- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 24, 2002

COLOMBIA
Rebels get tech-savvy with foreign assistance
BOGOTA Tucked inside a small room in a downtown apartment building, an illiterate but mechanically trained rebel operates a remote-control device. Two miles away, a car without a driver slowly creeps along a shadowy street, a camera guiding it to the site where it will blow up with the click of a button.
"Just like PlayStation," explained an anti-terrorist police officer here in the capital. Bogota police prevented such a scenario this month when they unraveled a rebel plan to guide five driverless cars loaded with thousands of pounds of explosives to police, army and public targets and set the vehicles off all via remote control, from the comfort of home.
Though the plan was foiled, the proof of the rebels' advanced technology has sparked fear of what's to come. Their growing sophistication was shown Aug. 7 when President Alvaro Uribe took office amid a shower of mortar rounds fired from over a mile away, killing 21 persons. Police had not known that the rebels possessed projectiles with such range.

ARGENTINA
Small blasts target offices of main parties
BUENOS AIRES Small bombs exploded near offices of Argentina's two main political parties yesterday, injuring none, in the latest attacks on institutions that are lightning rods of anger amid an economic crisis.
A bomb that went off outside a branch of the ruling Peronist party was followed minutes later by an explosion at an office of the opposition Radical party. Windows were smashed and doors damaged, according to police, who believed the attacks were linked. No one claimed responsibility.
This month, bombs exploded outside the Argentinian branch of French-owned electric company Edenor, the U.S. Citibank and Spanish-owned Telefonica. No one was hurt in those attacks, either. Political parties, bank and utilities have been targets of public anger and street protests as Argentina suffers its worst economic depression and a freeze on many bank accounts.

BRAZIL
Sunken ferry's death toll rises to 44
RIO DE JANEIRO The navy raised on Sunday the wreck of a ferry that sank in an Amazon tributary, and sailors found more victims of the accident, bringing the death toll to 44 persons.
Ten more bodies were found trapped in the boat, the navy was quoted as saying in a TV report. The Dom Luis XV-I, carrying more than double its capacity, sank Wednesday on the Para River in the jungle 1,500 miles north of Rio.
The navy said that there were at least 303 survivors, many of whom swam to an island close to the site of the accident, which occurred about 25 miles south of Belem, the capital of Para state. The ferry, built to carry 148 people, had made several unscheduled stops to pick up passengers. It was en route from Amazon state capital Manaus to Belem when it sank in rough waters.

Weekly notes
A bedridden Cuban President Fidel Castro warned his people over the weekend that the general strike in Venezuela and possible war in Iraq threaten to plunge their island into an energy crisis. He issued the statement from an unknown location, where he was reported to be recovering from a minor leg injury. "One can no longer speak of high oil prices," he said, "Now you can start talking about exorbitant and unreachable prices." Mexico City's attorney general said Sunday that he wants to try pop diva Gloria Trevi on rape and kidnapping charges after her ongoing trial in Chihuahua. Miss Trevi, 34, has been accused of recruiting adolescent girls for live-in musical training that included sex with her manager and ex-husband, Sergio Andrade. Miss Trevi was extradited from Brazil to Mexico on Saturday after fighting extradition for three years.

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