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These stories were published Tuesday, April 6, 2004, in Vol. 4, No. 68
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Lunar treat
in local skies

A  full moon Monday night fought its way through cloudy skies to compete with streetlights near the Bella Vista Fortress in downtown San José. Soon the clouds won.

A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas
A Holy Week delight that requires no cooking
Semana Santa or Holy Week is a time for a different menu in Costa Rica. Faithful Catholics turn to fish-based dishes because red meat is not permitted on certain days of fasting.

Fish come in many guises, and sardines and rice

A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas
Cerviche ready with bananas and yucca.
are a staple, as are hearts of palm and vegetables in vinegar. But one of the easiest and a dish that requires no cooking is ceviche.

Ceviche de Pescado
Serves four persons

Ingredients 

1/2 kilo of corvina filet
1 1/2 cups lemon juice 
1/2 cup onions finely cut
1/2 kilo tomatoes cut without seeds 
1 tablespoonful cilantro very finely cut
a bit of oregano
1 clove crushed garlic or more to taste.
1  teaspoonful salt
 olive oil

 Preparation

24 hours before serving cut the fish in small pieces, add the lemon juice, onions and garlic. Mix and put away in refrigerator for fish to "cook."

At the time of serving, mix with tomato, olive oil, cilantro, oregano and salt. 

To serve you can pour into a cocktail glass and decorate with a round slice of well-cooked green banana or yuca well done. Ceviche can be affixed to crackers or toast with a dab of mayonnaise.

— Saray Ramírez Vindas
 
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Ed White, jeweler,
dies in Mexico

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Ed White, a jeweler who was a fixture at the Hotel Del Rey, died Monday of complications caused by cancer in Hospital Oasis of Hope in Mexico, according to friends here.

White was a burly, bearded man who took in everything at the hotel from his seat next to a small glass case in which he displayed his gold rings and other pieces of hand-made jewelry.

Although he seemed to know all that transpired at the hotel and in the English-speaking community in general, he was not one to pass on tales.

A friend, Larry Helms, said he "was loud and crude but never was there a man with more honor or more honest." 

Other jewelers and goldsmiths praised White’s work for its detail and design. Among those who collected White’s work was Roy Taylor, the former operator of The Vault investment operation. White said that Taylor was in the process of selling back some of the jewelry to free up working capital just before investigators raided Vault holdings last June. The raid resulted in Taylor’s suicide, something White and other English speakers here did not accept at face value.

If waves don’t get you,
the blazing sun will

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

With Holy Week vacations this year also comes a phenomenon of high waves at Pacific beaches which might present danger to some swimmers.

The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional said that the rip tides generated by the waves are most dangerous when the tide is going out. Low tide in Quepos today is 9:17 a.m. and high tide is at 3:33 p.m., said the weather bureau. The most dangerous period to be in the surf is about two hours after high tide, said Luis F. Alvarado of the weather institute. The safest times are when the seas are changing, that is half way between high and low tide, the institute said.

However, the weather institute also issued a warning to tourists about sunburn. Alvarado restated the obvious that sunburn is more likely during the middle of the day. He reminded North Americans that the sun's rays here are more perpendicular and, therefore, more efficient, than in the north.

And sunburns are likely because the forecast is for sunny skies today with changes of rain only in Limón and the southern zone. And that probably will be the conditions through Friday, said the forecast.

More illegal aliens
caught by police

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Immigration officials said they have caught and kicked out of the country some 1,179 illegal immigrants around the Peñas Blancas border installation in Guanacaste.

Some, 13,013 persons have crossed the frontier with Nicaragua legally. Some 8,522 left the country. These were mostly Nicaraguans returning home for Holy Week. Some 4,491 were entering the country from Nicaragua. Most of these, too, were Nicaraguans, said the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería.

Immigration officials are conducting a major effort to prevent illegal entries. 

At the Los Chiles border crossing in the middle of the northern national border, some 547 persons have either entered or left the country since April 1, officials said. Some 143 illegals were caught here.

Battle for beach
rages in Guanacaste

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fuerza Pública officers are continuing to prevent camping on the beach at Playa Panamá in Guanacaste.

