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These stories were published Tuesday, Feb. 10, 2004, in Vol. 4, No. 28
Jo Stuart
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A.M. Costa Rica photo
Licensed taxi drivers were out in force Monday urging the government to crack down on so-called pirate operators, those without taxi permits.  The legal drivers rallied here at the Estadio Nacional in La Sabana and then drove with perhaps as  many as 1,000 cabs to Casa Presidencial in Zapote. Drivers promised more demonstrations and slowdowns if action is not taken. They want steep fines for illegal taxis and confiscation of the vehicles.
Nicaraguans here become a major political issue
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two related events happened Monday. A delegation of Nicaraguan ambassadors called on the minister of security to express concern over treatment of their citizens by police here. And some 40,000 foreign students, mostly Nicaraguan, showed up for the first day of public school here.

There many be as many as 500,000 Nicaraguans, legal and illegal, living in Costa Rica, and they have effected a profound change on the country.

Costa Ricans are quick to blame Nicaraguans for crime and family violence, but the numbers speak for themselves. Whether it is poverty or citizenship, more than 80 Nicaraguans were among the 200 plus persons who were in serious family disputes last year, according to the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública.

Rogelio Ramos, the security minister, says police were just doing their job when they set up checkpoints Jan. 30 in La Carpio, an urban slum west of San José that is heavily populated by Nicaraguans. 

Some 14 persons, mostly Costa Rican were detained because they had judicial actions outstanding. Some 23 persons had false cédulas of residency. But the television showed long lines of individuals waiting to present their papers. Many Nicaraguans missed work that day because the police sweep began at 6 a.m. Perhaps 600 persons were interviewed because their papers were not in order. At least 20 were deported as a result of the sweep.

The fallout from the raid ignited protests in Nicaragua. A reader there reports that all four of the major television channels in Managua ran specials outlining the plight of the Nicaraguan immigrants in Costa Rica and that the written press has had at least one negative article about Costa Rica every day for the last week.

There is considerable comment in the street noting that the round up came only on the heels of the completion of the coffee harvest here, the reader said.

Nicaraguans have reason to feel they are picked on.  At Christmas, Costa Rican immigration officials refused entry to nearly 4,500 Nicaraguans who tried to enter the country with something less than a passport and visa. 

Although the laws call for full documentation, the rules had not been enforced in the past and immigration officials gave no notice that they would crack down.

As a result of the immigration crackdown, many Nicaraguans lost a week’s worth of work in Costa Rica and also had to purchase a passport and visa.

The four-person delegation that visited Ramos Monday included two ambassadors. They were the current Nicaraguan ambassador here, Nestor Membreño, and the former ambassador, Mauricio Díaz.

The delegation was following up on the Nicaraguan request for an investigation of events a week ago in La Carpio. For Nicaraguans, the case has risen to the level of a matter of human rights.

Little was known about what transpired in the private meeting between Ramos and Marco Badilla, director general of Migración y Extranjería, and the visiting Nicaraguans. But Ramos defended the La Carpio sweep afterwards.

There were not television shots of police violating the rights of anyone, he noted. And he promised more such sweeps in troubled areas.

Immigration officials and police have been conducting sweeps for nearly two years, but the La Carpio action involved the greatest number of persons to date.

The number of school children who are Nicaraguans demonstrates the strain on social programs and health care, and many Costa Ricans blame Nicaraguans for taking needed resources.

But even former president Oscar Arias, the Nobel Prize winner, had no quick answers Monday night when a REPRETEL interviewer asked him about illegal immigration. He noted that poverty knows no borders and said the situation was a complex one. He is expected to seek the presidency again.

The furor in Nicaragua seems to have undone the public relations that President Abel Pacheco had accomplished. Pacheco seemed to have developed a close personal relationship with Enrique Bolaños, the Nicaraguan president. There even were plans to market tourism jointly. 

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A.M. Costa Rica file photo
John Danilovich (right) in his element with then-undersecretary Otto Reich after paying a courtesy call at the time of President Abel Pacheco’s inauguration in 2002.

Bush taps Danilovich
as new Brazilian envoy

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President George Bush said Monday that he intends to nominate John J. Danilovich, the current U.S. ambassador to Costa Rica, to be ambassador to the Federal Republic of Brazil.

