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These stories were published Friday, May 2, 2003, in Vol. 3, No. 86
Jo Stuart
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Sergio Rúiz was one of those opposing 'Yankee recolonialization' and the anti-drug Plan Colombia Thursday.

Pacheco warms up
deputies for free trade

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

In the streets Thursday marchers and protesters were against free trade, war, Plan Puebla-Panama, Plan Colombia and a wide range of other activities.

But a few hours after protestors and marchers had their say, President Abel Pacheco took pretty much the opposite position.

In a long speech, some 17,000 words, to the newly reorganized Asamblea Nacional Pacheco defended himself, outlined accomplishments of his administration and pushed several changes in the law.

Pacheco warmed up the national deputies for a proposed free trade treaty with the United States, saying that the treaty would be negotiated with and not delivered by the U.S.  He also plugged his proposal for environmental constitutional rights, which now are pending in the assembly.

He also expressed his support for a new right, the constitutional right to health, that is being promoted by members of his administration. The proposed right doesn’t mean everyone has to be healthy but it does mean that government has to make sure health services are available for the public.

The wide-ranging speech listed basically every accomplishment of the administration since last May 8 when Pacheco took office. He is obligated by the Costa Rican Constitution to give the annual report.

He said he would propose undefined laws to punish those who promote Costa Rica as a sex tourist destination.

Then he listed free trade treaties with México, Canada and the Caribbean countries as examples of the value of trade. He cited increased amounts of exportation. Then he noted to deputies that half the exports of Costa Rica go to the United States.

But Pacheco said that Costa Rica wants a treaty on its own terms. He once again rejected the idea that the country would have to privatize the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad. He noted that he had met with U.S. President George Bush and received assurances that Costa Rica is not prepared to eliminate its producers in the name of free trade.

Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart

War and peace — the eternal conflict

Steven Corgan has been kind enough to explain to me what liberals think and feel. As a former liberal, he should know. He is now, I presume, if not a neo-conservative, an advocate for "war is necessary for peace." Others who ARE conservatives but have never been liberals have also told me what I think and believe. I appreciate the help. 

Converts, I have found, are the most impassioned advocates for their new belief systems. Before he became Il Duce, Mussolini was a socialist. As a kid, I converted to Catholicism and out-Catholicked the Catholic Church. So much so that eventually, I had to excommunicate it.

I, too, have asked Ticos what they would do if their country were invaded. (In all honesty I must admit I asked only two people.) One said, "Why would anyone want to invade us? Do you suppose they want our volcanoes?" The other one said, "The only time we have ever been invaded was by the American William Walker who thought we should become a part of the United States." 

I checked on this in the book, "The Ticos." by the Biesanz family. In 1856 William Walker did invade Costa Rica, because (as it says on page 22), "Like many of his compatriots, Walker believed it was the manifest destiny of the United States to control other peoples." 

Not having much of an army at the time, Costa Ricans came together to form an impromptu army to stop Walker. April 11 is a national holiday that celebrates the heroic deed of drummer boy, Juan Santamaría, who set fire to the farmhouse that was Walker’s command center "before dying in a hail of bullets." In 1860 Walker himself died in a hail of bullets — from a Honduran firing squad. 

Mr. Corgan also says that Costa Rica’s lasting peace has been the result of its Civil War. I would argue that it is not the Civil War that brought lasting peace but the fact that after the war the country abolished the institution of a standing army. (Its constitution says that Costa Rica can raise an army any time it needs to defend itself, my friend Sandy tells me.) 

Since its own Civil War the United States has been involved in military conflicts nine times. Costa Rica, zero, even though it has been surrounded by violence in other Central American countries. I think it could also be argued that the Nicaraguans were fleeing the conflict between the Sandanistas and the Contras, not just the Marxist government. 

Today they are still fleeing that country, looking for work. Costa Rica’s record as a country that advocates peace is not perfect, but with that as a goal, it is more apt to achieve it. 

