The United States is rejecting the reelection of Alberto Fujimori as president of Peru. Fujimori faces the toughest challenge of his political career, as the US declared his victory invalid and condemned him as a serious threat to Latin American democracy, while opposition forces in Peru mounted a campaign with the hope of toppling him.
An extraordinarily swift and harsh response from Washington implied the US may make good on its previous threats to sanction Fujimori for not postponing the balloting to give international monitors a chance to guarantee a clean count. The US position is the strongest yet against Peru, though the elections were also sternly criticized by other nations including France, Argentina and Costa Rica.
The runoff election was boycotted by Fujimori’s challenger, Alejandro Toledo. He said the outcome was rigged and urged voters to void their ballots, marking them with the words “no to fraud.”
Venezuela’s entire election council resigned today, succumbing to widespread criticism after a general election was postponed because of technical problems. The decision of the five-member board came just hours after President Hugo Chavez’s closest political ally said he hoped the council would facilitate the process of scheduling new elections by stepping down.
Voters were expected to fill more than 6,200 of Venezuela’s public offices, including those of president, congress members, governors, mayors, and local council members. But problems with computer software needed to tabulate votes and register more than 36,000 candidates jeopardized the vote. Election authorities have denied any wrongdoing, saying they were also misled. They blame the Nebraska firm of Election System & Software for the computer problems.
Arkansas lawmakers and rice farmers met yesterday with Cuban officials amid moves in Washington to ease the forty-year-old trade embargo. The sixteen-member delegation from Arkansas traveled to Havana, as the House of Representatives debates legislation that would allow food and medicine to be sold to Cuba. A vote by the full House is expected next week. The Senate overwhelmingly approved a similar trade measure last year, and now the House Appropriations Committee has approved the measure. Some 220 House members signed a letter supporting an easing of the embargo.
Arkansas is the United States’s number one rice producer, as well as an important supplier of poultry, pork and soybean. During the visit to Cuba, members of the Arkansas delegation were to tour an agricultural cooperative, a poultry farm and a farmer’s market.
Now that the hostage crisis in Sierra Leone appears over, leaders in West Africa say they’ll send in more troops to help UN peacekeepers. The leaders have agreed to offer 3,000 peacekeepers, most of them Nigerian. They would join the 13,000 UN soldiers expected to be in the country by the end of June.
The West African leaders also want the UN to put the entire force under West African command and change its mandate from “peacekeeping” to “peace enforcement.” Rebels in Sierra Leone held up to 500 UN personnel hostage for over three weeks before releasing what was believed to be the last of them yesterday. The rebels have been clashing with pro-government forces.
Lebanon is sending more police to areas vacated by Israel but will not deploy the Lebanese army in the border region for now, this according to Lebanon’s prime minister. The UN must first verify the Israeli withdrawal, completed yesterday, and deploy peacekeepers, Prime Minister Selim al-Hoss said in a statement. Hundreds of policemen have been sent to the former Israeli-occupied areas, but the government has refused to send the army, saying its military will not act as a border guard for Israel.
A labor group in South Korea said today it will stage a four-day strike this week to demand a shorter workweek and to protest a possible takeover of an ailing South Korean carmaker by a foreign investor. The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions asked its half-a-million members to walk off their jobs from Wednesday to Saturday. The labor group, with members in the car and shipbuilding industries is demanding the workweek be cut from forty-four to forty hours. Major businesses are opposed to a shorter workweek.
And this news also from South Korea that you probably haven’t heard: Maehyang villagers claimed that seven people were injured and some 170 houses damaged when a US Air Force A10 fighter, which was experiencing engine trouble, dropped six 500-pound bombs at the training range on May 8th, as an emergency measure to reduce its weight. Citing noise problems, members of some 2,000 households and other nearby villages have sought to be relocated since 1988, while also seeking compensation for suffering related to the bombing and strafing training. They filed a class-action suit with a Seoul court in February of 1998.