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(506) 2223-1327        Published Tuesday, July 15, 2008, in Vol. 8, No. 139        E-mail us
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Colombian women become entrepreneurs to survive in a new land
By Elise Sonray
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Veronica Amezquita Rojas left Colombia for her son. She didn't want her child to grow up and participate in the violence, she said.

Ms. Amezquita, and 24 other woman are part of Las Águilas Emprendedoras, translated as the Entrepreneur Eagles, a group of Colombian refugees who are all small business owners, said Olga Cecilia Hurtado, president of the group. The entrepreneurs gathered in the courtyard of Edificio Sión Monday to show off their trades and gain awareness from lawmakers at the Asamblea Legislativa.

Ms. Amezquita sells jewelry mainly in Heredia, she said. She and the other women participate in various fairs around the country. Some sell out of their homes, and some have their own stores, said event organizers.

Maria Irene Cano enthusiastically tells customers her clothing is made from special threads imported from Colombia. Ms. Irene said her struggles in Colombia were long and complicated.

She has come a long way she said, and now makes cotton clothing with embroidered and painted designs. So far she has had a big interest and said she is hoping to register her own brand, she said.

The fair was the an initiative of independent representative Evita Arguedas Maklouf in coordination with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees and the women's business group.

“Evita is not only a congresswoman but a successful business woman,”  said Eva Camps,
Colombian women
A.M. Costa Rica/Elise Sonray
Entrepreneurs Veronica Amezquita Rojas and María Irene Cano

durable solutions officer for the U.N. refugee commission.

Ms. Arguedas was former vice president of the Unión Internacional de Mujeres Liberales and was the first woman  president of the Cámara de Comercio de Costa Rica. She has been active in promoting awareness for the refugee women in Costa Rica, said Ms. Camps.

Although there is a bill involving refugee status under discussion in the legislature  that was not the purpose of the fair on the assembly grounds, said Ms. Camps. The fair was solely to raise awareness and show that the refugee population can be part of a productive force, she said.

Las Águilas Emprendedoras is open to all women, refugees or not, said Ms. Camps. One of the missions is to disseminate the reality of the refugee population, said Ms. Camps. The group was created by refugee women about two years ago to support themselves and other refugees and to create awareness.


After 110 years 'Faust' finally returns to the historic Teatro Nacional
By Jeremy Arias
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Mephistopheles shall return to the Teatro Nacional this month with a performance of the Charles Gounod opera “Faust” to be put on by the Compañía Lírica Nacional.

Gounod's interpretation of the classic was the first performance put on by the theater for its inauguration Oct. 21, 1897. The opera company released the following synopsis of the opera:

Faust, played by José Luis Sola, is an aging scholar who offers his soul in the afterlife to the demon Mephistopheles (Vesselin Stoykov) in exchange for youth and good looks.

Smitten by the enchanting Marguerite (Birgit Beer), a rejuvenated Faust vies for her love with the noble protector Siebel (Joaquín Yglesias) and eventually seduces and impregnates her, only to abandon her to the torments of the devious Mephistopheles in her hour of desperation.

In an exciting climax, Faust does battle with
Marguerite's brother, a returning soldier named Valentin (Fitzgerald Ramos). The tale concludes with a dramatic reunion between Faust and Marguerite, wherein she faces her final temptation, and Faust must contemplate the price of his bargain with Mephistopheles.

Scene design, costumes and lights will be arraigned by Stefano Poda while Ramiro A. Ramírez is music director, according to the opera company release.

The songs will be performed in French. The Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional and the Coro Sinfónica Nacional also will participate.

The opera will open July 27 at 5 p.m. Repeat performances will be July 30 at 7:30 p.m. and again Aug. 1, 3, 5 and 7. The performances Aug. 1, 5 and 7 will be at 7:30 p.m., and Aug. 3 at 5 p.m., according to the release.

Prices vary depending upon the seating, but the range is between about $40 for premium seats to as little as $2 for side gallery options, according to a theater ticket guide. Tickets are available in the theater ticket office or at the theater Web site.


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Dollar's strength grows
by 2 percent in a month


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The U.S. dollar continues to put on muscle. The currency has gained about 2 percent against the colon since June 16, according to the reference rates of the Banco Central de Costa Rica.

The dollar gains about five colons just since Monday, according to figures available early today on the central bank's Web site.

