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These stories were published Monday, March 11, 2002, Vol. 2, No. 49
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Atlantic railway station is in disarray as work goes on to spruce up museum
Former resident reminisces about the railway
The following is one of three articles in today's paper written by readers

By Lucía Wrestler Ch.

  Erre con erre cigarro
  erre con erre barril 
  rápido corren los carros
  cargados de azúcar del ferrocarril

 -Spanish tongue twister
My grandmother lived in San Pedro. And there were times when we would go live with her. She lived right next to the corner grocer, Pulpería de San Andrés, which was right next to the rail lines of the train to Limón. 

I don’t recall if the train ever stopped there, but the grocer had a wide roofed place between the store and the rail lines. If I recall correctly, he even had a bench next to the wall. And the posts that held the roof up were cement up to a certain level and then they were carved wood. 

To us kids they were beautiful, and since we knew when the train would come by, we would always run to appropriate one of these posts as they were only three, and we sometimes were five or six, depending on the number of cousins visiting Grandmother. We would get up on the cement and hang on to the wooden post for dear life and wave and wave at the train. The engineer and most of the passengers would wave back, and we made sure to keep waving so the guy in the caboose would also wave at us. It was such a thrill.

And whenever we could find a nail, perhaps find 5 centimes so we could buy several, we would lay them on the track and pick them up after the train had gone over them. They would be so flat. And my brother knew someone who could make rings out of them. We didn’t care if we would get covered with soot as the engine ran on wood. 

We also saw the seamy side of life: There was the white horse that was pulling a wagon, and he got run over. When we saw him, in the afternoon after school, the buzzards were already at him. That evening they carted him away. Also, there was that poor cow that got hit, and she took more than a day to die. We tried to feed and water her, but they told us to leave her be. I remember seeing all the lime they poured over the track to eat up the blood. 

My brother used to get real upset whenever he had to stay over at Grandmother’s. The train would pass in the wee hours of the morning while he was still asleep and his bed would be shifted clear over to the other side of the room. But during the daytime we certainly enjoyed watching the train go by. Most of the time we only saw it go by towards Limón. I guess the San José one would pass when we were still in school.

And then, vacation time was the biggest joy! We would go to San José over to the electric train on our way to Puntarenas. That train was always crowded, but we always were able to get a set of facing seats so we all could ride together. The train would always stop at Orotina, and my oldest brother would disappear. 

We would see vendors trying to sell parakeets, food, flowers, practically everything they could. Then my brother would appear, and the train would start again. He would always bring a little pine crate full of marañones. We all would get one, and we would chew on them almost until we were in Puntarenas. Mother would always tell us to make sure not to get the juice on our clothes as it would stain them.

We always went on the early train, and then we would spend the day on the beach. Mother
and my brother could swim to the sunken boat, but we small fry would have to stay 


"La Locomotora Negra" is what they called No. 59, after it went into service in 1939 and pulled cars until 1956.

close to the beach. We would have such fun we hardly remembered the ride back to San José as by that time we were all tired out.

Later on, when I was married and lived in Turrialba, I made the trip by train to Cartago several times so my son would remember. We would always buy Hot Pattí (hot pasties) from a friend of ours and eat them on the way up. That vendor had the most beautiful repertoire of classical music that he would whistle while waiting for the train. By then, he was on in years, but he had brought up eight children with his train sales. By then the train was pulled by steam engines but it was still fun seeing all the local colors of the stops along the way and see the display of all the wares they had for sale.

Somehow, I never made it to Limón, but the people who went sometimes would fly into Limón to take the 6 a.m. train to San José. They would always recommend one take a camera with plenty of film. That trip is my one regret. Hope someday they reestablish the rails.

Ms. Wrestler is a Costa Rican-American who spent her childhood here. She now works at the University of Indiana and hopes to return here after retirement.
 

Rail museum closed
for spring makeover

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The railway museum in the Atlantic station at Avenida 3 and Calle 21 is closed for refurbishing until at least May, but there still is plenty to see there.

"La Locomotora Negra," The steam engine that plied the rail line to Limón from 1939 to 1956 is on permanent outside display. The 78-ton Baldwin Locomotive Works product generated 750 horsepower on the Costa Rica Northern Railway. She was retired when diesels took over.

