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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Aug. 5, 2002, Vol. 2, No. 153
Jo Stuart
About us

Love it or hate it, Costa Rica has a limited number of domestic brands.

We figured it was time to tell you all about them. 

Bottoms Up 

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Pacheco urges action to solve financial crisis
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Abel Pacheco took the opportunity last week to urge the Asemblea Nacional to come up with its own ideas on how to shape up the country’s financial situation.

The president was inaugurating the Multimix Microtechnology plant at Parque Industrial Ultrapark in Heredia.

"We have presented our ideas on how to resolve the fiscal problem. They will have to decide if they will approve our proposals or present something better," Pacheco said of deputies. "We always are open to good initiatives." he added.

The new plant represents a 2 billion colon (about $5.5 million) investment by the West Caldwell, N.J., company, said a release from Casa Presidencial.  At the time the new plan was announced more than a year ago, the parent firm, Merrimac Industries, Inc, said the production facility would be about 35,000 square feet. 

Casa Presidencial said that the firm made the investment because of its successes with another plant here. Multimix manufactures integrated circuits for microwave applications using a patented process.

Pacheco said that the company was interested in the human resources available in Costa Rica as well as the peace, security and the geographical location.

Pacheco said that deputies should make changes in the law to insure that these conditions continue and to insure the political and economic stability of the country.

Pacheco and most politicians agree that Costa Rica is in a grave financial situation due to high government debt and also due to the worldwide economic slump. Costa Rica’s principal exports, agricultural products and microchips, face lower demand, and the terrorist attacks in the United States were a shock to tourism, another principal industry.

The president has endorsed a plan by six former ministers of Hacienda, the tax-collecting agency, that would set up a value-added tax in Costa Rica in place of the existing 13 percent sales tax. The president wants the national assembly to pass a bare-bones emergency tax plan, incorporating the value-added tax, within the next 30 days while the final fiscal plan is debated and studied.

Pacheco’s Partido Unidad Social Cristiana has joined with rival Partido Liberación Nacional to move the plan forward in the assembly. The two parties together have sufficient votes to pass the measures.

But Pacheco said he still is open to other ideas: "I put in my grain of sand, and the Señor Deputies ought to put in theirs." He said the deputies’ sense of patriotism will cause them to work with his administration to find solutions.

U.S. is ready to start trade talks in earnest
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The United States is ready to begin free trade talks with Central America because President George Bush now has a stronger position to craft such agreements.

That was the word from Robert Zoellick, the U.S. trade representative who is the man who actually negotiates such agreements.

The United States is poised to conclude free trade agreements with Chile and Singapore and to initiate free trade talks with Morocco as well as Central America, said Zoellick. He said this after the U.S. Senate voted to give trade promotion authority, so-called fast-track, to the president.

The vote by the Senate, which followed a similar approval in the U.S. House of Representatives "will open America's markets right away to developing countries in Latin America, Africa, and the Caribbean," Zoellick said in a news release.

Zoellick said the trade bill gives U.S. negotiators a stronger hand in the global trade talks launched in November 2001 in Doha, Qatar. The vote in the Senate means that once an agreement is negotiated, senators can only 

vote for it or against it and cannot make changes.

Bush announced Jan. 16 that he would move ahead with Central America and try to negotiate a free-trade pact even before the scheduled Free trade area of the Americas is scheduled to go into effect in 2005. That pact would cover the whole hemisphere.

Central American leaders already have met to develop a united front on a proposed free trade agreement with the United States. And working groups continue to meet to craft proposals and details.

Costa Rican President Abel Pacheco is in favor of the general idea because he believes such an agreement will give a boost to the Costa Rican economy. Costa Rica also is involved in a number of trade talks and just approved a free trade treaty with Canada.

Last week officials were meeting on Plan Puebla Panamá, an ambitious redevelopment plan from southern México all the way down to Panamá.

The business community generally favors free trade, but labor and environmental groups worry that the treaties will mean lower wages for workers and a heavy environmental toll.

