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These stories were published Thursday, March 20, 2003, in Vol. 3, No. 56
Jo Stuart
About us
A.M. Costa Rica/Bryan Kay
Guillermo Chávez and Gustavo Villalobos tend the flames.
Protesters rally here as bombs fall in Iraq
By Bryan Kay
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

As the bombs started falling on Iraq, Costa Ricans and foreign residents were gathering in protest outside the residence of the U.S. ambassador in Escazú.

Others stories 
Letters from readers BELOW!

At 7 p.m. the protesters started to assemble in front of the giant fortress-like walls surrounding the home of Ambassador John Danilovich. They sat, stood, and wandered on the long stretch of grass separating the residence walls from the parallel road.. Some sat straddled by candles and banners 

By around 8 p.m., there were around 100 to 120 people gathered. As the tranquil music played and the candlelight vigil continued, more people arrived to join the protest. By 9 p.m. there were more than 200 people.

Before the bombing started about 8:30 p.m., some protesters still held a glimmer of hope the Iraq war would not start. Juan Carlos Alpezar, 48, and his wife, Monika Prumme, 26, a German, both hoped the war could be avoided.

Mothers and daughters, brothers and sisters, and friends stood solemnly as the news started to circulate that the bombing of Iraq had begun. At this point, the gathering began to pay their respects through moments of silence, the first for a minute, the second for five.

And as the protesters learned the news, some shared their views on the inevitable.

 "For me what is important is the life of humans. Many people will be affected and it is not what I want," said Javier Rivera, 35, just as the first moments of silence were observed. 

Guillermo Chavez, 56, said: "First, the person must have life." Candles and signs challenging the United States and its allies to think twice about the war surrounded him.

"We came here for peace. We can’t give up. We have to keep fighting," said Mariela Solano, 22, one of the organizers, after learning that the bombing had begun. Ms. Solano, a law student at the University of Costa Rica, said she and a friend decided around two weeks ago to organize the protest. 

There were a number of foreigners to Costa Rica also present, among them U.S. citizens. Roberta Felix, 47, a hotel owner in Manuel Antonio, was one of them. She was as  vehemently against the war as native Costa Ricans: 

"There is no such thing as a military target." 

Referring to the public relations potential of governments, Ms. Felix said: "We are sitting in front of the biggest propaganda machine possible." Her friend, Susanne Schulze-Boysen, 50, added: "It doesn’t matter what you bomb, it’s people."

Ms. Solano and the other main organizer, Roberto Zamora, said one of their main objectives, in addition to the protest, was to present a bouquet of flowers and the lists of signatures gathered from protesters of the war to the U.S. ambassador.

Just as it looked like he would not greet the crowd Danilovich appeared after deliberation from his press officer and security staff.

Danilovich came from behind the electronic metal gates, which block the view into the ambassador’s house and grounds, a few minutes after 10 p.m. He was accompanied by his son, who was wearing what looked like the shirt of the popular local soccer team.

Ms. Solano presented the flowers and signatures to the ambassador, hoping that they would have some influence. 

The ambassador got a barrage of chants from the crowd as he walked out. Signs were being waved vigorously as the crowd rushed forward.

Danilovich initially was only prepared to accept the flowers and signatures, according to his press officer. But he decided after some words with Ms. Solano to greet the waiting crowd of protesters, who were being kept back from the residence entrance by police and security.

On greeting the crowd, he was faced with more protest, screams and banners, only this time up close.  The other organizer Zamora read a prepared speech to Danilovich, which protested various details relating tom the war. When Zamora finished Danilovich said, "Gracias." He also remained for a few questions from some of the other protesters.

Peter Brennan, counselor for public affairs at the U.S. Embassy, said of the war as he followed the ambassador behind the gates, into the residence: "All of us are hoping that it ends quickly with the least amount of damage possible."

Ambassador John Danilovich accepts flowers from organizer Mariela Solano.

Roberta Felix and Susanne Schulze-Boysen express their views.
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Airports are major concern as Costa Rica braces
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica will be screening air travelers from the Mideast by using computer data bases from the International Police Agency.

Security is being stepped up at the airport and also at seaport shipping docks in anticipation of repercussions of the Iraqi war.

Reader letters BELOW!

The big concern for Costa Rica is not so much direct attack, according to officials but the existence of some operation here directed against the nations arrayed against Iraq. Consequently pre-boarding screening is being stepped up at Juan Santamaría International Airport in Alajuela and Daniel Oduber International Airport west of Liberia.

Airports for national flights and Tobías Bolaños Airport in Rorhmoser also have increased security.

