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Inmates escape Mexican prison

MEXICO CITY — About 140 inmates escaped Friday from a state prison in the northern Mexico border city of Nuevo Laredo, across the border from Laredo, Texas.

The federal Interior Department blamed the breakout on local authorities, saying they did not properly guard the facility.

"The absence of effective methods of guarding and control by local authorities is deplorable, and it has caused frequent escapes from prisons that put the public at risk," the department said.

It called on state authorities to clean up their prison and judicial systems by increased screening and vetting of corrections officers. In past cases, prison guards have been implicated in prison escapes.

Venezuelan Assembly adds to Chavez's power

CARACAS, Venezuela — Venezuela's National Assembly on Friday overwhelmingly approved a law giving President Hugo Chavez broad discretionary powers for 18 months, a measure that opponents claim is meant to undercut their strength in the upcoming assembly session starting next month.

The law gives Chavez power to govern by decree for the fourth time since he took office in 1999 and is necessary, he said, to deal with flooding that has left 40 people dead and 133,000 homeless. During the final debate, the bill was modified to give Chavez more than the 12 months of special powers he had initially requested.

Passage by the 165-member assembly, where Chavez supporters now have more than 90 percent of seats, was a foregone conclusion.

Chavez's discretionary authority will extend through all but seven of his remaining 25 months in office.

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