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The head of LaMia airline, which was involved in a plane crash last week that killed 71 people, including most of the Brazil’s soccer team Chapecoense, was arrested in Bolivia.

Gustavo Vargas, a retired air force general, has been arrested as part of an investigation into the crash.

The plane, operated by the tiny LaMia airline, was taking Chapecoense team to Colombia when it ran out of fuel.

Bolivian official Celia Castedo says she warned the pilot of the problem before departure.

She has now sought asylum in Brazil, saying she suffered threats and abuse.chapecoense-plane-crash

Chapecoense were travelling to the city of Medellin to play the first leg of the Sudamericana Cup final against Atletico Nacional.

The British-made Avro RJ85 aircraft ran out of fuel as it approached the airport in Medellin on November 28.

In a leaked tape, pilot Miguel Quiroga can be heard warning of a “total electric failure” and “lack of fuel”.

Celia Castedo says she warned Miguel Quiroga before departure that the long flight between southern Bolivia and Medellin was at the limit of the plane’s maximum range.

She has now sought asylum in Brazil, saying she is being persecuted.

Her asylum process could take a year to be processed, the authorities in Brazil said.

Bolivian Government Minister Carlos Romero urged the Brazilian authorities to turn her back.

“What she has done is very serious,” Carlos Romero said.

“It’s a way of escaping the judicial system.”

Six people survived the crash. One of them, crew member Erwin Tumuri, said an initial stop for refueling in the northern Bolivian city of Cobija had been dropped by the pilot.

There was no warning to the crew or the passengers that the plane was facing electrical or fuel problems, Erwin Tumuri told Brazil’s Globo TV.

LaMia was originally registered in Venezuela, before moving its headquarters to Bolivia. It only had three planes, but only two of them were operational.

Chapecoense club, from the southern Brazilian city of Chapeco, was only founded in 1973 and had never reached a final of an international tournament.

A day after the tragedy, Atletico Nacional said it wanted to forfeit the title.

On December 5, the South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) declared Chapecoense officially champions of the Sudamericana Cup, the second most prestigious continental competition.

For its gesture, Atletico Nacional has been granted CONMEBOL’s special centenary fair play award.


Leftist Bolivian President Evo Morales has given a crucifix sculpted in the shape of a hammer and sickle to Pope Francis during his visit to Bolivia.

The gift combining Catholic and communist symbols has caused a stir among Catholic commentators.

One Catholic bishop suggested that Evo Morales had sought to “manipulate God”.

While some reports said Pope Francis was taken aback by the present, the Vatican has played down any row.

The crucifix was based on a design by Luis Espinal, a Jesuit Priest assassinated in 1980 by right-wing militia.

Bolivia’s communications minister, Marianela Paco, told Bolivian radio: “The sickle evokes the peasant, the hammer the carpenter, representing humble workers, God’s people.”Pope Francis gifted Communist crucifix in Bolivia

She added there was “no other” motive behind the gift.

There are differing interpretations of Pope Francis’ thoughts on it.

Some reports say Pope Francis was embarrassed, telling Evo Morales: “This isn’t good.”

However, the Vatican spokesman, Federico Lombardi, said it was more likely Pope Francis had expressed surprise at the origins of the gift.

“I don’t think I would put this symbol on an altar in a church however,” he added.

Pope Francis himself has been accused of having Marxist leanings, after mounting strong criticisms of capitalism and inequality.

One of the strongest reactions came from Spanish bishop Jose Ignacio Munilla, who tweeted: “The height of arrogance is to manipulate God for the service of atheist ideologies.”

“This is a provocation, a joke” said Bolivian Bishop Gonzalo del Castillo, quoted by the AFP news agency.

There was also anger on the Facebook pages of the Catholic News Agency.

Pope Francis is now in Paraguay, the third and final country on his tour of Latin America, which ends on July 13.

Bolivia has passed a law allowing children to work from the age of 10 as long as they also attend school and are self-employed.

The law also permits 12-year-olds to be contracted to work for others. But they need parental authorization.

Vice-President Alvaro Garcia Linera said the new legislation reflects the needs of Bolivia, one of the poorest countries in South America.

It also sets harsher punishment for violence against children.

The law sets a sentence of 30 years in jail for child homicide.

Bolivia has passed a law allowing children to work from the age of 10

Bolivia has passed a law allowing children to work from the age of 10 (photo UNICEF)

The measure, approved by Congress earlier this month, was signed into law by Alvaro Garcia Linera in the absence of President Evo Morales, who was travelling to Brazil.

“President Evo [Morales] intervened to make sure we found a balance between the reality and the law, between rights and international treaties,” added Alvaro Garcia Linera.

More than 500,000 children already work to supplement the family income in Bolivia according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

Many work cleaning shoes and selling food in stalls in La Paz and other Bolivian cities. But others face extreme conditions in mines and in agriculture fields.

Evo Morales’s socialist government hopes the law will help eradicate extreme poverty in Bolivia.

The International Labor Organization (ILO) says children under the age of 15 should not be allowed to work.

However, the ILO allows a minimum working age of 14 for developing countries.

“It would have been easier to pass a law in line with international conventions, but it would not be enforced because Bolivia’s reality has other needs and characteristics,” said Alvaro Garcia Linera.

The ILO says it is studying the legislation to decide whether Bolivia breaches international regulations on child labor.

Brazil’s Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota has quit in the wake of a diplomatic scandal with Bolivia.

Antonio Patriota resigned after a Bolivian opposition politician holed up in the Brazilian embassy in La Paz for more than a year fled the country in a diplomatic car.

A Brazilian official has admitted using his diplomatic immunity to drive the senator across the border without permission from either country.

Senator Roger Pinto was given asylum at the Brazilian embassy last year.

Antonio Patriota resigned after a Bolivian opposition politician holed up in the Brazilian embassy in La Paz for more than a year fled the country in a diplomatic car

Antonio Patriota resigned after a Bolivian opposition politician holed up in the Brazilian embassy in La Paz for more than a year fled the country in a diplomatic car

He had been accused of at least 14 crimes in Bolivia, including corruption. He denied the charges and asked for asylum saying he was being persecuted.

Antonio Patriota’s resignation was announced in a brief statement from the office of President Dilma Rousseff on Monday.

The same statement named Luiz Alberto Figueiredo, Brazil’s head of mission at the UN, as the new foreign minister. Anonio Patriota is to become Brazil’s new UN ambassador, officials said.

Brazilian diplomat Eduardo Saboia said he used his diplomatic immunity to get Roger Pinto out of Bolivia, leaving with him in an official vehicle on Friday, she says.

Eduardo Saboia said Roger Pinto had been suffering from depression and he had taken a personal decision to help him.

The senator had been living in a small room in the Brazilian embassy for the past 450 days.

After the escape was revealed, Bolivia accused Brazil of violating international agreements and demanded an explanation.

According to Brazilian media, President Dilma Rousseff’s government did not know of the operation and considered it a “disaster”.

Roger Pinto, who arrived in Brasilia on Sunday, says the charges against him are politically motivated and have been fabricated by the Bolivian government.