- - Sunday, July 4, 2010


Drug killings weigh as Mexicans vote

MEXICO CITY | Mexicans voted for new governors and mayors across a third of the country Sunday in an election soured by drug-gang killings and intimidation and expected to hand the main opposition party sweeping gains.

With the ruling conservatives dogged by a feeble economy and raging drug violence, the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, is pegged to win most of the 12 gubernatorial elections, keeping many of the nine states it controls and pushing out rivals in some of the other three.

A big PRI victory could set the stage for a 2012 presidential bid by the party’s rising star, Enrique Pena Nieto, governor of the state of Mexico, next to Mexico City.

With Mexico’s left divided and President Felipe Calderon sinking in opinion polls, the PRI is pushing for a comeback after a 2000 election win by the conservative National Action Party, or PAN, ended its 71-year rule.

More than 26,000 people have been killed during Mr. Calderon’s 3½ years in office, mostly traffickers and police, but also civilian bystanders. Human heads and mutilated bodies are often dumped in public as gangs fight over turf.


Lebanese ayatollah dies at 74

BEIRUT | Lebanese Grand Ayatollah Sayyed Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, one of Shi’ite Islam’s highest religious authorities and an early mentor of the militant group Hezbollah, died in a Beirut hospital on Sunday.

Political leaders and clerics from Iran, Bahrain and Iraq paid tribute to Ayatollah Fadlallah, reflecting the loyalty he enjoyed from Shi’ites as far away as the Persian Gulf and Central Asia.

Ayathollah Fadlallah, who was 74, had been too frail to deliver his regular Friday prayers sermon for several weeks, and had been in the hospital since Friday suffering from internal bleeding.

Crowds gathered to pay condolences at the Hassanein mosque in southern Beirut, where he preached, and Hezbollah said it would mark his death with three days of mourning. Ayatollah Fadlallah’s office said he would be buried at the mosque on Tuesday.

Ayatollah Fadlallah was a supporter of Iran’s Islamic Revolution and one of the first backers of the Iraqi Dawa Party of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. He was also the spiritual leader and mentor of the Shi’ite guerrilla group Hezbollah when it was formed after Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982, though he later distanced himself from its ties with Iran.

A fierce critic of the United States, which formally designated him a terrorist, Ayatollah Fadlallah used many of his Friday prayer sermons to denounce U.S. policies in the Middle East, particularly its alliance with Israel.

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