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These stories were published Wednesday, May 8, 2002, in Vol. 2, No. 90
Jo Stuart
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Diplomats are gathering  for a big day here
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Today is a big day in Costa Rica. The new president, Abel Pacheco, will be inaugurated.

Pacheco promised an auster government, but then the current government gave everyone in public service the day off. So, in effect, today is a holiday in Costa Rica. 

The ceremony takes place this morning at the Teatro Melico Salazar on Avenida 2. Workmen were out last night errecting places for spectators to sit. 

Pacheco is expected to leave the theater and walk east on Avenida 2 to the Teatro Nacional.  In anticipation of his walk, workmen were out planting geraniums near the Teatro Nacional late last night.

U.S. President George Bush sent U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Ann M. Veneman to represent his country at the ceremony tomorrow. The selection of a cabinet member is significant, and the selection of an agriculture secretary is an interesting choice because Costa Rica just doubled the import duties on U.S. rice.

Ms. Veneman came to the Costa Rica Foreign Ministry Tuesday afternoon with Otto Reich, assistant secretary for hemispheric affairs, 

A.M. Costa Ricas photo
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Ann M. Veneman leaves the Costa Rican Foreign Ministry Tuesday after a courtesy call.
and John Danilovich, the U.S. ambassador here. They paid a courtesy call. 

Veneman arrived in Danilovich’s blue Cadillac Fleetwood. Other members of the U.S. delegation, according to an embassy spokesman, are H. Douglas Barclay, partner in the law firm of Hiscock & Barclay, Pulaski, N.Y; Elton Bomer, consultant and former Texas secretary of state; Mark Langdale, president of Posadas USA in Dallas, Texas; and Joseph O'Neill, managing partner of O'Neill Properties Ltd, Midland, Texas. 

Bush is from Texas, hence the Texas members of the delegation.

An embassy spokesman said that no public activities except representing the United States were planned for the delegation  Venenman, a lawyer and expert on foreign trade, is expected to lobby for George Bush’s plan for a free trade area of the Americas among key Costa Rican and foreign officials. Costa Rican agricultural products, bananas and rice, are the dominant exports to the United States.

The 9 a.m. ceremony today will take from 90 minutes to two hours. Pachco is expected to give a speech outlining his hopes for his administration. After lunch he will return to the Casa Presidential where he will have bills to sign and decrees to issue.

The U.S. delegation is in good company.  Prince Filipe de Borbón is leading the Spanich delegation. But in recognition of world politics, Veneman and the rest of the U.S. delegation were back in their vehicles and leaving the Foreign Minstry building, Casa Amarilla, in Barrio Amon before the Venezulean delegation arrived.

The United States, and particularly Otto Reich are principal suspects in the abortive coup that tried to topple Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Reich is known as a hard driving anti-Communist. He carries so much baggage from the Nicaracuan civil war that his apointment never has been confirmed by the U.S. Senate. Instead, Bush put him in the job via a vacancy apointment.

Also part of the U.S. delegation is Roger Noriega, U.S. ambassador to the Organization of American States.

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Costa Rican firemen took delivery of a new $800,000 snorkle Tuesday. The Finnish-built truck has a tower that rises 54 meters (175.5 feet) and a nozzle that can dump water on skyscraper fires.

Firemen, part of the Instituto Nacional de Seguros, brought the truck to the Barrio Amon headquarters of INS to show it off Tuesday.

A.M. Costa Rica photo
Flooding exacted toll
on Turrialba homes

By the A.M Costa Rica staff

The damage wrought by storms over the weekend appears greater and greater. Reports from Turrialba say that as many as 100 homes were destroyed by the swollen river that runs through the town.

Homes were totally washed away, as was a bridge.

One victim is an employee of the Judicial Investigating Organizations who commutes daily to San José by bus. Her employer has notified offices all over the country to seek help.

The woman, who has not reported to work yet this week, and her family lost everything, as did many neighbors when the river ripped away land in the very center of the community.

The town is about 50 kms. (30 miles) east of San José.

Death toll at 117
in Colombian clash

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

BOGOTA, Colombia — Officials say as many as 117 people were killed in recent clashes between leftist rebels and right-wing paramilitaries in northwest Choco province. 

Authorities announced the new death toll Tuesday as government troops reached the jungle villages of Bojaya and Vigia del Fuerte, isolated communities at the center of the latest fighting. The troops crossed a river to get to the villages, which are cut off from land and air transportation. 

Officials say many of the casualties occurred last week in Bojaya. A homemade mortar fired by the rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, hit a church where civilians had sought refuge from the violence. Scores of people also were wounded. 

Earlier, the rebels, known as the FARC, issued a communique acknowledging partial responsibility for the church attack. In the statement, the FARC "lamented" the civilian casualties, saying it did not want to hurt the community. The rebels, however, accused paramilitary forces of using civilians as human shields. 

Members of the paramilitary group, known as the AUC, or United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, were quoted as saying they made a sacrifice to defend the area. Colombian President Andres Pastrana has called the killings acts of terrorism and appealed for a United Nations commission to investigate the violence in Choco. 

Choco is one of the poorest and most volatile regions in Colombia. Officials say the fighting in the region is for control of strategic drug trafficking routes. Colombia is in the midst of a 38-year civil war that pits the FARC and a smaller rebel group against paramilitary forces, as well as the government. The conflict has left at least 40,000 people dead in the past decade alone.

Argentine reforms
key to more aid

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina —The International Monetary Fund says Argentina must take quick and decisive action in implementing viable economic reforms to qualify for renewed aid. 

IMF First Deputy Managing Director Anne Krueger made the comment Tuesday in Washington in a speech to a local business group. Ms. Krueger said there can be no doubt of the international community's commitment to helping Argentina out of its economic crisis. She did, however, say support must be for an economic reform program that is strong and comprehensive enough to regain the confidence of the Argentine people. 

IMF and Argentine government officials have been meeting to discuss the resumption of monetary aid to the financially-strapped country, which has been in recession the past four years and has a $141 billion public debt. 

Argentina is seeking at least $9 billion in IMF funds to help pull the economy back from the brink of financial collapse. The IMF withheld a crucial loan to Argentina in December, saying the government failed to control spending. 

Argentina's financial problems have led to widespread protests by citizens upset with their government's handling of the economy. 

Embassy devises
electronic signup

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The U.S. embassy has quietly put up an electronic registration system whereby citizens can tell the embassy that they are here in Costa Rica.

If the embassy doesn’t know someone is here, it makes contacting the person harder if there is an emergency.

"We can't require anyone to register, but it makes it a lot easier to locate and contact the many Americans who live here in case of an emergency, natural disaster, crisis, etc," said an embassy spokesman."The need for this kind of contact information became all the more apparent to us in the wake of Sept. 11, when it seemed that everyone in the world was trying to check on the whereabouts and well-being of family members."

The embassy Web site is: http://usembassy.or.cr/

In the past, U.S. citizens had to travel to the embassy in Pavas to fill out a registration form.

Alajuela takes trophy

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Alajuela took home the championship Tuersday night, beating Santos de Guápiles four goals to zero. The victory sparked street celebrations.

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