Joe Contreras

Stories by Joe Contreras

  • A Patch That Could Threaten the Troops

    An infrared patch that allows easy nighttime identification of U.S. soldiers is widely available in the United States. That's a big problem.
  • Q&A: How Cuba is Faring Without Fidel

    A Cuba expert discusses Fidel's illness, the nation's changing mood as he relinquishes power and how Havana could affect the U.S. presidential elections.
  • Indy 500: Race Milestone for a Woman Driver

    Milka Duno will mark a milestone in this Sunday’s Indianapolis 500 race as the latest in a growing number of female drivers—and the first Hispanic woman—ever to compete in the 96-year-old event. The Venezuelan native will start from the penultimate row of the 33-car field and is considered a prohibitive long shot to take the checkered flag. But for someone who took up racing only eight years ago, the striking 35-year-old brunette has attained an important career milestone just by having qualified for the premier event of U.S. motor sports. A naval engineer by training who holds four master’s degrees and now lives in Miami, Duno spoke to NEWSWEEK’s Joseph Contreras by phone from Indianapolis. Excerpts: ...
  • Realty Values Rise in 'Superstar' Cities

    Whether you think the rise of superstar cities, in which real-estate prices seem to go inexorably upward, is a good thing or not, there's no stopping it
  • FAILED 'PLAN'

    AFTER FIVE YEARS AND BILLIONS OF U.S. AID IN THE DRUG WAR, COCAINE PRODUCTION STILL THRIVES.
  • COLOMBIA'S HARD RIGHT

    Alvaro Uribe Velez--slight and bespectacled--looks more like a high-school math teacher than a hard-charging ideologue. But there's nothing wimpy about his message: from the moment he declared his candidacy for Colombia's 2002 presidential election, the former state governor promised to halt peace negotiations with the rebel Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and restore law and order. At first, his tough talk didn't garner much support. But after languishing in third place in opinion surveys much of last year, he suddenly took the pole position in January. Now Uribe commands an approval rating of 59 percent, and it seems nothing short of an assassin's bullet can stop the maverick politician from winning the May election.In a blood-steeped country, the rise of a right-wing hard-liner is hardly surprising. But what is less clear is what Uribe's victory will mean for Colombia and its increasingly close military ties to the United States. The Bush administration, fighting to...
  • TURNING THE CLOCK BACK TO CHAOS?

    Mario Ayala Otarola is running scared. The mayor of San Miguel de Ene fled his isolated village in the jungles of eastern Peru last December. He had heard that a column of Shining Path guerrillas operating in the area planned to assassinate him. Three local mayors have gone into hiding after receiving death threats, and the rebels have warned employees of a U.S.-funded development project that they are under surveillance and should not interfere with local coca farming. "Either you're with Shining Path or you must leave the area," says the 50-year-old sesame farmer who escaped with his wife and five children. "The narcos and Shining Path are helping each other, and that puts us in great danger."That has an all-too-familiar ring for millions of Peruvians. After 10 years of steady decline, the Shining Path is stirring again. An estimated 150 guerrillas lurk in the verdant hills above the Ene and Apurimac river valleys, occasionally venturing from their redoubts in search of new...
  • Fallout From A Caribbean Murder

    If justice delayed is justice denied, then four American men sitting in a Caribbean jail must be nursing a special sense of grievance. A year ago last month William Labrador and three friends were arrested in the British Virgin Islands for the murder of Lois McMillen, a 34-year-old painter from Connecticut. McMillen's bruised and fully clothed corpse was found in the shallow waters off the island of Tortola on Jan. 15, 2000; the four men were arrested shortly afterward.During the intervening 13 months, Labrador and his codefendants-New York publisher Alexander Benedetto, Georgetown University law student Michael Spicer and Spicer's gay partner, Evan George-have attended numerous pretrial hearings which have failed to produce any physical evidence linking them to the crime. The men have pleaded not guilty, and there appears to be no obvious motive for the murder.The lone account tying the men to the crime comes from Jeff Plante, the prosecution's star witness and a lifelong con...
  • The Long Road Home

    The Endgame: "Let's Do It That Way," Castro Finally Told The American Lawyer. After Tense Talks In Havana Elián's Dad Flew To The United States To Reclaim His Son. Behind A Father's Battle For A Little Boy Trapped In An Epic Custody Brawl.
  • It's Ok To Laugh

    THE DOORBELL RINGS. GWEN ANDERSON, archetypal South African white matron and costar of the comic strip ""Madam & Eve,'' opens her front door to a black couple. ""Don't mind us,'' says the man. ""We're house-hunting for after the election.'' ""I'm sorry,'' says a flustered Gwen, ""but this house isn't for sale.'' ""Who said anything about buying it?'' the man rejoins. ...
  • Mr. Mandela Builds His Dream Team