That war creates lasting peace is debatable, that war leaves lasting wounds, refugees, broken homes and bodies and epidemic diseases like cholera (not to mention destruction of irreplaceable history) is more difficult to debate. Some wars may be unavoidable. 

We will never know if attacking Iraq was avoidable. But now it is done and we must support all efforts to bring peace to both Iraq and the Middle East. And hope it will be lasting. 

Meanwhile, I am working to become a true liberal as described by Mr. Corgan. It seems a more noble stance than the alternative, even though it may be doomed. 

And there are millions of people all over the world who evidently feel like I — that the only way to achieve lasting peace is through peaceful means. 

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

More than 260 readers already have expressed their opinion on the Villalobos case via an e-mail poll published Tuesday.

You can have your chance. The information is HERE!.

We will keep the poll active until May 9 or until it appears readers have had their say.

The e-mail addresses to which readers express their opinion of the former financier Luis Enrique Villalobos Camacho have been active since about 4 a.m. Tuesday. Already they are attracting Internet junk mail and requests for funds from Nigerian scamsters.

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México tightens its borders over fears of SARS
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

MEXICO CITY, México — Authorities are taking special steps to prevent an outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, coordinating health monitoring activities on its borders and carrying out special inspections at airports and seaports. Cooperation is seen as the key to managing any problem that might occur. 

Mexico has tightened security at both its northern and southern borders, in an effort to prevent the entry of SARS. Officials are trying to examine immigrants passing through Mexico from Central America to the United States and have beefed up checkpoints at the border with Guatemala. In addition, health officials in states bordering the United States are working with counterparts on the other side of the line to share information and track possible cases. 

Tamaulipas State Secretary of Health Hector Lopez, says this cross-border communication is critical. He says this system of epidemiological vigilance allows health officials on both sides of the border to be informed and to be in position to issue an alert to the public, if necessary. 

Mexican authorities are also stepping up vigilance at ports of entry, with a special emphasis on the 26 daily flights to Mexico that originate in Asia. 

The Mexican Health Secretariat has issued a travel 

advisory for Asian countries where SARS has been detected. Tuesday, an additional 20 federal health inspectors went to the Mexico City International Airport to screen passengers arriving on flights from the Far East. Last week, 10 Chinese athletic trainers visiting Mexico were kept under observation at a remote training center as a precaution. 

The director of the epidemiology section of Mexico's Health Secretariat, Pablo Kuri Morales, says the arrival of SARS in this country is inevitable, given the realities of modern-day travel and commerce. He says reasonable measures can be taken to impede its entry, but that blocking all people or products from Asia would not be reasonable or necessary. He says the World Health Organization has made it clear that ordinary products, such as clothes, that come from Asia do not represent a threat of infection. Experts believe the disease is spread through close contact with people who are infected. 

Health officials in Mexico say one of the chief problems they face is that there is no laboratory in the country that can test for SARS. There have been a couple of dozen suspected cases of SARS reported in various parts of Mexico, but all were later diagnosed as some other illness. 

Mexico has developed an emergency response plan, just in case SARS is identified. So far, in Latin America, only Brazil has confirmed a case of SARS. 

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Rioters on Vieques
storm Navy site

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Violence has marred Thursday's scheduled withdrawal of the U.S. Navy from a controversial bombing range on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques. 

Shouting anti-Navy slogans, hundreds of protesters stormed the bombing range and burned military vehicles early Thursday. The unrest came hours after the deadline passed for the end of the Navy's presence on Vieques, a tiny island to the east of Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico's Gov. Sila Calderon was on hand for ceremonies marking the transfer of the bombing range to the U.S. Department of the Interior, which plans to convert the 6,000 hectare facility into a wildlife refuge. The governor decried the protesters' actions, accusing them of breaking the law and violating the spirit of what has been a hard-fought campaign to end the military's presence on Vieques.

The Navy first acquired the land in 1940, and from World War II to the Gulf War, used the facility to train pilots for bombing missions.

