- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 21, 2009

VENEZUELA

Chavez opponent seeks asylum

CARACAS | A leading opponent of President Hugo Chavez has decided to seek political asylum abroad instead of facing a corruption charge that he calls a setup aimed at ruining him politically, an ally said Monday.

Opposition leader Manuel Rosales, who went into hiding three weeks ago, decided not to appear in court Monday because the case against him is being used for “political persecution,” said Omar Barboza, who heads Mr. Rosales’ party.

“He won’t appear before a court that’s been turned into a political tool,” Mr. Barboza told reporters.

Prosecutors want to try Mr. Rosales — who ran unsuccessfully against Mr. Chavez in the 2006 presidential election — for purported illegal enrichment between 2000 and 2004 when he was governor of western Zulia state.

JAMAICA

Gunman arrested after skyjacking

KINGSTON | A gunman forced his way though airport security onto a Canadian jet near Montego Bay, holding six crew members hostage for eight hours before police and soldiers stormed the aircraft on Monday and captured him.

Nobody was killed or injured in the ordeal, which ended with a raid after talks broke down with a 20-year-old Jamaican gunman described as “mentally challenged.”

The suspect identified as Stephen Fray was in custody, information Minister Daryl Vaz said.

The hostage crisis began about 10:20 p.m. local time Sunday and ended near 6:40 a.m., when members of the Jamaica Defense Force Counter Terrorism Operations Group stormed the aircraft’s cabin, according to a police statement.

TRINIDAD

Obama downplays quick Cuba thaw

PORT OF SPAIN | President Obama dampened hopes of a quick end to a long-standing U.S. embargo on Cuba as Havana’s exclusion from a regional summit scuppered agreement on a joint declaration.

Although Mr. Obama made the historic acknowledgment that Washington’s half-century policy toward Cuba “hasn’t worked,” he told the Americas summit in Trinidad Sunday that it would not be modified anytime soon and urged Cuba to give its people more freedoms.

“We’re not going to change that policy overnight,” Mr. Obama said at a news conference at the end of the gathering, which brought together 34 heads of state. “Issues of political prisoners, freedom of speech and democracy are important, and can’t simply be brushed aside.”

HAITI

Violence mars Senate elections

PORT AU PRINCE | Haiti’s Senate elections were marred by sporadic violence Sunday, forcing authorities to cancel voting in parts of the country, as turnout remained low across the impoverished Caribbean nation.

Election Council President Frantz-Gerard Verret announced the cancellations after hundreds of demonstrators protested at ballot stations as voting got under way.

Haitian President Rene Preval, who voted after returning from the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad, said he would not comment on the election cancellations until vote results were tallied.

More than 4.5 million Haitians were eligible to elect 12 senators from 78 candidates, although voter apathy prompted a low turnout after years of broken political promises.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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