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CARACAS, Venezuela —President Hugo Chavez Frias has made a conciliatory gesture to his opponents following his triumphant return to office after a failed coup.
President Chavez Sunday announced that he had accepted the resignation of board members he had appointed in February to the state-run oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela. His opponents had argued the president made the appointments for political reasons instead of merit.
The dispute led to last week's deadly protests in support of dissident oil workers, who had walked off the job, demanding the board's resignation. The labor action severely disrupted oil production nationwide.
The dispute put global oil markets on alert since Venezuela is the world's fourth-leading oil exporter. Industry sources say efforts to bring production, refining and export operations back to normal are continuing. Venezuela pumps nearly 2.4 million barrels of oil daily, sending nearly one million of the barrels to the United States.
Earlier, the White House issued a statement, saying it is monitoring the situation in Venezuela with great concern. Officials also say they are welcoming a decision by the Organization of American States to send a fact-finding delegation to Venezuela later Monday. The mission will be headed by OAS Secretary-General Cesar Gaviria.
The U.S. State Department seemed to blame the coup on Chavez. Spokesman Philip Reeker said Friday "Though details are still unclear, undemocratic actions committed or encouraged by the Chavez administration provoked yesterday's crisis in Venezuela."
Chavez reclaimed the presidency from his vice president and ally, Diosdado Cabello, who was sworn in during a ceremony late Saturday.
Cabello assumed the presidency from interim leader Pedro Carmona, who was sworn in on Friday after the military ousted Chavez. Carmona is reportedly in custody.
The drama began Thursday when as many as 150,000 persons marched to protest Chavez’ position on the oil company. Rooftop snipers and gunmen on the ground killed at least 12 persons and injured about 100 others. The gunmen were blamed on Chavez.
Several generals confronted Chavez, took him into custody and then announced that he had resigned. Pedro Carmona Estanga, president of the national chamber of commerce went on television to announce that he was heading an interim govenment.
The Chavez ouster did not sit well with all the military men. Chavez himself is a lieutanant colonel. Others were concerned with the democratic
|process. Saturday the coup began
to fall apart as a
number of Venezuelan citizens, many of them from low-class neighborhoods favored by Chavez, marched downtown.
The Miraflores presidental palace in downtown Caracas was never occupied by the plotters, and troops loyal to Chavez used that as a headquarters. That night Executive Vice President Cabello took the oath of office as temporary president, saying that under the constitution he was next in line in the event Chavez had resigned.
Chavez said later he never had resigned. Instead, he was being held at Las Orchidas islands off the coast until he was able to manange a triumphal helicopter comeback to the capital early Sunday.
Vheadline News, an Internet publication that had provided authoratative bulletins out of Caracas through the whole coup, said the plot began to unravel when the 42nd Paratrooper Regiment in Maracay refused to recognize the military-civilian junta.
The news service attributed that information to Gen. Raul Isaias Baduel, who said "we categorically rejected any authority of the de facto junta to assume legal and legitimately constituted powers in Venezuela and we demanded guarantees for the life and safety of President Hugo Chavez Frias right from the start and his safe return to the Miraflores Palace."
The news service may be found at http://www.vheadline.com/P1/latestedition.htm
About 5:30 a.m. Sunday morning loyal troops arrested Carmona Estanga
and three generals who led the coup.
Rio group condemns
By A.M. Costa Rica wire services
The annual Rio Group summit of 19 Latin American nations closed Friday after two days of unscheduled discussions on the political situation in Venezuela.
Leaders issued a statement condemning the ouster of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez overnight Thursday, calling it "the interruption of constitutional order." Events in Venezuela overshadowed the meeting in San Jose that was to have focused on ways to combat poverty and strengthen families in Latin America.
However, the leaders reportedly ratified a final document calling for a fight against poverty and expressing support for increased social spending.
The Rio Group was established in 1987 for joint political action to strengthen democracy, battle drug trafficking, corruption, and money laundering, and promote the creation of a regional free trade zone by 2005
Ambassadors from France, Germany, Italy and Spain recently criticized the sad state of teaching foreign languages in Great Britain. According to the diplomats, British companies would not lose some contracts if their employees had strong skills in foreign languages.
