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These stories were published Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2002, in Vol. 2, No. 159
Jo Stuart
About us
You're in trouble when the sea turns on you 
By Christian Burnham
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

I’ve always wanted to visit Cuba. And there I was, well on my way, but not by a cruise ship or an airplane. My mode of transportation was a strong rip current off the coast of Cahuita. 

After a four and a half hour ride in a stuffy bus, the waves were inviting. Upon arriving at Playa Negra, I took off my shirt, kicked off my shoes and sprinted into the surf. A fellow traveler from the bus ride from San José came along.

We jumped into the waves and thrashed outward to a sand bar. Suddenly, we hit a sudden drop off and our feet no longer touched the sand. In a matter of seconds, we were swept 100 yards from where we started.

My German companion was tall enough to dig his toes into the sand and anchor himself. But I was still on the move. To lighten the intensity of my predicament, I yelled out to the German, asking where his beloved David Hasselhoff was at this moment. Would this lame joke about the Bay Watch television star be my last?

The sea kept pulling me outward at a rapid pace and the beach receded.

There was a voice inside my head instructing me not to panic and to conserve my energy. After about five minutes of ignoring my own advice, I realized that my feeble attempts to make my way back to shore were getting me nowhere.

I was trapped. It was as if I were a weak salmon swimming up river. As I was drifting out to sea, I started to wonder if the Playa Negra was named for its black sand or for the lives of the swimmers it has claimed.

Flirting with death, my mind became clear. I stopped thrashing my arms and kicking my legs and, instead, decided to go with the flow. As each wave rolled in, I thrust forward on my chest propelling myself like a human canoe. After 10 minutes of this technique, I eventually made it safely to the sand bar with a new respect for the ocean’s power.

Surfers and beachgoers suffer similar near-drownings due to rip currents in Costa Rica on both coasts. And some die each year. 

I didn’t. This time.

Vannessa says it's confident cyanide won't hurt environment
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Vannessa Ventures Ltd. says it is confident that it can alleviate Costa Rica’s key concerns over its proposed mine’s use of cyanide and the operation’s danger to the country's forests.

Representatives of the Canadian company and its Costa Rican subsidiary, Infinito S.A. have met yet again with government officials here in what the company said was a successful forum aimed at addressing issues related to the environmental permitting process for the Crucitas gold project.

President Abel Pacheco slapped a one-year moratorium on the project during the first days he was in office. The open-pit mine has prompted concerns among those who live in the area, which is along the country’s northern frontier not far from the San Juan River.

The prospect of having a company leach gold out of rock with cyanide so close to the river is a major concern.

Vannessa did not say when it met with officials here but it did say that the meeting was with the director general and staff of the Secretaria Tecnica Nacional Ambiental, the country’s environmental watchdogs. Also present were representatives from the Canadian Embassy, said the company.

A main purpose of the meeting was to explain what the company called its "cyanide destruction process," and two experts in this area were also at the meeting, said the company.

"The proposed mining method anticipates recovering most of the gold through a 

gravity-assisted process, leaving a 
much-reduced volume of . . . material to be processed through a closed circuit processing system. This will minimize the need for cyanidation," the company said.

The technology to be used meets all local and international standards, the company said.

Vannessa also said that it has arranged financing for the $28 million project with an unidentified large financial institution.

Vannessa presented an environmental study to the Secretaria Tecnica Nacional Ambiental in March, and it said one purpose of the meeting was to discuss any flaws the government may see in the document.

The granting of an environmental permit will allow Vannessa to proceed with its plan to initially mine gold-bearing rock near the surface at an estimated 80,000 ounces a year, it said.

The report of the meeting was put out in the name of Manfred Peschke, Vannessa president. He was last in the news when he told shareholders that its canceled Crucitas open pit gold mine is worth about $620 million. 

The company has been negotiating with Costa Rica for compensation because the government pulled the rug out from under the project. But the latest release suggests that Vannessa and Infinito might be planning to push ahead with the mining project if they can obtain a permit.

Vannessa also is in trouble in Venezuela where it appears to be getting booted out of a mining concession there.

A last call 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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U.S. passports hiked
to cover their costs

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff 

Monday the U.S. government will begin collecting higher fees to issue passports. 

The U.S. State Department said this is what will happen: 

The fees for first-time adult passport issuance will increase from $60 to $85 and fees for minors under 16 will increase from $40 to $70. Adult renewal passport fees will increase from $40 to $55. The cost of expedited service will increase from $35 to $60. 

The fees were increased based on a study of costs, and the change was announced several months ago.

Residency rules still
need to be clarified

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

There is no need for panic because the Costa Rican government is making some changes in its residency rules, according to Ryan Piercy.

He is executive director of the Association of Residents of Costa Rica, and his group helps many North Americans obtain the legal right to stay in Costa Rica each year.

The Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería placed ads about two weeks ago saying that rules for residency would be changed. Specifically persons here on tourist visas would not be able to obtain any of the several forms of residency while here.

But Piercy said that this general statement has to be translated into actual rules, and so far that has not been done.

