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These stories were published Wednesday, March 26, 2003, in Vol. 3, No. 60
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Nothing is happening on the Los Anonos bridge that officials promised would be redone by Christmas.

The job needed more money than originally thought, so a supplemental contract still awaits official approval.

Crime in Jacó prompts big meeting with officials
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Top police officials will be meeting this morning with community leaders in Garabito to discusss the worsening crime situation there.

The meeting will be at 9 a.m. in Jacó, the popular beach community that is located in the canton.

Rogelio Ramos, minister of Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública, is making the trip from San José, as are top officers of the Fuerza Pública.

The visit is, in part, a response to an article Sunday in La Nación that catalogued the security complaints of the community members.

Jacó is a wide-open town where prostitution and drug deals flourish. The community is the closest beach resort to San José. The bedroom

community of Hermosa to the south has been beset by home burglars that target the residences of North Americans.

The local police delegation has limited resources, similar to many other overworked and undersupported police units stationed along the coast.

Residents also complain that a floating population of foreign illegals circulate through the town. Jacó is a community where the tourists and North Americas rub elbows with the poverty that affects much of rural Costa Rica. The community actually is two towns, one for the visitor with restaurants, bars and dance clubs, and one for the average Costa Rican resident.

Many of the bars and night clubs are owned by North Americans or corporations controlled by North Americans.

Tourism Minister Pacheco steps down 
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The minister of tourism has resigned, and President Abel Pacheco has lost another minister in less than a year.

The tourism chief, Rubén Pacheco, said he was stepping down for business and family reasons. His assistant, Rodrigo Castro Fonseca, will take the oath to replace him.

The former tourism minister will continue as an advisor to the president and also as part of a group that seeks to create an international convention center near Santa Ana. He owns a number of hotel and restaurant operations.

The former minister also will serve on a special commission set up Tuesday to counter the 

effects of the Iraq war on Costa Rica tourism, 
according to an announcement from Casa Presidencial.

Castro has been involved in tourism since 1972 and for the last year has been an adviser to the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo which Rubén Pacheco headed.

Costa Rica has suffered a decline in tourism this year, the result of world economic conditions. The former tourism minister said he was proud to have increased the number of air flights coming into the country.

A continuing fear is that the country will suffer more of a drop in tourism due to the Iraq war. So far, airlines report that no dip in passengers has materialized.

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Foreign minister to clarify Costa Rica's war stance
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica’s foreign minister said Tuesday that he would send a letter to Washington and also to the U.S. Embassy here clarifying the country’s position on the U.S. and British war with Iraq.

The foreign minister, Roberto Tovar, and President Abel Pacheco have been on the hot seat since Costa Ricans learned that the name of the country had turned up on a list of allies to the U.S.-led coalition.
Readers' letters on war BELOW!

Tovar said he wanted to make clear to the United States that Costa Rica was providing moral support and nothing more.

Pacheco irked some Costa Ricans last week when he said that if he were George Bush, he would do the same thing, presumably invade Iraq. That comment quickly became visible on posters being brandished by young war protestors Wednesday and Thursday.

Tovar also said that legal barriers to Costa Rica taking sides or embarking on a war do not say anything about terrorism. 

The official position of Costa Rica is that Saddam 

Hussein had 12 years to prevent the war and did not do so. The country urges negotiations and maintains neutrality to the war itself. 

Pacheco said earlier that no one can be neutral to terrorism.

Meanwhile, a former deputy, Alex Solís, said he was filing a legal action before the Sala IV constitutional court to try to get the court to force Pacheco from his position.

Current deputies still were rumbling about the walkout by deputies of the Partido Liberación Nacional Monday. They did so as a protest.

Tovar said that he was not about to quit, something opposing politicians have urged.

In the legislature, opposition deputies continued to debate the war and the position that Costa Rica should take. 

One Liberación deputy, Nury Garita, proclaimed that Pacheco ought to declare war on corruption, unemployment, drug addiction, delinquency, poverty, unprotected children, family disintegration and other social ills.

Others avowed that war is never a solution.


 
Dead U.S. Marine 
once a street kid

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

One of the first U.S. Marines killed in the war with Iraq was a former street child in Guatemala City and was involved with child advocacy group Casa Alianza, said Bruce Harris, the group's San José-based regional director for Latin America.

The soldier, Jose Antonio Gutierrez, 22, was killed in Iraq last week in fighting near the southern city of Umm Qasr.

