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These stories were published Thursday, Aug. 1, 2002, in Vol. 2, No. 151
Jo Stuart
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Black Virgin is atop the altar

Canonization touches
Costa Rican faithful, too

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Pope John Paul II canonized the first indigenous saint of the Americas Wednesday in a colorful Mexico City ceremony that reverberated here. The new saint is Juan Diego, who is believed to have seen a vision of the Virgin Mary in the 1500's.

As the pope was making the historic declaration (story here), pilgrims in Costa Rica were en route or getting ready to go to the city of Cartago where less than 100 years after the Mexican visitation a similar supernatural event is said to have taken place.

A youngster in 1635 found a dark stone statue said to be of the Virgin Mary. The statue mysteriously kept returning by unknown means to the site where the Basilica de la Virgen de Los Angeles stands now in the city some 23 kms. (about 14 miles) east of San José. The actions of the statue were interpreted by church leaders as a desire of the Virgin Mary to have a church built on the Cartago site.

Some 1.2 million Catholics will make the pilgrimage this year to the church to be there for services Friday morning. The day is a holiday, although some stores will be open. The statue is decked in fine garments and dominates the principal altar.

Many Catholics here consider the Black Virgin, La Negrita, to be the Costa Rican manifestation of the Mexican Virgin of Guadalupe whom the new saint witnessed in México. Several Costa Rican television stations carried the Mexican canonization ceremony live Wednesday. At least Channel 13 will be broadcasting live from Cartago Friday.

Meanwhile, police are urging motorists to watch out for the pilgrims, most of whom walk to the basilica from all points in Central America and Costa Rica. One couple on the pilgrimage suffered injures in Curridabat Tuesday when a car hit them.

Faithful enter basilica on knees
Canadian ambushed 
in attack near Grecia

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A gunman or gunmen in a car tried to assassinate a Canadian resident near Grecia Tuesday night, police reported.

Police identified the victim as Carlos Laurit Michael, 42, of Santa Gertrudes. He suffered multiple gunshot wounds and was reported in critical condition much of Wednesday. By early evening investigators said his condition had stabilized.

Investigators said that a preliminary investigation showed that Laurit pulled up to the La Victoria gas station about 10 p.m. in his Nissan. A short time later a black Toyota also pulled up and one or more persons let loose with a flurry of bullets.

Laurit’s car sustained 11 bullet holes. Some of the bullets hit him. The gasoline station is on the road to San Roque.

Rescue workers took the victim to Alajeula for hospitalization but he quickly was transferred to the better-equipped Hospital México in San José where emergency room physicians have more extensive training in such trauma.

Because of the victim’s condition, police were unable to conduct extensive interviews. But immediate speculation suggested a planned assassination attempt, perhaps motivated by revenge or other motives. The fury of the attack did not seem to suggest a typical holdup or a carjacking.

Agents did say that the Canadian Embassy was notified and that the victim has been a resident here for an undetermined period.

Girl, 5, dies in attack
by neighborhood dog

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A neighborhood guard dog turned killer Wednesday afternoon when two girls approached the yard where it was confined and the animal somehow got out.

The animal, identified as a rottweiler, grabbed and ripped out a 5-year-old girl’s throat and then attacked her sister, 14, said investigators.

The 5-year-old, María José Asenjo Fonseca, died, police said. The sister, Karla Asenjo, 14, suffered severe wounds to her right arm as well as other injuries. 

The attack happened about 2 p.m. in Tierra Blanca de Cartago, a town some 15 kms. north and slightly east of the city of Cartago. 

There were two stories as to why the girls were in the area. Some neighbors said that the two were simply passing by the yard where the dog was kept when either the gate lock failed or was opened.

A Judicial Investigating Organization spokesman said the 14-year-old was going to the home adjacent to the yard to do cleaning and that she had taken the 5-year-old with her. They were neighbors.

A German shepherd in the same yard with the rottweiler did not escape.

The surviving girl might have suffered more injuries if workmen nearby did not come to her aid, but they were too late for the younger girl.

The Judicial Investigating Organization spokesman said that a law that would make such attacks a serious crime for the owner has not yet come into force. instead, an attack like the one Wednesday will be treated as a misdemeanor with a possible penalty to the owner of a fine.

However, there is no indication that the dog’s owner, who was not identified, did anything wrong. But the investigation is continuing.

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After meticulous consideration of the puppies for sale on Avenida Central, the Rodríguez Family, decided to take home the black Doberman pinscher pup (left) instead of the mutt. Such informal and controversial puppy sales take place at several points in the city.

A.M. Costa Rica/Christian Burnham
Protesters await rulings on vehicle inspections
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The protests over the new inspection policy for vehicles has died down as opponents put their faith in at least three pleas being considered by Costa Rica’s constitutional court.

But at the inspection stations, the flood of vehicles has overwhelmed the technicians who are supposed to provide a sophisticated checkup. The number of vehicles is so many that long waits are common for drivers and the company in charge of the inspections is seeking a change in schedules to accommodate those vehicles that are supposed to be inspected by Aug. 15.

