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These stories were published Monday, June 24, 2002, in Vol. 2, No. 123
Jo Stuart
About us
Monkey deaths show
need for bridges

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Kids Saving the Rainforest received an urgent phone call that three young male monkeys had been electrocuted. Members of the organization rushed to the scene and saw two animals hanging dead from the wires and a third one fallen and stunned. 

The live one was rushed to a veterinarian in Quepos and appeared to be recovering from the shock. Rescuers placed the monkey in a wildlife cage until he could be accepted by the Wildlife Refuge in Coope Silencio. 

The next day representatives from Kids Saving the Rainforest took the monkey to Silencio where the vet, Pedro Martinez, examined it. Suddenly,  the monkey started vomiting and then went into a seizure.

And then quickly the monkey died from inhaling its vomit. This was very tragic, sad and sudden for the members who had rescued the animal, one of an endangered specie.

This tragedy is only part of the story that was taking place in the community. The very same day, members of the non-profit organization were out with workers from the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transporte, the Ministerio del Ambiente y Energía and the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad.

The workers were putting up the monkey bridges to prevent this type of electrocution. The bridges are placed in strategic locations where the monkeys cross, so that they will not get hit by cars passing, or get electrocuted by crossing on live wires. 

The bridges may have been able to prevent the deaths if they had been put up a few days earlier.

Only 1,200 to 1,500 of these tití monkeys are left in the world, and all are located in the Manuel Antonio area. 

The bridge-installing team was on the electrocution scene within 20 minutes of the incident to cut back the branches that led the monkeys into the live wires. They put up two monkey bridges there. 

Just one day prior to the monkey incident, forestry engineer Lissy Rivera, manager of Kids Saving the Rainforest, had a meeting at the organization’s Manuel Antonio headquarters in the Hotel Mono Azul. 

Attendees said it was a very productive meeting with the following persons there: 

Gerardo Varela, Lizeth Carranza and Rolando Manfredi of the National Park of Manuel Antonio; Guilbert Porras from the electrical institute; Isias Orias from the Colegio Eco-Turistico del Pacifico; Alvaro Picado and Ronald Jiménez Puriscal from the transport ministry; Matt Cook from Asociación para la 

Photos by Mary Kline
Arrow shows unlucky mono tití that died when it used an electrical line to cross a road and accidentially touched a ground.

Workers install a monkey bridge. The tree-level construction allows the animals to travel without touching the electric wires.

Conservación del Mono Tití, and Jennifer Rice, Chip Braman, and manager Rivera from Kids Saving the Rainforest.

The outcome of the meeting was the delegation of jobs to the workers for the various organizations:

• Kids Saving the Rainforest is to fund the bridges through donations, and determine where they are placed by using a study done by the Universidad Nacional the Asociación para la Conservación del Mono Tití. 

• The association is to find all the trees that are near the live wires and have those branches cut back so that what happened with the three monkeys would not happen again. 

• Electrical institute workers actually are to climb the trees and place the bridges, using their technology to keep the electricity flowing.

• The environmental ministry is helping in many ways, and representative Anibal Fonseca even is helping with the cutting of the trees. 

• The Colegio Eco-Turistico del Pacifico will be monitoring the primary and secondary roads of the area on a monthly basis to be sure that the trees are not growing into the live wires and to make sure that the monkey bridges are in good condition. 

• The transport ministry is directing traffic so that the workers can put up the bridges safely. Representatives also will go with colegio students on their monthly monitoring trek to make sure the youngsters are safe when they are on the road studying the canopy and the bridges. 

At the end of the day, eight bridges had gone up, and a tired crew were satisfied with their days work, knowing that they were helping to save the mono tití from becoming extinct. 

As tragic as the deaths of these three monkeys were, there is proof to show that a community working together makes a difference and is definitely needed if we are to save this planet, said a representative of Kids Saving the Rainforest.

As a result of the bridge installations, Manuel Antonio and Quepos will be without electricity on and off in July as the electrical institute insulates live wires in some places to help with the project. 

This article was provided by Kids Saving the Rainforest:

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Puebla Plan would restructure Central America
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Although free trade is in the spotlight, plans are afoot for a massive redevelopment of Central America that seeks to propel the area into the First World.

Presidents of Central America states will be meeting Thursday and Friday in Mexico’s Yucatan to discuss how to finance the massive social program.

The choice of Mexico is appropriate for the meetings because the project, the "Plan Puebla-Panamá" was outlined by President Vincente Fox  Nov. 30, 2000. 

