- - Monday, April 18, 2011

CUBA

Fidel Castro: New leaders must fix economy

HAVANA | A new generation of leaders must act decisively and without hesitation to correct the errors of the past and lead the island once those who fought in the 1959 revolution are gone, Fidel Castro said in a column published Monday.

Nearing the close of a critical Communist Party summit called to chart the course of the island’s socialist system and right its flagging economy, the aging revolutionary leader praised delegates to the gathering.

He wrote that he was impressed by their intellectual preparation and he believes they are up to the task.

“The new generation is being called upon to rectify and change without hesitation all that should be rectified and changed,” Mr. Castro wrote. “There is no margin for error.”

Divided into five committees and meeting behind closed doors, party delegates are considering more than 300 proposals for economic changes, many of which were first announced last year.

They affect sectors from agriculture, energy, transportation and housing to new rules letting Cubans go into business for themselves.

State-run Cuban news media have reported intense debate over several points, such as:

• The need for formal contracts to improve control and payment of taxes in the agricultural sector.

• Providing credit to independent workers who need capital to launch their businesses

• Eliminating the island’s unique dual-currency system, under which workers are paid in Cuban pesos, while many imported goods are available only in a dollar-linked currency that is beyond most people’s reach.

BRAZIL

Students return to school where 12 were killed

RIO DE JANEIRO | Students returned to a Rio de Janeiro school less than two weeks after a man shot and killed 12 children.

Wellington Oliveira opened fire at the Tasso da Silveira public school on April 7 and then shot himself after being cornered by police.

On Monday, the school’s director said the first days will be spent in therapeutic activities such as painting and poetry. The students will receive individual attention as they resettle into their routine. Teaching will resume when the students are ready.

Volunteers painted the school’s bullet-riddled and bloodstained walls to prepare for the students’ return. The two classrooms where the greatest number of children were killed were refurbished and turned into a library.

COLOMBIA

Authorities shelve probe of journalists’ deaths

BOGOTA | Colombian prosecutors said they have shelved their investigation into the April 1991 slayings of two journalists for El Espectador newspaper.

A prosecutor involved in the case said the decision was made because the statute of limitations expired — and because the killers of Julio Daniel Chaparro and Jorge Torres were leftist rebels who were later killed in combat.

The prosecutor spoke on condition of anonymity Monday for security reasons.

El Espectador director Fidel Cano accused Colombia’s judicial system of “inefficiency” for allowing the case to end in impunity.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists reported last year that 13 of the 15 cases involving journalists slain in Colombia since 2000 remained unresolved.

CANADA

New Democratic Party aims for bigger place in election

OTTAWA | Canada’s left-leaning New Democratic Party (NDP) has never been a serious contender for power in federal politics, but with its numbers rising in some polls, it’s gunning for a breakthrough in the current election campaign.

“Regardless of what other parties are telling you, you have a choice,” NDP leader Jack Layton declared at a news conference in Quebec City on Monday, two weeks ahead of the May 2 federal election.

The party, which wants to boost social spending and corporate taxes, has always been hampered by the fact that Canada does not have proportional representation.

That means that coming in second or third in any electoral district does not bring the NDP closer to power, so a vote for it is often viewed as wasted. In the 2008 election, it won 18.2 percent of the vote but only 12 percent of the seats.

That’s because the NDP is fighting sometimes as many as three other parties in the fragmented field to the left of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservatives.

The Liberals, the only party besides the Conservatives to have governed Canada, have regularly tried to woo NDP voters, especially at the last minute, by saying that voting Liberal is the only way to block a Conservative majority in the House of Commons.

But some recent polls put the NDP ahead of the Conservatives and the Liberals in the large province of Quebec, and an online Angus Reid survey released Monday even had the party tied with the Liberals nationally at 25 percent.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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