Officials said they were boosting security at the U.S. Embassy in Pavas, the official residence of the U.S. ambassador in Escazú, the embassies of the United Kingdoms and Israel in Edificio Colón and embassies of other allied countries.

Police also will be watching demonstrators to make sure protests against the war do not get out of line. A protest Wednesday night at the U.S. ambassador’s residence was peaceful.

Officials also fear a spinoff of some kind of attack against the United States, perhaps an aircraft hijacking carried out by persons who boarded a plane in Costa Rica. 

There also is concern about biological contamination from attacks in the United States. The anthrax attack in September 2001 is an example, said police. The shipment of mail and packages between the United states and Costa Rica will get more scrutiny.

How news of war
came to Costa Rica

By the A.M. Costa Rica

The allied miltary campaign against Iraq began Wednesday night about 8:30 p.m. Costa Rica time when air raid sirens sounded in Bagdad.

U.S. television crews heard anti-aircraft fire a short time later from the southern outskirts of the Iraqi capital.

Then Ari Fleischer, presidential press secretary, announced in Washington about 8:45 p.m. that the "disarming of Iraq has begun."

U.S. President George Bush spoke a half hour later and said that the early stages of military operation had begun.

New butterfly exhibit
will open Sunday

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Museo Nacional inaugurates its new butterfly exhibit today. More than 300 members of some 20 species will be on view when the garden opens to the public Sunday at the museum that is in the Bellavista Fortress just east of the Plaza de la Democracia.

The display will run for three months and is called El Jardín Secreto or secret garden by the museum.

The exhibit is in the museum’s three-year-old butterfly garden that features plants of the Central Valley and local species of butterflies. The garden is in the lower level of the museum and covers some 700 square meters. Visitors may walk among the butterflies, the native plants and trees in an area sheltered from the direct sun with running water providing a cooling effect.

Democrats to hear
of organic marketing

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Democrats Abroad Costa Rica will have as guest speaker Noel Payne at the monthly meeting Monday, March 31. 

Ms. Payne will speak on "Organic Agricultural  Marketing in Costa Rica" (Emphasis on Sustainable Development). 

The meeting will be held at the Gran Hotel Costa Rica with a business meeting at 11 a.m., a buffet lunch at noon and speaker at 12:45 p.m.. 

For information and required lunch reservations  (3.000 colones for members and 3.500 colones for guests) please contact Dorothy Sagel at  249-1856 no later than March 27. 

All in the community are welcome for the buffet lunch, and speaker. 

Immediately following the meeting The Bill White Players are putting on "Lysistrata," the anti-war play written by Aristaphanes in 450 B.C. and re-written by Willa Koretz in 2003. 

The play will be immediately after the Democrats Abroad meeting and a donation of 500 colons is sought to defray expenses. 

U.S. reported outraged
by Cuban arrests

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The United States is "outraged" by the Cuban government's arrest of dozens of opposition leaders Tuesday, according to the U.S. State Department.

In a formal statement issued Wednesday, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher condemned the arrests as an "appalling act of intimidation against those who seek freedom and democratic change in Cuba."

Boucher called on the Cuban government to immediately release the arrested opposition members and urged the international community to join the United States in demanding their release. The dissidents faced arrest for meeting with U.S. diplomats, the State Department claims.

Bookshop features
bagels and papers

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An expat from Atlanta, Ga., has opened a book and bagel shop in San Francisco de Dos Rios.

The operator is Sidney Glazer, formerly of Santa Ana.

Sidney’s Books and Bagels is a quiet, cozy, used book shop in a residential area that is an easy bus ride from the downtown, Glazer said.

The small cafe features international newspapers and journals, he said.

Glazer will fax a map to potential customers. He may be reached at 219-3530 or via e-mail:  booksnbagel@hotmail.com.

35 Cubans suspected 
of hijacking plane 

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

MIAMI, Fla. — Thirty-five Cubans are in American custody after the apparent hijacking of a Cuban airliner that landed in Key West late Wednesday. 

U.S. military jets intercepted the DC-3 airliner over the Florida Straits and escorted the Cuban craft to the civilian airport at Key West. 

Earlier, Cuban air traffic controllers alerted their U.S. counterparts that the flight, which departed from Cuba's Isle of Youth, had failed to make its scheduled landing in Havana and may have been hijacked. 

U.S. aviation officials say the aircraft carried 29 passengers and six crewmembers. An FBI spokesperson says the suspected hijackers surrendered shortly after the plane landed at Key West, and that the situation is under control. 

