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These stories were published Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2005, in Vol. 5, No. 32
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On the run
in San José

The Hash House Harriers gather for a photo in mid-run Monday evening near Hospital Calderón Guardia.

The running and social group has a fun run every Monday and frequently hold longers social runs.
 

A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas

 
Drifting boats are another mystery of the sea
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Maritime officials recovered two high-powered boats that seem to be the survivors of some kind of battle on the high seas.

Both were of the type smugglers use to transport drugs. The first, a 40-foot boat with three outboards of 200 horsepower each, was adrift some 12 nautical miles east of Limón.

The second, a 33-footer, was found some 50 nautical miles east of Tortugero. Its three motors were burned, there were sign of a fire 

in the prow, and bullet holes were visible in the body of the boat. 

Members of the Fuerza Pública and of the Servicio Nacional de Guardacostas towed both vessels to Moín where they will be held for investigation.

There were no crew members on either boat, and officials did not find any ownership papers.

Drug dogs inspected the boats at dock, but officials were unable to say if the crafts had been used to transport illegal substances.


 
Costa Rica can now inspect its own U.S.-bound beef products
Clair-Marie Robertson
of the A.M Costa Rica staff

The United States has lifted a two-year ban on the self-inspection of meat by Costa Rica, the Ministerio de Agricultura y Ganaderia said Monday. 

Since 1995  Costa Rica has been off the list of countries that could do their own meat inspection for U.S. importation.. In the past 10 years much has been done to improve the processing plants in the private sector and revise the inspection methods, said Rodolfo Coto Pacheco, the minister of Agricultura. Coto also thanked the U. S. Embassy staff who helped lift the barrier to Costa Rica inspecting its own meat. 

Meat that is exported from Costa Rica will no longer have to be re-inspected when it arrives in the United States. Inspections will be carried out in Costa Rica by ministry technicians.

In November 2003 the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture carried out an audit in Costa Rica.  The audit focused on inspection methods and concluded that they were thorough and trustworthy. 

Four Costa Rican companies will directly benefit from this decision: Montecillos, Coopemontecillos R.L, Procesadora de Carnes El Rey, S.A,  and Planta El Arreo. They ship meat to the U.S. in container lots.

As an example of the trade involved, Coopemontecillos this year aims to export to the United States 920,000 kilos of fine cut fresh meat valued at more than $3 million. In addition the company will export 920,000 kilos of frozen meat with a value of more than $2 million. 

Coordination between the private sector and the government can strengthen the quality of products, said Coto. 

 
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Lawmaker takes tour
to study trafficking

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

U.S. Rep. Dan Burton was in San José Monday as part of a tour of Central America.

Burton, an Indiana Republican, has been a foe to child 
abductors, particularly those parents who take young U.S. citizens illegally to Saudi Arabia.

He also is chairman of the U.S. House Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere

There was no announcement of the visit by the U.S. Embassy, but the Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores y Culto said Burton met with Roberto Tovar Faja, the minister.

According to his congressional Web page Burton is investigating human rights abuses across the globe, specifically illegal human 

Rep. Dan Burton
trafficking activities and international child abduction. 

However, Monday, the discussion was about the proposed free trade treaty with the United States, said a report from Casa Amarilla, the foreign ministry. Burton met that in the afternoon with Tovar, aides and Tomás Dueñas, the Costa Rican ambassador to the United States.

An announcement later said that all agreed on the importance of the treaty for democracy and the Central American economy.
 

Pacheco thanks all
and plugs tax plan

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Although he was a believer before he entered the hospital, President Abel Pacheco emerged with a renew faith in the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social.

Pacheco went on television in an unusual Monday night broadcast to praise the care he received at Hospital Calderón Guardia and promise: "Nobody is going to privatize the Caja de Seguro. We are not going to permit it."

Pacheco also managed to get in a plug for the proposed tax plan that is working its way through the Asamblea Legislativa.  He said that despite doctors’ orders he was not going to take a rest because he sees the anguish every day because the country’s financial problems are not solved. He called on deputies to pass the measure "for God," using the traditional Costa Rican phrase to implore.

