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These stories were published Thursday, May 22, 2003, in Vol. 3, No. 100
Jo Stuart
About us
Arrests in three countries cripple major operation
Agents intercept a slow drug boat to Toronto
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Police in three countries, including Costa Rica, have made a gigantic haul of cocaine, some 1,360 kilos (nearly 3,000 pounds) that was going to be shipped to Canada.

The arrests were announced Wednesday after Royal Canadian Mounted Police made 14 raids there and arrested 17 persons. Colombian police detained four persons there.

The principal suspect, a Canadian who operated a sailboat in which the drugs were found, has been in custody here since May 12. But he was held incommunicado so that investigators in other countries could coordinate their efforts.

Jorge Rojas Vargas, director general of the Judicial Investigating Organization, made the announcement here. He also was able to display the drug haul that was hidden inside the boat. The booty was in individual plastic-wrapped, yellow packages.

The use of the sailboat, if substantiated in court, marks a new twist in smuggling drugs to North America. Colombian drug shippers have been relying on so-called fastboats, otherwise known as gasoline cans with motors. The idea is for these little boats to avoid detection because of their size and speed.

But sophisticated naval techniques, including airborne radar, have been taking their toll on fastboats. Several have been grabbed right off the Costa Rican coast.

The sailboat is slower but gives the impression it is a tourist craft, officials here said.

They identified the individual detained here as Wesley Trimble, 52, and said he had lived in Paquera on the east shore of the Nicoya Peninsula for about five months after arriving in Costa Rica illegally in the boat Sin  Rumbo, Spanish for "without course."

The 11-month investigation also included the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

Sin Rumbo as seen in surveillance photo

Trimble had been under close surveillance for months, and investigators were watching April 20 when he departed in his craft for Colombian waters in the area of the Galápagos. Rojas said that fastboats from Colombia met with the sailboat and put the drugs on board.

U.S. police boarded the boat shortly afterwards and brought the vessel and the drugs to Golfito in southwest Costa Rica where they came into the custody of Costa Rican authorities.

The boarding party found the drugs in a special compartment below the deck of the boat and in other hidden areas as well as among the canned food goods on the vessel, investigators said.  Investigators believe that members of the drug gang visited Costa Rica in November to check out the boat and its special compartments.

The final destination of the drugs were to Toronto and Montreal, said investigators.  They also said more arrests might be made. Officials here are calling the haul the largest in the nation’s history.

New Play 'Pura Vida' challenges cultural norms
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The play "Pura Vida," now running in Chicago, is becoming known to Costa Rica because the daily La Nación reported the event in great depth Wednesday. Part II, an interview with the play’s author, runs today.

An analysis on the news

The play is about the seamy side of downtown San José and also about the personal journey of the character, one Pauly Vegas, as he engages in sex tourism here.  A.M. Costa Rica carried a story Tuesday.

The La Nación story Wednesday appeared in the Viva magazine and was self-consciously detailed, even including four paragraphs about the Live Bait Theater in Chicago where the play runs until June 21.

The overkill by one of the country’s leading newspapers shows the sensitivity Costa Ricans have to the whole concept of sex tourism.

The play by Paul Peditto based on his six months in San José will "cast a reflection over the roads of our country," La Nación said. 

Reporters Doriam Díaz and Debbie Ponchner felt compelled to contact Bruce Harris of Casa Alianza. "When a country has that reputation, it takes a lot to change it to something more positive," he told the newspaper. He suggested that some unspecified action should be taken to redeem the reputation of the country and protect "the victims." Casa Alianza and Harris are known for their efforts to reduce prostitution by minors.

Plus the playwright has expropriated the country’s favorite saying, "pura vida," and linked it to sex tourism.

One facet of Costa Rican culture is the dislike Ticos have when their errors are pointed out to them. Sex tourism here is the elephant in the living room because such tourists represent a significant income to the country. But this type of tourism is universally condemned by politicians and social workers. However, they focus all their actions on pedophiles and illegal immigrants. 

