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These stories were published Tuesday, April 2, 2002, in Vol. 2, No. 64
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He gives new meaning to term 'bill collector'
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

When Michael J. Whelihan sees a banknote, he sees detail and history where most people just see money to pay the taxi.

The U.S. Army retiree in Escazú has a collection of Costa Rican paper money that ranges from an 1864 El Banco Anglo 100-peso note to the 10,000-colon puma in daily circulation today. And in the course of his collecting and study in Costa Rica, he found a 20-colon note printed in 1906 for the Banco de Costa Rica that was not listing in the world literature. It is now.

The detail is there is you know where to look and are prepared to do a little research.  Take, for example, the five-colon note the vendors frequently try to sell at tourist locations around town.

This note is well-known because it is very colorful and bears the likeness of a painting in the Teatro Nacional on the reverse side. The bill has at least two printing errors, including a mistaken initial of the painter who produced the theater mural. A rarer version of the bill, worth now about $25, bears the name "T Villa," instead of the correct "J Villa." On other bills the date of 1983 is incorrectly rendered at 1933, perhaps due to a weak printing impression, said Whelihan.

The Escazú resident moved to Costa Rica after he retired from the U.S. Army and became interested in banknote collecting. The Internet now allows him to converse with collectors all over the world.

Whelihan’s goal is to collect paper money from as many of 304 different countries, past and present, that issued paper currency since the 1600s. He has large looseleafs filled with plastic pages and money. His collection is indexed on his computer. He is in the process of selling some of his Costa Rican specimens to generate money for further collecting.

As a collector, he likes older, more ornate banknotes, especially those with low serial numbers, even though some older bills have 

A.M. Costa Rica photo
Michael J. Whelihan
. . . and the bill he 'found'


generic art work provided to a number of 
countries by the American Banknote Co., one of the principal producers of paper money.

His oldest bill, the El Banco Anglo, actually is a printer’s proof produced by Bradbury Wilkinson & Co. in London. The bill obviously is a proof because it has not been signed by the appropriate officials.

Former President Oscar Arias also worked his way into currency trivia when he was president of the board of directors of the Banco Central de Costa Rica.  His signature appears on a number of bills released in 1972, mainly the colorful five-colon note, A 20-colon note and a 100-colon note from the same period. Such money is prized, perhaps because of the success of Arias as a president and because he won the Nobel Prize for Peace after he engineers a Central American peace plan in 1987.

Cruise line drops one-way Costa Rican trip
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The last cruise ship line to offer trips starting in Costa Rica has eliminated the service for the coming year.

That was the word Monday from a representative of Holland American Line, a company that used to fly passengers from the United States to board a cruise ship at the Pacific port of Caldera for a run to Florida.

The agent said that the firm decided to board its passengers in the United States, in part because some feared flying internationally after the Sept. 11 U.S. terrorist attacks.

At one time two to three companies originated trans-Panama Canal trips from Costa Rica, said Larry Sharer, general sales agent here for Holland America. Other cruise lines pulled out at least a year ago because of concern about passenger comfort at the spartan Caldera docks. The port did not lend itself to processing departing passengers, he said.

Holland America ran its last Costa Rica-to-Ft. Lauderdale trip in January, Sharer said. During 2002 the cruise ship company will offer more U.S. homeport cruises, he added. 

Although the bulk of the passengers on the one-way run were from the United States, residents in Costa Rica had the option of booking a trip. Now they will have to fly to one of the embarkation points in the United States.

Holland America continues to visit Caldera 

and Limón on the Caribbean, but the stops represent intermediate ones where new passengers do not board.

In the past Holland American offered the Caldera-Panama Canal-Florida run for six months of the year, October through March, said Sharer. The trips were offered for three years, and the route was a success, he added, because the ships were filled up each time. The giant ships carry about 1,300 passengers each.

The change in schedule represents a decrease in tourism income for Costa Rica because passengers who flew here went through one of two international airports, usually stayed at a hotel and used ground transportation to arrive at the docks. Now the passengers just get off the ships for sightseeing.

Sharer did have a travel tip for expats here who might be considering a cruise. He said due to Holland American marketing efforts, a cruise from any port, including those in the United States, costs at least 10 percent less if the trip is booked here instead of through an agent in North America. The company has reduced rates here as a way of building Latin American business.

