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These stories were published Monday, Nov. 17, 2003, in Vol. 3, No. 227
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Annual report gives Costa Rica mixed reviews 
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The year 2002 was one where Costa Rica did not take advantage of opportunities. That’s the view of the state of the nation project in a report released Friday.

The report, the ninth annual in a series, said 



A.M. Costa Rica photo
A trio of butterflies clings to dangling fruit at the II Feria de Turismo Rural. The mini-butterfly garden was by the Asociación Integración Zooagroecológica of Limón.  Dozens of tourism resorts, many small community operations, showed their wares at the Antigua Aduana last weekend.
researchers hoped that the election of a new president and the infusion of new parties and ideas into the Asemblea Nacional would result in progress. Instead, the result is paralysis, said the report.

But the Informe del Estado de la Nación had some good news to report:

• For the first time in five years, the gap between the rich and the poor did not increase. Yet poverty still affected 20.5 percent of the families last year.

• Life expectancy is now 78.6 years (That’s 76.3 for men and 81 for women)

• Births by single mothers is down to 8 percent from 30 percent, in part due to a new stress on determining paternity.

There were some concerned:

• A mere 14 firms export 50 percent of the total for the country.

• Fewer than 40 percent of the youngsters complete secondary school.

• Household income dropped 3 percent

• Government debt, listed by the report as 36.6 percent of the budget, still is a problem. (Some deputies say the percentage is above 50 percent for the coming year.)

• Unemployment was up to 6.4 percent in 2002 from about 6.1 the year before, and agriculture has lost 21,000 jobs in the last 12 years.

The report urged the passage of the pending fiscal package that would provide more income to the government to spend on education and social purposes.  The report may be found in Spanish HERE!

Illustrator and plant expert John M. Hall dies
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

John M. Hall III, a leading tropical plant expert and illustrator, died Thursday at Hospital Calderón Guardia. He was 75.

Hall, who lived in Costa Rican since 1971, was considered one of the leading authorities on the plants of Central America and the Amazon. His extensive knowledge of these plants, along with his formal art training enabled him to bring to life many of these plants as botanically accurate pieces of artwork, according to friends. He also depicted animals and fish from the region.

Born in Palm Beach, Fla., he has lived and worked in his home state, in the Bahamas and other islands on the British West Indies, in the Amazon basin and in Central America. Hall not only created works of art on paper but living horticultural art in his continuing breeding programs for bromeliads and orchids, his friends said. He also was a skilled designer of gardens.
His works have been sold through galleries at major botanical gardens in Florida and the Bahamas. His first exhibit was at the Ormand Memorial Art Museum and Gardens  near Daytona Fla. Hall has illustrated numerous books, including "Web of Life" by Jon Stone, "Halconias" with Fred Berry, "Bromeliads" by Orlich Bench and the "Easy Guide to Tropical Plants" with Suzanne Pierot.

An intimate knowledge of the rain forests and an extraordinary ability to identify plants in the field allowed him to participate in the building of Wilson Botanical Gardens near San Vito de Coto Brus in southwestern Costa Rica in the late 1960s..

Hall placed thousands of the species growing there.. His design skills and eye for ecological development helped to make Wilson Botanical Gardens one of the finest in the world, said one admirer.

Photo courtesy of Rolf Von Richter
John Hall doing what he loved: Depicting tropical flora and fauna.

Hall's sense of design and artistic talents was not  restricted to the art and illustration world. He worked on many prominent architectural and landscape design projects as well. 

He participated with Neil Scweitzer on the Polynesian Hotel in Disney World, Fla. During his stay in the Bahamas, he was assigned the task of designing gardens based on salt tolerant plants and landscaping many miles of new roads with plants that were complimentary to their environment. 

The Environmental Design Group headed by Hall received many conservation awards for their innovative designs, and Hall's work in sand dune conservation has formed the backbone of the Florida law on the subject.

He is survived by two daughters, Lura and Denise; three sons John, David and Justin; 10 grandchildren, and a great-grandchild. 

 
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This one didn’t win

Lottery on Sunday
honored policemen

The lottery tickets that were use for a drawing Sunday night featured the Fuerza Pública in the same way that a person or institution might be honored by a commemorative postage stamp.

The honor was from the Junta de Protección Social de San José, the government agency that handles the lottery.

The Fuerza Pública was honored because of its professionalism and its commitment to the citizenry, according to a release by the Ministerio de Gobernción, Policía y Seguridad Pública. The lottery ticket featured the shield of the police force.

The top prize Sunday night was ¢40 million or about $100,000. The drawings are a weekly ritual, and the bulk of the tickets are sold on the street by vendors who jealously guard their tuff. 

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Rodríguez candidacy
gets a big boost

By the A.M. Cost Rica staff

President Abel Pacheco was doing some campaigning over the weekend at the XIII Cumbre Iberoamericana, but it was the candidacy of Miguel Angel Rodríguez that he was pushing.

