- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 14, 2009

BOLIVIA

Morales launches hunger strike

LA PAZ | Bolivian President Evo Morales has vowed to continue a hunger strike until opposition lawmakers approve an electoral law seen helping allies of the former coca farmer in a December vote.

The leftist president, who says he once went without food for 18 days in his days as a union leader, stopped eating Thursday to protest opposition efforts to block the election law in Congress.

Rightist opponents fear that the bill, which has already been partially approved, would give Mr. Morales an edge in the legislature by assigning more seats to poor, indigenous parts of the energy-rich country where he is popular.

As of Sunday, Mr. Morales had slept for three nights on a mattress on the floor of the presidential palace surrounded by handwritten protest banners and supporters chewing coca leaves to ward off hunger.

The framework of the election bill was passed Thursday, but Congress must still approve the details.

PARAGUAY

President fathered child as bishop

ASUNCION | Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo admits that he is the father of a child conceived while Mr. Lugo was still a Roman Catholic bishop.

Mr. Lugo surprised journalists Monday by acknowledging “with absolute honesty and transparency” that he had an intimate relationship with Viviana Carrillo, the child's mother.

Mr. Lugo promised to protect the privacy of the boy, and said he will not comment further on the matter.

The 57-year-old Mr. Lugo resigned as bishop of central San Pedro province in 2004. In December 2006, he announced that he was renouncing the status of bishop itself to run for president. But it was not until July 31 of last year that Pope Benedict XVI relieved him from his vows of chastity.

MEXICO

Obama visit to focus on trade and drugs

MEXICO CITY | President Obama begins his first trip to Latin America in Mexico on Thursday amid promises to help tackle spiraling drug violence, a first trade dispute, and possible U.S. immigration reform that could affect millions of Mexicans.

Mr. Obama follows a flurry of high-level U.S. visits south of the border in recent weeks, marking a shift in the U.S. stance toward Mexico's drug cartel problem that implies shared responsibility, as violent Mexican gang activity is increasingly obvious in the United States.

During her Mexico trip last month, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton promised financing for U.S.-made Black Hawk helicopters on top of a $1.4 billion U.S. plan to help train and equip Mexican anti-drug forces known as the Merida Initiative, which still needs to be fully approved by Congress.

Mrs. Clinton admitted that U.S. demand for illegal drugs and its inability to prevent illegal weapons smuggling had contributed to violence in which almost 7,000 have died in Mexico since the start of 2008.

ECUADOR

Volcano threatens unique wildlife

QUITO | Ecuador officials say a volcano is erupting in the Galapagos Islands and could harm unique wildlife.

The Galapagos National Park says La Cumbre volcano began spewing lava, gas and smoke on uninhabited Fernandina Island on Saturday after four years of inactivity.

The park says in a statement the eruption is not a threat to people living on nearby Isabela Island.

But it says lava flowing to the sea will likely affect marine and terrestrial iguanas, sea lions and other fauna.

The Galapagos are home to unique animal and plant species that became the basis for Charles Darwin's theory of evolution.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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