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These stories were published Friday, Sept. 16, 2005, in Vol. 5, No. 184
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A.M. Costa Rica photos/José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
At the Desamparados parade, students from Las Gravilias school wore period costumes.

Marchers in miniskirts show independence
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Día de Independencia fallout includes drunken teens and marchers with short shirts.

The Ministerio de Educación Público promised to suspend for up to 30 days any marcher who wore a miniskirt, defined as anything with the hem above the knees. The streets were full of miniskirts Thursday all over the country, in part because such skirts were part of the uniforms schools have purchased.

Independence day parades are organized by educators, so the word from the ministry is supposed to be law. Among other rules is one that says students had to march and participate in any other civic act at their school.

But the miniskirt situation has been the
topic of newspaper editorials and official comments for most of the administration of

Forbidden skirt
Abel Pacheco. Each year the ministry decrees against miniskirts, and each year tons of female marchers wear them.

If the ministry enforces its edict, most female students will have 30 days off from school.

More serious Thursday was the traditional student beer party in Moravia centro. Underage drinkers, mostly  14, 15 and 16 year olds, usually
met after marching to consume beer and guaro. Each year the numbers grow, so this year Fuerza Pública officers intervened, chased down drinkers and took at least a dozen students away in handcuffs.

Kindergarteners from the Las Gravilias school of Desamparados show off their determination
as well as their flag.




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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Sept. 16, 2005, Vol. 5, No. 184


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Free trade panel due
to render report today


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The panel of experts set up by President Abel Pacheco to study a proposed free trade agreement with the United States is expected to give its report today.

The five-person committee, headed by former U.S. astronaut Franklin Chang Díaz, will meet with Pacheco at Casa Presidencial today. A mixed review is anticipated.

The panel was asked to determine the advantages and disadvantages to Costa Rica that would result from approval of the free trade agreement. However, the agreement is so complex and so many factors are involved that any of their predictions are tentative.

The creation of the panel by Pacheco was widely seen as a stall tactic because the president was in charge of the extensive negotiations conducted by his Ministerio de Comercio Exterior. Pacheco said he would not send the free trade treaty to the Asamblea Legislativa for study and a decision until the lawmakers approve the massive $500 million plan for new taxes. However, the tax plan  has not generated the support among the lawmakers that it needs to pass.

So a likely outcome of the session today is that Pacheco will accept the efforts of his committee and place the burden of decision making on the legislature. He suggested as much Thursday after independence day ceremonies when he told reporters that the final decision on the free trade treaty is in the hands of  the legislature.

Four Latin nations — El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala and the Dominican Republic — have approved the agreement, as has the United States. So the pact will go into effect Jan. 1 regardless of Costa Rica's decision.

A pro-agreement group called Pro Costa Rica has been running ads suggesting that Costa Rica will lose out if the pact is not approved quickly. This group is mostly former Comerico Exterior employees and negotiators who support their creation. There has been a turnover in the ministry because those involved in negotiations believe Pacheco has not kept faith with them.

Many business people are unhappy because they think Pacheco was trying to blackmail them into supporting the tax plan in order to get the trade treaty into the legislature.

Pacheco is sensitive to the threats of union leaders and anti-trade pact agitators that they will shut down the country if he sends the trade pact to the legislature. That's why he has been delaying.

There's still time
to fill up gas tanks


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Motorists still have time to fill their tanks to avoid a 10 percent increase in the price of fuel.

The Autoridad Reguladora de Servicios Públicos has approved a hike of  45 colons in the current 434-colon price of super gasoline. That's a 10.37 percent increase per liter.

Regular is going from 406 to 446 colons, some 9.85 percent. Diesel goes from 297 colons per liter to 318, a 7.07 percent hike.

Other petroleum-based products as well as liquid petroleum gas that many Costa Ricans use for cooking are going up, too.

The regulating agency said that it has submitted the new rates to La Gaceta, the official government newspaper. The rates become effective one day after they are published.

Systems not perfect
but getting better


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The system only works part of the time.

Education officials are finding that out after they learned they were harboring a teacher who had been convicted of having a long-running affair with a 14-year-old student.

But immigration officials are happy that their system managed to identify an Australian fugitive this week at Juan Santamaría airport.

The teacher who was convicted and sentenced to 16 years in prison became involved with the student while he worked in Cartago in 1996. Somehow he managed to avoid confinement and took a job in Zarcero at the high school there. Apparently school officials never checked his record or references.

