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These stories wer epublished Tuesday, Sept. 16, 2003, in Vol. 3, No. 183
Jo Stuart
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Students of the Escuela Walt Whitman have a flock of flags.
Escuela España dancers
Independence Day 2003

Story is BELOW!

Liceo Costa Rica students had  individual flags and marching routines.
Traditional drums
A.M. Costa Rica photos
Not all spectators paid full attention. 

Panamá merchant marine students wore white navy uniforms.
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School children in El Carman, Turrialba, were up early Monday to sing Costa Rican songs and the 100-year-old words of the Himno Nacional.
A.M. Costa Rica/Pat Nethercote
Weather cooperates with independence parade
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Although the Ministerio de Educación Pública wanted to free the Independence Day celebration from any sign of militarism, the plan didn’t work completely.

Works by John Phillip Souza, the 19th century march king, and a contingent of saber-wielding merchant marine students from Panamá added a military edge to a parade Monday in San José. The public reacted favorably to the theme from "The Bridge on the River Kwai."

For the most part, local students complied with the ministry’s orders. Dresses were not revealing, and many were traditional.  The parade proceeded slowly because each school had a dance or marching maneuver to demonstrate.

The weather cooperated, and the first drops of the afternoon rain did not appear until the last unit, the students of the Instituto de Marina Mercante Occupational de Panamá had finished the Avenida 2 parade route and disbanded. These were the 80-plus marchers who wore white naval uniforms, and upperclassmen carried sabers.

Elsewhere in Costa Rica, the story was much the same even if the line of march was shorter: school children celebrating the 182nd anniversary of the country’s independence. In El Carman, Turrialba, students came to a local home to sing their traditional songs and the National Anthem.

The words to the anthem or Himno Nacional are 

100 years old this year, and the works of its author, poet José María Zeledón is being celebrated. Family members of the poet were with President Abel Pacheco when he accepted the Torch of Liberty from students in a Cartago ceremony Sunday night.

Monday Pacheco took advantage of an appearance in Parque España in Barrio Amon, San José, to urge citizens to resolve the country’s problems without resorting to strikes, roadblocks or filibusters. The president faces another challenge today because union members in Limón who work at the nation’s oil refinery and at the busy docks have vowed to strike.

Pacheco signed two measures to guarantee equality in employment in Costa Rica. He was in the company of Ovidio Pacheco, minister of Trabajo. The first decree prohibits workplace discrimination for reasons of ethnicity, gender, language, religion, personal conviction, political opinion, social origin, physical limitations, illness or age. The second decree urged government institutions, especially the Ministerio de Trabajo, to take actions to provide opportunities for persons suffering from handicaps.

Pacheco also said that he has sent to the Asamblea Nacional a reform of the 60-year-old labor code that would provide traditional worker protection to those who work as domestic servants.

The president was speaking in the same place where the words of the national anthem were heard for the first time 100 years ago. 

Country awaiting
big Limón strike

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Federación de Trabajadores Limonenses said it will strike at 6 a.m. today.

The labor action will shut down the docks at Limón and Moín, as well as the Refinadora Costarricense de Petróleo unless the government takes action to keep the facilities operating.

Taxi drivers staged a roadblock in Limón Sunday, but that was believed to be a local confrontation between licensed and unlicensed drivers.

President Abel Pacheco has vowed to keep the refinery and the Caribbean port facilities operating. Both are crucial to the country’s economy.

Colombian military
seeks tour hostages

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire service

Colombian authorities have mounted an extensive search-and-rescue mission on the slopes of the imposing Sierra Nevada mountain, where suspected rebels kidnapped eight foreign tourists last week. 

The kidnap victims include four Israelis, two Britons, a German and a Spaniard. They were abducted Friday night, as they slept in rustic cabins in the tropical forest. A second group of foreigners sleeping at the same camp was left behind, apparently because they did not have sturdy boots to hike in.

This second group provided vivid accounts of the ordeal. They said gunmen wearing uniforms had descended on the area, tying up hostages and booby-trapping a cabin door. Then they split open the hikers' bags, stealing cameras and passports.

The gunmen did not identify themselves, but military officials say they were probably members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, who are known to roam the mountainside. The FARC is known to be holding a former presidential candidate and three U.S. defense contractors.

The hikers had stopped at the cabins on their way to the "Ciudad Perdida," or Lost City, a terraced archeological site abandoned by the ancient Tayrona Indian tribe. Their location was so remote, it took survivors two days to reach the nearest town and alert authorities.

The number of kidnappings has been declining slightly in Colombia, although this Andean country is still the kidnapping capital of the world. There are nearly three-thousand kidnappings a year in Colombia, and most of them end in hefty ransom payments. Foreigners are assumed to be wealthier than locals, and are a prized catch.

Cybersecurity deal
joins U.S., university

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Carnegie Mellon University's CERT Coordination Center are forming a partnership to enhance the U.S. capabilities to prevent and respond to cyber attacks on the Internet. 

CERT is an Internet watchdog agency formed in 1988, working today to alert U.S. industry and private computer users about real and potential threats to online security. The center has been an important player in coordinating responses to all the major virus and worm threats that have plagued the Internet in recent years.

"The recent cyber attacks such as the Blaster worm and the SoBig virus highlight the urgent need for an enhanced computer emergency response program that coordinates national efforts to cyber incidents and attacks," said Tom Ridge, secretary of Homeland Security in a press release. 

