- - Tuesday, September 14, 2010

CUBA

Havana to slash 500,000 jobs

HAVANA | Cuba announced Monday that it will cast off at least a half-million state employees by mid-2011 and reduce restrictions on private enterprise to help them find new jobs — the most dramatic step yet in President Raul Castro’s push to radically remake employment on the communist-run island.

Mr. Castro suggested during a nationally televised address on Easter Sunday that as many 1 million Cuban workers — about one in five — may be redundant. But the government previously had not laid out specific plans to reduce the work force.

The layoffs will start immediately and continue through the first half of next year, according to the nearly 3-million-strong Cuban Workers Confederation — the only labor union allowed by the government.

To soften the blow, it said, the government would increase private-sector job opportunities, including allowing more Cubans to become self-employed, forming cooperatives run by employees rather than government administrators and increasing private control of state land, businesses and infrastructure through long-term leases.

VENEZUELA

Plane crash kills 15 of 51 aboard

CARACAS | A plane carrying 51 people crashed Monday in a steel-mill yard in eastern Venezuela, killing 15 people on board, officials said.

Workers at the state-run Sidor steel foundry pulled people from the smoking wreckage of the plane owned by Venezuelan state airline Conviasa, and officials said 36 passengers and crew survived.

The partially scorched fuselage of French-built ATR 42 rested among barrels and shipping containers.

The 15 people were killed after the crash about six miles from the eastern city of Puerto Ordaz, Bolivar state Gov. Francisco Rangel Gomez told reporters. Forensic experts have to identify six of the bodies, he said.

HAITI

Argentine invests in post-quake hotel

MIAMI | An Argentine energy and agribusiness entrepreneur Monday announced plans with a Haiti-based business group to build a $33 million, 240-room business hotel in the earthquake-ravaged Haitian capital.

The project for Haiti’s first airport hotel — scheduled to break ground in Port-au-Prince by the end of the year and be completed in 18 months — will be the first big new investment in the hospitality sector since the Jan. 12 earthquake, which killed up to 300,000 people in the impoverished Caribbean nation.

The project brings together Argentine businessman Rolando Gonzalez-Bunster, whose Basic Energy Ltd. company is a major player in Dominican Republic’s power sector, and the WIN Group, run by the Mevs family, which operates the biggest private cargo shipping terminal and industrial park in Haiti.

The Mevs family was contributing land near Port-au-Prince’s Toussaint L’Ouverture international airport to the hotel partnership, Edmund Miller, a partner in the project, told Reuters.

The January quake destroyed or damaged several high-end hotels, and the project targets growing numbers of business executives and aid officials involved in Haiti’s internationally backed reconstruction.

CANADA

U.S. hunter on trial in husband’s death

GRAND FALLS-WINDSOR, Newfoundland | An American woman who says she shot and killed her husband because she thought he was a bear is on trial.

Lambert Greene, a hunting guide, testified on the first day of the trial Monday that Mary Beth Harshbarger became hysterical after the shooting.

Mrs. Harshbarger told authorities that she mistook her 42-year-old husband for a bear while the two were hunting in central Newfoundland in 2006. She has pleaded not guilty.

Canadian officials have charged her with criminal negligence causing death. They say it was too dark to fire a gun safely.

If convicted, the 45-year-old homemaker from Pennsylvania faces four years to life in prison.

The prosecution is expected to call 16 witnesses during the trial.

CUBA

Castro: Nuke-armed Sarkozy going ‘crazy’

HAVANA | French President Nicolas Sarkozy appears to be going “crazy,” Cuban leader Fidel Castro said in an article published Monday, suggesting that Mr. Sarkozy cannot be trusted with his finger on the nuclear trigger.

Mr. Castro’s article, published in the Mexican daily La Jornada, denounced Mr. Sarkozy for the expulsion of Roma Gypsies, which he called “the Gypsy holocaust.”

He pointed out that France is the world’s third-biggest nuclear power and said Mr. Sarkozy carries around a briefcase with the launch codes for an arsenal of more than 300 atomic weapons.

France has deported almost 1,000 Roma migrants to Bulgaria and Romania since a hard-line speech last month by Mr. Sarkozy, and more than 8,000 Roma have been deported since the beginning of the year, after 9,875 were expelled in 2009.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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