- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 18, 2001

Chavez leads raid on tax-evading firm

CARACAS, Venezuela President Hugo Chavez yesterday led a raid on a company accused of tax evasion, seeking to make good on his promise to wage war on widespread tax cheating in the oil-rich South American nation.

Mr. Chavez, a populist ex-paratrooper elected as Venezuela's leader two years ago with a mandate to fight corruption in the world's No. 3 oil exporter, said he went as a "special guest" on the morning raid, accompanied by soldiers and tax officials.

"We have a firm commitment to make Venezuela a decent country," Mr. Chavez said in a speech at the Foreign Ministry. He called tax evaders a "corrupt mafia" who are worsening the poverty most Venezuelans find themselves in.

Income-tax evasion in Venezuela runs at 66 percent and at 40 percent for the value-added tax, according to official figures.

Clinton in last plea on Berenson case

LIMA, Peru President Clinton has made a last appeal to Peru's interim leader "for a good resolution" in the case of Lori Berenson, an American facing terrorism charges, government officials said yesterday.

Miss Berenson, a 31-year-old New York native, is facing a civilian retrial on charges of collaboration with leftist rebels after receiving a life sentence in 1996 by a hooded military judge. The military sentence was overturned last August.

Mr. Clinton, who is finishing his eight-year-presidency this week, spoke to interim President Valentin Paniagua by telephone Tuesday night, according to Mr. Paniagua's press secretary, Mario Razzeto.

Salvadorans in U.S. flock home to help

SAN SALVADOR With relatives homeless and hungry and many villages cut off from the outside world, Salvadorans living in the United States flew home yesterday to help bury the dead and rebuild their country after a devastating earthquake that killed nearly 700 people.

More than 1 million Salvadorans 15 percent of the country's population live in the United States, and many spent harrowing days watching television images of corpses being dug out from landslides with no word from relatives. Telephone lines were either down or jammed with calls, and the airport reopened to only limited flights Sunday.

Fathers some who hadn't been back for more than a decade rushed off planes into the arms of weeping children yesterday, and peasant families waited in front of the airport for sons to help them rebuild collapsed homes.

German racist crime likely to soar

BERLIN Figures for far-right and racist crime in Germany are likely to show a 40 percent jump in 2000, the country's internal security agency said yesterday.

Responding to inquiries, a spokesman for the Federal Agency for the Protection of the Constitution (BFV) said there had been 13,750 such reported crimes in the 11 months to November, up from some 10,000 for 1999 as a whole.

Of those, the number of incidents involving violence stood at 840, some 100 up on the year before, he said. The BFV is due to publish figures for 2000 as a whole in coming weeks.

Boy, 10, strangled at zoo's tiger cage

MOSCOW A 10-year-old Russian boy was killed when a cord on his jacket got caught on a tiger's cage in a zoo and he was strangled, a zoo official said yesterday.

Svetlana Glushchenko, the spokeswoman for the Penza zoo in central Russia, said zoo workers had found the dead boy on Tuesday afternoon when they went to feed the animals.

The zoo has very few visitors on weekdays during the winter, and there were no witnesses to the boy's killing, she said.

Journalists occupy Czech TV network

PRAGUE, Czech Republic Rebellious journalists who have occupied state-run Czech Television's newsroom for the past month extended their control yesterday, taking over management of the network as well.

Ladislav Paluska, former Czech Television finance director, said he and a group of rebellious journalists met no resistance when they arrived at the network's headquarters and took control of the director's office.

"We had to do it because there was no one to control the station," said Petr Cunderlik, a lawyer for the journalists.

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