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These stories were published Friday, Nov. 30, 2001
The Christmas season really gets started tomorrow night


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The official holiday kickoff is Saturday when there will be a full day of activities centered around the National Theater.

The climax is Saturday night when the life-sized Nativity scene in front of the National Theater is opened up along with a ceremony officially illuminating the Yuletide lights. And it is all free.

The singing begins at 10 a.m. with concerts, groups and even an appearance by the national Symphony Chorus. The event is likely to spill over to the nearby Plaza of Culture.

Workman have again constructed a life-size wooden stable on the steps of the National Theater. Even earlier this week there were a few life-sized cows peeking out from 

behind the main section of the crèche or "portal," as it is called in Spanish.

The stable is supposed to represent the one in Bethlehem which is the traditional birthplace of Jesus Christ, the Christian savior.

The next big event downtown is the Festival of Lights in two weeks, on Saturday, Dec. 15. Thatís a big parade with most of the participants decked out in lights and other Christmas gear.

Christmas in on a Tuesday this year, and the next day is the annual horse parade Along Paseo Colon into the downtown area and east on Avenida 2. 

And if that is not enough, the next day, Dec. 27, is the day for the carnival parade through the downtown. Both start at noon.


 
Foreign confidence seems
to be recovering well

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Foreign interest in Costa Rica is looking up again ó if participation in a free introductory seminar is any gauge.

The Association of Residents of Costa Rica is putting on the traditional end-of-the month seminar this morning, and Ryan Piercy, executive director, says the expected turnout is the biggest in the groupís history.

Piercy said that about 50 persons have reserved space for the seminar, and typically 10 to 15 percent more people will show up without calling first. So he expects upwards of 60 to 65 participants.

The seminar is directed at people who plan to retire, work or otherwise settle in Costa Rica. It features talks by experts about residency requirements, insurance, real estate, medical care, household moving and business laws.

"For me the confidence is coming back," Piercy said of the calls he has been receiving and the contacts he has made. He said that the majority of the visitors who will attend the seminar are from North America, but there is a significant number of Europeans.

The turnout will be good news to those who were worried about the effects that terrorist attacks in the United States would have on migration from that country. Two theories had been advanced. The first suggests that North Americans would avoid foreign relocation for fear of terrorists. The second theory suggests that Costa Rica is the idea safe spot for North Americans and others looking for an exotic land with warm temperatures year round. Piercy always has subscribed to the second theory.

The seminar also is significant because those who attend probably made their decisions to visit Costa Rica some weeks earlier and closer to the Sept. 11 date of the attacks.

Thereís some good news
for tourism sector, too

Most of those who become involved with the residents association are seeking permanent relocation at least part of the time each year. But there was some good news Thursday on the tourism front. The Costa Rican Tourism Institute said that $9 million would be earmarked for promoting the country as a tourism destination.

The perception has been that tourism is way down in Costa Rica, but figures for October, the first full month after the attacks showed that the number of tourists only fell about 10 per cent.

Some tourist industry observers note that there seems to be a shift in how tourists visit the country. There seems to be a decline in the number of persons staying in San José as part of their trip. Many are heading straight to their destination from the airport.  This leaves merchants in San José with the incorrect impression that the total number of tourism is down more than it is.

In addition, charter flights to the newer international airport in Liberia provides a way for tourists to visit the Pacific beaches without coming anywhere near the capital.
 
Injured from plane wreck
are in San José hospital

Five passengers injured in a Sansa plane crash near Quepos that killed another passenger and the two pilots were in Clinica Biblica last night recovering from their night in the jungle.

That story is BELOW

In addition, the original story of the crash and the rescue that was published here about midday Thursday is available HERE.

Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart

Watch Out! Women Marching 

I was in the Cleveland Store last Friday and saw a T-shirt that said: "Take Back the Night." It reminded me of all the women who marched in protest against the dangers they face when they venture out at night. The T-shirt was far too large for me. The woman who wore that, I thought, at least could defend herself. The most help women have gotten over the years is the advice not to go out alone at night. 

Years ago I was on a task force organized to solve the problem of street prostitution in downtown San Jose, California. There were a number of suggested solutions, all aimed at greater punishment of the prostitutes, like harassing them when they appeared on the street or giving them longer jail sentences. 

Finally I suggested that instead of harassing the supply, go after the demand and harass any man who was on the street without a woman. Without a market, the prostitutes would go away, I said, and I pointed out that that would also reduce the attacks on women who were out at night alone. I expected kudos from the other task force members, most of whom were men, for my free market capitalistic solution. Instead, my idea was greeted with derisive laughter and indignation at the very idea of restricting menís freedom of movement.

