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These stories were published Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2003, in Vol. 3, No. 208
Jo Stuart
About us
Wet and weary

This fellow in front of the turret of the Bella Vista fortress was getting wet Monday as rain dampened an anti-free trade protest at the national legislature. 

He has the Costa Rican flag atop the color of the largest public employees union.

His associates burned a U.S. flag and circulated anti-U.S. material.

Story is HERE!

A.M. Costa Rica photo
Country braces for more heavy downpours
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rican disaster officials are on guard today as a strong low-pressure system threatens the country with more heavy rain.

The southern Pacific coast has had rain since Saturday. Some roads are closed there due to mudslides and irrigation canals overflowing, said officials.

The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional said that strong rains were likely today in the Central Valley and again on the Pacific coast. There is a possibility of change for Wednesday with a reduction in rain in the Central Valley, including San José, and Guanacaste in the north Pacific. However, at the same time rain is expected to pick up on the Caribbean coast.

The Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias issued a list of affected areas. Slides have closed Route 245 between Chacarita and Puerto Jiménez and some villages are cut off in this area. A bridge over the Río Conte has been damaged and is being evaluated by engineers.

San Juan de Sierpe, Drake, Rillito and Rancho Quemado are cut off in the Palmar Norte area because irrigation canals in the banana production areas have overflowed. 

Instituto Meteorológico Nacional graphic
Costa Rica, painted orange, appears to be surrounded by strong storm cells.

In the Central Valley damage was reported Sunday in Patarrá, Río Azul, La Unión, Tirrases, Alajuelita and Oreamuno de Cartago. A shelter was opened in Río Azul, and four persons are still lodged there. In Higuito de Desamparados, a bridge over the Río Jorco has been damaged and the Río Damas is reported out of its banks in Patarrá.

In all about four-tenths of an inch of rain was reported at the Meteorological station in Barrio Aranjuez in San José from 7 a.m. Monday.  But the rain was continuing into the evening.

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Church embarks
on spiritual journey

The International Baptist Church of Guachipelin has joined 4,000 other churches across the United States and around the world in 40 Days of Purpose, a spiritual journey through the New York Times bestseller, "The Purpose Driven Life" by Rick Warren, which has sold over 7 million copies in 20 languages. 

Pastor Paul Dreessen said the book is a blueprint for living in the 21st century — a lifestyle based on God’s eternal purposes for our lives, not just cultural values.

This study began Oct. 12 and until Nov. 23 with a Celebration of Thanks Luncheon.  Additionally, groups are meeting all around San José for a more in-depth participative study of this book. 

The book broaches the age-old, provocative question "What on earth am I here for?"  It challenges the conventional definitions of worship, fellowship, discipleship, ministry, and evangelism, and is a book of hope and challenge, said a release from the church. 

"It will help you understand why you are alive and God’s amazing plan for you. Knowing God’s purpose for you will reduce your stress, focus your energy, simplify your decisions, and give meaning to your life, and, most important, prepare you for eternity," said the church release.

The church said that participants include both men and women, committed Christians from the International Baptist church and other churches and even people who do not attend any church but are seeking a meaningful purpose for their lives. There are even some agnostics, the church said.

Dreessen said that all are welcome not only to the Sunday morning study and church services, but also to join the small groups meeting during the week:  In English, in Santa Ana, Escazú, Alajuela, and Curridabat (evening) and Heredia (morning).  Also, those who prefer Spanish, can choose between Escazú or Los Yoses (evening). 

The pastor emphasizes that it is not necessary to attend all 6 weeks to benefit from 40 Days of Purpose.  Anyone interested should call the church at 215-2117 for specific times and locations. 

Fox pitches Asia
on Mexican trade

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

BANGKOK, Thailand — Mexico's President Vicente Fox is looking to make his country a gateway for Asian investors and trade into the Americas. President Fox made his appeal to Asian companies in an address to more than 400 top executives attending a business forum during the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit here.

Fox says he wants to attract business and investment from Asia to the Americas, and offer Mexico as a secure platform for exporters and investors to gain access to other regional markets in North and South America.

Fox's pitch comes as the Mexico's economy is reporting rising productivity and higher exports that reached $160 billion in 2002. The country is also enjoying strong inflows from foreign investment — some $14 billion last year alone.