According to Casa Alianza, Gutierrez first entered the group’s program in the mid-1980s after the death of his parents, and left sometime around 1992 to live in a family beside his sister.

International news reports say Gutierrez entered the United States when he was 14. The reports said that shortly afterwards a family in California fostered Gutierrez. 

He is said to have joined the forces a year ago.

A memorial Mass for Gutierrez will be held in Casa Alianza in Guatemala City later this week, said the group.

Schools to compete
after long trip

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two member schools here of the Association of American Schools of Central America are leaving today for a three-day trip to Guatemala City where they will compete against other American-style schools there in a basketball tournament.

The American International School of Costa Rica and Country Day School are each sending a boys and girls team to participate in the tournament.

“It is a great chance for expatriate kids to meet with other kids in the same social situation,” said Glenn Grieshaber, principal of the American International school.

“The level of competition is always good, friendly and stiff,” Grieshaber said.

New York chorus
has three dates

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Since 1891, the founding year of Carnegie Hall, the Oratorio Society of New York has performed Handel’s “Messiah” there. Tonight the society, which was established more than 125 years ago, will perform its repertoire at the Teatro Nacional.

The New York Oratorio Society is here to help raise money for the Friends of Cocos Islands Foundation, which supports Costa Rica’s famous nature preserve. The group will perform tonight, Thursday and Saturday at the national theater.

Maestro Lyndon Woodside, director of the Oratorio Society of New York, will lead the group during its performances of Handel’s “Messiah” and Carl Orff’s “Carmina Burana.” The chorus will be accompanied by Costa Rica’s Orquesta Sinfonica Nacional.

Woodside has conducted the “Messiah” with the New York group for nearly 30 years. That piece has been performed by the oratorio society since its founding in 1873. 

“The performance is so great that the culture ministry has called it an event of high cultural interest,” Caroline Hernandez, event organizer, said.

This is the first time the most prestigious group in the world is coming here from Carnegie Hall, the most famous concert hall in the world, said William Munoz, director of the Friends of Cocos Island Foundation.

Not only will this be the society’s first show in Costa Rica but its first performance in Latin America, according to Ms. Hernandez.

The event has been organized with the help of the Banco de Costa Rica and clients of the bank will receive reduced ticket prices. For bank customers prices will range from 9,500 colons to 20,500 colons ($24.65 to $53.25). For others ticket prices range from 11,500 colons to 24,500 colons ($29.85 to $63.65).

VFW meets Tuesday
to elect commander

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 11207 of San José will hold its regular monthly meeting Tuesday at 2 p.m. in the Bufo Dorado Lounge and Dining Room of the Gran Hotel Costa Rica in downtown San José. 

Election of Post 11207 officers will take place at this gathering. At the top of the list of candidates is Robert Foster, one of the post's charter members and, so far, the only nominee for the office of commander. 

Additional nominations for officers by eligible members will be accepted from the floor during this meeting. 

An honored guest at this meeting will be VFW Department Commander Danny Cooper, who is an official with the Battlefields Monuments Commission/Veterans Cemeteries overseas, with duty station in the Republic of Panama. 

All interested personnel, especially eligible veterans, are invited to attend. For additional information contact Post Adjutant Richard Garcia at tibas9@hotmail.com or Post Trustee Dave Shade at 5000watts@racsa.co.cr.

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A.M. Costa Rica's professional directory is where business people who wish to reach the English-speaking community may invite responses. If you are interested in being represented here, please contact the editor.


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Competing theories home in on cause of killer flu
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — An international research collaboration has produced several alternate hypotheses on the cause of a previously unknown flu-like disease. 

The head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced news briefing that a coronavirus — related to the virus causing the common cold — has emerged as a likely cause of the illness.

Other international teams previously identified a paramyxovirus — a cause of measles and mumps — as the suspected agent behind a disease that begins with a high fever and respiratory symptoms such as a cough or difficulty in breathing. What is causing real concern in medical circles is the way the illness, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, can rapidly worsen to become a form of sometimes-fatal pneumonia.

The World Health Organization reports 17 deaths from the illness as of Monday. The number of probable or suspected cases worldwide rose from 456 on Monday to 487 on Tuesday.

The World Health Organization count on the syndrome includes cases reported on Feb. 1 or later, so does not include more than 300 cases in a similar disease outbreak reported in China's Guangdong province beginning last November. A team is now working with Chinese health authorities to determine whether there is a connection in all these cases.

Julie Gerberding, director of the Centers for Disease Control, announced her agency's detection of the coronavirus in patient specimens analyzed by U.S. researchers, at the same time expressing respect for different findings being reported by "world class" laboratories elsewhere.

