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These stories were published Friday, Sept. 12, 2003, in Vol. 3, No. 181
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Costa Rican firemen await the colors carried by the honor guard of the Fuerza Pública in Sabana Norte Thursday.
A.M. Costa Rica photo
Twin ceremonies here honor terrorism victims
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two separate ceremonies commemorated the Sept. 11, 2001, victims Thursday.

The first was a gathering east of the Centro Cultural Costarricense-Norteamericano in Sabana Norte where firemen and police again paid tribute to their counterparts who died that morning in New York City.

In Barrio Amon, President Abel Pacheco helped dedicate a Jardín de Paz in an underutilized section of parkland just east of Parque Morazán. The country became the first in Latin America to be honored by the Peace Garden Foundation whose president, Paula Savage, praised Costa Rica for being a model for the peace process in the region.

There it was Pacheco who brought up the relevance of the day:

"Today, the 11th of September, when humanity remembers with pain the terrorist acts that took place in New York and other cities of the United States of America, Costa Ricans raise up a prayer for the victims and reiterate our position of peace — but at the same time our firm stand against terrorism, dictators, wars, torture and violations of human rights in the world.

In Sabana Norte, firemen and Fuerza Pública officers presented floral tributes to Ambassador John J. Danilovich. Christopher Ward, also of the embassy, announced that efforts soon will begin to place a permanent memorial monument at the site to commemorate the victims. A stone placed there last year has been removed by the Municipalidad de San José for safekeeping, officials said.

In the centro, Turlough McConnell of the South Street Seaport Museum in New York explained an exhibition entitled :"All Available Boats," the little-known boatlift that took 300,000 people off Manhattan Island that September day.

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How does 
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By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Police arrested a robbery suspect Thursday for the 25th time this year, and officials are hoping that he stays in jail.

The man has the last names of Jara Meoño, and the Fuerza Pública said in a news statement that officials have no idea why the man keeps getting out of jail.

Officials said that this time the man was arrested on the streets of San José under a warrant issued by a prosecutor, and preventative detention has been ordered. That pretrial detention will be served in Heredia instead of San José, police said.

Police said that the man was arrested the first time this year March 19 as the suspect in a violent robbery in the center of San José. Since that date, the man was arrested 24 more times on similar charges, including the most recent arrest.

The man has prior convictions for robbery. He served three consecutive sentences for robbery from Jan. 4, 1996, until May 2001, mostly in the La Reforma prison. He was back in prison Dec. 4, 2001, and stayed there until Nov. 28 last year, said police.

The penalties for robbery and aggravated robbery range from six months to 15 years in Costa Rica.

In the last three months, according to the Policía Metropolitana of the Fuerza Pública, some 350 persons have been detained in the city for robberies. However, there still are more crooks out there, police warned as they suggested that individuals pay more attention to their personal effects.

Martin murder trio
ordered to trial

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Three suspects in the Shannon Martin murder case have been bound over for trial. That decision was made Thursday by the Juzgado Penal de Golfito, according to a spokesman for the judicial branch.

The three are identified as Kathia Cruz Murillo, Luis Alberto Castro Carrillo and Rafael Zumbado Quesada, all Golfito reisdents.

The court spokesperson also confirmed that Miss Martin’s mother has been accepted as a civil actor in the case. This means that she through her lawyer can present additional details.

Miss Martin, 23 and a University of Kansas senior, died May 13, 2001, from multiple stab wounds. She was attacked while walking from a Golfito nightspot the several hundred yards to the home in which she was staying.

The Tribunal de Golfito will now schedule a date for a trial.

26 Cuban refugees
make it to Florida

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

MIAMI, Fla. — U.S. border patrol authorities say 26 Cuban refugees were taken into custody Wednesday on a beach in southern Florida. 

Officials said it was unclear exactly how the Cubans had arrived on the beach, but that they had obviously come ashore in a vessel.  The refugees were taken to a detention center in southwest Miami-Dade County for processing. 

Cuban refugees who reach U.S. soil are generally allowed to remain in the country and eventually apply for residency. If authorities detain the refugees at sea they are usually sent back to their homeland. 

In July the United States repatriated 15 Cubans caught at sea on a hijacked government boat after Cuba pledged to limit any prison times to 10 years.

Right-wing fighters
again are ‘terrorists’

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The United States has classified a Colombian right-wing paramilitary group as a terrorist organization for a second two-year period. 

