- The Washington Times - Monday, January 19, 2004


Montesinos faces start of trial today

LIMA — Vladimiro Montesinos, the country’s former all-powerful spymaster, appears in court today to face the most serious charges against him to date: that he planned a huge gun-running operation to rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in the late 1990s, just before a U.S.-backed crackdown.

The case has all the elements of an international spy thriller: An ally of the United States in the fight against drugs in Peru stands accused of arming Washington’s enemy in the world’s cocaine capital. Investigators say evidence points to CIA support of Mr. Montesinos, but they say agents have refused to answer questions about the matter.

The trial of the man who ran Peru from the shadows for a decade as ex-President Alberto Fujimori’s right-hand man takes place in a courtroom on the naval base where Mr. Montesinos has been held since his arrest in June 2001.


Caribbean mission to examine unrest

PORT-AU-PRINCE — Tensions in Haiti will be examined by a fact-finding mission from the Caribbean Community (Caricom) that will meet with all sides starting today, the British Broadcasting Corp. reported Sunday as thousands marched in the capital demanding that President Jean-Bertrand Aristide resign amid charges of corruption and mismanagement.

Amid mounting anti-Aristide popular sentiment, officials from his administration agreed to talk to Caricom fact-finders in the Bahamas. A statement from its secretariat said regional leaders will meet with representatives of Haiti’s political opposition, civil society and the religious sector.

The Caricom leaders also are expected to meet with Mr. Aristide, but at a separate, undisclosed location. The fact-finding mission was authorized by Caricom members including Canada, the United States and the Organization of American States.


Mexico’s offer to mediate spurned

Chile’s foreign minister has declined Mexico’s offer to mediate in an ongoing dispute between Chile and Bolivia over access to the Pacific Ocean, United Press International reports from Washington.

Over the weekend, Mexican President Vicente Fox offered to referee the latest in the 125-year dispute between Chile and Bolivia, which have not had formal diplomatic relations since 1978. On Sunday, Chile’s foreign minister said the dispute was a “bilateral matter,” but thanked Mexico, “a great friend,” for the offer.

The dispute goes back to an 1879 war between Bolivia and Chile. Landlocked Bolivia lost its 180-mile-long coast to Chile in the War of the Pacific. The loss has such significance even now that it figured in nationwide protests in October that led to the resignation of President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada.

Weekly notes

Argentine President Nestor Kirchner announced this week that he intends to visit Cuba, despite accusations from Washington that Argentina is part of an emerging “leftist axis” comprised of Argentina, Brazil, Cuba and Venezuela. “The only axis that we have is with Brazil, with whom we have a political alliance,” Mr. Kirchner said. … Hundreds of friends, family and sweethearts waved wildly and blew kisses as 150 Dominican troops returned to Santo Domingo Sunday after being stationed for six months in Iraq. “This is the happiest day of my life,” Rafael Alcantara Mejia said with tears as he called out to his son, Sgt. Rafael Alcantara Alexander, 32. “I put my faith in God, and my son returned.”

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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