Frequently prostitution by minors is deplored as a stand-in for sex tourism in general.  The easy, paid sex available at tourist bars in downtown San José is the most visible of the vast sex industry in Costa Rica. Even within walking distance of the courts complex several upscale centers of prostitution exist that hardly any foreigners ever see.

In the beach communities, closed hotels feature more sophisticated and more expensive sexual sojourns, frequently with imported European women. Several self-described swinger resorts also are on the Pacific coast.

Gay sexual tourism also is a major industry.

All that being said, one can predict that Peditto will take the heat the country is afraid to focus on the sex industry. He has exposed Costa Rica’s failing to the world. The irony is that the availability of paid sex in Costa Rica is about the same in most other countries. In Costa Rica the situation is just much more open.

And before anyone leans too heavily on Peditto and his play, it might be a good idea to actually read the script, which so far has been unavailable here.

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15 year olds told they can go their own way
Prosecutor, police just let troubled youth walk out 
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A prosecutor told youngsters going through an academic/disciplinary program in Orotina that they were old enough to leave on their own, according to a mother of one of the teens. And at least eight did.

Investigators raided the Dundee Ranch Tuesday in search of something wrong, mostly on the criminal complaint of Susan Flowers, whose daughter, Nicole, 15, was being held at the ranch. Both are U.S. citizens as are most of those at the ranch.

Ms. Flowers does not have custody, and the child was sent to the ranch by her father, who is in the United States.

Meanwhile, Casa Alianza said in a press release that it was satisfied by the search of Dundee Ranch after eight months of complaints.

The bulk of the complaints came from youngsters who were so out of control that their parents sent them to the private correctional facility or, as in the case of Mrs. Flowers, persons who were unable to maintain custody of their children in U.S. courts.

Casa Alianza downplayed the flight of the youngsters. But Ms. Flowers sent an e-mail to those who had followed the case:

"When the district attorney went there to talk with Nicole because of the petition I filed with the criminal court, he told the teens that if they were 15 through 19 in age, in Costa Rica they were free to leave Dundee. 

"Front page [of Spanish newspaper Al Dia] has pictures of the kids running the f--- out of Dundee. On the inside is one of the owners Narvin Litchfield watching $240,000 worth of teens, 8 x $30,000 per teen, walking down that despicable dirt road. They were laughing and crying, carrying their pillow cases with their belongings. Pray these pictures get sent around the world."

Ms. Flowers said that some of the children, perhaps as many as 30, ended up with the Patronato Nacional de la Infancia and others were still on their own.

"Dundee is officially closed.  The American Embassy is taking phone numbers from parents," said Ms. Flowers.

Joe Atkin, director of the ranch, said in a news story last Oct. 25 that the facility has housed around 200 youngsters in the last 14 months. He said most are there because they are rebellious, manipulative or involved in marijuana. The camp is part of a network that is based in the United States where it also is controversial. 

Casa Alianza said that on Monday officials from the Dirección de Migración y Extranjeria inspected the camp and found that 100 of the 193 children did not have appropriate migration papers. It is not known if some of these youngsters were allowed to leave the camp.

According to its Web site, the Academy at Dundee Ranch program consists of behavior modification, a series of highly motivational emotional growth seminars, a progressive academic curriculum and a structured daily schedule that includes daily personal development courses. Dundee Ranch has an extremely progressive academic program that is accredited by the Northwest Association of Schools and of Colleges and Universities, said the Web site.

Casa Alianza said it had received a series of complaints from various parents, who feared for the physical and emotional integrity of their children, who were held there. Casa Alianza's Legal Support Office in turn informed the director of the Patronato, Rosalía Gil, several weeks ago, it said.

The ranch is in La Ceiba de Cascajal de Orotina. Casa Alianza and regional director Bruce Harris helped bring a case with Ms. Flowers before the Sala IV constitutional court. They alleged that the rights of Nicole were being violated, although how was not specified Wednesday.

