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These stories were published Friday, March 15, 2002
Jo Stuart
About us

Day of St. Patrick
not all beer and jigs

By Jay Brodell
editor of A.M. Costa Rica

Sunday is St. Patrick’s Day, and in many parts of the world the day is one for amateur drunks and [good grief] green beer.

Hidden among the roots of St. Patrick’s Day are 800 years of struggle, genocide, discrimination and death. The tale of the Irish is one well known to Jews, Palestinians, blacks, Nicaraguans, Mexicans, Chechens, untouchables and other socials classes or ethnic groups that are not permitted full participation in a free society.

If the Irish drink to excess, it could be to hide the pain. The ethnic history is full of dark days, including the efforts at genocide by the British when the Emerald Isle was hit by the potato blight and subsequent famine in the mid-1840s. The colonial rulers actually exported food from starving Ireland at the height of the famine.

The famine was the impetus for millions of Irish to leave their island, perhaps for the United States, where the culture began a slow climb from the gutter. The women found work, as is the case with downtrodden groups, but the men were under employed. Except where there were canals to dig or Civil Wars to fight.

A lot of Irish found employment and sometimes death as draftees or paid designates in U.S. Civil War regiments. Soldiering is an Irish tradition because the country was nearly always at war. A few did well in Latin America’s revolutions against Spain.

Originally, the St. Patrick’s Day parade was a way for the Irish  to show their strength and confront the discrimination of the day. Harry Truman scored points when he became the first U.S. president to show up at a New York St. Patrick’s Day parade in 1948. Some 12 years later, an Irish Catholic won the presidency.

The Catholic faith kept the Irish under suspicion in the predominately Protestant United States, and provided another obstacle for the national group to confront.

The St. Patrick’s Day parade itself used to be a church-sponsored respite from the rigors of Lent, the 40-days before Easter when fasting and abstinence from meat is the norm. In Ireland and later in the United States, the church withdrew the rules for one day, the anniversary of St. Patrick’s Fifth century death.

The national patron has spread far and wide. His fame even echoes in the names of some Costa Ricans. His day has been distorted by those who feel compelled to drink until they drop. They used to close the pubs in Ireland on that day.

The only announced party here is at Sharkey’s downtown on Saturday night. .And for those who need a dose of their roots, the History Channel on cable has an Irish history marathon planned for Saturday night at 8 p.m.

Vendor dies, boy hurt
in Guápiles shooting

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A vendor died on the spot and a boy with him suffered bullet wounds about 1:30 p.m. Thursday on a road in a place designated as Finca Three in Guápiles. 

Investigators at the scene said the pair had been intercepted by three men and a gun was fired. However, they had little other information.

Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart

Remembering to Remember

Lately more and more friends are asking me to remind them to do something or do I remember the other name of "whatshername." In a way, this is flattering. They must think I am not afflicted with the loss of memory that seems pandemic among the expats here. 

Some of us are actually forgetting what we are talking about in the middle of a sentence. I have a solution for remembering forgotten names: I just go through the alphabet because I know that that name is in there somewhere. It can take a couple of run-throughs, but it usually works. It does, however, slow down conversations. Then we really forget what we were talking about.

The other day I happened to be looking up how to remove water rings from wood in a little book I have and I came across a chapter on how to remember things. (The book is Meg Bracken’s "I hate to Housekeep Book." remember her?) The suggestion I liked was aimed at remembering a short list of things. It helps when you wake up in the middle of the night and think of three things you have to buy at the store. I tried it the other night. First what you do is simply remember a flagpole, a pair of red bloomers and a tricycle. (One, two, three. Got it?). 

Still in bed I pictured a cup of coffee balanced on the flagpole. Then the rubber gloves, one on each leg of the bloomers, and finally a bottle of soda water careening down a hill on a tricycle. I didn’t get to the store for two days, but once there, I remembered the kilo of coffee, the rubber gloves and the soda water. But for the life of me, I couldn’t remember what I had associated with the rubber gloves. I kept seeing them on the antlers of a reindeer. Whatever works, I figure. From now on, number two is a reindeer. 