But long-simmering local anger and resentment reached a boiling point in 1999, when off-target bombs killed a civilian security guard on the range. The Navy subsequently began using inert munitions for training purposes, but insisted the facility be preserved in the interest of national security.

Two years ago, the Bush administration pledged to cease operations on the island by May of this year. The last training exercises were held in February.

Despite the Navy's withdrawal from Vieques, many Puerto Ricans say they are far from satisfied. They say a massive clean-up effort will be required to remove toxins and other materials that they contend are destroying the island's environment and pose a health threat to its residents.

May Day results
include one dead

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Police have clashed with rock-throwing May Day protesters in Germany, while a holiday rally in Venezuela has turned deadly. German authorities say they arrested nearly 100 rioters during scuffles Thursday at the site of the former Berlin Wall. Twenty nine police officers and a number of demonstrators were injured. 

In Venezuela, thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of Caracas for separate pro and anti-government marches. Gunfire disrupted the opposition rally, leaving one person dead. Fellow protesters draped the dead man's body in a Venezuelan flag. 

Other demonstrations throughout the world were largely peaceful as hundreds of thousands of people rallied in places like Moscow, Seoul and Tokyo. 

Demonstrators in Ukraine rallied against the government, while protesters in Kyrgyzstan called for the removal of U.S. troops from an airbase near Bishkek. 

About 7,000 people in Zurich protested the war in Iraq, while British police were deployed to guard against violence in Thursday's demonstrations. 

Cubans packed Havana's Revolution Plaza for a rally with President Fidel Castro and Greek and Turkish Cypriots gathered in Nicosia for their first joint May Day celebration in decades. Chinese officials, however, shortened the usual week-long festivities over fears of the deadly SARS virus.

Four anti-Chavez
officers protected

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

CARACAS, Venezuela - Four military officers accused of helping stage a coup against President Hugo Chavez have received asylum outside the country. 

The Foreign Ministry of Uruguay said Wednesday it granted protection to two officers, Otto Gebauer Morales and Carlos Blondell. The men had entered the Uruguayan embassy in Venezuela's capital Caracas earlier this week. 

The Dominican Republic also agreed Wednesday to provide asylum to brothers Alfredo and Ricardo Salazar, who requested protection last week. 

The four officers are awaiting approval from Venezuelan authorities to leave the country.  The men are the latest in a series of Chavez opponents who have been forced to leave the country after staging massive protests last year.

More taxes planned
by Lula in Brazil

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

BRASILIA, BRAZIL — President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has presented a set of major tax and pension reforms to Congress.

Da Silva appeared at a special session of Congress Wednesday, urging lawmakers to make quick progress in voting on the plans. He said the changes are key to transforming Brazil into a developed country.

The controversial proposals include raising the retirement age by as much as seven years and capping pensions for public employees. The reforms also include creating a uniform sales tax for the entire country.

Members of Da Silva's own Workers Party have already voiced strong opposition to the proposals.

Quake hits plates
off Tamarindo

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An earthquake of 4.5 magnitude hit a few miles west of Tamarindo on the northern Nicoya Peninsula about 1:33 p.m. Thursday, according to the U.S. National Earthquake Information Center.

The epicenter was at a depth of about 33 kilometers (about 20 miles) at a point where two subterranean plates meet. This is an area of continuing seismic activity.


Social Cristiana
retains control

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Mario Rodondo of the Partido Unidad Social Cristiana got an absolute majority of 29 votes Thursday to become president of the Asemblea Nacional. He takes over from fellow party member Rolando Laclé Castro.

Luis Gerardo Villanueva of the partido Liberación Nacional got the votes of 21 deputies, and Juan José Vargas of the Bloque Partiótico got seven.

Federico Malavassi of the Movimiento Libertario won re-election as vice president by defeating Gloria Valerín of Social Cristiana 28 to 27. Two deputies stayed in the hall and would not vote.

