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These stories were published Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2004, in Vol. 4, No. 232
Jo Stuart
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U.S. may cut Dominican Republic from trade pact
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The United States is preparing to drop, if necessary, the Dominican Republic from a U.S. free trade agreement with Central America, according to the U.S. Trade Representative.

In a letter last week to the Senate Finance Committee chairman, Charles E. Grassley, Robert Zoellick, the trade representative, explained that the Dominican Republic's recent imposition of a 25 percent tax on beverages containing high fructose corn syrup is incompatible with its commitments under the trade agreement it concluded with the United States and five Central American countries in August. 

Zoellick, the letter notes, has asked his staff members to forward to Central American governments a text of the trade agreement that excludes the Dominican Republic. The trade representative has also asked the U.S. International Trade Commission to assess the likely impact of a U.S. free trade agreement with Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, 

Honduras and Nicaragua on the U.S. economy. A previous study included the five Central American nations and the Dominican Republic in its assessment.

This supplemental analysis will become relevant if President George Bush asks the Congress to consider the version of the free trade agreement that does not include the Dominican Republic.

Zoellick said that the United States continues to work with the Dominican Republic on the high fructose corn syrup matter and prefers to include that nation in its agreement with Central America.

Corn syrup is a major U.S. agricultural product. 

When the trade agreement with the Dominican Republic first was announced, the country was seen as a stand-in for Costa Rica in case Tico officials decided not to accept the free trade pact. Both Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic produce similar products for export.

Casa Zamora Chaverría and other homes in Pozos near Santa Ana are worth the trip to see the lights and displays.
A.M. Costa Rica/Clair-Marie Robertson
Christmas fever is breaking out all over now
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Christmas has already begun in Pozos, Santa Ana.  Members of the Guzman Madrigal family have been decorating the outside of their house for over seven years, and this year is no exception.  Their display features more than 300, larger than life snowmen and a suspended Santa with his sleigh and reindeer. 

Diego Madrigal said that the family loves the tradition of Christmas and enjoys giving something back to the community. Families with their children arrive in droves to 

look at the illuminated life-sized nativity set which takes over the front of the Guzman's house. Diego Guzman said that the display gets more elaborate every year but the expense is worth it.  "The electricity bills double and every year. We can’t resist buying additions to our display," said Diego Guzman. 

Another neighbor has decided to join in.  The Zamora Chaverría family started illuminating the front of their house three years ago. Juan Pablo Zamora Chaverría said that the main reason the family put on the Christmas display is for the children. 

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Vacationer dies saving
her husband from surf

By Joe Medici
of the A. M. Costa Rica staff

A frequent vacationer at Playa Guiones attempted to help her husband who was stuck in an undercurrent in the Pacific Ocean on Sunday afternoon. Her husband survived, but the woman was unable to make it back to the shore and drowned, officials reported.

The victim, Paula Smith, and her husband, Harvey, came from  Tennessee to vacation at their second home in Playa Guiones. They recently arrived in Costa Rica to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday, friends said.

Beate Klossek lives near the beach and witnessed the event while she was riding her horse down the shoreline. She said she was riding down the beach around 4:30 p.m. when she saw a woman on the beach waving her arms. This was someone who was on the same beach as the Smith couple.

The woman appeared to have helped a man out of the water. The man she later learned was Smith.  Still in the water was Mrs. Smith.

The unidentified woman asked Mrs. Klossek to ride down beach to find people who could help. Mrs. Klossek said she rode her horse to a group and found several surfers who ran back to help search for the missing woman, later identified as Paula Smith.

 "The surfers helped look, but it was getting dark and many people had to go back to their homes," Mrs. Klossek said by telephone Monday night.

The body eventually washed up on the shore about an hour later and after many of the surfers had gone home.

In addition to her husband, Mrs. Smith, 58, is survived by three daughters. 

Playa Guiones is one of the principal beaches in the vicinity of Nosara. It is known to be in an area where many foreigners live. The beach is on the west shore of the Nicoya Peninsula.

Man breaks both feet 
in waterfall accident

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A U.S. citizen suffered serious injuries when he attempted to jump from a waterfall in San Isidro de El General. The incident ocurred Saturday about 10:30 a.m. 

The injured man, Richard Saint Roman, 25, from Panama City, Fla., had arrived in Costa Rica Nov. 8 on vacation.  He went on a horseback tour to the waterfall Nahuyaca with some friends. 

Roman attempted to jump from the waterfall and slipped. He said he broke both his feet, two ribs and sprained his wrist in the fall. " I don't really remember much, it all happened very quickly," Roman said from his hospital bed in San Isidro.

