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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Feb. 7, 2002, Vol. 2, No. 27
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Río Tárcoles
crocodiles
put on show just being there

A.M. Costa Rica photos
A popular place for crocodile-watching is the bridge over the Río Tárcoles just north of the Pacific beach town of Jacó. At any one time 20 to 30 fat crocks might be seen sunning themselves on the muddy banks.

Occasionally a brave cow from a nearby finca might be seen moving nearby for a drink.

The river is an outlet for drainage from as far away as the Central Valley, and is highly polluted. But the crocks do not seem to mind. 

There are other two-legged lizards around. The bridge has been the place where many tourists lose luggage from their rented cars. Some report they have been in the country for only a few hours. The bridge is on the route many motorists take to visit Punta Leona, Manuel Antonio, Quepos and other top tourist destinations.

While police are trying to increase their presence, tourists probably should keep an eye on their obviously rented vehicles.


Restaurant owners may try to evade dry laws
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The presidential campaign, the Feb. 3 elections and mandatory closures cost Costa Rican bar and restaurant owners lots of money. Hard hit were those with tourist operations in the center of San José.

However, some restaurant owners are catching on to the trick of how to serve alcohol even when the law says you cannot.

Costa Rican law prohibited the sale of alcohol at retail or in bottles for 72 hours around election day. That was Feb. 2, a Saturday, Feb. 3, election day and Superbowl Sunday, and Feb. 4, a Monday.

Now with a runoff planned for April 7, bar and restaurant owners are facing a double hit.  They will not be able to sell alcohol April. 6, 7, and 8. Places with a principal business of selling alcohol will have to close altogether  and police will put seals on the doors.

San José retailers, restaurant owners and bar operators had an additional hit, as did those in similar occupations in large cities where campaign rallies are staged. Alcohol-related sales are forbidden within 1,500 feet of any political demonstration. When the political parties staged marches throughout San José, most outlets had to close. The closings were for the whole day, not just the time of the march or demonstration.

When Vladimir de la Cruz and his Fuerza Democratica went head-on with the conclusion of the telenovella "Yo Soy Betty la Fea," and a key Gold Cup game for Costa Rica Jan. 30, he did not draw too many spectators to the two-hour rally. But bars in and around Avenida Principal and Calle 11 had to shut down the whole day.

Bar operators in the center of San José estimate their losses in business from the six days of closure in amounts that sum to about $100,000. One major hotel owner with a major bar estimated the loss in his business due to closure at $50.000. A man who operates three bars and a hotel said he lost 4 million colons (about $11,500). The owner of a single bar estimated his loss in business at about 1.5 million colons (about $4,400). 

But at least one casino downtown and some restaurants all over the country set up their business during the election period as "private parties." As such, they were allowed to sell alcohol to their invited guests. The casino had formal invitations, and those without invitations said they had varying degrees of success in entering the party Saturday night.

Some hotel and restaurant operators, when they heard about the legal maneuver, vowed to try it themselves during the next dry period. That will be at least the 72 hours that include election day April 7. 

Plus there is the probability of rallies by Partido Unidad Social Cristiana for candidate Abel Pacheco and by Partido Liberación Nacional for its candidate Rolando Araya Monge. That’s two more days without work for central San José locations.

Then, of course, there is the annual period in advance of Easter when alcohol sales are banned. Easter this year is a week before the April 7 runoff.

No one in the bar or restaurant business said they thought there was any chance of changing the Costa Rican laws about alcohol during elections or Easter. But they were anxious to explore the possibilities of evasion.

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CIA is concerned by growing Latin instability 
By A.M. Costa Rica wire services

WASINGTON, D.C. — The Central Intelligence Agency says it is concerned about growing instability in Latin America in countries like Argentina, Colombia and Venezuela. 

CIA chief George Tenet told the Senate Intelligence Committee in Washington Wednesday that Latin America is becoming more volatile as the potential for instability grows. The CIA director said officials are concerned about Argentina because of its  economic crisis, which has triggered widespread protests and contributed to the resignations of two presidents in December. 

