- The Washington Times - Monday, January 26, 2009

MEXICO

Hit man claims 300 bodies in acid

TIJUANA | A Mexican hit man who calls himself “The Soupmaker” has revealed how he dumped 300 bodies in vats of acid over the past decade to dispose of their remains for a drug trafficking cartel.

“They brought me the bodies, about 300 over the last nine to 10 years,” Santiago Meza Lopez, 45, told reporters Friday, a day after his capture by the army.

Mr. Meza Lopez said he had been paid about $600 a week for his work by drug boss, Eduardo Garcia Simental. He was arrested Thursday in Tijuana on the border with California and is among the FBI’s most wanted men.

“I ask for forgiveness from the families of the victims,” Mr. Meza Lopez said.

In 2008, more than 5,300 people died violent deaths connected to cartel activities, with Mexican authorities having deployed about 36,000 police and troops to fight the drug traffickers.

BRITAIN

Reuters heiress dead at 96

LONDON | Marguerite, Baroness de Reuter, a European aristocrat from a bygone age and last survivor of the family that founded the international news agency, died Sunday, friends said. She was 96.

A patron of the arts, she was the widow of Oliver, 4th Baron de Reuter, whose grandfather Paul Julius Reuter established his news service in London in 1851 after starting out in Aachen, Germany, using telegraph cables and carrier pigeons.

The barony - a German title granted to Paul Julius in 1871 but later confirmed by Queen Victoria as conferring the privileges of the nobility in England - becomes extinct on her death, as she and her husband had no children.

Another close friend, John Fox, said she died early Sunday in a French old people’s home on the border with Monaco.

IRAQ

Al-Maliki criticizes sectarian politics

BAGHDAD | Iraq’s prime minister on Sunday blamed sectarianism for destroying the country, as he tried to tap into a backlash against religious parties before next weekend’s nationwide provincial elections.

Nouri al-Maliki, a Shi’ite, has been delivering numerous speeches in the days leading up to Saturday’s provincial elections in a thinly veiled effort to rally support for the candidates running under the umbrella group that includes his Dawa party.

“Sectarianism is behind the destruction of the country,” Mr. al-Maliki told academics and sportsmen at a forum in Baghdad. “It is natural that we have different views, but we are all representing a unified Iraq that is not ready for division.”

He appeared to be distancing himself from the major religious parties, particularly his governmental ally the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, after years of brutal violence between Shi’ites and Sunnis.

NEPAL

Prime minister bans bridal dowries

KATMANDU | Nepal’s Maoist Prime Minister Prachanda on Sunday banned the dowry system and criminalized caste-based discrimination in a bid to win public support for his government.

In a 30-minute national televised address, the prime minister expressed dissatisfaction over his government’s performance and called on all parties to forge a new political understanding.

“I would like to appeal to all the political parties to come forward for a new political consensus to build a peaceful and prosperous Nepal,” said Prachanda, whose real name is Pushpa Kamal Dahal.

The former rebel chief, whose nom de guerre means “the Fierce One,” took charge of the country after the constituent assembly abolished the unpopular monarchy last year.

CANADA

Conservatives face test in Parliament

OTTAWA | A stimulus to be unveiled in a budget Tuesday is to set the pace of Canada’s economic recovery, and its political direction.

With a nation in recession and a public split on how best to soften the blow, Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s fragile minority will face its first test of 2009.

Parliament resumes Monday after a two-month hiatus.

A confidence vote on the budget, which the opposition says must create jobs and help the most vulnerable or they will defeat the government, should follow the next day.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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