A package of news briefs from the Caribbean
PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad - Prime Minister Patrick Manning and his allies claimed victory in general elections in this oil- and gas-rich Caribbean nation Tuesday, as preliminary results showed his party retaining control of parliament with an 11-seat majority.
Manning's ruling People's National Movement appeared to win 26 of the House's 41 seats in Monday's vote, compared with 15 for the United National Congress Alliance, according to the island's Elections and Boundaries Commission. The UNC conceded defeat.
Trinidad's election panel was expected to certify the tally later Tuesday. A re-count was underway for two districts where the UNC appeared to win narrow victories, election officer Roy Panchan said.
"The election battle has been hard fought," Manning told cheering supporters in a victory speech after the figures were announced. "Let tomorrow be a new beginning."
During six years in power, Manning's administration has launched construction projects and social programs across the two-island nation of 1.3 million people, the leading supplier of liquid natural gas to the United States.
UNC leader Basdeo Panday, who led the country from 1995 to 2001 as the first premier of East Indian descent, acknowledged defeat Tuesday and blamed the upstart Congress of the People party for splitting opposition votes.
A self-styled, multiracial party launched a year ago by former UNC chief Winston Dookeran, the Congress of the People sought to upend the country's political status quo. The country's two main parties, the UNC and PNM, have been traditionally split along racial lines between people of East Indian and African descent.
SURINAME: 60 ex-soldiers protest for jobs, benefits at presidential palace grounds
PARAMARIBO, Suriname ((AP) - Former soldiers who fought in Suriname's six-year civil war occupied two abandoned buildings on the presidential palace's grounds Tuesday, demanding jobs and better government benefits.
The roughly 60 men helped fight the Surinamese Liberation Army in a 1980s battle against former dictator Desi Bouterse's left-leaning military regime. They now live in poverty.
"Many ex-soldiers ... ended up in a hole after their tour of duty and have nothing," said Stanley Fernand, who is leading the protest in the capital, Paramaribo. "We want the government to provide medical care, some social security and jobs."
Officials with President Ronald Venetiaan's New Front coalition could not be immediately reached for comment.
Defense Minister Ivan Fernald has said the South American nation's government is working on an initiative to help former soldiers, but many have lost faith in their government.
"They have been telling us for more than a year that they are working on a program but nothing happens. They don't respect us," Fernand said from one of the sprawling palace grounds' buildings, which were raised by Dutch governors during colonial rule.
VIRGIN ISLANDS: British territory frees US man imprisoned for fishing without permit
CHARLOTTE AMALIE, U.S. Virgin Islands ((AP) - An American retiree imprisoned in the British Virgin Islands for fishing without a license was released Tuesday, according to the governor of the neighboring U.S. Virgin Islands.
Richard Baker, a 54-year-old former police officer from Arlington, Virginia, served six weeks of a yearlong prison sentence he received in September, when he and his wife were caught fishing in the British territory without a permit and could not pay the US$45,000 (euro31,000) fine.
U.S. Virgin Islands Gov. John deJongh said his British counterpart, Gov. David Pearey, granted Baker clemency after the U.S. State Department asked British Virgin Islands Premiere Ralph O'Neal to review the case.
Baker was back in the U.S. Virgin Islands on Tuesday, after serving six weeks in Balsam Ghut Prison on the British territory's main island, Tortola, deJongh's spokesperson Jean Greaux said.
Neither Baker nor his wife, Deborah Barton, could be immediately reached for comment.
On Sept. 24, the couple were trawling with two lines from their boat when they were stopped and charged with illegally entering the British Virgin Islands and fishing without a license.
The steep penalty for Baker, who captained the vessel, shocked the couple and their friends in the U.S. Virgin Islands, where the pair has lived for about a year on their 36-foot boat, "Mambo," docked in St. Thomas.
Baker's friends had been trying to raise money to pay the fine and set him free.
"While I am proud of the (British Virgin Island) government's cooperation in releasing Richard Baker and returning him home, I invite Premier O'Neal and his team to clarify the laws on this issue," deJongh said in a statement.
O'Neal could not be reached for comment.
GUANTANAMO: Judges reject effort to halt US military commission case against prisoner
WASHINGTON ((AP) - A federal appeals court on Tuesday refused to block U.S. military commission proceedings against a Canadian detainee held at Guantanamo Bay.
Lawyers for Omar Khadr had asked the U.S. Court of Appeals to halt the case, in which Khadr is accused of throwing a grenade that killed a U.S. Special Forces soldier during a firefight in Afghanistan.
