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These stories were published Thursday, July 18, 2002, in Vol. 2, No. 141
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Costa Rica will alter strategy for tourism ads
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rican tourism officials are planning a strategic change in the way the country is presented to the world as a vacation destination.

The new strategy will stress the country’s developed assets and stress the jungle less.

That was announced Wednesday by Ruben Pacheco, the new minister of tourism who just returned from an aggressive sales tour of the United States.

The image of Costa Rica elsewhere is just jungle, said Bary Roberts, Pacheco’s marketing adviser. Advertising placed before Pacheco stressed the natural qualities of the country. The new strategy continues an emphasis on rain forests and wildlife but also promotes other aspects, including the country’s size:

"You can wake up in Limón and go to sleep in Puntarenas," Pacheco said, noting the country is bordered by both the Caribbean and the Pacific.

Pacheco also announced the tourism totals for May, which showed a slight decrease over the previous year. The Sept. 11 terrorism attacks in the United States and the five-day freeze on air travel galvanized Costa Rica’s marketing efforts and brought the topic to the top of governmental agendas.

Pacheco’s report said that in May 2002 some 57,358 presumed tourists came to Costa Rica by air. Last May some 56,590 presumed tourists entered that way. That is a decline of 768, some 1.3 percent.

But the news was not all bad. The entire "tourist" decline in May came from a drop of 1,593 in visitors from Colombia. Costa Rica now requires visas from Colombians, and this has cut the monthly flow about 48 percent, according to the figures. 

Air tourists from the United States actually increased 3.3 percent in May to 30,358, according to the figures. Canadian tourists jumped from 1,824 to 2,378, a 30.4 increase. Most tourists to Costa Rica come by air.
 

A.M. Costa Rica photo
Ruben Pacheco

...ICT minister

The totals for the first five months of 2002 show a 4.4 percent decline on air arrivals at Juan Santamaría Airport, the only ones tourism officials had available Wednesday. 

The 2002 figures from January to May showed 342,846 arrivals compared to 358,669 in 2001. Roberts said that the Daniel Oduber Airport in Liberia was down about 16 percent over the same period. That airport handles fewer tourists. For example there were only 1,586 tourist arrivals there in May. 

Pacheco said he is anxious to convert the Liberia airport into an alternative to Juan Santamaría, and he and others have developed a concrete plan of development over the next four years.

He said he saw the number of tourist in 2002 being about the same as the number who visited Costa Rica in 2001. But then he predicted a big increase in 2003 when the changes he makes begins to take effect. He said he wants to increase tourist quantity as well as the quality of tourists.

Pacheco is off to the Pacific Coast for a series of meetings with business people and legislators during the next few weeks.

Another of his other goals is an increase in airline flights to Costa Rica from the United States and Europe. He said he obtained a commitment from American Airlines to add one daily flight. He visited with airline executives during his U.S. trip.  Delta Airlines is negotiating with Costa Rica to add three more flights to Liberia. And United Airlines is considering adding several flights next year from the Chicago area, he said.

Pacheco said he also wants to develop the secondary airports, such as those in the beach communities.

The Instituto Costarricense de Turismo which he heads will be selling some excess land to provide training funds for Costa Ricans in the tourism area, he announced.

He also said he wants to develop better tour ship facilities on both coasts to counter a decline in the number of tourists who come that way.

Despite his business background, Pacheco’s proposals are rooted in more than money. He said he sees tourism as the best way to eliminate poverty in Costa Rica.

The next big initiative is Aug. 11 when advertising for Costa Rica hits key newspaper travel sections in the United States. The tourism institute has a $9.5 million promotional program underway, and it is here Pacheco’s team will be adjusting its strategy.

In addition, he spoke of plans to educate 15,000 U.S. travel agents about Costa Rica, something they do not now think about, said Pacheco. He said Mexico, Jamaica, Curaçao, Aruba and the Dominican Republic are higher on the travel agents’ promotional list, in part, because vacations there are cheaper than to Costa Rica.

