- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 31, 2002

ARGENTINA
Duhalde says nation did fine without IMF
BUENOS AIRES Argentine President Eduardo Duhalde said Saturday that 2002 would come to be known as the year his country emerged from chaos without the assistance of the International Monetary Fund.
"Argentina reached rock bottom last April, but there are signs that the economic and social situation is improving," he said, citing news that unemployment had fallen from 21.5 percent to 17.8 percent.
Mr. Duhalde expressed hope that an agreement with the IMF would be reached and adopted after presidential elections in 2003.

VENEZUELA
Chavez accuses foes of voodoo attack
CARACAS Venezuela's embattled President Hugo Chavez accused his foes on Sunday of using witches to attack him with black magic and voodoo.
"I've been told they had hired 85 witches who work with the devil," he said during his hours-long "Hello President" weekly radio and television show.
"I don't believe in this, but just in case, I have this," he said, holding up a crucifix decorated with an image of the Virgin Mary.

GUATEMALA
Presidential guard reduced in size
GUATEMALA CITY Guatemala has reduced its infamous presidential guard by 25 percent, taking the first step toward abolishing the group accused of committing some of the country's most high-profile atrocities, the president said yesterday.
The guard was created to protect the president but reportedly grew into a squad of spies and assassins.
Prosecutors say corrupt army generals and presidents long used the guard to protect their secrets during the country's 1960-1996 civil war.
A Guatemalan army colonel was sentenced last year to 30 years in prison for ordering a fellow member of the guard to kill human rights activist Myrna Mack in 1990.

BRAZIL
Leftist government to take over tomorrow
RIO DE JANEIRO Headed by working class President-elect Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, a blue collar union leader who has spent 22 years in politics, a leftist government will take control of Brazil tomorrow.
About 52 million Brazilians, or 61 percent of the electorate, endorsed Mr. Lula da Silva, 57, in the Oct. 27 election, finally handing the former metal worker the presidency in his fourth attempt.
His government must now work with a public debt worth nearly 61 percent of Brazil's gross domestic product, annual inflation of 12 percent, annual interest rates of 25 percent, stunted economic growth about 1.5 percent in 2001 and a market that is closely scrutinizing the incoming leader.

PERU
Poll finds bad news for the president
LIMA A majority of Peruvians do not think President Alejandro Toledo will make it to the end of his term in 2006, while a third think he will, according to a new poll whose results were released Saturday.
The poll, by the Institute of Development and Economics, also found that 22.6 percent of Peruvians approved of the job Mr. Toledo is doing, while 65.9 percent disapproved.
The institute found that more people thought former President Alberto Fujimori, who fled to Japan amid charges, including of corruption, in November 2000, had been more effective.
The poll questioned 1,460 people from Dec. 16 to Dec. 20 and had a margin of error of 6 percentage points.

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