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(506) 223-1327        Published Thursday, Oct. 12, 2006, in Vol. 6, No. 203      E-mail us    
Jo Stuart
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Another step taken toward approval of free trade pact
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Wednesday was a milestone for the pending free trade treaty with the United States.

The Comisión de Asuntos Internacionales finished hearing testimony on the treaty. The final set of witnesses was Marco Vinicio Ruiz, the minister of Comercio Exterior, Amparo Pacheco, a vice minister, and various experts from the ministry.

The committee has heard from 80 persons in 47 meetings. The witnesses were divided among experts, proponents and opponents.

The minister, of course, supports the trade agreement, and said that approval was vital for the 594 firms in the agricultural sector and their 153,146 direct employees.

The minister also said that the treaty does not undermine the power of the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social. That's something the union representing Caja employees would dispute. The union held a press conference Tuesday to explain its concerns and promised to be in the streets for a general strike of resistance called for  Oct. 23 and 24.

The legislative commission is not ready yet to make a recommendation to the full Asamblea Legislativa. The commission will entertain motions and discussions in future sessions, but approval is almost certain. Once the treaty reaches the assembly floor there will be more days of speeches and discussion. However, the take-it or leave-it treaty cannot be changed.

The commission is planning to bring debates on the treaty to the people. Saturday legislators will be in Guápiles. The 9 a.m. session at the Hotel Suerre is expected to attract some 300 treaty opponents and supporters. Two groups in favor and two groups of opponents will have a chance to speak. Other regional forums are planned.

All parties to the treaty except Costa Rica have approved the document. The United States is spending money to help Central American countries adjust. For example, the U.S. State Department announced a $582,288, two-year program Wednesday to help trade treaty countries understand and prosecute intellectual property crime. That includes protection of trademarks and inventions.
One complaint of the Caja union, is that the free trade treaty will require the purchase of original
medications and prohibit the purchase of what it called generic medications.

The organization is the Unión Nacional de Empleados de la Caja y la Seguridad Social.

The union also complains that companies and firms would have the right under the free trade treaty to contract with other health providers instead of the Caja. Payment to the Caja now is part of what employers must now pay for their employees.
The union says it is worried about reductions in income to the Caja and subsequent deterioration of services.

Throughout the public sector the treaty generates fears of private competition. The Caja union also worries about the opening of the monopoly insurance sector. Commercial insurance will be open to competition in 2008, and employee compensation insurance and automobile insurance will be open in 2011.

Now insurance is handled only by the Instituto Nacional de Seguros, and employees from there will be on strike Oct. 23 and 24.

The free trade protest will culminate in a big march from all over the country to the Asamblea Legislativa Oct. 24.

Meanwhile political opponents are trying to find inflammatory issues to generate public opposition. Last week opponents said the treaty would open the country to being the site of arms manufacturers.

Minister Ruiz told the committee Wednesday that no aspect of the free trade agreement undermines the power of the state to make laws on matters of security, including outlawing arms manufacturing.

One major issue still confronts national lawmakers, and that is the number of votes required for ratification of the treaty. The Arias administration easily can muster 29 of the 57 assembly votes. But many legal commentators have said 38 are necessary.

Opponents certainly will file many Sala IV constitutional court appeals against the treaty on many grounds if it is ratified. President Óscar Arias Sánchez said that this is likely in January.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Oct. 12, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 203

Costa Rica Expertise
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A.M. Costa Rica/José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
Viviana Martin, a vice minister of Obras Públicas y Transporte, pulls a number during a lottery Wednesday for new taxi permits. The metropolitan area will get 363 more taxis and 183 are going to Puntarenas and Limón.

Panamá illnesses linked
to switch in medication

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Panamá officials have stopped talking about the strange illness that killed at least 17 patients at the Seguro Social hospitals.

Observers there think the illnesses and deaths can be traced to an Aug. 17 decision by the Seguro Social director to change blood pressure medication. About 9,000 patients had their medicine changed to Lisinopril from Enalapril.

This was supposed to be a cost-saving measure. What appears to have killed kidney patients and others are the well-known side effects of Lisinopril that are listed by the manufacturer.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Pan-American Health Organization have investigated.

When the deaths were first reported, Costa Rican officials considered closing the border for fear the disease was contagious.

Our readers’ opinion

Story on trafficker here
more than exaggeration.

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

You have an article today entitled, “Drug Ties Stop at the Doors of the Casa Presidencial.”  This is more than mere exaggeration.

