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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, April 25, 2002, Vol. 2, No. 81
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An oropel, a yellow variant of the bocaracá, looks totally uninterested

University displays
some of its knowledge

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

You still have time to get up close and personal with some of the country’s most deadly snakes. And then there are viruses, parasites and even a fungus or two.

The event is University Week at the University of Costa Rica. Academic departments show their stuff, and the place is flooded with school children on field trips.

A big attraction is the biology department where the Instituto Clodomiro Picado, the snake folks, have on display serpents you would not want to meet on your own. Only about eight persons a year die of snakebite in Costa Rica, and the reason is the institute that makes all the anti-venom by raising and milking the poison from snakes.

However, other departments have equally interesting displays, including dozens of slides of the major parasites that cause problems here. There’s even the cockroach and the mosquitoes that cause dengue and other ills. The mycology people have the miracle penicillin mold on display, among other fungi.

The snake display runs through today. Other displays continue through Friday. That’s when the School of Agronomy sells out its orchids and other plants.

Students will gather at Planet Mall at 8 p.m. Friday night for a big party marking the end of the week. There’s even a horse parade planned for Saturday.


This is about as close as you want to get to this deadly coral snake. The key word is the Spanish "rana" for rojo, amarillo, negro, amarillo, the color coding of the real coral: red, yellow, black and yellow. Harmless false corals have the color bands in a different order.

Big tree-planting party
planned for Friday 
to help tití monkeys

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An ambitious plan to reforest 50 hectares (126 acres) near Manuel Antonio kicks off Friday with a big party and symbolic tree plantings.

The project is on Finca Tranquilla in Naranjito. The originator is Kids Saving the Rainforest, a local environmental organization that also helps raise abandoned wildlife babies.

The event Friday will attract students from two local schools, Colegio Ecoturistico del Pacifico and El Nuevo Montessori.

The event takes place at 9 a.m. and will go until noon, said Jennifer Rice president of Kids Saving the Rainforest.  In addition to getting a chance to plant a tree, talks about trees will be included. Ms. Rice noted that Friday is International Arbor Day.

Also planned is a short talk about the mono tití, the endangered monkey that makes its home in the area. Snacks will be served in the
morning, and barbecue sandwiches and cheeseburgers will be offered at 11:30 a.m..

Ms. Rice said that the inauguration Friday is the culmination of four months of planning. The group even hired a full-time professional forestry engineer, Lissy Rivera Villareal.

These are not the ordinary run-of-the-mill trees either. Ms. Rice explained that this is a complex interlocking project. The trees are specially selected to provide food for the monkeys throughout the year. There also are some endangered trees, like the bacco, she said.

The trees will extend the existing corridor for the mono tití and other monkeys into what is now pasture land.

The finca is owned by Tania Muñiz, her husband Scott Herrington and Ann Pope, said Ms. Rice. These owners plan a special real estate development on the finca where they will cluster dwellings on a central hilltop and turn the remainder of the 73 hectares into forest.

The planning has been extensive, she said, with attention being paid to soil chemistry as well as environmental impact.

In all, about 10 hectares (about 25 acres) will be planted with 4,100 trees this year. Friday will be mostly symbolic. Each person will plant just three trees because unless the rains come quickly the trees will have to be hand-watered. So most of the planting will take place after the rainy season has clearly started, Ms. Rice said. The whole project will take about three years.

Ms. Rice operates the Mono Azul Hotel in Manuel Antonio, and she maintains a souvenir store there for Kids Saving the Rainforest (www.kidssavingtherainforest.org). She asked that visitors contact her at 777-2592 for more details.

She also said that persons outside the immediate Manuel Antonio-Quepos area can adopt a tree by making a U.S. tax-deductible donation to the group. 

Eventually, the group hopes to team up with the Costa Rican government which has tracts of land nearby for similar projects, said Ms. Rice.

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Colombian general keynotes big day for aid plan
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A U.S. congressional committee heard about alleged assistance by the Irish Republican Army to Marxist rebels in Colombia. A senior Colombian military official told lawmakers Wednesday Colombia faces an uphill struggle against groups using drug money and recruiting foreigners to finance and support their terrorist operations.

