- The Washington Times - Monday, May 17, 2004


Fernandez returns as president-elect

SANTO DOMINGO — Few predicted a comeback when President Leonel Fernandez left office amid a corruption scandal in 2000.

But four years later, in a country gripped by economic hard times, his promises of a turnaround helped lead Mr. Fernandez to victory Sunday over Hipolito Mejia, who ran for re-election despite sharp opposition within his party after it saw his popularity plummet during the worst economic crisis in decades.

Mr. Fernandez, 50, says he can revive the Caribbean nation by revisiting the tight fiscal policies of the late 1990s. During his term, the economy grew 8 percent a year and the peso traded at 16 to the dollar, compared with 45 today. The articulate technocrat — who holds a law degree and speaks Spanish, English and French — leads the Dominican Liberation Party, founded by late President Juan Bosch.


Martin expected to call June election

OTTAWA — A lifelong dream is turning into a nightmare for Prime Minister Paul Martin as he grapples with a political scandal, a tired electorate and deepening divisions within his Liberal Party.

Mr. Martin took office in December from fellow Liberal Jean Chretien and was expected to lead the party to another triumphant decade in power. Now he could lose an election he is expected to announce within a week and schedule for June 28.

“He was hit by a perfect storm of problems, some of which were of his own making,” said University of Calgary politics professor David Taras. Mr. Martin swept to power on a wave of expectations and promised to transform politics. Mr. Taras said the premier’s constant talk of fundamental change in every area of government meant he ended up pledging too much, too soon.


Charges of U.S. plot prompt demonstration

CARACAS — Thousands of Venezuelans draped in national colors marched Sunday through the streets of Caracas to protest a reported coup plot by Colombian right-wing paramilitaries against populist President Hugo Chavez.

Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel charged that the United States and Colombians were involved in the conspiracy. Last week, 88 persons described as paramilitaries were arrested on a farm outside Caracas. Rangel said 32 more have been arrested.

On Saturday, Mr. Chavez, who called for Sunday’s march, said the plotters were going to take over a military base in Caracas to provoke a coup, then storm the presidential palace to kill him.

Weekly notes

Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo hit a new low in an opinion poll Sunday with 6 percent support and a 91 percent disapproval rating. Pollster Alfredo Torres said Peruvians have “already lost all hope in the president.” A majority of Peruvians, 56 percent, say the solution to the country’s political woes would be Mr. Toledo’s resignation or impeachment. … U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Tony Garza deplored on Friday the murder of a jailed U.S. citizen who had confessed to killing a Mexican journalist. Mario Medina and another man identified as Hiram Olivares had confessed to Mexican police that they had stabbed journalist Roberto Mora, but the U.S. Embassy said it was concerned about claims Medina, who was killed in jail Thursday, was tortured into admitting the crime.

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