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These stories were published Wednesday, July 21, 2004, in Vol. 4, No. 143
Jo Stuart
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Everyone has had to make adjustments in San José as the massive project of putting power lines underground disrupts traffic and daily life. 

But a periodical vendor was not fazed. She just moved her stand into Avenida 2.

Guanacaste remained on her mind for decades
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Everyone who lives here however briefly vows to write a book. Susan Gordon really did that, but the process took decades.

Her new effort, "Guanacaste Snapshots: Experiences in Rural Costa Rica," published this month, call on her time here in the mid-1960s as a Peace Corp volunteer and the eight years starting in 1973 she spent living in rural Costa Rica near Liberia.

Ms. Gordon was a volunteer in Canalete, just south of Upala in the northern zone, but the bulk of her writing centers on the Costa Rican community she calls "Tempira." She changed the place name and the names of her characters. She says the town is 35 miles from Liberia.

The book selections available on the Internet show that the work is just as much about Susan Gordon as Costa Rica. She sketches a rural life with boredom, a decaying marriage and a husband slipping more and more into the  gringo disease that robs initiative.

Costa Rica must have affected her greatly because she returned to the United States and plunged into a doctoral program at the University of California at Los Angeles. Her area was folklore and mythology studies, and her 

dissertation focused on the folklore and history of Costa Rica, according to her Web site.
Ms. Gordon, who now lives in Israel, has not been in Costa Rica for 10 years, but the subject has not changed much. She writes of isolated rural communities ignored by politicians except in an election year. She writes of bad roads and problems with communications and health.

Ms. Gordon and her husband had more freedom in 1973. They arrived in Guanacaste 

in a redone Land Rover over roads that would be dangerous soon due to civil wars to the north. 

She has a lot to tell, from accidentally running over her parrot to glimpses of her personal life. Examples of her work are available HERE!

The book is available from iUniverse for $14.95 and as an Adobe eBook.

will add
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Delta Air Lines said Tuesday that it would add another daily flight from the Central Valley to Atlanta starting Dec. 2.

Starting on that date two flights will be available from Juan Santamaría  Aiurport. One will leave at 9 a.m. and arrive in Atlanta at 2:02 p.m., according to the schedule. A second flight will leave at 3 p.m. and arrive in Atlanta at 8:01 p.m., the airline said.

Flights from Atlanta will be at 7:05 p.m., arriving 10:11  p.m. and at 10:13 a.m. arriving at 1:17 p.m.

In its announcement the airline noted that it also is providing six flights a day to Daniel Oduber Airport in Liberia.


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Two syphilis cases
prompt investigation

By Saray Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two youngsters in a children’s home have tested positive for syphilis, and officials have launched an investigation to find out how they became infected.

The name and location of the home is being withheld by officials, but the facility, run by a non-government agency, is believed to be in the Cartago area.

The victims are brothers, 7 and 4. They are the children of a prostitute and come from a dysfunctional family, said Rosalía Gil, minister of Niñez. She is the director of the Patronato Nacional de la Infancia, the child welfare agency.

At first officials thought that the syphilis might be the type children inherit from an infected parent, but medical personnel at the Hospital Nacional de Niños report that the disease is of the type that is transmitted.

Syphilis is generally a sexually transmitted disease.

The more than 100 children in the home have been tested for the disease, and results are expected in a few days, said Minister Gil.

The two children are now in the Hospital de Niños. The Ministerio Público, the nation’s prosecutorial arm, and the Judicial Investigating Organization also are on the case checking into possible sexual exploitation.

Of greatest concern to officials is the possibility that the disease was transmitted inside the  residential facility. Minister Gil said the name of the facility was being withheld to protect the youngsters who live there and who go to public school.

Two lose their posts
over October trip

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two members of the board of directors of the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad have been fired because they took a trip to Europe last October in the company of an executive of a major supplier.

The two men are Hernando Pantigoso and José Antonio Lobo. the action was taken by the Consejo de Gobierno, the presidential cabinet.

Another man is the object of an internal investigation at the telecommunications company.