If you happened to attend your brother’s birthday party and there also happened to be a person there whom you did not know, but who was involved in drugs, do you think it fair that the public would say that you, yourself, had ties to the illegal drug trafficking?

In this particular case, the so called “ties” are even more remote than the above example, since the President himself had no connection with the brother of his vice-president, much less the drug trafficker.

Richard and Jean Redmond
Moravia, San Jose

EDITOR’S NOTE: Actually, the article is titled: “Arias administration scurries to avoid link to drug trafficker.” The reader refers to the daily digest notation. See today’s story HERE!

Reader has message
for anti-Bush expat

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

To the writer of “You Can’t Trust Bush!”

Sorry Pard’ner! You’re the one that can’t be trusted. Bush did not put us in this war alone, I’m sure he had complete majority support of the House and Senate!
But he’s the only one that has not flinched and stood firm to his commitment there and everywhere else I’m aware of. It people like you and your weak-kneed, gutless politicians that you can’t trust and that continually demean our President, our troops and our cause for freedom and democracy for all.

It is people like you that would turn tail and run at the slightest sight of opposition from within and aboard. It is you that would leave and leave another legacy of not honoring our commitment, and sending our brave young men and women into harms way and then when the going gets tough, say “I’m sorry we didn’t mean it where going home.”  “Your lives and your limbs didn’t mean anything to us, we were just playing, we weren’t serious and now well leave and our friends there will be killed by the thousands and buried in mass graves because they to supported freedom and democracy.”

And people Like you don’t care about 1. Our troops that have already gave all, and 2. Those over there that depend and trust us and will be mutilated if and when we withdraw without a total victory or insuring they have the strength and support to continue to a complete success for freedom and democracy.

Which, by the way, has not happened since World War II, because people like you stand up and cry about our wrongs. Why don’t you sing about our rights. We help and aid more people and more countries in the world than any other country and we  come to the aid of all that request, or need it. And all we get is [dumped] on.
Why, Because people like you want carry it to the end, to a complete and successful conclusion.

This could have been done 15 years ago, if people like you would have supported our troops and our President and not withdrawn, and look at us now. A slight 10 years later we are back and you still want to leave the job undone so more great Americans can go do it later.
To put it plainly, don’t commit, until your commited to the end, either way it falls. Otherwise, don’t commit.
G. McMahan
San José
Professional Directory
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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Oct. 12, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 203

Casas wants legislative committee to investigate Nayor ties
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The legislative anti-drug trafficking commission will be asked to launch an investigation of the Costa Rican activities of a jailed drug cartel figure.

That was something sought by Kevin Casas, the second vice president of the country, when he appeared before the full Asamblea Legislative to discuss his relationship or lack of relationship with the man, George Nayor.

The request by Casas found backing from Mayi Antillón, head of the Partido Liberación Nacional in the assembly. She said she would present a motion for the Comisión de Narcotráfico to start the probe. Casas also belongs to Liberación Nacional.

Nayor has been in and out of the country using a false passport at least 10 times since mid-2005.

Casas is involved because he admits meeting Nayor at a birthday party for his brother, Ciro Casas. Kevin Casas generated mystery about the case over the weekend when he said that his brother had vanished. But Ciro Casas turned up
Wednesday after what his family said was a business trip to Colombia.

Ciro Casas told Channel 6 news that he only knew Nayor as a law practice client and that the man just happened to turn up at the time of the birthday party.

Another news outlet reported that Kevin Casas said he was introduced to Nayor by his brother, who called Nayor a close friend.

Ciro Casas also said that he had no knowledge of some $15 million that Nayor is supposed to have stashed here.

Antonio Saca, the president of El Salvador where Nayor was living, said the man was among those who planned to kill him because of his opposition to drug trafficking. Nayor was expelled from El Salvador into the hands of U.S. drug agents who say he is a key figure in the Medellín drug cartel once run by Pablo Escobar. 

He is now in jail in Florida.

President Óscar Arias Sánchez has called for transparency. 

Edmundo Jarquín answers a question at a press conference with Ottón Sollís, the former presidential candidate here.

A.M. Costa Rica/José Pablo Ramíres Vindas

Nicaraguan presidential candidate looks for vote here
By José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Edmundo Jarquín, the Nicaraguan presidential candidate of the Movimiento Renovación Sandinista, was in town Wednesday seeking votes.

He was joined at a press conference by Ottón Solís, who said that his Partido Acción Ciudadana, fully supports Jarquín and had donated to his campaign.