Sharer’s firm, which represents Holland America, is Representantes Internacionales de Cruceros

Holland America Line is a major player in the cruise business. The firm will offer 360 sailings from15 North American homeports in 2002.

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Final debate kicks off election week countdown
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The final presidential debate took place Monday night, and both candidates agreed again that crime was a serious problem. Both also said that Costa Rican agriculture must be protected despite free trade agreements with bigger, richer countries.

Channel 7 prefaced its questions to the candidates with video scene setters that included file tape of the topic. Then a citizen had the chance to pose a question to the candidates.

Danilo Montoya of Santa Ana was the citizen who framed the question on agriculture to the two candidates. He wanted to know how each would help the farmers. The video that accompanied his question showed striking farmers blocking the highways and cargo ships putting in to Costa Rica ports.

"We have to protect the farmer to the end," said Abel Pacheco, the candidate of the Partido Unidad Social Cristiana.

Rolando Araya Monge, the candidate of the Partido Liberación Nacional, derided free trade as an alleged salvation of the world. He said farmers need new technology and government credit.

The Costa Rica National Assembly is considering a free trade agreement with Canada, which already has approved the document. The treaty would eliminate tariffs, reduce others and open the Canadian market to many more Costa Rican products.

President George Bush has proposed a free trade area of Central America to help meld a free trade area of the Americas that is supposed to be functional by 2005. 

The current government raised the import duty on U.S. rice to nearly 88 percent two weeks ago because Tico rice growers complained, so protectionism and free trade are volatile compaign issues.

When addressing crime, Araya said "Without order there is no liberty." He listed security as being in third position of his priorities. Education is first and building and replacing the country’s public infrastructure, like roads and bridges, is second. He vowed zero tolerance for law-breakers and more training for police.

Pacheco wanted to train police better, too. He said there can be no impunity for law-breakers.

Pacheco generally projected an optimistic, upbeat image of the country, as would be expected from the candidate of the incumbent party. Araya was more critical. 

The debate structure gave both men more time, sometimes as much as two minutes, to frame answers. The debates before the Feb. 3 first round of voting seemed to move quicker with four participants. Polls favor Pacheco in the runoff by as much as 10 points.

Which one will it be?

Rolando Araya
. . . lots of hand motion


Abel Pacheco
. . . paints optimistic images

No one received 40 percent of the votes cast, so a runoff is scheduled for Sunday. No liquor sales will be permitted Saturday, Sunday and Monday. The campaigns, which were in low gear over Holy Week are getting cranked up. Residents can expect to see truck-born campaign posters and five more days of aggressive campaigning.

Meanwhile, César Gaviria, secretary general of the Organization of American States, has re-appointed Diego Paz Bustamante and Sergio Caramagna as his representatives to observe the second round.

Diego Paz is principal specialist with the OAS' Unit for the Promotion of Democracy, while  Sergio Caramagna is the director of the OAS National Office in Nicaragua.

The OAS accepted an invitation from Oscar Fonseca Montoya, president of Costa Rica's Supreme Electoral Tribunal. OAS Assistant Secretary General
Luigi Einaudi noted that delegates who had observed the last election reported that the timely and reliable manner in which results were posted
gave the Electoral Tribunal reason to be proud of the "high level of credibility and trust it enjoys as Costa Rica's chief elections regulator and as a hemispheric resource of expertise in electoral matters."


 
79 persons died
over Holy Week

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica registered 79 deaths during the Holy Week period from March 24 to Monday. Just 14 of the deaths were from natural causes, leaving 65 cases classified as being violent deaths.

Traffic accidents led the list. Some 17 persons died in crashes, and five persons died when hit by a motor vehicle, according to the Judicial Investigating Organization.

There were eight homicides and eight suicides. Nine persons drowned, and three persons died from falls.  Some 15 more deaths were under investigation.

By comparison, 17 persons died in traffic accidents in Holy Week 2001, and 10 died in 2000. There were 10 drownings in both 2001 and 2000.
 

20 years ago today
Argentina invaded

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Today marks the 20th anniversary of Argentina's invasion of the Falkland Islands, which triggered a 74-day war with Britain over sovereignty of the British-ruled territory. 

