A federal grand jury is investigating charges that private citizens illegally shipped weapons disguised as humanitarian aid to US-backed rebels in Nicaragua, officials said Wednesday. Informed sources said the probe, initiated last month, focuses on allegations that at least one load of an estimated six tons of arms was flown to Central America from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood Airport in March 1985. The shipment, including automatic rifles and mortars, was gathered in the Miami-area homes of two Cuban exiles, both veterans of the Bay of Pigs invasion, informed sources said. The men enlisted the aid of American friends to load the arms onto a cargo plane, whose manifest said it carried ``humanitarian'' aid to the contras, the sources said.
The grand jury is looking for possible violations of neutrality laws, which forbid private citizens from mounting military operations from US territory. The shipments may also have been made at a time when Congress had banned military aid to the contras.
Argentina, Brazil launch economic integration plan
Presidents Ra'ul Alfons'in of Argentina and Jos'e Sarney of Brazil signed 20 accords Wednesday launching an ambitious economic integration effort that has been on the drawing boards for over a year. Among the accords was one listing 300 capital goods that as of 1987 will be freed from all forms of duties, marking a rapid advance toward the common market in capital goods that is at the heart of the bilateral effort. The two governments aim at promoting a $2 billion trade in capital goods over the next four years.
The accords also called for the establishment of a $200 million binational investment fund, the creation of $200 million in commercial credits, and broad-sweeping cooperation in the nuclear field, where the two nations have the top technology in Latin America.
Korean opposition party plans to continue boycott
South Korea's main opposition party said yesterday it would continue its boycott of parliament after failing to break a political deadlock with President Chun Doo Hwan's ruling party. A spokesman for the New Korea Democratic Party said the party had considered returning to the National Assembly, from which it withdrew after an opposition rally was foiled by police Nov. 29, in a bid to break the deadlock over constitutional reform. He said party executives dropped the idea after the ruling Democratic Justice Party unilaterally passed a labor bill in a parliamentary committee Wednesday. The Democratic Justice Party said it went ahead with parliamentary business unilaterally because the parliamentary session is due to end next week.
Rioting over food spreads toward Zambian capital
Rioting and looting sparked by a 120 percent increase last Friday in the price of refined cornmeal has spread south from Zambia's copper belt toward the capital, Lusaka, the state-owned Zambia Daily Mail said yesterday. Although police and troops moved into the copper mining area on Zambia's northern border with Zaire to quell disturbances there Wednesday, the food riots spread south to Kabwe and Kipiri Mposhi, a vital railway junction, the newspaper said. The Zambia Daily Mail said 11 people had been killed in the protests.
NATO general thinks US will not reappoint him
Gen. Bernard Rogers has said he will probably be forced by the White House to retire as NATO military commander next year despite strong support from Western Europe for another two years in the post. ``I frankly don't expect that the United States will reappoint me'' as commander of US forces in Europe, a prerequisite to holding the top NATO post, he told reporters after a congressional hearing on arms control on Wednesday. He would not elaborate further. General Rogers has been critical of the US stance in nuclear arms negotiations but is one the most popular NATO commander since Dwight Eisenhower at the end of World War II.
Uruguay brought to a halt as labor federation strikes
Uruguay's public and private sectors were all but shut down yesterday as the local trade union federation staged a general strike in sympathy with striking workers at two state companies. The strike came amid growing tension between unions and President Julio Sanguinetti's 20-month-old government, stemming from a series of labor stoppages at the state energy monopoly, ANCAP, and the state telephone company, ANTEL.
Nicaraguan court upholds 30-year Hasenfus term
A Nicaraguan court confirmed a 30-year jail sentence yesterday for US citizen Eugene Hasenfus for running guns to antigovernment rebels. The president of the People's Tribunal said it was satisfied that guilt had been proved. The sentence was originally handed down Nov. 15 but was subject to a review which could have shortened or lengthened it.
Iran-contra update. Probers on Hill still trace web
The House Foreign Affairs Committee completed its hearings yesterday while the Senate Intelligence Committee continued the complex task of fitting together the jigsaw of the Reagan administration's arms sales to Iran and the funneling of the profits to Nicaraguan rebels. ``The puzzle is very far from complete, very far,'' Larry Smith, a Florida Democrat, said after the House committee questioned Central Intelligence Agency Director William Casey in secret session for more than five hours Wednesday. Mr. Casey also testified before the committee twice yesterday.
According to reports published Thursday in the Washington Post citing congressional sources, Casey testified the first time he learned of profits from the sale of arms to Iran being diverted to the Nicaraguan contras was on Oct. 7 from New York businessman Roy Furmark, who also told him that Canadian financiers had put up $20 million in hopes of making large profits from the Iran arms sales.
The paper said Casey reported Furmark's account to national-security adviser John Poindexter, about Oct. 8, and also began an in-house investigation in the CIA to find out the extent of its involvement. Government sources told the Associated Press yesterday that Casey said he first heard officially about money diverted to the contras from Attorney General Edwin Meese III six weeks later.
In other recent developments:
The former Philippine armed forces chief, Gen. Fabian Ver, took part in a plan to keep Secretary of State George Shultz from learning US weapons were being sent to Iran, the San Francisco Examiner reported yesterday. The newspaper quoted a Justice Department source as saying General Ver signed false certificates in late 1985 and early this year indicating the arms were being delivered to the Philippines.
The State Department said a second American diplomat, David Ransom, the charg'e d'affaires of the American Embassy in Damascus, Syria, had been called home to discuss his actions in the affair.
All eight Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats took the unusual step of asking a three-judge federal court to broaden the scope of the independent counsel's mandate to include a review of the entire aid program for the contra rebels.