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These stories were published Wednesday, July 2, 2003, in Vol. 3, No. 129
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Officials link pair to teacher strike
'Communist' agitators can't return to country
By Saray Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica will not let two persons, described as foreign agitators, to reenter the country. The issue raised the possibility of Communists in the Costa Rican labor movement.

The pair, a Cuban woman and a Brazilian man, participated in demonstrations involved in the just-completed teachers’ strike, according to officials here.

The issue came up at the Consejo de Gobierno Tuesday morning from Chancellor Robert Tovar Faja and Rogelio Ramos, minister de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública. Both described the case as one of Communist infiltration.

They identified the Cuban woman as Carmen Godínez Cedeño. Tovar said she came to Costa Rica June 19 and left June 29.

Both she and the Brazilian, identified as Braulio Céspedes, at least took part in a march of educators on the General Cañas Autopista toward Juan Santamaría International Airport. Ms. Godínez urged on the educators to block roads and interrupt vehicle movement, said the ministers. She was further identified as an employee of a Cuban government agency.

"It is very questionable that being foreigners they came to participate in pressure movements as agitators,’ said Ramos.

Foreigners generally are forbidden from becoming involved in the internal politics of Costa Rica, although some U.S. citizens make donations to political parties and frequently 
younger U.S. citizens, mostly students, participate in some political demonstrations 

Saray Ramírez Vindas/A.M. Costa Rica
Tovar and Ramos discuss Cuban visitor

including recent ones against the Iraqui war and Presdient Abel Pacheco's perceived support of it.

Ms. Godínez was invited to Costa Rica by the board of directors of the Unión de Empleados de la Caja y la Seguridad Social, said Tovar. A year ago she visited Costa Rica as a guest of an official of the University Nacional where she participated in meetings organized by the Sindicato de la Universidad Nacional, the union there, he added later in a statement.

Tovar said the woman’s actions were unacceptable and that the pair will not be able to get visas to return to Costa Rica in the future, said Tovar. He said the case will be turned over to the Dirección de Inteligencia y Seguridad.

"We would like to see what would happen to a Costa Rican who participated in a strike in Cuba," said Tovar.

Teachers returned to work Monday after a strike that lasted 26 school days.

Japan getting a big taste of Costa Rican coffee
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The country has embarked on an effort to woo Japanese consumers to Costa Rican coffee.

The promotion has been going on since May and will include September and October, the months when the Japanese drink the most coffee.

The promotion includes decorated coffee houses and the inclusion of Costa Rican coffee in hundreds of vending machines.

During the various months, the promotion will offer different types of coffee from the major growing regions in Costa Rica.  For example, July

features coffee from the Central Valley, and August will feature coffee from the Orosi area. Costa Rica exports about $10 million in coffee to Japan each year, but Vietnam, the main Asian producer country is nearer.

"The idea is to promote Costa Rican coffee and open new opportunities for our producers who are able to have information over the tastes and preferences of the Japanese consumer and its correlation to the regions presented," said the Costa Rican ambassador in Japan, Ricardo 
Sequeira.

Officials also hope for some positive effects on tourism, too, as a result of the promotion.

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U.S. cuts off Colombian military aid over court issue
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The Bush administration has suspended military aid to Colombia because it is one of 35 countries that have failed to exempt Americans from prosecution before the International Criminal Court. 

However, the action is not expected to be major. Richard Boucher, State Department spokesman said Monday that of the $100 million promised to Colombia this year in military aid, only $5 million has yet to be spent and will be suspended.

Boucher, said that some 50 million dollars in aid that would have been paid out over the next three months will be cut to all the countries involved.

Much of the money that the United States sends to Colombia is for anti-drug operations, and that money will not be cut off, Boucher said.

The military aid to Colombia has been a major political issue with the United States being accused of increasingly becoming involved in the 40-year-old civil war there.

Other U.S. allies such as Brazil and South Africa are among those affected. The list also includes Bulgaria, Slovakia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Slovenia, all candidates for membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. 

The U.S. Congress had set July first as a deadline for countries to sign agreements exempting U.S. citizens from prosecution in the three-month old court, established to try cases of war crimes and human rights violations. 

The Bush administration has expressed fears that the court leaves U.S. peacekeepers and other troops open to politically motivated prosecutions. 

Acting in what he said was U.S. national interest, President Bush earlier Tuesday granted temporary waivers to 22 countries that were threatened with losing aid. Those countries have until later in the year to sign exemption agreements. 

The U.S. law also exempts NATO countries from signing immunity agreements and such major non-NATO U.S. allies as Israel, Egypt, Japan, South Korea, Argentina and the Philippines. 

