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Thee stories ere published Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2004, in Vol. 4, No. 34
Jo Stuart
About us

Some 50 families from Pavas showed up at Casa Presidencial Tuesday to pressure the executive branch into providing housing for them. 

The protestors, who reported they were poor, announced in their signs that they were protesting for the benefit of their children, as this sign says.

A.M. Costa Rica photo
Rush hour shooting takes life of store owner
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Someone gunned down a Salvadorian businessman Tuesday night amid Costa Ricans on their way home from work.

The shooting took place only some 150 feet north of the main post office and the Banco Nacional downtown office in an area of storefronts and restaurants. The man, identified as Alberto Alaya, 35, was believed to be the owner of at least one of the nearby shops.

Witnesses told conflicting stories. Some said the gunman was on a motorcycle. Others said the shooting came from a car when men tried to hold up the victim.

The man died of two bullets in the head, raising speculation that murder, not robbery, was the reason for the shooting.

The normal workday here ends around 6:30 p.m., the time of the killing, and there was no lack of pedestrians in the area.

The area where the murder took place has heavy traffic at that time of night and is not considered particularly dangerous. The victim was said to be headed for a bus stop. He lived in northeast San José.

The murder follows on the heels of a shooting 

Monday that shocked the country because it took place within a school in la Florida de Tibás. Investigators in that case are not saying much, and what they say seems to contradict what students at the school report.

Two girls, 10 and 11, each suffered a bullet wound to the leg in the 2 p.m. incident. Investigators said initially that only one bullet was fired. The mother of one student reported that youngsters heard two shots.

Investigators said that the bullet passed through the leg of one girl and lodged in the leg of the other. The recovered bullet was either a .22-caliber or a 7.35 mm. slug.

Police were unable to find a weapon at the scene, even though witnesses seemed convinced that the discharge took place inside the school.

The reverberations of the school shooting reached all the way to Casa Presidencial Tuesday when Manuel Antonio Bolaños, minister of Educación Pública, said that the administration would press for a law that would allow teachers and school administrators to inspect backpacks and other student gear.

Right now teachers and police have to respect the privacy of students unless there is a specific reason to search. Police searched each student Monday but failed to find anything.

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Seatbelt law readied
to include just driver

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Lawmakers are ready to move ahead with a proposal to fine drivers who do not use seatbelts. But thanks to a constitutional court decision, passengers are off the hook.

The Sala IV constitutional court was asked to review the pending legislation by lawmakers, a standard request here. The court said that the driver of a car could be required to wear a seatbelt but not others in the car.

The original legislation would have fined the driver for not making sure passengers were buckled up. The Sala IV said that the driver could not be required to impose on the rights of others in the car.

Investigators studying
papers of dead woman

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Agents investigating the murder of Olesia Fedko, a 24-year-old dancer. inspected her Sabana Sur 
Olesia Fedko
apartment Tuesday and found a stack of evidence that linked her to many individuals in Costa Rica.

Agents said they also found photographs of the woman that were taken on luxury yachts, believed to be in the Pacific Ocean. 

The woman was found Jan. 29 near Playa Bandera, Parrita. She had been shot. A spokesman for the Judicial 

Investigating Organization said that the woman also frequented bars in downtown San José where many North Americans hang out.

The woman had been in the country about 16 months and had a love of the ocean, according to investigators.

Agents will go through her personal records, photos, appointment books, collected business cards and other materials to try to find out who she was with when she died.

Rapid deals are goal
of proposed legislation

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes wants to set up a system of accelerated approval of contractors for various projects.

The ministry gained the go-ahead Tuesday from the Consejo de Gobierno to present a proposed law that would allow the ministry to prequalify bidders on various projects.

A vendor or contractor would be preregistered and on a list that scored the capacity and activities of the firm. The ministry would be able to make contacts directly in some cases and negotiate with three or more qualified firms for certain jobs. There still would be formal bidding for other jobs. In addition the law creates the category of urgent work that would move even quicker through the approval process.