Being tongue-tied seems to be a disease affecting not just the British but English-speakers in general. This is certainly true of Americans. An old joke goes like this:
• What do you call a person who speaks three languages? Trilingual.
• A person who speaks two languages? Bilingual.
• And a person who speaks only one language? American.
Given the predominance of English as the de facto world's lingua franca, why would English speakers want to learn another language? Let the others learn English.
This strategy is, of course, a huge mistake, for in spite of the importance of English in today's global affairs, a second, and even a third, language is crucial and, in some cases, indispensable.
The benefits of linguistic knowledge are evident even in a country such as the United States, where English is clearly king. In Florida, Hispanic families speaking only English averaged a yearly income of $32,000, while those speaking both Spanish and English had incomes of $50,376, according to a study conducted by the University of Florida.
Big corporations in the United States use Spanish because it translates into dollars. Major U.S. and international companies advertise heavily on Spanish-language television and radio as they try to attract more business. The Japanese, whose economy depends a lot on exports, are only too familiar with the importance of languages. Asked what is the most important language in the world, Japanese businessmen responded "the customers' language."
In essence, it's possible to buy without knowing a language, but if you are going to sell, you better learn about your customer. Although more than 80 per cent of websites are in English, only 43 per cent of the users are native speakers of English. That number is expected to go down to 35 per cent next year. Clearly, some companies are losing business because the information does not reach a considerable amount of the world's population. This situation is likely to worsen, as computers become more readily available in non-English-speaking countries.
English-speaking countries can improve their success in international business by producing internationally trained employees. Designing and marketing products all over the world requires linguistic and cultural knowledge which goes beyond English. To get these kinds of employees the educational system needs to be revised to incorporate the study of foreign languages from the early grades, continuing on to college.
The advantages of bilingualism affect the entire education of students. Students educated in more
than one language develop a mental agility that monolinguals lack. One of these advantages has to do with something researchers call a "plasticity" of the brain.
Bilingual children recognize that just as there are two ways to say something, there are also two ways to learn and solve problems. This mental agility is evident in learning foreign languages. Just as it's easier for someone who knows how to play a musical instrument to learn a second and a third, thus it is also easier for someone who knows a second language to learn a third, or even a fourth.
Learning Pashto or Dari, the two major languages of Afghanistan, would
be very difficult for monolingual English-speakers. For someone who knows
French and Spanish in addition to English, the new language, while still
a challenge, would certainly be a lot easier, and the time to achieve fluency
could be cut considerably.
Although a wind of monolingualism has been blowing in the United States as some states are dropping bilingual education designed to help immigrant kids and English is declared the official language, some positive signs are beginning to occur. Dual language schools, which teach subjects in two languages, are increasing. There are more than 300 such schools in the United States, and the numbers, though still small, have been going up rapidly, increasing by more than two-thirds since 1992. Former Secretary of Education Richard Riley called on the nation to nearly quadruple the number of dual-language schools to 1,000 within five years.
Another sign that the U.S. linguistic situation is improving is George Bush's use of Spanish. Although the president's Spanish is far from perfect, the fact that the president at times speaks Spanish is significant. It sends a message to all Americans about the value of bilingualism.
The events of Sept. 11 revealed the need for more knowledge of languages. For example, after the tragedy in New York, enrollments in Arabic courses in U.S. colleges and universities rose dramatically.
Curing English-speakers' monolingualism will not be easy, for people have to see that learning something is beneficial. Unfortunately, the power of the English language clouds the vision of those who learned this language as natives. Seeing the world more clearly requires more than the English lens. Curing English-speakers' monolingualism will eventually have another positive effect: It will reveal the common humanity we share regardless of what language we may speak.
Domenico Maceri (email@example.com), Ph.D., University of California Santa Barbara, teaches foreign languages at Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria, Calif.
|$126 million tagged
for fighting AIDS/HIV
Special to A.M. Costa Rica
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Agency for International Development will provide almost $162 million in new funding over the next five years to help countries in the Americas and worldwide expand HIV/AIDS prevention, patient care and HIV/AIDS mitigation programs.
