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These stories were published Tuesday, May 21, 2002, in Vol. 2, No. 99
Jo Stuart
About us
A.M. Costa Rica photos
Three more reasons why Costa Rica is blessed as a country and a climate
Whale ban still intact despite Japan's efforts
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
and wire service reports

The whales and dolphins had their day Monday, as a time of "visualization" and prayer was held in their behalf.

The instigator of the pro-whale and dolphin effort, Sierra Sequeira, said she was pleased with the response. She is president of the Fundacion Delfin de Costa Rica and the operator of Delfin Amor Eco Lodge in Drake Bay.

The prayers might have had some effect because delegates at the International Whaling Commission meeting in Japan refused to grant Iceland full voting status. The country favors the lifting of a ban against hunting whales.

"Many people have sent my message to their mailing lists, so hopefully, we have created a giant web of people who will pray and visualize for the dolphins and whales," said Ms. Sequeria by e-mail. She planned the meditation and prayer time to coincide with the meeting of the international body in Shimonoseki, Japan.

And she said she has had a lot of reaction from people who have distributed her Internet plea to their own friends and e-mail lists. One fan said she had made posters and distributed them in the Mount Shasta, Calif. area.

Other supporters of whales are not in the meditating mood. A Greenpeace activist in Japan dressed up as a local fisheries official and pretended to bribe third-world delegates with promises of gold if they would agree to vote for elimination of the whale hunting ban. Greenpeace publicized the alleged bribes on its Web site, www.greenpeace.org.

As expected, the International Whaling Commission began its meeting Monday with a call by host nation Japan to permit the resumption of commercial whaling, according to A.M. Costa Rica wire services. Japan's pro-whaling stance is meeting with fierce resistance from countries that oppose what they see as the slaughter of endangered animals. 

Tensions are running high in the seaside town, a former whaling center 825 kilometers (about 500 miles) southwest of Tokyo which is the site of the commission's five-day plenary meeting. 

Japan, where people have eaten whale meat for centuries, wants the commission to lift the global ban on commercial whaling during the session. However, it is unclear whether delegates will vote on commercial whaling this year because they disagree on what constitutes sustainable hunts. 

In his opening address, Tsutomu Takebe, Japan's agriculture minister, says he hopes "the meeting will encourage IWC members to treat whales similarly to other marine resources." He adds that he hopes "members can move towards a plan for what he calls sustainable use." 

Japan argues that whales are destroying the world's fish stocks. But the head of the U.S. delegation, Rolland Schmitt, said on Monday that Japan should stop spreading false claims. He said the real reason for the decline in fish stocks is over-fishing. Representatives from Britain, New Zealand, Mexico and Brazil also oppose Japan's position and want it to stop its so-called research hunts. 

Japan wants permission to expand the program, which it says it uses to study the mammals. In the process, however, the whales are killed. Japan would like to increase the number of whales killed annually in the northern Pacific to 260 whales this year, including 50 sei whales, a species which activists say is endangered. 

In a blow to the pro-whaling side, the commission voted not to restore full membership to Iceland. Admitting Iceland as a voting member would have increased the number of countries backing the resumption of commercial whaling. Iceland, once a full member, was denied voting rights when it refused to sign the 1986 commercial whaling moratorium.  Security is tight, with dozens of police and even the Coast Guard deployed in the area. 

of the
Thank you very much. Siéntese. Voy a hablar en español hoy (applause) pero no. No. (laughter.) No quiero destruir un idioma que bonita, y por eso voy a hablar en inglés. (Laughter.) Thank you for having me. God bless you all, and thanks for coming. 
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Why do Latins and Europeans like soccer, anyway?
By Bryan Kay
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Soccer frenzy is upon us with the World Cup only a couple of weeks away. Which may leave many of the American ex-pats in Costa Rica wondering what all of the fuss is about. The British and Europeans in general may remember the Costa Rican team's "surprise" 1-0 victory over Scotland in the 1990 World Cup in Italy. They might, then, understand this excitement. But that is where most Americans may lose interest. 

