- - Monday, February 27, 2012

ARGENTINA

British cruise ships barred from docking

USHUAIA — Argentina has turned away at least two Carnival Corp. cruise ships, for the first time invoking a law that seeks to pressure Britain to negotiate the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands and the surrounding seas.

The Star Princess and Adonia were refused entry to Argentina’s southernmost city of Ushuaia on Monday after stopping at the islands.

Veterans of Argentina’s brief 1982 war against Britain for control of the islands persuaded the government to enforce a law banning British vessels and ships partly owned by British companies.

The Star Princess flew the flag of a British territory and the Adonia is based in Britain.

The British foreign office says there’s no justification for this government interference.

CHILE

Chileans see political aftershocks from 2010 quake

SANTIAGO — Two years after Chile’s devastating earthquake, the failure to give a tsunami warning and a slow reconstruction effort are shaping politics ahead of the 2013 election to pick President Sebastian Pinera’s successor.

The magnitude-8.8 quake and the tsunami it unleashed before dawn Feb. 27, 2010, destroyed 220,000 homes and washed away ports, riverfronts and seaside resorts. The government counted 524 dead, 181 of them killed by the tsunami.

The disaster presented unprecedented challenges and opportunities for Mr. Pinera, a conservative billionaire whose election ended 20 years of center-left rule in Chile when he succeeded Michelle Bachelet less than two weeks after the quake.

Seeking to cement his can-do image, Mr. Pinera committed his government to providing shelter for every victim within months and moving everyone into a decent home before the following winter.

Yet with Chile’s third post-quake winter approaching, 3,000 families still crowd into flimsy wooden shacks, and political coalitions on the right and left are looking to blame each other for quake failings with an eye on the November 2013 elections.

Mr. Pinera’s government this month praised a prosecutor’s request for charges of negligence leading to homicide against eight former officials of the civil protection and navy offices that botched the tsunami warnings in the critical minutes and hours after the quake.

ECUADOR

Newspaper pardoned in libel case

QUITO — President Rafael Correa said Monday he is pardoning the country’s main opposition newspaper after a court ordered it to pay him $42 million for criminal libel and imposed prison terms on three executives and a columnist.

Mr. Correa’s legal attack on El Universo had prompted widespread allegations by international press freedom and human rights groups that Mr. Correa was using a judiciary of dubious independence to silence critics.

The leftist president said Monday in a brief televised address that he was forgiving the three-year prison terms against three executives and the former opinion page editor of El Universo, whom he sued a year ago under a criminal defamation law.

In addition, Mr. Correa said he was dropping a libel case against two other journalists who wrote a book that said companies tied to his older brother had $600 million in contracts with the Ecuadorean state but did not act on the conflict of interest until they had revealed it publicly.

A court this month ordered the two journalists to pay Mr. Correa $1 million each.

Mr. Correa said the verdict in the El Universo case was deserved but that he had decided after consulting with relatives and close friends to grant the pardon.

COLOMBIA

FARC announces halt to kidnapping

BOGOTA — Colombia’s main rebel group said Sunday it is abandoning the practice of kidnapping and will soon free its last remaining “prisoners of war” - 10 security force members held for as long as 14 years.

The leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) announced on its website that it would no longer kidnap civilians “for financial ends,” unequivocally renouncing for the first time a tool it long used against Colombia’s well-heeled as well as foreigners.

It is not clear whether an order has been given to release ransom-kidnapping victims currently held by the rebels. Nor is it clear, given the insurgency’s decentralized nature, whether the FARC’s ruling seven-man secretariat can enforce its order.

The rebels are known to currently hold four Chinese oil workers abducted in June.

The FARC statement said kidnapping of civilians for ransom had helped sustain the insurgency, but added: “From this day on we are halting the practice in our revolutionary activity.”

It did not provide a date for the release of the 10 security force members, two fewer than the government has said the insurgents hold.

Sunday’s announcement could advance prospects for a peace dialogue sought by the rebels. The government has insisted the FARC end all kidnappings as a minimal first step.

CANADA

3 killed in train derailment

BURLINGTON, Ontario — A Canadian Via Rail passenger train derailed west of Toronto on Sunday, killing three railroad employees and injuring dozens of passengers, officials said.

Via Rail spokeswoman Michelle Lamarche said the three people killed were all engineers riding in the cab of the locomotive at the front of the train when it derailed in Burlington, Ontario.

A fourth Via worker in the locomotive was injured, she said.

Burlington Mayor Rick Goldring also confirmed that three people died in the accident.

Ms. Lamarche said no passengers died but 45 were injured. She said 75 people were on board the train traveling from Niagara Falls to Toronto when the train left the tracks around 3:30 p.m. Sunday within view of a residential area near Aldershot station.

The locomotive crashed on its side into a small building, and at least two passengers car behind it were driven off the tracks into an L-shape. All six cars derailed, a Via official said.

From wire dispatches and staff reports


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