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These stories were published Monday, Sept. 16, 2002, in Vol. 2, No. 183
Jo Stuart
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A day
for parades 

A little drummer plays intently during the celebration at San Ignacio de Acosta while a drum majorette takes center stage in San José.

Photo by George Lundquist
A.M. Costa Rica photo
Big day defines identity of Costa Rican people
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The sense of patriotism demonstrated Saturday and Sunday by Costa Ricans is an intense effort to maintain their identity.

The fevor they display is similar to that expressed in the United States Sept. 11.

Costa Ricans did not have to fight for their independence. The geographical backwater learned only by a message from Guatemala City, the location of the Spanish royal governor.

But as a Costa Rican pointed out Sunday, the waves of freedom swept down from the north and up from the south to reach the souls of the people here. The American Revolution was a point of ignition for Latin American hopes. George Washington was a hero to Latins, too.

Simón Boliver, the Venezuelan hero carried a lock of Washington’s hair. It was he, along with several other well-known heroes, who orchestrated driving the Spanish from South America.

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. 

That torch arrived at 8 p.m. Saturday, some two hours late due to the rainy weather. But no one went home. The president and the entire political establishment waited.

Another Costa Rican said she wanted to cry when she saw a torch carried by school children pass her home in the mountains surrounding San José.

Certainly the festivities Sunday include a major soccer game and private parties with cookouts and beer. But at Casa Presidential they were going back to their roots. Each department in the Costa Rican white house was constructing small ranchos, complete with dancers and folk singers.

Rodrigo Arce, a top Casa Presidencial official, pointed out that no government funds or resources were used for the activities that were judged for a small prize. President Abel Pacheco visited, as did several groups of school children.

The agricultural roots of the country are everywhere. The children dress as campesinos, and even the high-ranking take part in folk dancing, as did Vice President Lineth Saborío at Casa Presidencial Sunday.

The president was happy with the fiesta, and probably was thinking of the countrywide display of identity when he said: "This nation believes in itself and advances." 

Pacheco sends his environmental guarantees to deputies
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

In Cartago as well as in an Independence Day celebration in San José Sunday President Abel Pacheco characterized the environment as a divine gift from God to the country and its children.

The president chose the Independence Day festivities as the time to present to the Asemblea Nacional his proposal for environmental guarantees to be included in the Costa Rican constitution.

Pacheco first signed the document transmitting the proposals in the same house in the northern San José Barrio Amon where the statement of Costa Rica’s social guarantees were signed 60 years ago. That is the house of Gabriel Quesada. He is the grandson of Victor Quesada Carvajal, one of the authors of the earlier guarantees.

Then at a ceremony in Cartago Saturday afternoon, Pacheco presented the document to Rolando Laclé, president of the assembly.

At least 45 national deputies are lined up to support the measure, said a spokesman for Pacheco. The measure will be referred to a committee and eventually be submitted to the Sala IV, the constitutional court, for review.

The state guarantees, defends and preserves the rights to an ecologically sustainable environment, according to the president.

The major elements of the guarantee are that every citizen has standing to bring a court case in the defense of natural resources  and to seek reparations for any damage.

In addition, the proposals would instruct the courts that in an environment case, any doubt must be resolved in favor of nature instead of economic interests.

In all, there are 17 articles which have been put forward by Movimento Ecológico Costarricenses and accepted by Pacheco. The actual impact of these constitutional changes can only be guessed at because there is little precedent.

Photos by Saray Ramírez Vindas
The flag troupe of the Escuela Vitalia Madrigal Araya takes their colors down Avenida 2 in one of the biggest parades of the day. 

Camila and Ariel Guzmán Ramírez dress for the part as campesinos.
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Residence changes still very much up in the air
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The procedure for seeking residency in Costa Rica remains in chaos and most applications are on hold for at least 30 days.

But some applications still are being accepted by the Dirección de Migración, and at least one lawyer said he plans to file a small quantity of applications today.

