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These stories were published Monday, July 21, 2003, in Vol. 3, No. 142
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First of five categories to be annnounced
Tamarindo pro wins our spot news prize
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A professional photographer is the first winner in the A.M. Costa Rica photo contest.

He is John Lyman, and he took first place in the spot news with a pair of photos he took last Jan. 10 of surfer Ross Menking, who survived an attack by a seven-foot bull shark off Playa Marbella.

Lyman said physicians used 150 stitches to close the wounds on Menking’s leg. The photo of the surfer showing off his wound is the winning photo, but for a better look, we include a second closeup shot here.

As the winner in the spot news category, Lyman wins $100. The category was defined as news photo that shows a breaking news event, such as, but not only, crime, accidents, fires, arrests. 

Lyman grew up in Huntington Beach, Calif. He started taking surfing photos in high school. Soon after he went to work for Surfer Magazine traveling the world photographing the worlds best surfers. 

Together with longtime partner, Dr. Cindee McCallister, Lyman moved to Playa Tamarindo in 1999. They operate Healing Touch Massage & Chiropractic and John Lyman Photos.

Currently John is the staff photographer for Guanacaste's own English language magazine, The Howler, and photographs surfing for visiting Americans.

Winners in four more photo categories have yet to be announced. The announcements will come over the next three weeks.

There are three judges for the contest:

Frank Scott is a Canadian who lives year-round in Costa Rica. As a nature photographer he has traveled throughout Canada and the United States, including Alaska. He has extensive professional qualifications.

Scott is well-known to visitors because he conducts photo tours of Costa Rica.

First prize: spot news
Photos by John Lyman

Sarah Hogan is a writer and a former newspaper and magazine editor in Colorado and Kansas. She, too, is a professional photographer, who now lives in Wyoming.

Saray Ramírez Vindas is well-known to readers of A.M. Costa Rica for her professional news photography and penetrating news reports from the streets of San José. She is one of the owners of the newspaper.

As the winners in various categories are announced, the newspaper will publish all the entries on linked Web pages so readers can see the submissions.

Officials on patrol to protect nesting turtles from Caribbean
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fuerza Pública officers said they spent all of last week trying to protect nesting green turtles in the area of Tortuguero. Also in the operation were agents of the Judicial Investigating Organization and agents from the Ministerio de Ambiente y Energía.

The turtles are coming from the sea at night these days to lay their eggs in holes in the sand, and the event attracts many tourists.

Officers said that while patrolling the Caribbean beach at night they encountered a turtle egg 

rustler, known only by a nickname. They 
frisked him and found a quantity of eggs in his pants. Possession of such eggs is illegal.

The endangered Caribbean green turtle uses the sandy spit for its nesting activities. Tourists are fascinated watching the 300-plus pound females drag themselves from the water and trundle inland some 75 yards for a nesting area above the tides.

Using eggs for food and killing turtles for meat are traditional activities in the area, but officials try to stem the practices in favor of the endangered creatures and tourism.

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Katia proposals range from murder to pornography
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

At the climax of a march Friday, Patricia Vega, the minister of Justicia, delivered to a lawmaker a wide ranged of proposals. The proposals would change 15 existing laws and create more crimes, all related to illegal activities with minors.

The legal changes range from stiffer penalties for murder to the increase in the penalty for abducting a child, which now is only six months to two years in prison.

A crowd estimated at from 3,000 to 5,000 walked from Parque Central to the Museo de los Niños. Some were public employees who had been given the day off.

The march was organized by the Patronato Nacional de la Infancia, the government child welfare organization, which wanted to push a wide range of legislative proposals.

According to President Abel Pacheco, he and the crowd were there Friday to ask the legislative deputies to approve the "series of laws that contain more severe penalties against pedophiles, pornographers, child abductors and murderers of these innocent beings. We want more drastic laws," he said.

He also asked that judges impose the penalties in the law with absolute rigor. And he said that police officers should use their own initiative to ferret out crimes against children and not wait until a victim files a complaint.

The Pacheco administration has been experiencing declining approval from the Costa Rican electorate, and the strong attack against child murders is an effort to generate support and muscle to win passage of the laws.

The most recent death was July 4 of Katia Vanesa González Juárez, 8, who was found a week later under the floor of a neighbor’s house in southeast San José. Another child, Osvaldo Faobricio Madrigal Bravo, then-3, of San Miguel de Higuito in Desamparados, was kidnapped June 4, 2002, and found dead a week later. His killer has not been found.

