What the foreign papers are saying.
March 18 1998 3:30 AM

The Bangkok Post leads with good news from Thai Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai's recent visit to Washington. Chuan's three-day official visit resulted in a promise from President Clinton of $1.7 billion in aid. Clinton also pledged to "support Thai exports, provide technical assistance to some state agencies and ease the financial woes of Thai students in the U.S. caused by the baht depreciation." The Post reports that Leekpai "won big applause" from the Thai public and "made his enemies envious."


The Toronto Sun identifies a growing rift between the United States and Canada. Canadian companies (e.g., Labatt's Brewery, a major mining firm, and a major biotech company) are investing heavily in Cuba. Winners: 1) the Canadian firms, which enjoy inexpensive labor and warm relations with Fidel Castro; 2) Cuban workers in Canadian employ, who earn comparatively huge salaries and get paid in much-treasured American dollars; and 3) Canadian tourists, who take cheap vacations in a newly cordial Cuba. Losers: American companies, handcuffed by the Helms-Burton Act's outlawing of trade with Cuba. The U.S. government harshly condemns Canada's Cuban investments, and several large Canadian firms with U.S. ties have stayed out of Cuba for fear of reprisals from the United States.

The Buenos Aires Herald reports on the retirement speech of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, who had continued to head Chile's army. Under the headline "Don't cry for me, Chile," the Herald notes that Pinochet shed tears during his farewell address. Pinochet's speech "tried to justify his decision to seize control of Chile." Explaining away the 3,000 deaths and disappearances during his 17 year reign, the 82-year-old Pinochet said: "The possibility of Chile's self-destruction was evident. The Armed Forces had to act given these circumstances." Before he left the podium, Pinochet announced, "Mission accomplished." Soon after his speech, a violent protest broke out, during which police arrested 48 people.

Germany's Berliner Morgenpost reports on recent ground-shaking elections in Lower Saxony. The Social Democratic Party dominated voting, and candidate Gerhard Schröder emerged as a powerful contender for the German chancellorship. Current Chancellor Helmut Kohl showed grave concern, but the Morgenpost notes that "a lot can happen before Sept. 27," the date of the general election. The Morgenpost also runs an interview with American media mogul/billionaire Michael Bloomberg, who is launching a business-TV program in Germany. When asked how Germany can solve its current economic slump, Bloomberg tells Germans, "I don't know anyone who is successful and doesn't work at least 12 hours a day on five or six days a week. ... You have to be more competitive--only then will you be able to celebrate with the family. ... If Germany still wants to be the strong man in Europe, then Germans will have to work harder."

Astory in the Johannesburg Star proves that political upheaval makes for strange bedfellows: "South Africa and Russia, both faced with rampant crime after political transformation, have pooled their resources and knowledge in a bid to enhance their crime-fighting abilities." The liaison will involve joint training sessions, the sharing of criminal dossiers, and cooperative investigations centering on money laundering and the trafficking of firearms, drugs, diamonds, gold, and uranium.

Top stories in the Prague Post cover the Czech Republic's impending NATO inclusion. An article credits grass-roots movements with selling the Czech public on NATO expansion. Approval had lingered between 35 percent and 45 percent, with little help from government leaders. A frustrated collection of journalists, activists, and celebrities then began a major media campaign explaining the benefits of NATO inclusion, boosting public support to about 60 percent. An editorial warns that NATO admission is "not a panacea." NATO will have a rough road "making new friends out of old enemies," and sharing government information with the Czechs, Poles, and Hungarians will prove "a prickly issue for some time to come, no matter how trustworthy Prague, Warsaw and Budapest appear to be." (A Slate "Dialogue" on NATO expansion pits Strobe Talbott against Jack Matlock.)

Egypt's Middle East Times often arrives at newsstands with blank spaces where articles should be. Why? Egypt's government censors have been at work. On its Web site, however, the Times posts an archive of censored articles. A sidebar explains, "We are generally not allowed to do the following things: Report on human rights abuses. Criticize the president or his family. Criticize the military. Point out the ill-treatment of Egyptians in 'friendly' Arab countries, especially in Saudi Arabia. Discuss modern, unorthodox interpretations of Islam. Report on discrimination against Coptic Christians."

The Antarctic Sentinal reports from the Falkland Islands that NASA will soon be using Antarctic outposts to train potential Mars travelers, because the region offers isolated, freezing, rocky conditions, replicating a possible Mars mission, on which astronauts could be sequestered with a small group for long periods in a harsh environment.