Today's reference rate is 533.65 colons for those who seek to purchase dollars. Those selling a dollars will get 526.73 colons. On April 16, the rate was 523.07 and 516.68.

The rate during the business day of Monday was 521.20 and 528.08 per U.S. dollar.

The reference rate is a number computed by the central bank that reflects the various rates set by public banks, private banks and  money exchange houses. Individual entities can set their own rates within a certain range.

When the dollar gets too strong, the central bank frequently enters into the market and sells dollars to hold the exchange rate. A stronger dollar is great for exporters but not good for those who have to import goods or products such as petroleum.

The dollar had been as low as 490 colons during the high tourist season when many dollars were flowing into the country.

Three-day weekend still
on tap for next holiday


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Although Friday, July 25, is the official day of the  Anexión del Partido de Nicoya, the national holiday again will be celebrated Monday, July 28.

Lawmakers of the Movimiento Libertario launched 67 motions Monday in an effort to keep a 2005 law that is supposed to generate tourism by pushing legal holidays to the following Monday. That way lawmakers reasoned at the time, citizens will have a three-day holiday to enjoy the country.

The action Monday took place in the  Comisión con Potestad Legislativa Plena Tercera. As a result of the parliamentary maneuvers, there is no time to make any changes in the date of the holiday this year.

The Anexión del Partido de Nicoya commemorates the vote in 1824 in which Guanacaste citizens voted to join Costa Rica instead of Nicaragua.

Celebrity minister visits
with cooperation plans


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Celebrity politician Rubén Blades met with Costa Rican tourism officials Monday, and a statement afterwards said that both countries would explore the possibility of cooperating in joint tourism.

Blades is the tourism minister of Panamá, but he is widely known as a Latin jazz legend as well as a former presidential candidate in his country.

He met with  Carlos Ricardo Benavides. The ministers also discussed air flights, border issues and other ways the two countries could cooperate to advance tourism, the statement said.

Elderly rape suspect
jailed for three months


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A judge has ordered a 77-year-old man be jailed for investigation for three months. The man, identified by the Poder Judicial by the last names  Fernández Corsino, is accused of luring women to his home with offers of domestic work and then holding them hostage and raping them.

He was arrested Thursday near the Catholic church in Coronado where investigators believe he was waiting to pick up a young woman who was answering the classified ad he had placed in a local newspaper.

A 25-year-old woman said in a complaint to the Judicial Investigating Organization that is what happened to her.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, July 14, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 138


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The school's prime location downtown caused some parents to suspect that the closing was designed to prepare the site for the local real estate market.
Escuela Metalico
A.M. Costa Rica/Elise Sonray

Threatened downtown school will be ready for kids Monday
By Elise Sonray
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The downtown Escuela Buenaventura Corrales or Edificio Metálico, as it's commonly called, should be open just in time for students after their midyear vacation, said the
Mr. Ulate
Carlos Ulate Carranza
president of the board of directors.

After the education ministry announced that the building would be shut down immediately due to dangerous disrepair, school representatives asked parents for help, said Carlos Ulate Carranza, president of the board of directors at the school.

“The news came as a big surprise,” said Ulate. The school board knew the building needed work and asked the ministry for
75 million colons ($143,000) last year, said Ulate. “But we believed the building was okay for the most part,” said Ulate, who added the metal structure is 112 years old.

After floods last year the Ministerio de Educación Pública had to spend money helping the small schools around the country that were flooded, said Ulate. There wasn't enough money left for Escuela Buenaventura Corrales, he said.

Edificio Metálico was built in the same time period as the  Eiffel Tower and is 112 years old.

The building was constructed in Belgium in 1890 and assembled in Costa Rica in 1896.

The biggest problem facing the school is almost fixed, said Ulate. The metal columns holding up the second floor are getting new welding jobs and reinforcement.

The remaining beams, which have visible rust and are
school workmen
A.M. Costa Rica/Elise Sonray
Workmen prepare to weld support to a column

eroding, should be fixed by Wednesday, said Ulate. Vacation started July 7 and will end Friday.
 
The school spent 4.5 million colons or about $8,600 on the project, said Ulate. All of the money was donated by the parents, he said. “Without the parents help, we wouldn't be in operation,” said Ulate.

The education ministry should soon give an estimate on the total amount repairs will cost and then allocate money to the reconstruction, said the president. Right now estimates are at 150 million colons to 200 million colons (about $287,000 to $383,000), said Ulate.


