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These stories were published Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2003, in Vol. 3, No. 4
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Juvenile gang called big danger to tourism
By Garett Sloane
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Business and civic leaders in Quepos and Manuel Antonio fear that a roving gang of juveniles will damage the areas image as a tourism mecca.

Eight hotels and one restaurant took out a full-page ad in El Costanero, the local Spanish-language monthly produced by the chamber of commerce.

"Don’t let a few people damage our image at the national and international level," said the ad. "We demand security in the zone, but we also are part of the solution."

The band of youngsters may be as many as 50, some as young as 11. The business leaders blamed part of the problem on parents who let their children roam the streets without supervision at all hours of the night. "Security begins in the home with the teaching of values and discipline," the advertisement said.

The area on the central Pacific coast of Costa Rica is probably the best known tourist destination. Close by is Manuel Antonio National Park. 

The area took a big hit to its image Dec. 22 when two women tourists from the United States were brutalized by 10 young men only 150 meters from a popular night spot.

The advertisement said that for a number of months people in the area had seen numerous assaults and robberies of tourists and locals alike which culminated in the abuse of the two women.

Seven of the attackers were arrested, but they all are free now while the investigation continues and the court system returns from a three-week holiday break.

The business and civic leaders said they were organizing a citizen’s security committee to work with police and investigators, and they invited residents to join the group.

A.M. Costa Rica photo 
Everything goes at this downtown San José traffic light. All six lights go on at the same time telling pedestrians to go and to stop. Ditto for traffic. The signal has been like this for a couple of weeks.
Second-hand goods
are motive in murder

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The death of David Kane Saturday seems to have as its motive the robbery of a number of household appliances, including a computer and a fax machine.

Investigators have not made any arrests in the case, which is presumed to involve someone known to Kane, a five-year resident here.

An inventory of the murdered man’s possessions in La Granja, San Pedro, was put together by police by asking friends of Kane to walk through the living area of his home and to try to remember what was there.

The murderers followed a pattern common in killings of foreigners here in that what was taken is not of high value. The missing items include three television sets, a stereo and speakers, a microwave, some telephones and the computer and fax. The killers also took a wallet and a file box that is believed to contain personal papers such as a passport.

The murders put all these items in Kane’s four-wheel-drive vehicle and fled. But they burned the car, the most valuable item taken, on an Alajuela dirt road to destroy clues.

The murder took place around mid-morning Saturday in a residential area that is covered by a private security firm. The garage door was open on the large, U.S.-style dwelling.
 

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Plant, animal life adjusting to global warming 
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Two American professors — one a biologist, one an economist — have released findings linking global warming to changing life patterns among plants and animals in the natural environment. 

Their report published in "Nature" Jan. 2 documents how various species are apparently reacting to global warming by adjusting their range northward in search of cooler temperatures, or breeding earlier in the spring in response to warmer temperatures.

The "Nature" article was written by Professor Camille Parmesan, a biologist at the University of Texas at Austin, and Gary Yohe, an economist at Wesleyan University in Connecticut. Both experts served as members of a panel of authors contributing to "Climate Change 2001," the third assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. 

The panel, established by the World Meteorological Organization and the U.N. Environment Program, 

assesses scientific, technical and socio-economic 
information relevant to the understanding of climate change and its potential impacts. It is considered among the world's most authoritative bodies on global warming.

A University of Texas press release says Parmesan and Yohe conducted an extensive global statistical analysis, examining the behaviors of a wide range of plant and animal species in North America and Europe. In studying data accumulated over several decades, they found that species such as birds, butterflies and alpine herbs had shifted their habitats northward an average of six kilometers per decade, or to higher altitudes of six meters per decade.

Other species have adjusted behaviors, in an apparent response to warmer temperatures. Migratory birds, amphibians and other animals are breeding earlier in the spring, and plants are blooming earlier, according to the Parmesan-Yohe study. In all, the researchers say that global warming has accounted for a shift to an earlier spring for 677 species studied.

Runners
coming here
for landscape
and social life
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

More than 1,000 recreational runners-beer drinkers are planning to come to Costa Rica at the end of May to participate in four days of doing those things.

The event is the Interamericas being hosted this year by the Costa Rican Hash House Harriers. This is the local running club that usually ends its athletic events with beer and food. The organization transcends athletics to include being a social organization.

Similar clubs exist all over the world.  Some 746 persons already have signed up for the event, and most are coming from outside Costa Rica.

The San José group initiated the hemispheric gathering in 1984 when 75 persons participated. Since then the event has been held in the United States and Canada every two years. The dates this year are May 23 to May 26, although local organization members have events planned for early arrivers and those who stay late.

