A.M. Costa Rica

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These stories were published Wednesday, June 23, 2004, in Vol. 4, No. 123
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Search continues at Arenal
Missing man was going to leave country Sunday
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Rescue and police officials still are searching the waters of Lake Arenal for a missing U.S. resident, but additional details add complexity to the situation.

The missing man was identified by a friend as Palmer Reed, a man in his mid-70s who knew the lake inside and out. Cruz Roja officials identified the man over the weekend as Palmer Ritz, in his 60s.

Joe Maxwell of Heredia, a long-time friend of Reed, said that he last spoke by telephone with the missing man early in the month, and Reed announced that Saturday would be his last day in Costa Rica. A Cruz Roja spokesman confirmed that the man was due to fly out Sunday.

Reed was divorced and living in rented quarters with a domestic employee, said the friend. Reed had liquidated his assets in anticipation of returning to the Philadelphia, Pa., area where he has two daughters, Maxwell said.

Rescue workers said that the man went out into Arenal Friday in a small boat. The alarm was raised by the domestic employee who was supposed to pick him up by car at a landing spot later in the day, officials said. The boat was later found floating normally.

Some on the rescue team and in the Fuerza Pública delegation in nearby Tilarán suggested that the man might have committed suicide, but Maxwell doubts that. 

In addition, the friend was surprised that the man’s lifejacket was found in the small boat.

"He always wore a lifejacket and insisted that anyone in the boat wear one, too," he said.

Reed used to live in Grecia on a small cane farm, said Maxwell. The man moved to the Arenal area seven or eight years ago, the friend said.

Reed, the retired operator of a public relations firm in the Philadelphia area, moved to Costa Rica in about 1990, said Maxwell.


 

Photo by Jan Romeu
Editor's choice

Here’s an editor’s choice photo from our 2003 photo contest. This shot by Escazú resident Jan Romeu was not a category winner, but the view of Tamarindo beach at sundown sticks with you.

The two girls playing are the nieces of the photographer’s husband, Sophia and Madeline Romeu.

Announcement of the winners of the The 2004 photo contest should begin next month.

 

U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar discusses Latin Americas
HERE!
 
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Minister of Mujer
quits over finances

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Esmeralda Britton has resigned her post in the Pacheco administration. She was the minister of Mujer or women, and executive president of the Instituto Nacional de la Mujer.

President Abel Pacheco told a news conference Tuesday that Ms. Britton resigned because an internal audit of the institute showed excessive spending on items like flowers and restaurant tabs.

Ms. Britton said she was resigning to take advantage of better opportunities.

Pacheco said the resignation does not mean the allegations of financial improprieties will not be investigated, although he noted that the institute was autonomous.

Ms. Britton made news in New York last July when she attacked the role of the Catholic Church in Costa Rican society, and promised a U.N. committee that the Costa Rican government was seeking to eliminate its influence.

She was speaking to the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and referred to the church’s opposition to programs involving contraception and abortion.

Ports more secure,
vice minister says

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Ana Lorena López, a vice minister of Obras Públicas y Transportes, reported Tuesday that Costa Rica’s ports will be up to international standards by July 1.

The International Ship and Port Facility Security  Code, which establishes world standards for ship and port security, is designed to harmonize maritime security procedures around the world and mandate specific improvements.

Costa Rica has tightened up access to its ports on the Caribbean and the Pacific. Additional fencing has been installed, and training has been administered.

The ISPS Code, a set of new maritime regulations negotiated under the auspices of the International Maritime Organization, is designed to help detect and deter threats to international security. It contains requirements for governments, port authorities and shipping companies that take effect July 1. Ships or shipments arriving from ports that do not fulfill the requirements by that deadline could face sanctions including denial of entry to other international ports.

Meeting the code is vital to Costa Rica’s extensive export trade.

Tijuana editor killed

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Masked men in a pickup shot and killed the founder and editor of Zeta, a well-known Tijuana, Mexico, newspaper Tuesday in that city.

The Associated Press reported that the man was Francisco Ortiz Franco, who was killed as he left a clinic with his two children.

