- - Monday, March 14, 2011


Opposition fuels talk of early election

OTTAWA | Canada’s minority Conservative government came under attack from two opposition parties Monday over its ethical problems, increasing speculation that the country is heading for an early election.

The Conservatives, who have had five largely trouble-free years in office under Prime Minister Stephen Harper, now are stumbling from one mishap to another.

The opposition Liberals and New Democrats regularly accuse Mr. Harper of abuse of power and blast the government’s spending policies, leading one polling firm to speculate on Monday that Canada was on the brink of a general election.

Although polls show the Conservatives would easily win a fresh election — likely with another minority — opposition legislators clearly feel confident they can benefit from missteps by a government that came to power in early 2006 promising to clean up politics.

The Conservatives need the support of at least one opposition party to pass the budget, which will be presented on March 22. If all three opposition parties vote against it, the government will be defeated, and an election will be called, possibly for early May.

Last week, House of Commons Speaker Peter Milliken rebuked the government for refusing to say how much it would spend on prisons. He also condemned a Conservative minister for misleading Parliament.

The main opposition Liberal Party, which already has made it clear it will vote against the budget, said Mr. Harper had lost his moral compass.


Bank devalues peso to spur economy

HAVANA | Cuba’s central bank is devaluing the country’s two types of peso by about 8 percent in relation to the dollar and other foreign currencies, hoping the move will spur exports and local production as the government seeks to overhaul a moribund economy.

The announcement published in state newspapers on Monday says the hard-currency peso used mostly by tourists and foreign companies on the island will now be worth $1, down from $1.08.

Each hard-currency peso is still worth 24 of the standard pesos with which most Cubans are paid in an unusual two-tiered currency system.

It was the first time the government has revalued the currency in six years, when it increased the nominal value of its currency in relation to the dollar.

Monday’s shift puts the exchange rate back to where it was before.


Soldiers kill four apparent kidnappers

MONTERREY | The Mexican army said Monday that soldiers killed four presumed kidnappers during a gunfight at a ranch in northeast Mexico.

A statement from the Defense Department said the gunmen opened fire on troops who were investigating a tip about suspicious activity Saturday night at the ranch in the town of China, near Texas.

It said that two adults and two children who apparently had been kidnapped were freed, and two suspects were detained.

Meanwhile, authorities said nine people were fatally shot Sunday in the resort city of Acapulco.

Guerrero state police said in a statement that the victims include a woman and her two children. Six others, including a retired navy captain, died in four separate attacks.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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