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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, March 15, 2004, Vol. 4, No. 52
Jo Stuart
About us
A.M. Costa Rica photos
More than 100 teams made the haul from Escazú to San Antonio Sunday, including a pair of goats.
Boyeros were out remembering their roots
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica’s boyeros and their traditional carretas were out in force again Sunday, plodding from Escazú Centro up the long hill to San Antonio.

The Day of the Boyero was one of the two each year where the ox cart owners can show their stuff in the San José area. But no fiesta is complete anywhere in Costa Rica without an ox cart parade.

And when a boyero dies, they strap his coffin to his carreta for the trip to the grave.

The traditional March ox cart parade is homage to the muscular oxen and men who helped build Costa Rica. Not much fazes these animals, least of all an uphill walk in the sun and wind. In addition to adult animals, younger pairs in training took the hike, as did at least one matched pair of goats in harness.

The Asociación Nacional de Boyeros is the organization keeping alive the various oxcart encounters, including the entry of the saints into San José, the traditional kickoff to the Christmas season. That’s the other big gathering in the capital area. Escazú is the cultural heart of the boyero tradition because it was here that the detailed painting of the carretas came into full flower in the early 1900s.

Sunday the neighbors were ready. Some simply enjoyed the passing parade. Others were selling food and drink. Several North American families live along the route, and they had a lot of visitors.

Farm work still is done in places with oxen, particularly in woodlands or extreme topography where motorized machines would be at a disadvantage. But many of the carefully manicured creatures Sunday were more a hobby than working animals, as were the colorful carretas with their painted wheels.

Charity garden party this year will be April 17
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

One of the better annual social events will be April 17 this year. That’s the date set for the Queen’s Birthday garden party at the home of British Ambassador Georgina Butler.

Last year’s event raised $9,000 for Costa Rican schools in need, sponsors point out.

This is not one of those raised pinky tea parties. Ms. Butler with the assistance of about every British subject in the country has attracted an unusual mix of individuals and firms who provide food, drink and entertainment for children, youngsters and adults. It’s all for charity.

Last year, the activities ranged from the traditional maypole dancing to some serious exploration of fermented beverages.

This year an announcement promised tug o’ war, croquet, pony rides, three-legged, sack and egg n’ spoon races, bat-the-rat, coconut shy,

face painting, raffle and tombola and lucky dip, silent auctions, classic British cars, theatre, opera, cabaret, children’s storytime, live music, Scottish and morris dancing as well as the maypole dancing. 

Journalists were particularly inept last year with bat-the-rat, although they recommend it as a test of reflexes.

Available to eat will be homemade jams and chutneys, pies and cakes, tea and scones, coffee and cake, strawberries and cream, soft drinks, beer, and Pimms.

Admission is 2,000 colons for adults (about $4.70) and 1,000 colons for children between 5 and 12 years. Younger children enter free.

The ambassador’s residence is west of San Rafael de Escazú on the road to Santa Ana. The location is on a side street, but parking is available along the main road.

The party is scheduled from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

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Father Minor released from jail in Parmenio case
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Rev. Minor de Jesús Calvo Aguilar was set free after the Tribunal de Heredia acted favorably Friday on a petition by the priest’s lawyers.

The lawyers claimed that sufficient proof did not exist that their client was one of the intellectual authors of the murder of radio journalist Parmenio Medina Pérez July 7, 2001.

The court did not require that the priest post a bond, but it did order him to sign in with the prosecutor’s office every 15 days and it prohibited him from leaving the country or approaching possible witnesses in the case.

The court decision is a major setback to the prosecution and Fiscal General Francisco Dall'Annese, who called the Parmenio Medina case his top priority when he took the job late last year.

The priest was detained Dec. 27 at a hotel in Liberia. He and others were on their way to a vacation at a beach.

A second man, Omar Chaves, also was jailed, and his lawyers are seeking his release.

Both Calvo and Chaves were involved with Radio Maria, a highly successful Catholic radio station that was criticized by Parmenio Medina repeatedly in his "La Patada" (The Kick) weekly radio show. 

Medina got ahold of internal audit documents that questioned the radio station’s finances. The disclosures were embarrassing to the radio station and also to the Roman Catholic hierarchy which was slow to take action.