The newspaper is a staunch opponent of the drug trade. Its other co-founder, Hector Felix Miranda, was gunned down in 1988. Jesús Blancornelas, the newspaper’s publisher, was seriously injured in a murder attempt that killed his bodyguard in 1997.

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Native-speaking con man on streets of city again
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

He’s back, a reader reports from Escazú.

The reader means the North American con artist who pretends to be stranded in San José.

The reader branded him the "white lie thief on the street." He told her his name was Robert when she met him while walking in Escazú.

The man frequents areas where other North Americans might be found. Just as Tuesday night, he tells a story of having been robbed and being in need of money to return to his out-of-town job.

Tuesday night his home was St. Vito in southern Costa Rica. Sometimes he has just endured an assault at the Coca Cola bus terminal.

He has worked the con in San José for at least four years. The reader’s description is consistent with other sightings: about 30, thin, dark brown short hair, native speaker of U.S. English.

The man has responded aggressively to persons who declined to give him money. Two other persons, a woman about 40, and a stocky man about 20, also work this con from time to time.  They probably travel to other cities and are absent from San José for long periods.


 
Leading leftist Brazilian politician dies in Rio de Janeiro at 82
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil — Popular leftist Brazilian politician Leonel Brizola, 82, has died. 

Officials with the party he founded, the Democratic Labor Party, say Brizola died Monday of a heart attack at a hospital here after being admitted with the flu. 

Brizola was twice elected the governor of Rio de 
 

Janeiro State in the 1980s, and made two unsuccessful bids for president in 1989 and 1994. He lived in exile in Uruguay during Brazil's military rule in the 1970s, but returned home in 1979, and founded the Democratic Labor Party the following year. 

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva called Brizola one of the most important political figures in Brazil in the last half century, and declared three days of mourning in his honor.


 
Dispute over contaminated soybeans finally resolved in China
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

China and Brazil have resolved a dispute that had resulted in a Chinese ban of Brazilian soybeans. 

China, the world's biggest buyer of soybeans, has refused to grant entry to soybean shipments from Brazil since April when Chinese officials said they discovered fungicide-contaminated seeds in some cargoes. China's quarantine bureau issued a 
 

statement that said a consensus had been reached because of new Brazilian sanitary standards. Brazil's agriculture ministry says the decision came after officials from both countries talked in Beijing Monday. 

Brazilian farming groups had alleged that, instead of health concerns, China was using the embargo to default on earlier deals that were agreed to when stockpiles were high and prices were low. 


 
Iraqis are in México to learn the process of running elections
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

MEXICO CITY, México — A team of Iraqis has begun a series of U.N.-sponsored meetings in Mexico with an international group of electoral officials in an effort to learn the democratic process ahead of next year's elections in Iraq. 

The independent delegation comprised of seven 

Iraqis began three weeks of meetings Monday here to study electoral systems. 

Mexico's Federal Electoral Institute is hosting the meetings, along with election officials from Argentina, Australia, Mauritius, the Palestinian territories and Yemen.  Training will cover voter registration, counting votes and resolving election disputes. 


 
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'Inconsistent engagement' cited
Top U.S. senator urges more efforts in Latin America
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A top U.S. Senate leader has offered his prescription for eradicating poverty and strengthening democracy in Latin America and the Caribbean.

In an address Monday at the Organization of American States, Sen. Richard Lugar, chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the first order of business is attacking poverty and economic dislocation in the region. A Republican 
from Indiana, Lugar quoted figures from the United Nations that said 44 percent of Latin Americans live below the poverty line.

These impoverished Latin Americans, Lugar said, "often believe that free-market policies and liberal democracy are at least partially responsible for their problems." The senator said that by helping to improve basic living standards in the region, "we will be 

Richard Lugar
creating the building blocks upon which democracy can flourish."

Lugar pointed to a project in Brazil as a model of how fighting poverty should be promoted to other countries of the Western Hemisphere. Brazil's "Zero Hunger Program," he said, aims to tackle poverty by providing additional income through an electronic card that enables people to buy basic food items.

"The additional demand for these basic foods should, it is hoped, stimulate their production by small-scale farmers who represent a large portion of the country's poor and hungry," Lugar told a special session of the organization’s Permanent Council. The senator is believed to be the first member of the U.S. Congress to address a Permanent Council special session.

