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These stories were published Thursday, Aug. 21, 2003, in Vol. 3, No. 165
Jo Stuart
About us

Red sky Tuesday  did not mean a great day Wednesday.

But evening traffic, the San José Roman Catholic Cathedral and photogenic clouds make for a colorful photo

A.M. Costa Ricas photo
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Pacheco says convention center will be a marvel
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

TAIPEI, Taiwan — The proposed Centro Internacional de Conferencias in Cariari will be a "marvel," according to President Abel Pacheco.

The project will bring "great quantities of money, great quantities of business, and it is going to give Costa Rica great international renown and increase our tourism," said Pacheco at the Presidential Palace here, adding:

The financial scandal BELOW!

"This is something that is going to be a big push for our industry, our commerce — for all."

The reason for the optimism by Pacheco was the announcement of the economic cooperation that Taiwan will give to Costa Rica in developing the convention center. The topic came up during a discussion with Chen Shui Bian, the Taiwanese president here Wednesday.

In September the first team of Taiwanese technical experts will arrive in the country to scope out the extent of the project. The center will go up near the Centro Nacional de Distribución de Alimentos and the Real Cariari mall, said officials.

Initial estimates are that the project will cost $15 million and will take two years to complete. Officials said that the proximity of Juan Santamaría Airport also was an advantage for the convention center. The project had been announced.

Rodrigo Castro, minister of Turismo said the objective of the project is to explore the benefits of a niche market based on the tourism of conventions and congresses.

"To capture this market it is necessary to have an adequate infrastructure and this is the infrastructure that we lack," said Castro. "This is more than help from Taiwan. It is an effort of both governments, Taiwan and Costa Rica, and their respective private enterprises," he said.

How much Taiwan will actually invest into the convention center idea was not made clear Wednesday. However, Pacheco said that he was successful in getting $30 million more from the Taiwanese government for construction of the new San Carlos highway. 

The government in Taiwan had promised $50 million for the project. Pacheco said during a public session after his talk with the president of Taiwan that the value of the new gift will be $80 million.

Taiwan has been generous with Costa Rica, including the gift of the Puente de la Amistad over the Río Tempisque in Guanacaste. 

The Taiwanese government has been frozen out of international diplomacy by the People’s Republic of China since the Communists won the Chinese civil war. The government in Beijing considers Taiwan a rebellious province.

So Taiwan has few friends in the international arena. But Costa Rica has been one. During the public session, Shui Bian thanks Costa Rica for its efforts to have Taiwan become a member of the World Health Organization. He also said that Costa Rica would continue to push for not only a seat in the health organization but also in the United Nations.

Thursday the IV Cumbre de Jefes de Estado of the nations of Central America and the Dominican Republic will take place in Taiwan. Saturday the Costa Rica delegation returns.

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If we get a free phone, we'll promise to be nice
but don't bet the farm on it!
My dear friends at ICE,

I must say that we are a bit hurt. Your Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad has not been completely fair with us.

If you remember, we had to wait 16 months to get some cellular telephones for our newspaper staff. And then you charged us a reconnection fee because we didn’t get our bills on time.

We asked that you simply change our mailing address or send us an electronic bill over the Internet. You know, the Internet. You have the monopoly on that, too. But, of course, you wanted a $20 letter from our lawyer before you would change the address.

Then there was the time we couldn’t pay our bill because all we had were checks, and your company will not take a check for less than 25,000 colons, some $62.

And when we published the allegation Friday from the Movimiento Libertario that your company has given free cellular telephones to members of the board of directors and to nearly 2,000 employees, you were quick to send us your own press release. You only give directors one free telephone, you insisted.

But now the Movimiento Libertario says you also were giving free telephones to some local journalists and that you covered their international calls.

Please say this isn’t true! Now I understand that these journalists might have been slanting the news just a bit to favor your side. I mean being an awkward monopoly leaves you open to criticism and you have to protect yourself.

When you run the employees out to strike and threaten the government, you need a little backing in the newspapers and television stations, right? And you need someone to hold up your end when newspapers and television stations report your cellular telephone system doesn’t work too well.