"Right now, for us, this is a hypothesis. It is our leading hypothesis based on careful science," Dr. Gerberding said. "But there are a lot of other potential explanations for what we're finding here, and we are exercising caution and not being dogmatic that we have the answer here."

Dr. Gerberding also noted that laboratories in Europe, Asia and North America are conducting their analyses using specimens from different patients, taken at different stages of their illnesses. That fact could account for the discovery of dissimilar findings from the research teams.

The disease has appeared in 13 countries, but the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China is the most severely affected area, reporting 286 

cases and 10 deaths. Other hard-hit nations are Singapore with 65 cases and Vietnam with 58 cases.

The World Health Organization issued a global advisory about the disease 10 days ago, advising travelers, national health authorities and medical practitioners to be alert for the signs of the disease. At a briefing, officials said the fact that outbreaks have not occurred beyond these several areas in Asia is a sign that the medical officials have been successful in preventing widespread export of the disease.

In the United States alone, authorities have issued 62,000 cards to passengers disembarking from international flights and ships, briefers said. The cards warn passengers about the need to seek medical attention if they show any of the symptoms and have been traveling in the affected regions.

Dr. Gerberding said all of the 39 suspected cases in the United States fit the pattern of disease transmission that was suspected early on. "Thirty-two out of 39 of these individuals have traveled to parts of the world where cases are prominent. The others are either health care personnel or close family members who have been in direct contact with a suspect case. So we are not seeing spread in the community at this point in time."

TB here is called
the biggest killer

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Tuberculosis remains a serious problem in the Americas, with 250,000 cases and 20,000 deaths from the disease recorded each year, says the Pan American Health Organization, an agency of the United Nations.

In a statement Monday on "World TB Day," the organization said the highest incidence of tuberculosis is in the poorest countries, with consequent harm to individuals, families, and national economies.

The announcement reinforced statements made that same day by U.S. government health officials who said more people worldwide die of tuberculosis than any other infectious disease.

The official, Anne Peterson, assistant administrator of the Bureau for Global Health at the U.S. Agency for International Development, said tuberculosis kills about two million people in the world each year.


 
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 from readers on Iraq war and peace rallies
Look to woes here
instead of Iraq

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Hey, what about a peace rally for Costa Rica instead of Iraq?

We are being terrorized by vandalism. You can't even have a nice car because you take the risk of being killed for it! Costa Ricans still live in this dream that our country is a peaceful place to live in!! I don't think so!

If that is correct then why the bars on the windows, and why can't you even take a walk on the beach without being afraid of getting killed? I am a supported of freedom for Iraq but Costa Ricans have big problems at home that they need to solve first!

Nancy Rodríguez 
Albany N.Y. 
Heredia CR
 
 
 
 
 

 

Sick of people getting
a free ride on the U.S.

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

In regards to one sentence on the March 24 edition of your publication, to wit: "But many youngsters and many U.S. ex-pats are believers in Costa Rica as some kind of island of peace in a troubled world."

Yes, and the majority of these are probably West Coasters and seekers of a Utopian Garden of Eden who also believe that someday Truman Capote is going to arrive in a UFO to spirit them to "paradise up above" (Sha-boom, Sha-boom); or our ungrateful neighbors from the Great White North who have ridden on the back of the U.S.A.'s industrial development and tremendous defense budget for the last 100 years! 

The enlightened Costa Ricans (and others of at least minimal intelligence) know damn well that with a small 'defenseless' country nearby in the Western Hemisphere, allegedly espousing democracy and having a large North American resident presence, Costa Rica (not to mention 'enormously big Canada') can continue to 'ride free' with Big Brother watching over them and the citizens of the U.S.A. footing the costs (in money and in lives sacrificed).

These airheads, most of which don't even realize their 'be free/ride free' subconscious motivations, somehow bring to mind Rudyard Kipling's so realistic poem 'Tommy' (the gist of which is: "O it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, go away"; But it's "Thank you, Mister Atkins", when the band begins to play.).

Or, a more modern version: "Another damned American." as to "Why, hello, Yank!"). Perhaps you can't relate the analogy. I can.

I have friends of many nationalities who dwell on all the world's continents, and I especially love my Costa Rican and Canadian friends, as well as my fellow Americans. But those folks with their heads in the sand (or in their posterior, as the case may be) should be encouraged to get a grip on reality!

Bob Foster 
USA (Special Forces) retired 
Rohrmoser
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