Rodríguez, whose job Pacheco took over, wants to be secretary general of the Organization of American States.

The summit of Spanish and Portuguese-speaking nations was at Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia

The Rodríguez candidacy got a big push Sunday when Hugo Chavez, president of Venezuela, told a radio audience that his country would back Rodríguez for the post.

Pacheco also had lunch with Juan Carlos de Borbón, the future king of Spain who recently made news with his engagement to a television news presenter in that country.

Shoplifting suspects
caught in Escazú

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Police arrested a suspected group  of shoplifters Saturday in a chase that ended in Guachipelín de Escazú.

The three women were in a car identified by security guards at the Centro Comerical San Rafael. Fuerza Pública officers said the women had expensive clothing taken from the Extrabella store in the centro.

The technique used was to have a women engage salespeople in the store in conversation to distract them while accomplices take merchandise.

Police said that other merchandise in the vehicle might have come from stores in Multiplaza a few miles east.

Arrested was a 34-year-old woman with the last names of Arias Pérez, a 32-year-old women with the last names of Retana Fonseca and  two women with the same last names, Obando Duarte. One was 31 and another, the driver of the vehicle, was 23.

Grenades destroy
bars for foreigners

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

BOGOTA, Colombia — Colombian authorities say a grenade attack in an exclusive neighborhood has killed at least one person and injured more than 70 others. 

Witnesses say at least two men late Saturday threw the explosives into two bars frequented by foreigners in the city's northern Zona Rosa district. 

Police say one of the alleged bombers was captured after the attack and they are looking for as many as four other suspects. 

Witnesses described a chaotic scene as emergency personnel rushed the wounded to medical centers in Bogota. Reports say the blast injured some foreigners, including U.S. citizens. 

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the incident. However, police suspect the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, the same leftist group blamed for a car-bomb in February that killed 36 people at another nightclub. 

Ecuadorian president
denies drug financing

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

QUITO, Ecuador — President Lucio Gutierrez has denied receiving campaign funds from an alleged drug trafficker.

Gutierrez told reporters Friday he had no links to businessman and politician Cesar Fernandez, who was detained last month on drug trafficking charges. The president said newspaper reports that his campaign received funds during his election last year were false.

Under Ecuadorian law, public officials can be forced out of office if investigators prove drug money was used to finance their campaigns.

Investigators allege that Fernandez, a former provincial governor, has ties to Mexican and Colombian drug cartels. Although Ecuador is not a drug producing nation, it is a transportation route for cocaine coming out of neighboring Colombia and Peru. 

Jailed journalist out
of Cuban prison

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

HAVANA, Cuba — A Cuban journalist jailed six years ago for political crimes against the government of Fidel Castro has been freed. 

Relatives of Bernardo Arevalo Padron say he was released Thursday and has been reunited with his family.  Padron was the founder of Linea Sur Press, a small, privately-run press agency in Cuba. 

He was sentenced in 1997 to six years in prison for anti-revolutionary activities, including comments he made in a U.S. radio interview about President Castro failing to abide by the democratic principles agreed upon in an earlier Ibero-American summit. 

Journalists' rights group, Reporters Without Borders, expressed its happiness over Padron's release, but said he had paid the highest price for his criticisms of the Castro regime.  The rights group says Padron sustained a severe beating by prison guards, and his physical and mental health has deteriorated as a result of his imprisonment. 

Martin, Liberal leader,
next prime minister

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

TORONTO, Canada — Paul Martin has been elected head of Canada's Liberal Party and will become the next prime minister when Jean Chretien retires. 

Almost 94 percent of delegates at the Liberal Party convention here voted for Martin, a former finance minister widely credited with helping get Canada out of debt during his nine-year term. 

The Liberal Party leader automatically is set to become prime minister because the party holds the most seats in Canada's House of Commons. Last August, Chretien announced he would retire in February 2004, after nearly 10 years in power. But Canadian political analysts say Chretien could step down within weeks. 

Shootout at party
kills new arrival

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

One man died and three persons suffered wounds early Friday when a shooting took place at a party in Desamparados garage.

Dead was Carlos Perez, 40. Police found that he carried a .38-caliber revolver in his belt.

Three other persons suffered wounds and were hospitalized. Witnesses said that Perez lived in the house only a few days and that the shooting came from persons in  a car.

Music CD sales net
suspended sentence

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A man who copied musical CDs for sale got a suspended three years in prison last week on three counts of infringing on the rights of Sony Música Entretenimentio S.A., the local arm of Sony.

The man was identified by the last names of Soto Camacho, and he remains at liberty on the promise of good behavior for three years, according to the order of the court.

Fuerza Pública officers conducted an undercover operation to nab him last March.  He was running a store called Peluquería M y M in the southern suburb of Hatillo 3. Three times an undercover agent purchased illegally copied disks from him, investigators said. Marked bills were used, and a raid followed.

