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These stories were published Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2002, in Vol. 2, No. 154
Jo Stuart
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Pacheco empanels financial corruption squad
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Abel Pacheco swore in Monday an "incorruptible commission" that will look into every nook and cranny of public spending to root out corruption.

The first places the commission will look are at the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social and the most important ministries, according to a summary provided by Casa Presidencial.

Pacheco promised that the commission would not engage in a witch hunt but told the nine-member group:  "Turn over rocks and discover things . . . and continue discovering. I have dared to say that the corruption has   invaded us to the very last corner."

The commission is a permanent one created by executive decree. The chairman is Oscar Barahona Streber, a former minister of Hacienda. Barahona and the eight other members represent all the main political ideologies of the country, said Casa Presidencial.

"This will be the beginning of a profound process in which we will explore all the public spending in the country," said Jorge Walter Bolaños, the current minister of Hacienda.

Pacheco called the nine persons "unflinching patriots," who have decided to ignore partisan

politics in order to safeguard the public money.

Fighting corruption was a campaign promise by Pacheco and tightening government spending is a key element of his emergency fiscal plan. He called himself a "servant" of the new commission. "Whatever you decide will be obeyed by this servant, and I say so publicly," said the president.

The commission is supposed to give a public accounting of its actions three times a year. Findings will be made public immediately, and the first such findings are supposed to be ready in a month. The committee will work along with the Contraloría General de la República and la Defensoría de los Habitantes. The Contraloría is the traditional financial watchdog, and the Defensoría is supposed to help citizens with their problems with the government.

The members of the commission will be serving without compensation. They are: Silena Alvarado Víquez,  Eugenio Rodríguez Vega, Alberto Cañas Escalante, Julio Suñol Leal, Guido Miranda Gutiérrez, Otto Guevara Guth, Rodolfo Silva Vargas and Mario Carazo Zeledón.

There was no indication in the president’s announcement how big a staff the commission would have or what size budget it would need to do its job.

Ticket for  Sunday lottery increases by ¢500
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Even the cost of gambling has increased. 

The lotería nacional tickets increase this month from 2,000 colons ($5.50) for a 10-ticket sheet to 2,500 colons ($6.90). But the grand prize has increased, too, from 35 million colons to 40 million ($110,200). The winning numbers are picked each Sunday night.

Some of the lesser prizes also have increased slightly. 

The "chances" and "tiempos" have not changed. The three-digit series and two-digit number of the chances tickets are picked each Tuesday and Friday night. First prize for chances still is 10 million colons ($27,550). But to win the prize, one has to purchase a 1,000-colon ($2.75) ticket which can be sold in 10 100-colon "fracciones." 100 colons is about 28 U.S. cents.

The tiempos cost 500 colons ($1.38). To win a player has to have the correct number between 00 and 99. The top prize is proportionally smaller, too, some 30,000 colons (about $82.65). The winning tiempos number is the same as the last two numbers of the chances drawing picked twice a week. This ticket, too, can be sold in 10 pieces, each valued at 50 colons.

These didn't win Friday

The lottery is a fund-raiser for the Junta de Proteccion Social de San Jose, which characterizes the purchase of a ticket as not only gambling but a social investment. Funds are used for a variety of social programs by the government agency.

A spokesman is quick to point out that tourists and other foreigners are eligible to play the lotteries, and prizes are distributed without regard for nationality.

The lottery, chances and tiempos are the tickets that vendors hawk all over the country with their urgency mounting each Tuesday and Friday, the days of the drawings.

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Avenida 1 robbers slash Salvation Army collector
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The most recently disclosed victim of the Avenida 1 robbers is a Salvation Army employee.

A squad of robbers caught up with the man at the corner of Avenida 1 and Calle 11, cut his throat and took the little blue donation box emblazoned with the emblem of the Salvation Army.

This happened July 18, a weeknight, about 10: 30 to 11 p.m., the man disclosed over the weekend. Although police got a complaint, the crime was overlooked by reporters until the man returned to work.

The man who collects for the Salvation Army is well-known in the downtown. He visits any number of seedy bars seeking donations for the religious group that, among other things, maintains shelters for homeless children. However, he asked that his name not be used because he did not want publicity associated with being a crime victim.

