- The Washington Times - Monday, May 8, 2006

HAITI

Lawmakers expected to take office today

PORT-AU-PRINCE — The country’s newly elected legislature will be installed this week, in time for President-elect Rene Preval’s inauguration on Sunday, election officials have announced.

Max Mathurin, the president of Haiti’s electoral council, said the lawmakers will take office once they receive certificates allowing them to register as members of the impoverished Caribbean nation’s 48th legislature. He said the certificates are already being issued, marking a formal close to a second round of legislative elections on April 21.

“Once all those elected have received their certificate, they will go through certain formalities and will probably take office on Tuesday,” he said, noting the legislature will be installed in time for a joint session that will administer the oath of office to Mr. Preval, who won the presidency after the first round of voting Feb. 7.

MEXICO

Huge oil bonanza bypasses the poor

ISLA AGUADA — Romana Perez Vidal de Cantarell, the illiterate widow of a poor fisherman, ekes out a living selling cold drinks in this shabby fishing village on the Gulf of Mexico. It’s not the life you’d expect for the widow of the man who set off an oil boom with his 1976 discovery of a massive oil field that has earned Mexico tens of billions of dollars.

“They never gave him anything. He died utterly poor,” she said, stroking the small gold medal that was Rudecindo Cantarell’s reward for leading officials to the oily bubbles he spotted rising from the seabed. “The oil belongs to all Mexicans, but even we haven’t benefited. They keep it all,” she said, nodding toward the sea where state-owned oil rigs suck away at the field named Cantarell, the source of 60 percent of Mexico’s oil.

Her bitterness echoes the way millions feel about the oil wealth that passes them by. Although oil exports finance more than a third of government spending, the bonanzas of current and past booms rarely touch the poor, with half of Mexicans living on less than $5 a day.

BOLIVIA

After EU, Morales to visit France, U.S.

LA PAZ — Bolivian President Evo Morales, who plans to travel to Vienna, Austria, on Thursday for a Latin American-European Union summit, will also visit France and the United States during the trip, his government announced last week, days after Mr. Morales announced plans to nationalize Bolivia’s natural-gas industry.

The trip will be Mr. Morales’ second since he became president in January. He has already visited Belgium, Brazil, China, Cuba, France, the Netherlands, South Africa, Spain and Venezuela. During the Latin American-EU summit, the Bolivian leader is expected to meet with Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero to review the impact of Bolivia’s gas nationalization on Spain’s multinational oil firm Repsol.

He will also accept an invitation to meet with the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, on May 15. The following day, he plans to attend a meeting of indigenous people in New York City and may also meet with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

Weekly notes …

Flooding since the beginning of the year has killed 102 persons and damaged thousand of homes across much of Colombia, according to state rescue agency Socorro Nacional. Its deputy director, Carlos Ivan Marquez, said the heavy rains since January have completely destroyed 943 homes and damaged more than 7,100 nationwide. … Nobel Peace laureate Oscar Arias returned yesterday to Costa Rica’s presidency and to his mission to make the Central American nation one of the most prosperous in Latin America. Mr. Arias, who was president of this small country of 4 million from 1986 to 1990, was sworn in for a four-year term at the national stadium, replacing President Abel Pacheco.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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