Leaving the Cleveland store, I walked to Avenida Segunda. There was a march getting organized. Costa Rican women were protesting the violence against them, mostly domestic violence. 

Homemade signs said: "The women of Costa Rica wish to live without violence." A contingency of women from Golfito was there with a sign that said: "To live without violence is a right." Two women carried a sign saying, "Lesbians against Violence." All of these signs were, of course, in Spanish. 

There was a group of school children, another of policewomen. There were old women and young. Most of the women looked poor, but not all. Their faces had something in common, a personal knowledge of what they were protesting, I thought. I had to fight back the tears when I thought of what they all had been through to be here. 

When I saw one woman dragging a roughly made cross, I began foraging for my hanky. She was also carrying a very heavy looking backpack. Actually, what saved me from tears was my first and rather irreverent thought, which was of Ginger Rogers, who not only had to dance as well as Fred Astaire, she had to do it backwards, and in high heels. 

Still, I wondered how much good this march would do? Are women any safer on the street at night? Maybe they never will be, but in the U.S. there are many more shelters for abused women than there used to be and the laws have become more favorable. At the moment there are only two shelters for abused women in all of Costa Rica, but slowly the laws are changing, and with each march, women will gain courage from each other. 

I donít know what the woman with the cross meant her message to be, but the message I got was that women have not been given just a cross to bear, but a backpack to boot. Fortunately, we have the strength and endurance to carry both.

More of Joís  columns can be found HERE.


 

Celebrating at Tex Mex, Santa Ana, the winning New York Bar Team is, from left, Rick Looney a/k/a "Don Gordo," Jerry Wayne, Bob Wagner and Don Williams with the championship trophy.

A happy New York story 

By John Kendall 
Special to A.M. Costa Rica 

In these days of declining tourism one bright spot for the future is Costa Rica as a golf destination. Plans for more golf courses are being realized with more in the planning stages. 

It is hoped that golfers will view Costa Rica as a vacation spot as fisherman already have. For more than three years the local San José tavern owners have built the foundation for the future with a bi-monthly tournament at the Parque Valle Del Sol golf course in Santa Ana. 

The format is four-man scramble with competitions every Tuesday open to locals and visitors. Bi-monthly a tournament is held, sponsored by local taverns and restaurants, and an annual trophy is awarded to the establishment that wins the most events in the year. 

Coming into the Nov. 13th event this year New York Bar of San José and Tex Mex Bar and Restaurant of Santa Ana were tied with two wins apiece with many victories by one stroke and one won in extra holes.

The last tournament of 2001 was contested by nine teams; two from New York Bar, two from Tinyís Bar as well as Hotel Del Rey, Tex Mex, La Taberna of Escazu, Tropical Casino and an independent team. 

New York Barís "A" team, consisting of Bob Wagner, Don Williams, "Don Gordo" and Jerry Wayne, captured the yearís final event and the 2001 Annual Trophy with an impressive 13 under par 59, avoiding the suspense of prior events. 

Tied for second at 7 under 66 were last yearís champions Tex Mex and prior repeat winners Tinyís. 

Any suspense ended on the first hole, a par five. After three errant drives, Don Williams, a Texas/Hawaii transplant, nailed his drive straight and too long into the creek that crosses the fairway 300 yards from the tee. With a penalty drop they placed their next shot 10 feet from the pin and converted the birdie putt. From then on they birdied 12 more holes without a bogey and never looked back. 

They consistently put approach shots within six feet and took turns with birdie putts. 

Tex Mex started with an eagle on the same hole but never enjoyed the lead thereafter. The most impressive start was by Tinyís "A" team. Their captain, Ernie "K" won the MVP Award for the tournament by making four consecutive birdies without the aid of a single shot of his teammates. When he came back to earth the team could only finish 3 more below par for joint second. 

Longest Drive honors went to Robert Willis of Tex Mex and Closest to the Pin to Carlos Visquez, event manager of Costa Rica Golf Association, the membership organization of Costa Rica. 

Special thanks go to Mike and Bob Sanders of New York Bar who began the tournament more than three years ago. All members wish Bob a speedy and complete recovery from recent surgery. 

2002 competitions resume in January and players hope to obtain many new players and sponsors. 

Five plane survivors
brought to San José
for aid, observation

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Five passengers rescued from the wreckage of a Sansa passenger plane near Quepos ended up in Clinica Biblica late Thursday for a stay of up to five days.

They were the lucky ones. When a rescue team found the plane shortly after daybreak, they also found that both pilots and a passenger died in the crash that took place about noon Wednesday.

The dead were pilot Ricardo Sálazar Mora, 29, a veteran of nearly 5,000 hours of commercial flying; the copilot, Carlos Lacayo, 26, a veteran of at least 800 commercial hours of flying time, and Adolfo Preus Strasburger, a resident of Puerto Jiménez on the Osa Peninsula.

