- The Washington Times - Monday, August 25, 2003

PERU

Accord with Brazil opens Mercosur trade

LIMA — The presidents of Peru and Brazil reached a deal yesterday after marathon weekend talks on a free-trade accord between Peru and the Mercosur bloc that will open markets for this poor Andean nation and grant Brazil access to Pacific ports.

Only 2.8 percent of Peru’s $212 million in exports last year went to Mercosur, which groups Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay, and 91 percent of those went to Brazil. Peru, a nation rich in minerals but mired in poverty, reckons free-trade access to the South American bloc could open a market worth $350 million a year.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo also agreed to unlock trade routes across the Amazon jungle that will give Brazil access to the Asia-Pacific region as another plank in their plans to foster closer South American integration.

VENEZUELA

Referendum deadline goes by unmet

CARACAS — The Supreme Court did not meet its self-imposed 10-day deadline Sunday for naming a new election authority that could organize a referendum on President Hugo Chavez’s rule.

Mr. Chavez, speaking during his weekly television show, said a consensus within the court broke down after some judges were pressured by opposition members to appoint a biased panel to the National Electoral Council. He blamed the opposition-aligned commercial TV channels for attacking independent candidates and trying to manipulate the court’s decision-making process.

The president’s opponents have turned in 2.7 million signatures demanding a referendum on ending his tumultuous term.

TAIWAN

El Salvador, Guatemala support U.N. bid

TAIPEI — El Salvador and Guatemala yesterday reiterated their support for Taiwan, which renewed its bid for membership in the United Nations this month, and called for peaceful settlement of Taiwan-China disputes.

Salvadoran President Francisco Flores threw his weight behind Taiwan in a joint communique he signed with Chen Shui-bian, president of the Republic of China (Taiwan).

Weekly notes …

Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien described as “incredible” the damage caused by a forest fire that destroyed nearly 250 houses and prompted thousands to flee Kelowna, British Columbia. He flew over the area Sunday with the province’s premier, Gordon Campbell. About 30,000 residents fled as the flames approached within nine miles of the city of 100,000, but most were able to return over the weekend after winds subsided and temperatures cooled. … Cuban President Fidel Castro predicted over the weekend that a U.S. government attempt to use a satellite to broadcast news and talk shows hosted by exile leaders will fail. He said earlier efforts to thwart the Cuban government’s jamming of TV Marti’s signal had failed.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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