The inspections started July 15 for vehicles with license plates ending in the number 1 or 2. Vehicles with plates ending in 3 or 4 are supposed to begin the inspection process Aug. 15,

But the company, Riteve SyC, has asked the Ministerio de Transporte y Obras Públicas for a little breathing room. The company wants to continue checking the first batch of vehicles through Aug. 21, shifting the whole inspection program a week later.

There are at least 13 inspection stations located around the country. Curiously there are none in San José where motorists have to either go to Alajuela or Cartago. Inspections are by appointment.

Some Costa Ricans set up roadblocks and behaved in an atypical violent manner two weeks ago in a handful of locations in the country. They even used firebombs and rocks to make their point. Police made more than 110 arrests.

Not all who oppose the inspections took part in the roadblocks. They were pressing their case with the Sala IV or constitutional court. The petitions hinge on the way in which the opponents say the government has set up a non-government 

monopoly for auto inspection. Such monopolies are prohibited by the Costa Rican Constitution.

The government says there is no monopoly, just a normal contract that was awarded after bidding.

The company that won the bid is owned by Spanish and Costa Rican corporations, thus giving rise to anti-foreigner feelings among the opponents. The bulk of the inspection station employees are Costa Ricans.

Some mechanics oppose the inspections because they believe that they are losing money by not being able to do the job themselves. Others fear with some justification that their aging, beat-up cars will never pass the inspection and will be taken off the road.

So far, the inspections have been gentle, and those vehicles that were denied circulation were frequently those with incomplete ownership papers.

Road work given
nod by Contraloría

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Contraloría General has approved 13 road maintenance contracts worth about $4 million. Such approval is necessary before contractors start the work.

The 13 jobs mainly are in the San José area but also include work in the southern zone ($3.2 million), the Atlantic Zone ($2.2 million), the San Carlos area ($3.4 million), Cartago to Turrialba ($2.1 million)  and in San Ramon ($1.9 million).

The biggest single contract to Constructora Mena, some $7.5 million, is for road work along the Pacific coast.

New saint in México appeals to the indigenous 
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

MEXICO CITY, México — Pope John Paul II has canonized the first indigenous saint of the Americas in a colorful ceremony here Wednesday. 

To the sounds of conch shells, rattles and fervent voices singing in Spanish and the ancient tongue of the Aztecs, Pope John Paul II elevated to sainthood an Indian figure, Juan Diego, who is said to have seen a vision of the Virgin Mary in the 1500's.

"We declare and define Juan Diego as a saint; we establish that the entire church will honor him among saints," the pontiff said at Mexico City's Basilica of the Virgin of Guadalupe.

The Catholic Church credits Juan Diego for aiding in the conversion of millions of indigenous people to Christianity during Spain's colonization of the Americas. Historians have said there is virtually no evidence that Juan Diego ever existed.

In his address, Pope John Paul called on Mexicans to support their country's indigenous people in their aspirations and to defend and respect their values. He added that Mexico needs its indigenous people and the people need Mexico.

Norberto Rivera, Mexico City’s archbishop, said the importance of Juan Diego's canonization to the people of Mexico cannot be overstated.

The archbishop said that all ethnic and indigenous groups that have been forgotten and marginalized appreciate this historic act. He said that everyone in this land, but especially the indigenous people, now have a protector in heaven and an example of Christian life.

The Pope's focus on Mexico's indigenous population comes at a time when many Protestant Christian sects are attracting converts from the ranks of the Catholic faithful in Mexico and elsewhere in Latin America. Observers say the canonization of Juan Diego can be seen as an overture by the Pope to those who have strayed from Catholicism.

The canonization ceremony was televised throughout Mexico and much of the Americas. In Mexico City, hundreds of thousands of Catholic faithful took to the streets to watch the service on giant screens erected in the capital.

The pontiff arrived in Mexico late Tuesday, the final stop of a pilgrimage that took him to Canada and Guatemala. He is to return to Rome today.

Niehaus welcomed
by OAS leaders

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Ambassador Walter Niehaus Bonilla Wednesday presented credentials at the Organization of American States, as Costa Rica's new permanent representative.

Secretary General César Gaviria welcomed the ambassador, noting his academic background and experience in international economic law.  "Given his experience in democracy and firm commitment to international law and with Costa Rica's prominent role in the OAS, we are confident the ambassador will make a very positive contribution," said Gaviria.

The secretary general noted that with the numerous challenges the organization and the hemisphere have to tackle, Niehaus "will have an opportunity to contribute to the inter-American system, to make the OAS a really effective vehicle to tackle those challenges."

The Costa Rican diplomat has served as minister of tourism and deputy foreign minister and has sat on the board of directors of the Center for Democracy.  He was also a professor at the University of Costa Rica. Niehaus Bonilla holds a bachelor's degree from the Autonomous University of Central America and a master's and doctorate in international trade law and international economic law from Duke University.

Ashcroft praises effort
to eliminate drugs

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — John Ashcroft, U.S. attorney general, says that international networks of terrorists and drug traffickers can be broken with cooperation and coordination between law enforcement at the federal, state and local levels.

