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News Briefs

Quebec's Separatist Movement Loses Steam Amid Infighting

Los Angeles Times

During his successful campaign for Quebec premier last fall, separatist candidate Jacques Parizeau repeatedly compared the drive for Quebec independence to a hockey game; the match, he would say, was headed into the third and final period.

Just six months later, to carry the metaphor forward, one could say it's halfway through the third period and Coach Parizeau is two goals behind. Moreover, some of the players are openly challenging his strategy.

While the political dismemberment of Canada - America's largest and most reliable trading partner - remains a possibility, a triumph now by Quebec's separatists would be seen as a startling upset rather than the resolute march forward they envisioned not long ago.

Polls in the mostly Francophone province of about 6.8 million consistently find no more than 40 percent to 45 percent of voters ready to embrace "sovereignty" - the deliberately ambiguous term favored by the separatists - and Parizeau has been unable to lift the numbers.

He conceded as much last week with the announcement that his long-promised provincial referendum on independence will be held in the fall - or later - rather than in May or June, as he had originally hoped.

Fujimori Basks in Response Of Peruvian Voters

The Washington Post
LIMA, Peru

To be compared to Chile's former dictator, Gen. Augusto Pinochet, may be considered insulting in some democratic circles, but when newly re-elected President Alberto Fujimori, or "El Chinochet" as he is sometimes called, was confronted with this analogy, the response was surprising and revealing.

Hardly offended, the president smiled broadly and even responded by volunteering the Chinochet moniker, which is a play on "El Chino," a nickname of the president even though his parentage is Japanese.

"What Peru needed," Fujimori said at a news conference Sunday night, describing his first five years in power, "was order, discipline, the principle of authority and leadership, administration, honesty. I don't know if Gen. Pinochet has these characteristics."

The parallel between the power of a re-elected Peruvian president and Pinochet - the totalitarian leader who seized power in 1973 and who is now widely credited with setting Chile's house in order - is not as outrageous as it may seem. Fujimori's landslide victory Sunday and the unexpected triumph of his party in Congress - it now has a comfortable majority in the 120-seat legislature - have given him what some observers Monday called unprecedented powers for a democratically elected leader.

His triumph at the polls, the collapse of Peru's traditional parties and the reality of an already centralized government make Fujimori a maximum leader. The target of international criticism for having disbanded Congress and suspended the constitution in 1992, Fujimori and his authoritarian approach to governing now have been validated by popular vote.