The men were in Prague, Czech Republic, along with an executive of  Ericsson, which bids on large projects for the institute. they were in Europe to attend a telecommunications conference in Switzerland.

Benefits Unit changes hours

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The U.S. Embassy’s Federal Benefits Unit, which assists U.S. citizens with Social Security, veterans’ and other federal benefits claims, is changing its public hours, according to an announcement from the U.S. Embassy.

The Federal Benefits Unit is located in the Consular Section of the embassy. It will continue to be open to the public from 8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., Monday through Friday, but will no longer be open on Monday afternoons, said the announcement. 

Letter to editor

He asks our readers
to demand exercise show

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

RE: Your story: "San José is one of five Central American cities that will play a role in a $125,000 study on diabetes." 

The best tool to fight diabetes, specially type 2 age onset, besides proper diet, is exercise. You will be happy to know that not any TV station, local or cable, gives an aerobics or other exercise program, zilch — not even 15 minutes a day! 

That is tantamount to murder, as every nutrition or medical expert interviewed at great length every morning, strongly recommends at least 30 minutes of aerobics a day! 

Please help to turn this situation around. Have your readers write to all the TV stations and encourage or demand such programs. It is a matter of life or death. The majority of Costa Ricans have television sets but cannot afford the gym's exorbitant rates. 

John Manners
Professional Directory
A.M. Costa Rica's professional directory is where business people who wish to reach the English-speaking community may invite responses. If you are interested in being represented here, please contact the editor.

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Saray Ramírez Vindas.... associate editor

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U.S. triples the aid it will give to struggling Haiti
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Haiti has secured significant aid commitments at an international donors conference hosted by the World Bank in Washington. Donor countries and organizations say Haiti must break from decades of political instability, lawlessness and corruption if it is to embrace a more promising future.

Nearly five months after former President Jean Bertrand Aristide fled, foreign aid is flowing once again to Haiti, the poorest nation in the hemisphere.

Secretary of State Colin Powell was the first to address aid donors at the World Bank Tuesday, the second of a two-day gathering. "Today the Haitian people have a new opportunity to fashion a better future, and a new government that is determined to help them seize the opportunity that is before them. The proud and enterprising people of Haiti deserve this chance," he said.

Powell said Haitians must see a rapid improvement in living conditions if they are to retain hope for the future, and that the international community has a significant role to play. The secretary of State pointed out that, going into the donors conference, aid commitments fell more than $900 million short of the $1.36 billion that multilateral organizations concluded Haiti needs over the next two years. "We must close that gap. For our part, I am pleased to report that the Bush administration has tripled the amount of aid that we designated for Haiti this fiscal year. Our fiscal year 2004 total comes to about $180 million."

Powell said an additional $52 million has been earmarked for 2005, bringing the total U.S. commitment to $230 million. Additional pledges have come from the Inter-American Development Bank, the European Commission, and other sources.

International assistance to Haiti was curtailed in 1999 after then-President Rene Preval dissolved the country's parliament and began ruling by decree. Donors further reduced aid two years later, when legislative elections designed to restore constitutional rule were marred by widespread allegations of fraud. Estimates of the funds Haiti lost since 1999 range from several hundred million dollars to well over $1 billion.

But, with an interim government in place to guide Haiti to elections scheduled for next year, it would seem that all is forgiven, if not forgotten, by the international community.

The United Nations special representative to Haiti, Juan Gabriel Valdes, said the challenges Haiti faces are enormous. "No one should underestimate how fragile Haiti remains. Armed groups continue to endanger stability. The rule of law has not yet been restored. Political forces remain at loggerheads. Basic services heed urgent rehabilitation. Unemployment is widespread. The people of Haiti will be sorely tested in the difficult period ahead. So will the international community," he said.

For his part, interim Haitian Prime Minister Gerard Latortue sought to dispel any doubts that he is committed to honest public service. "All the members of my government, willingly, have renounced all participation in the coming elections," he said. "They all took the commitment to accept no job at all in the next government. The government wants to show, thus, its total neutrality in the upcoming elections and guarantee free and honest elections."

Latortue said his priority is to fight poverty, unemployment, malnutrition, and disease. Haiti has the hemisphere's highest HIV infection rate, at 5 percent of the population.

