International Papers

Stairway to Paradise


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As is always the case in countries about to receive a visit from the president of the United States, the Chilean press was obsessed with the preparations for Bill Clinton’s arrival there Thursday. The daily La Tercera led Wednesday with a scoop–the text of a “secret memo” from the management of the Hotel Hyatt about security arrangements. While the Clintons were in residence on the 19th floor of the hotel, the elevator would go no higher than the 18th floor, the memo said. Only 11 people would be authorized to proceed beyond this point up the emergency staircase to the presidential suite. They were listed as five waiters working round-the-clock shifts, and “Sr. Leins, Sr. Fischer, Sr. Flegal, Srta. Sanguinetti, Sr. Piña, and Sr. Wallace.”

The newspaper did not attempt to explain who these people were or why they would be tripping up and down the stairs to the president’s suite. Those curious about the alluringly named Señorita Sanguinetti were also left unsatisfied. Anyone wanting to speak to the president should dial 50060002, the memo added. The U.S. delegation would be sleeping in 265 of the hotel’s 310 rooms, with the remaining rooms being converted into temporary offices. There would be 23 bars open during the president’s stay. “Paradoxical though it may seem,” said La Tercera, a list of instructions to hotel staff included one printed in bold capitals that it was “forbidden to give any kind of information to anybody.”

Meanwhile, El Mercurio predicted President Clinton would make a point of praising Chile for choosing to move toward democracy. It also predicted he would put heavy pressure on Chilean President Eduardo Frei Ruiz-Tagle to purchase American F-16 or F-18 fighters, rather than European planes, for its air force. Interviewed by El Mercurio, U.S. Ambassador to Chile Gabriel Guerra Mondragón faced persistent questioning about Clinton’s attitude to former Chilean dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet’s continued membership of the Senate, which Clinton will address Friday. The ambassador said it was entirely up to Pinochet to attend or not; the president will make his speech in any event. Thursday, both El Mercurio and La Tercera published enthusiastic editorials on the significance of the second Summit of the Americas, which Clinton will convene immediately following this two-day state visit.

Reports, which have since been confirmed, of the death from a heart attack of ousted former Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot dominated many Asian newspapers Thursday. The South China Morning Post led its front page with the news that his body had been shown to Western journalists by his Khmer Rouge guards on Cambodia’s border with Thailand. But the Friday edition of Australia’s Sydney Morning Herald carried a report from its Bangkok correspondent saying there was still no conclusive proof that this corpse was really Pol Pot’s. It also ran a feature describing the Khmer Rouge, “with its last few hundred guerrillas on the run,” as “a mere shadow of the fearsome army which once subjected the entire country to unbridled terror.”

The Straits Times of Singapore led on a prediction by World Bank Chief James Wolfensohn, made in an interview with the InternationalHeraldTribune, that as many as 20 million more Indonesians may be forced into poverty by their country’s economic crisis and remain desperately poor for years to come. In India, the Asian Age led Wednesday with a report claiming Clinton “shares India’s concern over cross-border terrorism from Pakistan,” while the Pioneer reported the Pentagon was considering new sanctions against Pakistan after its recent test-firing of a homemade surface-to-surface missile. But Dawn, Pakistan’s principal English-language newspaper, led from Washington Thursday with a claim that the State Department had “discounted” any “fresh sanctions.” Dawn also ran a feature deploring the escalating arms race between India and Pakistan.

France’s Le Monde Thursday ran one front-page story–titled “United States: Sex Rehabilitated”–about former Sen. Bob Packwood’s plans for a political comeback; another about an irate Boris Yeltsin threatening to exile from Russia his close friend and oil tycoon Boris Berezovski “if he did not immediately stop his intrigues”; and yet another about the Vatican’s condemnation of John Carpenter’s film Vampires. The front page of La Repubblica in Rome reported a campaign by the unreformed Italian Communist Party to stop Italian sportsmen from wearing clothes with the Nike logo on them.

In Madrid, El País gave front-page prominence to an order by the Ukrainian president for a nuclear reactor at Chernobyl to be reopened May 5. In London, the Times led with the news that gay sex at 16 was likely to be made legal in Britain by the summer, while the Guardian led on an opinion poll jointly sponsored by it and the Irish Times showing overwhelming support in Ireland, north and south, for the Ulster peace deal, despite its rejection by large sections of the Protestant leadership in the north.

Asked how they would vote in next month’s referenda, 73 percent of Ulster electors said they would support the negotiated settlement and 61 percent of voters in the republic said the same. The Irish Independent of Dublin said it came as a “surprise” that support for the deal is smaller in the south than in the north. It said this possibly reflected concerns about a planned amendment to the Irish Constitution that would make Irish reunification contingent on majority consent in Ulster.