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Special volcano edition
posted Friday evening for volcano lovers
San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Sept. 5, 2003, Vol. 3, No. 176
Our regular Friday paper is BELOW!
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Arenal blows a new crater as seen from La Fortuna today.


Arenal awakens explosively
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Arenal Volcano blew out its side Friday and sent ash and boulders nearly a half mile into the sky.

Residents of the La Fortuna de San Carlos area suspect that the volcano is creating another caldera that may soon become a third cone for the smoking tourist attraction.

Officials made plans to evacuate la Fortuna and other populated areas but have not yet put those plans into effect. The blowout came in the northeast side of the volcano, the side that generally faces Lake Arenal. The land in that area is less populated than to the east where La Fortuna is located. The volcano is about 7 kms. or about 4.5 miles south southwest of the town.

The explosion came at 10:30 a.m., and ash covered the area downwind of the volcano.

The Comisión Nacional de Emergencias said that tourists in the area should not leave their places of lodging and certainly should not try to approach the volcano.

The volcano is about 210 kms. or 130 miles northwest of San José.

"The current second active crater began in the same manner as we have witnessed today," said Glenn McBride, a reader who lives near the volcano. "The second crater, known as Crater C, began as a blowout in 1968 and is now taller than the original Crater A." 

"There wasn't any ground shaking or loud explosion today that could be heard from Fortuna, just a TON of ash and huge boulders streaming down the side of the volcano," he said.

The blazing rock bombs launched by the volcano are 1,200 degrees Celsius (about 2,200 Fahrenheit) and moving at 200 kph, about 120 mph.

The explosion July 29, 1968, killed 78 persons, mainly in Pueblo Nuevo and Tabacón. The blast today is in the same direction as the 1968 one.

Arenal is such a good tourist attraction because even on nights with limited volcanic activity a spurt of lava or blazing rocks slide down the side of the crater with frequency. 

Today’s activity is certain to increase tourist activity in the area, particularly if more eruptions follow.

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A.M. Costa Rica

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Sept. 5, 2003, Vol. 3, No. 176
Mother wants better
investigation of death

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A Texas woman is convinced that more investigation needs to be done in the death of her son at a downtown hotel. She does not believe he simply jumped through a fourth-floor window to his death last July 15.

The mother, Concepción Tucker of Texas City, sent a series of questions in an e-mail to judicial investigators and Costa Rican officials. A.M. Costa Rica got a copy.

The son, Robert C. Valdez, appears to have died when he plunged from the fourth floor of the Hotel Del Rey. But the mother is not convinced.

She reminded officials that her son was nearly blind without glasses and that a photo published in the Spanish-language daily Diario Extra does not show any eyeglasses associated with the body on the sidewalk on the west side of the hotel.

Mrs. Tucker said her son had been working at the Monkey Bar in Playa Hermosa in Guanacasta. The woman said that the operator of the bar told her a different story than that released by the police and the hotel.

Mrs. Tucker said that her son was staying at the hotel in the same room as a coworker and that the coworker told the operator of the Playa Hermosa bar that he found Valdez dead in a second-story room. The pair was booked on the second floor, the hotel confirmed the day of the death. The hotel is well known and located at Avenida 1 and Calle 9.

Mrs. Tucker wonders how her son got to the fourth floor if he was dead on the second floor.

The mother said that her son was scheduled to fly home from Costa Rica the following day.

The mother wants a fuller investigation and a complete report of the autopsy. She said that she learned that her son had bruises on the face and hands indicative of a fight. She said she was not contacted by police when the death took place.

At the very least, the man’s death was unexpected. According to a hotel spokesman, Valdez had been drinking and for some reason went to the fourth floor and began tearing into personal possessions left there by another person. Two hotel security guards throught they had calmed him down but while they were checking a broken lock on the hotel room door, the man bolted from the bed where he was sitting and flung himself through the open window to his death, according to the hotel spokesman.

A hotel spokesman attributed that action to the effects of alcohol. A Judicial Investigating Organization spokesman characterized the death as a suicide.
 
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Saturday

Independence Day bash
Expats in Costa Rica will celebrate the country’s Independence Day with a big party at Pueblo Antiguo. Independence Day is Sept. 15, but the party for expats will be earlier. The sponsoring organization is the Association of Residents of Costa Rica. The event is open to the public, and foreigners in Costa Rica are encouraged to invite Costa Ricans. Tickets are $15 for adults and $9 for children from 5 to 12. But the tickets must be purchased before the event.  Information is available at 233-8068.

