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These stories were published Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2002, in Vol. 2, No. 214
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It's low-keyed but the place is full of ghosts
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Although Halloween is not celebrated by resident Ticos, Costa Rica still has plenty of ghosts.

Escazú is known as a place where covens of witches call up spirits. La Llorona emits blood-curdling screams. The Carreta sin Buey, or the ox cart without the ox, rattles along the streets with its cursed driver.

In all, a mystical place. One such phantom is the young lady at left. She is La Tulevieja, this one carved by master artisan Carlos Jiménez.

There are two stories, none of which adequately account for her wings and chicken feet. In the first tale, she is an old lady who wore the traditional straw hat, the "tule."  The old woman’s straw hat blew away in a wind, and she plunged into a local river to retrieve it, never to be seen again, at least in the flesh.

The second tale says that the deformed old woman was once a teenage girl who had a child out of wedlock. She refused to breastfeed her child, thus causing the child’s death.

She was transformed into a horrible creature with pendulous breasts, doomed to wander Costa Rica as an example to other young ladies. We still do not know from where the chicken feet came.

Mexicans plan to celebrate the special holiday
By Christian Burnham
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

One of the most cherished of Mexican celebrations, El Día de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead, will be observed at the Mexican Cultural Center Saturday.

This is a time when the dead is believed to join the living for a couple of days, allowing Mexicans to spend time with their deceased family members.

Costa Ricans display a general disdain for Halloween and regard it as a diabolic, North American creation. They, instead, celebrate the Day of the Dead by visiting and decorating gravestones with flowers Nov. 2.

The origins of the day seem to be in Aztec and Zapotec cultures which venerated the dichotomy between life and death. With the coming of the Spanish, the Indian festival was integrated with Catholicism. 

Oct. 31 is All Souls day in the Catholic calendar. Nov. 1 is All Saints’ Day, a day Catholics are supposed to go to Mass.

In Mexico, the holiday is actually observed on two days: Nov. 1 is dedicated to honoring the souls of dead children and Nov. 2 is when deceased adults stop by for a visit and perhaps a drink.

Observance of this holiday also includes the construction of altars in the people’s homes. The altars include offerings of colorful flowers, fruit, hot chocolate, a special bread, aptly called pan de los muertos, and often shot glasses of tequila.

The altars reflect the personality of the person who died, including photos and symbols of what the person liked while he or she was still among the living. For example, if the person smoked, the offering is sure to include a pack of the dead person’s preferred brand of cigarettes.

The celebration is scheduled to begin at 6:00 p.m. and will include the erection of an altar as well as typical Mexican cuisine. More information is available at 220-1404. The Mexican Cultural Center is located in San Pedro, 300 meters south of the Subaru dealership.

Halloween story contest deadline tonight

Since Halloween is not really celebrated in Costa Rica, we thought we would help to get everybody into the spirit.
We are looking for your original horror stories of 1,000 words or less.

Sure, you can scare the bejeezus out of a group of boy scouts around a campfire, but can you frighten our readers?

The stories will be judged by the A.M. editor and staff on the basis of their 
originality and spook-factor. Extra points will be awarded to stories related to Costa Rica.

The scariest will be published in our Oct. 31 edition, and the winner will receive $25. The deadline for submissions is tonight by midnight. Send your spooky stories to

editor@amcostarica.com
 
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Police school not military-motivated, says advocate
By Garett Sloane 
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An advocate for the proposed International Law Enforcement Academy said Monday that detractors who say the school is militaristic are lying. 

Carlos Alvarado, an assistant minister, said the nature of the school is clearly defined. Speaking at the monthly meeting of the Democrats Abroad of Costa Rica, he said there will be no military training at the school, and no U.S agencies involved in the academy are military. He is with the Ministerio de Seguridad Pública.

The school would train judges, prosecutors and police from Latin America to recognize international crime and fight it, say proponents.

Alvarado said the school would not be a one-sided U.S. venture, but many countries would participate. He said Colombia would send experts on kidnappings, and Peru and Bolivia would send experts on drug production.

He said the training ground would be a place for all countries to share experiences and help each other.

Alvarado said he welcomes the U.S. in the fight against crime. He called Costa Rica and the United States brothers, and said that he has confidence in the United States as an ally.