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Joint operation targets illegal transfers of money 
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Robert Bonner, U.S. Customs Service commissioner, said that a Customs-led, multi-agency financial crimes task force called Operation Green Quest has seized a total of $22.8 million as part of its ongoing efforts to identify, disrupt, and dismantle terrorist finance networks.

At least one big seisure was of funds headed to Central America. And customs officials are going so far as to use dogs trained to pick up the scent of money to catch currency smugglers.

In the nearly nine months it has existed, Operation Green Quest has conducted 74 search warrants and consent searches around the country in connection with investigations into suspected terrorist finances.

These investigations have resulted in 38 arrests, 26 indictments, and the seizure of approximately $6.8 million. The task force is currently investigating several hundred leads into potential terrorist finance networks.

In addition, Operation Green Quest has coordinated an initiative at the nation's borders targeting bulk cash smuggling by terrorist organizations that has resulted in the seizure of $16 million worth of smuggled currency and monetary instruments. Under this initiative, U.S. Customs inspectors at the nation's 301 international airports, land ports, and seaports have made 369 seizures of smuggled currency and monetary instruments.

"Operation Green Quest has moved aggressively against terrorist funding sources," said Bonner in highlighting the latest results of the task force during a speech Monday. "These seizures have led to millions of dollars of suspected terrorist assets."

Created by the Treasury Department Oct. 25 to identify and disrupt terrorist finance networks, Operation Green Quest is led by the Customs Service and includes agents and analysts from the Internal Revenue Service, the Secret Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the Office of Foreign Assets Control, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. Federal prosecutors from the Justice Department also form an integral part of Operation Green Quest.

Through their investigations, Operation Green Quest agents have been targeting a wide variety of systems that may be used by terrorists to raise and move funds. These systems include illegal enterprises (such as fraud schemes and illegal remittance networks), as well as legitimate enterprises (such as businesses being used to co-mingle illicit funds with legitimate funds), and charity/relief organizations (in which donations may be diverted to terrorist groups).

Another system being targeted by Operation Green Quest is the bulk smuggling of cash and monetary instruments across U.S. borders. U.S. authorities have long suspected that currency smuggling was being used by terrorist groups to covertly move funds across U.S. borders, just as this practice has been used for years by drug trafficking organizations. U.S. Customs has routinely conducted operations to combat currency smuggling from the United States by drug organizations.

While there is no limit on the amount of cash or monetary instruments that can be legally imported or exported, federal law has long required that anyone who physically transports, ships, or mails more than $10,000 in currency or monetary instruments in or out of the country must report it to Customs. For purposes of the law, monetary instruments include traveler's checks, money orders, and investment securities. The cash smuggling provision of the USA Patriot Act has bolstered sanctions against violators of this requirement.

In an effort to combat bulk cash smuggling by terrorist groups, Operation Green Quest has coordinated an outbound initiative by U.S. Customs inspectors at the nation's air, land, and seaports. To intercept smuggled currency under the initiative, 

Customs officers rely on inspection technology, training, and a cadre of Customs dogs specifically trained to alert to the scent of dyes and inks in currency.

The following are some of the seizures made to date:

- Customs inspectors seized a smuggled certificate of deposit worth $297,000 that was concealed in a parcel bound for Central America and which had originated in Asia.

- Customs inspectors seized $624,691 worth of smuggled cash hidden in plastic bags that were professionally sewn into the lining of a comforter. The money-laced comforter was in a suitcase bound for the Middle East aboard a commercial flight

- Customs inspectors seized smuggled negotiable checks totaling $1.06 million that were hidden in a parcel bound for the Middle East. The declared value of the parcel was $1.

All the $16 million seized thus far under this initiative constitutes unreported currency being smuggled out of the country, which is a felony. At the same time, these 369 seizures have provided a windfall of intelligence and leads for Operation Green Quest, prompting dozens of new investigations around the country. A portion of the seized funds has been linked to suspected terrorist groups, while other amounts have been linked to other criminal suspects.