Lugar said Brazil is expanding its program beyond hunger abatement to include other aspects of social policy, especially education. The senator added that the program "demonstrates the willingness of the Brazilian government to address poverty in creative ways."

Another tool to improve the region's democracy, Lugar said, is the broadening of property rights. Outdated and bureaucratic laws, he said, currently prevent most people in the hemisphere from using assets such as shops, land, and livestock for securing loans to finance their crops or start new businesses. However, reforms could "unlock billions of investment dollars for the poor and give them a stake in their economies through their own empowerment," said Lugar.

He said that El Salvador, for example, has used a program that between 1992 and 2002 legalized more than 250,000 plots of land that were previously settled without legal title. Before this reform, it took an entrepreneur an average of 115 days to open a new business. But now it takes an average of only 60 days, Lugar said.

A third democracy-enhancing tool, Lugar said, is assistance in preparing nations to trade successfully. Specifically, he said, the United States needs to increase cooperation with Latin American and Caribbean governments and the private sector "to maximize trade capacity-building programs that create current jobs and train young people for the jobs of the future."

Lugar said some nations need help to reach a position where trade can be an "engine of economic growth." The U.S. Agency for International Development, he said, is helping several Caribbean countries develop national trade capacity-building strategies.

"This will help them to participate more effectively 

in negotiations on the Free Trade Area of the Americas and to implement the terms" of that trade pact's agreement, Lugar said.

The senator that in 2003, USAID programs provided more than $50 million in assistance directly related to the needs and priorities of the U.S.-Central American Free Trade Agreement, and an additional $5 million in assistance indirectly related to the trade pact.

"This assistance makes a difference," Lugar said, adding that he would recommend to the Bush administration and his U.S. Senate colleagues that more aid be provided.

Lugar also said the "cause of stable democracy" in the Western Hemisphere would be immeasurably strengthened if the United States "would examine and then improve its own inconsistent engagement with Latin America."

"This is not a failure that is unique to any single administration," Lugar observed. He said he is confident that President George Bush and U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell "are committed to achieving closer ties" to Latin America and the Caribbean.

Those two leaders, Lugar said, "have visited the region several times, and they have supported important initiatives in the hemisphere. They recognize the tremendous potential of the region and the advancements for democracy that have occurred in the last two decades."

The nations of Latin America and the Caribbean are among the most important trading partners for the United States, and are also "the cultural homeland to large and increasing numbers of productive Americans," Lugar said. "The United States must treat its own hemisphere as a priority, not as an afterthought."

Finally, Lugar said democracy in the hemisphere would benefit greatly from the strengthening of the Organization of American States itself.

During the last 10 years, he said, the Summits of the Americas have expanded the number of organization mandates — and since 1994, the leaders of the Western Hemisphere have "demonstrated their confidence in the organization by making it a critical player in advancing the political, economic, and social commitments" made by those leaders.

Despite this success, the Organization of American States "still is an underutilized resource of tremendous potential," Lugar said, pointing out that the inter-American body "possesses the trust and good will of most people of the hemisphere."

The organization, he said, could be put to even greater use in solving conflicts, promoting fair elections, protecting the environment, and developing strategies for development. For example, the Organization of American States should continue to serve as an anchor for democracy and long-term development in Haiti, and is "ideally placed to work with the Brazilian, Mexican, and Canadian election authorities to help Haiti organize its upcoming local and national elections," Lugar said.

Overall, recent challenges to democracy in such countries as Haiti, Venezuela, Bolivia, Argentina, and Ecuador are troubling, but the long view for the region must be kept in mind, the senator said.

"I believe that stable democracy and abundant prosperity will become the norm in the Western Hemisphere because we enjoy so many advantages," Lugar said. Much of the hemisphere, he said, is rich in natural resources — and "we benefit from two oceans that give us access to the sea lanes of the world."

But most of all, Lugar said, "our peoples believe in progress and are capable of greatness. As a region, we can succeed together. To achieve that success, we must re-commit ourselves to the principles and the hard work of democracy."


 
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