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These stories were published Thursday, May 16, 2002, in Vol. 2, No. 96
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Darwin, a vendor in the city's downtown, sports a hat made by weaving palm fibers.
 

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Prayers, 'visualization'
asked to save whales

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A friend of whales and dolphins has called for five minutes of prayer or meditation on the animals Monday at noon Costa Rican time.

The idea came from Sierra Sequeira, president of the Fundacion Delfin de Costa Rica and the operator of Delfin Amor Eco Lodge in Drake Bay.

"Please stop what you are doing for five minutes and pray for the safety of the whales and dolphins," she said in an e-mail message to whale fans.  "Visualize the dolphins and whales swimming free and safe from harpoons, tuna boats, pollution, LFS (the Navy's high-pitched frequency sounds that kills dolphins and whales).  Let's see what the power of prayer and visualization can do to stop the many threats against them now."

She hopes that the e-mail is passed on "like wildfire" on the Internet. Her choice of a day is not random. The International Whaling Commission begins its week-long meeting that day in Shimonoseki, Japan, itself a whaling port.

The United States plans to continue to oppose commercial whaling, an expansion of scientific whaling and trade in whale products during the annual meeting, according to officials there. 

In a series of May 15 fact sheets the U.S. government said that it will support, however, limited whale hunts by some native American tribes and participate in developing rules that would govern the management of whale stocks if commercial whaling is ever resumed.

Many people who oppose any hunting of whales believe that the Japanese "scientific" exemption actually is a ploy to provide meat for the table because the specimens harvested by the scientists end up in the market.

Drake Bay is a major location for whale-watchers, and the foundation is a non-profit educational organization.

"Japan and other countries are pushing to lift the moratorium on whaling, and continue to slaughter these magnificent beings, that is, those that are left," said Ms. Sequeira.

Dolphins, of course, face their own types of risks, principally from the way some fish are caught with nets that end up drowning the air-breathing mammals.

A taxing time for picking lottery premiums
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica wants to set up a lottery to reward those folks who pay their taxes. The idea would be to give each taxpayer a ticket.

That opposite to what happens in many other countries. In the United States if you do NOT pay your income taxes, you win a prize: three to five years in Club Fed.

But what could some of the prizes be in the Costa Rican tax sweepstakes? Since the rules are not drawn up, all is speculation.

Probably a steamy date with President Abel Pacheco is out. Mrs. President would object, and he’s more grandpa than hunk.

A good question is if Costa Rica will adhere to the traditions of a graduated income tax. If you make more money, you pay a higher percent of taxes. That’s a tradition around the world. But doesn’t that mean you should win a bigger prize?

But how would that play in Orotina? Juan, a sugar cane worker, wins the tax lottery and gets a 1982 Toyota with 650,000 miles on the odometer. But the local finca owner pays a lot more in taxes and wins a new four-by-four.

Well, here are some categories and suggested prizes for the first Costa Rican tax lottery:

For the Gringo who wins in the category of taxes paid on pension money shipped in from North America: One copy of "Living and Investing in the New Nicaragua" by Christopher Howard.

In the category taxes paid on parts to fix your broken car: A free approval, no questions asked, of your vehicle’s technical safety inspection.

In the category of politicians who pay taxes: a new hand-held calculator.

In the category of taxes paid on illegal income: amnesty for one year from extradition to the United States. (Actually, this prize already has been awarded several times over the past years.)

In the category, taxes paid by a company involved in tourism: a framed copy of the $70,000 advertisement that Costa Rica placed in the Travel Section of The New York Times.

In the category taxes paid by sophisticated Costa Ricans on money stashed overseas: Sorry, no entries.

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Nation will stop and watch for the World Cup
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
and A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Don’t count on getting much done during the first two weeks of June. The World Cup soccer football competition starts in Korea and Japan May 31, and Costa Rica has three games scheduled between June 4 and June 13.

The problem is that the games are at 3:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. local time. That puts the games on at 12:30 a.m. and 3 a.m. Costa Rica time. More than a few Tico and expat football fanatics will be coming to work bleary eyed and sleepy.

The United States is in the first round of the World Cup eliminations, although in a different group than Costa Rica. Both the U.S. and Costa Rican first-round games, six in all, will be played in various Korean cities. Japan and Korea have teamed up to host the games. Other teams will be playing in Japan.

