- The Washington Times - Monday, May 9, 2005


Fighting near coast imperils villagers

BOGOTA — More than 2,000 people, most of African descent and many of them children, have been displaced by fighting in the Bojaya region on the Pacific coast of northwest Colombia, several agencies of the United Nations report.

The U.N. Development Program, the United Nations Children’s Fund, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the World Food Program called over the weekend for state intervention in the zone, where fighting between leftist rebels and right-wing paramilitaries are endangering local residents.

The refugees have fled to Bellavista — population 1,200 — for protection, the agencies said, adding that the refugees include more than 600 girls and 500 boys. Three years ago, 119 villagers were killed when a bomb blasted the church in Bojaya where villagers were sheltering. Another 45 were injured.


Party being formed to challenge Chavez

CARACAS — A new political front is being formed to oppose President Hugo Chavez and his existing rivals for power, El Nacional newspaper reports.

Longtime politician and Chavez opponent Claudio Fermin and political activist Carlos Melo are to form the Popular Assembly Party to field candidates in August municipal elections.

Mr. Fermin twice ran for president against Mr. Chavez, a former paratroop officer, and lost.

The leftist president has been the target of Venezuela’s established opposition for years. In April 2002, he survived a brief coup. Later that year, a general strike crippled the nation for two months before ending in February 2003. Critics of Mr. Chavez, including conservatives in the United States, contend he is making Venezuela a Cuba-style state.

Weekly notes

Ministers from 33 South American and Middle Eastern nations began laying the groundwork in Brasilia Sunday for the first summit of leaders from the two regions. The talks could lead to a commitment to negotiations for a South American-Arab free-trade zone to counter U.S. economic influence. Iraqi President Jalal Talabani is scheduled to attend, but a U.S. request to observe the event was denied. … Afghan pop singer Nasrat Parsa died late Sunday after being attacked in Vancouver following a performance on his first Canadian tour, police said. “He was confronted by three males outside his hotel. They knew who he was, that he was a singer, but I don’t know if there is any relationship between them at this time,” said Constable Tim Fanning, police spokesman. Mr. Parsa had performed around the world, including Australia, Germany, the Netherlands and England. He recorded 10 albums and was popular among young Afghans.

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