Although the station is not open now to tourists while workmen do repairs, the structure is an example of Costa Rican Victorian, built in 1908 by railroad entrepreneur Minor Keith, and an architectural jewel.

The Atlantic rail line is closed to traffic now, at least from San José to Siquirres, but the station and tracks nearby still host cars from the active Pacific line, particularly those headed to industries in Tibás.
 

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A commentary by an expert

The pitfalls of making a big investment 'off shore'

By Scott Oliver
Consultores Britanicos, S.A.

The following is taken and condensed from the book  "Making Money Offshore in Bull & Bear Markets." It is one of three contributions from our readers printed today. 

People regularly ask for advice about various investment programs that they have been introduced to, normally by a friend. These programs can be found in New York, London, the Cayman Islands, the Bahamas, practically everywhere! There’s also a growing number of religion-based investment schemes that trick people into investing money. "I’ve seen more money stolen in the name of God that in any other way," said Deborah Bortner of the North American Securities Administrators Association. 

These programs may claim to be investing in foreign currencies, in stock futures, in real estate, in bank debentures, but the promise is invariably the same: They all offer what appear to be extraordinarily high returns with virtually no risk. You may be asked to sign a confidentiality agreement so as not to divulge any proprietary information, which is quite ironic because they rarely give you information that explains exactly where or how your money is to be invested. You may be told that the investment is open to members only, which is their way of asking you to keep your mouth shut.

There are a few different programs available in Costa Rica. One popular program generates returns of around 3 percent per month. Although the person that runs it says his business is perfectly legal in Costa Rica, he has never explained exactly in what his firm invests and how the firm generates returns of around 3 percent per month. 

He says that he invests heavily in real estate and also owns a transportion company. However, a 3 percent per monthly return is simply staggering. If the firm pays that to investors, how much is it actually making? 

The firm deserves recognition because it has achieved the kind of long-term, stratospheric returns that have eluded the brightest investment and real estate managers.

Another program seen recently is a foreign exchange trading program. The  brochure refers to an investment of U.S. $100K in their "10-year commitment plan" (meaning you cannot take your money out). From July 1994 through June 2000 a $100K investment would have grown to $3,055,435.70, said the brochure. 

Incidentally, this is just your 60 percent of the profits, the other 40 percent is kept by the company as their income. It refers to the first trading month and states that; "At the end of the first month (the company) produced a gross profit of U.S. $26,778.10. The company allocated 40 percent of the profits for expenses, and the investor’s shares appreciated in value by U.S. $16,066.86. This fund supposedly generated 26 percent in its first month! 

In their literature, the investors’ percentage of the monthly gains ranged from 0.65% all the way up to 35.27 percent! The world’s best foreign exchange traders are right about 65 percent of the time, yet these people are able to generate huge profits every single month without ever having a month where they lost money. And if that’s only your 60 percent and they kept 40 percent of the profits as expenses, the average return is more than 8 percent per month. 

This program also pays you a commission (in stock, not cash) if you bring in a friend who also invests in the program.

Should you put your money into one of these programs? If you cannot find out exactly what is done with your money, we would suggest that you only consider putting in your gambling or speculative money or, invest your money elsewhere. No serious investment adviser or investment manager will refuse to explain how they will invest your money. Privacy is for the investor, not the firm.

The bottom line is that whether it’s in New York, London, Hong Kong or San Jose - any legitimate investment company will expect to be asked lots of questions, and a legitimate investment firm will also be happy to give you the answers to every single one. 

You must do your homework when you wish to invest through an offshore firm because the rules and regulations applicable to investment advisors are invariably different. In Costa Rica, for example, there are not many educational and training 


Scott Oliver is British and worked as an investment adviser on Wall Street for nearly 10 years before going offshore to the Cayman Islands. He moved to Costa Rica in 1999 because of the people, the climate, the quality of life and some "tremendous business opportunities," he said. He has written numerous newsletter, newspaper and  magazine articles
Scott Oliver

requirements necessary for someone to call themselves an "investment adviser." Few offshore 
jurisdictions are as well regulated as most Western European countries or the United States, where by law, everyone must pass comprehensive securities examinations before they are allowed to become a registered representative.

Costa Rica, in particular, is making serious efforts to improve the regulatory environment, and the good news is that there are professional investment advisers in Costa Rica who are well qualified, some have even studied in the United States and have passed the exact same examinations as a U.S. registered representative. Do your homework and check up on whomever you are considering hiring as your investment adviser. 

