World

World Notes

May 8 2000
World

World Notes

May 8 2000

World Notes

Fallout from the Elián case

Miami police Chief William O’Brien resigned amid turmoil over what role city police played in the raid in which federal officials seized Cuban refugee Elián González. Miami Mayor Joe Carollo ordered his city manager, Donald Warshaw, to fire O’Brien for failing to tell him when the raid was about to take place. When Warshaw refused to do so, Carollo dismissed him. With a showdown between the mayor and city council looming over the issue, O’Brien resigned, saying the “healing has to start in Miami.”

Mixed signs in Zimbabwe

Chenjerai Hunzvi, leader of the land occupation movement in Zimbabwe, ordered his followers to end the violence plaguing the country. But the next day, he and 2,000 supporters demonstrated to denounce the country’s opposition. Five people, including two white farmers, have died in confrontations as veterans of Zimbabwe’s war of independence have moved onto white-owned farms. Britain has offered $85 million to buy disputed land and distribute it to blacks—but only when the violence ends.

Porn star’s lovers guilty

Former Wall Street executive James McDermott was convicted of giving insider information on bank stocks to his former lover, Canadian-born porn star Kathryn Gannon. A Manhattan jury found McDermott and co-defendant Anthony Pomponio, a New Jersey businessman who was also involved with Gannon, guilty on seven of eight counts of securities fraud. U.S. authorities are trying to extradite Gannon.

Axworthy lashes out

Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy came out swinging against Washingtons plans to proceed with a North American missile defence system. Speaking at a UN conference on nuclear non-proliferation, Axworthy said Canada’s security interests would be best served by arms control—and that the U.S. plans would contravene the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty signed by the Soviet Union and the United States in 1972.

Drugs and death in Vietnam

In the end, all the protests and pleas made no difference. Last week, a Vietnamese firing squad gagged and blindfolded a Canadian mother of two and executed her for drug trafficking. Nguyen Thi Hiep, 43, had been sentenced to death in a Hanoi court in 1997 after she and her mother, Tran Thi Cam, were arrested the year before for smuggling heroin. Tran, 75, was sentenced to prison, where she remains. Nguyen, who was born in Vietnam and became a Canadian citizen in 1982, always maintained their innocence.

Meanwhile, supporters in Canada, believing the two were unsuspecting mules for an organized drug ring, lobbied on their behalf. They persuaded both Prime Minister Jean Chrétien and U.S. President Bill Clinton to plead for clemency. And in fact, the Vietnamese government agreed to postpone the execution last November and receive new information from police in Nguyen’s home town of Toronto. Then, without warning, the Vietnamese went ahead with the execution, leaving Nguyen’s family devastated.

“I hate the Vietnamese government because they broke their promises,” her youngest son, Tu Le, 21, told a Toronto news conference. “They are so cruel.”

Canadas reaction was immediate. Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy said the two countries could not conduct “business as usual.” Ambassador to Vietnam Cécile Latour, who was in Canada when the execution took place, was withdrawn to Ottawa indefinitely. Axworthy, who was in Ghana last week, also said Canada is withdrawing its offer to help Vietnamese officials in their efforts to join the World Trade Organization. Hanoi, however, remained unapologetic (Vietnam, where trafficking as little as 100 g of heroin is punishable by death or life imprisonment, has sentenced

57 people to death so far this year for drug offences). Vietnam’s ambassador to Ottawa, Trinh QuangThanh, said his country was free to punish Nguyen according to its laws. “It is not that we are not human,” he said. “We have to uphold the law or things will break apart uncontrollably.”

The Nguyen family’s tragedy began to unfold on April, 25, 1996, when the

seamstress and her mother were arrested at Hanoi airport after customs officials found 5.5 kg of heroin inside five lacquer paintings they were carrying. The women originally said a stranger had given them $ 100 to transport the artwork to Canada. Nguyen later said a man named Hien had asked her to bring the paintings to Canada and deliver them to Phu Van Hoa, a friend of her husband. Two Toronto policemen, Det. Carl Noll and Const. John Green, saw striking similarities with another investigation. In that case, a woman returning from Vietnam had been arrested at Toronto airport after heroin was found inside four paintings also intended for Phu. As a result of her testimony, Phu was sentenced to 14 years in prison.