U.S. reported offering
reward for hostages

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

BOGOTÁ, Colombia — News reports here say U.S. officials are offering Colombians more than $300,000 and a U.S. visa for information leading to the rescue of three Americans taken hostage by leftist rebels last month. 

The reports Tuesday say that authorities across the country have begun distributing hundreds of thousands of pamphlets with the reward offer. The leaflets show a picture of a jetliner, a U.S. visa request form and a waterfront snapshot of a U.S. city. 

The same reports say the U.S. Department of Defense is funding the reward for helping to locate the Americans. 

Rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia abducted the Americans in mid-February after their small U.S. government plane crash-landed in the country’s southern region. They were private contractors working for the Pentagon, flying over suspected coca-growing areas. 

A fourth American as well as a Colombian soldier on board the doomed aircraft were found shot to death, execution-style. 

Brazil may host
2014 soccer world cup

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

BRASILIA — Brazil is set to host the 2014 World Cup football tournament after the South American Confederation decided to back the country as the continent's only candidate.

The International Football Federation decided this month it would award a country in South America the 2014 tournament. The Confederation's decision virtually assures that Brazil will host the event. 

Colombians  say 
mudslides killed 13

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

BOGOTÁ, Colombia — Authorities say at least 13 people were killed in mudslides in two western towns here. At least 25 others are missing. 

Officials say heavy rains began late Tuesday, causing torrents of earth to rush over makeshift homes in the steep hillsides in Manizales and Villamaria. 

Scores of homes were destroyed. Some children were among the dead.
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Report says Latin economy is getting better
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A moderate economic recovery is under way in Latin America, according to a report released Wednesday by the Institute for International Finance, a global organization of financial institutions.

The report said that, with the exception of Venezuela, there are signs of stronger growth throughout the region. The organization projects that, excluding Venezuela, regional growth will be 2.4 percent in 2003. The report was issued on the eve of the 2003 annual meeting of the Inter-American Development Bank, which will be held in Milan.

The global organization of leading financial institutions said that policies are improving in a number of countries and there are signs of stronger growth throughout the region, with the exception of Venezuela. 

Economic activity has already started to pick up in most countries, and the organization expects this to

gather momentum in the second half as global conditions improve and investor confidence 
strengthens. The report projects real growth in the region to be 3.2 percent in 2004.

The report noted that there are significant risks to the recovery forecast:

In many countries, investor and consumer confidence is fragile and in some, it has yet to be established. Governments may succumb to populist political pressure and fail to implement policy to the extent needed to sustain the recovery. 

Prolonged conflict in the Middle East, sustained higher oil prices, lower growth of the global economy, heightened risk aversion, and renewed pressure on exchange rates and prices, could force the authorities to tighten fiscal and monetary policies further, and slow the recovery. 

The outcome in all countries will depend ultimately on the ability of political leadership to maintain a national consensus and broad political support for policy discipline, said the report. 

Major flu epidemic feared with new variant
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C.  — The Western Hemisphere should brace for a possible influenza epidemic involving a worldwide outbreak of a dangerous new flu variant

Tommy G. Thompson, secretary of Health and Human Services, said this as he urged Congress Wednesday to keep an appropriation of $100 million to prepare for a global flu epidemic in the federal budget.

Health officials point to historic precedent to underscore the need for such preparedness; an outbreak of flu in 1918 caused 25 million deaths worldwide.

Although the administration's budget request was made earlier this year, Thompson said current events demonstrate the importance of the initiative.

"The recent cases of what has been called Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome remind us all of the potential danger posed by emerging infectious diseases, especially a possible new influenza strain," Thompson said. 

A flu pandemic can occur when there is a major change in the virus' genetic structure, creating a new strain that causes widespread illness and death. For example, the 1918 influenza pandemic claimed more than 500,000 lives in the United States alone.

Our reward offer is still $500

Louis Milanes

Luis Enrique Villalobos Camacho
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

This newspaper seeks the prompt return of two men who ran high-interest investment operations that have gone out of business.

Luis Enrique Villalobos Camacho, 62, was associated with Ofinter S.A., a money exchange house, and with his own private investment business that had about $1 billion in other people’s money on the books.

Villalobos closed his business Oct. 14 and vanished.

Louis Milanes operated Savings Unlimited and several casinos in San José. He left the country with other members of his firm the weekend of Nov. 23. He may have as much as $260 million in his possession. Both operations catered to North Americans.

Villalobos had about 6,300 customers. Milanes had about 2,400.

Villalobos and Milanes are the subjects of international arrest warrants.  Associates of both men have been jailed.

