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These stories were published Friday, Oct. 8, 2004, Vol. 4, in No. 200
Jo Stuart
About us
U.S. asked to help capture him
Prosecutor issues arrest warrant for Rodríguez
By Saray Ramirez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Posted at 8:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 8

A Costa Rican judge has issued an international arrest warrant for former president Miguel Ángel Rodriguez, alleging that he has conspired to commit corruption and receive illicit payoffs.

The order was issued by Isabel Porras of the Secundo Circuito Judicial and was announced about 6 p.m. Friday by Francisco Dall’Anese, the fiscal general, the country’s top prosecutor.

The action came just a few hours after Rodríguez resigned his post in Washington, D.C., as secretary general of the Organization of American States.

Related story BELOW!

Dall’Anese said that a letter outlining the arrest warrant and the charges was delivered to U.S. Embassy officials here and that Costa Rica is seeking the help of the United States to bring Rodríguez back to Costa Rica.

This is the climax of a long series of scandals dating back to June. Rodríguez told officials at the OAS headquarters in Washington that he would be leaving Oct. 15. Dall’Anese said that he would like to hurry up the arrival of Rodríguez to Costa Rica.

Others in the judicial system expressed fears that the former president would seek political asylum in another country.

Dall’Anese said that the judicial branch was handling the situation the same way it would .



for any other suspect who was in a foreign land Rodríguez, who was president here from 1998 to 2002, took over the OAS top spot Sept. 23.

There was no word on any judicial activity involving the wife of Rodríguez, Lorena Clare Facio. Others involved in the scandal said she accepted money.

Rodríguez has been linked publicly to payoffs by the French telecommunication firm, Alcatel, that received a $460 million contract to improve cellular telephones. Just last week Dall’Anese said Rodríguez was just a witness. 

A judge prohibited Rafael Ángel Calderón, another former president, from leaving the country because of his apparent involvement in a $9 million payoff from a loan deal with Finland and the purchase of $39 million in medical equipment in 2002.

President Abel Pacheco said earlier Friday that he felt betrayed by Rodríguez and his alleged involvement in the scandals. He also said he hopes that Rodríguez is innocent.

Hire the Iraqis to rebuild their own country
How can "a handful of thugs and terrorists" give the "best armed forces in the world" and its allies, so much trouble? In the city of Samara it is reported that 125 of these thugs and terrorists have been killed and 88 injured, I hope that is a good portion of the handful, but I am beginning to wonder because they keep coming. 

We seem able to count the enemy dead and injured and the people they kill, but unable to count the overall number of innocent Iraqi citizens who have been killed and wounded in the battle to get rid of Saddam Hussein. Car bombs and suicide bombers have killed many of these civilians, but just as many have been killed by precision bombs dropped by coalition planes. The estimate at this time (not given by the government) is over 21,000 dead civilians. That is far more than the number of thugs, terrorists, coalition and contract workers helping the military combined. Among those killed are a terrible number of children. 

It is tragic, indeed, that so many Iraqi children are dying so American children will not be the targets of terrorists. At least that is the theory — by fighting the war against terrorism in Iraq we are keeping the terrorists out of the U.S. We are being told that President Bush must be doing something right because there have been no further attacks on the U.S. in nearly three years. 

In that case, President Clinton was doing something very right because after the 1992 attack on the Twin Towers, even without the loss of life in the thousands abroad, there was not another attack by foreign terrorists against the U.S. for more than eight years. 

The war in Vietnam was waged because of the domino theory that if communism took hold in Vietnam, it would spread throughout Asia. The theory proved to be groundless. The present rationale for war in Iraq is also based upon a domino theory. The idea is that by democratizing this all-important country in the Middle East, other Muslim undemocratic countries will follow. 

One of the flaws in this theory is that the government of Iraq was not in the hands of fundamentalist Muslims. Saddam Hussein was a secular dictator who, through sheer brutality and force like Tito in Yugoslavia, kept the various factions under control. In the case of Iraq some of these factions are the very groups — Fundamental Muslims — who, along with foreign al Qaeda members and some of the 500,000 government employees fired by Paul Brenner, seem to make up the ranks of "terrorists and thugs." 

Words are important. (Note how "liberal" and "neo-con" color our thinking.) As long as the 

Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart

Iraqis see the Americans as occupiers and not liberators, they will resent us. As long as we call the insurgents "terrorists and thugs," we will underestimate them. I understand why the U.S. does not report the deaths of civilians caused by the coalition. This is not the kind of news to convince people that the war is going well. Iraqi deaths can be withheld from people in the U.S., but not from the Iraqis. 

