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These stories were published Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2005, in Vol. 5, No. 176
Jo Stuart
About us

Storm refugee finds time to study Spanish
By Jesse Froehling
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The day before Hurricane Katrina hit, Jennifer Elizabeth Payne, her family and much of the rest of southern Louisiana evacuated their homes and fled to the surrounding states. 

Miss Payne went with her family to their former hometown of Birmingham, Ala. A day later, the hurricane hit. 

Miss Payne, now in Costa Rica, hasn't seen her home since the storm, but she's seen pictures.  It looks like it was leveled and must be rebuilt, she said.  All that's left is some tile from the bathroom floor. 

Two days after the hurricane hit, she followed plans she had made and came to Costa Rica to study Spanish.  Her plane ticket home is in two months, but she's not sure she's going to leave.  She and her family decided it might be best if she waits down here while the Gulf Coast region puts itself back together again, she said.  By virtue of her birth to Costa Rican parents, she is a native here because she was adopted to the United States nearly at birth.

When she was a 5 years old, her family moved from Birmingham to Slidell, La., along Lake Ponchartrain, the body of water that flooded New Orleans.  Before she went to college, Libby lived with her mother Marryl and her stepfather Robert.  Dr. Weiss, as she affectionately calls him, is a family practitioner. 

She has three stepbrothers and two stepsisters.  Two of her brothers are physicians as well. 

She likes singer Garth Brooks, lands heavily on her R's when she talks and spices her sentences with a healthy dose of “y'alls.”  She was a high-school cheerleader, a huge fan of the Louisiana State University Tigers football team and a biological science major at LSU.  She said she hopes to become the latest physician in the family and has applied to the medical schools at the Louisiana State Universities at Shreveport and New Orleans.  By all standards she is as American as a 1956 Ford Thunderbird.

Jennifer Elizabeth Payne

Julio Salazar, a San José language school owner, has known Libby since she was born here.  She remained close with him and his family throughout her life and visited them periodically in Moravia.  Now she lives with them.  Monday, she began learning Spanish at his Universal de Idiomas.

Back home, her friends from Slidell are spread throughout the southeastern United States.  Everybody she knows is alive and well and waiting to return to Slidell to start over again, she reported  Sooner or later Miss Payne will too to seek her medical degree.  She has a ticket home in two months but isn't sure if she will be on that flight. 

Monday, officials in New Orleans and the surrounding area began letting residents return home for a few days to salvage some of the items in their homes but officials estimate it could take months before the city is habitable again.  

American Legion plans fund raiser for victims
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

American Legion members here will hold a charity Thanksgiving dinner to raise funds for victims of Hurricane Katrina in the United States.

In addition, American Legion Post #10 has pledged $500 to the Salvation Army Katrina survivors fund.

Howard Singer, acting commander of American Legion Post #10, announced the fund raiser. The legion members usually have a Thanksgiving dinner, but the change this
year is the charitable aspect. Any profits will go to the hurricane survivors fund. The community is invited. The event will be at the El Castillo Country Club in Heredia starting at 12:30 p.m. Nov. 24.

The menu is turkey and all the trimmings. The donation for adults is 8,500 colons (about $17.50) with children under 12 paying half price, said Singer. He may be contacted at 266-0089 for reservations.

Singer also said that both Legion posts in the valley, his, the Raymond  Edison Jones Jr. Post #10, and Post #16 have voted to merge.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2005, Vol. 5, No. 176

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Presidents ask OAS
to help Nicaragua

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Nicaragua faces the possibility of civil unrest, and Central American heads of state, including President Abel Pacheco, held an emergency meeting in Managua Monday to support Enrique Bolaños, the president there.

The Central American leaders asked the Organization of American States to intervene in the dispute that pits Bolaños against both the right wing Partido Liberal Constitutionalista headed by Arnoldo Alemán and the Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional of Daniel Ortega.

The two parties, which control the national congress are poised to strip Bolaños of much of his power. Bolaños and his supporters consider this equivalent to a coup d'etat.

Meanwhile, the  Corte Suprema de Justicia has reaffirmed the conditional liberty granted to Alemán, who has been sentenced to 20 years for corruption. The justices who voted for him are members of his party. Bolaños and the United States want to see him in jail.

Action by the Organization of American States, if it chooses to act, could include sending troops to Nicaragua.
Human rights confab
being held here

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Representatives from all over Latin America are in Costa Rica for a human rights conference this week.

The three-day conference called “Taller Regional sobre Democracia, Derechos Humanos y Estado de Derecho,” is dedicated to “analyzing and proposing methods to exceed the primary obstacles and difficulties that impede the consolidation of democracy in Latin America and the Spanish-speaking Caribbean,” said the Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores y Culto.

