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These stories were published Wednesday, June 2, 2004, in Vol. 4, No. 108
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It's not exactly a dream job, but he's got it
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The employment ad could read something like this:
 

Fight corruption, poverty, disease all over the Western Hemisphere. Special emphasis required on human rights and stopping terrorism, money laundering and arms shipments. Must be able to deal with all kinds of gigantic egos and endure long, boring meetings. Please apply to the Organization of American States.

The bogus ad is a pretty good summary of the job that Miguel Angel Rodríguez wants to take on. He received the backing Tuesday of the two holdouts in Central America, Nicaragua and El Salvador. 

The presidents of the six Central American states signed an agreement Tuesday in San Salvador in which they asked that Rodríguez, a former Costa Rican president, be named to the job of secretary general by acclamation. The voting will take place next week in Quito, Ecuador.

In true Costa Rican fashion, Rodríguez embarked on an effort to win the job by consensus of the 34 hemispheric states that are members of the organization.

El Salvador had its own candidate, outgoing President Francisco Flores. He dropped out, but the country still withheld its backing until Tuesday.

The announcement was made by the newly inaugurated Salvadorian president, Elías Antonio Sacas.

The position at the Organization of American States typically goes to a former president of one of the member states. The current secretary general is César Gaviria, a former president of Colombia who was elected in 1994 and re-elected in 1999.

The Organization of American States right now is deeply involved in providing aid for Haiti and the Dominican Republic which were ravaged by floods. The organization became a key player against terrorism after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States. And as the main forum for hemispheric matters, nearly every situation, bad or good, ends up there.


 
New arrests highlight work of special sex exploitation unit
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A Cartago high school teacher and a guard at the same school plus two other persons are the latest individuals jailed after an investigation by members of a special 20-person squad that specializes in sex crimes against minors.

The arrests were made Thursday and involved sexual abuse of a minor that took place since she was 8 years old. She now is 17, officials said.

The arrests and subsequent official announcement gave further details on the Unidad Contra la Explotación Sexual de Niños, Niñas y Adolescentes operated by the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública.

The announcement also said that a cybercrimes unit was being created. These agents will detect abuses and traps for the sexual exploitation of youngsters, according to Ana Helena Chacón Echeverría, a vice minister.

The government of the United States is contributing $250,000 toward this effort, according to the ministry announcement. The money will be used to purchase the tools necessary for this type of work.

Although President Abel Pacheco and others in the administration frequently characterize sexual exploitation of youngsters as the result of sex tourists, a recent television report said that nearly 500 calls about sexual abuse of minors came in to the 911 service in the last two years. 

Last May 23 in Pacheco’s weekly talk to the nation, a narrator said that 61 sexual exploiters had been investigated, processed and brought to trial since July 2002. The narrator also said that 179 police operations had rescued 294 minor victims of commercial sexual exploitation from the streets.

However, the announcement from the security ministry said that 37 persons had been sentenced for abuse of minors and 60 suspects are being investigated in cases that have been generated in the last three years. These may not include all cases but just the cases being handled by this special unit.

The bulk of the suspects in these cases are not North American tourists.

Rosalía Gil, director of the child welfare agency Patronato Nacional de la Infancia, later said that the rescued children were not street kids but youngsters put under protection after allegations of abuse.

For the special sex crimes unit, the most sensational case came to light in 2001 when a group of pedophiles were found to be using University of Costa Rica video equipment to make child pornography. Agents detained five of this group July 8, 2001, at a party in San Pedro de Montes de Oca. All are Costa Rican.

The men would provide boys with drugs and pay them for sex acts, which were then videotaped. The tapes were distributed internationally. The presumed leader of this group, identified by the last names of Marín Rojas, just lost an appeal of his 30-year sentence in the Sala III, the high criminal court.

Vice Minister Chacón said that the special sex exploitation unit is made up of 20 persons, both men and women, who have special training and work undercover.

Some 1,100 line police officers also have been trained in handling reports of such crimes from citizens, she said.

The men who were arrested Thursday in Cartago were identified by the last names of Ulloa Martínez, Chacón Solano, Siles Linares and Murillo. They are in prison for three months while the investigation continues.

 
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VP from Taiwan visits
officials here today

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Taiwanese vice president, Annette Hsiu-Lu, will have an afternoon meeting with President Abel Pacheco today.

The vice president is visiting several countries in Central America and attracted criticism from the Peoples Republic of China when the United States let her pass through that country. She also met with U.S. congressmen.

China considers Taiwan a breakaway province, and George Bush, the U.S. president, felt he had to restate the country’s one-China policy favoring the Communist mainland.

When Pacheco and the visiting vice president meet, talk is certain to turn to a slush fund maintained by the foreign ministry that allocated money from Taiwan to salary supplements for employees. The disclosure was one of the latest political scandals.

