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These stories were published Monday, May 27, 2002, in Vol. 2, No. 103
Jo Stuart
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Vehicle checkup protest steps off this morning
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The demonstration against mandatory vehicle inspections is this morning, and protestors are planning to march from La Sabana Park to the Casa Presidencial in Zapote, southeast San José.

The demonstrators are seeking a meeting with President Abel Pacheco in the short run and an overhaul of the vehicle inspection law in the long run.

The demonstrators come from a broad range of Costa Rican society: Taxi drivers, operators of repair shops, employees of the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, public employees and others.

The protestors will be united under a slogan that says they prefer inspections by a Costa Rican company. That is a slap at Riteve S y C, a joint Spanish-Costa Rica company that is almost always referred to as "Spanish" by protestors and the local media. The firm has an approved contract with the government and has invested up to $22 million in its efforts here.

Organizers of the march said that similar demonstrations would be held at other points in the country. The march would be the first such event since Pacheco became president.

In an attempt to ease feelings, some of the officials of the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transporte are taking their case to the public. Several have said that the vehicle inspections will not be rigorous, a seeming contradiction to the purpose of the project.

Many Costa Ricans, including those marching today, fear that a stiff vehicle inspection will disqualify their cars for use. 

The inspection firm has come up with an 80-point check for passenger vehicles, and many Costa Ricans own vehicles that are not well maintained due to the expense involved.

There also is a basic dislike of foreigners, although Spanish usually are held in high regard. Protestors said they feared that their cars would be held to European standards.

The ministry already has said the inspections would be put off. They were due to start this week in a staggered scheduled that would see all vehicles inspected over the next six months.

Now the start date probably is sometime in July, although the precise date has not been announced. The delay was mainly because the inspection firm has not completed the 16 stations that it promised to build.

A.M. Costa Rica photo
The check is here

Chancellor Roberto Tovar accepts a check for $20,000 from Victor Brodershon of the Organization of American States to help rebuild roads and bridges on the Atlantic slope.

The money was headed for the Comisión Nacional de Emergencias to help with the diaster that left 5,200 persons homeless and countless homes either destroyed or damaged.

Also over the weekend a musical marathon in Parque Central was put on to receive money for the beleagured area. Damage was estimated at 3.6 billion colons or about $10 million.

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two teachers from the U.S. were victims of an attack early Sunday in San Rafael de Heredia, and one suffered three gunshot wounds to the stomach, according to investigators.

Agents identified the most seriously injured victim as David Bryan Sawyer, 25. He underwent surgery for the wounds at the Heredia Hospital. His companion, identified as Elizabeth Streger, 22, was beaten in the attack, agents said.

The pair were in a bar at Cruce del Paradero, in the road to Monte de la Cruz near Heredia, early Sunday. They were attacked after they left the bar, police said. Investigators were questioning at least three individuals as potential suspects, they said.

The two victims are teachers in a secondary school in Heredia, said agents.

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Colombia picks Uribe
in first-round voting

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

BOGOTA, Colombia — Tough-talking independent candidate Alvaro Uribe Vélez has won his nation's presidential election in the first round of voting, the first time this has ever happened. Analysts say this has given Uribe an unprecedented mandate to carry out his program to end the nation's 38-year civil conflict.

The man chosen by Colombian voters to lead their nation is a 49-year-old lawyer who studied at both Harvard University in the United States and Oxford in Great Britain. 

Alvaro Uribe campaigned against what he described

File photo
Alvaro Uribe Vélez
as an entrenched political class, but he has had a long career in politics, serving as mayor of Medellin, the nation's second-largest city, as well as governor of the state of Antioquia and as a federal senator. 

The bespectacled Uribe has the look of a gentle scholar, but it was his tough approach to the nation's violence and insecurity that appealed to voters.

He favors a large increase in military spending and an expansion of police forces nationwide. Uribe would also establish a citizens' network throughout the country to support the military by providing information about armed groups.

Analysts differ on whether the hardline program presented by Uribe will be effective. The two main rebel groups, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia, or FARC, and the National Liberation Army, or ELN, both count on enormous sums of money produced by narcotics trafficking, as well as other criminal activities. 

The estimated 1,700-fighters of the FARC are considered one of the most effective insurgent groups in Latin American history. Military experts also fear that the rebels, in anticipation of the build up Uribe has proposed, may step up their operations and increase terrorist attacks in the cities.

The armed groups threatened voters in many areas of the country in an effort to stop them from voting for Uribe. Voter turnout was light in many rural areas and in at least five municipalities people were unable to vote because the guerrillas had burned the ballots. 

But the turnout in the principal cities was moderate-to-heavy and Uribe was the clear choice of the metropolitan voters. 

