Archive for February, 2019

Spector murder trial begins

Tuesday, February 5th, 2019

Proceedings commenced four years after an actress who starred in a cult movie was shot to death in the foyer of his castle-like home.


Jurors will be asked to decide if Spector was responsible for the death of Lana Clarkson, who was shot in the face on February 3, 2003.

They will consider conflicting evidence about what happened before police found Clarkson, 40, slumped dead in a chair, her teeth blown out by a gunshot to her mouth.

Clarkson was best known as the star of Roger Corman's cult film Barbarian Queen. She was working as a hostess at the House of Blues when she went home with Spector that night.

The coroner's office called it a homicide – "death by the hand of another" – but also noted that Clarkson had gunshot residue on both of her hands and may have pulled the trigger.

In an email to friends, Spector, 66, called the death "an accidental suicide".

Spector, who created the "wall of sound" that revolutionised the recording of rock music, was present as the first members of a prospective jury pool of 300 people entered the downtown courtroom.

He produced the Beatles' Let It Be album and George Harrison's Concert for Bangladesh, and has been cited as an influence by Bruce Springsteen and countless other artists.

Trial to be televised

Superior Court Judge Larry Paul Fidler has ordered that the trial can be televised, but cameras will not be present for jury selection.

Judge Fidler ordered the potential jurors to appear in court today and tomorrow. Most have already been prescreened by a jury commissioner. Those who survive the two-day session will be given questionnaires that will ask what they know about the highly publicised case and seek to discover whether they hold hidden prejudices that would deny Spector a fair trial.

After tomorrow's session, lawyers will take a one-month break – interrupted only by a pretrial hearing on April 9 – to read the prospective jurors' answers and hone their jury selection strategy. The trial is expected to last three months.

On April 16, the remaining prospects will return for "voir dire", the process in which they are questioned individually by lawyers and the judge. Lawyers will then use challenges to winnow the pool and choose the ultimate jury and alternates.

The jury is expected to be seated by April 30, when opening statements are scheduled to begin and cameras will roll.

Spector's appearance may rivet TV audiences. His theatrical attire usually includes three-inch-high boots, frock coats and outlandish wigs. His New York lawyer, Bruce Cutler, is known for flamboyant speeches in court.

He has pleaded not guilty and has been set free on $US1 million ($A1.2 million) bail since his arrest.

He faces life in prison if convicted.

Cutler said his defence will be simple: "He didn't shoot this woman."

Prosecutors will claim he placed the gun in her mouth and shot her.

Legal experts say that while Spector is a legend in the music business, the celebrity factor on this trial is likely to be minimal because only older members of the public are aware of his impact on pop music in the 1960s.

US 'will help in the Pacific'

Tuesday, February 5th, 2019

President George W Bush has promised New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark that the US will "help in any way we can" to address difficult situations in the Pacific.


Mr Bush and the prime minister, Helen Clark, met today in the White House's Oval Office, followed by lunch together at the White House.

Ms Clark praised US involvement in Pacific affairs, which has increased after a preoccupation with events in the Middle East.

The Bush administration said last week it is working to boost its diplomatic presence in the Pacific islands after years of inadequate attention.

The US State Department is sending two new staff members to the region to work on issues such as AIDS, the environment and increasing islanders' knowledge of US policies.

The State Department also is helping to set up a May conference in Washington among representatives of 23 Pacific states and regions and senior officials from the US departments of state and defence and from the office of the US trade representative.

"The US is focusing on the problems of the South Pacific," Clark said.

"We've had close coordination."

Clark said she "particularly welcomed the president's support for developing a concept of a free trade area of the Asia-Pacific which we have to look at the Sydney APEC summit" later this year.

She said New Zealand was ready to enter into bilateral trade negotiations with the United States with a view to reaching a free trade agreement.

She said cooperation with the United States included addressing the aftermath of a coup by military leaders who seized power in Fiji in December, as well as problems in the Solomon Islands and on Tonga, where a deadly riot destroyed most of the capital in November after the government appointed by the royal family appeared ready to defer a plan to introduce democratic reforms.

"I assured her that our government would want to help in any way we can," Mr Bush said.

"We understand … some of the countries there have got difficult issues, and it requires New Zealand's leadership with US help to help solve the problems, and Australian help, as well."

