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These stories were published Wednesday, July 24, 2002, in Vol. 2, No. 145
Jo Stuart
About us
Golfito out as Kansas University's study site
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The University of Kansas pulled the plug Monday on its Golfito undergraduate study program because of what it said were heightened tension and a changing emotional climate in the southern Pacific port town.

The community is where assailants murdered University of Kansas senior Shannon Martin May 13, 2001. 

Diana Carlin, dean of the Graduate School and International Programs, said the decision was unfortunate but a necessary precautionary step. 

"We have tried very hard to maintain this program because of its high academic value," said Carlin. "But we are concerned about sending students there in the fall."

University of Kansas students have been going there for 10 years, said the university. Some 318 students participated in the program, according to a total provided by the university.

The university’s decision is an economic blow to the port town, better known in Costa Rica as the place to purchase untaxed household appliances. 

Three persons are in custody as suspects in the death of Miss Martin. Two are men. The young woman died during a brutal attack when assailants grabbed her as she walked a short distance from the local Jurassic Bar to the home of her host family.  Strictly speaking, she was not a study-abroad student, the university noted, but had returned on her own to Costa Rica to finish up a senior biological research project.

Host families and some retail outlets will bear the direct economic brunt of the university decision. Some 12 students were supposed to study there starting in August.

Dean Carlin said via e-mail Tuesday that the university would be keeping its program at the University of Costa Rica in San Pedro.

Carlin said in an earlier university release that the year of constant examination has strained staff in Golfito and university’s resources here. The Institute of Tropical Studies where the program was located lacks the support systems of other study abroad sites that are typically located on college campuses, she said. 

"During the past year, we have subjected the program to scrutiny regarding the safety of students and personnel, the orientation of
students and host families and the overall administration and costs of the program. The decision to continue the program last year was correct at the time, given the information we had, but the year's events have taken a toll," Carlin said. 

The dean said that monitoring and review of the university program persuaded university officials that the climate in Golfito is changing: "Heightened tension from the murder of Shannon Martin, the long investigation and now the pending trial have had a cumulative effect. The demands are more than our limited staff there can properly handle." 

The Study Abroad budget does not allow for further personnel or the resources to continue the high level of monitoring the situation requires, Carlin said. In addition, the program has attracted a high percentage of students from other schools, and it is difficult to provide the necessary pre-departure orientation program without additional expense for the students and the university, she said. 

Fees charged these students do not cover present expenses and fall far short of the 

additional costs necessary to continue the program, said the university release.

No University of Kansas students are currently in Golfito. Summer students have just gone home, and the fall program would normally begin in early August, the university said. The break in the semester cycle offers the best time to end the program, said Carlin.

The dean said that the university would not abandon Golfito as a research site and "will pursue other options for taking advantage of this unique site in the future," she said.

In her Tuesday e-mail the dean wanted to praise the Golfito program:  "I cannot emphasize enough how much our students have learned from their experiences in Golfito.  They have high praise for the host families and for the quality of instruction and the uniqueness of the setting." 

Investigators detained a female suspect last Nov. 21, and identified her by the last name of Cruz. She was 27 when arrested. She had been held and questioned repeatedly since. They arrested the two men Monday afternoon in the center of town.

Investigators are working on the assumption that the killers had plans to rob Miss Martin as she walked back alone from the popular nightspot. Instead, the robbery turned to murder. She was stabbed up to 15 times.

Mom wants program
to continue in Golfito

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Jeanette Stauffer of Topeka, Kan., the mother of the slain university student, told reporters there that the University of Kansas study abroad program should continue. 

But she wanted increased safety precautions and a new director. The current director failed to learn enough about his community and to share that information with students, Stauffer claimed.

She spoke to the Lawrence, Kans., Journal-World newspaper and said that the atmosphere in Golfito changed not recently as the university said but right after her daughter left in Spring 2000. She said drug use soared. She has visited the area twice and has been in close touch with residents.

The three people in custody as suspects in the murder of her daughter Shannon Martin are believed to be linked to drugs. Investigators have said informally that the robbery was drug-motivated.

However, not everyone agrees that drug use has increased. One resident who lives near Golfito said cocaine and marijuana have always been, and are still, readily available to anyone with the desire to use them. As a port, the community always had its rough element.

