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These stories were published Tuesday, April 9, 2002, in Vol. 2, No. 69
Jo Stuart
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Araya knocked out, hurt in melee in Palmares
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Rolando Araya Monge, the man who lost the race to be Costa Rica’s president Sunday, was pummeled Monday night by members of a taunting crowd near his parents’ home in Palmares.

The 54-year-old politician suffered blows to the head and body, according to police. He was in stable condition early today at Hospital México in San José after having been taken there from a local hospital in San Ramon.

Officials of the Fuerza Publica said they had detained two young men who were in the crowd that appeared to have been demonstrating near the home where Araya was staying.

The incident happened about 8 p.m. when one of Araya’s sons got into a confrontation with some members of the group. Friends said that Araya came out of the house to go to the aid of his son, and that is when the beating took place.

Reports from Palmares say that Araya fell to the ground and lost consciousness for a time. 

Rescue workers put his neck in a brace for the trip to the hospital.

Reports also labeled the crowd as being supporters of the Partido Unidad Social Cristiana and its successful candidate Abel Pacheco. Araya was the candidate of the Partido Liberación Nacional.

The attack is out of character in Costa Rica where the entire presidential campaign was conducted with apparent respect among party members and among candidates. 

Pacheco, himself, was very low-keyed in his acceptance speech and did not portray the victory as a defeat for Araya. Instead, he characterized it as a victory for everyone.

The attack punctuated a day in which Araya sought the privacy of his boyhood home and Pacheco visited Cartago and the shrine of the Black Virgin at the Basílica de Los Angeles, then went to the National Assembly where he still holds the post of a deputy.

Meanwhile, his staff was starting the job of coordinating the transition of government that takes place May 8.

San José International festival includes nearly all art forms
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The 8th International Festival of the Arts in San José has opened with a multitude of events in nearly every art form.

The most obvious for San José residents are the presentations taking place nightly at the Plaza de la Cultura just north of the Teatro National. The Ballet Folclórico de

A.M. Costa Rica photo
Technician adjusts the lights at a temporary stage in the Plaza de la Cultura while musicians test the sound system in anticipation of two weeks of events.
Colombiano held forth Monday night. Other presentations are planned for much of the month.

In addition to the grand, outdoor spectaculars, there are stage plays, artist workshops, discussions of literature, movies. More than 30 countries are participating.

Tonight the Costa Rican group Entrellas will present a concert of 16 original and Latin American works in the Plaza de la Cultura. The group incorporates elements of blues and jazz, according to a festival announcement.  The group is composed of four well-known singers, María Prétiz, Sylvie Durán, Miriam Jarquín and Patricia Saravia. They are on at 5:30 p.m.

In the Teatro Nacional itself at 8 p.m. the Octeto Académico de Caracas will call upon its repertoire of Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert and other baroque and classical composers for a concert. The Venezuelan group has had six CDs produced.

In the Teatro Popular Melico Salazar, also at 8 p.m., the Compañia Nacional de Danza presents "Ojos que no Ven," described as a contemporary dance work.

Other locations will have their share of the festival. In Parque de Desamparados tonight at 7:30 p.m. the Chilean group La Marraqueta presents what the festival organizers describe as fusion "criollo."  The stated purpose of the group is to rescue elements of folklore, including ethnic, Afro-Latina and rock, jazz and the music of contemporary Europe.

In Parque de Coronado the Ballet Folclórico Colombiano gives another presentation at 7:30 p.m. The 37-year-old group titles its program "Colombia Fantástic"  and includes the first part titled "Mother India, Mother Earth and Pueblo Andino" and a second part titled "Llano Macho y Carnavaleando."

A listing for the next few days will continue to appear in the A.M. Costa Rica calendar page

The festival’s Web site is www.festivalcostarica.org.

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Venezuelan oil crisis might jack up world prices
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

CARACAS, Venezuela — Petroleum supply disruptions caused by labor and civic unrest in Venezuela are affecting the price of oil on the world market. Further strife is expected in the largest foreign supplier of oil to the United States. 

Civic, political and business sector opponents of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez are backing petroleum workers' unions in their protests. The workers say the president is meddling in the state-owned oil company by appointing directors who are politically aligned with his government. The oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela, has traditionally been run by professionals and had remained insulated from politics until now.

In recent days, thousands of oil workers have stayed home, engaged in work slowdowns or taken part in large anti-Chavez demonstrations. As a result, two out of five Venezuelan main export terminals have shut down and at least a dozen ships were left waiting at the ports with oil bound for the United States and other nations.

At least two people died in the recent unrest, and there is fear that opposition to the left-leaning Chavez government could lead to further violence in the days ahead.

All of this comes at a time when oil prices are on the rise because of violence in Israel and the Middle East. Oil industry analysts say a deepening of the crisis in Venezuela could have an even bigger impact on the world petroleum market than what is happening in the Middle East. Venezuela has the biggest oil reserves outside the Middle East.

President Chavez has shown no sign of backing 

down and has told oil workers and executives who 
do not like his decisions to look for work elsewhere.  He says he changed management in February because the oil company had become "a state within a state." Chavez has also complained about generous benefits paid to some executives in a nation where half the population lives in poverty.

