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These articles were published Monday, Aug. 12, 2002, in Vol. 2, No. 158
Jo Stuart
About us
Pacheco orders probe of cop who abuse kids
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Abel Pacheco took aim at policemen who abuse street children Saturday and ordered a quick investigation of allegations of aggression.

The president’s comments came at the end of a speech in which he called for the defeat of drug traffickers, gangsters and the corrupt.

"I am not disposed to permit, under the pretext of the fight against delinquency and corruption, the protection of the violators of human rights.

"Nothing justifies the aggression directed at our socially-at-risk sons and daughters at the hand of the agents of security and order."

Pacheco ordered Rogelio Ramos, the minister of Seguridad Pública who was with him at the speech, to investigate those within the police force who are accused of abusing, maltreating and being aggressive against "los niños y las niñas de la calle," the so-called street children.

"These street children are not sons of the street, they are sons of the country," said Pacheco. He also said that Costa Rica should not accept that there are children on the street.

"If these sons and daughters do not have fathers to defend them, the president of the Republic will defend them," he said. Pacheco said that attempts to professionalize the police force would be damaged by those members who abuse their responsibilities.

Pacheco also said that the government would look for policemen who respected human rights.

Pacheco’s comments shed light on what until now has been an open secret among police and those close to them. Some officers routinely take out their aggressions on those who fall into their hands.

Street children, because of their age and size, frequently are the most vulnerable. And they are unlikely to file formal complaints. Their informal complaints to those who will listen to them on the street are many. They tell stories of being robbed and beaten by police. Some girls have told stories of being taken to police stations where they were abused sexually.

Prostitutes and small-time drug dealers also routinely are shaken down and beaten by police officers, who sometimes take their victims for long rides in patrol cars.

Pacheco had lunch two weeks ago with Bruce Harris, director for Latin America of Casa Alianza, the child advocacy group, and Rosalia 

A.M. Costa Rica photo
Walter Navarro, Rogelio Ramos and Abel Pacheco, three men reponsible for citizen security in the nation.

Gil, executive president of the Patronato Nacional de la Infancia, the funding agency for child welfare. She has the rank of minister.

The president’s comments also followed a press conference Thursday in which Harris, Minister Gil and others reported that abuse complaints involving children increased by 15 percent over the previous year and 163 children were treated or hospitalized for their injuries in San José. Presumably formal complaints of police abuse were developed in the study of these cases.

Pacheco was talking to some new graduates of "seguridad comunitaria," community security, a Costa Rican form of the worldwide neighborhood watch program in which citizens take an active role in policing their own neighborhoods.

Some 3,823 persons received training from 196 geographical areas, including 67 in San José, 38 in Cartago and 13 in Heredia. They bring to about 30,000 the persons who have received training in the 4-year-old program.

The ceremony was in the Plaza de la Cultura in the downtown where representatives of each district were given street signs to hang in their area. 

Also at the ceremony was Walter Navarro, director of the Fuerza Pública who reports to Ramos. The two men had to announce Thursday that 15 policemen were let go because they failed drug tests. Navarro himself took a urine drug test as part of the press conference. He passed.

Here's your chance to become a tango addict
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

They say the tango is not a dance but an addiction.

Residents and visitors will have a chance to find out tonight when a six-week seminar on the tango begins in San José.

The seminar is for beginners and advanced dancers, and the teacher is Hugo Davila, a former resident of the Canary Islands who is an expert in Argentine tango.

This is the dance Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jamie Lee Curtis performed in the 1994 movie "True Lies," although the rose in the teeth is optional.

The 1992 movie "Scent of a Woman," also featured a tango, executed by Al Pachino, who won the Oscar for best actor, probably in part for the dance with Gabrielle Anwar.

Students probably won’t win any awards — tango or otherwise — after six weeks of classes, but the seminar is part of an effort by a number of Ticos and a few Argentines to keep the tango alive in San José.