European countries have blasted the U.S. immunity requirement, saying it has undermined the court.

Some 134 countries receive military assistance from the United States in the form of international military education and training and/or foreign
military financing funding.

Boucher said that a new U.S. fiscal year begins Oct. 1, and that is when the suspension of military aid will be felt.


 
 
Minister gets praise
for building takeover

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The cultural minister received praise Tuesday for his decisive action in retaking the old customs house from a private tenant.

The action happened Friday. The mininster is Guido Sáenz of Cultura, Juventud y Desporte. He said Tuesday his blood ran cold Friday when he arrived 
Guido Sáenz
at the sprawling antigua aduana building in Barrio Aranjuez to visit the three-day exposition, the Feria del Libro.

He said he saw advertisements for other expositions in the same building put on by the same company, the Feria Internacional de Costa Rica. 

The problem was that the company’s lease on the building ran out April 5, 2002. The issue has been in court since.

Sáenz said he sought help from Rogelio Ramos, the minister of Gobernación, Policía to set up an operation to take over the structure.

Police pulled open a gate and officials entered the premises. Sáenz likened the event to the storming of the Bastile. The book fair, delayed for several hours by the police activity, continued.

The ministry wants to use the building as a museum for sculpture. The building is at Calle 23 and Avenida 3, just south of the Santa Teresita Church.

President Abel Pacheco said that the minister acted on behalf of the rights of all Costa Ricans.

The exposition company was not happy. It took an ad in Diario Extra Tuesday and said it still had serious and fundamnental legal issues in the courts. It called Sáenz the "badly named mininster of cluture" and said he disrupted the book fair.

Wife, 43, murdered
and husband is sought

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Investigators are seeking a Guanacaste man suspected of stabbing his wife five times in the chest and then slashing his 15-year-old daughter in the eye.

The man was identified as Luis Angel Alvarado Bermúdez. The wife, Mirta Hernández Ruiz, 43, died in the attack. The daugher, Mirta Alvarado Hernández was being treated.

The murder happened in Barrio el Nuevo Limonal in Las Juntas de Abangares, said the Fuerza Pública. The Judicial Investigating Organization said that the woman suffered the stab wounds about 4:50 a.m. in the home she shared with Alvarado.

Police kill suspect
in Curridabat fight

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A man got in a fight Monday night with his girlfriend and then pulled a knife on police when they arrived to help her in Curridabat. A policeman shot him dead.

They identified the man as Alexánder Vargas Ramírez, 35, and said he had served four years for attempted robbery. They said they discovered the knife, crack and cocaine on his body.

Chavez sees Fidel
in secret encounter

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

HAVANA, Cuba — Government officials say President Fidel Castro and his Venezuelan counterpart, Hugo Chavez, have held private, face-to-face talks on bilateral relations. President Chavez's trip was kept secret until after he had left the island. 

State-run television said Monday that the Venezuelan leader met with President Castro Sunday after attending a summit in Colombia of Andean Community leaders. 

The Cuban news media also reported that Chavez visited a health center which has been providing specialized medical care to Venezuelan patients under an agreement between the two countries.

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Time not right for suits, creditors' lawyer says
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

José Miguel Villalobos Umaña, the lawyer hired by an informal group of creditors, is trying to explain why he never filed a criminal action against high government officials.

His promise to bring a quick criminal case against certain hidden conspirators was one of the reasons a group of creditors started a legal fund last Feb. 2.

The creditors all had given their money to the Villalobos Brothers borrowing operation in return for promises of monthly interest nearing 3 percent. Their monthly interest stopped when the Villalobos Brothers closed up shop last Oct. 14.

At a Feb. 2 meeting the lawyer Villalobos said that a criminal action against officials will cause the government to wrap up the case against Luis Enrique Villalobos quickly. He also said that the police raid and subsequent investigation of the Villalobos Brothers and the associated chain of Ofinter S.A. money exchange houses was done for political reasons. But he stopped short of naming names.

"He characterized the legal action against the government as a way to sway public opinion and said he doubted that the case would endure more than the three to six months needed to finish it," said the Feb. 3 story in A.M. Costa Rica paraphrasing the lawyer.

In an apparent rationalization as to why the criminal action has not been filed, the lawyer released a statement basically saying there was no one against whom he could bring a criminal action.

Villalobos, the lawyer, also absolved President Abel Pacheco of responsibility for the raid and subsequent investigation. "Since the responsibility for shutting down the Villalobos Brothers’ businesses was the result of a judicial action and not one of the Executive Power, that governmental body cannot be sued.," he said in his statement translated into English and released via an e-mail by the informal creditor group.

