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These stories were published Tuesday, June 8, 2004, in Vol. 4, No. 112
Jo Stuart
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Despite the handshake by Colin Powell, U.S. secretary of State, and Miguel Ángel Rodríguez, the former Costa Rican president, the United States played hardly any role Monday as Rodríguez was elected as the new secretary general of the Organization of American States.

Stories BELOW!

Organization of American States photo by Roberto Ribeiro

Guanacaste Independence festival will be July 4
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Guanacaste residents are inviting everybody to the Third Annual International Independence Festival July 4 near Playas del Coco.

This year the event is being organized by Sylvie Chagnon, group chief of the Girl and Boy Scouts’ Group 50 of Liberia. Activities will include events for adults, a horseshoe tournament, volleyball, golf games and Adult Olympics. 

Events for children will include carnival games, wacky Olympics, Argolla Indian game, a free craft activity center (as supplies last), face painting and a clown with balloon designs. 

In addition to all the activities visitors can sit back and enjoy traditional dancing from the Chapernal Troupe and listen to a great mix of music. The highlight of the day, though, is always the fireworks donated by Deep Blue Diving and Papagayo Do It Center. 

In the culinary department visitors can enjoy Donato’s award-winning pizza, typical German food and pastries from the German Bakery, hamburger and hot dogs from Sabor y Sazón and Helados Díaz ice cream. Hotel Condovac La Costa will be providing the bar. 

Major sponsors of the event include Century 21 at the Beach, Deep Blue Diving, Hotel Coco Verde, Hotel Giardini di Papagayo, Papagayo Do It Center, Remax Resort Properties Papagayo and Remax Tres Amigos, who have donated $200 or more each. Some 50-plus businesses have donated various prizes for the activities. These prizes include dinners for two, hotel accommodations, and much more. The VIP Co. has been giving their professional help and Línea Creativa is providing design and publicity. 

The Brown and Hahn families who started the International Festival tradition, have donated their property again and are helping  to organize special events. 

The festival will start at noon and finishes after the fireworks at dusk. The event is located 750 meters west of the Langostino Farm on the road to Playas del Coco. 

Entrance fee is ¢1,000 per person, with all proceeds benefiting the Girl and Boy Scout Group 50 of Liberia. 

The Scouts have worked hard to make this years festival double the fun of the previous years, an organizer said.

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Readers are thanked
for wheelchair response

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Just wanted to thank you for putting the letter in the Friday edition of A.M. Costa Rica. While the problem isn't solved yet, the response was heartwarming. Many people wrote to us and sent letters to the corporate headquarters of Mailboxes Etc.  Several people donated money toward the end of helping to get this equipment. There were phone calls and letters with many great suggestions.

Letter to our readers

The greatest of all was the kindness of your readers. I really appreciate the overwhelming response. It is reassuring to know that people do care and that they are willing to take a little time and make an effort to help.

The problem isn't resolved as yet, but one reader is a personal friend of a former executive of UPS, which now owns Mailboxes Etc and has offered to make the contact if we cannot solve this through other means. I think that the situation looks far more promising now than it did on Thursday.

I want to thank you and all the readers who have offered to help us with this problem. Many times a lot of public pressure is just what is needed, and I think that public pressure has been applied. 

Again, on behalf of a lot of very special children and their families, I want to thank you for your help.

Robbie Felix
Fundación Roberta Felix
Manuel Antonio-Quepos

EDITOR’S NOTE, Ms. Felix is facing a $3,150 shipping charge for wheelchairs sent from the United States to help poor kids who need them on the Pacific coast.

Cases of meningitis
being investigated

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Health officials say they are investigating 16 cases of viral meningitis that have broken out in the last two weeks at various points in the Central Valley.

The victims are youngsters, and the disease is an inflammation of the covering of the brain. Because the disease is spread in the air, there are no quick fixes, although some school rooms have been ordered closed because an infected child attended there.

Typically the disease requires hospitalization.

U.S. government closing
for mourning on Friday

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

U.S. President George Bush has ordered a national day of mourning on Friday in commemoration of the late president Ronald Reagan, whose funeral will be that day in Washington.