    IT SEEMED A FAIRY-TALE ENDING TO A story of national redemption. Before even half the votes were counted, South African President F. W. de Klerk conceded defeat in an election that ended three centuries of white-minority rule. "We have proved we can work together," he said. The incoming president, African National Congress leader Nelson Mandela, was magnanimous in victory. "People have voted for the party of their choice, and we respect that," he said at the start of a joyous victory celebration that spilled into downtown Johannesburg. "This is democracy." And the results of South Africa's landmark election, when they finally were announced, couldn't have been better for national unity. The ANC won a majority of almost 63 percent enough to dominate the new government, but just short of the two-thirds majority that would have permitted Mandela to ignore his junior partners in altering the new Constitution. Mandela himself declared: "I feel relieved." ...
  • 'My Followers Heeded My Call'

    AS THE VOTES WERE counted, Nelson Mandela spoke one-on-one with NEWSWEEK'S Joseph Contreras. Excerpts: ...
  • Can He Handle The Presidency?

    HE WAS A STALWART POLITICAL PRISONER: when Nelson Mandela walked free from a jail in South Africa four years ago, it was apartheid, not its most celebrated victim, that had cracked. He was a brilliant negotiator: just as he wore down the white jailers who once set him to breaking stone and collecting seaweed on barren Robben Island, Mandela foiled a plan by the government to protect white political power. Whites will have no special rights under the new constitution. And at the end of the political campaign that formally began last month, Mandela the politician seems sure to lead the African National Congress to a landslide electoral victory April 28. He'll then step into the presidency. But what kind of chief executive will he make? ...
  • Pack Your Trunk And Off You Go

    DOWN BELOW, EIGHT ELEPHANTS huddle tightly as the thwack-thwack of the helicopter grows louder. it is mid-afternoon under a blazing sun in Zimbabwe's Gona-re-zhou National Park, and Clem Coetsee is primed for the hunt, a .22-caliber rifle at the ready. When the adult bull abandons the group to watch from a safe distance, the rest of the herd bolt. like a border collie herding sheep, the helicopter drives the pachyderms toward a nearby dirt road and a fleet of trucks. A veteran of wildlife culling, Coetsee fires repeatedly. Within minutes six elephants have fallen in a heap. ...
  • Apartheid On The Ash Heap

    YOUTH AFRICAN PRESIDENT F. W. DE Klerk made two promises when he Stock office four years ago. He promised blacks the vote, but he also told the whites who elected him that he'd protect them from "domination" by the majority. He had in mind a permanent white veto, and his aides scoured the world for constitutional formulas that gave ethnic minorities special rights. De Klerk was betting that the popularity of African National Congress leader Nelson Mandela would begin to fade as soon as he was released from prison. Instead, de Klerk watched his own approval ratings slip, while Mandela, backed by an overwhelming majority of blacks, stood firm against any dilution of a black government's power. One by one, de Klerk's "power sharing" schemes all fell away. And last week de Klerk conceded precisely what he once sought to avoid: black-majority rule. ...
  • Mandela Loses Control

    The wrath of the young lions reduced Nelson Mandela to lame explanations. "I understand your anger," he said plaintively after loud jeers interrupted his speech at a rally in the black township of Soweto, outside Johannesburg. The gathering mourned the murder April 10 of militant black leader Chris Hani. The crowd had booed when Mandela mentioned messages of condolence from South African President F. W. de Klerk's National Party, Mandela's main partner in talks about a new constitution. The jeers appeared to stun the 74-year-old leader of the African National Congress (ANC). "We don't like the National Party," insisted Mandela, "but I'm prepared to work with de Klerk to build a new South Africa." The crowd was not appeased. ...
  • Keeper Of The Conscience

    South Africa's economy is mired in deep recession, and its transition from apartheid to majority rule has been hampered by endemic black-on-black violence. At times like this, voters lose faith in politicians, Both President F. W. de Klerk and Nelson Mandela, leader of the African National Congress (ANC), have suffered a loss of esteem. The most respected man in the country today may be a Jewish appeals court judge named Richard Goldstone, 54. The listeners of one South African radio station recently named him the top newsmaker of 1992. ...
  • Not Ready For Prime Time

    The Springboks have been out of circulation for a long time, and it shows. South Africa's all-white rugby team ended its first overseas tour in 11 years on Saturday with a 33-16 drubbing by England in full view of South African President F. W. de Klerk and his host, British Prime Minister John Major. That was scant reward for the man whose political reforms helped end the sports boycott of South Africa. But the loss was the least of it. Off the field the Springboks have acted like louts. After watching the South African players accuse a French referee of rigging a match, then bait blacks by singing their country's controversial national anthem, even some South Africans wondered out loud: was the sports boycott lifted too soon? ...
  • 'Angola Is in a State of War'

