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These stories were published Friday, March 21, 2003, in Vol. 3, No. 57
Jo Stuart
About us
A.M. Costa Rica photos/Saray Ramírez Vindas
Peace rally a social event, too

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A mostly young crowd turned a rally for peace into a social happening Thursday at the Plaza de la Democracia.

Somewhere between 2,000 and 3,000 persons showed up for the six hours of band music, a concert for peace, interspersed with political messages.

The reactions of the placid crowd ranged from amorous explorations to pot smoking to close attention to the speakers. Later in the evening jugglers performed with flaming batons. Bongo drummers performed on stage and off. 

Sign mocks Pacheco

Smoke 'em if you got 'em

The bulk of the crowd either were university students, many encouraged to oppose the Iraq war by their institutions, or high school students. For example a contingent of seniors from Country Day School was in evidence.

The ideology of the rally was consistent with previous gatherings. In addition to the Iraq war, speakers opposed U.S. President George Bush for a multitude of sins. These included being involved with Harken Energy Co. which wanted to drill exploratory oil wells offshore near Limón. But the proposed free trade treaty with the United States also came up.

One group of protesters carried a sign that said in Spanish: "The United States, free trade treaty, terrorism are all the same." Someone spray painted "Bush murderer" in Spanish on a wall of the plaza.

The peace protests are being backed by the Partido Liberación Nacional and Ottón Solís, leader of the Partido Acción Ciudadana. President Abel Pacheco, a member of the ruling Partido Unidad Social Cristiana, said he supports Bush and would also invade Iraq if he were in Bush’s shoes.

The public Universidad de Costa Rica also encouraged students to protest for peace. The university has three stated missions. Teaching and research are the same as at other major universities worldwide. But the university here also includes social action as one of its three missions. 

Other activities for opponents of the war include a march, perhaps Saturday, to the U.S. Embassy in Pavas. 

A good vantage point was at the base of the statue of José Figueres Ferrer.
The airlines struggle

University for Peace
gives an award

We are spending more time now saving money
Life for a lot of people all over the world has changed during the past couple of years. Suddenly those who used to have plenty of money are without work and now have more time than money. Others, thanks to investments here and abroad, are now worrying about making ends meet. And finally, there is the war with Iraq. 

Those who think that that will not affect us in Costa Rica are, at best, naïve. People with more money than time spend their money saving time, and those with more time spend their time saving money. Having always been a member of the latter group, I have some suggestions about how to save money.

I much prefer relaxing on a bus with a book to the nerve wracking, although more convenient riding in a car. Actually, I don’t own a car, so it is my friends who get more of the wracking. The public transportation system throughout the country is terrific. You can pick up bus schedules at the tourist office in the post office downtown. 

Friends of mine are doing a lot more walking (and losing weight into the bargain).  Walking in the temperate climate of the Central Valley is pleasant. I guess at the beach you swim. 

Turning off my water heater every night saves at least 1,000 colons (about $2.60) a month. Friends Susan and David have sold their freezer and pulled the plug on their clothes dryer and are now hanging their laundry. (That’s what pilas are for.) And heaven forbid, don’t send your clothes to a professional cleaners or laundry. They are terribly expensive, and you really can wash just about everything. 

After my fall, my slacks were covered in blood and dirt. Since they were made of silk and lined. I put them in the trash. Then on a whim tossed them into my little washing machine to see what would happen. I pulled out a totally recovered pair of slacks, in better condition than I. I own a little Samsung washing machine with a spin dryer. I far prefer to hang my clothes. I love the fresh smell and texture of the towels. I remember in Majorca the maid of friends hand washed everything, including her senor’s tweed jacket.

Every Saturday morning I am off to the feria. There are ferias on the weekends in or near every town in the Central Valley. You really save. For instance, I buy three grapefruit for 
100 colons. In the automercado one gets 


Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart

three for 225. Mornings I combine the strawberries, papaya, fresh orange juice (350 for a liter), pineapple, and banana into a smoothie. That followed by a pot of reasonable Volio or 1820 coffee and a lovely, very fresh poached egg makes my day. Sometimes it is the high point of my day.

Once I became a resident I joined the Caja (national health Insurance plan). It has some drawbacks, like long waits, but works in emergencies and for prescriptions. From everything I have heard, if you are really sick (like needing a heart operation), you get taken care of just fine. If you are also over 65, get a ciudadano de oro, a gold card that gets you discounts at the movies, pharmacies and other stores. It also qualifies you for free bus tickets.

I am learning how to write and read e-mail off line. The $15 a month for access to the web seems reasonable, but once those telephone pulses add up, it can get expensive.

I am a recycler. I get more pleasure out of finding another use for something that I might normally throw out than I do from buying something new.

And finally, to make ends meet, you might start a cottage industry with whatever talent you have. I make hot fudge sauce. 

