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These stories were published Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2001
A young Tica finds reality on the San José streets
By Jay Brodell
editor of A.M. Costa Rica

The young Tica has been abroad for some time, so the conditions of the San José streets were a little shocking.

When she saw the boy stretched out on the street in the high traffic Zona Rosa Monday afternoon, she thought the lad was dead. He looked to be between 7 and 8 years.

There he was with his arms thrown over his head sprawled on the sidewalk near a Gringo bar. His ribs stuck out from his bare chest like the bones of one of those street dogs that prowl the downtown.

Then the chest and back moved slightly. Clearly, this was a lad who needed food, the Tica thought as she hurried to the nearby Hamburger Factory for a quarter-pounder.

The boy was amiable enough when his benefactor brought food. "How long have you been hungry like this and on the street," she asked.

"Since always," he answered in accented Spanish. He wolfed down the food and sprawled back on the sidewalk.

The Tica could not leave. She sought out the police. Surely, there must be some place, some way to get this child off the street. She demanded in a way that only a Costa Rican woman can that the police come.

But the sergeant was unimpressed. "We know this kid," he said. "We pick him up. He escapes. He robs. No one will accept him now." Even the most hardened social agency draws the line on some street kids, he explained.

She remembered reading in the newspaper about how the Salvation Army was forced to shut down its shelters in a dispute with the Patronato Nacional de la Infancia, the government agency that is supposed to protect children.

They spent nearly a half hour watching the child sleep and straining their brains to come up with a solution. The police just get too many complaints about street children because so many are visible lately. Plus people are beginning to feel the Christmas spirit and worry about their fellow man.

Suddenly, the child rolled over and awoke. Through sleepy eyes he heard the sergeantís proposal: He could go with the police and clean his face and hands, but they had no place to accommodate him for longer than the time it takes to wash. Then it would be back on the street. The child, his name was Chevi, declined the offer.

Once again caught in the rays of the afternoon sun, he drifted off to sleep on his sidewalk home. As he turned over, four 100-colon coins fell from his pocket as did two small metal pipes.

The money he had guarded was enough for a burger but would never be used for such. The pipes were for smoking crack at 500 colons a rock at the going rate. 

The Tica realized exactly where this subteenís priorities were. He lacked just 100 colons for another rock of crack, a substance easily available in the crannies of the downtown.

The sergeant explained that a typical street crack user would smoke about eight rocks a day, some 4,000 colons in merchandise. 

And the wealthy Gringo tourists in the zone would never realize that the tiny donations they make to such children go right to the pusher.

Such is the life in the street, and it served to underline the belief that saving the children of the street means more than just feeding them. Thatís the easy part.

The Ticaís name is not vital to this true story, because such events take place with regularity on the ever-meaner streets of San José.

She cried for a half hour nevertheless.

Planning a little Yule trip?

In case you were planning a little Christmas vacation to an undisturbed, Central Asian country where you could kick back and enjoy the climate, not have to worry about television and maybe explore some mountain caves, the U.S. government distributed a statement Monday that said in part:

Afghanistan - Travel Warning
November 23, 2001
The Department of State strongly warns U.S. citizens against travel to Afghanistan. 

U.S. forces are engaged in military action against the remnants of the Taliban regime and the terrorist Al-Qaida network. Afghan opponents of the Taliban regime are also engaged in military operations in several parts of the country. 

Travel in all areas of Afghanistan, including the capital Kabul and all major cities, is unsafe due to military operations, banditry, and the possibility of unrest given the fluid political and military situation. 

Several foreign journalists have been murdered in recent weeks.  An estimated 5-7 million land mines are scattered throughout the countryside and pose a danger to travelers.  Much of the country is also facing an acute food shortage. The U.S. Embassy in Kabul has been closed since 1989, and no other diplomatic mission represents U.S. interests or provides consular services. . . . 

Unrelated to the U.S. State Department warning, travel agents are believed to have  little demand for pleasure trips to Afghanistan, and none was expected to be developing package tours.

Another quake in area

Here's the location of a 4.9 magnitude earthquake that hit off the coast of Nicaragua near the Costa Rican border Monday about 4:13 a.m.  The quake was 33 kilometers (about 20 miles) deep. The yellow lines show the joints between large plates in the earth's crust. There were no reports of damage in Costa Rica.