The coalition in Iraq is trying desperately to make Iraq secure so that the people can vote, and incidentally go to school and about their lives without fear. Yet, many Iraqis are saying that the biggest threat to their security is the presence of American soldiers. 

One of the most important things that Sen. Kerry said in the debate with President Bush was that he would immediately assure the Iraqi people that we truly are not there forever (maybe he will stop the building of those new army bases reputedly under construction). And that Iraqis will be hired to do the work currently being outsourced. 

Hiring Iraqis to rebuild their own country was one of the first things the U.S. should have done. Instead, state-owned businesses were closed and foreign workers and products were imported. Iraq has a higher literacy rate than India, and the people were capable of driving trucks and building and maintaining an infrastructure before the shock and awe bombing totally destroyed it. Making cement is one of Iraq’s main businesses Yet, even the cement walls erected to protect the green zone areas, the luxury hotels and upscale neighborhoods, were imported at a cost of up to 10 times what it would have cost to have Iraqis do it.

President Bush argues that the insurgents are fighting to prevent Iraqis from voting. It looks as if some of them are fighting to keep Iraq from being sold out to multinational corporations and workers. It is only recently that the administration has considered the idea of putting Iraqis back to work a good idea. This change of heart may be in response to reports that out-of-work Iraqis are threatening to join the resistance if they are not hired.

It is time to seriously go about winning the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people. Given the damage that has been done so far, this is not going to be easy, but we can start by giving them back their country and their jobs. 

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Japanese will help
with bridge studies

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Motorists who dodge potholes perhaps should be worrying about bridges.

The Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes said Thursday that some 30 bridges in the country are more than 30 years old and are showing signs of wear. The bridges are on some of the nation’s most well-traveled routes.

The Japanese Agency of International Cooperation is entering into an agreement to help Costa Rican officials set up a program to maintain and rehabilitate the bridges.

One of the bridges is just north of San José on Route 32, the main highway to the Caribbean coast. The 306-meter (995-foot) bridge crosses the Río Virilla. Other suspect bridges on the same route are over the Ríos Toro Amarillo, Reventazón, Pacuare and Chirripó.

Four suspect bridges are on the Inter-American Highway west of San José. Ministry officials said that workmen make inspections routinely of these bridges but the current program calls for a more detailed examination.

Our reader’s opinion

President Gore would
want Cuban vote, too

EDITOR’S NOTE: This letter related to an opinion piece written by Eric Jackson of The Panama News which appears Thursday. The article discussed pardons given four Cubans who came to Panama to blow up Fidel Castro.

Dear A.M. Costa Rica: 

Who was President of the United States in November 2000 when the individuals entered Panama with the explosives? Who was (and still is) a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee at that time?

Did you hear a peep out of either one of them concerning your information? Of course not.

Surely the Embajada Americana in Panama let Bill's administration know about this. Surely they informed the Senate's Intelligence Committee where Senator Kerry sat as a member about this. Where was the outrage from the powers in charge at the time? Where were Bill and Al Gore then? Where was Senator Kerry's insistence that those people be "brought to justice"? Where was the demand from the Bill's U.S. State Department that these U.S. citizens be extradited to the U.S. for trial?

You know the answer. They are liberals, the folks you like. You would never say anything if Gore was president today instead of President Bush. Don't even hint that this story would have ended differently if Al were in charge, he would want the South Florida Cuban vote at least as much, maybe more, than you claim President Bush does. 

By expressing your opinion that you cannot support the President because these guys went to Florida and got a rousing reception, you imply that Senator Kerry was and is in favor of bringing those folks to justice. Please refer me to Kerry's statement to that effect. You can't because it does not exist. In the unlikely event that you do produce one that is valid, I'll make certain all of the news media in the south of Florida, especially the Español newspeople, become aware of his position. Of course by then, he will have flip-flopped his position. 

What a flake! Perhaps you should put your article in memo form and send it to Dan Rather at CBS. Maybe they would put it on 60 Minutes or 60 Minutes II. That would thrill all of the liberals in La-La-Land, the only ones still watching anything on CBS and claiming that it is true.

Jim Edwards 
Alajuela Province
Inspections postponed
for Monday, Tuesday

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Riteve S y C, the vehicle inspection company, will close the doors to its 16 stations around Costa Rica on Monday and Tuesday.

A company spokesman said the firm was doing this in recognition of El Día del Encuentro de Culturas  Oct. 12, but that also is the day a major march is planned in San José. Some participants in the march oppose the current inspection system.

