community justice" and "separate jurisdictions" system added to Bolivia's constitution in 2009 to give more autonomy to indigenous communities. Only indigenous people can be judged under such laws.

Cuban Real Estate Boom Benefits Foreign Investors

Facing an unbearable housing crisis, the Cuban government authorized private individuals to buy and sell their properties last year. One year later, an Internet market is flourishing, both on the island and abroad, where barely legal brokers are making deals for foreign investors. Prices skyrocketed and valuable houses are passing from Cuban to foreign ownership, while locals move in smaller apartments, away from central Havana.