The president also ordered that non-essential governmental executive departments and agencies to be closed that day.

Although no announcement has been made here yet, the closing probably will affect the U.S. Embassy in Pavas. So U.S. citizens and others with business that day should check with the embassy first.

Robbery thwarted
at motorcycle shop

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fuerza Pública officers broke up a robbery at a Curridabat motorcycle shop, exchanged gunfire with one suspect and managed to capture three men.

The robbery happened in Hacienda Vieja de Curridabat just before 3 p.m., said officials.

As the robbery took place, police somehow were notified and the men fled after only taking some belongings of customers there.

Two men were caught at the store, but the third fled and engaged police in a shootout.

One man, identified by police by the last names González Mora, faces an outstanding warrant for aggravated rape, officials said. A second man, a Nicaraguan with the last names of Castro Martínez, is in the country illegally, officials said.

Three .38-caliber pistols were recovered.

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A.M. Costa Rica
Consultantes Río Colorado S.A.

James J. Brodell......................................editor
Saray Ramírez Vindas............ associate editor

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Rodríguez is named to OAS post by consensus
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

QUITO, Ecuador — The foreign ministers of the Americas by consensus Monday elected former Costa Rican President Miguel Ángel Rodríguez as the new secretary general of the Organization of American States. Rodríguez will succeed former Colombian president César Gaviria as head of the hemispheric organization for the next five years.

Rodriguez was elected during the organization’s 34th regular general assembly session, which opened Sunday. His candidacy was submitted by Costa Rica’s Foreign Minister Roberto Tovar Faja, who underscored Rodriguez’ professional and personal qualifications, while commending Gaviria’s "fruitful leadership" for the last 10 years. 

The Foreign Ministers of Mexico, Luis Ernesto Derbez; Trinidad and Tobago, Knowlson W. Gift; and the Dominican Republic, Francisco Guerrero Pratz, underscored how the former Costa Rican leader’s vision and experience augurs well for the hemispheric organization.

Adding their support for Rodriguez’ candidacy were, among others, the foreign ministers of Chile, Maria Soledad Alvear Valenzuela; Belize, Assad Shoman; Bolivia, Juan Ignacio Siles del Valle; Colombia, Carolina Barco; Guatemala, Jorge Briz Abularach; and the head of Canada’s delegation, Daniel Hays, speaker of the Senate.

Accepting and expressing appreciation, Rodríguez pledged "to promote the inter-American ideals."  He added,  "We want to pursue freedom, justice and development so that every citizen of the Americas can enjoy a decent life and realizing his or her full human potential." 

"I know the rudder belongs to the member states, and I pledge my utmost creativity and devotion in charting a happy course," he said.

Welcoming his successor’s election, Gaviria declared that "with the election of Miguel Ángel Rodríguez, the OAS will certainly enter a period of renewal and strengthening." He added: "President Rodríguez brings solid experience. He has served his country with distinction and is more familiar with the hemisphere’s problems than most.  His discipline, 

Organization of American States photo 
by Roberto Ribeiro
Rodríguez talks to newspeople

seriousness and professionalism will bring a positive influence to bear on inter-American  relations."

The United States delegation, headed by Secretary  of State Colin Powell, was unusually silent on the election. No U.S. delegate took the floor on the matter, and Powell made no mention of Rodríguez in an earlier talk.

On behalf of the United States, Powell thanked Gaviria for his leadership and commended the Colombian for his decade of work.

Rodríguez served as President of Costa Rica from 1998 to 2002. He takes over in September.

Hemispheric meeting focuses on corruption scourge
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

QUITO, Ecuador — Ecuador’s president, Lucio Gutiérrez, opened the 34th regular session of the Organization of American States General Assembly Sunday evening, saying that new 21st century development models can only succeed by placing human beings at "the center of any comprehensive human development initiative."

The Ecuadorian leader told the hemisphere’s foreign ministers that everyone should have access to stable jobs and reasonable pay to afford a decent standard of living and live in safety. He stressed that this would help people become "active, rather than passive, players in a truly progressive and supportive society."