Even more embarrassing personally to Calvo was Medina’s disclosure that the priest was questioned by police after being stopped at night in Parque La Sabana while in the company of a young man. The priest’s excuse, that he was giving driving lessons, was not accepted by most Costa Ricans.

The station was closed down shortly before the drive-by murder of Medina near his Heredia home.

Calvo and Chaves, a well-known businessman, were arrested in December mostly on the strength of testimony by Jhon Gilberto Gutiérrez, a Colombian who said he was the middleman between the arrested pair and young thugs who actually carried out the shooting. The man recanted a month ago, badly damaging the prosecutor’s case. He said he had been coerced to give the testimony that he did and said in a television interview that he did not even know the two men.

The Parmenio Medina murder generated a lot of pressure from the journalistic community, even though the radio personality was somewhat of a maverick. The case was reported widely in the International media.

Quepos reader responds
to Harken's demand

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Here we go with Harken again. I do hope most people understand a few small details about the case. First off, Harken's overall investment in the project was in the neighborhood of $10 million (this based on figures taken off their own website). Most may be aware that they have estimated their projected losses at $57 BILLION and said that they would like a settlement of $57 million.

If you are not familiar with Harken,  George Bush was president of same when he was accused of insider trading. Why? Well there was this little deal about some drilling rights in the Middle East. Daddy's friends made George Bush Jr. (now president Bush) a deal for some drilling rights in the middle east and the stock price soared on Harken. George sold his stock and immediately after the price crashed as we went to war in the Middle East. 

Letter from reader

It has been suggested that with George Sr.'s CIA experience, not to mention that he was president at the time, tipped off George Jr. about the impending war. As with most of Bush's past, the records are sealed on the insider trading charges, but he was acquited on the charges (after all the investigators did work for his Dad, then president). But the real important part of this story is that after the war when they got around to the drilling, well....there was NO OIL.

Harken wants $57 million for projected losses and there is no one on earth that can say with certainty how much, if any, oil there is the Caribbean off Costa Rica. As in the Middle East well drilling for oil is a gamble after all. Their loss figure is fabricated based on NOTHING.

But what should really apall people is that Harken wants something that no one else  would EVER get in Costa Rica, a refund with "punitive damages." Any other investor would have take it's losses and go if the same thing were to happen. If you or I or Coca Cola or Marlboro, or any other company made an investment in Costa Rica and the project failed, well we all know what would happen. 

No other investor has a private lobbyist in the form of the U.S. Embassy negotiating on it's part to try to get a huge settlement for losses. The basic equivalent is if someone tried to do a big development project and Ministerio de Ambiente y Energía rejected it for environmental reasons. Well, we would simply be out of luck. If you or I got our money back, we would be the first! Much less money back plus a cool $47 million extra, well, it goes without saying. . . 

The executives of Harken used to be and probably still are, ex-executives of one of the companies with the biggest accounting scandal in U.S. history. Not only that, but CNN, not exactly a conspiracy theory news source, has called the company a CIA front. Everything about Harken is questionable, and they have used the U.S. government as a private lobbyist here in Costa Rica for some time.

This whole Harken thing would be a joke if the company were not so politically connected to the U.S. presidency. The embassy probably provides plenty of support to large U.S. corporations that operate here in Costa Rica, but as far as individuals or small investors, well you all know from your own experiences . . . 

Sad to say that our tax dollars are not buying most of us the one thing we could actually benefit from, support for small businesses in Costa Rica from the embassy. Instead it goes to lobby for oil companies of a questionable nature to load the dice in their favor for gambling for oil.

Robbie Felix 
Quepos, Costa Rica 
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Spanish voters reject Iraqi role and pick Socialists
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

MADRID, Spain — Casting their ballots in the wake of the worst terrorist attacks in Spain's history, Spaniards voted Sunday to oust the ruling Popular Party of outgoing Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, blaming his staunch backing of the U.S. war in Iraq for the bombings that left 200 people dead and more than 1,500 injured. 

The headquarters of the Spanish Socialist Workers party were caught up Monday night in a delirium of celebrations of an upset victory over the ruling Popular Party. 

In a stunning upset, voters decided to give power to the opposition Socialist Party, whose leader, Jose Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, promised to immediately withdraw Spain's 1,300 troops from Iraq, unless the United Nations approves their presence. 

