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These stories were published Friday, April 5, 2002, in Vol. 2, No. 67
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Sunday vote
an anticlimax

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Sunday is runoff election day in Costa Rica, and grandfatherly Abel Pacheco seems to be the likely winner. 

The opposition, Partido Liberación Nacional, already is starting its internal discussion on what went wrong with its campaign message. Some party insiders suggest that the whole campaign of Rolando Araya Monge lacked focus because it failed to capture the imagination of the citizenry.

The expected outpouring of partisan fervor between Easter and the end of the campaign 
What the winner will face

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period today did not take place, suggesting that even insiders of both parties are expecting a Pacheco victory.

The lackluster Araya campaign also would seem to be a blow to Jhonny Araya, former San José mayor, who managed his brother’s efforts.

The only people along Paseo Colon Thursday caught up in the election fever were visiting students from Georgia who managed to commandeer a blue and red Partido Unidad Social Cristiana flag. They waved it for about 10 minutes to the approval of passing motorists even though they had heard little of Pacheco. They just liked the horns blowing.

Araya is not giving up without a fight. He was on a radio call-in show for 12 hours straight while Pacheco, already acting like a winner, said he would spend Sunday in Cartago giving thanks at the shrine of the Black Virgin.

The last poll made public shows Pacheco with a 17-point lead with about 59 percent of the expected vote.  Political parties have their own poll data.

One factor that might change the anticipated outcome are the absentees. About 40 percent of those who can vote probably will not, the same polls show. Liberación is mounting a military-style car pool and bus drive to get the faithful to the polls. Excessive absenteeism could change dramatically the outcome predicted by the polls.

The absentee voters will not be drinking alcohol in bars. Election law bans sales by the drink or package sales Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Police will be visiting bars and supermarkets late evening Friday to place seals on places where alcohol is stored.

Tourists might be affected less than they might think. During Semana Santa, a similar ban on the sale of alcohol was widely ignored at popular tourist locations. From Sarchí to the Arenal Volcano area, any tourist who wanted to drink could do so although the alcohol might be served in coffee cups instead of traditional drinking glasses.

During the Feb. 3 election period tourists also could find drinks being served illegally and police generally looking the other way. On the Pacific coast and in San José casino and restaurant owners described their gatherings as "private parties" where drinks could be served. As long as the crowds were obviously tourists who were not going to vote, police did not enforce the law strictly.

U.S. checks reach town

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Those delayed U.S. Social Security checks are in Costa Rica and are probably by now in the hands of the national postal system.

That was the word from the U.S. Embassy Wednesday after a pouch of checks was delivered here. The embassy plays post office for retired U.S. citizens who ask for the help. The checks come to Costa Rica and then are mailed certified here for security and speed.

Two pouches were misplaced in the United States, the embassy employees said earlier. It was unclear if the checks that arrived were the missing checks or replacement checks the government had promised to prepare.

Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart

A visit with Mavis

As beautiful as this country is, for me, living in Costa Rica is more about friends than it is about places. I no longer have a need to visit the beaches and rain forests again. But when it comes to friends, well, I can see them over and over again. 

I knew who Mavis Biesanz was long before we met. Her first book on Costa Rica, "The Costa Ricans," was my reference for learning about the culture and people. 

When we finally met, I felt a bit intimidated, but we seemed to have a lot of things in common. To begin with, we both grew up in the snowbelt of the United States (and I loved her book, "A Finnish-American Girlhood"). We both had more than a passing interest in anthropology. It was my major in college, and much of "The Costa Ricans" and later "The Ticos," another of her books, written with her son and daughter-in-law, Richard and Karen Biesanz, is anthropology. 

We both were sort of goody-two-shoes academic achievers. Mavis outdid me here. She graduated from college magna cum laude while working at four jobs. And we both love to play Scrabble.

So when she invited me to spend the week before Easter at her home in Ciudad Colon, I said yes. Normally, Easter Week is a very quiet, solitary time for me. The world seems to have gone to the beaches, and I am left with a peaceful San José but little else. This would be different. 