"The outbound currency initiative is making it more difficult for terrorist organizations and other criminal groups to smuggle cash and monetary instruments across our borders," said Bonner. "The initiative is also generating significant intelligence that is helping our agents investigate additional terrorist finance networks."

New rules make banks
check up on new clients

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Department of the Treasury and seven financial regulation agencies have proposed rules that would require banks, securities brokers, credit unions and other financial institutions to establish procedures to identify and verify the identity of new customers.

The proposed rules would implement part of the Patriot Act, which was passed by Congress in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks to bolster the United States' ability to combat money laundering and terrorism, according to a Treasury Department news release.

The information customers provide to banks would not change under the proposed rules, Treasury said.

Banks would continue to seek a customer's name, address, date of birth and an identification number, which would be a U.S. Social Security number or a similar number from a government-issued document. Financial institutions would continue to examine drivers' licenses, passports and credit reports.

Banks would then be required to determine whether customers appear on any list of known or suspected terrorists.

The Treasury Department said in a separate announcement Tuesday that it was working with the Social Security Administration to develop an online database for banks to use to verify the authenticity of social security numbers. Checks would be performed only with a customer's consent, a Treasury spokesman said.


 
 
Robber pretends
he’s on telephone

By A.M. Costa Rica staff

A man speaking on a cellular telephone tricked his way into an Escazú Spanish school, pulled a gun and robbed the only person there.

The robbery took place on the third floor of Plaza Colonial at the Academia de Idiomas Escazú. The lone robber got 100,000 colones and the purse of a receptionist.

The man approached the locked door of the school and pretended to be speaking on a cellular telephone. Because he was dressed decently, the receptionist, Titiana Obando Araya, said she opened the door when he motioned that he wished to enter.

In return, he struck her in the face with his hand as he left.

Color Pacheco green
for world ecosummit

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Abel Pacheco will attend the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa, starting Aug. 29, and he is going to take a strong environmentalist line.

"Our country will raise its voice to demand payment for environmental services," Pacheco told a group this week. 

Costa Rica will ask the world to recognize the services it and the rest of Central America provide in preserving forests which produce oxygen and fix carbon dioxide, he said.

Central America has 7 percent of the world’s biodiversity, 14 percent of its floral sprecies, a forest cover of 35 percent and 8 percent of the wetlands on the planet, he noted. 

"The cost of losing our patrimony is very high and until now the lack of cooperation has been exceedingly high. According to the Central American commission, 45 hectares of forest are cut down every hour in the region," said Pacheco.

Phillip Morris aids
purchase of park

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica has accepted aid from a tobacco company to develop the funds to purchase the Parque National la Congreja near Pursical.

In addition, the govenment is urging the company to consider returning to the region to grow cigar tobacco.

The company Phillip Morris donated $300,000 toward the purchase of the 1,642-hectare park. That’s about 4,056 acres.

The former reserve became a park June 5 with a stroke of the pen by President Abel Pacheco. He visited the area Wednesday and listened to development ideas by residents.

Fighting chickens
saved by the bell

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fuerza Pública officers near Puriscal broke up a chicken fight over the weekend, arrested six persons and liberated 66 fighting birds.

A spokesman for the Ministerio Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública said that more than 300 persons were at the event in Junquillo Arriba de Purriscal. 

The men who were detained had surnames of Sandí Mora, Valverde Valverde, Umaña Barrantes, Rojas Badilla, Vargas Montero y Mora Zúñiga, according to police.

Top cop loses job
over lack of effort

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

A pedophile ring in Chile was exposed with the help of Casa Alianza, the Costa Rican children’s right agency located in San Jose. The investigation resulted in the arrest of seven men, a police commissioner has been dismissed and three of the accused deported to the United States where they all have previous arrest warrants, said the organization.

This is the first time that such a network has been uncovered in Chile, according to a statement from Casa Alianza.  According to the organization, this is what happened:

Casa Alianza employee Rocio Rodriguez infiltrated the network named "Paidos" a year ago via an Internet chat room. She presented evidence to the Chilean authorities in Costa Rica who then passed the information to the Chilean police. Absolutely nothing was done.

