A.M. Costa Rica

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These stories were published Wednesday, April 21, 2004, Vol. 4, No. 78
Jo Stuart
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Humble guaro goes to West Coast to be a star
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Guess what is the new, elegant, trendy alcoholic beverage for Hollywood stars and Los Angeles business tycoons?

Why it is guaro, Costa Rica’s answer to vodka 
and white lightning.

A Malibu, Calif. company, S Guaro LLC, has begun marketing the blue collar Costa Rican drink in upscale bottles. The LLC stands for limited liability company, and the firm better have limited considering the power that guaro packs.

An Internet poet, Chris Mulligan, who visited Costa Rica a couple of years ago, expresses his introduction to the mild tasting sugar cane liquor this way:

Shock has made me senseless.
My hands just won't stop shaking.

"With an initial launch in Los Angeles and 

surrounding areas, causing a stir of anticipation, S Guaro is poised to go from Hollywood A-list drink of choice to national phenomenon. . . . ," said the S Guaro company Web site. 

That may come as a surprise to campesinos and soccer fanatics here  who lose their speech and ability to move in a half dozen shots of guaro.

S Guaro is not promoting the new, improved West Coast guaro as something you knock 

down straight, perhaps with a little lemon and a touch of salt. The firm’s Web site features a number of drink recipes done over for guaro.

One is Costa Cafe, kind of an Irish coffee with a campesino touch:

One ounce of S Guaro and a half ounce of coffee liquor, coffee, whipped cream, and premium orange liquor. Mix together, add whipped cream and drizzle orange liquor over the whipped cream.

According to the S Guaro Web site, its brand of  guaro still is confined to the West Coast. A short list of bars and restaurants are stocked with S Guaro, it said.

Guaro is sugar cane liquor, called aguadiente in most of Latin America. But the Cacique brand made by the Fábrica Nacional de Licores here has a mild but distinctive taste.

The liquor is so much a part of Costa Rican culture that a recent exhibit at the Museos del Banco Central featured one work that showed the three icons of daily life: Cacique guaro, a soccer ball and a representation of the Black Virgin.

The Fábrica Nacional got its guaro monopoly in 1851 and has been the only legal source in Costa Rica for distilled spirits since. Guaro is relatively cheap and can be purchased in pachitas, small plastic bottles about 12 ounces.

North Americans who have visited here have complained about not being able to obtain guaro in their home countries. Last November the Contraloría General de la República, the chief financial watchdog, reported that exporters may have evaded millions in liquor taxes by sneaking guaro listed for export back into the local market.

But now guaro lovers can at least find S Guaro in Los Angeles.

It was just a friendly, neighborhood infierno
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

First there was the burglar. And now the fire.

The A.M. Costa Rica office, now snugly nestled in the heart of the city, is getting more action than ever. We reported April 13 on the visit of a burglar to the new offices in Barrio Otoya.  Tuesday, it was the firemen who came visiting.

A misplaced match, perhaps dropped by a marijuana or crack smoker, ignited a sprawling but vacant lot north of the new A.M. Costa Rica offices. The wind took hold and converted the chest-high weeds into 25-foot flames that closed in on the row of homes and offices in which this newspaper is located, as well as Parque Bolivar and its zoo.

Firemen or bomberos, as they are called here, responded and decided to let the blaze burn itself out. The thick smoke could be seen all over the city. The lot is just three blocks north of the towering Instituto Nacional de Seguros  building. 

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Fan surrenders
in soccer incident

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The soccer referee who was kicked by an angry fan Sunday night signed a formal complaint Tuesday. The alleged assailant, identified by the last name of Araya, a 26-year-old resident of San Isidro de Heredia, surrendered to Fuerza Pública officers in his own town, also Tuesday.

The injured referee is Alexandro Jiménez. He was on the field of Alejandro Morera Soto stadium for the Alajuela-Saprissa game.

The assault was fully televised. The fan scaled a fence and moved too quickly for security personnel to intercept him. Jiménez was facing the other way when the fan delivered a blow.

The Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública sent the file on the case to court officials in Alajuela Tuesday. Included were photos that appeared in newspapers Monday and a video tape of the assault.

The incident has attracted high-level interest because disorderly and criminal behavior at soccer games seems to be on the rise. Police have taken to using mounted officers to control crowds, and sometimes post-game battles take place between armed fans and officers.

