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These stories were published Friday, May 17, 2002, in Vol. 2, No. 97
Jo Stuart
About us
Nation expects protest over car inspections
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

In private discussions, on radio shows and in the streets opposition is growing against a plan to have a Spanish-Costa Rican firm check out automobiles for safety.

The public is becoming aware that soon they must submit their cars to the high-tech, 

A.M. Costa Rica photo
Costa Ricans know that the country is blessed by God. As further evidence, as the sun set Thursday a rainbow flashed from horizon to horizon crowning, among other places, the Teatro Nacional.
80-point inspection. And some who already have studied the measure are trying to put together a protest for Monday.

Criticism of the new inspection system can be heard on popular radio stations such as Radio Colombia. In the popular Diario Extra, a columnist Friday wondered what would happen to all the clunkers that failed to pass the rigorous inspection test.

"The foreigner who checks out our clunkers has to know that we live in a poor, undeveloped country . . . " said the columnist Bernal Urbina Pinto. He suggested that drivers might park their rejected cars in front of state instuitutions.

The firm chosen to do the job is the Spanish-Costa Rican RITEVE, SyC, a combination of the firms Supervisión y Control S.A. and Transal S.A. The fact the elements of the firm are foreign seems to raise Costa Rican hackles. The firm has invested more than $22 million, it says. Inspections start May 29.

A.M. Costa Rica recieved two letters of complaint this week. One reader expressed concern that persons living in remote areas of the country would not be able to easily reach the inspection stations. 

Another writer figured that the 8,000-colon charge for inspecting each car would raise $12.6 million a year and result in more than 1,800 vehicles being inspected each day at the 16 fixed stations and mobile inspection stations.

One cab driver was seen peeling the tinted plastic from his windows because he said such customizing would not be permitted.

A few gems from the file make you fall down
I have been cleaning out my files in preparation for moving. I should have started the job months ago, but I am glad I came upon the files I did when I did. 

The day before, I spent 10 hours in the examining rooms and hallways of the emergency sections of Carlos Duran Clinic and Calderone Guardia Hospital. I took myself there when I found I was having trouble walking and breathing at the same time (I wouldnít even think of chewing gum). 

To put it mildly, not I or any of the other patients in either place were happy campers. I asked a nurse how many people passed through the emergency hospital each day and she said between 300 and 500. Finally, at 10 p.m. I was released, feeling hungry, tired and very happy to go home, but no wiser or better.

The next day I knew I wasnít going anywhere. It was a day to recoup, and so I started going through files. I sat on my bed with a pile of stuff in front of me. One of the first things I came across was a long list of advice for people hoping to lose weight. The comment I liked and remember was: "If you want to change anything, first you must change your thinking." Thatís pretty wise, I thought. 

I remember articles and comments by athletes on the importance of visualizing. I would apply that to myself. Then I came upon the treasure that lifted me out of the doldrums left by my experience the day before. It was a fax dated Friday, Feb. 22, 1991 and was signed, "Laugh! Jennifer." I have no idea who Jennifer is, but this evidently came from an Air France Bulletin in 1989, before global economy and English language schools had made their impact. They are notices written in English throughout the world. Here are some:

A Bucharest hotel lobby: "The lift is being fixed for the next day. During that time we regret that you will be unbearable."

An Austrian hotel catering to skiers: "Not to perambulate the corridors in the hours of repose in the boots of ascension."

On the menu of a Swiss restaurant: "Our wines leave you nothing to hope for."

Outside a Hong Kong Tailor shop: "Ladies may have a fit upstairs."

Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart

A Rhodes tailor shop: "Order your summers suit. Because is big rush we will execute customers in strict rotation."

Sign posted in Germanyís Black Forest: "It is strictly forbidden on our Black Forest camping site that people of different sex, for instance, men and women, live together in one tent unless they are married with each other for that purpose."

An advertisement by a Hong Kong Dentist: "Teeth extracted by the latest Methodist."

In a Rome laundry: "Ladies, leave your clothes here and spend the afternoon having a good time."

A Bangkok temple: "It is forbidden to enter a woman even a foreign if dressed as a man."

In a Tokyo bar: "Special cocktails for the ladies with nuts."

In a Copenhagen airline ticket office: "We take your bags and send them in all directions"

In an Acapulco hotel: "The manager has personally passed all the water served here."

By the time I finished these little gems I was laughing so hard tears were flowing and I nearly fell off the bed. Once, when I was watching Fawlty Towers, a British sit-com with John Cleese, I did fall off my bed laughing. 

The reason people actually fall down laughing is that laughing reduces the tension in our muscles so they canít hold us up. I donít know if anyone has ever tested them, but I bet tears contain unused adrenaline that otherwise could do harm to the body. It is true, laughter is, if not the best, very good medicine for whatever ails us. 

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Bush plans major policy address on Cuba Monday
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. ó The small island nation of Cuba is again back at the top of the news following former U.S. President Jimmy Carter's well-publicized trip there this week, which precedes what is billed as a major policy speech on Cuba by President Bush Monday.