The Sala IV did not agree, rejected the case and remanded it to family court, Casa Alianza said.
So Ms. Flowers presumably filed her criminal complaint, probably under the direction of Casa Alianza. As a result of the criminal complaint, investigators from the Judicial Investigating Organization, a judge and the prosecutor visited the camp.

Casa Alianza noted in its release that the girl, then 14, was taken to Dundee Ranch against her will from her home in the United States.  In
letters to her mother, the girl wrote: "Please, whatever, take me out of here, please," said Casa Alianza. Casa Alianza did not say if it had contacted the father of the child who is in the United States and was the parent paying the bills. The father, as the parent with full custody, has the right to dictate where his child lives.

Ms. Flowers, a psychologist, came here months ago and worked at odd jobs in beach communities to enable her to stay near her child.

In describing what prompted his organization’s interest in Dundee Ranch, the Casa Alianza release explained; "To enclose children in tiny rooms on their knees or stomachs for hours is cruel and inhumane treatment and needs to be investigated by the authorities." The release gave no further details.

Costa Rica wants
speedier extradiction

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Abel Pacheco has asked the prime minister of Canada to help speed up the extradition of Jorge Martínez, the former public employee here who is facing up to 12 charges relating to official actions. 

Costa Rica has been trying to get the man back since September 2000, but he has claimed religious prosecution, among other defenses, and used a multitude of legal maneuvers to prevent that from happening.

Pacheco sent a note to the Canadian Embassy here, according to Marco Vinicio Vargas, the acting foreign minister. The letter was addressed to Jean Chrétien, the prime minister.

Martínez is believed to be in Ottawa.

Body at hospital
probably bandit’s

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The body that ended up in a car in the parking lot of Hosptial San Juan de Dios Tuesday night was that of a holdup man who was shot by his would-be victim.

At least that is the most reasonable explanation that agents of the Judicial Investigating Organization were able to reach.

They said that a man was parking his car at his home in Villas de Ayaco in Tres Rios Tuesday night about 8 p.m. when he was confronted by two armed men who demanded the car and threatened the man, his wife and daughter.

Agents said that as the bandits were taking the car, a relative of the victim stepped out of the house by coincidence, and the two men began shooting in the direction of the building, thinking perhaps that they were threatened.

The victim and the owner of the car then pulled a 9-mm. pistol and began firing away at the bandits who by now were riding in his the victim’s car.

Seconds later the two men were seen leaving the victim’s car and getting into a vehicle that had brought them to the area in the first place. It was this second car that showed up a half hour later in the hospital parking lot. The dead man inside has been identified as Angel Pizarro Espinoza, 24, who suffered a bullet wound in the chest.

Investigators also said they found ski masks and a pistol.

Greenspan upbeat
on U.S. economy

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Central Bank Chairman Alan Greenspan Wednesday offered a mixed but ultimately positive assessment of the U.S. economy, suggesting that growth is likely to pick up in the months ahead. Greenspan appeared before the congressional Joint Economic Committee.

Greenspan said businesses remain reluctant to invest or hire new workers. However, he said the pace of growth may be quickening as the positive effects of a fall in energy prices and the end to the Iraq war take hold. The central bank, he said, needs further economic data to fully assess future prospects.

"The economy continues to be buffeted by strong cross-currents," he said. "Recent readings on production and employment have been on the weak side. But the economic fundamentals, including improved conditions in financial markets and the continued growth in productivity, augur well for the future." 

The U.S. economy has been growing at under a 2 percent annual rate. Expectations are that growth will accelerate to a 3- to 4-percent pace in the second half of the year.

Greenspan acknowledged that there is a threat of a general decline in the price level known as deflation, a phenomenon that has kept Japan in or near recession for a decade. However, he said the threat of deflation in the United States is still minimal. 

"To recognize this not as an imminent threat to the United States, but a threat — even though minor — is sufficiently large that it does require very
close scrutiny and maybe, maybe action on the part of the bank," he said.