The announcement, Wednesday, by the State Department, means the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, or AUC, may not receive assistance from U.S. citizens. It also means, among other things, that the group's assets remain liable to seizure. 

The State Department first placed AUC on its list of terrorist organizations in 2001. The list currently comprises 36 groups, including Colombia's two leading marxist rebel groups, ELN, and FARC. 

The Colombian paramilitary group formed in the 1980s to combat Colombian Marxist rebels. U.S. officials and human rights groups have accused it of widespread human rights abuses.

Argentina finally
pays its big debt

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina —  The government says it has repaid nearly $3 billion in defaulted debt to the International Monetary Fund. The move clears the way for the fund to formally approve a new three-year aid package for Argentina. A government spokesman says the payment was formalized Thursday and that international reserves were used. Buenos Aires initially refused to tap into its cash reserves to repay the money until it secured an aid deal from the International Monetary Fund. 

Argentina defaulted on the debt payment Tuesday, but later reached the deal with the fund on the new aid package. The funding would refinance $21 billion' worth of debt with international lenders to boost the country's sagging economy. 

Analysts say the default hurt investor confidence at a time when Argentina's economy shows signs of emerging from a financial crisis. But, they say the default is not likely to immediately affect the Argentine economy. 

In December 2001, the fund refused to extend crucial loans to Argentina, saying the government had failed to control spending. Argentina then defaulted on its public debt and later devalued its currency, the peso, which for more than a decade was pegged one-to-one with the U.S. dollar. The moves plunged the country deeper into recession. 

New envoy checks in
at hemispheric group

Special to A.M. Costa Rica 

WASHINGTON, D.C. — John F. Maisto presented credentials Thursday as the new permanent representative of the United States to the Organization of American States. 

Maisto has served as ambassador to Venezuela and to Nicaragua and as special assistant to President George Bush and senior director for Western Hemisphere affairs at the National Security Council.  He has served previously as deputy U.S. permanent representative to the organization from 1989 to 1992.  He holds degrees from Georgetown University and Guatemala’s University of San Carlos.

Monday is holiday
for Costa Ricans

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Monday is the Día de la Independencia in Costa Rica, and the day is a national holiday.  All government offices will be closed, as will embassies, including the U.S. Embassy. 

This is the 182nd year of independence.

The torch is the grand symbol of freedom and patriotism. Hundreds of torches burn in parades and relays during the Independence celebration, including the one school children carry from the Nicaraguan line to Cartago, the nation’s first capital.

Look for parades and lots of ceremonies, punctuated by drums, the national scholastic instrument.

A.M. Costa Rica will continue to be published because news takes no holiday.

Bus overturns on highway

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A bus carrying school children swerved, hit a barrier and overturned on the General Cañas Autopista during morning rush hour Thursday west of San José. Three youngsters went to the hospital and others suffered more minor injuries. Some 21 passengers were on the bus. It was headed to a local high school.

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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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Iraqi people are no better off now than before
A couple of days ago President Bush took to the air to explain to the American people that the "triumph of democracy in Iraq is a grave setback to international terrorists" and the administration is going to need an additional $87 billion this year to establish lasting peace in the Middle East.

The al Qaeda attack on the United States which included the twin towers in New York, has often been declared this century’s Pearl Harbor.  However, attacking Iraq after the 9-11 devastation by al Qaeda is like the U.S. attacking China after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. There  was and still is absolutely no evidence of Saddam Hussein’s involvement in that horror. 

Some people are saying that 9-11 was simply an excuse for this administration to do what it always intended to do:  bring about the New American Century, beginning with Iraq and the Middle East. If that is so, the American taxpayers are going to bankroll the plans of a small group of men and a number of international corporations. 

Perhaps their eagerness to get this going explains how they could be so heartbreakingly wrong in estimating the dangers and the response of the  people of Iraq. Yet, the American people never questioned the rationale. Perhaps they were lulled by their absolute faith in their new president who, they believed, not only "said what he meant and meant what he said," but knew what he was talking about.

Now 9-11 and weapons of mass destruction are no longer a matter of importance. The new reasons we are in Iraq are to bring democracy to the Iraqi people after freeing them from the oppression and cruelty of  Saddam Hussein and to have our military people serve as a magnet for the above-mentioned international terrorists so that they won’t bomb Boston. I’m sure both the army personnel and the Iraqis find that a less than great idea.