Sunday

Fun run against cancer
The Canadian Embassy and the Asociación Lucha Contra el Cáncer Infantil are staging the Terry Fox Fun Run in Parque La Sabana, San José, starting at 8:30 a.m. Sunday. The purpose is to raise funds for the National Children's Hospital and cancer research. Individuals are being asked to make a donation of 2,000 colons which will include a commemorative T-shirt of the event, a snack and a participation certificate. Information: 242-4433.

Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart
jostuart@racsa.co.cr

Giving Directions in Costa Rica 

Another new study is out. It probably cost tens of thousands of dollars to come to a conclusion I could have told them for far less: people who live in the suburbs walk less than people who live in cities and, therefore, tend to weigh more. The research was done in the United States where many suburbs don’t even have sidewalks. 

I am not sure what communities surrounding San José are considered suburbs, but I have friends who live in Escazú, Moravia, Santa Ana and Rohrmoser, and I am quite sure they do not walk as much as I do living in the middle of the city. Especially those who have cars. I am talking about expats only. 

Costa Ricans, as a group, probably walk far more than North Americans, and I would wager that European expats walk more than we do, too. They are apt to come from compact cities where walking is a feasible mode of transportation. I walk more here than I ever did in California. 

I suppose, in Costa Rica, one reason you might walk more living in the city is that if you grow tired, it is easy to catch a bus or hail a taxi. In the outlying suburbs, both buses and taxis are less plentiful, and even if you find a taxi, how do you explain to the taxista where you want to go? Few streets and roads have signs and few taxistas know the names anyway. You have to use landmarks and, let's face it, there are more landmarks in the city. 

Although I live on a street that has a name and used to have a street sign, I have to give directions to a taxi driver starting with "de la Casa Matute Gomez." The Casa Matute Gomez is a mansion on the corner of 10th Avenue and 21st Street that once was owned by a Venezuelan dictator of that name. He is long dead. 

Legend has it that when he fled his country, the pilot of the plane containing him, his family, servants and worldly possessions, said there was too much weight to gain altitude, so Gomez threw the maid out of the plane. I think that story is apocryphal just to illustrate what a mean man he was. 

The fact is that when the whole family had finally died, the home was left to a family retainer, a former maid. She sold it and it became a nightclub and restaurant. I had lunch there once in the garden and found it delightful, but it soon concentrated on being a nightclub and bar for young people and then there was a murder and the police closed it down. That was several years ago. It is now up for sale. It is still a landmark as Matute Gomez. 

It is not unusual for landmarks that no longer exist to still be used as markers. The "Coca Cola" is probably the most famous. It used to be a Coca Cola factory, long ago closed, but still used to get you to one of the cities main bus depots. 

I have become a Tica in that I have invented my own landmark that I give taxistas. When I first came to Costa Rica I opened an account with the Banco Anglo, one of the national banks here. It was a wonderful bank. They paid high interest on both my colon and dollar accounts, the tellers were nice and the bank was conveniently downtown. 

Then there was a scandal with millions of dollars having been lost or embezzled, supposedly by the bank officers, and the bank closed. At the time many customers panicked and stood in long lines to get their money out. I had been told that national banks here insure their customers’ money the same as banks did in the States so I didn’t stand in line. My money was transferred to the Banco de Costa Rica and the main bank across from the national theater was closed. It now houses another government agency, but it is still the Banco Anglo to me. 

When I take a taxi to the National Theater, to insure the taxista doesn’t go six extra blocks to park next to the theater (they will do that), I say "Al lado este del Banco Anglo antiguo." (The east side of the old Anglo Bank). That way they have to turn on that street, which incidentally is Third Street, but I don’t think any taxista knows that. 

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Priest says 10 supporters of Virgin beat him up
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A priest who is the spokesman for the Roman Catholic Episcopal conference said he was attacked by about 10 men at his Escazú home Wednesday night.

The cleric blamed the attack on the Roman Catholic Church’s position on a reported series of visitations by the Virgin Mary at a dwelling in San Isidro de Grecia.

The priest said that his brother also was beaten by the men and showed a television audience his bruised neck where men grabbed him. The priest is the most visible person for the church in the controversy.