However, environmentalists and nearby residents who are pushing the point claim they have won an important victory in the Sala IV constitutional court.

The beach is where a new hotel has opened as part of the government’s multimillion dollar Papagayo Project.

Environmentalists claim they have an historic and legal right to camp on the beach. Officials claim that that right exists only when there are not camping areas nearby. One such area exists near Playa Panamá.

Protestors are expected to mount some form of march or demonstration at the access to the beach.

Costa Ricans have traditionally camped on the public portion of the nation’s beaches. Protestors fear the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo will sell off these rights to large hotels for the benefit of foreign tourists.

Officials, on the other hand, regard the protestors as pests who just want to demonstrate.

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Colombian agent goes to Florida for weapons deal
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The United States has arrested a native of Bucaramanga, Colombia, for attempting to purchase over 1,000 machine guns, rifles, grenades, grenade launchers, and pistols on behalf of a Colombian terrorist group.

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said in a statement from Tampa, Fla., that Carlos Gamarra-Murillo was an agent of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), which the U.S. State Department has designated as a terrorist group.

Gamarra-Murillo was said to have traveled to the United States to meet in Tampa with customs investigators posing as arms suppliers. The total estimated value of the weapons to be brokered was nearly $4 million, according to the agency, which is the primary investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security.

The negotiated deal specified 15,000 kilograms of cocaine would comprise 60 percent of the payment for the weapons, with the balance to be paid in U.S. currency. The arms were to be delivered to a clandestine airstrip in South America.

The case further substantiates the link between international narcotics trafficking and South American terrorist organizations, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement official said. "Our highest priority is combating any form of terrorism that could reach [U.S.] borders."

Gamarra-Murillo has been charged with violations of the U.S. Arms Export Control Act.

Gen. James Hill, commander of the U.S. Southern Command, said in March 24 congressional testimony that the FARC members, as well as members of two other State Department-
designated foreign terrorist groups in Colombia, the National Liberation Army, and the United Self-Defense Forces, are "narco-terrorists rather than romantic guerrillas crusading for the downtrodden."

These groups, Hill told the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee, "consist of terrorists and criminals who operate outside the rule of law in pursuit of illicit profits rather than political revolution."

In another case, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents arrested a Honduran national suspected of running a smuggling ring that brought thousands of illegal aliens through Mexico into the United States.

Jose Zamora-Yepiz, nicknamed "El Chino Honduras," allegedly headed a sophisticated human-smuggling organization operating out of Baja, Mexico, and San Diego, Calif., that smuggled people into the United States from around the world, including Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.

Zamora's arrest came when Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents began tracking his whereabouts after he rammed an Immigration and Customs Enforcement vehicle and fled from another incident near the U.S.-Mexico border.

Zamora is charged with two felony counts: alien smuggling and illegal re-entry into the United States after being deported.

Guatemala's military cutback wins U.N. praise
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

GUATEMALA CITY, Guatemala — An international mission in Guatemala has hailed the Central American nation's decision to cut the present size of its army and military budget by about one-half.

The United Nations Mission in Guatemala called the cut the "most significant change" for the Guatemalan army in decades. The U.N. mission also said the cut is "fully in keeping" with peace accords signed in Guatemala in December 1996 to end the last and longest of Central America's civil conflicts, costing more than 100,000 lives. The mission was created to oversee that 1996 peace agreement.

In an April 2 statement the U.N. mission said that the plan reflects changes in Guatemala's situation in recent years: nationally, the end of the internal conflict; globally, the increase in threats posed by 

terrorism and drug trafficking that require an "adapted military response." The cut, announced by Guatemalan President Oscar Berger Thursday will also serve to reduce Guatemala's army to a size comparable to other Central American nations.

Guatemalan officials were quoted as saying the cut will reduce the country's army from its current level of 27,000 soldiers to 15,500 in the next two months. News reports said El Salvador's army numbers 16,000 soldiers, Nicaragua's 14,500 soldiers, and Honduras' army 12,000 soldiers. Costa Rica abolished its army in 1948, and Panama did the same in 1994. Guatemala's military budget will be cut from a reported $118.7 million in 2004 to $97.5 million.