As a former business executive for Coca-Cola, Fox highlighted Mexico's partnership with the U.S. and Canada through the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA. 

But while Mexico has 32 free trade agreements in place, some 90 percent of all its exports were destined for the U.S. and Canadian markets.

Despite a failure last week to reach agreement with Japan on a free trade agreement, Mexico is now looking to diversify its trade and export base. A call for free trade agreements has run in tandem with the international negotiations governing World Trade Organization over recent years.

Chilean President, Ricardo Lagos, speaking at the same business forum, said his country too had pursued an aggressive free trade policy with several major trading blocs.

"Today we have a free trade agreement with the European Union, with the European Free Trade Association or with the U.S., with Canada, with Mexico, with South Korea. In other words more than 80 percent of our trade now in some way or another is under a free trade agreement."

But Lagos also told business executives that social policies also needed to go hand in hand with expanding trade as well as support for multilateral trade agreements.

Toledo snags deal
with Thailand

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

BANGKOK, Thailand — Thailand and Peru have agreed to set up a free trade area by 2015 and to cooperate in the fight against narcotics trafficking and terrorism. 

The agreement came here where Peru's President Alejandro Toledo is at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit. Toledo and Thailand's Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra signed an agreement Friday that paves the way for a Free Trade Area by the year 2015. If established, it will be the first Free Trade Agreement between Latin America and Asia.

Under the deal, both countries will gradually reduce trade barriers on investment, goods, and services. They will begin talks on eliminating tariffs next year.

Toledo says there will be mutual benefits in the areas of tourism, construction, and energy.

"We have signed a broad understanding for a free trade agreement between Peru and Thailand and we see Thailand as a hub for Asia," he said. "And I invite you to see Peru as a hub for Thailand to go into Latin America."

Toledo also says the two countries would cooperate in eliminating narcotics trafficking and terrorism.

Prime Minister Thaksin says the interim agreement on free trade will serve as the basis for a strategic partnership between the two countries.

"We both welcome the signing of the framework agreement on personal economic partnership between Peru and Thailand, which will allow the elimination of barriers to trade and goods, services, and investment between our two countries," said Mr. Thaksin.

Thaksin and Toledo also signed a cultural agreement and the Thai prime minister will pay a state visit to Peru next year.

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A.M. Costa Rica staff
In addition to banners and placards, umbrellas were the order of the day Monday.

Wet crowd protests free trade and the United States

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Despite a drizzle that became a downpour, anti-free trade protestors gathered in front of the Asamblea Nacional Monday to take shots at the United States of America.

A U.S. flag went up in flames at the hands of young protestors. Others circulated a flier urging a boycott of such U.S. products as those dispensed by trademark fast food restaurants. The flier showed the stars of the U.S. flag replaced by tiny swastikas and the Statue of Liberty as a missile-carrying skeleton.

The group was a mixed bag of union members, university students and professional demonstrators. Many faces were the same ones seen at May Day demonstrations and protests against the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

However, the unions, principally the Asociación Nacional de Empleados Públicos y Privados and elements from the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, known as ICE, dominated.

All had ignored comments from President Abel Pacheco who said the march against the free trade treaty was tantamount to marching against access to the nation’s principal market, the United States. The crowd assembled under umbrellas in front of the legislative building was far less than the total of those who had assembled in three different places Monday morning before the rains started.

One group was at the Ministerio de Comercio Exterior just off Paseo Colón. Another group was in front of the ICE building in Sabana Norte. Another group, mostly students, marched from the Universidad de Costa Rica in San Pedro.

Similar protests took place Monday in El Salvador and Guatemala, two other countries involved in the same negotiations for a Central American free trade treaty. Another round of negotiations started Monday in Houston, Texas.

Part of a flier that was circulated

Union officials here urged the government to hold a moratorium after negotiations are concluded so that the public can analyze the final draft. However, Pacheco is likely to sign any document that comes from the negotiations. The real battle will come in the Asamblea Nacional, which has to approve the treaty for it to come into force.

During that time, hearings will be held, and the public will have a chance to study the document and relay their opinions to lawmakers who will have the final say. Union leaders, particularly those involved with ICE, are concerned that the final treaty might jeopardize the telecommunications monopoly the company now has.

Others have expressed concern that pillars of Costa Rican life, like the Instituto Nacional de Seguros, the insurance monopoly, or the extensive social services network might be endangered.

