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These stories were published Thursday, Aug. 28, 2003, in Vol. 3, No. 170
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Police getting more complaints
New attitude developing against molestations
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The deaths of eight children since July 4 do not seem to have been in vain. At the very least the tragedies have raised the awareness of parents and youngsters to molestations and predatory adults.

Police have received four cases of alleged molestations just this week. In addition to news reports of the molestation and murders of children, students have been exposed in school to lessons on identifying and defending themselves against harm.


A list of murder cases 
since July 4
HERE!


In the first case this week, Fuerza Pública officers in Acosta arrested a 62-year-old man Monday on allegations that he had improper contact with five minors.

The man was identified by the last names Fernández Durán. The alleged crime took place in Esperanza de Acosta where the man is accused of touching the five members of the same family, two girls and three boys, ages 10, 11, 14, 16 and 17. The suspect is believed to be a friend of the adults of the family.

In Cariblanco in San Miguel de Sarapiquí Wednesday Fuerza Pública officers questioned a grandfather, 64, accused of molesting his granddaughter, 7.  The man was identified as Rafael Murillo Bastos. The crime was discovered when the mother brought the child to a clinic because the girl was complaining of pain.

Also Wednesday in Jicaral, Puntarenas, Fuerza Pública officers arrested a man identified by the last names of Gorgona Mora. The 30-year-old is suspected of taking advantage of

the time he was alone with a 14-year-old girl to rape her.

Wednesday night in Los Guidos de Desamparados, a man with the last names of 
Baltodano Acevedo, 48, was accused by an 8-year-old boy of raping him and his 13-year-old brother, said the Fuerza Pública. The man is a neighbor. The younger child walked to the local police station to report the incident, police said.

The flurry of reports shows a new awareness of the crime among Costa Ricans. The response is a far cry from the apathy and defensiveness that reporter Saray Ramírez Vindas found when she confronted a man molesting a child in the courtyard of the Teatro Nacional. That happened in April 2002.

"The older man was molesting a young girl in broad daylight in the courtyard of the Teatro Nacional. She was climbing on a wall, and he was putting his fingers where he should not and rubbing where he should not," her story said. 

Others who saw the situation took no action, and a woman who was with the molester was defensive and protective of him. The pair fled in a taxi after being confronted.

Police also are worried about the possibility of false accusations encouraged by the number of press reports. However, the current cases coincide with a profile officials released after the death July 4 of Katia Vanesa González Juárez, 8, in Quesada Duran in San José.

In several cases, the accused molester is a single man who lives nearby and has at least some social relationships with the family of the victim. The suspect in the murder Monday of Muriel Tatiana Camacho Cantillano in El Carmen de Guadalupe fit that profile as do the persons accused as molesters this week.

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Movimiento Libertario says ICE has cracked down on cellulars
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Movimiento Libertario says that steps have been taken by the telecommunications monopoly to cut down on the use of cellular telephones by employees.

A statement from the political party Wednesday chided the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, known as ICE, for suggesting that criticism was not warranted and then going ahead and issuing instructions from the board of directors.

The Movimiento Libertario said two weeks ago that ICE had 1,939 cellular telephones in the hands of employees and others and that the company was picking up the bills.

The ICE board met on the issue  Aug. 19 and ordered that lines be cut off for all persons outside the company and that a budget for the remaining telephones be prepared, said the Libertario release. Such phones are to be used only for company business, the political party said.

ICE has made no announcement of the internal change.

The Movimiento Libertario said it still wants a list of those persons who had free telephones from ICE. 

The politicians alleged that some news reporters and editors were getting free phones as a gift.

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Computer show has no surprises but gives a hint
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

This year’s Compuexpo has little new, but the hint of things to come fill the air.

The show of computer gear is at Universidad Latina this year in Lourdes de Montes de Oca. The government has taken over the FERCORI exposition hall near the downtown where the event has been held in the past.

The space is ample, and participation seems lower than past years. For example, Radiográfica Costarricense S.A., RACSA, the Internet company, does not have a booth.

The lack of novelty is perhaps a product of the lack of innovation in Costa Rica and the general state of computers in general. For example, there is little emphasis on wireless technology which is the standard elsewhere.

However, there are hints. Universidad Latina has taken advantage of the show to promote its curriculum, and one display has all the gear necessary for university students to produce television shows via the Internet.

The Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, RACSA’s parent firm, already provides a television feed for Channel 7 Teletica on its web page when it works.  A Latina employee said that the university was considering setting up an Internet radio station for its electronic journalism students and others.

An Internet radio or television station is easy and cheap to do and represents a major threat to the current franchised television stations and radio broadcasters. Plus, the electric bill is much smaller.

A lot of U.S. and international stations are available on the Internet, but there is not much in Costa Rica. The opportunity is growing as Ticos 

A.M. Costa Rica photo
The Universidad Latina Clinica de Optometría is giving free computerized eye exams at the Compuexpo. Visitors get a printout of the refractions of their eyes.

approach a household penetration of about 20 percent with computers.

This is one example of what those in the business call "convergence," the way computers, radios, televisions and telephones are becoming one. Yet even in the United States, the possibilities are underexplored. A visitor will not see a lot of convergence technology at Compuexpo. There are some good deals on printers and accessories. 

But one can visualize the possibilities. The show runs until Monday. Admission is 1,000 colons, about $2.50


 
Pacheco would beef up
nation’s labor laws 

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Able Pacheco said Wednesday his administration would beef up the labor laws to eliminate child labor, to give more security to domestic workers, to fight employment discrimination and sexual harassment and also to increase the definition of discrimination existing in the code.

The occasion was a speech marking the 60th anniversary of the Código de Trabajo that was signed into law by President Rafael Angel Calderón Guardia. Perhaps making indirect reference to some of his own unpopular legislative programs, Pacheco praised Calderón Guardia for acting with "courage, vision of the future and humanistic promise."

President Pacheco also asked Ovidio Pacheco, minister of Trabajo, to reinforce the supervisory actions of his ministry to make sure that abuses of the current law are not permitted.

"Even 60 years afterwards there are workers, men and women, in our country who do not get the minimum wage, the right to vacations, the social guarantees, the maximum eight-hour workday , overtime. . . .," said the president. The social guarantees refer to the protection of the Caja de Costarricesense de Seguro Social for which employees and employers must make a financial contribution. This includes hospitalization and pensions.

Pacheco said that he wanted to make sure that domestic servants were treated like other occupation groups. That would mean additional expense for those employing domestic workers, which now are treated with more flexibility in the law.

He also said in addition to sexual harassment due to gender, he wanted to combat discrimination based on handicap, language and minority group membership.

He said that his ideas would be formalized and presented within 90 days.

Terry Fox Fun Run
planned for Sept. 7

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The Canadian Embassy and the Asociación Lucha Contra el Cáncer Infantil are inviting all Costa Ricans and resident Canadians to participate in the Eighth Terry Fox Fun Run to be held in San José to raise funds for the National Children´s Hospital and cancer research. 

The Terry Fox Fun Run will take place Sunday, Sept. 7, starting at 8:30 a.m. in the Parque La Sabana. In order to participate, organizers ask that individuals make a donation of 2,000 colons ($5) which will include a commemorative T-shirt of the event, a snack and a participation certificate. 

Terry Fox was a young Canadian who at the age of 18 in 1977 lost one of his legs to cancer. He was so touched by the suffering of cancer patients that he decided to run across Canada in order to raise funds for cancer research. During his Marathon of Hope in 1980, Terry ran, with one artificial leg, an average of 26 miles a day for 143 days until he was forced to stop two thirds of the way when it was discovered his cancer had returned. He died one month shy of his 23rd birthday.

Today, Terry Fox Runs are one of the most important fundraising events worldwide for cancer research. More than one million people of all ages participate in runs in more than 48 countries around the world. Since Terry Fox Runs began they have raised more than $300 million.

The Terry Fox Fun Run is a healthy and fun way to contribute to the local community and to unite in the fight against cancer, said the organizers. The Terry Fox Run is not competitive but rather a fun run in which participants can go with their family, co-workers and friends. They can walk, run or use a wheelchair. 

In order to participate, persons should fill out a signup sheet at either the Canadian Embassy (Sabana Sur, Oficentro La Sabana, Building 5, Third Floor, telephone 242-4433), the office of the Asociación Lucha Contra el Cáncer Infantil (300 meters south of the National Children´s Hospital) or at the store Runners in Rohrmoser. 