The man willingly showed customers in a downtown cafe the scar where robbers slashed his throat nearly ear to ear. The wound was not sufficiently deep to cause death and missed the major arteries. The line of torn flesh runs just below the Adam’s apple. The crooks got about 6.000 colons, he said, about $16.50.

The man was on his rounds seeking donations that 

night, and he walked east on the south side of 
Avenida 1. Two men confronted him at the corner with Calle 9 in front of a darkened music store, but because the man is a black belt in karate, he said he thought he could protect himself. But as he began to use martial arts moves, two more men attacked him from behind. 

He was hospitalized for a time. 

The area is well within one guard position at a business along the north side of Avenida 1. The downtown police delegation is just a half a block east.  The site of the attack is well within the general travel area of North America toursts.

The new victim is the latest in a long series of attacks on North Americans and Costa Ricans along Avenida 1, attacks that police seem unable to prevent.  This is the first attack so far east. Usually the criminals mug their victims between Calle 7 and Calle 9. 

Anywhere from 30 to 50 North Americans have been mugged along the avenida or half a block to either side during the last year. An untold number of Costa Ricans have met the same fate. Typically, the robbers use a choke hold. 

This is the first incident in which a victim was cut with a knife, although others have suffered serious injuries to their neck and head due to the choke hold and subsequent collapse to the sidewalk.

Gangs run riot
in city in Haiti

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

GONAIVES, Haiti — Armed street gangs and local political groups have assaulted government facilities including a prison here. The attack of a national detention facility Friday resulted in the escape of dozens of criminals, according to a statement released by the State Department Friday.

Philip Reeker, deputy State Department spokesman, condemned the violence in Haiti as "deplorable" and encouraged Haitian authorities to restore the rule of law in Gonaives and re-arrest the prison escapees.

To help relieve the country’s turmoil, the U. S. Agency for International Development will provide approximately $2.5 million in emergency food assistance to Haiti, according to a press release issued Monday.

The money will be used to supply food to an estimated 100,000 Haitians who have been affected by drought and crop failure in the northwest province of the country.

The emergency funding will supplement United States Agency for International Development’s 5-year, $100-million food assisted development program in Haiti and is the organization’s second grant provided to Haiti in the past three months.

In July, the U. S. Agency for International Development provided $350,000 in grants to assist residents affected by floods in Haiti's south and Grand Anse regions. 

Pinochet’s murderers
given time in prison

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

SANTIAGO, Chile — A Chilean judge handed down prison sentences Monday to 11 Army officers and one civilian for a gruesome murder committed in 1982, during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.

Among those sentenced were four generals. The case is the first in which Chilean courts have convicted top army officials of Pinochet-era crimes. 

The 11 Chilean army officers were sentenced for their role in planning the murder of Tucapel Jimenez, a union organizer who was shot repeatedly in the head by army personnel then had his neck slit.

Retired army Major Carlos Herrera, who admitted having killed the union leader, saying he was "following orders," received a life prison term. A retired general, who was Chile's army intelligence chief at the time, received 10 years for ordering the killing. 

The murder of Jimenez was part of the army high command's successful campaign to destroy a growing civilian coalition opposed to the economic and political decrees issued by Gen. Pinochet and his staff. Jimenez was a charismatic and beloved government employees union leader and had a huge following among government workers. 

Because he also had friends and allies in the Navy high command, Jimenez was seen as a dangerous force by the army leadership. Just three days before his 1982 murder, Jimenez had called for massive non-violent protests against military rule and greater citizen participation in the government. 

While recent Supreme Court rulings have determined that Gen. Pinochet is medically unfit to stand trial, several hundred of his underlings still face judicial investigations, civil lawsuits and now jail sentences. 

Jose Antonio Gomez, the Chilean justice minister says "it is very important that the judge has resolved this case and applied the appropriate sentences." Gomez adds: "This helps cleanse the pain that exists in this country. In crimes of this magnitude is not possible to avoid prosecution." 

An estimated 3,000 Chileans were killed during the 1973-1990 rule of Gen. Pinochet and many thousands more were tortured and exiled. Until the general's arrest in London in 1998, the army had successfully avoided prosecution of its former leaders. 

The army is accepting the sentences, without public protest. But civilian leaders are calling for a public apology from the current army leadership.

Union leader Raul de La Puente says, "it has now been proven that this was an organized crime by the army, the army ought to make a statement to the citizens, to the public employees and the Jimenez family." De La Puente, who is the current president of the ANEF government employees union, the same position Jimenez held at the time of his murder, adds: "These are generals and top officials. There ought to be a public explanation." 

