- - Monday, January 17, 2011

BRAZIL

Troops build bridges in slide zone

TERESOPOLIS | Brazil’s army on Monday sent 700 soldiers to help throw a lifeline to desperate neighborhoods that have been cut off from food, water or help in recovering bodies since mudslides killed at least 642 people.

Troops already have set up at least one bridge in the mountain vacation city of Teresopolis, officials said, but at least 10 main highways remain blocked in the rugged area north of Rio where the slides hit, hampering efforts to move in the heavy machinery needed to begin massive cleanup efforts and eventually dig out bodies stuck under tons of mud and debris.

The troops plan to set up mobile bridges that can span 200 feet and are robust enough to support the hundreds of pieces of big equipment needed in cleanup and recovery efforts.

Days of heavy rains unleashed tons of earth, rock and raging torrents of water down steep, forested mountainsides Wednesday, directly into towns that are weekend getaways for the Rio area.

PARAGUAY

Guerrilla backpack bomb injures 4 police officers

ASUNCION | Leftist guerrillas have claimed responsibility for a backpack bomb that injured four police officers, the third bombing in a week in Paraguay.

A handwritten note from a group calling itself the Paraguayan People’s Army warns police to “forget the word mercy” as they continue anti-government attacks.

The latest bomb exploded just before midnight Sunday at a police station in the northern town of Horqueta, where many fugitives from the group are from. Other bombs last week were left outside a television station and nearby in a public park.

The note claims revenge for the deaths of two leftist guerrillas in police firefights.

CANADA

Conservatives launch attack ads

OTTAWA | Canada’s ruling Conservatives launched a series of biting attack ads on Monday, taking aim at opposition parties ahead of a possible election in the first half of the year.

The Conservatives won power in January 2006 and again in October 2008, but have never managed to capture the majority of seats in the House of Commons. That means they have to rely on the support of opposition legislators to pass key measures such as budgets.

Political analysts are divided on whether the three opposition parties will unite to defeat the government over its next budget, due in late February or early March. That would trigger an immediate election.

Polls show that the most likely result of an election now would be a third consecutive minority Conservative government. Prime Minister Stephen Harper says Canada does not need an election now, given the fragile state of the global economy.

The Conservative ads were largely aimed at Michael Ignatieff, leader of the main opposition Liberal Party, who has made it clear he is unlikely to back the budget.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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