The plan envisions linking the southern Mexico states with all of Central America by merging electrical, pipeline and highway networks, among other facilities. The plan is a package of 26 giant projects that are designed to attract outside financing. Initial investment is about $10 billion.

While the Central American free trade proposal and the Western Hemisphere free trade plan scheduled to go into effect in 2005 are mostly commercial, the Plan Puebla-Panamá addresses much more.

Florencio Salazar, the man Fox chose to be general coordinator of the plan, gave this description in April to reporters in Guatemala:

"The plan includes eight basic initiatives: to facilitate trade, to assure sustainable growth, to promote tourism, to be prepared to attend to possible natural disasters, to modernize roadways and telecommunications, create an interconnection of electrical grids, and to train the workforce human development. The objective is to better living conditions of the population of the region which is characterized by high rates of marginalization."

Critics see the heavy hand of the United States behind a proposal that could lead to a captive, low-wage workforce in Central America. They see Mexico’s Fox as the frontman. And they see a major goal of keeping immigration down from poverty-stricken areas of southern Mexico and Central America.

Although Costa Rica is included in Fox’s plan, it is not home to the poverty found in countries like Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. However, President Abel Pacheco has put fighting poverty here at the top on his list of priorities, and he will be attending the meeting this week.

Some 62 million people live in the countries and areas specified by Fox as being within the plan. Puebla is a Mexican city about 60 miles south of the capital, Mexico City.

The plan envisions a modern network of roads running down the Pacific Coast from Central Mexico to Panamá. It also proposes major new highways through Guatemala and Honduras. Such roadways, presumably better than what exists now, would boost tourism, particularly in Guatemala and Honduras where famous Mayan ruins are difficult to reach.

Costa Rica already has a Pacific road, and new bridges have been installed in most river crossings between Jacó and Quepos. The road south of Quepos to Dominical is gravel but could easily be upgraded.

Central America already is connected by the Pan-American Highway, but in Costa Rica this road runs from Puntarenas to the capital of San José and then runs south mostly inland to Panamá.

The Fox plan would unite the national electric grids, and Costa Rica already has underway the Boruca hydro project that would produce excess electricity for sale. Plans also call for a $320 million electrical distribution line from Guatemala to Panamá

Plan Puebla-Panama also envisions one or more "land canals" to move goods faster than the Panamá Canal does now. A proposal for a Pacific and an Atlantic deepwater port in Mexico also would develop a bullet train to move freight containers quickly from one port to the other. This "land canal" could cut days off the shipment of goods from the Orient to the U.S. East Coast.

Some relevant Web sites:

1. Official Mexican Plan Puebla a Panamá site (in Spanish):


2. Border Information and Outreach Service that generally opposes the plan and contains many links to individual articles written about the concept:


3. Reporter Ron Mader has compiled a number of relevant links on his Mexico Connect Business Web page.


Critics of the Fox plan come from a number of quarters. Some worry about the environmental damage. Others have concern that the industrial assembly plants that characterize the Mexico side of the border with the United States will be spread throughout Central America. 

Other critics think the plan will bring great pressure on countries like Costa Rica to develop petroleum and mineral wealth despite citizens’ concerns. And others believe the plan would force privatization of publicly owned utilities and service monopolies.

And yet others believe that the plan will put Central America further in debt to international bankers for generations yet to come.

Fox tries to stop
concerns on peso

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

MEXICO CITY, México — Mexican President Vicente Fox has attempted to reassure a jittery business sector after comments by the country's finance secretary that Mexico could soon face an economic meltdown like that of Argentina. 

President Fox is in damage-control mode in the wake of comments by a member of his own cabinet that sent the Mexican peso plummeting against the U.S. dollar Thursday.

Fox said Mexico's situation in no way mirrors that of Argentina. He says his country's economy is solid, and there are no concerns of this sort. Thursday Finance Secretary Francisco Gil Diaz said Mexico has a problem similar to the one Argentina experienced prior to its default on a whopping $141 billion in public debt. 

Gil Diaz said Mexico, like Argentina, is attempting to compensate for insufficient tax revenue by selling off state-owned enterprises. He added that, at some point, Mexico will have nothing left to sell and that that moment is closer than many people think. Gil Diaz' comments sent the Mexican peso to an 18-month low against the dollar. The Mexican currency suffered its biggest one-day percentage decline in more than two years.

