People: The champ is floored by a political heavyweight

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The Independent Online
IT'S BACK to work for Panamanian boxer Roberto Duran, who lost his bid for a congressional seat in recent elections. The four-time world champion, whose hard punching has earned him a permanent spot in boxing lore, entered the political ring last October.

But 'Hands of Stone' Duran, 43, was outboxed in his fight for office. Eufrosinio Troya, electoral commission president for the Panama City slum of El Chorrillo, where Duran grew up, said the boxer lost his race by a mere 131 votes to another member of the outgoing ruling Arnulfista party. 'It was close,' Mr Troya said. 'Maybe in boxing this would be a split decision.' Political observers said Duran did better than expected, considering he had to slug it out in a district known for its political heavyweights.

THE NEWLY elected Finnish President, Martti Ahtisaari, is donating his monthly 9,000 markkaa ( pounds 1,060) pay rise to the jobless. The move is, of course, symbolic. At 0.018 markkaa apiece, the money won't do the country's 500,000 jobless much good.

Mr Ahtisaari is fulfilling a promise he made before he won the elections in February, to reflect the gravity of the recession - Finland's worst for 60 years, with unemployment at nearly 20 per cent. Prior to the election, the government raised the president's annual tax-free pay to 558,000 markkaa (pounds 69,000).

FRANCE put an acrimonious dispute with the United States over films and television programmes behind it . . . and made his day. It named Clint Eastwood, an icon of American cinema to the French public, a commander of the Order of Arts and Letters, France's highest cultural decoration.

Eastwood, president of the jury at the 47th Cannes Film Festival, was awarded the medal by Culture Minister Jacques Toubon. He called the actor 'the incarnation of the American dream'.

Late last year, the US backed down on its demand that audio- visual products be included in a global trade accord. French film- makers had lobbied heavily against the US demand, saying French culture was at stake. Mr Toubon, fighting his own battle to stamp English words out of the French language, put rancour aside to honour Eastwood.

THE FORMER Venezuelan president, Jaime Lusinchi, looks set for a double appearance in the dock. The country's Supreme Court has decided he must face a second corruption trial for allegedly mishandling dollars 1m (pounds 667,000) in government funds.

According to congressmen familiar with the case, the funds were used by Mr Lusinchi's then-private secretary, Blanca Ibanez, to throw lavish parties and to import 24 white horses from the US. Mr Lusinchi, president from 1984 to 1989, divorced his wife to marry Ms Ibanez in 1991.

The court's decision comes eight months after it decided to try the ex-president for allegedly buying 65 jeeps with Interior Ministry funds and giving them away to friends during his presidency.

(Photograph omitted)