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These stories were published Friday, Aug. 8, 2003, in Vol. 3, No. 156
Jo Stuart
About us
Prosecutors enter campaign funds probe
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The legislative committee investigation into funding of the Abel Pacheco presidential campaign has turned into a criminal inquiry.

Channel 7 Teletica reported that Carlos Arias, the fiscal general, confirmed he had asked legislators to allow two of his prosecutors to attend Thursday’s session of the committee.

The pair are Francisco Fonseca of Arias’ office and Carlos Meléndez of the Sección de Delitos Económicos, and they were at the hearing.

The central focus of the committee meeting Thursday was to hear testimony from Rodolfo Montero, the former treasurer of the Pacheco campaign.

Roberto Tovar Faja, the foreign minister, said Thursday that he would be testifying before the committee on Tuesday. He confirmed in a statement that he was a member of Comité Cívico, which is emerging as a parallel, private campaign funding committee.

The Comité Cívico does not appear to have been part of the formal Partido Unidad Social Cristiana apparatus. Some deputies identified Rina Contreras, the former minister of the Presidencia, as a member along with well-known businessmen.

Montero in his testimony said that he had received money from the Comité but that he did not know from where the money came. 

The Pacheco campaign has been plagued by revelations of secret bank accounts and donations that were not reported to the Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones as the law requires. 

Until now, the campaign situation was a political issue. Introducing Arias, the nation’s chief investigative officer, and his aides into the mix changes the nature of the investigation.

Allegations have been made that the group in which Tovar participated accepted funds from foreign sources, which is contrary to election law.

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And not a drop to drink pretty soon
Last week I was off to Arenal with friend Sandy and her friend Jenny who was visiting from Australia. We traveled by car, and Jenny, who has visited many "developing" countries, noted how clean Costa Rica was. That made me take notice because when I first moved here, I would not have said that, but looking at the roadside all along the way and the small towns we went through, I saw that she was right. There was almost no litter. The campaign must be working. 

It rained most of the time we were in Fortuna. It rains a lot in that part of Costa Rica. Speaking of rain, I also noted that the water tasted much better than the water I drink in San José. All of this made me think about the talk I had heard at the luncheon. Maureen Ballesteros, Central American chairwoman for the Global Water Partnership, and Maria Elena Fournier, president of the environmental group YISKI, talked about water and environmental pollution.

We got a lot of statistics beginning with the fact that 70 percent of the earth is water, 95 percent of that water is salt water. And finally, only 21/2 percent of it is available for human use. The next world crisis (to my mind) is going to be a water shortage. 

Given the continued overuse, pollution, and climate changes that are making for longer, hotter summers and shorter, wetter winters, the 2.2 million people who die every year from water diseases are going to triple, and the number of people who don’t have access to water (now over 1 billion) is going to get bigger. 

The prediction was that by 2025 the demand for water will grow by 17 percent and two-thirds of the world’s population will have problems. I, of course, was very interested in the situation in Costa Rica. Overall Costa Rica has plenty of rain, as we all know (although the north Pacific coast gets only 30 percent of the water and faces shortages.) 

According to the statistics I heard, in Costa Rica there are 31,318 cubic meters of water per person available as compared to 400 cubic meters per person in Spain. Not all of that water is potable. The average person here uses 187 liters a day.

Ground water is the principal source of the 

Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart

water we use, and the Central Valley sits on lots of it. According to the law here, people get water first, but much of it is contaminated by both individual and industrial use and mismanagement. Neglect further cripples the availability of potable water. 

There are still many people in Costa Rica who have no access to municipal water and, as I write this, I am sure somewhere in Costa Rica people have just had their water turned off. The water delivery system has not been updated since the 1980’s. 

At the moment, neither the government nor the people seem to want to take steps to correct matters, except on the part of some to fight the privatization of the water resources. 

It would cost about $925 million to modernize the water delivery systems here. That seems a pittance when you think about the $1 billion a week the U.S. is putting into Iraq to rebuild its neglected and bombed out infrastructure. But to Costa Rica, that is a lot of money. What a worthwhile investment! Eventually, Costa Rica could export pure water to the thirsty, dehydrated rest of the world. And it is a renewable resource. 

 However, the road (or should I say river?) to selling water is fraught with countless problems and pitfalls, including the cobbler’s children syndrome. So perhaps we should start small and just try to conserve water and not add to its pollution.

Maybe if we start at home. Industries will follow and not dump pollutants into our rivers. Two suggestions made at the luncheon were to use washing soda to wash clothes instead of harmful detergents. I am told washing soda is available at pharmacies very cheaply. And instead of using all those harmful cleaning liquids, try vinegar and water.  I am thinking about the litter-free countryside we saw on our trip. A PR campaign to conserve and preserve clean water would work. 