Judicial Investigating Organization agents grabbed him in the middle of an independence day ceremony Wednesday, handcuffed him and took him to prison. But it was top education officials who were facing the questions Thursday.

Manuel Antonio Bolaños, the minister of Educación Pública, told reporters Thursday that he has asked for a report on how the school system could hire someone who was a fugitive. The convicted rapist is Víctor Hugo Vargas Chavarría, 53, who lived in Pavas and commuted to Zarcero for the school week.

Immigration officials have not had a great record in grabbing fugitives.  This month judicial agents arrested  Colombian Lasso Gómez who was sought for jewel theft in France. He entered Costa Rica in February, but immigration only discovered that he was wanted later.

Another case is that of Manuel Zaratin, who owned a mechanics shop in Sámara. He was wanted to face a seven-year drug trafficking sentence in Italy. Yet he appears to have been able to enter and leave the country at will. He, too, finally was arrested this month.

However, Wednesday immigration officials at the Alajuela airport were able to flag Andrew R. Hyde, 48, whose name appeared in a data base of fugitives. He faces a life sentence in his own country for drug smuggling. He was coming from Guatemala.

Immigration officials also have names of possible sex offenders in the international data base.

Colorado gets passport agency

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The U.S. Department of State has selected the Denver region as the location for its newest passport agency. The Colorado Passport Agency will be located in Aurora, Colo.

This facility, convenient to Denver International Airport,  is expected to open Sept. 29, with a staff of 23, including 15 Department of State employees and eight contract support staff. The Colorado Passport Agency will be the 17th passport issuance facility located throughout the United States. The agency will accept on-site appointments.
Professional Directory
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.

Real estate agents and services

MARGARET SOHN
formerly with  Carico and now with Great Estates
15 years Costa Rican
real estate experience

Member of the Costa Rican Real Estate Association, Lic. #1000

Member of
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Chamber of Commerce

samargo@gmail.com
samargo@racsa.co.cr
www.realtorcostarica.com
(506) 291-2825 & (506) 291-2826
fax (506) 296-6304   (506) 382-7399 cell
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643-3356
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288-2201   839-9970
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Dentists

Williams Dental & Associates
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e-mail:
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KEARNEY-LAWSON & Asoc.
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An extended taste of the hospital emergency room
Actor/novelist David Niven wrote a book called "Enter Slowly, Exit Quickly".  These four words kept repeating themselves in my mind as the ambulance bounced over the short trip to Hospital México.  Good advice for actors, not a happy thought if you are sick and on your way to the hospital.

When we arrived, I thought that the best way to enter any emergency room is on an ambulance gurney.  First, your situation is automatically taken seriously, and, secondly, you don’t have to explain it – the ambulance paramedics take care of all that.

And, because Hospital México is a state institution, how I was going to pay for its services was not discussed.

I was very sick at this point and aware only that they changed my oxygen apparatus and pushed my bed into the middle of a large crowded room.  My arm was immediately prepared to receive medicine intravenously, and I slept.

The next day when a space became available, I was moved to a row of beds along the wall.  I heard that the hospital was full and that was why I was being kept in emergency so long.

Instead of television, I observed the various dramas around me.  The man in the bed to my right (as close to me as if we were sharing a king-sized bed) had been kicked by a cow.  The injury on his leg was deep and ugly.  He said cows could be vicious and dangerous.  I thought of all those cows that had lately become the darlings of the art world.

The boy on my left, Diego, was in the terrible throes of a sickle cell anemia episode.  In spite of the constant drip of morphine, he thrashed about in pain.  His mother, Yvette, rubbed his legs tirelessly.  She explained that it was the clumping of the malformed red cells that caused the pain.

For three days I watched as she supported him with her constant words of love, massaged him, made quick trips for juices and snacks.  She slept only in snatches, caught sitting up in a chair nearby.  Her good humor and smiles for her son never faltered.  I saw Yvette six days later when she visited me on the fifth floor.  She was still catching her minutes of sleep sitting up, her legs were painfully swollen.  But Diego was better.  A blood transfusion and antibiotics had put him on the road to recovery, and she was radiant.