For fans who do not want to stay up at all hours of the early morning, the International Football Association has scheduled clips of the games for the Internet. The Web site http://fifaworldcup.yahoo.com/ promises four minutes of action from every game as an Internet movie. But subscribers will have to pay $19.95. The games will be archived so that clips from particular games can be replayed at any time by a subscriber.

Costa Rica has a tough first-round schedule. The national team meets China, the team from the most populated country in the world June 4 at 3:30 p.m. in Gwangju, Korean.

China

After decades of frustration, China's football team is finally competing in a World Cup tournament. The Serbian man who guided them there has a wealth of experience, including with Costa Rica.

Many know him simply as Bora. In China, they call him Milu. He is Bora Milutinovic, the only man to coach four different World Cup teams into the second round. His previous successes came with Mexico, Costa Rica, Nigeria and the United States.

International football commentator Derek Rae said China should have a lot of fans for its games in South Korea. He said, "They are going to be one of the most interesting teams at the World Cup, I can tell you. And as far as supporters are concerned, they are going to have a large number traveling over to South Korea. Preparations are well under way for that, and a large media contingent as well."

Rae said top Chinese players include defenders Fan Zhiyi, who has played professionally in England and Scotland, and Sun Jijai with England's Manchester City. "This is not a team of stars," Rae continued. "This is a team that Bora Milutinovic has been able to build. He deserves tremendous credit for just getting them to this stage, and I think anything else would be a huge bonus." 

Rae said that a lot of China's World Cup preparations have been done behind closed doors. But that is Coach Milu's style, so Rae says China will be a relatively unknown quantity when it takes for the field for its first World Cup.

Turkey

Costa Rica meets Turkey June 9 at 6 p.m. local time in Incheon, Korea.

Some 48 years have passed since Turkey appeared in the World Cup football finals. This year, the Turks had to win a playoff against Austria to make the World Cup.

Turkey last played in the World Cup in 1954, but a concentrated rebuilding program has taken the Turkish squad to a respectable 24th in the world. Costa Rica is ranked 27th.

Coach Senol Gunes' team had to win a two-game playoff last year to make the World Cup, but blasted past Austria by an aggregate score of 6-0. The core of the Turkish team is drawn from its first division clubs including Istanbul powers Galatasaray, Fenerbache, and Besiktas.

Commentator Rae says that Turkey could be one of the teams that surprises opponents and fans at the World Cup.

"There's not an awful lot being said about them. But they qualified for the group with some style, and of course they have several players with top notch Champions League experience from Galatasaray's runs in recent season," he said. " But I think this is a team that should manage to get to the second stage without an awful lot of difficulty. The question is what happens to them after that."

Inter Milan striker Hakan Sukur is the most accomplished of the Turkish players, having scored six goals in Turkey's qualification run. However, Rae says that the team could encounter some mental challenges playing in the first round in South Korea:

"One of the criticisms that has been leveled against Turkish club sides [and players] is that they do not travel well, that they depend so heavily upon the hostile atmosphere inside their own stadia. And of course that will be the case at the World Cup finals." 

Turkey's mettle is sure to be tested when it opens 

the World Cup against four-time champion Brazil June 3 in Ulsan, South Korea. 

Brazil

After facing Turkey, the Brazilian powerhouse faces Costa Rica. That will be June 13 at 3:30 p.m. local time in Suwon, Korea.

Brazil is the only football team to make an appearance in each World Cup Finals. The Brazilians have made it to the championship game six times and taken home the trophy a record four times. The team may now be a little less cocky for the upcoming World Cup after finishing third in its South American qualifying group. The Brazilian team lost a surprising six qualifying games in the run up to the 2002 Finals in South Korea and Japan. But Rae says that might not matter.
 
"They did not have a very good qualifying campaign," he said. "They used more than 60 players in the course of the qualifiers, which is shockingly high. But you will remember back in '94 they lost their World Cup qualifying game for the first time against Bolivia, and at the end they won the World Cup. So, who knows?" 

How well Brazil does may depend on "the three R's": Ronaldo, Romario and Rivaldo. Ronaldo appears

to have recovered from injuries, and the 36-year-old Romario and Rivaldo each scored eight goals in qualifying. But Rae says there are questions about Rivaldo.

"Thought of by so many people as one of the best players in the world, but he has his share of critics," he said. "The suspicion is that very often the head goes down when things go against Brazil." In the end, Rae says it could all come down to the draw.