And you need people to protect you when you say something stupid like the big problem with the cellular system is all those people trying to make calls in earthquake-resistant buildings.

But if we knew you were giving out free telephones, maybe we would not have written such critical things about your company. 

And while we are at it, do you happen to have any influence with the Taiwanese secret service? Another news story reports they have a $100 million fund to generate favor with foreigners. 

Maybe we could use our new, free cellular telephone to call those guys . . . 

Yours for better monopoly (and free phones),

Jay Brodell
A.M. Costa Rica
Photocopy shop sold drugs to students, agents say
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A 50-year-old San Pedro businessman was in the wrong business, investigators say.

They arrested Carlos Sandoval Solano Tuesday morning and said he was a major supplier of cocaine to students at the nearby University of Costa Rica and the general public.

Judicial Investigating Organization agents said they began to keep an eye on the suspect in April when they found out that three times he had been detained near the University of Costa Rica carrying small quantities of cocaine, from six to 13 doses. They also said that a university security guard alerted them to the possibility that a man was selling the drug to students.

Then Monday investigators detained a 50-year-old architect who said that he purchased the five doses of cocaine found on him from the suspect, agents said.

Investigators became suspicious when the suspect

opened up a photocopy shop in July on Calle Amaro, just a block from the San Pedro de Montes de Oca Catholic church and just a few blocks from the university. The man maintained working hours from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., but agents allege he was selling more than photocopies.

They said he used a cellular telephone to drum up business and made home deliveries via his Toyota Four Runner automobile.

Agents said they staked out the photocopy shop and saw supposed students and well-dressed individuals making transactions at the photocopy store.

Agents said that when they raided Sandoval’s $500-a-month apartment they found more than half a pound of chlorohydrate of cocaine, packaging for individual doses , 190,000 colons (some $470) and a .38-caliber pistol.

The investigation was made by the Sección de Estupefacientes of the Judicial Investigating Organization.

We bet you got mail
and then some

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The phrase "You’ve got mail!" took on a new dimension Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday as hundreds of computer worm messages invaded local Internet mailboxes.

The culprit was the Worm.Sobig virus that travels through the Internet as an e-mail message with an attachment. If the recipient opens the attachment, the program contained therein executes itself and sends copies of itself to addresses found in the recipient’s address book.

The worm only targets Microsoft Windows operating systems. In these systems the worm also opens a secret access to the computer that can be used later. This particular version was designed to send multiple messages at once, although the basic worm has been around for months.

The computer virus is about 64 kilobytes in size. A.M. Costa Rica got at least 300 such messages Wednesday triggering warnings from its Radiográfica Costarricense S.A. Internet server that its mailbox could no longer receive messages. One Internet publication said it had received 37,000 bogus e-mails.

The virus also generated bounced messages that further tied up the e-mail system.

The e-mail message has several short words in the subject line, such as "your details," "my details," "Re: approved" and "Wicket screen saver." The virus also counterfeits the return address of the sender. 

Cuba tells Iranians
to quit jamming

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

HAVANA, Cuba - The government has told the United States it stopped an Iranian diplomatic facility here from being used to jam satellite broadcasts to Iran. 

Last month, U.S. officials said Persian satellite broadcasts to Iran, including a new television program from Voice of America, were subjected to interference that appeared to be coming from Cuba. 

State Department spokeswoman Jo-Anne Prokopowicz says Cuba told U.S. officials it found the jamming was coming from an Iranian diplomatic facility.  Cuba said it took action to stop the interference with international satellite broadcasts, and the jamming apparently stopped earlier this month. 

Cuba has regularly jammed Radio and Television Marti, the U.S. government-funded broadcasts targeted at Cuba. But it denied interfering with broadcasts to Iran. 

The State Department said it would now follow up with the government of Iran about its apparent use of a diplomatic facility to interfere with satellite broadcasts.

Caracas opposition
presents it petition

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

CARACAS, Venezuela — The opposition here says it has given electoral officials nearly three million signatures calling for a referendum on the rule of President Hugo Chavez. 

