- The Washington Times - Monday, January 31, 2005

MEXICO

Juarez murder probe makes scant headway

CIUDAD JUAREZ — The prosecutor assigned by Mexico’s attorney general to investigate the slayings of hundreds of women in this border city has failed to bring the culprits to justice, victims’ relatives say.

The criticism came as Maria Lopez Urbina prepared to issue a progress report yesterday, the third since her appointment to the politically sensitive task a year ago. Authorities say 340 women have been killed in the past 12 years in Juarez, a city of about 1.3 million people across the border from El Paso, Texas.

When Mrs. Lopez Urbina came to the job, she said her main objective was to study all 340 cases, find the gaps in the investigations and make recommendations to state authorities. She quickly established a DNA data bank and a victims registry, but so far her office has looked into just 26 cases.

COLOMBIA

Troops’ biggest foe is invisible parasite

TRES ESQUINAS MILITARY BASE — Colombian soldiers dodge land mines and ambushes in their offensive against rebels in the jungle, but one of their biggest enemies is the lowly sand fly.

Leishmaniasis, caused by sand fly bites that produce nasty open sores and swelling, puts more troops in hospitals than gunshots and mine blasts combined. It has hampered the army’s offensive to wipe out the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.

Caused by a parasite living in the sand fly, the disease is found in 88 countries, mostly tropical or subtropical. U.S. troops in Iraq call it “Baghdad boil,” and last year, hundreds of them had to be ferried home for treatment.

In Colombia, about 2,500 soldiers were hospitalized last year for leishmaniasis. Dr. Hector Navarro, top medical adviser at the Defense Ministry, said it takes about a month and daily injections for soldiers to recover.

Weekly notes

The European Union agreed yesterday to suspend diplomatic sanctions against Cuba for at least six months, easing a standoff triggered by the jailing of dissidents in 2003. The suspension, to be reviewed before July, was decided after Fidel Castro’s government freed several dissidents and signaled a reopening of diplomatic contacts with EU embassies in Havana. … About 100 members of Brazil’s ruling Workers’ Party (PT) announced Sunday night that they were leaving the fold, O Globo newspaper reported. None is an elected official, but among the key members leaving is Plinio de Arruda Sampaio Jr., an economist who has been with the party for 25 years. President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva — the first PT leader to hold the nation’s highest office — has moved his administration from left to center since taking office two years ago.

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