The nurses, male and female, in the emergency room were young and tireless.  One, Francel, informed me she had plans to go to the States one day to work as a nurse.  I told her not to leave her Tica sensitivity behind.
Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart
jostuart@amcostarica.com

  
On the third day I was moved to an observation room, connected to a monitor and, I guess, observed.

After a couple of hours I was moved again – this time to a ward on the fifth floor.  It was dinnertime.  As they wheeled me past the wards in search of my slot, I saw people sitting up, eating with their families.  I thought I saw candlelight and I could swear I saw a bottle of Smirnoff’s vodka on a tray.  Picture windows revealed a vista of lights against a backdrop of mountains.  “I’m at the Top of the Mark,” I said to myself.  I was not, but it was a grand illusion.

Hospital México is a teaching hospital, and on the rounds there was my resident, Dr. Rodriguez (a cross between Ricky Martin and Tom Cruise, and a very fine doctor), who explained my history and current condition to three specialists and a small group of students.
 
By Day Nine, I had had every test related to my situation known to medical science.  That was Monday of this week.  I was waiting – feeling better and trying to be patient – for the doctors to review the information gleaned from the tests, turn it into possible treatments, and then let me go!

In all fairness to Hospital CIMA, had they suggested any tests I would have refused.  My problems seem to center around my shortness of breath.  I have been complaining about this for months, if not years, at both Hospital Calderón Guardia and Clínica Durán, and this is the first time it is being so thoroughly investigated. 

When one is as sick as I was, it’s difficult to avoid looking death in the face.   I have said before that I believe that nothing happens by accident.  A visiting friend lent me a book called "Full Circle" by Luis Sepúvida.  In it, he says, “Death begins when the person accepts the fact that he has died.”  Reading that made me realize that I was heading into that dark territory, and I pulled back.  I am definitely not ready to go there yet!
   
Special note:  While in the hospital, I learned that my rascally friend Oscar Chavarría, the long-time “poet cornered” in The Tico Times as well as cook par excellence, has died.  My condolences to his wife Frances and all their family.



Hidden behind the national library sits a jewel
Behind the Biblioteca Nacional, on a small block-long street sits a magnificent old chateau numbered 1525 back of its elegant wrought iron gates, old lamp reproductions and Moorish tile fountain that is now a flower box.

The library sits on what once was part of Parque Central, in front of the chateau. This jewel houses two restaurants from a central kitchen presided over by a young chef, Christophe, whose credits include Paris’ Four Seasons. Behind the chateau is a back entrance facing the large one-way, east-west street with the entrance just beyond the railroad overpass on the left and a parking lot on the right.

The sign by the back entrance says “Rouge,” the name of the bistro currently three months old. The high end fine dining restaurant faces front. It should be open by the time this column appears in print. Connecting the two are a comfortable lounge and glass wall into the kitchen. Exquisite museum quality contemporary art and antique furnishings from the old chateau add to the overall charm.
 
The less formal bistro is itself a thing of beauty built around a depressed open ceiling patio dressed in river rock, water hyacinths and other greenery.
The tile floors are made to replicate the river rock appearance.

The color scheme of dark adobe walls, pale olive green trim and yellow wheat seat cushions and table runners illuminated by sconces and candlelight is soft, sensuous and romantic at night. During the day, the dining room is awash in bright filtered overhead sunlight. The flower petal noiseless black ceiling fans fill the space with gentle breezes. Bamboo place mats top the handsome wood tables. No more candles, just thin stemmed balloon water goblets, heavy modern silver cutlery and simple china.
 
The bistro menu is adventurous, extremely well executed, artistically presented and remarkably reasonably priced for the surroundings and plentitude of rigorously trained waitstaff. Jose G. Salom, the gerente general, seems to have spared neither expense nor effort in this creation.
 
Our first meal in Rouge was at night. It consisted of a shared appetizer, separate main courses and a shared dessert and coffee.

The first course was a superb and different version of fried calamari. The squid rings were both tender and crisp, unbattered and well seasoned with paprika and spice. They sat on a bed of greens dressed in beet flavored vinaigrette. For the calamari, which rested in crisp paper-thin rice flour crepes (krupuk), aioli with just the right amount of garlic, was a perfect match.