Tenet pointed to Argentine President Eduardo Duhalde's struggle to maintain public order amid efforts to help the economy rebound from the  brink of economic collapse. The country has been in recession nearly four years and in default on $141 billion in public debt. 

The CIA chief also said Colombia is volatile since the peace process there faces many obstacles. The government of Colombian President Andres  Pastrana is trying to end a 38-year-old civil war that involves two leftist rebel groups, right-wing para-militaries and the army. 

Leftist rebels from the largest guerrilla force, the Revolutionary Armed  Forces of Colombia, or FARC, are blamed for widespread attacks as it negotiates peace with the Pastrana government. 

Tenet said the CIA is also watching Colombia's neighbor, Venezuela,  because economic conditions there have worsened with the fall in oil prices. 

Venezuela is a major oil producer and the United States' third-largest supplier of petroleum. He said growing discontent within the country to the governing style of President Hugo Chavez has created what the CIA chief called a "crisis atmosphere." 

Tuesday Secretary of State Colin Powell told the Senate Foreign  Relations Committee the United States is concerned about some of President Chavez's actions and his understanding of democracy. Secretary  Powell also criticized Chavez's visits to countries the United States  considers enemies. 

Venezuela's Foreign Minister, Luis Alfonso Davila, was quoted later as saying Mr. Chavez's foreign policy does not require the approval or authorization of other governments. 


Chere Lyn Tomayko

Alexandria Cyprian

Texas nurse most visible
child abduction suspect

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

U.S. officials still are looking for a nurse who fled Texas in May 1997 with her 8-year-old child. Authorities still say that she may be hiding out in Costa Rica.

The woman is Chere Lyn Tomayko, now 39, and the daughter is Alexandria Camille Cyprian, who would now be 11.

The case is the most visible of child abductions that have been a news topic lately. U.S. embassy officials confirmed Tuesday that an undisclosed  number of such cases are still considered unresolved.

The Tomayko case is at the top of the list because there is a U.S. warrant on one count of international parental kidnapping. She and her former boyfriend had joint custody of the child but she fled without his consent and took the child out of the jurisdiction of the Tarrant County District Court, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. She also took another daughter who is not involved in the custody issue, said the department.

Ms. Tomayko is just 5-foot, 2-inches tall and weighed 90 pounds at the time of the abduction, said the Justice Department. The girl was just 4-feet tall and 55 pounds, they said. At the time the woman fled, authorities said they had information that she may be headed to Costa Rica.

The case is similar to that of Ralph Stumbo who is seeking the return of his son Marco, 3 1/2, who was taken contrary to a court order from Naples, Fla., by his now-ex wife. However, no indictment has been handed up nor any warrant issued in the Stumbo case. Stumbo’s wife is Costa Rican.

El Niño is considered
likely off Pacific coast

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Scientists using climate monitoring data from polar orbiting satellites and a network of ocean buoys predict that it is likely an El Niño weather system will develop in the tropical Pacific in the next three months.

Costa Rica will feel the results in unstable and damaging weather conditions.

According to an announcement Tuesday, the scientists also predict a localized warming of sea surface temperatures off the coasts of Ecuador and Peru over the next few weeks as part of the steady evolution toward El Niño conditions.

"This warming represents an early stage of El Niño's onset . . . . The impacts will depend on the strength of the event, which we can't determine at this time," said Vice Admiral Conrad Lautenbacher. He is administrator of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

During an El Niño event, the normally cold water off the west coast of South America becomes much warmer, exceeding the normal temperatures by several degrees, while the waters in the western Pacific cool.

Scientists have been predicting El Niño for the last two months, but this prediction is strongly supported by technical data. Previous predictions were based on statistical inferences and the period of time since an El Niño condition had appeared.

El Niños can affect weather conditions around the world. Among the consequences, for example, are increased rain storms across the southern tier of the United States and Peru, which have caused destructive flooding; and drought in the West Pacific, sometimes associated with devastating brush fires in Australia.

 El Niño episodes occur roughly every four-to-five years and can last up to 12-to-18 months. It has been nearly four years since the end of the 1997-1998 El Niño, which was followed by three years of La Niña. In many locations, especially in the tropics, La Niña produces the opposite kinds of climate variations from El Niño.

