- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 22, 2009

NICARAGUA

Thousands throng rival Ortega rallies

MANAGUA | Thousands of pro- and anti-government activists took to the streets of Nicaragua’s capital, protesting and backing President Daniel Ortega’s bid to remain in power beyond 2011.

At least 12 people — three policemen and nine protesters — were injured, Agence France-Presse reported.

Chanting “Democracy yes, dictatorship no,” mainly peaceful Ortega opponents numbered at 50,000 by organizers marched in Managua against his re-election plans, even as thousands of the president’s supporters gathered for their own demonstration.

Most of the injuries occurred when Ortega opponents, walking on the roads out of the city after their rally, clashed with government supporters who were converging for their own march, the political leaders and local reports said.

RUSSIA

Ruling party urged to stop cheating

ST. PETERSBURG | President Dmitry Medvedev of Russia chided officials in the ruling Kremlin-backed party with unprecedented bluntness on Saturday, saying they should stop trying to manipulate elections and learn to win fairly.

The statement was Mr. Medvedev’s strongest criticism yet of the United Russia party led by his predecessor and mentor, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. Mr. Medvedev accused the party of “backwardness” and urged it to “shed such bad political habits.”

SAUDI ARABIA

Swine flu kills hajj pilgrims

RIYADH | Saudi health officials announced the first deaths from swine flu of this year’s annual pilgrimage to Mecca, as four pilgrims succumbed to the disease soon after arriving in Saudi Arabia.

The Health Ministry said none of the victims had been vaccinated and all became sick within two to three days of arriving. Three of the victims were 75 years old, coming from Sudan, India and Morocco, and the fourth was a 17-year-old Nigerian.

The hajj, as the pilgrimage is known, is required of all able-bodied Muslims at least once in their lifetimes. It attracts about 3 million people from 160 countries and begins this year on Thursday, as the winter flu season approaches in the Northern Hemisphere.

VENEZUELA

Chavez defends Carlos the Jackal

CARACAS | Hugo Chavez has defended the convicted killer and reputed terrorist mastermind Carlos the Jackal, saying the Venezuelan imprisoned in France was an important “revolutionary fighter” who supported the cause of the Palestinians.

The Venezuelan president praised Carlos — whose real name is Ilich Sanchez Ramirez — during a speech Friday night.

Ramirez gained international notoriety during the 1970s and ‘80s as the reputed mastermind of a series of bombings, killings and hostage dramas. He is serving a life sentence in France for the 1975 murders of two French secret agents and a reported informant.

“They accuse him of being a terrorist, but Carlos really was a revolutionary fighter,” Mr. Chavez said during a televised speech to socialist politicians from various countries, who applauded. In his speech, Mr. Chavez also defended Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe and Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

ROMANIA

Romanians set for presidential vote

BUCHAREST | Millions of Romanians go to the polls Sunday in the first round of the country’s presidential election amid political turmoil, authorities say.

The election features 12 candidates, with two to face off in December’s second round of elections. Romanian President Traian Basescu is running for re-election. Voters also will cast ballots on a referendum called by Mr. Basescu to reshape Romania’s parliamentary structure. The measure would replace Romania’s two-chamber parliament with a single chamber, reducing the number of members.

AFGHANISTAN

Rockets hit luxury hotel

KABUL | A rocket hit the outside wall of the luxury Serena Hotel in Kabul on Saturday, wounding four people, including two boys, a Health Ministry official said.

Ministry spokesman Ahmad Raaid said an Afghan soldier was also hurt in the attack. “None of the wounds are serious,” he told Reuters.

An employee of the Serena Hotel said there was no damage to the hotel itself.

CUBA

Government said to beat up dissident

HAVANA | The husband of Cuban dissident blogger Yoani Sanchez said he was attacked by government supporters as he waited Friday to confront state security agents accused of detaining and beating his wife two weeks ago.

Mrs. Sanchez, whose writing about the hardships of Cuban life were praised this week by President Obama, said men thought to be government agents forced her into a car and hit her repeatedly in a brief detention on Nov. 6.

Reinaldo Escobar, also a blogger, said he had gone to a Havana intersection hoping that state security agents would respond to a challenge he issued earlier to meet there for a “verbal duel” about his wife’s incident. He said he was surrounded by a pro-government mob and beaten.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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