There are thousands of offshore mutual funds available. The superstar money managers onshore often graduate up to managing their own offshore fund (domiciled outside of the United States and other high tax jurisdictions) where they can make the really serious money. Because of this, many of the world’s most successful funds are offshore. 

If you prefer investing only in New York Stock Exchange-listed stocks, that’s fine too! But find an international investment adviser who is knowledgeable about U.S. markets and has a proven, disciplined investment strategy that will make money for you. 

When it comes to safety and security, your offshore mutual fund assets can benefit from the same insurance protection as they would with a major Wall Street firm. If you are an international investor presently invested in the U.S., you will probably feel more comfortable with an offshore investment adviser who can insure your offshore investment account also has insurance coverage to protect your assets. 

There are a few investment firms in Costa Rica that can offer you all the advantages of being offshore while at the same time, enjoying all the safety, security and assurances of having your assets held by a major New York Stock Exchange firm.

There are thousands of offshore funds in the world today. The favorite blue-chip fund families appear to be Fidelity Offshore, Putnam Offshore & Legg Mason (LM Global) each have over U.S. $1 billion invested in their offshore mutual funds. There are offshore mutal funds available from Aberdeen, Alliance Capital Management, AIM Capital, Eaton Vance, MFS Meridian, Morgan Stanley, Oppenheimer Millennium, Pioneer, Scudder, Invesco, Skandia, Templeton, Warburg Pincus and many others. Some fund families may only have five individual funds, others may have 25 different funds to choose from. 

When you invest offshore with the help of a qualified, reputable financial advisor you can often enjoy all the advantages of investing offshore with all the security & assurances of having your assets held by a major New York Stock Exchange firm: 

• Superior offshore asset protection. 

• Complete financial privacy. 

• Significant tax advantages depending on nationality. 

• Access to top quality, blue-chip offshore mutual funds. 

• Internet access to your offshore account 24 hours a day 

• Qualified, experienced, prompt and professional service. 

• Peace of mind. Your offshore investment account will be as safe & secure as it would be with any other major Wall Street firm where your investment account has unlimited protection. 


 
Law designed to protect women is being abused
By Ralph Stumbo
North American Consul for Justice

Under Costa Rican law, all a woman has to do is accuse a man of "violence." 

Violence, is, in fact described in this law as any word, utterance, glance, look, comment or action that takes place within the range of perception of the female person. Whether or not the aforementioned activity was intended for or directed at the female person is of no consequence. What does matter is that at the moment the alleged incident takes place, the female person claims to find something to be "disagreeable." 

As you can well imagine, with such power at the tip of her dialing finger, a spouse with an ulterior motive, whether it be financial, an extramarital relationship or both could well contrive almost any situation to be "violent" (physically, psychologically or otherwise) and the rewards are plenty. 

At very best, it is the spirit of the law designed to protect women that is being abused. At the very worst, the human rights of the man accused as well as those of his child are being trampled over by woman’s false accusations. 

Once the accusation of "Domestic Violence" is made, a protection order is put into place, and the alleged offender is forcibly removed from his domicile with the clothes on his back. Although the law states that the court must provide a hearing within three days (Article 12) , this hearing rarely if ever takes place in Costa Rica. 

The excuse is that the courts can not accommodate the increasing number of accusations filed by Costa Rican women. What does happen is that the accused is left homeless for a minimum of 1 month, but usually for the maximum of 6 months at a time. 

If by the fifth month a hearing has not taken place, which is usually the case, the presumed offended party is free to ask for an additional six months restraining order. During this time, the accuser is not required to provide proof of the offense. 

If children are a product of the union now broken by this law, the accuser immediately files for and is granted child support. The amount is arbitrarily determined, which is to say that it is the obligation of the accused to prove that he cannot pay. If the accused does not or cannot pay the prescribed amount, he is imprisoned. 

During the time that the previously mentioned restraining order is in effect, the accused is not permitted to have contact with his children. Systematic degradation, worse than any alleged injury suffered by the accuser is now in full swing. As if this were not enough of an abomination of justice, when the case finally gets to court, and the accused can prove by witnesses that no such crime ever took place, the law provides for no compensation from the calumnious accuser. 