Pinochet again found
to have immunity

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

SANTIAGO, Chile — An appeals court has blocked a new effort to have former dictator Augusto Pinochet tried on charges of human rights abuses. 

The Santiago Court of Appeals ruled 15-8 Wednesday against stripping the 87-year-old General Pinochet of his immunity from prosecution. 

Chile's Communist Party wanted to see the former dictator's immunity lifted so he could be tried for the disappearance of 12 party leaders arrested during his 1973 to 1990 dictatorship.  The appeals court based its decision on a ruling last year by the Chilean Supreme Court, which said General Pinochet is unfit to stand trial because of his deteriorating health. 

The former dictator suffers from a mild case of dementia and has had several mild strokes since 1998. He also suffers from arthritis and other ailments.  General Pinochet seized power in a 1973 coup which toppled Marxist President Salvador Allende. During the 17-year Pinochet era, an estimated 3,000 people died or disappeared without explanation, mainly for political reasons.

Hondurans protest
privatization plan

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras — At least 10,000 Hondurans have rallied in the capital here to protest the country's economic policies. 

At least 20 people were reported injured Tuesday, as some of the protesters clashed with police and smashed store-front windows. 

The protests came after lawmakers passed several economic measures to qualify for an International Monetary Fund loan. One of those measures could privatize part of the country's drinking water supply. 

Demonstrators say the country's economic policies pander to the demands of international lending policies at the expense of the poor. 

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Region's economic outlook mixed, U.N. agency says
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A United Nations agency has presented a mixed outlook for economic conditions in Latin America and the Caribbean.

On the positive side, the U.N. Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean  said in a new report that malnutrition rates fell in 20 countries in the region over the past decade, thanks to the availability of food and the decline in extreme poverty.

The rate of acute child malnutrition appears to have fallen from 13 to 14 percent of the population in previous years to 8 to 9 percent, while chronic malnutrition fell from 23 to 24 percent of the population to 18 to 19 percent, the agency said.

Living conditions in most countries should stay about the same, except in Venezuela, where poverty could rise significantly, and in Argentina, where it is likely that reactivated economic growth should reduce poverty rates, said the agency.

On the negative side, the commission said two out of five people in Latin America and the Caribbean live in poverty, and that figure is expected to get worse in the coming year. Hunger affected 11 percent of the region's residents, or 55 million people.

In a statement Monday, the commission said that some 220 million people, or 43.4 percent of the region's population, lived below the poverty line in 2002. The figures were released in a new report, called "Social Panorama of Latin America 2002-2003." A household is defined as poor when its income just meets the minimum required to cover basic consumption needs. Of those 220 million people, 95 million were unable to meet their basic needs.

Commission Executive Secretary Jose Antonio Ocampo said that "there is a growing concentration of poverty in the region and countries have seen poverty levels stagnate since 1997."

For its part, the United States says that despite real progress being made to promote economic and democratic reforms in the region, poverty remains a continuing dilemma. For example, Roger Noriega, U.S. assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, told the U.S. Congress in May that the region faces a serious problem from the wide income disparity between the "haves" and the "have-nots" throughout the hemisphere.

Current economic growth rates, he said in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, "are inadequate to generate sufficient jobs for growing populations, let alone address chronic poverty." This trend, he added, is exacerbated by the fact that all too often, governmental corruption and inefficiency have stunted economic development and spawned 

popular disenchantment with free-market prescriptions for growth.

Noriega said that in terms of U.S. national security, "we can ill afford widespread political instability or economic dislocation close to our borders."

The United States, said Noriega, continues its efforts to generate sustained economic growth in the region by promoting trade, investment, and sound fiscal reforms.

The U.N. agency said in its report that despite projections of a mild economic upturn in 2003, per-capita gross domestic product in the region will not grow in the foreseeable future. The commission forecast that only nine of the 24 countries studied in the report will meet the goal of cutting poverty in half by 2015.

Argentina saw its urban poverty rates nearly double to 45.4 percent from 23.7 percent between 1999 and 2002 due to its economic collapse and currency devaluation, said the commission. Mexico and Ecuador were the only countries in the region to show measurable declines in urban poverty during this same period, it said.

Group for Growth holds
its first meeting

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The United States and Brazil held the first meeting of the Group for Growth on Wednesday here, the U.S. Department of Treasury has announced.