A spokesman for the group known as the Santuario de la Virgen Reina y Señora de Todo lo Creado denied any responsibility for the attack. 

The sanctuary came into the news this week because a priest there, U.S. citizen Alfredo Prado, 73, was singled out by Casa Alianza as a man who had been let go by a Texas parish. Casa Alainza is a

child welfare organization. Prado denied allegations of improper behavior Thursday.

The allegations are not supported by independent evidence, but the Catholic church here immediately disavowed the activities at the sanctuary, and immigration officials called in the priest for an interview Thursday.

An official explained to the priest that he was not allowed to work because he was here as a tourist. If the priest chooses to seek an immigration status so he can stay here, he will have to provide a police record. Officials are believed to be checking his U.S. police record anyway.

The allegations against the priest blurred when the church got into the act. They said he was not authorized to conduct his priestly duties. The sanctuary has long been an embarrassment for the Catholic Church here and its history goes back at least three years, long before the priest arrived six months ago. Traditionally the church is uncomfortable with miracles, particularly those that intrude on the miracles the church has verified.


 
Security guard law
wins initial OK

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A proposed law to stiffen the requirements of private security firms got approval on first reading in the Asamblea Nacional Thursday.

The law would set out requirements for private security gurads and create a new government agency, the Dirección de Servicios Privados de Segurdad to administer the rules. The agency would be under the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública.

Among other obligations, a security guard would have to provide a police report, and the firm hiring him would be reponsible. Critics have claimed the measure sets up the possibility of private armies in Costa Rica, but the law holds the number of secuirty guards in any firm to 10 percent of the membership of the Fuerza Pública, the ministry’s first reponse unit.

Second reading and likely final passage is Monday.

Shootout kills one
and injures three

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A man walked into a Pavas bar, ironically called "Los Amigos," Wednesday night and announced he was going to kill an individual there. A shootout took place in which three persons were shot, one fatally.

Dead is Asdrubal Aguilar López, 38, identified as a taxi driver. Police said he was in the bar in the company of a man and a woman when the presumed assasin entered. Aguilar somehow left the bar and managed to go about 150 feet before dying with three bullets in his body.

Back at the bar, a second individual named Aguilar, Luis Aguilar López, 46, and a woman named Hilda Rodríguez, 38, were found wounded.

Also wounded was a man identified as Torres, 36, a man police identified as the man who shot Aguilar. The bar is just about 100 yards from a police booth.

$6 billion in bonds
grabbed in drug raid

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

LONDON, England — Authorities say they have seized $6 billion in suspected U.S. bonds after investigating a Colombian drug and money laundering cartel. Officials are conducting inquiries to see if the bonds are genuine. 

Britain's National Crime Squad said Thursday that police confiscated the bonds during raids in and around London in July and August. Thirteen people, in Britain as well as South America, have been arrested in connection with the case. 

The crime squad also said authorities seized $11 million in other assets, 55,000 ecstasy tablets, ecstasy powder, 15 kilograms of amphetamine paste and cocaine during the operation. 

They say the drug ring allegedly sent narcotics from Colombia to Europe through countries such as Ecuador and Mexico. Authorities declined to identify the drug cartel most affected by the operation, saying more arrests elsewhere in Europe are planned. 

The director of the investigating unit of Colombia's attorney-general's office, describes the raids as an important victory. Guillermo Anibal Ortega says they represent the most overwhelming blow against drug trafficking and money laundering.  Ortega also said Britain and Colombia shared intelligence for the last six months.

Signature firm draws
government attack

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

CARACAS, Venezuela — The government has called for a criminal probe into a firm that collected signatures for a petition that demands a referendum on President Hugo Chavez's rule.

Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel Wednesday asked state prosecutors to investigate the funding and activities of the non-profit Sumate company. Sumate coordinated the nationwide collection of more than three million signatures for the petition.

Rangel accuses Sumate of operating without legal authorization when it collected the signatures and of misusing more than $281,000 in donated funds. He also alleges that the company failed to disclose to the public how it spent the money. Sumate has refused to comment on the allegations.

Venezuela's new National Electoral Council has the task of verifying the signatures on the opposition petition and then setting a poll date if all legal conditions are met.

