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These stories were published Wednesday, July 3, 2002, in Vol. 2, No. 130
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Canadian held in brutal robbery of taxi driver
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Investigators arrested a Canadian man Monday in Quepos and said he was the assailant who brutally beat a taxi driver there June 28.

Agents identified the man as Geoffrey David Schuvemeer, 22, who was living with his stepfather in the Pacific beach town. 

The victim of the attack is Francisco Soto Gómez, 42, who was so badly beaten with a piece of construction rebar that he had to have reconstructive surgery, said investigators.

The attack took place about 9:30 p.m. the night of June 29, agents said, adding that this is what happened:

Soto picked up his assailant who took a seat in the rear of the taxi behind the driver. The taxi 

went from place to place in Quepos. When the vehicle arrived at a place known as El Tajo on the road to Manuel Antonio, the attacker put a piece of rebar, a piece of metal rod, on the throat of the taxi driver to cut off his breath until the man lost consciousness.

Then the attacker dragged the man from the taxi, gave him some kicks and smashed him about the face with the metal rod.

The assailant took $40 and 40,000 colons (about $112) from the fallen taxi driver and then took the taxi, which was located by investigators the next day in the center of Quepos.

Schuvemeer is being held for investigation of aggravated robbery and attempted murder, said investigators. They attributed the attack to the need for money to purchase drugs.

Mandatory car inspections to cost about $25 
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transporte said Tuesday that an owner of a passenger car would have to pay slightly less than 9,000 colons ($25) to get the vehicle inspected.

Inspections are due to start July 15 for vehicles with license plates ending in 1 or 2, the ministry said. Owners of such vehicles will have until Aug. 15 to get the inspection. Then owners of cars with plates ending in 3 or 4 would have a month to be inspected.

Next year the inspections start over again. Owners of vehicles with plates ending in 1 have the month of January to get an inspection.
Automobile drivers will pay 8,805 colons.
Commercial vehicles, taxis and trucks will pay more.

The ministry revelations were long awaited and came a day after a violence-laced demonstration against the vehicle inspection process in Pérez Zeledón in southern Costa Rica. There police used tear gas and clashed 

with protestors who blocked the Pan American Highway. About 40 persons were arrested and eight officers suffered injuries, according to security reports. Some 600 persons participated in the demonstration Monday afternoon and night, said police.

The inspections by the Spanish-Costa Rica firm of Riteve S y C are the subject of three requests for aid filed before the Sala IV, the Costa Rican constitutional court. The appeals claim the firm has an unconstitutional monopoly.

Meanwhile, the inspection firm has set up a Web site with a lot of information, including the locations of the 13 fixed inspection stations. The Internet address is http://www.rtv.co.cr.



July 4 is tomorrow

Donít forget the traditional July 4 Independence Day celebration for U.S. citizens tomorrow morning beginning at 8 a.m. Additional details are HERE.

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New U.S. foreign policy idea targets world health
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

WASHINGTON, D.C. ó The U.S. State Department is embarking on a major new foreign policy initiative.

The goal is to improve Americaís image abroad, defuse anger and resentment by people in the Middle East and other regions against the United States and attack some of the root causes of terrorism, according to a release Friday from Washington.

The initiative is designed to ensure that health becomes an important component of U.S. foreign policy, according to the U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy.

The State Department has been looking for new directions because of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. But the department recognized before Sept. 11 that its employees had low morale and the department itself had an obsolete infrastructure and an inflexible and centralized bureaucracy, in the words of Harold C. Pachios, chairman of the public dipolomacy advisory commission.

Pachios wrote a critique of the U.S. State Departmentís public diplomacy efforts in a Feb. 28 column in the Boston Globe.

The former employees of the U.S. Information Service also joined the State Department in 1999, and their relocation contributed to the low morale, according to Pachios. He noted that Secretary of State Colin Powell was aware of the problems.

"More than 1,500 Foreign Service officers recently signed a letter to Powell in which they described the department as dysfunctional and complained that its traditions and culture block needed change while its dedicated employees are distracted with trivia," said Pachios, who lives in Maine.

Pachios will chair a meeting in Washington July 19 to discuss the new foreign policy initiative.

"The future of U.S. foreign policy depends on a revamped management structure and on continued engagement with foreign government officials," said Pachios. "Equally important, our ability to influence large-scale public attitudes abroad requires a nimble State Department to lead the way."

Big grant is aimed at Latin launderers of money
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. ó Investigators are tightening the noose around Latin money launderers.

The United States says it is using undercover operatives to build cases against money-laundering operations.

In the latest development, an investment fund administered by the Inter-American Development Bank has approved a grant of $1.2 million to assist eight South American countries to combat money laundering.

The Development Bankís Multilateral Investment Fund will support national efforts to either create or strengthen financial intelligence units, which track and analyze transactions suspected of being money-laundering operations. The units cooperate with the courts, and with intelligence and law enforcement agencies in other countries to gather the necessary information to build criminal cases and curb illegal financial activities.

The operation will be carried out by the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission of the Organization of American States and will benefit financial intelligence units in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Peru, Uruguay, and Venezuela, the development bank said.

Kenneth Dam, deputy secretary of the treasury, 

said Thursday that his department combats international financial crime through undercover criminal investigations, usually with the cooperation of foreign governments. 

The United States also works multilaterally through such organizations as the Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering, which, Dam said, has been "particularly effective" in combating the problem. This Task Force was established in 1989 to develop a coordinated international response to money laundering.

Otto Reich, assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, said in April that the Bush Administration is concerned about international terrorists abusing the region's financial system to raise funds or launder money. 

Reich said the administration has encouraged all nations in the Western Hemisphere to ratify the 12 international counter-terrorism treaties in order to "identify and seize the financial assets of terrorism, to punish terrorism in all its forms, and to strengthen border controls."

