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These stories were published Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2002
Jo Stuart
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Broader focus now seems likely for U.S. Latin policy
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Despite assurances to the contrary during the U.S. presidential election campaign, Latin America has not been getting a lot of attention from U.S. policy makers.

Such an oversight is understandable in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington that totally changed the priorities of U.S. foreign policy.

Latin American governments found that U.S. officials quickly equated drug smuggling with terrorism and seemed single-minded in their pursuit of both.

In addition, President George Bush, until Friday, was unable to field his own team of Latin American policymakers.

The pursuit of terrorists in Latin America has been widespread but centering mostly on Colombia and the Argentine-Uruguay border region. The rebel groups in Colombia, now labeled officially as terrorists by the United States, have been getting the lion’s share of the attention as off-and-on peace talks stall and are restarted. Lately the region seems headed for full-scale war.

The antics of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and the financial default of the Argentine government have been unplanned brushfires for the Bush Administration, led in Latin America by Lino Guterriz, until Friday acting assistant secretary of state for the Western Hemisphere. 

Friday Bush made a recess appointment of Otto Reich, the man he had named July 12 to take over the job held temporarily by Guterriz. He did that because leading Democrats in the U.S. Senate see Reich, a native of Cuba, as a hard-liner with too many ties to the Reagan Administration and the war in Nicaragua.

Bush used a constitutional loophole to name Reich without approval by the U.S. Senate. The U.S. constitution allows U.S. presidents to fill open posts when the Senate is in recess. So Reich will serve at least until the end of the year.

Analysis on the news

The U.S. Senate is controlled by Democrats. Bush and Reich are Republicans.

The work ahead for the Latin American team includes promoting the Free Trade Area of the Americas, something U.S. officials say will increase the economic well being of the area and promote stability and democracy.
Guterriz gave a litany of U.S. concerns in a speech he made late last year to U.S. Catholic bishops. One concern is Cuba. "Our policy is to encourage a rapid transition to democracy in Cuba, characterized by strong support for human rights and open markets," he explained. He also is a native of Cuba.
Otto Reich

Other concerns are to strengthen the rule of law, human rights and education. But hemispheric security, the fight against drugs and terrorism, so far has gotten most of the attention in the wake of Sept. 11.

The Bush Administration wanted more emphais on Latin America. Secretary of State Colin L. Powell was in a meeting in Peru with the new president there, Alejandro Toledo, when he heard the news of the terrorist attacks and hurried back to the United States. There have been no high-level visits since.

That has not stopped the day-to-day diplomatic activities among Latin countries, but the unified vision and execution of policy has been on hold. 

That old, one-lane bridge might be getting fixed up in Escazú
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The so-called suicide bridge over the River Tiribí which has befuddled motorists for years might be getting another lane.

Constructora Dimón S. A. has been hired to do the $471,000 job at the Los Anonos bridge. That’s about 162 million colons.

The bridge is the bottleneck on one of two entries to Escazú. The structure, built before World War II, is more than 300 feet long and is a tempting spot for impatient drivers.

Typically, traffic lines up on both side of the bridge because only one lane of cars can cross at a time — if they are patient. Late last year workmen installed traffic signals that purport to tell drivers when they may cross the bridge.

But the signals are not timed correctly, and the oncoming line of cars can’t clear the bridge before drivers in the opposite direction get the green light.

The bridge is 200 feet above the river community below, and a place where some automobile passengers place their hands over their eyes. The bridge could just barely accommodate two automobiles side-by-side, but tradition frowns on anyone who crosses while other vehicles are oncoming.

The bridge has been the scene of a number of suicides during its many years of existence. Although there are legends of individuals who have survived the jump, having been born up by angels in one case, the drop is so great that a suicide attempt would be decisive.

The contract for the bridge still has to be reviewed by the Office of the Controller General, and only time will tell if the bridge expansion is in the category of an election promise. Officials say work could begin by the middle of the year.

The bridge connects the La Sabana area with Bello Horizonte section just east of Escazú. The area is one of massive traffic jams during peak hours.

Don't miss Patricia Martin's report on Manuel Antonio and Quepos

For Patricia's report on what to do with foreign visitors

True democracy just not in the cards
Most transitional countries in 'gray zone,' U.S. expert says
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The time has come to stop looking at the so-called "transition paradigm" for understanding global democratization, and view the middle ground between full-fledged democracy and outright dictatorship as "the most common political condition today of countries in the developing world and the post-communist world," says Carnegie Endowment scholar Thomas Carothers.

During the 1990s, Carothers said, democracy promoters used this transition phrase as the way to think about processes of political change in the world, believing that many countries were, in fact, making a transition to democracy.

