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(506) 223-1327        Published Tuesday, May 2, 2006, in Vol. 6, No. 86         E-mail us    
Jo Stuart
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A.M. Costa Rica/José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
Taking the oath are Yalile Esna Williams of Liberación, second assistant secretary; Guyón Massey Mora of Restauración Nacional, second secretary; Clara Zomer Resler of Liberación, first secretary; Francisco Antonio Pacheco Fernández of Liberación, president; Evita Arguedas Maklouf of Movimiento LIbertario, vice president; and José Ángel Ocampo Bolaños, first assistant secretary.
Liberación shows it has control of legislature
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Partido Liberación Nacional got its candidate elected president of the legislative assembly Monday by a two-thirds vote, thanks to a coalition with smaller parties.

The vote shows that the largest party has the capacity to generate two-thirds votes, an essential requirement to passing certain legislation, including the free trade treaty with the United States.

Pacheco says he was prudent . . . HERE!

Francisco Antonio Pacheco Fernández was the man elected to lead the Asamblea Legislativa for a year. Elected vice president was Evita Arguedas Maklouf, a deputy elected on the Movimiento Libertario slate. That Pacheco would win had been anticipated. What was new was the degree of his victory.

In order to win the assembly top slot, Liberación wove together an alliance that contained the six votes of the Libertarios, five votes of the Partido Unidad Social Cristiana and the votes of two independents, one from Unión Ciudadana and one from Restauración Nacional, whose single deputy, Guyón Massey Mora, was elected second secretary.

Frozen out of the legislative leadership was the Partido Acción Ciudadana, whose candidate for legislative president, Grettel Ortiz, was only able to muster 17 votes, all from her party.

Pacheco only needed 29 votes to win the assembly presidency. The accord worked out with the minority parties at the expense of Acción Ciudadana could be interpreted as a power play broadcasting that the legislature was in the hands of Liberación and its allies. Liberación favors the free trade treaty, but Acción Ciudadana does not.

A.M. Costa Rica/José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
Universidad de Costa Rica students at the assembly building were among the thousands protesting the free trade treaty Monday.

Oscar Arias Sánchez, the Liberación president-elect, takes office Monday, giving the party control of the executive branch.

The ratification of the free trade treaty and a new tax structure for the country probably will require 38 votes for passage because they are major changes. A legislative staff report said that only 29 votes were needed, but the previous tax plan failed to gain Sala IV constitutional court approval because outgoing lawmakers tried to work around a 38-vote requirement.

Each of the minor parties gained backing for some pet projects from the alliance, or in the case of Massey, a leadership position.

Later in the assembly session President Abel Pacheco gave his last state of the nation address. He was praised by Assembly President Pacheco for having maintained the peace and stability of the country during difficult times.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, May 2, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 86

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A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas
 Pacheco, preceded by his wife and surrounded by 
 security agents, enters the legislative chamber.

Pacheco says he was
prudent and responsible

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Abel Pacheco said lack of financial resources and the unexpected increase in the price of petroleum were burdens for his administration and that he suffered the personal cost of these reverses instead of pushing the country into a financial catastrophe.

Pacheco, who has less than a week in office, outlined his achievements and reverses in a state of the nation talk to the newly sworn -in Asamblea Legislativa Monday.

He cited the failure of the proposed tax plan as a major reason he did not have the money to do more.

His talk was titled "A responsible and prudent government."

During the four years Pacheco said he had to govern in a precarious fiscal climate and in a difficult international context.

If the price of petroleum had maintained 2002 levels, the country would have saved some $900 million during the years 2003, 2004 and 2005. With that kind of money, Pacheco said he would have been able to pay down a fourth of the external public debt.

Pacheco, of course, has been criticized strongly over the condition of the national roads and highways, too.

Pacheco warned the new lawmakers that they should not require incoming president Oscar Arias Sánchez to navigate the same waters that his government did. He urged them to approve the tax package that has been in the hopper since 2002.