Bush issues a warning to Iraq
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON ó Iraq's Saddam Hussein will "find out" the consequences if he does not permit international inspectors back into Iraq in order to prove to the world that he's not developing weapons of mass destruction, President Bush said Monday.

The U.S. president  made the comments in a question-and-answer session with reporters in the Rose Garden following an event to welcome home two American aid workers following three months of captivity by the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Discussing the war on terrorism, Bush told reporters "Afghanistan is still just the beginning."

"If anybody harbors a terrorist, they're a terrorist. If they fund a terrorist, they're a terrorist. If they house terrorists, they're terrorists," the president said.

"If they develop weapons of mass destruction that will be used to terrorize nations, they will be held accountable. And as for Mr. Saddam Hussein, he needs to let inspectors back in his country, to show us that he is not developing weapons of mass destruction."

Bush, asked about North Korea, said, "Well, clearly, in terms of North Korea, we want North Korea to allow inspectors in, to determine whether or not they are" developing weapons of mass destruction.

"We've had that discussion with North Korea. I made it very clear to North Korea that in order for us to have relations with them, that we want to know, are they developing weapons of mass destruction? And they ought to stop proliferating.

"So part of the war on terror is to deny . . . weapons to be used for means of terror getting in the hands of nations that will use them," Bush said.

Later in the day, besieged by reporters to clarify what the President had said earlier in the day, White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said he had talked with the president about his comments, and they are a reiteration of long-standing U.S. foreign policy.

Currently "the President's focus is on Afghanistan," Fleischer said. "The president has been focused on phase one, destroying the al Qaeda and their ability to engage in terrorism; destroying the Taliban and those who harbor terrorists."

The president's remarks, Fleischer said, are "a reaffirmation, a restatement of a long-standing American policy, and I think it should be readily understood that every American President has spoken out strongly about Iraq or North Korea and any nation that would use nuclear weapons, especially those nations that are state sponsors of 

terrorism, regardless of whether Sept. 11th took place or not. But Saddam Hussein can figure out the rest of it if he wants.

"So what you heard today in the Rose Garden about Iraq and North Korea is what you've heard from this president repeatedly for two years now, from the campaign forward, about the manner in which he would treat Iraq or North Korea, any nation that's a terrorist sponsor, state sponsor of terrorism if they were to use, as he put it, use nuclear weapons. There's a long body of quotes from the president prior to Sept. 11th, very similar," Fleischer said.

During the presidential campaign, Fleischer reminded reporters, Bush "repeatedly referred to the issues of proliferation in North Korea. That's one of the reasons the president believes in a missile defense, because of the potential of North Korea to acquire weapons of mass destruction and potentially use them. And he has had similar words about Iraq."

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said "We all know what the requirements are that Iraq is under, and as the President said today, Iraq needs to let weapons inspectors back in if they're going to try to show that they are not developing weapons of mass destruction. So, it's quite clear what the international community expects of Iraq. It's quite clear what the President expects of Iraq, and we will keep that requirement in front of them.

"But I have not seen anything new from Iraq that would indicate that they are willing to try to reassure the international community in anyway, or that they have changed their intentions of threatening their own people and threatening their neighbors."

In his Rose Garden remarks, Bush was also asked whether he was concerned with the amount of dissent over his decision to establish military tribunals to try suspected terrorists.

Bush responded that he was "not the least bit concerned. I made the right decision. A president must have the option of using a military tribunal in times of war. I look forward to explaining to my friend, the president of Spain, why I made that decision. It makes eminent sense to have the military tribunal option available. It makes sense for national security purposes, it makes sense for the protection of potential jurors. It makes sense for homeland security. It is the right decision to make, and I will explain that to any leader who asks."

The tribunals would be directed against non-U.S. citizens who are labeled terrorists by the president. They would not be entitled to a public trial. They would not be entitled to see all the evidence against them. They could be sentenced to death by a majority vote. They would not be able to appeal the decision. 

U.S. Supreme Court won't hear
challenge to NAFTA accord

By A.M. Costa Rica wire services 

WASHINGTON ó The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected a legal challenge brought by the U.S. steelworkers union to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) signed in 1992 by the United States, Canada and Mexico.