Roman is in Hospital Escalante Pradilla but will be transferred soon to Hospital Cima in Escazú. He said that he has not been told by doctors how long it will take for him to recover. 

Delta adds new flights
connecting with Atlanta

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff 

Delta Air Lines said it will be increasing the number of flights scheduled to Costa Rica due to the growing popularity of Costa Rica as a tourist resort.  An additional daily service will begin between Atlanta and San José Dec. 18.

This flight will offer a 9 a.m. departure from San José and a 6:15 p.m. return flight from Atlanta. The aircraft is a Boeing 757 with the capacity to transport 183 passengers. 

"Delta Air Lines will continue to offer more to our customers, " said Jorge Fernandez, vice president of the International relations at Delta Airlines.   " "Today we are responding to a high demand of flights to San José, with additional services." 

Delta Air Lines began operating direct flights to Costa Rica between Atlanta and San Jose in 1998. Costa Rica began to expand its tourism base, and as a consequence Delta Air Lines increased its services. It became the first international airline to offer a permanent service to Daniel Oduber International Airport in Liberia, Guanacaste. Delta Airlines is now offering six weekly flights from Atlanta to San José. 

As of Dec. 18, Delta will depart Juan Santamaría Airport at 9 a.m. and arrive in Atlanta at 2:02 p.m. and at 3:00 p.m. with an arrival at 8:01 p.m.

Flights will leave Atlanta daily at 10:13 a.m. and arrive at Juan Santamaría Airport at 1:17 p.m. and at 6:15 p.m. with a 9:21 p.m. arrival here. All times are local.

Quake toll $2.9 million

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The toll for Saturday’s earthquake near Quepos is at least 1.3 billion colons in housing alone, officials said Monday. That’s about $2.9 million.

Some 132 homes were destroyed, and 94 were in the Parrita-Quepos area, officials said. The rest were scattered through Puriscal, Terrazú, Alajuelita, Vásques de Coronado, Desamparados and León Cortés, said Luis Diego Morales at a press conference.

Morales is president of the Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias. He also listed 27 points of damage in roads and highways and seven educational centers with damage, including ones in Escazú, Acosta, Aserrí and in the earthquake zone.

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Not only is there lots of art, but train rides, too
By Saray Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

This year’s Festival Internacional de las Artes is concentrated at the Estación al Pacifico, the old train station that is so much part of Costa Rican history.

Surrounded by old rail cars and locomotives, visitors will find booths, art objects for sale and handicraft.

Earlier this station was the main transportation point for the exportation to Europe and North America of what we know today as golden grain or coffee. It is at Avenida 20 at Calle 2, just eight blocks south of Parque Central.

This belle époque structure helped open the doors to the exportation of many Costa Rican products, including the bananas, which quickly developed another important age for the Costa Rican economy.

Inside one senses the golden age of rail when trains ran from the Caribbean to the Pacific. Today a visitor will find handcraft from all over Latin America and Europe. Also many other art forms are represented, including music, theater and dance.

The arts festival runs through Saturday with handfuls of events each day, ranging from art presentations to movies to forums on art topics. Events are all over town, but the station is the headquarters.

The use of the Pacific railway station allowed sponsors to offer brief train rides to San Pedro and Pavas. The 1,500 colon (about $3) entry fee includes as many train rides as the ticket holder may want. Trains leave every 30 minutes. Children 3 and under pay 500 colons or about $1.

In the center of operations for the rail station colorful tents have been erected to house more festival booths and food stands. The tents give a Gypsy-like atmosphere to the surroundings.

A.M. Costa Rica photos/Saray Ramírez Vindas
Theater garb is on display

Paraffin lamps are for sale

Verdict and sentence issued in Katia murder case
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The man who killed Katia Vanessa González Juárez, 8, and buried her under his home has been convicted of the crime.

The man, Jorge Sánchez Madrigal, 35, got a sentence of 30 years in prison. That left the lawyer involved in the case ready to go to the Asamblea Nacional to seek legal changes to provide for a sentence of life without parole.

For Sánchez, it was his second murder of record. In 1983 in Heredia he raped, strangled and buried a 13-year-old girl, Sonja Liseth Rivas. Because he was just

 17 at the time he was tried as a juvenile and did not spend much time in detention.

The González girl lived just 75 meters (250 feet) from the murder scene. Her slayer lured her into his home by promsing to give her a rabbit as a pet. The neighborhood is Quesada Durán in southeast San José. She died of soffocation.

Sánchez also was ordered to pay a 20 million colon fine.

The outcome was not a surprise because the body was found in the ground under the floor boards of the home of the main suspect. A 51-year-old roommate of Sánchez never was a murder suspect.

