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(506) 223-1327        San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, May 30, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 106        E-mail us    
Jo Stuart
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Inside job likely in arsenal thefts, official says
By Saray Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Officials suspect the systematic looting of the Arsenal Nacional was an inside job. The arsenal contains the weapons used by national police agencies.

At the same time they are upset by the separate theft over the weekend of M-16 infantry rifles. The report of the missing rifles came from the Fuerza Pública in Guácimo in the Provincia de Limón.

The arsenal in Coronado, officially operated by the Dirección General de Armamentos y Arsenal of the ministry, has been under investigation for some time. The action today was that Fernando Berrocal Soto, the new minister of Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública signed a formal complaint to be sent to the Ministerio Público, the nation's prosecutors.

Berrocal and others invoked the term "state secret" to avoid disclosing specifics about what had been taken from the arsenal. In addition to weapons for use by police, the arsenal also is where confiscated weapons end up. Last December students destroyed  3,614 weapons in a public display at the Plaza de la Cultura.

Berrocal said that he believed that the missing weapons had been diverted to  international trafficking because the nature of the weapons make them unlikely to be used inside Costa Rica. Colombian rebels and criminal gangs are the principal buyers of illegal weapons in this hemisphere.

Because there have been no signs of forced entry, Berrocal said that he suspected that a gun-theft ring would have accomplices inside the arsenal.

Only two weeks ago Berrocal said he was ordering an audit of the weapons at the arsenal. He speculated that this might take six months. Berrocal also received a list of weapons that were believed to have been stolen when he took office.

The minister said that a meeting was held Friday and that the missing weapons were of such high risk and high economic value that he considered it necessary to move the case immediately to prosecutors. Explosives may have been taken, too.

Berrocal said he had received communications on the topic from William Hidalgo Echeverría, the current director general of Armamento, and Juan de Dios Araya Navarro, the auditor assigned to check the weapons.

The previous minister, Rogelio Ramos, beganan investigation more than a year ago. 

A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas
Fernando Berrocal signs his message to the prosecutor's office with the aid advisers.

He acknowledged that there were problems at the arsenal. Also in January 2005 the daily newspaper Diario Extra published a photo of an arsenal worker hanging by his feet. This was an example of torture, the newspaper said.

A day later the individual in the photo said that he was hung up for training purposes. Others said the photo was a joke. Ramos suspended Eric Karolicki, the director of the arsenal, and an investigation was launched. No result has been reported.

Albino Vargas Barrantes, the secretary general of the Asociación Nacional de Empleados Públicos y Privados, said at the time that arsenal workers have been mistreated and cheated out of overtime pay. He said about 40 persons worked there. He called the Dirección  General de Armamentos y Arsenal an independent agency that reports to no one.

Berrocal said that the last full inventory of the arsenal was done in 1998 when Miguel Ángel Rodríguez took over the presidency from José María Figueres Olsen. Consequently the thefts may have gone on for as long as eight years.

Although officials are not talking, the arsenal is believed to contain a number of M-16 military rifles, rocket launchers, rockets and anti-tank weapons. Because the country has no military, the Fuerza Pública would be on the front line against any foreign invasion.

The weapons theft in Guácimo was coincidental. Some 15 M-16 rifles were reported missing Monday morning. Some handguns and amunition were taken also.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, May 30, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 106

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Free trade supporters
hold strategy session

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Ministers of the government met Monday in a strategy session over the free trade treaty with the United States.

They were responding to a comment from an outspoken union leader who said the future of the treaty will be decided on the streets and not in the Asamblea Legislativa, according to a statement from Casa Presidencial.

In addition to the ministers deeply involved in the treaty, at the meeting were Fernando Berrocal Soto, minister of Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública, and Francisco Morales, the minister of Trabajo. Also attending were legislative leaders for Liberación Nacional, the government party.

Marco Vinicio Ruíz, minister of Comercio Exterior, said the works and security ministers were there to safeguard the rights of all citizens.