Officials hope that the process, if approved, can cut in half the time required to evaluate and award contracts.

Wife of Heredia author 
dies after long illness

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

María Isabel Palacios Campos, the wife of well-known guidebook author Christopher Howard, has died after a long illness.

Ms. Palacios lived in San Francisco de Heredia and endured an 11-year battle with what her husband described as a complicated illness. She died Feb. 12. "All her friends will remember her courage in the face of so much adversity. She never complained even at the end," said her husband.

In addition to her husband, Ms. Palacios is survived by a son, Chris, Jr., 15.

Among other works, her husband has authored "The Golden Door to Retirement and Living in Costa Rica."

Ambassador on women
will give seminar today

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Ellen Sauerbrey, a former Maryland politician, will be discussing "reconstructing the family as the most important institution in society today" at 5 p.m. in Casa Amarilla, the Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores y Culto.

Ms. Sauerbrey is President George Bush’s choice to represent the United States at the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women. She has the rank of ambassador.

Ms. Sauerbrey, a former high school biology teacher, is controversial because she is a conservative Republican who is pro-life on the question of availability of abortions for women. When she was nominated, she said that she would uphold American values of limited government, individual freedom, democratic institutions, free enterprise and private property rights. "These are the underpinnings of stable and prosperous families and communities," she said.

The ambassador ran unsuccessfully for governor of Maryland in 1988 and 1994. 

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U.N. envoy critical of both United States and Cuba
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

NEW YORK, N.Y. — A United Nations human rights envoy has sharply criticized Cuba for its detention of dozens of dissidents. 

The criticism comes in a report prepared for next month's annual session of the U.N. Human Rights Commission. In it, U.N. envoy Christine Chanet notes that Cuba tried and convicted 75 dissidents last April in closed trials held within weeks or days of their arrest during what she calls a wave of repression. She adds that the dissidents are kept in very poor conditions and moved about frequently. 

Cuba has refused to allow Ms. Chanet to visit the 

island, claiming such a visit could infringe on its sovereignty. The U.N. envoy based her report on meetings with activists, human rights investigators and other governments.

Cuba triggered a storm of international protest when it sentenced the 75 dissidents to long prison terms on charges of conspiring with the United States to subvert the communist-run government. U.S. officials and the dissidents denied the accusations. 

The U.N. envoy also criticizes the United States for its 40 year economic blockade of Cuba. Ms. Chanet says Cuba continues to suffer from what she called the disastrous and persistent effects of the embargo.

Italian scientists find new kind of mad cow disease
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

ROME, Italy — Scientists here say they have discovered a new form of mad cow disease that may be the cause of some cases of a brain-wasting disease in humans. 

Researchers say the new strain was found in two Italian cows, and is quite different from the more common bovine spongiform encephalopathy. 

Scientists say the new strain of mad cow disease forms amyloid plaques, round, dark clumps of sticky protein junk, in the brain. Such a characteristic has been found in some victims of a spontaneously occurring human brain disorder 

known as sporadic Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, which kills about 300 people a year in the United States. 

Sporadic Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is different from "variant" Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, which was discovered in Britain and is caused by eating meat from infected cows.  Scientists say the new research suggests that the sporadic form of the human brain wasting illness may also be caused by eating infected meat. However, studies have not confirmed this. 

A report on the research appears in the online early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Journal.

More foreign pharmaceutical Web sites are shut down by FDA
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — For the second time in two weeks, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has moved to block foreign-based Web sites claiming to be legitimate pharmaceutical dealers and selling worthless contraceptives and other products. The administration worked with a U.S.-based Internet service provider to shut down the sites in the interest of public health, according to a press release.

The Food and Drug Administration first took action Feb. 4 when it shut down an India-based site called www.rxpharmacy.ws. Three newly discovered sites are apparently involved in the same scheme to market well-known, approved 

pharmaceutical products, then to deliver products of unknown origin and potency. The three new sites are www.usarxstore.com, www.europeanrrxpharmacy.com and www.generic.com.