Jade museum loses
elevator supporter

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Museo de Jade on the 11th floor of the Instituto Nacional de Seguros probably will not be getting its outside elevators. A proponent of the project, Germán Serano Pinto, has resigned as executive president of the governmental insurance monopoly.

President Abel Pacheco objected to the elevators, mainly because of their pricetag of nearly $3 million.

The jade museum, which has been enlarged and remodeled within the last three years, is one of the country’s lesser known treasures. It was featured in a story published HERE! 

The museum has limited hours because institute officials have never let the public enter the buildings during hours outside the regular workday. For example, the museum is closed Saturday and Sunday.

The outside panoramic elevators would have allowed access without permitting persons to enter the main building. However, officials never fully explained why they could not post guards to keep museum visitors from wandering off. The interior elevators are computer controlled and could be programmed to only visit the 11th floor.

Serano also got into trouble because he agreed to raises for institute employees that were higher, some 6.5 percent, than those allocated to most public employees.

Serano, a lawyer, was Pacheco’s hand-picked choice to head the insurance monopoly a year ago. Serrano served in that job in 1978 and 1979. Then he was vice president under Rafael Angel Calderón. When Pacheco appointed him, he was described as someone who could bring stability to the troubled agency. 

The insurance institute then was at the center of allegations of bribery and also claims of inflated travel expenses for executives.

Now it is at the center of the battle over the free-trade treaty with the United States because the institute will lose its monopoly if the treaty is approved. Employees generally oppose the treaty for that reason.

Cell telephone deal
gets contract OK

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, known as ICE, has been given the go-ahead to complete a deal for 600,000 new cellular telephone lines.

The Contraloría General de la República approved a contract with Ericcson for the Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) setup at a cost of $130 million.

If and when all the lines are installed and in use, one GSM cellular phone will exist for every four Costa Ricans. The communications monopoly already has equipment for 400,000 GSM lines purchased from Alcaltel in 2002. All those lines have been put into use.

The Alcaltel GSM system has not worked as well as it had been described. Large sections of the Central Valley as well as other parts of the country are out of range of the service. In part, this is due to the power that was specified in the original contract  and both Alcaltel and ICE blame each other.

Booty includes eyeglass frames

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Robbers stuck up an optical shop directly across the street from busy Hospital Calderón Guardia Tuesday night. The crooks put employees of Optica Münkes in a bathroom and fled with money and eyeglass frames, said the Judicial Investigating Organization.

Reader gives info
on man hit by car

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Reference the vehicular-pedestrian death of Adrian Washington BELL, Jr. This is his full name. 

He is a dear lost friend to me. He has been in Costa Rica for about 10 years. He was known to many as ´´Santa Claus´´ for his appearance openess and warmness and generosity. 

Letter from a reader

He has donated to many causes in Costa Rica for the poor, crack street kids and orphanages. Formerly, from Daytona Beach and north central Florida, he was one of the heirs to the Bell Produce Company, that was bought out by Sunkist and Tropical Citrus Co. Many of the citrus (tangerines and tangelos) in central Florida belonged to his father. 

Adrian is an ex elected public official in different local and state seats in central west Florida (1970s and 1980s). He ran once for U.S. Congress. He narrowly lost. He did win the Republican primary though. 

Adrian is survived by twin sons, in their mid-20s and by his 99-year-old mother.

Coincidentally, one of Adrian´s closest friends died the week before. Ed White, who was the same age and amazingly looked the same in appearance as Adrian (long beard and hair, although red) and dressed as Adrian, died of kidney cancer. 

Big Ed White had the jewelry concession in the Hotel Del Rey for several years. Ed was from Biloxi, Mississippi.

David Thomasun
San Jose
EDITOR’S NOTE: Mr. Bell, whose name was reported incorrectly Tuesday died when he was hit by a car in Escazú Thursday night.
Deputies want Pacheco
to disavow U.S. backing

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Some deputies in the Asamblea Nacional say Iraq is a target of genocide fostered by the U.S. military invasion and are calling on President Abel Pacheco to remove the name of Costa Rica from the list of countries that support the United States there.

Honduras pulling out HERE!