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Town did it itself after crime wave
Ojochal dedicates its new police station Sunday
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The southwest coast community of Ojochal de Osa experienced a series of robberies and assaults, so residents got together to see what they could do to improve security.

One result is the dedication Sunday of a new police station and the promise from police officials to assign four officers with a motorcycle and communications to the area.

Rogelio Ramos, mininster of Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública, is expected to be among those officials who make the trip to the community for the 11 a.m. dedication.

A release from the Ojochal Security Committee called the construction of the police station an unprecedented collaboration between nationals and expatriates.

This event, which will take place under the theme "Una planta para el futuro" (A plant for the future) is part of an effort to reestablish investors’ confidence towards a destination badly affected over the past months by a series of robberies and assaults, and to sensitize the population in general to the importance of offering its residents a safe environment, said the Security Committee.

Starting from the principle that in a society, weeds must be removed as much as in a garden, the elected members of the Ojochal Security Committee said they have chosen two converging avenues to its goals: action and education. 

Following various meetings held with the authorities in the beginning of this year, the Ojochal population entrusted its Security Committee with the responsibility of building a police station with standards that would meet the requirements of the ministry of Public Security. 
Johnny Morales is president of the committee, and Lucy Tessier is secretary.

The Brunca representative of the ministry, Orvil Ruiz, guaranteed the committee that at least four policemen equipped with a motorcycle and a communication system would be appointed to Ojochal, the Committee reported.

Cie. Lomas del Mar provided a piece of land strategically located at the entrance of the village, next to the highway.  The committee then gathered enough funds, material and manpower to start its project. 

Since then, the committee kept collecting funds and has also initiated the creation of a development association that will supervise the security project along with all development projects initiated in the community, including health, education and roads, the comittee said.

Meetings with its neighboring communities, including Dominical, took place in order to develop a regional plan for public security. 

The committee said that to demonstrate its originality and its conviction that security concerns citizens of all ages, residents will inaugurate its police station under the symbol of education. 

In that spirit the theme "Una planta para el futuro" was selected. Residents of Ojochal and vicinity have been invited to bring the police station a plant at its inauguration.

These plants are meant to illustrate Ojochal’s will to replace weeds with good growths, the committee said.

The plants also will put the police station into an environment as green and welcoming as the village in which it is built. 

By embellishing the site of its new police station, the population itself will put the final touch to a community project achieved in record-time, said the committee.

Free theater buses
pick up at parking lots

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Teatro Nacional has set up a free bus service to bring patrons from five downtown public parking areas to the theater and to return them after performances.

The theater administration said it started doing this July 4 to provide more security. The microbuses are used whenever there is a function in the main hall of the theater, said an announcement. Pickups are made between 6:30 and 7:45 p.m.

Northern Parking areas that are pickup points for the microbuses are Parqueo Antigua Biblioteca, Avenida 1 opposite the Omni Building; Parqueo Avenida Primera between streets 5 and 7, and Parqueo Gigante, also on Avenida 1 between streets 3 and 5.

South of the theater, microbuses have pickups at Parqueo Avenida 6, two blocks south of the Banco Popular building and Parqueo Palacio Luna, on the south side of the Roman Catholic Cathedral on Avenida 4.

Suspect and clerk
wounded in robbery

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fuerza Pública officers wounded one suspect in the shoulder Wednesday during a shootout at the AM/PM supermarket in Sabana Sur. Also wounded was a clerk at the store.

The suspect, identified as Edgar Picado, is accused of being one of three men who held up the supermarket about 8:15 p.m., took money from the cash registers and took valuables from the six customers shopping there at the time. The holdup men had their heads covered with ski masks and at least one carried a machine pistol. Another had a revolver, said police.

The wounded clerk was identified as Paola Salas Acevedo. She suffered a bullet wound in the right arm delivered by one of the bandits as they were leaving, said officers.

Police had been notified by a passer-by and were waiting for the trio when they tried to leave the store. A brief gunfight ensued. But the bandits were outnumbered because at least eight patrol cars had arrived at the scene, according to the Fuerza Pública.

The other two men arrested have the surnames of Hernández and Montoya. The supermarket is on the Carretera Vieja de Escazú south of Parque La Sabana and about 500 meters (about 1,600 feet) west of the towering Contraloría General de la República.

Residency offices
on short schedule

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería will be closing the doors of its Departamento de Residencias at noon during the entire month of September to make unspecified reorganizations there.

