- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 18, 2002

Venezuelan detects destabilization bid

CARACAS, Venezuela President Hugo Chavez said in his weekly broadcast that despite his support from half of all Venezuelans, a destabilization effort is under way similar to the one that toppled Chilean President Salvador Allende in 1973.

Mr. Chavez referred in the Sunday address to a poll published in the daily El Nacional, in which 53 percent of the respondents said they support his presidency, and one day after 50,000 Venezuelans gathered in Caracas to demand his resignation.

"I'm not resigning and they are not going to topple me," said Mr. Chavez, as he challenged the opposition to hold a referendum on his presidency.

Dr. Allende, a socialist physician elected by Chileans in 1970, was toppled in September 1973 in a coup led by Gen. Augusto Pinochet. In the months leading up to the coup and afterward, the military plotters had U.S. support.

Mr. Chavez, a populist former colonel who served two years in prison for his part in a failed 1992 military takeover, was briefly ousted in an April 12 coup.

Most Cubans back Fidelista petition

HAVANA A petition to declare Cuba's socialist system "untouchable" has been signed by nearly 70 percent of Cubans of voting age, officials announced. The signature campaign, running from Saturday morning through noon today, is being carried out at more than 120,000 stations around the country.

President Fidel Castro was the first to sign on Saturday and estimated that at least 7 million of Cuba's 11 million citizens would support the petition for a constitutional amendment declaring the nation's economic, political and social system cannot be changed.

Opposition activists say the petition drive is Mr. Castro's answer to their own civil liberties campaign, known as the Varela Project.

Army takes over Arequipa amid strife

LIMA, Peru The military has taken control of the country's second-largest city, where violent protests led to the evacuation of a group of U.S. Baptist missionaries stranded at an airport.

A military helicopter plucked 11 missionaries from an airport in the Andean city of Arequipa on Sunday and carried them to a nearby air force base. The missionaries, from Cash Point Baptist Church in Ardmore, Tenn., were stranded over the weekend after Arequipa residents rioted over the sale of two state electricity companies.

The Peruvian government declared a state of emergency in the region surrounding Arequipa, a poor city of 1 million people.

Weekly notes

Islamic missionaries in the southern state of Chiapas have been asked to leave Mexico because they lack proper visas. The missionaries who include Basques from Spain who converted to Islam have won over a number of Chamula and Tzotzil Indians, but never applied for status as a religious organization, said Javier Moctezuma Barragan, assistant secretary of the National Immigration Institute. The disappearance of a Brazilian TV journalist in a Rio slum has thrown the spotlight on the growing reach of organized crime. TV Globo reporter Tim Lopes vanished June 2 in the Vila Cruzeiro shantytown where he was investigating links among local dance parties, the selling of drugs and the staging of illicit sex shows. Two men arrested last week told police Mr. Lopes was kidnapped, shot in the feet, then decapitated with a samurai sword by local drug baron Elias Pereira da Silva, known as "Mad Elias."

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