Another Economy Minister Falls in Brazil

ECONOMY Minister Rubens Ricupero told a news conference Sunday that he had resigned due to comments overheard by televison viewers, which have thrown Brazil's politics into disarray one month before elections.

Mr. Ricupero said he was quitting after boasting to a television reporter that he was using an anti-inflation plan to boost presidential front-runner Fernando Henrique Cardoso.

``My weaknesses cannot be allowed to harm that which is most important at this moment, which is the success'' of the economic plan, Ricupero said.

A presidential spokesman said President Itamar Franco had named Ceara State Governor Ciro Gomes as the new economy minister. Mr. Gomes will be Brazil's sixth economy minister since Mr. Franco took office in late 1992.

Analysts said the gaffe had given new hope to leftist Luis Inacio ``Lula'' da Silva of the Worker Party, who is trailing Mr. Cardoso by 22 points in polls ahead of the Oct. 3 elections. He now could force Cardoso into a second-round runoff in November.

The plan to stabilize the economy, the world's ninth-largest, was designed by Cardoso, Ricupero's predesessor. The plan has lowered inflation to 2 percent in August from 50 percent in June, and Cardoso has surged in polls with its success. Rebels keep up protest in Chiapas

THOUSANDS of peasants blocked roads Sunday in the southern state of Chiapas in continuing protests over suspicions of fraud in the election for governor.

The protesters stopped traffic and stranded hundreds of travelers.

In this town near the edge of rebel-held territory and about 10 miles from the Guatemala border, 20 armed soldiers protected the city hall against a feared takeover.

The Zapatistas, a prominent Roman Catholic bishop, and a new confederation of peasant, union, and political groups have all called for peaceful protests against Governor-elect Eduardo Robledo Rincon of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party. Mr. Robledo's election victory Aug. 21 has been challenged by opposition candidates.

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