A.M. Costa Rica has posted a $500 reward for information leading to the detention of either man with the hopes that others will make similar pledges. The newspaper believes that investors only will see some of their money when the two men are in custody.

Milanes has few supporters in San José. On the other hand, as the letters frequently on this page show, Villalobos still has supporters who believe that he will reappear and settle his debts. They believe he is in hiding because of a predatory Costa Rican government.

An invitation to enter our photo contest
The first A.M. Costa Rica photo contest welcomes your submissions and will award a prize of $100 in each of five categories.

The deadline for submission is April 15. The contest was announced in November.

Five categories have been established:

1. DEADLINE NEWS: A news photo that shows a breaking news event, such as, but not only, crime, accidents, fires, arrests.

2. SCENIC: Landscape scenes which may or may not include people as a secondary emphasis.

3. WILDLIFE: Photos that have as their principal subject one or more animals, plants or insects. 

4. SPORTS: A photo related to one of the major or minor sports, team or individual.

5. PEOPLE:  A photo that has as its principal emphasis one or more persons, including individual portraits. 

Deadline is April 15

BASIC RULES: The photo must be taken by the person who submits it, and he or she, as a condition of submission, agrees to give A.M. Costa Rica the right to publish the photo in A.M. Costa Rica. Upon publication, the photo will be covered by A.M. Costa Rica’s copyright, which the newspaper will happily assign back to the contestant upon request. As a condition of submission, the contestant affirms that he or she owns full rights to the photo and that it has never before been published in any professional medium.

The photo must have been taken within the borders or territorial waters of Costa Rica between Nov. 15 and the contest deadline. 

Only one entry per photographer is allowed in each category. Judges reserve the right to place the photo in another category during the selection process.
Employees, shareholders or interns with A.M. Costa Rica may not enter the contest. 

This is an open competition. No distinction will be made between professional and amateur photographers.

A.M. Costa Rica, at its option, will publish photos and information including the name of the photographer, as submissions are made.

The management of A.M. Costa Rica and judges are the final authority on contest rules and submissions.

TECHNICALITIES: The photos must be sent digitally via e-mail to 

editor@amcostarica.com, and the subject line must specify "photo contest." Within the body of the e-mail, the contestant must specify into which category the photo is submitted. The photo should be between 4 and 8 inches in width and contain no less than 72 pixels per inch of density. Each photo should not be larger than 200 k.

The e-mail message must clearly state the name and the circumstances surrounding the taking of the photo and the date the photo was taken. 

The photo should be in jpeg format and sent as an attachment with the file name as the number of the category in which it is being submitted followed by the name of the photographer.

For example, the file name of a photo in the sports category taken by Mr. Jones would be 4jones.jpeg or 4jones.jpg

PRIZES:  A first place winner will be named in each category, and the prize will be $100 paid via Pay Pal, the electronic fund-transfer system.

Letters on the war and our editorial
The colonialists 
are involved

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I watched CNN to see what was going on with the war Tuesday. They were showing a clip repeatedly about how the rich Saudis and the rich American diplomats cats and dogs were "abandoned" in a $20-a-day pet hospital. They were being fed the best food, groomed, walked five times a day. 

To be perfectly honest, they are living far better than the vast populations of the Middle East. CNN (in English) is a joke. They haven't bothered to show the starving children of Afghanistan, the suffering and starving children of many of these Middle Eastern countries who live under the reign of corrupt kings and dictators and are sick, orphaned, handicapped and starving. If they really want us to think this war is about freedom and "saving the Iraqi people," why don't they show us this truth? 

The war is an interesting thing, until recently (as in days) it was sponsored only by nations who are or were the biggest colonialists in history, the Spanish, the English and now the powerhouse colonialists, the US. The greed of these countries to rob other nations, kill the indigenous or put them on reserves, take the land, the wealth, the gold (or in this case the oil) has been a historical fact that is obvious. From cotton to gold, from oil to slavery, all were based on the greedy desire to go out with guns and weapons and steal the wealth of the rest of the world. 

 How many people suffer and under the cloak of "patriotism," "Christianity" or whatever other lame excuse for the horrible greed of these countries. 

Children starve, they die, they suffer. And what is the focus of all this with the media? That one of these two guys is "right" and the other is "wrong". When we trigger World War III, and we will, the "freedom" we are fighting for won't amount to a hill of beans for the 20 million people whose lives are in danger. We cannot "liberate" dead people. 

Violence begets violence. One day in a very right-wing news Web page I saw two stories side by side. One saying that George Bush is the most "Christian" president of all time, the other a headline quote from George to Chirac: "We will never forgive and we will never forget." 