This means that foreigners seeking to obtain residency documents or pick up approved identity papers will have to show up in the morning at the immigration complex in Uruca.

In addition, the residency department will be open from 8 a.m. to noon Saturday, Sept. 6, specifically to allow persons to pick up renewed cédulas of residency, said an announcement.

Immigration officials also said that they have established a link on the official Web page www.migracion.go.cr where lawyers and other professionals in immigration matters can send in questions on specific cases. Answers will come as e-mails or via the telephone, said officials.

Until now lawyers and others had to stand in line at the facility to ask questions in person. However, the Web page and link did not appear to be working Thursday night.

Two women arrested
as drug band leaders

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two women are being held as the leaders of a narcotics band that distributed their wares throughout the Central Valley.

Raids took place Wednesday night by officers of the Policía de Control de Drogas in San Felipe de Alajuelita, Cristo Rey and San Diego de la Unión, Cartago. Women with the last names and ages of Castro Serrano, 45, and Sánchez Castro, 23, were detained.

In Cristo Rey agents said they arrested another woman, with the last name of Campos Villafuerte. She is 33.  In San Diego de Dos Ríos, agents also arrested a man with the last name of Gutiérrez Herrera. He is 33.

Two missing girls
turn up on coast

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two missing teenage girls turned up in San Rafael Gordon de Cahuita Wednesday, ending fears of foul play.

The pair Catherine Paola Solano Gallardo, 15, and Kristin Solano Gallardo, 14, had been reported as missing. They live in San José. Fuerza Pública officers reported they found the pair in the company of a 16-year-old boy in a mountain cabin near this Caribbean coast settlement.

Gunmen kill youth
after disturbances

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two men passing by a home in Rincon Grande in Pavas Thursday night pulled out guns and killed a youth, about 20, who lived in the dwelling and was standing outside, said Fuerza Pública officers.

The shooting followed an early evening of disturbances in the area that included gangs of rock throwers, an arson fire and another shooting incident.
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Girls are smoking more than their mothers did
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

HELSINKI, Finland — The largest survey of youth smoking in the world reveals that girls today are using tobacco at higher rates than young women did in earlier generations. The finding released Thursday at the World Conference on Tobacco or Health likely means that future cases of tobacco related disease will be greater than currently predicted because today's projections are based on lower rates of smoking among women. 

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization and other governments and agencies produce the Global Youth Tobacco Survey, which tracks tobacco usage among more than 1 million adolescents in more than 150 countries. 

"This finding could raise the projection of 10 million tobacco related deaths per year, by the year 2030, which does not reflect these high rates of tobacco use among girls," said Vera da Costa e Silva, project manager for the World Health’s Tobacco Free Initiative. 

The survey tracks tobacco use habits by regions of the world, and a CDC press release says comparisons among regions and generations are difficult because of variations in survey methods. 

Still, the survey indicates some sharp differences in smoking patterns among older and younger generations. 

In Southeast Asia, the ratio of male to female smokers among adults is about 11 to 1; among youth, however, the ratio is about 4 to 1. Among African adults, male smokers outnumber females by 7 to 1. Among African adolescents, the ratio is just about 2 to 1. 

Results also show that girls and boys are using non-cigarette tobacco products such as spit tobacco, bidis, and water pipes at similar rates, and that these rates are often as high or higher than youth cigarette smoking rates.

Only the Eastern Mediterranean Region had a majority of sites with boys significantly more likely to smoke cigarettes and use other tobacco products.

The new survey also found that young people's use of cigarettes and other tobacco products varied dramatically by site. For example, cigarette smoking among boys ranged from 0.5 percent in Delhi and Goa, India, to 41.8 percent in Bamako, Mali. Use of other tobacco products among girls ranged from 0.4 percent in Macao, China, to 62.2 percent in the Northern Mariana Islands.

We are counting on some funny stories
It's time to tickle that funnybone if you have one
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica is a land of contradictions, and contradiction is one of the chief concepts of humor.

So now is a time to gently explore our foibles in the mid-winter humor contest sponsored by A.M. Costa Rica marking the second birthday of our Internet daily newspaper.  (Yes, it is "winter’ in Costa Rica.)

Send your humorous writings for publication to:


Make your fellow readers laugh and win great prizes, such as:

• water skiing at Lake Poas.

• annual subscriptions to A.M. Costa Rica

• sunbathing expeditions to the sand dunes of Quepos

• Whale-watching expeditions at the patio of the Gran Hotel Costa Rica

• A night of guaro excess with the A.M. Costa Rica editor (your treat).

Any money prizes will be paid in post-dated checks.