It was different. Peaceful, totally relaxing, with little to do but enjoy ourselves (which meant we read, talked a lot and played a lot of Scrabble). I didn’t even have to cook. Mavis’ son’s Thai cook Som Kid sent us meals for the week. You can imagine my confusion and thoughts when first she said, "Som Kid will be bringing our meals." 

One day Bill White, our special and mutual friend, who has the Julia and David White Artists’ Colony in Ciudad Colon, invited us to lunch at his new house. He built it above the tennis court, and it is a joy of country living. His assistant, Ron, and I are trying to convince him to replace the virtually unused tennis court with a bocce ball lane and perhaps a racquet ball court.

Another day, after a short walk, as we were about to enter the house, a tall pretty woman with auburn hair suddenly appeared and began speaking to us in Spanish. She explained that she had been watching a family of iguanas and felt as if she were living in a prehistoric park. 

Christina turned out to be German (we soon switched to English) and Mavis’ new neighbor. In the middle of their moving in she invited us for a visit. (I could never have done that), and we had a glass of wine with her, her husband Martin and their son, Douglas. 

Martin is the new rector of the University for Peace. I am thrilled that finally the University for Peace is actually functioning as a university and is in the hands of someone who is both a visionary and pragmatic. (I know that sounds like an oxymoron.)

On my last day, Mavis and I went out to Grecia where many more friends had gathered at Ruth’s to say farewell to Bonnie and Arnold. Ruth no longer is in the pineapple growing business, but when she was, she and Norma produced the sweetest, most delicious pineapples I have ever tasted. 

Bonnie and Arnold came to Costa Rica as Peace Corps workers and stayed on for the next 10 years to spend part of the year in the village where they volunteered. They are going back to California more or less permanently. They are good friends I am going to miss. However, it was one good farewell party.

And that was the week that was. I discovered something that doesn’t take a philosopher to learn: spending time with friends really beats spending a week alone.

More of Jo's columns HERE!
 

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How to live, invest or find romance in Costa Rica

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Winning candidate will have these steps to take
By Jay Brodell
editor of A.M. Costa Rica

When the new president takes over, whoever he may be, major problems will be waiting:

1. Large internal and external debt needs to be fed and reduced.

2. Money needs to be found to accomplish No. 1, and the payment of taxes needs to be made more than 


An analysis on the news


optional. Alberto Dent, minister of hacienda, addressed those points Wednesday and said some taxes need to be raised and minor taxes abolished.

3. The lack of personal security, a major campaign issue, needs to be addressed. A rise in street crime is linked to the slow and sometimes non-existent pace of criminal prosecution.

4. Large-scale and small-scale corruption needs to be countered. Both political parties have plans to do this. Rolando Araya, the candidate of the Partido Liberación Nacional, probably will lose the election because the voters saw him as the more corrupt. 

5. The national economy is not expanding at a pace to accommodate all those educated citizens being produced by the educational system. The nation is ankle-deep in medical doctors, lawyers, MBAs and other professionals who expect jobs. The government-controlled job market tries to accommodate everyone.

6. National productivity in almost any area is lower than it should be because the country does not 

have a strong work ethic. Recent strikes and highway blockades by agricultural workers are a sign that their labors cannot compete in the world market.

7. No. 6 is a big stumbling block to international free trade, yet Costa Rica risks being isolated if it does not eliminate protectionist policies in favor of competition.

8. Inefficient national monopolies, such as insurance, telecommunications and other utilities are a weight
around the country’s neck, but to tamper with these risks the wrath of the special interests the organizations represent. President Miguel Angel Rodríguez tried to do that, and the riots and street demonstrations that followed were the largest and most violent in recent history.

9. Despite government estimates to the contrary, tourism will not continue to grow by double digits. Costa Rica needs to develop an effective marketing strategy to capture the 

Alberto Dent
. . . tax inititative
tourism it deserves without further bloating the existing government agencies involved.

10. Costa Rica must decide also if it wishes to continue to be the destination for international sex tourists in the face of internal and external criticism and medical reasons to the contrary.


 
Big scandal over Roman Catholic priests has not hit Costa Rica — yet
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The sex-abuse scandals that are tearing at the Roman Catholic Church in the United States and elsewhere have yet to surface in Costa Rica.