Typically, Latin countries require residency and work visas to be obtained outside the country. Costa Rica has been lax with these rules, but the new administration of Abel Pacheco is following the letter of the law.

The change in rules is not seen to be aimed at North Americans, but rather at the many Colombians and Nicaraguans in Costa Rica on tourist visas. Already Costa Rica has required Colombians to get an entry tourist visa from consulates in that war-ravaged land.

Other countries require persons seeking residency or a change in visa status to fly to the nearest consulate to pick up the appropriate stamp in their passport.

New diplomats get
training in jobs

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Some 62 new Costa Rican diplomats began training Monday in San José to learn about the duties they will undertake overseas.

The diplomats include ambassador-designates, and each will be required to take tests at the conclusion of the three-week training session, according to Roberto Tovar, chancellor.

Tovar, who heads the foreign ministry is under instructions to weed out diplomats overseas who do not take their job seriously and do not work a reasonable amount of time each day. Casa Presidencial said that it has fielded some complaints about embassy staffers not working a full day.

Jacó woman dies
after yacht party

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A weekend party on a yacht in the Los Sueños marina ended in tragedy for a young woman who is presumed to have died due to a drug and alcohol overdose.

She was identified only as Escoli, some 18 to 20 years. She died in a Puntarenas hospital after having been invited by someone described as a foreigner to the yacht from her place of employment in a Jacó bar, said investigators. She and two other women went to a party on the vessel in Herradura Bay, investigators said.

However, the yacht no longer is docked there, and investigators have little to go on. Results of an autopsy will not be known for about two weeks, agents said.

Scientist wins prize for
reducing world hunger

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A Cuban-American soil scientist, has been named the 2002 winner of the $250,000 World Food Prize for his work to reduce hunger and malnutrition throughout the developing world.

The winner, Pedro Sanchez, was born in Havana in 1940 and currently teaches at the University of California. He won the honor for his groundbreaking work in transforming depleted tropical soils into productive agricultural land.

Sanchez is also being honored for having played a "critical role in establishing real alternatives to slash-and-burn farming, which has destroyed millions of hectares of rainforest," the foundation said. In addition, Sanchez led international efforts to establish agro-forestry "as a means of mitigating global warning, by removing millions of tons of [carbon dioxide] from the air."

Sanchez helped Peru to dramatically improve its national food security, achieving self-sufficiency in rice production within three years, and helping that country achieve among the highest rice yields in the world, according to the foundation.

Kofi Annan, U.N. secretary general, selected Sanchez to chair a special task force on hunger as part of the U.N. Millennium Development project, which is involved with tackling global problems of poverty, education, promoting democracy, and protecting human rights. 

Annan said in a statement Sunday that during his career, Sanchez developed ways to revitalize soils in Brazil, thus greatly expanding that country's agricultural output. In East Africa, Annan said Sanchez's "innovative approach" to restoring nutrients to severely depleted soils resulted in dramatic increases in crop yields, helping hundreds of thousands of small farmers.

Hondurans continue
to slay their young

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

A total of 43 children and youth under the age of 23 were murdered in Honduras in July. That brings the grand total of youngsters killed between January 1998 and July 2002 to 1,293, according to a report by Casa Alianza, a child rights organization that has an office in San José.

Of the 43 July, 2002 murders, 37 of the victims were boys and 6 were girls. The average age of those murdered is just 17 years old.

All of the victims in July were killed by fire arms compared with a significant number of deaths by knives in the past, which may indicate a move from "less professional murders" to more sophisticated killings, said Casa Alianza’s report.

According to the information collected by Casa Alianza's Legal Aid Program in Honduras, at least two of the killings are attributed to state security agents — one member of the military and one policeman. 

The killer or killers have not been identified in 24 of the murders (56 percent). Fifteen of the murders are reported to have been committed by gang members and two killings by the infamous red and gray cars that spew death upon young people as they drive around.

The fact that the Honduran police authorities have been unable or unwilling to identify the majority of the murderers has brought the country under significant international scrutiny.

"There has not been any concrete response from the Honduran authorities to our urgent calls to halt the murders of children in the country", said Bruce Harris, Casa Alianza's Regional Director for Latin American Programs. "The high level Commission named by the President met once and the killings continue to grow. The only sense of urgency seems to come from overseas".

U.S. busts Salvadoran
child smuggling ring

By A.M. Costa Rica wire services

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. immigration agents have broken up a Salvadoran smuggling ring they say brought hundreds of Latin American youngsters into the United States illegally. 

Officials said in a statement Monday that three people linked to the ring were arrested in Houston, Texas late last week. The arrests bring to five the number of defendants in U.S. custody who face charges of conspiracy to commit alien smuggling. 

Authorities say the suspects took the children from countries such as Guatemala and El Salvador, transported them to Mexico, and then smuggled them into U.S. territory. They say parents paid the accused smugglers $5,000 per youth. 