The court Monday declined to hear the case and thus left intact the February appeals court ruling dismissing the United Steelworkers of America (USWA) lawsuit against the trade accord.

The lawsuit was brought in 1998 by USWA and other opponents of NAFTA who argued that the agreement should be declared unconstitutional because it was never ratified by a two-thirds' vote in the Senate. The two-thirds' vote is a constitutional requirement for all treaties.

For its part, the U.S. government argued that NAFTA is an executive agreement that does not require Senate ratification as a "treaty." NAFTA legislation was approved by simple majorities in both the Senate and House of Representatives in 1993, and the agreement went into effect the following year.

Official results show
Maduro won Honduras

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The main opposition candidate in Honduras has won Sunday's presidential election. Official results released Monday declared Ricardo Maduro, the candidate of the National Party,  the winner over Rafael Pineda of the ruling Liberal Party.

With more than 40 percent of the vote counted, Maduro won 53 percent of the vote, with Pineda taking 44 percent.

The United States heralded the election. U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Monday the people of Honduras demonstrated an unwavering commitment to democracy. He said the U.S. looks forward to close ties with Honduras' new administration. 

Maduro is a former central bank chief and businessman. He has pledged to fight crime and improve the country's slumping economy. Honduras is one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere and suffers from a high crime rate.

Maduro replaces incumbent President Carlos Flores, who was barred by the constitution from running for a second term. Honduran voters also voted to elect 128 lawmakers to the country's one-chamber congress, and nearly 300 mayors.

Colombia to restart
talks with rebel group

The Colombian government and the country's second largest Marxist rebel group have agreed to restart peace talks next month. 

The government and the National Liberation Army, or ELN, made the announcement in a joint communique issued Saturday after a meeting in the Cuban capital, Havana. The two sides met in the presence of diplomats from Cuba, Spain, France, Norway and Switzerland. 

The so-called Accord for Colombia set peace talks to resume Dec. 12. President Andres Pastrana had broken off negotiations with the ELN in August, accusing the guerrillas of not being serious about peace. 

Peace journalism course
planned for Costa Rica

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

What better place to learn to promote peace through journalism than Costa Rica. Thatís what Radio for Peace international suggests as it offers a 10-week course in "peace journalism" for foreign students.

Most are journalism students elsewhere who come to Costa Rica to round out specific aspects of their training, said Gilbert Carmichael of the international radio station. He is coordinating the program, part of which can be training in Spanish language.

The radio station is on the campus of the University for Peace in El Rodeo, near Ciudad Colon.

"Peace and peace journalism is something that everyone needs to look at very strongly now,:" said Carmichael in a reference to the current world situation. The 10-week program is a compilation of three other courses that have been taught during the last three years , he said.

Peace journalism, basically, a code of ethics, also is print based, rather than radio journalism, despite the orientation of international station, said Carmichael.

In addition to the station, the organization houses the International Center for Human Rights in Media which is "a research and archival facility dedicated to monitoring, chronicling and publishing information on and about intolerance and racism in media and the promotion of tolerance," according to the Web site. The center also is a sponsor of the educational program.

From 10 to 25 students will participate in each of the 10-weeks sessions, which costs $3,850. More information is available on the organizationís Web site: http://www.rfpi.org/ipc.html

The first session begins Jan. 6, and other sessions are scheduled starting in march, June and September.

Police said Cartago gang
held up couples in cars

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Five persons whom investigators said may have been responsible for sticking up many couples were arrested Sunday in Cartago.

Police identified them as a woman, 32, names Coto, three brothers, 21, 27 and 16 named Montero, and a man, Brenes, 30.  Police said they believe they have solved up to 25 cases of vehicle assaults. 

The arrests were the result of a three-month-long complex investigation.

The targets were couples parked at overlooks near the Irazú Volcano, Urjarras and Rancho Redondo, among others. The robbers would smash the windows of cars containing the unsuspecting couples and steal everything right down to the clothes the victims were wearing in some cases, said police. Bullets were pumped into vehicle tires to prevent early police action. Sometimes the assailants would steal the car and use it in later crimes, said investigators for the Judicial Investigations Organization.

The last assault was Nov. 17 in Ujarras where a woman, 21, a victim, was raped.  Police asked that persons who suffered such crimes contact them at 550-0300 or 550-0333.

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