"I do not necessarily mean the group they are in," he said. "I think that should be straight forward for them. But after that, there is a real chance they could run into France or Argentina ahead of the semifinal stage, and that can not be good for them." 

But first Brazil must get the job done in first round play in South Korea against Group-C opponents Turkey, China and Costa Rica. 

The United States team is ranked 13th. France, the current champion, is ranked first. Korea is 41st and China is 51st, based on past play and points accumulated.

The United States team faces Portugal June 5 at 6 p.m. local time in Suwon. On June 10 it takes on Korea at 3:30 p.m. local time in Daegu, Korea. On June 20, the team plays Poland at 8:30 p.m. local time in Daejeon, Korea.

No one considers
support excessive

By Angie Mena
special to A.M. Costa Rica

"Costa Rica I hold you in my soul, and each day I love you more." This is the song that thousands of Costa Ricans join in when the National Team takes the playing field.

Children, men and women of all ages are united in one single goal, and they live second-to-second the emotional moments that cause the adrenaline to flood into each body, bringing forth the energy in strange and diverse forms. Painting the face or using clothes and hats dyed with the national colors of white, blue and red turn the whole country into a sports event, a national party that can be experienced with the same high intensity all over.

A bar, a restaurant, the movies or around the Fountain of Hispanidad, the traditional post-game gathering place in San Pedro, are transformed in perfect places for the Costa Ricans to join their voices and celebrate a grand triumph of the national team or "Sele."

Now Costa Ricans hope that the Sele is going to play an aggressive role in the Korean-Japan World Cup competition, although this is not the first time that the team participated in the world event. But now both fans and the team believe more in their capacity to win and in their fighting spirit.

For this reason no one considers excessive the showing of support the Costa Ricans give to their players to create a national mood appropriate to make real the dream they all want to happen.

Miss Mena is a Costa Rican student of journalism


 
Quebec summit focuses on value of 'ecotourism' 
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U. N. Environment Program is co-sponsoring a world summit on ecotourism Sunday through Thursday in Quebec City, Canada, that organizers say is expected to draw participants from nearly 100 nations.

With the U.N. having proclaimed 2002 the "International Year of Ecotourism," summit organizers say the event will emphasize the importance of ecotourism— that is, tourism that encourages respect for the environment — as a sector that can promote economic development, especially in remote areas where there is not much other commerce. Ecotourism is considered a powerful tool for conservation of the natural environment when it is properly planned, developed, and managed.

The summit, which is also being sponsored by the Madrid, Spain-based World Tourism Organization and the Canadian Tourism Commission, caps a series of more than 15 preparatory conferences and seminars in many different countries. Conclusions and recommendations from the summit are to be collated into the "Quebec City Declaration on Ecotourism" and presented at the Aug. 26-Sept. 4 World Summit on Sustainable Development Summit in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Sponsors say the Quebec City event is expected to attract government officials, non-governmental organizations involved in ecotourism and environmental affairs, academics, and officials from inter-governmental organizations and development agencies.

Summit objectives include a review on the experiences and lessons learned on the participation of local communities and indigenous people in ecotourism projects and businesses; exchanging information on good practice techniques and lessons learned in the sustainable planning, development, management, and marketing of ecotourism; and strengthening the capacity of governments, the private sector, and non-governmental organizations to effectively use ecotourism as a tool for sustainable development and the conservation of natural and cultural resources.

The World Tourism Organization is an inter-governmental body entrusted by the United Nations to promote and develop tourism.

"Ecotourism should not be regarded as a passing fad or a gimmick, or even as a secondary market niche, but rather as one of the trump cards of this industry of the future, i.e. tourism. 

"And for a simple reason: it is crucial to the problem of developing a balanced, sustainable and responsible tourism sector," the organization said in a release.

The organization said the tourism industry, in general, is making a comeback following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks against the United States. The organization also indicated that the tourist industry is expected to return to pre-Sept. 11 levels by the third or fourth quarter of 2002. 

International tourist arrivals in 2001 slumped by 1.3 percent to 688 million, the only significant decrease since World War II, the organization  said.


 
Sex exploitation
targeted by seminar

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

More than 40 Costa Rican judges, investigators and others in police-type work got advanced training this week in combating sexual exploitation of children, sex tourism and other crimes against youngsters.

Trainers were six members of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation. The seminar ends today.

