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These stories were published Wedneday, June 5, 2002, in Vol. 2, No. 110
Jo Stuart
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Another child is missing in Desamparados
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Another child vanished in Desamparados Tuesday, and this time it was the son of a drug-enforcement officer.

Police quickly arrested a man they said was seen with the boy just before he disappeared.

The crime has similarities to the disappearance of Jessica Valverde Pineda, 4, who lived in Los Guidos de Desamparados when she vanished in late February. No sign of her has been detected. (Story HERE.) 

The presumed crime Tuesday happened in San Miguel de Higuito in Desamparados. The child, 3, was playing outside his house about 11 a.m. when he seems to have been invited by a man to a nearby pulpería or little store for candy, said agents.

Jessica was last seen buying candy at a pulpería in her neighborhood.

Police claimed that the man the boy was with
has the last name of Agüero. He is a 29-year-old guard at a nearby residential area. Police took him into custody, but there was no sign of the boy.

Investigators launched a massive search of the 

neighborhood. A spokesperson at the Judicial Investigating Organization was particularly closed-mouthed Tuesday because the father 
The boy
works as an undercover agent in the drug control office there. No names were provided, although two photos of the boy were made available.

The spokesperson said that agents were working on the assumption that the presumed kidnapping had nothing to do with the father’s job and was, instead, a straight sex crime.

In the case of Jessica, the possibility was raised of child selling. Some neighbors said that the girl was seen 

 buying candy with adults who also had a car.

Motor vehicle extortion called key to thefts in Grecia 
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Investigators think that a man in Grecia was stealing cars and then selling them back to their owners. 

Agents said that while investigating some 36 complaints of vehicle theft during the last year they were surprised repeatedly to find that the complainant had the car that was the subject of the stolen vehicle report.

However, the vehicles owners were reluctant to talk. They preferred to withdraw their complaint instead of talking to investigators. So Judicial Investigating Organization agents in Grecia mounted a full-scale probe.

Agents said they began to suspect that someone was extorting money from the owners in order to obtain the possession of the vehicles. Investigators also said they learned 

that the cars nearly always were stolen on weekends or after 4:40 p.m. from parking areas, mall parking lots or in places near where the principal suspect lived.

The man they detained has the surname Porras, and he is 35 years old. Investigators said he was selling the cars back for between 400,000 or 900,000 colons (about $1,100 to $2,500. In Costa Rica the usual theft deductible on vehicle insurance is 20 percent. So the owners would end up saving money over the alternative of accepting an insurance reimbursement.

Agents estimated that the scam pulled in around 4.5 million colons (about $12,600). They also suspect that more people were victims of this kind of extortion, and asked for such persons to come forward by calling 494-1733 or 444-0900 or the nearest Judicial Investigating Organization office.

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OAS reaffirms its support of Venezuela's Chavez
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados — The Organization of American States has reaffirmed its commitment to democratic rule in Venezuela in the wake of the country's failed coup attempt in April. During a general assembly meeting in Barbados, the OAS also gave its backing to a probe of violence committed during the episode that briefly drove President Hugo Chavez from office. 

The OAS declaration, adopted Tuesday, constitutes a hemispheric endorsement of President Chavez' continued rule in Venezuela. For its part, Venezuelan officials pledged to work to resolve lingering political upheaval and instability in the country, and left open the possibility of a role for the OAS in pursuing that goal. 

The populist Chavez' leftist policies had alienated his country's business sector, and his outreach to Cuba and Libya rankled the United States. But several OAS members stated that the region must stand united in defense of democratic rule, regardless of who the ruler may be. 

Belize's foreign minister, Assad Shoman, stressed the OAS's Democratic Charter must be applied consistently throughout the hemisphere. 

"Whether we like the regime or not, that is not our business," he said. "As they say about freedom of expression, we should fight for the right of people to speak freely, especially when we do not like what they say. And so it is, especially when we do not like a regime, that we must apply the principles of the Charter." 

The Democratic Charter, adopted last year, states that the people of the Americas have a right to democracy and their governments have an obligation to promote and defend it. 

Venezuela's ambassador to the OAS, Jorge Valero, said his government appreciates the international backing it has received. Valero also said he wishes to express the gratitude of Venezuela's democratic government to the hemispheric community, where so many countries without hesitation have 

expressed their solidarity with a legal and legitimate government. 

The OAS General Assembly also examined Haiti's protracted political impasse, where the failure to seat an internationally-recognized legislature has led to a cut-off of hundreds of millions of dollars worth of foreign aid. OAS Secretary-General Cesar Gaviria said he hopes an agreement between the Haitian government and the opposition for new elections will be forthcoming. 

Admiral granted
political asylum

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador — The government has granted political asylum to a retired Venezuelan military officer under investigation for his role in April's failed coup against Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. 