President Chavez's opponents say he has ruined the economy and is trying to install Cuban-style communism in the oil-rich nation. Chavez insists he is working to improve the lives of the country's impoverished majority.
 

Colombian singer
big Grammy winner

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

MIAMI, Fla. — Colombian singer-songwriter Juanes won five awards, including the Album of the Year, at the fourth annual Latin Grammy Awards show here Wednesday.

The entertainer took all the awards he was nominated for. His runaway hit "Un Dia Normal" (A Normal Day) took the Album of the Year award, while his solo "Es Por Ti" (It's For You) won for Song of the Year and Record of the Year. Juanes also won the Best Rock Vocal Album and Best Rock Song awards for "Mala Gente" (Bad People). 

The Miami-based multinational group, Bacilos, won Best Pop Album by a Group for "Caraluna."

The show's most rousing moment came at the opening, when entertainers paid tribute to the late salsa legend Celia Cruz, who died in July in New Jersey of brain cancer. Cruz left Cuba in 1960, one year after Fidel Castro seized power, but she was never allowed to return to her homeland.

As in years past, the Latin Grammys were dogged by political differences between the United States and Cuba.  Many Cuban-based artists nominated for awards could not travel to Miami because of visa complications. 

U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher says their visa applications did not arrive in time to be processed.  Cuba's deputy culture minister, Abel Acosta, accused the show organizers of bowing to pressure from Miami-based Cuban exiles and deliberately preventing the Cuban musicians from attending the ceremonies.  Latin Recording Academy officials were not immediately available for comment.

Hurrican threatening
area around Bermuda

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Hurricane Fabian is headed for Bermuda, but its effects are being felt as far away as the Caribbean and the United States.

The Bermuda Weather Service is urging residents to prepare quickly for Fabian, whose nearly 200 kph (120 mph) winds are expected to pass near or over the islands in the next day.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center is also warning that the most powerful storm of the season will continue to send dangerous surf conditions to the Northern Leeward Islands, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. Large swells from Fabian are expected to spread along the U.S. east coast Thursday. 

Fox is getting rid
of his image guy

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

MEXICO CITY, México — Mexican President Vicente Fox says his public relations chief is resigning. President Fox issued a statement saying Francisco Javier Ortiz will leave his post Sept. 16. 

Fox said he has invited Ortiz to stay in the government and become the head of the Commission to Promote Tourism. But, it is not clear whether Ortiz will accept the offer. Ortiz was the president's coordinator of public opinion and image. He has declined to give reasons for leaving the job.

The announcement comes one day after President Fox replaced Energy Secretary Ernesto Martens and Environment Secretary Victor Lichtinger.

The energy minister will be replaced by Felipe Calderon, head of the country's public works bank, Banobras. Lichtinger's position will be filled by Alberto Cardenas, the director of the country's forestry programs.
 
Professional Directory
A.M. Costa Rica's professional directory is where business people who wish to reach the English-speaking community may invite responses. If you are interested in being represented here, please contact the editor.


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Lawyers

KEARNEY-LAWSON & Asoc.
      Lic. Gregory Kearney Lawson, 
Costa Rica/U.S.A. Attorneys at Law
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*Investments  *Corporations 
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PACHECO MARIN Y ASOCIADOS
Attorneys at Law

We specialize in 
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Corporate Law and Real Estate
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Legal Counseling

Please contact us at crlexs@racsa.co.cr
or call at 255-1592  Fax 233-1598

ALL E MAILS WILL BE ANSWERED IN LESS THAN 24 HOURS IN BUSINESS DAYS.


Arcelio Hernández Mussio, Lic.

Attorney at Law & Notary Public
Real Estate Transactions
Litigation

Memberships: Costa Rican Chamber of Real Estate Brokers
Colegio de Abogados (CR Bar Association)
Association of Official Translators & Interpreters
Asociación Italiana de Mutuo Socorro

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Cell: 365-3088
Fax:  259-7197



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Learn how to best protect your interests in the Villalobos case. Explore your options at
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Also, we invite you to join one of the most active discussion groups on the case.  Find out what people who care are saying. Join at irccr-subscribe@yahoogroups.com

232-8/16/03

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Trade and terror not on agenda for special summit
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. —  The Special Summit of the Americas, to be held in Mexico in January, will focus on economic growth with equity, poverty reduction, social development, and democratic governance in the Western Hemisphere, say officials from the U.S. State Department and the Organization of American States involved in planning the unique event.

