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Briefly

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 1, 2008

ARGENTINA

Striking farmers await offer

BUENOS AIRES — Argentine farmers angry over a tax increase on grain exports manned roadblocks yesterday as the government tried to end a 19-day strike that has emptied meat counters, halted shipments abroad and provoked a political crisis.

Argentina's four biggest agriculture groups renewed their nationwide strike Saturday, a day after talks with the government broke down. During their protest, farmers have stopped beef and grain sales and blocked trucks carrying farm goods.

Local media said yesterday the government would announce a package of measures aimed at easing the tax burden on small-scale farmers in the country, a leading global supplier of soybeans, corn, wheat and beef.

The strike has handed center-left President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner her stiffest political challenge since taking office in December.

It has paralyzed grain exports, raising concern in key buyers such as China and Europe and forcing some exporters to renege on their contracts. Ships are standing idle in ports and soy crushers are almost without stock. The government was expected to meet with farmers yesterday, but at least one farm group leader said it was not clear whether the meeting would take place.

MEXICO

Citigroup branch damaged by bomb

MEXICO CITY — An explosion broke windows outside a Citigroup-owned bank in Mexico's capital late Sunday, but nobody was injured, authorities said.

Police found pieces of aerosol cans and burned cardboard, the apparent remnants of a bomb, outside the branch owned by U.S. bank Citigroup Inc.

No one has taken responsibility for the late-night bombing and nothing was stolen from inside the bank, Mexico City Public Security Minister Joel Ortega told television news.

In recent years, small bombs have occasionally been set off outside foreign-owned bank branches in and around Mexico City.

Two years ago, small leftist guerrilla groups took responsibility for an explosion outside of a bank branch owned by Canada's Scotiabank.

ECUADOR

Quito sues Colombia over drug spraying

QUITO — Ecuador said yesterday it had sued Colombia in international court over drug crop fumigation along its border in reaction to a Colombian raid that killed a rebel leader across the border last month.

The March 1 bomb attack on a Colombian rebel camp inside Ecuador has frayed ties between both countries, and briefly raised the threat of war after Ecuador and Venezuela moved troops to their borders with Colombia.

Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa had warned he would take action against Colombia yesterday and tensions between the Andean neighbors remained high after Quito accused Bogota of waging a smear campaign to tie Mr. Correa to the leftist rebels.

"Ecuador asks the court to declare Colombia's air fumigation a violation of Ecuador's sovereignty," Foreign Minister Maria Salvador told reporters in Quito.

Ecuadorean authorities have put their case before the International Court of Justice in The Hague, she said.

The minister demanded Colombia halt all fumigation near the border and pay the government compensation for more than seven years of spraying to destroy illicit coca crops used to manufacture cocaine.

From wire dispatches and staff reports