The Pacheco presidential campaign had its own slush fund, some $500,000 from Taiwan, and the exact source of that money has not been made public.

Taiwan is a major investor in Costa Rica, and Costa Rica is a major supporter of the Asian country in international forums.

The vice president also will make a formal visit to the Asamblea Nacional in advance of the Pacheco chat.
 

Nicaraguan official
will visit La Carpio

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Of the 12 alleged organizers detained by police during a riot in the La Carpio slum Monday, five are Costa Rican and seven are Nicaraguan.

Nevertheless, Norman Caldera, the Nicaraguan foreign minister, will be visiting the area west of San José in a detour from a trip he is making to Peru. That will be this afternoon. He met with Costa Rican foreign minister Roberto Tovar to discuss the situation Tuesday. Both were in San Salvador for the inauguration of a new president there.

Police detained 27 persons during the rock throwing punctuated by gunfire Monday night. Of these, the 12 held as organizers have been ordered jailed for a month for investigation.

The perception has been that residents in the area are mostly Nicaraguan. About 4,656 families totaling 22,000 live in La Carpio, which is an area lacking in many community services.

Police had to eliminate yet another traffic blockade Tuesday. But they did so without incident. Residents are blocking the road to protest a nearby garbage dump and lack of municipal support.

Officials said that 22 policemen suffered injuries in the Monday confrontations. Six suffered gunshot wounds. Officials were insistent that no Fuerza Pública officer discharged his or her weapon during the riot.

The injured police were members of the Unidad de Intervención Policial, the tactical squad.
 

Ad campaign targets
parental child abuse

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Costa Rican government will conduct an advertising campaign to try to reduce the use of physical punishment of children.

Rosalía Gil, minister of Niñez, said the idea is to change public attitudes. She presented the radio and television promotional campaign at the weekly Consejo de Gobierno press conference Tuesday.

Minster Gil said that a University of Costa Rica survey shows that 27 percent of children are physically abused by their mothers and some 29 percent by their fathers.

The Hospital Nacional de Niños celebrates its 40th anniversary this year, and last year some 365 cases of physical abuse of children were treated there.

Child welfare officials generally consider any form of physical punishment to be abuse.

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Zamora may return
to Costa Rica today

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Ronny Zamora, Costa Rica’s more famous murderer, is out of jail in Florida and probably will return here today.

Zamora, 15 years old when he killed an 83-year-old neighbor for her television set, was spending the night in a U.S. immigration transit facility after being released from prison, said the Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores y Culto here.

Costa Rica and President Abel Pacheco have taken a strong interest in the man who has been in jail since 1977.
 
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Saturday Smarty Jones goes for the triple crown
Unlikely hero horse has them cheering in Philly
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

BENSALEM, Pa. — In the world of U.S. horseracing, there's no greater prize than the Triple Crown bestowed on horses that win the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes races in one season. 

There hasn't been a Triple Crown winner since 1978. But now, there's an unlikely contender for the throne: Smarty Jones. Next Saturday, the colt heads to the third and final race. Though a thoroughbred, Smarty Jones comes from more pedestrian stock, and that's made him an icon in his native Philadelphia area.

Four tractors clear the dirt track for Smarty Jones' private training session at Philadelphia Park. He used to train with the track's other thoroughbreds but, since winning the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, no one would think of letting him run next to another horse that could trip him up. 

Lots of things have changed at the modest park in the past few weeks. Security's tighter, the rows of cinderblock stables and dorms are cleaner, and fans turn out in record numbers to watch Smarty Jones stretch his legs.

"Everybody's kinda excited about the whole deal, says Smarty Jones' jockey Stuart Elliot. "I think its bringing more people to the races and probably some people that weren't into horse racing before. Maybe now they are. He's like the super star for the area."

Elliot and the horse make a pair of unexpected stars. Elliot has seen his share of hard times. He's a recovering alcoholic who's been arrested for assault more than once, including after he allegedly put a man into a coma during a bar brawl. 

Elliot's mount, Smarty Jones, has also pulled himself up by the horse-shoes. Smarty is the offspring of two sturdy but none too spectacular horses: I'll Get Along and Elusive Quality. The idea to mate the two came from horse trainer Bob Camac.

Don Clifford, who worked for Camac, says "he always had this uncanny ability to see a [promising] filly. And he liked to use cheaper stallions that were unknown, newer stallions that were just coming on the scene. I'll tell you, him and his wife Maryanne had something together that was unbelievable and uncanny. They just had the ability to find these special type of breeding circumstances that seemed to always do well for him."