Greenspan said deflation is essentially caused by weak consumer demand. Despite 40-year low interest rates, he said the central bank still has the policy tools to further stimulate consumer demand.

The 77-year-old Mr. Greenspan declined to comment on the recent sharp declines in the value of the dollar, saying that was the job of Treasury Secretary John Snow.

Social running group
plans several events

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

International members of the Hash House Harriers, a running and drinking organization, are arriving in San José for a weekend of their chosen activities.

About 1,000 persons, runners and spouses, are expected.  Events also will take place at Orosi, around Playa Herradura and near Santa Ana. 

The non-competitive runners usually end each day of their annual gathering with a dinner. The event, called the Interamericas, runs through Monday and is hosted by Costa Rica’s Hash House Harriers.
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Swedish woman golf champ tackles men's tourney
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Star Swedish golfer Annika Sorenstam is scheduled to tee off in a U.S. men's Professional Golfers Association Tour event today in Fort Worth, Texas.

Ms. Sorenstam, 32, has won 43 tournaments in nearly a decade on the women's golf circuit. She was dominate last year when she won 13 times, winning close to $3 million.

Now, Ms. Sorenstam is doing something no woman has done in 58 years, playing in an official men's PGA Tour event. She received a sponsor's exemption to play here in the Colonial tournament, meaning she did not have to qualify.

Ms. Sorenstam received a number of offers to compete in men's tour events this year. She chose the Colonial because she believed it best suited her game. "This is a very tricky golf course, don't get me wrong," she said. "But it's a golf course where strength and distance is not as important as all the other tournaments that the guys play. This is more of [the type of layout] where you need good course management." 

That means the emphasis is more on placement when hitting the ball off the tee rather hitting long drives. Her landmark appearance in Texas is drawing huge interest from around the world. Nearly 600 media credentials were issued to cover this tournament, or more than three times the usual number. It's become more than just a sports story, especially in light of the controversy surrounding last month's Masters Tournament in Augusta, Georgia, which is played at a golf club that has refused to admit any women members.

It's rained much of the past couple days here in Fort Worth, so she has not had much time to practice on this course. And she knows the wet conditions will be a factor.

"The course is obviously playing much longer [the 

ball won't roll as far on tee shots]. The only good news is that the greens are softer and I can fly [aim] more at the flags," she said. "So I'll do my best. I'm going to hit a few longer clubs than I expected, but luckily I've got them in my (golf) bag so we'll see what happens."

Because of the rain, Ms. Sorenstam was able to play only 10 holes Wednesday when the professionals were paired with amateurs, in what is called the Pro-Am. David Darnell was her amateur playing partner. He described playing with her as a lifetime experience.

"We had a lot of fun. We had a good time," he said. "And Annika played extremely well, under certainly tough conditions today with it wet and raining. But she hit it strong and she was around the pin all day, and it was very impressive."

For her first two rounds here at the Colonial, Sorenstam is paired with two rookies on the PGA Tour, Americans Dean Wilson and Aaron Barber.

Wilson has had two top-ten finishes in 12 tournaments this year, while Barber has cracked the top-ten only once in 13 events. Sorenstam has been in the top-ten in all five LPGA events she has entered this season. The Swede has earnings this season of $555,000. That is more than $100,000 better than Wilson ($441,000) and more than twice as much as Barber has won ($239,000).

The two men were paired with Sorenstam by a computer which selects groups based on class of player. Wilson and Barber are both in the lowest category, and Sorenstam was placed in that class because she is not a PGA Tour member. 

Both say they are Annika Sorenstam fans and Barber thinks her skills are good enough that she can beat anybody. 

Sorenstam has said she'll consider this effort a win if she shoots par, which is 70 for 18 holes. 

Bush proposes new volunteer initiative for experts
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

NEW LONDON, Conn. — President Bush unveiled a new international service initiative known as Volunteers For Prosperity, a program to enlist and deploy highly skilled professionals such as doctors, nurses, computer specialists, engineers and educators to countries around the world to promote global prosperity.

He made the announcement in a commencement address at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy.

