- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 12, 2009

CUBA

Companies slow to accept reform

HAVANA | More than a year after Cuban President Raul Castro pushed through a wage reform aimed at rewarding productive workers, most state-run companies have yet to implement it, the official Bohemia magazine reported.

It was the latest evidence that Mr. Castro’s efforts to modernize the communist country’s economy were being resisted by a state bureaucracy that controls more than 90 percent of economic activity.

The decree promulgated by Mr. Castro was supposed to lift wage caps and replace a collective wage system with one based on piecework as a centerpiece of his program to raise Cuba’s economic output.



But Bohemia said in its latest issue, available this week, that a recent Labor Ministry inspection found that “only 25 percent of the companies inspected used some variant of the piecework system.”

COLOMBIA

Uribe ally in Congress arrested

BOGOTA | Colombian authorities have arrested a senator closely allied with President Alvaro Uribe for purported collusion with illegal far-right militias.

Sen. Zulema Jattin had been under Supreme Court investigation for purportedly benefiting politically from ties with militia boss Rodrigo Tovar.

Mr. Tovar was one of 14 warlords extradited to the United States a year ago on drug-trafficking charges.

The 39-year-old Ms. Jattin called her arrest a “kidnapping” by the Supreme Court.

Since 2006, the court has ordered the arrest of more than 30 lawmakers - chiefly Uribe allies - for purported cooperation with the so-called paramilitaries.

ARGENTINA

President seeking legislative control

BUENOS AIRES | Argentina’s ruling couple is pinning its hopes of keeping control of Congress in midterm elections next month on support in poor and working-class neighborhoods in the country’s biggest province.

In a potentially risky move, former President Nestor Kirchner, the husband and predecessor of President Cristina Fernandez, will head a list of government candidates competing in the province of Buenos Aires, a key electoral battleground.

The election is a crucial test for Mrs. Fernandez - whose popularity has slumped because of a slowing economy and lengthy showdown with farmers over export taxes - and will determine to what extent the couple retain their political clout.

While his only official role is head of the ruling Peronist party, the former president’s influence behind the scenes is considered vast.

BRAZIL

Aid headed to flood zone

SAO LUIS | Brazil intensified efforts Monday to ship aid to areas isolated by severe flooding as waters continued rising in a jungle state nearly the size of Alaska and more than 300,000 people remained homeless.

At least 40 people have died in the worst northern flooding in at least two decades, and two were still missing Monday after an overloaded canoe capsized over the weekend.

While waters were receding in most states, they were still rising in the jungle state of Amazonas, said Dorothea de Araujo, the Amazon operations manager for the international aid group World Vision.

Authorities in the arid northeastern state of Bahia warned that more people could be forced to leave homes because of a new bout of heavy rain.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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