Unfortunately, the Camacs didn't live to see the success of their work. They were murdered in 2001 by Maryanne's son after Bob caught him stealing checks from horse owners. But the Camacs left an incredible legacy in Smarty Jones. And now many people are reaping the benefits. 

Back at Philadelphia Park, those behind the scenes are excited by the success of this young horse. Everyone who works at the park stands to gain a great deal if Smarty Jones wins the Triple Crown. His fame is likely to attract more money to the park, and that could mean big raises for groomers like Tia Jones, who currently makes $250 a week plus a room in one of the track's concrete bungalows. 

"Always the backstretch workers are sort of ignored. Everybody knows Smarty Jones' jockey's name and his exercise rider. But no one knows the poor guy who actually rubs this horse and takes care of him from day to day. So remember us because we do the work," he says.

The excitement is spreading well beyond the racing community though, catching the attention of people who never even considered watching a horse race: guys like Travis Small, who previously looked on horse racing as an alternative sport. "That's, like, a non-contact sport. I like the physical sports, you know, basketball, football, you know, the regular major sports," he says.

Small is a busboy at Nick's Roast Beef, a sports bar in Philadelphia. His attitude about horse racing changed when Smarty Jones won the Kentucky Derby May 1. "It was crazy. It was crazy because Smarty was coming around. He was, like, in third and in the home stretch he just pulled it out," he says. "He was just, like, representing Philly. It was a lot of spirit with him, you know. Everybody was riding with him, you know, so I had to root for the home team."

Travis Small's not alone. He says the entire bar was cheering that day and the manager okeyed a round of free drinks. Two weeks later, when Smarty won the Preakness by 12 lengths, the usually half-empty bar was packed with cheering fans.

Philadelphia's City Council has even passed a resolution honoring the horse and calling for him to parade down Broad Street. It reads: "Smarty Jones exemplifies a typical Philadelphian with his passion and hard work." The only glitch is Smarty Jones isn't actually from Philadelphia. Philadelphia Park is here in the nearby town of Bensalem, Pa. 


 
Troops from other lands begin to take role in Haiti
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — United Nations peacekeepers Tuesday took a step toward assuming command of the multinational force in Haiti that is now led by the United States. By the end of this month, U.N. peacekeepers will be completely responsible for handling security in Haiti, a country wracked by political violence and natural disasters. 

Haiti's national police band played the country's national anthem as about 100 U.N. peacekeepers from Brazil, Chile, Nepal and Rwanda symbolically replaced their national headgear with blue U.N. berets at a ceremony held at the Port-au-Prince police training academy.

The transition to a full U.N. peacekeeping force is expected to take about one month. U.S. and French troops, who make up the bulk of the multi-national force now in Haiti, are not expected to hand over operational command until the end of June, when sufficient numbers of U.N. forces are expected to be in Haiti to provide security. 

The troops will be under the command of a Brazilian general. One of their primary missions will be to disarm armed gangs and rebels who threaten security in the impoverished Caribbean nation. 

Haiti's interim prime minister, Gerard Latortue, says he hopes both military and civil authorities in the U.N. understand what is at stake in Haiti. "What we need here is a U.N. mission that does not limit itself to maintaining the peace," he said. "They will have to get involved in the development process also. I asked the secretary general to make sure the U.N. mission will have two heads, one for police and the other for development. I hope I will get it."

The U.N. says it will provide Haiti with 6,700 troops and 1,200 police. So far Brazil, Argentina and Chile say they will provide their full quota of troops but others like Nepal and Rwanda say they might have difficulty without financial help. U.N. officials say 

only a fraction of the $35 million dollars set aside for the six-month mission has been received. Haitian authorities say the mission should also be extended through presidential elections scheduled for next year.

The U.S.-led multinational force entered Haiti following the departure of ex-President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in late February. At the time, Haiti was engulfed in a wave of violence as armed gangs who supported Aristide terrorized the capital and armed rebels who helped to force Aristide's departure occupied large parts of the country.

Since then the 3,600 member force, made up largely of U.S. and French troops, has restored security in most of Haiti. The troops have also rebuilt schools, clinics and performed other infrastructure work.

However, U.S. Marine Lt. Col. Dave Lapan, a spokesman for the multi-national force, said that he believes the force will largely be remembered for the work it has done over the past week, delivering 125 tons of food and supplies to victims of flash floods that are believed to have killed more than 1,700 people in Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

"Some of the projects that we have talked about, the schools, all great stuff, but how many people really found out about them," he added. "You know the people that got the immediate gratification may know about it, but something as large as the floods has drawn wider attention to what we are doing. So I think it has helped the Haitian people see that the multi-national force has been a force for good here."

Lapan said that most of the immediate relief work to help victims of the floods has now been completed and when the handover to U.N. authorities is complete only about a dozen U.S. troops will remain in Haiti as a small liaison force with the U.N. The rest of the nearly 2,000 U.S. Marines in Haiti, he says, will head to Iraq. 


