- The Washington Times - Monday, January 29, 2007

CANADA

Conservative party caught in a bind

OTTAWA — The minority Conservative government tried to ensure its survival yesterday with a mixture of offense and defense, publishing attack ads against one set of opponents while reaching out to another.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, whose Conservatives control 125 of the 308 seats in the House of Commons, must persuade at least one opposition party to back his budget, which is expected in March. If the budget is defeated, the government will fall immediately, leading to a new election.

Polls show the Conservatives tied with the opposition Liberals and that no party would gain a majority of seats if a federal vote were held now. “What would be the point of an election, especially if it would just result in another minority anyway?” Mr. Harper asked the Canadian Press in an interview published Sunday.

BRAZIL

Police clamp down on wildcat gold mine

BRASILIA — Troops and police have started patrolling a sprawling wildcat gold mine dubbed “the New El Dorado” deep in the Amazon jungle to curb crime, disease and environmental damage, officials said yesterday.

About 6,000 wildcat miners — “garimpeiros” in Portuguese — have set up camp in the forest about 50 miles by road and river from the town of Apui in Amazonas state, authorities say.

“We have secured the access roads and rivers, checking for firearms, drugs and prostitutes,” said Mauro Sposito, the federal police agent in charge of the operation. “You need to crack down now, otherwise these mines become a mess.” He said crime is already on the rise. In Apui, thieves assaulted one miner, snatching about 7 pounds of gold from him worth the equivalent of $55,000.

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC

Vargas Maldonado is opposition choice

SANTO DOMINGO — The main opposition Party of the Dominican Revolution (PRD) has chosen a former public works minister as its candidate for the May 2008 presidential election, a party official announced.

With 30 percent of ballots counted, Miguel Vargas Maldonado, 56, was ahead by more than 80 percent in a nationwide primary held Sunday, said Ramon Alburquerque, the PRD president. Former Vice President Milagros Ortiz Bosch had nearly 18 percent of the vote and quickly conceded defeat.

Mr. Vargas Maldonado was public works minister during the 2000-04 presidency of Hipolito Mejia, whose term was marked by a severe economic crisis caused by the collapse, prompted by fraud, of a major bank. A botched rescue operation by the Mejia government nearly brought the country to defaulting on its international bonds, causing inflation and unemployment to soar.

Weekly notes …

Beijing is seeking the return from Canada of a fugitive banker accused of embezzling millions of dollars from Chinese customers, the Globe and Mail newspaper reported yesterday. Gao Shan, 42, former head of the Bank of China in Harbin, is wanted for purportedly siphoning off $125 million from customers and transferring the funds to a Canadian account. According to an article in Beijing Daily, Mr. Gao and a suspected accomplice are currently under Canadian police surveillance.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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