- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 12, 2008


President fires top Cabinet officials

MONTEVIDEO — President Tabare Vazquez ousted his ministers of defense, foreign affairs and industry yesterday, saying he seeks a better team for his final two years in office.

Uruguay’s first leftist president announced that six of his 13 Cabinet ministers would be replaced March 1. Among them is Foreign Minister Reinaldo Gargano, a veteran socialist who has been criticized for opposing warmer trade ties with the United States.

Mr. Gargano also was criticized for feuding with neighbor Argentina over environmental concerns raised by a Uruguayan paper pulp plant.

The president designated his closest aide, presidential secretary Gonzalo Fernandez, to replace Mr. Gargano. He also announced that he is removing former leftist guerrilla leader Jose Mujica as agriculture minister.


McCain torture claim offends Fidel Castro

HAVANA — Ailing leader Fidel Castro yesterday denied a claim by Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, that Cuban agents helped torture American prisoners of war in Vietnam in the 1960s, calling the assertion “a strange legend.”

“Let me remind you, Mr. McCain: The commandments of the religion you practice prohibit lying,” Mr. Castro wrote in an essay published by the Communist Party newspaper Granma. “The years in prison and the wounds received because of the attacks on Hanoi do not excuse you from the moral obligation of the truth.”

Mr. McCain, the Republican front-runner for the November presidential contest, was a military pilot taken prisoner in 1967 and held for five years in communist North Vietnam.


Chavez targets foreign-owned milk

CARACAS — President Hugo Chavez warned that some milk plants might be expropriated to ease shortages, singling out Italy’s Parmalat SpA and Switzerland’s Nestle SA.

Mr. Chavez mentioned the two companies during his weekly program Sunday, saying international companies sometimes pressure Venezuelan farmers to obtain their milk for export.

“It’s no use for us to be setting up plants [if] then there is no milk for the plants because Parmalat or … Nestle take it all away,” Mr. Chavez said. “That’s where I say this government has to tighten the screws.”

For months, Venezuelans have experienced sporadic shortages of basic goods such as milk, chicken, flour and sugar. Critics blame government price controls and a poor investment climate. The government says strong economic growth has boosted demand for meat, milk and other products.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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