The past legislature already approved the massive package once, but the Sala IV constitutional court said its procedures were faulty.

Pacheco in his 30-minute talk cited an investment of $650 million in foreign direct investment as an accomplishment. He said the money came even though the investments were not attracted by low salaries but by the high productivity of the Costa Ricans.

Pacheco noted that his government managed to obtain approval for a free trade treaty with Canada and the Caribbean nations.

He said that despite pressures from one side or the other he preserved the economic stability and with prudence he was able to maintain the social peace.

By delaying for months sending the text of the free trade treaty with the United States to the Asamblea Legislativa, Pacheco delayed until the Arias administration any street protests and strikes by those who oppose the agreement.

In an indirect reference to two previous presidents who face corruption allegations, Pacheco said no one could find a crooked five colons in his pocket.

Pacheco was accompanied by his cabinet ministers.

Surfers' missionary dies
after mishap with bike

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Alex Castro, who worked with a religious mission to surfers in Jacó, died without regaining consciousness in Hospital México Sunday.

Castro, a 29-year-old Costa Rican, was hit by a car in downtown Jacó not far from the Christian Surfers mission where he worked April 23. He was riding a bike after dark.

Castro was well-known in San José where he was  brought up. He lived in Jacó for four years, said friends.

Services are today at 3 p.m. in the Oasis de Esperanza church in Moravia.

10,000 cell lines on sale

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad will be putting 10,000 cell lines for TDMA service on sale starting today.

The company requires a lot of documentation to obtain the telephone lines, and that is explained on the telecommunication company's Web page

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, May 2, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 86


A guest editorial
A sister's grief over the loss of her twin at sea

By Lisa Herrington
Twin sister of Laura McCloud Vockery,
presumed lost at sea

I am the identical twin of an American citizen lost July 29, 2005, in your paradise.  I am greatly saddened by the communication and cooperation and lack thereof with Costa Rican officials. 

My main concern, as I am sending you this, is that many American tourists that are persuaded to come to your country, are in awe with the paradise aspect, but are not in the least thoroughly educated with the death trap and the illegal activity that is quite apparent there.

For instance, a charter boat called King Fisher I takes my sister out to the Pacific sea and it is not even authorized to be three miles off shore. (three Costa Rican locals were on this boat along with my sister's husband Mark).  She never returns to her family in the U.S.  I, as an American and a U.S. citizen, have great value for life, for this is not the case everywhere, I have learned.

Is this a safe and frequent measure taken by the locals there? to take a vessel out on this sea illegally?  I will not come to your country unless it is to make positive identification of my sister, who is my identical twin, and lost in the "paradise" there, just enjoying Costa Rica, and paying money to support your country.

I am frightened of what I hear goes on there by others that have made it back safely and alive and by what I read in your paper on a daily basis, just to have a clue if my sister is still there.  I wish your country luck and success, but I do not respect it, for it has taken part of me, my twin, who lives in me forever.

Laura McCloud Vockery and her twin, the writer of this report.

I just want someone to know of this great, great, loss in my life.  You cannot imagine the pain and grief I have struggled with, and am still today.

A photo is attached to see us together on a birthday just a couple of years ago, for we are three minutes apart at birth. She is the older twin by three minutes on the left.  We were born June 30, 1964. 

Our birthday will soon be here, as I always spent with her, but alone this year. This saddens me so, beyond comprehension.

Ms. Herrington lives in the U.S. State of Kentucky.

Maid said that U.S. citizen in Alajuelita shot himself
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Police officials still are uncertain if the death of a U.S. citizen in Aurora de Alajuelita over the weekend was a murder or a suicide.

The dead man was identified as Harvey Philip by  Adriana Diaz Acevedo, a Fuerza Pública officer in the police delegación in Aurora.