Bush Administration officials have indicated the president will assert in his speech that the 42-year trade embargo on Cuba and restrictions on U.S. citizens traveling to that island must remain as long as Cuban President Fidel Castro continues to deny civil liberties to his countrymen. Bush is expected to say that it is important for the United States to maintain a firm stand against a repressive regime, while opening up more contacts with Cuban citizens.

A State Department official was quoted as saying that the president intends in his speech to support measures designed to "expand the flow and the breadth of information to the Cuban people." That involves revamping Radio Marti, the U.S. government station broadcasting to Cuba, and increasing distribution of radios by U.S. diplomats in Havana to the Cuban people, the official indicated.

White House press spokesman Ari Fleischer said Wednesday that the embargo is a "very important ongoing part" of U.S. policy because trade with Cuba only benefits that country's repressive government.

Fleischer said that trading with Cuba, "unlike [with] almost any other nation in the world, does not help the people" of that country. The money that Cuba has gotten from trade "has remained firmly in the hands of the repressive government," said Fleischer.

Carter, in his nationally televised speech to the Cuban people Tuesday, said he hopes for a change 

in the "destructive state of belligerence" that Cuba 
and the United States "have been trapped in for the last 42 years." 

With Castro seated directly in front of him in the audience, Carter had tough words for Cuba's denial of human and civil rights, pointing out that the Cuban regime allows only one-party rule and that Cuba's citizens are not permitted to organize any opposition movements. He added:

"Your constitution recognizes freedom of speech and association, but other laws deny these freedom to those who disagree with the government." 

At the same time, Carter said he hoped the U.S. Congress will soon act to permit unrestricted travel between the two nations, establish an open trading relationship with Cuba, and repeal the economic embargo that the United States imposed on Cuba in response to Castro's authoritarian rule.

The embargo, Carter said, "freezes the existing impasse" between the two nations, "induces anger and resentment, restricts the freedoms of U.S. citizens, and makes it difficult for us to exchange ideas and respect."

Meanwhile, a bipartisan caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives issued a nine-point plan Wednesday calling for an end to the embargo, saying it has not produced meaningful political and economic reform in Cuba.

Known as the "Cuba Working Group," the caucus is composed of 20 Democrats and 20 Republicans. The caucus also roundly criticized the Cuban government's "refusal to allow free elections or the creation of opposition political parties and its failure to respect freedom of the press or civil and political liberties."

Latin, European leaders meet amid uncertainty
By the A.M. Costa Rica wires services

MADRID, Spain ó European Union leaders will meet today and Saturday here with their counterparts from Latin America and the Caribbean. The meeting comes against a backdrop of resurgent political and economic instability in several Western Hemisphere nations. Spain is calling the summit the biggest gathering of heads of state and government ever held in the European Union. And there was a terrorist threat.

Forty-eight presidents and prime ministers, including Costa Ricaís Abel Pacheco, are expected to attend the summit, the second of its kind since European and Latin American and Caribbean leaders first met in Brazil three years ago.

In the 1990s, Latin America was seen as having a bright and prosperous future, as democracies replaced dictatorships and governments opened up their once protected economies.

But optimism has dimmed in recent months, following the virtual collapse of Argentina's economy, a failed coup in Venezuela, and the breakdown of peace talks in Colombia between the government and communist guerrillas.

Some Western Hemisphere leaders are expected to ask for more aid from the Europeans. Others will plead for the European Union to open up its markets to their exports, especially agricultural goods. But Latin American diplomats and officials at EU headquarters in Brussels acknowledge that they do not expect much more than pledges of more cooperation from the two-day gathering in the Spanish capital.

Despite the downturn in Latin America's fortunes, Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, whose country currently holds the rotating EU presidency, is determined to push for closer ties with the region.

He says Spain's political, economic, and cultural links with Latin America compel it to play the leading role in strengthening relations between Europe and the region.

The European Union plans to sign a free trade accord with Chile at the summit, two years after signing a similar agreement with Mexico. EU officials hope to negotiate a trade pact with the Mercosur bloc, comprised of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay, but negotiations are stalled over EU import restrictions on agricultural goods from the area.

The talks will also deal with political issues such as terrorism. Aznar, whose government arrested two 

alleged members of the violent Basque separatist group ETA Tuesday on suspicion that they were planning an attack on the summit, says fighting terrorism is essential to preserve democracy.

He says that, following the September terrorist attacks in the United States, the summit provides a good opportunity to show that democracies are resolved to defend themselves against terrorism.

Colombian President Andres Pastrana has complained that the European Union failed to include Colombia's Communist guerrilla group, known as FARC, on its list of terrorist organizations. Some EU governments say doing so would risk any revival of peace talks between the government and the guerrillas. But Aznar says that omission should be corrected.

He says he is in favor of including FARC on the terrorist list because it is a terrorist group.

Pastrana and Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo are also expected to ask the Europeans for more aid to fight drug trafficking.

Pacheco gets big loan
during Madrid meeting

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

MADRID, Spain ó Costa Rican President Abel Pacheco Thursday got a loan for $60 million to boost exports and to aid small and medium-size businesses.

