- - Monday, June 18, 2012

CARACAS — President Hugo Chavez’s inner circle has not discussed who should succeed him if his health prevents him from running in October’s presidential elections, Vice President Elias Jose Jaua Milano said in an interview published Sunday.

“There is very strong policy unity on the goals of the revolution, and the role each of us plays,” Mr. Jaua Milano told the daily Ultimas Noticias. “One of the cornerstones of that unity is that none of us wants to be the successor, nor is anybody betting on it.

“We do not talk about that. And why would we, when the president is on the path to full recovery in terms of his health?” Mr. Jaua Milano said when he was mentioned as a potential successor along with Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro.

Last week, Mr. Chavez, 57, registered as a candidate for re-election in the Oct. 7 vote despite a yearlong battle with cancer and uncertainties about his health.

“As a player in the political game, I have come here and I commit, before Venezuela and the world, to recognize the outcome of the presidential election” Mr. Chavez said.

If he were to be re-elected and serve out his term through 2019, Mr. Chavez would end up spending 20 years in office.

He is running against Henrique Capriles, 39 the youthful Miranda state governor and center-left candidate for a united opposition. Mr. Capriles has laid out a policy platform focused on combating violence, creating jobs and boosting social programs.

Mr. Chavez has been leading in the polls by between 7 and 30 percentage points, with 35 percent of voters undecided.


Chilean soldier dies in Haiti after assault

SANTIAGO — A Chilean soldier who worked at the Embassy of Chile in Haiti died there Sunday after being shot by unidentified assailants, authorities said.

“The officer was assaulted by strangers, and he received four bullet wounds in his abdomen and arm. Due to these injuries, he was taken to Lambert Sante Hospital, where he died at 5:45 a.m.,” the Chilean Defense Ministry said in a statement.

The incident took place outside a restaurant in the Petionville suburb of Port-au-Prince, and is being investigated by Haitian police.

The body of the sergeant, who served as the assistant defense attache at the Chilean Embassy, will be repatriated once the necessary paperwork has been completed.


Jews, gays, rights advocates protest Iranian leader

RIO DE JANEIRO — Hundreds of Jews, gays and civil rights activists marched along Rio’s famed Ipanema beach Sunday to protest Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s attendance at the U.N. summit on sustainable development.

“We want the world to know that religious hatred harms the environment and Ahmadinejad represents hatred. Sustainable development encompasses human rights,” said Ivanir dos Santos of the Commission Against Religious Intolerance.

The marchers carried banners proclaiming in English “Rio does not welcome Mahmoud Ahmadinejad” and “Iranians we love you.”

With exuberant drumming by the cultural group Afro Reggae, they chanted “Ahmadinejad out of Brazil” as they paraded along Ipanema beach.

World leaders are to debate prospects for the elimination of poverty and the promotion of environmental issues at the summit from Wednesday to Friday.


Murder suspect detained by U.S. border guards

EDMONTON, Alberta — The man wanted in an armored-car heist at a Canadian university that left three armed guards dead was carrying $330,000 in cash and no passport when he was arrested by U.S. border officials, Alberta police said Sunday.

Travis Baumgartner was stopped Saturday near a border crossing in Lynden, Wash., southwest of Abbotsford, British Columbia.

He was driving a Ford F-150 truck with the Alberta license plate that police had been seeking, police Superintendent Bob Hassel said at a news conference. He said the suspect tried to get through the border with his driver’s license. He had the cash in a backpack.

Thomas Schreiber of U.S. Customs and Border Protection said the suspect had a gun and was arrested without incident.

Mr. Baumgartner, 21, had been on the run since Friday when four armed guards were gunned down, three of them fatally. He faces three counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder.


Billionaire Branson releases rare scarlet bird

TORTOLA — Billionaire tycoon Richard Branson says he is reintroducing a flame-red bird to the British Virgin Islands.

The Virgin Group boss said on his blog that a scarlet ibis recently was born on his private island in the British Caribbean territory.

The bird is “the first scarlet ibis born in the British Virgin Islands for over 100 years,” Mr. Branson said.

He has developed an exclusive eco-resort on Necker Island that showcases renewable energy technology and successfully reintroduced flamingos there.

Mr. Branson said he hopes the protected scarlet ibises will be as successful as the flamingos so the British territory “can enjoy the beauty of these birds.”

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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