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Jo Stuart
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These articles were published first Monday, Oct. 15, 2001
Someone who is unclear on the concept: You need a political party!
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

During political campaigns there is nothing unusual when party activists raise money by promising cushy government jobs after the elections.

But one Costa Rican carried this tradition a step further by failing to be involved with a political party before he went out selling government jobs, according to investigators.

They arrested a 46-year-old man with the surname Montenego and said he was a flexible and resourceful con man.

He was arrested in Barrio Córdoba when he went to a private home to conclude a transaction so that the homeowner would become a vice consul if Abel Pacheco won the presidency Feb. 3. The problem is that the arrested man does not seem to have any contact or relationship with Pacheco or his United Social Christian Party.

Investigators said that Montenegro was charging 6 million colons (about $14,925) for a consul's diplomatic post. A vice consul position costs 1.5 million colons (about $4,475).

The name of the supposed victim was not released, although police said that Montenegro went to the home to pick up a 750,000 colons (about $2,240) down payment on a vice consulship.

The accused was put in prison for three months preventative detention, according to investigators.

They said that Montenegro was an accomplished con man. He is being investigated for offering taxi licenses for 1.5 million colons and for promising to bring in vehicles from foreign lands, presumably by avoiding the taxes levied on such imports, said police. The car scam costs victims between 500,000 and 600,000 colons in advance. (some $1,500 to $1,800).

Fraud Section agents from the Judicial Investigating Organization said they think that the consul scam was worked with success on other persons, and they asked these persons to come forward, as well as persons who were victimized by other scams.  They said victims should call 295-3312 or 295-3314. 

Meanwhile, the three-months preventative detention for Montenegro should be up a few weeks before the election

Eclipse Dec. 14 could be a boost to tourism here
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Just when Costa Rica needed a tourism boost, the sun and the moon decided to get together.

The country will witness a solar eclipse Dec. 14, and the section of the travel industry that specialized in eclipse tours already is marketing the country vigorously.

Paul Maley of the U.S. Johnson Space Center Astronomical Society is bringing his 25th solar eclipse tour here. Visitors also will visit other points in Costa Rica and end up viewing the eclipse. 

A firm called Astronomical Tours also is planning a Costa Rican trip. They have good reason. The next eclipse is June 10, 2002, but it is best viewed over the water off the coast of Mexico. Another is May 31, 2003, in Greenland and Iceland. Madrid has one scheduled for Oct. 3, 2005.

The Foundation for the National Center of Science and Technology in Costa Rica has set up a Web page in Spanish about the Dec. 14 event.


The best place to view the eclipse will be north of Puntarenas on the Gulf of Nicoya or on the Pacific Coast of the Nicoya Peninsula in the area San Juanillo, just north of Nosara. That's because the sun will be low in the sky when the full effect of the moon crossing in front of it takes place. That will be between 4:30 p.m. and 4:33 p.m. when the so-called ring of fire can be seen.

Persons in the Central Valley will be able to see the eclipse, assuming the clouds do not block the sky. San José is on the southernmost line where the full eclipse can be viewed. A hilltop further to the north would be the ideal Central Valley location.

The national center said that the track of the eclipse would include nearly the whole country north of a southwest-northeast line drawn through San José. Only persons in a small part of extreme northwest Guanacaste near the Nicaraguan border will not be able to see the full glory of the eclipse because they will be north of the eclipse track. The center maintains two maps on its Web site showing the eclipse path.

The first darkening of the sun will being about 3:13 p.m. and the last signs of the eclipse will vanish about 5:39 p.m., the center said.  The sun will be almost due west at the time, but very low in the sky, only 11  degrees, when the ring of fire takes place.

That is when the moon is fully in front of the sun. But because the moon is smaller than the size of the sun, the corona ring of the sun can be seen encircling the darkened moon.

Costa Rica has been hurting because tourism, one of its main industries, has been hit hard by the declining U.S. economy and fear of traveling engendered by the terrorist attacks in the United States.

Reports from Limón, for example, where the annual carnival started Saturday say that the event is not being attended heavily.
It's a holiday

If you were going to the bank today, forget it. The Día de las Culturas holiday normally held on Oct. 12 is celebrated today, according to a law passed by the legislative Assembly.