Villalobos, the lawyer, also moderated his tone and talked in the statement Tuesday about "lawsuits" and not the criminal complaints he promised.

He also said that the Villalobos Brothers have not been guilty of the crime of financial 

intermediation, that is borrowing money and 
lending it to a third party in the same way a bank does. For this reason the Superintendencia de Entitades Financieros is off the hook, the lawyer said: "Consequently, the lack of supervision does not imply a responsibility for which it should be held accountable, since legally it was not its obligation to perform such supervision."

The only people left are the judicial officials, but he said ". . . the Judge and the Prosecutor have not finished the investigation they are in charge of and, consequently, it is not possible to attribute any responsibility from a legal perspective.  This does not mean that, at the right time, it will not be possible to file those lawsuits, when the negligence or bad intentions of these individuals can be established."

In another development, an e-mail from the board of the informal creditor group, the United Concerned Citizens & Residents of Costa Rica, said Tuesday that ". . .that Jose Miguel Villalobos has never filed any documents seeking the release of Osvaldo." The second Villalobos brother is Oswaldo.

Villalobos, the lawyer, did file a motion for habeas corpus that was rejected by an appeals court, so the meaning of the e-mail is not clear.

Villalobos, the lawyer, entered into an unusual fee arrangement with the informal creditor group, which is continuing to collect money. He established a $300,000 fee payable in three parts. Already he has received about $76,000, according to the group’s Web site.

The message from Villalobos, the lawyer, and the creditor group board is in anticipation of a meeting scheduled for July 6 at which a number of creditors are expected to seek an accounting from the lawyer. Some are unhappy that he announced for president a short time after making an agreement with the creditors. He plans to form his own political party.

Others are unhappy that Luis Enrique Villalobos or Oswaldo Villalobos have not chipped in to pay part of the money given to José Villalobos.

Others would like to see a dollar-by-dollar accounting, typical of itemized legal bills.

The informal creditor group, on the other hand, plans to seek more donations at the Sunday meeting.


 
Banker's banker says world economy is lackluster
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

BASEL, Switzerland — With a number of uncertainties hanging over the global economy, the world economic outlook is mixed, the head of an international banking organization says.

Global economic performance was lackluster in 2002 despite significant policy stimulus, and some closely related risks continue to affect the prospects for more vigorous economic recovery, said Nout Wellink, president of the Bank for International Settlements. He spoke Monday at the bank's annual meeting here.

The international organization works to ensure monetary and financial stability and serves as a bank for central banks.

Wellink said the key question now is whether stimulative policies and consumer spending will lead to more investment without deepening imbalances that "could at some point threaten the sustainability of the expansion."

He cited a decline in oil prices, renewed investor confidence and the recovery of equity markets as "encouraging signs." He said that particularly in the United States the "preconditions for a quickening recovery seem to be largely in place."

But Wellink cautioned that major risks, including "rather optimistic" projections of corporate profitability, global current account imbalances, and possible weakening of the housing market and consumer spending, remain.

The key policy challenge, he said, is to "promote sustainable world growth while facilitating a gradual absorption of the imbalances, real and financial, domestic and international." He said this is particularly important in the slower-growing economies outside the United States.

Wellink warned that policymakers could have to deal with unfamiliar circumstances if deflationary pressure spreads beyond the Asian region. Such a 

development could not be "ruled out" if economic weakness lasted long enough, he added.

Wellink said that Japanese policymakers have little "ammunition" left while their European counterparts have maneuvering room in monetary policy but very little in the fiscal policy area where options have been "drastically" narrowed by the failure to make the necessary structural reforms.

"Were the euro to appreciate further as part of the global adjustment process, this should be taken as a catalyst for the necessary reform, rather than as an excuse to fall back into dangerous protectionism," Wellink said.

In the United States monetary policy has been approaching the zone where its effectiveness could become "less certain," and fiscal policy has been "rapidly" consuming the budget "cushions ... to the point where questions could be raised about its long-term sustainability," Wellink said.

He said that in the near future the success of economic policies may depend on cooperation between monetary, fiscal and, in some cases, regulatory authorities. "The global nature of the challenges is likely to test further the process of international cooperation," Wellink said.

Venezulean-U.S. chat
centers on poverty

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C.  — More than 30 legislators from the United States and Venezuela are holding a three-day forum to discuss how to reduce poverty in that Andean nation.

The meeting in Nantucket, Mass., of the U.S.-Venezuela Interparliamentary Forum (informally known as the "Boston Group") began Monday and is being held with the support of the Organization of American States in order to promote democracy in the hemisphere.

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