Carothers, who serves as a vice president of the non-profit Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, spoke at a symposium on "Democracy Promotion" at the Washington-based organization's headquarters last week. His remarks were based on an article written for the January 2002 issue of "Journal of Democracy," titled "The End of the Transition Paradigm."

There are five core assumptions that define the transition paradigm, he said, foremost being that any country moving away from dictatorial rule can be considered a country in transition toward democracy.

The other assumptions, he added, are that democratization tends to unfold in a set sequence of stages, the belief that free and fair elections equal democracy, that such "structural" features as economic level and sociocultural traditions will not be major factors, and that transitions in so-called "third wave" countries in Southern Europe and Latin America are being built on coherent, functioning states.

The record of experience, Carothers argued, is that of the nearly 100 countries considered as "transitional" in recent years, probably fewer than 20 are enroute to becoming successful, well-functioning democracies. In a small number of countries, "initial political openings have clearly failed, and authoritarian regimes have resolidified," he added.

Carothers said that meant the majority of countries are in a "political gray zone," with some attributes of democratic political life — such as opposition parties, regular elections and democratic constitutions — but also serious deficits — often including abuse of law by government officials and elections of uncertain legitimacy.

Calling the transition paradigm "out of date" for the 21st century, Carothers said it should be discarded, and there should be new debate on the matter and perhaps eventually a new paradigm of political change.

He said that by accepting the middle ground view between democracy and dictatorship, democracy promoters should have realistic expectations about the likely patterns of political life in what they call "transitional" countries.

This will be hard to do because of the hopeful vision the old paradigm provides, he added, but he stressed that this does not mean the United States should abandon efforts to promote democracy in the world.

"If anything, it implies that given how difficult democratization is, efforts to promote it should be redoubled," Carothers said.

The full text of Carothers' article can be viewed at the website www.journalofdemocracy.org.

What is the parrot thinking?

Newspaper's guidebook
marks its 10th year

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Tico Times has published the 10th edition of Exploring Costa Rica, and this year’s edition for 2002 comes with a pensive parrot on the cover.

The book is one of a number of guide books to Costa Rica, but this one is the product of a small army of reporters, writers and photographers the English-language weekly newspaper sends into the field each year.

The 2002 version is bigger (304 pages vs. 288 in 2001), and it is about as complete a listing as you can get of hotels, restaurants and tourism businesses in Costa Rica. Indeed, that is a criticism: that the newspaper does not rate hotels and restaurants but simply lists them.

Another criticism is that the newspaper includes paid advertising within the pages of the guide. But the book sells for $13.95 on Amazon.com where other guides sell for $20 or more.

The book is $11.95 in Costa Rica and by mail to the United States, and the newspaper gives it for free to annual subscribers.

In addition to listings of hotels and restaurants, the guide contains page after page of essays and useful  information on living and traveling in Costa Rica. However, the 5 1/2 by 8 1/2-inch format, while easy to carry, does not do justice to the many photos that have been reduced to fit the pages. And there are some dynamic photographs.

The guide also features articles on specific regions of Costa Rica along with maps. Included also are directions for reaching the areas. The book also has a 20-page index.

Antarctic temperature
fails to follow script

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Scientists report that temperatures on the Antarctic continent have fallen steadily for more than two decades despite an average increase in air temperature experienced by the rest of the planet.

According to a weekend statement, researchers with the National Science Foundation's Long-Term Ecological Research site in Antarctica's Dry Valleys adjacent to McMurdo Sound have found that the seasonally averaged surface air temperature has dropped by 0.7 degrees Celsius per decade since the 1980s. They have observed similar downward trends across the rest of the continent since 1978, confirming a continental cooling trend.

Their paper, published in the online version of the journal Nature, says the cooling trend occurred despite a global average increase in air temperature of 0.06 degrees Celsius during the 20th century, making Antarctica unique among the Earth's continental land masses.

The scientists report that the latest findings are puzzling because many climate models indicate that the Polar Regions should serve as bellwethers for any global warming trend, responding first and most rapidly to an increase in temperatures.

Researcher Peter Doran, lead author of the paper, said the findings of continental cooling across Antarctica present a challenge to climate modelers. "Although some do predict areas of cooling, widespread cooling is a bit of a conundrum that the models need to start to account for," he said.

More information about the project can be found at http://huey.colorado.edu/LTER/

Peace talks back on
with Colombian rebels

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

BOGOTA, Colombia — President Andres Pastrana has addressed the nation after government and rebel negotiators suddenly agreed to resume peace talks that derailed last week. Speaking on Colombian television, Pastrana said the peace process with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia will continue. 

Fiesta starts Thursday

Ciudad Colon, some 20 kms (12 miles) west of San José, is gearing up for its fair, Expoferia Turística de la Naranja, that starts Thursday and runs until Sunday.  About 50 to 60 agricultural producers and as many artisans are expected to attend.

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