Goverment offices and banks will be closed, but only a few specialty stores will lock their doors, and there is a full scheduled of activity on the cultural scene.

It's the ninth day of bombing Afghanistan targets 
By A.M. Costa Rica wire services

U.S. warplanes have flown a ninth day of attacks in Afghanistan against suspected terrorist targets and positions of the ruling Taliban. At least one explosion was heard Monday near the capital, Kabul, after planes were seen overhead. 

Other explosions were heard in the area late Sunday. Reports said the target was an entrenched Taliban army division facing troops of the opposition Northern Alliance. Other air strikes targeted Taliban headquarters in the southern city of Kandahar. 

Earlier Sunday, Pakistan's foreign minister, Abdul Sattar, said Islamabad has asked Washington not to bomb Taliban forces trying to block the opposition from marching into Kabul. In an interview on the U.S. television network, ABC, Sattar said Pakistan fears a Northern Alliance takeover of the capital would further destabilize Afghanistan. 

Meanwhile, the opposition says four thousand Taliban fighters have defected, as opposition forces made advances in central Afghanistan's Jozejan Province. That report has not been independently confirmed. 

The Taliban appealed Sunday to the Northern Alliance to join forces with Taliban troops to resist the U.S. attacks. The Islamabad-based Afghan Islamic Press quotes the Taliban intelligence chief, Qari Ahmedullah, as saying opposition fighters who defect to the Taliban may keep their weapons. 

Nearly 200 more sought

Meanwhile, in Sunday morning television interviews, Attorney General John Ashcroft said law enforcement agencies nationwide continue to track down leads in an effort to find all those responsible and to prevent further attacks. 

He says authorities are trying to find almost 200 people wanted for questioning in connection with last month's attacks.  However, Ashcroft says the Bush administration considers the latest threats 
from Afghanistan's ruling Taliban and Osama bin

Laden's terror network to be, in his words, propaganda. 

In a videotaped message, al-Qaida spokesman Sulaiman Abu Ghaith vowed that airplane hijackings would continue until the United States and Britain end military action in Afghanistan, stop supporting Israel and leave the Arabian peninsula. Other demands include lifting the embargo against Iraq and stop supporting India in its conflict with Pakistan over Kashmir.

A U.S. magazine, Newsweek, reports the FBI has evidence the al-Qaida network has placed at least four calls to telephone numbers in the United States since the Sept. 11 attacks. Newsweek says the prevailing theory is that al-Qaida was trying to activate more terrorist cells. 

Anthrax tests positive

Investigators still are trying to find out who is mailing letters containing anthrax spores to mostly news outlets. No link has yet been made to Middle Eastern terrorists.

In New York, three more people are being treated with antibiotics for exposure to anthrax. New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani says a police officer and two laboratory technicians tested positive for anthrax after handling an infected letter sent to NBC television news. However, he said they do not have the disease. 

Doctors in New York are treating one NBC employee for skin anthrax and investigating a second possible case at the network. The woman infected by the anthrax-laden letter sent to NBC is expected to make a full recovery. A second employee is also receiving antibiotics after showing symptoms of anthrax. 

Meanwhile, no one has tested positive for anthrax exposure at a Microsoft office in Nevada after it received an anthrax-contaminated letter from Malaysia. Malaysian authorities say they are ready to cooperate in investigating the incident, but need more information.

Envionmentalists' experts unhappy with Harken's impact statement
Two Mexican experts urged that an environmental impact statement involving a plan to drill offshore near Limón not be approved.

The plan has many technical faults, they said, according to the World Conservation Union, a group that is fighting the proposal by Harken Costa Rica Holding, LLC.

The two experts are Alejandro Yáñez-Arancibia and David Zárate who did their analysis of the Harken study at the request of the union and the International Fund for the Protection of Animals.

Their presentation was made before the National Environmental Technical Secretariat, which held hearings and has the authority to approve or reject the plan. The plan must be approved before Harken can conduct offshore drilling.

The World Conservation Union in a release said that the two experts found that the plan submitted by Harken was incomplete. The two also said that Harken's contractors who did the plan greatly underestimated the area of impact of the project.

