World briefs 7/25/03

Friday, July 25, 2003

Guatemalan protests support former dictator

GUATEMALA CITY -- Violent protests in support of former dictator Efrain Rios Montt engulfed the capital Thursday, forcing the U.S. Embassy to close and the president to call out the army to restore order.

Police said there were at least 5,000 demonstrators, many brandishing machetes and clubs, calling on the government to allow Rios Montt to run for president.

Demonstrators smashed windows, burned parked cars and blocked traffic in all directions along main streets.

"I will not permit any political movement to disrupt public order," President Alfonso Portillo, a political ally of Rios Montt, said in a national television address.

Rios Montt's military government, which took power in a coup, was responsible for some of the worst atrocities during Guatemala's 1960-1996 cvil war, but he remains popular with some segments of society and would be a strong candidate in the Nov. 9 election.

Insult proves injurious for Italian tourist town

PESARO, Italy -- When German Chancellor Gerhard Schroder and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi took opposite sides regarding the war in Iraq, not a word of public animosity was heard between them.

Last month, when Berlusconi was speaking as the new president of the European Union, he compared a heckling German official to a Nazi concentration camp guard.

He got away with a quasi-apology along the lines of: Sorry you're so sensitive about being called Nazis. Which Schroder gladly accepted.

But earlier this month, when Stefano Stefani, the Italian tourism minister, referred to German vacationers as hypernationalistic, beer-swilling, competitive belchers, well, that was going too far.

Stefani was forced to resign, Schroder abruptly canceled his planned vacation this week to Pesaro and a number of Germans apparently followed his lead.

"People come to Pesaro to relax, and that is true of Germans, who we have no problems with," said Anna Niglior, Pesaro's tourism director.

Vietnam loses catfish dispute, fears next target

CA MAU CITY, Vietnam -- After losing a major trade dispute with the United States over catfish tariffs, Vietnam is worried about the possible impact on an even bigger market: its shrimp.

The U.S. International Trade Commission ruled Wednesday that Vietnam illegally dumped catfish on the American market, and it upheld the imposition of crippling duties -- an outcome some fear will start a landslide of trade sanctions against other seafood exports.

On Thursday, the Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Processors denounced the decision, saying it showed how "a small group of fillet breeders in some southern states of the U.S. can put pressure on American authorities" to ignore the principles of competition and free trade it preaches worldwide.

Bermuda parties contest close elections

HAMILTON, Bermuda -- Bermuda's two main parties faced off Thursday in an election tinged with racial resentment and marked by a debate over foreign workers.

Polls showed voters evenly split between Premier Jennifer Smith's center-left Progressive Labor Party, which won 1998 elections promising a better deal for blacks, and the conservative United Bermuda Party, which governed for 30 years until the last elections.

Under a new electoral map, 39,000 voters were choosing from 75 candidates to represent 36 districts.

Bermuda is a British territory, but it is largely autonomous and makes laws in most areas without consulting London, which retains responsibility for foreign affairs and security.

-- From wire reports

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