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These articles first were published Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2001
verifies that
is coming
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

There’s no place like Costa Rica for the holidays, at least if you like your Santa and Christmas tree early. Some stores begin displaying in late August.

But a sure sign of the holidays is the annual Christmas dinner dance hosted jointly by the Canadian Club and the Association of Residents of Costa Rica.

This year it will again be at the Cariari Country Club from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 9. The early date seems to be convenient for those people who travel to other countries or to the beach for the days nearer Dec. 25. 

The cost this year for the dinner dance will be 7,000 colons per person. And tickets and reservations are available by calling 233-8068 or 221-2053.

Latin confab seeks to tighten controls on tobacco 
By the A.M. Costa Rica wires services

Latin American health officials and specialists are meeting in Brazil to discuss ways to curb the consumption of tobacco in their nations. The Rio de Janeiro meeting is part of a process to negotiate an international treaty on tobacco control. 

This is the first meeting of Latin American delegates to discuss the proposed Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which is being negotiated by 191 nations under the auspices of the World Health Organization, or WHO.

The governing body of the WHO, the World Health Assembly, approved the start of the multi-lateral negotiations in May 1999. Since then, there have been several conferences to negotiate the Tobacco Control Convention. The WHO hopes member states will approve the treaty in 2003.

The aim of the proposed treaty is to curb the use of tobacco, which the WHO estimates kills 4.2 million people a year. Tobacco use is responsible for a range of deadly ailments including lung cancer and heart disease. 

Some of the treaty proposals being discussed include establishing controls on advertising, protecting children and youth from tobacco exposure, and promoting tobacco free environments. 

One of the participants at the Rio meeting, Heather Selin of the Pan American Health Organization, says banning tobacco advertising seems to have the support of many nations.

"One area where I think countries probably hope to get a common position is in the area of tobacco promotion, whether that will be possible I don't know," she said. "But it's an area that people feel 
strongly about. There was language proposed by Argentina in the last round of negotiations that countries work toward the elimination of tobacco promotion within the boundaries of their constitutions."

In Latin America, Brazil is among the leaders in imposing stringent restrictions on tobacco advertising, and forcing tobacco companies to include health warnings on cigarette packages. These warnings, begun in 1988, are now much 


stronger and more direct, with labels calling nicotine a drug that causes dependence. 

Ms. Selin of the Pan American Health Organization says Brazil's anti-tobacco policies can serve as an example for the rest of the region. "I think this is very important to have countries that set precedents, especially in places where people say: 'it can't be done here, we're different',"' she said. "I think that Brazil has shown over the last ten years that changes can be made and that progress can happen quite quickly where there's political will to do so."

Tobacco use in the Americas varies widely. In countries like Chile and Argentina, smoking is widespread, whereas in Central America levels are lower. The United States and Canada are the only two countries in the hemisphere where there has been a steady decline in tobacco consumption.

The Latin American delegates meeting in Rio de Janeiro this week hope to agree on common positions for curbing tobacco use to include in the next round of negotiations. The meeting ends on Thursday, two weeks before a third round of multi-lateral negotiations on the tobacco control treaty are scheduled to be open in Geneva Nov. 22. 

ARCR plans to hold first seminar in Guanacaste this Friday
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Association of Residents of Costa Rica plans its first orientation seminar in Guanacaste Friday. The session will include a presentation on how foreigners can obtain legal residency in Costa Rica. That is an important issue in the beach towns where many U.S. and Canadian citizens are what is know as "perpetual tourists," renewing their 90-day tourist visas repeatedly and illegally.

The seminar will be in Nacazcol Villas de Playa, about four kilometers east of Playas del Coco, and reservations are required to the association office 233-8068 or in Guanacaste at 667-0264.

The association opened an office in the area six months ago to better serve foreign residents who might otherwise have to travel to San José. Playas del Coco resident Laura Hahn manages the office.

It was in Playas del Coco a month ago where Costa Rican immigration agents conducted raids over a period of nearly a week. For that reason, association employees are expecting significant interest.

In addition to residency rules, the seminar seeks to cover all aspects of Costa Rican life that might be encountered by a foreigner. Presentations are given by experts in the various fields.

For example, David Garrett of Garrett and Associates, a leading insurance firm for 

English-speakers, will talk about auto and health insurance in Costa Rica where policies are issued by the government monopoly.

Ryan Piercy, executive director of the association, will talk about banking, as will a representative from a local bank.  ReMax, the real estate group,  will be sending one of its agents in Guanacaste, Piercy said. 

Steve Brown of the association staff also will discuss the general culture of Costa Rica as well as the health system. Charles Zeller of ABC Mundanzas will discuss how foreigners can move their goods into and out of Costa Rica.

The program runs from 10:40 a.m. to 3:25  p.m. with a break for lunch for which a charge will be levied.  That is the only cost of the seminar.

