- The Washington Times - Monday, April 17, 2006

COLOMBIA

Uribe lambastes newsweekly editor

BOGOTA — It was an unpresidential spectacle: President Alvaro Uribe criticizing the editor of Colombia’s top newsweekly on a morning talk radio show for rekindling a corruption scandal just weeks before Mr. Uribe runs for re-election.

The magazine Semana maintained dogged reporting on accusations of fraud in Mr. Uribe’s 2002 election victory, a conspiracy to assassinate leftist and union activists, and the leaking of sensitive information to drug traffickers and right-wing paramilitary groups.

Semana also reported that officials in the state security agency supposedly plotted to destabilize the government of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

Mr. Uribe, Washington’s top ally in South America, enjoys a comfortable lead in opinion polls for the May 28 election.

Human Rights Watch and other groups considered his stern lecture to Semana editor Alejandro Santos to be a frightening attempt to muzzle the press in a country where journalism is already a dangerous profession.

BRAZIL

Masked gunmen rob City Hall ATMs

RIO DE JANEIRO — City Hall in crime-plagued Rio is not immune from robberies, not even on Easter Sunday. Police said yesterday that 10 to 15 armed and masked raiders took over one of its lobbies, seizing more than 35 hostages as they robbed automated teller machines and fled with the cash.

The assailants took 15 guards and more than 20 maintenance workers hostage during the 40-minute raid. The city’s municipal guards carry no firearms. The bandits also stole the motorcycle of one of the guards.

It was the second attack on the City Hall complex in two months. In February, an armed guard from a cash transporting company was killed and three persons were wounded.

Weekly notes …

Nineteen persons feared dead in last week’s mudslides in western Colombia have turned up alive, escaping the devastation by crossing a relatively unscathed mountain area, officials said yesterday. The 14 children and five adults managed to walk from Benediciones, a village that was buried in the landslides, to Buenaventura, Colombia’s Pacific port, where additional mudslides forced the evacuation of 1,000 residents. … Mexico’s leftist presidential front-runner has narrowed his lead to four percentage points, an opinion poll showed yesterday. The survey by the daily El Universal gave Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador 38 percent support among probable voters in the July 2 election, while conservative ruling party candidate Felipe Calderon was second with 34 percent. Last month, the El Universal poll showed Mr. Lopez Obrador with 42 percent and a 10-point lead over Mr. Calderon.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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