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These stories were published Sept. 20, 2002, in Vol. 2, No. 187
Jo Stuart
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A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas
Curves, caves and colors are the architectural attributes of the new bridge
New bridge opens
officially today

By Saray Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Y Griega Bridge connecting west and east San Jósé is finally finished. After eight months and 1.2 billion colons, the bridge  is now carrying vehicles between San Pedro and Escazú.

The bridge opened informally this week but it will be official today. The 10 a.m. inauguration will be in charge of Javier Chavez, minister of Obras Públicas y Transporte. The inauguration was supposed to take place Monday, but a water main broke. and workman had to make last-minute repairs.

Now workmen are finishing up the last details, such as landscaping and sidewalks, according to Ezequiel Cerdas, inspector of highway and bridge construction for the ministry.

The decoration of the sprawling green areas was the job of agronomy engineer Steven Piedra Oviedo of the Asociación de Embellecimiento y Seguridad de Carreteras Nacionales.  He said the design of the gardens was a collective project of all involved in the job.

According to Isabel Guzmán Cruz, a transit officer assigned to the bridge, traffic flow is much better since the informal opening Wednesday. The bridge spans what was the Y Griega rotonda or traffic circle that connected San José center with Desamparados, a heavily populated areas.

That meant that north and southbound traffic had to fight for space with four lanes of traffic headed east and west. The circle no longer is necessary since the bridge carries the traffic that previously poured into the circle. Only traffic changing direction enters the circle area now from access roads.

Dengue is moving
to the northwest

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The mosquito-born dengue seems to be working its way north and east in the metropolitan area of San José.

The lastest count puts about 10 cases of classic dengue in Tibás, which is just north of San José. Presumably, infected mosquitoes are following the northern river valleys from La Uruca and La Carpio where the disease was reported earlier.

The direction of travel would seem to suggest that Guadalupe and Moravia would be in line for cases of the disease in the next few weeks.

For most, the disease is like the flu, but some victims, especially those who have been infected in the past, can develop hemorrhagic dengue, which can be life-threatening. About 20 cases of the more serious form have been reported in the country this rainy season. About half of the cases were in coastal Puntarenas.

About 4,000 to 5,000 persons came down with the disease each year, according to the Ministerio de Salud. The rainy season is when the mosquitoes have the stagnant water available to lay their eggs.

Mamon seed kills boy

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A mamon chino is the golf-ball sized fruit, either yellow or red, that sports spikes. They are readily available this time of year and sold all over Costa Rica.

Maricio Vásquez Marchena, 3, was eating one about 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in his house in Playas del Coco. He choked on the big seed within the fruit and died.

Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart

War is not the only Hell

The conversation began when Anabel read an editorial by Dr. Oscar Arias in the Nación (Costa Rica’s leading Spanish-language newspaper). In it, he says that terrorism is not the only threat to the world. There are the threats of illiteracy, environmental degradation and hunger that should be addressed. 

From there we talked about the unbelievable suffering that people endure, and Sandy mentioned a movie about the Holocaust and the fact that her husband couldn’t bear to watch it. Then we began talking about the different people of the world who have faced terrible adversity with bravery and courage, even stoicism. 

As we mentioned different people, Anabel said, rather sadly, that Costa Ricans did not have the stamina, nor the solidarity and strength to withstand disaster, to undergo really hard times. There is a saying in Costa Rica that a disaster or scandal will last only 15 days. After that, it is forgotten.

We talked about the German Jews during the reign of Hitler, Russia under Stalin, of the blacks in South Africa during aparthied, of the people of Ethiopia, Uganda and other countries of Africa, of the Chileans when Pinochet was in power, of Iraq with Saddam Hussein and even those before him, the suffering of Argentinians during the time of the Disappeared — the list seemed endless. And I began to realize something.