Rodrigo Arias Sánchez, the minister of the Presidencia, said that the words from union leader Albino Vargas were very grave and that there could be a movement to destabilize the nation.

Vargas is the secretary general of the Asociación Nacional de Empleados Públicos y Privados. He was among those union leaders who led blockades that closed off major roads in August 2004. Some of that protest was over the free trade treaty, but some was over pay raises awarded by the government, the mandatory revisión tecnica and the rising price of fuel.

Former president Abel Pacheco was so concerned with possible social unrest that he delayed sending the treaty to the assembly for more than a year. The assembly must ratify the document for it to take effect.

Forecast says breeze
prevents rain clouds

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The weather bureau reports that the relatively dry days will last through Wednesday, thanks to sometimes strong winds that are preventing the formation of the convection currents that generate rain.

But after Wednesday, the forecast is for warm breezes and humidity from the Pacific that will generate downpours and thunderstorms in the Central Valley and the Caribbean coast.

The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional said that the rain would be of variable intensity in the northern zone and on the Caribbean slope.

In weather stations around the valley, little or no rain has been recorded for more than 24 hours despite threatening skies.

Liberia's station recorded a scant 2.4 mms. Monday. That's less than one-tenth of an inch.

Terrorists are inside
Canada, spy chief says

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

An official with Canada's spy agency has said that potential terrorists already reside inside the country, and that some have been schooled in al-Qaida training camps.

Jack Hooper, the deputy director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, spoke Monday in Ottawa to a legislative committee studying Canada's involvement in Afghanistan.

Hooper told the lawmakers Canada faces a threat from home-grown terrorists. He said that all the circumstances which produced the London transit bombing are present now in Canada.

Hooper said that many of the home-grown terrorists are Canadian citizens.

He also cautioned that his agency has been able to investigate only 10 percent of the immigrants who have come to Canada during the past five years from Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Multiple sweeps target
Alajuela and Guanacaste

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fuerza Pública officers and members of the juvenile division conducted sweeps in Guanacaste and in Alajuela over the weekend.

Some 15 illegal foreigners were encountered, five bars were closed for investigation of selling alcohol to minors and 23 persons were held on drug charges.

Officers were assisted by agents of Migración, the Policía de Tránsito and municipal officers.

The sweep included Playa Tamarindo, a beach town that is awash in drugs. In Bagaces and Tilarán, officers conducted a checkpoint where they encountered 14 drivers who were in violation.

It was in Alajuela where the five bars were closed. They were in Alajuela Central.
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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, May 30, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 106

Three blind musicians earn their living by playing the guitar in downtown San José. They call themselves the Grupo Los Antaños. They are Jorge Luis Herrera Mora, Miguel Gómez Alavado and Mario Moya Quesada.

A.M. Costa Rica/Julio César Garcia Martínez.

Ministry cracking down on buses without ramps
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

For 10 years the disabled in Costa Rica have had the benefit of Law 7600 which is supposed to provide equal opportunity in work, education and public transportation.

But only about 12 percent of the public buses have ramps that would allow a person in a wheelchair to enter and exit.

The Consejo de Transporte Público and the Policia de Tránsito will begin inspections next month to make sure that each bus has the appropriate equipment. If not, bus operators will have three months to install devices or the bus will be taken out of service, according to Viviana Martín, vice minister of Obras Públicas y Transporter.

The statement by the ministry came after a meeting of some 250 disabled citizens at the Asamblea Legislativa Monday morning.  Access to buses was one of the topics that came up.

The period of time for bus operators to comply with the law expires this month.
There are other adjustments bus operators must make, including bells that sound and light. Floors of buses have to be non-skid, and special seats must be provided for the elderly, pregnant women and the disabled.

The vice minister touched on three problems in her statement to the press:

• The chassis of some buses might not be able to handle a wheelchair lift;

• Since each lift costs about $8,000, transportation fares are likely to go up 300 percent;

• There is a good chance that at the end of three months so many buses will be out of service because they lack ramps that a transportation crisis might ensue.