Forgetting is one of the downsides of being a member of the over-the-hill gang (That’s not an insult. That’s a euphemism). Last week was not a good week for me, and I topped it by getting a virus in my computer. Unknown to me, it sent out an ersatz message to everyone in my address book, which, if they opened it, or their antivirus program didn’t catch it, would have played havoc with them, too. 

My computer got the virus because I forgot to update my virus program. So this is an apology to everyone who got that message (don’t even think of opening it. Delete, delete!) and a lesson to us all. That should also be a feature of maturity: we can now put into practice all of the lessons we have learned throughout our lives . . if we could just remember them.

This week started out much better because the concert season has begun. You have to love a country that turns an old airport into a public park for all the people and a former prison into a children’s museum with an auditorium where performances like the symphony can be held. And then adopts the idea of Sunday morning concerts for those of us who tend to fall asleep at the Friday evening ones.

I am not a music critic, but I have found that when I am listening to and watching the performance of classical music I never have a negative thought. If my mind wanders at all, it is always to something very positive. 

It was a wonderful concert on Sunday beginning with a joyful overture by Bedrich Smetana and then works by Rachmaninoff and Richard Strauss. I thought the pianist played one of the sweetest pianos I have heard in a long time. Both of the longer works contained passages that have become familiar because they have been used as themes for movies. 

The beginning of the Strauss opus, "Also Sprach Zarathustra," was in the beginning of the movie "2001: A Space Odyessy." The Rachmaninoff had an incredibly romantic section that I was sure was used in "An Affair to Remember." I turned to my seat companion and asked, "Wasn’t this part the background music for "An Affair to Remember." With Cary Grant and whatshername when they met on the top of the Empire State Building? 

He said he couldn’t remember, then he muttered something else. I think he said, "Just listen to the music," but I’m not sure. I hope I’m not losing my hearing, too.

More of Jo Stuart’s columns can be found HERE

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Rebound is seen for Latin economies in 2003
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON D.C. — An expected rebound in the U.S. economy could contribute to Latin America and the Caribbean making a strong economic recovery in 2003, according to a new report by the World Bank.

The bank said the region still has to "navigate treacherous waters," but if Latin American and Caribbean countries "maintain sound economic policies, they are likely to experience a strong rebound," as the U.S. and other industrialized nations recover from a recent downturn.

The report, entitled "Global Development Finance 2000," warned, however, that an expected rise in U.S. interest rates in 2003 could have a "dampening effect" on those countries in Latin America and the Caribbean where public debt levels are already high (above 50 percent of gross domestic product), constraining governments' ability to support growth through increased spending.

The report said that following a sluggish economic performance in 2002, Latin America and the Caribbean could experience a 3.8 percent growth rate in both 2003 and 2004.

The optimistic forecast hinges on whether countries in the region maintain sound macroeconomic policies, the Argentine economy stabilizes, and improvement is made in such areas as exports, 

capital market commitments, and foreign direct investment.

The full World Bank report offers a picture of global economic trends, saying that economies in the developing world are expected to grow three percent in 2002. But that rate will not be enough to have much of an effect on reducing poverty.

For Latin America and the Caribbean, the report said growth is expected to be 0.5 percent in 2002, compared to 0.6 percent in 2001. Slow growth in 2002 is attributed to the weaker global environment following the terrorist attacks in the United States last September and to Argentina's economic crisis. Excluding Argentina, the region's gross domestic product grew 1.3 percent in 2001, with a potential for two percent growth in 2002.

Export volumes on goods and services were estimated to have grown a meager 1.4 percent in 2001, after growing by 9 percent in 2000, the report said. Export revenues fell more rapidly after Sept. 11, as security tightened along the Mexican-U.S. border, commodity prices fell further, and tourism revenues collapsed, affecting, in particular, Central America and the Caribbean.

The report warned of potential economic trouble spots in the region, particularly if Argentina's inflation rises significantly and output declines sharply, or if Venezuela's investment climate "deteriorates further."

