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These stories were published Thursday, March 14, 2002
Jo Stuart
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Five seconds pump
a lot of adrenaline

By Patricia Martin
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Adam Coss sits barefooted on the bridge railing, watching intently as straps are secured around his ankles by jumpmaster Gabriel Headley of Tropical Bungee. Both men hail from Seattle, Wash., but they had never met before this dramatic encounter on the Old Colorado bridge, a few miles outside the town of Naranjo.

Adam has just completed the first bungee jump of his life a half hour ago, plunging headfirst into the gorge 265 feet below where the Colorado River whips through wild vegetation and rocky terrain. . . . 

For Patricia's complete report, please 
Click HERE

A.M. Costa Rica/Patricia Martin
Adam Coss embarks on a spine-tingling backwards jump at the Colorado bridge.

Police grab seven in container hijackings
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Investigators arrested seven men Wednesday in early morning raids and said they were the gang that has been holding up and stealing trucks loaded with appliances.

Agents conducted seven simultaneous operations to capture the men. Five raids were conducted in Desamparados. Raids also were made in Coronado and Limón.

The men were identified as Carlos Gonzales, Olman Saborio, Yimmy Garcia, Julio Ledesma, Herman Jenkis, William Vargas and Yimmy Martinez.

Police were investigating a rash of hijackings of big trucks hauling shipping containers to several of the major retails stores in the metropolitan area. Typically, the gang would somehow stop the truck, then tie up and secure the drivers before escaping with the vehicle. The empty container and the vehicle 

and sometimes the driver would be found at a location in or around San José.

The hijackings had taken place over 14 months, according to police and soon it became obvious that one gang was involved, they said.

The investigation was handled by the Judicial Investigating Organization and its Crimes Against Property division.

The containers usually were those that arrived in the port of Limón. Investigators said that the bulk of the loot either was sold on the domestic black market or shipped out of the country.  They estimated that the take from the string of robberies was about 200 million colons or about $600,000. The loot mainly was televisions, refrigerators, and microwaves among other appliances.

Hijackings took place in Heredia, Limón, Cartago, Guápiles and San José.

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Taiwan dominates fair
with variety of goods

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Taiwanese are not fooling around at the 14th Feria International de Costa Rica. They mean business. Literally.

The tiny island nation has 21 booths, about a third of the commercial displays at the trade fair. All but one were up and running yesterday, although attendance at the trade fair was very light.

About a quarter of the other displays had not been prepared yet, and a number of booths were totally empty. So much so that the show sponsors were not charging a normal 500-colon ($1.44) entrance fee. During the midafternoon a forklift still was carrying industrial equipment from the parking lot to a booth.

But not the Taiwanese. They had exhibits of disposable medical devices, a 10.5 kilo (23 pound) folding racing bike, clothing, office equipment, jewelry, automotive products, locks and even a big machine to stuff those little plastic packages of catsup and mayonnaise.

Jorge A. Martinez Martinez of El Salvador was impressed, too. He is an agent for a Taiwanese equipment manufacturer with a display at the FERCORI exhibition hall. He said the Taiwanese were very well organized and would work hard to make a deal. Others manning the exhibits said that the country is handicapped because not many Chinese speak Spanish, so the opportunities to do business in Costa Rica are limited.

Other booths showed products of other countries, but nothing with the depth as Taiwan. The British Embassy was there with bottles of scotch for display purposes only.

A.M. Costa Rica photo
Diablo Cojuelo carnival figure keeps watch as Julia Castillo de Lozano of the Dominican Republic's embassy discusses business with a visitor.

About seven Costa Rican firms, including Radiografica Costarricenses, S.A., the Internet monopoly, and the Instituto Nacional de Seguros, the insurance monopoly, also had elaborate booths.

The Embassy of the Dominican Republic featured a life-size Diablo Cojuelo, a multi-colored carnival character that is supposed to be a demon who  terrorized the population during carnival activities. The country’s booth also featured tourism as well as trade.

