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These stories were published Wednesday, June 29, 2005, in Vol. 5, No. 127
Jo Stuart
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U.S. expats are getting ready to party
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

As you read this some dedicated people are getting together tents, hot dogs, beer and all the other necessities for one heckuva party Saturday.

If anything works well in Costa Rica, it is the American Colony Committee and the annual Fourth of July bash.

As a friend said, “I haven't been back to the United States in awhile.” Well, Saturday the States come to him. And there are not many Gringos who do not feel a lump in the throat when the U.S. Marine color guard runs Old Glory up the pole and the concert band comes forth with “The Star Spangled Banner.”

These are tough times to be an American in Costa Rica. A lot of people including fellow countrymen do not understand what the U.S. Forces are doing in Afghanistan and Iraq. Some who do understand disagree strongly. Costa Ricans fear that the free trade agreement is another filibuster plot to take over.

So Saturday is a good time to come together in friendship and respect for the 229 years of U.S. Independence, an event, by the way, that inspired  Francisco de Miranda, Simon Bolivar and a litany of other Latin American patriots. If past events are an indication, the Democrats Abroad will have a tent adjacent to the Republicans Abroad, both in celebration of democracy.

A.M. Costa Rica file photo
Skill with water ballons a July 4 necessity
The setting is the Cerverceria Costa Rica picnic grounds west of San José on the Autopista General Cañas. The event draws so many expats that there is bus service from the parking lots to the picnic grounds. Traditionally, but not always, the signs have been pretty obvious.

Adult expats have to bring their U.S. passports, although youngsters and non-U.S. spouses seldom are hassled. Security is tight for a picnic.

Children should come. Despite the free beer, the event really is for youngsters to provide a traditional July Fourth experience far from Main Street. Games and contests as well as rides cater to every age group.

In recognition of the afternoon showers, the event begins early, 8 a.m., and ends at noon.

And if anyone has not partied enough, Canada Day is celebrated Sunday at the  Pedregal complex in San Antonio de Belén. The event, which does not have a citizenship test, is a benefit for the Costa Rican schools.

Book fair event Saturday features the folktales of Costa Rica
By the A.M. Costa Ricas staff

Costa Rican legends are coming alive Saturday when Spanish-language storytellers present the country's oral tradition.

La Llorona, La Segua, los Duendes and the frightful Carreta Sin Bueyes are only some of the tales that will be fleshed out at 6 p.m. in the Salón Miguel Angel Asturias at the Feria del Libro 2005 in the Pedregal complex in San Antonio de Belén.

Some of the rich folktale tradition, like La Llarona and los Duendes, is shared with other
Latin countries. Other tales, like the Carreta Sin Bueyes and La Tulevieja, seems to be Costa Rican originals. Many of these folk tales have been topics of tales and articles in this newspaper and are available via a search of the archives.

Directions to the event are published on the Club de Libros Web site.

The evening also will be a time to present the new CD “Un miedo maravilloso: Leyendas de la tradición oral Costarricense” by Ana Victoria Garro, who has been invited. Other top storytellers will attend, too.

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Montezuma man's ordeal
prompts discussion

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Peter Hallström, the Swedish national who was arrested in Nicaragua last week, should have received an opportunity to make a phone call and to contact his diplomatic representatives, said the Swedish consul there.

He was not allowed to do either.  The Swedish consul in Nicaragua, Eva-Carin Norrlof, said that she will meet with officials in Nicaragua to discuss what went wrong and measures to prevent further situations such as Hallström's. 

Hallström, who lives in Montezuma, spent 20 hours in jail in Granada.  He was arrested after a motorcyclist crashed into his car at an intersection.  He paid the motorcyclist $800 in damages and then was jailed while Nicaraguan officials validated the agreement.     

Traffic cop is suspect
in shooting of woman

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A tránsito officer faces an allegation that he shot a 19-year-old woman in the knee with his service revolver and then tried to flee.

The incident Tuesday happened in south San José. The officer, identified by the last names of Arguello Ramirez, was taken into custody after a short chase by motorcycle officers of the Fuerza Pública.

Officials did not say if the traffic policeman was on duty at the time. The victim, identified as Hellen Hernández Navarro was wounded in the right knee and sought medical attention at Hospital San Juan de Dios. The revolver was .38-caliber.

Arresting officers confiscated the weapon, but a spokesperson for the Poder Juidicial said Tuesday afternoon that the case still was under investigation and that no action had yet been instituted against the policeman.

Media urged to keep
ethical principles

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Alejandro Miró Quesada, president of the Inter American Press Association, stressed the need for the media in the Americas to denounce corruption, uphold ethical principles, defend democracy, support a better standard of living for citizens and practice proactive journalism if they are to stay in business while remaining faithful to the mission of advocating good governance.

