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These stories were published Thursday, Sept. 18, 2003, in Vol. 3, No. 185
Jo Stuart
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José greets the world in the arms of his mother, Yorlenny Vargas Alpizar.
A.M. Costa Rica photo
Vault's Taylor left behind a 9-month-old son
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The youngest claimant for whatever remains of The Vault Holding Co. turns out to be a 9-month-old child named José.

The child and his mother, Yorlenny Vargas Alpizar, met a reporter Wednesday to announce that the boy is the offspring of Roy Taylor, the operator of the Vault, who, police said, killed himself while in custody June 24.

According to records furnished by the mother, the child was born in the Clinica Santa Rita on Avenida 8 last Dec. 26. Ms. Vargas is Costa Rican and met Taylor while working as a bartender at an establishment in downtown San José.

The news that Taylor left behind a child is not likely to sit well with his wife, Lilliam Corrales Barquero, who soon will face a judge who must decide if her period of preventative detention should continue. She was jailed the same day her husband died when police conducted coordinated raids of Vault properties in the Central Valley and elsewhere.

Ms. Vargas said she simply is seeking justice for her child. Any payments from Taylor stopped when he died.

Although many investors are upset with Taylor for what they believe to be his sharp business practices, Ms. Vargas has only good things to say about the man. She said Taylor was in the process of buying her and their child a home.

As proof of paternity, she provided a reporter with a copy of a DNA test conducted by an Ohio laboratory last February that showed a 99.9995 percent probability that Taylor was the father. The mother, the child and Taylor had submitted DNA samples via mouth swabs.

As the legal process plays out, the child may end up with a stronger claim on what remains of Taylor’s estate than Lilliam Corrales because Taylor had been married multiple times and not always terminated a marriage with a divorce.

Some investors connected with the Vault have taken Ms. Vargas and young José under their 
protection, in part because they knew the 

woman from her work environment before she became involved with Taylor. 

The blond boy seems to have inherited Taylor’s ability to meet and befriend strangers. All who knew him agree that Taylor was a supersalesman, and, as it turns out, made a habit of selling a concept and not tangible items. 

Investigators have found that the Vault Holding Co. is mostly a hollow shell with almost no assets. Taylor has many Costa Rican corporations, and many assets still have not been located.

The Vault may have collected $50 to $100 million or more from mostly North American investors. Some were brought on as partners in the many Taylor business projects. Some existed only on paper. Others simply invested their money with the promise that they would get from 3 to 4 percent interest per month.

A month before he died, Taylor explained that he was getting out of the interest business and planning to run The Vault more like a corporation with investors getting dividends instead of interest.

All that stopped June 24 when prosecutors and investigators raided Vault holdings, including the headquarters on the pedestrian boulevard downtown just a few feet east of Calle 5. Taylor was being held in an upstairs office, and agents said he shot himself when they let him use the bathroom. Some agents have been discharged or disciplined over that event.

Some investors believe that Taylor stashed money in foreign accounts and that this money will be used to reimburse them for what they lost. Others point to the many mortgages and sales of assents that generated cash shortly before Taylor’s death.

Taylor has at least one child, a girl, who lives in the United States, an investor close to Taylor said Wednesday. Taylor described one child of Lilliam Corrales as his stepson in conversations with reporters at the time the boy was the victim of a kidnapping. The boy was recovered after a ransom was paid by Ms. Corrales.

slow us
Since dinnertime Wednesday, A.M. Costa Rica has been experiencing server problems that slowed the posting of new pages and the receipt of e-mail messages and news stories.

The problem was with  our Internet server in the United States. We think we have the problems resolved at this writing, about 7:30 a.m. Thursday.

We anticipate no more problems. We are sorry for the the delay in publishing the Thursday paper.

-The Editor
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Despite strike,
mood is calm
in Limón

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Strikers marched in Limón during the day Wednesday, and tear gas broke up a small demonstration at the entrance to the country’s major refinery Wednesday night.