Among the deputies are Margarita Penón, Marta Zamora, José Miguel Corrales, Rodrigo Alberto Carazo, Luis Gerardo Villanueva, Nury Garita, and Quírico Jiménez. 

"Spain has given an example to the civilized world announcing the withdrawal of troops from Iraq," said the deputies in the letter. Spain is withdrawing its troops because Socialists who oppose the invasion won the recent parliamentary election. Many persons believe that the outcome of the election was affected by the terrorist bombings of commuter trains in Madrid March 11.

The deputies called upon Pacheco to notify relevant international authorities that Costa Rica no longer counts itself among those nations supporting the U.S. invasion.

Pacheco faced demonstrations and much criticism when he said that Costa Rica supported the United States and George Bush a year ago. The protests were mainly from students, labor unions and other political opponents who also are against a proposed free-trade treaty with the United States.

Child dies in fire at home

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A 6-year-old boy died Tuesday night when his family home near Higuito del Guarco, Cartago, burst into flames. The child was at home with a twin sister and a 15-year-old sister. They managed to escape. 

The child was identified as Aberto José Azofeifa Bonilla. Investigators say that the child appears to have had a door fall on him, and this prevented his escape. The home is in a rural area with difficult access.
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U.S. panel releases major study on ocean policies
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy has released the most comprehensive assessment of national policies on the oceans conducted in 35 years, making dozens of recommendations to President George Bush and Congress on how policies should be changed and strengthened to address the serious management and environmental problems now straining the resource.

The U.S. Congress ordered the review in 2000, and the commission Tuesday delivered a 400-page report that calls on the president and the Congress to take actions it described as "critical." Recommended actions include establishing a National Ocean Council in the White House, strengthening the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and doubling funding for ocean research. The recommendations also are directed at local governments and federal agencies and address specific regulatory issues such as wastewater treatment, pollution and fisheries. 

"Our report puts forth long overdue bold and broad-reaching recommendations for reform to our national ocean policy," said Admiral James Watkins, chairman of the commission, in a press statement. "Reform that needs to start now, while it is still possible to reverse distressing declines, seize exciting opportunities, and sustain the oceans, coasts and their valuable assets for future generations," he said. 

One of the commission's key findings is that the United States should develop a policy of ecosystem-based management in its stewardship of the oceans. That approach recognizes the 

complex interrelationships between the environment, plants, animals and humans and is guided by analysis of how any action might affect those interactions. 

In delivering this preliminary report at a Washington news conference, Watkins described the current system of ocean management as "fragmented" and "not up to the challenge."

On international policy as it relates to the oceans, the commission reiterated its recommendation that the U.S. Senate vote to accede to the U.N. Law of the Sea Convention. In further recommendations, the commission suggested a review of the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity and an assessment of whether U.S. entrance to that international pact would be in keeping with U.S. interest in the oceans.

With these recommendations, Watkins said, the commission is trying to establish the United States as a world leader in sound stewardship of the oceans and adoption of ecosystem-based management. 

"We can't separate the boundary," Watkins said. "The ecosystem means the world."

The report is a preliminary document that is being submitted to the nation's governors and other interested parties. After a month-long period established to gather public reactions to the document, the commission will consider the public comments and deliver the final version of its report to the president and Congress. 

The full report is available at http://www.oceancommission.gov. 

Castro says Guantanamo is a concentration camp
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

HAVANA, Cuba — President Fidel Castro has compared the detention facility at the U.S. Guantanamo Bay naval base to a "concentration camp" where prisoners have no rights.

The Cuban leader made the comment on state-run television late Monday during a speech to mark the anniversary of the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion to overthrow him.

Cuba is lobbying for the U.N. Human Rights 

Commission to pass a resolution requiring an investigation into the alleged arbitrary detentions at Guantanamo.

Cuba made the move in response to the commission's narrow decision last week to pass a U.S.-backed resolution calling on Cuba to respect fundamental civil rights. 

The resolution also calls on Cuba to allow a U.N. monitor into the country, something the communist island nation has repeatedly refused to do.

Soccer legend Maradona reponding to treatment
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — Doctors say soccer legend Diego Maradona is responding to treatment for heart and blood pressure problems, two days after he was admitted to the hospital. 

Maradona's long-time personal physician Alfredo Cahe said Tuesday that the soccer star is still on a respirator in the intensive care unit, but that he has shown clear improvement. Cahe said Maradona is still being closely monitored. He denied that cocaine was the cause of the latest health problems. 

