- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 25, 2003

COLOMBIA
U.S. rescue mission stirs local concern
BOGOTA Lawmakers here have voiced concern at reports that the United States is sending 150 more troops to Colombia to rescue three U.S. government employees kidnapped Feb. 13 by Marxist rebels when their plane crashed in Caqueta province.
Four Americans were on the flight. One of them and a Colombian intelligence sergeant were executed when they tried to resist the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas. "They had shots to the back of the head that show they were assassinated in cold blood," President Bush said in an interview with Telemundo television.
Sending 150 more Special Forces exceeds the congressional limit of 400 American military personnel in Colombia, but Mr. Bush invoked special powers to "carry out emergency evacuation of U.S. citizens or any search-and-rescue operation."

GUYANA
2 senators prepare for AIDS-fund debate
GEORGETOWN Two U.S. senators wrapped up a two-day visit here and headed for Haiti on Sunday as part of a fact-finding mission ahead of congressional debate about a $15 billion HIV/AIDS initiative.
The visit by Republicans Mike DeWine of Ohio and Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island followed President Bush's announcement that Guyana and Haiti would get priority help from the fund announced last month.

CUBA
Conrad backs opening of trade, travel
HAVANA Sen. Kent Conrad, North Dakota Democrat, criticized Cuba's centralized economy and one-party rule during the weekend and argued that ending U.S. travel and trade restrictions would bring positive change to Cuba.
"I am leaving with a strong feeling that this is an economic system that is not working as well as it should," Mr. Conrad said at a news conference after a four-day visit to the communist-ruled island. "It falls short."
Mr. Conrad faulted Cuba for being a "one-party state that does not enjoy the freedoms and the democracy that has contributed to the United States' success," but he also criticized the four-decade U.S. policy of isolation toward Cuba.

Weekly notes …
Cuban President Fidel Castro wants to visit Japan on his way home from a summit of developing nations in Malaysia this week, a Japanese Foreign Ministry official said yesterday. Kyodo News Service said Mr. Castro would arrive in Japan on Saturday for a two-day trip after a visit to China starting tomorrow. … The Chilean press applauded remarks by U.S. Secretary of State Colin L. Powell last week that the United States was "not proud" of its role in the 1973 coup that brought dictator Augusto Pinochet to power. Mr. Powell's comment Thursday on the Black Entertainment Television network was seen by Chileans as the first time Washington acknowledged intervening in events related to the bloody military takeover.


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