USAID said it has awarded the new funding to Family Health International and its partners to continue an AIDS Prevention and Care project in developing countries around the world. The firm is a non-governmental organization based in North Carolina that works in 16 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean on AIDS-prevention projects.
USAID said that as the HIV/AIDS pandemic continues to ravage many developing countries, this five-year extension of funding to Family Health will allow the organization to continue its work without disruption. USAID first awarded Family Health $148 million in 1997 to implement AIDS programs in 40 countries worldwide.
USAID says about 1.4 million people in Latin America and the Caribbean
have HIV/AIDS, with the Caribbean region having the highest prevalence
of HIV/AIDS outside of sub-Saharan Africa. Some 2.2 percent of the Caribbean
population has HIV/AIDS, compared to 8.4 percent in sub-Saharan Africa.
About 0.7 percent of the U.S. population has the disease, USAID said.
U.S., Canada ripped
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services
ALBERTA, Canada — European environment ministers have strongly criticized the United States and Canada for their stands on cutting greenhouse gasses.
Ministers from the Group of Seven Industrialized Nations and Russia had harsh words for the United States, which last year abandoned the Kyoto agreement to cut greenhouse gasses in favor of voluntary cuts.
Meeting here, some of the ministers called President Bush's argument that the pact would harm the U.S. economy inadequate. They accused Bush of being politically afraid to ask Americans to alter their lifestyles and consume less energy. They also criticized Canada for drifting away from its commitment to ratify Kyoto. The Ottawa government is calling for more consultations. It says it has already cut pollution by exporting cleaner forms of energy to the United States, including electricity and natural gas.
The contentious two-day meeting ended Sunday with a warning that worldwide environmental degradation continues.
|U.S. pushing hard
for Colombian OK
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
The United States is pushing hard for greater involvement in Colombia, which is torn by civil war.
According to Otto Reich, assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, the United States needs to expand its aid to Colombia in order to deal with a recent surge of terrorist violence in that Andean nation.
In congressional testimony Thursday, Reich outlined a recent series of "outrages" committed by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, designated by the U.S. State Department as a foreign terrorist group.
He joined a chorus of Bush Administration officials pushing for changes in a U.S. law that restricts U.S. financial involvement in Colombia to fighting drug shipments. The administration wants more flexibility to spend money to help the country fight terrorists.
Earlier the same day, a Pentagon official brought the same theme to Congress. Expanded U.S. support for the Colombian government's efforts to battle terrorism will give Colombian authorities the "wherewithal and incentive" to combat terrorist organizations operating inside their country, said Peter Rodman, assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs
At the same committee hearing where Reich spoke, the acting commander of the U.S. Southern Command, Gary Speer, also said that U.S. support for Colombia must move beyond the confines of fighting narco-trafficking in order to help address the large anti-government terrorist threat in that Andean nation.
Some in congress worry that more U.S. involvement eventually could lead to joint military actions by the United States and Colombia. Some also worry about Colombia’s human rights records.
Meanwhile, in Colombia Sunday the leading presidential candidate, Alvaro Uribe, survived an apparent attempt on his life. Authorities say Uribe's motorcade was leaving a campaign stop in the coastal city of Barranquilla Sunday, when a bus bomb exploded along the route.
Uribe escaped harm, but officials say three people were killed. At least 20 others were injured in the blast that also destroyed Uribe's armored car.
No one has claimed responsibility, but local reports say suspicion is likely to fall on the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, the nation's largest leftist rebel group.
Pledging to crack down on the rebels, known as the FARC, Uribe has been soaring in opinion polls ahead of the May 26 elections. The FARC has allegedly plotted to assassinate the hard-line candidate on at least one occasion.
Rebel attacks have escalated since outgoing President Andres Pastrana declared an end to peace talks with the insurgents back in February. The latest incident comes days before President Pastrana is set to meet with President Bush in Washington for talks expected to cover drug trafficking and terrorism.
Colombia is mired in a 38-year civil war that pits the FARC and a smaller rebel group, the National Liberation Army or ELN, against the government and right-wing paramilitaries. The conflict has left at least 40,000 people dead in the past decade alone.
Former president guilty
ASUNCION, Paraguay — A court here has sentenced
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