My friend Sidney Glazer has just opened "Books and Bagels," turning his garage into a little café and reading room. He is making it a pleasant place to have your morning coffee and a bagel, to read one of the many newspapers he subscribes to, and to check out his library of books for sale. He is in San Francisco de Dos Rios. Sidney is probably the friendliest gringo in Costa Rica, so I will give you his phone number: 219-3530. And finally, finally, I hear there are some people working on starting a bartering program. A great idea. 

(Note: Jay Brodell, the editor of A.M. Costa Rica had welcomed a column from me in response to his editorial on the war but having read the letters to the editor, I feel many of you have eloquently done the job and it is time to get back to just living in Costa Rica.)


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Air travel remains normal for present despite war
By Bryan Kay
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Although the airline industry has taken a heavy hit in the last couple of years, the war in Iraq, which started Wednesday, won’t have an immediate effect, at least in Latin America.

Most of the top airlines reported that schedules were running as normal, and for the time being no major changes are anticipated here.

Latin America services especially seem as if they will operate along similar lines as in peacetime. Spanish airline Iberia and U.S. airlines American, Continental, Delta and United all seem to be offering their usually available flights. 

But United Airlines spokeswoman Carmen Martinez said seven flights per day have been cut from the company’s schedule for Atlantic crossings.

American Airlines spokeswoman Martha Pantín said as of Thursday afternoon there were no cancellations to announce. "We will continue to monitor the situation and make changes as necessary," she said.

The other major airlines contacted also said they would be closely monitoring the war and make changes as necessary.

A spokeswoman for Alterra Partners Costa Rica, which operates Juan Santamaría Airport, said the number of people passing through seems to be normal. This situation might change depending on happenings in the Middle East, said the spokesperson.

Meanwhile, Delta Airlines updated its flexible ticketing policy in response to the war in Iraq. The policy allows customers to make changes to travel plans without incurring penalties, said a Delta release. 

The whole airline industry is in precarious times, say representatives of carriers. "American Airlines is a company in crisis in an industry in crisis. That is why we have been working on a cost reduction plan of $4 billion annually," said Ms. Pantín.

And Continental Airlines Wednesday announced it would introduce cost-cutting measures to the tune of $500 million to improve its future predicament. The airline plans to cut its staff by 1,200, including 125 pilots, by the end of the year, said a Continental release.

"These measures come as the weak revenue environment and increased taxes, fuel, security and insurance costs continue to burden the U.S. airline industry, which has lost $19 billion and eliminated 100,000 jobs since Sept. 11, 2001," said the company.

Robber stabs and kills his victim downtown on Avenida 2
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A robber stabbed his victim to death about 8:30 p.m. on heavily traveled Avenida 2 in the downtown Wednesday night.

The victim, Alejandro Peinador Brolato, in his 40s, was near the downtown office of the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad opposite the Roman Catholic Cathedral when he was attacked, said the Judicial Investigating Organization. 

The Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública said the suspected assailant was arrested soon after the attack by officers of Fuerza Pública. 

This took place not far from the scene of the crime. 

He was carrying what was the dead man’s cellular telephone and a knife, the presumed murder weapon, said the ministry. The ministry identified the suspect by the last names of Orozco Ramírez.

Peinador was pronounced dead at the scene around half an hour after the crime is said to have occurred.

The ministry said the suspect, now jailed, is a 19-year-old male and someone who has been arrested frequently for crimes downtown.

Amid war, University for Peace gives ex-president an award
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

While the war with Iraq continued to grow, the United Nations-backed University for Peace here in Costa Rica presented one of its founding fathers with an award Thursday.

The man, Rodrigo Carazo, suggested to the United Nations that Costa Rica would be an ideal location for a United Nations-backed university that promotes and educates for peace, He did so during his term as Costa Rican president. His effort is part of the reason the University for Peace started here in 1980. Martin Lees, university rector, presented Carazo with a framed script marking his achievements. 

President Abel Pacheco was in attendance to also say a few words on the contribution Carazo has made to the university and world peace, congratulating him for his perseverance in getting the institution in place.

The university itself used the event to promote its newly invigorated academic program. For its first two decades the school struggled to churn out a significant amount of graduates. Rector Martin Lees noted this in a recent interview and said the university had been an "introverted little place." The institution is now branching out successfully over the whole globe, said Lees.

With the war in the background and television screens out of view at the San José Palacio ceremony, Carazo and university students shared their views on the conflict.

Carazo said with the current situation of the world, violence and conflict will never solve problems.

Martin Nkuna, 34, a human rights student at the university from Malawi, said: "War is a bad thing. War should always be avoided. When the mechanisms break down, it’s a sad thing for international law itself."

Two accidents kill
four on highways

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Four people were killed in two separate automobile accidents Wednesday night.

One of the accidents occurred in Purisil de Orosi, where a 34-year-old man was killed when his vehicle collided with a wall, said the Judicial Investigating Organization. The man was identified by the surname Torres.

The other accident happened in el Roble de Puntarenas and involved a bicycle and a truck, said the organization. The driver of the truck was killed instantly by an explosion, which occurred after the two vehicles collided. He was identified as a male with the name Erick Alfaro. His age was 31.

