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These stories were published Thursday, Jan. 20, 2005, in Vol. 5, No. 14
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Agents foil tire-puncture robbery plot against tourists
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A group of U.S. citizens almost became victims of flat tire robbers Wednesday morning, but two Costa Rican intelligence agents spotted what was going on.

A Fuerza Pública spokesman said that the two agents watched as several men tried to poke a hole in a tire of the vehicle being used by the U.S. citizens near Juan Santamaría Airport. This is a typical trick of robbers in that area. They pull up after the tire has deflated and the vehicle occupants have stopped and gotten out to inspect the situation. That’s when the robbery takes place.

The agents are members of the Dirección de Inteligencia y Seguridad Nacional, a unit that avoids publicity.

When the would-be bandits realized they were being watched by police-type individuals, they fled west toward El Coyol with agents in pursuit. Fuerza Pública was notified and managed to intercept a vehicle, identified as a San José taxi. Inside were four 

men, including the 23-year-old Costa Rican driver, identified by the last names of Chavez Duartes.

Three other suspects were Colombians, identified by the last names and ages of Seles Redondo, 25, Vélez Vélez, 24 and Quintana Calderón, 34, said the Fuerza Pública spokesman.

Police said they confiscated a .38-caliber revolver from the vehicle. The case remains under investigation.

The Alajuela and San José areas have been plagued by a band of robbers who prey on motorists. For example, between Friday and Saturday, several robberies were reported by motorists who parked in the lot of Mall Internacional in Alajuela, said police.

Police said that over the last couple of months a number of citizens have reported robberies by crooks using a vehicle with the same description as the taxi stopped Wednesday. They asked that others who might have experienced the same fate to come forward. 


 
First archaeologist honored with cultural prize
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica’s first archaeologist has been honored with the Premio Magón, the nation’s highest award for culture. 

A.M. Costa Rica file photo
Carlos H. Aguilar Piedra looks over a tribute to his professional life in this 2003 photo.
The recipient, Carlos H. Aguilar Piedra, 87, was not present for the announcement Wednesday morning, but he is expected to attend the presentation in May. 

Aguilar, who still is active in his profession, was named because of his academic achievements and also because of his key role in development of the archaeological work at Guayabo, Turrialba. He also has contributed to the development of generations of professionals. Judging was by a panel set up by the Ministerio de Cultura, Juventud y Deportes.

Aguilar’s most recent achievement is the book "El jade y el chamán," which was the subject of a newspaper article when it appeared in 2003. He argues that jade was the unifying substance in Indian cultures. The jade was carved to represent the many manifestations of shaman, he says.

Aguilar, a  Cartago native, is a 1946 graduate of the prestigious Escuela Nacional de Antropología e Historia de México. He was the first professionally trained archaeologist in the country.

 
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A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas
A multicolored sky provides a background to wind-tossed trees in the Central Valley where horizontal rain created a number of rainbows Wednesday.

Record lows and high winds
continue to plague nation

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The poor Caribbean coast residents. First there was flooding. Now they are facing the coldest temperatures on record. The mercury bottomed out there Wednesday morning below 17 degrees Celsius (62.6 F.)

Temperatures in the Central Valley were between 13 (55.4 F.) and 14 (57 F.) degrees early Wednesday morning.

But the temperature was not the only problem. High winds, some up to 80 kms (50 mph), continued to sweep the whole country, including dry Guanacaste.

The Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad issued a warning about downed power lines. Falling trees and utility poles have caused outages all over the country.

The institute issued a special warning for Alajuela, Naranjo, Grecia, San Ramón and Poás where electric service has been affected by the collision of wires.

A 26-year-old man with the last name of Matarrita died Tuesday afternoon in Tilarán near Lake Arenal when he was trying to repair telephone lines. He touched a powerline instead and was thrown some five meters (16 feet) into a ditch.

The winds and cold weather are supposed to diminish by Friday.

Theater group planning
open house and preview

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

February is shaping up to be a busy month for the Little Theatre Group. The group is based at the Blanche Brown Theatre in Bello Horizonte, Escazú.

The group will host an open house Feb. 7 from 7 to 9 p.m. at its theater. The open house will feature a preview of the newest production "Trees Die Standing Still." The play will then make its opening towards the end of the month.