The basic theme of the seminar was to defend the rights of children, according to an announcement by the U.S. Embassy. The session offered the tools law enforement personnel need to investigate these crimes: techniques for interviewing children who have been victimized, how sexual exploitation can be carried out via the Internet legal aspects of the crimes and typologies of the various types of offenders involved in these crimes.

The seminar was put on as a joint project with the U.S. governemnt, the Ministerio Público here and the Escuela Judicial de Costa Rica.

Specifically listed as subjects for discusssion were sex crimes, exploitation of minors, child prostitution and kidnapping of children by parents.

Dutch right gains
in national voting

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Voting has ended in the Netherlands, where the Dutch have dumped their center-left coalition and moved to the right. A big winner in Wednesday's elections is the party of slain far-right politician Pim Fortuyn. Almost 80 percent of eligible Dutch voters went to the polls.

Outgoing Prime Minister Wim Kok called the day's results an "incredible blow," a "painful personal and political defeat." 

His once leading labor party suffered its worst loss since World War I. Things went well in the Netherlands, said the popular prime minister, who oversaw eight years of economic prosperity. But clearly not well enough. 

That led the party's leader, Ad Melkert, to announce his resignation. A cold wind is blowing through Europe he said, noting that this is not the finest hour for social democrats. But Melkert says the party must keep working for justice and equal opportunity and against the dividing forces in society, a veiled reference to the party of slain right-wing candidate Pim Fortuyn.

His tough-on-crime, anti-immigrant, the Pim Fortuyn List (LPF) party, came in second with 26 seats in the election behind the Christian Democrats (CDA) which gained 43 seats so far. At a post-election party in an upscale hotel in The Hague, Fortuyn supporters savored a bittersweet victory. Indeed his shooting death just over a week ago weighed heavily on this election. 

Yard sale for embassy workers
Employees of the U.S. Embassy in Pavas will be having a yard sale Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the parking lot across the street from the embassy building. 

Reaction to Carter
mixed in Havana

by the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

HAVANA, Cuba — Reaction is mixed here to the speech delivered to the nation Tuesday by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter. Political dissidents are applauding the speech, the government media is ignoring most of its content and many ordinary Cubans are simply hopeful that it will bring about a change.

The official newspaper, Granma, gave front page coverage to the Carter speech, but reported nothing of his comments about democracy and human  rights in Cuba. Nor did the newspaper mention statements made by students and faculty at the University of Havana, where the speech was  delivered, that challenged some of what the former president had to say.

In his speech, Carter called for a democratic  opening in Cuba and gave special attention to the Varela Project, a petition delivered to the National Assembly last week asking for a referendum on free elections, freedom of expression and an amnesty for political prisoners.

The main organizer of the petition drive, which  gathered more than 11,000 signatures, Oswaldo  Paya, said that Carter's speech helped spread the word about the effort here in Cuba.

He says it is sad that a former U.S. president has to come and speak in order for the Cuban people to know about a legal project done by Cubans. He says this highlights the lack of freedom that exists in Cuba, where the government controls all communications media. Mr. Paya says the Carter speech has given many Cubans the hope that things might change and the knowledge that there may be a road to change created by Cubans right here.

But speaking to people on the streets of Havana, reporters found a more cautious response. Some who listened to the speech are only willing to say it was good, but glancing around to see who might be listening, they decline to say more. Many people say they did not listen to the speech since it was not well-publicized in advance. Some students from the  university tell VOA they heard about the speech, but were not able to attend. Still, one student says he hopes Mr. Carter's visit will help improve relations between Cuba and the United States.

He says Cubans are grateful to Carter for actions he took when he was president that made it easier for Cuban exiles to travel to their homeland.  He says he hopes there can be more such improvements. In his speech Tuesday, Carter called on the U.S. Congress to drop travel restrictions for American citizens who want to visit Cuba. He also called for an end to the 40-year U.S. economic embargo, a position applauded by both government supporters and most dissidents here. 

It appears unlikely that there will be any change in policy here after.  Carter leaves on Friday. The government of President Fidel Castro has shown no inclination to change and has attacked the Varela Project as a plot financed by the United States. 

Castro has also defended his nation's human rights record, saying that human rights cannot exist without social justice. The Cuban leader says there is more social justice here in Cuba than there is in many of the countries that have condemned his government for violating human rights. 


 
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