The Internet sites marketed a product purported to be Ortho Evra transdermal contraceptive patches. The Food and Drug Administration says the product delivered had no active ingredients, improper packaging, and lacked lot numbers, expiration dates and other labeling information. The press release urges consumers to make sure that online pharmacies identify themselves as Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites and abide by standards of the National Boards of Pharmacy.

Haitian officials stop short of requesting troops
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Haitian authorities Tuesday appealed for international assistance to help police fight an armed rebellion in the country's north, but stopped short of asking for direct foreign military intervention to end the crisis. Diplomats in the capital here say they are willing to provide Haiti with technical and humanitarian assistance, but it is up to Haiti's government and opposition to solve the country's deep-rooted political crisis.

Haiti's prime minister, Yvon Neptune, said it was up to the international community to, in his words, show it really wants peace and stability in Haiti. While he stopped short of asking for direct foreign military assistance, Neptune did say he felt it was the duty of the international community to support Haiti's police force which is less than a decade old.

Haiti's prime minister accused the international community of not providing enough support to allow the force to become an effective force to combat reactionary elements in the country.

Neptune's comments echoed those President Jean Bertrand Aristide made on Monday when he appealed for technical assistance from the Organization of American States to help Haiti's beleaguered police force.

Aristide is facing a broad-based political opposition as well as an armed rebellion in the northern part of the country. Haitian leaders are blaming the rebellion on former supporters of Haiti's military which was disbanded a decade ago.

Speaking here Tuesday, U.S. Ambassador James Foley said the United States was willing to give Haiti $500,000 in humanitarian assistance, through the United Nations, to help it get through this current crisis. However the U.S. ambassador also said Haiti's government must also accept some blame for finding itself in the crisis it is in. 

"The political crisis in Haiti did not begin yesterday," said Foley.  "It certainly did not begin with this armed rebellion. It has many root causes. It is not a simple matter at all. But the fact of the matter is that the nature of governance in this country over the last few years has contributed to the deterioration in the situation." 

Monday in a significant escalation of the violence, gunmen said to be under the command of former death squad leader Louis Jodel Chamblain, entered the town of Hinche, about 113 kms. (68 miles) north of here and killed the police chief and two officers.

Chamblain and former national police chief Guy Philippe entered Haiti several days ago saying they were going to join an armed gang of former supporters of President Aristide who have seized Haiti's fourth largest city Gonaives.

Tuesday witnesses reported no one seemed to be in control of Hinche. Ambassador Foley says the crisis in Haiti is real, but there needs to be a long-term solution to eventually address the reasons why violence is now taking place. 

"We recognize that this is a challenge to the Haitian government," he said. "But we do not believe that these rebels are very numerous. We do not believe that in the case that we are able to show political progress and real change in the way Haiti is being run, that if we can show progress there, it will become clear that these rebels have no real support." 

Haiti's political opposition has distanced itself from the violence in Gonaives and other parts of the country, but Ambassador Foley says opposition leaders need to take a stronger stand against violence. He also says Haiti's government must do more to disarm and disband its armed supporters who he says have emerged as a threat to political discourse and stability in the western hemisphere's poorest nation.

Dominican Republic closes its border with Haiti
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic — Fearing a spillover of violence from Haiti, the Dominican Republic has closed the border with its Caribbean neighbor. 

In this capital city Monday, Foreign Minister Frank Guerrero Prats said it is time for the international community to act. He said the Dominican Republic cannot handle the escalating violence alone, 

including a possible mass exodus of Haitians crossing the border. 

Dominicans had previously allowed Haitians to shop in an open air market on the Dominican side of the border. After two Dominican soldiers were killed Saturday, however, the governor of the northwestern Dominican province of Dajabon closed the market.  Haiti and the Dominican Republic share the island of Hispaniola, separated by a 388-km. (233-mile) border. 

Jo Stuart
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