At the assembly meeting disabled citizens and supporters estimated that 10 percent of the population fit into that category.

They also talked about lack of educational opportunities, employment and housing.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, May 30, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 106

Supermale songbirds attractive but have a downside
By the North Dakota State University
News Service

Dating and mating are unique for many species, but for dark-eyed junco songbirds, researchers at North Dakota State Unviersity found something new.

The study, titled “Physiological Effects on Demography: A Long-Term Experimental Study of Testosterone’s Effect on Fitness,” was published in the May issue of The American Naturalist. It found that male birds with extra testosterone were more attractive to females and produced more, but smaller, offspring. Wendy Reed, assistant professor of biology, was the lead author.

The research team monitored more than 400 junco nests in the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia for
nine breeding seasons. One group of dark-eyed juncos in the study received tubes of testosterone implanted under the skin, and the control group of birds
 received implants that were left empty. Implants were removed from birds recaptured at the end of each breeding season.

According to the study, the testosterone-laden birds proved irresistible to older, more experienced female juncos, but that attractiveness carried some risks. The smaller offspring had lower survival rates than larger offspring, and elevated testosterone levels increased activity, possibly attracting more predators. It also made the male, dark-eyed juncos more susceptible to disease and shortened their lifespan. “They had lower immune function and paid a cost with lower survival rates,” Reed said.

Although the extra testosterone also made the male birds sing more sweetly and fly farther, it also made the dark-eyed male juncos less attentive parents to their offspring as they made fewer nest visits, resulting in less food delivered and less time spent at the nest.

Pacific plays by its own climate rules, new study finds
By the University of Chicago Press News Service

Close examination of coral reefs reveals that when the rest of the world was experiencing warm weather, the Pacific was cold. And during a period of cold weather elsewhere in the world, the Pacific was warm and stormy.

For more than five decades, archaeologists, geographers, and other researchers studying the Pacific Islands have used a model of late Holocene climate change based largely on other regions of the world. However, in a new study from the June issue of Current Anthropology, Melinda Allen of the University of Auckland, New Zealand uses evidence from the long-lived Pacific corals to suggest that the climate in the Pacific diverged from the rest of the world during two major climate periods: the "Little Ice Age" and the "Medieval Warm Period."

"These findings have relevance for both ancient and modern Pacific peoples," explains Ms. Allen. "Climate
change, accelerated sea rise, and deterioration of coral reefs, along with their associated social and environmental costs, are among the most pressing concerns of Pacific Island nations today."

The new climate models suggest that while the rest of the world was experiencing certain weather patterns, the Pacific island region and the people who lived there were experiencing something else entirely. During the "Medieval Warm Period" from about 900 to 1200 A.D., conditions in the tropical Pacific were cool and possibly dry. Similarly, during the "Little Ice Age" from 1550 to 1900, the central Pacific was comparatively warm and wet, with stormy conditions more common.

As Ms. Allen writes: "The ancient coral studies, in tandem with archaeology, offer an opportunity for investigating the impact of climate change on Pacific environment and Pacific peoples' responses to these changes — conditions which their successors are again facing in the 21st century."

Venezuela enters into technical and refining agreement with Ecuador
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez travels to Quito today to sign petroleum agreements with Ecuador's president, Alfredo Palacio.

Ecuadorian officials said Monday Venezuela will provide technical advice to state-run oil company Petroecuador. Venezuela has also offered to refine Ecuadorian crude oil at a discount price. The value of Venezuela's assistance could be as much as $300 million per year.
Meanwhile, Venezuela's oil minister has said market principles call for oil producing countries to cut the amount of oil they put on the market.

Rafael Ramirez spoke in advance of Thursday's conference in Caracas of the Organization of Oil Producing Countries.

Venezuela has been a proponent of cutting output to increase prices, but other OPEC countries, such as Iran and the United Arab Emirates, have said production cuts are unlikely.

Jo Stuart
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