Name of Acción Ciudadana president turns up on adviser list
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The surprise Monday was the revelation that the planning ministry has hired Epsy Campbell Barr, president of an opposition political party, to be an adviser for $9,000.

This fact came out in a committee meeting Monday as the Comisión de Ingreso y Gasto Público seems more
information about the funds scandal in the Óscar Arias Sánchez administration.

Unlike others who have been getting payments outside of the national budget, Ms. Campbell is being paid by a grant from the government on Germany under what is called the  GTZ program.

Ms. Campbell, a former legislator and now president of the Partido Acción Ciudadana, has a contract with the  Ministerio de Planificación to advise in the Reforma del Estado project.

The scandal, a little more than
Epsy Campbell
A.M. Costa Rica file photo
Epsy Campbell Barr
two weeks old, has spotlighted how politicians and other politically connected individuals earn money beyond salaries from the central government.
 
The Campbell case was unexpected because her political party, Acción Ciudadana, has been the strongest opposition voice against the free trade treaty with the United States and other Arias administration projects. Her contract appears to run for four months, until October.

The committee voted to ask Ms. Campbell to appear and explain what she would do in her capacity as an adviser.

The committee also agreed to call a litany of other political figures, most of them on the list of 82 individuals who are being paid outside the national budget from some international grants.
The story broke in La Nación June 30 when that newspaper revealed that a secret fund of some $2 million existed and that the Arias administration was using the money to hire individuals who were called advisers. Some of those getting the money already had government jobs, and the cash payments were extra.

Eventually 82 persons or corporate entities were linked to the payments.

Arias has defended the process as a way to get people to work in government at competitive salaries.

The committee voted to call Alfredo Ortuño Victory, one of Costa Rica's representatives at the Banco Centroamericano de Integración Económica, and Rodrigo Arias Sánchez, the president's brother and minister of the Presidencia.

The Banco Centroamericano de Integración Económica was the source of a $2 million slush fund.

Then there is the $1.5 million donation by the government of Taiwan that was supposed to help poor flood victims in Rincón Grande de Pavas. It turns out that this money, also being held by the  Banco Centroamericano de Integración Económica, was used by the housing ministry for advisers.

The committee wants to hear from Fernando Zumbado, who just resigned as minister of  Vivienda, Federico Sosto López, a substitute magistrate of the Corte Suprema de Justicia, and Jorge Nowalsky, president of the Centro Internacional para el Desarrollo Humano.

Sosto is under fire for serving as an Arias adviser while on the court. Nowalsky heads an private organization that was founded by Zumbado and received a significant part of the Taiwanese donation.

The committee also wants a list from the  Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales of those who have served as advisers there for the last five years. The international organization is set up to promote the social sciences in Latin America. It is believed to have received a substantial amount of the Taiwanese donation.


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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, July 15, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 139


Dog death of Nicaraguan intruder is focus of murder trial
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Ten persons, including two police officers, went on trial Monday in the case of the burglary who was killed by guard dogs.

This is the murder trial resulting from the death of  Natividad Canda Mairena in La Lima de Cartago. Nov. 10, 2005.

Canda, a Nicaraguan, was caught by two Rottweiler guard dogs, and officers are accused of murder by neglect for not doing enough to save his life.

The case was a high-profile one and caused Nicaraguan diplomats to visit the security minister here. Canda was a known burglar and drug addict, and it is his mother from Nicaragua is seeking compensation. At the time the case also tapped some Costa Rican prejudices and generated Nicaraguan jokes and even led to the unrelated killing of a
Nicaraguan during and argument about the case.

The court adjourned early Monday to give judges time to consider some procedural objections raised by the defense.

The Canda death was caught on video, particularly the part where it took firemen and a high pressure hose to get the dogs away from the victim. The scene was a junk yard where Canda was trying to steal items.

Some 48 persons are expected to testify at the trial. The parties involved attempted to reach an out-of-court settlement a year ago, but the negotiations failed. The case is in the Tribunal de Juicio de Cartago.

The defendants, who include the junk yard owner, were identified by the last names of Sánchez Torres, Luna Zamora, Sandoval Moya, Sánchez Díaz, Madriz Ramírez, Ruiz Carazo, Obando Masís, Rosales Vásquez, Zúñiga Mora and Hernández Quesada.


