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These stories were published Wednesday, March 27, 2002, in Vol. 2, No. 61
Jo Stuart
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Central America seen becoming an energy hog
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The world will experience a dramatic increase in energy consumption in the next two decades fueled mostly by demand in emerging markets, including Central America, according to a report released Tuesday by a U.S. government agency.

The International Energy Outlook 2002, an annual projection of international energy demand, says that global energy consumption will grow 60 percent between 1999 and 2020, the period covered by the forecast.

The Energy Information Administration, which published the report, said that most of the growth will occur in the dynamic developing countries in Asia and Central and South America. The consuming patterns of these countries will increasingly resemble those of the industrialized world, the report said.

The administration said that oil is expected to remain the world's dominant source of energy. But with the conventional oil worldwide reserves three times larger than the cumulative oil demand, the report expects oil prices to stabilize with prices reaching $25 per barrel in 2000 dollars, about two dollars less than actually 2000 prices.

The report said that the increased demand 

would result in an increased petroleum  consumption of about 44 million barrels per day to 119 million barrels per day.

The report may be found at 

The study said that natural gas would continue to be the fastest growing component of world energy consumption with its share of total energy consumption rising by 5 percent;

There was scant mention of hydro power, which is Costa Rica’s strong point. the study said that increased oil production in major producing centers of the world, including Latin America, would meet the anticipated demand.

Costa Rica has under way a gigantic hydro project in the southern part of the country. This is the Boruca Project. All major national political parties back the construction of a dam and lake bigger than the one at Arenal. The main purpose of the project would be to generate electricity from the force of the impounded water.

Costa Rica also may have tremendous reserves of petroleum off the Caribbean coast near Limón. The political problems in exploiting it appear to be greater than the ability of international companies to handle them. The country now does not produce any petroleum.

For educational purposes only at the Museo Nacional

Another good reason for not having an army are these fieldpieces on display at the Museo National.

The Krupp products were state of the art when made in 1885, and these saw use during the 1948 civil war that changed the course of Costa Rican politics.

Just to make sure no one else starts a civil war, the rifled barrels have been plugged and the breech mechanism removed.

A.M. Costa Rica photo

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Press freedoms set back with murders and terror
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Recent gains in press freedom around the world were reversed last year in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the United States, says the non-partisan Committee to Protect Journalists.

The organization, which tracks cases of journalists being killed or imprisoned, issued its report "Attacks on the Press in 2001" at a news conference here Tuesday and called the situation "a press freedom crisis."

The annual survey documented more than 500 cases of media repression in 140 countries, including 37 deaths and 118 new jailings in addition to assaults, censorship and legal harassment.

The 2001 death toll was up dramatically from the 24 who died a year earlier and included eight who were killed during a 16-day period in November in Afghanistan. But the report pointed out that most of the journalists killed worldwide were not covering wars, but were murdered in reprisal for their reporting on corruption and other topics. The numbers included three in Colombia and two each in Algeria, the Philippines, Thailand, the United States and Yugoslavia.

There had been a four-year decrease in the number of imprisonments prior to 2001, and the report said last year's numbers included eight more arrests in China, which it called "the world's leading jailer of journalists; 17 in Nepal; and 11 in Eritrea.

After Sept. 11, governments around the world invoked "national security" to seek new restrictions on the press, said CPJ executive director Ann Cooper. However, she added, despite setbacks there were some important gains and positive developments, "even in countries with some of the worst press freedom histories."

Cooper pointed to Yugoslavia, where independent journalists were able to breathe easier; to Syria, where independent newspapers were published outside of state control for the first time in nearly 40 years; to Sri Lanka, where formal censorship was lifted; to Ethiopia, where CPJ advocacy helped win the release of seven journalists from prison; and to Cuba and Iran, where early prison release was gained for two CPJ International Press Freedom awardees.

The report presents an overview of each region of the world, summaries of each nation within the region, and details of individual cases within each nation.

In the overview for the Americas, it says there was an increase in violent and verbal attacks against journalists, pointing to an assassination in Costa Rica; anti-press rhetoric from the government in Venezuela; and attacks on radio stations in Haiti. Despite these cases, the overview adds, the Latin American press can pride itself in its advocacy for legal reform, much of it concerned with lack of access to government information.