Joan’s tuna dish was crusted, seared yet deliciously rare inside. It came on a cluster of polenta cakes that complimented the tuna flavor and texture very well. I had tenderloin of pork, roasted to tender perfection with apples and fennel bulbs. The sauce appeared to be a balsamic deglaze of the meat’s juice and caramelized apple and fennel. The three flavors were more than complimentary. We ate in near solitude. The only other couple within earshot rhapsodized over the duck main course. I intended to try it on our second visit. We jousted for our shares of a small perfect cup of crème brûlée, with
Dr. Lenny Karpman

On 
the 
food
we eat

 

crispy top and smooth velvety interior, not too sweet.
 
In a matter of only two weeks, we heard that the word had spread and Rouge was full most nights, so we opted for lunch. The menu was totally different. A daily tasting menu for only ¢ 3,900 featured a choice of two appetizers, two main courses, dessert and tea or coffee. Even without candlelight in the brightness of midday, we felt pampered by seamless cordial service, soft music, comparably gorgeous presentations and, of course, very well prepared food.
 
It was Friday and the menu was appropriately from the sea. The two starter choices were fried calamari and seafood soup. The calamari was battered lightly this time and served with tartar sauce rather than aioli. The greens were watercress rather than romaine. The vinaigrette and crisp rice flour crepe were similar.

The seafood soup was creamy chowder, tasting of and laden with Neptune’s tender morsels. Joan opted for salmon, moist and tasty, over a bed of
spinach fettuccine in a slightly sweetened balsamic sauce. She was pleased. I had grilled mahi-mahi (dorado) with a white butter sauce on a bed of Asian-style vegetable noodles. Our final course was a wide mouth, long stem flute filled with layered mango mousse and strawberry sorbet, topped with fresh strawberries and mint. Rich coffee ended a memorable lunch for two for less than $20.

On the other days of the week, the appetizer choices include gazpacho with pesto, lentil soup with prosciutto, avocado soup, squid salad, Cobb salad and quail egg salad with tapenade and pesto tomatoes. Among the main courses are steak with blue cheese sauce and stuffed potatoes, tuna with fried polenta, and pork tenderloin with apples and fennel bulb like my first dinner.

Desserts include chocolate mousse, crème caramel, floating islands and their marvelous crème brûlée. The ala carte lunch menu includes main courses, soups, salads, sandwiches and pastas, all composed with tasteful combinations of fine ingredients.
 
The dinner menu contained choices of five each of elegant appetizers, salads and soups for about
¢ 2,000-3,000 and five pastas for a little more. Main courses ranged from ¢ 3,000 to 7,000 with an average of about ¢ 4,200 and included chicken, duck, seafood, beef, pork and vegetarian options.
  
**** (highest rating), $$ - $$$$. Worth a special trip.
248-9337 opens at 12:30 p.m.




 

Bankruptcy protection could be advantage for Delta
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Airline analysts say it was soaring jet fuel costs that finally pushed financially strapped Delta and Northwest airlines into court-protected bankruptcy this week.

Delta flies in and out of Juan Santamaría Airport in Alajuela and Daniel Oduber Airport in Liberia each day.

Four of the seven largest U.S. airlines are now operating under bankruptcy protection. United and U.S. Airways have been in bankruptcy since shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, which together with recession triggered a sustained drop in airline traffic.  Since 2000, U.S. airlines have lost $38 billion.  Analysts say that the sharp rise in jet fuel prices this year, particularly after Hurricane Katrina, precipitated the court filings of Northwest and Delta.

Gordon Bethune, the retired former chairman of Continental Airlines, said he does not expect a recovery anytime soon.  "We have a dysfunctional industry with overcapacity that can't price their product to the expense level oil generates," he explained.  "That's got to change and it will change. But it is the traumatic way it is changing, like bankruptcy, in which nobody wins, not employees or the shareholders."

While in bankruptcy protection an airline is exempted from its labor and other contracts and operates under the supervision of the court. Some analysts say United and U.S. Airways gained a competitive advantage from bankruptcy because they were able to abrogate wage agreements and stop paying employee pensions.
U.S.-based airlines have fared worse in today's brutally competitive markets than have their European and Asian rivals.  Despite new entrants into what were more regulated markets, competition and excess capacity are greater in the United States. Swissair, Switzerland's flag carrier, as well as its Belgian affiliate Sabena, did collapse in 2001 but that is usually blamed more on poor management than on competition.

Michael Boyd, an industry analyst near Denver, Colo., is relatively optimistic that Northwest will emerge from bankruptcy as a stronger carrier.

