A week before a recall referendum on President Hugo Chavez's rule, supporters and opponents of the Venezuelan leader held massive events in Caracas, each side confident of victory in the emotionally-charged election. \nPolls show the country is split evenly between those for and against Chavez. Supporters see him as a champion of the poor and a new hope after decades of corrupt governments, while opponents accuse him of seeking to install a communist dictatorship. \nTens of thousands of Chavez's followers, clad in red, marched on Sunday with signs saying "No" to the recall and "Ahead with the Revolution," celebrating what they say is a sure win on the Aug. 15 vote. \nA Chavez ally, Caracas Mayor Freddy Bernal, estimated that 900,000 people took part in the march, declaring to reporters that "the opposition is dead and we will bury it." Caracas fire chief Rodolfo Briceno said only that the crowd size was "well over 100,000." \nChavez spoke to the crowd, saying that a victory next Sunday would be a home run which would "fall on the gardens of the White House." \nChavez, who survived a short-lived coup in 2002, has accused the Bush administration of backing alleged opposition plans to overthrow him. Both the US and the opposition deny the claims. The US is Venezuela's main oil buyer, but relations have been strained due to Chavez's ties with Cuba and his criticism of US-backed free market proposals. \nTo be recalled, more citizens must vote against Chavez than the nearly 3.8 million who re-elected him in 2000. If they succeed, elections will be held in 30 days and the winner will finish Chavez's term. \nThe opposition "wants to recall Chavez because he is not a lap dog for the United States. That is why we, the real patriots, are here, to show Venezuela and the world that Chavez has our support and that Venezuela is and always will be a free country under his rule," said Roberto Mendez, a 41-year-old unemployed worker. \nOn the other side of town, the opposition gathered its followers in a caravan and a concert with rock artists and comedians. Immigrants pledged their support to the opposition in a separate event, dressed in their traditional costumes and bearing their flags. \n"In seven days, Venezuelans will have a chance to stop the demon of intolerance, division, unemployment and hunger," opposition leader Enrique Mendoza said during the rally for the immigrants. \nAlso Sunday, the National Elections Council tested the new touch-screen voting machines before members of the opposition and government, and international observers. \nElections council Director Jorge Rodriguez said that the tests had gone well. Valter Pecly Moreira, chief of the mission of the Organization of American States in Venezuela, agreed.
FRENCH AID: Paris has sent a navy ship and aircraft from Reunion Island with some pollution control equipment, but rough seas are spreading the oil spill The operator of a Japanese bulk carrier which ran aground off Mauritius in the Indian Ocean yesterday apologized for a major oil spill, which officials and environmentalists say is creating an ecological disaster, as police prepared to board the ship. The MV Wakashio, operated by Mitsui OSK Lines, struck the reef on Mauritius’ southeast coast on July 25. “We apologize profusely and deeply for the great trouble we have caused,” Mitsui OSK Lines executive vice president Akihiko Ono said at a news conference in Tokyo. The company would “do everything in their power to resolve the issue,” he said. At least 1,000 tonnes of
They stand as eyesores to most passers-by and potential public health risks to authorities, decaying buildings wrapped in tangles of exposed wire, studded with protruding leaky plastic pipes, vegetation billowing from cracks and terraces where particulates from polluted air have accumulated over time. With skyscrapers and ultramodern developments on every side, some of these “nail houses” are also sitting on land worth millions of dollars in Shenzhen’s inferno of a property market, where new-unit and second-hand home prices rival London. In battles over land and development, the nail house phenomenon has become widespread throughout China over the past two decades, with owners
An Italian alpine resort on Friday remained on high alert over fears that a vast chunk of a glacier on the slopes of the Mont Blanc massif could plummet in high temperatures. “No one gets through! No cars, bikes or pedestrians,” was the message at a checkpoint where an automatic barrier and two guards blocked the small road snaking up into a lush valley below the Planpincieux glacier, near the town of Courmayeur and the Italian-French border. The blockade has largely been greeted with contempt by the locals, one of whom said: “It’s a joke.” The huge ice block measuring around 500,000 cubic
SHOW OF SOLIDARITY: The publisher’s ‘Apple Daily’ newspaper has had to raise the number of copies printed from 70,000 to 550,000 to meet a huge surge in demand They have occupied Hong Kong’s central business district, marched by the hundreds of thousands through the territory’s streets and endured tear gas and pepper spray in pitched battles with riot police. Hong Kong’s pro-democracy supporters are now wielding a new protest weapon: their stock-market trading accounts. To show support for Jimmy Lai (黎智英), the publisher and outspoken government critic who was on Monday arrested under the territory’s new national security legislation, Hong Kongers have been piling into shares of his media company Next Digital. The result: a more than 1,100 percent surge in two days that propelled the stock to a seven-year