U.S. sugar quotas
include Costa Rica

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The largest quotas for U.S. sugar imports for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1 will again go to the Dominican Republic, Brazil and the Philippines, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative has announced.

Costa Rica was allocated a quota of 15,796 metric tons, about 4 percent of all sugar imports from Central American and Caribbean countries.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture had earlier announced the overall limits of the quotas at 1,117,195 metric tons raw value, the minimum required under Uruguay Round Agreement and unchanged from the previous year.

An additional quota is provided for Mexico under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

The United States has restricted sugar imports almost continuously since 1934. For the past decade the United States has restricted sugar imports under two tariff-rate quota systems, one for raw cane sugar and the other for refined sugar.

A tariff-rate quota is an import policy that allows a specified quantity of imports of a product at a relatively low tariff and subjects all other imports of that product to a higher tariff.

Burglars shot at police

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two men tried to burglarize a house in Pozos de Santa Ana about 3:30 p.m. Saturday, and when police arrived they fired on officers and fled, said police. The presumed goal of the burglary was some 150,000 colons ($413) in jewels in the house.

Mall robbery suspects held

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Police stopped a car containing four armed men about 10 p.m. Saturday between Avenida 1 and 3 at Calle 0 in San José. The men are being held as possible suspects in a robbery the same night at the San Pedro Mall in Los Yoses.

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Two Canadians face
drug transport counts

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Drug police arrested two young Canadians Sunday at Juan Santamaría Airport because they were carrying more than two kilos of heroin in the soles of their shoes, police said.

The two were identified by the last name of Larrosa, age 22, and Farron Pariak, age 21.

The young men were planing to be passengers on a commercial flight to Toronto, Canada, police said. The drugs, some two kilos and 149 grams, were wrapped in adhesive tape forming insoles in each of the shoes of the young men, according to police.

Drug police said that this was the 10th arrest this year in which they allege that an airline customer was transporting drugs. They said they seized 27 kilos of heroin from a total of two Costa Ricans and 13 foreigners, including the Canadians.

The drug police have set up a special 24-hour number for tips: 800-376-4266.

Theater group plans
potluck gala tonight

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Little Theatre Group is holding a potluck and party tonight at the home of member Liz Howard in Bello Horizonte.

The purpose of the event is to celebrate the successes of the group’s dinner theater, but a spokesman said that persons who are considering joining the group also are welcome.

Information is available by calling 282-1228 or by e-mail to dollgal@racsa.co.cr.

The group performs in English.

Defamation case
for Harris Aug. 16

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

GUATEMALA CITY, Guatemala — A criminal trial for the defamation suit brought against Bruce Harris, the executive director of Casa Alianza, has been set for Aug. 16. 

The suit dates back to a September 1997 press conference where Casa Alianza’s reported its findings from an investigation of baby trafficking in Guatemala. Harris is said to have alleged that Susana Maria Luarca Saracho de Umaña had used "undue influence" with government authorities in facilitating international adoptions. 

Umaña accused Harris of defamation, perjury and slander. Defamation is considered a criminal, rather than civil offense in Guatemala.

The defense for Harris argues that his comments are protected by freedom of expression and the Guatemalan Constitution. Therefore, the case against Harris should not be held in a criminal court but in a Printer’s Tribunal — the Constitutional mechanism to resolve freedom of expression issues, the defense argues.

Surgeons working
to separate twins

By A.M. Costa Rica wire services

LOS ANGELES, Calif. — U.S. surgeons say all is going well with an hours-long operation still underway to separate conjoined 1-year-old Guatemalan girls. 

Doctors say the surgical team will continue operating well into today to give separate lives to Maria Teresa and Maria de Jesus Quiej-Alvarez, who were born with separate functioning brains but partially shared skulls. 

The complex surgery began early Monday and could last more than 24 hours. Doctors say the riskiest part of the operation will be separating shared veins. If the blood is not rerouted, the little girls could die of a stroke. 

The team at the University of California at Los Angeles is donating its services to help the girls. The two Marias, as they are known, were born in rural Guatemala and brought to the United States with the help of charity organizations.

A video of the sisters taken before the surgery show them apparently healthy and happy, and they are said to already speak a few words in Spanish.
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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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