Immigration said a month ago that they were strictly enforcing an existing law that said applications for residency had to be made in the country of residency. In the case of North Americans, that means in the United States or Canada.

But no procedures have been outlined. The Costa Rican Embassy in Washington has posted residency requirements on its Web page at http://www.costarica-embassy.org/

But the requirements are well known.

The Web page, however, does restate the position of Immigration:

"Any request for residency in Costa Rica should be submitted to the Costa Rican Consulate in the country of origin or residency."

Lawyers here who have called Costa Rican consulates in the United States report that officials 

in the consulates are equally in the dark and have been given no instructions.

Local lawyers are readying court cases to maintain the procedure whereby foreigners here would make their applications here. The lawyers worry that they will lose business.

However, some lawyers believe that the change simply will mean that residency documents will have to pass through the hands of a relevant consulate regardless of the physical location of the applicant. They envision a procedure where the documents are prepared here and sent via courier to the nearest Costa Rican consulate in the country of residence of the applicant.

Some argue that pensionado and rentista residency applications are governed by laws different than those involved in this dispute. Under this scenario such applications would not be affected by any change. 

But Immigration has assumed the role that used to be filled by the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo, and the Washington Web site includes pensionado and rentista applications along with others as requiring application in the country of current residency.

Those who have talked to officials in the consulates said that the employees there seem to be anxious to help expedite the process although they cannot do anything without instructions from San José.

Massage parlor arrests may hint at crackdown
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A raid Wednesday on what investigators said was a house of prostitution might signal stepped-up enforcement downtown on organized sex activities.

The raid took place in the afternoon at the Siboney massage parlor in the center of San José where a mother and her two daughters were taken into custody.

Agents said they ran the massage parlor, a permitted, licensed use, as a front for sexual activities between employees and a predominantly male clientele. Prostitution is legal in Costa Rica, but pimping is not. Agents identified the mother by the last name of Allett. She is 56, they said. The daughters, both with the surname González, are 41 and 42 years old, they said.

The women administered the massage parlor. At the time of the raid, agents for the Judicial Investigating Organization said eight women, all in their early 20s, were in the facility along with three men. The raid helped agents gather evidence of the illicit activity, they said. 

The last raid on a massage parlor took place at the beginning of March when agents arrested a 31-year-old woman in an operation on Paseo Colón. The woman, who has the surname of Umaña, has been in preventative detention since, and she was ordered last week to spend three months more in jail while her case is studied.

In the Paseo Colón arrest, investigators said they 

were responding to a complaint by a neighbor. The arrests Wednesday were the first downtown since a similar massage parlor operation was raided and the proprietor arrested last December.

The fact that a number of such massage parlors, bars and other fronts for prostitution exist in the center of San José is no secret, even to police. The employees even hand out business cards and invitations to men in legitimate establishments. One such card boasts of its "beautiful young ladies" at the sauna.

However, businessmen downtown are seeing increased police pressure, including some directed at the community of transvestites who congregate in certain areas. The pressure seems to come all the way from Casa Presidencial, where the new head of state, Abel Pacheco has promised to cut down on crime.

The possibility exists that arrests involving the sex industry will increase and will become less selective. 

The massage parlor raided Wednesday was of the bargain variety. Agents said Siboney charged 10,000 colons a customer, about $27. Other operations downtown charge from 14,000 colons (about $38) and upwards. Some more elaborate facilities charge as much as $100.

A number of locations, which are not hotels, skirt the anti-pimping law by simply renting rooms to women who frequent the establishments who may use the room for prostitution. 

Peru gets $50 million
for water improvement

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — World Bank President James Wolfensohn and Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo signed a $50-million loan agreement for Peru Friday, the World Bank has announced.

The loan for Peru's National Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Project, approved by the World Bank board Aug. 29, will pay for improved access to water and sanitation to approximately 900,000 low-income residents of rural areas and will also improve the capacity of another 400,000 people to better manage their existing systems, according to a World Bank press release.

The World Bank is currently funding nine projects in Peru at a cost of $425 million.

