- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 5, 2008

COLOMBIA

Rebels eye freeing more hostages

BOGOTA — In its latest gesture to push for a high-profile prisoner swap, Colombia’s main Marxist rebel army says it will free three ailing politicians it has held for more than six years.

In a communique, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, said the planned liberation springs from efforts by President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and “other friendly governments” to seek a solution to the country’s long-running conflict.

The FARC set no date for the promised liberation of Gloria Polanco, Luis Eladio Perez and Orlando Beltran — all Colombians — kidnapped in 2001.

The FARC freed two high-profile hostages Jan. 10 to Venezuelan government representatives in a mission coordinated with the International Red Cross.

But it has held onto its most famous captives: three U.S. military contractors and Ingrid Betancourt, a dual French national who was running for Colombia’s presidency when the FARC seized her in February 2002.

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC

Market closed to punish Haiti

PORT-AU-PRINCE — Dominican merchants closed a popular border market that caters to Haitians yesterday, punishing their impoverished neighbor for banning Dominican poultry and egg imports after an outbreak of avian flu.

The market in the Dominican town of Dajabon will remain shuttered until Port-au-Prince lifts a ban on Dominican poultry imposed last month after 115 chickens tested positive for the H5N2 strain of bird flu, said Freddy Morillo, chief of the Dominican Association of Egg Distributors.

About a dozen more chickens tested positive for the highly contagious strain, which poses no threat to humans, and were killed this week. Haiti’s government angered Dominican authorities by seeking independent confirmation that the virus was eradicated. Officials from both nations met during the weekend but failed to reach an agreement.

The Dajabon market, a key trading point for the two countries, which share the Caribbean island of Hispaniola, was empty yesterday.

GUATEMALA

Dispute delays 2,500 adoptions

GUATEMALA CITY — A dispute between Guatemala’s new government and its independent adoption agency is threatening to delay the adoption of more than 2,500 Guatemalan children, mostly by U.S. citizens.

Under a law enacted in December, Guatemala is requiring that all babies up for adoption be officially approved and registered before they can be released.

The law, imposed under pressure from the United States, is aimed at improving a previously poorly regulated adoption process dogged by charges of stolen babies and mothers reportedly coerced to relinquish their children.

ARUBA

Taped confession usable in court

ORANJESTAD — A hidden-camera interview with Dutch student Joran Van der Sloot saying missing teenager Natalee Holloway was dead and that he had a friend dump her body at sea is admissible in court, the chief Aruban prosecutor said yesterday.

The courts in Aruba likely will accept the tape as evidence because it was recorded by a private citizen without any influence by authorities, Chief Prosecutor Hans Mos told reporters.

The tape was first broadcast Sunday on Dutch television.

BRAZIL

Samba parades dominate carnival

RIO DE JANEIRO — The lead percussion queen emerged before 300 drummers as a nearly nude Japanese diva, as the Rio Carnival vaulted into overdrive with its famed samba parades.

The 36-year-old star of the Porto da Pedra samba group, Angela Bismarchi — who had her eyelids surgically altered to look more Japanese — danced in ecstatic frenzy in the group’s tribute to the first Japanese immigration to Brazil 100 years ago.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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