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The stories on this page first were published Monday 3 September, 2001

Marathon time 
in the valley

While the bulk of Central Valley residents still were in bed, 
hardy marathoners, 
male and female, 
hit the roads at 6 a.m.
uphill from San Antonio de Belén
to Curridabat Sunday for the 
Cristal Marathon, sponsored
by the water company
of the same name.


Wednesday's game
will be a big one

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Courteous Costa Ricans were telling U.S. citizens Sunday that the likely outcome of a U.S. Costa  Rican soccer match Wednesday was a tie. Deep in their hearts, they are lusting for blood.

They have a pretty good chance of having their bloodlust satisfied when the two teams meet at San José's Saprissa Stadium. Costa Rica had no trouble Saturday handing Trinidad and Tobago a 2-0 loss.  The shutout was in Port of Spain.

The final score did not rise to the 8-0 predictions of some Costa Ricans who realize that Trinidad and Tobago are at the bottom of the World Cup semifinal bracket that includes Costa Rica and the U.S. But some commentators speculated that Costa Rica used self-discipline in not running up the score Saturday. Both Costa Rican goals came in the first half of the game.

Meanwhile, the U.S.  team dropped a game, 3-2, against Honduras in Washington's RFK Stadium. The Honduran team came hungry to revenge the loss to the U.S. earlier this year in their own capital.

The U.S. game was an emotional one. The teams were 1-1 at the end of the first half, but Honduras 

dominated the second half. Honduran Carlos Pavón put in the second goal for his team eight minutes into the half on a penalty shot. Milton Núñez put in the third goal for Honduras at 30 minutes into the half, and the U.S. team followed eight minutes later with its second goal by Ernie Stewart.

So the outcome of the game hung on the last seven or eight minutes. And Honduras did just that: hung on.

Expect the country to be decked in the national colors this week in advance of the game. Meanwhile, some public buildings are putting up colors in advance of Independence Day, and this adds to the impact.

A.M. Costa Rica photo
These vendors of Costa Rican flags are
planning on some big sale days between
today and Wednesday night when the
U.S. National Team plays the Costa Rican
'Selection' here. No U.S. flags were in
evidence, nor are they likely to be.

Jo Stuart's weekly column:
The value of four arms

The U.S. consular Information sheet
for Costa Rica

Truth is a shaky concept for public discussion
By Jay Brodell
Editor of A.M. Costa Rica

A ranking National Liberation Party adviser made what appeared to be a fairly reasonable statement last Monday before a group of U.S. citizens.

"The press should be responsible for what it publishes. They should be liable if they say something that is not true."

The speaker was Luis Guillermo Solís Rivera, a political scientist who is an adviser to Liberation presidential candidate Rolando Araya.

An analysis of the news

If you  took a vote in Costa Rica, in the U.S., anywhere, probably 95 percent of the people would agree wholeheartedly with Solís.

But that statement is incorrect in modern life. Such discussion is important because Costa Rica has just impaneled a legislative committee to redraft the law of the press, and a Liberation party member is chairman.

The first thing the committee must understand is that truth is in the eye of the beholder. Is George W. Bush a savior who kept the United States from again falling into the hands of the lusting Democrats? 

Or is he a jerk who was underqualified to be governor of Texas? Either statements is "truth" to some people, but the Truth is somewhere between. 

In order to stay out of trouble, newspeople, under Mr. Solís' theory, must print the "truth" that coincides with the "truth" agreed upon this minute by the judges, the public and the most powerful people in the community.

Liberal thought suggests instead that the Truth will emerge clearly from the din of a discussion reflecting a number of points of view with varying 

degrees of honesty. John Milton asked in the 17th Century whoever saw Truth defeated in a fair contest?

That's why the emphasis in political thought has been on increasing the discussions, increasing the individual points of view. That's why the neo-Nazis can march in Skokie, Ill., and race-baiting black separatists can have their web pages. 

To do otherwise, to allow the government to move in and shut someone up, runs the risk of cutting off a truthful thought, no matter how disguised. Or criticism.

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed in a landmark 1964 case. Discussion of public issues should be wide open and robust with the understanding that error in fact is inevitable. That principle also applies to public officials and other public figures in the United States. That is why commentators (in the days before the famous dress) could wonder aloud if Bill Clinton had been carrying on with an intern. And this is why one California voter can tell another what they think of Rep. Gary Condit, who is in an internship  scandal of his own.

But in Costa Rica the laws are different. High government officials, rather than being open to criticism and wide-open debate, have erected a legal shield, a criminal statute to protect them. But high government officials with easy access to the mass media and the skills to use them do not need protection.

