- The Washington Times - Monday, December 4, 2006

HAITI

Violence, low turnout mar local elections

PORT-AU-PRINCE — Haitians cast ballots Sunday in municipal and local elections that were billed as the final step in the troubled country’s return to democratic rule after a bloody February 2004 revolt and pressure from France and the Bush administration that toppled elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

About 29,000 candidates were vying for 1,420 local and municipal posts in Sunday’s vote, which was marked by low voter turnout and isolated reports of violence. The elections took place more than a year late because of street violence and logistical delays. Final results were not expected for several days.

In the Port-au-Prince slum of Martissant, automatic gunfire rang out after polls opened, but no injuries were reported. Turnout appeared low in most parts of the capital, with many polling stations virtually empty. Officials had predicted turnout at 40 percent to 50 percent, well below the massive participation in February’s presidential election won by Rene Preval.

CHILE

Pinochet released from house arrest

SANTIAGO — Former dictator Augusto Pinochet, hospitalized in “mortal danger” after suffering a massive heart attack over the weekend, was released on bail from house arrest yesterday, an appeals court said.

Gen. Pinochet, 91, who has never faced trial for abuses committed under his military regime, was declared in critical but stable condition. “The general continues to be in mortal danger” but is stable, said Dr. Juan Ignacio Vergara, leading the team of attending physicians.

Dr. Vergara said Gen. Pinochet would remain in critical condition for at least 48 hours, “the critical” time in his recovery.

Charges in connection with disappearances in 1973 were filed against the general a week ago.

PARAGUAY

Tainted liquor in town kills 14

ASUNCION — Sugar-cane liquor tainted with methanol killed 14 persons in a Paraguayan town, the country’s health minister said over the weekend.

Health Minister Oscar Martinez said laboratory tests confirmed the presence of the toxic chemical, often used industrially, in the liquor, which investigators suspect was sold on the black market.

“Fourteen people have already died, people who consumed this product,” Dr. Martinez told a television station. The deaths occurred in the small town of Tobati, about 50 miles east of the capital, Asuncion, just days before thousands of Paraguayans travel to the area to honor the country’s patron saint, the Virgin of Ca’acupe.

Weekly notes …

A Brazilian cardinal who appeared to suggest that the Vatican was open to revising its celibacy requirement for priests said yesterday that the question was not on the Holy See’s agenda and that allowing priests to marry wouldn’t solve the clergy shortage. In an interview published Friday by the Fohla de Sao Paulo newspaper, Cardinal Claudio Hummes noted that celibacy is not church dogma but a rule. He arrived in Italy to take up a senior Vatican post in charge of priests worldwide. … Starting April 1, Bolivian citizens traveling to the European Union will need to apply for visas. EU justice ministers made the decision yesterday to help slow a rising tide of migration and to prevent passport fraud. An EU diplomat said, “There are many from other countries who use Bolivian identity papers to go to the EU. Spain considers there has been a considerable increase recently.”

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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