New election in Venezuela — A special election to decide the late President Hugo Chavez’s successor will be held April 14, with interim President Nicolas Maduro, 50, facing an opponent, or opponents, the politically polarized country’s elections commission announced Saturday. All candidates must declare themselves no later than Monday. Miranda state Gov. Henrique Capriles, who lost to Chavez in October 45-55 percent, said in a Twitter message he had not decided whether to run on the unified opposition ticket.
U.N. peacekeepers are freed — Rebels in southern Syria freed 21 U.N. peacekeepers Saturday after holding them hostage for four days, driving them to the border with Jordan. The abduction and the tortured negotiations that ended it highlight the disorganization of the rebel movement and complicates vows by the West to provide aid. It also has raised concerns about the future of U.N. operations in the area.
Democracy in Jordan — Jordan’s parliament voted Saturday for the monarchy’s caretaker prime minister to form a new Cabinet, the first time in the country’s history that the legislature rather than the king has decided who will be head of government. Abdullah Ensour, a former liberal lawmaker known for fiery criticisms of the government when in parliament, was selected as part of a reform program aimed at defusing political unrest to stave off an Arab Spring-style uprising.
Mandela hospitalized — Nelson Mandela, the former South African president and anti-apartheid leader, was admitted to a hospital Saturday for a scheduled medical checkup. Doctors said there is no cause for alarm, but officials have used similarly soothing language to explain previous hospital stays for the 94-year-old Mandela; in those cases he later turned out to have more serious conditions.
Kenya — Uhuru Kenyatta, the son of Kenya’s first president and one of the prime suspects in a case involving crimes against humanity, was on Saturday declared winner of Kenya’s presidential race. Kenyatta has been accused by the International Criminal Court of bankrolling death squads during Kenya’s last election crisis. Kenyatta’s trial is set for July.
China and North Korea — China’s foreign minister said Saturday that Beijing would not abandon North Korea, reiterating China’s long-standing position that dialogue, not sanctions, was the best way to persuade the North to abandon its nuclear weapons. Yang Jiechi suggested that China’s support for tougher U.N. sanctions against North Korea should not be interpreted as a basic change in China’s attitude.
Attack on Christians — An enraged Muslim crowd attacked a Christian neighborhood in Lahore, Pakistan, on Saturday, setting fire to more than 150 houses and two churches, in a new display of religious intolerance as Pakistan reels from violent persecution against other minorities. Several thousand people attacked the Joseph Colony, a Christian neighborhood of about 200 homes, after a report that a Christian sanitation worker had blasphemed the Prophet Muhammad. Meanwhile, in Peshawar, a bomb exploded in a mosque, killing at least four.
Colorado and guns — Colorado took a major step late Friday toward enacting some of the toughest new gun measures introduced since the mass shooting in Connecticut. After more than 12 hours of emotional and bitterly divided debate, the Democratic-controlled state Senate gave preliminary approval to a package of gun bills. At its heart are measures that would require universal background checks for private gun sales and limit ammunition magazines to 15 rounds.
Tiny L.A. turnout — The roughly $19 million spent in the 2013 mayoral primary in Los Angeles made it the most expensive on record. Yet just 21 percent of registered voters turned out for last week’s election — the lowest rate for a primary without an incumbent since at least 1978. The top two finishers in the primary were Wendy Greuel, the city controller, and Eric Garcetti, a city councilman who represents Hollywood. Both expect the turnout to be higher in the May runoff.