Immigration officials say U.S., Salvadoran and Guatemalan governments cooperated in the investigation that helped dismantle the smuggling ring. The latest arrests come four months after Guatemalan authorities apprehended 12 people on smuggling charges after intercepting several public buses that had been carrying 53 children. The youngsters were between the ages of two and 17. 

U.S. to beef up 
anti-drug patrol

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The United States will increase the number of its anti-drug agents on the southwest border with Mexico and also in southwest Asia, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has announced.

The agency is deploying an additional 17 agents to interdict drugs on the border with Mexico, and about nine agents to an area that includes Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Turkey. That latter deployment is part of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's "Operation Containment," targeting the illicit opium and heroin trade in that part of Asia, DEA officials said.

The Drug Enforcement Administration said the drug threat at the U.S.-Mexico border has expanded from marijuana and heroin smuggling originally to Colombian cocaine trafficking.

Sandalio Gonzalez, a DEA official in El Paso, Texas, said in February testimony before the Texas legislature that Mexican drug groups have become the world's "pre-eminent traffickers, and they tend to be characterized by organizational complexity and a high propensity for violence."

To counter this threat, said Gonzalez, the United States has aggressively pursued trafficking along the U.S.-Mexico border. U.S. strategy, he said, is to attack major Mexican-based trafficking organizations on both sides of the border "simultaneously by employing enhanced intelligence and enforcement initiatives and cooperative efforts with the Mexican government."

Gonzalez said Mexican-based drug trafficking organizations operating along the U.S.-Mexico border "continue to be one of the greatest threats" to the United States.

Meanwhile, Hutchinson said in March testimony before a subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives that "Operation Containment" is designed to disrupt and dismantle transnational drug trafficking organizations in central and southwest Asia.

Afghanistan, he said, is the primary source of illicit opium in the region, producing 70 percent of the world's opium supply and 80 percent of the opiate products destined for Europe in 2000.

Brazilian real dives
despite large loan

By A.M. Costa Rica news wires

BRASILIA, Brazil — The value of the currency here has dropped against the dollar despite a massive new loan from the International Monetary Fund. Market uncertainty continues over Brazil's economic future. 

The Brazilian "real" fell against the U.S. dollar Monday on financial markets, losing the appreciation it had gained late last week following the announcement of a $30 billion loan for Brazil from the International Monetary Fund. 

The huge loan, the largest by the IMF, is designed to reverse a crisis of confidence in Brazil and ease investor fears that a new government will default on $250 billion in public debt. 

But analysts say the continuing decline of the currency is a sign that investors remain nervous over Brazil's future, as presidential elections approach in October. 

The latest public opinion poll, released Sunday, shows the government candidate, Jose Serra, is still a distant third. Investors consider Serra the candidate most likely to pursue the anti-inflation and austerity policies of the outgoing administration of President Fernando Henrique Cardoso. 

Instead, two left wing candidates continue to lead the polls, Luiz Inacio "Lula" da Silva of the Workers Party and former governor Ciro Gomes of a Workers Front coalition. Even though the two candidates have endorsed the terms of the loan, they did so reluctantly and with much criticism of the government for having to seek a new bailout. 

Under the agreement, 80 percent of the loan, or $24 billion, will be disbursed next year only if the new government meets certain budgetary and inflationary targets. 

Pedro Malan, Brazilian finance minister, told reporters Monday the government is not planning to take any special measures to stop the slide of the Brazilian currency. He went on to express confidence that with the International Monetary Fund loan, the current problems will be overcome. 

Uribe declares state
of emergency

By A.M. Costa Rica wire services

BOGOTA, Colombia — Just days after taking office, President Alvaro Uribe Velez has declared a "state of internal commotion" here. The emergency declaration allows him to raise new funds for fighting Marxist rebels at a critical time in his country's 38-year civil conflict. 

Government ministers made the announcement Sunday, saying they would levy a new tax on businesses and wealthy individuals. The tax will be worth 1.2 percent of their liquid assets, and will only be collected once.  The money raised will pay for 10,000 new policemen and two new army brigades. 

The emergency declaration also gives President Alvaro Uribe 90 days to sidestep Congress and make further decrees. He is expected to introduce travel restrictions, especially in the war-torn countryside. 

In particular, he will try to crack down on the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, which has been chasing elected officials from rural areas. Most Colombians feel the rebel army has degenerated into a band of authoritarian outlaws. 

The president's decree comes just four days after he took office. During his inaugural ceremony, suspected rebels launched a round of homemade mortars at the presidential palace. One bomb caused superficial damage to the building. Another killed 20 civilians in a poor neighborhood nearby.
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
Foreign Residents and Business Owners
• Reliable and Responsive •  Excellent References
Stafford, Obregón y Valle
• Consultants • Lawyers • Notaries
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
289-5790 office
387-6820 cell
Located in the new Plaza Itskazu, next to the Court Yard Marriott Escazu #203

15 years Costa Rican real estate experience
Member of the Costa Rican Real Estate Association, Lic. #1000 
Member, Costa Rican-American Chamber of Commerce
(506) 232-5016 home   (506) 233-8057 office  (506)382-7399 cell 

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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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