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Latin America Roundup -- April 18

April 18, 2008 |  9:06 am

Rural fires choked Buenos Aires with smoke yesterday, delaying flights, shutting roads and leaving residents coughing. The smoke originated from hundreds of fires consuming more than 150,000 acres of grassland about 120 miles northwest of the city, officials said, and reignited hard feelings between the government and the nation's powerful farming industry, which recently suspended a three-week strike against new taxes on grain exports. Andrés D'Alessandro and Patrick J. McDonnell report, and here is the Associated Press dispatch.

Colombian President Alvaro Uribe said Wednesday that he does not regret ordering a cross-border raid on a rebel camp in Ecuador, despite the deaths of four Mexican students there. Uribe, who was in Mexico at the time at an economic forum in Cancun, told Mexico's Televisa network that the students were seen in a video with the guerrillas, indicating they were in league with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.

Mexican President Felipe Calderon asked Uribe not to jump to conclusions as to why the students were at the FARC's camp until a thorough investigation is conducted, according to the Associated Press.

Federal agents in the United States arrested hundreds of people Wednesday in raids at Pilgrim's Pride chicken plants in five states, the latest crackdown on illegal-immigrant labor at the nation's poultry producers. In separate sweeps, authorities also arrested dozens of workers at a doughnut factory in Houston and the operators of a chain of Mexican restaurants in upstate New York. The company worked with Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents ahead of the raids, said Ray Atkinson, a company spokesman. Read the report here.

An Orange County man posing as a travel agent has been arrested on suspicion of selling more than $160,000 worth of bogus trips to Cuba, authorities said this morning. Ralph Adam Rendon, 31, faces 78 felony charges, including grand theft and embezzlement, in connection with advertising religious excursions for Jewish and Greek Orthodox people to meet members of their faith in Cuba. Susannah Rosenblatt reports.

Adrian_fernandez Veteran driver Adrian Fernandez (pictured) is racing in a doubleheader this weekend that will take him from the streets of Long Beach to the streets of Mexico City. Jim Peltz has the details.
Picture: (Jonathan Ferrey / Getty Images)

An agency that supplies water to 2 million residents of southeast Los Angeles County has filed suit to overturn a new Southern California drought plan, saying it inequitably allocates water and "robs from the poor to pay the cost of new development in more affluent areas." The Central Basin Municipal Water District says the new system will slight its mostly lower-income Latino clients and favor the affluent. Deborah Schoch reports.

U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) responds to a previous Los Angeles Times story "Guantanamo closure no simple prospect" in Opinion. The decision to close Guantanamo Bay's detention facilities should depend on whether we can improve conditions for detainees, improve America's image and improve American security, writes the senator.

-- Deborah Bonello in Mexico City

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