- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 18, 2003

CUBA
Independent reporters publish magazine
HAVANA Ricardo Gonzalez used to bicycle through Havana's potholed streets with a borrowed computer in a backpack, visiting friends brave enough to lend him a phone line to transmit his news stories to Miami. Then police seized the laptop.
"The year 1997 was a very bad year. Almost all the independent journalists were badly harassed," Mr. Gonzalez says. But times are changing for the estimated 100 journalists working outside Cuba's state-run media, and there is less harassment. Mr. Gonzalez now works at home, using a secondhand desktop computer to edit From Cuba, the only general-interest magazine of its kind on the island.
The magazine was first published in December, and 250 copies were distributed through more than 100 independent libraries. The second issue came out late last month. "The reaction has been really favorable," said Mr. Gonzalez in his office newly refurbished with a $10,000 grant from a Cuban exile foundation in Madrid.

VENEZUELA
Water limits imposed as drought grips capital
CARACAS After coping with food and fuel shortages during a recent two-month strike, Venezuelans are now dealing with a scarcity of another essential: water.
The country is facing a drought that is severe even for its dry season, which runs from November to May. The government imposed water rationing in Caracas, whose 5 million residents are without water two to four days a week. Luis Olivares, a meteorologist at the Cajigal Observatory, said 2.3 inches of water fell in Venezuela's central region in November and December. None has fallen since.
Things are especially tough for residents of the shantytowns that cling to the mountains ringing the capital. The one where Freddy Fuentes, an unemployed father of four, lives lacks sewers and plumbing, so he and his neighbors buy water at $1.30 a barrel from a truck that comes once every two weeks.

BRAZIL
Bin Laden filmed at border in 1995
BRASILIA Terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden visited Foz de Iguazu, the border area of Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay, for three days in 1995 after entering Brazil illegally from Argentina, the news weekly Veja reported Sunday, citing Brazilian intelligence services.
The tri-border area has long been considered a hub for terrorist fund raising and has been a focus of several Western intelligence agencies since the September 11 attacks on the United States by bin Laden's al Qaeda network.
During the visit, which was videotaped by an informant, bin Laden met with members of the sizeable local Islamic community, according to Veja. "The Brazilian intelligence service was behind bin Laden by mere accident," the magazine said.

Weekly notes …
Max Richards took office as president of Trinidad and Tobago yesterday the Caribbean country's fourth president since independence from Britain in 1962. Mr. Richards, son of a former attorney general, succeeded Ray Robinson, who served five years in the post. … India and Suriname signed two agreements yesterday to boost cooperation in agriculture and increase cultural exchanges, at the start of an official visit to New Delhi by Suriname's president, Ronald Venetiaan. After talks hosted by Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, India also agreed to extend a $10 million line of credit to Suriname.

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