- The Washington Times - Monday, November 3, 2003

GUATEMALA

Ex-dictator battles for election, immunity

MORAZAN — The former dictator in the powder-blue suit and white fedora looked uneasy as he took the microphone and faced a small, spirited crowd of supporters. But seconds into his 20-minute stump speech, Efrain Rios Montt was yelling and shaking his fist like the evangelical minister he used to be.

“We need to change Guatemala, but the president can’t do it,” the retired brigadier general bellowed, “the people need to do it.”

At 77, the man known as El General is seeking a comeback that makes U.S. officials nervous. His 18-month dictatorship two decades ago came at the height of a 1960-96 civil war that pitted leftist guerrillas against the government and killed 200,000 people.

He is accused of genocide in Guatemala and before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. As president of Congress, he will lose immunity from prosecution when his term is up, unless he wins the upcoming election.

COLOMBIA

Smugglers ditch ton of cocaine

BOGOTA — An international cocaine-interdiction patrol plucked an estimated $30 million worth of the drug from the sea after it was abandoned by smugglers over the weekend, Colombia’s navy reports.

The cocaine, weighing about a ton, was tossed into the sea by the crew of a boat about 180 miles off Colombia’s Caribbean coast, the navy said. Members of a joint patrol from Colombia, the United States, Britain and the Netherlands chased the suspected smugglers after a reconnaissance plane spotted the vessel.

The suspected smuggling boat raced back to shore, and the crew escaped. This year, the Colombian navy and its allies have seized about 60 tons of cocaine with an estimated street value of nearly $2 billion offshore. Colombia is the world’s largest cocaine exporter.

VENEZUELA

Costa Rica warned about conspiracies

CARACAS — President Hugo Chavez accused Costa Rican government officials Sunday of backing a suspected coup plot from San Jose to topple his leftist government.

Venezuela, the world’s No. 5 oil exporter, in September cut off crude supplies to the Dominican Republic during a diplomatic dispute over similar charges by Mr. Chavez.

“If Costa Rica’s government … allows conspiracies against Venezuela from San Jose, then Venezuela won’t sit back with its arms crossed,” he said in his regular Sunday broadcast.

Costa Rica granted political asylum this year to Carlos Ortega, a Venezuelan union boss who led a crippling opposition strike in December and January that sought to topple the elected Mr. Chavez. In his broadcast, Mr. Chavez played an audiotape that he said was a recording of Mr. Ortega in Costa Rica discussing plans to destabilize his government.

Weekly notes

Japan’s Agriculture Ministry will ask Washington not to allow U.S. meat processors to export Canadian beef to Japan, because of concerns about mad cow disease, reports Nihon Keizai Shimbun, a business daily. This follows a U.S. decision to resume imports of veal from Canada early next year, although a cow in Alberta was discovered in May to have bovine spongiform encephalopathy. … Passing under a crumbling arch that reads “Thou Art Dust,” voodoo practitioners flocked to Haiti’s largest cemetery Saturday to honor the guardian of the dead with rum, thunderous music and lewd behavior designed to awaken mischievous spirits. On Nov. 1, observed by Christians as All Saints Day, practitioners of voodoo visit the graves of relatives and pay their respects to Baron Samedi, the voodoo ruler of the dead.


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