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Caribbean news briefs

Caribbean news briefs

CUBA: Vatican says pope's Cuban trip should help democracy
VATICAN CITY (AP) _ The Vatican's No. 2 has dismissed suggestions that Cuba's Communist government could exploit Pope Benedict XVI's upcoming trip as a propaganda tool, saying the visit should help promote democracy on the island.
Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican's secretary of state, said he expects an outpouring of support for the pope because he is the head of the Catholic Church and that the visit will only make things better for the Cuban church.
Benedict, 84, leaves Friday for a six-day trip that will take him first to Mexico, then to Cuba on March 26. It's Benedict's first trip to Spanish-speaking Latin America, and Pope John Paul II's shadow will be looming large, given his five visits to Mexico, which claimed the Polish pope as its own, and his historic 1998 trip to Cuba.
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CUBA: Government replaces senior revolutionary figure
HAVANA (AP) _ Cuba replaced the oldest official in Raul Castro's Cabinet on Thursday, an 88-year-old ex-general who helped mold the communist country's new army and commanded defenses at the Bay of Pigs invasion.
Jose Ramon Fernandez, a longtime member of Communist Party's ruling Central Committee, is out as vice president of the Council of Ministers, according to an official notice published by party newspaper Granma.
Jose M. Miyar Barrueco, 79, is also leaving his post as minister of science, technology and environment.
Castro has publicly regretted that Cuba has failed to groom new leadership to take over from the 70- and 80-somethings who occupy many top posts in his government. Preparing the next generation is a priority for his five-year term, he says.
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DOMINICA: Guilty pleas in Caribbean gay cruise arrests
ROSEAU, Dominica (AP) _ Two Southern California men pleaded guilty on Thursday to indecent exposure in Dominica after they were arrested during a stop on a gay cruise of the Caribbean.
John Robert Hart, 41, and Dennis Jay Mayer, 43, of Palm Springs, apologized in court and said they regretted their actions. Police said they were seen having sex in plain sight of people on land, prompting officers to board the ship and arrest them on Wednesday.
The two initially were arrested on suspicion of the local equivalent of sodomy in the eastern Caribbean island, which prohibits sex between two men.
The men's attorney, Bernadette Lambert, said they were remorseful.
Chief Magistrate Evaline Baptiste ordered the men to pay a nearly $900 fine after calling them "rogues and vagabonds." They made no comment after the hearing and police drove the men to the airport after they were released.
The two were aboard the Celebrity Summit cruise ship that had departed Puerto Rico on Saturday with about 2,000 passengers. The ship departed for St. Barts late Wednesday, leaving the men behind.
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SURINAME: Parliament urged to reject amnesty
PARAMARIBO, Suriname (AP) _ Relatives of people killed during Suriname's military dictatorship are urging lawmakers to reject a proposed amnesty for the president of the South American country.
The relatives say in an open letter to lawmakers released Thursday that it would be illegal under Surinamese and international law to grant amnesty to President Desi Bouterse and his associates until a court has ruled on the charges against them.
Bouterse was elected president of Suriname in 2010 but was a military dictator for most of the 1980s. He and 24 associates have been on trial in an off-and-on legal proceeding since November 2007 for abducting and killing 15 political opponents in December 1982.
The National Assembly could vote on the amnesty bill as soon as Friday.
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DOMINICAN REPUBLIC: Allen Iverson to join club
SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic (AP) _ Former NBA star Allen Iverson has agreed to play in a regional basketball league in the Dominican Republic for one month from Sunday.
Iverson will arrive on Sunday and play for Pueblo Nuevo on the same day against GUG in Santiago province, club president Milton Nunez told The Associated Press on Thursday.
The 36-year-old Iverson left the NBA in 2010 and spent part of that year playing in Turkey.
The team was in second place in the Santiago basketball championship.
Nunez declined to reveal Iverson's salary.
Iverson had been considered a potential recruit for the Santo Domingo Lions last year, but no contract was signed.
Iverson was the NBA MVP in 2001, when he led the Philadelphia 76ers to the NBA finals. In 14 seasons in the NBA, he averaged 26.7 points per game.