- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 7, 2009

CUBA

Fidel not afraid to talk to U.S.

HAVANA | Fidel Castro said Monday that Cuba is not afraid to talk to the United States and that the communist government does not thrive on confrontation as its detractors claim.

In a column published in state-controlled newspapers, the 82-year-old former president also praised U.S. Sen. Richard G. Lugar, saying the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee “is walking on solid ground” with a proposal to appoint a special envoy to reshape U.S.-Cuba relations.

Mr. Castro wrote that “those capable of serenely analyzing the events, as is the case of the senator from Indiana, use an irrefutable argument: The measures of the United States against Cuba, over almost half a century, are a total failure.”

Mr. Castro's conciliatory comments come amid speculation that the new administration of President Obama may ease parts of the U.S. embargo of Cuba imposed shortly after Mr. Castro came to power in 1959.

GUANTANAMO BAY

Europe divided on taking detainees

LUXEMBOURG | European Union nations were divided Monday over whether to accept inmates from the U.S. military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay as requested by the United States, after France agreed at the weekend to take one in.

“As a national state, we don't accept anybody,” Czech Interior Minister Ivan Langer, whose country holds the EU's rotating presidency, told reporters in Luxembourg at a meeting of the bloc's justice and interior ministers.

The reason, he said, is the “high risk of no successful integration of such persons.”

Austria and Germany are also among a number of EU states reluctant to have any former inmates in Europe and able move around freely without passport checks inside the 25-nation Schengen no-borders zone.

COSTA RICA

Human traffickers held in China

BEIJING | Chinese police have detained two people suspected of trying to traffic about 300 mainly young people into Costa Rica, state media said Monday.

The Costa Rican embassy in Beijing became suspicious after receiving visa applications all from southern Guangdong province who said they wished to be reunited with their parents who had moved to the Central American country, the official Xinhua news agency said.

The applicants' identity cards and birth certificates were all forged, the report said, prompting a police investigation.

Xinhua did not say why the victims may have been trying to reach Costa Rica, but some Chinese attempt to find their way illegally into the United States via Central America.

ARGENTINA

Tax breaks end on soy imports

BUENOS AIRES | Argentina has scrapped tax breaks on imported soybeans in order to promote the use of domestic supplies in crushing plants, the government's officials gazette said Monday.

Argentina is the world's top exporter of soy oil and soy meal, but repeated strikes by its farmers have seen an increase in soy imports, mainly from Paraguay, as crushers seek to guarantee their supplies and keep plants at full capacity.

Crushers had been given exemptions on the export taxes they paid on soy oil and soy meal made from imported beans.

A yearlong dispute between farmers and center-left President Cristina Fernandez over soy export taxes has seen increased use of Paraguayan soy by Argentine crushers.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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