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These stories were published Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2002, in Vol. 2, No. 219
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Guy Fawkes
fest
for British
 

By Bryan Kay
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Members of the British community this weekend are staging their 10th Annual Guy Fawkes Weekend at Jacó Beach.

Guy Fawkes Night, as it is commonly known in Britain, is a special time of year for British people. For some it is a time of year that can be irritating.

The country over, mums and dads, grandpas and grandmas, quite literally tear their hair out with frustration at the sounds of fireworks blazing off at every corner. The kids, however, love it.

These fireworks displays usually sit side by side with a bonfire. The bonfire invariably beholds a dummy of the ‘Guy,’ who is burned to charcoal along with the wood and paper below him.

The British community in Costa Rica's celebration spans Friday through Sunday. Although Guy Fawkes Night falls on Tuesday, it is normal that celebrations be scheduled to coincide with weekends.

The ‘Guy,’ or Guy Fawkes, a Catholic, tried to blow up the Palace of Westminster, London, with gunpowder on Nov. 4, 1605. He was caught in the act by officials of James I. Ever since, people across Britain have lit bonfires — burning an effigy of Guy Fawkes — and set off fireworks to celebrate the fact that he was unsuccessful.

There is a varied program of events over the weekend. On Saturday morning there will be cricket on the beach, followed by a darts competition in the afternoon. Saturday night, after dinner, features the main attraction: the bonfire and fireworks display. Finally, Sunday winds down to a horse-shoe competition, whereafter the awards handover takes place.

Anyone wishing to go to the event should contact John Wakefield at: jmwakey@racsa.co.cr, or on: 282-1149 or 367-6946.

Immigration backs off on residency edict
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

In a major development for foreigners who would live here, Costa Rica will let applicants for rentista and pensionado status make their applications from here.

Although this result had been predicted, many foreigners had been concerned after the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería issued orders that all residency requests be made from the home country of the applicant.

Separate laws govern pensionado and rentista status, and the controlling agency is the Ministerio de Turismo and not Migración.

Ryan Piercy, general manager of the Association of Residents of Costa Rica, made the announcement via e-mail late Monday. Employees there said his announcement was based on a letter sent by Migración late last week.

The association processes many applications for residency by foreigners, principally North Americans. Piercy has contended all along that any changes made by Migración would not affect pensionado and rentista requests. 

However, appication for all forms of residency stopped several months ago over confusion about what Migración required. The agency is the one that actually stamps the passports and processes the paperwork.

Immigration officials said in August that employees would start strictly enforcing an existing law that said applications for residency had to be made in the country of residency. In the case of North Americans, 

that means in the United States or Canada.

But for a time, no rules were set out for Costa Rican consulates to follow. At the same time lawyers here, some of whom who make a living processing residency requests, vowed to fight the change in court.

In the past, persons visited the country on tourist visas, which can be renewed for 90-day intervals. If they decided they would like to live here, they could make application while still in Costa Rica for an appropriate type of visa. Some 6,000 such applications were pending when immigration officials slammed the door with their first announcement.

Persons who seek other forms of residency, such as inversionista or investor status, would have to make their application in their home country, it would appear.

Pensionado is designed for the retired person who can show monthly income, perhaps from a pension, of about $600 a month. Rentista status requires the applicant to show resources to bring $1,000 a month into the country for five years.

Even if immigration chose to require all persons to make application from their home country, lawyers were prepared to accommodate those living here by employing agents in the area of key consulates who, for a fee, would handle the required paperwork.

Piercy said in his announcement that the association has such agents in the United States who can obtain required documents, such as birth certificates, for a fee.

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Illinois bribery figure posted money loaned here
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A Chicago-area politician facing a bribery trial wants to keep himself on bail by pledging money he has loaned to Savings Unlimited and Luis Enrique Villalobos Camacho.

The man, former state Rep. Roger "the Hog" Stanley has $330,000 loaned to Villalobos and $25,000 loaned to Savings Unlimited, according to an Associated Press report.

Federal prosecutors said they have two letters, one each from Savings Unlimited and Villalobos.

In a filing in U.S. Federal District Court, prosecutors questioned the validity of using the funds as security that Stanley would show up for trial.

The Savings Unlimited letter said that funds would not be available until the next year because the money was used to buy slot machines for unspecified locations in Central America.