In a press release issued that same day, the Treasury Department explained that the group's formation was announced at the June 2003 meeting between President Bush and Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva "with the goal of developing strategies to raise economic growth in both countries."

The U.S. delegation to the Group for Growth was led by John Taylor, under secretary for international affairs at the Department of Treasury, while Brazilian participants included Brazilian Ambassador to the United States Rubens Barbosa and the Brazilian executive director to the International Monetary Fund, Murilo Portugal.

"The Lula Administration is taking very significant steps to increase economic growth in Brazil," Taylor said. "The pension and tax reforms proposed by President Lula address some of the most fundamental fiscal challenges facing Brazil. The United States strongly supports the government's efforts."

According to the Treasury Department, the Group for Growth has agreed to reconvene in Brazil during the first quarter of 2004. 

Peru's Truth Commission is ready with its report
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

LIMA, Peru — The Truth and Reconciliation Commission releases a long-awaited report today on the political violence which claimed thousands of lives during the past two decades. 

Publication of the controversial report follows a two-year investigation which involved interviews with hundreds of victims. 

The nine-volume document is expected to say that as many as 60,000 people died or disappeared during the country's 20-year war between leftist guerrillas and government security forces. Earlier estimates had put the toll from the conflict at more than 35,000 people. 

In June, commission president Salomon Lerner Febres told the United Nations that the number of people who vanished or were killed between 1980 and 2000 could eventually more than double 

earlier projections. He said no one will ever know just how many people disappeared in the prolonged conflict. 

The commission looked into who was responsible for the violence and rights abuses committed by the rebels and the state security forces. The panel has said at least 75 percent of the victims were indigenous Peruvians. 

In the 1980s and 90s, the Peruvian government carried out a counter-insurgency campaign against the Maoist Shining Path and Marxist Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement that succeeded in almost eliminating these two groups. But some remnants continue to operate in Peru's jungles. 

The commission's supporters say the report will help close the door on another of the Cold War-era conflicts which plagued the region. Critics say many of those responsible for the violence may not be held accountable for their crimes. 


 
Close brush with planet Mars is causing excitement worldwide
By the A.M. Costa Rica wires services

People the world over are excitedly scanning the skies for the closest visit by the planet Mars in 600 centuries. This major celestial event has rekindled interest in "stargazing" in the United States and elsewhere.

With its rusty-red color, Mars has fascinated man since he first gazed into the heavens. Named for the ancient Roman and Greek gods of war, Mars is the most Earth-like of all the planets in the solar system. Its surface is pockmarked with volcanoes and canyons that indicate a historic presence of water, and scientists have long speculated about the presence of some form of Martian life.

Wednesday evening Mars rose in the southeastern sky shortly after sunset, and was the brightest object in the heavens. Kelly Beatty, executive editor of the nation's premier astronomy magazine, Sky and Telescope, says what makes this event special is that Mars, among all the other planets does have a special mystique.

"Of all the planets that we can see by eye, Mars has always set itself apart," says Beatty. "If you look at it in the sky, it's got this kind of creamy or peachy color. Mars is red because its rocks are rusty and this has been known for thousands of years. And all along we've recognized that here in Mars we have a place that is the planet most like our own Earth. So consequently we feel a kind of connection to it."

Although Mars has been well studied, landed upon and photographed by at least half a dozen 
spacecraft, this visit is still causing excitement. 

Last Saturday more than one-thousand people gathered in a Virginia State Park outside Washington's light pollution to view the planet in amateur astronomer's telescopes. 

In Los Angeles, California, Edwin Krupp, director of the Griffith Observatory on Mount Hollywood has been overwhelmed with the public's response. Although the major observatory is closed for a multi-million dollar renovation, the crowds at the satellite facility increased from the usual 300 a night to 10,000 people last weekend. 

"Even in Los Angeles and Hollywood we recognize that the real "stars" are the stars," he said. "And they do attract people's attention and affection." Krupp acknowledges that this excitement actually goes far beyond an interest in Mars, or even our solar system. It touches a more primal aspect of our being. 

"So, it's not just an idle, intellectual curiosity on our part to examine the sky. This is in fact something that induces us to think more clearly and more sharply on many different fronts. And that's what exploration and discovery are really, eventually all about," says Krupp. 