"Northwest is very well positioned because it is in the right kind of markets to access what we call Sino-centric growth which is in the American south and Midwest and in China," said Boyd on television.  "But if they get their costs down their revenue stream is what saves them. Delta, I'm not really sure. They're over-invested in 50-seat jets, their route system is weak, and they're not big in Asia where they need to be. So they're going to have a much harder time getting through this."

The only U.S. airline that has been consistently profitable in recent years is Southwest, whose stock value exceeds that of all other U.S. carriers combined.  The biggest and oldest carriers like Northwest and Delta have high costs and pension liabilities that a young company like Southwest does not have.

Eventually, say the analysts, there will be liquidations and consolidation in the U.S. airline industry. But the malaise is not likely to end anytime soon as competitive forces are preventing companies from raising fares high enough to cover costs


Two sex tourists agree to compensate their victims
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

LOS ANGELES, Calif. — Two Southern California men convicted in connection with separate child sex tourism investigations have been ordered to pay restitution in what are believed to be among the first monetary awards imposed in such cases. Both men admitted traveling to the Philippines to have sex with disadvantaged youths.

At a hearing in Los Angeles Thursday morning, Edilberto Datan, 61, was ordered to pay $16,475 in restitution to eight of his teenage victims in the Philippines. The retired auditor pleaded guilty in March to engaging in illicit sexual conduct with minors and producing child pornography outside the United States. Datan was sentenced in June to 17 years in federal prison and lifetime supervision. The case was brought by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Under an agreement worked out by the U.S. Attorney's Office and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the payment of the restitution is being overseen by the international humanitarian organization, World Vision. The money will provide for two years of medical, psychological, and occupational therapy for the youths, who were 14 and 15 years of age when the crimes occurred. According to court papers filed Thursday, all eight boys continue to suffer mentally and emotionally from the sexual abuse Datan committed during his Philippine vacation.

Meanwhile, in San Diego Wednesday, Bernard Lawrence Russell, 38, was sentenced to 37 months in federal prison and ordered to pay $25,000 in
restitution to help Filipino victims of child exploitation. Under an agreement worked out by the U.S. Attorney's Office and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the restitution payments will be overseen by a court-appointed guardian ad litem, who will work with the Child Exploitation and Obscenity section under the U.S. Department of Justice to administer the funds.

Russell pleaded guilty in April to child sex tourism charges after admitting he had engaged in illicit sexual conduct with 13 and 14-year-old Filipino girls during trips he took to the Philippines in 2002. One of Russell's victims described how she was introduced to the San Diego man by a pimp in Manila shortly after Russell arrived in the Philippines in October 2002. After telling Russell that she was 13 years old, he paid her approximately $30 to go to a motel and engage in various sexual acts.

The men's arrests are part of Operation Predator, an ongoing immigration enforcement initiative to identify, investigate, arrest and, in the case of foreign nationals, deport child sex predators. Since the initiative began in July 2003, immigration agents have arrested more than 6,200 individuals nationwide, including more than 1,600 in California.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement encourages the reporting of suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-DHS-2ICE. This hotline is staffed around the clock by investigators. Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, at 1-800-843-5678 or http://www.cybertipline.com



Chile's high court drops
counts against Pinochet


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services


SANTIAGO, Chile — The supreme court has dropped some human rights charges against former dictator Augusto Pinochet one day after lifting his legal immunity.

The high court Thursday upheld the acquittal of the 89-year-old former military dictator by a lower court on charges stemming from an event known as "Operation Condor," in which several South American dictators joined forces to rid themselves of political opponents.

But the retired general faces a number of other charges. The supreme court voted Wednesday to allow him to be tried for an event known as "Operation Colombo," in which 119 leftist dissidents disappeared in July 1975. The Chilean government previously said that they died during the fights between rebel factions.

Gen. Pinochet ruled Chile from 1973 to 1990, during which time more than 3,000 people died in political violence.

The retired general has been in and out of hospitals and missing court dates.

His opponents claim Pinochet, who has suffered several strokes in recent years, is exaggerating his health problems to escape prosecution.



Plan Colombia has cost $4 billion
U.S. lawmakers meet with Uribe to express concerns

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Members of the U.S. Congress have been discussing talks they had Thursday with visiting Colombian President Alvaro Uribe regarding his government's efforts against rebels and narco-terrorists. The Colombian leader went to Capitol Hill to meet U.S. lawmakers and discuss steps he is taking to fight narcotics, disarm rebels, and reform the country's judicial system among other topics.