With the help of Casa Alianza, Interpol Chile and Channel 13 TV in Chile, eventually managed to capture the pedophiles when they followed Humberto Maureira Trujillo to a beach resort where they found him abusing two little boys.

Armando Munoz, the police commissioner, was fired July 6 for taking no action against the perpetrators even though he got the information from Casa Alianza almost a year ago.

The president of Chile has asked that a review and change in current laws regarding crimes against minors be made within 30 days, the organization said.

State of emergency
lifted in Paraguay

By A.M. Costa Rica wire services

ASUNCIÓN, Paraguay — Paraguay's president, Luis Gonzalez Macchi, has lifted a state of emergency that was imposed Monday to end protests against his government. The disturbances come amid economic difficulties, but also highlight a dangerous political rift in a country that has seen repeated coup attempts.

During two days of demonstrations this week, two protesters were killed in clashes with police, dozens were injured and hundreds were arrested.

A five-day state of emergency was declared shortly after the protests broke out Monday, but Gonzalez Macchi has decided to lift it early, once security forces were able to clear roadblocks that had been placed by protesters on roads leading to Argentina and Brazil.

Gonzalez Macchi accused Julio Cesar Franco, opposition vice president, and Lino Oviedo, an exiled former military commander, of being behind the unrest.

Jaime Bestard, presidential spokesman, said he was extremely disappointed in the conduct of Franco. "We find it very surprising that a vice president would seek the fall of a government or look to protesters to destabilize the country," he said. 

Franco said the protests were peaceful demonstrations against corruption and bad economic policies.

Supporters of former military chief Lino Oviedo acknowledged they were behind the protests, after initially denying any such role. Oviedo, who lives in self-imposed exile in Brazil, has been implicated in a string of failed coups since the mid-1990s and the assassination of Paraguay's vice president in 1999. That murder prompted the country's then-president Raul Cubas, an Oviedo ally, to resign. He was replaced by Gonzalez Macchi, who was head of the senate.

President Gonzalez Macchi Wednesday also set presidential elections for the end of April next year. Some polls show Oviedo is the early favorite to win those elections, if he is allowed to run.

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Two-year hostage
finally goes home

By A.M. Costa Rica wire services

CARACAS, Venezuela — One of Venezuela's wealthiest executives has returned home after being held hostage for two years in war-ravaged neighboring Colombia. 

Richard Boulton arrived in Caracas Tuesday, one day after paramilitaries of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia turned him over to the International Red Cross. 

Boulton's family owns a stake in Venezuela's Avensa airline. The businessman was kidnapped July 15, 2000, after armed men raided his ranch in central Venezuela, forced him into his own plane and flew off with him. 

Speculation initially focused on Colombia's leftist rebel groups, which often resort to kidnappings to finance their 38-year war against the government in Bogota. The insurgents denied involvement. 

Last week, Carlos Castano, a political leader of the AUC, admitted a faction of the right-wing group was holding the 36-year-old businessman. 

Castano resigned his post last week, saying he was upset with the kidnapping and the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia's involvement in activities such as drug trafficking. 

Colombia has the world's highest kidnapping rate, with about 3,000 abductions reported each year.

Corruption compact
spotlighted Monday

By A.M. Costa Rica wire services

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados —This country is preparing to host the first in a series of Organization of American States national conferences in the Caribbean to promote ratification of the Inter-American Convention Against Corruption among member countries that have not yet ratified the 1996 treaty. 

The U.S. State Department's International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Office is sponsoring the meeting to be held here Monday.

Seeking to build upon the success of the previous 12 projects throughout Latin America, this project targets countries of the Caribbean region. Those participating in this round are: Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Surinam.
 

Researchers catalog
genes of rice disease

By A.M. Costa Rica wire services

U.S. researchers have completed the initial sequencing of the genome for a fungus that destroys rice grown around the world.

