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These stories were published Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2002
Jo Stuart
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More child abductions still open in Costa Rica
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

There are other open cases here in Costa Rica of abducted children who have at least one parent a U.S. citizen, the U.S. Embassy confirmed Tuesday.

But an embassy official disputes the contention that there are "dozens" of such cases. That claim was made by Ralph Stumbo, who is trying to get his 3 1/2-year-old son back from his Costa Rican wife. Stumbo has been given custody by a Florida court, according to his divorce decree that arrived for filing in Costa Rica Tuesday.

While stopping short of giving an exact figure, an embassy spokesman said she had spoken to U.S. Consul General Janet Weber and that there are other cases the embassy is aware of but the number of cases are not in the dozens. Generally the embassy would not publicize such cases due to U.S. privacy laws. But Stumbo has gone public in his fight to get back his son.

Stumbo made public a letter he wrote to Weber in which he said "I trust that you will not put a political agenda before the safety and well being of U.S. children held captive in Costa Rica . . . and I ask that you take an active roll in keeping our children safe from the pitfalls of what you have so aptly described as an inadequate legal system."

While acknowledging that embassy officials believe there are shortcomings in Costa Rican law regarding the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction that became U.S. law in 1988, the spokesman denied that Weber had characterized the laws here as "inadequate."

Stumbo has no such qualms and repeatedly has said that the laws here favor woman, 

allow them to file false domestic violence complaints and send a husband to jail with no evidence other than the wife’s word.

Stumbo also called upon Weber to issue him and his son temporary U.S. diplomatic passports so he can leave the country. His wife has filed for monthly support money that prevents his leaving.

Embassy officials will not issue diplomatic passports because Stumbo and his son are not diplomats, said the embassy spokesman.

Stumbo claims that his wife filed a false domestic violence charge against him in Naples Florida and then took the child, a U.S. citizen born in Texas, to Costa Rica while Stumbo was tied up with the police. Subsequently Stumbo won an uncontested divorce from his absent wife and custody. 

The divorce finding made available Tuesday said that the wife, Flor María Gaitan Tejada, now of Heredia had refused a copy of the divorce complaint Jan. 2, refused two deliveries of the notice of hearing by Federal Express and that close family members had been informed about the Jan. 3 legal proceedings four times. The decree also said that the wife is supposed to pay $218 a month in child support.

Stumbo has broadened his personal crusade to set up an organization called North American Consul for Justice to help men in similar situations. He said that meetings have been well attended by Costa Ricans as well as North Americans. He said this week that he now has an office in an undisclosed location. 

Stumbo also said that he and other men with similar legal problems here will discuss the issue with U.S. ambassador John J. Danilovich at a Feb. 21 reception for the ambassador.

Have yourself a ball 
at National Museum

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Museo Nacional de Costa Rica is a jewel in the San José downtown, a quiet place with a magnificent view. And it is where the treasures of Costa Rica are contained and studied. Such treasures range from documents, photos and artifacts from the 1948 revolution all the way back to the earliest of colonial and indigenous relics.

Among them are stone spheres, as seen on the right. These were constructed for multiple reasons from 300 B.C. to about 800 A.D., according to Adrián Badilla Cambronero, an

More on the museum 
Click HERE

archeologist with the museum who prepared a fact sheet. The heaviest spheres weigh in at 20 tons. The biggest is more than 2.5 meters (about 8 feet) in diameter.

Spheres are getting into the news at the museum lately. A Costa Rican artist whose sculptures are strongly influenced by the spheres is Jorge Jiménez Deredia. He will be honored with a book written about his work by French author Pierre Restany on Feb. 20 at the museum. The title is "Plenitud Bajo el Cielo."

Meanwhile, the museum is working towards developing a large park area in the Osa Peninsula in far southwest Costa Rica where spheres can be collected from throughout the southern zone and also perhaps from some front and backyards in San José. Museum 
officials hope to announce the project later.

A.M. Costa Rica photo
A Pre-Colombian sphere has a place of honor in the Bella Vista Museum.

The spheres of many sizes will be displayed in a natural setting. Badilla Cambronero wrote in 1999 that the museum hopes to repatriate spheres from elsewhere in the world and transport them to their area of origin, the Southern Zone.

