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Jo Stuart
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The stories on this page were published first on Monday, 10 September, 2001

Young dancers from the Heredia St. Ines School Children's Group give their version of a traditional Costa Rican dance, barefoot no less. The dance group was one of several scheduled acts.
A.M. Costa Rica photos
One youngster does not seem to be put off by the traditional parade costumes that made their appearance Saturday.

Colorful party celebrates
Costa Rican independence

About 150 persons showed up for the first Costa Rican Independence Day celebration Saturday. The event was sponsored by the Association of Residents of Cost Rica.

Bob Miller, association president, billed the party as a way for foreigners here to thank Costa Ricans for their hospitality. Traditional dancing, a band and a children's choir dominated the formal entertainment while an open bar and traditional food stimulated interchange among the guests. A number of firms had displays.



Four still
in abduction

. . . but 
car found

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Investigators have been tight-lipped over the weekend on the progress, if any, in the kidnapping of two women and two children.

The kidnapping took place before 8 a.m. Friday in Rohrmoser when two vehicles cut off the car in which the victims were riding.

The latest development, one late Saturday, was when police in the vicinity of Juan Santamaría Airport found a burning car that proved to be the Toyota with which the criminals carried off the four victims. The kidnappers set the car afire with gasoline, presumably in an attempt to eliminate clues.  Two other vehicles, including that of the victims, were found abandoned later Friday, one in Escazú and the other in nearby Pavas.

Kidnapped were Gabriela Diaz Vindas, 32, a Honduran, her son Luis Diego Escalante Díaz, 4 1/2, a nephew, Billy Guillén Díaz, 3 1/2 years, and Yorleny Cajuna, 20, a 

Nicaraguan believed to be a nanny for one of the children. Local news reports speculated that the younger boy was the kidnapper's target because his father runs a chain of stores.

The women were taking the children to a day-care center, Kínder Maternal "Girasoles," and were going to go to a special Children's Day celebration with them later, according to informal reports.

Although investigators were not very talkative, several women witnessed the abduction, and one news reporter said that the kidnappers contacted the father of the younger child seeking $2 million in ransom.

Police are investigating similarities to Friday's abduction with that of Javier García Penón, a businessman abducted in July and who was let go after a ransom estimated at the time to be about $1 million was paid. When he was released, doctors had to treat multiple but not life-threatening  gunshot wounds to each
of his legs that kidnappers had inflicted. 

Plight of the monarch butterfly topic of new book
By Rosanne Skirble
A.M. Costa Rica wire services

In her new book "Four Wings and a Prayer," Sue Halpern is caught in the mystery of the monarch butterfly. She combines science, history, and memoir to create a portrait of the annual migration of the monarch from the eastern United States and Canada to Mexico.

This is a story about a common insect with a cult following. Each year hordes of tourists travel to mountain ranges in central Mexico to stand among millions of monarch butterflies. Author Sue Halpern made that same journey while on a family vacation seven years ago. In her new book, "Four Wings and a Prayer," she documents the yearly migration of these fragile creatures from the eastern United States and Canada to Mexico. 

A butterfly born in August in the north will go to Mexico for the winter, then lay eggs as it heads back north in the spring but die before it gets there. The butterflies born from those eggs will continue the journey. So, she says, monarchs are not guided by memory, because no single butterfly every makes the entire 4,800 kilometer round trip.

"They are really not supposed to be in the northern parts of our country. These are tropical butterflies. That's one of the reasons that we are so attracted to them," she says. "They are so gorgeous. They are tropically colored. And I think we are immediately drawn to them for that. But they are out of place. Genetically they really need to be somewhere warm, and so they have to get out of the northern parts of North America and spend the winter somewhere else, somewhere they can survive, and that's why they make the journey. . . ." 

What's it like to stand among hundreds and thousands of butterflies? "Actually, among millions of butterflies!" exclaims Ms. Halpern. "It makes no sense. You say hundreds of thousands, and I say millions, and in fact you wouldn't be able to tell the difference because there are so many. There's a part of it that is a little creepy. . . . "

"I would start to look like those trees and get covered. They would be in my hair and on my sneakers and on my arm and everywhere. It was just astounding."