The sponsor of the seminar is Argentico Producciones, operated by Maria Julia Berde. Her company is the one that has given a number of tango evening performances over the last two years. She said newcomers would be welcome.

The seminar will be Monday and Wednesdays from 7 to 8:30 p.m. on the second floor of Edificio Rembrant, which is 125 meters from the Hotel Aurola in the downtown. Information is available at 573-4361 or 388-4768.

The tango began as a sexy dance by the lower classes and in the Buenos Aires houses of ill repute at the beginning of the 20th century.

A blatant appeal for birthday greetings
Thursday A.M. Costa Rica celebrates its first birthday, and some readers already have sent e-mail congratulations.

We thought it would be kind of cool to publish those birthday greetings along with the name and hometown of the sender. In that way, you can show your support for A.M. Costa Rica and the kind of job we have been doing for the last year in covering (although imperfectly) the important news of Costa Rica and the English-speaking community here.

We could use the morale boost. It’s been a long, hard year. And we would like to show the community that there is a strong group of readers who depend on A.M. Costa Rica for news.

So if you like our work and are not afraid to say so, send us your greeting for publication Aug. 15. Mail it to happybirthday@amcostarica.com

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Free tract pacts now getting critical examination
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
with wire service reports

The twin free trade proposals between the United States and Latin America are beginning to get a closer eye now that serious negotiation is about to begin.

Brazil is a key country in the Free Trade Area of the Americas. But Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Lafer said last week that the U.S. government will have to offer attractive incentives to Brazil and other Latin American countries if the trade pact is to become a reality.

In Colombia where a new president was inaugurated, Robert Zoellick, the chief U.S. negotiator, was asked by reporters what the United States has to offer.

Despite interest in free-trade deals among a lot of countries, on the street level there's also a lot of growing resentment against globalization, and a lot of people blame it for their problems, Zoellick was told.

"In a number of Latin American societies, the old party structures are breaking down," Zoellick replied. "In some, there's a new model taking place; in some, it's still very fluid. As many of you know, . . . , some of these parties date back 100 years, 150 years, and some of that is breaking down."

In the place of the old regimes, the United States wants to install democracy, Zoellick has said. He was in Bogota as the head of the U.S. delegation to the inauguration of the new president, Alvaro Uribe.

U.S. agricultural policy, regarded by many in Latin America as protectionist, is one sticking point on a new trade pact.

Brazil is concerned over various clauses in the new U.S. Fast Track legislation, one of which calls for consultations with Congress over negotiations to reduce agricultural tariffs. As a major exporter of beef, soya, and other agricultural products, Brazil wants to ensure its goods have greater access into the U.S. market under the free trade pact. The Brazilian government strongly criticized the recent U.S. farm bill as being protectionist.

U.S. President Bush signed a bill earlier this week giving him the authority to negotiate trade agreements without having them changed or amended by Congress. That is the so-called "fast track" measure that had been bottled up in Congress for months. 

Now that Bush has this authority, the free trade pacts are moving into the spotlight. The free Trade Area of the Americas is supposed to be set up by 2005. Bush also is pushing for a free trade agreement with Central America, and these countries also have concerns about U.S. agricultural policy. Costa Rica named its negotiation team last week.

In private, politicians in Central America echo the belief expressed by a Brazilian international relations professor, Williams Goncalves:

"There is the feeling that there are too many inequalities between Brazil and the United States, and that only a few sectors in Brazil would  benefit from a free trade agreement while other sectors of the economy would suffer."

However, Zoellick told reporters in Bogota that the United States has put forward "a very bold and far-reaching proposal in terms of cutting agriculture subsidies and tariffs." However, he said that the United States cannot do this alone, only if Europeans and Japanese also reduce their internal tariffs.

Even within the United States there is a lot of opposition to the free trade pacts. Some citizen groups believe the negotiations are being orchestrated by corporations who have easy access to politicians. The negotiations themselves will be secret. 

The North America Free Trade Area drew similar criticism.

Others claim that the pacts might be too late as they see job that left the United States under NAFTA now leaving Mexico for China.