But Monseñor Román Arrieta delicately approached the issue Holy Thursday in his Semana Santa message when he thanked priests in the country for their efforts and called for them to be ever faithful to the teachings of Christ. 

In the United States the Vatican and three U.S. Catholic dioceses are the target of new lawsuits filed by two American men who claim they were sexually abused by Catholic priests decades ago. 

This comes on the heels of hundreds of cases now being studied by criminal prosecutors in which sexually abusive priests were moved from church to church over the years to avoid prosecution.

Catholicism is the national religion here, and any spat of similar cases would have far greater consequences. The disclosures in the United States have prompted a reexamination of the church 
 

practice of celibacy for priests, something that has been a requirement for more than 1,000 years.

The suits filed Wednesday in courts in St. Petersburg, Florida and Portland, Oregon, accuse the Vatican of directing a global conspiracy to cover up sexual abuse and protect sexually abusive priests. 

The Vatican and the dioceses of Portland, St. Petersburg and Chicago are  named as defendants. Prosecuting attorney Jeffrey Anderson says he has evidence to establish a pattern of intentional obstruction of justice.

The two men who were allegedly abused as children are suing for monetary compensation. The Vatican had no immediate comment. 

Previous lawsuits against the Vatican have failed, but several U.S. dioceses have paid out of court settlements. Meanwhile, the Archdiocese of New York has given prosecutors a list of all of its priests accused of sexually-abusing young people over the past four decades. The list could lead to criminal charges in some cases for which the statute of limitations has not expired. 

Bush pushes hard for fast track treaty approval in U.S. Senate
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

President Bush has called on the Senate to vote by April 22 to approve trade promotion authority, also known as "fast track," for his administration, and to renew trade preferences for four South American countries.

 "The United States Senate needs to affirm America's trade leadership," Bush said Wednesday at the State Department.

The president said he was convinced there were sufficient votes among Democrats and Republicans in the Senate to pass bills granting fast track and renewing the Andean Trade Preferences Act for Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia and Peru.

 "These bills are good for America, these bills are good for our friends. The time of delay must end," he said.

"Fast track" allows the president to negotiate trade deals that cannot be amended by Congress. The last grant of such authority expired in 1994, and reauthorization attempts have failed due to disputes over labor and environmental issues.

Bush said fast track facilitates negotiations by 

limiting Congress to simple up-or-down votes on trade pacts reached by the president.

"That's important for the nations represented in this world," he said. "It gives them confidence to negotiate a treaty with the United States without it being fine-tuned by numerous experts on [Capitol] Hill."

The House of Representatives voted 215-214 in December for its version of TPA, and Bush said that speedy Senate action would enhance the United States' ability to pursue free trade at the bilateral, regional and multilateral levels.

"While we've been marking time, our competitors have been working and they have been signing agreements," Bush said. "I don't fault our trading partners for making progress. But what we need to do is to engage in competition ourselves."

Bush also underscored the importance of Andean Preference renewal, arguing that U.S. trade preferences can help Andean countries develop alternatives to drug cultivation and trafficking.

The Andean Trade Preferences Act was enacted in 1991 and expired last December. Bush ordered the duty deferrals through May 16.


 
Venezuela going after
Carlos Andres Perez

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

CARACAS, Venezuela — The government says it is beginning formal extradition proceedings against former President Carlos Andres Perez and his wife, Cecelia Matos, who are being sought for alleged corruption. 

Foreign Minister Luis Alfonso Davila announced Thursday that the request will be presented to authorities in the Dominican Republic and the United States. The couple have homes in both countries. 

The couple are accused of corruption and illegal enrichment during Perez's 1989 to 1993 term as president. Prosecutors have alleged the couple failed to disclose foreign bank accounts while Perez was in office. 

Perez denies the charges but has said that if he is asked, he would return to Venezuela to appear in court. The former president also says he would not receive a fair trial in Venezuela because he is a critic of President Hugo Chavez, who led a failed effort to overthrow him in 1992. 

President Chavez has accused the former Venezuelan leader of trying to destabilize the government. Perez was president in the 1970s and re-elected in 1989. Congress impeached him in 1993 on corruption charges.