A study last year by the World Wildlife Fund warned that given the current rate of deforestation, within 20 years the Mexican forests may no longer be a suitable habitat for the monarch. But the monarchs encounter other problems as well on their journey. They die from insecticides meant to kill pest insects. And herbicides and lawn mowers destroy the milkweed plants on which the monarch larvae feed. Earlier this year, the Mexican government created monarch sanctuaries to protect the butterflies. But Ms. Halpern says despite this initiative, illegal logging remains a significant threat.

"The butterflies themselves are in jeopardy in these forests when people start taking wood out," she 

wire photos
Monarch clusters
fill Mexican trees

explains. "The forest acts as a kind of umbrella or blanket to provide a temperature that is just exactly right for the butterflies to spend the winter. It's cool, but it's not cold or warm. 

"So, when you take trees out of the woods and put holes in the blanket, you are starting to let in things like snow and ice and cold wind, and because these are butterflies that are extremely sensitive to temperature that puts them in great danger and this spring there was this rare snow storm in one of the forest preserves and unfortunately many, many millions of butterflies were killed because they couldn't survive the temperatures." 

What is the status of the monarch now? "The monarch is not an endangered species, and that's one thing that is very important to know," says Ms. Halpern. "This is a very abundant creature. It's the most common butterfly in North America. It exists all through Central America. It's in Australia, in Hawaii. 

"What people point to is the migration that is so unusual and so unlikely. That is the thing that might be in danger, because if you start messing with the forests in Mexico, if you take that habitat away, then you are going to disrupt the cycle that lets the butterflies do this long-distance migration. And then you start losing butterflies in the eastern United States, but that doesn't mean you wouldn't have monarchs in the world - you would."

"Four Wings and a Prayer" is also a personal memoir about the monarch butterfly and its passionate devotees. Sue Halpern has met biologists and Mexican peasants, scientists and tireless volunteers including lawyers, teachers, students, pilots and even a woman on public assistance. Through them, she discovered a vast network of individuals which collects field data on migration patterns by gluing hundreds and thousands of small paper tags to monarch wings. 

But how do the monarchs find their way back to Mexico each year? That's a question Sue Halpern never answers. "That's the thing I learned the most doing this book, that the questions are maybe more important than the answers," she says. "That's why it didn't matter to me in the end that nobody knows how these butterflies do what they do, because it's the pursuit of knowing that's really the most interesting. . . ."

"Four Wings and a Prayer" is published by Pantheon Books in New York. 

Powell plans 'frank' talks in Colombia Tuesday
By A.M. Costa Rica wire services

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell has been quoted saying he will hold "frank" talks with Colombia's President Andres Pastrana on his strategy for curbing illegal drug trafficking and battling leftist rebels. The two will meet on Tuesday in Bogota. 

The U.S. magazine, Newsweek, also says U.S. officials worry the U.S.-backed, $1.3 billion "Plan Colombia" will not prove effective. Newsweek quotes one unnamed U.S. lawmaker who calls the situation in Colombia a "catastrophe."

Meanwhile, Powell also told Colombia's newspaper, El Tiempo, that Washington still supports Pastrana's anti-drug efforts. Colombia is the main source of illegal cocaine smuggled into the United States. Powell will go to Bogota after representing the United States at a meeting of the Organization of American States in Lima, Peru, Monday. 

Foreign ministers from 34 countries will consider 

adopting an Inter-American Democratic Charter 
brought up for discussion by Peru at the Quebec City Summit of the Americas in April.

Meanwhile, reputed Colombian drug kingpin Fabio Ochoa arrived in Miami, Florida, to face trial for allegedly smuggling billions of dollars worth of cocaine into the United States.

U.S. officials say Ochoa arrived in Florida early Saturday on a Drug Enforcement Administration plane following his extradition from Colombia. Drug enforcement officials say two other accused Colombian narcotics traffickers were also extradited to the United States.

The U.S. State Department warned Americans in Colombia to use increased caution following the extraditions. The State Department, in a statement released Friday, warned Americans that narcotics traffickers have conducted bombings in public areas of Colombia in retaliation for extraditions. 

Chile wants Brazil
to talk about coup

By A.M. Costa Rica wires services

The Chilean government has asked the Brazilian government for information about the alleged involvement of Brazilian diplomats in the 1973 coup in Chile that overthrew Salvador Allende and installed Augusto Pinochet. 