The United States has acknowledged the key stabilising roles played by the region's two powerhouses, Australia and New Zealand, which have warned consistently the area could become a haven for money launderers, people and arms smugglers, and even terrorists.

The two also discussed attempts to halt nuclear programs in Iran and North Korea.

Ms Clark said New Zealand was prepared to offer support to any energy package that emerges from the six-party talks aimed at getting North Korea to abandon nuclear weapons.

Ms Clark's trip to the US is seen as opening a new phrase in bilateral relations, more than 20 years after military alliances were suspended by a law in New Zealand that banned nuclear weapons and vessels from its territory.

Full military ties have yet to be restored but a thaw was signalled last June after US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and New Zealand Foreign Minister agreed to work on strengthening relations.

Moon turns blood-red

Tuesday, February 5th, 2019

Partly visible on every continent, residents of Europe, Africa and the Middle East had the best view of the phenomenon, weather permitting.


About a dozen people gathered at the Croydon Observatory in southeast London to watch the start of the eclipse.

“It’s starting to go!” said Alex Gikas, 8, a Cub Scout who was studying for his astronomy badge.

“I’ve never seen anything like it before.

“I’m really excited.”

The eclipse – which began just after 2000 GMT (0700 AEDT) – was clearly visible, thanks to clear, crisp weather in southern England.

Lunar eclipses occur when Earth passes between the sun and the moon, an uncommon event because the moon spends most of its time either above or below the plane of Earth’s orbit.

Sunlight still reaches the moon during total eclipses, but it is refracted through Earth’s atmosphere, bathing the moon in an eerie reddish light.

Mike Ealay, a 60-year-old architect, said the deep red colour of the moon made it look like a close-up version of Mars.

“I think it’s quite exciting.

“It’s like having the red planet on your doorstep,” he said.

Despite cloudy conditions over much of Europe, a variety of webcasts carried the event live, and astronomers urged the public not to miss out on the spectacle.

“It’s not an event that has any scientific value, but it’s something everybody can enjoy,” said Robert Massey, of Britain’s Royal Astronomical Society.

Earth’s shadow began moving across the moon at 2018 GMT (0718 AEDT), with the total eclipse occurring at 2244 GMT (0944 AEDT) and lasting over an hour.

Residents of east Asia saw the eclipse cut short by moonset, while those in the eastern parts of North and South America had the moon already partially or totally eclipsed by the time it rose over the horizon in the evening.

While eastern Australia, Alaska and New Zealand missed today’s show, they will have front row seats to the next total lunar eclipse, on August 28.

The NASA Lunar Eclipse Page can be found at: 苏州皮肤管理中心网,

West to 'keep heat on Mugabe'

Tuesday, February 5th, 2019

Both Britain and the United States have called for more sanctions against Mr Mugabe's government because of what they say was a violent crackdown on opposition leaders and the severe economic crisis they blame on state mismanagement.


Zimbabwe Foreign Affairs Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi on Monday warned Western envoys in Harare the government would not hesitate to expel those who backed opposition politics.

"Such threats will not deter the UK from speaking out against the continued misgovernance and human rights abuses in Zimbabwe," a British Foreign Office official told Reuters.

Zimbabwe officials have not said which countries could be targeted for expulsion but they are thought to include Britain, the United States, Australia and Sweden.

Mr Mugabe last week told his Western critics "to go hang" and ordered Mumbengegwi to "read the riot act" to Western envoys.

Police arrested main opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai and 49 others on March 11, accusing them of holding an illegal rally.

Mr Tsvangirai and several others were later hospitalised – they said they had been beaten and tortured in custody.

"With the international community, we are pressing (Mugabe) to reverse course and end human rights abuses and political violence," said British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett.

The European Union recently renewed a range of sanctions including an arms embargo, travel ban and asset freeze on Mr Mugabe and other government officials.

The EU's executive has allocated nearly €3 million euros ($A5 million) for ongoing projects in Zimbabwe that support local democracy, human rights defenders and media monitoring.

"We do not support the opposition as such but (help) so that the opposition and the civil society can express themselves freely," European Commission aid spokesman Amadeu Altafaj said.

"If this is interpreted by the government as supporting the opposition it shows there is something wrong."

Britain is trying to persuade EU colleagues to extend sanctions against Zimbabwe and has demanded direct action against those responsible for Mr Tsvangirai's injuries.