The security minister said that when he talks about the academy, the detractors are talking about a different academy. He said foes are lying about the clear facts of the school. He said there is no plan for military training there, which would be unacceptable to Costa Rica. 

He said the school would have an open door for anyone to see inside, and ultimately the school would be answerable to the Costa Rican government and Supreme Court.

Alvarado called opponents of the academy insincere. He said they were trying to put a fly in the ointment, and opponents would probably be 

A.M. Costa Rica photo/Saray Ramírez Vindas
Uncle Sam and allies are beating down the Latin American peasants in this demonstration Sunday on Avenida Central. The University of Costa Rica students are against war, petroleum, free trade, etc.
 

proponents if the academy were sponsored by the Cuban government.

Alvarado spoke to people who in the past have expressed reservations about the proposed academy. The usually rambunctious crowd was tempered and respectful throughout the speech.

The Democrats last month welcomed Francisco Cordero, a consultant to the Partido Liberación Nacional. Cordero spoke against the founding of the school he said if Costa Ricans trained there they would be more loyal to the United States than their government. 

Earlier in the meeting the Democrats observed a moment of silence for Paul Wellstone, Democratic senator from Minnesota, who was killed in a plane crash Friday. The Democrat club made a small donation to the senator’s campaign for re-election this fall.

Canada outlines direct-trade goals with Costa Rica
By Bryan Kay
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Canada will take trade wherever it can get it, and its new treaty with Costa Rica is a model for similar pacts in the region.

That would be a good summary of current official thought.

In notes to a speech in Halifax, Nova Scotia last week, Pierre Pettigrew said that through its experience with Costa Rica, Canada has been able to modernize its focus and use this to develop other treaties elsewhere. He pointed out that Canada has also proved this in the past with their work with developing countries. He is minister of international trade.

Louise Léger, Canada’s ambassador to Costa Rica, last week gave a local slant on the new two-way agreement between Canada and Costa Rica. Ms. Léger, who was involved in the ratification of the agreement, talked briefly about its implementation and implications.

“When I arrived, most of my year was lobbying with the Costa Ricans to ratify the agreement,” She said. “They finally did in July. But it isn’t yet final.”

She said: “There are a number of, I wouldn’t call them loose ends, but there are things that have to be established. For example, we have a side agreement on the environment, and one on labor issues. So you have to put bi-national committees together. Then you have to decide when this treaty is going to go into effect . . . all these things come after the fact. So, that’s what we’re doing now.”

Echoing these sentiments, Pettigrew acknowledged in his speech the part played by partnership with Costa Rica in exploring these environmental and labor rights issues also. 

However, it is not clear where these side issues will fit into the trade agreement in question.

In reality, Ms. Léger said that eventually the agreement will bring a greater Canadian presence in terms of investment and products to Costa Rica. Canadian investments here already include Scotia Bank and La Republica newspaper.
 

These trade agreements don’t come without their baggage, though. There exist movements around the world who are opposed to free trade agreements. Some descended on the World Summit in Johannesburg, South Africa in August to protest them. 

Many of the people who attended, and indeed others who didn’t, feel that these agreements create unfair competition for other nations, particularly the developing world countries Pettigrew flirted with in his speech. Basically, these agreements mean lower import tariffs for products from countries with agreements. Other countries — without such agreements — pay higher tariffs.

Contrary to this and explaining Canada’s predicament, Ms. Léger says that it was initially Costa Rica that approached Canada about the agreement. Certainly, four other Central American countries have approached Canada for similar agreements, said Ms. Léger.

Figures for 2000 estimated trade between Canada and Costa Rica for that year at $268.9 million, according to the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Web site. 

The United States has plans for similar agreements, too. Ms. Léger suggested that the implications of these will be far greater than anything Canada has or will have in place. 

Additionally, European Union countries are keeping a close eye on the market here. Last week, they convened a meeting with Roberto Tovar, foreign minister for Costa Rica, and discussed the foundations of any possible agreement between the European Union (EU) and Costa Rica/Central America. Georgina Butler, British ambassador to Costa Rica, said that the EU is awaiting the outcome of the agreements Costa Rica is developing with the U.S. before entering into more serious negotiations.

