Caribbean storm Otto has been upgraded to a hurricane and is threatening Costa Rica and southern Nicaragua, forecasters say.
Forecasters warned that Hurricane Otto may have winds of 90 mph when it makes landfall early on November 24.
At least four people have already died in Panama in severe weather caused by the approach of the storm.
Otto is moving west at 2 mph after being almost stationary throughout November 22, experts say.
According to the US National Hurricane Center, Otto is now blowing at about 75 mph as it approaches northern Costa Rica and southern Nicaragua.
The storm is now centered east of Limon, Costa Rica. When it makes landfall on November 24 its heavy rain is expected to create numerous mudslides. It is then expected to cross over into the Pacific.
The Washington Post says that very few hurricanes have formed so late in the season – which ends on 30 November – and that across the Atlantic since 1851 only 35 storms have reached tropical storm intensity on or after November 15.
Earlier in Panama two people died in a mudslide; a girl drowned in a river and a boy died when a tree fell on a car taking him to school. His mother, who was driving, survived.
According to officials, about 50 homes were destroyed by mudslides and flights were delayed.
The governments of Nicaragua and Costa Rica have issued a hurricane watch from Costa Rica’s southern border to the city of Bluefields in Nicaragua.
There is also a likelihood of dangerous surf and rip current conditions over the next few days along the coasts of Panama, Costa Rica and Nicaragua, officials say.
Panama’s Supreme Court on December 21 has ordered the provisional detention of former President Ricardo Martinelli, who governed the country from 2009 to 2014.
Ricardo Martinelli, 63, is accused of using public funds to illegally spy on more than 150 prominent people.
The fugitive ex-president faces up to 21 years in prison on charges of running an illegal spy ring.
Among those he allegedly spied on are trade union activists, politicians, lawyers, doctors and business people.
Ricardo Martinelli denied the allegations, saying they were part of a vendetta by current President Juan Carlos Varela.
The Supreme Court ordered the arrest because Ricardo Martinelli failed to appear at a hearing earlier this month.
The former president left Panama in January days before the Supreme Court voted in favor of having him investigated over separate corruption allegations.
Ricardo Martinelli is believed to be living in Miami, Florida.
The court did not give any details about how Ricardo Martinelli’s detention would be sought.
On December 21, Ricardo Martinelli tweeted: “First round of the political trial: without having been properly documented, without charges, without proper notification and without sentence, my provisional arrest has been ordered.”
The Supreme Court launched an investigation into the alleged spying ordered by Ricardo Martinelli in June.
It came after dozens of people alleged they had their phones tapped and that the administration of Ricardo Martinelli prepared dossiers against them containing intimate information.
Among the alleged victims are high-ranking members of the opposition Revolutionary Democratic Party, as well as lawmaker Jose Luis Varela, who is the brother of current President Juan Carlos Varela.
Investigators said the wiretaps were carried out by members of Panama’s National Security Council.
The operator of a North Korean ship seized in July 2013 near the Panama Canal with Cuban weapons on board has been blacklisted by the UN Security Council.
The move means Pyongyang-based Ocean Maritime Management is now subject to an international asset freeze and travel ban.
The company operated the Chong Chon Gang, found with Soviet-era weapons and fighter jets hidden under sugar sacks.
UN sanctions ban most arms shipments to North Korea.
Under resolutions adopted after Pyongyang’s nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009, the export of all arms and related parts, with the exception of small arms and light weapons, to North Korea is prohibited.
The UN Security Council has blacklisted the operator of the North Korean ship seized in July 2013 (photo Reuters)
The UN’s North Korea sanctions committee said that the company had “played a key role in arranging the shipment of the concealed cargo of arms”.
The move showed “intent to evade UN sanctions, and is consistent with previous attempts by the DPRK (North Korea) to transfer arms and related materiel through similar tactics in contravention of Security Council prohibitions”, the committee said.
The Chong Chon Gang was stopped near Manzanillo, on the Atlantic side of the Panama Canal, on July 15, 2013, under suspicion that it was carrying drugs.
It had disappeared from satellite tracking for a few days as it approached the Cuban capital, Havana, having departed from Russia’s eastern coast three months earlier.
On searching the vessel, officials found military hardware including two Soviet-era MiG-21 fighter aircraft, air defense systems, missiles and command and control vehicles.
Cuban authorities said that the ship was carrying 240 tonnes of “obsolete” defensive weapons.
The North Korean government insisted the ageing weapons were simply being transferred to North Korea to be repaired, before returning them.
The US envoy to the UN, Samantha Power, described the episode as a “cynical, outrageous and illegal attempt” by Cuba and North Korea to circumvent UN sanctions.