The association is the most visible organization that helps foreigners adjust to Costa Rica. It maintains a Web site: http://www.casacanada.net/arcr. It also maintains a travel agency and a staff of lawyers and other professionals who work in the organization’s building at Casa Canada at Calle 40 and Avenida 4 in western San José.

Association officials hope the seminar will become a regular event similar to the well-attended sessions the group holds in San José the last Friday of each month. Already there are plans for seminars in Guanacaste Dec. 14 and Jan. 14.

U.S. welcome mat still out (with exceptions)
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON — Foreign visitors remain welcome in the United States to vacation, study and work, despite U.S. efforts to implement tougher visa controls in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"We welcome legal immigrants, and we welcome people coming to America," President George Bush said last week. "What we don't welcome are people who come to hurt the American people. And, so, therefore, we're going to be very diligent with our visas and observant with the people who come to this country."

Procedures for granting visas are under scrutiny because, of the identified terrorists who attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, at least one was in the United States on a student visa and a number of others were using short-term business or tourist visas. Of additional concern to American officials is the fact that foreign students in the United States are not adequately monitored, a situation they hope to soon rectify.

For example, the Student Exchange Visitor Information System, when fully operational, will enable colleges and universities to report to the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) information on those international students who are accepted for enrollment but who do not attend classes or who transfer to other schools. Currently, there are about 74,000 U.S. schools certified by the INS to accept foreign students.

According to the State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs, more than 7.1 million non-immigrant visas were issued to foreign visitors in 2000. Of that, more than 500,000 were granted to students and exchange visitors.

Although some members of the U.S. Congress are proposing a moratorium on issuing student visas, Bush administration officials oppose such an action.

"I think a moratorium is a very bad mistake," Mary Ryan, assistant secretary for consular affairs at the U.S. State Department, told the House Select Education Subcommittee and 21st Century Competitiveness Subcommittee during a hearing Oct. 21. "It is very good for foreigners to be exposed to our principles, our values and our ideals."

At the same hearing, Michael Becraft, acting deputy INS commissioner, echoed Ryan's sentiments when he noted, "There is no better way to teach democracy than to have foreign students experience it for themselves, and then to take those important values back home with them."

"It has been said that after Sept. 11, everything has changed," Becraft said. "I hope, and I'm sure we all hope, that that is not true. America must remain America, a symbol of freedom and a beacon of hope to those who seek a better life for themselves. We must increase our security and improve our systems, but in doing so we must not forget what made this nation great: our openness to new ideas and new people and a commitment to individual freedom, shared values, innovation and the free market."

Nonetheless, in an effort to keep evildoers out of the United States, tighter restrictions on issuing visas will be imposed under the newly enacted USA Patriots Act. Aliens are inadmissible if they represent or support terrorist organizations, or if they are suspected of engaging in or providing material support for terrorist activity.

There are 28 groups designated by the Secretary of State as Foreign Terrorist Organizations. In a written statement released Friday, State 

Department Spokesman Richard Boucher said that although the current focus of the campaign against terrorism is the elimination of the al-Qaida terrorist network, "we will not rest until every terrorist group has been removed as a threat to the United States, our citizens, our interests, and our friends and allies."

Boucher said the terrorist list will expand as U.S. authorities identify and confirm additional entities that provide financial and other support  to terrorists.

Attorney General John Ashcroft, who directs the Justice Department, which enforces U.S. laws, vowed to aggressively fight in the "war on terror."

During a press briefing last Wednesday, Ashcroft said, "America will not allow terrorists to use our hospitality as a weapon against us."

The Justice Department, he said, "will prevent aliens who engage in or support terrorist activity from entering our country. We will detain, prosecute, deport terrorist aliens who are already inside the nation's borders."

Appearing with Ashcroft, INS Commissioner James Ziglar noted that additional personnel and enhanced technology will be applied to allow quick dissemination of information about suspect individuals to law enforcement agencies.

The broader powers allowed under the U.S.A. Patriot Act, Ziglar said, will be exercised by the INS "in a very careful manner in order to protect our cherished liberties." He added, "what we're dealing with here is not immigration. We're dealing with evil. Immigrants are not terrorists."

In his remarks to the press Oct. 29, President Bush acknowledged, "the vast majority of people who have come to America are really good, decent people, people we're proud to have here."

But he added, "There are some who are evil. And our job now is to find the evil ones and bring them to justice; to disrupt anybody who might have designs on hurting (or) further hurting Americans."

Visa requests here
take a tumble

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Applications for visas to enter the United States took a dive at the U.S. Embassy in San José.

An embassy spokesman said that visa applications dropped 51 percent from Sept. 11 to Oct. 10 when compared to the same period a year ago.

Sept. 11, of course, was the day of the terrorist suicide attacks in new York City and Washington. The embassy was closed for two days following the attacks which may have contributed to the lower numbers of applications, said the spokesman.

Colin Powell says no plans exist for war with Iraq
From A.M. Costa Rica wire services 
and A.M. the Costa Rica staff

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell says there are no plans now to expand the U.S.-led war on terrorism to Iraq. 