With a majority of the vote counted, the Socialists won 43 percent of the ballots cast. That means the Socialists will occupy 164 seats of the 350 seats in parliament, with 148 seats going to the Popular Party. The results would leave the Socialists short of an absolute majority, but they can rule by forming a coalition with smaller regional parties.

After observing a minute of silence in memory of the victims of Thursday's attacks, Zapatero made a brief acceptance speech.

The Socialist leader promised to bring about a tranquil change for the benefit of everyone. He also promised to rule with humility saying that power would not change him. He also vowed to make the fight against terrorism his immediate priority.

The results were a blow to outgoing Prime Minister Aznar who was hoping to hand over power to his hand-picked successor, Mariano Rajoy, who promised to continue Aznar's pro-American foreign policy.

Earlier polls taken before the terrorists attacks showed Rajoy and the Popular Party well ahead of the Socialists.

But Thursday's terrorist attacks, changed all that. More than 12 million Spaniards took to the streets of Spain's major cities in protest, as mounting evidence of those responsible for the bombing pointed to Islamic extremists, not the country's violent Basque separatist group, or ETA. 

Saturday the arrest of three Moroccans and two Indians in connection with the attacks and the discovery of a videotape of a self-described head of al-Qaida's military wing in Europe fanned growing skepticism over the government's belief that ETA was responsible. The man on the tape said Thursday's train attacks were a response to Spain's "collaboration with the criminal Bush and his allies." 

Japan and México agree on a free-trade treaty
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Japan and Mexico have concluded a free-trade agreement, marking the first time Tokyo has made a comprehensive pact involving agricultural products. The finalization of the pact came after both countries made last-minute concessions. 

Following 16 months of tough negotiations, a basic agreement was reached earlier in the week, but differences on a number of items held up the final version. It took a video conference late Friday among Japanese and Mexican cabinet members to finalize the agreement. 

Japan, at the last minute, agreed to lower tariffs on such items as pork and orange juice. That will help Mexican farmers better compete against the United States and Brazil. At present, almost all Mexico's pork goes to Japan. 

Mexico, in return, consented to removing tariffs on Japanese steel over a 10-year period. 

The deal is expected to be formally signed in June and to go into effect next January.

Agriculture Minister Yoshiyuki Kamei brushed aside questions, from Japanese reporters, concerning possible harm to the country's agriculture sector. Kamei says it is important to 

think about how to protect national interests, and he feels that this agreement does just that. 

Economists say Japan badly wanted the deal because it is estimated that the country is losing nearly $4 billion annually without a trade agreement with Mexico. 

The deal is seen as greatly benefiting Japanese automakers, who will see 50 percent tariffs eliminated on their cars going into Mexico. 

Mexico says it expects the deal to result in more than $12 billion of Japanese direct investment during the initial 10 years, and will lead to an annual growth in Mexican exports to Japan of more than 10 percent. 

Japan signed its first free trade agreement two years ago, with Singapore. But the Mexican treaty marks the first time Japan has made such a comprehensive deal covering agricultural products, a sector that Tokyo, bowing to the political clout of farmers, has zealously protected in the past. 

Japan has recently initiated free trade negotiations with South Korea, Malaysia, Thailand, and the Philippines, and is said to be considering launching negotiations with Indonesia and Taiwan. Japan also hopes to conclude, by 2012, a free trade agreement with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. 

U.S. Coast Guard captures seven tons of Peruvian cocaine
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

LIMA, Perú — The U.S. Coast Guard has seized seven metric tons of cocaine from a Peruvian vessel traveling in international waters in the Pacific Ocean. 

Peruvian Interior Minister Fernando Rospigliosi 

announced the seizure Saturday here. He said the action was undertaken jointly by U.S. and Peruvian drug officials. 

The cocaine had been produced in Perú and was being shipped to Mexico. Rospigliosi says it was bound for a Mexican drug cartel.  Police in Peru arrested 14 people in connection with the seizure. 

Two years needed before elections, new PM says
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti - Newly appointed Haitian Prime Minister Gerard Latortue says the strife-torn Caribbean nation will need a two-year transition period before free elections can be held.

In an interview published Friday, in The New York Times, the Haitian prime minister said he wants to provide equal opportunity to all political parties and all candidates. He emphasized he wants to create a Haitian government of independent-minded technocrats.

