- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 16, 2002

Inter-American court to decide Berenson fate

LIMA, Peru The Peruvian government will allow the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in Costa Rica to decide the fate of jailed American Lori Berenson, convicted of collaborating with terrorists.

Berenson's attorney, Jose Sandoval, said the move could allow her to go free. Berenson is serving time in prison for collaborating with Marxist guerrillas from the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA).

She had been sentenced to life in prison in 1996 by a military court, but the ruling was overturned in August 2000. Berenson was tried again in a civilian court and in June 2001 was sentenced to 20 years in prison and ordered to pay $28,000 in reparation fees.

'Pay-now' kidnappings soar in Argentina

BUENOS AIRES The number of "pay-now" kidnappings in Buenos Aires and its environs has increased fivefold compared with last year, according to local press reports.

In the past six months alone, 121 cash-on-demand kidnappings were reported, but police said the actual number of cases is probably higher. In 2001, 20 reported kidnappings were reported.

On Friday, for example, a 23-year-old was forced to drive to his home and hand over about $300. After he paid his kidnappers, they shot and killed him.

Investigators say those who look well-to-do are often the victims. The perpetrators are usually amateur delinquents who believe that many Argentines are squirreling away cash at home.

Long swim planned to publicize reefs

COZUMEL, Mexico From the shore, it is hard to believe that anything is amiss in the turquoise waters off this tranquil resort island. Boats carrying scuba divers buzz back and forth between land and the coral reefs just offshore.

But beyond the white sand beaches and the protected marine park here, things are going wrong in oceans around the world. Waters that once teemed with fish don't flash with the color they did a decade ago. Corals are bleaching and dying.

Reefs are declining all over the world, and scientists say a variety of human causes, coupled with natural occurrences, such as hurricanes, are to blame. As human populations increase, so does shoreline development.

That's why businessman Paul Ellis, 59, of Austin, Texas, has come here. Tomorrow, he will try to swim 55 miles from Cozumel to Cancun in hopes of drawing public attention to the plight of reefs.

Weekly notes

The Dominican Republic closed the curtain on an era with the death Sunday of Joaquin Balaguer, 95, one of Latin America's last strongmen, who ruled this Caribbean nation for 22 years until 1996. He will receive a state burial tomorrow in Santo Domingo, the capital. Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo flew to Seattle late Sunday to meet with Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates to discuss social and humanitarian issues. Mr. Toledo, accompanied by Education Minister Gerardo Ayzanoa and other officials, was to meet with Mr. Gates to discuss Peru's plan to equip schools with computers. Haiti's President, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, is due in Taipei today for a five-day state visit, Taiwan's Foreign Ministry announced. His visit comes ahead of a planned Latin American tour next month by Taiwan's Prime Minister, Yu Shyi-kun, and as rival China ups the diplomatic ante to lure away the 28 countries that recognize Taipei.

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