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These stories were published Thursday, Sept. 5, 2002, in Vol. 2, No. 176
Jo Stuart
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Sept. 11 will be a day of remembrance here
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Wednesday, Sept. 11, the first anniversary of the terrorist attacks in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington, will be a day of remembrance in Costa Rica as well.

The day-long program includes a moment of silence at 8:46 a.m., the time when the first World Trade Center tower fell, according to a release from the U.S. Embassy. Ground will be broken for a monument to the victims, and Costa Rica will unveil a commemorative stamp honoring the dead.

In the evening, a "En Memoria de las Victimas" exhibition will be inaugurated at Museo Calderón Guardia in Barrio Escalante.

The moment of silence will be observed during an embassy remembrance ceremony, an event in front of the U.S. Embassy in Pavas to which embassy employees and their families have been invited. U.S. Ambassador John J. Danilovich will deliver brief remarks after the U.S. Marines present the colors.

At 9:30 a.m. the groundbreaking will be held

for the memorial at the Parque Urbanización General Cañas in Sabana Norte next to the building of the Costa Rican-American Chamber of Commerce and the Centro Cultural Costarricense Norteamericano.

The American Colony Committee, chamber officials, embassy officials and 
representatives from the Muncipalidad de San José will attend. Another moment of silence will be observed. This is the event designed for the American community and the general public, according to the embassy.

At 11 a.m. the stamp will be unveiled during a tribute by Costa Rica’s firefighters at the Monumento al Bombero, Parque Cañas.

At 2 p.m. a tribute in front of the embassy will be made by the Reserva de la Fuerza Pública. A wreath will be placed.

At 7 p.m., the volunteer firefighters of Pavas will come to the front of the embassy to present their tribute.

The exhibition at the Museo Calderón Guardia will be opened at 8 p.m.

Politicians remain stymied by a pile of trash
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

There is a standoff of sorts in Sabana Oeste between the Partido Liberación Nacional and whoever dumped all those branches on the sidewalk in front of its national headquarters.

The politicians didn’t cut the branches, and 

A.M. Costa Rica photo
The pile of trash continues to block the sidewalk.
they sure are not going to spend the 10,000 colons (about $27) it would take to have someone haul the trash away. At least that was the word from Leda Soto, the secretary to the administrator at Casa Liberacionista.

In the meantime, pedestrians are forced to walk in the street and risk an encounter with a car or truck. The branches have been on the sidewalk for more than two months, long enough to have been seen by a number of top party officials who have conducted mayoral nomination meetings at the building. 

Ms. Soto varyingly blamed Channel 7 Teletica and Cable Tica for the mess. Teletica said it was a television station, and it does not send people around to cut branches. Cable Tica said it does not hold the cable television franchise for the area in which the Liberación Party headquarters is located. 

Amnet is the cable company in the area, but it could not be determined if the cable company, the electric and telephone company or someone else cut branches on nearby trees and dumped them in a pile.

Ms. Soto was questioned more than a week ago after A.M. Costa Rica ran the first photo of the trash pile. The adjacent photo was taken Wednesday.

The trash pile is just a few feet north of the heavily traveled old road to Escazú.

Country's tourism stand wins double honors
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica has won two honors for its tourism industry.

First, the United Nations and the World Tourism Organization will adopt the certificate of sustainable tourism that Costa Rica created in 1992.

And on Sept. 27 Costa Rica will be the international center for the observation of World Tourism Day.

The certificate of sustainable tourism was considered and adopted by the world leaders assembled at the Johannesburg World Summit for Sustainable Development, according to an announcement from Casa Presidencial.

President Abel Pacheco and Carlos Manuel Rodríguez, minister of Ambiente y Energía were the driving forces to get the countries to accept the idea. Rodríguez said that Costa Rica had help from the other Central American nations, Ecuador, Belize and Chile.

More than 100 hotels have won the certification from the Comisión Nacional de Acreditación, and more than 100 more are in the process of earning the distinction, said Casa Presidencial.

The event Sept. 27 will see ministers of tourism from 18 countries come to Cost Rica. Admission to parks and museums will be free that day, and the Ministerio de Educación will promote the day within the schools, said officials.

Also in the country that day will be Francesco Frangialli, secretary of the World Tourism Organization.

The Pacheco administration is banking on a dramatic increase in international tourism and sees the industry as one of the major economic forces for development. The Casa Presidencial release noted that Pacheco earmarked $12 million for international advertising in the first few days he took office.

Vice president vows
jail for exploiters

Those who come to Costa Rica with the intention of sexually exploiting minors will find that the only habitation available for them is a jail cell, according to Lineth Saborío, vice president.

Ms. Saborío, the acting president, told this to tourism officials as she opened the Congreso Nacional de Turismo Tuesday.

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Escazú 'bank' for expats chooses bankruptcy
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An Escazú financial firm that specialized in helping foreign residents went bankrupt Wednesday.