But the general assessment of the two-day-old strike at the refinery and the docks was that most strikers were on good behavior.

The judicial authorities reported Wednesday that 24 persons involved in the strike had been arrested. Only 11 are employees of the port facility there. Some nine are taxi drivers who face charges of blocking the public right-of-way. All were arrested Tuesday.

An additional four are persons who live in the area who are not believed to be employees. In each case prosecutors in Limón were not asking for preventative detention if the individuals could show they have a job and a fixed place to live. 

However, the Fiscalía Adjunta de Limón reported that it would require the bulk of those arrested to sign in once every 15 days if they promise to stay away from the centers of the strike.

No resolution had been made by a judge late in the day and a number of those arrested were believed to still be in cells.

The mild treatment afforded strikers might be because the Federación de Trabajadores Limonenses said it will not negotiate while some of its members are in jail.

The refinery is Refinadora Costarricense de Petróleo, often called RECOPE. La Junta de Administración Portuaria y de Desarrollo de la Vertiente Atlántica, called JAPDEVA, runs the ports.

Officials in San José said that both the refinery and the port facilities continued to function even without the presence of the striking workers. There are about some 1,000 port workers and about 500 refinery employees on strike.

So far, the strikers have been unable to generate support among other unions to join with them. However, several groups, such as employees at the Registro Nacional, have conducted their own strikes for local reasons this week.

Government officials are worried about an increase in violence that may take place if the strikes are not settled quickly. Although the refinery is functioning, and Costa Ricans still can purchase fuel, refinery systems are vulnerable to sabotage, as is a lengthy distribution line that runs from Limón to Cartago alongside the major east-west highway.

Strikers seem to have pinned their hopes on a major economic blow to the country by stopping the import and export of products and by cutting the availability of gasoline and other petroleum-based fuels.

The port facility in Moín near the city of Limón handles nearly 80 percent of the country’s products.

Strikers are seeking government action on what they say was negotiated after similar labor troubles in May. However, Ricardo Toledo, minister of the Presidencia, said Wednesday that the strikers are asking for much more than the government said it would give.

The workers want more investment by the national government in the Province of Limón as well as certain financial payments to them. The financial issue is complex and tied up in court actions.

The government is seeking a quick, negotiated end to the strike, but President Abel Pacheco has vowed that he will not allow the port facilities or the refinery to be closed.

More than 1,000 Fuerza Pública officers have been called in to safeguard strategic points, including those at Juan Santamaría International airport in Alajuela.

Coffee nations
seeking solutions

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

CARTAGENA, Colombia — Three heads of state, along with delegates from around the world, have opened a coffee summit here to discuss the slump in global prices. 

Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Ricardo Maduro of Honduras are among those taking part in the summit of the International Coffee Organization. The five-day meeting opened Tuesday. 

Reports say the leaders will be under pressure from the organization to implement a plan launched one year ago to reduce exports of low-quality coffee beans that have flooded the markets and driven down prices. 

World coffee prices have dropped by about 60 percent since the 1980s. The fall in prices has forced hundreds of thousands of cash-strapped growers to abandon their farms. In Colombia, many farmers have turned to the cultivation of illegal drug crops to earn money. 

President Uribe told the gathering that the consequences of the crisis are overwhelming and extend well beyond Colombia's borders.  Uribe, da Silva and Maduro and other top officials are expected to seek price stabilization measures and other accords to help the industry recover. 

The International Coffee Organization estimates that some 25 million coffee farming families around the world depend on the crop for their livelihood. 

Human rights group
sues in murder case

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. — A U.S. human rights group is suing a former Salvadoran military officer in connection with the 1980 assassination of Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero. 

The Center for Justice and Accountability, based here, filed the lawsuit against Alvaro Rafael Saravia earlier this week. The suit alleges Saravia played a key role in organizing the archbishop's murder. 