Salvadoran officials released a statement late Tuesday, saying their government had granted asylum to retired Rear Admiral Carlos Molina Tamayo. The decision comes just days after Admiral Molina took refuge in the Caracas home of a Salvadoran diplomat. The Venezuelan government had no immediate reaction. 

Admiral Molina was one of several military officers who publicly denounced President Chavez in February and called for his resignation. 

Powell cites threats
other than wars

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados — While traditional armed conflicts remain a problem in the Western Hemisphere, new security threats such as terrorism, money laundering, organized crime, drug trafficking, and the scourge of HIV/AIDS have intensified in the region, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said.

Raiders in Tibás discover 750 pounds of cocaine
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Police grabbed nearly 750 pounds of cocaine early Tuesday when they raided a rented home in Cuatro Reinas de Tibás about 7:45 a.m. They also arrested a 37-year-old Colombian man they suspect of being an international drug trafficker.

Agents said that the cocaine was packaged with a bag-sealing machine and wrapped in plastic and adhesive, presumabily to withstand an ocean trip.

Investigators said they got the tip from neighbors who became suspicious a week ago at what they characterized as strange activities at the house.

Agents said they put the house under observation, 

and on Saturday afternoon several persons arrived in a vehicle without a license plate and began unloading sacks and bags.

Later agents were able to detemine that the arrested man, whose name was not given, entered and left the country in the year 2000 and then entered later illegally.

The arrested man lived in the home with a brother, said agents, since April 25 when the house was rented for about $350 a month. The rentor was a Costa Rican who is the owner of an exportation company, said agents.

Investigators continue to seek the Costa Rican man who rented the dwelling and the brother.

Sports fishing boat
expensive wreck

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The owner of a 30-foot sports fishing boat destroyed by high seas last week says he has no insurance and will no longer work as a sports captain.

He is Roberto Stoll, whose boat "Liberame" was the most expensive victim of the high seas that were spawned by freak weather conditions far in the Pacific.

Stoll said that his $100,000 craft was at anchor in Garza harbor on the Pacific Cost of the Nicoya Peninsula. The boat and others in the harbor had ridden out the high seas for two days, but then a line broke to another boat. That craft smashed on top of "Liberame" and caused it to submerge. 

Stoll estimated the waves at 30 feet. Three other crafts were sunk, too, Stoll said, but none were close to the value of his, Stoll said.

The Conneticut native said that sometimes a boat can be salvaged from the depths. But in this case, the seas ground his boat against the sand and any hard objects on the sea floor, he said. When the boat finally was cast up on shore, it was a total wreck and missing its engines, he said.

The high seas also hit other parts of the Pacific, including the port of Caldera near Puntarenas that sustained some damage. Lorena López, vice minster of Obras Públicas y Transporte, said Tuesday that the breakers protecting the port from high seas suffered some damaged and will be rebuilt. 

Women in Black
plan demonstrations

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica has a branch of Women in Black, and the group will be demonstrating Saturday at the Plaza de la Democracía between Avenida Principal and Avenida 2 at Calle 15.

The local group, primarily of Costa Rican women, will join with branches all over the world to press for peace in the Middle East and the establishment of a Palestinian state adjacent to Israel. The group seeks the withdrawal of Israel from lands not occupied in 1967 and the recognition of Jerusalem as the shared capital of both states, according to a policy statement on the Internet.

Locally the Women in Black organization is loosely associated with the Comité por la Paz y la Justicia en Medio Oriente. The women’s group has that name because they wear black to the demonstrations. A supporter, Ann Marie Saidy, said that men were welcome, too, and that some showed up last year for a similar demonstration.

Today marks the 35th anniversary of the start of the Six Day War in which Israel defeated the combined forces of its Arab neighbors and took considerable territory. The demonstration Saturday will mark that anniversary.

Particularly upsetting to some supporters of Middle Eastern refugees is that Costa Rica maintains its embassy in Jerusalem instead of Tel Aviv. Several groups have called on Costa Rica to move the embassy, which they see as an anti-Arab act.

This demand received some support over the weekend when Oscar Arias, the former president and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, added his voice to those who want the embassy moved in an interview he gave to La Nación.

‘Off-record’ comments
cause international riff

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Relations between Argentina and Uruguay have suffered a blow following disparaging remarks about Argentine politicians by Uruguayan President Jorge Batlle. Batlle traveled to Buenos Aires to personally apologize for his comments.

In an interview with the Bloomberg television service, Batlle described Argentine politicians as a band of thieves. He also called his Argentine counterpart, Eduardo Duhalde, powerless. "Do you know the extent of corruption in Argentina?" he asks, speaking to someone off camera. Then he says, "How can I tell Duhalde anything? He has no political support or backing, and does not even know where he is going."

These comments, broadcast in Argentina late Monday, prompted a government spokesman to demand an explanation, saying President Duhalde was pained by the remarks.

