- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 17, 2002

Cardinal Rivera salutes Mexican flag

MEXICO CITY Mexico's top cleric saluted the flag on the altar of the country's main Roman Catholic cathedral, the first time that had occurred in 150 years. The act was the most recent in a series of events relaxing Mexico's strict separation between church and state.

Cardinal Norberto Rivera and other priests celebrating Sunday Mass on the eve of Mexico's Independence Day, which was yesterday, sang the national anthem as they honored the flag.

"No one [in Mexico] can be a true Catholic if they are not a true Mexican," the Rev. Luis Felipe Garcia told reporters afterwards to explain the event, which he said had not happened in more than a century and a half.

About 90 percent of Mexico's 100 million people are Roman Catholics, but the modern Mexican state was built on an anti-clerical platform stemming from the church's opposition to the country's 1910 revolution.

Canada wants data on boy held by U.S.

TORONTO Canada wants more information about a 15-year-old Canadian citizen captured by U.S. troops in eastern Afghanistan, and has asked Washington to take his age into account as it decides what to do with him.

Foreign Affairs spokesman Carl Schwenger said yesterday that the International Committee of the Red Cross has visited Omar Khadr, 15, held by U.S. forces in Bagram, and that he could be transferred to a U.S. base in Cuba as an "enemy combatant." Omar, the son of a reputed al Qaeda financier, was captured July 27 after being wounded during a battle in which a U.S. soldier was killed and four others were wounded.

Canada first learned of the boy's capture Aug. 20 when the U.S. government contacted officials seeking to verify his identity. Canada asked for consular access to Omar, and the U.S. State Department refused. It said Canada would be notified if any of its citizens are sent to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as enemy combatants.

Mr. Schwenger said Canada responded to the State Department by noting that Omar is a minor. Canada hasn't contested the U.S. refusal so far. He said the boy was visited last week in Bagram by the International Committee of the Red Cross and Canada was told he is being "treated well."

Omar's older brother, Abdul Rahman Khadr, 19, also is being held in Afghanistan. Mr. Schwenger said a Canadian envoy from Islamabad was in Afghanistan this week seeking access to him.

Defiant inmates leave notorious Brazil prison

SAO PAULO, Brazil Defiant to the end, the last inmates left Brazil's massive Carandiru prison on Sunday, shouting curses and banging on the walls of their bus as authorities closed the facility billed by prisoners as a "university for crime."

As the bus rolled out of Carandiru, police, guards and administrators watched them leave, smiling and clapping politely.

After years of unrest, infighting and rioting, the state government decided to shut Carandiru permanently. The prison gained international notoriety in 1992 when police killed 111 inmates during a prison riot. Built in 1956 as a detention center to house as many as 3,250 inmates awaiting trial, it quickly became an overcrowded prison housing at times as many as 8,000 convicted criminals.

Weekly notes

Lolita Torres, a singer and one of the top actresses of Argentina's golden era of cinema, died Saturday of complications from a lung infection. She was 72 and had been hospitalized since August, after the rheumatoid fever she had suffered for a decade grew worse. Born Beatriz Mariana Torres, she began singing Spanish folk songs at age 11 in a leading Buenos Aires theater. Best known for her film career, from 1944 on she acted in 17 films opposite some of Latin America's best known actors in what was Argentine cinema's "golden years." Jamaicans will be told Sunday when they will go to the polls to choose a prime minister for the violence-torn Caribbean nation. Prime Minister P.J. Patterson told thousands of supporters of his People's National Party in St. Catherine when he would make the announcement, ending months of speculation.

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