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These stories were published Monday, Nov. 4, 2002, in Vol. 2, No. 218
Jo Stuart
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Development not 'neoliberalism,' Pacheco says
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Abel Pacheco has promised not to fall into the irresponsible populism or into dehumanized neoliberalism as he outlined his national development plan.

The president then used his Sunday night television address later to plug his plan and take credit for events that already have happened, such as the finalization of a free trade treaty with Canada, certain road projects and a French promise to improve the Daniel Oduber international airport in Liberia.

Pacheco said that his development plan already has started and the fundamental goal is to reduce poverty.

The plan basically builds on what Pacheco said all along: that poverty can be reduced by more training, education and more equal distribution of opportunities.

He also said that harmony with the environment, economic stimulation, citizen security and justice as well as transparency of government actions would be key elements.

The Pacheco proposals were abstract, and there was no direct statement on how development would compensate for a worsening national economy. However, Pacheco did admit that the job would be a "titanic" one.

The promise to avoid dehumanized neoliberalism clearly was a statement made 

to placate those who might worry that the president would adopt a course of action that would endanger the existing social welfare programs. The word refers to those who would seek to break up the country's utility, insurance and Internet monopolies, as former President Miguel Angel Rodríquez tried.

In order to reach his goals, Pacheco said he envisioned a continual dialogue between various sectors of the economy, including the universities, unions, business leaders and professionals.

Another key element is approval by the Asemblea Nacional of the emergency and permanent fiscal plans that will increase the taxes to the state and help Pacheco cut the annual deficit.

Pacheco said that the development plan will be followed to the letter by all the agencies of the state.

In his television talk Pacheco praised work at the Liberia airport and said it soon would be able to accommodate three passenger jets at one time. Then he said travelers would be able to visit both Costa Rica and Nicaragua and get "two countries for the price of one" by using the airport. That was the first indication of a possible joint tourism plan with Nicaragua.

Pacheco has presented other development proposals in the past, including a goal to increase tourism 5 percent per year. How this plan dovetails with other pronouncements is yet to be seen.

Everyone sought info on the Villalobos case
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Villalobos crisis resulted in an astounding 71.7 percent increase in hits during October for the A.M. Costa Rica Web site.

An independent statistical program catalogues 552,877 "hits" at the site. In September some 321,997 hits were recorded.

The statistics are more than an artifact of readership. They reflect the deep, international concern about the fate of Luis Enrique Villalobos Camacho and his borrowing operation.

Readership doubled after Oct. 14 when Villalobos announced that he was suspending his operation at Mall San Pedro. Daily hits immediately jumped from the 14,000-to-15,000 range on weekdays to 25,000 to 30,000. This newspaper has provided almost daily coverage.

Other indicators of readership showed increases. "Page views," the number of Internet pages read, showed an increase of 58.1 percent, from 106,321 to 168,128, the program showed.

"Sessions," that is a period when the same computer views several pages, increased from 27,816 to 41,592, or 49.5 percent.

"We certainly accept the increase in readership as a validation that we are doing a good job covering the story," said Jay Brodell, editor. "But we wish the increase had come as a result of a less painful situation."

Villalobos has borrowed money from more than 6,000 persons, mostly North American and foreign. Many are not in Costa Rica now.

The bulk of the information about the Villalobos situation is being carried by computer, not just in A.M. Costa Rica but by several discussion lists related to Costa Rica.

Graphic charts international interest

Two organizations that have different strategies on how to safeguard investors’ money also have set up Web sites. 

The Investment Recovery Center  seeks to move immediately to establish a legal claim on behalf of investors who hire the team. The center has established a discussion list for persons who send a "subscribe" request to irccr-subscribe@yahoogroups.com

The second group is the United Concerned Citizens, Residents & Friends of Costa Rica. This group advocates taking no legal action now. A public forum has been established. A member of the executive committee, Michael Nystrom-Schut of Tibás said that one reason for the discussion list was because it was more efficient that an answering service the group is using.

