- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 11, 2003

VENEZUELA
Fired oil workers face trial, not work
CARACAS President Hugo Chavez said he would not offer amnesty to thousands of oil workers fired for a two-month strike against him and urged prosecutors to indict them for sabotage.
More than 9,000 workers were fired from state-owned Petroleos de Venezuela SA (PDVSA) since a national strike began Dec. 2 to force Mr. Chavez to step down or agree to early elections. Opposition leaders agreed last week to lift the strike in all areas except oil.
"There is no rehiring. They are not just fired, they must be indicted," Mr. Chavez said Sunday, calling on the attorney general and judges to administer "punishment for those responsible for all the damage they have done to PDVSA and the country." He said many strikers not only left their posts but also sabotaged oil operations.

ECUADOR
New president in U.S. for meeting with Bush
QUITO President Lucio Gutierrez, a retired army colonel inaugurated Jan. 15, is to meet in Washington with President Bush today.
He is expected to ask for help in monitoring Ecuador's border with strife-torn Colombia.
Mr. Gutierrez is traveling with a team of about 30 people, including Foreign Minister Nina Pacari, Economy Minister Mauricio Pozo and Energy Minister Carlos Arboleda. The Ecuadorean leader will be in the United States through Friday and has said he plans to talk with Mr. Bush about fighting terrorism, drug trafficking and illiteracy.
On Friday, officials said the Washington-based International Monetary Fund approved a $500 million stand-by credit for Ecuador.

PANAMA
Canal authority says traffic up, mishaps down
PANAMA CITY The Panama Canal Authority announced first-quarter operations yesterday showing that traffic on the canal has increased both in terms of ships and tonnage, and that vessels are moving more quickly through the canal and with fewer accidents than a year ago.
These improvements are based on operations from October through December 2002, the first quarter of the authority's fiscal 2003. During the first quarter of fiscal 2003, the canal continued to improve its safety record, reducing maritime accidents by a third with four, compared with six for the same period last year.
The average time it takes for a vessel to transit the canal is also down 8.9 percent to 22.4 hours from 24.6 hours during last year's first quarter. Canal tonnage rose by 4.9 percent, and canal traffic was also up slightly: 2,887 transits compared with 2,882 in last year's first quarter.

Weekly notes
Manoel Francisco do Nascimento Brito, who for more than 50 years directed Jornal do Brasil, one of Brazil's leading newspapers, died Saturday at age 80 after being hospitalized for a stroke last month. Born in 1922 in Rio de Janeiro, Mr. Nascimento Brito trained in the United States as a pilot for Brazil's air force during World War II and then studied law. … Augusto Monterroso, 81, a Guatemalan author, has died at his Mexico City home, his family said Saturday. Mr. Monterroso was born in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, and was a Guatemalan citizen. He helped found the intellectual magazine Acento, but left Guatemala in 1944. In 1959, he published "Complete Works and Other Stories." His other works include "The Black Sheep and Other Fables," "Perpetual Movement" and "All the Rest Is Silence." Mr. Monterroso taught literature at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. He received the Juan Rulfo award for Latin American literature in 1996 and the Aguila Azteca, the highest honor the Mexican government bestows on foreigners, in 1988. He was an active opponent of the Guatemalan government and the U.S.-owned United Fruit Co., which operated banana plantations across Central America.

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