Carnegie Mellon University is based in Pittsburgh and a leading U.S. research university.

Democrats Abroad plan
candidate telephone chat

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Democrats Abroad members living here have a chance to talk with one of their party’s possible presidential candidates Wednesday.

The candidate, Dennis Kucinich, a congressman from Ohio, has made arrangements with the international Democrats Abroad organization to be available at noon San José time.

The conference call marks the third in a series of "Meet the Candidate" conference calls with Democratic presidential candidates for U.S. citizens living outside of the United States, said the organization. There will be over 20 call-in sites in 12 different countries around the world participating in Wednesday’s conference call, the group said.  These calls allow Democrats living overseas an opportunity to communicate directly with the presidential candidates. 

Democrats Abroad is the organization for some 7.1 million American citizens who live outside the United States and has committees in over 30 countries in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas. 

Democrats Abroad is an official member of the Democratic National Committee and sends delegates selected at its global caucus to the Democratic National Convention. 

The participants in the conference call will include hundreds of Americans living overseas who would not otherwise get an opportunity to meet the Democratic Presidential Candidates, said the announcement from the organization.

Rachelle Jailer Valladares, international chairwoman, said "we are working hard to keeping Democrats Abroad informed about the Democratic presidential candidates. These conference calls represent grassroots organizing at its best because they offer Americans all around the world the chance to speak live with Presidential candidates." 

For information about participating in the conference call, U.S. citizens may contact Executive-Director@democratsabroad.org. 

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Goverment suggests tough controls on campaigns
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Pacheco administration is backing a proposed law that would provide free radio and television time to political parties and eliminate large public gatherings that are typical of the presidential elections here.

Ricardo Toledo, minister of the Presidencia, gave lawmakers a draft of the proposal last week. The Pacheco campaign as well as others are under legislative investigation for irregularities in the collection of campaign funds.

The proposal by Toledo would eliminate all the public gatherings, which he said represent a high cost for political parties because such events require a lot of security and also massive cleanups. However, the proposal would allow political parties to meet in enclosed areas such as stadiums or clubs or gymnasiums, he said.

As politicians have done in other countries, Toledo proposed a second reform that would require free air time from radio and television as compensation for the use of the national airwaves. According to Toledo, all the parties would have the access and rights to use the medium of electronic communication to transmit their messages. Therefore no differences would exist between 

parties with a lot of financial clout and those with limited resources, he said.

The plan would create a competitive marketplace of ideas and programs, not of money, he said.

Toledo also said that the Pacheco administration wanted to encourage the Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones to complete its promise to set up electronic voting that would save a lot of money.

Also under the new election plan, parties would be able to publish four pages per newspaper edition for two days to outline their programs to the voters.

In the two days immediately prior to the elections and on election day the parties would not be able to hold rallies, public parades or distribute advertising, under the proposal.

The current campaign scandals showed that the Partido Unidad Social Cristiana had received massive financial help from sources in Panamá and Taiwan, contrary to election laws against accepting foreign donations.

The legislative committee investigating what took place is at about the halfway point in its probe, the group said Thursday.

U.S. puts million dollar bounties on drug kingpins
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The United States is offering rewards of from $2 to $5 million for information that leads to the capture of each of seven members of Mexico's Arellano-Felix drug-trafficking ring, who were indicted in July for a number of criminal activities. 

The rewards are being offered by the State Department, acting upon a request to do so by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

The Drug Enforcement Administration said in a statement last week that the seven members of the Arellano-Felix gang, who remain at large, were indicted by the United States for "conducting the affairs of an illegal enterprise through a pattern of racketeering activity," conspiracy to import and distribute cocaine and marijuana, and for money laundering.

A second, separate indictment charged one of the gang's leaders, Gustavo Rivera-Martinez, with conspiracy to import and distribute controlled substances. Rivera-Martinez was described as the lieutenant-level manager in the drug ring and as a close confidant and advisor to Javier Arellano-Felix, the current leader of the group's trafficking operation in northern Baja California.

The State Department issued the following rewards for the defendants: up to $5 million each for Javier Arellano-Felix and Eduardo Arellano-Felix; and up to $2 million each for Manuel Aguirre-Galindo, Efrain Perez, Jorge Aureliano-Felix, Gustavo Rivera-Martinez, and Gilberto Higuera-Guerrero.

Anyone with information about the fugitives should call U.S. drug enforcement agents, collect, at 011-858-277-4215 from Mexico, or send an e-mail message to:


At the time of the indictments in July, U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft said the Arellano-Felix group was accused of carrying out more than 100 drug-related murders in the United States and Mexico. Ashcroft added that the Mexican drug cartel controls the flow of cocaine, marijuana, and other drugs into the United States through Mexico's border cities of Tijuana and Mexicali. The cartel's operations also extend into southern Mexico and Colombia, said Ashcroft.

The attorney general said the United States would seek the extradition of the fugitives from Mexico to stand trial in the United States.

Ashcroft said the indictments resulted from an "unprecedented show of international cooperation between the United States and Mexico in criminal narcotics prosecutions."

John Walters, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, followed up Ashcroft's remarks by noting that Mexico and the United States have a "shared interest in reducing the availability of these [drug] poisons and punishing those who would push them on our young people."

Walters said both nations are "demonstrably better off when drug traffickers are brought to justice and fewer drugs pollute our streets."

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