We expect to have some famous judges. At least we will have judges.


Consider the possibilities:

• The Escazú Witch Project
• Fear and Loathing in Santa Ana
• Waiting for Enrique
• How Would You like to be President for a Day?
• The Attack of the 100-foot-tall ICE
• The Return of the Arias.
• The Taxista Always Rings Twice
• Mr. Smith Goes to Arbitration

But you can do better than that. The important thing is to be funny. You can use satire or straight humor. But you must write about Costa Rica. (George Bush is out. We can’t make this too easy.)

Your stories can be true, but exaggeration is a tool of humor. We will publish the good ones as fiction.

Some people say our readers cannot possibly top what really has been happening in Costa Rica. But we have faith.

Our second birthday is Aug. 15, and that’s the deadline.

Now some folks will be upset with us, thinking that we are picking on them. These are the folks who are humorously challenged. Why should we take the credit for them being so funny? Nevertheless, if you wish to send us hate mail or death threats, please do not clog up the editor’s mailbox like before. Send your hate mail or death threats to:


Let the contest begin.

A little village on the banks of de Nile
By The Beekeeper*

Welcome to the banks of de Nile. We have a lot of people living here in the village by de Nile. Let me introduce a few.

• People who believe the motorway from Santa Ana to the Pacific will ever be complete.

• People who believe the local fight against corruption will succeed.

• People who believe they will ever recover any of the money lent to Villalobos.

• People who believe they will squeeze any money from Costa Rica for foolish personal loans they made to Villalobos.

• People who believe the Republicans are compassionate.

• People who believe the Democrats are disciplined.

• People who believe Villalobos will come from his Rumanian villa to pay up.

• People who believe Oswaldo is at the Clinica Catolica because he's ill.

• People who believe only foreigners molest young children.

• People who believe the International Baptist Church will stop dispensing "prudent" financial advice, along with the scriptures.

• People who believe the UCCR'S denial they were looking for investors in their own high-interest scheme by asking on their website "What have you got to lose?"

• People who believe that what sounds too good to be true really isn't.

• People who think the potholes will disappear.

• People who think they will recover anything from Villalobos or the Costa Rican government. (Uh Oh, already said that.)

So, we're all crowded together here on the banks of de Nile. But on the other hand, the people on the other side of de Nile, in the Ciudad de Realidad, are not as happy as we are. 

They're stressed out. They have a big problem over there. They're in touch with reality. 

So perhaps life is not so bad on the banks of de Nile.

Perhaps we all need it to get through life.  Hey, me too! I'm still looking for the next hot high-interest plan. 

The next one's GOT to be better.

So, here's to de Nile. Long may it flow.

 *The Beekeeper is an investor who would prefer not to be identified.

Possible jet ambushes
downplayed in D.C.

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The Department of Homeland Security is downplaying a news report that the government has sent aviation security experts abroad to determine whether major foreign commercial airports can be defended against terrorists who might try to shoot down passenger planes. 

Department spokesman Brian Roehrkrasse confirmed that experts have been sent to consult with security officials in Iraq, Europe and Asia, but says concerns about such attacks are long-standing. The New York Times says the move follows recent intelligence reports suggesting that terrorists may be planning to use shoulder-fired heat-seeking missiles to target passenger airplanes. The Times quotes administration officials as saying the attacks could be imminent. 

The Homeland official says teams have been sent to Baghdad and Basra in Iraq, as well as the capitals of Greece, Turkey and the Philippines. He confirms there are no indications that such weapons pose a threat within the United States. 

The spokesman added that the concern in Iraq comes from forces loyal to the former government of Saddam Hussein. Elsewhere, the threat is believed to be linked to the al-Qaida terrorist network. Al-Qaida terrorists are thought to have been responsible for a failed attempt to shoot down an Israeli passenger jet last year in Kenya. 

But the spokesman disputed the Times account that the teams were dispatched several weeks ago in secrecy because of concerns terrorists might strike before the experts could do their work. 

Earlier this week, the Department of Homeland Security warned U.S. airport officials to pay closer attention to passengers' electronic items, including cameras, saying terrorists may use them to hide explosives.

Powell said recall
good for Venezuela

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell says that putting Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to a recall vote is an important step toward preserving democracy.

Secretary Powell told foreign journalists here Thursday that a referendum would be a democratic and constitutional way to deal with the conflict in Venezuela. He also said it would allow the people of Venezuela to speak and be heard regarding the nature of their government.

Powell made his remarks just days after the Venezuelan Supreme Court gave lawmakers until the end of next week to select an electoral council to organize a referendum on President Chavez's rule.

