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These stories were published Thursday, May 20, 2004, in Vol. 4, No. 99
Jo Stuart
About us
Pacific growth is mixed blessing in San José
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

More tourist flights into Daniel Oduber International Airport just west of Liberia are good news for the Pacific coast resorts, but San José and the surrounding area are the losers.

Workers at some downtown restaurants and hotels are complaining that their business is off up to 20 percent even in the recently completed high season.

Costa Rican officials have successfully lobbied airline companies to initiate more flights to the Liberia airport where only charters visited four years ago. Delta Air Lines, for example, now flies there six times a week.

The stop is great for tourists, too, because they do not have to overnight near Juan Santamaría Airport or in San José on the first night of their visit nor do they have to spend a night in or near the capital the day before they leave.

Yet according to those who book tourists, the

more intense use of the Liberia airport only continues a trend that was well under way.

A lot of tourists are avoiding the Central Valley overnights because they see the metropolitan area as noisy, congested and dirty.

More of the tourists who arrive in mid-evening are choosing to pay for an expensive taxi ride instead of taking a room near the airport or downtown, said one booking agent.

Despite rosy government announcements, tourist arrivals, when compared to totals before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States have not increased dramatically. So hotels and restaurants are chasing a fairly static market.

Travel industry executives also are quick to point out that air travel to Liberia generally takes place at a reasonable time of day. That is an attraction for tourists who have to arrive at Juan Santamaría Airport for a 6 a.m. check-in and an 8 a.m. departure.

Walking tour proposed to bring tourists to city
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Tourism professionals will get an advanced look at a walking tour of San José May 25. The idea is to have the professionals book tourists into San José for at least one day.

The tour stems from a host of government agencies that signed an agreement with the municipality last October. Amalia Chaverri, vice minister of Cultura, Juventud y Deporte, said the tour offered for professionals will be shorter than that possible for tourists.

Many tourism professionals will be here the last

week of the month for the Expotur trade show.

Officials want the country to have not only ecotourists and those who visit the beaches but also tourists who take a walk through San José and know the museums, said the vice minister, adding:  "We have magnificent collections of gold and jade."

Until now there was not a formal walking tour that visitors could take. The event May 25 will begin at the Mercado Central and work its way up to the Ministerio de Cultura, Juventud y Deporte, itself the historic old liquor factory. The long tour has 23 points of interest.

School  kids asked to give prints, DNA sample
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Police and school officials are embarking on a program to have solid identification for each child right down to the DNA and dental records.

The program is to be announced officially today at a school in Desamparados. The document is euphemistically being called a passport, but the estimated 522,686 school children in the country will have to provide fingerprints and medical information.

The program is supported by the Judicial Investigating Organization, the Ministerio de Educación Pública, Banco Banex and Radiofónico TBC, operator of Radio Azul.

The objective, according to an announcement, is so that parents or teachers can have a document that permits the full identification in case of emergency. Judicial authorities did not mince words: The passport has all the information necessary for identification of boys and girls in case of kidnappings, and disappearances, a release said.

The document has eight identification points, including a photo. Youngsters under 5 years should have a new photo every six months while, those 5 and over should get a new photo every year, the release said.

Some 15 to 20 pieces of hair will be sufficient for DNA testing and prints will be taken of all 10 fingers, said the announcement.

Even the child’s dentist plays a role because officials need dental records and the dentist’s telephone number.

The document also includes five steps parents should take if the child is abducted.

Officials said that the emphasis or the first step for this program will be in the primary grades.

Most disappearances in Costa Rica are of teenagers and adults. Investigators have had no trouble identifying the few younger children who are murder victims. Officials did not say what the cost will be in maintaining current records on the more than half million students.

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Caja scandal is what Costa Ricans are talking about
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Investigators executed a search order at the Corporación Fischel headquarters in San José Wednesday as part of the growing scandal of the pharmaceutical company and its relationship with the Caja Costarricense de Seguros Social.

Eliseo Vargas Garcia, the executive president of the independent Caja, resigned under fire last month when the newspaper La Nación reported that he was living in a Santa Ana home owned by a Fischel executive.

President Abel Pacheco asked the Caja board to empanel a committee of experts to evaluate Caja activities, and it did. But then the news kept getting worse.