Khadr, who was 15 when he was captured in Afghanistan in 2002, also faces conspiracy and other charges.
The short, one-sentence denial was handed down by judges David Sentelle, A. Raymond Randolph and Janice Rogers Brown. Sentelle was appointed by President Ronald Reagan, Brown by President George W. Bush and Randolph by former President George H.W. Bush.
A judge at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba will later this week decide whether Khadr was an "unlawful" enemy combatant and thus subject to trial, or simply an enemy combatant and therefore outside the tribunal's jurisdiction.
Bush created the military commissions system after the Sept. 11 attacks against the United States, but no one has ever been tried by the panels, which have been the focus of legal challenges.
JAMAICA: Specialist says genetic evidence taken from hotel matched Woolmer's DNA
KINGSTON, Jamaica ((AP) - Genetic evidence taken from the hotel room where Pakistan cricket coach Bob Woolmer was discovered unconscious matched his DNA profile - not that of others questioned in the case - a Jamaican specialist testified Tuesday.
Sharon Brydson, an analyst at the Forensics Science Laboratory in Kingston, told an inquest into Woolmer's death that the 22 swabs of evidence did not match any of the other DNA samples taken during the investigation into Woolmer's death.
Several Pakistan team members, including squad captain Inzamam ul-Haq, were fingerprinted and swabbed, although police said they were never suspects.
Woolmer, 58, was found sprawled on the floor of his hotel room on March 18, after his team was eliminated from the Cricket World Cup. Days later, Jamaica's government pathologist ruled he had been strangled, setting off a globe-spanning homicide probe.
Coroner Patrick Murphy, who is presiding over the inquest, on Monday announced toxicology samples from the coach's stomach will be re-examined because experts disagree on whether poisoning was a factor in his death.
A British expert testified last week that no trace of a potentially deadly pesticide was found in the samples - contradicting Jamaican pathologist Ere Sheshiah, who has insisted the coach was poisoned by the pesticide cypermethrin and strangled.
Foreign doctors have concluded Woolmer died from natural causes, most likely heart disease.
The additional testing was requested by the lead investigator, Deputy Police Commissioner Mark Shields, who said arrangements are being made for the samples to be retrieved from London as well as from Jamaica's forensic lab.
BAHAMAS: 3 Cuban migrants escape Bahamas detention center, elude searchers
NASSAU, Bahamas ((AP) - Three Cuban migrants escaped from a detention center in the Bahamas by scaling a 10-foot (3-meter) fence, island security officials said Tuesday.
The three men, who fled the Carmichael Road Immigrant Detention Center, located in a residential neighborhood of the Bahamian capital, Nassau, late Monday, are still missing, said Ralph McKinney, spokesman for the Royal Bahamas Defense Force.
"Officers gave chase and shots were fired," McKinney said, adding that no one was injured in the exchange.
Illegal immigrants are brought to the Bahamian detention center while they wait to be repatriated or have their asylum claims reviewed. Detainees and human rights groups have complained of mistreatment of migrants at the detention center, which the Bahamian government denies.
Migrants have climbed over or cut through the Nassau jail's perimeter fence in the past.
GUYANA: Officials report a significant drop in malaria cases
GEORGETOWN, Guyana ((AP) - Guyana health officials said Tuesday they have drastically reduced the number of malaria cases in the interior of this South American country through use of medicines and mosquito nets.
In 2006, 20,000 malaria cases were reported - a drop of 70,000 from the previous year - Health Minister Leslie Ramsammy said. Only 8,500 cases have been reported through October of this year, he said.
Yet the leader of a mining association said many cases go unreported in Guyana's gold-and-diamond mining areas, which border Venezuela and Brazil.
Miners Association Secretary Tony Shields urged health officials to depend less on reported statistics and travel to those areas themselves to better assess the scope of malaria cases.
"There, the reality is different," Shields said.
SOCCER: Jamaica, Guatemala to play Nov. 21 friendly
KINGSTON, Jamaica ((AP) - Jamaica coach Bora Milutinovic will lead the Reggae Boyz in a Nov. 21 international friendly against Guatemala at the Caribbean island's National Stadium.
"The Reggae Boyz will play their first friendly international in a long time inside the National Stadium," said Horace Burrell, president of the Jamaica Football Federation.
Jamaica has not played at the stadium since a 1-1 draw with Panama in March. The squad has not played since a lopsided 8-1 loss to Iran in July.