"War is indeed hell," as some general said, but the truly prolonged suffering of different peoples has not been due to wars between countries as much as it is due to the cruel leadership of a people’s own government. In all of the groups we brought up, it was the leaders of their own countries that had caused their misery. We went on to add El Salvador and countries that engaged in civil war, like Nicaragua, Spain and the United States, of despotic regimes like Guatemala. Talking about the other countries of Central America, I found an answer to comfort Anabel.

 The governments of Costa Rica have not been less corrupt financially than other countries, but this country’s leaders, for the most part, have not combined intitutionalized cruelty with corruption. The people of Costa Rica have not had a history of oppression and suffering. Spain pretty much neglected this mountainous little possession that had no gold. When Spain withrew its despotic rule of Central America, Costa Ricans were simply notified that they were free.

This is not to say that there has never been suffering and war here. The poor of all societies have always suffered (and generally speaking so have women). A civil war errupted in 1948 when compromise between the different factions was impossible. This war was as bloody and vicious as any civil war. The difference is its brevity. President Picado had no stomach for this war because among the young rebels were people he knew — former students and sons of friends. It started March 10, 1948, and on April 13, 1948, peace negotiations began.

Given its history, it is doubtful that Ticos will ever be called upon to prove their mettle through politically inspired suffering. In fact, a recent survey has shown that the majority of Ticos are quite content with their lot. (It must be said that their lot includes almost perfect weather and gorgeous scenery). 

Now this realization on my part that there are cruel regimes does not mean that I favor war to end them. War, to my mind is never a solution, and besides, some leaders start wars just to get people to focus on something other than their suffering.

(Note: my thanks to the family Biesanz’ "The Costa Ricans" for helping me with history) 

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New task force targets money laundering, terror
Special to A.M. Costa Rica 

WASHINGTON, D. C. — The Bush administration has announced the creation of another task force to improve regulations dealing with drug trafficking, terrorist financing and other illegal activities involving money laundering.

In testimony Thursday before a House committee, Kenneth Dam, deputy treasury secretary, said the task force will work with financial regulators, law enforcement officials, consumers and others for more effective implementation of the broad anti-terrorism and anti-money laundering law known as the PATRIOT Act.

He said the Treasury Department task force will work "to improve the regulations that we have already implemented" in carrying out the PATRIOT Act, which was passed by Congress shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks against the United States.

The effort is more than just directed against terrorists. Said Dam: "We are cleaning up the financial environment generally. Hardly a week passes without news that a foreign government or bank has taken an important new step to crack down on money laundering or terrorist financing.

Dam cited what he said were major accomplishments over the past 11 months. These include:

• Together with federal regulators, issuing customer identification and verification rules.

• Developing a proposed rule that seeks to minimize risks presented by correspondent 

banking and private banking accounts.

• Expanding our basic anti-money laundering program requirement to the major financial services sectors, including insurance and unregistered investment companies, such as hedge funds.

• Developing rules to permit and facilitate the sharing of information between law enforcement and financial institutions, as well as among financial institutions themselves.

Dam said the United States is fighting terrorist financing by taking a broad approach in extending controls to the full range of financial services industries that may be susceptible to abuse.

For example, within the last few months, the U.S. Customs Service confiscated $16.1 million that was hidden by travelers and shippers seeking to avoid laws about reporting the movement of sums over $10,000. Some of the money was headed to the Middle East, but in one case, inspectors seized a smuggled certificate of deposit worth $297,000 that was concealed in a parcel bound for Central America. 

Dam didn’t say where in Central America.

The Bush administration has labeled groups in Latin America as terrorists. And since these groups make money selling drugs, more and more the United States is treating drug dealers and smugglers with the same rigor that is being used on Middle Eastern terrorist organizations. Any type of money laundering activity is assumed to be involved with drug operations, under the current Washington point of view.

Vladimir Cruz and Thaimi Alvarino

Don't wait to see
this Cuban production

"Lista de espera," Cuba (co-production with Spain, Mexico and France),
2000, 106 minutes. 