Oil revenues provide one-third of Venezuela's $110 billion gross domestic product and almost half of government's revenue. Political observers say a major disruption of the industry would create the biggest crisis yet for the controversial three-year-old Chavez government. 

General strike today

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

CARACAS, Venezuela — The nation’s largest labor union is calling for a one-day general strike today in support of workers at the state-run oil company in their struggle against the government of President Hugo Chavez.

The strike by the Venezuelan Workers Confederation could widen the labor dispute and pose a threat to world petroleum markets.

The workers are striking over what they say are politically-motivated appointments to the company's board of directors by President Chavez.

The one-million-member labor confederation brought the Venezuelan economy to a standstill with a one-day walkout last December. Carlos Ortega, the confederation's president, said Tuesday's strike could be extended if necessary.

Child abduction case
results in arrest here

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rican police agents took a U.S. citizen into custody as a suspect in the abduction of her 6-year-old child, Costa Rican sources said.

The woman was detained in the Punta Salas section of Heredia by agents working on a warrant from the United States, Costa Rica sources said.

They identified the woman as Barbara Dave, but identifications of North Americans frequently are incorrect or confuse the second given name with the surname.

Agents said that they were told that the woman illegally took her child to Costa Rica contrary to a judicial order in the United States.

A U.S. Embassy spokesman said that no information could be given in the case because the detained woman had not signed a privacy waiver.

Embassy personnel are edgy lately on such cases because a U.S. citizen, Ralph Stumbo, has alleged that the consular staff treat cases differently depending on whether the parent who is believed to have abducted the child is a man or a woman. The embassy has denied the allegation.

Stumbo’s wife, a Costa Rican citizen, took their child from Florida last August, and he does not think that the embassy officials have pressed the case aggressively.

A similar arrest involving a non-custodial father took place several months ago in Moravia. The man took a child to Costa Rica from the United States. He still is in prison here.

Taxi driver held
in fondling case

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Investigators arrested a 60-year-old taxi driver about 8 a.m. Monday and held him to face an allegation that he made sexual advances against a female passenger.

He was identified by the last name of Castro. The arrest took place near the Tribunales de Justicia, the headquarters of the courts and the Judicial Investigating Organization.

The woman told investigators that last Thursday she entered a taxi in the center of San José. The taxi driver entered into conversation with her and soon began to touch her, she told agents. Then he told her in a menacing fashion that he knew where she lived, she reported.

The woman was able to get out of the cab and quickly filed her complaint, agents said. She also was able to remember the placa number of the taxi, which enabled investigators to arrest the driver, who lives in Tres Ríos, they said. 

Investigators said they want to know if other women suffered similar experiences at the hands of taxi drivers. They asked such victims to contact them in the Sección de Delitos Sexuales at 295-3315 or 295-3316.

U.S. changes student visa rules

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

 The U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service has tightened rules for foreign student and tourist visas. Immigration officials say that effective immediately, foreigners must obtain student visas before studying in the United States. 

Until now, most students were allowed to enter the country on a tourist visa, while awaiting student status. 

Also on Monday, the INS proposed changing the time limit on visas for tourists and business travelers from six months to about 30 days. An INS official says visa holders will have to show compelling reasons to extend their stays. 

Experimental drug
shows hope for AIDS

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Two experimental vaccines against HIV/AIDS have been effective in a small trial conducted by the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, according to an announcement from the research consortium.

As a result of the initially promising signs, the institute will launch expanded human testing in Britain. "The goal of this 100-plus volunteer study is to confirm the results of the previous trials as well as investigate different doses and timings of administering the vaccines," according to the institute press release.

The 26 volunteers who have taken the vaccine have shown a stimulated response from the immune system, as researchers had hoped. Early stage trials have also been underway in Kenya, though their results have not yet been fully analyzed. Second stage trials are scheduled to begin in sub-Saharan Africa by the end of 2002.

Crowd protests
IMF’s aide’s visit

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — Demonstrators in Argentina have burned U.S. flags and chanted slogans against the International Monetary Fund to protest the arrival of a top IMF negotiator. 

Anoop Singh, flew to Buenos Aires Monday on a 10-day mission to assess the country's economic situation and discuss a possible aid package with the government. 

A group of protesters tried to block Singh's motorcade from leaving the airport. Demonstrators also rallied at his hotel to protest the IMF's policy on Argentina. 

Singh is joining an IMF delegation that arrived in Argentina last week for two weeks of talks. The mission is expected to clarify the reforms Argentina must undertake to qualify for renewed financial aid. An IMF spokesman has said the team is not expected to decide on additional lending, but a decision may be made after the IMF's annual meeting later this month. 

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.

Couple face probe
in daughters’ death

 By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Agents have arrested a man and a woman as suspects in the death of their daughter, 7, who died Sunday of a fractured skull in the Hospital de Niños.

The child suffered other fractures and was in an advanced state of malnutrition, said investigators. Doctors said that some of the child’s fractures were older.

They said the couple is Walter Méndez Jiménez, 32, and Roxana Varela Blanco, 24.

Saturday physicians diagnosed the child as being brain dead. The child had come to the hospital Friday about 8 p.m.

The parents told police that the child had fallen, but investigators discarded that theory, they said, after inspecting the home in La Trinidad de Moravia and conducting interviews.

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