- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 4, 2007

PANAMA

Blasting begins to widen canal

PANAMA CITY — Panama blasted away part of a hillside next to the canal yesterday, marking the start of the waterway’s biggest expansion since it opened 93 years ago.

In the presence of former President Jimmy Carter, who signed the 1977 treaty that gave Panama control of the waterway, Panamanian President Martin Torrijos celebrated the start of construction on two wider sets of locks being added to both sides of the canal.

The $5.25 billion expansion is expected to double the 50-mile canal’s capacity and lower the price of consumer goods on the East Coast of the United States by allowing wider vessels to squeeze through with more cargo.



COLOMBIA

Marxist drug lord killed in combat

BOGOTA — A senior rebel commander wanted by the U.S. on cocaine-trafficking charges has been killed in combat, the defense minister announced yesterday.

Intercepted rebel communications and other intelligence indicated that Tomas Medina Caracas was killed during a raid on his jungle camp Saturday along the Guaviare River near the border with Venezuela, Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos told a press conference.

Medina was one of 50 commanders of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, indicted by the U.S. government in March 2006 for purportedly running the country’s largest cocaine-smuggling organization.

VENEZUELA

Castro offers advice to Chavez

CARACAS — Cuban leader Fidel Castro warned Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to make the best of life before old age cuts into his time, in a letter Mr. Chavez read to the public on Sunday.

“When the time comes,” Mr. Castro told Mr. Chavez in the letter, “you’ll find you need more time than ever to meditate and go deep.”

Mr. Castro, 81, hasn’t been seen in public for 13 months after undergoing a delicate intestinal surgery. Lately, however, the Cuban leader has been publishing lengthy essays in Cuban newspapers.

JAMAICA

Voters choose new government

KINGSTON — Jamaicans cast their votes for a new government yesterday in what was expected to be a close election held under a tropical storm alert for Hurricane Felix to the south and concerns about recent political violence.

Pre-election polls indicated a narrow victory for the opposition Jamaica Labor Party, which would end more than 18 years in power for the People’s National Party.

Police and election observers said there were no early reports of violence at polling stations.

BRAZIL

Police raid slums, kill drug suspects

RIO DE JANEIRO — Brazilian police killed seven drug trafficking suspects in a raid on a Rio de Janeiro slum yesterday in the city’s bloodiest clash since June.

Police said they were met with gunfire when they arrived at the Fumace slum to search for weapons and make arrests. The victims were killed in the shootout. No policemen were hurt.

Police killed 687 suspects in the first seven months of the year, about 20 percent more than a year ago, according to official data. More than 2,400 homicides were registered in Rio, one of Latin America’s most violent cities.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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