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Treasury secretary
goes south with loan

By the A.M. Costa Rica wires services

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil — U.S. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill is in South America on a mission to assess a spreading economic crisis and what impact international aid may have. 

O'Neill was to meet with top Brazilian officials here late Sunday. Topping the agenda is an International Monetary Fund  fiscal package aimed at calming Brazilian financial markets fearful of upcoming presidential elections. 

The Brazilian currency, the real, has lost 23 percent of its value against the dollar this year. The real sharply dropped 15 percent after Secretary O'Neill suggested last week that aid money for South American countries has a tendency to end up in Swiss bank accounts. His remarks angered Brazil's government. 

Meanwhile, the Bush administration says it plans to provide Uruguay with an emergency $1.5 billion loan to help deal with a crisis that forced banks to suspend operations last week. 

The International Monetary Fund, World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank officials have offered an aid increase to Uruguay totaling $3.8-billion. 

Sunday Uruguay's Congress approved a law freezing hard currency bank deposits for up to three years. Uruguay links its economic problems to Argentina, which has defaulted on its $141-billion foreign debt. Uruguay fears defaulting on its foreign debt could jeopardize a separate loan from the International Monetary Fund. 

O'Neill will meet with the presidents of Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina. 

Mining exec wins
Bolivian presidency

By the A.M. Costa Rica wires services

LA PAZ, Bolivia — The Bolivian Congress has elected pro-market reformer Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada to lead the nation for the next five years. 

Sanchez de Lozada, who served before as president from 1993 to 1997, won by 84 votes to 43 over opponent coca farmer Evo Morales Sunday after a marathon session in Congress that lasted more than 24 hours. The congressional vote came after neither of the two candidates won a majority in the first round of voting in June. 

Sanchez de Lozada ensured his victory in the vote after forming an alliance with his left-of-center rival, former President Jaime Paz Zamora, last week. 

The U.S.-educated Sanchez de Lozada's vast mining business makes him one of Bolivia's richest men. 

He promises to create thousands of jobs in a country where unemployment exceeds 10 percent. He also backs U.S.-supported plans to wipe out Bolivia's coca crop, which is used in the production of cocaine. But coca is also a traditional crop that can be used to make tea. 

Morales is a leader of coca farmers and strongly opposes coca eradication. 

Tired John Paul II
is resting, working

By the A.M. Costa Rica wires services

VATICAN CITY — Pope John Paul II, who is just back from a grueling 11 day visit to the Americas, has given thanks for the strength to complete the trip.

Looking tired and sounding hoarse, the 82-year-old pontiff spoke to pilgrims gathered Sunday in the courtyard of his summer retreat outside Rome.

The pope, who led World Youth Day celebrations in Toronto last week, said young people are always in his thoughts and prayers.

John Paul held up reasonably well during this visit to Canada, Guatemala and Mexico. But there were times when the pontiff appeared on the verge of exhaustion. The pope will spend some time resting at his summer residence before heading to his native Poland for a brief visit later this month.

Federal judge says
detainees to be ID’d

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A federal judge ruled Friday that the Bush administration must reveal the names of hundreds of persons arrested in the United States, many of them for immigration violations, following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Administration officials have argued that release of the names of those arrested would compromise the government's ongoing anti-terrorist efforts. In her ruling, Judge Gladys Kessler of Federal District Court in the District of Colombia rejected the administration arguments, saying that the administration's reasons for withholding the names of those arrested were not persuasive.

"The Court fully understands and appreciates that the first priority of the executive branch in a time of crisis is to ensure the physical security of its citizens," she said. "By the same token, the first priority of the judicial branch must be to ensure that our government always operates within the statutory and constitutional constraints which distinguish a democracy from a dictatorship."

"Unquestionably," she said, "the public's interest in learning the identities of those arrested and detained is essential to verifying whether the government is operating within the bounds of the law."

She ordered the administration to "disclose within 15 days the names of those it has arrested and detained in connection with its Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist investigation."