It is dismaying to hear all the spokespeople of the administration talk about having the people of Iraq take charge of the governing and security of their country, but not the jobs involved in reconstruction. 

If the Iraqis are as well-educated as we claim,  and since they were the people who built the infrastructure in the first place, why can’t they do it again? Speaking of infrastructure, the administration claims that their intelligence was faulty about the state of the infrastructure of Iraq. Surely, if there was no electricity or water service before our attack on Iraq, even a tourist would be able to report that. 

As for the deficit that is going to grow, the administration claims that the recovery of the economy will take care of that. They point to the 

Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart
jostuart@racsa.co.cr

stock market, which is going up, and the profits reported by companies. The main reason for the profits seems to be that companies are producing more with fewer workers, therefore realizing greater  profits. 

What is happening is that the people who have jobs are being  forced to work 70 and 80 hours a week (and how can they refuse when jobs are so hard to find?) More and more jobs are going overseas where  even white collar workers will accept less. And the president is helping corporations by proposing a law that forbids any white collar worker making over $35,000 a year from getting overtime pay. It is only American workers with jobs who will be paying the taxes to support this war.

We know that each day the number of dead and wounded among our military grows appallingly. But do we know how many Iraqis (I am talking women  and children and non-combatants) have been killed since the beginning of this invasion? Do they not merit being counted and reported? 

And does it really matter, if you are killed or maimed or lose your family in a bombing raid, are wounded or imprisoned in a midnight raid on your house or get sick from dirty water or no electricity, whether your misfortunes were caused by an oppressive dictator or a liberating  democracy? 

Maybe one day there will be democracy in Iraq, but at the risk of committing a heresy, I for one, think the Iraqi people are no better off now than they were under Saddam Hussein under the surveillance of the U.N. searchers of wesomads. Perhaps the only people who agree with me are a large number of disillusioned Iraqis. 

And it is not a very happy thought to realize that it is possible that the best peaceful democracy we will see in Iraq will be the kind of democracy they have in Israel.

I sit here in Costa Rica, a democratic country without an army, and wonder at the amount of money the United States is paying to not only keep and grow its own army but to install and enlarge armies in  countries like Iraq and Afghanistan, and maybe, eventually, even Costa  Rica. 

It does seem a sad way to spend money that could go towards education, health care, food for the hungry. These endeavors, too, can lead to peace.


 
Costa Rica in Group of 21 at WTO agricultural talks
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

CANCUN, México  — World Trade Organization ministers are still trying to reconcile differences over farm subsidies as they continue meeting here for the latest trade liberalization talks. 

The delegates to the 146-member conference spent the second day of the conference in closed-door meetings. They have been trying to make progress on the issue, which has stalled a new global trade accord for two years. 

Developing nations want rich nations to reduce billions of dollars in subsidies they give to their farmers each year. The poor nations say those subsidies help U.S. and European farmers stay profitable at the expense of poor farmers in Africa, Latin America and Asia. Agriculture is the mainstay of many poor countries. 

Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Peter Allgeier says the United States remains committed to an ambitious set of agricultural reforms but is unclear about the objectives of a group of 21 developing countries, including Costa Rica, that is pressing an alternate agriculture proposal as the basis for World Trade Organization negotiations.

In a morning press briefing Thursday at the meeting of trade ministers from 148 countries in Cancun, Mexico, Allgeier said that the U.S. delegation was perplexed about why and how this group of countries came together.

Nearly half of the group, including Argentina, Brazil and Chile, are members of the Cairns Group 

of agriculture-exporting countries that have been pressing for ambitious results in opening agricultural markets, a position quite close to the U.S. position.

For example, the Cairns Group has been pressing a "Swiss formula" approach to tariffs that would reduce the highest rates more drastically than the lower ones and set a cap on tariff rates.

Some others in the group — India, for example — have engaged reluctantly in agriculture reform, favoring an approach where all tariffs come down by the same proportion.

In addition to Costa Rica, the developing countries group that joined in submitting the alternate proposal comprises Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, China, Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, India, Mexico, Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, the Philippines, South Africa, Thailand and Venezuela, joined later by Egypt.

Anti-capitalism activists have staged protests against the talks in recent days. On Wednesday, protesting farmers clashed with riot police while trying to storm barricades blocking the site of the negotiations. Several people were injured and a South Korean farmer fatally stabbed himself to protest the conference.  He was Lee Kyung Hae, 56. 