In short, the false accusations are sanctioned by the Costa Rican government. Imagine the chaos if men enjoyed such impunity under the law to make false accusations as do the women of Costa Rica. They do not. I might add here that it is a good thing that this unbridled legal force is confined to only 50 percent of the Costa Rican population or this already excessively litigious society might sue itself straight to Hell. 

To be sure, not only are the domestic violence laws of Costa Rica unconstitutional and contradictory even by their own standards, but they violate a series of internationally recognized human rights. As a result of the above stated legal condition, the 
Costa Rican woman enjoys the exclusivity of custody of the couple’s children. This in itself is a devastatingly powerful device. 

By virtue of an initial first false accusation, the man, husband, father, provider is thrown out of his house, is not allowed access to his personal property, his car, the tools he needs to work, his children and effectively stripped of his dignity. All of this in one swift action without the benefit of proof. 
 
Commentary 
by a reader

Sound like something previously reserved for the Taliban? Costa Rican women are the Taliban in reverse. Sadly, the above scenario has become a way of life in Costa Rica. In the Feb. 8 edition of La Prensa Libre, writer Rigoberto Guadamuz discusses The State as being the aggressor in domestic violence cases, with fathers and children the primary victims. 

The absoluteness of the power that is granted every woman here in Costa Rica has corrupted absolutely and this corruption is now showing its signs. Costa Rica leads Latin America in divorces. Nearly 55 percent of all marriages here end in divorce.  50 percent of all children here do not know who their father is. 30 percent of all women declare their full time profession as prostitution, and another 20 percent are part-timers. 

Please feel free to check with Dr. Leonardo Mata at the University of Costa Rica on these facts. The debauchery of State organized extortion is creating a welfare state like the disastrous one we knew to exist in New York and California in the 1970s : to get more money, women would have more children . . . anybody's children. 

What makes the Costa Rican situation worse than anything we have known in the U.S. is that it is funded by the blood of falsely accused fathers. As horrible as this all sounds, what does it have to do with child abductions to Costa Rica? First, the Costa Rica Constitution does not provide for the extradition of it's nationals. Children born to Costa Rican woman are automatically granted dual citizenship so that they, too, may fall under the protection of the constitution. 

Costa Rica does not honor the terms and conditions of the Hague Convention or the San Jose Pact for that matter. Socially, Costa Rica is a rogue state taking whatever evasive action required to escape the scrutiny of international law and impart to all its citizens the most basic of human rights. 

Once here, Costa Rica has indeed proven to be a safe haven for international child abductors. One of the goals of The North American Consul for Justice is to bring attention to this issue and through the cooperation of other concerned international human rights organizations motivate Costa Rica to take the required steps to comply with the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Abductions. 

In addition, we intend to influence a modification of local family law and its application. Children need their fathers, too. It is as basic as milk from a mother's breast that all children be entitled to receive the benefit of a loving relationship with their fathers. Under Costa Rican family law, paternity has been reduced to a monthly check. 

It is our wholehearted and solemn mission to exemplify the role of father as one of compassion and dignity to the mutual benefit of every member of the family. 

NOTE: Mr. Stumbo has been involved in an international legal battle to obtain physical custody of his son from his Costa Rica ex-wife. He has legal custody under terms of his uncontested divorce in the State of Florida.


 
U.S.-Canadian border
to speed travelers

Special to AM. Costa Rica

The United States and Canada will expand a border-crossing program for low-risk travelers to three new ports of entry along the British Colombia-Washington state border by summer 2002, according to a joint statement Friday by U.S. Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge and Canadian Deputy Prime Minister John Manley.

Following a meeting at which Ridge and Manley continued discussions on the 30-point Smart Border Action Plan, the two officials also announced that by March 25 the United States and Canada will have joint teams of customs officials in the ports of Vancouver, Montreal, Halifax, Seattle-Tacoma, and Newark. These bi-national teams will target maritime shipping containers bound for either the United States or Canada at their first port of entry into North America.

The statement noted that this initiative "will contribute to the secure and efficient flow of goods across the Canada-U.S. border."

The Office of Homeland Defense released details of the 30-point Smart Border Action Plan Jan. 7. The plan calls for improving the management of people and goods across U.S. borders through measures such as biometric identification, compatible immigration databases, and the advance sharing of airline passenger information on flights between the United States and Canada.
 

But will it play
in Minnesota?