Marching with Pacheco were the mothers of both children and the mother of Jessica Valverde Pineda, then-4, who vanished near her home in Los Guidos de Desamparados in  February 2002. The law has been called the Katia and Osvaldo law.

Minister Vega gave the governmental proposals to Mario Redondo, president of the Asamblea Nacional.

Among other changes, the proposals would:

- raise the penalty for killing a person less than 13 years to from 20 to 35 years, putting the crime in the same range as killing a major politician.

- establish a penalty of from 10 to 20 years for illegal traffic in human organs if the crime involves a minor.

- establishes a penalty of five to 15 years in prison for corrupting a minor, including the use of minors in pornography, if the child is 13 or younger. Otherwise the penalty is five to 10 years for older minors.

- doubles the penalty for pimping from the current two to five years to four to 10 years if the person 

being marketed for sexual purposes is less than 18 years. If the person being pimped is 13 or younger the penalty is from five to 15 years.

- establishes a penalty of six to 12 years in prison for using children 13 or under in pornographic productions.

- increases the penalty for abducting a minor from the current six months to two years to two to eight years. But if there is injury or death to the victim, the penalty is from eight to 20 years. 

- In many cases the laws covering minors also cover persons incapacitated under the law, such as the handicapped and mentally retarded.

- increases the penalty for depriving a person of liberty to from four to 15 years if the victim is under 13 years.

- established a penalty of from two to four years for persons who possess, exhibit or distribute by whatever means, pornographic material showing minors of age or using images of such minors.

The government is unlikely to support a notification law pushed by Casa Alianza, the child advocacy group. The organization tried to obtain a million signatures on a brief petition. But Rogelio Ramos, the minister of Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública, said Thursday that such a procedure would only be used in certain cases.

Casa Alianza was pushing a variation of the U.S. Megan laws, which generally provide notification to the public when sexual offenders move into a neighborhood. Some versions of the law require the police to inform the neighbors. Other versions create a public data base. Casa Alianza has never spelled out the specific law it was backing. The U.S. laws are named for Megan Nicole Kanka, 7, who died in a 1994 murder in the U.S. state of New Jersey.

Setences appear stiff
in recent court actions

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Sentences by Costa Rican courts may be cut short when the convicted persons are in prison, but the original sentences are in the range urged by politicians, based on actions last week in the court system.

Two men with the last names of Guido Mena and Cubillo Cerdas convicted of murder will spend the next 35 years in jail, the Sala Tercera appeals court decided. The pair were convicted a year ago of killing a guard, Fernando Badilla Barboza, 60, in Limón. 

The Sala Tercera also upheld a sentence of 39 years in jail imposed in August 2001 against a man with the last names of Obando Bravo, who was convicted of strangling Cecilia Ulate Avalos, 28, in February 2000 in La Primavera de Cariari, de Pococí.

In the Tribunal de Juicio de Guápiles a man with the name of Sancho got 24 years in prison last week for raping his minor daughters in Talamanca in 1999 and 2000. One of the daughters became pregnant and both fled under threats of death to seek outside aid. The court ordered that three sentences of eight years each be served consecutively.


 
Immigration sweep
targets traffickers

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Immigration officials here say they have detained three Dominicans and 10 Costa Ricans who were involved in an illegal alien scheme to bring persons to the United States. The arrests took place early Friday.

The Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública said the arrests here were part of a coordinated effort with other countries, including the United States, to bust up a human trafficking ring.

The ministry said that Costa Rica was used as a "bridge" in channeling persons from other countries through here and to the United States.

The Dominican citizens might be extradited to the United States, the ministry said.

The Policia Especial de Migración also conducted a search for illegal individuals from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. in bars, hotel, pool halls and other gathering places in San José. Immigration police were joined by agents from the Judicial Investigating Organization and the Patronato Nacional de la Infancia, the child welfare agency.

In all, some 38 foreigners were found without the legal right to stay here. The group included one U.S. citizen, the ministry said. Some 20 persons were located who had outstanding court warrants, said the ministry.

Also Thursday and Friday night in Limón 12 foreigners, including two U.S. citizens, were detained for immigration violations.

Crewman returns
from boat disaster

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The fourth survivor of an explosion on a fishing boat in the Pacific Ocean returned to Costa Rica Sunday.  The man, Francisco Poveda Acevedo, was one of nine men who left on the Fu Fa Chen from Puntarenas.

The boat was ravaged by an explosion June 27, and five crewmen were lost.

