- The Washington Times - Monday, June 21, 2004

PERU

Labor chief sets July 14 shutdown

LIMA — Mario Huaman, the country’s top union boss, has called this country’s first nationwide strike since 1999 for July 14, when he hopes schools, shops and factories will grind to a halt.

“I am confident the strike will be a success and show the will of the majority to repudiate a government that does not listen, a government that lies, a president who lies,” Mr. Huaman, head of the 1.5 million-member General Confederation of Workers of Peru, told Reuters.

The confederation wants Peru to refinance a foreign debt that gobbles up 25 percent of the national budget in servicing charges. The government also should end tax-stability contracts for mining companies, cut telephone charges, enact tax reform and improve labor rights, Mr. Huaman said.

CUBA

Intercepted refugee slashes his wrist

MIAMI — An anti-Castro group in Florida said a Cuban refugee intercepted in the Florida Straits by the Coast Guard slashed his wrist in an attempt to prevent his repatriation.

The Democracy Movement said Hector Martin Sanchez is being treated aboard a Coast Guard cutter and likely will be taken back to Cuba when he recovers, the Miami Herald reported yesterday.

CANADA

Martin wheezes to home stretch

BRACEBRIDGE — Prime Minister Paul Martin started a weeklong final bid yesterday to drum up enough support for his ruling Liberals to stave off defeat in the June 28 election.

Aides said Mr. Martin, 65, would put in a series of 20-hour days as he flew back and forth across the country.

Polls suggest that the Liberals, suffering both from the aftereffects of a patronage scandal and from what many say has been a poor campaign, will win fewer seats than the opposition Conservatives led by Stephen Harper. Neither party is likely to win overall control of Parliament and might have to seek the support of a smaller partner to govern.

Weekly notes

China has agreed to lift its ban on soybeans from Brazil, defusing a row that included a threat to go to the World Trade Organization, sources said yesterday. “We have word that the 23 firms [whose exports were blocked by China because of suspected presence of fungicides] have been authorized to unload,” said a Brazilian official who asked to remain anonymous. … Official figures reported over the weekend in Buenos Aires suggest that kidnappings in Argentina have increased more than sixfold in the past two years. The British Broadcasting Corp. reported that Argentina’s Security Ministry said the country had 46 reported kidnappings in 2001 and 306 in 2003. In the cases reported last year, kidnappers netted $1.15 million.

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