The letter from Villalobos is one that he sent to 

many of his creditors describing his problems resulting from a raid on his offices July 4.

Prosecutors want U.S. District Judge Charles P. Kocoras to order the defendant to come up with more money beside that invested in Costa Rica in order to continue being at liberty.

Stanley, 60, a Republican, has a long history with Costa Rica. He faces charges in Illinois that he made payoffs to a public official in order to get contracts. He acquired the nickname "the Hog" for his purported hunger for state contracts.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported Wednesday that Stanley has decided to testify for the prosecutor in other cases, and he may become a major player in a developing corruption scandal involving close associates of Gov. George Ryan.

Stanley is said to have a home, a girlfriend and a child in Costa Rica as well as interests in several businesses here. Prosecutors also have said earlier that Stanley would take key Illinois political figures on vacations to Costa Rica.

Villalobos money exchange business reopens under new ownership
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A new money exchange business opened Monday in three locations where Ofinter S.A. used to operate. 

The new firm is called Casa de Cambio el Boulevard S.A. and is no longer related to the Brothers Villalobos, Luis Enrique and Osvaldo, said employees at the company.

The ownership involves five partners, said Gerardo Valenio, a cashier. He was contacted at the Calle Principal location on the second floor of an office building that is on the corner of Avenida Principal, the boulevard.

Another employee said that offices in Mall Cariari and Plaza Colonial in Escazú also were open. Not open is the former main office of Ofinter on the second floor of Mall San Pedro. That was one of the locations raided by police July 4, an event that ultimately led to the suspension of the business.

North Americans found Ofinter to be a good place to cash overseas checks. Former customers of 

Ofinter can cash checks at the new company immediately, an employee said. New customers must wait 22 days, the employee said. The new company has Ofinter’s customer data base, the employee said.

The advantage for North Americans is that they receive their money immediately. Ofinter used to charge a 1 percent commission for this service. The new firm will charge 1.5 percent. Banks require customers to wait sometimes as much as a month to cash overseas checks.

Some employees of the new firm are former employees of Ofinter, an employee said.

The July 4 raid took place at the request of Canadian authorities who were investigating six suspects on allegations of money laundering and drug dealing. The raid also involved offices adjacent to the Mall San Pedro location occupied by Luis Enrique Villalobos. A judicial freeze of the accounts of both brothers’ operations eventually led to the suspension of both businesses including Luis Enrique’s that paid creditors up to 3 percent per month, frequently in cash.


 
Navy's whale-affecting sonar halted . . . for now
By Christian Burnham
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica’s whale lovers have had their prayers answered.

At least for a while.

A federal judge in San Francisco, Calif., temporarily blocked the U.S. Navy from deploying a new high-intensity sonar system that scientists believe harm whales, dolphins, seals and other marine mammals.

The case has been closely watched by scores of environmental groups, since the Navy won approval July 15 to deploy ships that use controversial low-frequency sonar to detect faraway submarines.

Sierra Sequeira, president of the Dolphin Foundation in Costa Rica, spearheaded her own protest. Ms. Sequeira circulated a petition in late July to halt the deployment of the sonar system.

Over the last few years, scientists have been increasingly alarmed about undersea noise pollution from high-intensity sonar systems, according to Natural Resources Defense Council, the lead plaintiff in the case.

The mass stranding of multiple whale species in the Bahamas in March 2000 and the simultaneous 

disappearance of the region's entire population of beaked whales intensified these concerns. A federal investigation identified testing of a U.S. Navy mid-frequency active sonar system as the cause, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.

In late September, new mass strandings occurred in the Canary Islands as a result of military sonar, and in the Gulf of California as the likely result of an acoustic geophysical survey using extremely loud air guns.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Elizabeth LaPorte found that the National Marine Fisheries Service issued the Navy a permit that likely violates a number of federal laws, including the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Endangered Species Act, the National Environmental Policy Act  and the Administrative Procedure Act.

"Today's decision is a crucial step to protect our oceans and, in particular, whales and other marine mammals that depend on hearing for their very survival," said Joel Reynolds, director of the Marine Mammals Protection Project at Natural Resources Defense Council.

However, the case is not over. Magistrate Judge Elizabeth LaPorte has asked both parties back to court Thursday to consider a compromise that balances military-preparedness and environmental consciousness.