Other survivors returned Saturday. Poveda will be hospitalized in Golfito due to dehydration and burns, said a spokesman for the Costa Rican Guardacostas.
 

Six traffic fatalities
mark vacation's end

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

At least six persons died in vehicle accidents over the weekend, a time which marked the end to Costa Rica’s midyear vacation.

The first death was about 10 p.m. Friday in Ciudad Colón when motorcyclist Marcos Mesen Vargas, 25, crashed.

Two hours later, at 20 minutes after midnight, two cars collided in Tibás, killing one driver, José Pablo Umaña Moreira, 22, and injuring the four persons in the other car.

Karol Quirós Solórzano, 22, died about 2 a.m. Saturday when she was struck by a vehicle in El Coyol, Alajuela.

Diario Extra said that one of its employees, Octavio Enrique Iraheta Ruano, 39, died when he was struck by a hit-and-run driver Saturday morning in Tibás. He hosted a television show,  Puntos Cardinales" on Channel 42, the newspaper said. Police had to shoot the tires from the fleeing car to detain the two men inside, said the newspaper that had a photographer at the scene. 

Saturday night in Hatillo José Angel Carvajal González, 65, of San Rafael de Tres Ríos, tried to cross the highway and was struck and killed. The death took place near a bridge for pedestrians, police said.

Another death happened Sunday afternoon. Róger Carvajal, who was on a motocycle, died when the   vehicle rear-ended a car on the General Cañas Autopista near Juan Santamaría Airport.

El Pueblo guard shot

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A security guard at the Centro Comercial El Pueblo suffered a bullet wound to the hip about 2:45 a.m. Saturday when men in a vehicle fired on him, said police. The center is a popular nightspot and dance location. The guard went to the hospital.

Boy shot in head
by wayward bullet

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An 11-year-old boy was shot in the head Friday afternoon in El Tigre de Tarbaca, in Aserrí.

Investigators identified the boy as Jorge Luis Rivas Hernández. Despite being shot in the right side of the head, the boy was said to be conscious when he arrived at a clinic in Aserrí.

Fuerza Pública officers said the boy and his twin brother were playing in a nearby finca where their father works. They did not know from where the shot came.
 
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Bush and Blair offer spirited defense of war aims
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair stood together here this week, and offered a spirited defense of their decision to go to war in Iraq. But questions continue to dog both men about some of the pre-war intelligence used to justify the toppling of Saddam Hussein. 

At a joint news conference, both men seized the opportunity to defend their decision to use military force.

For President Bush, it was also a chance to defend the intelligence information used to make the case that Iraq was developing weapons of mass destruction.

"We based our decisions on good, sound intelligence, and our people are going to find out the truth, and the truth will say that this intelligence was good intelligence," he stressed. "There is no doubt in my mind."

The debate over pre-war intelligence has reached a fever pitch here. White House officials acknowledge that they should not have included a reference that Iraq was seeking uranium in Africa in the president's State of the Union Address in January.

The CIA says it was not able to verify that claim, which was based on British intelligence. Prime Minister Blair stood by the uranium assertion during his joint news conference with President Bush.

"The British intelligence that we have, we believe is genuine," he said. "We stand by that intelligence."

Friday, the White House made public excerpts of an intelligence assessment done last year that cited what was described as "compelling evidence" that Saddam Hussein was trying to reconstitute a nuclear-weapons program. The report said that Iraq would probably have a nuclear weapon by the end of the decade, if left unchecked.

Release of the White House documents was designed to blunt a growing controversy in Washington sparked by Democrats in Congress. They want to know how the uranium reference made its way into the State of the Union Address, even though the CIA had managed to keep it out of an earlier presidential speech last October.

"So long as it is unresolved, there will be a shadow over the intelligence gathering and use in this administration," said Democrat Richard Durbin of Illinois, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee. "That is not in the best interest of national security. It is not in the best interests of the people of the United States."

Democrats in Congress and those running for president have seized on the intelligence issue. They question whether the president misled the public with faulty intelligence to support the war.

Some analysts question whether the Democrats will ever be able to dent the president's advantage on national security issues, given the public's overwhelming support for his handling of the 2001 terrorist attacks.

A new public opinion poll by Zogby International has the president's overall approval rating at 53 percent. That is down 5 points from a month ago. Other recent surveys also indicate growing public unease over the situation in Iraq and the questions about pre-war intelligence. 