Zimbabwe has been relying on food aid from UN agencies and western powers for the last six years as a result of a sharp drop in agricultural production that critics blame on Mr Mugabe's seizures of white-owned farms for distribution to blacks.

Once southern Africa's bread basket, the country is struggling with inflation of more than 1,700 per cent, frequent food and fuel shortages and unemployment of about 80 per cent.

Britain said the threat to expel envoys would not stop it supporting ordinary Zimbabweans in any way possible, including the delivery of "substantial humanitarian assistance".

US urges South Africa

Meanwhile the US has urged South Africa to help international efforts to end a violent crackdown on the political opposition.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice raised the issue during a phone call with her South African counterpart, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, on Friday, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said.

"One thing we are looking for from the South African government is to lend their voice to efforts to stop the political violence that is ongoing in Zimbabwe," Mr McCormack said.

South Africa, the regional powerhouse, has been widely criticised for not doing more to curb the crackdown.

It has long pursued a policy of "quiet diplomacy" towards its northern neighbour, and has called for Zimbabwe to respect the rights of all its citizens but the comments stop short of expressions of outrage.

'Mugabe at tipping point'

The US ambassador to Zimbabwe says President Mugabe has reached a tipping point in Zimbabwe because the people no longer fear the regime and believe they have nothing left to lose.

Christopher Dell said in an interview with the Associated Press that the government and the party were in disarray, could no longer govern effectively and that growing numbers within the regime and the party wanted Mr Mugabe to step down.

Many of the elements often associated with a coup or revolution are present in Zimbabwe, said Mr Dell, who stressed he was not advocating or predicting any violent overthrow of the government.

But he noted there was disaffection within the ruling party, the military and a split in security forces. The economy is in freefall and the people believe the government is taking away their last hope.

Jury into Diana's death

Tuesday, February 5th, 2019

Three senior judges at London's High Court overturned a decision by the deputy royal coroner that she would sit without a jury in determining what caused the deaths of the pair in an August 1997 car crash in Paris.


Lawyers for Mohamed al Fayed challenged Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss' decision to sit alone, arguing that this would give the appearance of impropriety.

Mr Al Fayed's legal team had pressed the judge to call a jury, saying it was the only way the public would be satisfied that proper care was taken over the issues

surrounding the crash.

The judges decided that the coroner would hear the inquest and "shall do so sitting with a jury".

At a hearing earlier this month, the lawyer for Paris' Ritz Hotel – owned by al Fayed and site of some of the couple's final moments – argued that because Butler-Sloss had been the deputy coroner of the Queen's Household, there would be the perception that she "lacked independence," to assess the allegation that Diana

and Fayed had been murdered.

The appearance of independence and impartiality was important "when the death under investigation is the death of a royal princess, mother of a future king, in controversial circumstances, and where royal princes and the royal princess' sister are interested persons," said Michael Beloff, the Ritz lawyer.

Mr Beloff also complained that Butler-Sloss had been involved in a police investigation, which concluded the couple's death was a tragic accident.

"She cannot sit. If she can, she should not. If she does, she must not sit without a jury," Mr Beloff said during the earlier hearing.

Mr Butler-Sloss is a former judge and member of the House of Lords, who had wanted to sit alone because she believed a jury would find it difficult to cope with the volume and detail of the evidence.

The inquest will delve into technical matters on the crash, creating a video simulation and expert testimony.

The inquests could begin only after the investigations into the August 1997 deaths of Diana and Fayed was complete.

A two-year French investigation, a three year Metropolitan Police inquiry in

Britain and repeated legal action by al Fayed have delayed the inquest by nearly 10 years.

Russia poison victims fly home

Tuesday, February 5th, 2019

A US Embassy spokesman identified the women as Marina Kovalevsky and her daughter, Yana.


Russian authorities were investigating when and how the women were exposed to the poison, a spokesman said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of embassy rules.

Moscow police declined to comment, but the Ekho Moskvy radio reported police were investigating cafes and restaurants in the area of the hotel where the women had been staying.

The hospital where they have been treated since falling ill on February 24 said this morning that they were in moderately serious condition and Moscow's top public health doctor, Nikolai Filatov, was quoted by the RIA-Novosti news agency as saying that thallium poisoning had been confirmed.

Marina, 49, and Yana, 26, are Soviet-born and emigrated to the United States in 1989. They have visited Russia repeatedly since then, relatives and colleagues said.