The company also noted that the Instituto Nacional de Seguros requires a valid inspection certificate for vehicles for owners to pay the annual right of circulation.  The firm urged persons who do not have an inspection to get it done this month.

Puppet show is Sunday

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two Guys with Puppets from the U.S. state of Minnesota  will be presenting their variety show Sunday and again Oct. 17 at the Teatro Eugene O’Neill in the Centro Cultural Costarricense Norteamericano.

The show revolves around the dreams of a child and involved some 30 marionettes and puppets, each with their own personalities.

The two individuals are Tom Davis and Wayne Krefting, both of Minneapolis.

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They do fish right at non-garish Escazu restaurant
L’Ola del Mar
Rating: **** 
(highest rating, superb, worth a special trip. See below.) 
Plaza Itskazu Phone: 289-4364 
Hours: Monday to Thursday 12:30 to 3:30, 6 to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday 12:30 to 11 p.m. Sunday 12:30 to 8 p.m, 
Prices: main courses run from ¢2,850 to ¢8,500, average ¢3,500. Appetizer, soups and salads run from ¢1,050 to ¢7,500, average about ¢2,750. 

By Lenny Karpman
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Three of us had four appetizers, two entrees, including the most expensive special for ¢8400, three glasses of chardonnay, mineral water, two coffees and one dessert for less than ¢35,000. 

Our friend Joanne is critical of most things. She admits that very little pleases her without qualification. She proclaimed that her meal at De L’Ola del Mar was "better than any I have had in eight years in Costa Rica and as good as the best I have had in New York City, for at least five times the price." We, too, were delighted with our meals, with perhaps a little less hyperbole. 

Let me confess to one of my prejudices. I enjoy artistic presentations, but when food is arranged in a small space in the center of an oversized platter like a Calder mobile, taller than it is wide and is lost in the vastness of Pollack-like splashes of seven different colored but flavorless drizzles, I am put off by the pretentiousness, lack of focus on flavorful food and small portions. 

At De L’Ola del Mar, portions are generous, flavors exhilarating and presentations artistic without garish excesses. In our Tico world, corvina and ceviche are available everywhere but a few gas stations and hardware stores. It isn’t easy to stand head and shoulders above the fish house masses. 

Aside from choosing fillets of snapper, sea bass and mahi mahi with perfect thickness and size, Chef Edgar Alvarez Ramírez never overcooks them. His sauces have distinct imaginative personalities that compliment the seafood without overpowering it. Despite the national sweet tooth, he seems to lean pleasantly towards the tart side of the spectrum. 

Chef Alvarez avoids the trap of mixing too many essences. Try tasting each sauce alone as you would a glass of wine at a tasting. You will be pleased. He offers a bold menu with unconventional variety for Costa Rica. Drawn to the unusual, I opted, at different times, for New England clam chowder, oyster salad, duck confit and Spanish anchovies. I am from New England and love great chowder. 

To borrow a superlative from Joanne, it was the best: no hint of flour, a rich reduction of cream and butter, redolent with baby fresh clams including a few still in their shells, no hint of celery salt or bacon bits, just a generous bowl of ambrosia. 

The cauliflower with egg flower and truffle oil in front of my wife was velvety smooth, perfectly balanced and gorgeously presented. The egg looked like a lotus blossom along side the truffle oil. The salad portion of the oyster dish was a nice melange of greens with a tasty vinaigrette. The four large sweet oysters sat on a canary yellow bed of granita-like frozen citrus frappe, deliciously tart, a wonderful contrast in texture, appearance and taste.

Dr. Lenny
on our food

The confit and anchovies were also quite good. 

My wife loved her mahi mahi on avavado couscous. Joanne is still talking about her snapper atop sweet potato puree adorned with succulent langostinos. On one occasion I ordered a main course special of large squid body stuffed with mushroom duxelle. It is almost impossible to prepare at home because the squid can be rubbery when steamed or pasty when baked unless done properly, and the filling needs to be heated through. It was perfect. 

If you can still manage dessert, the crepe in orange sauce with cointreau is better than a trip down crepe Suzette memory lane. It is not flamed and doesn’t smell of lighter fluid. 

The wine list is impressive. The coffee is strong. The room is elegant in its simplicity, sophisticated and understated with clean lines, draped ceiling, ebony chairs, white linens and two unadorned arched doorways that add a Mediterranean feel. The small dining room was crowded with well-dressed people (smokers banished to a terrace) yet conversation was easy. The wait staff is knowledgeable, attentive, unobtrusive and very professional.