By The A.M. Costa Rica staff

"The Vagina Monologues" might play well in Bello Horizonte, but the very word is "offensive,"  "inappropriate" or "pornographic" in Minnesota.

An Internet mail server there rejected a daily news digest message from A.M. Costa Rica  because the message, a summary of Friday news stories, mentioned the Little Theatre Group would present performances of "The Vagina Monologues" during the weekend.

The company, Katun Corp., headquartered in Minneapolis, describes itself as the world's leading aftermarket distributor of imaging supplies, photoreceptors and parts. The company is running Baltimore Technologies; Mailsweep program, presumably with the Pornsweep module. 

The product is described at the following Web site:

http://www.mailsweeper.com/products/
pornsweeper/default.asp

The program is designed to monitor employee e-mails and messages sent to employees to prevent disclosure of trade secrets or the exchange of inappropriate messages, including photos.

The program "protects against legal liability through unacceptable image circulation both within your organization and entering or leaving . . . Detects images based on flesh tones, amount of flesh area and facial elements," according to the Baltimore company.

Curiously, the program said in a printout that it also found what it called German profanity in the same message.

A Web tech, Larisa Jenrich, at the firm gave the following response: "I understand that ‘The Vagina Monologues’ is a well known production throughout the world; however, that is why most of us have personal e-mail accounts to transfer messages like this back and forth.  Katun uses their mail system strictly for business purposes. Thank you for your feedback."

The firm is privately held.

A reader at the firm reported that when first installed the prudish program rejected messages that contained the nickname for employees with the given name "Richard."

The Little Theatre Group has one more production of "The Vagina  Monologues" to go. This one will be in Jacó next Saturday be at Hotel Club Del Mar. Hosts Philip and Marion are taking bookings at  643-3194.
 

Passport changes
may mean delay

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff 

U.S. citizens in Costa Rica will find that it takes longer to get a new passport after April 8.  That’s when the U.S. Embassy here transfers the job of making the actual passport to a facility in the United States.

The State Department has been hard at work converting the major passport offices in the United States to facilities that can create digitized passport photos with a number of security features.

The State Department said that the switchover would create some increased processing time at embassies and consulates overseas and urged U.S. citizens to apply for their new passport well ahead of the time they will need it.

The announcement, distributed here by the U.S. Embassy, did not say how long the wait might be for the new, enhanced passports, although it promised additional details later.

The embassy announcement did say that U.S. citizens who get caught short can obtain an emergency passport locally. "Such passports will be limited in validity, and cannot be extended," said the embassy announcement, adding that "Bearers will be required to exchange their limited validity passports for a full-validity photo-digitized passport upon completion of their emergency travel, either through a passport facility in the U.S. or the U.S. embassies or consulates abroad."

Argentina getting
$100 million loan

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — The World Bank has approved $100 million in emergency aid for Argentina, which is struggling to emerge from a crippling economic crisis that has left it teetering on the brink of financial collapse. 

In a statement issued Friday, the World Bank says the money is to support social programs to meet the urgent needs of the Argentine people. The statement says the financing is for programs in health, education and community development. 

The announcement comes just days after a delegation from the International Monetary Fund arrived in Buenos Aires to assess Argentina's financial situation. In December, the IMF withheld more than $1 billion in badly-needed aid to Argentina, saying the government had failed to control spending. 

The IMF and United States have both said Argentina must develop a plan for sustainable economic development to qualify for new assistance. Argentina has been in recession nearly four years and is in default on $141 billion in public debt. The jobless rate stands at more than 20 percent. 

Earlier this week, the Argentine Senate approved a long-delayed budget proposal to help the government secure a new aid package from the IMF. Argentina is said to be seeking upwards of $20 billion to help jump-start its troubled economy. 

Colombia voted
for new congress

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

BOGOTA, Colombia — Colombian voters have selected a new Congress in largely peaceful balloting held under unprecedented security. Results are expected sometime this morning.

Some 150,000 troops were mobilized throughout the country to protect polling areas. Officials say only 15 municipalities canceled Sunday's vote after leftist rebels destroyed ballots or kidnapped election personnel. 

There were no reports of attacks on civilians. Officials say some rebel fighters were killed in clashes with the military. 

The election came less than three weeks after President Andres Pastrana severed peace negotiations with the country's largest leftist rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.  Since the collapse, the rebel group, known as the FARC, has intensified its attacks on the country's infrastructure. 