"A journalist who denounces corrupt practice must have the moral authority to do so," he declared, in the keynote presentation for the 6th conference in the monthly Lecture Series of the Americas. Speaking on "Journalism and Good Governance in Latin America and the Caribbean," the Peruvian journalist and lawyer said, "The mission to defend democracy or good governance often means criticizing negative actions or denouncing crimes."

In Latin America, and to some extent in the Caribbean, the oversight role that falls to the written press is all the more critical for society as these media often are the only such force in the absence of solid institutions, Miró Quesada said. He argued that investigative journalism must be thorough. "It must also be willing to courageously confront the power establishment — in the political and economic arenas and even mafia types — and acknowledge and properly correct mistakes."

Miró Quesada, who is also publisher of Peru's El Comercio newspaper, suggested journalism must also "seek to solve, rather than create, problems and seek to promote a better standard of living for citizens" by being transparent, fair and based on ethical guidelines that emphasize such elements as plurality, truth, equity and independence.

Miró Quesada also highlighted the importance of synergies between the written press and the electronic media.

The Lecture Series of the Americas was created on a Peruvian government initiative to promote democratic principles and values in the countries of the hemisphere. The monthly conferences feature internationally known speakers who address key issues of the hemispheric agenda, such as the strengthening of democracy, human rights, social development, hemispheric security and the fight against poverty.

Australian is No. 1
in NBA player draft

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

NEW YORK, N.Y. —  Australian Andrew Bogut has been selected as the top overall pick in the National Basketball Association draft held Tuesday at Madison Square Garden in New York City.  NBA Commissioner David Stern made the widely expected announcement.

"With the first pick in the 2005 NBA Draft, the Milwaukee Bucks select Andrew Bogut from Australia and the University of Utah,"  Stern says.

Bogut's parents are from Croatia, and he played two collegiate seasons in the United States before deciding to turn professional. 

Bogut is the seventh non-American to be selected No. 1 in the draft.  Yao Ming of China, selected by the Houston Rockets in 2002, is the only player to be taken No. 1 directly from an international league or federation.

Fran Vazquez of Spain was selected as the 11th overall pick by the Orlando Magic.  He averaged 11.3 points and 5.8 rebounds per game this past season in Spain.  The Los Angeles Clippers used the 12th pick to take 18-year-old Russian forward Yaroslav Korolev.

Intel sponsors gaming meet

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Intel Corp is among the technology firms sponsoring  the Cyberathlete Extreme Summer Championships starting a week from today at the Gaylord Texan Resort, in Grapevine, Texas.  Computer gamers who participate have the chance to compete for $200,000 in prizes.

She didn't like the cabbie

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A woman hailed a taxi, got in, suddenly grabbed the steering wheel and tried to throw the driver out the door, police said Tuesday.  As the driver fought the woman over the steering wheel, the car drove into a ditch, Fuerza Pública officers added.
The police caught a woman suspect, identified by the last names Picado Campos, and arrested her. 

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Ticos doubt that fuel rules will do much to prices
By Jesse Froehling
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

People seem to have already discussed the fuel-saving order that President Abel Pacheco is expected to sign today, but they doubt it will have any affect.

One part of the measure is voluntary.  The other part forces government workers to arrive an hour earlier to work.

Government officials think that these measures will ease traffic congestion, thereby allowing people to arrive at their destinations more quickly and thus drop the overall fuel consumption.  These actions, it is hoped, will lower gas prices.  A barrel of oil costs more than $60, an unprecedented high. 

But many employees at Instituto Nacional de Seguros, the national insurance agency, feel that nothing will change. 

Manuel Meza Sandoval, an employee at the insurance

Roberto Madrigal, a 15-year taxi driver

A.M. Costa Rica photos/Jesse Froehling
Buses are likely to become more popular.

institute, said that in order for the country's fuel consumption to drop, the people's attitude needs to change. 

“It's a cultural thing,” said Sandoval.  “This just changes the time we have to get to work.  It doesn't change the amount of fuel we expend.” 

He said that the earlier arrival time won't bother him, and many of his colleagues agree.  Everyone questioned said that an earlier work time for government workers won't affect the amount of gas used nor will it change their private lives.  Costa Rica is a country where citizens usually wake up early.

The voluntary part regulates the days in which cars may travel in the capital during rush hour by the last digit on the license plate.

Roberto Madrigal, a 15-year taxi driver, said that he doesn't see opportunity as a result of the day-per-week limit because most people, he guessed, if they obey the voluntary mandate, will simply take the bus on the day they don't drive.  He admited that the measure may ease traffic tension, allowing him to arrive at his destinations earlier. 