The officials said in separate interviews that two hot-button regional issues — terrorism and trade — will not be the focus at the Mexico summit, which is described as a transitional meeting between the last regular Summit of the Americas in Quebec City, Canada, in 2001 and the next regular summit scheduled for Argentina in 2005. President Bush and the leaders of the region's 33 other democracies are expected to attend the Mexico event.

The State Department official said terrorism will not be a major theme at the special summit in Mexico because "everyone is already working very hard" on that issue and "knows what needs to be done" on confronting the global problem.

Nor will trade be a major focus at the Mexico summit, said the official, because negotiations to establish a Free Trade Area of the Americas are already in progress, "and there's a feeling that other things" on the regional agenda need to be discussed at greater length in Mexico. 

The free trade area would create the largest free-trade zone in the world stretching from Canada to Chile. Negotiations are scheduled to be completed by January 2005, with the trade pact entering into force that same year.

The region's trade ministers are scheduled to meet in Miami Nov. 20 to 21 for the eighth round of FTAA negotiations. The United States and Brazil are co-chairing the final phase of the negotiations.

The Miami trade ministerial will be preceded in that city by the 8th Americas Business Forum Nov. 17 to 19, where businessmen from throughout the hemisphere have the opportunity to examine the status of free trade area negotiations and offer their own recommendations to the process. The former U.S. permanent representative to the OAS, Luis Lauredo, is executive director of the FTAA Trade Ministerial and the Americas Business Forum.

Lauredo also served as executive director of the first Summit of the Americas, held in Miami in 1994, and was the U.S. coordinator for the 2001 Quebec summit.

Irene Klinger, executive secretary of the Summits of the Americas Secretariat at the OAS, said the objective of the Mexico event will be to bring together the 11 to 12 hemispheric leaders who were not in their present positions during the last Summit of the Americas in Quebec City.

Klinger said the "old-timers" already in office "felt it was very important to meet with the new heads of state to discuss issues of concern and to develop a joint vision and shared values about major threats to the hemisphere."

The OAS Secretariat is responsible for acting as the "institutional memory" for the Summit of the Americas process and for performing preparatory work for future summits, Klinger said. Her office also chairs the so-called "Joint Summit Working Group," which brings together international and inter-American agencies in support of summit mandates. 

The State Department official, interviewed separately from Klinger, said the Mexico event is a result of the conviction "that a lot has happened" in the region since the Quebec summit, in addition to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks against the United States.

The region, along with the United States, "has gone through some very difficult economic times, the official said. "So there was a feeling that it was important to get leaders together to talk about how to reconfirm the commitment to the hemispheric agenda, talk about how to move forward, and maybe look at some short-term things to be done before the next Summit of the Americas" in Argentina.

The State Department official characterized the event in Mexico as being a more subdued gathering, "sort of a business meeting" with less pageantry than is usually encountered at regular summits. However, he cautioned that any event that involves the president of the United States is by definition "never going to be a low-key affair." John Maisto, U.S. permanent representative to the OAS, also serves as the national summit coordinator for the United States.

The official said that the exact dates and site for the Mexico event will probably be announced at the Sept. 22 meeting in Washington of the Summit of the Americas Implementation Review Group. The group holds about four regular meetings each year and was created following the first summit in Miami to monitor summit implementation and prepare reports for the region's foreign ministers.
The expectation is that the special summit will be held at a Mexican location other than the national capital of Mexico City.


 
Hollywood celebrities oppose Peruvian gas project
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

HOLLYWOOD, Calif. — Several celebrities are urging the Bush administration to block funding for a Peruvian gas project they say will harm the Amazon rainforest and native communities. 

Rock star Sting and actors Ruben Blades and Susan Sarandon were among several celebrities who made the plea Thursday in a letter to President Bush. 

The entertainers asked the president to "ensure that our tax dollars not contribute to the wholesale destruction of one of the planet's most biodiverse and remote rainforests." The celebrities also said 
 

they will oppose the project until officials take steps to protect forest reserves and natives. 

At issue is the Camisea gas project, which the Peruvian government is counting on to boost growth and create thousands of jobs. An Argentine-led consortium wants to develop the project in which gas would be taken from deposits in southern Peru to Lima and on to a marine terminal for export. 