Archbishop Romero was fatally shot by a single sniper's bullet on March 24th, 1980, while performing Mass in a San Salvador chapel. The incident occurred during a period of severe repression in the Central American nation. The clergyman was a vocal critic of human rights abuses involving the Salvadoran armed forces. 

The human rights group filed the suit in Modesto, Calif., because Saravia was last reported to be living in the area. In the late 1980s, Salvadoran authorities sought his extradition in connection with the case but later dropped the request for lack of credible testimony. 

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Bush targets Haiti and Burma in drug message
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Bush said Monday that Burma and Haiti have "failed demonstrably" to meet their international obligations to fight drug trafficking. In his annual assessment of cooperation by other countries against the drug trade, Bush removed Guatemala from the list of major offenders, while also expressing increasing concern about illegal drug involvement by North Korea. 

Officials here say U.S. concerns about official corruption and other drug-related problems in Guatemala are by no means resolved. But they say the Central American country has made enough progress since the previous drug report last January to be removed from the list of countries said to have "failed demonstrably" in anti-drug efforts, making them liable for U.S. sanctions. 

In all, President Bush identified 23 countries in Latin America, Central Asia and East Asia as being major drug-transit or illicit drug producers, the same number as last year. 

Haiti and Burma were the remaining two countries said to have failed in their drug efforts and thus subject to U.S. aid penalties, although Bush waived sanctions in the case of Haiti, saying that aid to the impoverished Caribbean state was vital.

At a briefing for reporters was Paul Simons, acting assistant secretary of State for international narcotics and law enforcement. Simons said Haiti remains a major trans-shipment point for drugs, mainly cocaine, moving from South America to the United States. He said Haitian authorities have done "very little" with the United States to interdict the flow of drugs or combat drug-related corruption. 

Simons did credit Burma with cooperating with U.S. law enforcement on some drug matters and reducing the area of the country under poppy cultivation by about 25 percent. 

Yet he said little overall has been done by the authorities in Rangoon about Burma's status as one of the world's largest producer of both natural and synthetic narcotics. "In the case of Burma, we have a situation in which you have a major drug producing country — not just a drug-transiting country — that is the second-largest producer of opium in the world," he says. "It's one of the largest methamphetamine producers, and in which we really don't see very much indication that the government is active in beginning to shut down the very core of the trade, which is the production side." 

North Korea was not listed among the major drug producing or transiting countries, though, in a statement, the White House said President Bush has "growing concern" about drug trafficking linked to the reclusive Communist state. 

Bush said there are "clear indications" that North Koreans traffic in and possibly manufacture methamphetamines, and he cited the seizure last April of 125 kilograms of heroin being smuggled to Australia aboard a North Korean-owned ship as only the latest in a series of such incidents involving heroin. 

The drug report did not spare some key U.S. allies critical comment. The Netherlands was urged to do more to combat criminal organizations producing the synthetic drug "ecstacy," and Canada was pressed for further action against smugglers bringing high-potency marijuana and precursor chemicals for synthetic drugs into the United States. 

Developing countries urged to negotiate on trade
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Developing countries need to approach World Trade Organization negotiations ready to negotiate, says E. Anthony Wayne, assistant secretary of state.

"Helping developing countries to benefit from global trade integration simply cannot be a one-way street where developed countries make all the compromises and concessions," Wayne said.

He made the remarks to a Leadership Forum Dinner in Chicago one day after trade negotiations among ministers in Cancun, Mexico, collapsed.

Wayne said this round of World Trade Organization negotiations, called the Doha 

Development Agenda, has become more complex than previous rounds with the addition of more national participants, more issues and more transparency.

U.S. goals for the negotiations remain the same: opening markets in agriculture, industrial goods and services, he said.

"By achieving significant progress in these three crucial areas, we will help to integrate the developing countries more fully into the global economy," Wayne said.

But the United States will continue negotiating regional and one-on-one free trade agreements, whatever happens in the World Trade Organization round, he said.

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