In her 47-page memorandum on the case, Kessler noted that the government has revealed that it has detained in pursuit of its Sept. 11 investigations 751 persons on immigration violations and continues to hold 74, has arrested 129 on criminal charges and as of June 11 still held 73 in custody, and has detained an unknown number of persons as "material witnesses" who might provide information in terrorism cases.

In her ruling, she left open the possibility that the government might retain the right to continue withholding the names of some of the material witnesses, and also said that detainees who wished to keep their names from the public would be permitted to do so.

Robert McCallum, assistant attorney general for the civil division in the Department of Justice, said in response to Kessler's ruling that "today's ruling impedes one of the most important federal law enforcement investigations in history, harms our efforts to bring to justice those responsible for the heinous attacks of Sept. 11, and increases the risk of future terrorist threats to our nation."

Judge denies recourse
for prisoners in Cuba

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. government can continue to detain indefinitely the suspected terrorists being held at the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, following a federal judge's ruling Wednesday.

In a case brought by two British citizens, two Australians and 12 Kuwaitis who were captured in Afghanistan while fighting with Taliban and al-Qaida forces, U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly issued a 34-page ruling that the U.S. legal system has no jurisdiction over detainees held in Cuba.

Ruling for the first time on U.S. federal jurisdiction over detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba since Sept. 11, Judge Kollar-Kotelly concluded that the base is outside the sovereign territory of the United States. Based on a 1950 decision that held that writs of habeas corpus are not available to aliens held outside the sovereign territory of the United States, the court found that it "did not have jurisdiction to consider the constitutional claims of the petitioners," who argued that they are entitled to be charged and to have access to attorneys and trial dates.

 The court asserted that its opinion "should not be read as stating that these aliens don't have some form of rights under international law," but that their nationalities and geographic location outside the sovereign territory of the United States mean they do not have the right to press their cases in U.S. courts.

 The plaintiffs had argued unsuccessfully that U.S.-leased military bases abroad, "which continue under the sovereignty of foreign nations, hostile or friendly, are functionally equivalent to being land borders or ports of entry of the United States or otherwise within the United States."

 Since the detainees have not been charged with any legal offenses, they are not being deprived of due process, the judge added.  There are currently close to 600 suspected terrorists from around 36 countries detained at Guantanamo Bay. 

Population of town
missing in Colombia

By the A.M. Costa Rica wires services

BOGOTA, Colombia — Colombian officials are investigating what happened to hundreds of residents of a central Colombian town who disappeared from their homes several days ago. 

Government officials said Wednesday that many residents of Puerto Alvira left the town after rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, entered the area Saturday. 

Officials say they are trying to determine if the leftist rebels kidnapped the townspeople or if the residents fled the fighting in the area between the rebels, right-wing paramilitaries and Colombian government forces. 

More earthquakes
bracket Costa Rica

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The ocean floor was rolling over the weekend. Eathquakes took place north and south of the Costa Rican Pacific coast, suggesting that stresses within the earth will cause compensating quakes within the national territory.

Another quake, this one of a 5.5 magnitude, struck off the coast of Panamá in an area where more than six such events have taken place in the last week. This one was about 8:40 p.m. Saturday. The quake was felt in San José and had a duration of about 20 seconds.

The U.S. Earthquake Information Center said the tectonic action was some 35 miles (60 kms.) west of the city of David. The location is where two tectonic plates rub against each other.

A quake about 10:13 a.m. Friday took place about 25 miles (40 kms.) off the Nicaraguan coast. Then at 5:42 p.m. Sunday another quake took place about 30 miles (48 kms.) further south but still west of Nicaragua. Both were in the magnitude 5.5 to 5.6 range. The locations are along the same juncture of plates.

The current series of earthquakes started July 25 when a quake took place west of David. The quake was felt by San José residents. That quake set off a series of five aftershocks in Panama through Thursday afternoon. All of them occurred 5 to 20 miles from the original’s epicenter. 

Such aftershocks normally follow an earthquake of that magnitude. The predecessors were not as severe as the original 6.5-magnitude quake. They had magnitudes ranging from 4.6 to 5.3. 