Jarquín got the nomination when Herty Lewites died July 2. The party is in opposition to the Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional and Daniel Ortega Saavedra, who leads
in the polls. A close second was Eduardo Montealegre of
Alianza Liberal Nicaragüense. Both men had about 30 percent of the voters. Jarquín was getting about 15 percent support.

Lewites broke with Ortega and formed the new party because Ortega entered into what is now being called the dirty pact with Arnoldo Alemán, the former president. The men were trying to minimize the power of current President Enrique Bolaños.

The election is Nov. 5.

Jarquín said that Costa Rica needs to reform its immigration laws to respect human rights. Many Nicaraguans are here illegally.

New organic farming law is seen as a way to boost industry and exports
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Óscar Arias Sánchez signed into law Wednesday a measure to give an economic boost to organic farming.

The event took place in Pérez Zeledón where the president and his Consejo de Gobierno met to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the canton.

Alfredo Volio, the minister of Producción, said that Costa Rica already has a reputation around the world for leadership in conservation and the country should take advantage of this fact to help exporters and to aid in rural
development. Right now the main organic exports are bananas, sugar, cacao and coffee.

Volio also said that some 10,000 hectares (24,710 acres) and 6,500 producers already are certified for organic products and some 5,000 are seeking certification. The government generally considers a product organic if it is produced without the use of agrochemicals.

Some benefits under the new law are research help, technical support, benefits for environmental efforts and the establishment of areas of protection from transgenic seeds and spores, said Casa Presdencial in a summary.

Two environmentally friendly coffee brands announced in Guanacaste
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two coffee cooperatives in Guanacaste have come out with new organic brands, and they promise to invest 25 U.S. cents into education for every package sold.

The producers are from Hojancha, Nicoya, Santa Cruz and Nandayure. The new brands are Diría and Pampa. The
cooperatives are Coopepilangosta and Coopecerroazul. Producers promise environmentally sound cultivation practices.

For each package sold, the 25 cents will go to a school fund supervised by the Proyecto de Desarrollo Agrícola de la Península and eventually be used to purchase school supplies, said the Ministerio de Producción.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Oct. 12, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 203

New survey says Christian Pentecostals are politically savvy
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A new 10-nation survey says Christian Pentecostalism is growing, and that Pentecostals, known for their exuberant style of worship, are also becoming more active in politics.  Modern Pentecostalism was born 100 years ago, in Los Angeles, and there scholars met at the University of Southern California to assess the movement's impact.

There have been times in Christian history when believers experienced what they said were gifts of the Holy Spirit — an ecstatic form of expression called speaking in tongues, divine healing, and utterances of prophecy, which are messages they believe come directly from God.

The prototype for the experience is seen in the New Testament Book of Acts, which says the spirit of God descended on the followers of Jesus on the feast of Pentecost.

In the early 1900s, there were scattered episodes of Pentecostal enthusiasm — in Wales in southwest Britain and near Pune, India. But in 1906, a major movement erupted in Los Angeles to which historians trace the rise of modern Pentecostalism.

An African-American preacher named William Seymour held meetings in a building on Azusa Street.

There, many experienced what they described as gifts of the Holy Spirit, says Cecil Mel Robeck, Jr., a third-generation Pentecostal minister and professor of church history at Fuller Theological Seminary. He says the dirt-floor meeting room had been used to house horses, was filled with flies and smelled bad.

He said, "It was hot. It was noisy. It was not in the best part of town. And yet there were 15,000 people that came there consistently over the next three years or so."

People of all races took part in what came to be called the Azusa Street revival.

In the excitement, people would fall and roll on the floor and speak in what seemed an unintelligible babble. The behavior drew ridicule in the press, but word also spread through sympathetic Christians in churches and missionary societies.

The Azusa Street church sent emissaries abroad to preach the Pentecostal message as far as Liberia, where they planted the seeds of a now-thriving Pentecostalism in Africa. Allan Anderson of the University of Birmingham in England says there were soon multiple centers of the excitement.

"There were revival movements in Korea, Manchuria, all of this within a few years of each other," he said. "And of course the first one was in Wales in 1904."

But most analysts trace the modern movement to the Azusa Street revival two years later.

Pentecostal denominations were soon founded, such as the Assemblies of God. Many decades later, a Pentecostal-like movement emerged in the Catholic and Protestant churches. This movement is often termed "charismatic."

On the 100th anniversary of the birth of the modern movement, the new study of Pentecostals shows they are numerous. Together with charismatics, they may make up one-quarter of all Christians. They are nearly one-fourth of the U.S. population, according to the study, and almost half the population of Brazil.