Solís says Boruca Project
important to country

By Saray Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Third-party political leader Ottón Solís said that he strongly supports the Boruca hydroelectric project that would inundate Indians lands in the southern part of the country.

The project would provide needed electricity and prevent seasonal flooding downstream from a dam that the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad would build, he said.

The Indians in the area had looked to Solís and his Partido Acción Ciudadana as a possible brake on the long-running project. They had hoped to meet with him and convince him to use his political muscle to oppose the project. His party has 14 of the country’s 57 deputies in the National Assembly.

The Indians say that the electrical institute has not consulted sufficiently with them and pretty much taken for granted that the Indian land was available for development.

However, Solís, in an interview with A.M. Costa Rica, said that the Indians need to be consulted. If he were president, he said, he would not build the dam if after explaining the benefits and making provisions for help, the Indians still opposed the project. "I don’t think it is right for us to impose projects on the Indians," he said.

Solís might well be president in four years, which is why his opinion is important. Other national-level politicians also support the project.

"A dam destroys some life and creates new life,"  Solís said of the environmental impact.

A.M. Costa Rica photo
Ottón Solís talks at his office Thursday

The plan is to build a 220-meter (715-foot)  high dam across the Rio Grande de Térraba in south central Costa Rica and cover 19,000 hectares (47,000 acres) with water to create a lake larger than Arenal in northern Costa Rica. 

The electric monopoly says the project is necessary to insure sufficient power for the future. Foes say the company just wants to sell the power to Panama.

The Indian community of Rey Curré would be one of those flooded by the project. A handful of other Indian tribes inhabit lands nearby and have done so for at least a thousand years.

Coast Guard patrols return a big haul of drugs
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

ALAMEDA, Calif. — Four Coast Guard cutters will return home this week after successful counter drug patrols in the eastern Pacific Ocean that netted 19.5 tons of cocaine and 5.5 tons of marijuana in eight separate drug seizures during January and February.

"Successful operations like these make a tremendous difference. The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 have created a new awareness of our domestic vulnerability and highlight the need for protecting our borders," said John P. Walters, director of National Drug Control Policy.  "Effective interdiction efforts disrupt drug trafficker operations and protect our citizens. We are proud of the close interagency coordination between all the federal agencies involved — these operations have kept a huge amount of cocaine from reaching the streets of the United States," he said. 

The U.S. Coast Guard Cutters Boutwell, Hamilton, Midgett, Steadfast, and a Coast Guard law enforcement team aboard a U.S. Navy vessel made the seizures during counter drug patrols. Some of these seizures were the result of "Operation New Frontier,"  Coast Guard patrols that employ tough tactics, armed helicopters, and larger, faster interceptor boats launched from Coast Guard cutters to intercept "go-fast" speed boats used by smugglers. 

"Drug smuggling is part of the threat of terrorism when it adds to the illegal movement of people, money, and weapons across our borders," said Vice Admiral Ray Riutta. He is commander of the U. S. Coast Guard Pacific Area.

This was the first deployment of Operation New Frontier resources in the Pacific, and the success of this effort sets the stage for future similar deployments. The Coast Guard said.

On Jan. 15, the crew of the 210-foot Coast Guard Cutter Steadfast, based in Warrenton, Ore., recovered 2.2 tons of marijuana from a 30-foot "go-fast" vessel and turned the vessel, marijuana and three crewmen over to Mexican naval authorities.

On Jan. 16, the crew of the 378-foot Coast Guard Cutter Midgett, based in Seattle, chased a go-fast vessel, caught it, its six crewmen, and recovered 925 pounds of cocaine. On Jan. 24, the Midgett’s 

crew caught another go-fast vessel with four crewmen, and 733 pounds of cocaine.

On Jan. 26, the helicopter crew deployed aboard Cutter Steadfast located another go-fast vessel, which jettisoned its load of 1.8 tons of marijuana during the pursuit.

On Feb. 3, the crew of the 378-foot Coast Guard Cutter Boutwell, based in Alameda, Calif., recovered 2.5 tons of cocaine from a 40-foot "go fast" boat and took into custody four crewmen for prosecution in the United States.

