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These stories were published Tuesday, June 24, 2003, in Vol. 3, No. 123
Jo Stuart
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Saray Ramírez Vindas/A.M. Costa Rica
President Pacheco is framed by a line of new police officers shortly before he surrendered power temporarily.
Worn out President Pacheco takes a week off
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Abel Pacheco put himself on the sick list about midday Monday and turned the government over temporarily to Lineth Saborío Chaverri, first vice president.

The development was unexpected because Pacheco had just participated in a ceremony inducting 125 trainees into the Fuerza Pública.  He looked tired but not unduly so.

No letup in teacher strike

Casa Presidencial said that his personal physician ordered one week of rest because the president was tired. Others at the Costa Rican White House downplayed the development.

Vice President Saborío quickly stepped into the presidential role and gave a speech at 7 p.m. Monday night before judicial officials on the topic of human rights. The speech was one Pacheco was scheduled to make.

Vice President Saborío also is scheduled to officiate at the regular Tuesday Consejo de Gobierno or cabinet meeting today.

Pacheco has been both irritated and stressed by the prolonged strike of educators. The teachers unions rejected what the government considered to be a very fair offer Friday, and Pacheco, looking at least stern at Parque de la Paz Sunday promised a strong hand Monday morning.

Pacheco’s personal physician, Eduardo Sáenz 

Madrigal, said on nationwide television that the president is an excellent patient.

The president, 69, has been undergoing cardiac monitoring and is believed to have other medical conditions consistent with his age. He, himself, is a physician with a specialty in psychiatry.

In his speech to the new police officers — among them 15 women — Pacheco again sketched the grand scheme of his presidency. He seeks to improve socioeconomic conditions  in order to protect the citizens and the nuclear family while promoting ethics, personal integrity, austerity and moral values above materialism.

Pacheco said such a social base was more successful than just a good police force. However, he praised the current effort to produce better trained, professional officers who have an understanding of human rights and the Costa Rican Constitution. Some 275 more officers are in various stages of their six-month training and will be sworn in this year, bringing the Fuerza Pública well above 3,000 members who have attended academy training.

Also at the ceremony in the Centro Nacional de la Cultura were Rogelio Ramos, minister of Gobernación, Policía y Seguirdad Pública, and Walter Navarro, commander of the Fuerza Pública.

One observer said that Pacheco placed his hand on the shoulder of an associate to give him support as he left the ceremony. Less than an hour later, he was signing a decree turning the government over to Vice President Saborío.

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The new
daily sport

Running between the raindrops has become the Costa Rican national sport now that the 2003 rainy season is more than living up to its name. Downpours took place at least six times in the downtown area Monday. This is in front of the Teatro Nacional about 3 p.m.

Saray Ramírez Vindas/A.M. Costa Rica
Rains may diminish
in Central Valley

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

There is an end in sight to the seemingly continual heavy rains far in excess of the typical rainy seasons.

The Instituto Meteorológical Nacional said Monday that rain would diminish today in the Pacific slope and in the Central Valley due to a displacement of low pressure in the Pacific Ocean that has been bringing bad weather to the country.

The lessening of rain should continue through Friday, the institute said.

There will be an increase in winds in the Caribbean coast but the weather there will be more stable.

The good news comes too late for Jucó de Orosi in Cartago Province where another big slide hit about dawn Monday. The slide had been expected as a result of heavy rains Saturday and Sunday in the mountains of the country.

The small town had been evacuated and trees, giant rocks and other debris crashed down the hillside. Nearly all the 200 inhabitants had been evacuated.

Like nearly a year ago, the area in and around Orosi will take a tourism hit as a result of the slides and the bad news in the national media. The area is heavily dependent on tourism, particularly in light of the low prices for coffee on the international market.

More money given
for long school year

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Asamblea Nacional Monday night approved a measure that makes available some 22 billion colons to pay teachers for a 200-day school year.

The government had budgeted for 180 days but then faced legal action forcing a longer school year.

The legislative action is a good sign for striking teachers, but there still is no clear end of the four-week strike in sight. The amount involved is about $55 million or about $1,000 per teacher.

Some teachers have decided to return to classes, but the bulk still are on strike. Union officials were supposed to have a counter-counter proposal for the government Monday night. Right now almost all the negotiations center on the union demand for special pension agreements for some 8,000 of the 55,000 teachers.

All other issues that led to the strike seem to have been resolved.

Abel Pacheco became a casualty of the strike Monday when his personal physician told him to take a week off and the president turned the government over to his first vice president.

A report from the legislature said that the vote for the measure on second reading was 46 in favor but that deputies had long discussions.

Some expressed concern that Costa Rican schools in some cases do not even have a dictionary available for students. And many schools have a single teacher to cover all the grades.

Anti-Semitism seen
as anti-democratic

Special to A.M. Costa Rica 

VIENNA, Austria — Calling the International Conference on Anti-Semitism an "historic opportunity," Ambassador Randolph Bell, a member of the U.S. delegation, urged all participating states to make combating anti-Semitism "a permanent and important part of all our foreign and domestic policies."

Speaking at the opening of the two-day conference Thursday here, Bell said the "defining step" of the gathering was "to agree that anti-Semitic violence and crime are important human rights offenses and that they should be monitored and prosecuted as such."

"We cannot seriously or effectively advocate reconciliation and pluralism, tolerance and democracy in the Western Balkans or other areas where democracy is only now taking root if we do not act decisively to combat anti-Semitism in our own midst," he said.

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U.S. Supreme Court backs narrow racial preferences
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday that minority students can be given a slight edge when gaining admission to American colleges and universities. But the high court also cautioned universities not to place too much emphasis on race as a factor in determining whether a student should be granted admission. 