 
 
African nations may 
resume trade in tusks

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The United States is concerned about a proposal from several African states that they be allowed to resume controlled commercial trade in ivory. The proposal was put forth at a conference of the parties to the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) under way in Santiago, Chile.

Elephants have been protected under the agreement since 1989, and the trade in ivory has been largely prohibited. International agreement to protect the massive creatures resulted from the illegal slaughter and trade in the animals, driven by a lucrative ivory market.

"Regardless of the decision reached by the 160 nations that are part of CITES, ivory imports to the United States will continue to be prohibited under both the Endangered Species Act and the African Elephant Conservation Act," said Craig Manson, assistant secretary of interior, head of the U.S. delegation. His statement was included in a release Saturday, issued in Santiago.

Twenty-two African nations have come to an agreement that would allow four nations — Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe — to engage in limited ivory trade, drawing in part on accumulated stocks. The profits from the sales would be rededicated to elephant conservation, according to the proposal.

The proposal needs approval from the 160 nations that are members of CITES because resumption in ivory trade would require their classification of elephants from an endangered species in need of unqualified protections to a species in need of protection, but not banned from controlled forms of international trade.

The CITES meeting is under way from Nov. 3 through 15, and will consider other amendments to the classification of species subject to controls with proposals relating to whales, Asian freshwater turtles, vicuna and other species.
 

Canada-Costa Rica Trade
now officially free

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Canada-Costa Rica Free Trade Agreement has officially taken effect. According to a release from the Canadian Embassy here, the agreement took effect Friday, as planned.

Pierre Pettigrew, Canadian international trade minister, and Alberto Trejos, Costa Rican foreign minister, met last week on the periphery of the free trade area of the Americas meetings in Quito, Ecuador.

Pettigrew said: “ . . . Canadian exporters will begin to take advantage of this agreement. It provides a balanced market access package that will bring significant benefits to both countries and it marks a step forward for future cooperation.”

The Canadian Embassy in Costa Rica on its Web site says, “Canada will liberalize its market more quickly than Costa Rica.” It adds that, while Costa Rica is eliminating 67 percent of its tariff lines right away, Canada is lifting 86 percent.

The agreement was signed in April 2001. Canadian products such as fish, paper products, plastics, auto-parts and wood will now have better access to the Costa Rican marketplace.

Trade between the two countries stood at $250 million in 2001.

Environmental and labor cooperation agreements between Canada and Costa Rica also were initiated at the same time Friday.

Canadian delegation
visits Cuba for trade

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Canadian officials traveled to Cuba Saturday to begin a four-day trip aimed at promoting trade between the two nations.

Leading the trip is Denis Paradis, Canadian secretary of state for Latin America. He is being accompanied by a delegation of parliamentarians and business representatives.

Paradis said that Canada and Cuba have maintained an uninterrupted relationship since 1945, and that Canada considers Cuba to be an important partner in trade, investment and development cooperation.

The minister will attend Cuba’s largest trade gathering, the 20th Havana International Trade Fair, Tuesday. While there, Paradis will take part in the official opening of the Canadian pavilion. Also, fair organizers have named Tuesday ‘Canada Day’ to honor the participation of Canadian companies at the event. Canadian companies have attended the fair every year since its beginning.

Also included in the visit are a number of cultural events. On Monday, Paradis inaugurated a cultural exhibit celebrating Pierre Trudeau at the International Press Center in Havana. On Tuesday he was to meet with students at the University of Havana.

Canada’s nearest neighbors and close ally, the United States, currently has trade embargos placed on Cuba. They have been in place for 40 years.

Lizano stepping down
as central bank chief

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Eduardo Lizano, the Alan Greenspan of Costa Rica, is expected to announce his resignation today after having served under President Abel Pacheco for six months.

Lizano is the president of the Banco Central de Costa Rica, and it is he who determines the country’s currency policies. He has served in the job since 1984 when he was named by President Luis Alberto Monge.

Economist Francisco de Paula Gutiérrez is expected to take the job. Lizano only agreed to serve for a little while when President Abel Pacheco asked that he do so in April.

Under Lizano the colon was subjected to a continual and measured devaluation, and he is admired for his ability to keep the country stable financially. 