The firm, Vinir Corporation S.A., operated the Casa de Cambio Vinir.

Francisco Luis Vargas Sota, the lawyer for Vinir, said the business suffered from unspecified economic problems. He said the firm would reorganize.  However, a faxed information sheet from the company said that it was undergoing dissolution and liquidation

The lawyer said that no money had been lost.  But when pressed if a casa de cambio could take money from depositors like a bank, the lawyer asked that further questions be directed to him via fax.

The casa de cambio occupies a second floor in the Trejos Monte Alegre shopping center at the north end of Escazú. The owner is Vinizio Esquivel, according to other local business people.

The casa de cambio is not known for paying high interest rates. Escazú business people said the firm paid a very small interest rate.

Carlos Villalobos is in the information department  of the Superintendencia General de Entidades Financieras. He said that Vinir was licensed only to change money. However, the firm described itself as a bank.

In a promotional blurb on the Internet, the firm said "The bank, founded by a husband-and-wife team to offer currency exchange, has expanded rapidly and now provides a wide range of services."

The firm is a member of the Costa Rican-American Chamber of Commerce where its business activities are listed as financial, insurance services and tourism.

Esquivel is listed on the Internet as the administrative contact for the firm’s Web page, Vinirbank.com. The Web page was out of service Wednesday, but one page that had been removed was entitled www.directdeposit-vinirbank.com.  The site was hosted by a company in Kansas City in the U.S. state of Missouri.

The promotional material on the Internet was under a U.S. advertising company. It characterized the bank as an international financial operation:

"Vinir’s services targeted at retired U.S. citizens include special accounts allowing customers to make deposits in Miami and access the funds in Costa Rica through Vinir, as well as a more efficient system for handling Social Security checks. Vinir provides a number of specialized pension services as well."

Lawyers met with compnay officials Wednesday afternoon, and it was after this meeting that Vargas, the lawyer, said the company would opt for reorganization.

Internet forum promotes FOI in Latin America
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Article 19, the London-based free expression organization, has created an Internet forum for Latin America. The forum is an effort to push for more freedom-of-information laws in the region.

The group takes its name from Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: "Everyone has the right to the freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers."

The bi-monthly forum is part of a new regional network Article 19 and 11 Latin American organizations have created to exchange information and experiences among freedom-of-information advocates, said the organization.

In Latin America, only two countries, Mexico and Peru, have enacted laws for 
freedom-of-information, the organization said.

The first forum contains a critique of Costa Rica’s access to public information. An unidentified Costa

Rican writer said that access to government information is guaranteed in the Costa Rica constitution, but government officials restrict information on their own.

"The most recent case was the request to the Banco Central to publish the report on the state of the country, which was prepared by a mission from the International Monetary Fund, which suggested a series of lines to be followed in the monetary and fiscal fields," said the writer.

"To succeed in having it published they [journalists] had to resort to the Constitutional Court, which issued a ruling in which it established that it was public information and that it must be made known. 

"Another very prominent case was a decision by a minister to deny access to the purchase of war equipment, alleging that it was a State secret, and the Constitutional Court resolved that, too, limiting the concept of ‘State secret’ to very limited situations which are defined in the Political Constitution."

The Article 19 forum is HERE!

Exhibition of art will help the tití monkeys in Manual Antonio
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Monkeys and works of art come together at the Galería Nacional this month.

The Association for the Conservation of the Mono Tití (ASCOMOTI) has unveiled an art exhibition to help promote the preservation of Costa Rica’s Central Pacific region.

ASCOMOTI’s signature project is to save the mono tití, a species of monkeys on the verge of extinction, according to the group. Their work includes installing rope bridges so that monkeys
can cross roads safely and cutting back trees dangerously close to electric wires.

The exhibition, titled "Mono Tití: Our Heritage and Humanity Under Threat," features watercolors by Ana Quiros, a Miami-based Costa Rican. It also includes video and information on preventing biodiversity loss.

Part of the proceeds of all art sold go to benefit the group’s efforts and to conservation research being done at the Regional Program of Wildlife Management at the Universidad Nacional in Heredia.

The art display appears at the Galería Nacional, which is located in the Museo Nacional de los Niños, through September. The museum is at the north end of Calle 4 in downtown San José.

Bush speaks with
Congress on Iraq

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Iraq was the main topic of conversation at an hour long, White House meeting Wednesday between President George Bush and leaders of the U.S. Congress, Bush said following the meeting.

Bush said he told the congressional leaders that doing nothing about the serious threat that Saddam Hussein poses to the United States and the world “is not an option for the United States.”

The President also said he made it clear that he looks forward to an open dialogue with Congress and the American people about the threat the Saddam regime poses, and said the Bush administration will participate fully in any hearings the Congress wishes to have on this subject.

Bush also announced that he will meet with Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair at Camp David Saturday to talk about this subject.

On Monday, Bush said he will again discuss Iraq, among other issues, with Canada's Prime Minister Jean Chretien at a meeting in Detroit, Michigan.