Police get suspects
in market stickup

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Four gunmen held up the Supermercado Jonao in San Perdo Betania about 10 p.m. Friday night and police arrested five suspects in Cinco Esquinas de Tibas a short while later.

Police identified three adult suspects by their last names: Vega Porras,  Alvarado Davila and  Romero Richmond. Two suspects were minors.

Police confiscated two .38-caliber revolvers and a 9-mm. pistol, they said.

The gunmen held up Oscar Chaves Araya, manager of the store, in the presence of two employees and a shopper.

Pacheco won’t take
side in mayoral races

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Abel Pacheco said Friday that the government will remain neutral in the campaigns for mayors of the country’s municipalities.

"As president of the republic, as mandated by the Constitution and my own convictions, I have no candidate, no electoral banner and I will not allow the use of my name to gain votes in these elections," he said in a gathering at the Supreme electoral Tribunal, which runs the voting.

The president also urged all public officials and employees to be impartial and prevent the diversion of public resources for partisan electoral campaigns.

This is the first time that Costa Ricans will have direct elections of the mayors and municipal councilmen in some 81 districts.. The voting was stipulated in a 1998 law. The elections will be Dec. 1.

Biden says war
with Iraq likely

By the A.M. Costa Rica wires services

WASHINGTON, D.C. —  Joseph Biden, U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman, says he believes the United States will probably go to war with Iraq and that President George W. Bush should start making the case for military action now.

Biden says he can not predict a timetable, but war appears to be likely. "I believe there probably will be a war with Iraq," he said. "The only question is, is it alone, is it with others and how long and how costly will it be."

The Delaware Democrat recently chaired two days of hearings on Iraq. During an appearance on NBC television's Meet the Press he said President Bush must seek support from Congress, the American public and U.S. allies.

"This is a tough judgment call," he said. "But the case has not been made in earnest. Think what happened after Sept. 11. The president did not go off half-cocked and just go ahead and invade Afghanistan. He set out the bill of particulars. He went around to every capital in the world, basically, with his people and he laid out what we had. He made his case. The case [against Iraq] has not been made yet."

Speaking on ABC's This Week, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle said Congress must have a say in any decision to launch military action against Iraq:

"The hearings demonstrated there are a lot of outstanding questions that have to be asked," he said. "Do we have the support of our allies? Do we have an appropriate plan for what happens once the regime change takes place?"

Shootings blamed
on Chavez followers

By the A.M. Costa Rica wires services

CARACAS, Venezuela — Officials here say gunmen believed to be supporters of President Hugo Chavez have fired at a police vehicle in Caracas, wounding four civilians and a police officer. 

Greater Caracas Mayor Alfredo Pena says the violence occurred Friday in a poor neighborhood of the capital, populated largely by Chavez supporters. The mayor is a political opponent of the president.

The shooting was the most serious incident since this week's Supreme Court decision to postpone charges against four military officers accused of involvement in the failed coup against Chavez in April. 

Army officers briefly deposed Chavez before loyalist officers reinstated him in light of massive street protests in the president's favor. 

Rice farmers in Peru
end violent actions

By the A.M. Costa Rica wires services

LIMA, Peru — Rice farmers in a remote city in northern Peru have ended an often violent nine-day strike after the government agreed to buy their surplus crop. 

The farmers called off their protest Saturday after more than 12 hours of negotiations with Agricultural Minister Alvaro Quijandria in the Amazon jungle city of Tarapoto. 

The government promised to buy and promote the export of a surplus rice crop. The farmers complained that record-low prices for their crop were threatening their jobs. The cash-poor government blames the low prices on overproduction by the farmers. 

Peruvian officials also promised to examine tax exemption for the farmers and look at ways to ease their debts to privately-owned banks. 

Last week, farmers blocked major highways into Tarapoto and tried to seize the airport. One report said that rice farmers attacked a tourist bus.

More than 100 people were also injured when police used tear gas to break-up a rampage by looters.  Police were forced to evacuate more than 200 tourists who were stranded in the remote jungle city because of the violence. 
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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.

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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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