- The Washington Times - Monday, May 31, 2004


Millionth tourist comes early this year

HAVANA — Cuba celebrated the arrival of 1 million tourists in record time Sunday, despite U.S. efforts to undermine its most important economic sector and a shake-up over corruption.

“In 2002, we reached [1 million visitors] on July 29, and in 2003 on June 29,” said a Tourism Ministry statement read at Havana’s Hotel Nacional amid celebrations featuring dancing and spiced rum drinks.

The statement said the industry is on track to attract a record 2 million tourists this year. The news came as President Bush targeted Cuban tourism seeking to tighten the 4-decades-old U.S. embargo on the island.

Washington tightened prohibitions on Americans going to Cuba and announced last month that Cuban-Americans could visit their homeland once every three years, instead of annually. Other Americans need U.S. authorization to visit Cuba.


EU, Latin America seek Iraq exit

GUADALAJARA — Mexico will meet regularly with France, Germany, Spain and Chile on U.N. solutions to the Iraq conflict, President Vicente Fox said Saturday after a European Union-Latin American summit.

“One solution we arrived at with France, Germany, Spain and Chile was that we would meet often, exchange opinions and look for ideas and exit strategies,” said Mr. Fox, speaking after a series of bilateral meetings on the summit sidelines.

“In Iraq, what I perceive and what I have gotten from several countries is the feeling that everyone wants to look toward the future and work seriously toward getting out,” he said.

Fifty-eight leaders from EU, Latin American and Caribbean nations met for a summit that ended late Friday.


Chavez to abide by ballot recount

CARACAS — President Hugo Chavez said he would accept a recall vote on his administration if enough signatures are gathered, sources reported yesterday.

“I would happily accept a recall vote,” El Universal quoted him as saying. The president’s comments came after the latest effort to tally the signatures for a November 2003 recall signature drive.

The Electoral Council said opponents failed to gather the 2.4 million valid signatures necessary to call for a referendum. For months, however, Chavez foes have insisted that they had 3.4 million supporters of a referendum on whether there should be a vote.

The final count was completed Sunday. The council and international observers including the Carter Center, headed by former President Jimmy Carter, said it will be several days before they have a result. If enough Venezuelans petition for a referendum, a vote is set for Aug. 8.

Weekly notes

Ousted Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and his family received a first-class diplomatic welcome yesterday in South Africa, his new home in exile. Before leaving Jamaica for asylum in South Africa, Mr. Aristide insisted that he is still the elected president of Haiti and promised to return. He and his wife, Mildred, were embraced by South African President Thabo Mbeki as they stepped off the South African presidential jet that flew them and their two young daughters from Jamaica. … Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin kicked off the second week of a listless election campaign yesterday amid increasing criticism within the ruling Liberal Party. Polls indicate that the Liberals will lose their parliamentary majority in the June 28 election, and unhappy members say Mr. Martin’s advisers made a mistake by setting the vote as the government reels from a patronage scandal. No such divisions affect the opposition Conservatives, who promise a multibillion-dollar spending program to boost the country’s overstretched armed forces after Liberal cuts.

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