"This is in fact what it means to be human, to look up; to wonder; to explore and to get to think about the big question; the big ponderable and imponderable things that we see around us. That's the really great thing about this." 

For those who are not able to view Mars this week or soon, as it passes Earth at a mere 55,763,000 kms., they will have a long wait. The planet is not due to be this close again for another 284 years.

List of crimes of passion for the last two months
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Eight children and nine adults have died since July 4 in apparent crimes of passion. The crimes, victims and, in some cases, the author of the event are:

July 4, 2003:  Katia Vanesa González Juárez, 8, died and the murderer buried her under the floor of a neighboring home in the Quesada Duran section of San José. Jorge Sánchez Madrigal, 34, is being held.

July 22, 2003: María Martínez Pichardo, 30, and her two daughters, Johana, 3, and Yorleny, 4, died at the hands of the woman’s jilted lover, Jhonathan González Alvarado, in Triangulo de Solidaridad in San Gabriel de Calle Blancos, Goicoechea. He killed himself later in prison. 

July 29, 2003: Maritza Jirón Pichardo died in Barrio Limoncito in Limón. Her former companion, with the last names of Lara Bustos, was detained as the assailant.

July 30, 2003: Carlos Corrales Picado, a 40-year-old fisherman systematically hunted down two teenage boys, Estiben Mora Vargas and Francisco Mena Fallas, both 15, then killed 3-year-old Erick Solís while the child played in the patio of his home. Then the man shot and gravely injured the child’s father, Marcelo Solís Chinchilla, 
 

41. Corrales fled but was later found dead by suicide. this happened in Puerto Escondido on the Osa Peninsula.

July 31, 2003: María Iris Sánchez Chinchilla, 29, and her 19-year-old boyfriend, Pedro Sosa Orozco, were shot fatally by Ramón Garita Garita, 45, who shot himself in the temple after fleeing the scene in Barrio La Pascua in Quepos.

Aug. 11, 2003: Alexandra  Bulgarin Escudero, 26, is found murdered in her home in Barrio Gúell in south central San José. She was a casino employee, The case still is open.

Aug. 18, 2003: Ofilia Elizondo Rodríguez, 65, is beaten to death in her Platanares de Buenos Aires. Rape and robbery are the presumed motives. Neighbor Hipólito Ortiz Rojas, 44, is arrested.

Aug. 20, 2003: Mariluz de los Angeles Peraza, 13, is gunned down by Daniel Alberto Salazar Adamis, 26, a former boyfriend, who then turned the gun on himself in Jacó. Both later died.

Aug. 25, 2003: Muriel Tatiana Camacho Cantillano is slain in her home in El Carmen de Guadalupe, and a police manhunt quickly captures a neighbor, Oscar Hernández Rojas, 54.

This listing does not include those killed in holdups or other kinds of murder for gain.


 
Boredom and too much cash are linked to teen drug use by survey
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

High stress, frequent boredom or having too much spending money sharply increases the risk of teenage substance abuse, according to an annual back-to-school survey by The U.S. National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse.

This was the first time in its eight-year history that the survey measured the impact of characteristics such as stress and boredom on the likelihood that teens will smoke, drink, get drunk and use illegal drugs.

"High stress, frequent boredom and too much spending money are a catastrophic combination for many American teens," said Joseph Califano, chairman of the center and former U.S. secretary of Health, Education and Welfare.

But he added that it is a catastrophe that can be avoided through parental engagement. "How parents act, how much pressure they put on school administrators to get drugs out of their teens' schools, their attitudes about drugs, and how 

engaged they are in their children's lives will have enormous influence over their teens' substance use," he said.

The survey found that high stress teens are twice as likely as low stress teens to smoke, drink and use illegal drugs. Often-bored teens are 50 percent likelier than not-often-bored teens to smoke, drink, get drunk and use illegal drugs. Teens with $25 or more a week in spending money are nearly twice as likely as teens with less to smoke, drink and use illegal drugs, and more than twice as likely to get drunk, according to the survey.

The incidence of high stress was greater among girls than boys, with nearly one in three girls saying they were highly stressed compared to fewer than one in four boys. And while girls and boys are equally likely to have more than $50 a week in spending money, girls with this much spending money are likelier than boys to smoke, drink, get drunk and use marijuana.

The full report can be found at the center Web site. 

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