- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 28, 2009

ECUADOR

Correa scores decisive victory

QUITO | President Rafael Correa has won re-election but may have little time to savor the decisive victory. The leftist economist must now determine how to maintain his ample social spending programs in a deepening economic crisis.

Mr. Correa won 51.2 percent of the vote in an eight-candidate field, according to official results Monday with 70 percent of ballots tallied, making him the first Ecuadorean president elected in 30 years without a runoff.

Mr. Correa, a youthful U.S.- and Belgian-trained former academic, vowed upon first taking office in January 2007 to rid this small, traditionally unstable Andean nation of a corrupt political class that had for decades siphoned off oil wealth.

Now, he could have eight more years in power at the helm of a government that depends for 40 percent of its budget on a distressed petroleum industry.

Ecuador’s oil revenues plunged 67 percent in the first quarter. Added to the pain is a drop of more than one-fifth the value of remittances from Ecuadoreans abroad. The International Monetary Fund predicts Ecuador’s economy will shrink by 2 percent this year.

CANADA

Trade talks begin with EU

LUXEMBOURG | European Union foreign ministers agreed Monday to launch talks on a bilateral trade pact with Canada worth about $27 billion a year.

The launch of talks between Brussels and Ottawa is widely seen as giving a political boost to falling world trade during the global economic crisis.

Canada and the 27-nation EU first agreed in October to seek a “comprehensive economic agreement” to boost two-way trade by lowering tariffs on goods and services and encompassing areas such as investment, regulatory cooperation and rules of origin.

France had expressed some reservations about starting the negotiations because of the poor economic climate, but lifted its veto Friday after its concerns were met.

CHILE

Prison fire kills 10 inmates

SANTIAGO | A fire touched off by brawling inmates swept through a Chilean prison Sunday, killing 10 prisoners, officials said.

A cooking stove overturned during the fight sparked the blaze, according to Corrections Service Director Alejandro Jimenez.

Two other prisoners were hospitalized with knife wounds, and a third suffered burns.

Preliminary reports indicate most of the victims died of smoke inhalation, Mr. Jimenez said. A prison guard was also treated for smoke inhalation but was not seriously harmed.

Authorities were investigating possible charges against prisoners involved in the brawl.

BOLIVIA

Government to sue Hungarian journalist

LA PAZ | Bolivia will sue a Hungarian journalist for purportedly covering up a plan to destabilize the country by a man killed in a police raid last week and accused of plotting to assassinate President Evo Morales.

In an interview in September, Bolivian Eduardo Rozsa told Hungarian reporter Andras Kepes that he would travel to Bolivia to support a separatist movement in Santa Cruz province, where opposition to leftist President Evo Morales is fiercest.

The interview was broadcast on Hungarian television only after Mr. Rozsa - who also held Hungarian and Croatian passports - died in the police raid on a Santa Cruz hotel, along with two purported fellow conspirators, an Irishman and a Romanian.

Bolivia’s deputy minister for social movements, Sacha Llorenti, accused Mr. Kepes Friday of keeping a “complicit silence” by sitting on the interview for seven months.

Mr. Kepes told the British Broadcasting Corp. on Wednesday that Mr. Rozsa had asked to keep the interview a secret, saying it would serve to explain his motivations if he were to die later.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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