La Nación now says it has discovered that Walter Reiche Fischel, president of the corporation, provided the money through a Panamá holding 

company so that the house could be purchased in the first place.

The Fischel executive, Olman Valverde, told reporters in April that he purchased the home with his own money.

Fischel is a major supplier to the Caja, which runs the nation’s clinics and hospitals. This is where most Costa Ricans get their medical services.

The scandal has captured the attention of the public to such an extent that the two anchors on Channel 7 news interrupted the flow of stories Wednesday night to deliver a blistering editorial demanding that Fischel answer questions about the relationship. The editorial was the first in recent memory delivered by the anchors.

Investigators earlier this week raided the supply department of the Caja and sent employees home while a search was conducted.

Big soccer showdown
has police preparing

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

In Tibás tonight Deportivo Saprissa and the Club Sport Herediano are facing off for the final of the first division of the national soccer football league.

Law enforcement is mustering 600 officers to begin at 2 p.m. to maintain control of the crowds. Football fans have been rowdy in the past two years, and this is the most important game of the year. Each team has hundreds of passionate followers. Saprissa is the favorite.

Soccer association turns 100  HERE!

The Fuerza Pública will be setting up a security cordon around the Estadio Ricardo Saprissa in San Juan de Tibás. Motor vehicles will be kept 300 meters away from the entrances.

In particular, police do not want to see any buildups of crowds outside the stadium, and they do not want cars in the way because vehicles have been targeted in the past.

The Unidad de Intervención Policial, the tactical squad, will be inside the stadium and helping other officers search fans as they enter. Police are on the lookout for alcohol, weapons, glass bottles and other objects that can be thrown onto the stadium grass during the game.

Other police will be patrolling places where fans gather afer the game, including San Pedro, Avenida Secunda and Paseo Colón in San José and other major cities in the country. 

Also involved in the security are the Policía de Tránsito, the Cruz Roja, Comisión Nacional de Emergencia, Ministerio de Salud and the bomberos, the firemen.

Newest computer virus
attacks Web brower

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Yet another Internet worm has appeared in Costa Rica, but this one is different.

The new computer infection is called W32.Wallon.A@mm, and the program is carried by e-mails. But the message and a bogus attachment do not contain the virus. Instead, the message tries to trick a recipient into acccessing a Web page where the computer’s Internet Explorer Web browser is redirected multiple times and eventually to a Web page containing the virus.

The description came from Radiográfica Costarricense S.A. Wednesday. Mario Zaragosa, a spokesman, said the worm had been detected in Costa Rica May 18. The rogue program was first detected in the United States May 12.

As usual the various Windows operating systems are the ones affected. 

The worm has the capacity to sneak into a computer and make large scale mailings, according to Symantec, a maker of anti-virus software. 

The worm also can compromise security, harvest e-mail addresses and send them to the author of the worm and degrade computer performance, the company said.

Rains not leaving
at least until tonight

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

There is no relief in sight for the heavy rains that are drenching the country — at least before tonight.

The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional said that heavy downpours hit nearly all of the country Wednesday and that the same should be expected for today.

Nearly an inch of rain fell in San José Wednesday, the sixth stormy day in a row. Heavy rains were lashing the city as this edition went to the server.

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DNA test results awaited in Naranjo murder case
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Investigators are awaiting the results from a DNA test with the hopes that the data will support their case against a man being held in the murder of a popular Nicoya Peninsula hotel owner.

Being held is Jorge Martín Gutiérrez Ordoñez, 43.

The victim, Percy Lee Wilhelm, 76, known to 
Percy L. Wilhelm
thousands of expats as Lucky, died in his living quarters near the hotel in October. A week later, Nov. 5, agents nabbed Gutiérrez at the Coca Cola market in San José. They said he was carrying a cellular telephone owned by the victim.

Investigators conducted searches of the suspect’s residences in Alajuelita, a southern San José suburb,

and in Orquetas de Sarapiquí in the northern zone as a result of the discovery. 

The prosecutor in the case, Enrique Sandoval Nuñez in Nicoya, said that in Sarapiquí agents found a shirt that has splatters of blood. Technicians are conducting tests on the specks of blood to see if they came from Wilhelm.

The hotel owner died from blows to the head.

