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World Notes: Jan. 13, 1986

5 minute read

MEXICO Borderline Relationship

Ronald Reagan realized that a half-day summit with Mexican President Miguel de la Madrid last week could not begin to resolve differences between their two countries. So he used his four-hour stopover in Mexicali to drive home U.S. concern over Mexico’s $96 billion foreign debt. The U.S. has been urging Mexico to cut government spending and increase private investment. De la Madrid told Reagan that Mexico was making “increasingly strenuous efforts,” but was hampered by factors like the dropping world price of oil. The Mexican President seemed close to endorsing a plan by U.S. Treasury Secretary James Baker that offers debtor nations new low-interest loans in exchange for implementation of free-market policies.

But there was little progress on other bilateral issues. Reagan reiterated his concern over cross-border drug trafficking and his frustration with Mexico’s backing of anti-U.S. resolutions at the United Nations and its support for Nicaragua’s lefist Sandinista regime. De la Madrid reminded Reagan that the U.S. and Mexico must sometimes take separate paths. Said he: “Our political and economic reality cannot be identical.”


With just a month to go before the presidential elections, scheduled for Feb. 7, President Ferdinand Marcos and Opposition Candidate Corazon Aquino last week abandoned all pretense of civility. Marcos denounced Aquino as an “oligarch” and hinted that she has money stashed in foreign bank accounts. Scoffing at Aquino’s vague plans for U.S. military installations at Subic Bay and Clark Air Base after 1991, Marcos accused his rival of playing “political football.” He also charged that Aquino is backed by “pinkos and Communists.”

Aquino responded heatedly. Marcos, she said, was “maliciously slandering” the memory of her husband, slain Opposition Leader Benigno Aquino. She also charged the President with “political harassment,” claiming that for years Marcos has tried to confiscate a sugar plantation owned by her family. Aquino revealed that on Dec. 3, the day she announced her candidacy, a regional court ordered the government to seize the property. As for the “pinko” charge, Aquino had a cool response. If elected, she said, she would allow Communists to join a coalition government if they renounced violence.

NEW ZEALAND He Did It for Love

After France admitted that its intelligence agents had blown up the Greenpeace vessel Rainbow Warrior in Auckland’s harbor last July, relations between Paris and Wellington seemed to hit rock bottom. They were exacerbated even further last week when New Zealand customs officials announced that “enough ammunition to start a small war” had been found on the French-owned cargo vessellie de Lumière when it docked in Auckland. Aboard were some 5,300 high-caliber pistol rounds, automatic weapons parts and two military walkie-talkies.

The cache was evidently earmarked for settlers in the French territory of New Caledonia. More than 20 people have died over the past 14 months in clashes between French settlers and indigenous Melanesians seeking independence from France. The ship’s cook, Michel Four, 29, pleaded guilty to illegal possession of the munitions, but he insisted that profits, not politics, had motivated him. “I need money because I want to marry a young New Zealander,” he told an Auckland court. In Paris, the incident drew yawns. Noted a French official: “A boat has been stopped in New Zealand with several bullets on board.”

RWANDA An Unnatural Death

American Naturalist Dian Fossey often said that she preferred the gentle mountain gorillas she studied and lived among to the people who have made the creatures an endangered species. Perhaps fittingly, she was buried last week in the gorilla graveyard she had carved out of a lush, misty hillside in Rwanda, the central African country where the last of the mountain gorillas live.

Fossey, 53, was found hacked to death by a machete at her isolated camp in the Virunga Mountains, where she had lived on and off since 1967. No arrests have been made, but authorities believe the killer was someone who knew her. Fossey was often at odds with the local population, especially poachers, who sell the heads, hands and feet of mountain gorillas as curios and ashtrays. The rare primates, which have not been able to survive in captivity, now number only about 240. Fossey was a vigilant protector of her research subjects; in 1980 she reportedly abducted the child of a local woman suspected of stealing a baby gorilla, then offered to exchange hostages. Fossey’s violent death bears a sad resemblance to that of another naturalist, Joy Adamson, author of the 1960 best seller Born Free, who was murdered in 1980 at her remote camp in Kenya.

FINLAND More Radio Active Fallout

For thousands of unsuspecting Finnish radio listeners, the bitter cold, snowy Sunday afternoon all of a sudden turned hot. Expecting light entertainment, they instead heard “newscasters” announce that World War III had begun. The West German city of Hamburg had been pulverized by a Soviet nuclear missile, the broadcast said, while radioactive fallout was threatening Finland. Already 500 million people had perished in the first exchanges of a great nuclear conflagration.

Like War of the Worlds, Orson Welles’ famous 1938 radio ruse that convinced thousands of Americans that Martians had invaded New Jersey, the 2½-hour Finnish program was out-and-out fiction, adapted from U.S. Playwright Jan Hartman’s prizewinning play The Next War. Despite several on-air warnings, the Finnish broadcast sparked hours of panic, during which emergency telephone lines were jammed. “I really thought war had come,” said Helsinki Engineer Matti Korponen. Mirjam Polkunen, head of theatrical broadcasting for Radio Finland, promised no such “documentaries” would ever again be aired. Said she: “We didn’t mean to scare anyone.”

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