Latortue said finding a new, permanent residence for exiled former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide is a crucial first step in healing the country. Latortue also said the thousands of pro and anti-Aristide militants currently roaming Haiti must be disarmed. 

But Latortue said Friday, he has called Jamaican Prime Minister Percival J. Patterson to complain that Jamaica's invitation to Aristide to stay there for eight to 10 weeks is "an unfriendly gesture that could create tensions." He says Patterson assured him the invitation was a purely humanitarian gesture.

Former president Aristide, who has been in exile in the Central African Republic since his departure from Haiti early last week, plans to fly to Jamaica with his wife next week for a stay with their two children. 

Prime Minister Patterson announced the visit Thursday, but insisted Aristide is not seeking political asylum in Jamaica. 

Aristide accuses the United States of kidnapping him and forcing him to resign. U.S. officials have strongly denied the accusations.

U.S. Marines in Haiti reported coming under gunfire in the Saint Martin area of this capital. The incident came as multi-national troops and Haitian police started disarming Haitians carrying illegal arms in an effort to reduce violence.

Meanwhile, Canadian authorities say they are holding Artistide's former security chief, Oriel Jean, after arresting him at the Toronto airport Wednesday night.

Jean, who was traveling from the Dominican Republic with his wife, is being detained on suspicion of crimes against humanity.

U.S. does not object to Aristide's Jamaican visit
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. State Department says Jamaica should see to it that the planned visit to that country by exiled Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide is a family visit as stated, and not for politics. The issue figured in phone conversations Friday between Secretary of State Colin Powell and top Jamaican officials. 

The State Department is not raising any public objection to the planned Jamaica visit by Aristide even though Bush administration officials have been angrily denying claims by the former Haitian leader that he was taken into exile by the United States against his will.

Aristide has been hosted by the Central African Republic since resigning and leaving the country on a U.S.-provided chartered plane Feb. 29.

In a statement Thursday, Jamaican Prime Minister Percival Patterson said his government was granting a request by Aristide to go Jamaica to visit his wife and two young daughters. He is expected to arrive in Jamaica early next week.

At a news briefing, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Secretary of State Colin Powell discussed the impending trip Friday by 

telephone with Patterson and Jamaican Foreign Minister K. D. Knight.

Boucher said the United States has "no problem" with the visit provided it is limited to family reasons, and does not upset the transition process begun after Aristide's departure. 

"This process is well-under way. We do think it's important for everyone to look forward, and to support this process. We have been informed by the government of Jamaica that the invitation to the former president, Aristide, is for a temporary visit for family reasons, and we hope that visit will be consistent with that goal, and with the goal of all of us of strengthening democracy in Haiti."

Boucher said he expected the Aristide visit to last a number of weeks and that it "will be o.k." as long as people "keep their vision in a forward direction."

Foreign Minister Knight said it had been made very clear to Mr. Aristide that Jamaica is not to be used as a "launching pad" to further any desire to return to power. Aristide has insisted from exile that he is still Haiti's lawful president and has called on followers in the country to peacefully resist what he has depicted as the U.S.-led occupation of the country.

More clues surface in 1973 murder of journalist
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

SANTIAGO, Chile — Lawyers investigating the 1973 murder of American journalist and filmmaker Charles Horman in Chile say clues are surfacing that may help solve the case.

The lawyers, who represent Horman's widow, Joyce, said that evidence has come to light thanks to the efforts of a new Chilean judge assigned to the case. Horman's case became the basis of the 1982 film "Missing."

Late last year, the investigating judge, Jorge Zepeda, ordered the arrest of a retired military intelligence agent who was implicated in Horman's murder. The retired agent, Col. Rafael Gonzalez Verdugo, is free on parole. More arrests are expected in the case.

So far, Gonzalez is the only person to be indicted in the case. He was released on bail last month.

Horman was detained in September 1973, shortly after the military coup that toppled Chilean leader Salvador Allende and installed Gen. Augusto Pinochet. 

The journalist had been researching and writing a series of investigative reports.  Horman was taken for interrogation to the national football stadium, which had become a type of prison camp. His body turned up months later at a morgue. 

Relatives of Horman asked that Henry Kissinger, the U.S. secretary of state at the time of the coup, be questioned about the case. The Chilean Supreme Court filed such a request, but did not receive answers to all its questions.

Jo Stuart
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