Further information is available at:
http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/
analysis_monitoring/enso_advisory/ and http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/

Don't miss our photo essay on the Museo National Click HERE
Central America a free-trade priority, Zoellick tells senators
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The United States' trade-related goals for the coming year include completing bilateral free trade agreements with Chile and Singapore, advancing Russia's agreement to the World Trade Organization, and ensuring the involvement of least developed countries in the global talks launched at the November 2001 world trade meeting in Doha, Qatar, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick told a Senate panel Wednesday.

A priority will be a proposed Central American free trade agreement, he said.

He also pressed Congress to approve trade promotion authority (so-called "fast track authority") for the president, and to re-authorize the Andean Trade Preference Act and the Generalized System of Preferences. Both the programs set preferential tariffs for many imports from developing countries, and both expired in 2001.

Testifying before the Senate Finance Committee, Zoellick underlined the need to maintain the momentum of the Doha agreement, and said the United States would be working with the World Trade Organization and other organizations to 

provide tools and training to developing countries to expand their participation in the global trade. 

"By providing such support, we will be helping these nations to integrate with the global economy — a key part of the strategy for economic development — while also strengthening the rules-based trading system," he said.

Zoellick said the Bush Administration intends to conclude free trade agreements in 2002 with Chile and Singapore and to pursue similar agreements with "a mix of developing and developed nations in all regions of the world." Top priorities include Australia and the countries of Central America, he said.

And talks on creating a Free Trade Area of the Americas will continue, Zoellick said. He reported that negotiators will launch market-access negotiations by mid-May on agriculture, industrial goods, services, investment and government procurement. In October, trade ministers will meet in Quito, Ecuador, to determine how to move forward, he added. Zoellick said that at the close of the Quito meeting, the United States and Brazil will begin a co-chairmanship of the free trade process, "providing an opportunity for cooperation with a key partner and economic power as the pace of negotiations accelerates."


 
U.N. embarks on campaign to save coral reefs in Caribbean
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

A new information campaign has been launched in the Caribbean about the importance of protecting coral reefs, the marine equivalent of tropical rain forests.

The campaign, spearheaded by the U.N. Environment Program, seeks to educate the public about the importance of coral reefs to the environment and to the tourism industry. 

The World Atlas of Coral Reefs, the definitive book on the status of coral reefs in different regions of the world, states that more than 60 percent of the coral reefs in the Caribbean are under threat. Entire reefs have been decimated by disease and the region (which hosts about eight percent of the world's total reef area) is being adversely affected by sedimentation, nutrient pollution, and over-fishing.

The issue resonates deeply in countries like Jamaica, where 90 percent of the coral reefs have been lost in the last 15 to 20 years, according to an official. He described the full dimension of the problem and its implications for Jamaica and its neighbors. For instance, he said, coral reefs play an important role in the food chain because marine animals such as fish, crabs and eels use the reefs as nurseries to protect their young. Reef ecosystems support large fisheries that people in island nations depend upon for food, he added.

Secondly, coral reefs are a big tourist draw. Jamaica's diving industry has "basically been lost," said the official, since its ruined coral reefs have rendered the region less attractive as a tropical getaway for tourists. The official pointed out that beach erosion, too, occurs with the loss of coral reefs.

The U.N. said its information campaign will include a wall calendar, produced in association with the Caribbean Alliance for Sustainable Tourism, to promote 2002 as the "International Year of Ecotourism." The calendar explains the main biological and ecological features of coral reefs, and offers a quiz for children, a poster, and a boaters' chart with information on how to manage solid waste and holding tanks as well as a guide to refueling and anchoring practices.

Arthur Dahl, director of the U.N. Corals Unit, said the calendar and other new communication tools will "hopefully lead to better care and long-term management and conservation" of coral reefs. The information tools are available in five languages, including Spanish and French, and can be distributed with travel documents or in-flight magazines, in hotel lobbies and rooms, at travel agencies, airport lounges, visitor information centers, and at recreation centers, the U.N. said.

More information about the UNEP campaign is available on the Internet at: www.unep.ch/coral/breefing.htm.

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