The town may receive a much more serious economic blow than the end of the university program. President Abel Pacheco and his economic advisers are considering eliminating the tax exemption that causes thousands of Costa Rican shoppers to travel to the town and stay the obligatory overnight. Pacheco wants to revoke this special concession that was created to encourage economic activity in the community.

Golfito is no stranger to economic problems. The once-thriving banana exporting business is gone and a spectacular fire leveled a number of tax-free stores in the city center last year. 

The murder of the university coed brought and maintained an unwelcome spotlight on the town.

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Free trade agreements get a couple of big boosts
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

As expected, the Free Trade Treaty between Costa Rica and Canada won approval Monday night in the Asemblea Nacional by a lopsided 53 to 1 vote.

There was little doubt that the treaty would be accepted. President Abel Pacheco ranks free trade and such agreements high in his priorities, and government officials reached an accord with Costa Rican potato growers last week.

The growers were the primary source of opposition and got plenty of mileage from their point of view during presidential elections.

Free trade got yet another boost Tuesday when the other 14 nations of the Caribbean Community asked that the provisions hammered out between Costa Rica and Trinidad and Tobago be extended to them.

Robert Tovar, minister of Relaciones Exteriores y Cultos, and Alberto Trejos, minister of Comercio Exterior, said that negotiations should be wrapped up with the nations by Sept. 30 because the existing treaty would be the model.

Costa Rica imports petroleum from the Caribbean countries, and the countries import mostly agricultural produce from here.

Agricultural products, specifically potatoes, caused a bump in the road for approval of the treaty with Canada. Pacheco’s opponent in the presidential elections, Rolando Araya Monge of the Partido Liberación Nacional, adopted the potato growers’ cause.

A lot of Canadians and Costa Ricans were surprised because the potato imports from Canada mostly are frozen french fries, something Costa Rica does not produce in bulk. Costa Ricans pay 41 per cent import duties on frozen french fries.

Potato growers won several commitments from the Costa Rican government, including a 770-million-colon (about $2.1 million) investment in certified seeds. Under terms of the agreement 

about 5 percent a year will be peeled off the potato import duty.

Costa Rica and Canada already had signed the trade accord, and the Canadian Parliament has passed the measure.

The heavy hand of politics can be seen in the treaty. Dairy, poultry, egg and beef products were exempted from tariff reduction, according to a Canadian summary prepared by the Department of  Foreign Affairs and International Trade. In addition, Costa Rica will exclude from tariff reduction a number of import sensitive agri-food products, including table potatoes and some fresh and frozen vegetable products, according to the Canadian department. 

Still Some 86 percent of Costa Rican goods will be tariff free. Only 65 percent of Canadian products will be free of duty. In addition, a 1 percent customs administrative charge on everything imported will be eliminated.

The agreement with Canada was seen as a test case for free trade here. The United States is encouraging the negotiation of a Central American free trade pact, and the Free Trade Area of the Americas is scheduled to go into effect in 2005.

Proponents of such agreements note that Costa Rica, a small country, gets access to giant markets of consumers. Opponents lump free trade in with other globalization trends and claim that such treaties represent economic exploitation of the Third World. The United States, México and Canada are bound together with the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Approval of such international agreements will cause major shifts in Costa Rican society because frequently the pacts give access to many types of foreign businesses and require equal treatment for foreign companies.

Costa Rica uses customs duties as a revenue-generating method, so as import duties on frozen french fries are reduced, the country must find some other area to pick up the slack.

U.S. Navy's sonar ships worry fans of whales and dolphins
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Friends of whales, dolphins and other sea creatures are concerned about the effects of the noise pollution in the world’s oceans.

The Navy won approval July 15 to deploy two ships that use controversial low-frequency sonar to detect faraway submarines, despite continuing questions about whether the system's loud blasts will injure whales and other ocean mammals. 

The ruling by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration grants the Navy an exemption from federal rules that guard marine mammals from incidental injury. The agency concluded that protective measures required of the Navy ensure that the effects of the sonar will be "negligible" and will not undermine the long-term health of whales and other ocean mammals.

Environmentalists fear that growing noise pollution in the oceans will harm whales, dolphins, porpoises

and other sea creatures that have been at the center of global preservation efforts. However, the ruling was welcomed by those worried about how environmental and endangered-species laws have been affecting military preparedness.

A petition addressed to the secretary of the navy to halt the deployment of the system is being circulated by Sierra Sequeira, owner of Delfin Amor Eco Lodge and Marine Education Center in Drake Bay. For more information contact Ms. Sequiera at dolphins@costarica.net.