The testimony was part of a complex series of presentations by the Bush Administration which is seeking to expand the U.S. role in Colombia. The administration has linked the situation in Colombia with terrorism, and it has done the same thing with drug trafficking.

Appearing before the House International Relations Committee, the chairman of Colombia's joint chiefs of staff said foreign terrorists have come to Colombia, financed by drug profits flowing to the main rebel group the Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

Gen. Fernando Tapias said terrorists from Argentina, Venezuela, Ecuador, and Germany are known to have been in Colombia. But Wednesday's hearing focused on the controversy surrounding alleged training of Colombian rebels by current or former members of the Irish Republican Army.

In a new report, congressional investigators say three Irishmen arrested in Colombia in August 2001 were probably there to assist the FARC. 

Lawmakers questioned Gen. Tapias who, speaking through a translator, described Edward Campbell Joseph (alias James Monahan), one of the three Irish nationals awaiting trial in Colombia on charges of training the FARC and carrying false documents

Gen. Tapias said, "According to information we have from European authorities, he was part of the executive directorate of Sinn Fein until 1989."

The report, citing Colombian authorities, says as many as 15 IRA members, including weapons experts, visited rebel-held areas of Colombia since 1998. Since then, it says FARC has been using more sophisticated car bombs, as well as mortars, causing thousands of casualties.

Gerry Adams, leader of Sinn Fein, sent a letter to the committee chairman,  Rep. Henry Hyde, a Republican, in which Adams says neither he nor anyone else in the Sinn Fein leadership were aware the three men were traveling to Colombia.

Adams had been invited to testify at Wednesday's House committee hearing, but declined. An IRA statement said it has not interfered in the internal affairs of Colombia and will not do so. 

Several members of the House committee sharply criticized the report's findings as weak, and said linking the IRA to Colombian rebels could undermine the Northern Ireland peace process.

House committee investigators say terrorists from Cuba, Iran, and possibly the Basque separatist group ETA have trained with the Armed Forces of Colombia.

In his remarks, Gen. Tapias said the war in Colombia is now "fundamentally terrorist" in nature, and threatens the future of democracy in Colombia. He said, "This terrific onslaught of terrorist activities has been of extreme danger to the economy. It has sown fear and terror in the heart of the citizens, and I would say it is attacking the very underpinnings of society in this year of elections."

One of the three Irishmen awaiting trial has been identified as the representative in Cuba of Sinn Fein. However, in his testimony, General Tapias said there is no evidence, to his knowledge, that Cuba is now linked in any way to terrorist activities in Colombia.

The House committee report says U.S. policy allowing military assistance to be used only for counter-narcotics operations should be re-assessed.

In a separate Senate hearing Wednesday, a senior State Department official said the Bush Administration is sticking to current assistance levels to help Colombian President Pastrana's anti-narcotics effort called "Plan Colombia."

The undersecretary of state for political affairs, Marc Grossman, said Washington wants to see greater cooperation and support from Colombia's neighbors, saying other countries in the region cannot be "spectators." 

A more broad-based U.S. assistance program for Colombia, Grossman  said, would "enable Colombia to use U.S.-provided helicopters and the counter-drug brigade from Plan Colombia to fight terrorism some of the time, as needed." He emphasized that the president's request for new  authorities does not signal a retreat from U.S. concerns about human rights abuses in Colombia, since "we will not stop our human rights vetting of all Colombian military units receiving U.S. assistance." 

In other testimony, Peter Rodman, assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, said the political and military situation in Colombia has reached a "stalemate" with the three U.S. State Department-designated terrorist groups in that Andean nation effectively controlling over 40 percent of Colombian territory. 

A military leader told congressmen that everything the United States is doing to help Colombia and the other nations of the Andean region supports the U.S.-led campaign against global terrorism. That was the view of Gary Speer, acting commander in chief of the U.S. Southern Command..