The trade fair runs until Sunday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. More information is available at 233-6990. FERCORI is at Calle 23 just north of the railroad tracks and Avenida 3.

Trafficker and terrorist called symbiotic groups
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Two senior State Department officials have outlined what they said was the symbiotic relationship that exists between drug trafficking organizations and terrorist groups in Latin America and other regions of the world.

In joint testimony submitted Wednesday, Rand Beers, assistant secretary for international narcotics and law enforcement, and Francis Taylor, counterterrorism ambassador, detailed the mutually beneficial results that accrue to terrorists and traffickers who cooperate with each other. The two officials appeared before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Technology, Terrorism, and Government Information.

"Drug traffickers benefit from the terrorists' military skills, weapons supply, and access to clandestine organizations," Taylor said. "Terrorists gain a source of revenue and expertise in illicit transfer and laundering of proceeds from illicit transactions."

According to the two officials, a "historic link" exists in the Western Hemisphere between various terrorist groups and narcotics trafficking. Three specific geographical areas of concern were listed: Colombia, Peru, and the frontier area of Paraguay near the city of Ciudad del Este that borders both Argentina and Brazil.

"The linkage between drugs and terrorism in Colombia is one that particularly concerns us and one that we watch carefully," the officials said, noting that the country's three main insurgent groups, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the National Liberation Army (ELN), and the United Self-Defense Groups of Colombia (AUC), are all tied to narcotics trafficking.

Some FARC units throughout southern Colombia 

raise funds through extortion of both legal and 
illegal businesses, protection of cocaine-refining laboratories, and involvement in local drug-trafficking activities.

Colombian territory under the influence of the ELN includes areas used to grow opium poppy and cannabis. Although the ELN expresses a disdain for illegal drugs, it "does take advantage of the profits available," the officials said.

The AUC, which includes many Colombian paramilitary forces, has admitted using the cocaine trade to finance its activities. In their statement, Beers and Taylor noted that the head of the AUC, Carlos Castano, said in 2000 that "70 percent" of AUC operational funding was derived from drug money.

In Peru, the remote geographic areas in which Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) guerrillas historically operated, combined with the group's reliance on violence to protect safe havens, made Sendero Luminoso "a natural to engage in protection and extortion rackets involving coca and cocaine," Beers and Taylor observed.

After having "cut a brutal swath through Peru" from the 1980s through mid-1990s, Sendero Luminose waned in the late 1990s, according to the two officials. They said that by 2001, however, the group had a "slight resurgence" in areas of Peru where coca is cultivated and processed, an indication that remnants of Sendero Luminoso are probably financing their operations with profits derived from the drug trade.

Beers and Taylor pointed to Paraguay's tri-border region as a final area of concern in Latin America. They indicated that members of radical Islamic groups there are reported to be engaged in drug trafficking, money laundering, intellectual property rights piracy, alien smuggling, and arms trafficking.

Bush singles out
Iraq as major threat

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Bush says he will not allow Iraq to threaten the world's future by developing weapons of mass destruction. 

During his wide-ranging news conference in Washington Wednesday, Bush said he is deeply concerned about Iraq and in his words "so should people who love freedom." He described Iraqi President Saddam Hussein as a man who "obviously has something to hide," and Bush said the United States and its allies "will deal with him." 

There has been growing speculation that Iraq could be the next target in the U.S.-led war on terrorism. U.S. officials have warned Iraq will face serious consequences if it does not allow U.N. inspectors back into the country to search for banned weapons of mass destruction. 

U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney is currently in the Mideast to discuss Iraq and other regional matters. 

Cheney was in Egypt Wednesday, where President Hosni Mubarak said he will press Baghdad to allow the return of U.N. weapons inspectors.

Speaking to U.S. troops in Egypt, Cheney said the next objective in the war on terrorism is to prevent terrorists and regimes that sponsor terror from threatening America or its friends and allies with weapons of mass destruction. 