The complete 612-page report is available on the organization's Web site at www.cpj.org

Parmenio Medina's murder
dominated report here

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The still-unsolved murder of radio journalist Parmenio Median Pérez dominated the report about Costa Rica released by the Committee to Protect Journalists.

The organization said that this country, long regarded as one of the freest and most democratic in Latin America, was profoundly shocked by the July 7 murder, the first assassination of a journalist in the country’s recent history.

It chronicled the case from the time Parmenio Media was gunned down near his Heredia home and later threatened received at Radio Monumental where he worked.

The committee also reported a quote by a outraged citizen that "We're  convinced there are political, business, and religious influences that are  interfering so the truth about the crime won't surface."

The committee also discussed the pending reforms of the nation’s press laws and a defamation case against a La Nación reporter. The complete text is at:


Traditional holiday crime targeting drivers as they reach home
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Police are warning the public against the traditional increase in crime during the holidays. And in some cities they are handing out printed material containing the warnings.

Several types of crimes seem to have increase. There is a rash of holdups in which the bandits follow the victim home and then commit the holdup just before the victim enters the house.

In addition, holdup men seem to be targeting delivery trucks and restaurants.

Tuesday three persons stuck up Alejandro Córtes Suarez while he was arranging boxes of groceries in the rear of his truck in the San José section of Hatillo 5. He became aware of the stickup when someone shot him in the back, he told investigators. They took 3,000 colons, less than $9, agents said.

The day before, two men on a motorcycle shot the tire out of a grocery firm’s vehicle also in Hatillo in the southern part of town. They got about 6 million colons (about $17,200) because the driver, Rafael Alfonso Valverde, was on his way to the bank. He was shot in the leg.

Monday night two men held up  the Il Gatto pizza restaurant in Sabana Oeste and took about 1 million colons ($2,850) after getting the drop on a guard.

Three men wearing ski masks in a car pounced upon Gissel Rodríguez Hidalgo in Garabito in León XXIII as she came upon her house Saturday. She was shot in the leg, and the men also fired into her house. They took a suitcase with lottery tickets.

In Llano Grande de Cartago, a man with the last name of Quiros was driving to his house when two men in a car intercepted him about 7 p.m. Friday night. The men wore handkerchiefs over their faces, threw him in a ditch and made off with his pickup.  Four hours later police arrested two men who were trying to sell the stolen pickup in Turrialba. They were identified by the last names of Madriz and  Pomar, said investigators.

Saturday morning about 3:30 a.m. gunmen intercepted a San José bar owner as he was bringing home the day’s receipts. That happened in front of his house in San Antonio de El Tajar, Alajuela.

The man, Martin Antonio Astúa Rojas, suffered a bullet wound to the head and died some seven hours later. The robbers did not get the money because Astúa fell on the cash bag after he was shot. Astúa owned a bar in the downtown.

The pamphlet that police are distributing is bilingual, English-Spanish. But the cautions are the obvious ones: 

• do not open the door to strangers,
• make sure you can trust the person you leave in charge of the house,
• keep your doors locked,
• keep lights on in the house,
• keep your car keys in your hand when approaching your vehicle so you can get in quickly and do the same thing with household door keys.

Police can also suspect that numbers of burglary reports will be filed Monday and Tuesday, the first two days that Central Valley residents return form the Semana Santa holiday at the beach.

British volunteers
will help firms here

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A representative from a private British organization will be in Costa Rica April 3 and 4 to help local companies explore their needs for commercial consultants and experts they could otherwise not afford.

The Organization, British Executive Service Overseas, finds spots for mostly retired British executives in developing countries. The representative is Jimmie Winterflood, said a release from the British Embassy.

"This visit represents a good opportunity for Costa Rican companies that want to improve their productivity," said the embassy.

The organization (www.beso.org) has hundreds of volunteer specialists, mostly from the ranks of the retired, who are ready to compete projects in their area of specialization that might run for from two to six months, the embassy said.

The offer is open to both private and public Costa Rican companies. Although the consultancy does not carry a cost, companies here are being asked to provide lodging and local transportation, and in some cases share in the cost of an air ticket.

Winterflood will give a presentation of the value of the organization to Costa Rican companies Wednesday at 10 a.m. in the Cámera de Comercio de Costa Rica in Barrio Tournón. More information can be obtained by calling the British Embassy and its Commercial Section at 258-2025.