The Banco Central is the agency that issues money and controls the circulation of currency in the country. Lizano’s job was much like that of Greenspan, who is the much-admired head of the U.S. Federal Reserve system, that country’s central bank.

Night of culture
planned at theater

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A night of culture is being prepared at Sala Garbo’s Teatro Laurence Olivier.

The Blue and Green Evening of Cultural Art is set for Nov. 16, and money from the event is to go to a children’s environmental education center in Guanacaste, according to Jaime Fernandez, the organizer.

He said the evening is to educate people about the environment and provide a showcase for the culture here in San Jose.

He said there will be rock, folk, pop and African drum music. There will be a poetry reading, and students of the University de Costa Rica will perform short plays.

Fernandez said organizers already have sold 85 out of 200 tickets.

Admission costs 2,000 colons (ABOUT $5.40) or 1,500 colons (about $4) for students. The benefit will start at 7 p.m. Tickets are available at the Teatro Sala Garbo. 

People who are interested can call 222-1034 or 385-2676 for more information.
 

Woman found dead
near Dominical

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Judicial Investigating Organization is looking into the death of a woman found dead on the porch of her home in Platanillo, a town in Pérez Zeledón. Her body was discovered Monday evening, according to Fuerza Pública agents. The site is just east of Dominical.

Judicial Investigating Organization officials identified the woman as Beatriz Karen Courouvla and said she had a dual citizenship of French and United States. A Fuerza Pública spokesman identified her as a resident of Sweden

Fuerza Pública officers described her injuries being the result of a fire that started in her home on Monday afternoon. Preliminary autopsy information is scheduled to be released Tuesday morning.

Squash tournament
inaugurates courts

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Costa Rica Tennis Club is hosting a squash tournament on its new courts. The Torneo Nacional de Squash is set to start Tuesday at 6 p.m. and finish Saturday.

There are four categories of competition for men: class A, B, C, and novice. Class A is for the highest quality player. The price to compete is 7,000 colons (about $19)

Women will compete in a separate category, and the price is 3,000 colons ($8). Children will also compete in a separate category. The price for children is 3,000 colons.

Information is available at 232-1266.

U.S. vote will determine 
the fate of Congress

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. voters go to the polls late Tuesday in midterm elections that could shift the balance of power in Congress and impact President George W. Bush's policy agenda. Voters will choose all 435 members of the House of Representatives and 34 of the 100 Senators.

Historically, the party that controls the White House loses seats in midterm elections. But Republicans hope to defy that trend this year by increasing their control of the House and regaining the Senate, which the Democrats have controlled by a narrow margin.

The latest public opinion polls suggest the House will stay in Republican control. 

The situation in the Senate is less clear. Control of that chamber could be determined by at least six races that remain too close to call.

Republicans are seeking to attract voters who are concerned about the nation's security in the aftermath of last year's Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and possible war against Iraq. Democrats hope to mobilize voters who are worried about the sagging U.S. economy.

It is a point highlighted by political analyst Charles Cook.

"You have the economy pulling this election towards Democrats, and you have foreign policy concerns, terrorism, potential war with Iraq pulling in the opposite direction [toward Republicans]," he said.

There is much at stake for both parties and Bush.

Republican control of the House and Senate would make it easier for Bush to move his policy agenda forward as he prepares for a likely re-election campaign in two years. 

But if Democrats retain their hold on the Senate, they could continue challenging Bush's agenda and force compromises on key issues.

Besides seats in Congress, voters will also choose 36 of the nation's governors.

Ecuadorian volcano bursts; many flee homes 

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

QUITO, Ecuador — A state of emergency is in effect here following the eruption of the Reventador Volcano. 

The volcano roared to life Sunday, and on Monday it spewed ash up to 1 foot deep across a 12,400 square mile area. 

The eruption forced authorities to shut down the Quito airport along with schools and businesses as an avalanche of lava and ash swept down the sides of the mountain. 

The government urged residents to stay indoors with the windows and doors closed. People who ventured outdoors wore facemasks to protect themselves from respiratory trouble and eye irritation. 

Villages close to the foot of the volcano were evacuated. Scientists and government officials say the mountain's current activity is likely to continue.

Millions sign up for vote on future of Chavez

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

CARACUS, Venezuela — Supporters of President Hugo Chavez have clashed with anti-government activists who delivered more than two million signatures to electoral officials to demand a referendum on his rule. 