In every discussion of press freedoms, people generally consider the press to be The New York Times or in Costa Rica the leading daily, La Nación. But these are not the "press." They may be the commercial press. But the press, particularly today in the world of the Internet, is anyone who can pick up a pencil or turn on a computer. 

A fundamental human right is to receive and impart information. Therefore, everyone is at risk from overbearing laws that try to protect high government officials from public comment, particularly when they are criminal laws that can mean jail and heavy fines. 

Nearly 610,000 suffer due to drought, AID says
A. M. Costa Rica wire services

WASHINGTON The United States and the international community are continuing their joint effort to fight drought conditions and food shortages in Central America that have led to the worst crisis to hit the region since Hurricane Mitch in 1998, reports the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

USAID indicated that nearly 610,000 people in Central America are experiencing food deficiencies due to crop losses, with Honduras and Nicaragua identified as the two hardest-hit countries. USAID officials said Thursday that its Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, working through local non-governmental partners, has launched separate $175,000 seed-distribution projects in Honduras and Nicaragua for farm families who rely on food from the production of small plots of corn and beans.

Also, the USAID Food for Peace Program is working through the U. N. World Food Programme  to send Honduras an allotment of 1,640 metric tons of maize, beans, and vegetable oil from the total 4,800 metric tons of food (worth $2.1 million) being provided for the entire Central America region. Emergency food rations have been distributed to drought-affected people in the Honduran departments of Choluteca, Valle, Francisco Morazan, El Paraiso, La Paz, Comayagua, and Intibuca.

Nicaragua, meanwhile, will be receiving an allotment of 742 metric tons of maize and beans from the total USAID contribution to assist those most affected by the drought in that country, the agency said. Because Nicaragua also has suffered from flooding due to heavy rains, citizens in that country have received 55 tons of maize and vegetable oil. A WFP team in Nicaragua reported that communities such as Alamikamba and Dos Amigos have been cut off due to the floods and are suffering from lack of basic services, such as water 

and sanitation facilities. Another immediate need is the lack of seeds for the planting season in November, December and January, WFP said.

In Guatemala, 1,134 metric tons of maize, beans and vegetable oil from the USAID contribution will help drought victims in that country. WFP reported that rains began again throughout the country Aug. 21 but maize crops in the most drought-affected areas, such as El Progreso and Zacapa, will not be salvageable.

In El Salvador, 1,284 metric tons of maize, beans and vegetable oil from the USAID contribution will be distributed to 20,000 drought-affected families. During the week of Aug. 27, WFP said 364 metric tons of food had reached more than 3,500 families in 11 of the most drought-affected municipalities in the eastern part of the country. The agency said, however, that many families in the country face "food insecurity" due to a reduced harvest caused by drought.

WFP also reported ongoing health problems and food shortages in Ecuador due to volcanic eruptions, and food shortages in Bolivia due to massive flooding and drought. In Ecuador, the agency says those most in need of food aid are in Tungurahua, Chimborazo, and Bolivar provinces. In Bolivia, WFP said it is focusing its relief efforts in the areas of La Paz, Potosi, Oruro, and Cochabamba. The agency said a large number of people in Bolivia remain without food assistance.

WFP also reported ongoing health problems and food shortages in Ecuador due to volcanic eruptions, and food shortages in Bolivia due to massive flooding and drought. In Ecuador, the agency says those most in need of food aid are in Tungurahua, Chimborazo, and Bolivar provinces. In Bolivia, WFP said it is focusing its relief efforts in the areas of La Paz, Potosi, Oruro, and Cochabamba. The agency said a large number of people in Bolivia remain without food assistance.

U.S. and Colombia agree,
U.S. official reports 

The United States and the government of Colombian President Andres Pastrana are in firm agreement that the peace process in Colombia is the best way to end the nearly 40-year conflict between the government and left-wing Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas, U.S. Under Secretary of State Marc Grossman said.

"No country could support the peace process more than the United States of America," Grossman told reporters in Bogotá at the end of a three-day visit to Colombia Thursday that included meetings with high-level officials and representatives of non-governmental organizations.

"I would say to you that President Pastrana in his conversation with me was very clear about his desire to get the peace process moving again, and we very much support that," Grossman said. "Peace is crucial to the future development of Colombia and that's why we support the peace process."

Grossman underlined U.S. support for efforts to strengthen civil society, promote development, and protect human rights in Colombia. He noted that the Bush Administration has asked the U.S. Congress to approve an assistance package known as the Andean Regional Initiative worth more than $800 million to pursue such goals in Colombia and neighboring countries. The money would supplement the $1.3  billion Congress has already approved in support of Plan Colombia, which is the name given to President Pastrana's year-old strategy for fighting drug trafficking and restoring civil order.