Screeners at airports
missed lots of weapons

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Security screeners at more than 30 U.S. airports have reportedly failed to detect knives, guns, and simulated explosives during hundreds of undercover tests by government investigators since the Sept.11 terrorist attacks.

The Transportation Department Inspector General carried out the tests from November through February on orders from the White House.

The results of the tests have not been released, but media reports say more than 700 tests were conducted and that screeners failed to detect prohibited items almost half of the time. 

The reports say that 70 percent of all knives, 60 percent of all simulated explosives and 30 percent of all guns were not detected. 

Officials say the new Transportation Security Administration has taken over responsibility for airport safety measures since the testing was completed in February. 

The federal government plans to hire 30,000 airport security workers. Officials say the first 300 of about 1,200 supervisors began training this week.

Gunman kills 8
at French meeting

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

NANTERRE, France — Officials say a gunman killed eight people at a town hall in this Paris suburb early today.  Emergency service officials say 18 others were wounded when the man opened fire during a town council meeting. They say eight of the wounded are in serious condition Scores of police and emergency personnel rushed to the area after the  incident. French police have arrested the gunman.
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Drug czar predicts
Congress will OK
Colombian ‘flexibility’

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The top U.S. drug enforcement official says he expects Congress to allow U.S. counter-narcotics aid to Colombia to be also used by Bogota to fight leftist rebels. 

Asa Hutchinson, the head of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, made the remark Tuesday in Bogota, where he has been discussing anti-narcotics efforts with President Andres Pastrana and other senior officials. 

Hutchinson told reporters greater flexibility on how Colombia spends U.S. aid is justified because in some instances, rebels and traffickers are now one and the same. 

The United States provides Colombia with more than $1.3 billion in aid currently limited to fighting the drug trade. In recent weeks, several top U.S. and military officials have urged Congress to give the United States more flexibility in helping Colombia. 

Bush Administration officials say the United States is trying to find the best way to help Colombia's government prevail in its 38-year civil war, which involves rebels and right-wing paramilitaries. Critics fear a change in policy could lead to U.S. involvement in the conflict. 

Colombia's main leftist rebel insurgency, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, has intensified attacks on that nation's infrastructure following the collapse of peace talks last month. 

Fielding reporters' questions in Bogota Tuesday, Hutchinson commented on the well-documented ties between narco-trafficking syndicates and terrorist organizations. Terrorists, he noted, often rely on drug profits to finance their activities. For this reason, Hutchinson said, he is "optimistic that the Congress of the United States will be broadening the support for Colombia in fighting both the terrorists and the drug traffickers, because in many instances they are one and the same."

Hutchinson observed that while "there used to be a distinction between the drug traffickers and the insurgency groups," it is now "clear that the terrorists are engaged in [drug] trafficking as well." 

Quake's aftermath
testing Afghanis

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Earthquake aftershocks and traffic jams are hampering relief efforts in northern Afghanistan's Baghlan Province, where a series of quakes late Monday left at least 1,800 people dead.

Afghan officials say the bodies of the 1,800 victims have been pulled out of the rubble, and they say many more are still buried. Officials say about 4,000 people were injured and 10,000 homes destroyed in the province, 120 kms. (72 miles) north of Kabul.

According to U.N. officials, two of the three roads serving the area where the temblor hit are blocked by quake damage. Aftershocks continued into late Tuesday. Traffic from Kabul to the quake zone jammed up after two relief trucks overturned in the Salang Tunnel.

The relief agencies are trying to deliver emergency equipment including clothing, blankets, tents, food and body bags to the devastated area. The independent aid agency ACTED, did reach the quake region Tuesday to distribute 500 tents and 1,000 blankets badly needed because of cold weather.

Alcohol sales banned
during holidays

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Today is the day to drink up and stock up, because alcohol sales are forbidden Thursday and Friday in Costa Rica due to the national holidays preceding Easter.

Police will be placing seals on the front door or bars. Alcohol displays in groceries will be covered in plastic and sealed off. Restaurants will have to seal refrigerators and cabinets that contain alcohol.

Several downtown bar owners were groaning Tuesday at the prospect of losing income from alcohol sales this week and from a similar prohibition on both sides of the April 7 presidential runoff election.

What we published this week: Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Earlier
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