Danilovich previously served on the Board of Directors for the Panama Canal Commission. He earned his bachelor's degree from Stanford University and his master's degree from the University of Southern California (London). 

The notice of intention to nominate was released by the White House press office. The intention was listed as a personnel announcement rather than an appointment.

Bush nominated Danilovich for the Costa Rican slot June 19, 2001. At the time Bush said that Danilovich was a principal of Danilovich and Company, a consulting group specializing in joint ventures between the United States
and Europe.  The announcement also said he had a number of other business connections. He also worked for 20 years in the shipping business.

Testifying during his Sept. 25, 2001, confirmation hearing before Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Danilovich pledged that he would "work diligently to advance U.S. investment and commercial interests, strengthen counternarcotics cooperation, encourage environmental collaboration and enhance U.S.-Costa Rican relations overall."

While in Costa Rica, Danilovich has not been particularly visible despite his distinctive white hair. He works under tight security and lives in the fortress-like ambassador’s residence in Escazú.  His principal public appearance each year to U.S. citizens here has been at the July 4 celebration put on by the American Colony Committee. Despite the informal nature of the event, Danilovich always wore a jacket and tie.

Although Danilovich promised to protect U.S. citizens during his Senate confirmation hearing, he never made any public effort to ease the problems of Americans who were victims of the many investment failures over the last three years. 

His new appointment will have to be approved by the U.S. Senate, as is the case for all ambassadors.

Man helping victim
becomes victim, too

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A Good Samaritan stopped to help an accident victim Monday morning but then became a fatality himself when a bus crashed into a car.

The double accident took place on the east-west Autopista Próspero Fernández at the point where it joins the Circunvalación Hatillo-Pavas, said investigators. The time was about 7:30 a.m.

The Good Samaritan was identified as Diego Trejos Corrales, 24, who happened to be the son of Fernando Trejos Ballestero, executive president of the Instituto Mixto de Ayuda Social. This is the agency that runs the national lotteries.

Investigators said the man, Fermín Joya Alvarado, 66, was crossing the highway when he was hit by a car. Trejos, a pharmacist, stopped his own car and tried to help.

That was when an Escazú-bound bus failed to avoid vehicles parked at the scene of the first accident. The bus hit a car that then hit Trejos. Both men went to San Juan de Dios Hospital where they died from multiple injuries.

A rush hour traffic tie-up made many motorists late for work.

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U.S. forbids business with 10 firms linked to Cuba
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services
and special reports

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Treasury Secretary John Snow said Monday that the Bush admininstration is cracking down on 10 companies which are controlled by the Cuban government or Cuban nationals. 

The United States has embargoed most trade with Cuba for the past four decades in the hope that economic pressure would help topple the Communist government led by Fidel Castro. 

The U.S. treasury secretary used a speech Monday to announce government action against nine travel agencies and a gift forwarding company based in Cuba and several other nations. The administration is putting these companies on a list that makes it illegal for Americans to do business with them. 

Snow delivered the speech to a group of Cuban-American business executives in the

southern U.S. state of Florida. Cuban-Americans play an influential role in Florida politics, a key state in presidential elections. 

The 10 include entities organized and located in Cuba as well as entities located in Argentina, the Bahamas, Canada, Chile, the Netherlands, and England, the Treasury Department said. 

The Treasury Department is taking action to ensure that "all property of these entities that is in the possession of persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction is blocked and no persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction may engage in any transactions with these entities . . . , according to the department.

President Geroge Bush announced a tightening of rules relating to Cuba on Oct. 10, since then, some 264 civil cases have been opened by the Office of Foreign Asset control for alleged travel to Cuba. Three cases have been referrred for criminal action, according to the office.

More than just one search today around Nicoya
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

While police are hunting two alleged Colombian drug smugglers today, fishermen on the Pacific and residents of the Nicoya Peninsula will be doing a little hunting of their own.

While the police are combing the rugged peninsula hills, the attraction for others will be the bales of cocaine that five men in a fast boat dumped into the Gulf of Nicoya before they ran aground at Malpaís Monday morning.

U.S. coast guardsmen and agents of the Policía de Control de Drogas said Monday that they had recovered 13 bales and each contained 25 kilos of cocaine.  That’s 325 kilos or 715 pounds of drugs.

No one except the men on the boat know exactly how many bales were there. Officials said that they hoped anyone who found a bale of cocaine in the Pacific would turn in the drugs. 