Treatment for the controversial former player, who has battled drug addiction for years, has been complicated by an infection in both lungs, but he is expected to respond positively to antibiotics. 

His respirator is on a low setting and it could be removed as early as Wednesday if his condition continues improving. 

Maradona retired from professional soccer in 1997. In his 20-year career, he won the Italian and Argentine league titles, and also led Argentina to the World Cup final in 1990. 

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Honduras decides to bring troops home from Iraq
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Another member of the U.S.-led military coalition in Iraq has announced it is pulling its troops out of the country. Honduras now follows Spain in saying it will leave the coalition at a time when the United States is extending the tour of American soldiers there because of a shortage of troops and amid continuing attacks on coalition forces. Other Latin American countries may be preparing to quit Iraq as well. 

Honduras' nearly 400 troops form part of the same division in south-central Iraq that includes some 1,300 Spanish soldiers, which are pulling out as well. In Baghdad, U.S. Gen. Mark Kimmitt says the commitment of other Latin American members of the coalition remains uncertain.

"The Spanish have announced their withdrawal, the Hondurans have announced their withdrawal," he said. "We understand the El Salvadorans have decided to stay in the country until their departure at the end of July, beginning of August, and I don't know that the Dominicans have made a decision at this point."

El Salvador has nearly 400 troops in Iraq, the Dominican Republic about 300.

Secretary of State Colin Powell told reporters he 

received solid commitments from other coalition 
members to remain in Iraq. However, Thailand now says it will bring its more than 400 troops home if they have to stop reconstruction projects and instead focus on defending themselves from attack. 

Kimmitt also told reporters he does not yet know how the gap left by the departing troops will be filled. "It could either be replaced with existing forces on the ground, it could be replaced with new contributions," he said.

Meanwhile, the U.S. military is investigating the shooting of two journalists working for the U.S. funded television station al-Iraqiya. A correspondent and his driver were killed by coalition gunfire Monday near the city of Samarra when Kimmitt says they refused to obey repeated warning shots to stop while approaching a coalition base. 

"Five signs clearly prohibiting filming and stopping near the base were displayed in the area as part of local force protection measures," he added. "We just don't have enough information at this point either to assess blame, innocence or fault."

A cameraman traveling with the group denies the journalists were filming at the time, saying they were fired upon after conducting interviews.

Blair decides to let British vote on E.U. constitution
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

LONDON, England — In a major reversal of policy, British Prime Minister Tony Blair announced Tuesday that he has agreed to a referendum on the proposed constitution for the European Union. 

For months, the prime minister has been insisting that a referendum on the proposed E.U. constitution would simply not be necessary.

As Blair acknowledged in the House of Commons, his political opponents and critical voices in the media have led him to the conclusion that a referendum is now necessary after all.

"It has been an unrelenting but, I have to accept partially at least, successful campaign to persuade Britain that Europe is a conspiracy aimed at us, rather than a partnership designed for us and others to pursue our national interests properly in a modern, interdependent world," he said.

Prime Minister Blair added that his critics have created many myths about the E.U. constitution and that his task is to convince the country that it really is in the best interests of all Britons to sign up to the document.

The British leader said that providing the constitution embodies key provisions such as a British veto on major issues of national interest, he

then wants Parliament to debate the final wording, followed by a referendum.

However, he did not announce a date for the vote, which actually would come some months after work on the E.U. constitution is completed and then debated in Parliament. The constitution is still being negotiated by E.U. members.

In a spirited exchange in Parliament, Blair said the time has come for Britain to decide once and for all whether to be at the center of European decision-making or to move to the margin and lose influence.

"Let the Euroskeptics whose true agenda we will expose make their case," he said. "Let those of us who believe in Britain in Europe, not because of Europe alone but because we believe in Britain and our national interests lying in Europe, let us make our case, too. Let the issue be put and let the battle be joined."

It will be an uphill struggle for Blair. The main opposition Conservative Party is strongly against the E.U. constitution and opinion polls show that the majority of Britons remain highly skeptical.

The timing of the referendum will also be crucial. Elections are expected to be called in 2005 and a referendum held either before or after that date will have important political implications.

Jo Stuart
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