Speaking Tuesday at a conference of the Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force, Ashcroft said the U.S. Departments of State and Justice have conducted independent international surveys of drug trafficking and terrorism, revealing what Ashcroft called a "shocking" conclusion.

"Nearly one-third of the organizations on the State Department's list of foreign terrorist organizations appear also on our list of targeted U.S. drug suppliers," Ashcroft said.

The Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force was formed in the 1980s at an earlier point in U.S. history when international drug trafficking arose as a threat to the nation. 

Ashcroft said the nation is making considerable progress in reducing the drug supply into the country through the development of strategic enforcement plans and a unified list of drug organization targets. The attorney general said law enforcement is also making progress in the pursuit of financial backers of drug trafficking.

Efforts by U.S. law enforcement recently dismantled a large drug trade network along the U.S.-Mexico border by arresting more than 2,000 suspected drug traffickers in a five-month sting operation.

The U.S. Marshals Service announced Tuesday they caught 2,127 suspected drug traffickers during a series of raids between March and July. 

Ben Reyna, the director of the service, said the effort was a success because of the large number of violent criminals captured. He also noted that the cost of the operation broke down to less than $600 per arrest. 

U.S. and Mexican law enforcement agencies cooperated so officers could arrest fugitives in either country. Sixty-four suspects wanted in the United States were caught in Mexico, and 22 people wanted in Mexico were arrested in the United States.

Police put down
Venezuelan clashes

By A.M. Costa Rica wire services

CARACAS, Venezuela — Riot police have fired shots and tear gas into the air to break up fights outside the Supreme Court, which is deciding whether four military officers go to trial for rebellion.

Pro- and anti-government supporters clashed outside the court building in Caracas Wednesday, forcing police to seal off the area. At least five people were injured and several others arrested in the scuffles. 

The trouble comes one day after supporters of President Hugo Chavez massed outside the building to demand that the four officers be sent to trial for their alleged role in April's failed coup. 

The officers under investigation are Navy Vice Adm. Hector Ramirez, Rear Adm. Daniel Commisso, Army Gen. Efrain Vasquez and Air Force Gen. Pedro Pereira.

The four deny government accusations they were ring leaders of the coup that briefly deposed President Chavez.

Rebel officers ousted Chavez one day after 17 civilians were killed during an opposition protest. An interim president briefly replaced President Chavez, but the ousted leader regained power two days later.

Since reclaiming the presidency, Chavez has called for reconciliation talks. His opponents refuse to meet with him, saying he is not willing to accept change. 

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Smuggled cigarettes
topic of conference

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Public health and law enforcement officials from 145 nations gathered for a three-day conference through today to discuss how to curb the illicit trafficking of tobacco products. The U.S. Treasury Department's Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms organized the conference.

"This conference presents an opportunity for us to learn from each other and work together to strike a blow against the illicit trade in tobacco products," Bureau Director Bradley Buckles said Tuesday.

"This work is important for several reasons. This illegal activity results in a loss of revenue vital to the operations of governments, it provides financial fuel to organized crime and terrorist activities, and it can undercut health policies."

Smuggled cigarettes account for 6 to 8.5 percent of global cigarette consumption, according to the World Bank. Nearly one-fifth of all cigarette production is exported and of that amount, almost one-third — about 355,000 million cigarettes — finds its way onto the black market. The smuggling has resulted in a loss of revenue to governments of between $16,000 and $30,000 million annually.

During the conference, the first ever held on illicit tobacco trade, the law enforcement community considered best practices to prevent or counter such crimes and consider issues such as licensing, record keeping, labeling, cigarette tracking and tracing, border controls, information sharing, mutual assistance and international cooperation, Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearm Bureau officials said.

"It is important to protect our revenue; it is important to target those who would use profits against us, but the public health issues provide an additional and powerful motivation for effectively addressing the problem," Buckles said.

"The health consequences in terms of the lost human potential, and in terms of the enormous and avoidable drain on public health services demand that the problem of illicit tobacco trade receive our special attention," the Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearm Bureau director said.

"Taxes in the U.S. and elsewhere now represent a direct and undisguised attempt to discourage consumption," he said. "Making a pack of cigarettes prohibitively expensive will discourage some, particularly our youth, from buying cigarettes to begin with."

"There is also an element of tax equity reflected in high tobacco taxes," Buckles said. "Proponents of the higher taxes argue that smokers as a whole present a greater burden on public health systems, and therefore smokers should bear a greater burden of the tax."

About one-third of the global adult population, or 1,200 million people, are smokers, with 900 million in developing countries, especially in Asia. World Health Organization officials say that tobacco kills over four million people each year, with one million deaths in China alone and another 700,000 in India. By 2020, tobacco will cause an estimated 8.4 million premature deaths annually — more than from any other cause.
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

Legal and Consulting Specialists
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Apdo. 11846-1000, San Jose, Costa Rica
Tel: (506) 253-9655   Fax: (506) 280-4576 
Cel: (506) 386-9324
Email: ulimar@costarica.net

Real estate agents

Coldwell Banker Coastal Properties Escazu
Manager Nancy Bruno
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387-6820 cell
Located in the new Plaza Itskazu, next to the Court Yard Marriott Escazu #203

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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

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