For supporters of affirmative action programs aimed at encouraging racial diversity on college campuses, it was a split decision.

By a vote of five to four, the Supreme Court upheld the affirmative action policy of the University of Michigan Law School. The narrow majority said government does have a compelling interest in encouraging diversity on campus and that the law school approach was sufficiently narrow in scope as to be constitutional.

But in a second ruling, a six to three majority on the high court sided with critics of racial preferences. The court struck down the University of Michigan's undergraduate affirmative action plan that gives minority students a significant advantage in a points-based evaluation system. The court majority said that approach is too much like a racial quota, and places too much emphasis on the race of the college applicant. 

At issue in both cases was whether affirmative action programs aimed at creating a diverse university student body amount to reverse discrimination against white applicants. 
Affirmative action supporters took heart in the 

partial victory. Attorney Miranda Massey argued before the high court on behalf of the University of Michigan Law School.

"The fact that we were able to win a victory in the law school case means that affirmative action programs will be upheld around the country, and we can continue the incomplete progress toward integrating higher education," Ms. Massey said. 

Affirmative action critics were more disappointed that the high court did not go further in restricting racial preferences. "I think the Supreme Court today unfortunately rejected Martin Luther King's dream of a color-blind society, and refused to abide by the Constitution's guarantee of equal treatment of all citizens, regardless of race," said Gerald Walpin, of the Center for Individual Rights in New York.

Monday's Supreme Court rulings on affirmative action are the most significant decisions since 1978. At that time, a sharply divided court said that colleges could take race into account as a factor in deciding, which students to admit, provided those programs were "narrowly tailored."

The affirmative action decisions could have a significant impact, not only on university admissions polices, but on business hiring practices as well.

President Bush hailed the two decisions as striking "a careful balance between the goal of campus diversity and the fundamental principle of equal treatment under the law."

Bush urges end to ban on genetically modified food
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

WASHINGTON, D.C. — President George Bush is urging European nations to lift their ban on imports of genetically modified food, saying high-tech advances can help win the war on hunger. He spoke at an international biotechnology conference here.

The president's message was clear: the ban is hurting the countries that need the most help. "Acting on unfounded, unscientific fears, many European governments have blocked the import of all new biotech crops. Because of these artificial obstacles, many African nations avoid investing in biotechnology, worried that their products will be shut out of important European markets," Bush said. 

Bush said advanced biotechnology would enable the Africans and others to grow crops resistant to drought and disease with far greater yields. He said emergency aid can help fight hunger, but getting this new technology in the hands of 

farmers is essential to these countries. 

"We should encourage the spread of safe, effective biotechnology to win the fight against global hunger," he said. 

The president spoke to a very receptive audience: a gathering of scientists and officials from top biotechnology companies and laboratories around the world. Bush also used the occasion to push Congress to pass his "bio-shield" initiative. It is a plan to put billions of dollars into the development and production of vaccines and treatments that could be used in the event of a chemical or biological terrorist attack. 

"Under project bio-shield, the government will have the spending authority to ensure that the most advanced vaccines and treatments are available to our people," Bush said. 

Bush first announced the initiative in his State of the Union address in January. It calls for expenditures of almost $6 billion over 10 years. 

Putin to visit Britain today with a long agenda
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

LONDON, England — Russian President Vladimir Putin travels here today on the first state visit of a Russian leader to Britain in 129 years. Amid the royal splendor of the visit, Putin will meet with Prime Minister Tony Blair. Key topics are expected to include Russia's economic interests in the rebuilding of Iraq and Putin's stance on continued nuclear cooperation with Iran.

President Putin is the first Russian leader to receive a royal invitation to Britain since Queen Victoria welcomed Czar Alexander II in 1874. Britain's Royal Family severed relations with Russia in 1918, after Communist leaders murdered Russia's last czar, Nicholas II, a distant relative.

But when Putin and his wife arrive in a golden carriage at Buckingham Palace after a majestic procession through the streets of London, more than a century of stony relations will be gilded away, at least symbolically. Putin and his wife will stay at the palace as guests of Queen Elizabeth II during the four-day visit. A state banquet is on the itinerary, as well as visits to Westminster Abbey and the Tower of London.

Royal pomp will make way on Thursday for wide-ranging, but brief, political meetings between President Putin and Prime Minister Blair. The pair will open an Energy Conference in London, spotlighting recent deals by giant British oil companies BP and Shell that will soon make Britain the largest foreign investor in Russia.

Russia's interests in Iraq's energy will be a likely focus of private Putin-Blair talks later that day. 

Putin has expressed concern that a $3.7 billion 

contract between Saddam Hussein's government and one of Russia's biggest oil companies be honored in post-war Iraq.

Professor Margot Light, a Russia expert at the London School of Economics says Putin will seek the prime minister's acknowledgment that oil contracts, in addition to decades worth of Soviet and Russian loans to Iraq, have left the two countries with some unfinished business.

"President Putin has always been concerned about, first of all, the money that Iraq owes to Russia from the Soviet era, and he will want some kind of undertaking that Blair will support him in his quest to make sure that when Iraq reaches economic development again, that that money will be repaid," said Professor Light. 

"He is also concerned about the fact that there were contracts in place with Saddam Hussein that Russia would have a part in the exploitation of the oil fields. And he will want some kind of undertaking, again, that Blair would support his demand that Russia should participate in the restructuring and that those contracts should be upheld."

Moscow's sales of nuclear technology to Iran are also a likely topic of conversation between Blair and Putin. On British television Sunday, the Russian leader said his country's economic interests in Iran would not fall victim to the controversy over that country's nuclear program. Putin said that Iran's president has assured him that Iran is not using its nuclear program for military purposes.

Putin's state visit was arranged well before the war.

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