In West Hollywood, California, where Marina Kovalevsky opened an internal medicine practice some six or seven years ago, there is a large Russian-speaking immigrant community.

Relatives said she left for Moscow on February 14 to attend a friend's party.

A colleague, Dr Arkady Stern, told reporters that Marina Kovalevsky left Los Angeles "in a good state of health, in good spirits".

Dr Stern said that after it was suspected that she was poisoned, she was given dialysis and took an antidote called "Prussian Blue" and her condition began to improve.

He said that since both had the same symptoms, it led to the suspicion that they were poisoned but he believed it was "some sort of tragic mistake".

There was no indication of whether the women had business or political interests in Russia that could have made them a target for poisoning.

How the two may have ingested the poison – a colourless, tasteless substance that can be fatal in doses of as little as one gram – was not clear.

Thallium is a reputed poison of choice for assassins. It was initially suspected to be the toxin used in last year's fatal poisoning in London of former Russian security agent Alexander Litvinenko, but it was later determined he had ingested the rare radioactive isotope polonium-210.

For poisoning purposes, thallium would be in a powdery or crystallised state. The poison works by knocking out the body's supply of potassium, essential for healthy cells, and attacking the nervous system, the stomach and kidneys.

Its effects are not immediately noticeable and frequently take weeks to kick in; symptoms include hair loss and a burning sensation in extremities.

In the past, thallium has been used in rat poison and it continues to be used industrially to manufacture products including glass lenses, semiconductors, dyes and pigments.

Thallium was used by Saddam Hussein, who poisoned several of his Iraqi opponents. It also reportedly was considered by the CIA for use against Fidel Castro, possibly by putting thallium powder in his shoes to prompt loss of his trademark beard.

Congress imposes Iraq timeline

Tuesday, February 5th, 2019

This is a victory for Democrats in an epic war-power struggle and Congress’s boldest challenge yet to the administration’s policy.


Ignoring a White House veto threat, lawmakers voted 218-212, mostly along party lines, for a war spending bill requiring that combat operations cease before September next year, or earlier if the Iraqi government does not meet certain requirements.

Democrats said it was time to heed the mandate of their election sweep over the Republicans last November, which gave them control of Congress.

“The American people have lost faith in the president’s conduct of this war,” said the leader of the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi. “The American people see the reality of the war, the president does not.”

The vote, echoing clashes between legislators and the White House over the Vietnam War four decades ago, pushed the Democratic-led Congress a step closer to a constitutional collision with the wartime commander-in-chief. Bush has insisted legislators allow more time for his strategy of sending nearly 30,000 additional troops to Iraq to work.

The roll call also marked a triumph for Pelosi, who laboured in recent days to bring together a Democratic caucus deeply divided over the war. Some of the party’s more liberal members voted against the bill because they said it would not end the war immediately, while more conservative Democrats said they were reluctant to take away flexibility from generals in the field.

Republicans were almost completely unified in their fight against the bill, which they said was tantamount to admitting failure in Iraq.

“The stakes in Iraq are too high and the sacrifices made by our military personnel and their families too great to be content with anything but success,” said a Republican leader, Roy Blunt.

A budget to end the war

The bill marks the first time Congress has used its budget power to try to end the war, now in its fifth year, by attaching the withdrawal requirements to a bill providing $US124 billion ($A154 billion) to finance military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan for the rest of this year.

Excluding the funds in the House-passed bill, Congress has so far provided more than $US500 billion ($A621 billion) for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, including about $US350 billion ($A435 billion) for Iraq alone, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service. More than 3,200 US troops and more than 50,000 Iraqis have died in Iraq since war began in March 2003.

In the Senate, lawmakers planned to debate as early as Monday legislation that also calls for a troop withdrawal — and has also drawn a Bush veto threat.

That $US122-billion ($A152 billion) measure would require that George Bush begin bringing home an unspecified number of troops within four months, with the goal of getting all combat troops out by March 31 next year. Unlike the House bill’s 2008 date, the Senate deadline is not a firm requirement.

While today’s House vote represented Democrats’ latest ratcheting up of political pressure on Mr Bush, they still face long odds of ultimately being able to force a troop withdrawal.

In the Senate, Democratic leaders will need 60 votes to prevail — a tall order because they will need about a dozen Republicans to join them.