Harken's plan said that the area of direct influence was about 500 meters or little more than a mile around the wellhead. An area of indirect impact extends in a radius of 10 kilometers or 22 miles, said the Harken study. But the two experts said that

the affected zone was at least 65 kilometers, and included the coast of Moín and Limón to Manzanillo. 

In addition to its exploratory efforts near Limón, Harken is known to be interested in certain promising offshore areas of Panama, and the government of Panama has contacted Costa Rica officials to check up on the company.

Harken Energy Corp announced in July that it was downplaying its international projects in favor of concentrating its resources more on the U.S. natural gas projects. In doing so it cut its ownership in the proposed Moín No. 1 well project in Costa Rica from 80 percent to 40 percent.

Harken's chairman, Mikel D. Faulkner, said, "We continue to believe this Costa Rica project represents one of the foremost unexplored frontier areas in this hemisphere. By reducing Harken's interest in this project to a still very significant 40  percent, it puts this project in better balance with Harken's portfolio of other international exploration projects." 

Although Costa Rica has no operating petroleum wells and must purchase all its oil needs from overseas, the Harken project has become the environmental poster project for Costa Ricans and international environmental organizations.

International guitar festival opens tonight 

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Victor Monge of Spain will open the Eighth International Festival of Guitars at the National theater tonight at 8 o'clock.

The festival is a seven-day event ending in a finale in which all the invited artists participate Sunday night.

All sessions are at the National Theater on Avenida 2 between calles 3 and 5. Tickets, except for those to the finale, range from 2,000 to 4, 000 colons. Finale tickets are from 2,500 to 6,000 colons.

Other evenings: 

Tuesday: Nadia Borislova of Russia and Jorge Luis Zamora of Cuba are the featured artists. 

Wednesday: Liat Cohen of Israel and Juan Carlos Laguna of Mexico are the featured artists. 

Thursday: Mario Ulloa and six other Costa Rican performers are the featured artists.

Friday: Pavel Stiedl of Holland and the Quartet of Chile are the featured artists 

Saturday: Carlos Barbosa Lima of Brazil and Juan Falú of Argentina are the featured artists.

Sunday: There are two performances today. At 10 a.m. Gabriel Guillén of Venezuela and Luis Vasquez of Nicaragua perform. At 8 p.m. all the performers who have participated throughout the week will show up for a grand closing of the festival. 

Panel of experts to bring
wealth-building ideas 

A Maryland financial expert and a Costa Rican lawyer have teamed up to put on a financial seminar designed to address the needs of U.S. citizens living abroad.

"In this world of increasing legal and regulatory complexity, only trained experts with a concern for legal and tax compliance are capable of charting the right course for you," said the lawyer, José Juan Sánchez, a partner in Costa Rica Law, S.A.

The Maryland expert is Barry Strudwick, president of Strudwick Wealth Strategies of Baltimore.

The pair have assembled a group of experts in a broad range of fields for what is being called "The San José Symposium" Nov. 10 at the Hotel Camino Real Intercontinental in Escazú. They are charging $75 for what they have described as a graduate-level course on advanced tax planning and investment strategies for U.S. citizens.

Those who will give presentations are:

Michael Checkan, president of Asset Strategies International in Rockville, Md. He deals in precious metals, foreign currencies and "overseas wealth protection."

Ron Jenkins, partner, Ten State Street, Charleston, S.C., a lawyer who provides advice on international trade, finance and business migration.

Heidi Scholz-Perez, partner in Chatzky & Associates of La Jolla, Calif., and a specialist in international and domestic tax and asset protection.

Joel M. Nagel, a lawyer with Nagel & Associates in Pittsburgh, Pa., who has experience in international estate planning, taxes, off-shore legal structures and export finance.

The fifth person is Strudwick, who has provided investment advice for 25 years. He also was one of two on-air hosts for Mutual Perspectives, a radio program that brought in as guests some of the nation’s top mutual fund managers, for 10 years at station WBJC in Baltimore. In addition, he authors a weekly column of the same name for the Daily Record newspaper in Maryland. His viewpoints may be found at http://www.mddailyrecord.com.

The sponsors are requesting advanced registration. More information is available via e-mail at symposium@noload.com. Reservations are available on the web:  www.noload.com/costarica.htm contact numbers  in the United States are (toll free) 1 (866) 466-5623. The FAX number is (410) 783-9070. 