But President Fox insists Mexico's economy is on a strong footing. He says there are important distinctions between Mexico's economy and that of Argentina before its default.

Fox said Mexico's country-risk level is the lowest in the nation's history. He said Mexico has the highest levels of international reserves, and that inflation, currency and interest rates are all in correct positions.

Last month, Mexico announced the sale of a state-owned insurance company for just under $1 billion. President Fox has trimmed government expenditures and sought to boost revenues. But Mexico's congress has rejected Mr. Fox's attempts to overhaul the nation's tax code. Economists say, even with the sale of state-owned enterprises, government revenue remains largely flat.

Mayors forced to quit posts by Colombian rebels
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

BOGOTA, Colombia — The internal war has taken a new turn as left-wing rebels attempt to create a leadership crisis in the countryside by forcing local mayors out of office at gunpoint. 

This weekend more than two dozen mayors resigned from office after receiving death threats from the country's largest left-wing rebel group, the FARC. The rebels are now extending their threats to local leaders across the country. 

When Mayor Orlando Giraldo announced his resignation Saturday, he had 22 fellow mayors standing behind him. Half of one of the most powerful provinces in Colombia, Antioquio, had just been thrown into leadership void. 

The 23 mayors were given little choice. If they had not resigned by midnight Saturday, the FARC had threatened to kill them. And on Sunday, the guerrillas sent notice to the mayors of at least eight other provinces giving them until next Wednesday to resign or die. 

Local governments in rural Colombia have been in the cross-hairs of the country's armed insurgents

for years, targeted either by the left-wing guerrillas or right-wing paramilitaries. 

But in the past, the rebels tried to share power, forcing local leaders into paying them kickbacks from contracts or hiring rebel supporters in government jobs. But now, the FARC is trying a new strategy. Instead of co-leadership, the armed guerrillas want no local leadership, hoping they will fill the political vacuum. 

According to municipal leader Gilberto Toro, many mayors also face a counter threat from the rival right-wing paramilitaries. Any mayor who leaves office because of guerrilla pressure, says Toro, will become a target of the paramilitaries as punishment for caving in to the FARC. 

Since peace talks with the rebels broke down earlier this year, the FARC has turned to strategies that destabilize the economy and every day lives of Colombians. 

So far, the central government's only response to this current crisis has been a promise of more military protection for local leaders. That will force the army to spread itself ever more thinly across the country. 

Internet scamster
reaches settlement

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The 17-year-old Internet scam artist who stashed his loot in Costa Rican casino accounts has entered into a partial settlement with the U.S. government.

The youth, Cole A. Bartiromo, captured the public’s eye when investigators said he raised more than $1 million from 1,000 investors using the "Invest Better 2001" Internet name.

Bartiromo ran what investigators said was a classic "pump and dump" scheme in which he purchased large blocks of 15 publicly traded corporations and then touted the stock heavily with false and misleading Internet promotions. When the price when up, he made a profit.

In the settlement, Bartiromo agreed to disgorge ill-gotten gains and interest totaling $93,731.00 that he procured from the pump-and-dump scheme, according to an announcement by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

The youngsters already surrended to the government the $1 million he got from investors who sent him the money on the strength of his Internet presence. 

The youngster purportedly offered  "guaranteed" and "risk-free" investment programs in which he pooled investors' funds to bet on sporting events and promised to repay investors between 125 percent and 2,500 percent of their principal within specified periods ranging from three days to several weeks. 

His arrest made news not because the scam is unusual but because 1,000 persons sent money to someone who turned out to be a 17-year-old.

New tomato has
more cancer-fighters

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Tomatoes containing three times more of the cancer-fighting antioxidant lycopene have been developed by researchers from Purdue University and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The scientists were working to develop bioengineered tomatoes for food processing that were of higher quality and would ripen later than known varieties. In the process, they discovered that the new tomatoes also had more of the pigment lycopene than conventional tomatoes.

"This is one of the first examples of increasing the nutritional value of food through biotechnology," said Avtar Handa, professor of horticulture at Purdue. Co-discoverer Autar Mattoo, who heads the agriculture department’s Vegetable Laboratory, said the increase in lycopene occurred naturally in the genetically modified tomatoes.

Lycopene is a pigment that gives tomatoes their characteristic red color and is one of hundreds of carotenoids that color fruits and vegetables, the most familiar being beta-carotene, which is found in carrots. In the body these pigments capture electrically charged oxygen molecules that can damage tissue. Because of this they are called antioxidants.