Gutiérrez is being held for investigation of simple murder, a lesser crime than premeditated murder. He is in prison in Liberia.

Sandoval, the prosecutor, said that Gutiérrez is a suspect in several robberies in the Liberia area and worked with other criminals in the past. He has 

convictions for drugs and robbery and is known by the nickname "Coyote," among his associates.

There has been no court action in the case except for when a judge set a term of one year preventative detention that expires next Nov. 5. Sandoval said he expects to have the full DNA report by then to determine the future course of the prosecution. There  are no witnesses at this time, he said.

The murder took place on the grounds of the Hotel Oasis del Pacifico in Playa Naranjo on the east coast of the Nicoya Peninsula. The hotel is just a few hundred yards from where the ferry from Puntarenas docks. 

Wilhelm ran the hotel with his Singapore-born  wife, Aggie. Both were well known in San José.  Although the couple obtained the hotel property at least 13 years ago, they were  associated with Lucky’s Piano Bar in the Balmoral Hotel for years. The hotel is on the Pedestrian Mall at Calle 7. Friends said it was not until seven or eight years ago that the pair moved full time to the Nicoya Peninsula. Wilhelm still held the rights to the popular expat bar, but others manage the facility. The bar still is called Lucky’s Piano Bar, although there is no piano.

The 39-unit hotel in Naranjo is moderately priced and is on nearly 12 acres overlooking the water. His wife was working at the hotel when Wilhelm was killed, sources said. She found the body. The door to the home appeared to have been forced. Agents at the time speculated that Wilhelm walked in on a burglary. Appliances and other goods were reported missing at the time.

Wilhelm, originally from Boca Grande, Fla., came here in 1982. He enjoyed fishing in the Gulf of Nicoya, and his hotel has a 260-foot pier and is popular with boat owners. 

U.S. and Australia sign free trade agreement
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick and Australian Minister of Trade Mark Vaile signed the U.S.-Australia Free Trade Agreement Tuesday here in a ceremony attended by more than 500 guests, according to a trade representative press release. 

When implemented, the landmark agreement is expected to generate billions of dollars of increased trade between the two countries, with more than 99 percent of manufactured goods becoming duty-free as soon as it takes effect, the release said, adding 

that the agreement also will remove barriers to trade in several other areas. 

According to the trade representative’s office, the pact is "a 21st century, state-of-the-art agreement that reflects the modern globalized economy, opening markets and streamlining mutual access in intellectual property, services, government procurement, e-commerce and investment." It is the first trade agreement between the United States and a developed country since1988. 

The agreement now moves to the legislatures of both countries for final approval.

Massive vaccination campaign gets good reports
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — First reports indicate impressive success for a campaign begun in April to vaccinate 40 million people in the Western Hemisphere, says the Pan American Health Organization.

The health organization said that the campaign, called Vaccination Week in the Americas, was particularly successful in Haiti, where 150,000 children were immunized from diseases, 20 percent of whom had never before received a vaccine.

Preliminary results show that the overall campaign is very close to its goal of reaching the 40 million people targeted in the Americas. The campaign has focused on vaccinating children, older adults, women of childbearing age, and other people at risk of catching diseases.

The campaign, which was scheduled to end April 30, is still continuing in some countries in the Western Hemisphere in order to reach specific objectives, the health organization said. For example, in El Salvador, vaccination continues for rubella, and in Peru, the campaign was extended to vaccinate one million women of childbearing age.

The United States and Canada took part in Vaccination Week with publicity campaigns seeking to increase the number of children who get shots.

Among the areas that have been identified as especially in need of vaccinations are border regions between countries, indigenous population regions, areas with displaced or isolated populations, and tourist areas. Experts say the eventual goal of future vaccination campaigns is to achieve 95 percent vaccination coverage throughout the region.

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100 years of soccer federation celebrated in Paris
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Exactly 100 years ago, the world governing body of soccer football was created to help players from around the world compete in what is known as the beautiful game.

In 1904, travel between countries was often difficult. Language and monetary differences made extensive journeys even harder. Television did not exist. But a common link existed 100 years ago in the sport, which was thriving and growing despite the lack of instant communications and modern travel. Regional football leaders recognized the need for a global alliance to help make common rules and promote international games.

