- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 2, 2008

BRAZIL

Target pledged to protect Amazon

BRASILIA | Brazil announced Monday a plan to cut destruction of its Amazon rain forest by more than half over the next 10 years, the first time it has set a deforestation target as it seeks to address climate change.

A government official said Brazil will aim to reduce deforestation of the world’s largest forest by 70 percent by 2018.

Last week, the government said Amazon deforestation increased 3.8 percent from a year earlier to nearly 4,633 square miles - roughly equal to Connecticut - as high commodity prices encouraged farmers and ranchers to slash more trees.

The announcement of the new plan coincided with the opening of a U.N. climate conference in Poznan, Poland.

Burning of the Amazon makes Brazil one of the world’s top emitters of carbon dioxide, which is considered to be a greenhouse gas. Every time a tree dies, its carbon is released into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide.

Brazil previously refused to adopt targets until rich countries, which cause most carbon emissions, offered more help to protect tropical forests in developing countries.

Norway gave Brazil an unprecedented vote of confidence this year by pledging $1 billion to the new fund over seven years.

GUATEMALA

Shootout kills 17 at horse race

GUATEMALA CITY | A shootout between inebriated rival drug traffickers who disagreed over the winner of a horse race in Guatemala left at least 17 dead, police said Monday.

The shooting took place Sunday in the northwestern Guatemalan town of Santa Ana Huista, about 12 miles from the Mexican border, and some 100 soldiers were deployed to the area to restore calm, a police spokesman said.

Eleven of the dead had been identified and included both Guatemalans and Mexicans, some with previous convictions for drug trafficking. One suspected gunman, of Mexican nationality, was arrested, an army spokesman said.

Guatemala, a key transit point for South American cocaine being smuggled into Mexico and the United States, has been hit by growing violence between drug gangs fighting over turf.

MEXICO

Anti-crime drive lifts Calderon ratings

MEXICO CITY | A jump in support for Mexican President Felipe Calderon’s crackdown on crime and drug cartels helped lift his approval rating in a newspaper poll published Monday, despite worries about the economy.

A poll in the Reforma daily gave Mr. Calderon an overall approval rating of 64 percent, up two percentage points from the newspaper’s September survey, as most respondents backed his handling of drug gang violence and the economy.

Mr. Calderon’s army-led crackdown on drug cartels has become the main thrust of his presidency, but a spurt in violence between rival gangs and security forces has killed more than 4,300 people this year and alarmed the general public.

At least 40 percent of those surveyed in the Reforma poll said Mr. Calderon was doing a good job fighting crime and drug gangs, up from about one-third in the September survey.

The poll found 85 percent of Mexicans are worried about the global financial crisis and 44 percent think Mexico’s economy has worsened in the past 12 months, but more than half think Mr. Calderon is taking the right measures to deal with it.

HAITI

Gay marchers debut at AIDS rally

ST. MARC | A dozen men in T-shirts declaring “I am gay” and “I am living with HIV/AIDS” marched with hundreds of other demonstrators through a Haitian city Sunday in what organizers called the Caribbean nation’s first openly gay march.

The march, held a day ahead of World AIDS Day in the western city of St. Marc, called for better prevention and treatment in a country long plagued by the virus.

Organizers said they hoped the march will break barriers to reach more HIV-positive people and gay men with programs that have helped decrease the country’s infection rate by two-thirds in the past decade.

The nation of 9 million remains the most affected by HIV in the Caribbean.

From wire dispatches and staff zreports

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