All this controversy coincides with the humpback whales migrations as they pass by Costa Rica. Some of the southern humpbacks in the Oso Penisula area now, have come all the way from Antartica, the longest migration known to man, she said. 

Ms. Sequiera said humpbacks were all over the Drake Bay area and that she issued a hydrophone to listen to the whales conversing. She also is president of Fundación Delfin de Costa Rica.

Motorcycle bandits
may be busted

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Investigators raided a house in Paso Ancho Tuesday morning and found a warehouse for what is believed to be stolen motorcycles.

As a result of the raid, investigators said they had busted up one of the most dangerous bands of motorcycle robbers in the San José area.

One man, identified by the last name of Herrera, age 30, went to jail for investigation, said police. 

Agents said they had been following the members of the band for several weeks. They said they were able to determine that motorcycles robbed in the metropolitan area were being taken to the house, where some were disassembled. 

The gang members picked out their victims based on the type of motorcycle they drove. These were motorcycles with a value of at least 1 million colons or about $2,750. They would follow their target until they arrived in an isolated location where they would force the driver from the motorcycle and steal the vehicle.

Agents today found four cycles at the house and about 14 disassembled cycles in an adjacent lot. 

Investigators did not say if the gang was responsible for the early morning shooting three weeks ago of two men in Desamparados. The driver suffered three serious wounds to the back.

Environmental study
to be at faster pace

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Even though the law requires the Ministerio de Ambiente y Energía to evaluate environmental impact statements in 45 days, frequently the period is about 700 days, according to the agency.

So Tuesday Carlos Manuel Rodríguez, minister, made changes in the Secretaría Técnica Nacional Ambiental (SETENA). This is the part of the ministry that makes the evaluations.

SETENA has a crush of some 1,000 applications to evaluate, the minister said. Such studies are required by law for any number of projects that might have an impact on the environment.

Tourism Day

Sept. 27 is Tourism Day in Costa Rica. Rubén Pacheco Lutz, the minister of the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo, announced this Tuesday.

U.S., Canada planning
new border teams

By A.M. Costa Rica wire services

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The United States and Canada have announced that they will set up five new joint border policing units in Ontario and Quebec to improve security in response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The joint units, known as Integrated Border Enforcement Teams, are composed of police, immigration and customs officials from the two countries. First developed in 1996 as a way to address cross-border crimes along international land and marine borders between Washington State in the United States and Canada's British Colombia, the five new border patrols will be set up in the Canadian provinces of Quebec and Ontario.

The Canadian government says the new teams will bring to 10 the number of teams created to date. A total of 14 such teams is planned.

The border policing unit’s goal is to help protect Canada and the United States from potential threats of terrorism, and to impede smuggling of drugs, humans, contraband cigarettes, or other illegal substances. Cross-border smuggling can take place by land, air, or water.

Bomb detectors
put on wheels

By A.M. Costa Rica wire services

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Customs Service announced Tuesday it is using specially-equipped trucks to detect so-called dirty bombs hidden inside shipping containers. 

Officials say 24 such devices are now in use at U.S. border crossings, two U.S. military posts and three major American ports, Boston, Long Beach, California and West Palm Beach, Florida. 

The manufacturer of the trucks, American Science and Engineering, says it has sent another 24 devices to overseas ports, including those in Britain, Egypt, Mexico and Saudi Arabia. 

The trucks are built to detect even tiny amounts of radioactive material stashed inside shipping containers that arrive on cargo ships or by land. A giant radiation-detection arm moves across and up and down the sides of the container while it also takes x-ray images of the contents. 

More than 16 million shipping containers arrive in the United States every year. U.S. customs officials have said they fear terrorists may use containers to store such weapons as dirty bombs, a conventional explosive packed with radioactive material. Authorities had stepped up their efforts to detect such materials in the wake of last September's terrorist attacks.

Salvadorian generals
lose atrocities case

By A.M. Costa Rica wire services

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — A jury here has found two retired Salvadoran generals liable for atrocities committed during their country's civil war. 

The West Palm Beach jury rendered its decision Tuesday, ordering Gens. Carlos Eugenio Vides Casanova and Jose Guillermo Garcia to pay $54.6 million in damages. 

Jurors were asked to determine whether the generals knew their troops were torturing or murdering civilians but failed to try to stop it or punish those responsible. 