Ingrid Betancourt urges French president to remember hostages in Colombia
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Rescued hostage Ingrid Betancourt is urging French President Nicolas Sarkozy to help win the release of hundreds of other captives still held by Colombian rebels.

President Sarkozy gave Betancourt France's highest award, the Legion of Honor, in Paris Monday, during celebrations of Bastille Day, the French national holiday.

Ms. Betancourt, who has both French and Colombian citizenship, was seized by Colombia's rebels six years ago. She and 14 other hostages were rescued July 2 by Colombian soldiers masquerading as rebel commanders.

During Monday's ceremony at the Elysee Palace, Ms.
Betancourt said France's campaign for her freedom provided hope for her and her fellow hostages during the  years they spent in chains in the jungle camps. She told Sarkozy she is counting on him to continue working for the release of the Colombian rebels' remaining captives.

Ms. Betancourt's captors from the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia are thought to have more than 700 hostages still under their control — people who were either kidnapped for ransom or seized for political reasons.

Ms. Betancourt, a former candidate for Colombia's presidency, says she will return to Colombia, but no date has been set. She has discussed few details of the harsh and brutal treatment she received beyond saying that the time spent in captivity was hell for the body, mind and soul.


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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, July 15, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 139


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users guide

This is a brief users guide to A.M. Costa Rica.

Old pages

Each day someone complains via e-mail that the newspages are from yesterday or the day before. A.M. Costa Rica staffers check every page and every link when the newspaper is made available at 2 a.m. each week day.

So the problem is with the browser in each reader's computer. Particularly when the connection with the  server is slow, a computer will look to the latest page in its internal memory and serve up that page.

Readers should refresh the page and, if necessary, dump the cache of their computer, if this problem persists. Readers in Costa Rica have this problem frequently because the local Internet provider has continual problems.


Searching

The A.M. Costa Rica search page has a list of all previous editions by date and a space to search for specific words and phrases. The search will return links to archived pages.


Newspages

A typical edition will consist of a front page and four other newspages. Each of these pages can be reached by links near the top and bottom of the pages.


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Contacting us

Both the main telephone number and the editor's e-mail address are listed on the front page near the date.


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Planed loaded with cocaine
ends up in West Africa


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Sierra Leone police say they are questioning several suspects, including airport officials and people identified as South Americans in connection with a small plane loaded with cocaine that landed Sunday in the country's capital, freetown.

Police say they found a cargo of about 700 kilograms of cocaine worth $30 million.   Police spokesman Karefa Daboh says authorities have arrested several foreign nationals. 

"They are white people, that is all I really can say," Daboh said. "Some of them have accents which are very queer. We suspect some of them to be from the Americas, or South America, or what have you." 

Daboh said police had also taken a number of airport officials in for questioning. He said the police are investigating the possibility the airport workers were collaborating with the suspects. 

"There have been lapses at the airport, and that is why we are investigating some police who were at the airport, the airport personnel, and some people who were involved in operations at the airport," Daboh explained. "If we actually find the lapses we suspect we will find, we want immediately to go forward to find out whether those lapses were a result of connivance with the other criminals to do what they did." 

A reporter in Freetown, Kelvin Lewis, says the suspects are believed to be Colombians. 

He says the suspected pilot was captured late Sunday in the north of the country, at a checkpoint near a busy crossroads. The other foreign nationals in custody were captured in Freetown. 

Lewis says along with the foreigners, the chief of airport police, the airport manager, and the control tower operator were among those taken in for questioning. He says the airport workers are suspected to have known about the pending arrival of the plane, but did nothing to alert the national police.

He says there was a truck waiting for the plane when it landed.

"The pilots are believed to have come down to the waiting vehicle and fled," Lewis said. "The vehicle had apparently crashed through the gates. We went out to look at it. Close to the gate five guns were found. Four of them AK-47s and one AK-58, and about 300 rounds of ammunition was found on the ground there. "

Lewis says Sierra Leone's president visited the scene Sunday and took the guns and ammunition with him to Freetown in his presidential car. 

Lewis and other reporters say the cocaine has been turned over to U.N. security forces. But police spokesman Daboh says the police still have the illicit cargo in their protection.

The incident is the latest in a series involving suspected South American drug traffic through West Africa.  Last week, the head of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime said traffickers have learned the region is in his words "very weak and very vulnerable" to drug shipments. 


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