Such areas as intellectual property rights and professional licensing also figure in the complex negoatiations.

Global Exchange, a left-of-center group that describes itself as a non-profit research, education, and action center, is typical of the critics:

"Negotiated behind closed doors, with no citizen  input but plenty of suggestions from business  interests, the FTAA is yet another example of the kind of free-market fundamentalism that has created a global race to the bottom that erodes environmental protection, workers' livelihoods, and human rights. If you think NAFTA has been a disaster for working families and the environment in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, this will be far worse."

Two nations target
Peñas Blancas crossing

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica and Nicaragua will work together to improve the security of the Peñas Blancas border crossing in far northwest Costa Rica.

Security ministers of both countries met and decided to take immediate steps to address all sorts of problems with the frontier post with emphasis on immigration, stolen cars, drug trafficking and arms shipments.

Rogelio Ramos, Costa Rican minister of Seguridad Pública, and his Nicaraguan counterpart, Arturo Harding, spelled out specific steps both countries would take.

The Peñas Blanca crossing point is on the Interamerican Highway and handles more than 700 vehicles a day, said a statement from the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad in San José. The crossing handles most of the land entries from the north into Costa Rica. 

The area also is notorious for its lack of control. Many Nicaraguan illegal immigrants simple walk across the border in the general vicinity each day.

The crossing point will not be open 24 hours a day, the ministers decided, but would operate from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Communications links will be established between the officers in both countries, and immigration officials will be on guard against altered Costa Rican passports that Cubans and other Latin foreigners use to go north to gain entry into the United States, said the ministry.

The various efforts that police, customs and immigration take will be evaluated in three months, the ministry said.

The spirit of cooperation between the two countries is in contrast to the hostility between the former administrations of Miguel Angel Rodríguez and Nicaraguan President Arturo Alemán.

High tides predicted
for Pacific beaches

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The national emergency center said that the highest tides of the year will batter the Pacific coast through Tuesday.

The problem began Sunday, but the highest tide was supposed to take place at 5:14 a.m., said the Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias.

The center based its warning on information supplied by the Centro de Investigación de Ciencias del Mar y Limnología and the Centro de Investigaciones Geofísicas of the Universidad de Costa Rica.

Two months ago a similar high tide hit the area due to the location of the moon and weather conditions in the Pacific. The seawall at Caldera suffered damage and several boats at anchor sunk because they collided near Nosara.

The center warned residents, tourists and boaters to exercise extra precautions through Tuesday.

Gasoline attendants
blamed in scams

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Investigators are looking at gasoline cashiers as the source of credit card information that allowed a gang of forgers to obtain the information they needed. 

Police arrested four persons linked to the gang last June, and they arrested one gasoline station employee last week. Now they say that more cashiers took advantage of their customer’s distractions at other gasoline stations to copy  the information on the credit card using a special device. They did not describe the device.

Using the information, gang members could duplicate the credit card which they would use to obtain goods and money.

Agents of the Judicial Investigating Organization said they would not rule out the possibility of other arrests and they warned credit card users to keep a close eye on their card when they present it for purchases to avoid being a victim of forgers.

Earlier this year police arrested persons who worked in an upscale Rorhmoser restaurant for doing the same thing.

50 die in clashes
in north Colombia

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

BOGOTA, Colombia — The army says 50 leftist rebels and right-wing paramilitaries are dead after several days of clashes to control areas that produce coca crops and gold. 

Military officials said the fighting took place in the northern Bolivar State last week as Colombia's two main groups and the paramilitaries battled over the region's resources. The outlawed groups are heavily-involved in drug trafficking and often fight each other for control of the country's lucrative coca crops used to make cocaine. 

Authorities said the groups use profits from the drug trade to finance their illegal activities. Colombia is in the midst of a 38-year-civil war that involves the rebels, paramilitaries and the government. 

Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, who took office on Wednesday, has pledged a large increase in defense spending to combat the rebels and paramilitaries. The outlawed groups are listed as terrorist organizations by the United States. 

Panamá finds
Alamán accounts 

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

PANAMA CITY, Panamá — Authorities have uncovered $31 million in bank accounts they are linking to former Nicaraguan President Arnoldo Alemán and his associates. 

Panama's anti-drug trafficking prosecutor, Rosendo Miranda, told reporters in Panama City Friday the money turned up in 25 bank accounts. The prosecutor also says the accounts appeared to have been set up under names of various corporations and foundations. 

Reports say Panama investigated the accounts after being asked to do so by current Nicaraguan President Enrique Bolaños. Mr. Bolaños has pledged to prosecute Alemán for stealing government funds. 

Wednesday Bolaños called on lawmakers to strip Alemán of immunity so the former president can be tried for corruption. The president made the request after Nicaraguan prosecutors accused Alemán of diverting state funds for personal use while he was in office. 

The accusations are the latest in a string of corruption scandals linked to Alemán. The former president has already been charged with misappropriating as much as $1.5 million in a deal involving the state-run television station. 

Alemán, who currently heads the country's National Assembly, denies any wrongdoing during his five-year term that ended in January. The former president also claims the charges against him are politically motivated. 

Teacher training center
to open in Honduras

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The United States will open a "Center of Excellence for Teacher Training" in Honduras to enhance the effectiveness of instruction and learning of children in Central America, the Dominican Republic, Panama and Mexico.

The center will be a collaborative effort. In association with the United States Agency for International Development  and with the guidance of North American and Latin American experts, regional ministries of education and industrial groups, the Francisco Morazan National Teachers University in Honduras will begin coordinating the Center of Excellence for Teacher Training in Central America in October 2002, according to a release here.

According to the U.S. Embassy in Honduras, the program's five components will be: teacher training; development of techniques to detect learning disabilities in students; development of teaching materials; the realization of studies and research; and the use of computers and technological resources.

International probe gets
child sex suspects

Special to A.M. Costa Rica 

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Customs Service announced Friday the arrests of 20 suspects in the United States and six European nations in Operation Hamlet, an international investigation of pedophiles who sexually molested children and distributed pornography over the Internet. In a Washington news conference, Customs announced that 45 children, including 37 in the United States, have been rescued from the abuse, committed by their own parents in some cases.

"I’ve rarely seen crimes as despicable and repugnant as the crimes involved in this investigation," said Robert Bonner, commissioner of the U.S. Customs Service, at the news conference.

The Danish National Police (DNP) began the initial investigation of the case after a tip from the non-governmental organization Save the Children in November 2001. They arrested a Danish man, charging him with abusing his own daughter and posting the pictures on the Internet, according to Bonner’s briefing.

The Danes uncovered evidence of an international ring of pedophiles on the suspect’s computer, and sought international assistance in the case. The U.S. Customs CyberSmuggling Center, Interpol, and a variety of other law enforcement and advocacy groups joined the investigation.

Customs has made 10 arrests in the case in the United States, beginning in January, and officials said further arrests are anticipated. Suspects have also been arrested in Denmark, Belgium, Germany, England, Switzerland and the Netherlands

Anti-kidnapped team
to visits Trinidad

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad — Trinidad and Tobago's National Security Minister Howard Chin Lee says U.S. anti-terrorism experts will help local police fight violent crime and kidnappings in the twin-island country. 

Chin Lee said U.S. experts are coming to the country to share strategies and techniques for going undercover in training a Trinidadian police unit to go after criminal gangs. 

There have been about 80 murders and 15 kidnappings this year in the southern Caribbean nation, which is rich in oil and gas.  In previous years, kidnappings in Trinidad have mainly been between rival criminal gangs fighting among themselves, but the victims this year have been business leaders. 
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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Apdo. 11846-1000, San Jose, Costa Rica
Tel: (506) 253-9655   Fax: (506) 280-4576 
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Email: ulimar@costarica.net

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