Trembling Mrs. Olsen says she never took a bribe
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Karen Olsen, in a trembling voice and close to tears, said she never received a kickback or commission on a major purchase by the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social.

The former deputy and mother of ex-president José Maria Figueres Olsen, read a statement but declined to answer questions. She appeared before the Comisión de Control del Ingreso y el Gasto Público.

"I am not disposed ever to permit that they play with my honor or with my reputation simply to arrive at a political stalemate," she said.

Lawmakers wanted to talk to her because she was a key player in obtaining credit from Spanish sources for the purchase of hospital equipment for the Caja during her son’s administration from 1994 to 1998.

Mrs. Olsen said she had nothing to do with the purchase of equipment, and that the Figueres administration had only seen the deal through bidding. The contract was awarded in the following administration of Miguel Ángel Rodríguez, she said.

In addition, the credit had been negotiated in the previous administration, that of Rafael Ángel Calderón Fournier, she said.

Mrs. Olsen said that officials then never imagined that the purchase would result in items of bad quality at high prices and in some cases unnecessary.

Mrs. Olsen said she made various trips to Spain to follow details of the loan for the equipment, but she frequently makes such trips.

Even though she said she would not answer most questions, she promised to respond in writing. Ricardo Toledo, now a deputy, asked her if she would be willing to open her bank accounts and deliver this data to the committee. 

She said she would think about it and how to guarantee the security of such information.

She also said that her son, now in Europe, would soon arrive to discuss allegations with the committee. Among other issues, Figueres has to explain why he was an adviser to Alcatel, the French telecommunications firm, while it was seeking business here. He received at least $900,000.

Figueres, as is his mother, is a member of the Partido Liberación Nacional. Rodríguez and Calderón are members of the Partido Unidad Social Cristiana. They were involved in the scandal first, so Mrs. Olsen was suggesting that her son’s name was brought up simply as a political expediency for Unidad. 

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Drug-terrorism linkages worry military planners
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The connection between terrorism and drug trafficking in the Americas was one of the crucial issues that dominated a meeting of ministers in Chile last week.

The connection among terrorism, drugs, and organized crime has become a source of mutual concern for leaders of the hemisphere, said the U.S. Department of Defense.

The problem affects a broad spectrum of the Americas, the department said, involving countries that are the source of illicit drugs, countries through which these drugs pass, and the nations that consume the drugs with the profits derived from selling drugs fueling the activities of terrorists.

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said at the meeting in Quito that drug traffickers, terrorists, hostage-takers, and criminal gangs "form an anti-social combination" aimed at destabilizing civil societies. He called on the nations of the Western Hemisphere to work together to fight this scourge, the Defense Department said.

Rumsfeld praised hemispheric efforts under way to stem drug trafficking, and he encouraged more cooperation among the nations of the region.

The U.S. defense secretary said, during his meeting with Nicaraguan President Enrique Bolanos Nov. 13 in Managua, that the Central American nation had done a "commendable job" of combating narco-terrorism, especially along the country's Atlantic coast. In 2004 alone, Rumsfeld said, the Nicaraguan military has confiscated more than 6,000 kilograms of cocaine.

"We applaud and encourage these efforts," Rumsfeld said.

While in Quito, Rumsfeld praised the assistance that Ecuador has given Colombia to help the Colombians fight drug trafficking and other activities that destabilize civil societies. Thanks to this cooperation, Rumsfeld said, Colombia is having measurable success in its campaign against drugs and terrorism.

The Defense Department quoted Jorge Alberto Uribe, Colombia's minister of defense, as saying that his country is winning its battle against drug trafficking, organized crime, and trafficking within its borders, and "will not rest" until ensuring its citizens' safety. He expressed appreciation for support that the United States and other countries have provided Colombia.

President George Bush met Monday with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, and the U.S. president praised the Colombian leader for progress in fighting narco-terrorists. During the meeting, Bush reaffirmed U.S. support for Colombia's fight against trafficking.

Bush said drug trafficking "destroys lives in our countries and threatens the stability of our hemisphere."

The visit to Colombia was the last leg of Bush's three-day trip to Latin America to meet with Pacific Rim leaders at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in Santiago, Chile.

More than 15,000 police shut down much of the costal city of Cartagena for the president's four-hour visit, shadowing his motorcade with helicopters and armored gunboats.

In addition to his meeting with President Uribe, Bush visited with a dozen young baseball players and Colombian professional player Orlando Cabrera, who plays for this year's U.S. World Series champions, the Boston Red Sox. 

Jo Stuart
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