In simple terms, money laundering is conduct or acts designed in whole or in part to conceal or disguise the nature, location, source, ownership, or control of money to avoid a transaction-reporting requirement under state or federal law. Laundering is used to disguise that the money was acquired by illegal means.

Anniversary of Parmenio's death prompts flurry
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The sign on the Colegio de Periodistas in Sabana reads "361" today. Thatís the number of days since gunmen killed Parmenio Medina Pérez, a radio celebrity, a short distance from his Heredia home.

The case is getting renewed interest in the national media because of the anniversary, and top police officials and politicians are taking a pro-active public relations stance in suggesting that a solution might be near.

Carlos Arias, the fiscal general or top prosecutor, told reporters Tuesday that investigators soon will have the last few pieces to make a strong case.

Last week, top police officials told reporters that the killing was done for 500,000 colons (then $1,500) by a band of car thieves who used the same techniques they used to stop and rob a driver. One band member died in a shootout involving an unrelated case, police said.

But a police insider confided after the fiscal generalís comments that there really was not anything new in the statements.

There is some concern among those not directly connected with the case that the claims of an approaching solution might simply be public relations chaff designed to deflect media attention at a time when news stories are likely to be given good play on the television and in major Spanish-language dailies. 

Such public relations could backfire, these people fear, if a series of arrests are not forthcoming after the anniversary passes.

There is a certain irony in Parmenio Medina being a journalistic martyr. As the producer of his radio show, "La Patada" or "the kick," he was outside the mainstream of newspaper and television reporting, although he frequently used humor to explore important topics. 


 
Cellular phone lines
being offered again

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The magic number for those awaiting cellular telephone service is 352,000, said the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, which also is the telephone company.

The company will again begin scheduling appointments for persons who already have called to get on the waiting list. 

Persons with reservation numbers lower than 352,000 should call 193 to schedule an appointment to set the day and time of the activation of the cellular telephone line.

The company has a number of documents it needs to register the line in the partyís name.  An individual should bring a photocopy of the cédula de identidad or a passport or residency carnet. They also need to show a current utility receipt no older than three months. Plus they have to have 25,000 colons (about $70) in cash.

If the would-be owner sends someone in his or her place, they have to also send a power of attorney authenticated by a lawyer as well as copies of the cédula, said the phone company. Corporations must supply as personería jurídica, a certificate of good standing, from either the Registro Nacional or from a notary, said the company.

Telephone outages
planned at night

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad is involved in a massive project to convert the telecommunciations lines in the country to modern fiber optic material that carries more traffic.

To do that, the institute has scheduled four telephone outages starting today. All of the work will be done at night to avoid undo bother of customers, the institute said. The outage is tonight and tomorrow night in the Brunca region. Guápiles will have an outage Friday. Tuesday night will be Liberiaís turn, and Limón will experience an outage the night of July 10.

Abductee found dead

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Men took a man from his home in Villa Esperanza de Pavas Monday about 4:30 p.m. and hours later the manís body turned up in a finca in San Luis de Santo Domingo de Heredia with two bullets in the back of the head, said investigators. He was identified as Luis Gilberto López Flores, said investigators.

Visit by U.S. boats
upsetting to deputies

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Some deputies in the Asemblea Nacional are concerned that the United States wants to dock up to 40 warships in Costa Rican ports this year. Deputies summonsed Rogelio Ramos, minister of Securidad Pública, to explain the request. He did so Tuesday night.

The U.S. ships are on patrol in both the Pacific and Caribbean to thwart drug smuggling and to support a growing U.S. military presence in Colombia.

A spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Pavas said that part of the maritime agreement between the two countries allows for U.S. boats to dock in Costa Rican ports while on counter drug law enforcement patrol for refueling and logistics operations.

However, the spokesman later agreed that the assembly approves all ship visits and that the ship schedule was presented to them, as has been done so previously.  The Costa Rica constitution gives the assembly that power.

There was uncertainty of the size of the crafts that would be docked in the ports. Costa Rican lawmakers call them "gunboats," but some are said to carry helicopters.

Costa Rica, which has no army, is particularly sensitive to military presences, particularly by the United States. The deputies raising the issue are from political parties in opposition to the current government.

Argentina progresses
with push for new loan

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina ó Politicians here and the International Monetary Fund appear to be making progress in negotiations on new financial aid to the financially-troubled Latin American country. 

Horst Koehler, IMF managing director, said in a statement Friday from Washington that both sides have held productive meetings and are entering an active negotiating relationship. 

Koehler also said the IMF is satisfied with Argentina's efforts to reform its bankruptcy law and repeal the so-called economic subversion law, which criminalized bad business practices and capital flight. The IMF has conditioned renewed aid to Argentina on that nation's implementation of viable economic reforms. 

Koehler's remarks followed talks Friday between IMF management and visiting Argentine officials led by Roberto Lavagna, economy minister. Lavagna hopes to persuade the IMF to approve an emergency loan for his country, which has been in recession the past four years. 

In December, the IMF cut off aid to Argentina, saying the government failed to control spending. Argentina also is in default on $141 billion in public debt. 

Doubling of spending
called for on AIDS

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

NEW YORK, N.Y. ó A U.N. report released Tuesday says the AIDS epidemic is still in its early stages and spreading rapidly throughout Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe and the Caribbean. An international AIDS conference opens next week in Spain. The report calls on rich countries to contribute $7 to $10 billion dollars each year to fight AIDS in poorer nations. This is more than twice the amount spent in 2001.

Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest number of people infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, followed by Asia. One statistic from the first half of 2001 shows HIV infections rose 70 percent in China, the world's most populous country.

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