“Maybe it will do a little,” he said, but he doesn't foresee lowered gas prices as a result. 

Another taxi driver, Jose Campos, agreed.  “People will just take the bus and there will be less cars on the road.  That's it.”

The decree, that Pacheco said Tuesday he would sign today, outlines the downtown from Avenida 9 in the north to Avenida 10 in the south as the area where travel is restricted — but voluntarily.

Some older-style cell telephones available for those on the waiting list
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Some 6,000 old-style TDMA cell telephones will go on sale today but only to persons who already have expressed an interest.

The Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad said that anyone with a number of 50,000 or lower on its waiting list could seek a telephone. These are cell lines that have been surrendered or otherwise taken back by the telecommunications company.

Although TDMA is not considered technology as new as the GSM lines now in use in the country, many users say the older-style telephones are more reliable.

The Costa Rican telephone monopoly has always struggled to keep up with the demand, but the current situation is a far cry from what existed three years ago when the waiting period was two to three years to get a cell telephone.
The insitute, known as ICE, expected to have some 600,000 more GSM lines enter into service by Christmas.

In order to get one of the available TDMA telephones, someone with an eligible waiting list number must apply at an agency of ICE instead of a cellular telephone vendor.

Applicants have to bring a TDMA telephone with them as well as an original and copy showing both sides of a cédula or other identification document and a receipt for telephone or utility services to verify the address. In addition, ICE wants the original and a copy of the receipt or factura showing that the applicant actually purchased the device and paid sales taxes.

Applicants also have to put up a deposit of 12,500 colons, some $26.30. Corporate applicants must bring additional paperwork.

U.S., Canada and México
Counterfeiting and piracy key themes of partnership
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

OTTAWA, Canada — The United States, Mexico and Canada have released their first report about the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America, which was created by the leaders of the three countries March 23.

The report was issued following a meeting of U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff and U.S. Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutiérrez with their official counterparts from Mexico and Canada here.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security said that the report identifies initial results, key themes and initiatives of the program.  Among the key initiatives identified is the development of a coordinated strategy by 2006 for combating counterfeiting and piracy in North America.

In addition, the report cites common principles for electronic commerce and more cooperation among the three nations in making air transport, energy,
steel, automotive manufacturing and other economic sectors more competitive.

The report also identifies agreements that have been reached under the program framework to enhance cooperation on public health and protections related to the safety of consumer goods and safe international trade opportunities for certain agricultural products.

Through the Security and Prosperity Partnership, the United States, Mexico, and Canada are "building upon the strong relationships between our countries to further our common security goals and achieve transformational improvements," said Chertoff.  "Security and prosperity must go hand in hand, and this partnership will bring their true promise to bear."

Among the security goals identified in the report, all three countries have agreed to establish a single, integrated North American Trusted Traveler Program in less than three years.  This program will offer a single application portal and enrolled participants will have access to all trusted traveler dedicated lanes at land, air and sea ports of entry.

Argentine diplomat will try to encourage dialogue in Nicaragua
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The former Argentinean foreign minister, Dante Caputo, is the Organization of American States’ special envoy to Nicaragua.  Caputo will also collaborate on efforts to strengthen that country’s democracy.

He heads to Nicaragua today to continue discussions initiated by a mission that José Insulza, the OAS secretary general, led there two weeks ago.

In an oral report to the organization's Permanent Council last week following that visit, Insulza announced he would appoint a special mission to Nicaragua — under a high-level representative — to encourage dialogue among the opposing political factions.

Caputo emerged from a private meeting with Insulza at OAS headquarters Tuesday, saying he would remain in Nicaragua for as long as it takes “to do the job the secretary general asked me to do in assisting and facilitating dialogue between and among the parties involved.”  He added, “The job of facilitating is top priority — to help the parties find common
ground to resume their dialogue.  This is not a mediation effort.”

Insulza, meanwhile, explained that the mission headed by Caputo is intended to spur national dialogue between various segments of Nicaraguan society and the government, and report back to the Permanent Council on “the unfolding of events in Nicaragua.”

The mission is being undertaken against the backdrop of the Inter-American Democratic Charter and in pursuance of a Declaration of Support for Nicaragua, adopted by the hemisphere’s foreign ministers at the recent OAS General Assembly session in Fort Lauderdale, Fla, Insulza said.

Caputo holds a political science degree from Salvador University of Buenos Aires and a doctorate in sociology from the University of Paris. He served as political advisor to then president Raúl Alfonsín and later as foreign affairs minister of Argentina until 1989, when he was elected to the Chamber of Deputies. In 1988 he was elected as president of the 43rd United Nations General Assembly.  He is also Director of the Program for Democratic Development in Latin America.

Jo Stuart
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