The spheres, first known in 1940 because of excavations by the United Fruit Co. in the area known as Delta del Diquís, have been uncovered buried in river silt and in dense jungle. 

Originally, according to current theory, the large stones displayed power and marked territorial borders.

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Latin firms in worldwide partnership meet here to swap ideas
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Halsband Worldwide Partners, the top independent advertising agency in Costa Rica, will host the 2002 Latin American Region meeting of Worldwide Partners, Inc., the  world’s largest network of owner-operated marketing communications  firms. The four-day event begins today at the Real Intercontinental Hotel in San José.

With the title "A Volcano of Ideas," the conference brings together executives and creative directors from advertising agencies in Central and South America who are shareholders in a global knowledge network. Attendees will meet in several sessions to assess the state of the advertising economies in their countries, develop new  methods of sharing their local market expertise, and plan new ways of coordinating  their powers to win regional advertising accounts.

The opportunity to share international business is one of the main reasons the independently- owned, entrepreneurial agencies formed the Worldwide Partners corporation to which new firms must be elected by shareholder agencies in 56 countries. Halsband Worldwide Partners is one of six Central American agencies in the corporation that helped execute an international campaign for Viagra. 

When pharmaceutical giant Pfizer made it known they were looking for a way to market the now-famous brand in nations that spoke the same language but had different criteria for effective advertising, agency owners presented plans to deliver a consistent brand message across the  various Central American markets involved. The result was their victory over multinational competitors many times their size that were also in pursuit of the account. Halsband also collaborated with shareholder agencies in their work for pharmaceutical manufacturer Merck Sharpe & Dohme. 

Conference participants include Worldwide Partners owners from: The Group Comunicação Ltda. of São Paulo, Brazil; Azócar & Luco Comunicación Comercial  of Santiago, Chile; Halsband Worldwide Partners of San José; Avance Epsilon Publicidad of Guatemala City, Guatemala; Excell Mercadeo S.A. de C.V. of  Tegucigalpa, Honduras; Huella Publicidad of Managua , Nicaragua; NonStop Communications of Panama City, Panama; Israel Rodríguez & Partners Inc. of San Juan, Puerto Rico; and SantaBarbara,Mrm/Oriental of Montevideo, Uruguay.

Worldwide Partners has a membership of 90 firms worldwide. these companies have more than 2,700 clients and bill $4.2 billion each year.

Don't miss our photo essay on the Museo National Click HERE

Powerful grenade fails to explode as police exploit robbery leads
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

As police closed in to arrest a female and her male companion in San Pedro Tuesday afternoon, the woman hurled a fragmentation grenade at officers, according to investigators.

The powerful grenade did not explode because police were able to secure it in time, according to a spokesman for the Judicial Investigating Organization.

Police were closing in on the two about 2:40 p.m. Tuesday in the parking lot of condominiums in Vargas Araya in San Pedro. The two were suspected of being involved with a band of robbers who plied their trade at houses in the metropolitan area, said police.

The two were grabbed while they were in a car that also contained a large caliber weapon and what police think are stolen goods. Police said the woman, a Colombian identified as Diana Ramírez, was in the backseat of the vehicle when she saw special officers approaching. That’s when police said she threw the grenade.

The man, a Costa Rican, was identified as Alexis Sosa.

This was the latest chapter in a story that began more than 15 days ago when police became suspicious of a home in San Isidro de Heredia and placed it under surveillance for two weeks.

They described the place as a center of operations or warehouse for robbers who would pay up to 150,000 colons ($436) each month to store stolen goods there.

Police moved in last Friday and confiscated a large quantity of what they consider to be stolen items.

The warehouse for robbers is believed to be linked 

to a home invasion and kidnapping that took place Jan. 23 in Guaybos de Curridabat when masked, armed men broke into a home and beat and tied up the servants and eventually took a guard as a hostage. He later was released in Tres Ríos.

The gang also is being linked to an attempted holdup Jan. 27 in San Rafael de Escazú when three men were breaking into a home. The couple there confronted the men, the male occupant fought and the woman fired a gun and wounded a robber, said police.