The U.N. mission said the reduction in Guatemala's military budget will also allow funds to be made available for priority social needs in education, health care, and public security.

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Powell says U.S. fully behind new Haitian leaders
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Secretary of State Colin Powell says the United States will provide full support for Haiti's interim government. Powell's remarks came Monday here where Haiti's interim prime minister announced that general elections will be held next year. 

Speaking at a news conference following talks with interim Prime Minister Gerard Latortue, Powell said disarming armed groups in Haiti is a top priority, saying without disarmament Haiti's democracy will be at risk. Powell also met with commanders of multinational troops in Haiti, saying U.N. peacekeepers will replace the troops at some point in the future. 

Latortue said, following talks among Haiti's political parties, and civil society groups, that agreement has been reached to hold municipal, legislative and presidential elections next year. 

Powell says the resignation and departure from Haiti of former President Jean Bertrand Aristide Feb 29 had prevented a bloodbath. He says Aristide offered to resign voluntarily. 

Aristide says he was forced to leave Haiti by the 
 

United States and France. Powell rejected a Caribbean Community proposal for a U.N. inquiry into Aristide's departure, saying no purpose would be served by any such inquiry. 

Leaders of the 15-nation Caribbean Community have withheld recognition from Haiti's interim government and have said they will not send troops to join the multinational force now in Haiti. Some 2,000 U.S. Marines and about 1,000 French and other multinational troops are now in Haiti, working with Haiti's national police to stabilize the country following a total collapse of law and order following Aristide's departure. 

Latortue says Haiti is in a state of total bankruptcy, blaming Aristide and his former close officials for, in his words, leaving Haiti with absolutely nothing. 

Powell says the United States will contribute $9 million to the Organization of American States to create what he described as a democracy mission to help stabilize Haiti. 

Monday's visit was Powell's first to Haiti since 1994, when he was part of a team led by former President Jimmy Carter who tried to convince Haiti's military leaders to allow Aristide to return to Haiti, after he had been ousted from power.


 
U.S. Border Patrol joins in Mexican rescue effort
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

PIEDRAS NEGRAS, México — In this border city across the Rio Grande River from Eagle Pass, Texas, authorities continue to search for missing people after devastating flash floods. At least 25 people died in the flooding, dozens of people were injured and hundreds remain stranded in remote areas or housed in rescue centers. 

The disaster led to some unusual assistance from U.S. officials whose primary job is to keep people from crossing the border illegally.

As the flood waters surged around the city of Piedras Negras Sunday night and before dawn on Monday, the U.S. Border Patrol in Eagle Pass responded to a rare request for help from Mexican officials on the other side of the boundary. 

Border Patrol spokesman Dennis Smith says two of the agency's helicopters crossed over the river to search for desperate survivors clinging to tree tops and the roofs of houses. "What they did was pick up some Mexican officials once they got on that side and those officials directed them to where the people were stranded," he says.

Mexico has traditionally been reluctant to ask for outside help in such situations, but there were no helicopters readily available in the area at that time. Smith says this was a time when the good relations between authorities on each side of the 

border paid off. "It does take a lot of coordination with the right people and agents at Eagle Pass and the Del Rio sector are always in contact with their counterparts in Mexico and they have good liaison with those folks," he said.

Because of the bi-national character of the action, however, Smith said higher-ranking officials in the two national capitals were also involved. "As far as the Border Patrol is concerned, it did go through our headquarters chain of command in Washington," he says. "It was coordinated with the Mexican consulate in Eagle Pass and I am not sure what steps they went through."

The two Border Patrol helicopters spent a total of four hours on the rescue mission and then returned to their base in Texas. After daylight, helicopters from other parts of Mexico were able to reach the scene.

The floods followed torrential rains that caused the Escondido River to rise rapidly and overflow its banks. Officials in Piedras Negras say some 500 homes and around 300 motor vehicles were either heavily damaged or destroyed. 

A state of emergency was declared in the Piedras Negras area making funds from the Mexican federal government available to the city of about 200,000 residents. Because there is fear of more flooding, authorities are asking people to remain at shelters until it is safe to return to their homes. 


 
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