- The Washington Times - Monday, July 17, 2006

VENEZUELA

Fire breaks out at oil refinery

CARACAS — A fire broke out early yesterday at a major oil refinery in western Venezuela, a state oil company official said.

The spokeswoman from Petroleos de Venezuela SA did not have any details, but Union Radio reported that the fire at the 635,000-barrel-a-day Amuay refinery was large and began in its distillation plant. It said the site has been evacuated and that security personnel were blocking access.

The Amuay refinery, part of Venezuela’s giant Paraguana complex, has sustained a series of problems in recent months, including a fire in March that killed one person and injured four.

Venezuela is the world’s fifth-largest oil exporter and is consistently among the top five suppliers of crude to the United States.

PANAMA

President calls vote on canal expansion

PANAMA CITY — Panamanians will vote Oct. 22 on whether to undertake the biggest modification to the Panama Canal since it was opened in 1914.

President Martin Torrijos signed the bill approving the canal referendum yesterday, his office reported. The $5.3 billion project would add a third set of locks on the canal to reduce the long lines of waiting ships and allow larger ships to cross.

Public opinion polls indicate the measure is likely to pass.

Panama took over the administration of the waterway on Dec. 31, 1999, when the U.S. military presence in Panama ended.

CHILE

Bachelet replaces 3 Cabinet ministers

SANTIAGO — President Michelle Bachelet shuffled her Cabinet last week, replacing three ministers just four months after she was sworn in as Chile’s first female leader.

In the Interior Ministry, she replaced Andres Zaldivar with Belisario Velasco, a deputy interior minister in the first civilian government after the dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet.

Economy Minister Ingrid Antonijevic was replaced by Alejandro Ferreiro, and Education Minister Martin Zilic was replaced by Yasna Provoste.

Weekly notes …

Surinamese President Ronald Venetiaan during the weekend apologized for an army massacre of at least 39 unarmed civilians carried out by the military regime in 1986. Last year, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, linked to the Organization of American States, ordered Suriname to make the apology and pay nearly $3 million in compensation to 130 survivors of the attack, known as the Moiwana massacre. … Royal Dutch Shell PLC will consider selling its assets in the Dominican Republic, including a 50 percent stake in the Caribbean nation’s sole oil refinery, the company said.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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