Sony has been enforcing its rights aggressively here against those who would copy its products.

Immigration agents
getting optical readers

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Representatives of the United States will make an official presentation of optical passport readers Tuesday in a ceremony at Juan Santamaría Airport

The Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería will use the devices to improve security by checking the passports of those entering and leaving the country.

The optical readers will be able to immediately access several different data bases, including one that lists potential sex offenders.

Stranded Ecuadorians
headed back home

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Some 110 Ecuadorians who wanted to make their way to the United States are going back home instead.

The group were passengers on a boat that ran into trouble. They spend much of last week on the Isla del Coco where there are only limited facilities. their plan was to reach México and then get to the United States by land.

They were returning home on an Ecuadorian military vessel, the Calicuchima.
 

Bandits shoot couple

By the A.M.. Costa Rica staff

Five men in a car held up and shot a couple in a car in La Garita early Friday. Injured was a man with the last names of Hernández Hernández and a woman with the last names of Brenes Casstro. The bandits took a cellular telephone.
 
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Take that,
copper!

A member of Paracaidistas, a group of street performers, makes an editorial comment with his foot as police from the Municipalidad de San José break up a performance in front of the Teatro Nacional Sunday. No arrests were made, but performers had to stop their show. The group is known for its performances in Cines Semaforo in Calle de la Amarga, San Pedro.

A.M. Costa Rica photo
Protestors begin to assemble at Miami trade talks
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

MIAMI, Fla. — Trade ministers from 34 nations in the Western Hemisphere are arriving here for five days of talks on creating the Free Trade Area of the Americas. It would be the world's largest free trade bloc. Thousands of anti-globalization protesters have also arrived, and thousands of police have been mobilized to prevent the protests from turning violent.

The proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas is supposed to go into effect in 2005 and cover every country in the Western Hemisphere except Cuba.

Deputy trade ministers from countries in the hemisphere began holding talks Sunday in advance of major meetings of trade ministers later in the week. The talks are expected to conclude with a "Declaration of Miami," which will outline steps to create a Free Trade Area of the Americas by the end of next year.

Joining the trade negotiators in Miami are thousands of anti-globalization protesters, who include labor unions, environmental organizations and a small number of far-left anarchist groups who have threatened to disrupt the meetings, despite pleas not do so from a majority of the anti-free trade activists.

Gretchen Gordon of the Citizens Trade Campaign, which opposes violence, says the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas is designed to help large corporations and will hurt those who cannot compete.

"We are against the FTAA, because the FTAA is a global trading system that goes against workers 

rights, consumers, family farmers and the ability of global citizens to participate in their own democracy," she said.

In preparation for several days of protests, which could turn violent, police in Miami have canceled all leave and requested reinforcements from federal law enforcement officials.

Much of downtown Miami is blocked off to traffic near the site of meetings. Lt. Bill Schwartz, a spokesman for the Miami Police Department, said his fellow officers will try to be careful to distinguish between legitimate protesters and those who try and violently disrupt the trade talks.

"We feel very certain that 98 percent of the folks are coming down here to protest peacefully," he said. "There is about 2 percent who are the wild cards. Those 2 percent who actually refer to themselves as anarchists are the ones we are concerned about."

With the recent collapse of global trade talks in Mexico, expectations for the Miami meetings have been scaled back somewhat. The chief U.S. Trade Negotiator, Robert Zoellick recently said any agreement reached in Miami must recognize different levels of commitment to free trade in different countries. 

There are growing trade tensions between the United States and Brazil which would dominate any future Free Trade Area of the Americas. U.S. officials would like to see Brazil agree to reforms in the areas of investment and intellectual property rights, while Brazilian officials are opposed to U.S. efforts to protect domestic citrus and sugar growers with high tariffs. 


 
 
Report on Latin firms urges shareholder protection
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

A report on private corporations in Latin America urges treating shareholders fairly and improving financial disclosures.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a group consisting of 30 member countries sharing a commitment to the market economy, released the document titled the "White Paper on Corporate Governance in Latin America."

Corporate governance experts from Latin America, the organization and the International Finance Corporation, a World Bank affiliate, prepared the report. The White Paper provides "an action plan for corporate governance reform in the region, a press release said.

According to the organization,  the report identifies

 a number of key priorities for action, such as: taking voting rights seriously; treating shareholders fairly during changes in corporate control and de-listings; ensuring the integrity of financial reporting and improving disclosure; developing effective boards of directors; improving the quality, effectiveness and predictability of the legal and regulatory framework; and continued regional cooperation.

The region's distinguishing characteristics include the important role that industrial and sometimes financial conglomerates play in the development of privately owned industry, combined with highly concentrated and often family-based ownership. Such characteristics suggest that particular attention is needed to ensure transparency of transactions, independent and effective board management and protection of minority shareholder rights and interests, said the report.


 
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