- The Washington Times - Monday, November 10, 2003

BRAZIL

Latin America worst for rights activists

RIO DE JANEIRO — More human rights defenders are killed in Latin America than in any other region of the world, Amnesty International said yesterday while urging governments to do more to protect these workers.

Amnesty Secretary-General Irene Khan, in Rio de Janeiro to issue a report on human rights defenders in the Americas, told reporters that the dark legacy of military dictatorships in many Latin American countries was partly to blame.

“Despite the transition to democracy, past practices of silencing critics … are being recycled into new dangerous attitudes and practices,” she said. “Watchdogs, whistleblowers and critics … are no more or less protected than in the past.”

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC

More than 100 arrested before protest

SANTO DOMINGO — An army spokesman in this recession-struck Caribbean country said yesterday that 106 activists and union leaders had been arrested ahead of a strike set for today to protest the government’s economic policies, high prices and constant power cuts.

He said the activists were carrying illegal weapons or planning “subversive actions,” adding that police confiscated 116 handguns and 12 shotguns, as well as 6,000 tires that authorities thought were intended to be set alight in barricades.

President Hipolito Mejia has dismissed calls to change his agronomist economic policies, which have led to street protests in which at least six persons have been killed.

COLOMBIA

Ramirez resigns as defense minister

BOGOTA — The country’s first female defense minister, who pursued all-out war on leftist rebels but feuded openly with the military brass, refused to say yesterday why she resigned abruptly after 15 months in office.

Martha Lucia Ramirez read a statement describing how the military and police under her command improved security in the war-torn South American country but did not say why she resigned Sunday, and refused to take questions from reporters.

President Alvaro Uribe named as her successor Jorge Alberto Uribe, a U.S.-educated businessman who is not related to the president.

Weekly notes …

The Mexican government says the country will face an economic and debt crisis unless Congress moves swiftly to pass a budget package presented this week. “This isn’t a threat, but the option not to approve the reforms may take us back to the days of low growth, high inflation and huge debt,” Finance Minister Francisco Gil told industrialists last week. … Chilean authorities yesterday dismissed two top military officers after army personnel were caught by an Argentine diplomat as they photocopied documents taken from a safe in Punta Arenas. The Defense Ministry accepted the resignation of the head of the southern military command, Gen. Waldo Sauritz, and fired the regional head of military intelligence, Lt. Col. Hugo Poza Reyes.


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