The request followed a newspaper article in Jornal do Brasil written by Rio de Janeiro mayor Cesar Maia claiming that planning and details of the coup were coordinated at the Brazilian embassy in Santiago. 

Maia wrote that a meeting on Sept. 7, 1973, that finalized preparations for the overturn of the Allende government was held in Brazil's embassy. 

The coup took place four days later, on Sept. 11, 1973. 

Salvador Allende, a socialist, was elected president of Chile in 1970, heading a leftist coalition. He is said to have committed suicide during the coup. 

Augusto Pinochet, who is now 85, was declared mentally unfit in July to stand trial for human rights abuses during and after the coup when he became president.  At least 3,000 people are believed to have been killed during the anti-Allende coup. 

Ricardo Lagos, a socialist, was elected president of Chile in 1999. 

Fox wants to dump Rio Treaty

Mexican President Vicente Fox has wrapped up a state visit to the United States with a call for a new security structure in the Western Hemisphere.

In a speech Friday at the Organization of American States in Washington, President Fox said the region needs a new accord to deal with the hemisphere's social and economic problems. 

Fox says the current military alliance, known as the Inter-American Reciprocal Assistance Treaty, is "useless" and "obsolete." He said Mexico is considering withdrawing from the 1947 pact, also called the Rio Treaty, which became a cornerstone of hemispheric security in the early days of the Cold War and was seen as protection against Soviet  expansion. 

But today,  Fox said, nations in the hemisphere no longer confront outside threats, and must re-define security to deal with such problems as extreme poverty, organized crime across national boundaries and what he called the "subversion of democratic processes."

The Mexican leader says his government will decide whether to withdraw from the Rio Treaty within 60 days. 

During his visit, Fox also pressed President Bush for legal status for an estimated three-million Mexicans living illegally in the United States. 

The Mexican leader challenged the United States to complete an immigration reform agreement with Mexico by the end of the year. President Bush opposes a blanket amnesty for undocumented workers but has promised further talks on the issue. Bush said the solution to the immigration problem is to help Mexico expand economic opportunities at home.

Powell lauds Internet
as vehicle for U.S. word

Secretary of State Colin Powell says the communications tools now available to the State Department through the Internet are "just remarkable, in the sense that they can go over political boundaries, they can go over cultural walls, they can break down any barrier that is out there to communication.

"It is that ability to communicate instantaneously that we now have that we must use," Powell said in remarks made at the Net Diplomacy 2001 conference Thursday. "We must break away from old patterns and habits." 

The conference brought together State Department communication and public affairs specialists from Washington and U.S. embassies around the world to discuss how the department can strengthen its use of the Internet and advanced information technology in general to better carry out its mission. Officials from the U.S. Embassy in San José were at the conference.

The secretary said his simple message to the employees is "don't just see yourselves as Web designers, don't just see yourselves as people who are technicians who are putting this all together; please see yourselves at the top of the organization, as people who are as important to what we are doing as any ambassador I have out in the field, any under secretary, any assistant secretary, or me.

"Your job is not just, well, we do Web design and we do Internet pages; no, let's see it in its broadest context, helping to take the message of the American people to the world," said Powell.

Powell said as secretary of state he is determined that he's going "to get an Internet-accessible computer with pipes to support it at the level we need it on every desk in the State Department and every embassy around the world.

Argentines march in protest

Hundreds of Argentines have marched  through the capital in the latest protests against President Fernando de la Rua's unpopular budget-cutting plan.

The protesters rallied Friday in Buenos Aires, where about 700 people massed outside the president's Government  House offices. They oppose the reform  program that calls for cuts of up to 13  percent in salary and retirement benefits  for government workers. The plan has  triggered widespread and frequent  protests.

President de la Rua is implementing the measures to qualify Argentina for  international loans to help lift the country out of an economic crisis.  Critics say the poor will suffer the most.

Argentina is entering its fourth year of recession and investors fear the country could default on its $128 billion foreign debt payments.

In an effort to aid Argentina's stalled economy, the International Monetary  Fund, or IMF, Friday gave formal approval for an $8 billion increase in its  existing loan program with the country.

The IMF's executive board endorsed recommendations made last month by agency Managing Director Horst Koehler. The decision makes $6.3 billion available to Argentina immediately.

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