In Costa Rica call (506) 258-5007; fax (506) 223-2846 or mail reservations to San Jose Symposium, 12 E. Eager Street, Baltimore, Md.  21202, USA

The sponsors also are scheduling an informal gathering of speakers and attendees at the same hotel the evening before the seminar, on Nov. 9, from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. 

The fee for that event is $15 which can be applied to the registration costs. There also is a reduced charge of $35 for a second person to attend the seminar.

Chavez and pope
agree on terrorism

By A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Pope John Paul II and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez met Friday at the Vatican and discussed the current international situation, as well as church issues in Venezuela. 

President Chavez had a private audience with the pontiff. Vatican officials say the Venezuelan leader and the pope agreed on their shared commitment to reject terrorism. 

Chavez and the 81-year-old pope also discussed issues concerning the Roman Catholic Church in Venezuela, including education and worship laws. 

Farmers march to reform
in Guatemala City

Thousands of indigenous farmers marched in Guatemala City and blocked roadways leading to the capital as part of what organizers called a "Day of Indigenous Resistance."

The protesters urged the government of President Alfonso Portillo to implement land and farming reforms. Event organizers say they are calling for a meeting with the president and other government officials to present these demands.

The farming industry provides Guatemala with a sizable amount of its economy. More than half of all Guatemalans are descendants of indigenous Mayan groups.

Argentina voting
for senate, house

Argentines have voted for new senate and house members, in an election seen as a major test of President Fernando de la Rua's 2-year-old administration.

Polls have closed in the capital, Buenos Aires, but no preliminary results have been given. 

The election is taking place in an atmosphere of pessimism among Argentine voters, many of whom say they are fed up with the country's political infighting and nearly four years of economic recession. 

Voters will select the candidates for the entire 72-member Senate and one-half of the 257-member House of Deputies. The opposition Justice Party, also known as the Peronist Party, is expected to win a majority in both houses.

Tough policies to boost the economy, enacted by President De la Rua, have actually worsened it. Recent figures indicate more than one-third of Argentines live in poverty, and unemployment rates have soared above 16 percent. 

All citizens over the age of 18 are required to vote in Argentina. However, many voters are expected to cast blank or spoiled ballots to show their dissatisfaction.

Fox travels to Spain
to promote trade

Mexican President Vicente Fox has arrived in Spain, as part of a five-nation European tour to promote his country's latest trade agreement.

The Mexican leader traveled to Spain Saturday from France, where he met with French President Jacques Chirac and top business leaders.

President Fox says the purpose of the trip is to maximize trade between Mexico and the European Union. Mexico is the only Latin American nation to have a trade agreement with the EU. 

Fox has already visited the Czech Republic and Germany. He will stop in Italy before going on to China.

Belize puts homeless
at more than 14,000

Officials in Belize say thousands of people are homeless after Hurricane Iris battered the country's coast last week.

Authorities say as many as 14,000 people are without shelter, and thousands need food and water after the storm ripped apart houses and flattened crops.

Officials say the powerful system destroyed more than 95 percent of the buildings in 35 villages. Iris also severely damaged roads and cut electricity and water supplies.

At least 20 people are feared dead following the storm; three people remain missing. Officials say the victims —  many of them U.S. citizens — were killed Monday when Hurricane Iris overturned their diving boat in Belize's Big Creek area. 





recalling a few

Cold War types

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

If James Bond were flesh and not a literary creation, he might be getting a big manila envelope delivered by a smiling junior naval officer.

Sources in London report that the British intelligence agency, MI6, is releasing some top employees and recalling some James Bond types who can be of more use in the confrontation with Arab fundamentalists.

Bond, of course, is a fictional Royal Navy officer, having been created by author Ian Fleming.  Even if he were real, Bond, born in 1924, according to Fleming's scenario, would be pushing 78 today and probably ineligible for most heavy-duty spy service. He's likely to be drinking prune juice instead of a dry martini ("Stirred, not shaken.").

But a few British cloak-and-dagger types are getting the call.

Similarly, the U.S. intelligence services are said to be looking up a few old men and/or women, particularly those with Middle Eastern language skills. Some are hard-drivers who left the various secret agencies after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the change in emphasis to a kinder, friendlier spy service more interested in commercial information.

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