At a news conference later, the Uruguayan leader explained he was speaking off the record after the formal interview with Bloomberg on economic matters had ended. Batlle said he had no idea the camera was still on while he spoke to a reporter, whom he described as having goaded him to make his intemperate remarks.

The Uruguayan leader then traveled to Buenos Aires to meet with President Duhalde. With him at his side, Batlle publicly apologized. "When we make a mistake, he said, it is proper to recognize it and apologize to you," he said referring to Duhalde, and to the Argentine people.

The two men then shook hands, and Duhalde declared the matter over. 

But the comments generated criticism, and some appeals for calm.

Uruguayan opposition leader Tabare Vazquez described Batlle's remarks as "unfortunate and defying a logical explanation." But former Argentine foreign minister Dante Caputo urged calm, saying the comments should not be taken seriously and should not prevent the two nations from continuing to work together.

Argentina is Uruguay's main trading partner. Because of this, Uruguay has been the country most affected by the Argentine economic crisis. 

Nicoya Web site
ready on Internet

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A Web designer near Cobano has set up a series of Internet pages praising the southern Nicoya Peninsula.

Featured are such towns as Montezuma, Tambor, Santa Teresa, Malpais and Manzanillo.

Said Pai Pfau, the designer, as an introduction to the Web site: "The Southern Nicoya Peninsula is one of Costa Rica's most secluded gems. Its beautiful coast with endlessly stretching beaches, lovely coves and waterfalls, lush tropical vegetation and the unpretentious charm of its little beach villages make it perfect for unforgettable holidays in the tropics.

The Berlin, Germany, native, said that being a passionate traveller she tried to provide the kind of information she would look for if she were planning a trip to the Nicoya Peninsula. Cobano is the adminsitrative center of the area.

The Web site is at: http://nicoyapeninsula.com

Asa time permits, she said that she would add a few more towns on the Pacific side and up the east shore of the Gulf of Nicoya.

$24 billion sought
to cut world hunger

A.M. Costa Rica wire services

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A food agency of the United Nations has proposed that the international community spend $24 billion a year on poor countries with large numbers of undernourished people in order to cut global hunger in half by 2015.

The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization says in a new paper that such an investment would yield benefits worth at least $120 billion per year "as a result of longer and healthier lives for all those who gain from such improvements."

FAO's 23-page draft paper, called "Anti-Hunger Program: Reducing hunger through agricultural and rural development and wider access to food," says most of the world's undernourished population lives in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

However, another trouble spot is Central America, where the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) announced in March it was providing $1.2 million in emergency food aid to help fight malnutrition in Guatemala, which has suffered a food shortage from widespread drought, plummeting world coffee prices, and the effects of a global recession. That latest aid was in addition to $300,000 worth of food aid and $4.6 million in grants the agency has provided Guatemala since 2001. USAID food aid has also gone to Honduras, Nicaragua, and El Salvador.

The FAO paper said the world now produces much more food than is required to provide every individual with an adequate diet, yet almost one in seven persons — 800 million people in all — do not have enough to eat.

The agency said that allowing people to go hungry is bad from an economic viewpoint, in that "hungry people make poor workers, they are bad learners, they are prone to sickness and they die young." In addition, FAO said that "hunger breeds desperation, and the hungry are an easy prey to those who seek to gain power and influence through crime, force or terror, endangering national and global stability. It is, therefore, in everyone's self-interest to fight hunger."

Middle-Eastern men
file airline suits

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Discrimination lawsuits were filed in federal courts across the United States Tuesday, charging airlines illegally forced five men off of flights because of their "perceived Middle-Eastern appearance." 

The five lawsuits filed in New Jersey, California and Maryland charge major U.S. airlines with violating federal and state anti-discrimination laws. 

Plaintiff Michael Dasrath says he and a fellow passenger were taken off of a Continental flight from New Jersey to Florida on New Year’s Eve after he heard a complaint that he and another passenger were acting suspiciously. Dasrath says the nature of the complaint and the fact that he did not have to go through any additional security before boarding a new flight, imply that the incident was racially motivated. 

"These are her direct words, which I heard her say to the captain: 'Those brown skin men are behaving suspiciously.' Moments later, I and the two other so-called "brown-skinned" men were ordered off the plane," he said. "No explanation was given. I was not searched. I was not asked to meet with any security personnel." 

According to plaintiffs attorneys at the American Civil Liberties Union, the removal of the five passengers because they were perceived to be Muslim or Arab, is part of a new pattern of prejudice. They say that pattern followed the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, carried out by Arab, Muslim hijackers. Another plaintiff, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee says the group has tracked at least 60 similar incidents. 

Two of the plaintiffs are Arab. Four are U.S. citizens and one is a permanent legal resident. They were all forced off of American Airlines, Continental, Northwest and United Airlines flights late last year. 

ACLU Director Anthony Romero says that the suits reopen the debate over racial profiling, which is illegal. 

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