Terrorist darkens start of traditional vacation time
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Here in the United States, this Memorial Day weekend marks the kickoff of the summer vacation season for Americans. And for many that will mean traveling in the shadow of new threats of terrorism and the memory of last Sept. 11. 

Correspondents have been sampling the attitudes of many of those who are planning to travel amid increasing government warnings about more terrorist attacks. 

Americans are on edge this weekend because of the near daily warnings of more terrorism. Just listen to some of the sobering comments during the past week from Vice President Dick Cheney and Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge.

Cheney: "The prospects of a future attack against the United States are almost certain." Ridge: "It's really not a question of if, but a question of when." 

So how safe do travelers feel? At Washington's Reagan National Airport, many are not letting these warnings stand in the way of their Memorial Day or summer travel plans.

Female traveler: "They're a little disturbing but I can't do anything about them. I can't control them. I can't control what's going to happen." 

Male traveler: "These alerts have been vague and kind of ever present so it's hard to get very nervous about them. I'm not very much worried about this sort of thing." 

Second male traveler: "If we keep having these generalized warnings, keep crying wolf so to speak, people are going to get complacent." 

In fact, a new poll finds three quarters of Americans asked say fears of terrorism are not affecting their summer travel plans even though travel agents point to a drop in bookings for travel overseas. It's definitely deterred some. 

Male traveler: "I think I'd be a little more leery about going abroad." 

Other male travel: "I almost think it's safer going out of the country than flying around above ours." 

And, this Memorial Day weekend, people on the go are also questioning the wisdom of what have been a series of government announcements alerting people to what are at best vague terrorist threats of questionable credibility when, as these travelers point out, there's not a lot the public can do in response. 

Male traveler: "I think we need to know what's going on. But I think we need also to be reasonable with general alerts. We recognize something is going to happen, inevitably something will happen. But I don't think we can let that dictate our lives." 

Female traveler: Sometimes you wonder if maybe they are needlessly scaring us. 

This, at a time when the Bush Administration has come under sharp criticism from Congress for perhaps withholding too much information and not telling the public all it knew about terrorist threats received prior to Sept. 11. 

University of Virginia political analyst Larry Sabato thinks the series of warnings made public in just the past week amount to a counterattack by a White House stung by questions from Congress about whether it acted properly on intelligence it had received before last September's attacks. "The administration has clearly learned from the intelligence failures of the summer of 2001," said Sabato. "Now that they have the same type of indications they are making certain that the public knows."

But a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found that nearly 60 percent of Americans asked say they are satisfied with steps the government took prior to last year's attacks. 

"Most Americans are simply disinclined to believe that the president had any real sense of what was going to happen and then did not act on it," said Sabato. 

As Americans head into the height of the summer travel season, security remains stepped up nationwide. In just one example of how air travel alone has changed since last September, nearly 4,000 undercover air marshals, authorized to stop would-be hijackers, are now flying on commercial airliners nationwide. Before last September's attacks, that number was less than 100. 

First coast guard class
graduated in Golfito

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The first coast guards class, some 22, in all, was graduated Friday at the Academia de Guardacostas in Golfito, according to the U.S. Embassy.

The new members of the force completed courses set up by experts here and from the United States. These included courses in navigation, law of the sea, search and rescue, communications and small-boat handling.

The embassy donated electronic equipment for the training, the embassy release said. The U.S. government has a vested interest in beefing up the Costa Rican coast guard because the maritime patrols are a key element in cutting off the shipment of illegal drugs on the ocean and Costa Rica’s maritime area of economic interest extends far out into the Pacific.

From time to time the U.S. government also had donated boats as well as funding.

Tovar off to visit
Central America

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Chancellor Roberto Tovar will be touring Central America this week, in part to discuss the proposed free trade area of Central America with other leading politicians.

Tovar was to visit Panamá today, El Salvador and Guatemala Tuesday and Honduras Wednesday. Thursday he will be in Nicaragua. A trip to Belize comes June 10, after he and President Abel Pacheco visit the United States for talks with President George Bush.

The trip also is in anticipation of Tovar assuming the presidency pro tempore of the organization of Central American states.

Security is tight
for World Cup

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Soccer fans going to Japan and Korea for the World Cup matches might face Terrorism and hooliganism, according to the U.S. State Department, and security is expected to be tight.

The Japanese police have announced a "zero-tolerance" policy to deal with hooliganism, the State Department noted.  The Korean police have made extensive preparations to deal strictly with hooligans, the department added. In both Japan and Korea, Americans should avoid demonstrations or large groups where hooligans may congregate, the State Department said in a weekend announcement.

World Cup matches will be played in both countries with the final match in Yokohama June 30

In Korea or Japan, bail is almost never available to short-term visitors, and the average time from arrest to a court decision in Japan and Korea is three months spent in custody, said the announcement, adding that  instant deportation is also a possibility.