The robbers fled after hitting the male member of the couple, and that is why he decided to go to San Juan de Dios Hospital for treatment. That is also where the wounded robbery suspect  went, said police, and the owner of the house recognized the man and told police.

Police identified the wounded man as an occupant of the home that was being watched in San Isidro de Heredia, and they decided to raid the dwelling.

The injured robber had three bullet wounds, said police. They said they also believe that another member of the robbery gang suffered wounds, but he has not been located. They think this because a vehicle found at the warehouse contained blood stains believed to be from the second man.

Police located in the raid items taken in the Guayabos de Curridabat robbery, they said. 

The two people arrested Tuesday afternoon were linked to crimes because of information found at San Isidro de Heredia, police said.

They asked that citizens who have been victims of robberies in Heredia, Cartago, Curridabat or San José to inquire about the articles that have been recovered by calling 295-3305, 295-3306 or 295-3307.

Democrats Abroad
to hear Luis Solís

Democrats Abroad of Costa Rica will meet on Monday, Feb. 25, with University of Costa Rica  professor Luis G. Solis, who also is a political scientist and popular media pundit 

The session will be an in-depth analysis of the Feb. 3 presidential election campaigns and their implications for Costa Rica politics and governance. No candidate got the needed 40 percent of the vote Feb. 3, so now two candidates will square off in voting April 7

The Democrats’ meeting will be held on the fifth floor of the Gran Hotel Costa Rica downtown. The business meeting and political update begins at 11 a.m., the buffet lunch at noon and the election review and discussion at approximately 12:45 p.m. 

For reservations (2,500 colons for members and 3,000 ($8.70) for guests) and additional information contact Ruth Dixon at 494-6260 or Jerry Ledin at 290-5798. All in the community are welcome.

Reception to welcome
new U.S. ambassador

U.S. Ambassador John J. Danilovich and his wife Irene will be the guests of honor at an American Colony Committee welcome reception Feb. 21 from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. in the Costa Rica Marriott Hotel. 

The  cost is 10,000 colons ($29), and there is a cash bar. Tickets are being sold beforehand. The organizers said that no tickets would be available at the door.

Danilovich, a Republican, is a political appointee. He has been a supporter of President Bush. Those who attend the reception will get a chance to talk one-on-one with the ambassador.

The American Colony Committee is the traditional host for such ambassadorial events. 

Tickets are available from the committee at 233-3296, from Aerocasillas at 296-9590, from the Costa Rican-American Chamber of Commerce at 220-2200 and from The Tico Times at 258-1558, said the committee in a flier distributed in Escazú.

Big media campaign
links drugs, terror

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy has launched a new media campaign to educate the public about the link between drug trafficking and terrorism. The multi-pronged effort will say that the sales of illicit drugs finance acts of terror, as documented by a U.S. State Department survey of international terrorist organizations.

"Drug use hurts our families and our communities," said office Director John Walters in a release on the initiative. The campaign premiered with the broadcast of television messages during the American national football championship game Sunday. The messages will receive further public exposure on broadcast and cable television. Advertising will appear in national magazines and almost 300 newspapers across the country.

The office will also be using banner advertising on the Internet in addition to Web sites it already has in place with the goal to help parents and teachers better educate youngsters about the dangers of illegal drugs.

Those Web sites are available at http://www1.theantidrug.com/ and http://www1.theantidrug.com/

U.S. may pay to guard
Colombian oil pipeline

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

BOGOTA, Colombia — A U.S. delegation here says the Bush Administration will ask Congress to fund efforts by Colombia's military to protect a key oil pipeline from rebel attacks. 

The delegation led by Undersecretary of State Marc Grossman said Tuesday the proposal calls for $98 million to train and equip Colombian soldiers. They would guard the 780-kilometer (468-mile) Cano Limon pipeline in eastern Colombia that carries oil for the U.S. firm, Occidental Petroleum. 

The pipeline was bombed 170 times last year, 13 times so far this year, and is currently shut down for repairs. The funding proposal may face opposition in Congress, because some lawmakers reportedly fear it would be a step closer to involving U.S. troops in Colombia's 38-year civil war. 