Delegates are discussing the access to justice, social corruption and situations in which politics and security conflict, the ministry said.

The U, N, High Commission on Human Rights, the ministery,  the Instituto Interamericano de Derechos Humanos and U, N, Development Program all organized the meeting. 

Delegates from Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Costa Rica, Chile, Cuba, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, the Dominican Republic, Uruguay and Venezuela are  participating as well as several experts and representatives of non-governmental organizations.  

San José tourism
on list for discussion

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Organizers of a planned architecture conference have added tourism in San José to their list of subjects to discuss.  The conference, which runs Thursday to Saturday also has Guanacaste as a tourist destination, investing in development and the national development plan through 2012 on its list of topics to discuss.

Many well known exhibitors from throughout Latin America are invited to the conference to share with participants their experiences and touch on international themes, said a rfelease.

Tourism is the primary theme because it is now so indispensable to Costa Rica's economy, the group said.   Entrance is 15,000 colons for the general public, 12,000 colons for architects and 8,000 colons for students.  The conference will be in the Colegios Federado de Ingenieros y de Arquitectos.  For more information, call 202-3940 or 202-3900 ext 4016 or E-mail mmzeledon@cfia.or.cr.

Our readers' opinions
She's not troubled
Costa Rica didn't help

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I am puzzled and, frankly, appalled by your story which criticizes the Costa Rican government for not offering assistance to the United States in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and, at the same time, praises the Nicoya hotel operator's self-centered offer to provide a week's free housing to a few wealthy Americans in hopes that they might decide to relocate to Costa Rica.

I am an American who has lived in Costa Rica for only three months, but I hope to make this country my permanent home.  I have many friends who have lost their homes and jobs in New Orleans, but they are among the lucky ones who had the means and ability to evacuate in time. The plight of those less fortunate is appalling, and I am confident that many Costa Ricans have privately made donations to relief organizations working to help them.

I would have been grateful to hear that the Costa Rican government had offered some assistance to the United States, but I am not in the least bit troubled by the fact that it has not done so.  The Costa Rican government provides assistance, directly or indirectly, every day to the many American who have chosen to live here, too many of whom take advantage of their ability to avoid paying any significant taxes and then complain about the poor infrastructure in the country.

The Costa Rican people offer assistance every day to Americans who live or visit here, and their kindness and generosity are legendary.

For these everyday bits of assistance I feel very grateful.  I do not feel any such gratitude toward a hotel operator who, it seems to me, is cynically using a human tragedy as a means to promote his own economic interests.
Rebecca Baitty
Sámara, Guanacaste
EDITOR'S NOTE: We believe that the offer of housing by George Perrochet was sincere.

He calls writer a zealot

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Well Mr. or Ms.  Pat Schmit of Pérez Zeledon, looking at your personal thoughts in Monday's A.M. Costa Rica, you are evidently an anti-America, anti-Bush zealot. Why not go all the way and accuse President Bush for starting the hurricane also.

Marvin Powell
Bocas del Toro
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Police will be out in force for World Cup Preliminary
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The head of the Fuerza Pública has reminded soccer fans that the encounter in Tibás Wednesday is just a game and not a war, but his units are preparing for war.

More than 400 officers, including the Unidad de Intervención Policial, will be on the job inside and outside Estadio Ricardo Saprissa.

This is match day 8 in the World Cup eliminations, and Trinidad and Tobago  is being served up to the Costa Rican national team.

Trinidad is coming off a 3-2 victory over Guatemala Saturday while the Tico team defeated Panamá 3-1. Costa Rica now has 10 points towards qualifying for a World Cup berth. The way the North, Central American and Caribbean Conference shapes up is that
the U.S. team is guaranteed a World Cup trip. México is almost certain to be at least No. 2 in the league and win a berth also. So Costa Rica is competing with Trinidad and Guatemala for the third berth. Then the two remaining teams will slug it out for the right to meet an Asian team as the fourth-pace finisher and a possible World Cup trip.

In short, Tico spirits are high, and the Fuerza Pública head, Comisario Wálter Navarro,, is warning fans against carrying anything to the game that could be thrown on the field, such as glass bottles. He also warned against flags and banners that had wooden staffs or similar. Police will be inspecting each fan as they enter the stadium.

In the event of a Tico victory, fans will find heavy police presence at critical spots in the city, such as the Fuente de Hispanidad in Los Yoses, a traditional celebration site.

Children's Day is turning into a weekend for youngsters at museums
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Children and their families have plenty of places to celebrate the national Día de los Niños. The day is Friday but events are spread out into the weekend.

This is a big day for youngsters in Costa Rica, and each expects appropriate gifts from adults in their life.