Lycopene has been the focus of much attention since 1995, when a six-year study by Harvard University found that men who ate four to seven servings of foods per week containing tomato sauce or tomatoes were 20 percent less likely to develop prostate cancer.

Research has found that lycopene also reduces the amount of oxidized low-density lipoprotein — the so-called bad cholesterol — and therefore may reduce the risk of heart disease.

Handa said the technique used in the latest research might also be used to increase the amount of other antioxidants in foods. A USDA article on the cancer-fighting tomato can be found at the following Web site: http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/AR/

Advice columnist
Ann Landers dies

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

CHICAGO, Ill. — One of America's most widely-read advice columnists is dead. The woman known to millions of people as Ann Landers died Saturday at her home here.

Esther Lederer was an Iowa-born housewife when, in 1955, she won a contest to become the new writer of the Chicago Sun-Times newspaper's "Ann Landers" advice column. For 47 years, she replied to readers asking about love, death, etiquette and countless other matters. 

Ms. Lederer, 83, died of bone cancer Saturday at her apartment in Chicago. Her daughter says the columnist had been diagnosed with the illness this past January.

At the peak of her career, Ann Landers was the world's most widely read newspaper columnist. Her syndicate says that in 1993, the column was carried by more than 1,200 newspapers worldwide, and read by an estimated 90 million people. The column has been based at the Chicago Tribune since 1987.

In an interview several years ago, Ms. Lederer said when she died, the name "Ann Landers" would go with her. "They can write an advice column, but they will never have that name. I own that name. I do not wish to will it to anyone. That is me. When I go, the column goes with me," she said.

Ms. Lederer's twin sister, Pauline, followed her into the advice business, and is known to millions as "Dear Abby." Pauline's career choice reportedly sparked a feud between the two sisters, who refused to talk to each other for several years before reconciling.

Psychology Today magazine once praised the Ann Landers column for influencing how many people resolved their problems. Ms. Lederer was a strong believer in counseling and often sought advice from prominent experts when a reader's problem proved too complicated.

Ms. Lederer answered hundreds of letters a day from the office in her high-rise apartment in Chicago, working on a typewriter because she did not like computers. Despite her illness, Ms. Lederer worked right up until her death. Sunday's edition of the Chicago Tribune carries her latest column.

Turkey and Korea
move to semi-finals

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Turkey has edged Senegal, 1-0, in extra time, to advance to the semifinals of the World Cup football tournament. And South Korea, co-host of the World Cup football tournament, has upset Spain in a penalty kick shootout to reach the semi-finals.

A second-half substitute, Ilhan Mansiz, became a hero for the Turks when he scored "the golden goal" in the 94th minute of extra time. Mansiz took a crossing pass from teammate Umit Davala and blasted the ball past Senegal's goalkeeper, Tony Sylva.

Mansiz replaced Turkey's team captain, Hakan Sukur, in the 67th minute. Sukur failed to convert on several scoring chances in the first half.

Senegal also had some missed scoring opportunities during the match in Osaka, Japan. In the 20th minute, a Senegal goal was disallowed because of an offsides penalty.

Senegal and Turkey were both two of the big surprises at this 17th World Cup. Neither team had ever reached the quarterfinals before. Senegal was making its World Cup debut, while Turkey qualified for football's premier event for the first time since 1954.

The remarkable performance by the Koreans at this World Cup continued, as they beat favored Spain in a penalty kick shootout, 5-3, in Gwangju Saturday. The game was scoreless through 90 minutes of regulation and 30 minutes of extra time. 

The first four Korean players all made their kicks from the penalty spot in the shootout, as did the first three from Spain. But the fourth Spanish player, Joaquin, hesitated for a moment before he struck the ball, and Korean keeper Lee Woon-Jae did not go for the fake and blocked the shot.

Up stepped captain Hong Myung-Bo for Korea with an entire nation nervously watching. His kick was good to clinch the victory.

South Korea moves into the semi-finals to play Germany on Tuesday in Seoul.

Turkey moves on to the semifinals, where it will get a rematch with four-time champion, Brazil Wednesday in Saitama, Japan. Brazil beat Turkey in first round group play, 2-1. 

Europe ‘polio-free’

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The World Health Organization has certified Europe as being the world's third region free from polio. 

The last case in Europe occurred in 1998, but the continent could still be in danger of an outbreak of the disease brought in from one of the other regions where polio is still a threat, such as Africa or South Asia. 

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