Those who participate will have a choice of running in the Orosi Valley, around Playa Herrdura, near Santa Ana or in the middle of the Central Valley. Each run is followed by dinners and liquid refreshments. The organization also plans forays into the downtown for the nightlife there.

Information on the event is on this Web site: http://www.interam2003.com/itinerary1.htm


 
Wildlife photo show
will open Thursday

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

An exhibit of unusual Costa Rican wildlife photos by American wildlife photographer Robert Childers will open Thursday at the San Jose Palacio Hotel Gallery in La Uruca for two weeks. 

The photos include close-up color portraits of jaguars, snakes, monkeys, frogs, caimans, parrots and macaws, sloths and coatis, as well as several  larger-than-life photos of orchids and gingers. All were taken over the last two years in various areas of Costa Rica, including Tortuguero, Peninsula de Osa, Sarapiquí, Limón, Guanacaste and Arenal.

The photos were converted from photographic negatives to digital format using a Nikon film scanner. They are printed with special pigmented archival inks designed to last up to 200 years without fading.

All photos are available as digital files for publication or as framed limited edition prints. They will be available to the public for purchase and free use will be offered to non-profit environmental and educational organizations here in Costa Rica. 

Each photo is professionally framed and double matted in colors to complement the subject. Frames are made locally from native Costa Rica woods. Only five prints of each photo will be made, and each will come with a numbered certificate of authenticity signed by the photographer. The framed photos measure 19 inches by 25 inches. (48 cms. by 65 cms). 

New vice minister
a career diplomat

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Abel Pacheco said Monday that he has named Marco Vinicio Vargas Pereira as the new vice chancellor or deputy foreign minister. Vargas is a career diplomat who holds the rank of ambassador.

The new vice minister is a lawyer who has attended a number of diplomatic schools. The Alajuela native has worked in diplomatic capacities for Costa Rica since 1975.

Pacheco got into hot water before Christmas when he appointed the daughter of his minister of the presidency to the post. The political outcry caused him to reverse the appointment.

Next school term
clouded by budget

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rican children and their parents still do not know when they will start school or how long the school year will last.

To save money, the administration of President Abel Pacheco said three months ago that the school year would last just 174 days. A quick Sala IV constitutional court ruling said that 200 days was obligatory.

Now Ástrid Fischel, minister of Educación Pública has to find some $22 billion colons to pay teachers for the extra days. That’s nearly $6 million.

Because that money is not budgeted, officials are still trying to figure out how to keep the school year short despite what the court says. 

So the best that can be said is that the school year will start either Feb. 3 or March 3, depending on what officials decide.

Private schools are not affected by the governmental actions.

Casa Alianza cites
more child killings

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Some 64 Honduran children and youth under the age of 23 were murdered during the month of December 2002 making it one of the bloodiest months of the year in the Central American country of just over 5 million people.

Fifty-nine males and five females were murdered, most of them by gunfire, said Casa Alianza, the child advocate organization.

In what the organization said was a disturbing new trend, one third of December’s murders of children and youth occurred outside the two principal cities of Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula.

Some 14 murders took place on New Year’s Eve alone, said the organization.

Car dealer victim
jumped from vehicle

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Car dealer Alvaro Ceciliano told investigators Monday that he was kidnapped by four men in Cañas but managed to jump out of the vehicle when he figured the men would kill him.

By late afternoon, investigators had taken a man into custody in Santa Barbara de Heredia.

Ceciliano said he was offering a car for sale and some men came and made him get into the car as a passenger. Later he said he recognized one of what was then four men. He said he had done business with the man in the past. Because he recognized one of the kidnappers, Ceciliano said he figured he was done for unless he threw himself from the car.

Red Cross says
45 died violently

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Cruz Roja registered 45 violent deaths during the holiday season from Dec. 24 through Jan. 5. the Costa Rican Red Cross also said that their workers treated 424 persons at the Festejos Populares in Zapote during the same period.

The death toll includes traffic accidents, drownings and suicides, plus a few deaths that are not fully explained.
 
Professional Directory
A.M. Costa Rica's professional directory is where business people who wish to reach the English-speaking community may invite responses. If you are interested in being represented here, please contact the editor.


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Foreign ownership is factor in building economy
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Now, 13 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall triggered the collapse of Soviet-style communism in over two dozen countries, economists are drawing conclusions about what policies produced the best results in building market economies. Economists held discussions on the issue at the annual meeting of the American Economic Association here.

The transition has not been as smooth as many predicted in the early 1990s. Jan Svejnar, who researches transition economies at the University of Michigan, says the speed and effectiveness of the changeover varies from country to country. However, Svejnar says almost everywhere foreign ownership has proven to be the most effective method of privatizing state-owned firms.

