- The Washington Times - Monday, January 3, 2005

CUBA

Havana ends tiff with 8 EU embassies

HAVANA — Cuba ended a diplomatic deadlock with eight nations in the European Union yesterday in response to proposals by EU officials to stop inviting dissidents to National Day receptions in Havana.

Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque said Cuba is reopening official contacts with the embassies of France, Britain, Germany, Italy, Austria, Greece, Portugal and Sweden. EU embassies began inviting Cuban dissidents to diplomatic cocktail parties last year to protest a March 2003 crackdown that jailed 75 dissidents.

This so incensed President Fidel Castro’s communist government that it shut its doors to European diplomats, shunned ambassadors and did not return telephone calls. After Cuba recently freed 14 of the 75, the EU working group on Latin America recommended Dec. 14 that the cocktail invitations be dropped in favor of more discreet contacts with dissidents.

COLOMBIA

FARC says its envoy kidnapped in Caracas

BOGOTA — Colombia’s largest leftist rebel group said yesterday that one of its top leaders was illegally abducted last month from Venezuelan soil, contradicting official claims that police caught him in Colombia.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) accused “corrupt” Venezuelan police officers of helping Colombian security agents kidnap Rodrigo Granda, their foreign relations chief, from Venezuela’s capital, Caracas. The accusation could trigger a diplomatic row between the two neighbors, which have had frequent disputes over their 1,400-mile border.

Colombian police say Mr. Granda was arrested Dec. 13 in the Colombian city of Cucuta near the border. But a FARC statement posted on the group’s Web site said Mr. Granda was kidnapped in Caracas by Colombian intelligence officers “with the support and complicity of corrupt sectors of the Venezuelan police.”

ARGENTINA

Protests continue over nightclub fire

BUENOS AIRES —Residents furious over perceived security lapses in the nightclub fire that killed 188 persons Thursday, many of them teenagers, banged pots and pans yesterday and threatened to march against city officials.

The third straight day of protests over the fire, which injured more than 700 others at a rock concert, came as forensic analysts studied whether a flare fired by someone in the audience ignited foam on the club’s ceiling, asphyxiating many with choking fumes.

Demonstrators held two marches during a weekend of burials, charging that Mayor Anibal Ibarra did not enforce nightclub safety. Reports have suggested the club’s emergency exits were padlocked or chained shut, turning the Cromagnon Republic nightclub into a death trap.

Weekly notes

Chile’s Supreme Court said it will rule today on an appeal by former dictator Augusto Pinochet against an indictment charging murder and kidnapping in connection with the deaths of political opponents during his 15-year rule that began with a 1973 military coup. A lower court ruled last month that Gen. Pinochet, 89, must face trial for crimes committed during Operation Condor, a conspiracy of 1970s South American dictators to track down and kill their opponents. … Canadian veterinary officials have quarantined one Alberta farm in their search for cattle connected to the country’s second case of mad cow disease, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency said yesterday. Officials said they are trying to find cattle that may have eaten the same contaminated feed.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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