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These stories were published Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2004, in Vol. 4, No. 177
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Saray Ramírez Vindas/A.M. Costa Rica
Abraham Ramírez celebrates the 2003 Día del Niño by whacking a piñata.
Kids
It's their day
this Thursday

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Thursday is el Día del Niño in Costa Rica. So if you have kids in your extended family, you better be thinking of small gifts.

Parties will be the order of the day at school and in many homes. The ever-present piñata will highlight such parties. Youngsters whack the papier-mâché figure and mountains of candy drop to the floor.

Don’t get in the way.

Costa Ricans value their children highly, so the day is an important one. Even parents, remembering their own childhood, get a kick out of the day.

Clever parents sometimes use the day as a buildup for Christmas: "Here’s your present, but you better be good if you want lots of presents at Christmas!"

Children’s activists will be quick to point out on the day that the Asamblea Nacional still has not passed several law that are designed to strengthen protection for children.


 
Reader gives details of Pacheco's nomination
Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Your story of Monday about ex-president being sucked into Caja scandal contained an error, for some, minor, for others, major. The story said "Calderón is of the same party as President Pacheco (correct) and used his political weight to get Pacheco elected." (Incorrect) 

Pacheco got the party nomination in a party coup orchestrated by Luis Fishman, ex-ministro de Seguridad, who had gotten on the wrong side of party owner Rafael Angel Calderón and became a party outcast. Fishman convinced Pacheco, then an extremely popular homespun television figure, that they could have a party revolt and take away the nomination from Calderón's hand-picked nominee, Rodolfo Méndez, former transport minister.

The coup was successful, and Pacheco got the party nomination. From that point on, Calderón, simmering over that fact that someone would dare to challenge his control over the party, never once publicly endorsed Pacheco during 

the election campaign — and that is where the error lies in your reporting. 

Most of the party did throw their weight into getting Pacheco elected. Why not? After all, Pacheco was the party's candidate, although he was not Calderón's.

On a side note, What was Fishman's personal aim in this coup? To get to be the country's first vice president. But Pacheco, now knowing something about Fishman's ability for political maneuvering, put a firewall between himself and the coup originator by giving Fishman the post of SECOND vice president. 

Furthermore, Pacheco did not allow Fishman, now second vice president, to have office space in the Presidential House nor to have any vice presidential duties. Successful coups always leaves someone simmering.

Walter Fila 
Ciudad Colon
EDITOR’S NOTE: We stand corrected.
 
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Riteve continues stiff inspections despite accord
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

And you thought that the truckers had forced the government to the wall and won concessions on vehicle inspection.

Well, it will not be that easy. Riteve S y C, the company that holds the concession to conduct vehicle inspections said Monday that the changes in the Manual de Revisión Técnica first have to be approved by the Consejo de Transporte Público. And then the changes have to be published in the official newspaper La Gaceta.

It would not be enough for, say, Javier Chaves, the minister of Obras Pública y Transportes to call up someone and just say; "Lighten up!"

So that means that despite nine days of social unrest, blockades of most major highways by truckers and a final agreement at Casa Presidencial, nothing has changed at Riteve. And vehicles being inspected now will be held to the higher standard.

Government officials agreed to eliminate or change more than 100 rules for vehicle inspections. They said they would not budge on safety items like brakes and lights.

In a news release Monday Riteve said that it was continuing with its program "Avoid rejection" that encourages drivers to get their vehicles fixed prior to inspection.

The company has decided to start charging for a reinspection. For automobile owners, that is about 4,000 colons, or about $9 on top of the initial $18 inspection fee.

Truck drivers pay a little more.

The company also reported that its inspection station in Liberia would be closed much of today because of electrical work being done in the neighborhood. The company also said it would not be open Saturday. No appointments have been made for that day, it said.


 
Toledo leaves job
at Casa Presidencial

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The minister of the Presidencia resigned Monday, the latest victim of the social unrest that gripped the country in late August.

