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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2002, Vol. 2, No. 230
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By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

This is the news everyone has been awaiting: A cold front over the Caribbean has dissipated and a significant improvement in the temperature and the weather is predicted over the next two days.

For the Central Valley, the change in the weather marks the transition for the rainy season to the dry season. The northern Pacific beaches already are basking in clear, warmer weather, and the central and south Pacific coasts will not be far behind.

The only rain predicted for today will be in the central and south Pacific, according go the Instituto Meteorológico Costarricense.

There was no rain in the Central Valley Tuesday, according to the institute, and the day saw a steady rise in temperature from the overnight low of 17.6 degrees Celsius, about 64 degrees. That temperature was a significant improvement from the chilly readings during the weekend when heavy rains hit.

Joint naval action forces small boat to land 
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

There still are some very valuable, illicit packages bobbing around in the Pacific because suspected drug smugglers dumped them in the ocean Monday.

Marine patrols of both Costa Rica and the United States are trying to locate the packages of suspected cocaine as the final chapter in a dramatic chase that ended in the arrest of five Colombians Monday night.

Costa Rican officials said the chase began some 140 nautical miles west of the Costa Rican Pacific coast when a U.S. Coast Guard C-130 eye-in-the-sky aircraft spotted a suspicious craft around 1 p.m. Monday.

The chase ended about 8:40 p.m. when Costa Rican park police and agents of the Policía de Control de Drogas captured the five crewmen near Punta La Chancha on the Osa Peninsula.

Patrol craft from both Costa Rica and the U.S. had maneuvered the crew of the suspicious boat so that they were forced to land in Costa Rica instead of continuing their voyage north.

The boat occupied by the Colombians was 36 feet long, a so-called fastboat that is basically cargo space, fuel tanks and motors. According to photos released by the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública, the boat was painted a deep blue so as to be less easy to spot when at sea.

Officials said that the boat’s trip had originated in Colombia. They estimated that the boat contained about 1,200 kilos (about 2,640 pounds) of suspected cocaine. As soon as the men in the boat realized they were being observed by crewmen in the C-130, they began dumping the cargo, said officials.

For that reason units of the Servicio de Vigilancia Aérea, the fiscalía, the Policía Especial de Apoyo, and agents and the Servicio Nacional de Guardacostas from Golfito, Puntarenas y Quepos were at sea Tuesday seeking packages of drugs. Officials said the search was expected to continue a few more days.

The Servicio Nacional de Guardaparques became involved because they had the closest units to the point where the men came ashore, said a release from the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública.

Officials credited the patrol boat Juan Rafael Mora Porras with having blocked the escape 

Photo courtesy of the Ministerio
de Gobernación, Policía 
y Seguridad Pública
Five Colombians on Candid Camera

routes of the boat and forced the crew to land.

Also involved was the U.S. Navy boat John T. Hall, its helicopter crews and unreported numbers of aircraft. Some U.S. coast guardsmen were aboard the John T. Hall.

The U.S. Embassy was quick to point out late Tuesday that the John T. Hall was one of those boats that the Asemblea Nacional has permitted to make fuel and provisioning stops at Costa Rica ports, principally Golfito.

The five Colombian crewmen were identified by the last names of Valverde Montoya, Yepey Cruz, Saldarriaga Escobar and two with the last names of Archbold Jay, who are believed to be brothers, said officials. All five were detained and face possible charges of international drug trafficking.

Where the boat was located is within the recognized limits of economic exclusivity for Costa Rica.

The U.S. Navy and Air Force maintain a close eye on the oceans and air routes with sophisticated radar and patrols to fight drug shipments.

The web of police and patrol craft on the Pacific coast is even tighter lately because officials fear that some Costa Ricans are providing refueling services at sea for drug smugglers. The fastboats use a lot of fuel and must take on more during their trip north. 

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U.S. woman faces two years until court decision
By Garett Sloane
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A U.S. citizen in Peruvian jail may be looking at another two years before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights reaches a final judgement on the merits of the case.

A member of the secretariat of the court said complicated cases can take up to two years to reach a conclusion. The case of Lori Berenson is still in its initial phase.

The court accepted the application filed by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on the Berenson case during its last session, and has not set a date to move the case into a further stage.

A member of the secretariat of the court said the Berenson case is unusual, because, besides the commission’s application, the state of Peru also requested that the court look into its human rights practices.

