- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 16, 2010


Dozens of suspected drug planes found

CARACAS | Authorities have discovered 28 airplanes in central Venezuela that were presumably being used by drug traffickers.

A security official from central Guarico state said the planes were found inside a hangar on the outskirts of El Sombrero. The town is located in a rural area about 143 miles from Caracas.

Hedy Ramirez told the state-run ABN news agency on Sunday that federal police and National Guard troops have taken control of the hangar and impounded the planes while investigations proceed.

The planes are mostly small aircraft typically used by drug runners.

Venezuela is a major hub for traffickers smuggling Colombian cocaine to the United States and Europe.


Hundreds protest gang violence

CIUDAD JUAREZ | Hundreds of people marched Saturday against the drug gang violence besieging the Mexican border city of Ciudad Juarez, gathering at a bridge where they simulated the massacre of a group of teenagers last month.

Police, meanwhile, found the bullet-ridden bodies of five men in a town in the southwestern corner of Chihuahua state. And a decapitated body was found dumped beside the highway leading into the Pacific resort city of Acapulco.

The protesters marched to a border bridge in Ciudad Juarez, where they dropped to the ground as masked people dressed in black arrived at the scene, pretending to be the gunmen who killed 15 people in a working-class neighborhood on Jan. 30.

Many of those killed were teenagers with no known ties to drug gangs. Police have arrested two suspects who told authorities they were targeting members of a rival cartel, but investigators say the killers may have been acting on mistaken information.


New president wants to meet with Obama

TEGUCIGALPA | Honduras’ foreign minister says he is going to Washington to try to arrange a meeting between new President Porfirio Lobo and President Obama in hopes of restoring ties damaged by last June’s coup.

Honduras’ army ousted then President Manuel Zelaya after he pushed ahead with plans for a referendum on changing the constitution the country’s supreme court ruled illegal.

The move was condemned by many governments and Washington cut aid to the Central American country.

The U.S. toned down its criticism after Mr. Lobo was elected to succeed Mr. Zelaya in a November election that had been scheduled before the coup.

Foreign Minister Mario Canahuati said Friday that he will leave for the U.S. in the coming days.


Poll: Chavez support slips but still strong

CARACAS | Most Venezuelans approve of President Hugo Chavez’s performance, a new poll shows, but support has steadily slipped for the left-leaning leader who is dogged by energy shortages and a recession before legislative elections.

The study by the respected IVAD group conducted in January and seen by Reuters on Thursday showed 58 percent support for Mr. Chavez’s performance after 11 years in office. Just 48 percent of the population trusts him.

In December, an IVAD study gave Mr. Chavez 60 percent approval, while a 2008 poll by the group gave him 71 percent.

When asked who was responsible for the country’s problems, 46 percent in the new poll blamed either Mr. Chavez or the government. The poll was commissioned by the government.

The opposition, made up of a handful of tiny parties and without a clear leader, was rated as doing a good job by 50 percent of the poll.

Venezuelans will vote in September in legislative elections where Mr. Chavez’s socialist party is likely to see its huge majority diminished.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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