On April 2, 1982, Argentine military forces landed on the rugged islands known in Argentina as "Las Malvinas." The 10-week conflict ended in mid-June when Britain regained control of the archipelago in the south Atlantic. 

The war claimed nearly 1,000 lives, most of them Argentine. The islands have been the subject of a territorial dispute since their annexation by Britain in 1833.  Britain, however, says the sovereignty of the disputed islands is not negotiable. More than 2,000, most of them of British descent, live in the Falkland Islands capital, Stanley.

IMF beginning
to assess need

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — A mission from the International Monetary Fund is here to further assess the country's financial problems and discuss a possible aid package with the government. 

The IMF delegation arrived in Buenos Aires Monday for two weeks of talks. The mission is expected to clarify the reforms Argentina must undertake to qualify for renewed financial aid. 

Argentina is seeking upwards of $20-billion to help its troubled economy recover from a four-year recession. The IMF says Argentina must implement a viable economic reform plan to qualify for renewed assistance.

In December, the lending agency withheld more than $1  billion from Argentina, saying the government failed to control spending. Last month, however, the Inter-American Development Bank made $694 million available to the government in new loans. 

The IMF team's arrival comes days after thousands of Argentines rushed to Buenos Aires banks in a frantic bid to convert pesos into dollars. 
 
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Seminar to be here
on press freedom

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The International Center for Journalism will give a three-day seminar in Costa Rica April 18 to April 20 on the media and liberty of expression.

Among those who will speak are lawyer Fernando Guier of San José, who has defended Costa Rican newspeople unjustly accused of the crimes of defamation or insult, principally among those who work for La Nación or El Día, said the center.

Also speaking is Pedro Enrique Armendares, a former Mexico City reporter who is now executive director of Periodistas de Investigación in Mexico, which is affiliated with Investigative Reporters and Editors of the United States.

A third speaker will be Deborah Kirk, a freelance writer based in New York who worked in the Czech Republic writing articles about the politics of the area. She also has published in Harper’s Bazaar, Elle, Egg and Details, said the center.  She is a Knight Foundation fellow assigned to Panama and the other countries of Central America, said the center.

 The sessions in Costa Rica will take place at Muelle de San Carlos-Alajuela, said the center in a release.

The center promised interactive sessions that cover various themes of interest to journalists. The sessions also will include a study of the basic principles of the Declaration of Chapultepec, a project of the Interamerican Press Association which delineates the role of the journalistic professional in promoting liberty of the press.

The seminars are part of a three-year program for Latin America and the Caribbean which has the goal of improving the quality of journalism in the region. The program is sponsored by the Robert R. McCormick Tribune foundation of Chicago.

A second seminar will be given in April at the Mayan ruins of Copan in Honduras.

For more information, Lucía Migliónico may be contacted at the International Center for Journalists at lucia@icfj.org.
 
 

Romanians stake
hopes on Dracula

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A proposed Dracula theme park in Romania has attracted enough investment for plans to move ahead.

The Romanian Tourism Ministry say investors have bought $2.9 million worth of stock — more than the 60 percent of cost needed by law for the project to begin. 

The park will be built in the medieval Transylvanian city of Sighisoara in northwest Romania, the hometown of the 15th century prince Vlad the Impaler. 

Vlad's nickname came from his tendency to impale captured enemy soldiers on stakes. Stories about this historical figure inspired Bram Stoker's novel Dracula. The author never actually visited Transylvania.

The theme park will include amusement rides, a golf course, a Gothic castle wired with spooky effects, a zoo and horseback riding. The entire area will be encircled by a miniature train line. Romania hopes the park will attract more than one million tourists annually.

Meanwhile, Greece has launched an international competition for proposals to build a Greek mythology theme park at a site outside Athens. 

The government has invited private companies to submit plans to build the park on a huge coastal site owned by the Greek National Tourist Organization. 

The agency is responsible for much of the country's tourism infrastructure. Officials say they hope a park based on the theme of Greek mythology will increase the numbers of tourists coming to the region. 

The proposal for the mythology park is one of a series of tourism developed projects announced recently. The others include refurbishment of several beaches, marinas and casinos. 


 
 
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