Speer said U.S. efforts in Colombia are aimed not only at fighting drugs but also at saving democracy in that country and in promoting security and stability in the Andean region.

The head of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, Asa Hutchinson, told congressmen that global narco-terrorist organizations use their illegal drug profits to support their activities. He listed a number of other violent groups operating in the Western Hemisphere and around the world, including The Shining Path in Peru, and three U.S. State Department-designated terrorist groups in Colombia


 
Murderers even take
taxi driver’s pants

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A Limón taxi driver died when three men held up his cab early Wednesday in Barrio Colina there.

Investigators identified the dead man as Marlon Nuñez Madrigal, 24. They said that the robbers took 4,000 colons ($11.40), his shoes and even his pants. He suffered two knife wounds in the stomach.

The robbers made the mistake of letting another taxi driver see them, and he identified the local men to investigators, agents said.

Agents were able to find the men in the same barrio about 10:30 a..m., just nine hours after the murder. Arrested were two brothers, Jason Arguero Guido, 18, and Junior Chavez Guido, 20. A 16-year-old also was taken into custody as a juvenile.

Agents said that Nuñez was married, and unofficial sources said he had three children.
 

U.N. sex allegations
called contradiction

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A U.S. official has reiterated that all allegations of misconduct by U.N. personnel, particularly involvement in trafficking in women and children, should be thoroughly investigated and appropriate disciplinary action taken.

Ambassador Nancy Ely-Raphel, director of the State Department's Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking, told a House subcommittee Wednesday  that the United States takes allegations of abuse of authority and trafficking by individuals assigned to U.N. missions around the world very seriously.

"Even one substantiated claim of peacekeepers' and relief workers' involvement in such activities is one too many," she said. "This kind of behavior contradicts the principles on which the United Nations was created."
 

Bush plugs hard
for ‘fast track’ OK

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Bush has called again on the Democrat-led Senate to pass trade promotion authority, otherwise known as fast track, for him to negotiate World Trade Organization, regional and bilateral trade agreements.

At an ethanol plant in South Dakota Wednesday, Bush emphasized his intent to open foreign agricultural markets for U.S. goods if he can get fast track.

"I understand that the Senate is getting to take up a trade bill, for which I'm grateful," Bush said. "I look forward to getting that bill .... It's important to get it passed and to get it moving."

In the audience for the president's remarks was Senate Democratic Majority Leader Tom Daschle from South Dakota, who has said fast track remains a high priority on the busy Senate schedule but has not yet announced a time to start debate.

Democratic and Republican Senate leaders on trade issues have said they are approaching a compromise on controversial  provisions, including extension of health insurance for workers who lose jobs to imports. That dispute has been identified as the major obstacle to Senate passage of the trade package.
 

Children bananeros
concern rights group

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A U.S.-based human rights organization says children as young as 8 years old face hazardous conditions while working on banana plantations in Ecuador. 

A report by Human Rights Watch says child laborers work 12-hour days using sharp knives and hauling heavy bundles of bananas. Less than 40 percent of the children remain in school past the age of 14. The report says the child workers are exposed to toxic pesticides, drink unsanitary water, and some are sexually harassed by adult supervisors. 

The New York-based group says researchers interviewed 45 child laborers during a three-week fact-finding mission to Ecuador. The South American country is one of the world's largest exporters of bananas.  The report also says adults working on the plantations in Ecuador face losing their jobs if they fight for better working conditions. 

Human Rights Watch criticized large multi-national food companies such as Dole, Del Monte and Chiquita that buy the bananas for failing to use their financial influence to insist that suppliers respect worker rights.
 

Mexico’s lawmakers
approve FOI measure

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Mexico's lower house of congress has approved a draft bill that would create the country's first freedom of information law.  Lawmakers endorsed the measure Wednesday in a 411-0 vote. The bill is expected to easily pass the Senate in the coming days. 

One report says the proposed law would require all branches of government to provide copies of public documents within 20 days to any Mexican citizen who requests them.  Supporters hail the freedom of information bill as an important step in efforts to strengthen democracy in Mexico.