The drugs were headed north for eventual entry into the United States. A U.S. Coast Guard ship spotted the launch about 60 nautical miles off the 

Costa Rican coast about 7 a.m. A U.S. helicopter kept the boat under tight surveillance, and Servicio Nacional de Guardacostas patrol boats came to the scene.

While the men were fleeing the U.S. Coast Guard, they dumped up to 40 bales into the sea. Five men were on the 40-foot craft.

Malpaís is at the tip of the Nicoya Peninsula, and it was here the men realized that a strong contingent of police were waiting for them. Some witnesses said that shots were fired from the helicopter in front of the fleeing boat.

The craft ran aground on a popular beach, and the five men fled. However, two were detained almost immediately. One went into custody a short time later when he sought a glass of water from a resident. And one dropped his passport. So police know the identities of four of the five.

The men were identified by their last names: Mosquera Murillo, 25; Montaño Angulo, 45; and Mosquera Caicedo, 28. One of the two men in flight is named Torres.

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Australia and U.S. reach a free-trade agreement
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The United States and Australia have concluded a historic and comprehensive free trade agreement, United States Trade Representative Robert Zoellick has announced.

"This is a great day for the peoples of two countries with a long history of friendship and partnership," Zoellick said.

Australia is a major trade and investment partner for the United States, with two-way annual goods and services trade of approximately $28 billion and two-way foreign direct investment of $60 billion. 

First proposed in 1992, the U.S.-Australia Free Trade Agreement is the first such agreement between the United States and a developed country since 1988. 

Under the agreement, a wide range of tariffs and other trade barriers will be eliminated or reduced. The trade agreement will be of particular benefit to U.S. manufacturers, according to Zoellick.

"This is the most significant immediate cut in industrial tariffs ever achieved in a U.S. free trade agreement," the trade representative said, "and manufacturers are the big winners."

More than 99 percent of U.S. manufactured exports to Australia will immediately become duty-free when the agreement enters into force. 

Manufactured goods account for 93 percent of U.S. exports to Australia.

The agreement also provides for liberalization in several other sectors of the economy while addressing particular areas of concern, including:

-- Immediate duty-free access for all U.S. agricultural exports to Australia, including fruits, vegetables, and processed foods. The agreement will also address inspection procedures that have posed barriers in the past.

-- The application or maintenance of tariff-rate quotas in ways calculated to address concerns of U.S. beef and dairy farmers.

-- Broader market access for U.S. companies in several service and investment categories, including telecommunications, tourism, energy, construction and engineering, financial services, insurance, education, and entertainment. 

-- Improved cooperation on regulatory procedures for pharmaceutical research and development.

-- Reduced restrictions on government procurement.

-- Increased and extended standards for protection of intellectual property. 

The agreement also includes commitments to strong protections for workers and the environment.

Anti-Aristide violence in Haiti continues to grow
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Violent disturbances spread to more towns in northwest Haiti Monday. At least 40 people have died since last Thursday, when the rioting broke out against the government of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. The violence is the most serious to strike Haiti in years.

Police are struggling to regain control of towns along a main north-south highway that links this capital, Port-au-Prince with the country's fourth-largest city Gonaives. Large scale disturbances, which broke out in Gonaives on Thursday, have now spread to other cities and towns in the region. Police fought pitched battles on Monday with rioters who control St. Marc, 70 kms. (42 miles) north of Port-au-Prince, but reportedly made little progress in taking control of the town.

The disturbances, which are being led by former gang leaders based in Gonaives, who are former allies of President Aristide's government say they want Aristide to leave office saying his 

government is guilty of human rights violations and mismanagement.

A broad coalition of opposition politicians business leaders and representatives based in the capital who also say they want Aristide to leave office have denounced the violence.

Haiti's Prime Minister has denounced the rioters calling them terrorists. He has called on opposition leaders to help prevent what he describes as a coup d'etat. For his part, Aristide said recently he has no plans to leave office before his term officially expires in two years.

The roots of Haiti's crisis date to legislative elections in 2000 that international observers called deeply flawed. Since then Haiti's government and opposition have been unable to agree on when or how to hold new elections leading to government paralysis. President Aristide was first elected in 1990 and then ousted months later by Haiti's now-disbanded army. He was restored to power in a U.S. led military intervention in 1994. 

Jo Stuart
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