for June 28 votes
TORONTO — Political leaders set off yesterday on a two-week sprint to a general election, with a pair of prime-time debates that could be Prime Minister Paul Martin’s last chance to save his job.
The debates are critical, observers say, because they will mark the first time that most voters will tune into the campaign before voting on June 28. Mr. Martin called the election hoping for a personal mandate after taking over from former Premier Jean Chretien late last year and a fourth consecutive term for his Liberal party.
But his campaign has stumbled, and recent polls have shown the Liberals overtaken by the Conservative party.
BOGOTA — Colombia has opened the first school in Latin America dedicated to teaching security forces how to rescue hostages and neutralize hostage takers.
The training center on the was partly funded by the United States under a $25 million antikidnapping aid package.
Weekly notes …
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez canceled his trip to the 11th U.N. Conference on Trade and Development that opened Sunday in Sao Paulo, Brazil, to campaign for an Aug. 15 national referendum on his presidency, which isn’t set to end until 2006. Mr. Chavez has come under increasing pressure from conservative groups that say his policies are destroying the country. … Hundreds of Haitian children stood in line to receive biscuits as U.N. workers distributed an emergency aid shipment flown into the flood-stricken town of Mapou Sunday.