Powell sees war
on many fronts

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Secretary of State Colin Powell has acknowledged challenges that range from fighting terrorism to conquering the scourge of AIDS.

Powell made his comments to the National Committee on American Foreign Policy in New York Thursday.

Addressing the issue of terrorism, Powell said that, in order to achieve victory, "we have to wage war on many different fronts, all at the same time." The secretary ticked off such aspects as efforts in diplomacy, politics, intelligence and law enforcement, and finance.

And, he said, "We have to wage a war of public information to make sure that people everywhere understand our message of democracy, free markets, our message of human dignity."

On the matter of HIV/AIDS, Powell cited major U.S. contributions in the battle to conquer that killer. "Like the global campaign against terrorism, the world's effort to combat HIV/AIDS must be long-term, it must be comprehensive and it must be relentless," he said.

Coffee woes magnify
plight of rural poor

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

GUATEMALA CITY, Guatemala — The U. N. World Food Program will extend its emergency operation for Guatemala until February. The program is aimed at saving the lives of thousands of children suffering acute malnutrition in Guatemala's impoverished and drought stricken countryside. 

Despite more rains and a slightly improved harvest this year, the cumulative effects of two dry years are taking their toll in this part of the country. In addition to drought, record lows in world coffee prices, which have resulted in the closing of many coffee farms in Guatemala, is a factor that the World Food Programs Lola Castro says is making things even worse. 

"People used to supplement the deficit of food stocks by going for casual labor to coffee farms," she explains, "but this casual labor is not available these days so that's causing another problem because families have no access to food through purchase." 

World Food Program officials say this is the first time in many years they have had to implement this kind of an emergency program anywhere in Latin America. This has been a challenge for the organization, says the regional spokesperson, Jordan Dey.

"There is a perception among media, among donors, among the general public that hunger is not as bad in Latin America as it is Asia or Africa," he says. " But in fact in some parts it is. What we know from working here is that there are pockets of extreme hunger throughout Latin America and particularly in Guatemala." 

Mudslide buries
Guatemalan village

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

GUATEMALA CITY, Guatemala — A landslide in Guatemala has killed at least 22 people after heavy rains loosened a mountainside above a small coffee-farming village. At least 24 people are missing and 12 others injured.

Hundreds of firefighters, police, soldiers and volunteers are using picks and shovels to search for survivors.

The avalanche of water and mud late Thursday buried around 20 homes in El Porvenir village, about 170 kilometers west of here. Authorities say the majority of the dead were children. 

Officials have converted a meeting hall into a temporary morgue. Nearby residents have arrived carrying baskets of food for survivors of the disaster. Police say recent heavy rains had created a lake at the top of a quiet volcano that burst through its banks during Thursday night's downpour and cascaded down the mountainside.

Guatemalan Vice President Juan Francisco Reyes plans to visit the site. More rain is expected. 

Minister, envoy
feud in Mexico

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

MEXICO CITY, México — Mexican Foreign Minister Jorge Castaneda is questioning his Ambassador to Cuba over alleged financial irregularities, as part of an ongoing diplomatic feud.

The Mexican Foreign Ministry alleges that two separate audits have revealed almost $90,000 worth of misspending in their embassy in Havana, and Ambassador Ricardo Pascoe has unceremoniously and very publicly been recalled to explain the discrepancy. 

Ambassador Pascoe who is now back in México City, said he is extremely angry about how the situation has been handled, and that he has done, "absolutely nothing wrong." 

Relations between México and Cuba have been strained since earlier this year, when details were made public of a private telephone conversation which Fidel Castro taped between himself and Mexican President Vicente Fox. 

Castaneda recently canceled embassy celebrations in Havana to mark Cuban Independence Day, and was reported to be furious when Pascoe publicly protested the decision. 

Castaneda, a former Marxist, has enraged Cuban authorities with books he wrote which were deeply critical of the regime there, and Cuba has maintained a steady campaign of criticism against him. President Fox is a member of the right of Center National Action Party, known as PAN. 