The group will also be lending out the theater to another group during the month of February. A Canadian group that has toured throughout Canada, raising money for local causes, will put on "New Wrinkles," a midlife comedy. 

The Canadian group will perform their show for one day, at 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 13. All of the proceeds from the show will be donated to Hogar Siembra, a refuge for sexually abused girls. Tickets for the show are $30. For information call: 228-7449 or 451-4359.

Gambling firm here
gets license from UK

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Bodog.com, an online gambling and sports book organization based in San José, has received a bookmaker’s license for the United Kingdom, the company said Wednesday. The license allows the company to provide gambling services to clients in the United Kingdom and to offer betting services from there.

Bodog.com has been in operation for 10 years in Costa Rica and has mainly focused on North America. Founder and CEO, Calvin Ayre, said he hopes that the addition of the European market will bolster the company’s growth. 

Three held in Liberia
as suspects in robberies

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Investigators in Liberia said they have detained three suspects in a case involving seven armed robberies on the Interamerican highway. Officials identified the three men as two brothers named Cordero from Costa Rica, and a man named Fletes from Nicaragua. 

The Judicial Investigating Organization has been looking into robberies of cyclists on the Interamerican highway since December. Cyclists frequent the highway but near the end of last year, several robberies caught the attention of local officers.

Thefts from tourists
result in two arrests

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff 

Two suspects have been arrested in connection with three thefts from tourists in Liberia. They were arrested in Avenida 25 in the Center of Liberia Sunday.  The thefts were carried out in Liberia by breaking into parked cars and stealing belongings. 

A 36-year-old woman with the surname Recio, and a 48-year-old man named Suarez have been given three months preventative detention while the case is investigated.  Officials from the Judicial Investigating  Organization said that they believe that there may be other cases which have not been reported.  Officials said that this was because jewelry, wallets and other articles were recovered that had not been reported stolen. 

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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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Tale of one-legged professor spreading on Internet
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Did the German leave his leg in Costa Rica?

The whole world thinks he did, but the truth may be less sensational.

Last week, Ananova, an online paper in Leeds, reported that a German professor had his leg amputated against his will at a hospital in San José. The report was filed by a freelance news agency, which had also sold the story to other British papers.

According to the article, Professor Ronald (or Roland) Jurisch from Dessau, Germany, took a vacation in Costa Rica. During his vacation, Jurisch went to an Alajuela hospital because his left foot was swollen, the article said. The article claims that despite Jurisch’s protests at the hospital, he was given drugs, which knocked him out. When he awoke, he was in the airport departure lounge, his leg had been amputated, and he had no idea what had happened, the article said.

That’s news to officials at Juan Santamaría Airport, who 

would be expected to know if a man with a fresh amputation suddenly awoke in a departure lounge.

The reporter who wrote the story said he never spoke to the professor. He is Michael Leidig, who works in Vienna, Austria, for the Central European News freelance agency. In an e-mail Leidig said he simply copied the information from a German newspaper, Bild. He has not answered subsequent e-mails.

The article by Leidig is weak on details. He fails to name the hospital or the airport, although Juan Santamaría is the obvious location. Nevertheless, the article is spreading all over the Internet in both English and German at a time when Costa Rica is trying to improve its tourism among Europeans.

The story claims Jurisch suffered from blood poisoning due to the incident and that he is now suing the hospital in San José. 

The article does not specify any time frame as to when the incident occurred or exactly at what hospital the incident occurred. 


 
Photos of dance are next exhibit at Centro 

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A photography exhibition titled "Danza-Imagen" will open to the public  Friday. The exhibition is being held at the gallery of the Centro Cultural Costarricense-Norteamericano, La Sabana.

Julio Sequiera's photographs are observations of dance and movement. He has been a photographer for more than 14 years and graduated from the Colegio Universitaro de Alajuela with honours. Sequiera originally specialized in nature photography. He then began working as a freelancer and was asked to photograph a ballet class. 

It was then that he became inspired and began attending jazz, ballet and modern dance competitions taking photos and observing the dancers movements.  "It takes a lot of practice to know when to take the photo. The photos were not staged. The exhibition features montage as well as untouched photos," said Sequiera. 