Chavez supporters hurled rocks and bottles and blocked roads Monday as his opponents approached the National Electoral Council here with boxes full of signatures. At least nine people were injured as police used tear gas and shotgun pellets to break up the disturbances. 

Chavez's opponents are demanding a December vote on whether the populist leader should voluntarily step down. They accuse him of trying to install Cuban-style communism and say his economic policies are leading the country toward ruin. 

The electoral council has 30 days to verify signatures and decide whether a vote can be held. 

Chavez says the proposed referendum is unconstitutional. The president says his adversaries must wait until August, when he is halfway through his current term, to call for a referendum. 

The leader also says the only other way to remove him from power before his term ends in 2007 is to amend the constitution to move up the election. 

The president's critics include more than 100 military officers who have camped out at a plaza in the eastern part of the city here for the past two weeks. The rebel officers are demanding Chavez's resignation and have called on the armed forces and general public to rebel against him. 

U.S. Treasury signs pact
with Isle of Jersey

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The United States and Jersey have a close relationship on law enforcement matters, and a new agreement emphasizes this.

The new agreement "will formalize and streamline our current cooperation in criminal tax matters and will allow exchange of information on specific request in civil tax matters as well," said Paul O'Neill, treasury secretary at the signing ceremony here Monday.

O'Neill noted the growing need for government-to-government cooperation "to ensure that no safe haven exists anywhere in the world for the funds associated with illicit activities, including terrorism, money laundering, and tax evasion." 

He commended Jersey's "commitment to cooperation in targeting criminal abuse of the world's financial systems."

Cuba kicks out 
presumed rabble rouser

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

HAVANA, Cuba — The head of a Swedish pro-democracy organization has been deported for meeting with members of the island's dissident community. 

In a telephone interview from Madrid, Erik Jennische told news sources that he was arrested here Wednesday and put on a plane out the following day. 

Jennische says the authorities accused him of violating his tourist visa, which bans political activities. 

Jennische is secretary-general of the Swedish International Liberal Center, which works for democracy in developing countries. 
 
 
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Ministers say poor nations need climate help
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

NEW DELHI, India— Environmental ministers and senior officials from some 170 countries meeting here reached agreement on a final resolution that highlights the need for aid to help developing countries adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change.

The Eighth Session of the Conference of the Parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, held from Oct. 23 to Nov. 1, adopted the so-called Delhi Ministerial Declaration, which calls for strengthening international collaboration on climate change and addressing the issue in the broader context of sustainable development.

The declaration, focusing on ways to help developing countries adapt to climate change, urges governments to promote technological advances through research and development, increase renewable energy resources, and promote the transfer of technologies that can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming — especially carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels.

The Plan of Implementation adopted last September at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa, also underlined the importance of developing cleaner technologies in key sectors such as energy, and called for greater efforts to promote technology transfer, including through the private sector.

"Significantly, in the Delhi Declaration you have built upon a number of groundbreaking achievements reached at the Johannesburg World Summit," said Paula Dobriansky, U.S. under secretary of global affairs, who led the U.S. delegation. "The relationship between sustainable development and climate change is an important 

one and its reference in the declaration is most meaningful."

Recent climate disasters around the world, including droughts in India and floods in the United States and throughout Europe, have served as potent reminders of some of the expected consequences of global warming. 

The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has predicted that by 2100 average global surface temperatures will be 1.4 to 5.8 degrees Celsius higher than in 1990.

The Delhi Declaration also calls for early ratification of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which commits 37 industrialized countries to reduce their overall emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases during the period 2008-2012.

"Industrialized countries have only 10 years to meet their Kyoto emissions targets — and the evidence today is that most of them still have a great deal of work to do to reduce their greenhouse gases," said Joke Waller-Hunter, the convention's executive secretary.

In March 2001, the Bush administration said that the United States would not ratify the protocol, asserting that it would hurt the U.S. economy and does not apply to developing countries. For the protocol to take effect, 55 governments, including developed countries representing at least 55 percent of that group's 1990 carbon dioxide emissions, must ratify the treaty.

So far, 96 countries have ratified the protocol, including developed countries accounting for 37.4 percent of carbon dioxide emissions. Supporters hope the accord will become effective early next year once it is ratified by Russia and Canada.


 
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