He is Ricardo Toledo Carranza, and he was the government’s chief negotiator with public employees, taxi drivers and truck drivers during the national strike. He has been on the job 15 months.

Toledo agreed to give the public employees a half a percent more than the government had decreed. That caused the abrupt resignation of Aberto Dent, the minister of Hacienda, last week. Dent was the man in charge of the national budget. Several other economic advisers followed suit.

Toledo will assume the position of deputy in the Asamblea Nacional. A Costa Rican cannot hold a legislative position and a position in the government, according to the constitution.

Toledo’s exit was anticipated. He had planned to add his vote to decisions on the proposed free trade treaty with the United States. But his exit now appears to be linked to the deal he negotiated with strikers.

Meanwhile, the strikers say they may take to the streets again because they do not think the government is moving quickly enough to live up to the promises made Aug. 31.
 

Three rescued from sea

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Servicio Nacional de Guardacostas rescued three fishermen Monday after the men had been left to the mercy of the ocean when their boat’s engine quit.

The three, Greivin Mora Bonilla, Israel Amaya Pérez and Alberto Caicedo Madrigal, had left Golfito Saturday morning with the intention of fishing until Sunday at Punta Piedra.

But en route the engine quit and the trio were adrift.
 

Bike, motorcycle collide

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Th accident was an unusual one. A 19-year-old man on a bicycle collided with a motorcycle going in the opposite direction.

The bicycle rider died in the mishap at Recreo near the center of Turrialba. The victim’s name was Keneth Row Umaña, said the Judicial Investigating Organization.

The accident happened about 10 p.m. The motorcycle driver, identified by the last name of Soto, suffered injuries.

Military steps are out

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Again this year Manuel Bolaños, minister of Educación Público, has reminded educators that military steps and martial music is out for the Sept. 15 Día de Independencia celebration and marches.

Bolaños noted that the army had been abolished here and that parades under no circumstances should include military formations or steps.

The music school bands play should be patriotic with a minimal amount of commercial songs.

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Banco Elca takeover was a long time in coming 
By Saray Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rican financial authorities have been working with Banco Elca for two years, according to Oscar Rodríguez, the man in charge of the failed institution.

Authorities were trying to get the private bank to get more funding for a year and a half. But the biggest problem was that the bank lost credibility with regulators, said Rodríguez.

Regulators took over the bank June 29 when it appeared that the bank had unsufficient capital.

Rodríguez is reluctant to talk in detail about the bank because it is the subject of a criminal investigation. Carlos Alvarado, the bank president, is being held in preventative detention.

However, the government official did say that his team of regulators was having trouble finding out exactly who owns stock in the bank because the record book containing that information was missing. Once the book was located, the names of 

stockholders listed in the book did not coincide with the actual stockholders.

Getting ahold of all the stockholders is critical because they will have to decide on the future of the bank by the end of this month. The stockholders could approve a plan of salvation for the bank or the assets will be liquidated by government authorities.

Depositors with less than 500,000 colons at the bank, some $1,100, can get their money back now. However, a number of North Americans had up to $60,000 on deposit as part of their residency agreement with the Costa Rican government. 

Those with large deposits will have to wait to see if liquidation takes place. If that happens, they may not get all of their money.

The correct name of the company is Corporación Elca, S.A. The central office was in Sabana Este between Calle 38 and Calle 40 on Avenida 4. 

Some 155 persons lost their jobs when the bank closed.


 
More reader comments on the U.S. presidential race
 
Bush most qualified

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

President Bush is the most qualified to lead the United States and the free world for the next four years. 

1. Despite the gloom and doom of Kerry as to the economy there are 147 million Americans working and the unemployment rate is about 5.4 percent — averaging the same as in the past decade and a half; 

2. Outsourcing — This was a phenomenon which existed long before Bush became president. Indeed Heinz-Kerrys corporation Heinz products outsources about 75 percent of its jobs, and we do not see Heinz-Kerry bring back any of those jobs to the States; 

3. Bush has appointed more minorities to cabinet and sub-cabinet positions than any U.S. President  heretofore; 

4. The people surrounding Bush — Colin Powell, Candy Rice, Tom Ridge; a decorated Vietnam infantry sergeant and head of Homeland Security and former governor of Pennsylvania, amongst others. 