The accident happened as the truck hit the dividing wall between the road’s two lanes. It then spun out of control, initiating the fatal collision.

The two victims on the bicycle were identified as a 22-year-old with the surname Lizano and a 14-year-old cousin Lizano also died at the scene, while the youth died later in hospital

Man wounds himself 
in Chile in protest

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

SANTIAGO, Chile — A man here has cut himself with a knife to protest the war against Iraq. 

The man identified as Ernesto Ruiz Valdez, 29, made cuts to his abdomen, arms and his tongue. He was protesting outside the U.S. Embassy. 

Authorities say he was taken to the El Salvador Hospital for treatment of his injuries, which were not life threatening.

Suspected highjackers
face air piracy charges

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. authorities say six Cubans who hijacked an airliner to Florida late Wednesday face air piracy charges. 

Federal officials say the knife-wielding hijackers surrendered peacefully after the DC-3 propeller plane landed safely at the airport on Florida's resort island of Key West. 

Earlier, the hijackers took control of the aircraft, which departed from Cuba's Isle of Youth, and diverted it from a scheduled landing in Havana. Thirty-five people were onboard.  None of the passengers or crew was injured 

During the flight, Cuban air traffic controllers notified their U.S. counterparts of the hijacking. American military aircraft intercepted the plane over the Florida Straits and escorted it to Key West. The incident occurred amid heightened domestic security measures in the United States implemented in advance of war with Iraq. 

U.S. policy dictates that the vast majority of Cubans who reach U.S. soil may remain and eventually apply for residency. But U.S. officials indicate that many of the passengers and crew from the hijacked plane have expressed a desire to return to Cuba.

Those charged in connection with the hijacking face long-prison sentences if convicted. 

Dramatic escape attempts from Cuba are far from uncommon. Late last year, Cuban asylum-seekers flew a crop dusting plane to Florida. More recently, Cuban Coast Guard officers fled the island aboard a patrol boat and arrived in Key West without detection.

Bishop visits the courts

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The bishop of San José, Hugo Barrantes, expressed his concern Thursday of the loss of human values and the lack of means to prevent family violence.

He made the comments in a visit to judges of the Poder Judicial where he met with magistrates of the Corte Suprema de Justicia and the family and domestic violence judges.

Pacheco woos investors

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Abel Pacheco asked Costa Rican and international investors to have faith in the country so that the effects of the war with Iraq could be confronted in a positive manner.

He spoke at the inaguaration of a new Hipermás supermarket in Curridabat, the 123rd outlet that the chain has opening here.

Pacheco asked Costa Ricans to maintain their investments in the country.

The new store means jobs for 350 persons and indirect employment for 250 more, said Pacheco. 

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International help urged to stem weather disasters
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

GENEVA, Switzerland — A U.N. official,  in a message to the international community to mark World Meteorological Day on March 23,  said all nations need to work together to prevent and mitigate the adverse impact of climate-related events such as floods, droughts and tropical cyclones.

The official, Godwin O.P. Obasi, is secretary general of the World Meteorological Organization. He called for a strengthening of the international framework for coordinating national and international efforts to address climate change. Obasi said this would allow research results, observational data and other resources to be used "to the greatest overall advantage."

As an example of areas that need improvement, Obasi said that while advances have been made in observations from meteorological and environment satellites, essential observational networks in many developing countries have deteriorated due to a lack of resources. He said more data are needed also from polar and oceanic areas for better quantitative assessments of climate extremes.

A first objective for their organization is to improve systematic weather and climate observations and to reconstruct past climate periods. Obasi said that advances have been made in observations from meteorological and environment satellites but essential observational networks in many developing countries have deteriorated due to a lack of resources. 

In addition, more data are needed also from polar 

and oceanic areas, for better quantitative assessments of climate extremes, he said.

A second major objective is to refine climate modeling in order to reduce the uncertainties inherent in long-term climate prediction, he said. The changes in climate observed over the last decades will continue, presenting urgent and growing challenges to many aspects of our lives, including health, said Obasi, adding: 

"The most immediate threats to humankind relate to increased variability in the intensity and frequency of storms and other extreme weather and climate-related events such as floods and droughts, heat waves in major urban areas and the impact of sea-level rise on low-lying coastal regions".

Over the last 10 years, the number of weather disasters has increased significantly. Worldwide, recurrent drought and desertification seriously threaten the livelihood of over 1.7 billion people who depend on the land for most of their needs. 

The 1997/1998 El Niño event, the strongest of the last century, is estimated to have affected 110 million people and cost the global economy nearly $100 billion. 

Statistics compiled from insurance companies for the period 1950-1999 show that the major natural catastrophes which are mainly weather, water and climate-related caused estimated economic losses of nearly $1 trillion. 

A leading reinsurance company estimates global warming impacts could cost $300 billion annually by 2050. 

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.

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