So maybe the question should be, why is soccer so appealing to South Americans and Europeans? (These two are specially mentioned for their domination, and I may add, special 'passion' for the sport, not to mention they were the pioneers. No inequality is being dealt to other continents' involvement in soccer, it's just that whenever you see European or South American soccer matches, they invariably end with a couple of red cards on the pitch, and a full-blown riot off it.) 

Maybe it's the euphoria of a goal since, as one of my dear American acquaintances rightly points out, they are so few and far between. But then, I could never get my head around a basketball score of 105-95. Or perhaps it's the sheer excitement of green, green grass, which is usually not abundant in warmer climates. (Though this can't be the case in northern Europe, surely.) 

I'm also well accustomed to the popular female notion that grown men running around chasing a piece of leather are not exactly something to celebrate, never mind managing to hit the middle of a gaping metal frame with a large piece of net attached. And then there's always the dirty tackles sometimes resulting in broken legs, players (accidentally) swallowing tongues, heated exchanges often conjuring up memories of a certain Mike Tyson. 

Well, after all that, I'm beginning to rethink my own take on the game. But try telling that to a 

small team of Costa Rican players currently warming up for the pinnacle of their careers in Japan. A team largely belittled, but who finished top of their final qualifying group. A team, who just maybe, will scale the heights of their ambitions: to make sure Paulo Wanchope makes it onto the scoresheet so as to please all those pessimistic Americans who think it should be easier to score in football not soccer! 

One thing's for sure, there'll be no score close to those seen in even ice hockey, never mind basketball. 

Mr. Kay is a Scottish football fan.

Still some tickets
left in South Korea

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

SEOUL, South Korea Less than two weeks before the 2002 World Cup is scheduled to get under way for the first time ever in Asia, organizers in co-host South Korea say more than 170,000 tickets remain unsold. 

South Korea which is co-hosting the World Cup finals with Japan, has been allocated 1.46 million tickets from the total of 3.2 million on sale. Japan was able to sell out its supply of tickets by the end of April. Despite the slow ticket sales, a Korean World Cup Organizing Committee official said he was confident the rest of the tickets would be sold before the opening match here May 31, when Senegal challenges defending champion France. 

The organizing committee believes ticket sales will accelerate during the World Cup finals. That view is supported by a report from Chinese state media and travel agents. It said Monday that only about one-quarter of the 100,000 fans expected to travel to South Korea to follow China's World Cup debut have purchased their tickets. 

Bush challenges Castro to allow free, fair elections
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Bush says U.S. sanctions on Cuba will stay in place until Cuban leader Fidel Castro implements wide-ranging reforms. In speeches in Washington and Miami, Bush challenged the Castro government to allow free and fair elections and liberalize the Cuban economy. 

In a part of Miami called "Little Havana," the president vowed to keep the sanctions in place until Cuba is free. Bush said, "We are here today to proclaim loudly and clearly to the entire world that the Cuban people's love of liberty cannot and will not be denied." 

The crowd roared its approval as the president called Fidel Castro a tyrant who jails or exiles anyone who challenges his rule. Speaking on Cuban Independence Day, Bush said Cuba must not only be independent, Cuba must be free. 

"One hundred years ago," he said, "Cuba declared her independence and nearly fifty years ago nearly a half-century ago Cuba's independence and the hopes for democracy were hijacked by a brutal dictator who cares only for his own power and 'nada' [not at all] for the Cuban people." 

The president moving from English to Spanish and back again in his speech said the leader of Communist Cuba must show the world that he is serious about reforms and bettering the lives of all Cubans. 

Bush called on the Castro government to hold free and fair elections, release political prisoners, permit opposition parties and independent trade unions, and adopt market reforms. "Full normalization of relations with Cuba, diplomatic recognition, open trade and a robust aid program, will only be possible when Cuba has a new government that is fully democratic, when the rule of law is respected, when the Cuban rights of all Cubans are protected," he continued. 

But the president said that while he keeps pressure on Fidel Castro, he will do all he can to help the Cuban people. He said he would facilitate shipments of aid through non-governmental organizations, and would take steps to resume mail service between Cuba and the United States. "We hurt for the people in Cuba," he said. "We long for a day when they realize the same freedoms we have here in America." 