In an interview with Egyptian television Tuesday, the secretary said the first phase of the war is against Taliban and terrorist targets in Afghanistan. He said there are no plans at the moment to undertake any other military action. 

Powell said the United States is pursuing all investigation leads, but at this time he said there is no direct connection between Iraq and the Sept. 11th attacks on the United States or the recent anthrax cases. 

Czech intelligence sources said that Mohammed Atta, the presumed leader of the Sept. 11 suicide terrorist attacks in Washington and New York City met twice in the capital of Prague with a man

identified as an Iraqi agent. The Czech officials said they had relayed this information to Washington.

Powell’s comments ran counter to those of U.S. Rep. Tom Davis, a Republican of the State of Virginia, who said Sunday during a visit to Costa Rica that Iraq "was on the list." 

Davis represents a congressional district that lost 70 persons to the terror attack on the Pentagon.

Davis stopped short of saying that Iraq should be bombed. He said that the country needed to be "handled" as part of the war on terrorism. Davis is well-connected in Republican circles in Washington, and is a leader in the party’s election efforts.

Powell, as secretary of state, is the country’s chief diplomat. In his television interview, he also predicted the opposition Northern Alliance in Afghanistan will get stronger. He said the harsh Afghan winter may hamper U.S. military operations, but not stop them. 

New president in Nicaragua vows that he will act quickly
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Nicaraguan President-elect Enrique Bolaños is pledging to act quickly to solve the country's economic problems after his January inauguration. 

Speaking Tuesday in Managua, Bolaños said he will push for legislation to help solve some of the country's woes - including a staggering 44-percent unemployment rate. The newly elected president called on the National Assembly to approve legislation he proposes.

Bolaños' remarks come two days after winning the presidential election. Although the official vote count continues, reliable quick count results show him with a decisive lead over his main rival, former President Daniel Ortega.

Bolaños says his victory represents a mandate from the Nicaraguan people, which obligates him to fulfill campaign promises.

The 73-year-old businessman also pledged to fight corruption and create more jobs. He says he will 

seek to stimulate foreign investment in Nicaragua, one of the poorest countries in the Americas.

Some observers say Bolaños' efforts may not be enough to ease the economic crisis in Nicaragua, where more than 70 percent of the population lives in poverty.

The country has also been affected by falling prices for its exports amid a feared worldwide economic slump prompted by the September terrorist attacks on the United States.

The U.S. State Department says it is confident Bolaños' commitment to democracy and business expertise will help Nicaragua address its challenges.

The White House also welcomes Bolaños' victory. Spokesman Ari Fleischer says President Bush views the win as a healthy sign of democracy for Nicaragua.

The spokesman says Bush has repeatedly expressed the importance of strong relations between the United States and allied nations in Central America.

Bush declines to put Costa Rica on U.S. drug-transit blacklist
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON — Costa Rica once again has not been designated a major drug transit country by the U.S. president. However, Panama and Guatemala are, according to President George Bush, who provided the U.S. Congress with a list of so-called major  producers or major drug-transit countries.

He is required to do this by a U.S. foreign assistance law, and designation may play a role in the amount of U.S. aid a country gets.

In addition to Panama and Guatemala, the major drug-producing or drug-transit countries are: Afghanistan, the Bahamas, Bolivia, Brazil, Burma, China, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Laos, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, Thailand, Venezuela, and Vietnam.

The only change to the list from the previous year is the removal of Cambodia. Bush said that in recent years, there has been no evidence of any heroin transiting Cambodia coming to the United States.

"Central America's position as a land bridge between South America and Mexico, together with its thousands of miles of coastline, several container-handling ports, the Pan-American Highway, and limited law enforcement capability, makes the entire region a natural conduit and transshipment area for illicit drugs bound for Mexico and the United States,: said Bush in his letter to Congress. 

"Currently, only Guatemala and Panama have been designated major drug-transit countries, since there is clear evidence that drug trafficking organizations use their territory to move significant quantities of illegal drugs to the United States. The same is not yet true of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, or Nicaragua."

"Although there is no question that fluctuating quantities of drugs do flow through these countries en route to the United States, the bulk of the drug traffic has shifted away from land routes," said Bush. 

He credited "stringent law enforcement and interdiction measures on land" with forcing traffickers to move drugs by sea.  But he said that if he receives evidence that traffickers have increased their use of Costa Rica or other Central Aemrican countries, he might add these countires to the list. 

Among the reasons that major drug-transit countries are placed on the list, the president said, "is the combination of geographical, commercial, and economic factors that allow drugs to transit despite the most assiduous enforcement measures of the government concerned."

Bush also said that rapidly rising quantities of illegal synthetic drugs are entering the United States, especially so-called ecstasy from Europe. Much of the ecstasy comes from the Netherlands, Bush said, as he promised to keep an eye on the problem.

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