Bush said he will also be phoning the leaders of China, Russia and France to discuss Iraq, and will be delivering a speech at the United Nations General Assembly on Sept. 12.

In that speech, Bush said he will "remind the United Nations that for 11 long years, Saddam Hussein has side-stepped, craw-fished, wheedled out of any agreement he had made not to harbor — not to develop weapons of mass destruction, agreements he's made to treat the people within his country with respect. And so I'm going to call upon the world to recognize that he is stiffing the world. And I will lay out and I will talk about ways to make sure that he fulfills his obligations." 

Earth Summit
comes to a close

By A.M. Costa Rica wire services

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — The Earth Summit, convened to get world leaders to agree on ways to fight poverty and save the environment, has ended with a non-binding agreement sharply criticized by activists. 

Thabo Mbeki, South African president, closed the summit here Wednesday by declaring the formal adoption of a plan agreed to by nearly 200 participating countries. 

The plan commits world governments to reduce by half the number of people living without clean water and sanitation by the year 2015. Without setting timetables, the plan also calls for increased use of non-polluting energy such as solar power. 

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan admitted that everybody did not get everything they expected. But he pronounced the 10-day summit a success. But many environmental activists say the summit did not give enough attention to climate change, loss of bio-diversity and growing economic inequality around the world. 

Environmental groups say they effectively capitulated to the pro-business demands of the Bush administration. 

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell was heckled and jeered as he addressed the gathering Wednesday. Powell said the United States will commit more funds to international development and to fighting global warming. 

Many environmental groups criticized the United States for rejecting the Kyoto Treaty on climate change. Many countries view the treaty as crucial for reversing global warming that has been blamed for killer storms, floods and droughts. 

President George Bush has said the United States is taking other actions to fight climate change. He argues that the tough standard set by the treaty on the so-called "greenhouse gasses" would hurt the American economy.

Anti-Chavez union
threatens strike

By A.M. Costa Rica wire services

CARACAS, Venezuela — The largest labor union here has threatened to initiate a general strike against President Hugo Chavez as part of ongoing efforts to force his resignation. 

Carlos Ortega, president of the one-million-strong Confederation of Venezuelan Workers, Wednesday announced that the decision to stage a general work stoppage has already been made. He gave no indication as to when the strike would take place. 

Venezuela's opposition has vowed to oust Chavez by constitutional means before his term ends in 2007. Many have accused him of using his office to increase his powers and install an authoritarian, Cuban-style regime. 

Several hundred union members rallied in the streets of the central city of Maracay last week to protest against Chavez, whom they blame for their country's high tax and unemployment rates. 

US continues coca
fumigation in Colombia

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The United States is stepping up its drive to destroy coca growing in Colombia, according to The New York Times newspaper.

The report says the U.S. plan calls for more aerial spraying by crop dusters operating longer periods of time to eradicate Colombia's drug crops. It says Colombia's new president, Alvaro Uribe, has approved the plan.

However, Klaus Nyholm, an official with the U.N. Drug Control Program, says fumigation of the crops is causing farmers to find new places to grow their coca plantings.

The United States has spent $1.7 billion to fight drugs in Colombia since 1999.

Meanwhile, the U.S. State Department is expected to report to Congress Wednesday on the potential health effects of the aerial spraying.

Cell phone service
temporarily disabled

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Cellular telephone service in San José went off Wednesday morning for about a half hour, according to the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, which also is the telephone company.

The company said that technicians reloaded the operating system of the Ericsson equipment in the cellular central. They blamed the outage on a problem with the central’s data base.

Service was out from about 11 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

Riders to be notified
of bus fare increases

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The agency that sets the bus fares for the public says it will be distributing fliers to bus riders when a transportation company asks for an increase in rates.

The Autoridad Reguladora de los Servicios Públicos is the agency. It receives petitions from all sorts of service providers and establishes a rate for the service.

Typically it lists the bus companies, their routes and the amounts of increase they are seeking within newspaper advertisements.

The agency said Wednesday that it also would distribute fliers at bus stops and in rural schools. The agency also will ask the bus companies to paste the fliers within the buses.

The agency said the idea was to get an active participation of the bus riders in the discussions of possible rate increases. Because the colon continues to devalue, nearly every provider of public services, from taxis to the bus companies, requests rate increases at least every year.

Puerto Ricans protest
Navy bombing exercises

By A.M. Costa Rica wire services

VIEQUES, Puerto Rico — The U.S. Navy has arrested five people who held a protest on military property against American bombing exercises on this island.

A Navy spokeswoman says the five, who are accused of trespassing on restricted navy property, were detained here Tuesday on the first of what is expected to be 23 days of shelling and bombing exercises on the island. 

War games on Vieques often draw protesters, who say the shelling causes health and environmental hazards. 

The Navy has used the island for bombing exercises for more than half a century. Inert, or “dummy”, bombs have been used since the exercises caused the accidental death of a security guard in 1999. 
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