Pacheco also listed some other problems that would not allow him to rest, including earthquake damage in Quepos and Parrita and the continual efforts against flood damage in the Province of Limón.

He also listed high petroleum prices and the European Union’s proposal to tax Costa Rican bananas higher. Of the latter, Pacheco said the country faced the loss of thousands of jobs and the bankruptcy of companies in the banana trade.

Pacheco also called on persons to adopt a healthy lifestyle.

Pacheco went into the hospital Thursday morning with chest pains.

Ciudad Colón festival
will open Thursday

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The annual Feria Turística de la Naranja Mora, is set to begin this Thursday with the first of many cultural events. The fair takes place in Ciudad Colón and will run through Sunday.

Farmers throughout the Central Valley will be on hand at the festival selling a wide selection of fruits, including oranges, lemons, pineapple and papaya. The fair also includes cultural events, traditional Costa Rican food, dancing, arts and sports.

The fair is spread out over two areas in the city, the Villa de Pacecua and Mercado Viejo. Thursday the fair will open at 9 a.m. and will begin at 8 a.m. on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The fair is organized by the Ministerio de Agricultura and Ganadería in conjunction with orange farmers from the south central region of Costa Rica.

Our readers reply

Drug sweep overstated,
area resident reports

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I think the headline regarding the "drug sweep" in Quepos and surrounding areas may be a little overstated! The 20 people who live in the local cemetery are all street drunks and crack addicts who are merely users. 

There is not one of them even capable of dealing drugs, they are homeless, hungry, generally annoying with some petty theft history. 

But as far as a drug sweep, well, they probably needed "three hots and a cot" (street talk for three hot meals and a bed). That it took several police agencies to round up this pathetic group is laughable. They could likely have been invited to the local jail for a burger and fries and a coke and happily spent a few days there. 

There are many pirate taxi drivers who DO help the drug trade by hauling drugs through rural zones and back roads in the area. Sadly, they are harder to catch, so someone focused on the easy victims rather than those who actually may have something to do with drug trafficking. A sad note, really. 

Robbie Felix
Manuel Antonio-Quepos
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Shy Talamanca youngsters mostly hide behind the Union Jack after receiving their school uniforms, thanks to a donation from the British community.
Photo courtesy of the British Embassy
School children in south helped by British community
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The British community in Costa Rica has provided badly needed support for school children in the Province of Limón. 

An impromptu raffle held during the traditional Burns Night supper at the British ambassador’s residence in January raised 96,000 colons to help the children of Limón.  Personal contributions from members of the embassy staff raised this total to almost 104,000 colons ($226).

After consultation with Edwin Patterson, one of Limon’s representatives in the Asamblea Legislativa, it was agreed that the money would be used to purchase uniforms for children from the indigenous communities in Talamanca, one of the areas worst-affected by recent flooding.  The uniforms were handed over by Vicki Baxter, deputy head of mission at the British Embassy, in the name of the British community.

Mrs. Baxter, who drove to Limón with a vehicle full of uniforms, linen and other donations, said she was glad to have had the opportunity to help these children get back to school. 

"In the end we were able to provide complete uniforms, including books and supplies, for 25 children, and were able to provide smaller contributions such as shirts and T-shirts for another 15," she said.  "The children and their parents came from miles around to meet us and thank us for these contributions.  One father commented that receiving these donations represented a new beginning for a year which had started so badly with the horrendous flooding in January".

Whilst in southern Limón Province, Mrs. Baxter also took the opportunity to present equipment donated by the British government to a group of plantain farmers near Bri-Bri and to visit children at Cocles Primary School, one of the schools to have benefited from funds raised at last year’s Queen’s Birthday Party.


 
New political group against corruption, free trade pact
By Clair-Marie Robertson
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A coalition of Costa Ricans concerned with corruption in the government has put forward a national proclamation demanding that political parties become more ethical. The Consejo de Patriotas is a group of citizens made up of teachers, writers, surgeons, journalists and an ex-president. The consejo made the announcement at the Colegio de Periodistas Monday. 

The group also opposes the proposed free trade treaty with the United States and privatization of state institutions.