And, should lawmakers send President Bush a compromise House-Senate measure, both chambers would need two-thirds majorities to override him — margins that neither seems likely to be able to muster.

Children die in NYC fire

Tuesday, February 5th, 2019

An extended family of Malian immigrants screamed for help in the night, and one woman tossed children from a second-floor window to try to save them, witnesses and authorities said today.


Among the dead were 7-month-old twins and boys ages 4 and 9, according to authorities and relatives.

A woman in her 40s also died, and 10 people were hospitalised.

Twenty-two members of the extended family from the impoverished west African nation lived in the three-story house, which was located near Yankee Stadium in the borough of the Bronx, the mayor said.

A space heater or an overloaded power strip may have started the blaze, the city’s deadliest since a 1990 nightclub fire, not including the Sept. 11 attacks, he said.

Outside the charred house, neighbours described how a woman had hurled children from the windows amid the blaze.

“All I see is just a big cloud of white dust and out of nowhere comes the first baby,” said Edward Soto, who caught the child.

He said he caught a second child moments later as screams of “help me, help me” were coming from the house.

Among the dead, according to family members, were Fatoumata Soumare and her three children: a son, Dgibril, and 7-month-old twins, Sisi and Harouma.

Their father, Mamadou Soumara, was driving his cab in Manhattan when he received a frantic phone call from his wife.

“She said, ‘We have a fire!’” Mr Soumara recalled.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do.

“I love her.

“I love my wife.”

Mr Soumara rushed to the building, arriving to see his children trapped inside but unable to help them.

Five children from another family perished in the blaze while their father was visiting their homeland.

Mousa Majassa, an official of the New York-based High Council for Malians Living Abroad, was headed back to New York after receiving the grim news that nearly half of his 11 children were dead, said council representative Bourema Niambele.

The fire destroyed the basement and first floor of the home.

The smell of smoke lingered hours afterward at the house.

Windows of the home were broken out, parts of the building were scorched and charred rubble was piled on the front porch.

The fire was brought under control about two hours after it began on Thursday.

Emergency workers wrapped children in blankets and rushed them away from the fire.

Adding to the misery, the victims were displaced on one of the coldest nights of the year.

Neighbour Elaine Martin was one of the first to discover the fire.

Child victims compound grief

A shoeless woman in a nightgown was on the street, shivering in the blistering cold and frantically worrying about her children.

“My kids is in there, my kids is in there,” Ms Martin quoted the woman as saying.

Mr Bloomberg said there were as many as 19 injuries, including four firefighters and an emergency medical worker.

The mayor said other residents of the house were seriously injured.

“It’s obviously terrible for anyone to perish like this,” Mr Bloomberg said.

“It just seems more painful and more unfair when children die.

“When children die, everyone around them seems to die a little as well.”

Five of the children, ranging in age from two to seven were taken to the Jacobi Medical Centre with smoke inhalation and burns, said hospital spokesman Michael Heller.

One of the victims – an infant less than a year old – died at there, he said.

Others were taken to other area hospitals.

Neighbours said at least one of the families ran an import-export business, and a public records search lists African American Import Export at the address.

Mozambique blast kills 72

Tuesday, February 5th, 2019

Ivo Garrido said that at least 300 people were injured.


Garrido said the casualties included military personnel working on the site and civilians living in nearby houses.

The cause of the blast, which occurred late yesterday afternoon, was still unknown.

One possibility was the searing heat, which was blamed for a smaller explosion at the depot in January when three people were injured.

Several thousand people spent the night on the streets in downtown Maputo, unable to return to their homes in the poor neighbourhood near the ammunitions depot, which was sealed off by police.

A few people tried to return to their homes today as the fire had been brought under control.

President Armando Guebuza cancelled a one-day visit to South Africa. He appeared on television late yesterday to appeal for calm.

The area was sealed off by police as scenes of panic unfolded in the capital.

Downtown streets were filled with people fleeing the area, with hundreds preparing to sleep rough because they were unable to return to their homes and others desperately searching for loved ones.

At the height of the inferno, some city centre windows were shattered by the intense heat. Buildings also shook with the impact of the explosions.

The national armoury is used to store weapons and ammunition, including some from Mozambique's long civil war.

Guebuza said the military was working to determine the cause of the blasts.

Mozambique, an impoverished southern African nation still recovering from a long civil war, has been battered by natural disasters this year.

