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Briefly

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 22, 2008

BRAZIL

Landless farmers invade drug ranch

SAO PAULO — Hundreds of landless farmers yesterday overran a ranch once owned by an imprisoned Colombian drug lord, hours before the government sold the confiscated property at a public auction.

Three hundred families of landless farmers seized control of the 319-acre ranch that Juan Carlos Ramirez Abadia forfeited in the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul, said police commander Paulo Roberto Mendes Rodrigues.

The Landless Workers Movement said its militants occupied the ranch because "we want it expropriated for agrarian reform purposes."

CANADA

Panel set to urge Afghan extension

OTTAWA — An independent panel is set to recommend today that Canada extend its mission in Afghanistan by two years to 2011, a course of action that could bring down the minority Conservative Party government.

Canada has 2,500 troops in the southern city of Kandahar, where the Taliban are concentrated, and 78 members of the armed forces have died.

The mission is due to end in February 2009, and Ottawa will need to inform its NATO partners soon if it plans to pull out the soldiers. Polls show about half of Canadians think the troops should return on schedule.

PARAGUAY

Woman nominated for presidential bid

ASUNCION — Paraguay's ruling party nominated a woman as its presidential candidate yesterday, a first for the South American nation, but the candidacy of Education Minister Blanca Ovelar still faces a court challenge from within the party.

The Colorado Party officially nominated Ms. Ovelar as its candidate in the April 20 presidential election more than a month after a razor-thin primary election that was challenged by Vice President Luis Castiglione.

The party's electoral commission said yesterday that Ms. Ovelar won the Dec. 16 contest with 45.04 percent to Mr. Castiglione's 44.5 percent.

BRAZIL

Bolivia will work toward reconciliation

BRASILIA — Bolivia will honor gas supply contracts with Brazil, respect private property and not expel illegal aliens as part of a broader reconciliation with its neighbor, Bolivia's ambassador said yesterday.

After Brazil pledged last month to invest about $1.5 billion in new gas production, roads and farming assistance in the landlocked Andean nation, relations between the countries have improved substantially, Mauricio Dorfler, Bolivia's ambassador to Brazil, said during a press conference.

Tough negotiations with Brazil's state oil giant Petrobras, the largest foreign investor in Bolivia, had strained ties between Latin America's largest economy and one of the hemisphere's poorest nations.

From wire dispatches and staff reports