5. Bush has nominated for judgeships more minorities — Blacks and Hispanics who have been rated eminently qualified by the American Bar Association. Yet Ted Kennedy blocked their nominations-calling one non-political appointee, Miguel Estrada, a "spic" although using the more euphemistic "especially dangerous-he is a Latino." 

6. Bush is the President of the United States not Kofi Annan of the United Nations nor the president of France or chancellor of Germany, yet Kerry would have had the U.S. wait until Germany and France joined the coalition, and despite the pronouncements of each of those "distinguished" foreign leaders that they would not join even if Kerry were to be elected president. 

7. Saddam has been deposed and is awaiting trial, is no longer funding terrorist groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah, and he is no longer paying bounties to homicide bombers or their families. If the U.S. were to have waited for France and Germany there would have been more attacks on and in Israel, a result which Kerry's policies would have permitted. 

8. Weapons of mass destruction: Kerry and Edwards long before the liberation of Iraq condemned Saddam for possessing WMDs but now hypocritically condemn Bush as a liar. If you are being mugged and the mugger pokes a finger in his pocket pretending it is a gun, are you not going to take him seriously at the risk of possibly being shot and killed? Even the security services of France, Germany, Russia acknowledged Saddam as having possessed WMD's. 

9. Who does Kerry have as his apologist — none other than Adolph Hitler’s chief propagandist, that master of deceit, lies, falsehoods, distortions, mendacity,  Joseph Gobels now resurrected in the body of Michael Moore. Those who support Kerry can but rant and rave but have no rational arguments against Bush. I could go on but you get the idea.

Don Sherwood 
Las Vegas, Nev.
 
He’s for Kerry

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

We have the strongest military force in the world.  It seems obvious that we need a commander-in chief who can utilize such force. 

After "defeating" the Taliban, it is still extremely dangerous to leave the city limits of Kabul, and Afghanistan is still producing the major supply of heroin for the world. 

Osama Bin Ladin is alive, and still planning and carrying out attacks.  Defense department heads (Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, et.al) should roll due to failed plans, tactics, and execution. 

Iraq is a quagmire of death, destruction, and disappointment engineered by the Executive Branch of our government.  We need a new executive.  Vote John Kerry. 

Jerry Kahler 
Wright, Arkansas


He’s fed up

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Hear! Hear!

I'm sick of reading the letters of folks, most still living in the U.S.A., about their candidates in the upcoming election. Let them write to their own papers to complain. People have moved here for a variety of reasons, so we don't want to read about this  "ongoing saga."  This Web site is about Costa Rica, not the U.S.A. 

But, I would like to make a couple of comments.  One being against the quote by Mike Michaels,  "....some lazy, good for nothing strikers." 

Most of the strikers are hardworking, low-paid men trying to support a family.  The other, I do find it totally repugnant, is that that sympathy wasn't expressed or even acknowledged, this morning, to any Russian emigrants here, as I know there are some, following the horrible outcome to the hostage taking there.

Alan Waters 
Canadian, living in Turrialba


So is she

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I concur with Dorothy Davidson's letter of 04/09/06. I would also like more  world news. I enjoy A. M. Costa Rica, but the heavy emphasis on news from the United States gets to me, and many a time I just don't bother going to the site.

Susan Goold 
Rancho Redondo


EDITOR’S NOTE: A lot of news relating to the United States is important to Costa Rica, such as travel restrictions and trade agreements.

However, we can see how Canadians and others might get bored with the U.S. presidential elections. But we are anxious that our readers have their say. Most are known to us.

We promise to continue to cover Costa Rica and Latin America as well as international issues that have an impact here. As we grow, we will offer our readers more.