The voting shows that Unidad Social Cristian, the party of Presidenbt Abel pacheco, controls the legislature, but just barely.
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U.S. official defends new entry registration system
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Suspected terrorists, convicted felons and drug traffickers are among the 733 people arrested as a result of the U.S.  National Security Entry-Exit Registration System, implemented last Sept 11, said a U.S. Justice Department official.

Kris Kobach, counsel to the U.S. Attorney General, said that since that time more than 133,000 people from 150 countries have been registered in the system, at border crossings, airports and immigration offices throughout the United States.

Speaking at a Migration Policy Institute panel discussion in Washington last week, Kobach called the system a "massive leap forward" for immigration authorities. But others at  the briefing questioned the program's efficacy, merits and use of  "nationality-based" criteria.

Muzaffar Christi, senior policy analyst at the institute, called the system’s implementation "a disaster," criticizing what he said was a lack of outreach to explain to other countries why the United States was pursuing nationality-based registration policies.

"People have felt stigmatized and intimidated," said Christi, who characterized the program as a "godsend for Islamic fundamentalists."

"If al Qaeda could have done public relations, they could not have done better," said Christi explaining that the message the fundamentalist Islamic press has taken from the immigration system is that the United States has targeted all Muslims "as enemies."

Kobach said the system does not target Muslims, but that visitors from certain predominantly Arab and Muslim countries are subject to domestic registration because al-Qaeda has been known to operate in their homelands.

According to Kobach, the primary goals of the new system are to prevent  terrorists and known 

criminals from entering the United States, to  identify terrorists already in the country, and to "develop a capacity to enforce overstays."

The security system consists of three components: Point-of-Entry Registration, Special Registration and Exit/Departure Controls. At point of entry registration, temporary visitors entering the country who are identified as "presenting an elevated national security concern" are  fingerprinted, interviewed and photographed. With special registration, nonimmigrant visitors staying more than 30 days are required to check in with the Department of Homeland Security and  report where they are and what they're doing. By 2005, officials aim to have a comprehensive entry-exit system that applies to almost all  foreign visitors, said Kobach.

With Special Registration, also called "Domestic Call-in Registration," the Attorney General has directed nonimmigrant men 16  years of age or older who are nationals of specified countries to  register at immigration offices within a certain time period.

Calling the program a great success, Kobach said that 11 suspected terrorists have been apprehended through the system. Several of the  suspected terrorists had ties to al-Qaeda and were located through domestic registration, he said. Some 108 convicted felons also have been apprehended through domestic registration, added  Kobach.

Felonies "are substantial crimes," he said. "These individuals are not by law permitted to be in the U.S. after they have been convicted of crimes of this magnitude."

But Kareem Shora, legal advisor to the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, questioned whether the system is a legitimate step to enhance national security. He said the program  instills fear and alienates a community at a time the U.S. government should be reaching out and developing more cooperative relations with that community.

or Devil? 

Give your 
opinion about 
Luis Enrique

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Is Luis Enrique Villalobos Camacho a cad or a victim? Here is your chance to say what you think.

There are about 6,500 investment accounts in the former financier’s books. Rival investor groups are claiming the allegiance of the silent investors.

We think it is time to poll readers to see what they think. The opinion of the investors is decidedly mixed. But which opinion predominates?

You can express your opinion by sending a blank e-mail to one of the e-mail accounts we have set up. Do not include any text because no one will read the e-mails. We will just count them.

But please put in the subject line "from investor" if you invested money with Villalobos. Put "from non-investor" if you did not.

Please, one e-mail from any single e-mail account.

If you think that Luis Enrique Villalobos just took the money and ran, send your e-mail to 


If you think that Luis Enrique Villalobos is an honest man who has been put out of business by a greedy Costa Rican government, send your e-mail to


If you are uncertain but think that international arbitration would be a good way to get Costa Rica to compensate investors for their loss, send your e-mail to


If you are fed up with the whole story and do not care what happens, send your message to 


We will tabulate the e-mails at the end of two weeks and publish the results. We also will discard the e-mail messages.

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