President Gutierrez said corruption, which he described as "a social pathology," undermines social development and democracy by diverting much-needed resources. He argued further: "We must devote our best efforts to strengthening 

hemispheric tools to fight this scourge and create new mechanisms, so that all nations can commit themselves to prosecuting corruption beyond borders."

He renewed Ecuador’s full support for organization’s efforts to bolster and defend democracy.

The Ecuadorian President also praised Secretary General César Gaviria for his 10-year leadership of the hemispheric body, expressing appreciation for Gaviria’s "important work and invaluable efforts that have helped strengthen the inter-American system."

Reviewing his decade-long leadership of the OAS, Gaviria said "events have surpassed our greatest expectations. At the same time, the problems and challenges our peoples faced increased exponentially, particularly as a result of greater interdependence and globalization." He said we must focus our energies "not on examining the present but on looking toward the future."

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Chavez begins his campaign to keep presidency
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

CARACAS, Venezuela —  President Hugo Chavez has begun his campaign against a referendum aimed at recalling him from office, and he predicts a big victory.

Addressing a rally here of tens of thousands of his supporters, Chavez urged them Sunday to take an active part in the political fight against his opposition.

Venezuelan election officials are expected to announce soon when the referendum will take place.

Timing of the referendum is important, due to constitutional requirements. If the vote is held after Aug. 19 and Chavez loses, his vice president Jose Vicente Rangel, a close ally, would serve out the 

remainder of the presidential term, which expires in early 2007. If Chavez loses a referendum held before Aug. 19, new elections would be called. The opposition is pushing for a vote on Aug. 8.

The National Electoral Council announced a preliminary finding last week that opposition groups' recall petitions met the standard for ordering a referendum: 20 percent of the electorate, or more than 2.4 million signatures.

President Chavez's opponents accuse him of trying to reshape Venezuela's courts and political system to give him wider powers and steer the country toward a Cuban-style Communist dictatorship.

The leftist leader, a former army officer, has been in power since 1998, although a coup unseated him briefly in 2002. He says he is working to improve the lives of Venezuela's poor.

Two top Arellano-Felix drug cartel leaders arrested in Tijuana
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

MEXICO CITY, México — Authorities here have arrested two top leaders of what the United States calls one of the most notorious drug trafficking organizations ever. 

Mexico's Attorney General said Monday that Jorge Aureliano Felix and Efrain Perez were arrested in Tijuana last week. 

The two men have been indicted in the United 

States on several drug trafficking, drug related murder and money laundering charges for their roles in the Arellano-Felix cartel. 

The U.S. Justice Department says the cartel has been responsible for importing and distributing hundreds of tons of cocaine and marijuana in the United States since the mid-1980s. 

Last year, the Justice Department offered rewards of up to $2 million each for information leading to their arrests.

Strange tale of governor's ambush begins to unravel
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

OAXACA, México — Mexican federal investigators say the Oaxaca state governor may have lied about an attempt on his life two months ago. 

The Mexican attorney general's office said that there was little evidence backing the claim by Oaxaca Gov. Jose Murat that his car was ambushed by gunmen March 18. The incident put Murat in the hospital with minor injuries and killed a policeman. 

Investigators have judged the purported ambush as a possible hoax after reviewing the forensic evidence and testimonies. They say the evidence is contradictory and full of irregularities. 

Deputy Federal Attorney General Gilberto Higuera said there was "not one fact" suggesting that Murat's vehicle was the target of an attack. Higuera

 said most of the bullets found after the shootout appear to have come from inside the governor's vehicle, from the gun of his head bodyguard. 

Higuera said he was seeking the arrest of the governor's bodyguards for giving false information. The deputy prosecutor said Murat himself was being investigated. 

Gov. Murat,  an influential figure in the opposition Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, has said he has been the victim of numerous death threats over the years. He took office in 1998. 

Murat is up for re-election in August in Oaxaca, which lies in the southern reaches of the country. The state is one of Mexico's poorest regions, yet it is a magnet for tourists because of its beaches, its Mayan ruins, the colonial atmosphere of the capital and its original cuisine. 

Jo Stuart
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