Drug penalties also are stiff, and some U.S. citizens in Korea have been convicted on the basis of chemical tests administered after arrest, the department said.

Former SJ resident
seeks Amnesty post

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A Costa Rican-U.S. dual citizen is a candidate for the national board of directors of Amnesty International in the United States.

He is Daniel Soto, an international education specialist at the University of Indiana in Bloomington. Voting is being conducted through the mails and in person. 

Soto has lived in Bloomington since 1983. He said he was born in Barrio La Luz, San Pedro into a family where he was one of sixteen children.

He attended Colegio Calasanz and the Universidad de Costa Rica where he was graduated in 1979. He later attended the University of California, and then Indiana University.

"I had spent a good bit of my formative years trundling around Latin America with my father, to a number of Central and South American countries," Soto told Amnesty International members in a campaign statement. "As a result of these experiences I developed a keen awareness of the state of human rights in the world, and a strong desire to do whatever I could to see that those rights are protected around the globe."

He has been a member of the organization since 1989. The organization is noted for advocating human rights causes that sometimes are unpopular.

Soto is a specialist in Central America by the Leo R. Dowling International Center of Indiana University, and is employed by Amnesty International as Central American regional coordinator and country specialist for Honduras and Panamá.

Bush to observe
holiday in France

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

President Bush goes to Normandy today to visit the graves of American soldiers killed in World War II. They died in the 1944 D-Day invasion, the turning point of of the war.

About 9,000 Americans are buried there, near the site of the invasion that ultimately led to the liberation of France and the defeat of Nazi Germany.

President Bush is going there on America's Memorial Day holiday, the day set aside in the United States to honor the nation's war dead. "All Memorial Days are solemn days, particularly for those who mourn the loss of a loved one," he said. "All Memorial Days are days in which Americans ought to give thanks for freedom and the fact that somebody sacrificed for their freedom."

This year, the holiday has an extra meaning. It is the first such observance to follow the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States, and the start of the war on terrorism.

"This Memorial Day is the first Memorial Day in a long time in which younger Americans know first-hand the price that was paid for their freedom," he said.

French President Jacques Chirac will join Bush in Normandy. They will attend a special service in a small church in the first village, Sainte Mere Eglise, to be liberated on D-Day.

The French leader told reporters Bush's decision to spend Memorial Day in Normandy is a great honor for France. "This, I think, is a very strong gesture that we will not forget," he said.

After the church service, Bush will speak at the Normandy American Cemetery. He will also lay a wreath at a monument to the slain heroes of D-Day. A group of World War II veterans will serve as honor guards at the wreath-laying ceremony. 

Expedition to study
hydrothermal vests

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will further explore the Galapagos Island hydrothermal vents that harbor life forms that exist by different chemical processes than terrestrial life.

The expedition has been launched to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the first discovery of the hydrothermal vents and the life that exists around them. While earth-bound life depends on the sun through photosynthesis, the vent life communities survive through chemosynthesis, drawing energy and heat from the Earth's interior, the agency said.

"Some scientific discoveries are profound because they make pieces fall into place and solve long-standing puzzles. Others are profound because they shatter old notions and launch entirely new lines of inquiry. The discovery of the Galapagos vents in 1977 did both," said Timothy Shank of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, a partner in the expedition.

The public can follow the expedition online through two Web sites: NOAA's Ocean Explorer (http://www.oceanexplorer.noaa.gov/) and WHOI's Dive and Discover (http://www.divediscover.whoi.edu/).

Politicians to get eye
under new bank law

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. banks would have to keep a special eye on the accounts of foreign politicians to prevent corruption. 

This is one of the proposed rules that the U.S. Department of the Treasury has issued. Other rules would require U.S. financial institutions to adopt more anti-money laundering measures to do business with foreign individuals or firms.

The rule would implement sections of the Patriot Act legislation that aim to shut down terrorist financing networks, according to a Treasury news release.

The legislation passed following the Sept.11 attacks against the United Sates.

Under the proposed rule, U.S. banks would be required to verify the owner's identity and source of funds for large bank accounts not owned by U.S. citizens. Additionally, they would be obliged to conduct enhanced scrutiny of accounts maintained for foreign political figures in order to detect transactions related to corruption.

The department said that the rule would also impose basic "due diligence" standards and guidelines for firms that do business with foreign financial institutions through correspondent accounts, which allow foreign banks to use U.S. banking services. If a foreign firm is located in a high-risk location, the rule would require an extra level of due diligence designed to detect and report money laundering, the Treasury release said.

The proposed rule is scheduled to be published in the Federal Register the this week. After a 30-day period of public comment, the rule will be put into final form and take effect.

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