. . . While oil executives
strike over new bosses

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

CARACAS, Venezuela — Dissenting executives from the state-run oil firm have gone on strike to demand the resignation of board members appointed by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. 

The managers at Petroleos de Venezuela, or PDVSA staged work stoppages at offices, refineries and other installations Thursday to protest the appointments they say are politically motivated. President Chavez refuses to reconsider the appointments. 

In February, President Chavez fired PDVSA chief, Army Gen. Guaicaipuro Lameda, and most of the firm's board of directors. Mr. Chavez named leftist economist Gaston Parra as the company president and five other loyalists as board members. 

A widespread strike within PDVSA could cripple Venezuela's oil-dependent economy. 

Protests break out
over Israeli actions

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Protesters have rallied in Peru and Brazil to voice their opposition to Israel's military assault in the Palestinian territories. 

On Thursday, an estimated 100 people marched peacefully in front of the Palestinian diplomatic mission in Lima to protest the Israeli attacks. In Brazil, however, hundreds of protesters burned Israeli and U.S. flags outside the U.S. consulate in Sao Paulo. 

The Brazilian government has been urging the international community to take action to end the violence. Brazil also has urged Israel to withdraw from Palestinian areas, while condemning Palestinian suicide attacks on Israelis.
 
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U.S. embargo on Cuba
calls rights violation

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A United Nations special investigator calls the United States' economic embargo of Cuba a violation of international humanitarian law. In a report submitted to the U.N. Human Rights Commission, the investigator says the embargo has had a disastrous economic effect on Cuba. 

The U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, Kevin Moley, was angered by the U.N. Investigator’s assertions. He told the U.N. Human Rights Commission that the U.S. embargo is not responsible for what he said were Cuba’s poor economic policies. He said that in almost all agricultural areas, Cuba produces less now than it did 40 years ago when the United States imposed economic sanctions.

"For example, Cuba is the only Latin American country that produces less rice today than in 1957," Ambassador Moley said. "The Cuban government’s failure to feed its own people is not a result of the U.S. embargo. It is a result of Cuba’s failed economic system." 

The U.N. Investigator, Jean Ziegler, later said he stood by his assertion that the U.S. blockade of Cuba is a "clear violation" of the right to food and of international humanitarian law. He agreed with the U.S. ambassador, who said there was no malnutrition in Cuba.

"The American ambassador is right. It is true," he said. "There is not malnutrition in Cuba on a large scale, because the Cuban regime took the measures to fight malnutrition of the children, and so on and so on. But, they were gravely harmed, gravely harmed over 37 years now, by the fact of the blocus (blockade). So, the Cuban economy could not develop in a normal way, and there are all the sufferings consecutively of this non-development of the Cuban economy because of the blocus [blockade]."

Earlier this year, the United States authorized the limited sale of food and medicine to Cuba for humanitarian needs.
 

Poor to get paid
by Argentine leader

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — Argentine President Eduardo Duhalde says his government will begin providing monthly subsidies to poor households of unemployed workers in a move to relieve the country's growing poverty rate. 

President Duhalde announced Wednesday his plan will provide 150 pesos, the equivalent of about $50, per month for the unemployed heads of households beginning May 15. 

More than one-third of Argentines live below the poverty line. The country's economy has been in recession for the last four years and has a jobless rate of about 20 percent. 

Duhalde's subsidy plan comes as his government conducts negotiations with the International Monetary Fund for much-needed financial aid.
 

Colombian rebels used
resort in the jungle

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

BOGOTA, Columbia — Colombian authorities have begun dismantling an abandoned jungle resort in a former guerrilla safe haven apparently used by the country's largest Marxist rebel group, FARC. 

Pictures of the rebel vacation spot broadcast Wednesday on Colombian television showed numerous furnished cabins, a swimming pool, dance hall and satellite television hook-ups. 

The video also showed hundreds of bottles of beer and expensive imported whisky. 

Army officials say troops have dismantled three similar rebel resorts in the former stronghold of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. 

President Andre Pastrana ceded control of the southern enclave to the rebels in 1998 as an incentive for peace talks, but ordered the army to retake the stronghold in late February after the peace process collapsed. 

 


 
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