Rating System: + not worth the effort * ok ** good *** very good **** superb, worth a special trip

A peanut butter query

Dear Dr. Lenny,

I love American peanut butter. My wife fears for my waistline and heart. She says that they are full of fat and sugar. Which of the big three, Skippy, Peter Pan or Jiff is the least harmful? 

J. S. Cartago
Dear J. S., Your wife’s concerns are justified. All three contain 190 calories per two ounce serving, mostly (68 to 73 percent) from fat, three grams of sugar, two grams of fiber and some trans fats. Two of the three claim zero trans fats on the label, but they all include hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils (trans fats) in the list of ingredients. 

That only means that they contain less than one gram per serving. The FDA lets them call any amount under one gram, zero, even if it is nine tenths of a gram. Jiff has a gram less fat and a half gram less saturated fat than the other two. For carb watchers, they are all low (6-7 grams per serving.) You might want to spread it thinner and perhaps less often.

Daily dose of corruption claims makes nation weary
By Jay Brodell
editor of A.M. Costa Rica 

This is a country exhausted by allegations of corruption. Each day new personages are paraded before the waiting reporters at the Tribunales de Justicia. Officials, wives, their advisers all have dates with prosecutors.

The country suspected hanky panky among the elite. But disclosures since June have cast a cloud over two former presidents, including one who now heads a major international organization, plus major institutions.

The atmosphere is similar to 1991 Russia when solid citizens learned that Lenin, Stalin and their other icons had done some very bad things.

Analysis on the news

More than half of the nightly news broadcasts treat new developments in the scandals. File footage of the presidents, Rafael Ángel Calderón Fournier and Miguel Ángel Rodríguez Echeverría dominate the screen. But there are occasional sequences of whoever this night chooses to admit his guilt to the television camera. Some cry.

A number of scandal figures have overlooked their right to remain silent and are incriminating, perhaps unjustly, all their friends.

Meanwhile, television and newspaper reporters seem to have new startling disclosures each day from mysterious sources.

The twin scandals involve a loan from Finland that was used to purchase medical equipment and supplies from that country. Politicians and others seem to have skimmed off $9 million of the $39 million loan as a commission.

The second scandal is the allegation that Alcatel, the French telecommunications firm, made payoffs to politically connected officials, including Rodríguez, after it was awarded a $260 million cell phone contract.

President Abel Pacheco wants to lead a parade against corruption Tuesday. But Pacheco has his own scandal of unreported campaign contributions, some from illegal sources. So does his former opponent, Rolando Araya of the Partido Liberación Nacional.

The current scandals seem to have snagged mostly members of the Partido Unidad Social Cristiana, which has been in power for six years. But the second shoe has not yet dropped.

The scandals stem from acts two years or more old.

On a world scale, the scandals are not record breaking. $2 million here, $2 million there.

Compare that with allegations that the Oil-for-Food Program involving Iraq was looted by Saddam Hussein and international diplomats for billions.

But the scandals here do provide fodder for many expats who saw corruption at the root of the government’s investigation into a string of high-interest borrowing operations. 

These unregistered operations lasted for years taking mostly foreign money and paying interest of 3 percent a month.

The definitive report on how they managed to stay out of legal troubles for so long has yet to be written.

Meanwhile, Rodríguez continues to head the Organization of American States. He is three weeks into a five-year term.

'Weak' El Niño generates concern in officials here
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Weather and disaster experts will be meeting today on El Niño and what it can mean to Costa Rica.

Some meteorologists warn that a weather pattern known as El Niño may reemerge in the next few months, raising concerns of drought in Southeast Asia and Australia, and flooding in parts of the Americas.

An El Niño occurs when the ocean surface off the western coast of South America warms up more than usual. The warmer ocean alters wind and rain patterns over much of the world, causing drought in some areas, such as Southeast Asia and floods in both North and South America. 

The pattern often is noticed late in the year, the 

Christmas holiday, giving rise to the name, El Niño, which refers to the Christ child in Spanish.

The session today is organized by the Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias and the Instituto Meteorológico Nacional.

The dry season should be slightly longer this year and the average temperature will be about 1 degree centigrade above the historical average, a weather estimate said.

Already the rain from the current rainy season is below average, the institute said.

The session today will consider agricultural effects as well as possible problems with drinking water supplies and water for hydroelectric generation.

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A.M. Costa Rica is now able to deal in four more important world currencies, thanks to its association with Pay Pal.

Until now, the newspaper accepted payment internationally in U.S. dollars. Colons were accepted in Costa Rica. However, now the newspaper will accept Canadian dollars, euros, pounds sterling and yen via the Pay Pal Internet system. 

