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A reported blog on happenings around Latin America.

Mexico bats against Utah law

Mexican governments backs up U.S. federal action
The Mexican government again waded into the cauldron of U.S. immigration politics, this time over a law in Utah. On Tuesday, Mexico’s Foreign Relations Department announced it had presented a motion supporting the U.S. federal government in attempts to declare the Utah law unconstitutional.
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Person of the year: a Chilean protester?

Guardian readers vote for Camila Vallejo, the face of the Chilean student protests, as person of the year.

Time magazine went for abstraction with its person of the year: the protester.

But not everyone always agrees with Time. (Remember when they named "you" the person of the year?)

So the Guardian asked its readers to vote who deserved the honor.

The overwhelmingly favorite answer: Camila Vallejo, face of student-led protests in Chile.

So who is Camila Vallejo?

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Latin American exports rise in 2011

Exports from Latin America and the Caribbean will total $1.1 trillion for the year.

Latin American exports grew 26 percent from last year for a total of $1.1 trillion in 2011, says a report by the Inter-American Development Bank.

Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru — members of the Andean Community — saw the biggest increase at 37 percent, says the report.

The Mercosur trade bloc of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay was next at 28 percent.

Venezuela clocked at even better performance, growing exports 45 percent in the first nine months of the year.

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Argentina deploys dogs to sniff out cash

Can golden retrievers and Labradors stop tourists from smuggling money out of the country?

Drug-sniffing dogs are old news at international airports.

But dogs that can find cash hidden in luggage? Argentina has 300.

The Argentine tax agency is deploying 300 specially trained golden retrievers and labradors to sniff out undeclared dollars, reports La Nacion.

The dogs can detect the smell of ink notes.

Last week, the dogs found $30,000 hidden in a spare tire of a BMW trying to cross into Uruguay, reports the Buenos Aires Herald.

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Argentina's most wanted criminals

Interpol added a former Argentine judge to its list of most wanted criminals.

Interpol issued an arrest warrant today for former Argentine judge Otilio Romano, who is wanted for "crimes against humanity" during Argentina's military dictatorship.

Romano, 68, appears on the website's list of most wanted criminals, reports Pagina/12.

Also on the list are international traffickers and terrorists, as well a son of former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

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New this Christmas: panettone made with coca leaves

In Bolivia, a traditional Christmas bread comes with a twist.

Bolivia wants to add a new ingredient to an old recipe this Christmas.

Panettone, a traditional Christmas sweet bread, usually includes raisins, candied fruit and what flour.

But Bolivian coca growers have modified the recipe to include flour made from coca leaves.

A company owned by coca growers has made 5,000 loaves of the new bread, reports EFE.

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Scientists question proposed wind farm in Chile

The 2,500-acre wind farm would be located off the coast of the Chilean island of Chiloe.

More than 40 international scientists asked Chilean President Sebastian Pinera to halt the construction of a wind farm off the Chilean coast.

The petition, presented to Pinera this week, said the project could harm the endangered blue whale population, as well as other species, reported the Santiago Times.

The scientists worry about collisions between boats and the whales, noise pollution and coastal contamination. The largest population of blue whales in the Southern Hemisphere lives adjacent to the site of the proposed wind farm.

When built, the wind farm would be capable of generating 112 megawatts of energy, and turn the country into a net energy exporter. Its current energy needs measure 90 megawatts, according to the Santiago Times.

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Caciques, not cartels, kill in Mexico this time

Little-known local groups known as caciques charge protection money in schools

Three bodies were found buried in Guadalajara on Thursday. 

And it's believed the cartels didn't do it. So who killed them? 

Student organizations in Mexico, which are violent and organized, started up in the 1960s. 

They still exist now, linked to local political bosses known as caciques, and the groups help influence political rivals or get into extortion rackets. 

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Chilean men told to leave their ties at home

The Chilean government wants to save $10 million in energy costs — by encouraging men not to wear ties to work.

Take off those neck ties.

It's time to loosen up the dress code, says the Chilean government. It's not a fashion statement though, but a money-saving measure.

The government thinks it can save $10 million over the summer months if buildings need to use less air conditioning.

It figures that if building temperatures are allowed to rise between 1 and 3 degrees Celsius, energy costs could drop by more than 3 percent.

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Brazil bans smoking in enclosed spaces

Brazil is now the largest country to prohibit smoking in enclosed public and work spaces.

Brazil passed a law today that prohibits smoking in enclosed places.

The new law, signed by President Dilma Rouseff, makes Brazil the largest nation to ban smoking in enclosed public and work spaces, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, reports the AP.

Several Brazilian cities already had smoking bans in place, but the national law goes even further, prohibiting designated smoking rooms in airports and bars.

A number of Latin America countries also have anti-smoking laws on the books.

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