Venezuelan officials irked by comment from Bush
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

CARACAS,  Venezuela — The government has angrily responded to President Bush's call for transparency in next month's recall referendum on Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

Venezuela's Foreign Ministry says the administration of President Chavez has held seven elections, and in each one the people's will has been respected. 

In an official note, the Foreign Ministry also said Venezuela is an example for the United States. 

Monday, Bush told reporters the Aug. 15 referendum should be conducted in an "honest and open" way.  He also said Venezuela must welcome 

international election observers and prevent interference in the vote.

If the majority of voters choose to recall President Chavez, new elections must be held within 30 days.

Meanwhile, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan said he is sending his special adviser on Latin America to Venezuela to monitor preparations for next month's recall referendum. 

A U.N. spokesman says the adviser, Diego Cordovez, was due to leave Tuesday for a five-day trip to meet with government officials, opposition politicians, the media and others involved in the vote. The spokesman says Annan discussed the mission on Monday with Cordovez, a former U.N. official and Ecuadorian foreign minister. 

Audio tapes in Jewish center bombing turn up in Argentina
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

BUENOS, AIRES, Argentine —  President Nestor Kirchner says officials have uncovered 45 audio tapes that had been lost by police investigating the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center.

Kirchner told Jewish leaders of the discovery Monday, one day after the 10th anniversary of the bombing that killed 85 people. 

Officials say the tapes were made in the days after the attack and contain telephone conversations involving a key suspect in the bombing, Carlos Telleldin.  Telleldin has been jailed on charges of providing a van that was packed with explosives to use in the attack. 

The tapes were reported lost by Buenos Aires police, who have been accused of corruption and failing to fully investigate the bombing.

Severe winter weather in Perú brings international assistance
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

LIMA, Perú — Several United Nations agencies have responded to Peru's call for international assistance in dealing with severe winter weather that has killed dozens of children. 

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Monday made two emergency grants of $25,000, while the World Food Program has promised $200,000. The United Nations 

Children's Fund has provided 2,500 blankets and articles of heavy clothing. 

The harsh Peruvian winter has seen temperatures as low as 26 degrees below zero Celsius. That’s about minus 15 Fahrenheit. An estimated 159,000 people have been affected. Snow has destroyed more than 3,000 homes, blocked roads, ruined grazing land, and killed cattle.  Peru declared an emergency after access to the eight most seriously affected provinces proved difficult. 

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Dominican cultural artifacts grabbed by customs
Special to A.M. Costa  Rica

MIAMI,  Fla. —  Some 194 original artifacts from the Dominican Republic, described as "culturally priceless," have been seized by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency in Miami.

The circumstances of their removal from the Caribbean nation are being investigated by agents of another federal agency, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The artifacts, some smaller than a fingernail, date to the pre-Columbian era, while others go even farther back in time to 2,500 B.C. 

According to officials of both agencies, the U.S. State Department played the crucial role in hiring an historian and recognized archeological expert, Elpidio Jose Ortega of the Dominican Republic, to come to Miami to determine whether the artifacts from his country were genuine or fake. 

A customs enforcement agent said the case might have stalled without the State Department's help in arranging for Ortega's trip to Miami. The agent said neither customs agency was authorized to pay for the services of Ortega, who is governor/administrator of the Faro a Colon monument in the Dominican Republic, designed to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the first voyage of Christopher Columbus. 

The artifacts, which were officially seized June 17 by U.S. Customs and Border Protection after their shipment to Miami, include arrowheads and stone carvings. U.S. officials first detained the items March 21, to determine whether they were illegally imported into the country. Seizure of the items takes place once officials determine the items are illegally imported. The importer of the artifacts has the right to contest that determination.

Some 408 pieces in all were found by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers in the collection that arrived in Miami, but upon examination by Ortega, only 194 of those pieces were determined to be original and indigenous to the Dominican Republic. 

The other pieces in the collection were reproductions. However, the U.S. government has seized all 408 pieces.

Ortega said in an interview that he determined that many of the objects found in the shipment to Miami were copies, and that they had arrived in the United States commingled with the genuine artifacts. 