The chief executive met with his counterpart, José María Aznar of Spain and later said that the loan, almost without interest and for a 30-year term, will help balance the national budget.

Spain also forgave $20 million in debt that Costa Rica owed on the condition that Costa Rica forgive an equal amount of what Nicaragua owes it. Both sums come from aid programs Spain has to aid Latin America.

Costa Rica also agreed to enter into discussions towards the creation of a special police school of international character that would provide training on how to handle domestic violence and crimes against the environment.

Pacheco was scheduled to deliver a keynote talk about 3 a.m. Friday Costa Rican time titled" Sustainable environment as a fundamental to development."

The meeting between Pacheco and Aznar took place in Palacio Municipal de Congresos.

Senators worry about resumption of whale hunting
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. ó Sen. Olympia Snowe and Sen. Joseph Lieberman spoke out this week against efforts to circumvent or eliminate current restrictions on whaling.

The two senators made their remarks as Sen. John Kerry, a Democrat of Massachusetts, introduced a Senate resolution, which calls on the United States to firmly oppose any increase in commercial whaling at the International Whaling Commission  meeting in Japan that opens Monday.

Snowe, a co-sponsor of the proposed resolution, said the whaling commission "will determine the fate of the world's whales through consideration of proposals to end the current global moratorium on commercial whaling."

The Maine Republican warned that adoption of "any such proposals by the IWC would mark a major setback in whale conservation." She stressed the 

need for the United States to "remain firm in its opposition to any proposals to resume commercial whaling."

The resolution would have the United States stand against a proposal to allow a non-member country, Iceland, to join the commission with a reservation that would allow it to hunt whales commercially.

"The resolution would also oppose all efforts made at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, CITES, to reopen international trade in whale meat or to downlist any whale population," Snowe added.

"It would be a grave and reckless mistake for the moratorium to be lifted now," said Sen. Lieberman of Connecticut, the Democratic candidate for vice president in the 2000 election.

Lieberman said Iceland's motivation in rejoining the IWC was to expand the voting block for ending the moratorium.

Pavas taxi driver
taken for a ride

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A Pavas taxi driver, 22, thought he had a good fare when two men got into his cab near the San José Coca Cola bus terminal and asked him to take them to Cañas, Guanacaste.

However, along the route the mood of the passengers changed, and one pulled a knife. When they arrived in Cañas, the passengers took the driverís cellular telephone and about 8,000 colons (about $22.50) then they forced him to drive around until they reached a dead-end street.

There they told the driver that they would not kill him if his family in the Central Valley deposited 200,000 colons ($565) into his bank account. 

After the taxi driver, later identified by the name of Aguilar, made the arrangements, the men took him to a bank branch with the hopes of withdrawing the money.

But the taxi driver was able to seek help from a bank teller, and the two men fled abandoning the taxi.

Woman dies in Nosara

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A 27-year-old U.S. citizen has died in Nosara, and investigators are seeking the cause of death.

An agent from the Nicoya office of the Judicial Investigating Organization identified the woman as Elizabeth Morgan Wilson. They said that she was in ill health.

The body was found in the rented home the woman occupied with some medications nearby. She was believed to be taking morphine, agents said. The results of a toxicology test are awaited.

Three die in car wreck

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Three persons died in an early morning crash of an auto with a truck on the Nicoya-Sámara road. All three were in the car, said investigators.

A father, 46, and his son, 19, identified by the surname Morales, apparently had given a ride to a man they had just met in a gas station in Sámara. That man, identified as Lopez, 51, died, too. 

Measure on stamps
goes to assembly

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Elayne Whyte, the vice minister of foreign relations, carried a proposed law to the national assembly Thursday that would cut the commissions consular officials make on their sale of tax and other official stamps.

The minister, Roberto Tovar Faja, announced earlier in the week that he would take that initiative. He said the 20 percent commission that consular officials made in selling stamps was "disproportionate." He reduced the commission to 8 percent, but the law proposed Thursday was necessary to cut the commission even further to 5 percent.

Bulk stamp sales are handled through the Central Bank.

Tovar pointed out that the Costa Rican consular officials in Managua were making $30,000 a month as a result of the greater commission. The plan is expected to net the country 2.5 billion colons or some $7 million.

Car trip interrupted
by five bullets

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A man and a woman enroute to Panama from the San José area were fired on by individuals in another car about 4 a.m. Thursday, according to investigators.

The driver, 24, identified by the surname Goméz, suffered bullet wounds to the back, foot and chest. The 20-year-old woman with him, identified by the name of Pérez was not injured.

In all the gunman in the car fired five shots in the vicinity of Rancho Volcán near Buenos Aires de Pérez Zeledón. The trip originated in San Miguel de Desamparados.

Bandits even tie up tyke

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Masked men burst into a living unit at Rancho Cartegena in Punte Golpe de Santa Cruz at midnight Thursday. They tied up three persons there, including a 5 year old, and fled with 50,000 colons (about $140) and jewels, said investigators.

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