Regionally, the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas seeks to further enhance free trade across the region. Pettigrew will attempt to advance Canada's trade agenda with the Americas when he attends the seventh Free Trade Area of the Americas Ministerial Meeting Friday in Quito, Ecuador. He will also hold more two-way trade meetings with several Latin American and Caribbean partners on the margins of the meeting.

World anticipates 
Da Silva’s administration

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

BRASILIA, Brazil —The international community has congratulated President-elect Luis Inacio da Silva, and waits to see how the leftist leader will run South America's largest economy. 

On Monday, President George Bush telephoned da Silva to offer congratulations for Sunday's landslide victory. 

The White House says Bush looks forward to working with Brazil's new president, especially with regard to advancing democracy, good governance and free trade in the hemisphere. 

Paul O'Neill, U.S. treasury secretary, says the financial markets are going to watch very carefully what the newly elected president does when he takes office. European leaders pledged support for Brazil's economy in a bid to calm nervous financial markets. 

Da Silva says he will honor the country’s financial commitments, keep inflation down and maintain fiscal stability. He has called on multilateral lenders like the International Monetary Fund to help the country through its economic hardships. 

Horst Koehler, the fund’s managing director, said in a statement that his agency looks forward to working with the da Silva government to help create the conditions that would lead to sustained economic growth in Brazil. 

The Brazilian currency, the real, has lost 40 percent of its value this year. Investors fear the incoming administration will not be able to continue payments on the country's $260 billion debt. 

Last month, the International Monetary Fund extended a $30 billion loan to Brazil to stabilize the economy amid uncertainty surrounding the outcome of the election. The government-backed candidate, Jose Serra, was defeated in the election. Da Silva will take office Jan. 1.
 

Colombia transfers two
murder suspects to US

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

BOGOTA, Colombia — The government here has handed over to the United States two suspects wanted for the murder of an American oil worker in Ecuador. More suspects are still wanted in connection with a series of kidnappings of foreign oil workers in the region. 

In all, eight Colombians are wanted in connection with the violent kidnapping of five American oil workers and the death of one of them Ronald Clay Sander, 54, of Missouri. 

He was kidnapped in Ecuador in 2000 and later killed by his captors after his employer refused to pay the demanded $80 million ransom. Others taken hostage with him were later set free after a reported $13 million ransom was paid. 

The eight Colombians charged in a federal indictment unsealed Monday are accused of conspiring to commit hostage taking in order to extort American companies. 

"This group and their co-conspirators targeted locations where U.S. nationals and other foreign nationals worked and traveled," said Roscoe Howard, U.S. attorney for Washington, D.C. 

"They conducted surveillance on them, attacked them using deadly force and marched them into the jungles of Ecuador where they were bound and threatened at gunpoint for months until large ransoms were eventually paid." 

Two suspects named in the indictment are now in U.S. custody in what prosecutors say marks the first time the Colombian government has handed over anyone wanted in the United States on a non-drug related crime. 

Three others are in Colombian custody, of which two are fugitives. Prosecutors would not comment on the whereabouts of another suspect.

Gasoline going up

By the A.M. Costa  Rica staff

Gasoline is going up 10.4 colons per liter. The Autoridad Reguladora de los Servicios Públicos made the decision, which will go into force when published in the official gazette.

The increase, less than 3 percent, means that regular will sell for 225.9 colons a liter or about 869 colons per U. S. gallon, some $2.35. Other petroleum products face similar increases.

Researchers develop
anthrax-detecting system

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Researchers at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Jet Propulsion Laboratory have demonstrated a prototype alarm device — similar to a smoke detector — that automatically monitors the air for the presence of bacterial spores, such as anthrax.

According to a release Wednesday, a research paper published in Engineering in Medicine and Biology magazine says the laboratory’s bacterial spore detection system is simple and designed for constant and unattended monitoring of spaces such as public facilities and commercial buildings.

Researchers report that an alarm sounds when an increase in spore concentration is detected. A technician would then respond to confirm the presence of anthrax spores using traditional analysis. The instrument response time is 15 minutes, fast enough to help prevent widespread contamination.
 
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