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News Briefs I

Clinton Urges Patience in Kosovo

THE WASHINGTON POST -- NORFOLK, Va.

President Clinton, facing perhaps the gravest military challenge of his presidency, came to a major naval base Thursday to thank those in the armed services and to urge public perseverance in the battle against Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic’s forces.

Clinton received a warm welcome in a giant hangar, but his message was complicated by his administration’s ongoing struggle to fulfill its mission in Yugoslavia and by military families’ unhappiness over low pay, poor housing and long periods of separation.

Before speaking to several hundred people at the Norfolk Naval Station, Clinton met privately with 18 spouses and children of enlisted personnel deployed in the Balkans, the Persian Gulf and elsewhere. There he heard blunt complaints, “steeped in candor,” about the frustrations of military life, according to officers who attended.

One mother, the wife of a full-time military employee, told Clinton she is drawing welfare benefits because her husband’s pay is so low. “As a patriot ... she felt that that was wrong, and she made that crystal clear to the president,” said Adm. Paul Reason, who described the scene to reporters. In his speech in the hangar, Clinton praised the group’s frankness and noted that his new defense budget calls for “a substantial pay raise” for military personnel. He has proposed a 4.4 percent pay hike, although Congress is moving to approve an even larger increase.


Hopes Rise in Paraguay

THE WASHINGTON POST -- ASUNCION, Paraguay

As snipers’ bullets rained down from rooftops in this South American capital, Carlos Dario Candido, 21, clutched the arm of his university buddy Victor Hugo Molas and ran. Thousands of other students who had turned out for an anti-government rally last weekend scurried around them in panic. Seconds later, Candido felt Molas’ body violently lurch away from him, landing hard with a thump on the grass. Amid the screams and trampling feet, Candido bent down and held his friend, who died in his arms.

The sniper attack -- widely believed to have been carried out by henchmen of a renegade ex-general who was supported by Paraguay’s president -- killed Molas and four other students and wounded dozens more. The deadliest incident here since this small, insular nation emerged from decades of dictatorship in 1989, it launched a campaign of violence that many Paraguayans saw as a thinly veiled attempt to return this nation to authoritarian rule.

But as Candido told his story while holding his friend’s bloodstained shirt, the student said he believed Molas’ sacrifice had helped his nation pass yet another test in its troubled transition to democracy. “Victor would have been proud to die if it meant we would finally get some kind of justice and democracy here,” Candido said.


Mexican Governor Disappears

THE WASHINGTON POST -- MEXICO CITY

A state governor under investigation for alleged ties to Mexico’s most powerful drug cartel has disappeared just days before police were expected to seek his arrest for drug trafficking and money laundering, according to law enforcement officials here. Gov. Mario Villanueva of the Yucatan Peninsula state of Quintana Roo had been under police surveillance but apparently eluded the agents who were tailing him, an official here said. Villanueva’s six-year term, during which he, as a sitting governor, has immunity from prosecution, ends Monday, and the Mexican media and law enforcement officials suggested Wednesday that he may have gone into hiding or fled the country to avoid arrest. If Villanueva, a member of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), were to flee Mexico and evade charges, it would be a stunning blow to the country’s justice system. For decades, corruption at the highest levels of Mexico’s federal and state governments has been well documented, but few have ever been held accountable.