The member said a state has never before called on the court to investigate its human rights system. Peru is challenging the court to vindicate its judicial system of the commission’s claims.  The commisison was critical of how the Berenson case was handled.

The court will hear from three parties: the Berenson side, the Peruvian side, and the human rights commission side. One lawyer appointed by the court will present the facts from the Peruvian and Berenson sides.

Miss Berenson has been imprisoned in Peru since 1995. The state convicted her of high treason under military law and sentenced her to life in jail. Miss Berenson was accused of leading a terrorist organization.

Peru later threw out her conviction under military law and tried her under civil law. Miss Berenson 

was transferred from Yanamayo Prison where the human rights commission said she suffered inhumane conditions.

In 2001, Peru’s civil court sentenced Miss Berenson 
Miss Berenson
...in file photo
to 20 years in prison for allegedly collaborating in terrorism.

The human rights commission’s application to the human rights court said the laws used to convict Miss Berenson in both the military and civil trials were not in line with the standards of the American Convention, of which Peru is a signator.

In Peru’s petition to the court it asked the court to find that all human rights practices with regard to its legal system and the Berenson case were up to the standards of the American Convention. 

Peru did not request that the court look into the part of the case where Berenson faced a military tribunal. The human rights commission said “faceless” military judges presided over that trial. 

The human rights court is currently in session here until Nov. 30. 

The court will hear how this case is progressing from the lawyers, but it will not make any decisions besides maybe setting a time to judge the case. 

The human rights court said in its press release from the last session it will judge the merits of Peru’s claims and the commission’s claims at the same time. 

According to a member of the court’s staff it is possible the case will enter a new phase sometime next year, and some of the hearings will be open to the public. 


 
Costa Rica cricket team heading north for match
By Bryan Kay
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Costa Rican Cricket Association will travel to Managua, Nicaragua, for two one-day matches Dec. 7 and 8, where players will meet their northern counterparts for the first time.

These matches will be played on what is known as the old BAT ground in Managua. The team they will play there is made up almost wholly of British ex-pats, according to Richard Illingworth, president of the association here.

The association is based in Escazú, where they have their practice matches. With cricket being traditionally an English sport, the majority of the team here, too, is British in origin. Illingworth is organizing the trip.

This will be the club’s second cross-border expedition this year. In April they traveled to 
Panamá to play a match against a team there. Costa Rica lost both games.
 

People began playing cricket more than 100 years ago in Costa Rica. Its popularity has fluctuated since. 

The game was brought here by the Afro-Caribbean, primarily Jamaican, influx in the late 1800s, when workers came to build the railroads.

The recent upsurge in interest can be credited to the ex-pats and Costa Ricans who have been promoting the game since the mid-1990s, said Illingworth.

Illingworth continued his efforts and his plans to expand cricket and to revive it here continue, but finances provide constraints.

However, the association has been boosted by its recent election to become an affiliate member of the International Cricket Council. 

Also, the club is now government-registered and is near to being recognized as an official sporting body, said Illingworth.


 
Region’s security requires collectivism, says U.S. 

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The need for nations of the Western Hemisphere to cooperate more closely on security issues has increased in the face of both traditional and emerging threats to regional stability, according to Donald Rumsfeld, U.S. secretary of defense.

"Our hemisphere faces a number of old threats: drugs, organized crime, illegal arms trafficking, hostage-taking, piracy and money laundering," Rumsfeld said, "and new threats such as cyber-crime, and still-unknown terrorist threats which can emerge without warning."

Rumsfeld made these comments Tuesday at the meeting of Western Hemisphere defense ministers held in Santiago, Chile. He departed later that day for the Czech Republic to attend the NATO summit in Prague, where as many as seven European nations may be admitted as new members of that trans-Atlantic security organization.

The secretary of defense said he was struck by the "similarities of our objectives" at both the Santiago and Prague conferences, such as consolidating democratic progress, identifying and better understanding the new threats of the 21st century, and transforming individual and collective military capabilities to meet those threats.

To increase defense cooperation in the Americas, Rumsfeld said, ministers at the Santiago conference should consider a pair of proposed initiatives involving the region's naval forces and peacekeeping capabilities.

The naval initiative would include not just strengthened planning, command, and information-sharing capabilities among partner nations, but also cooperation among the coast guards, customs, and police forces in the region.