So the Federation Internationale de Football Association was born.

Current President Joseph Blatter talks about the creation of the sport's world governing body.

"The idea of the foundation of FIFA in 1904 was to install international connections, to have international matches," he says. "It was also for the transfer of players. This was the reason why seven  associations came together on May 21, 1904 in Paris."

The association has grown from its original seven member associations to its current total of 204. The first World Cup tournament was hosted and won by Uruguay in 1930. The event, held every four years to determine which nation has the best football team, has grown into the most popular single sports event in the world.

The association is celebrating with games at the Stade de France near Paris tonight, the eve of its anniversary. The participating teams will represent the three reigning champions, 2002 World Cup champion Brazil, 2003 Women's World Cup winner Germany and Euro 2000 champion France. 

The German women's team will take on an all-star team of players from the rest of the world and that match will be followed by Brazil against host France. Nearly 90,000 tickets for the event were sold out within a couple of days. The match is to be shown live in more than 100 countries in all six football confederations.

Blatter says world football has come to mean much more than just trying to kick a ball into the goal.

"It is a school of life based on individual discipline, respect to the others, teammates, the opponent, referee," he explains. "It is a fighting game with a fighting spirit. But a good spirit. And this game provokes a lot of hope. Not only to become a better footballer, but to become a better human being."

The association has been based in Zurich, Switzerland for the past 70 years. On May 14, the foundation stone was set for the organization's new home near the Zurich Zoo, which is expected to open in 2006. The building's foundation stone contains a one-point-three meter diameter steel football into which 204 Zurich schoolchildren each placed a bag containing earth from one of the 204 member associations.

Also as part of the Centennial celebrations, FIFA has produced a series of television programs and DVDs. 

Haitians march because they want Aristide back
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Riot police have used tear gas and fired warning shots to disperse thousands of people who marched to demand the return of ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Police took action Tuesday as the protest march neared the National Palace. One person was reported killed during the demonstration, which was pegged to Haiti's Flag Day.

The pro-Aristide march comes nearly three months after an armed revolt forced President Aristide to resign and flee the country.  Aristide, who is currently in Jamaica, says he was forced out of office by the United States and France — an accusation both countries have denied.

The former president is expected to travel to South Africa, which says it will provide him with a temporary home. South African officials have said Aristide's temporary stay does not include asylum.

Latin voting blocs in States show their complexities
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A new poll shows Latino voters in the United States are divided in their support for George Bush and John Kerry six months before the U.S. presidential election. 

Sergio Bendixen & Associates, a Miami-based polling firm with close ties to the Democratic Party surveyed 1,800 registered Latino voters, 600 in Florida, and 400 each in the southwestern states of Arizona, New Mexico and Nevada. 

The overall results give Kerry an edge with Latino voters in all three southwestern states. However President Bush leads in Florida which he won by 537 votes in the 2000 election. In Florida, President Bush leads Kerry 55 percent to 35 percent, similar to the results in 2000, when he received 61 percent of Florida's Hispanic vote to Vice-President Al Gore's 39 percent. 

Cuban-Americans are a majority of Florida's Hispanic population and President Bush counts them among his strongest supporters. However Scott Gardner a research analyst at Bendixen & Associates says within the Cuban-American vote, strong differences are emerging this year. 

"The Cubans born in Cuba are supporting Bush with 80 percent of the vote, and 12 percent for John Kerry," he said. "The U.S. born are supporting Mr. Kerry with 54 percent, and only 33 percent for the president." 

That points to a generational divide within the Cuban-American community says Mr. Gardner who notes that Democrats like Bill Clinton have also done well with Cuban-American voters. Based on the latest polling data, Scott Gardner says it would be a mistake to assume that any one political party enjoys overwhelming support from Cuban-American voters. 

Bush campaign officials say they are working to capture at least 40 percent of the Hispanic vote nationally in November. Kerry campaign associates say the Massachusetts senator hopes to take away at least 5 percent of the Cuban American vote from Bush in Florida, while holding traditional Democratic Latino constituencies in the state such as Puerto Ricans. 

The Bendixen and Associates poll indicates that nationally the Latino vote is far from decided with 40 percent of those polled saying they had not made up their minds yet for whom they will vote.

Jo Stuart
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