The exhibition also will be open from Saturday until Feb. 23 at the Galeria La Sabana. It is located north and east of the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad. 

A Sequiera image of dance

 
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Ms. Rice outlines Bush goals for Western Hemisphere
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Western Hemisphere is important to the United States, and the Bush administration will work to promote democracy and economic development in the region, according to Secretary of State-designate Condoleezza Rice.

During her confirmation hearing this week before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Ms. Rice said the Western Hemisphere is "extremely critical" to the United States and pledged the Bush administration will work on relationships in the region "in a very aggressive way."

Later the committee approved her nomination for discussions on the floor of the Senate.

Among the issues Ms. Rice addressed were the challenges confronting the region and the Bush administration's hemispheric agenda.  She also shared insights on U.S. views, relationships and initiatives with Chile, Brazil, Mexico, Canada, Colombia, Venezuela, Haiti, Cuba, Central America and the Andean region.

"Democracy has a lot of challenges in Latin America," she told legislators.  "It has the challenges of new, fragile institutions that have come into being over the last two decades.  It has the challenges of trying to bring economic prosperity to very poor populations."

Ms. Rice said the Bush administration will confront these challenges by working to "promote democratic development and democratic institutions, and to begin to marry those democratic institutions with economic progress for the peoples of the region."

The secretary-designate said trade is an important component of the efforts to advance the region's democratic and economic development.  She pointed to the success of the U.S. trade agreement with Chile, which entered into force in 2004, and the recently concluded trade agreement between the United States, the Dominican Republic and the Central American nations of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua soon to be presented to the Senate for approval.

Ms. Rice said that the Bush administration would prefer the Central American agreement’s approval "sooner rather than later," and added the United States also continues to work with Brazil, as a co-chair, to move forward on forging a Free Trade Area of the Americas.

Apart from collaborating as free trade area co-chairs, the U.S. relationship with Brazil is "extremely critical to the region," Ms. Rice said.  She indicated that the United States would partner with Brazil and other hemispheric nations to confront regional challenges.

Ms. Rice also said the United States has made progress with Mexico and Canada on a number of issues, including the Smart Border Initiative, which employs 

technology to both facilitate legitimate commerce and enhance security.  She said the United States and its North American neighbors also continue to consult on the future of the North American Free Trade Agreement and the next phases of North American economic integration.

"I would look forward to having extensive discussions about how we improve the competitiveness of North America as we face competition from the rest of the world," Ms. Rice said.

Within this context, Ms. Rice said she also hopes to work with the Organization of American States to ensure the enforcement of the Inter-American Democratic Charter.

In defense of democracy, Ms. Rice noted that the United States has already been very active in Central America, since there are "very grave" challenges to some Central American governments.

The secretary-designate said the United States wants to avoid repeating the Latin American cycle of democratic developments followed by authoritarian ones.  She said that even though certain Central American and Latin American nations have very high growth rates, more must be done to improve the ability of these countries to deal with their problems.

Ms. Rice said that enhancing the region's ability to meet the demands of its people is the "next step," and suggested that progress has already been made.

Ms. Rice stressed that the United States supports Colombian President Alvaro Uribe's successful efforts to combat the challenges of terrorism and narcotics trafficking.  She also explained that the United States is supporting the Andean region more broadly, through trade preferences and a counterdrug initiative.  Despite these efforts, Ms. Rice said, more U.S. attention to the region is needed.

"We are engaging, and need to engage more; this is a very vital region, " she said.  "It has a lot of challenges.  It has a lot of potential."

As for Cuba, Ms. Rice said very close attention would be paid to implementing the recommendations of the Commission to Assist a Free Cuba.  She said the regime of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro needs to be isolated, and added progress is being made in limiting the Cuban government's ability to siphon off monies intended for humanitarian purposes, funds spent on travel to Cuba and remittances sent by U.S. residents to family members on the island.

"The day that the people of Cuba are finally free is going to be a great one for the Western Hemisphere," she said.  "The Commission recommendations were intended to try and hasten that day and also to try to prepare the ground for a peaceful transition ... it's a very important goal, and you can be certain that we'll pay extremely close attention to it."


 
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