 
Police killed journalist,
Iran reported will say

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

TERHAN, Iran, — An Iranian government inquiry says a Canadian photojournalist who died in Iranian custody earlier this month died after a physical attack.

The investigators' report, made public by Iran's official IRNA news agency Sunday says Zahra Kazemi was killed by a blow to the head that fractured her skull and led to a brain hemorrhage. The results of the government probe ordered by Iranian President Mohammed Khatami were expected to be released Monday.

Earlier Sunday, reformist lawmaker Mohsen Armin said Ms. Kazemi was beaten to death by government investigators following her arrest on June 23 for taking photographs of Tehran's notorious Evin prison.

Last week, Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien called on Iran to provide the truth about the circumstances surrounding her death. 

Anti-Chavez marchers
fill Caracas streets

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

CARACAS, Venezuela — Thousands of Venezuelans have rallied in the streets of Caracas to support a recall referendum on President Hugo Chavez. 

Waving yellow, blue, and red national flags, protesters marched from different parts of the capital to a mass rally in the city center Sunday. 

Chavez's opponents want a referendum to remove the controversial populist leader from office. During his current term, Venezuela has been plagued with rising unemployment and poverty.  The country's constitution allows for a recall vote when elected officials are halfway through their term of office. Chavez will reach that point on Aug. 19. 

In order to hold a referendum, opposition leaders must first collect signatures from 20 percent of Venezuela's electorate. The National Assembly also must appoint new election officials. It is split between Chavez supporters and opponents and has not been able to agree on candidates. 

An opposition-led strike in December and January failed to force Chavez from office.

U.S. seeks probe
of Cuban jamming

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. State Department has formally asked Cuba to investigate the jamming of U.S. satellite news programs to Iran, including programs of the U.S.-government affiliated Broadcasting Board of Governors.

Spokesman Richard Boucher told reporters here Friday the interference appears to be coming from Cuba, and that it appears to be intentional.

Boucher said the State Department summoned two diplomats from the Cuban Interests Section here Thursday and formally requested that the Cuban government look into the matter. 

The board of governors said earlier this week the jamming began at about the same time as it started a daily news program for Iranians, July 6. The new program comes amid anti-regime protests in Iran. 

Cuba has regularly jammed Radio and Television Marti, the broadcasts intended for Cubans. 

Gay activists praise
same-sex union

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Gay activists throughout South America are celebrating a first for the continent: a civil union between two Argentine men. The ceremony took place in Buenos Aires, Argentina, which has legalized same-sex unions. The new law has activists and religious leaders there at odds. 

Complete with confetti and fireworks, two men in Buenos Aires became the first homosexual couple to legally join in a civil union in South America. 

Marcelo Suntheim and Cesar Cigliutti signed the city registry together, signaling a move toward equal rights for homosexuals in the Argentine capital. 

"This demonstrates a real maturity on the part of Argentine society, and this is a recognition of our basic human rights," Cigliutti told reporters. 

The new law extends medical and insurance benefits and hospital visitation rights to same-sex couples, but does not allow them to adopt children or receive inheritance. 

However, the Catholic Church, of which four out of five Argentines are members, is strongly opposed to this new law. 

"Well for us, it was really something very sad, and we don't agree with this law," said Father Alberto Bochatey, a professor of bioethics at the Catholic University in Buenos Aires. "They say, well, its not really a marriage, its only a civil union. But it looks like a real wedding, you know. It's something that is not really going with the Argentinian culture at all." 

Gay activists say they plan to lobby for a civil union law to be adopted nationwide, a move the Catholic Church says it will continue to resist. 

Rights activist still
listed as a suicide

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

MEXICO CITY, México — A special prosecutor says human rights activist Digna Ochoa, who was found dead in 2001, may have committed suicide.

Prosecutor Margarita Guerra says in a new report her investigation found no evidence the death was a homicide or someone wanted to harm Ms. Ochoa. The prosecutor also says Ms. Ochoa had emotional problems.

Ms. Ochoa's friends and family have rejected the conclusion. They say the lawyer-activist was murdered. 

The former nun was found dead in October 2001 with gunshot wounds in her head and leg. A note found near her body threatened other human rights workers.

Ms. Ochoa represented environmentalists, people who said they were tortured by state forces, and Zapatista guerrilla sympathizers. She had been threatened in the past. 

Human Rights organizations have criticized what they call the Mexican government's poor handling of the investigation.  The first prosecutor assigned to the case resigned. He also said he believed her death was a suicide.

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