Investigators said that even copies of the artifacts might be worth up to $40,000, while the originals are "priceless." The agent described Ortega as "very impressive" in his ability to explain the difference between an authentic artifact and a reproduction.

U.S. authorities say the importer of the pieces has been notified of the seizure of the artifacts, and that under the law this individual has the right to file a claim for the items.

The customs enforcement agent said that the investigation might result in the artifacts being returned to the Dominican Republic's government, although the timing of that return remains uncertain. Federal authorities are still determining if any charges might be filed against the individual who acquired the artifacts.

The State Department says this case is extremely significant to the fight against trafficking in cultural artifacts. The case reinforces the U.S. government's commitment to helping the Dominican Republic prevent cultural artifacts from leaving the Caribbean nation.

The U.S. Embassy in Santo Domingo has been involved with the Dominican Republic's Museo del Hombre Dominicano in several other projects, and embassy personnel said that this case demonstrates just one of the many ways that the United States and the Dominican Republic have worked together.

A 1970 international convention allows the United States to impose import restrictions on certain categories of archaeological or ethnological material, the pillage of which "places a nation's cultural patrimony in jeopardy."

U.S. immigration policies are coming under scrutiny
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. —  The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is valuating new immigration procedures and policies.

Prakash Khatri, citizenship and immigration services ombudsman identified three issues his office currently is studying in order to make policy recommendations: prolonged processing times for visas, immigration benefits fraud and case-status information improvement.

"To do those three in a way that is non-intrusive, customer-friendly, and shows the welcoming nature of the American immigration system is truly what we're all committed to, and that's what we're hoping that we will be able to do," Khatri said.

He said that his office recommended streamlining the immediate-relative immigrant processing system and the re-engineering of the permanent resident card replacement program, "which many permanent residents of the U.S. who travel quite frequently were having issues with.

"We made a recommendation on the family-based immigrant processing. Here in the United States, if you have a foreign national that has come to the 

U.S. and is married to a U.S. citizen or is the parent or child of a U.S. citizen, they can file, in most cases, an application to get their green card here," Khatri said. "And what we did was we actually made a recommendation to do the processing in a manner which would substantially increase the speed."

He noted that a pilot program in Dallas lowered green-card processing time to 75 days or less, in contrast with New York City where processing can take three years or more.

"Once  a person is here in the country with an application for a green card here, if they have a family emergency they're required to have what's known as advanced parole to leave this country, and then return in that same status so that they can continue to get the benefit that they initially sought," Khatri said.

He noted there should not be a situation where a person cannot leave the United States because the immigration service was unable to process papers. 

"We have been working on a number of fixes to that, and some recommendations will be forthcoming in the coming months on the advance parole issue that a number of people that are impacted," Khatri said.

Former Sandinista enforcer faces expulsion for rights violations
Special to A.M. Costa  Rica

WASHINGTON. D.C.  —  Agents from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement have arrested a Nicaraguan native at his residence in Miami and charged him with helping leaders of the former Sandinista regime of Nicaragua carry out acts of persecution and human rights violations.

In a statement Monday, immigration said that Francisco Antonio Campos-Gamboa was arrested under the agency's "No Safe Haven" initiative, which denies refuge in the United States to international human rights violators and ensures that those who have committed crimes against humanity do not receive the benefits of legal immigrant status in the United States.

The agency said Campos-Gamboa was a member of the Sandinista military of Nicaragua during the 

1980s and also a member of the country's Guerrilla Assault Squadron that helped the main leaders of the Sandinistas carry out violations of human rights.

Immigration said a judge determined July 2 that Campos-Gamboa was a human rights abuser. Campos-Gamboa is in custody in Miami awaiting removal from the United States.

An immigration fact sheet says human rights abusers can often be found in populations with a high concentration of refugees. In Miami, for example, the agency has apprehended more than 60 human rights abusers thus far. Currently, agency lawyers are litigating in U.S. immigration courts more than 500 cases involving human rights violators from more than 60 countries. The majority of cases originate from crises in El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, China, Liberia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Somalia.

Jo Stuart
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