On Feb. 10, a Coast Guard law enforcement detachment from Miami, Fla., deployed aboard a U.S. Navy vessel intercepted the 65-foot Colombian-flagged fishing vessel Paulo and its crew of nine, with 12.65 tons of cocaine, the second largest Coast Guard cocaine seizure to date.  (The largest Coast Guard seizure was 13.6 tons aboard the Belizian-flagged fishing vessel Svesda Maru in April 2001.)

On Feb. 12, the Cutters Boutwell and Hamilton, based in San Diego, working together with their two helicopters, stopped a 40-foot go-fast and its six-person crew that jettisoned 3.4 tons of cocaine into the ocean. 

On Feb. 22, the Midgett’s crew possibly thwarted a transfer of contraband when they pursued the Mexican-flagged fishing vessel Atun X, which quickly sank as the cutter Midgett approached. The 11 crewmen rescued from the Atun X were turned over to Mexican naval authorities. 

On March 12, the Cutters Boutwell and Hamilton, located and chased two go-fast vessels which jettisoned their cargo. One go-fast vessel was stopped and 1.5 tons of marijuana recovered.  The three crewmen were turned over to Mexican naval authorities for prosecution.

The drugs and crewmen from the seized vessels have been turned over to the U.S. Attorney’s offices in San Diego, California or Tampa, Fla. 

Approximately 80 percent of illegal narcotics that enter the United States via maritime routes each year are transported on go-fast type vessels, which are normally between 30 and 40 feet long, capable of traveling in excess of 50 knots (58 mph), and capable of carrying up to three tons of cocaine, the Coast Guard estimated. 

Two more held
in truck hijackings

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Investigators arrested two more persons who are suspects in a string of truck hijackings that took place over the last 14 months throughout Costa Rica.

Arrested Wednesday were Carlos Delgado and Eddy Vargas, both in Limón, where a number of the hijacked container trucks has their origin. The trucks carried electrical and household appliances that were sold on the domestic black market and elsewhere in Central America.

That brings to nine the number arrested during the last few days. All have been sent to jail for three months preventative detention, said a spokesman for the Judicial Investigating Organization.

Bar customer dies
when he fights back

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Would-be robbers shot and killed a customer at a San Rafael de Montes de Oca bar about midnight Thursday when the man tried to frustrate their crime.

Investigators identified the dead man as Guillermo Calderon Chacón, 55, who is a television repairman with shops in Guadalupe and Barrio la Cruz.

Three men wearing ski masks entered the bar just about midnight and told the customers to get on the floor, according to investigators. Calderon, described as a big man, stood up to the men, so they shot him in the back and in the ribs on each side, said agents for the judicial Investigating Organization.

They identified the bar as Los Hustecos. The killers fled in a red car.

Global diseases fund
praised in Washington

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The secretary of health and human services, Tommy G. Thompson, said the establishment of the Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis is a "great thing," and he looks forward to "effective, tangible" results from the private-public funding mechanism.

Speaking at a meeting of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS Thursday, Thompson, who will serve on the fund's international governing board, said the first round of grants for anti-disease projects will be awarded in April at a New York meeting. 

A technical panel of experts is currently at work reviewing the proposals that have been submitted by private and public groups around the world. The three targeted diseases are the world's biggest killers, taking about 6 million lives each year.

Koffi Annan here
for the weekend

by the A.M. Costa Rica staff

U.N. Secretary-General Koffi Annan is expected to be in Costa Rica today and for the weekend.

Annan left New York on a 10-day trip Thursday for his first stop, Nicaragua, where he was supposed to meet with President Enrique Bolanos Geyer there.  He is supposed to arrive in San José about 4 p.m. today and visit the Universidad para la Paz in Ciudad Colon Saturday.

Annan is supposed to meet with President Miguel Angel Rodríguez Sunday where human rights, external debt and other issues are on the agenda, according to government officials.

Annan will end up in Monterey, Mexico, for an international conference on financing for development

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