The opponents delivered the signatures Wednesday before a planned anti-government march. Organizers said they made the drop-off early to avoid clashes with presidential supporters.

The action comes one day after President Chavez marked the mid-point of his six-year term, when, according to the constitution, he could be recalled in an election.

Chavez opponents say the president has wrecked the economy and is trying to model the country after Communist-run Cuba. 

The government has dismissed attempts to oust Chavez, who has survived an anti-government strike and a short-lived coup. 

Toledo outraged
at eavesdropping

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

LIMA, Peru — President Alejandro Toledo is vowing revenge against whoever is responsible for recording one of his telephone conversations and airing the audio tape on national television. 

The outraged Toledo said Tuesday that a full investigation will take place, and those responsible "are going to pay for this." 

The audiotape of Toledo talking to an aide last week about whether to travel to the southern city of Arequipa was aired Monday night on the Frecuencia Latina network. The conversation included cursing. Toledo did make the trip to Arequipa, and was pelted with eggs and bottles. 

President Toledo's approval rating has fallen to 12 percent in recent weeks. He just finished his second year of a six-year term. 

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Financial shockers at least weaken the president
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Can President Abel Pacheco withstand the continuing revelations of irregularities in his 2001-2002 campaign?

That is the question many politicians hesitate to ask. But every day seems to bring more bad news for the president. Wednesday, as Pacheco was visiting Taiwan, La Nación, the leading Spanish-language daily, reported that some $500,000 in previously unreported donations came from that country.

Analysis on the news

The newspaper also reported on an earlier Washington Post story that said the Taiwanese government and the country’s intelligence service maintain a $100 million fund to stimulate solidarity with foreigners.

The newspaper also reported that some $140,000 came from an unknown company in Switzerland.

The possibility that the Pacheco campaign received funding from the government of Taiwan is a shocker even after the month of reports of secret bank accounts and a parallel funding mechanism that did not fully report donations. Most of the revelations come from legislators who are investigating campaign financing and who are not allied with Pacheco.

The Partido Liberación Nacional had a few uncomfortable disclosures of its own. That party’s 

candidate was Pacheco’s main opponent. 

Many foreigners have no faith in the Costa Rica government, regardless of who is president, and most of these expect that the campaign funding issue soon will be buried. They point to previous scandals that ended with little action.

Some Costa Ricans feel this way, too. But some thoughtful Costa Ricans with governmental contacts say this scandal may be different. None is ready to suggest that Pacheco might have to resign. The president says he was not involved in day-to-day fund-raising.

But the scandal certainly weakens the presidency at a time when Pacheco and his cabinet are fighting for changes in the law.

Not the least of these is a revised fiscal and taxing structure Pacheco says is needed to keep the country from bankruptcy. Then there is his controversial plan to put environmental guarantees in the Costa Rican Constitution.

The proposed free trade treaty with the United States is another controversial measure the administration probably will back to the hilt.

So if Pacheco is so weakened by the campaign revelations that he cannot jawbone legislators to his side, he may fail even if he keeps the job.

Meanwhile, some major changes in campaign financing almost certainly will be proposed by lawmakers who are studying the topic.

Intense management sought for threatened reefs
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

A team of marine experts says the world's coral reefs are reeling from the effects of overfishing and pollution, and is calling for vigorous international action to improve reef management.

According to a report published in the latest issue of the journal Science the coral-reef ecosystems will experience environmental changes in the next 50 years greater than any they have faced in the past half-million years.

"Complicating their existing health problems will be the impacts of climate change, such as warmer water, more frequent and more intense hurricanes, and changes in seawater chemistry," said Rick Grosberg, an evolutionary ecologist at the University of California at Davis.

The report, which synthesizes decades of coral reef research, was written by 17 international researchers from Australia, Europe and the United States. Their findings grew out of an October 2002 forum organized by the Centre for Coral Reef Biodiversity at James Cook University in Townsville, Australia. The participants produced a road map for reef rescue called The Townsville Declaration.

They report that scientists already are detecting effects of warmer conditions on reefs, such as widespread coral bleaching, and they say that 

heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced. They add that the increase in carbon dioxide — a potent greenhouse gas — is changing ocean chemistry, and may cause reefs' limestone skeletons to fracture or dissolve.