Aid agencies have credited Mozambique's good emergency response system with limiting the casualties.

Heavy rains have inundated much of the country since January, causing flooding and prompting tens of thousands of people to be evacuated from their homes.

A cyclone hit coastal resorts last month, killing 12 people and battering the nation's fledgling tourist industry. And earlier this week, more homes on the coast were evacuated and sea defences breached by exceptionally high tides.

The southern part of Mozambique, which includes Maputo, is in the grip of a fierce drought and blistering heat wave.

Temperatures in the capital yesterday reached 35 degrees Celsius.

Bush's tour to Guatemala

Tuesday, February 5th, 2019

But his arch-nemesis, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, was again close by, in neighbouring Nicaragua, blasting "the North American empire" and its "chief" for alleged attempts to stomp out revolutionary movements in Latin America.


Several key streets in the centre of the Guatemalan capital and a highway leading to an air force base where the US presidential plane landed were closed to traffic as part of massive security measures introduced by the Guatemalan government.

Later, Mr Bush will visit a Mayan agricultural cooperative in the town of Chirijuyu, which specialises in growing vegetables for export to the United States, and meet with Mr Berger.

The US president said on Saturday that the United States must help people like members of the Guatemalan cooperative build a better life for their families.

"By doing so, we will increase living standards for all our citizens, strengthen democracy in our hemisphere, and advance the cause of peace," he said in his weekly radio address.

Mr Berger, officials said, was likely to ask Bush to impose a temporary moratorium on deportations of Guatemalans living in the United States illegally as the Bush administration and Congress try to work out a more lasting solution to the illegal immigration problem.


Meanwhile, demonstrators protested Mr Bush's visit to Guatemala in front of the US Embassy in Guatemala City.

More than 100 Mayan Indian were holding signs reading: "No more blood for oil."

The group staged the demonstration in the municipality of Tecpan, about 90 kilometres from the capital Guatemala City where Bush arrived from Colombia as part of his five-nation Latin American tour.

The Mayans are angry that Bush will be visiting the sacred Iximche archaeological site.

After the US leader leaves, Mayan priests plan a spiritual cleansing to get rid of the "evil spirits" they believe Bush will bring.

"He's someone who has financed the genocide of many parts of the works, like in the Middle East," protester Jorge Morales said.

Iximche, 50 kilometres west of Guatemala City, was founded as the capital of the Kaqchiqueles kingdom before the Spanish conquest in 1524.

Bush's visit to Colombia

In Colombia, Bush expressed his full support for the turmoil-torn country, which he called "a strategic partner of the United States".

But just 1.5km from the presidential palace where Bush held talks with conservative Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, clashes left four police and two protesters injured, after 5,000 demonstrators marched in the capital to protest US policies, newswire agency AFP reports.

Police said 120 demonstrators were arrested.

The US president strongly defended a $US700 million ($A896 million) a year aid program for Colombia destined to support efforts to combat drug trafficking and a decades-old insurgency.

He also stressed he would press for congressional approval of a bilateral free trade agreement.

The protests that also greeted Mr Bush in Brazil and Uruguay reflected widespread anti-US sentiment in the region, where several leftist leaders opposed to his policies have been elected or re-elected in recent years.

Mr Bush admitted during his trip there were perceptions the United States had turned its back on Latin America, but insisted that was not the case, and stressed his tour meant to demonstrate US goodwill toward the region.

From Guatemala, Bush will travel to Mexico, the last leg of his five-nation tour.

Bush and Chavez

Venezuela's President Chavez, determined to protect recent leftist gains in Latin America, showed up in Nicaragua, where he accused Washington of trying to destabilise governments trying to assert their independence from the United States.

"The North American empire is trying to snuff out the flame of liberty," declared the Venezuelan president upon his arrival in Managua.

"It uses its reactionary politics of interference, invasions, assassinations and genocide and is trying to foment coups d'etat."

Mr Chavez has shadowed Mr Bush practically since the beginning of his trip.

When President Bush was in Uruguay on Friday, Mr Chavez held a massive anti-American rally in neighbouring Argentina.

When Mr Bush flew to Colombia on Sunday, the Venezuelan leader popped up in Bolivia, delivering a series of new anti-American tirades.

Now in Managua, Venezuelan President Chavez insisted Washington will not be able to stem the revolutionary tide because "the empire is weakening and nearing its twilight".