Under Bush's plan, volunteers will be matched through USA Freedom Corps with non-governmental organizations working through the Millennium Challenge Account, the Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, the Digital Freedom Initiative, the Water For the Poor Initiative, the Trade for Africa Development and Enterprise Initiative, and the Middle East Partnership Initiative. The initiative calls upon professionals to be deployed for a limited period of time.

The executive director of USA Freedom Corps, John Bridgeland, told reporters that there are several organizations "prepared to accept skilled volunteers, for example, to work in hospitals to help prevent and treat AIDS patients, through City Links partnership to deploy individuals from city governments to help work on clean water and sanitation projects."

"We hope, eventually, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands" will work as volunteers in the new program, Bridgeland said.

Millions of dollars in new federal funding will be awarded to non-governmental organizations to implement the president's program. The organizations will then be responsible for paying for the volunteers and using those resources as leverage to solicit additional private contributions.

Bush also restated his commitment to double the capacity of the Peace Corps from 7,000 to 15,000 volunteers over the next five years.

"We remain on track to do that," Bridgeland told reporters. He said interest in the Peace Corps is greater than ever, noting that while there have been 183,000 requests for applications by Americans who want to serve, only 7,000 slots are available at this time.

Another of Bush's international volunteer service programs, the Digital Freedom Initiative, has more than 40 computer specialists, called the Geek Corps, currently working as volunteers in Senegal. 

The program is designed to help 360,000 small businesses in Senegal grow with the introduction of information technology. The Bush administration plans to expand the initiative to 20 countries throughout Africa.

México's first lady rebuts allegations in two books
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

MEXICO CITY, Mexico — First lady Marta Sahagun de Fox, wife of President Vicente Fox, is lashing out at the authors of two books about her that include some accusations against her and her sons. She took her case Wednesday to a popular public affairs television program hosted by a clown. 

Sitting in a television studio in Mexico City across from her host, a man who calls himself Brozo and wears a red bulb nose and a green hair wig, Marta Sahagun calmly answered the charges leveled against her in the books. She denied any abuse of power and she denied any abuse of public resources by her son, who is accused in one book of having used the presidential plane to fly to Houston with friends. 

Above all, the Mexican first lady defended herself and her family from what she called unacceptable intrusions into their private lives. 

She said the private life of a public person should be left out of such publications. By private life, she said, she means anything about the intimate details of one's life that have nothing to do with affairs of state. 

Besides respecting the personal life of a public person, she said, it is also important to tell the truth and this, she said, is her principal complaint with the books about her. 

The two books about the first lady are "La Jefa," or the boss, by Argentinian writer Olga Wornat, and "Marta, el destino de una mujer enamorada," in English "Marta, the destiny of a woman in love," by Mexican journalist Rafael Loret de Mola. 

Of the two, the one that seems to have vexed Marta Sahagun the most is the one by Ms. Wornat, which paints a portrait of her as a scheming and ruthless woman who uses witchcraft potions to control her husband. The book also alleges that her three sons by a previous marriage have abused the power and privilege they have been afforded and have drug and alcohol problems. 

Marta Sahagun is a former English teacher from the central state of Michoacan who served as press secretary to Fox during his presidential campaign. The two married in a civil ceremony in July 2001, ending months of speculation about their relationship. 

Both are conservative Catholics, but both had been married previously, and the church is opposed to remarriage for those who are divorced. They attempted to have the Vatican annul their previous marriages, but were turned down. 

One reason some political commentators here believe the books have come out is that there has been frequent mention of Ms. Sahagun as a possible presidential candidate to succeed her husband in the 2006 election. The author of "La Jefa," Olga Wornat says that the first lady's political ambitions and her status as a public person make her fair game for scrutiny and that this includes both her private as well as her public life. 

So far, the controversy has had little effect on the first lady's public image. Public opinion polls show that she remains popular and her charity work and efforts to help women have earned her strong support among many grassroots social movements that could prove helpful if she does indeed have political aspirations. 

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