Cheney goes to Yemen later Thursday. U.S. military officers are already on the ground there to help government troops go after local al-Qaida terrorists. Analysts fear Yemen could become a country where al-Qaida cells could regroup after being routed from many of their bases in Afghanistan. 

Tijuana lawyer
found assasinated

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Mexican police said Tuesday a lawyer linked to two former drug traffickers was found shot to death outside his home Monday night. 

Authorities said Rodolfo Carrillo Barragan was found shot through the head Monday night in Tijuana. Barragan was said to serve as an adviser to the brothers Benjamin and Ramon Arellano Felix, who allegedly built one of Latin America's most powerful drug smuggling rings. 

Police arrested Benjamin Arellano Felix during a raid in Mexico City on Saturday. Felix has confirmed his brother was killed in a police shootout in February.  It is not yet clear who killed Barragan or why. Police have made no arrests.

Meanwhile, Mexico says DNA evidence confirms that reputed drug lord Ramon Arellano Felix was killed during a shootout with authorities in Mazatlan last month.

Two men wounded
in separate robberies

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two men suffered bullet wounds in separate incidents when they were confronted by robbers.

Luis Near Median was wounded about 3:15 p.m. Tuesday in a commercial center in Guadeloupe.  He resisted when two men tried to rob him, police said.

In Tres Ríos about 12:40 a.m. Wednesday a man named Tomás Mendoza Murielle, 57, resisted when two men tried to rob him, so they shot him in the stomach, said police.

Two Sept. 11 figures
get their student visas

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Bush wants to know how immigration officials approved student visas for two of the men who led the terrorist attacks Sept. 11. Their paperwork arrived in the mail at their flight school in Florida Monday, six months after the men died smashing hijacked jetliners into the World Trade Center. 

President Bush says he was "plenty hot" Wednesday morning when he read that immigration officials sent out paperwork approving student visas for terrorists Mohamed Atta and Marwan Al-Shehhi. 

Their visas were approved last July and August before immigration officials had any information linking them to terrorism. A statement from immigration officials blames the delay on what it calls an "antiquated" and "innacurate" processing system. 

President Bush says he was "stunned" by what he calls the "embarrasing disclosure" that no one at the Immigration and Naturalization Service stopped the terrorists' paperwork after the Sept. 11 attack. He has ordered Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge and Attorney General John Ashcroft to investigate how the visa mix-up happened and to make sure it does not happen again. 

"Obviously the paperwork side needs a lot of work," he said. "It is inexcusable. And so we have got to reform the INS and we have got to push hard to do so. This is an interesting wake-up call for those who run the INS." 

The attorney general has directed the Justice Department's Inspector General to find out why immigration officials failed to stop the notfication letters and why it took so long to process them. 

President Bush wants to separate the paperwork side of the immigration service from its enforcement side to better track those who overstay their visas. INS is currently shifting over to a computer-based system which should allow it to better share information with other agencies. 

Atta and Al-Shehhi both entered the United States on tourist visas. When they showed-up at Huffman Aviation International in August of 2000 asking for flight lessons, they were told they needed to apply for student visas to enter a training program. Once they did, the men completed their training as flight schools are not required to deny instruction to foreign nationals while awaiting an INS decision on their visas. 

Atta piloted the American Airlines passenger jet that slammed into the north tower of the World Trade Center. Al-Shehhi was aboard the United Airlines plane that struck the south tower about 17 minutes later. 

New kidnap suspect
caught by police

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Police arrested another man Tuesday in the case of a businessman who was kidnapped in June.

That brought to six the total detained in the case. And police said Wednesday that they found another suspect already in jail on an unrelated charge in Panama.

The man arrested this week had the last name of Soto, police said. The man, 26, was caught while he drove a car down a street in San Rafael Arriba de Desamparados.

They said that they searched the man’s living quarters nearby and discovered evidence. The dwelling is near the place where the businessman, Javier Farce Pennon, was detained last June until his family paid a $1 million ransom 

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