- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 4, 2003

Government boosts annual seal kill
OTTAWA Canada yesterday sharply increased the number of seals that can be "culled" over the next three years, dismissing protests from environmentalists who say this will have a devastating effect on the seal population.
Fisheries and Oceans Minister Robert Thibault said hunters would be allowed to kill 975,000 seals over the next three years, with the maximum catch in any one year set at 350,000.
Mr. Thibault said the numbers were raised because the harp seal population had reached a record 5.2 million, up from 1.8 million in 1970. If all 975,000 seals were killed, the population in 2006 would be 4.7 million, he said. "Seals are in abundance. … Seal management is founded on sound conservation principles to ensure harvest opportunities now and in the future," he told reporters.

Toledo's majority in Congress disappears
LIMA In a setback that cost President Alejandro Toledo's fragile majority in Congress, his Peru Posible party ended its alliance with five dissident legislators, making it more difficult for him to win approval for government initiatives particularly on the economic front.
Mr. Toledo announced the separation of Luis Guerrero, Jorge Chavez, Ronnie Jurado, Edgar Villanueva and Manuel Olaechea late Saturday at the end of a prolonged, closed-door meeting in a hotel outside Lima.
The dissident lawmakers had spoken out in recent weeks against actions in Congress taken by Peru Posible, especially regarding a proposed investigation of a former minister of ex-President Alan Garcia's government. Eight days ago, highly respected lawyer Gina Costa quit as interior minister in what analysts said would put a brake on greatly needed reform of the national police.

Normalcy returns after 64-day strike
CARACAS Banks, shopping malls, factories and schools opened yesterday as opponents of President Hugo Chavez eased a 64-day-old strike, a day after hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans signed petitions demanding his resignation.
Stores began filling with products that had become scarce, including fresh milk, juice and bottled drinking water. Lines disappeared at banks, which restored normal working hours for the first time in two months. Universities and many schools resumed classes. Strike organizers said malls and factories would open part time.
Strike leaders said the walkout would continue in the oil industry, which provides half of government revenue and 70 percent of export earnings. But lines at service stations in Caracas have diminished as the government gradually increased oil output.
The president's foes agreed to ease the waning strike to protect businesses from bankruptcy.

Weekly notes
Brazil's Chamber of Deputies elected Joao Paulo Cunha of the Workers Party as its first leftist speaker. Mr. Cunha, who is now third in the line of succession to President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, was chosen Sunday with 434 votes of 493 cast. There are 513 deputies. … Latin jazz musician Ramon "Mongo" Santamaria, a Cuban-born percussionist and bandleader known for his conga rhythms, died Saturday in Miami at age 85, hospital and funeral home officials said. Born in Havana, Mr. Santamaria performed at Havana's famed Tropicana Club before moving to New York City in the early 1950s, touring with the Mambo Kings and performing with Tito Puente and Cal Tjader. In 1977, he was awarded a Grammy for Best Latin Recording for his album "Amancer."

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