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These articles first were published Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2001


Costa Rica
to Boston
for heroin

A.M. Costa Rica photos
Lic. Jorge Rojas Vargas, (left) displays a map to explain the drug route smugglers were using to bring drugs from Colombia through Costa Rica to Boston by way of Atlanta. Lic. Francisco Ruíz M., another OIJ official, points out the packets of heroin that were ready to be shipped to the United States.

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A drug arrest at Juan Santamaría Airport Sept. 7 has helped police here and in the United States nab 12 more persons and roll up what they said was a major cocaine and heroin smuggling operation.

Thursday and Friday police in Costa Rica and police and U.S. Drug Enforcement agents in Boston and New York made multiple arrests.

The arrests targeted a complex transportation system designed to ship drugs from Colombia to Costa Rica, then to Atlanta and finally to Boston and New York, according to Jorge Rojas Vargas, acting director of the Judicial Investigating Organization. He explained the operation to reporters Monday. 

All but two persons arrested here and in the United States were citizens of Colombia, Rojas said. The other two were from the Dominican Republic, he said.

The three additional arrests here Friday were at the Los Laureles Condominiums in Sabanilla. There police grabbed 101 packets of heroin amounting to one kilogram, some 2.2 pounds. Rojas identified John Reyes, 30, who was arrested there, as the leader of the ring.  He said the drug was packaged ready to be shipped to the United States.

In New York, police Thursday arrested two persons, including the sister of Reyes, who is named Monica, 

according to Rojas. Police there seized an additional kilogram of heroin.

In Boston where police arrested seven persons also Thursday authorities seized 18 kilograms (nearly 40 pounds) of cocaine and 700 grams of heroin, about a pound an a half, said Rojas.

Rojas described heroin as a really dangerous drug that does not have much of a following in Costa Rica because it is expensive. In the past, Colombian drug labs processed raw heroine shipped in from Asia before sending it to the United States.  Now, according to Rojas, the Colombian heroin is produced from poppies grown in that country.

The Colombians arrested here Friday have been in the country since March, said the acting director. He said a technique of the gang was to change smugglers in Costa Rica so that someone arriving in the United States from Costa Rica would never have traveled in Colombia. That way they would not raise the suspicions of U.S. customs agents. He said a typical payment for a drug courier was about $11,000 a trip.

The drug was transported inside the couriers, who swallowed the latex encased packets, said Rojas, who described this as a dangerous practice that would be fatal to the courier if a packet ruptured.

Heroin itself is valued at about $150,000 per kilo in the United States, he said.


Visiting artist
just loves a face
that's interesting

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

William Smith is a headhunter. Not the kind with the blowgun and poison darts. Not the kind with the great connections in Silicon Valley.

He hunts interesting heads, photographs them and then labors long hours to draw them.

The well-known U.S. artist is in the middle of a six-month Costa Rican visit, and he is working hard to generate material for a one-man show that will open simultaneously in New York and Palm Beach, Fla., late next year.

A.M. Costa Rica photo
William Smith is surrounded by his works
He spends his days on the streets and buses of San José looking for a face, male or female, that turns his head.

So far he has found a bunch and has developed an impressive collection of mostly Costa Rican faces. Whenever he displays his work in progress, he is flooded with offers from those who wish to buy one sketch or the other.

He has been known to sell a charcoal portrait, perhaps to the Tica who is the subject, for a rock bottom 10,000 colons (about $30). He said a similar sketch in the United States would bring between $700 and $800.

Smith also contracted to do several private commissions here, both in acrylic.

Normally he spends about 12 hours putting his impression of a face into a charcoal sketch. An acrylic painting may take as long as 80 hours over a three-month period, he said.

From Costa Rica, Smith goes to southern France and Italy. He speaks Italian but is limited in Spanish, a condition that can be a problem when he approaches a woman on the street in hopes of taking her photograph.

Smith said most individuals have been very generous with their time. He takes the photos to avoid having someone pose for the time it takes to do a sketch. 

Smith has had many works published in major U. S. magazines. He also did a series of 24 paintings last year for the Media General newspapers in Florida as a promotion for the 12-Hour Sebring, Fla.,  automobile endurance race. The newspapers, including the Tampa Tribune and suburban papers, offered signed sets to their readers.

The race portfolio mostly features historic and modern cars, but there also are portraits of racing legends Mario Andretti and A.J. Foyt and racer-movie star Steve McQueen.

Ex-vice president seems to be Nicaraguan winner
By Greg Flakus 
of A.M. Costa Rica’s wires services 

MANAGUA — Former Nicaraguan Vice President Enrique Bolaños is claiming victory over former President Daniel Ortega in Sunday's presidential elections.

Bolaños, who represents the ruling Constitutionalist Liberal Party, leads the Sandinista party candidate by at least 9 percent of votes counted so far. Although opinion polls indicated the race would be too close to call, the first returns showed Ortega losing by an even wider margin.

Ortega has conceded defeat and congratulated Bolaños, who pledges to fight corruption and poverty and create more jobs for the Nicaraguans. Bolaños, who is a businessman, also says he will reignite foreign investment in Nicaragua, which is one of the poorest countries in the Americas.

Voting was held under the scrutiny of some 250 international observers, including former U.S. President Jimmy Carter. Carter says that with the election over, the political rivals need to cooperate for the good of their country.

Ortega's candidacy was viewed as reviving the socialist policies he pursued as leader of the Sandinistas, who ruled Nicaragua from 1979 until 1990. Ortega, however, says he has changed with the times. This was his third unsuccessful bid for the presidency.