Visa woes for foreign students worry U.S. schools
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Praising the contributions of international students at U.S. universities, prominent senators say they are determined to ensure U.S. visa policy does not hinder legitimate educational exchange. 

At a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing Wednesday, lawmakers and representatives of U.S. universities agreed high international student presence on U.S. campuses is in the nation's interest and that the twin goals of U.S. visa policy — secure borders and open doors — must be achieved. 

International educators charged that some post-9/11 U.S. visa policies intended to bolster security have made obtaining a student visa "inefficient, lengthy and opaque," reduced the number of foreign student applications to the United States and made it more difficult for U.S. colleges to compete with other nations for students. Educators warned visa requirements must not become a roadblock to U.S. higher education and said ensuring the United States is a destination of choice for students from other countries is integral to national security and should be a U.S. priority. 

International student enrollments at universities in countries such as Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom increased by 10, 15, and 23 percent from 2002 to 2003. According to the Institute of International Education's "Open Doors 2003" report, the number of international students studying in the United States increased by 0.6 percent for the 2003-2004 academic year, following increases of 6.4 percent in the 2001-2002 and 2002-2003 academic years.

Commenting on the increased competition from those countries, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard G. Lugar said the United States must do everything it can to reduce unnecessary delays in evaluating and processing student visas in order to help U.S. universities to remain competitive. 

He noted that the State Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs is now adjudicating student visa applications more efficiently than when new security procedures first took effect.

Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee proposed that the Senate convene a roundtable meeting of international educators and administration officials in 2004 in order to identify specific administrative and legislative actions that could create a more efficient and secure visa process. 

University of Maryland President C.D. Mote told lawmakers intense competition for students, difficulties in obtaining a visa, and efforts of other nations to "stop brain drain" and keep students in their own country, are three compounding factors that have led to a significant decrease in applications at his university — down 36 percent since 2002.

Mote described the university's technical training programs that have brought over 200 managers since 1995 from Jiangsu Province in China for training on economics, commerce, governance, democracy and political-justice systems. 

However, in 2004, a group scheduled to participate in an economics training course has experienced delays in visa processing, he said. 

Haiti lurches more and more out of control due to gang violence
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Violence has returned in Haiti's capital, where armed gangs have taken to the streets in the slums of Port-au-Prince. The Haitian National Police, backed by U.N. troops, are struggling to regain control of the city. 

Enraged supporters of ousted president Jean-Bertrand Aristide patrol the narrow alleyways of downtown slums, torching cars, blocking roads, and ransacking stores. Gunfights and machetes have taken the lives of at least 19 people and wounded more than 46. Since Thursday, three police officers and one former army officer were decapitated in what the violent protesters are calling Operation Baghdad.

Government officials blame the violence on armed factions of Aristide's Lavalas party, known locally as chimeres. The chimeres are calling for the return of Aristide, who was ousted by rebel leaders earlier this year. They are also demanding an end to the U.N. stabilization mission to Haiti, which they call an invasion.

Prime Minister Gerard Latortue has criticized the U.N. mission, saying U.N. troops have done little to stem the rising violence.

Gen. Amerigo Salvador commands the Brazilian forces, which form the largest contingent of U.N. troops. He says his primary mission has been to disarm the gangs and former military officers. But lack of personnel has been a major problem.

Salvador says that the U.N. mission was planned for 6,700 troops, but to date, only 2,700 have arrived. He says his troops are overstretched, they can not be everywhere at once.

Wednesday, Haitian police and U.N. troops moved into the slum of Belair, arresting over 75 people. Yet no guns were recovered in the arrest, prompting U.N. officials to say that arms have been hidden in other parts of the city.

Former rebel leader Ravix Remissainthe issued an ultimatum to Haitian authorities to control the violence. Otherwise, he says, the rebels will launch their own operation against the Lavalas loyalists.

The time has come for more stories of spooks and banshees
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

If the local political and financial news are not scary enough for you, we invite you again this year to submit your efforts to our annual Halloween short story contest.

Once again the prize will be $25 and worldwide recognition though the pages of A.M. Costa Rica. After all, we are read in 89 countries each day.

The stories must have a theme that is consistent with Halloween: Spooks, witches, goblins, ghosts. 

By submitting a story to you are certifying that the story was written by you, that it is original and unpublished and that we may publish it. We will. Graphics are welcomed but will not be part of the evaluation. Deadline is Oct. 25 at midnight, of course.

Judging will be by the strange figure that inhabits the A.M. Costa Rica offices after hours. We’ll just leave the computer on for its decision.

Try to keep the stories around, 1,000 words or less and make sure that there is a connection with Costa Rica.

Jo Stuart
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