- - Monday, November 8, 2010

CUBA

Dissident backs off hunger-strike threat

HAVANA | A prominent Cuban dissident has pulled back from a threat to launch a hunger strike to pressure the government to free the last 13 political prisoners jailed in a 2003 crackdown, saying Monday that he was heeding a call for restraint from the men and their wives.

Guillermo Farinas said he was postponing the hunger strike but stood ready to launch one if he is persuaded that authorities will not release the prisoners. He said he was writing a letter to Havana Cardinal Jaime Ortega — who negotiated the releases with Cuban President Raul Castro — to see what had gone wrong.

Mr. Farinas won Europe’s Sakharov human rights prize in October after staging a 134-day hunger strike in support of the prisoners. He had vowed to stop eating again if the remaining dissidents were not in their homes by Monday — one day after a deadline for their release.

HAITI

Hurricane killed at least 20

PORT-AU-PRINCE | At least 20 people died when Hurricane Tomas brushed past Haiti, more than double the number initially reported, Haiti’s civil protection department said Monday.

Seven others remain missing, and dozens were injured. More than 30,000 people remain in shelters, and Tomas left nearly 6,000 families homeless. Others, already homeless from the Jan. 12 earthquake, lost their tents.

The hurricane struck Haiti’s southern peninsula on Friday and traveled up the coast, triggering floods and landslides. But its strongest winds and rain stayed far to the west of the capital, sparing most of the encampments where an estimated 1.3 million people have been living for nearly 10 months.

Officials now are turning their attention back to a worsening cholera epidemic that has killed more than 500 people and hospitalized more than 7,300. Flooding is expected to spread the disease, while damage to roads and buildings could make it harder for those sickened to get medical care.

ARGENTINA

Flights slowed by strikes

BUENOS AIRES | A fistfight between pilots in an airplane cockpit led to a weekend of chaos for thousands of travelers in Argentina, where authorities were still dealing with the backlog on Monday.

The country’s main international airport already was struggling to absorb 20,000 more daily travelers because of the closure Thursday of Argentina’s main domestic airport, Aeroparque Jorge Newbery, when the fight between pilots for rival unions led to a complete shutdown of the country’s main carrier, Aerolineas Argentinas.

The fight apparently started when one discovered that the other was carrying a camera to document any problems on their flight, and it became so violent that airport police hauled them off the plane in front of their passengers. Their unions both declared a strike, demanding that neither pilot be punished by the state-owned company.

More than 50 flights were canceled Thursday, causing a backlog that forced the cancellation of 40 percent of flights at the Ezeiza airport through the weekend.

Thousands of passengers were stranded, including hundreds whose planes were left sitting on the runway. Ezeiza’s passenger terminals were jammed with a sea of frustrated travelers, and traffic crawled on the already crowded airport highway.

By Monday, Aerolineas Argentinas and its Austral subsidiary were almost back to normal, with just 15 percent of scheduled flights grounded.

But then flight attendants for the nation’s next-largest carrier, LAN Argentina, went on a surprise strike, claiming the company was violating Argentine work rules. The company denied it, and the government ordered mediation. In the end, three LAN Argentina flights were canceled Monday and two dozen others were rescheduled.

From wire dispatches and staff reports


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