- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 5, 2002

Paramilitaries to 'try' Colombian oil unionist
BOGOTA, Colombia Nationalist paramilitaries claimed responsibility yesterday for abducting an oil industry labor leader, provoking an indefinite strike of 3,500 oil workers since Feb. 26.
The United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) announced it will put Gilberto Torres, a top leader in the labor union of the state-run Colombian Oil Enterprise, on "paramilitary trial."
The AUC accuses Mr. Torres, kidnapped Feb. 25 in east-central Casanare department, of supporting the pro-Cuban National Liberation Army (ELN). His temporary replacement, Hernando Hernandez, said the workers will strike until Mr. Torres is freed.
The AUC kidnapped and murdered in early December another oil leader, Aury Sara Marrugo, whom it also accused of being an ELN backer.

Briton believes Chinese found New World first
LONDON Chinese explorers beat Columbus by 72 years in discovering America, according to a British amateur historian who backs his theory by detailed research and charts, the Daily Telegraph reported yesterday.
Gavin Menzies, a former submarine commander, says he also has evidence that Chinese explorers had discovered most parts of the world by the mid-15th century. He will present his findings at Britain's Royal Geographical Society on March 15.
Christopher Columbus, who landed on American shores Oct. 12, 1492, opened the New World to the Europeans. Mr. Menzies has spent 14 years mapping the movements of a Chinese fleet under Adm. Zheng He between 1421 and 1423.

Baja California resort off-limits to Americans
ROSARITO, Mexico The Oasis Beach Resort offers sweeping ocean views and all the amenities of a typical Mexican vacation spot. But Washington says U.S. citizens can't stay there.
The Oasis, located along a scenic highway 18 miles south of the U.S.-Mexican border, is owned by a fugitive drug trafficker, according to officials who have taken the unusual step of barring Americans from visiting it.
That means American tourists who use a credit card at the hotel could get a stern letter from the Treasury Department and a substantial fine for supporting a business U.S. officials believe is used to launder drug money.

Weekly notes
Cuba, which took advantage of a modified U.S. trade embargo to buy food products last year but said it was a one-time deal, spent another $32 million on American food recently. The U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council said yesterday in its weekly report the new contracts for more than 210,000 tons of agricultural commodities were issued since Feb. 20. … Roberto Madrazo, 49, the new leader of Mexico's largest political party, has secured his role in shaping the limping party's future, but a history of personal scandals may thwart his presidential ambitions. The ex-governor of Tabasco state was proclaimed victor Sunday in the first leadership primary held by the Institutional Revolutionary Party that ruled Mexico for 71 years until it lost the presidency in 2000. … German Foreign Minister Joschka Fisher arrived in Peru yesterday heading a delegation of ministers, parliament members and businessmen. Today, the Germans are to visit the southeastern city of Cuzco before continuing on to Chile and Argentina.


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