The generals were sued by three Salvadorans who said they fled their homeland after being brutalized by Salvadoran soldiers during the conflict. 

Like the defendants, the plaintiffs now live in the United States and filed suit under laws that allow U.S. courts to assess damages against perpetrators of human rights abuses committed abroad. 

El Salvador's civil war spanned more than 12 years and involved the military government as well as leftist and right-wing guerrillas. The conflict, which claimed about 75,000 lives, ended in 1992 when peace accords between the government and guerrillas were signed.

The lady vanishes
with some $400,000

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

CARACAS, Venezuela — Three police detective branch narcotics division officers are under suspicion for the alleged forced disappearance of a Colombian citizen, Maria Duarte de Fabogal, and the loss of $400,000 in cash, according to V-Headline News here. The victim had apparently recently brought the large sum of money to Venezuela from Costa Rica, the electronic news organization said.

Chief Inspector Jesus Fun Leon and detectives, Jairo Alexander Burgos and Jose Gregorio Salcedo, are the main suspects because they supposedly tried to dispose of a video showing them interrogating the victim when she arrived at the Simon Bolivar International Airport in Caracas, according to Raul Yepez, the sub-director of the judicial police, the news service said.

Mrs. Duarte de Fabrogal’s $400,000 is what triggered official suspicions, said the news service. It has since been learned that two more detectives responsible for shooting the video are also being interrogated.

Guatemala awaits
Pope John Paul II

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

GUATEMALA CITY, Guatemala — The country’s faithful are anxiously awaiting the upcoming visit of Pope John Paul II, his third here, but considered a very special one. On Tuesday, the pope will canonize Brother Pedro de Betancur, a 17th century missionary who will be Central America's first saint.

A priest gives mass to a standing-room-only crowd in the San Francisco Church in the colonial city of Antigua, Guatemala. In the weeks leading up to the pope's visit, the church, which houses the tomb of Brother Pedro de Betancur, has been flooded with visitors. Friar Edwin Alvarado is in charge of the canonization activities here.

Due to the overwhelming crowds, the church has started giving five masses on Sunday. Even then the church was so packed, church workers had to add benches and pull-up plastic chairs to accommodate the crowds. 

After arriving here in the mid-17th century as a missionary, Brother Pedro founded the first free hospital in Guatemala, the first free school and became the nation's first literacy instructor. He is known here as a man who provided healthcare to the poor and performed miracles by curing people of sickness even after his death. 

Many of Guatemala's faithful come to the tomb of Brother Pedro before operations to ask for him to protect them and keep them alive. In a museum in the back of the church the walls are adorned with crutches, photos, plaques and letters of thanks from thousands of faithful who attribute miracles to Brother Pedro. 

A thousand worshippers from a Guatemala City parish shout long live the pope during a pilgrimage through Antigua's cobblestone streets. Many here hope that Brother Pedro will give strength to the frail pope on what is expected to be an exhausting trip. Church officials, like Friar Alvarado, also hope that the canonization will serve to breathe new life into the legacy of Brother Pedro's work in healthcare and education. 

He says the celebration of the canonization of Brother Pedro will be complete if his message is renewed, taken seriously and practiced in Guatemala. 

Guatemala's illiteracy rate is one of the highest in Latin America, second only to Haiti, and it is one of the countries in the region with the lowest combined public and private spending in healthcare.

Medellin explosion
kills ex-lawmaker

By A.M. Costa Rica wire services

MEDELLIN, Columbia — A bomb has exploded in front of a cafeteria here, killing two people, including a former legislator. At least 13 people, two of them journalists, were injured. 

Police say former lawmaker Hildebrando Giraldo died Tuesday when the device exploded at the busy cafeteria frequented by journalists and politicians. Authorities also say the bomb had been thrown from a passing vehicle. 

There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but investigators said they suspect leftist rebels. 

The attack came five days after a powerful bomb exploded in Cartagena, killing at least four people and wounding 23 others. 

Last week's blast happened at a home in a poor section of the city. Police are investigating whether the device was being stored for a later attack linked to the ongoing civil war. 

In February, President Andres Pastrana's government ended peace talks with rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, the country's largest insurgency. 

Since then, the rebels have stepped up their attacks nationwide. The terror group also has launched a campaign against town and municipal mayors and other local officials, demanding they resign or be killed.
Professional Directory

A.M. Costa Rica debuts 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.


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


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

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