Late last month, the U.S. Export-Import Bank rejected a $214 million Camisea loan guarantee, citing environmental concerns. Next week, the Inter-American Development Bank is expected to vote on a multi-million-dollar loan for the project.

European Union condemns rights abuses in Cuba
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

BRUSSELS, Belgium — The European Parliament has adopted a resolution condemning what it describes as the "flagrant" violation of civil and political rights in Cuba, and calling for the immediate release of all political prisoners in the country.

In a statement Thursday following a formal vote, the Union said it deplores the recent deterioration of the human rights situation in Cuba, involving the arrests and imprisonment after summary trials of more than 70 dissidents and human rights activists. The statement also denounced the resumption of the death penalty in Cuba.

Members also condemned the 44-year-old U.S embargo of Cuba, favouring instead a policy aimed at the adoption of positive measures such as the signing and application of international human rights treaties and encouraging both authorities and democratic opposition to work together for a peaceful democratic transition. Such a policy should include incentives such as generous cooperation programs, so as to improve respect for human rights at all levels, the resolution said.

The statement reiterates the organization's earlier denunciation of Cuba's crackdown against dissidents and is in line with the international outcry against Cuba's policies following the recent arrests and incarceration of pro-democracy advocates by the regime of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. The worldwide response to those events included condemnations by the U.S. Congress, the Bush Administration, and such international organizations as the United Nations and the Organization of American States.

The U.S. House of Representatives, for example, passed a resolution April 8 that condemned "systematic" human rights violations in Cuba, and called for the immediate release of all political prisoners and for free elections.

The U.S. State Department has characterized the summary trials of the Cuban dissidents as Stalinist tactics played out in a kangaroo court.

In addition, the 15-member community of Caribbean nations known as Caricom issued its own statement in May that called for clemency for the Cuban dissidents, who were jailed on charges of alleged crimes against state security. 

The European Union said, meanwhile, that as a result of Cuba's actions, it has decided to limit high-level governmental visits to Cuba and to reduce the profile of Union member states' participation in Cuban cultural events. There are 15 member states in the Union. There are 10 more in the process of becoming members and three more nations that have applied.

The statement also deplored Cuba's decision to reject aid from the European Union. Castro said in July he would no longer accept such aid after he accused that body of supporting U.S. policy against his regime. 

The European Union also said Castro's lack of economic and social reforms are making daily life harder for Cubans.

Cuban dissident leader Oswaldo Paya Sardinas will be invited to make an official visit to Europe "as soon as possible," the statement said.


 
NFL opens the 2003 football season with big show
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. National Football League kicked off its 2003 regular season Thursday with a huge music concert and celebration on the Mall in front of the U.S. Capitol here. The combination of American football, top-name music stars and free admission proved to be irresistible.

Dark rainy skies over Washington Thursday afternoon and evening didn't deter thousands and thousands of people from flocking to the Mall in Washington to celebrate this year's start of the regular football season. 

The National Football League and other sponsors teamed up to make it a gala event, with a music concert featuring Aretha Franklin, Aerosmith, Mary J. Blige, and Britney Spears commanding everyone's attention before the evening kickoff of the Washington Redskins-New York Jets football game. The Redskins later won 16-13 on a last second, 33-yard field goal.

The concert was in honor of U.S. servicemen on duty in Iraq and around the globe and to highlight those in uniform, they were given the very best seats right in front of the stage. The general 

public's area was three city blocks away from the stage, but to make the concert visible for everyone, huge video screens and stacks of loudspeakers at intervals down the Mall showed all the on-stage action.

A fireworks display fired from behind the stage was there to add yet another colorful splash, a welcome contrast to the gloomy weather in Washington Thursday. The rain-soaked Mall ensured that everyone stayed on their feet, sitting down meant being in a puddle of mud.

Security was understandably tight in this post-9-11 age. Hours before the concert began, the entire Mall was sealed off and swept by security teams. Then, people were allowed to come in after a search of their belongings. Authorities kept helicopters in the air to provide a watchful eye over the area. 

Not everyone, however, was thrilled with the idea of this show. Some people and groups objected to turning over the Mall to a blatantly commercial enterprise, despite the attention bestowed on American servicemen and women. Indeed, those huge video screens passed the time leading up to the show by endlessly running the commercial advertising of the sponsoring companies.