 
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Venezuelan election results
University researchers fail to find vote fraud traces
By the Princeton University News Service

PRINCETON, N.J. -- An analysis of polling data from the Aug. 15 referendum in Venezuela to recall President Hugo Chávez indicates that certain forms of computer fraud were unlikely to have occurred during the electronic voting process, according to a study by computer science researchers from Johns Hopkins and Princeton universities.

Groups opposed to Chávez charged that statistical anomalies in polling data indicated that election results were fraudulent. However, an independent analysis of the same data by Edward Felten, professor of computer science at Princeton, and Aviel D. Rubin, professor of computer science, and Adam Stubblefield, a doctoral student, both at Johns Hopkins, did not detect any statistical irregularities that would indicate fraud. 

The study and related information are available at http://www.venezuela-referendum.com.

"The opposition's claims that statistical anomalies in the reported results indicate fraud seem to be incorrect," Felten said. "However, this does not rule out the possibility that other types of fraud, which would not have left statistical traces, may have occurred." 

The researchers classified the study as a statistical analysis and not a comprehensive investigation or audit of election procedures and documents. 

Rubin added, "The types of fraud that would be most likely to be employed by a cheating government would not leave the kinds of statistical evidence that opposition groups have been charging. Simply changing some number of 'Yes' votes to 'No' votes inside the machines would not produce statistical anomalies, but could change the outcome of the election." 

The researchers warned that electronic voting is susceptible to fraud and that electronic voting systems are generally more susceptible than less automated polling techniques. 

A faculty member at Princeton since 1993, Felten's research focuses on computer and Internet security and technology and the law. Rubin's areas of research are networking security and computer privacy. Prior to joining the faculty at Johns Hopkins, Rubin was a researcher at AT&T Labs.

The Oraganization of American States and the Carter Center conducted an audit of 150 polling places in Venezuela just a day after the election. That effort also did not show any evidence of fraud. 


 
Five acquitted in trial stemming from 1994 Jewish Center bombing
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — A court here has acquitted five men charged in connection with a deadly 1994 bombing of a Buenos Aires Jewish community center. 

Judge Miguel Pons read the verdict to a packed courthouse, acquitting four former police officers and another man, all accused of helping to carry out the July 18, 1994, bombing of the Argentine Israeli Mutual Aid Association. The attack killed 85 people and injured some 300. 

The three-year trial was the longest and most expensive in Argentine history and with Thursday's acquittal, Argentine investigators are back at square one, no one has ever been convicted for the crime, one of the deadliest acts of anti-Semitism since World War II. 

Laura Ginsberg lost her husband Jose in the center bombing. She says she and her two children still struggle every day to deal with the impact of the attack. She says the acquittal is another example of Argentina's lack of justice. 

"What we just heard wasn't only a loss for us, it was also a reinforcement of the impunity that exists in Argentina," she said. "They just let the bunch of guys who were responsible for the AMIA massacre 10 years ago out on to the street. The impunity here was finally confirmed."

Argentina has long contended that Iranian-backed extremist groups carried out the attack, a charge that Tehran has repeatedly denied. Last year, Argentine officials failed in their attempt to extradite an Iranian diplomat for questioning and have since pinned their hopes on a local conviction, a hope that was quashed by Thursday's acquittal.


 
Both sides claim victory in Mexican governor's race, a 2006 prelude 
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

MEXICO CITY, México — Preliminary election results show a tight race for governor in the Mexican State of Veracruz.  With most of the votes counted, Fidel Herrera of the opposition Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) has 34.5 percent of the vote, while Gerardo Buganza of the ruling National Action Party (PAN) has 33.8 percent. 

Both parties have claimed victory, but official results are not expected until Wednesday. 

Veracruz State is considered a bastion for the PRI, which hopes to gain momentum for presidential elections in 2006. The party, which ruled Mexico for 71 years, recently won the governor's race in southern Oaxaca State and the race for mayor in the northern city of Tijuana.


 
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