Grosberg and his co-authors make three major conclusions: 

— Thirty percent to 50 percent of all coral reefs should be designated as no-fishing zones to preserve the long-term variety and abundance of reef plants and animals. 

— Greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced. Global warming will undoubtedly change the nature of reef ecosystems. Scientists are already recording the effects of warmer conditions, such as widespread coral bleaching. The increase of carbon dioxide in the air is changing ocean chemistry, which may cause reefs' limestone skeletons to fracture or dissolve. 

— Coral reef management must be coordinated across international and local agencies. 

Coral reefs are undersea communities of thousands of species of plants and animals, all interdependent. Reef-building coral itself is a delicate and dynamic partnership between a blob like animal (a polyp) and a plant that lives inside its cells. The reef is a colony of thousands of these polyps and their limestone walls and skeletons. 

Anti-drug flights authorized for Colombian skies
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Bush administration has authorized the resumption of U.S.-supported drug-interdiction flights over Colombia. The program is resuming with new safety procedures after having been suspended in 2001 when a missionary plane was mistakenly shot down over Peru. 

The go-ahead for the resumption of what U.S. officials call the "Airbridge Denial" program came in an announcement from the White House, which said President Bush is satisfied that "appropriate" procedures have been put in place to protect against the loss of innocent life in connection with the interdiction flights.

Under the program, U.S. intelligence personnel and equipment had been helping Colombian and Peruvian military planes track, and sometimes force down, aircraft suspected of carrying illicit cocaine and heroin.

It was considered a major success in suppressing the drug trade. But it was shut down after a Peruvian military plane, guided by airborne U.S. controllers, mistakenly downed a small plane over the Amazon basin in April 2001, killing an American missionary and her infant daughter.

The Colombian government had strongly supported the resumption of the flights and the two countries signed an agreement for the re-start in April. 

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said that since then, a U.S. inter-agency team has been 

in Colombia working on safeguards for the use of U.S. radar and other equipment and the training of Colombian pilots and air-traffic control personnel, in order to prevent any repetition of the 2001 incident.

"We have been moving, through all these steps, to make sure that everything that had to be done could be done and was done carefully, to insure that the program can resume on a solid footing, so it can be a safe program and a program that meets the need of denying drug trafficking but also can be handled safely and not result in incidents such as the terrible one that occurred several years ago," he said.

The decision announced Tuesday affects only U.S.-supported interdiction flights over Colombia. 

Negotiations continue on a similar safeguard arrangement with Peru. U.S. officials say they hope to have flights over that country going again by the end of this year.

The air-interdiction program first began in 1995 during the Clinton administration and was credited with virtually halting drug traffic in the region by air, forcing traffickers to switch to less effective ground and river shipments.

A State Department investigation of the 2001 missionary plane incident concluded that the original program had lacked adequate oversight, that too many shortcuts had crept into mission procedures, and that a language barrier had impeded communication between U.S. civilians monitoring suspect flights and the South American military pilots doing the actual intercepts. 

Rumsfeld says he's happy with progress by Uribe
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

BOGOTA, Colombia —  U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has congratulated the government of Colombia for its progress in fighting terrorism within its borders.

He spoke Tuesday here at a joint press conference with Colombian Defense Minister Marta Lucia Ramirez. Rumsfeld said the fight against terrorism is a "global war, it's not a problem for a single country, and we're proud to be a partner with Colombia" in that effort.

Rumsfeld said the strategy that Colombian 
President Alvaro Uribe has adopted to fight 

terrorism is a "good one," and that "measurable progress" is being made to defeat the left-wing terrorists.

On the subject of the Airbridge Denial Program that the United States announced would be resumed in Colombia to fight drug trafficking, Rumsfeld said aerial interdiction of both illegal drugs and arms shipments is not a single-country issue, but a regional issue.

"Indeed, it's a problem that requires and benefits greatly from the cooperation of neighboring countries," Rumsfeld said. He added that the United States is committed to helping ensure that the war against global terrorism is won.

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