Rescued were a U.S. couple Brandon and Brandy Wiley. The U.S. Embassy said they were from Colorado. Another U.S. citizen rescued was Michael Packard.

Silke Friebold, a German woman who lives in Puerto Jiménez, and Alvaro Zúñiga, a Costa Rican, were the other two taken by ambulance from the mountains east of Quepos to the San José hospital.

The plane was traveling from San Joseís Juan Santamaría Airport to the Pacific coast town of Quepos and then was supposed to fly on to Puerto


The story of the discovery and rescue of the five survivors carried in the Thursday editions of A.M. Costa Rica may be read by

Clicking here


Jiménez to the south. The plane crashed only about four minutes from landing and shortly after the pilots said all was normal.

The jungle where the plane crashed was strewn with metal and broken aircraft parts. The pilotís area took the impact when the plane hit.

Trees, some as much as eight inches in diameter were sheared off by the plane.

All the survivors endured the two-to three-hour ride and all were alert and talking when they reached the hospital. Mrs. Wiley was on a stretcher, as was a passenger believed to be Packard. The others were photographed moving around at the crash site, but they all ended up on stretchers when they reached the hospital.

All suffered internal bruising from the crash, and several had fractures, including Wiley, who suffered a broken jaw.

The plane was a single-engine Cessna Grand Caravan, manufactured in 1999 by the U.S. company. 

The search operation involved at least 70 Red Cross workers and a number of police. The crash site was near San Marcos de Terrazu in the mountains east of Quepos. Some residents flew from Puerto Jiménez to be ready to take the field in the morning because they knew their friends were on the plane.

The investigation into the cause was advanced because the survivors said that clouds had enveloped the craft shortly before the crash. The pilots had made two other trips Wednesday, and the Quepos-Puerto Jiménez run was their third.

Investigators will try to determine why the pilots were flying lower than they presumably thought.

Several possibilities include a faulty altimeter that measured height above sea level or an altimeter that had been set improperly. The pilots were not following an electronically mapped course to the airport. 
 


 
Former Mexican presidents
deny Ďdirty warí involvement

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Two former Mexican presidents who served in the 1970s and early 1980s have denied any involvement in what was called the "dirty war" against political dissent. 

The leaders, Luis Echeverria and Jose Lopez Portillo, say they were unaware of the alleged widespread abuses by their government forces, as documented in a recent human rights report. 

Echeverria, who served from 1970 to 1976, says during his administration, the Mexican military acted with patriotism. He says they should be punished if they committed what he calls "police excesses." His successor, Lopez Portillo, who served until 1982, says he never authorized any illegal means to fight leftist guerrillas. 

The denials come two days after President Vicente Fox said a special prosecutor would be named to investigate 532 abductions detailed by the Mexican Human Rights Commission. 

The report alleges government security forces tortured and killed all the political activists named in the 2,000 page document. The commission says most of the abuses occurred under Echeverria and Lopez Portillo. 

Both leaders were members of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI. Fox's presidential win in July 2000 ended the PRI's 71 years of consecutive rule. 

President Fox promised during his campaign to uncover human rights abuses and seek justice for the dirty war's victims. 

Dozens of former government officials are named in the report, but their identities have not been released. The dirty war was primarily directed against activists with suspected links to guerrillas in the southwestern Guerrero state. 
 

Brazil shows tiny
economic expansion

Brazil's economy expanded by just a third of a percent in the third-quarter compared to a year ago, according to preliminary figures by the Brazilian Institute of Statistics and Geography. 

The slow growth was driven by a 1.3 percent drop in industrial output, compared to a year ago, and was attributed to acute power shortages, the depressed U.S. economy and concern over the economic crisis in neighboring Argentina. Low consumer confidence and the rise in interest rates to strengthen the Brazilian currency, which has lost almost a third of its value this year, were also among the factors hurting economic growth. 

Separately, Brazil reported its budget deficit shrank by 10 percent in October, while its overall debt as a percentage of GDP dropped slightly. 

Venezuelan business
plan anti-Chavez strike

Venezuela's largest business federation, Fedecamaras, has voted unanimously to stage a 12-hour strike next month to protest President Hugo Chavez's economic laws. 

On Wednesday, business organizers called for the Dec. 10 stoppage to demonstrate against 49 laws unveiled in November. The move is supported by opposition parties and the main labor unions. 

The laws affect the country's economy, oil industry, agriculture and fisheries. Business organizers say they were not consulted beforehand, and many of the regulations are unconstitutional and violate the principle of private property. 