"Foreign-owned firms or firms that were acquired by foreign owners to do better in terms of productive efficiency, in terms of allocative efficiency, in terms of restructuring in general than all other firms — including the firms that were privatized to domestic private owners," he said.

In Europe, says Svejnar, market based reform has advanced furthest in Slovenia, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland. Russia and the rest of the former Soviet Union have done less well.

"Then we have at the opposite extreme China. The Communist system still being functional there. But economically, of course, they have done very well,"

he said. "They have 20 years of unprecedented 
growth whereas in Russia we have 10 years of significant decline followed by some growth in recent years."

Apart from China, only in Slovenia and Poland have per capita living standards advanced to well above the levels that prevailed in 1989.

Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel Prize winning economist who teaches at Columbia University, says access to technology is critical to economic development. China, says Stiglitz, has been very successful in attracting technology-based investment. This, he says, translates into a rapid growth rate and a narrowing of the income gap with rich countries.

"What we will see is that there will be a convergence of countries in East Asia like China and South Korea, a relative convergence towards the United States. But in other parts of the world there will be divergence," he said.

Professor Svejnar of Michigan believes there is a convergence of income occurring in Europe, but at a much slower pace. "Those who said it will take 15 to 20 years [for central Europe to catch up with the west] were seen [in 1989] as incredible pessimists. That was almost heretical. Now we think 20 to 40 years from now is when some convergence will be highly visible," he said.

China this past year had a growth rate of at least 7 percent. Russia registered about four percent growth, and central European countries about 2 percent.

Powell meets with leading Cuban dissident Paya
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Secretary of State Colin Powell met Monday with prominent Cuban dissident Oswaldo Paya to underscore U.S. support for efforts to bring democracy to the Communist-ruled island. Paya is a key figure in the Varela Project, a petition drive seeking a referendum on democratic reforms. 

Paya posed for pictures with Powell in a State Department reception room before a 20-minute private meeting described here as a courtesy call. Paya left the building by a side entrance and did not talk to waiting reporters. 

But State Department spokesman Richard Boucher called it a "very good meeting" and an opportunity for Powell to lend support and encouragement to Paya and other "courageous" Cubans involved in trying to bring about peaceful, democratic change there. 

"The secretary expressed his admiration for the efforts that Mr. Paya is making as an organizer of Project Varela. His petition drive provides a way for the Cuban people to express their desire for a rapid, peaceful transition to democracy," he said. "It's part of growing opposition in Cuba and is receiving increasing international attention. As you know, the European Parliament has awarded him the organization's Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought."

Paya, the leader of Cuba's Christian Liberation 
 

Movement, came to the United States after a tour
of Europe and has not returned to Cuba since receiving the Sakharov Prize Dec. 17. 

Last September, he was also named the winner of the Washington-based National Democratic Institute's Averell Harriman Democracy Award but was not allowed to leave Cuba at the time to receive it in person.

The Varela Project, named for Cuban independence hero Felix Varela, seeks to use a provision of the current Cuban constitution that nominally allows citizens to propose changes to the law, provided an enabling petition receives at least 10,000 signatures.

Organizers say that despite official harassment, the Varela petition has been signed by more than 20,000 Cubans to date, and had more than 11,000 signatures when submitted to the Cuban National Assembly in May of 2001.

After visiting former U.S. President Jimmy Carter mentioned the petition drive in a TV address to Cubans in May of last year, the Fidel Castro government mounted what it said was a counter petition in which it said nearly 99 per cent of the country supported keeping the current Communist system.

Spokesman Boucher said there was no specific discussion in Secretary Powell's meeting with Paya of various U.S. programs aimed at supporting Cuban democratization.


 
Our reward offer is $500

Louis Milanes

Luis Enrique Villalobos Camacho
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

This newspaper seeks the prompt return of two men who ran high-interest investment operations that have gone out of business.

Luis Enrique Villalobos Camacho, 62, was associated with Ofinter S.A., a money exchange house, and with his own private investment business that had about $1 billion in other people’s money on the books. 

Villalobos closed his business Oct. 14 and vanished.

Louis Milanes operated Savings Unlimited and several casinos in San José. He left the country with other members of his firm the weekend of Nov. 23. He may have as much as $260 million in his possession. Both operations catered to North Americans.

 Villalobos had about 6,300 customers. Milanes had about 2,400.

Villalobos and Milanes are the subjects of international arrest warrants.  Associates of both men have been jailed.

A.M. Costa Rica has posted a $500 reward for information leading to the detention of either man with the hopes that others will make similar pledges. The newspaper believes that investors only will see some of their money when the two men are in custody.

Milanes has few supporters in San José. On the other hand, as the letters frequently on this page show, Villalobos still has supporters who believe that he will reappear and settle his debts. They believe he is in hiding because of a predatory Costa Rican government.

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