The study of the Pentecostal movement was conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. It suggests that more than half of the people of Kenya are Pentecostals or charismatics, and 60 percent of the people of Guatemala.

Pew Forum Director Luis Lugo says the study has some surprises.

"One, to me, was the extent to which Pentecostal beliefs and practices had made their way into these non-Pentecostal churches," he said. "In several of these

Pew Forum graphic

countries, the percentage of charismatics was at least double that of Pentecostals." Those countries include Chile, South Africa, and South Korea.

In the Philippines, the number of charismatics, most of them Catholic, is 10 times the number of Pentecostals. The study groups all of them together under the term renewalists.

John Green of the Pew Forum said Pentecostals and charismatics, like other traditional Christians, have a high regard for the Bible and attend church often. Surprisingly, he says, they are also interested in worldly matters.

"They are very interested in politics. They are very interested in the free market. They are very interested in social welfare programs," he said. "These are very different than the common stereotype of Pentecostals as being other-worldly."

Harold Caballeros, a former lawyer in Guatemala, is the founder of El Shaddai Pentecostal ministries in Guatemala City. He is now retiring from active church work to establish a university and create a political movement.

He notes that Guatemala suffered from a bloody civil war from 1960 to 1996, and that the Central American nation still has social problems.

"Such as very high crime and violence and poverty, and that has created a conscience, so to speak, in many of us to get involved, to engage society instead of the traditional position, which was be just inside the church," he said.

Analysts point to an obvious difficulty when religion crosses the line into politics. Not all practitioners of a religion live up to its precepts.

Guatemala has had two Pentecostal presidents, and the one who took power in a 1982 military coup, Efrain Rios Montt, has been accused of widespread human-rights abuses. Prominent Pentecostals have been the subject of scandals in Brazil.

But some scholars see social benefits in Pentecostalism. Ann Bernstein of the Center for Development and Enterprise has studied the movement in her native South Africa.

She said, "Our research has revealed the phenomenal entrepreneurial energy that Pentecostal pastors have in establishing new institutions, often in very poor, difficult circumstances, and surviving a very competitive environment."

She says Pentecostal churches provide opportunities for leadership and instill discipline, helping people improve their prospects in a complex economy.

The Pew Forum's Lugo says the study gives hints as to why Pentecostalism is growing. He says renewalist churches offer a joyful form of worship and the sense that God is present.

Pentecostalism has also adapted to local cultures, blending its enthusiastic form of expression with Christian beliefs and practices in indigenous African churches. Through the charismatic movement, it has also enlivened the ritual of older denominations.

Finally, he says Pentecostals are building a sense of community by reaching out to the displaced, including migrants to the city, providing a spiritual home in a world that is quickly changing.

In addition to the United States, Guatemala, the Philippines, Chile, South Africa and South Korea, the countries of  Brazil, Kenya, Nigeria and India were surveyed.

Venezuela admits that its troops fired on miners along disputed border
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Venezuelan authorities have acknowledged that soldiers patrolling its border with Guyana fired shots at a group of Guyanese miners Saturday.

Venezuela's Defense Ministry, however, says it has no evidence to support Guyanese reports that one of the miners had been killed.

Venezuelan Defense Minister General Raul Baduel says the troops used their weapons after one of the miners became
violent, but had no intention of attacking anyone.

Guyana has said the Venezuelan soldiers killed a man believed to be smuggling fuel from Venezuela for his mining operations.  Officials say troops fired at him along the Cuyuni River separating the two countries.

Guyanese Foreign Minister Rudy Insanally Monday called on Caracas for an explanation and said an investigation is under way.  The border between Venezuela and Guyana is disputed and the demarcation has been referred to the United Nations.

Brazil's president appears to be gaining ground in race for Oct. 29 runoff
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A new public opinion poll shows Brazil's president widening his lead in the run-off election for another term.

Polling data shows support for President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva at 56 percent against rival Geraldo Alckmin's whose support is at 44 percent.

Support for President Lula rose 2 percent from a poll late
last week, while his opponent's ratings slipped 2 percent.

The poll, published by a Sao Paulo newspaper Folha de S. Paulo, is the first survey of voter sentiment following Sunday's nationally televised public debate.

President Lula failed to win an outright victory Oct. 1 in the first round of voting, capturing 48.6 percent of the vote. Alckmin, the Social Democracy Party's candidate, won 41.6 percent of the vote. The run-off election is Oct. 29.

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