A National Science Foundation report released Tuesday says that sequencing the genome, or genetic blueprint, of the fungus — known as Magnaporthe grisea — could help scientists control the spread of rice blast disease, which each year destroys enough rice to feed more than 60 million people.

Certain strains of the fungus can also attack domesticated grasses such as barley, wheat, pearl millet and even turf grasses. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently recognized the fungus as a potentially significant biological weapon that could be used for agricultural terrorism.

Genome sequencing will allow scientists to understand the interactions between the fungus and grasses, and identify the mechanisms that regulate infection of a host plant. The first draft sequence of the rice blast genome was completed under a joint project sponsored by the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
 

Killer cold wave hits
Peruvian villagers

By A.M. Costa Rica wire services

LIMA, Peru — The Peruvian government says a wave of cold weather in the south of the country has killed at least 59 people. 

President Alejandro Toledo said in a statement the majority of those killed were children. He says 66,000 other people have been affected by snow and freezing weather.  Reports say temperatures plunged to a minus12 degrees Celsius (about 10 degrees Fahrenheit) since the unexpected cold spell began more than a week ago. 

Severe conditions are hampering efforts to send food and emergency supplies to the remote mountainous region. The Peruvian government has declared a state of emergency in eight provinces. 

The cold wave has also killed herds of livestock and other animals that residents depend upon for food and income.

Travelers buried
in big landslide

By A.M. Costa Rica wire services

QUITO, Ecuador — Officials in Ecuador are searching under mud and rocks for 50 or more people believed trapped in a landslide. 

Authorities say several vehicles and at least one bus were buried Tuesday along a remote road in the jungle province of Moronoa Santiago, about 186 miles south of Quito. 

Officials say the landslide covered a 990-foot stretch of the roadway. Red Cross and other rescue personnel are on the scene. 
 
Professional Directory

A.M. Costa Rica debuts this week its professional and service directory where business people who wish to reach the English-speaking community may provide a description of what they do.

If you are interested in being represented here, please contact the editor.


Dentists


United States Dentist in Costa Rica: Dr. Peter S Aborn, Prosthodontics and general dentistry private practice. 25 years in New York City. 5 years in Costa Rica. Professor and director of postgraduate prosthodontics Universidad Latina de Costa Rica. Former chief of prosthodontics Lenox Hill Hospital, New York City. Education: N.Y.U College of Dentistry; Westchester County Medical Center; Eastman Dental Center; University of Rochester Graduate School of Medicine and Dentistry. Location: 300 meters from the U.S. Embassy. Telephone: 232-9225. Cellular 379-2963. E-mail: jopetar@amnet.co.cr
7/15/02 

Lawyers


American/Costa Rican attorney located in Costa Rica. Specializing in business law, commercial law, real estate sales, immigration law. Lic. Gregory Kearney Lawson. KEARNEY LAWSON & Asoc. Tel/Fax: (506) 221-9462 gkearney_lawson@hotmail.com
7/15/02

Legal and Consulting Specialists
for
Foreign Residents and Business Owners
• Reliable and Responsive •  Excellent References
Stafford, Obregón y Valle
• Consultants • Lawyers • Notaries
Apdo. 11846-1000, San Jose, Costa Rica
Tel: (506) 253-9655   Fax: (506) 280-4576 
Cel: (506) 386-9324
Email: ulimar@costarica.net
7/16/02

Real estate agents

Coldwell Banker Coastal Properties Escazu
Manager Nancy Bruno
289-5790 office
387-6820 cell
Located in the new Plaza Itskazu, next to the Court Yard Marriott Escazu #203
7/16/02

Web design

Professional Web site design and development in English, Spanish and Italian. Our services include: design and layout of Web site, search engine optimization and submission, Web  site hosting, e-commerce solutions (sell your products on your website by accepting credit cards online), registration of domain names and professional Internet consulting. We have complete 'one price' Web site packages that include design, marketing and hosting at low prices and includes a listing on our Web sites.  Visit www.istarmedia.net or e-mail us at webmaster@istarmedia.net or call at 399-9642
7/16/02


 
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