The court said Monday that if the National Assembly cannot select an electoral authority, the court will make the selection. Venezuelan law requires an electoral council before any balloting can be held. Chavez supporters and opponents have been arguing over the composition of the council.

Under Venezuela's constitution, a referendum on the president's rule can be held at the mid-point of his term. In Chavez's case, that would be on Aug. 19. A May 29 agreement negotiated by the Organization of American States set out the framework for the recall referendum.

Ecuador's ruling alliance
collapses over labor bill

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

QUITO, Ecuador — The ruling party and the political wing of the country's powerful Indian movement have severed ties over a labor reform bill. 

President Lucio Gutierrez's spokesman, Marcelo Cevallos, announced late Wednesday the three Pachakutik cabinet ministers have been asked to step down from their posts. 

The Pachakutik helped put President Gutierrez in office seven months ago on promises he would help the poor. But the Indian group's political branch has criticized what it calls Gutierrez's support for the right and its loan agreement with the International Monetary Fund. On Wednesday, the alliance collapsed when Pachakutik legislators voted against an IMF-required labor reform bill in Congress. 

A Confederation of Indigenous Nations of Ecuador spokesman is calling on its supporters to "mobilize." President Gutierrez's Patriotic Society Party holds only a small number of seats in the 123-member National Congress, making alliances with other parties necessary in order to push bills through the legislature.

Grecia culture site
to be inaugurated

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Today culural officials will be in Grecia to inaugurate a new location of the Instituto Internacional del Arte y la Cultura. The event will be in the Centro de la Cultura de Grecia at 7:30 p.m. with Guido Sáenz González, minister of Cultura, Deporte y Juvendud as the leading guest.

Also on the agenda is the opening of the exposition "Encuentros," a postumous homage to local painter Laudencio Durán,

The institute will provide classes in all types of art and music and promote open-air shows in the town.

This same weekend in Santa Cruz, Judicial officials will be inaugurating a new court building Saturday at 10 a.m. after a parade through the nearby streets.

Volkswagen’s land
clears of squatters

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

SAO PAULO, Brazil — Faced with eviction, thousands of landless Brazilians have abandoned a shantytown they built on the outskirts here after hundreds of police came to remove them forcefully.

Some of the 5,000 squatters, who were on land owned by German car-maker Volkswagen, set fire to their makeshift homes of plastic sheets, wood and cardboard before leaving the camp Thursday.

The police were acting on an eviction order that Volkswagen had recently won in court. Last week, Brazilian police stormed a hotel in central Sao Paulo to evict hundreds of squatters in the building.

The evictions come as Brazil's landless poor have increased invasions of rural land. Several activist groups are seeking the redistribution of land to Brazil's poorest people.

More active season
seen for hurricanes

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

U.S. weather experts say this year's hurricane season will be even more active than predicted.

The National Hurricane Center on Thursday predicted there will be seven to nine hurricanes, with about half of those being major storms, during the remainder of hurricane season, which lasts through November. They are expected to hit areas of the Atlantic coast, the Caribbean islands, and states bordering the Gulf of Mexico.

In May, forecasters predicted six to nine hurricanes this season, already higher than the average six hurricanes per year.

Experts say hurricanes are more likely this year because of warm sea surface temperatures and a strong African jet stream. They say the period between 1995 and 2002 has been the most active for hurricanes in the past half-century.

Colombian justices
OK senator’s extradition

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

BOGOTA, Colombia — The Colombian Supreme Court has cleared the way for a former senator to be extradited to the United States to face charges of narcotics trafficking. 

The high court said Wednesday that it had authorized the extradition of former Sen. Samuel Santander Lopesierra. Colombian President Alvaro Uribe must still approve the decision. 

Lopesierra was arrested last October. Authorities say he has belonged to a drug trafficking network since 1999 and helped transfer multiple shipments of cocaine to the United States. 

Cuban exile back
to push reforms

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

HAVANA, Cuba — Miami Cuban exile who once served 22 years in prison for rebelling against Fidel Castro's government has returned to the island to work for democratic reforms. 

Eloy Gutierrez Menoyo announced Thursday, after vacationing on the island that he would not return to Miami, where he has lived since the mid 1980s. Instead, Menoyo said he will work for the legalization of opposition groups in the Communist country. The Cuban government, which has allowed him to return to Cuba to visit family during his exile, has not immediately responded to the activist's decision. 

In 1959, Menoyo fought in Cuba's revolution against then-President Fulgencio Batista. But he later fell out with Fidel Castro, and led an unsuccessful uprising against the Cuban leader in 1964. He was jailed for 22 years before he left for exile in Miami.

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