Meanwhile, Cambodia and Nepal Thursday received approval to join the World Trade Organization. They are the first least-developed nations to join the organization since it was established in 1995. 

Ceremonies low-keyed all over the United States
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

New Yorkers memorialized the 2,800 victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the city's World Trade Center in a solemn ceremony emphasizing children and the future. 

Some 200 children related to victims of the attacks read the names of the 2,792 people who perished.

The readings of the names were punctuated by four moments of silence to mark the times when hijacked planes flew into the two towers, and the moments when each collapsed, and by poetry readings from officials and families. 

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg concluded the somber proceedings.

"We want to thank the children of New York for helping us to commemorate this day," he said. "Their world is still in the making. As a mayor and a father, I hope it will be a wise and just world and that the city will always be the place where dreams reach skyward and people live in peace."

Across the United States Thursday, Americans commemorated the second anniversary.

In Washington, President Bush visited an army hospital and awarded Purple Heart medals to soldiers who were wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan. Bush said those who were wounded had fought for freedom. 

Earlier, at the White House, the president led a moment of silence at 8:46 a.m., the exact time the first hijacked plane slammed into the north tower of the World Trade Center. 

A commemorative event also took place at the Pentagon, where more than 180 people were killed when a third hijacked plane crashed into the building. 

Other ceremonies were held in the state of Pennsylvania, where a fourth hijacked airliner slammed into a field, killing all 40 passengers and crew members. 

Other services across the nation featured the tolling of bells, the laying of wreaths, memorial concerts and in many places, moments of silence.

The day dawned clear and bright much like that morning two years ago when hijacked planes slammed into buildings in New York, the side of the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania.

In a small, yellow church near the White House, the president joined in early morning prayers, bowed his head and listened to a homily about the importance of remembrance. 

Emerging into the sunshine, he repeated what had already become the theme of this Sept. 11.

"We remember lives lost. We remember the heroic deeds," he said. "We remember the compassion and the decency of our fellow citizens on that terrible day."

There were no major speeches on this second anniversary of a tragedy.

Today the president travels to Fort Stewart, Ga., the home base of the Army's Third Infantry Division, which has played a prominent role in military operations in the war on terror. 


 
 
Ramos tells lawmakers he tipped Araya about Li
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The minister of security said that he told Rolando Araya as long ago as 1999 that Pablo Li, a well-known businessman, was under investigation for tax evasion.

The minister, Rogelio Ramos, was before the special legislative committee investigating campaign contributions Thursday.

Araya was a pre-candidate for the Partido Liberación Nacional at the time and eventually went on to be the party’s presidential candidate. Li and his wife, Anita Vermon, fled the country two weeks ago just two days in advance of police raids on their properties.

Ramos told the panel that investigators learned that Li had political aspirations and was prepared to donate up to $1 million in order to be considered as a possible national deputy on the Araya slate.

Because Li was a well-known businessman and the president of the Banco Cathay, Ramos said that he thought it was an act of responsibility to inform Araya of the possible complication. Ramos said that agents stumbled on to what he said was a tax evasion method while investigating a separate case.

Ramos said he told no other candidates, including Abel Pacheco of the Partido Unidad Social Cristiana

because he was aware that Li was partial to the Araya slate.

The testimony was another quirk in the long-running campaign finance scandal.

Ramos also testified that he warned Pacheco not to take any money from Louis Milanes, the operator of a number of casinos and the failed high-interest borrowing operation known as Savings Unlimited. Ramos said that Pacheco asked for his advice after the presidential candidate had a meeting with Milanes, who now also is a fugitive.

Ramos heads the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública. But the raid and much of the investigation of Li and his wife was done by the independent Ministerio Público. 

Ricardo Toledo, now minister of the Presidencia, went before the committee Thursday, too, and said that he did not know the ownership of Sunshine & Pacific Co., a Taiwanese firm that donated $500,000 to the Pacheco campaign. Toledo said that Eugenie T.C. Wu, Costa Rica’s consul in Taiwan, held various dinners there to raise money for Pacheco. Toledo said that close relations have always existed with the Asian country. 

Li is from Taiwan but his wife is a native Costa Rican. There is a strong possibility that they fled to that country because when they left Costa Rica they headed by plane to Vancouver, which is a hub for Asian travel.

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