The Bush administration and Republicans in Congress say President Uribe's leadership has been crucial to turning around the situation in Colombia.

Colombia receives assistance from the United States under a multi-year program called Plan Colombia, and the Andean Counter-Drug Initiative, for which Congress is providing more than $700 million in the 2006 fiscal year.

The Bush administration says aid has contributed to more seizures of narcotics, and an increase in cultivation of crop alternatives to coca.

The United States has given Colombia about $4 billion since the inception of Plan Colombia, which preceded the regional Andean Initiative also covering Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador and three other countries.

After meeting Uribe, one Democratic lawmaker who has questioned such aid in the past, Rep. Nita Lowey, spoke to reporters. "We had a very good meeting with the president," she said, "and we had a full and open discussion, and we know that the partnership between the United States and Colombia will continue, and we are very supportive of the important steps the president has taken."

Rep. Jim Kolbe, Republican chairman of the House Foreign Operations Subcommittee overseeing funds for Colombia, says the talks covered drug eradication and demobilization of rebels. "There are a lot of
concerns about how it's going to work," he said. "I don't think anybody is opposed to demobilization. Our concern is that criminals, who are known criminals, major drug kings, are not allowed to walk away from what should be their punishment for having been involved in drug operations for many years, by being involved in the demobilization process."

However, while there is wide support for President Uribe's efforts, congressional critics believe there hasn't been enough progress to justify the money Washington sends to Colombia.

Rep. James McGovern, a Democrat, spoke during House debate last June, urging that assistance to Colombia be reduced. "This policy has failed as an anti-drug policy, it has failed as a human rights policy, and it has failed to have any impact whatsoever in reducing the availability, price or purity of drugs in the streets of America," he said.

Rep. Mark Kirk, a Republican, told reporters Thursday he raised with President Uribe the possibility of increasing Colombian government assistance to the government of Afghanistan, which is the world's leading producer of opium used to make heroin. "The one other thing I thanked the president for was his help to Afghanistan," he said. "Colombia understands heroin almost more than anyone else, but 80 percent of the world's heroin does not come from Colombia, it comes from Afghanistan. And I think Colombian technical support to the Afghan government is critical. Colombia has sent working level help, and I suggested that maybe we should have the defense or foreign minister visit."

During his visit to Capitol Hill, President Uribe also met with African-American members of Congress seeking Colombian government assurances about the rights of the country's African descendant communities and efforts to improve their economic and social situation.


China and Vietnam removed from White House drug-trafficking list
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services
and special reports

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The White House says President George Bush has removed China and Vietnam from the U.S. government's list of major drug-transit or drug-producing countries. But Guatemala and Panamá remain on the list.

In a statement, Thursday, Bush said he had removed China and Vietnam from the list of major drug-transit or major illicit drug-producing countries because there is insufficient evidence to suggest that China is a major source zone or transit country for illicit narcotics that significantly affect the United States.  He also said that there is insufficient evidence to refute claims by the Government of Vietnam that they have virtually eliminated opium poppy production.  Additionally, although cooperation with United States law enforcement is limited, there are no indications of a significant Vietnam-based drug threat to the United States, he added.

The president is required to report annually to Congress on countries that the U.S. government says are major drug-transiting or drug-producing nations. This year's list names Afghanistan, The Bahamas, Bolivia, Brazil, Burma, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Haiti, India, Jamaica,
Laos, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru and Venezuela.

The White House says Burma and Venezuela "failed demonstrably" to adhere to their obligations under international anti-narcotics agreements.

Bush said The government of Canada has made real progress in curbing the diversion into the United States of pseudoephedrine, which fuels the production of methamphetamine.  There are indications, however, that Canadian-based criminal groups are increasingly involved in the production of ecstasy destined for the United States, said the statement by Bush.  Large scale cross-border trafficking of Canadian-grown marijuana remains a serious concern, said Bush, adding that the United States appreciates the excellent law enforcement cooperation with Canada in combating these shared threats.

The White House stressed that a country’s presence on the “majors list” is “not necessarily an adverse reflection of its government's counternarcotics efforts or level of cooperation with the United States.”  Some countries are included on the list because of a combination of geographical, commercial and economic factors that allow drugs to transit or be produced despite the concerned government's enforcement measures, said the White House.


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