- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 18, 2001

Spare-the-rod case back in Ontario court

TORONTO The battle between a Canadian child-welfare unit and a fundamentalist Christian couple who believe they have the right to spank their children with a rod returns to an Ontario court this week.

In July, a Children's Aid Services unit near Aylmer, Ontario, 100 miles southwest of Toronto, forcibly removed the couple's seven children, aged 6 to 14, amid accusations they were being hit with paddles.

The couple belongs to a 200-member congregation of Church of God, which believes striking children with rods or other flexible objects is advised in the Bible.

The welfare unit also questioned a second Church of God family, prompting it to flee to Mexico and triggering a wave of departures by church members.

Colombia's ELN rebels declare holiday truce

BOGOTA, Colombia The rebel National Liberation Army (ELN) declared yesterday a truce for the Christmas and New Year holidays following a weekend agreement by rebel and government negotiators to hold discussions in January on a cease-fire.

The ELN's top commander, Nicolas Rodriguez, said in a broadcast statement the truce would take effect at midnight yesterday and continue to Jan. 6. Colombia's largest rebel army, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), has not so far declared a holiday truce.

President Andres Pastrana resumed peace contacts with the 5,000-member Cuban-inspired ELN last month after he broke off preliminary talks with the organization in early August.

Chile coalition slips in parliament voting

SANTIAGO, Chile The coalition in power since Augusto Pinochet's dictatorship ended in 1990 faced a bleaker future yesterday after narrowly winning weekend parliamentary elections.

The government of President Ricardo Lagos captured about 47 percent of votes against 44 percent for the pro-military opposition, a victory earned in the face of an economic slowdown and voter apathy.

But the government lost ground in both the lower house and the Senate and may now have to make concessions to hard-liners to pass legislation.

Slow economic growth and unemployment of more than 9 percent have cast a shadow over the Concertacion of socialists and Christian Democrats.

Weekly notes

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has named Aristobulo Isturiz, a black former union leader and ex-mayor of Caracas, to be basic education minister. Mr. Chavez, who announced the appointment during his Sunday "Hello President" TV and radio broadcast, said Mr. Isturiz, a former math teacher, will be responsible for basic and primary education, while Hector Navarro will continue as minister of higher education. Brazilian Central Bank President Arminio Fraga calls a trade bill making its way through the U.S. Congress "worrying" and urged the United States to take a leading role in breaking down international trade barriers.

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