Police were called Sunday about 10:30 a.m. and when officers arrived an employee at the home, Lourdes Lobo Arias, told them that Philip, who was about 70,
 had shot himself in the patio of the house, said Officer Diaz.

The weapon involved was a .22-caliber handgun, the officer said. The case is being handled by the Judicial Investigating Organization, and an autopsy has been ordered.

A curious factor is that a young man died in the same section of Alajuelita about 4 a.m. Sunday morning. The man, identified as Francisco Javier Sánchez, 21, was found by police. He died later at a hospital from a knife wound.

You need to see Costa Rican tourism information HERE!

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, May 2, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 86

Morales nationalizes Bolivia's natural gas operations
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

LA PAZ, Bolivia — President Evo Morales has signed a decree to nationalize the country's energy industry and ordered troops to immediately occupy natural gas fields to ensure production.

Morales issued the decree in southern Bolivia Monday at the San Alberto gas field, which is operated by Brazil's state-owned Petrobras company. Morales said this was a historic day in which Bolivia retakes absolute control of its natural resources.

The president said foreign energy companies will have to sign new operating contracts within 180 days or
leave the country and turn over most production control to Bolivia's state-owned oil company, known as YPFB.

Monday's decree is expected to affect foreign companies such as Spain's Repsol, French group Total, the U.S. company ExxonMobil, British Petroleum as well as Petrobras.

Officials from Petrobras could not be reached for comment as Monday was a holiday in Brazil. In the United States, an ExxonMobil spokesman Bob Davis said the company is monitoring the situation.
Bolivia has the second-highest natural gas reserves in South America after Venezuela.

Drug trafficking and terrorism linked, U.S. expert says
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The world's terrorist organizations often rely on the proceeds from drug trafficking to achieve their goals, according to Michael Braun, chief of operations for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

Briefing reporters on the 2006 International Drug Enforcement Conference to be held next week in Montreal, Braun said that to be successful in fighting terrorism, law enforcement agencies worldwide also must fight the narcotics industry.

The U.S. State Department, he said, has identified 42 global terrorist organizations, with at least 18 of these groups involved in some aspect of drug trafficking activity to fund their operations.  That means, he said, law enforcement authorities are fighting terrorist groups that "tax a farmer who is growing poppy or cocoa or marijuana, [or] perhaps, to the other extreme, a terrorist organization that is involved in virtually every aspect of drug trafficking activity."

Braun said most global terrorist groups are driven by "ideological reasons, whether that be political, religious," or other factors.  But, to exist, these groups need to have money for their operations, "to strike out against us," said Braun, who was joined in the Washington, D.C., briefing by Raf Souccar, assistant commissioner for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

Braun said drug trafficking groups use myriad ways to finance their operations, such as smuggling aliens or being involved in weapons trafficking.
"But I firmly believe that there's nothing out there that's going to provide the kind of money that drug trafficking does, that global drug trafficking does at that kind of a scale," said Braun.

He said U.S. citizens spend an estimated $64 billion to $65 billion for illegal drugs.  Millions of dollars of that amount, if not more, he said, end up in the "war chests of terrorist organizations that are hell-bent on destroying our way of life and the way of life found in any free and democratic society on the face of the earth."

Even with these alarming statistics, Braun said the United States has achieved success in fighting its own drug problem. 

The official said the United States has between 45 percent and 50 percent fewer people "abusing drugs in our country" as there were in 1979 at the height of the U.S. drug problem.

"There is this notion out there that we're losing the war on drugs, [but] we absolutely are not losing the war on drugs," Braun asserted.

During the briefing, Braun also discussed drug traffickers who operate in such Latin American countries as Venezuela, Mexico, Colombia and in the Caribbean and Afghanistan, where 80 percent of the world's heroin is produced, Braun said.

Braun said the United States has achieved some "really phenomenal successes" in working with the Afghan counter-narcotics police to bring heroin traffickers to justice.

Jo Stuart
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