 
México's energy minister quits after tiff with president
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

MEXICO CITY, México — Energy Minister Felipe Calderón has resigned. Calderón quit Monday, one day after President Vicente Fox criticized him over his presidential ambitions. 

Calderón was scolded by President Fox for attending an event organized by supporters of a presidential bid by him in 2006.  Calderón, who has not openly declared his candidacy, described Fox's criticism as 

unjust. Fox has been quoted as saying Calderón was out of line. 

The energy minister said the president's opinion prevents him from continuing in a job that requires support, authority and a capacity for dialogue. 

The president's office, however, issued a statement Monday, saying Fox accepted Mr. Calderón's resignation and wished him well.  Calderón is a member of the president's National Action Party.


 
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Rapid reponse team tries to ease tourism's impact
By the University of Cincinnati 
News Service

On the tiny Greek island of Santorini, a vividly painted village perches precariously at the very lip of a sheer, straight-shot drop of 1,000 feet to the sea below. While to the cruise ships below the village seems carefree, defiantly heedless of all notions of gravity, the cliff clinging Oia (pronounced "ee-a") is actually grappling with an avalanche of troubles caused by its postcard perfect location and winning beauty. 

That's where an experienced tourism rapid response team from the University of Cincinnati comes in. The team, led by Michael Romanos, professor of planning at the university’s College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning, has visited municipalities in Crete for four years now, providing on-the-spot aid to underprepared and overwhelmed locales unexpectedly caught in tourism’s rising tide.

Five or 10 years ago, places like Santorini, an island 110 miles north of Crete, were backwaters. Now, they’re tourist boomtowns struggling to cope with the environmental, economic and cultural backlash caused by a deluge of tourists. Just between 1990 and 2000, tourism in Crete jumped by about 50 percent, such that the industry  now accounts for about 30 percent of jobs in the region. More than a quarter of Greece’s 10 million annual tourists head for Crete, and tourism now supports about 90 percent of the regional economy in parts of Crete that once relied heavily on agriculture. 

 The problems are intensified on Santorini. According to Romanos, "You have an island about eight miles long, with 12,000 year-round residents, that receives a huge number of tourists, up to three million of them a year. The carrying capacity of the island is just too small for so many. The beaches and pedestrian streets of the small towns and villages just cannot contain them, and everybody wants space and leaves waste — from cruise ships to the growing number of hotel developments. Transportation and parking and garbage management are nightmare . . . . The infrastructure costs for sewage and imported food supplies are extraordinarily high for the island."

A native of Crete and an international expert on development in emerging economies, Romanos adds, "Once Santorini was a small island with a small economy, locally famous for its fava legumes and wines. The men often became fishermen or were sailors in the Greek merchant marine. Now, the island actually has to import fava beans because of their popularity with tourists who want ‘Santorini’ fava legume. A million visitors a year come to examine the ancient town of Acrotiri that is perfectly preserved under volcanic ash, spewed forth during an enormously destructive eruption. It’s something like the Pompeii of Greece."

Large employers like hotel chains owned by non-residents and cruise ships that dump waste in their wake have brought enormous changes to the island's land and seascape, as well as altering its 

University of Cincinnati photo
Precarious perches and precarious future

culture and economy. Thus, local leaders invited  the University of Cincinnati team to come this summer after seeing the work done by similar teams from the university in and around Hersonissos, Crete, for the last four years

There, the team conceived of ideas for low-cost, environmentally friendly "tourist" activities that would spread the "tourist wealth" beyond the narrow strip of Crete’s seacoast and beaches. Among the accomplishments of faculty and students in and around Hersonissos:

• UC students literally blazed a hiking trail between traditional interior villages.

• A traditional goat herding village was helped to stave population drain by taking advantage of dramatically rising meat consumption in Greece.

• In another village, a public square containing two 19th-century schools and a 14th-century Byzantine chapel is being renovated for use by visiting artists and for public events.

• A completely new circulation and transportation system is being implemented in the capital town of Hersonissos.

• A new sewer and water system is being built for two major villages in Crete’s interior.

This summer’s multidisciplinary team consists of nine students (six planners and three architects) and Romanos, along with four other professors.

Summer will mark the team’s first stay in Santorini, during which they will focus on rapid assessment, evaluation and data collection regarding the island’s problems and priorities. During the coming academic year, these faculty members and other students will continue to examine the specific issues facing Santorini. Then, next summer, a larger planning and design team will travel to Santorini to work with residents and island administrators on furthering sustainable-development plans. 

The work on Santorini is funded by the island’s municipality and by the university’s Institute for Global Studies and Affairs. 

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