Voters endured long lines and intense heat as they waited to cast ballots Sunday. In Washington, the U.S. State Department said the massive electoral turnout indicates the Nicaraguan people have shown an unwavering commitment to democracy. 

U.S. officials also say they will respect the results of a free and fair election. 

Ortega, who came to power in a violent revolution in 1979, was defeated in internationally supervised elections in February of 1990 by newspaper publisher Violeta Chamorro. He also failed in a comeback bid in 1996, losing to former Managua mayor Arnoldo Aleman.

Public opinion polls in recent weeks indicated that this race could have turned in his favor, however. Many voters were upset by the perception of widespread corruption in the Aleman government. Even candidate Bolaños, who had served as vice president with Aleman, tried to distance himself from the government in his campaign.

Ortega also tried to soften his image, presenting himself as a changed man who would no longer follow the repressive policies of his government in the 1980s. He also said he would seek good relations with the United States, a country his party once labeled as "enemy of the world." U.S. officials, including the ambassador to Nicaragua, made no secret of their disdain for Ortega. 

Enrique Bolaños used this in his campaign, suggesting that Ortega would again make Nicaragua a haven for terrorists. One television ad run by Bolaños supporters used the image of the burning World Trade Center to make its point.

Supporters of Daniel Ortega dismissed such ads as scare tactics. Even some former foes of the Sandinista rebel leader defended him, noting that he had changed and that times had changed as well. With the end of the cold war and with Nicaragua mired in poverty and dependent on international lenders, they said, Ortega would have had to maintain good relations with the United States. 

Little Theatre Group readies for big sale Sunday
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

During its 52-year history, the Little Theatre Group of Costa Rica has entertained English-speakers with plays, musicals, one-acts and cabarets. Two years ago, thanks to the generosity of the club president at the time, Blanche Brown, the group found a permanent home. 

There has been a marked improvement in the quality of the plays since then, due to actors and directors having the opportunity to rehearse continuously on the same stage, with sets and furniture in place. 

The group is now planning to upgrade the cozy space by installing air conditioning, professional lighting and sound equipment and increasing the covered outdoor lobby area for the comfort of the audience.

In order to raise funds for this undertaking the group, which has the distinction of being the longest running English-language community theater south of the Rio Grande, is holding its first ever Grand Auction and Flea Market Sunday from noon to 4 p.m.

Auctioneers Susan Tessem and Kevin Glass are determined to give the attendees a good time along with the chance to bid on an impressive list of items including oriental carpets, original artworks, resort weekend getaways for two, upscale restaurant meals, beauty club memberships, white-water rafting trips, office equipment, language lessons and much, much more. 

The bidding on all these sought-after items will start at a fraction of their normal retail value, the club said. 

The auction starts at 1:30 p.m. so there will be time to inspect the lots beforehand and also to check out the flea market for bargains, have coffee and cake or a glass of wine or make a bid or two in the silent auction. 

It all takes place at the theater in Bello Horizonte. Take the first entrance to Bello Horizonte west of Los Anonos Bridge. Go 200 meters and turn left at the bright yellow Kaos center. Go 250 meters. The theater is in the Pink house on the right. 

Entrance is 200 colons. There will be guarded parking. Call 289-3910 for information.

Hurricane Michelle moving from the Bahamas after hitting Cuba 
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Weather forecasters say a weakened Hurricane Michelle is moving away from the Bahamas after pounding the country with strong winds and torrential rains. A tropical storm warning, however, still is in effect for the islands of Abaco and Eleuthera as well as Grand Bahama Island.

The storm swept past the Bahamian capital of Nassau Monday, accompanied by 137 kilometer-per-hour (82. m.p.h.) winds and sheets of rain that flooded houses and left thousands without power.

Before moving on to the Bahamas, Michelle's outer winds brushed the U.S. state of Florida. Although Florida was spared a direct hit, the storm did cause significant beach erosion in the southern part of the state.

The hurricane made landfall along Cuba's southern coastline Sunday, lashing the island with 217 kilometer-per-hour (130 m.p.h.) winds and more than 40 centimeters of rain. Five people were reported killed.

State television says the storm caused nearly two dozen buildings to collapse and that more are expected to crumble. The Cuban government shut down all electricity to prevent injuries from electrocution.

Many communities remain flooded, forcing the government to mobilize massive work crews to save crops pelted by the hurricane. President Fidel Castro also toured areas adversely affected by the severe weather.

Last week, the storm killed 12 people in Central America and Jamaica. 

A.M. Costa Rica posts 25 percent gain in readers for October
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A.M. Costa Rica continues to grow. October statistics maintained by an independent Internet service provider show that the pages of the daily English-language newspaper received 55,696 electronic hits during October.

In addition, 320 persons now are received a daily news update service each morning, Monday through Friday, the days the electronic newspaper is published. 

The number of hits represents about about a 25 percent increase over the number of Internet visitors in September, which was the first full month of publication. 

The number of hits are an indication of the persons reading the publication. The October figures average out to about 1,800 hits per day. But the statistics also show that electronic visits are lower on 

weekends when many persons presumably have already read the contents of the publication.

"The true value of the publication is that it is a daily and can quickly deliver news and commercial information to the public," said Jay Brodell, editor. "That was very obvious Sept. 11 when the publication was updated four times during the day to reflect important local changes during and after the terrorist attacks on the United States."

"In addition, the secret of effective advertising is rapid repetition of the commercial message," Brodell said. "This is the only way to encourage a shopper to act on a commercial message that directs them to a product or service they need."

The publication will continue offering free classified ads during November, in part to build readership and also to help Costa Rican businesses that are suffering from reduced tourism and low agricultural prices for coffee and bananas, said Brodell.

What we published this week: Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Earlier