Police raided the Villalobos operation July 4, and the businessman continued paying the 2.8 to 3 percent interest in each of the next two months. However, he suspended operation Oct. 14 when he was supposed to pay interest for a third month. Investigators had frozen local bank accounts. 

A number of individuals inside and outside of Costa Rica depend on the Villalobos payments for their daily needs. The suspension caused a serious dislocation in the economy represented by North American residents. 

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One suspect nabbed in two robbery-murders
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A police raid Friday morning took into custody a man believed to be the leader of a gang that killed a Canadian man and a woman from Argentina in separate evening robberies.

Police captured the man in a dwelling in Calle Blanco in the Canton of Goicoechea in northeastern San José.  Agents identified him by the last names of Fonseca Rojas. They said he was 24.

The raid was a joint effort of several agencies, including the homicide and car theft sections of the Judicial Investigating Organization. 

Agents said the investigation started in September when a couple was surprised on a lover’s lane overlook and the woman was held hostage for a time.

The Argentine woman died Oct. 11 while she was walking with some friends in San Pedro de Montes de Oca near the University of Costa Rica. The 

group was set upon by four persons in a car on the Calle de la Amargua and the woman was shot by one of the robbers. The woman was Daniela Castro. She had been in the country for about a year. Robbers got 2,000 colons or about $5.40.

The Canadian, a teacher at the Universidad Interamericana, died early Oct. 22 when he was confronted by a group of men near his home in Heredia. The victim, Bradley Michael Whipple, 25, had been in the country only three months. He was teaching English and had a goal of learning Spanish.

The shooting took place not far from the central plaza of Heredia. Whipple was from St. Johns, New Brunswick.

The murders were distinguished by their randomness, the fact that the robbers got little for their effort and the overwhelming violence. With that in mind, police Friday used shock troops to break into the home and make the arrest. There was no serious resistance.

Mexican generals
will appeal verdict

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

MEXICO CITY, México — Defense attorneys for two Mexican Army generals convicted of drug trafficking Friday say they will appeal. But, the two military men face other charges that could keep them in jail for many years.

The military court found Gens. Arturo Acosta Chaparro and Francisco Quiros Hermosillo guilty of drug smuggling and related charges. The court sentenced Quiros to 16 years in prison and Acosta to 15 years. Both were convicted of helping smuggle drugs for drug lord Amado Carrillo Fuentes, who died in 1997 after botched plastic surgery to change his appearance. Quiros was also found guilty of taking bribes from the drug trafficker.

The two men also face separate charges in connection with the deaths of more than 130 people in the so called "dirty war" against leftist revolutionaries in the 1970s. This is the first time high ranking officers have been charged for crimes related to that period.

Mexican defense department officials say the trial of the two generals represents a victory in the war against drug trafficking as well as a high profile crackdown on corruption.

But defense attorneys say the case against the two men was flawed because it relied on the testimony of criminals, who they say are unreliable witnesses. The attorneys plan to appeal the verdict before the military Supreme Court.

The trial also drew fire from dissident army Gen. Jose Francisco Gallardo, who called it a farce. He was released from prison earlier this year after Mexican President Vicente Fox commuted his sentence. Human rights groups had complained that his 1993 conviction on corruption charges was an attempt by the military establishment to silence him after he criticized the army.

Gallardo said the trial of the two generals that ended Friday resembles his own case. He said the trial was a show staged by Defense Minister General Gerardo Clemente Vega Garcia and that the only way for real justice to be done would be to try the men in a civilian court.

For his part, Gen. Vega has defended the military proceedings as a sign that no one in the military, no matter their rank, is above the law. He says the trial has strengthened the military and its ability to carry on the fight against drug smuggling. 

Mudslide buries
up to 30 people

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

BOGOTA, Colombia — Colombian authorities are searching for at least 30 people who are missing following a mudslide in a remote northern town. 