Director: Juan Carlos Tabio. Screenwriters: Senel Paz, Juan Carlos Tabio and Arturo Arango. Director of Photography: Hans Burmann Music: Jose Maria Vitier 

Cast: Vladimir Cruz, Thaimi Alvarino, Jorge Perugorria, Saturnino Garcia, Antonio Velera

Producer: Gerardo Herrero, Camilo Vives, Jorge Sánchez.
Tornasol Films/ICAIC/Amaranta/ DMVB.

Well . . . if you want to die laughing this weekend, you have to be in "The Waiting List" at Sala Garbo, 100 meters south of Pizza Hut on Paseo Colón.

"Lista de espera" (The Waiting List) is in 100 percent Cuban Spanish. It is a gift of the Cuban director Juan Carlos Tabio, codirector  of 1993's multiple award-winning "Strawberry and Chocolate" or "Fresas con chocolate."

This film describes the interactions among people who find themselves at a remote bus station in the Cuban countryside. They have a long time to wait for the Havanna-Santiago bus because the only transportation is broken and being repaired.

Emilio, a young engineer, and a Cuban beauty called Jackelin both want a seat on the bus. She is going to be married. Added to the mix is a Spanish man and a blind man who expects to have the first place in line when the bus arrives because of his disability.

To be stuck in the countryside is more than an inconvenience, and the bus to Havana represents hope. But when the vehicle fails a second time, the owner closes up shop and the little group must wait some more.

While they wait, group members experience strong human emotions, including love and solidarity, After all, it’s a Cuban film,

The film is a comedy, and the Cuban Spanish is challenging even for the native speaker.  An unnamed star of the show is the beautiful Cuban countryside and a nearby beach that shows the natural gifts of the communist country.

The show will run until Wedneday four times a day. Be ready to laugh a lot even if some of the punch lines go over your head. Admission is 1,500 colons, about $4.

—Saray Ramírez Vindas
U.S. cast watchful eye
over Latin terrorism

By A.M. Costa Rica wire services

WASHINGTON, D.C. — South America has not figured prominently in the war against the Al-Qaida terrorist group, but U.S. officials are keeping a close eye on areas of the continent where they fear the terrorists could be getting clandestine support. 

Defense officials make clear they have no hard evidence and cannot prove Al-Qaida has any presence or support network in South America. 

But they told international news sources that they suspect some members of the terrorist group may have used the continent as a transit point. They also suspect Al-Qaida may be garnering other support from Muslim communities in at least two areas well known for illicit activities like arms dealing, drug smuggling, and money-laundering. 

Chief among these is the tri-border area where Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay meet. Another is where Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay come together.  Both have significant Muslim populations.

"We do not have any indication that those populations are engaged either in conducting terrorist operations or in training terrorists in this hemisphere," said John Merrill, the Pentagon's director for Western Hemisphere Affairs. 

"We have no confirmation that there is an Al-Qaida presence among those populations. What we do know is that those populations or elements of them either wittingly or unwittingly contribute financially to Middle Eastern groups with which they have cultural and historic links including Hamas and Hezbollah." 

Defense officials say the United States has been working closely with government officials in South America to ensure terrorists cannot find a foothold on the continent. 

But Merrill warns that areas like the tri-border regions pose risks: "There are a number of what we tend to call ungoverned areas in Latin America in which one can only speculate about the range of illegal activity." 

"But clearly there are places in this hemisphere where falsification of transit documents exist, where there is corruption, and one can imagine a scenario in which people would move through ungoverned areas in Latin America or transit the region facilitated by some form of corruption . . . "

At least one credible report places a key Al-Qaida figure in South America in the early 1990s, about the time of the terrorist bombings in Argentina. 

The figure is Ayman al-Zawahiri, who reportedly visited Argentina at the time he was leader of the Islamic Jihad terrorist group, but he later allied with Osama bin Laden. He is alleged to be a key planner of last year's September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States. 

Zawahiri is on the United States most-wanted list, with a price on his head of $25 million. His whereabouts remain unknown.  But defense officials do not believe he is in South America.