Present at the meeting was Rodrigo Carazo Odio, president of Costa Rica between 1978 and 1982. The Consejo de Patriotas said it want all political parties to agree to a certain goals that they have listed on a national proclamation which gives seven requirements that focus on credibility, authenticity and the preservation of the national culture. 

The group said that it wants political parties to  agree to protect the country’s interests by following ethical and moral guidelines. Furthermore they said that they want to make the public state institutions stronger and do not agree with privatization. "We do not want public services becoming businesses," said Dr. Arturo Robles Arias, a pediatric surgeon who was the ambassador of Costa Rica to Russia in 1990. 

Consejo de Patriotas, or council of patriots, said that it 

does not belong to or support any political party. Carazo said that Costa Rica is going through a very difficult period and it is time that something was done. He said that the group cannot force political parties to do what they ask but that their will be consequence. 

"Unfortunately, if its not possible, the country will pay," said Carazo. 

The consejo is one of several responses to the scandals that have rocked the two major political parties during the last six months. Both Rafael Ángel Calderón Fournier, a founder of the Partido Unidad Social Cristiana, and fellow ex-president and party member Miguel Ángel Rodríguez Echeverría are in preventative detention for investigation of corruption.

José María Figueres Olsen, also a former president who is the son of the founder of the nation’s state of social rights, has refused to return to Costa Rica to face questions about his involvement with possible corruption. He is of the Partido Liberación Nacional founded by his father, José Figueres Ferrer.

Both major parties have suffered defections. The future of Liberación is further complicated because former president Oscar Arias Sánchez, 63, has sewed up the presidential nomination for the 2006 elections, thereby freezing out similarly minded younger party members.

Arias in his first presidential term supported a neo-liberal economics and sought the breakup of state institutions. He served from 1986 to 1990.


 
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Danilovich says he is appalled by murder of U.S. nun
By the A.M. Costa Rica wires services 
and local staff

Former U.S. envoy in Costa Rica John Danilovich is on the spot as the senior U.S. official in Brazil were a U.S. nun has been murdered.

Danilovich has expressed his sadness over the murder Saturday of Sister Dorothy Stang, who had worked in the Amazon region of Brazil for more than 30 years.

In a statement Monday, Danilovich said he was appalled by the "brutal and senseless killing." 

Ms. Stang was a "courageous individual who loved the people of Brazil and who dedicated her life to serving those less fortunate," said Danilovich.  "I share the outrage over her tragic loss with her family, her order, and her friends and colleagues in Brazil who have worked with her over many years."

The U.S. missionary was well known to many at the U.S. Embassy in Brazil, said the ambassador, adding that she had received U.S. government support through the U.S. Agency for International Development for her work on women's issues and in defense of traditional populations in the Amazon.

Danilovich said the U.S. Embassy in Brazil is following 

the investigation of the nun's murder closely and is encouraged by the swift reaction of both the Brazilian government and the Brazilian federal police.

"We are confident that there will be a full and thorough investigation into this murder, and that those responsible will be brought to justice," said Danilovich.

News reports said Stang, 74, was an environmental activist renowned throughout the Amazon region for her work with the poor and landless — and for her efforts to preserve the rain forest.  The reports said she was shot four times in the chest and head by a pair of gunmen while visiting a remote rural encampment near the Trans-Amazon Highway in the Brazilian state of Pará.

The service for 74-year-old Dorothy Stang came as Brazilian officials said they are looking for four suspects linked to her murder near the eastern Amazon city of Anapu.

Police have not named the suspects, but they believe two of them were hitmen, while the other two ordered the murder. An investigation is under way.

The missionary was shot just days after she reported that she and several local farmers had received death threats.


 
Brazil and Venezuela join in what is being called a strategic alliance
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

CARACAS, Venezuela ? Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and his Venezuelan counterpart, Hugo Chavez, have signed a series of agreements in what they called a strategic alliance.

The two presidents met Monday. They signed accords 

on cooperation in the areas of oil, construction, science and the military.

Chavez was quoted as saying the meeting was a critical development for the countries' integration.

During their meeting, the leaders were also to discuss the selling of Brazilian aircraft to Venezuela's military.


 
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