Officials say four people are confirmed dead after mud and rocks washed over the village of Montecristo, some 400 kilometers north of the capital, Bogota.  Authorities initially said six people were killed in the disaster that occurred earlier in the week. 

Severe weather and rough terrain are hampering emergency efforts. Reports say an armed group has set up a blockade that is preventing emergency workers from traveling to the affected area. 

Free trade framework
applauded by Zoellick

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

QUITO, Ecuador — Trade ministers from the Western Hemisphere's 34 democratically governed nations have established a good framework for creating a free trade area of the Americas, said U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick.

At the first Summit of the Americas in 1994, the presidents of the Western Hemisphere's 34 democratic nations agreed to pursue the establishment of free trade area of the Americas. And on Friday, the trade ministers from these countries convened in here to continue their efforts to create a hemispheric free trade zone by 2005 that will comprise more than 800 million consumers.

At the conclusion of the session, the trade ministers released a 40-point declaration that outlines the objectives and importance of the free trade agreement: "We consider that the establishment of the FTAA, through increased trade flows, trade liberalization and investment in the hemisphere, shall contribute to growth, job creation, higher standards of living, greater opportunities and poverty reduction in the hemisphere."

The declaration also establishes guidelines and for the ongoing negotiations and provides "a good framework to go forward," according to Zoellick.

At a press conference following the closing of the session, Zoellick singled out several important accomplishments set forth in the declaration. First, he noted that the declaration establishes a "very specific schedule," for crucial market access negotiations that will set a timetable for reducing and eliminating tariffs.

Zoellick said that the ministers also assigned countries to chair the nine negotiating groups that will work in the areas of market access, investment, services, government procurement, dispute settlement, agriculture, intellectual property rights, subsides, and anti-dumping and competition policy.

The ministers also agreed to launch a Hemispheric Cooperation Program to strengthen the ability of the region's smaller and less developed economies to participate in trade talks and benefit from hemispheric trade. 

The declaration also reaffirms the ministers' commitment to transparency in the free trade process, and Zoellick applauded the decision to publish the draft text of the agreement. 

Measles vaccinations
urged for youngsters

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Successful control of measles outbreaks in some nations of the Americas proves that the disease can be controlled if a recommended vaccination campaign is followed, according to findings from the Pan American Health Organization.

The health organization recommends an initial mass vaccination program for children ages 9 months to 14 years, with routine follow-ups. After four years, another widespread campaign should be conducted to target youngsters born since the previous round of inoculations, it says.

The regional health agency recommends that programs achieve 95 percent vaccination rates for children in every municipality in every country.

The organization reports in a news release that measles cases declined from approximately 250,000 cases in the Americas in 1990 to 2,109 in 1996. With a resurgence in the late 1990s in several countries, caused by a different measles strain, case numbers rose again, but the organization reports no cases of that strain have been reported in more than a year.

The new measles strain, called D-9, had never before been seen in the Americas. It appeared in Venezuela and Colombia in 2001. Significant vaccination campaigns have also brought that strain under control, the organization said.

Wildlife delegates asked
to relax ivory ban

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

SANTIAGO, Chile — Delegates from 160 countries are meeting at a conference in Chile to discuss the survival of wildlife throughout the world. 

The U.N. Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species opened Sunday in Santiago, with calls for governments and private donors to allocate more resources to conservation.  A proposal to allow African nations to resume some ivory exports is expected to dominate the 12-day convention. 

For more than a decade, the convention has greatly restricted the sales of ivory products from elephants. But southern African countries, namely Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, South Africa and Zambia, have said they want the rules changed so they can sell their existing stockpiles of ivory. 

Saturday, 22 African nations passed a resolution allowing South Africa, Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe to sell up to 70 tons of ivory from stockpiles. The convention must approve the proposal for it to become legal. 

Wildlife officials in other African countries such as Kenya fear that relaxing ivory regulations could lead to a serious increase in elephant poaching. 
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