Officials blame the rebels for blowing up electricity towers and bridges, which made it difficult for rural voters to travel to the polls. Campaigning in isolated areas was also dangerous, as rebels have targeted lawmakers for attacks and kidnappings. 

The FARC had said voters in certain regions would be military targets. After voting Sunday, President Pastrana said Colombians will defeat terrorism with their ballots.  The Organization of American States sent election observers to the region. 

About 24 million people were eligible to cast ballots in the election that will select more than 260 congressional seats.
 

Coca cultivation
shown increasing

Special to AM. Costa Rica

An analysis of satellite imagery indicates that the amount of land in Colombia currently used for coca cultivation stands at 169,800 hectares, according to a press release issued Thursday by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. This figure represents an increase of 33,600 hectares over the 2000 level.

While noting that one-third of this increase is due to the inclusion of an area not surveyed in 2000 because of cloud cover, and that the figure includes coca later destroyed by aerial eradication, the ONDCP nevertheless called the increase in coca cultivation "troubling."

"The figures underscore the pervasiveness of [illicit crop] cultivation and [drug] trafficking in Colombia; the magnitude and complexity of Colombia's interlocking security, drug control, and economic challenges; and the need for sustained U.S. engagement," the office said.

While U.S. counter-narcotics and development assistance to Colombia "have not yet produced the results we had hoped to achieve," the United States will continue to work with the Colombian government to attain mutual goals such as strengthening democracy, eliminating drug trafficking, and enforcing the rule of law, the announcement said.

Drug gang leader
grabbed in Mexico

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

MEXICO CITY,  Mexico — The government says its special forces have captured the leader of the country's most violent drug cartel, Benjamin Arellano Felix. 

Attorney General Rafael Macedo de la Concha said troops raided a house in central Mexico Saturday and arrested the gang leader and found sufficient evidence to confirm that his brother and co-leader, Ramon Arellano Felix, is dead. The Mexican defense ministry said an altar to Ramon with his picture was found in the house where his brother was arrested, which suggests that he was killed in a shootout with police last month in the north Pacific city of Mazatlan. Authorities had been trying to confirm his death since the shootout. 

U.S. and Mexican authorities have been trying to apprehend the two brothers for years, and Ramon Arellano Felix is on the FBI's 10 most wanted list. 

The brothers' Tijuana drug gang is accused of killing at least three hundred police, prosecutors, judges, drug rivals and innocent bystanders in its bid to control the multi-million dollar cocaine and marijuana trade on the U.S. - Mexican border. 

On Friday, U.S. officials announced the arrest of 22 people believed linked to the Tijuana drug cartel in the U.S. cities of Denver, San Diego and the Minneapolis area. Charges include conspiracy to distribute and possess cocaine.
 

Cuba has let go
three intruders

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

HAVANA, Cuba — A human rights group says Cuban authorities have released three of the 21 Cubans who crashed through the gates of the Mexican Embassy in Havana in February. 

The director of the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, Elizardo Sanchez, says they were released because they are minors, aged 16 to 17. 

The young men were among a group of 21 Cubans who stole a bus and crashed it through the Mexican Embassy's gates in late February. Thirty-hours later, Cuban authorities, responding to a Mexican request, forcibly removed them. The situation sparked criticism from Cuban exiles who say the young Cubans should have been considered for asylum. 

Mexican officials say none of the men requested diplomatic asylum, but were looking for jobs.  Cuban President Fidel Castro has described them as common criminals.
 

State oil executives
stage work stoppage

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

CARACAS, Venezuela — Top managers at the state-run oil company have observed a four-hour work stoppage to protest personnel changes made by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. 

The executives from Petroleos de Venezuela, PDVSA abandoned their desks Friday in Caracas in an ongoing dispute over changes they say are politically motivated. 

Last month, President Chavez fired the PDVSA chief, Army Gen. Guaicaipuro Lameda, and most of the firm's board of directors.  Chavez named leftist economist Gaston Parra as PDVSA's president and five loyalists as board members. 

President Chavez refuses to reconsider the appointments his critics say are intended to give him more control over the company's finances. 

The Venezuelan leader was elected in 1998 on an anti-poverty, anti-corruption platform. But, his approval rating has plunged in recent months as domestic opposition to his policies grow.


 
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