Powell criticizes
Venezuela’s Chavez

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell has criticized Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's style of governing, questioning Chavez's commitment to democracy and the war on terrorism. 

Secretary Powell told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Tuesday the United States is concerned about some of President Chavez's actions and his understanding of democracy.  While refusing comment on allegations Venezuela is supporting leftist rebels in neighboring Colombia, Powell did criticize President Chavez's visits to countries the United States considers enemies.  Chavez has traveled to Iraq and Cuba and is an ally of Cuban President Fidel Castro. 

Fishman resigns
from Pacheco ticket

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The vice presidential candidate of Costa Rica's leading political party has resigned ahead of runoff elections scheduled for April 7. 

Luis Fishman, of Prtido Unidad Social Cristiana, submitted his resignation Tuesday, citing disagreements over who would run the ticket's second round of campaigning. 

However, Fishman is not legally allowed to remove his name from voting for the second round. If his party wins the April election, he will be sworn in as vice president. 

However, the party's presidential candidate, Abel Pacheco, says he expects Fishman to resign from office immediately after the swearing in. 

The election runoff is a first in Costa Rica's modern, democratic history. The Social Christian Party won the first round of Costa Rica's presidential balloting on Sunday, with about 39 percent of the vote. The party was just short of the 40 percent needed for an outright majority. 

The runoff will be against Rolando Araya of the National Liberation Party, who won about 31 percent of the vote in Sunday's election.

Mexican village

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The town of Yerbabuena in the western Mexico state of Colima has been evacuated following the eruption of a nearby volcano. 

Military personnel conducted the evacuation Tuesday, helping more than 200 residents load their possessions onto buses destined for other areas. 

The 4,000-meter (13,000-foot) volcano, known as the "Volcano of Fire," began spewing smoke, ash and vapor several days ago. Scientists say a huge dome of lava located inside a crater could either collapse or explode, putting nearby residents at risk. 

An estimated 300,000 people live within 40 kilometers of the volcano, but lava flows have never reached populated areas.

Argentina unveils
new austerity plan

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — President Eduardo Duhalde has unveiled an austerity budget aimed to help the financially-troubled nation rebound from the brink of economic collapse. 

President Duhalde's government Tuesday presented Congress with the budget, which contains $3 billion in spending cuts. Officials also say the budget is based on projections the economy will contract by as much as 5 percent this year, with inflation climbing to 15 percent. 

The new budget is said to be largely in line with demands by the International Monetary Fund for Argentina to develop a sustainable plan for economic recovery as a precondition for financial aid. 

In December, the IMF withheld a $1.2 billion loan package for Argentina, saying the South American country failed to control government spending. Argentina is seeking at least $15 billion in aid from the IMF to rescue the economy. Argentina has been in recession nearly four years and is in default on $141 billion in public debt. 

The economic crisis also has left 18 percent of the work force unemployed and has triggered widespread anti-government protests. 

On Tuesday, hundreds of unemployed Argentines blocked roads and bridges in the Buenos Aires area before marching to the presidential mansion to demand jobs. The demonstrators also vented their frustrations over restrictions on bank accounts aimed at preventing a massive flight of capital out of the country. 

The government has postponed plans to fully float the peso on the open market. The decision came after the Central Bank ordered foreign exchange houses closed through Thursday in order to implement changes connected to the free-float.

Kidnap victim gets
help from neighbors

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Brazilian police say foreign extremists were responsible for the kidnapping two months ago of a Brazilian advertising executive. 

The kidnappers of Washington Olivetto were apparently associated with six members of a Chilean left-wing group, the Manuel Rodriguez Patriotic Front, who were arrested Friday. The abductors fled the house where Olivetto was being held after learning of the arrests. 

Olivetto called for help Saturday after realizing the kidnappers had left him alone. Neighbors in the Sao Paolo suburb came to his rescue. 

The kidnappers had demanded a $10 million ransom from Olivetto's family, but it was never paid. Brazil's kidnapping rates have increased dramatically in recent years. Police say the 2001 total is five times the total number of kidnappings in 2000. 

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