The president's reaffirmation of his hardline anti-Castro stand followed a trip to Cuba by former U.S. president Jimmy Carter. During his visit, Carter 

called on the Bush Administration to lift the trade embargo, saying it would help the Cuban people.

White House officials insist the speeches in Washington and Miami were planned months ago, long before Jimmy Carter announced he would go to Havana. The former president's trip highlighted the trade issue, but the dispute over Cuba sanctions has been going on for some time, with moves in Congress to ease the ban on shipments of certain goods. 

While in Florida, President Bush stressed he would veto any effort in Congress to ease the four decades old trade sanctions. 

Florida played a key role in the 2000 U.S. presidential election. The Cuban-American community is very active politically and usually votes Republican. Their support could be crucial to the re-election campaign of Gov. Jeb Bush, the president's younger brother. And President Bush will need them should he run for a second term in office in 2004. 

Democrats unhappy
with U.S. embargo

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

WASHINGTON, D.C. U.S. lawmakers, mostly Democrats, are criticizing President Bush's determination to maintain the U.S. embargo on Communist-led Cuba and are vowing to change Washington's policy toward Havana. 

Sen. Chris Dodd, a Democrat of Connecticut, chairman of the subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, noted growing support in Congress for easing the four-decades-old embargo against Havana. He said his panel would open hearings next month on changing U-S policy toward Cuba.

Dodd welcomed former president Jimmy Carter's call, made during a visit to Cuba last week, to lift the U.S. embargo and allow Americans to travel freely to the island.

Dodd spoke as President Bush reiterated he would continue the embargo on Cuba until Cuban leader Fidel Castro implements tough political and economic reforms.

Dodd said Bush's determination to continue the embargo shows the president is out of step with the Congress and the people they represent.

Brazil beginning
military maneuvers

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Brazil is carrying out large-scale military maneuvers along its northern border with Colombia in the Amazon basin. The maneuvers, which began Monday, are the largest ever in the region. 

Some 4,000 Brazilian soldiers are taking part in the operation along with planes, helicopters, and river boats. 

A Defense Ministry statement says the military exercises, known as Operation "Tapuru," are the largest ever in the region and are aimed at strengthening security along the border with Colombia. 

The maneuvers, which include the Army, Air Force, and Navy, are taking place in a 252,000 square kilometer area which is sparsely populated and covered by rainforest. 

The commander of the operation, Gen. Valdesio Guilherme de Figueiredo, says the exercises will help strengthen command-and-control and communications capabilities between the three services. 

The Defense Ministry says the decision to hold these maneuvers was made in December, and are not in response to the increased conflict in neighboring Colombia between the government and leftist guerrillas. However, Brazilian officials have in the past expressed concern over possible incursions by the rebels into Brazilian territory as well as drug-trafficking activities in the region. 

 The military exercises, which began on Monday, will end next Friday.

Death of woman
was an accident

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Investigators said that an 18-year-old woman who died from a gunshot wound last April 14 was the victim of an accident.

The shooting happened in the pool area of a hotel in Jacó. Agents said at the time the woman, Karen Paniaguas Espinoza of Santa Barbara de Heredia, probably was struck down by a stray bullet.

However, Monday they said that death was due to a self-inflicted, accidental wound to the chest. Agents from the Judicial Investigating Organization said the woman was carrying a handgun in a bag. When she put her clothes and the bag on the concrete, the weapon discharged, they said.

The handgun was the property of a friend, and the woman was carrying it for him, agents said.

14 leave Guatemalan jail

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores y Culto said that 13 Costa Ricans and a Colombian refugee with residency here are out of jail after being grabbed in Guatemala City for frequenting a betting establishment.

The arrests happened Friday about midday, and the individuals were released Sunday after posting individual appearance bonds of about 50,000 colons (about $141) each, said a ministry spokesman.

The 14 persons were said to be tourists, and they told the diplomat that they were unaware that the place they were arrested was engaged in gambling.

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