One of the regulations, the land law, will permit the government to seize land deemed unproductive and redistribute it to the peasants. Land use will be subjected to government directives and owners will have only 10 days to produce relevant documentation. 

The strike could be the biggest obstacle for President Chavez's three-year-old government. The Venezuelan leader has challenged the federation to go ahead with the strike, saying the country will see who is stronger. 

Chavez says the laws will not change, and business leaders are only defending the elite. 

Compromise reached
on Mexican trucking

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON ó Negotiators from the Senate and House of Representatives have reached agreement on legislation that would give Mexican trucks open access to U.S. highways as long as they pass regular safety inspections.

The legislation is attached to the $60 billion transportation spending bill, which had been held up for months over the Mexican trucking issue. President Bush threatened to veto earlier versions of the measure, saying that the stricter safety standards for Mexican trucks laid out in those bills would violate U.S. obligations under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Under NAFTA, the United States agreed to permit cross-border passenger and cargo services beginning in 1995 in border states, but it delayed the border opening citing safety concerns. Mexican trucks are currently limited to a narrow commercial zone in U.S. border states, where they transfer their goods to U.S. carriers. A NAFTA dispute-settlement panel ruled in February 2001 that the U.S. exclusion of Mexican trucks from its highways violated the country's NAFTA commitments.

According to lawmakers, the compromise reached Wednesday satisfies both safety requirements and U.S. NAFTA obligations. It would require Mexican trucks to undergo inspections before they enter the United States and to undergo a physical inspection at 90-day intervals. 

An electronic driver's license verification would be required for all drivers of Mexican trucks carrying hazardous materials and for half of the drivers carrying non-hazardous materials. The measure would also prohibit Mexican trucking firms from operating in the United States until the U.S. Transportation Department certifies its ability to enforce strict safety standards.
 

Senate committee votes
to keep Andean deal

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON ó The Senate Finance Committee has voted to extend and expand an expiring U.S. preferential trade program for Bolivia, Peru,  Ecuador and Colombia, but included a provision limiting duty-free tuna imports from the Andean region.

Concern for dolphins was a motivating factor.

The committee approved its version of the Andean bill on a voice vote Thursday. Sen. Max Baucus, a Montana Democrat who chairs the  Finance Committee, said he hoped to bring the Andean trade bill to the Senate floor later this year or early next year.

The House of Representatives voted earlier in November to reauthorize the Andean Trade Preferences Act through 2005, but its version has no tuna limits.

To become law a final bill would have to be passed by the Senate and House and be signed by the president.

With existing Andean trade preferences scheduled to expire the first week of December, lawmakers have also added a streamlined six-month extension of the existing ATPA into the economic stimulus package the Senate is considering. The extension would give negotiators time to work out a compromise measure on tuna and other issues.

The amendment protecting U.S. tuna canners was offered by Louisiana Democrat John Breaux and approved by the committee 11-9. Breaux argued  that Ecuador does not adhere to the same "dolphin-free" tuna harvest practices that U.S. fishing boats do. He said also he wanted to  protect the jobs of tuna plant workers in California and America Samoa. The measure would limit duty-free treatment for Andean canned tuna to 20 percent of U.S. domestic production, according to Breaux's  staff.

The bill would continue to provide duty-free status to 6,000 products  from the Andean countries and end tariffs on footwear, petroleum and textile and apparel products.

Ashcroft offers deal to non-citizen informants
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON ó Attorney General John Ashcroft announced a new initiative that would give non- citizens U.S. immigration benefits if they provide the U.S. government with credible information about terrorists.

Under the new initiative, "the Department of Justice will provide immigration benefits to non-citizens who furnish information to help us apprehend terrorists or to stop terrorist attacks," Ashcroft said at a Department of Justice news conference Thursday.

"If the information that you provide is reliable and useful, we will help you obtain a visa to reside in the United States and ultimately become a United States citizen," Ashcroft said to potential informants.

Some persons in the United States, Ashcroft said, "may be hesitant to come forward with their information because of their immigration status. They may rest assured that the United States welcomes any reliable and useful information that 

they can provide to help us save lives in the future. In return, we will help them make America their home."

"People who have information about terrorist activity must make a choice: either they will come forward to save American lives, or they will remain silent against evil. The people who have the courage to make the right choice deserve to be welcomed as guests in our country, and perhaps one day to become fellow citizens," he said.

The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Ashcroft pointed out, "were not merely crimes against America, they were crimes against humanity, they were crimes against civilization. The people of 86 different nations died in the World Trade Center."

And this new initiative, he said, "is just an added incentive to a population of individuals, some of whom might be situated in a way to have access, either by their capacity to understand language or by their involvement in various communities, to be able to be helpful to us. And we want to signal to them our desire to get that help."


 
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