Uruguay kicks out
Cuban ambassador

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Uruguay has ordered the expulsion of Cuba's ambassador after breaking ties with the communist island over a human rights dispute. 

The Uruguayan foreign ministry made the announcement Wednesday, after declaring Cuban Ambassador Jose Alvarez "persona non grata." Uruguay has already recalled its ambassador from Cuba. 

On Tuesday, Uruguayan President Jorge Batlle said diplomatic ties would be severed because of what he called "insults" by Cuban President Fidel Castro. 

The Cuban leader accused Uruguay of being servile to the United States by sponsoring a U.N. resolution that urges Cuba to improve its human rights record. President Castro also has described President Batlle as a "Judas," referring to the biblical character that betrayed Jesus Christ. 

Batlle says the remarks were not directed against him, but against the nation of Uruguay. He says President Castro's remarks left him with no choice but to severe diplomatic ties.  Uruguayan officials, however, say commercial and cultural relations with Cuba will be maintained. 

House passes bill
on trade to Cuba

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Defying Republican leaders, the House of Representatives has voted for lifting restrictions on private financing of agricultural and medical exports to Cuba.

In a 273-143 vote late Tuesday, House members decided to accept a provision included in the Senate-passed version of a major farm bill.

Rep. Cal Dooley, a Democrat from California's agriculture-exporting Central Valley, had requested the vote on instructing House participants in the House-Senate conference to resolve differences between the two chambers' farm bills.

Under existing law no U.S. financial entity can provide credit for private U.S. sales to Cuba. Now U.S. agricultural exporters must either arrange for a foreign bank to extend credit or receive cash in advance from the Cuban importer.

"The federal government should not be in the position of denying private entities the right to finance sales of agricultural goods to Cuba," Dooley said.

If the House-Senate conferees do adopt the Cuba provision and if the farm bill is passed and signed into law by the president, the prohibition on U.S. government financing for Cuban sales would remain. 

Catholic leaders
OK abuse policy

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

VATICAN CITY —  U.S. Roman Catholic Church leaders say they have agreed on a process to make it easier to dismiss priests who sexually abuse children, but they stopped short of proposing a zero-tolerance policy. 

Two U.S. cardinals and a bishop made the comments at a Vatican news conference following two days of unprecedented meetings. 

In a statement, the U.S. church leaders say they are recommending dismissal for any priest who becomes "notorious and is guilty of the serial, predatory sexual abuse of minors."  Cases that do not rise to that standard would be referred to the local bishop, who would decide if the priest poses a future threat to children and should be removed. 

The church leaders will take their recommendations to a meeting in June of U.S. bishops, who will draw up the policy of dealing with abusive priests.

Washington Cardinal Theodore McCarrick told reporters church leaders reached a consensus with the Pope on a "one strike and you're out" policy that would dismiss any priest involved in a future sex abuse case. 

The pontiff summoned the cardinals to talk about the child sex abuse scandal that has shaken the Roman Catholic Church in the United States. In his strongest comments yet on the scandal, the pope Tuesday called sexual abuse a crime and an appalling sin in the eyes of God. 

The U.S. church leaders have also written a letter to all priests in the United States, expressing regret for failing to prevent the scandal. The church had been accused of moving errant priests from parish to parish in an attempt to cover-up the scandal.

U.S. sends advisers
to help Nepalese 

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Pentagon says about a dozen U.S. military personnel have arrived in Nepal to assess the country's military needs as it struggles to fight Maoist rebels.  The military personnel arrived Wednesday following a U.S. State Department request for Congress to approve $20 million in emergency aid for Nepal to help it combat the six-year insurgency. 

Also Wednesday, the anti-monarchy rebels torched the vacant country home of Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba in western Nepal. A nationwide strike called by the rebels enters its third day Thursday. 

The Maoists launched their rebellion in 1996, seeking to overthrow Nepal's constitutional monarchy and replace it with Communist rule. More than three thousand people have died in attacks. About one third of the deaths have occurred since last November, when rebels broke a four-month ceasefire.


 
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