The Museo Nacional is holding a workshop Sunday at 10 a.m. where children can learn to make kites, play chess and sculpt pots.  Then at 11:30, the museum will have an exhibition of kid-sized, kid-proof cars that children can play on.  At noon, Don Mágico will perform magic tricks for an hour and at 1 p.m., the theater group La Cigarra will perform “Tio Conejo.”

People wishing to participate should arrive early because space is limited, said a museum announcement.  Entrance is 500 colons, but children younger than 12, senior citizens and students enter free.  For more information, call 258-1356.

The Museo de Arte Costarricense is having an “educational fiesta,” Friday from 8 a.m. to a little after
noon.  Planned activities include more magic tricks, dancing lessons and a performance of “La ilusión de Soñar,” among others.  For more information on this celebration, call 222-7155 or 222-7932.

For those that would rather listen, storytelling is planned at the Museo de Formas, Espacios y Sonidos at 9 a.m. Monday.  Entrance is free but the museum asks that people RSVP at 222-9462.

For the artists, the Museo Histórico Cultural Juan Santamaría is planning a painting course for 6 to 15 children Saturday.  The Embassy of Taiwan is sponsoring the session. s For more information, call 442-1838.

And finally, the Centro Cultural e Histórico José Figueres Ferrer is having a two-day celebration starting at 10:30 a.m. Thursday.  Kattia Muñoz is scheduled to tell stories.  Friday, at 4:30, the centro will show “Journey to the Center of the Earth” and “Around the World in 80 Days.” 

Both films are based on novels by Jules Verne.  For more information, call 447-2178. 

Rogert Noriega reflects on U.S. accomplishments
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The Bush administration's agenda for Latin America has achieved some notable successes in recent years, although serious regional challenges remain, says Roger Noriega, assistant secretary of State for Western Hemisphere affairs.

As he prepares to leave the State Department to rejoin the private sector, Noriega was interviewed  Friday, offering his assessment of developments in the Western Hemisphere during his government tenure.

Noriega cited the completion of the Inter-American Democratic Charter, approved unanimously by member nations of the Organization of American States in September 2001, as a signal accomplishment.  The Inter-American Democratic Charter declares that "the peoples of the Americas have a right to democracy and their governments have an obligation to promote and defend it."

He also pointed to the Bush administration's willingness to link its trade policy with concrete programs to strengthen democratic institutions and promote good governance in the Western Hemisphere.

Expanding free trade throughout the hemisphere is an important goal for the United States, he said.  According to Noriega, steady progress on that front is already in evidence, even as the United States continues to work toward the eventual establishment of a hemisphere-wide free-trade zone.  Meanwhile, "the fact that we have trade promotion authority," granted by Congress to President Bush in 2002, has made it possible for the United States to negotiate free-trade agreements with the Andean countries, with Chile, and with Central America and the Dominican Republic, he said.

When Bush and other U.S. officials travel to Buenos Aires, Argentina, in November to attend the 2006 Summit of the Americas, "our contribution to that is not just showing up," said Noriega.  "The United States has a practical agenda" for the alleviation of poverty in the region, among other urgent objectives.

On the subject of Colombia, which has suffered for decades from a civil war being waged by armed groups
attempting to seize power from democratically elected leaders, Noriega suggested that U.S. support for the administration of Colombian President Alvaro Uribe is proving effective in helping authorities extend the government's presence into previously lawless areas.  "I think we're turning the corner there, in a meaningful way," he said.

The main challenges in the region are "to deliver good governance to people, to extend democracy so that poor people can participate, to hold free and fair elections, [and] to provide leadership that will deliver the benefits of democracy to everyone," Noriega said.  "There is a general weakness of democratic institutions that has to be addressed.  Also, countries [throughout the hemisphere] need to open up their economies, and make it easier to open a business."

Of course, "these are hard things" to achieve, but "the United States will help countries that help themselves," he said.  "Fortunately, we do have partners in this hemisphere to work with" on all of these issues.

With regard to anti-American feelings in the region, which many analysts fear are on the rise, Noriega said: "I think it's important to recognize that our foreign policy in the Middle East doesn't enjoy a lot of sympathy [around the hemisphere], but we're doing important work there, and we need to do a better job of explaining that to our friends" in the Americas.

As people throughout the Western Hemisphere increasingly recognize "our abiding commitment to the democratic model, to a free and fair trading system," perceptions about the United States are likely to become more favorable, he predicted.

Although "there's a lot of unfinished business here on the political and economic fronts, it's important to note that we've made real progress," said Noriega.  "For example, in Bolivia, we've seen gains on literacy and on reducing infant mortality." 

The success of U.S.-funded programs in Bolivia and elsewhere in the region serve as a reminder that "President Bush has an energetic, vibrant strategy in the Americas" that focuses on improving the quality of life for people throughout the hemisphere, he said.

Jo Stuart
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