That isn't what I heard from Jesus when he spoke to Christians. As I recall he said something about turning the other cheek, when someone takes your coat to give them your cloak also. This man, George is not a Christian in any true sense of the word. He is a colonialist, looking to turn all of the Middle East's wealth over to wealthy and corrupt American corporations. He is mad at the French and the Russians because they wanted a piece of the oil pie. 

We can support one of the two lunatics, George or Saddam, or we can march to a different drum. We can stand for peace. We can do as Jesus said and feed the poor, take care of the children and turn the other cheek. Humanity stands at a turning point. We can wake up and actually live the words of Jesus and be kind, humble, willing to sacrifice our lives for the lives of others, or we can continue this violence and have the blood of children and innocents on our hands. 

I am not even religious by any standard, but the insult to those of us who try to live exemplary lives to have someone like Bush considered a "great Christian" is as ridicluous as calling Saddam a "great Muslim". They are both crazy and when we trigger the domino effect that leads all to suffering and misery, we will all just have to stick to our stories and pick a pony, Saddam or George, as we are all too blind to choose to listen to the truth that lies within our hearts. 

They are both crazy people, and we need to concern ourselves with real peace, not a peace negotiated by dividing up the wealth of other countries for selfish and greedy reasons and at the expense of poor and starving people. 

Wake up. "Right" and "wrong" are useless words that have no real meaning when measured by the suffering they cause. It is time to try this concept of Jesus and love others with deeds rather than words. It is time to get off this crap about whose right and who’s wrong and try to find lasting solutions to profound problems. 

It is time to examine our own hearts and decide if we are a positive impact on our world or simply an additional problem contributing to the hostility and rancor that is now poisoning the entire world. Do any of us really have the courage to step up to the plate and stop playing Russian roulette with our planet and it's people? 

Buy a horse, we are all going to need them when oil prices go through the roof. 

Robbie Felix
Manuel Antonio
She has candle 
on her steps

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Please do not lean to the right on us! I enjoy your daily news and views, but have to disagree with several of your points regarding your peace article. 

First of all, I am a 40-year-old peacemonger, neither naive or that young! I also do not think that I am wrong for standing for peace. Even a few senators are being bashed for still condemning the eminent war. They have been refering to the blind nationalism as rallying around the flag, while people still hang on to FREE SPEECH and ASSEMBLY (which is suppossed to our constitutional right?). 

I remember a children's book,"The Emperor's New Clothes," and, appreciating the moral of the story, I refuse to be included in this collective American "understanding" that the president thinks we all have for him. It is the old, the weak, and the conforming uniformed that support this war. 

I support peace and diplomacy, not a president who's words and motives are a weapon of mass destruction.. They have a "TITLE" for the war, "Operation Iraqi Freedom." Some nonsense like that, as if it were a movie or something (Is this war about an old family vendeta, oil, Iraqi oppression or womad?) 

You are right. Lighting candles won't help much, but the censorship of our news here certainly doesn't focus on the peace movement enough to support any real success. What can we do? WE are too busy struggling with our own struggling economies and survival to make a difference. 

But, you can be sure that I didn't vote for the guy. And think that the "war majority' is being brainwashed. Just my opinion in this strange and complicated world. Nonetheless, I have a candle on my front step, because I couldn't live with myself if I didn't protest, even passively, and of course peacefully. Pray for the world. We all need it.

Angie. Brooks
Indianapolis, Ind.
Wants family to grow up

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I am just a simple woman who lives in the United States. I have a family, a family that I want to see grow up and have a peaceful world. Mr. Bush has tonight begun a shameful invasion of Iraq. 

No one argues that Saddam Hussein is an evil man who needs to be removed, but I disagree with Mr. Bush's motives and tactics. Our press is no longer free, it is owned by vast corporate enterprises whose interests lie in propping up Mr. Bush. Please don't judge the people of the U.S. by our illegitimate leaders. 

Micki Aiken
He’s sick of whining

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I am fed up with the self-indulgent whinings of the peaceniks.

They don’t care what happens in the big world as long as their little world is not affected. They are all hiding in their little plastic rooms sealed with duct tape.

They have been spoiled by living in a nation where the challenges are few. Nuclear threats have gone away because our presidents stood up to the Soviet Union.

These are the same people who were groveling for peace at any price, including enslavement by the Soviets.

Ask what your government can do for you, but for God’s sake, don’t do anything for your government.

Ed Blakesley
Denver, Colo.
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