Tuesday, November 27, 2001

Colombia gunmen slay five Indian activists

BOGOTA, Colombia Dozens of gunmen targeted Indian activists in western Colombia over the weekend, killing five and threatening several others, an Indian leader said Sunday, blaming the violence on paramilitary fighters of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC).

Reuters news agency, quoting indigenous leader Armando Valbuena, reported that the victims included prominent Indian activist Luis Angel Charrua, killed near Rio Sucio as he prepared to leave for a national native-peoples conference.

That attack occurred late Saturday on an Indian reservation 125 miles west of Bogota, said Mr. Valbuena, director of the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia. He said paramilitary forces carried out the violence seeking control of the region in Caldas province. Police could not immediately confirm the killings.

Bolivia lobbies Chile for access to the sea

LIMA, Peru Landlocked Bolivia pushed ahead in talks with its Pacific neighbor Chile on the sidelines of a weekend summit in Lima seeking access to its coast and thus to U.S. and Mexican markets for its gas.

“This is a project that interests the nation. Clearly, there are business interests, but there are clearly also interests for the country,” said Bolivian President Jorge Quiroga, who is betting on natural gas to “unshackle” his poor country, to reporters after talks with Chilean President Ricardo Lagos.

It was the fifth meeting in two years amid intensifying contacts between the two neighbors over the project.

Argentina, Brazil currency tie nearer

LIMA, Peru Argentina is advancing in talks with Brazil, a fellow member of the Latin American trade bloc Mercosur, on a proposed common currency for the two nations, Argentina’s foreign minister said here Saturday.

“We have talked about the [single-currency] issue,” Adalberto Rodriguez Giavarini told Reuters after a meeting with Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Lafer on the sidelines of an Ibero-American summit.

He said the idea could be realized in the “medium term” but declined to specify a date. “We are resuming macroeconomic talks,” he said. Mercosur, which groups Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay, is the world’s third largest trade group, worth $1.17 trillion in goods and services a year. Bolivia and Chile are associate members.

Weekly notes

Two years ago, Ahmed Ressam, an Algerian who obtained a Canadian passport using a fake Quebec baptismal certificate, was arrested at the U.S. border with a trunkload of explosives. Quebec’s provincial government will no longer accept baptismal or birth certificates issued before 1994 as proof of identity to obtain a passport. Under new rules that took effect yesterday, a Quebec native applying for a Canadian passport must present either a birth certificate issued by the province after 1993 or a certificate of citizenship. Havana knows no more than what it reads in the newspapers about U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency analyst Ana Belen Montes arrested in Washington Sept. 21 as a Cuban spy, Cuban Vice President Carlos Lage told a news conference after attending a weekend summit in Peru. “We have read this news, too. It remains to be seen, to be known and to be confirmed,” Mr. Lage said.

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