Pacheco said in his television talk Sunday that the treaty was the best way to reduce poverty in the country.

The march in Costa Rica was dwarfed by the 10,000 that news reports said marched in Guatemala. A much smaller group, perhaps 200, marched in San Salvador. The proposed treaty is supposed to be finished by the end of the year.

Powell praises free trade as anti-poverty weapon
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

BANGKOK, Thailand — Free trade and open markets are key to improving lives and generating hope throughout the world said Secretary of State Colin L. Powell Sunday. He was speaking to an audience of private-sector executives meeting in conjunction with the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders meeting here.

Powell said that in the ministerial meetings that took place Friday and Saturday on security, trade, technology and economic growth, "what we were really talking about was hope, what we need to do to bring more hope to the peoples of the world, the peoples of this region."

"Hope is lost on those who lack the very basics of life: fresh air, clean water, arable land. Hope means nothing to those who are struggling under brutal 

dictatorships and arrogant kleptocracies," said Powell.

Powell called hope a "mere concept and with no meaning" to millions of people who are malnourished, sick and suffering, but said trade has the potential to lift people from poverty.

"The reason that we focus on free trade and open trade, is that it is the only way, truly, at the end of the day, to lift whole societies out of poverty, to generate optimism, to help people help themselves, to put meaning into democracy and the beliefs we have in free open economic systems," Powell said.

"The United States is committed to free and open trade, removing all barriers to trade possible, as the surest way to bring hope to the undeveloped world," said Powell in reference to U.S. efforts to conclude trade agreements.

It's time to send us your most scary story
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Remember those scary stories you heard while clustered around the campfire? And the strange forest sounds that punctuated the shivery tales?

Well let’s pretend your computer is a campfire, and let’s get cranked up for the 2003 annual A.M. Costa Rica Halloween story contest. Send us your fiction and non-fiction tales that are related somehow to Costa Rica. We’ll pick a winner and send the writer $25.

And we’ll publish the Halloween stories at the end of the month. We will try to publish as many as we can.

The stories must be original and relate to Costa Rica and also to Halloween, ghosts, specters, witches, goblins or at least a tingly feeling along the spine.

By submitting the stories, the authors give A.M. Costa Rica the non-exclusive right to publish them. Send your story to 


Our staff example is HERE!

Continental will begin direct flights to Liberia
A.M. Costa Rica wire services

HOUSTON, Texas — Continental Airlines says it will introduce nonstop service between Houston's George Bush Intercontinental Airport and Liberia’s Daniel Oduber Airport Jan. 31, subject to government approval.

Liberia is the closest airport to the north Pacific beach communities.

Continental said it will operate a 124-seat Boeing 737-700 on the route, with flights timed for convenient connections at Houston's George Bush Intercontinental Airport to and from dozens of destinations throughout the United States, Canada and Europe on the nonstop service to Liberia.

Three weekly flights on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday will depart from Houston Intercontinental Airport at 3:30 p.m., arriving in Liberia at 6:53 p.m. The return flight will depart Liberia on Thursday, Saturday and Sunday at 8 a.m., arriving in Houston at 11:50 a.m.

"We are very pleased to be able to offer this new route to Liberia, which reflects Continental's commitment to the Central American market," said a Continental Airlines spokesperson.

Continental characterized the Guanacaste region serviced by Liberia airport as an emerging market for ecotourism. The region is bordered by two mountain ranges. The Cordillera de Tilaran and the Cordillera de Guanacaste provide splendid craggy backdrops to some of the country's most beautiful countryside, the airline said.

The new Continental flights are consistent with a plan by President Abel Pacheco to service the Nicaraguan tourism market from the Liberia airport.

Continental Airlines is the world's seventh-largest airline and has more than 2,200 daily departures. With 127 domestic and 96 international destinations, Continental has extensive service throughout the Americas, Europe and Asia. Continental has hubs serving New York, Houston, Cleveland and Guam, and carries approximately 41 million passengers per year. 

Over the weekend the German airline Condor said it will inaugurate a direct weekly flight to Costa Rica connecting Berlin with the Juan Santamaría Airport in Alajuela. The first flight will arrive Nov. 3 at 6:10 p.m. Europe is the second tourism market for Costa Rica after the United States. The airline is a subsdiary of Lufthansa.

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