- The Washington Times - Friday, May 3, 2002

Bolivia's 'dirty war'

Manfred Reyes Villa is the leading candidate in Bolivia's presidential race, and that is part of his problem.

"My position in the polls is creating trouble for me because people are trying to denigrate me," he told reporters yesterday at The Washington Times.

Mr. Reyes Villa calls the opposition campaign a "dirty war."

Some opponents try to portray him as a wealthy, old-style politician, while others compare him to Venezuela's leftist President Hugo Chavez.

Mr. Reyes Villa is the candidate of the center-right New Republican Force and proudly notes that he has never visited Cuba, despite several invitations. Mr. Chavez is a friend of Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

Mr. Reyes Villa also points out that he is visiting Washington to show he would be cooperative with the United States if he wins the June 30 election.

But the political smears from his opponents are only part of the problem. His campaign headquarters was bombed recently. No one was injured, but the building was damaged.

Opponents have hacked into his campaign computers and flown helicopters over his large home to take photographs in an apparent attempt to show that he is a rich politician out of touch with the poor, who make up about two-thirds of Bolivia's population of 8 million.

However, none of the dirty tricks seems to have affected Mr. Reyes Villa's standing in the polls. He is favored by 37 percent of voters; the next highest candidate, a former president, is at 15 percent. Mr. Reyes Villa is leading in all of Bolivia's nine departments, or states.

A four-term mayor of the city of Cochabamba, Mr. Reyes Villa said his administration would advocate economic growth, ensure security and combat the drug trade.

He is in Washington to reassure the Bush administration that he will continue the policy of trying to coax peasants away from growing coca, the base plant for cocaine, and instead opt for a more productive crop. He also is pledging his cooperation in the U.S. war on terrorism.

Mr. Reyes Villa met this week with officials at the National Security Council and with Otto Reich, assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs.

New embassy in Berlin

The U.S. ambassador to Germany and the mayor of Berlin signed an agreement yesterday to build a new U.S. Embassy in the heart of the German capital.

"It is a day that some questioned might never come, but here it is," Ambassador Daniel Coats said after the signing ceremony with Mayor Klaus Wowereit.

"After 50 years, the U.S. Embassy will take its place here again," Mr. Wowereit said.

The old embassy was on the same site that was destroyed in World War II, and the site ended up in the no-man's land of the Berlin Wall.

The agreement came after the United States agreed to scale back a 100-foot security zone. The Berlin city government opposed the original plan because it would have disrupted traffic near the city's historic Brandenburg Gate and encroached on the nearby Tiergarten park.

The United States hopes the embassy will be built by 2006.

Aid for Palestinians

The wives of the Saudi and Jordanian ambassadors and the spouse of the Palestinian representative have issued an emergency appeal to raise money for Palestinian women and children.

"Every donation will make a difference in the lives of women and children there," said Princess Haifa Faisal of Saudi Arabia, Lynne Muasher of Jordan and Malea Abdel Rahman, whose husband represents the Palestinian Authority in Washington.

The donations will go to the American Near East Refugee Aid, the International Committee of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, and the National Arab American Medical Association.

The appeal is sponsored by the Mosaic Foundation, a group of wives of Arab diplomats who raise money for projects benefiting women and children.

Checks can be made out to the Mosaic Foundation, 1420 Beverly Road, Suite 240, McLean, Va. 22101. The tax exempt identification number is 54-642832.

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