- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 9, 2002

Castro and Nader confer in Havana

HAVANA Cuban President Fidel Castro met late Sunday with former U.S. presidential contender Ralph Nader, who is in Cuba to discuss tropical diseases.

The Cuban Communist leader and the U.S. Green Party nominee for president in 2000 dined together at the Palace of the Revolution and are to confer again in private today.

The Nader visit comes as Communist leaders give renewed attention to Americans who can influence public debate over decades-old U.S. restrictions on trade and travel to Cuba. Mr. Nader said on arrival that he favors lifting restrictions on both "just as there is between the United States and China."

Jimmy Carter seeks dialogue in Venezuela

CARACAS, Venezuela Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter plans to propose a blue-ribbon panel to promote dialogue in Venezuela in hopes of heading off another coup, according to groups who met with him Sunday.

Mr. Carter met with officials of the Roman Catholic Church, who said later that he brought up the idea of a panel. Mr. Carter has so far refrained from making statements from Caracas, a spokesman said, to avoid being put on the spot by the opposition, which challenges his impartiality.

"He hopes to put together a blue-ribbon commission," said Monsignor Baltasar Porras of the Venezuelan Catholic Bishops' Conference.

Carlos Ortega, leader of the labor federation, which joined with business leaders in strikes that ended in a coup, said it would be difficult to find panel members that President Hugo Chavez would accept.

2 leftists might vie for Brazil presidency

BRASILIA Brazil faces the possibility of two leftist opposition candidates squaring off in the October presidential election after two polls showed the center-right government's candidate sharing second place.

Such a scenario, which could further unnerve financial markets fretting about a turn to the left in Latin America's biggest country, has never occurred in Brazil's democracy.

Two weekend polls showed support for former finance minister and two-time presidential contender Ciro Gomes up sharply to 18 percent. He shares second place with ruling-party candidate Jose Serra. Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of the Workers Party remained ahead at 39 percent.

Weekly notes

Mayoral election results in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, have been thrown out for a second time after officials ruled that the party in power had voided thousands of votes for a rival-party candidate. Jesus Alfredo Delgado of the conservative National Action Party (PAN) garnered the most votes in the election May 12, but the second-place Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) challenged the results. The state electoral tribunal, controlled by the PRI, ruled 2-1 late Saturday that PAN officials had annulled nearly 10,000 votes cast for the PRI's mayoral candidate. Cuban border guards have arrested the second of two people aboard a speed boat from Florida said to be trying to pick up a group of people trying to leave the country illegally, the government said yesterday. Jose Gabriel Cruz Rodriguez was arrested Friday in Villa Clara province, the government statement said, and faces trial.

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