Hemispheric peacekeeping forces could be improved, Rumsfeld said, by integrating the specialized capabilities of individual nations into a larger regional capability.

Rumsfeld also emphasized that elected governments "have the responsibility to exercise sovereign authority throughout their national territories," noting comments by his Colombian counterpart that narco-terrorists, hostage-takers and arms smugglers use the ungoverned areas of the Western Hemisphere "as bases from which to destabilize democratic governments."

Canadian wheat imports
given go-ahead

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Dumping and subsidy investigations into imports of wheat from Canada have been approved to go forward by the U.S. International Trade Commission.

By a 4-1 vote Tuesday, the commissioners made a preliminary determination that the evidence of injury or threat to the U.S. industry sufficed at least to let the investigations proceed on the imports of Canadian durum wheat and hard red spring wheat.

A negative determination would have ended the investigations at this early stage.

Similarly, imposition of antidumping duties requires final affirmative determinations from Commerce on dumping and from commission on injury.

Preliminary determinations from Commerce are due by Dec. 27 on subsidies and March 12 on dumping.

Imports, nearly all from Canada, accounted in 2001-02 for a 21.5 percent share of the U.S. durum wheat market and a 16.3 percent of the hard red spring wheat market. U.S. imports from Canada in 2001-02 amounted to $86 million for durum wheat and $210 million for hard red spring wheat.

Dumping is the import of goods at a price below the home-market or a third-country price or below the cost of production. A dumping margin represents by how much the fair-value price exceeds the dumped price. A subsidy is a grant conferred on a producer by a government.

Protestors challenge
Caracas police takeover

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

CARACAS, Venezuela — Anti-government demonstrators have blocked a busy highway here with vehicles and piles of burning trash to protest the army's takeover of the city police force. 

The demonstrators blocked the city's Francisco Fajardo highway late Tuesday before authorities stepped in to clear the roadway. 

Hours earlier, National Guard troops fired tear gas to separate pro-government activists from thousands of marchers protesting the takeover. There were no immediate reports of injuries. 

The soldiers took action as opponents of President Hugo Chavez marched to the National Assembly to deliver a petition demanding that he restore the police force's autonomy. 

Chavez says he took control of the metropolitan police from Mayor Alfredo Peña to prevent anarchy in the wake of a strike by some police officers. The president said the takeover was necessary, but gave no timetable for when it would end. 

Peña told news sources the president could order similar takeovers of other local police forces to consolidate power and avoid an early vote on his rule. 

Chavez is resisting calls for a vote next month on whether he should voluntarily step down. His opponents say he is trying to model the oil-producing country on communist-run Cuba and that his policies are leading Venezuela toward ruin. 

The president says a referendum can only take place next August, when he is halfway through his term.
 

Body found in Limón
had bullet in back

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Judicial Investigation Organization is looking into the murder of a 22-year-old man found dead in a drainage canal in central Limón Monday afternoon.

Initially, investigators thought the victim, Eddier Olando Sandi, had drowned until a bullet wound was discovered in Olando’s back.

Olando lived 100 meters from where his body was found and was believed to have left his house some 15 minutes before the shooting occurred, according to officials.

In an unrelated case, a 42-year-old Nicaraguan man drowned while trying to cross a river in Cochen de Batán, a Limón neighborhood. The man was identified as Alyandue Mena Mendoza.

A neighbor alerted police Monday afternoon when he observed Mena being carried away by the river’s current, according to the police report. Police discovered Mena’s body later that evening.
 

Churches may see end 
to broadcast constraints

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

MEXICO CITY, Mexico — Churches and religious groups here may soon be able to own broadcast radio and television stations if a controversial new legislative proposal is enacted. The passage of the new law would be a significant victory for religious groups that have been battling for decades for such legislation. 

The proposal is part of the new media reform package promised by President Vicente Fox, who says it's designed to open free channels of communication through an independent and impartial press. Churches remain the only organizations that are still barred from the right to engage in broadcasting. All other segments of society have such a right under the country’s emerging democracy. 

Strict anti-clerical laws have limited the power and influence of the Catholic Church for most of the past century here. These laws are the legacy of a bloody civil war in the 1920s between the Church and supporters of the Institutional Revolutionary Party. That party had ruled the country uninterrupted for 71 years until the election of Fox two years ago.
 
 
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