Belarus accused of death squads
The State Department said yesterday that two defectors from Belarus have made detailed and credible revelations about a government-run death squad that reportedly is responsible for up to 30 killings.
A spokesman, asking not to be identified, said the defectors, Dmitry Petrushkevich and Oleg Sluchek, met with State Department officials on July 3 to discuss the situation in the former Soviet republic. Both are former officials of the Prosecutor General’s Office.
The spokesman said the statement of the two provides additional support for reports of the involvement of President Alexander Lukashenko’s government in the disappearances.
The United States has been critical of Mr. Lukashenko over the years for suppressing dissent and using heavy-handed tactics.
Hungry Nicaraguans mean big trouble
MANAGUA, Nicaragua — Thousands of hungry, unemployed coffee pickers in Nicaragua spell serious trouble unless the government helps them out, warned the Nicaraguan Human Rights Center.
The government “must not let hunger claim any more innocent victims or drive peasant families out of their homes,” the center said in a statement this week urging authorities to find a “permanent” solution to their plight.
Falling international prices have closed down many coffee plantations, forcing 4,000 people, mostly children, to leave their homes in the past four months.
U.S.-based scholar indicted in China
BEIJING — China has indicted a U.S.-based scholar accused of espionage and will soon try her, probably soon after a visit by U.S. Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, her family’s lawyer said yesterday.
Gao Zhan is expected to be tried by the same Beijing court that on Saturday convicted an American business professor, Li Shaomin, of spying for Taiwan.
The two cases and the detentions in China of other scholars and businessmen with U.S. citizenship or links to the United States have added to recent strains in relations between Beijing and Washington. The arrests also have caused unease among scholars who regularly travel to China for research.
Mejia acts to ease Dominican squeeze
SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic — Seeking to ease long power cuts that have triggered violent street protests in parts of the Dominican Republic, the government signed an agreement yesterday to start paying off $110 million in unpaid government bills to power companies, officials said.
Under the deal with power companies the government of social-democrat President Hipolito Mejia agreed to pay some $63 million of debt accumulated through a subsidy the state gives consumers, receiving in return a guarantee of reliable electricity service.
On Tuesday, which was marked by street protests in the capital and another town in which three persons were injured, officials said 14 private electricity plants were not operating because of lack of fuel.
Brazil to propose whale sanctuary
BRASILIA, Brazil — Brazil is to propose creating a whale sanctuary in the South Atlantic during the International Whaling Commission’s annual meeting due to take place in London July 23-27, Environment Minister Jose Sarney Filho said yesterday.
Brazil’s proposal comes in response to threats that a 1986 moratorium on whale hunting in the region may be suspended, potentially allowing commercial whaling to resume.
“Since there is already a sanctuary in the Antarctic, created in 1994, which is supported by Brazil, the Brazilian proposal will offer whales that frequent waters under national jurisdiction global protection throughout their migratory cycle,” the minister said.