    The attack began at about 2 a.m. on Oct. 30 near Luanda's international airport. Some three dozen fighters from UNITA (the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola), Jonas Savimbi's rebel movement, fired mortar rounds at airplanes and helicopters parked on the tarmac, killing at least 13 people. Forces loyal to Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos struck back with rocket-propelled grenades. A day later, they unleashed riot police and armed civilians on the Hotel Turismo, a UNITA stronghold. When the shooting subsided, more than 1,000 people lay dead, and UNITA had been driven from the streets of the capital. Three of Savimbi's most senior aides died in the conflict-two of them gunned down while trying to flee in cars traveling at 100 mph. In a grim gesture of bravado, dos Santos followers decked the Turismo's blackened facade with two flags: one with the nation's socialist cog and machete, the other with the government's yellow star. ...
  • The Lure Of Diamonds

    The crowded room falls silent as the buyer carefully scoops lentil-size rough diamonds from a plastic bag with a tiny metal shovel. The clicking stones sparkle in the pale morning light as they tumble into a Japanese-made electronic scale. Two smugglers have come to the adobe house in Cafunfo, a wild frontier town, to sell their glamorous contraband. Their customer, the head of the trafficking operation, is a bearded, French-speaking man named Ivan. Haggling is conducted mainly in Kioko, one of the indigenous languages spoken by Africans in northeastern Angola. The deal is clinched when three big gems are thrown in. A wad of American hundred-dollar bills totalling $10,000 changes hands. Ivan turns to a more pressing task: toting fresh water to the house in his Nissan 4x4. ...
  • Secret War In South Africa

    They were apartheid's fiercest warriors. Throughout the 1980s, such covert South African units as Army Special Forces, the police counter in surgency force known as Koevoet (Crowbar), and the Portuguese-speaking "Buffalo" Battalion ran a campaign of assassination and sabotage against the African National Congress and other Soviet-backed groups based in Black Africa. They built networks of informers and grew expert at "turning" captured guerrillas against former comrades. ...
  • The Fire In The Streets

    The young militants cornered the shirtless man in a yard, then kicked and beat him senseless. "You are going to die," they chanted. They dragged their victim into the street and shot him several times with a homemade pistol. Two men hacked at the body with machetes; one wore a T shirt bearing a Nelson Mandela quotation and the rallying Cry BOIPATONG CALLS US TO ACTION. Then a minibus packed with armed "comrades" drove over the corpse. Finally, someone jammed a gasoline-soaked tire around the dead man's head and set it ablaze. The victim's crime: he was suspected of having sympathized with Inkatha, the African National Congress's main black rival for power in a democratic South Africa. ...
  • Can Reform Survive?

    "We want guns!" chanted the throng, and Nelson Mandela's reply--a clenched-fist salute--looked suitably militant. African National Congress "comrades" were rallying last week in memory of 39 residents of Boipatong township whose bloody deaths two weeks ago put in question the future of democratic reform in South Africa. They cried out for revenge against the rival Inkatha movement and a white-ruled government they say stage-managed the slaughter. Mandela replied: "I have listened carefully to the song you have sung repeatedly: 'You are acting as lambs while the enemy is killing our people'." ...
  • The Gambling Man

    Has South African President F. W. de Klerk committed political suicide? On the eve of a bellwether parliamentary by-election last week, his government slashed funding for whites-only schools. That shocked the middle-class, Afrikaner residents of Potchefstroom, already pinched by recession and uneasy over de Klerk's drive to enfranchise the country's black majority. The cuts-4,000 teachers will be laid off-brought home the fact that political reform ultimately means whites must give up privileges they enjoyed under apartheid. Voters defected to the far-right Conservative Party, which promises to bring back statutory racism, with all its brutality. Stung, de Klerk announced a whites-only referendum next month on his two-year-old reform initiative, saying "honor" demands it. If he loses, de Klerk said, he will resign. ...
  • Caught In The Cross-Fire

    In early 1987 Paul Simon kicked off a world tour to promote his exuberant platinum-selling album, "Graceland." Blending Western pop with the infectious mbaqanga rhythms of South Africa's black ghettos, the award-winning record brought worldwide exposure to township music. But in observance of a cultural boycott then in force against the white-minority regime's apartheid policies, Simon left South Africa off the itinerary and got only as far south as Zimbabwe. In a Rolling Stone magazine article that year Simon fondly recalled the energy of the two concerts in Harare and mused aloud, "Can you imagine what it would be like if we were able to play in South Africa?" Well, now he knows. ...