In February the ship and most of the crew were allowed to leave Panama and a court later ordered the release of the remaining three officers.
Venezuela has broken diplomatic relations and frozen economic ties with Panama, President Nicolas Maduro announced during Hugo Chavez’s first commemoration.
Nicolas Maduro’ decision comes after Panama requested a meeting at the Organization of American States (OAS) to discuss Venezuela’s crisis.
The president was speaking to other Latin American heads of state at events to mark the first anniversary of the death of the Venezualan leader Hugo Chavez.
At least 18 people have died in anti-government protests in the last month.
“I’ve decided to break political and diplomatic ties with the current government of Panama and freeze all trade and economic relations from this moment on,” Nicolas Maduro told the presidents of Cuba, Raul Castro, Uruguay, Jose Mujica, and Bolivia, Evo Morales, among other leaders gathered around the tomb of Hugo Chavez.
Panama’s President Ricardo Martinelli expressed surprise at Venezuela’s decision.
“Panama only hopes that this brother nation finds peace and strengthens its democracy,” Ricardo Martinelli wrote on Twitter.
Nicolas Maduro announced that Venezuela has broken diplomatic relations and frozen economic ties with Panama
Panama’s official statement said the country was “astonished” and called Nicolas Maduro’s words “unacceptable”.
“The measure announced by President Maduro should not become a smoke screen intended to hide reality,” it read.
Earlier, thousands of government supporters and troops took part in a huge parade through central Caracas, commemorating the first anniversary of former President Hugo Chavez’s death.
In other parts of Caracas, anti-government protesters kept up their barricades, despite an appeal made by opposition leaders to “respect” the anniversary.
Last week, the government of Panama requested an urgent meeting of OAS member-states to discuss the unrest in Venezuela.
On Wednesday, the OAS said a meeting would take place the next day behind closed doors to decide whether or not to convene the region’s foreign ministers over the issue.
Nicolas Maduro accused the Panamanian government of conspiring to bring down his government.
“There are moves by the United States government in accord with a lackey government of a right-wing president which has been creating the conditions for the OAS and other bodies to step towards an intervention in our country,” Nicolas Maduro said.
Nicolas Maduro also criticized OAS President Jose Miguel Insulza, who had suggested earlier that a group of observers could be sent to Venezuela – if its government and the opposition found it useful.
North Korea has demanded the release of its ship detained in Panama with what appear to be missile radar and other weapons loaded in Cuba.
The communist country says its ship was sailing under a legitimate deal and calling the initial suspicion of drugs on board “a fiction.”
“The Panamanian investigation authorities rashly attacked and detained the captain and crewmen of the ship on the plea of ‘drug investigation’ and searched its cargo but did not discover any drug,” North Korea’s Foreign Ministry spokesman said.
“This cargo is nothing but aging weapons which are to send back to Cuba after overhauling them according to a legitimate contract,” the spokesman was quoted as saying by the official KCNA news agency.
“The Panamanian authorities should take a step to let the apprehended crewmen and ship leave without delay.”
North Korea has demanded the release of its ship detained in Panama
Panamanian authorities seized the North Korean freighter and found what appeared to be components for Soviet-era missile radar system under sacks of brown sugar.
The ship was stopped last week as it headed into the Panama Canal and authorities arrested the crew on Monday after finding undeclared missile-shaped objects, a potential violation of UN sanctions linked to the North’s nuclear and missile programmes.
Panama said on Wednesday that it had asked the UN to determine the legality of the cargo.
Cuba, which has close diplomatic ties with North Korea, said the cargo contained “obsolete defensive weaponry” being sent back to North Korea for repairs and included anti-aircraft missile batteries, disassembled rockets and fighter jet parts.
Security experts said there was a possibility North Korea was trying to import the equipment and the explanation about repairing the items may be a disguise.
Some reports claim the ship appears to have violated U.N. arms embargo on North Korea.
North Korea has been under wide-ranging sanctions under Security Council resolutions since 2006 that ban trade of most types of weapons after conducting missile and nuclear tests in defiance of international condemnation.
It tested a nuclear device for the third time in February that led to the adoption of the latest Security Council resolution that tightened the sanctions regime.
Privacy & Cookies Policy
Necessary cookies are absolutely essential for the website to function properly. This category only includes cookies that ensures basic functionalities and security features of the website. These cookies do not store any personal information.
Any cookies that may not be particularly necessary for the website to function and is used specifically to collect user personal data via analytics, ads, other embedded contents are termed as non-necessary cookies. It is mandatory to procure user consent prior to running these cookies on your website.