- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 9, 2008

CANADA

Conservatives eye big win

OTTAWA | Canada’s Conservatives appeared to be riding a wave of public support Monday that could hand them their first majority government since 1988, but the party did all it could to minimize such expectations.

The Conservatives, who formed a minority government after the last election in 2006, entered the second day of the campaign for the Oct. 14 vote with clear signs of being better organized and financed than their main opposition, the Liberals.

Polls also showed Prime Minister Stephen Harper to be strongly preferred over Liberal leader Stephane Dion.

A Segma poll published in Monday’s La Presse newspaper put support for the Conservatives at 43 percent, which would translate into about 183 seats in the 308-seat House of Commons. The poll gave the Liberals 25 percent, or about 62 seats.

The Conservatives had 127 seats in the old Parliament, while the Liberals had 95. The separatist Bloc Quebecois had 48 seats, the left-leaning New Democrats 30 seats, and the Greens one. There were three independents, and four seats were vacant.

Polls two weeks ago had put the two leading parties neck and neck, some with the Liberals slightly ahead, others slightly behind, but in the last week a Conservative lead appeared to have opened up.

MEXICO

5 suspects held in boy’s killing

MEXICO CITY | Mexico City police said Monday they have detained five suspects in the kidnap and killing of the 14-year-old son of a prominent businessman that prompted a wave of anti-crime protests across the nation.

Officials said kidnappers dressed as police and set up a fake checkpoint on a busy Mexico City street to snare victim Fernando Marti, revealing the complexity and sophistication of Mexico’s organized crime gangs.

City prosecutor Miguel Mancera said the man suspected of leading the kidnappers, Sergio Ortiz, posed as a well-heeled society type to move among the wealthy and collect information on potential victims.

Mr. Mancera said Mr. Ortiz was a former agent of a now- disbanded city detective force and led the “Flower Gang” responsible for kidnapping Fernando in June. Even though the boy’s family reportedly paid a ransom, his decomposed body was found in a car trunk Aug. 1.

The boy’s father founded a chain of sporting goods stores and upscale gymnasiums.

ECUADOR

Tighter control on mining planned

QUITO | Ecuador’s leftist government plans to tighten control over the emerging mining industry and impose royalties on the sale of gold, silver, copper and other metals from deposits that could be worth billions of dollars.

According to the draft of a new mining bill obtained by Reuters news agency, the government would set sliding-scale royalties of between 3 and 8 percent of sales, and new mining extraction contracts would be negotiated on a case-by-case basis.

While it imposes new regulations, the draft law is not as strict as some had feared. It excludes government takeovers of already granted concessions, and does not grant veto powers for local communities to shut down large projects.

The long-awaited bill is seen unlocking Ecuador’s mineral wealth. Companies have reported discoveries that experts say point to giant gold, silver and copper deposits.

PANAMA

Anti-U.S. leftist named for president

PANAMA CITY | Panama’s ruling party Sunday elected a leftist with an anti-U.S. past as its candidate for next year’s presidential election, which is likely to be fought over inflation and the big wealth gap.

Balbina Herrera, a former housing minister once linked to former military strongman Gen. Manuel Noriega, easily won the nomination of the Revolutionary Democratic Party.

After a vote by party members, she beat Panama City Mayor Juan Carlos Navarro.

Mr. Navarro conceded with more than 50 percent of the votes counted, giving Ms. Herrera 48.8 percent and Mr. Navarro 39.1 percent.

Under President Martin Torrijos, the son of a former Panamanian strongman, economic growth has been some of the fastest in Latin America, driven by construction, investment and growing U.S.-Asia trade through the Panama Canal.

Ms. Herrera, 53, has responded to attacks she is a firebrand populist by flying to New York earlier this year to meet Latin American investors and business leaders, as well as holding frequent meetings with business people in Panama.

CUBA

Revolutionaries’ children die in crash

HAVANA | Two children of two of Cuba’s most famous revolutionaries died in a Havana traffic accident.

The Communist Party daily Granma reported that Celia and Abel Hart Santamaria were in a car that hit a tree in the Miramar neighborhood on Sunday. Celia Hart was 45 and Abel 48. They were the offspring of Armando Hart and Haydee Santamaria, who were key figures in the revolution led by Fidel Castro.

Mr. Hart is a former student leader who went on to head Cuba’s ministries of education and culture. Mrs. Santamaria accompanied Mr. Castro in his 1953 assault on the Moncada military barracks in Santiago. That nearly suicidal attack paved the way for the revolution that triumphed six years later. She died in 1980.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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