TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras – Honduras’ new administration began its term Thursday saying the nation is bankrupt and will likely need international financial assistance to recover from months of diplomatic isolation over its June coup.
The first day of the new government also was marked by early morning police raids that resulted in 41 people being detained and several weapons seized in the capital.
Newly inaugurated President Porfirio Lobo swore in his Cabinet, including Finance Minister William Chong, who said the administration of interim president Roberto Micheletti left with only about $50 million in government coffers.
Chong said the already impoverished country was bankrupt following months of isolation and cutoffs of international aid prompted by the coup that ousted President Manuel Zelaya in a political fight over changing the constitution. Zelaya gave up his refuge in the Brazilian Embassy and left Honduras on Wednesday, the final day of the term he was elected to.
Copters retrieve stranded tourists
MACHU PICCHU PUEBLO, Peru – Skies cleared over the fabled Machu Picchu citadel Thursday, speeding the evacuation of stranded tourists, many of whom were left to eat from communal pots and sleep outdoors after weekend flooding and mudslides cut access to the area.
By nightfall, helicopters ferried 1,402 people out of the remote village, the closest to the ancient Inca ruins 8,000 feet up in the Andes mountains. Tourism Minister Martin Perez told Lima’s RPP radio that only 800 tourists remained in town.
Perez said helicopters had evacuated a total of 2,542 tourists since Monday. More than 3,000 travelers were trapped in the town for days, strapping resources and testing travelers’ patience.
“It’s been an adventure, a bit more than we bargained for,” Karel Schultz, 46, of Niagara Falls, N.Y., told the Associated Press as she waited to be flown out.
Authorities said if the weather held, they would be able to evacuate the rest of the tourists – by now all younger travelers – today.
The Machu Picchu site will remain closed for weeks, until the government can repair highway and railroad tracks washed out by mudslides and the raging Urubamba River.
Mayor defends gay marriage law
MEXICO CITY – Mexico City’s mayor says he will defend the capital’s gay-marriage law and insists the ordinance will take effect in March despite an appeal by federal prosecutors.
Mayor Marcelo Ebrard says the federal appeal on constitutional grounds is wrong. He says nothing in Mexico’s constitution prohibits same-sex marriage or adoption by gay couples.
The city’s legal adviser, Leticia Bonifaz, said Thursday the first gay marriages will be performed in early May while the Supreme Court hears the case.
The federal Attorney General’s Office said Wednesday it filed a challenge with the Supreme Court arguing the law violates constitutional provisions on the family and the protection of children.
The law is a first for Latin America.