Jubilant rally held 
as Aleman removed

By A.M. Costa Rica wire services

MANAGUA, Nicaragua — Thousands of citizens held a jubilant rally here Thursday as former President Arnoldo Aleman was removed from his leadership position in the National Assembly. Maria Dolores Aleman, his daughter, has fled to Costa Rica. 

The former president has been accused of stealing nearly $100 million from the state. 

The rally took place as leftist Sandinista lawmakers and those loyal to President Enrique Bolanos ousted Aleman during a special session of congress. Legislators loyal to Aleman boycotted the vote. Aleman was absent, but says he will not accept the decision. 

Thursday's move is seen as a key step in efforts to bring Aleman to trial for corruption. The former president, who has congressional immunity, denies wrongdoing during his five-year term that ended in January. 

Prosecutors have also filed arrest warrants against 11 Aleman associates and relatives, of which one is his daughter.

Ms. Aleman enjoyed immunity as a member of Congress while her father was president of the National Assembly. 

There was no confirmation last night if Ms. Aleman was going through Costa Rica or if she planned to stay here. A Costa Rican member of her extended family who arrived on the same plane said he had no idea.

Rio suspect arrested
in newsman’s murder

By A.M. Costa Rica wire services

RIO DE JANIERO, Brazil — Police have captured a drug lord here believed responsible for the murder of a television journalist in June. The drug lord's capture followed a massive police deployment in one of the city's shantytowns. 

Police captured Elias Pereira da Silva after surrounding a slum where he was hiding. More than 200 police were involved in the massive manhunt, which began earlier in the week.

The drug lord, known as "Crazy Elias", surrendered without resistance. He is accused of ordering the murder of television journalist Tim Lopes in June.

Lopes, who was known for his documentaries on the drug trade, was working undercover investigating child prostitution and cocaine dealing at parties organized by drug traffickers. 

Lopes was seized by local drug dealers and then allegedly on orders of Crazy Elias savagely tortured and killed. The remains of his burnt body were discovered weeks after his disappearance.

The murder of the journalist shocked the city and drew renewed attention to the growing power of drug traffickers in the city's slums. International Press Watchdog groups also issued statements of concern about the situation.

Police are holding six other men captured in recent weeks in connection with the murder of Lopes. Two other suspects were killed by police after resisting arrest.

Democrats will hear
Liberación consultant

Democrats Abroad of Costa Rica will discuss the proposed International Law Enforcement Academy in Costa Rica at its scheduled monthly meeting Sept. 30, with Francisco Cordero as speaker. 

Cordero has been a Partido Liberación Nacional consultant for the past 12 years in Costa Rica.

The meeting will be held at the Gran Hotel Costa Rica with a business meeting at 11 a.m., a buffet lunch at noon and speaker at 12:45 p.m.

For information and required lunch reservations (3.000 colons for members and 3.500 colons for guests), please contact Dorothy Sagel at 249-1856 or Jerry Karl at 232-7048 no later than Thursday

All in the community are welcome for the buffet lunch, and speaker.

The police academy is a controversial topic because some believe that the training will provide information that will enable officials to violate human rights.

Pair to face counts
of Papagayo thefts

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Investigators arrested two 20-year-old men as suspects in a number of break-ins at schools, houses, sports centers and stores in the Golfo de Papagayo area.

Agents said the men face charges they stole items worth up to 25 million colons, about $68,000. The men were identified by the last names of Sotela and Lara.

The two men were arrested selling items in Liberia, said agents. A later raid turned up a number of stolen items, they said. Agents said they had been investigating the pair for three months.

Woman shot dead,
and neighbor held

by the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A man shot a women dead Thursday in Tambor de Alajuela. The dead woman was identified by her last name of Espinoza. She was 42. 

Investigators said the shooting was a result of a neighborhood dispute and they took a neighbor into custody a few hours later. He was identified by the last names of Jiménez Aroyo.

The shooting happened a little after noon in the house of the woman. The assailant fled, and agents of the Judicial Investigating Organization later identified the suspect as the killer.

This is the third shooting of an individual by a neighbor this week, said agents.
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