The U.S. official also praised the Colombian government's program to eradicate illegal coca plants via aerial spraying, which is being carried out as part of Plan Colombia. This is a controversial program in southern Colombia where most of the spraying takes place. Peasants complain that the spraying is damaging their physical health.

Grossman said that he and other members of the U.S. delegation had been impressed with the pilots and the equipment used in the spraying campaign, and added that U.S. officials are convinced that the spraying is both sensible and safe. He also pointed out that the Pastrana government had hired Colombia's most prominent toxicologist to investigate complaints that the herbicide was causing health programs. The United States, he stressed, fully supports an open and honest dialogue with Colombians who have concerns about the aerial spraying.

The United States is sending 14 more spray aircraft to Colombia.

Top U.S, trade expert
to speak in San José

Walter M. Bastian, U.S. acting assistant secretary of commerce, will be in San José Wednesday to participate in a free trade seminar at the Hotel Herradura, a U.S. Embassy announcement said. 

Other participants will be Dr. José Manuel Salazar X., director of the commercial section of the Organization of American States; Dr. Gert Rosenthal, former executive secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean; and Dr. Fernando Naranjo, former minister of foreign relations and finance for Costa Rica.

Bastian's topic will be "Free Trade and the Bush Administration."

The event is sponsored by the Chamber of Representatives of Foreign Companies (CRECEX, an acronym for its name in Spanish) which says it is an independent and autonomous, non-profit association of private enterprises which promotes free trade. In addition to the embassy, the event also is sponsored by Universidad Latina.

The forum in the hotel's convention center is described as a warmup for the first Centroamerican Conference on E-business, which will be held Oct. 29 and 30. 

Bastian established and directed the Latin American and Caribbean Business Development Center, which had a role in helping U.S. firms take advantage of the Caribbean Basin Initiative, the Andean Trade Preference Act and the Enterprise for the Americas Initiative. He also is an expect on e-business.

He was honored by the department for his work in designing reconstruction programs following the damage wrought by Hurricane Mitch and Hurricane Georges in Central American and the Caribbean, the embassy statement said.


Bodies uncovered
at former U.S. base

By A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Forensic experts in eastern Honduras have uncovered the remains of 15 people at a former U.S. military base used to train Nicaraguan Contras in the 1980s. 

Officials say the remains were discovered this week at the El Aguacate air military base. They also say only one body, that of Nicaraguan Contra fighter Francisco Guzman, has been identified. 

The United States built El Aguacate in the 1980s as a training center for the Contras. They were fighting Nicaragua's leftist Sandinista government. 

The exhumation comes at the request of human rights groups who have long urged officials to launch an investigation at the base. 

Authorities expect to find the remains of scores of people who vanished between 1979 and 1990. Human rights groups say some of the people who disappeared were tortured and buried at the base. 

Trade ministers report progress

Trade ministers attending an informal meeting in Mexico say they have made progress toward launching a new round of market liberalization talks later this year. Ministers from 15 countries, Hong Kong and the European Union discussed anti-dumping regulations, agricultural subsidies and market access for developing countries during a two-day meeting. 

The trade representatives say they expect many major issues to be resolved between now and the next assembly of the World Trade Organization in Qatar in November. 

WTO officials say serious liberalization talks could get underway after the Qatar meeting if enough progress is made in coming weeks. Anti-globalization activists held small protests in Mexico City on the perimeters of the talks. Police reported no arrests 

Young shark victim dies

A 10-year-old boy has died after being attacked by a shark while surfing off the coast of the U.S. state of Virginia. 

Officials say David Peltier was bitten while swimming 45 meters off shore in about 1.2 meters of water near the resort city of Virginia Beach. 

A hospital spokesman says as a result of the attack, the main artery in his left thigh was severed which resulted in a significant amount of blood loss.

The attack is the latest in a number of highly publicized shark attacks this year. An 8-year-old boy survived after a shark tore off his arm as he swam off Pensacola, Florida, in July. Doctors were able to reattach his severed arm in surgery, although he remains in a light coma. 

The International Shark Attack File, based at the University of Florida, says this year's worldwide total of shark attacks has reached 40. Twenty-eight have been in Florida waters.

U.N. says U.S. should lighten up

As the United States celebrates Labor Day today, a U.N. study suggests U.S. citizens should be taking more time off from work. 

An International Labor Organization (ILO) report says American workers put in more hours on the job last year than the labor force of any other industrialized nation. The study said the average citizen worked 1,978 hours in 2000 - almost an additional 40-hour work week more than 10 years earlier. 

An ILO economist said the increase in the United States runs counter to the trend in other industrialized nations. The report says on average, U.S. citizens spend almost four weeks more at work than the Japanese, and almost three months more than Germans. 

Labor Day, the first Monday in September, was declared a national holiday in the United States in 1894.

A.M. Costa Rica wire services

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