Pascoe, who is a member of Mexico's left wing Party of Democratic Revolution, has stuck more closely to his original political roots. If found guilty Mr. Pascoe could be dismissed. 

F-16 pilots to face
criminal charges

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

 The U.S. military has filed criminal charges against two F-16 pilots involved in the friendly-fire deaths of four Canadian soldiers in an April incident in Afghanistan. 

The two American pilots are charged with involuntary manslaughter in connection with the four deaths, along with eight counts of assault —  one for each of the other Canadian soldiers injured in the bombing accident.

The Canadians were conducting a nighttime live-fire exercise south of Kandahar last April when two U.S. F-16's passed over the area and the pilots thought they were under attack from the ground. 

A military investigation says the pilots were advised to take no action, but one dropped a more than 200-kilogram bomb that landed on the Canadians.  In addition to the manslaughter and assault charges, the pilots are accused of failing to exercise appropriate flight discipline. 

These are the first known criminal charges filed against pilots in the nearly year-old Afghan war, although there have been several other friendly-fire incidents that led to military and civilian casualties. 

Anti-Zapatist group
grabbed in Chiapas

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Mexican police have arrested 25 members of an alleged paramilitary group in the southern state of Chiapas.  Justice officials say 100 police officers took part in Friday's surprise arrest of members of the so-called "Peace and Justice" group. 

An alleged group leader, Sabelino Torres, was among those taken into custody. The suspects face charges ranging from homicide to robbery. 

Police also say several military weapons were seized in Friday's operation. 

Human rights groups say the Peace and Justice group is responsible for the deaths of 150 Zapatista rebels, who seek increased representation for indigenous groups in Mexican society. The Zapatistas led an uprising in Chiapas state in 1994. 

Peace and Justice leaders are quoted as saying their group is a peaceful political organization. The group is linked to Mexico's opposition Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, which lost its 71-year hold on power following the 2000 presidential elections. 

Chilean general
now under arrest

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Interpol, the international police agency, says Argentine police have detained a retired Chilean military official for his alleged involvement in the kidnapping, torture and disappearance in 1973 of a French citizen. 

Interpol identified the former military officer as 77-year-old Luis Ramírez Pineda. He was taken into custody at a downtown Buenos Aires hotel Friday. 

France is investigating the disappearance of a Frenchman who went missing during the first months of Chilean Gen. Augusto Pinochet's brutal dictatorship. Chilean officials say more than 3,000 civilians were killed during General Pinochet's 17-year reign that ended in 1990. 

On Thursday, an Argentine judge ordered 26 former high-ranking officers in the military to remain under house arrest for their suspected involvement in abuses during the dictatorship. 

Argentine court
voids money rules

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — A court in Argentina has ruled unconstitutional three measures enacted by the government to stabilize the economy. 

The court decision Friday came just hours after Argentine Cabinet Chief Alfredo Atanasof warned against the action. 

The government is expected to appeal to the Supreme Court. Atanasof says overturning government decrees further complicates matters for the economically battered nation. Declared unconstitutional was a government decree in December that froze bank deposits to prevent a massive flight of capital out of the country. The court also ruled against a government order in January converting dollar-denominated bank deposits, and a decree suspending any legal action against the measures for four months. 

Argentina is struggling through a four-year recession that has left half of its population in poverty.

Four tons of cocaine
found in Colombia

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The Colombian Navy says four tons of cocaine worth $120 million have been seized from a jungle area near the border with Ecuador. 

Authorities said Friday that the drug turned up in a speedboat that had been hidden in thick vegetation in the Cabo Manglares area. 

The Navy says it believes right-wing paramilitaries were responsible for the drug because an armband belonging to them was discovered at the scene. Paramilitaries, along with their Marxist guerrilla enemies, profit from cocaine trafficking. 

Officials said the drug bust was one of the largest so far this year in the world's largest cocaine-producing nation. It is believed that the drug was destined for the United States. Colombia's Navy has seized 46 tons of cocaine this year alone. 
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