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These stories were published Thursday, Dec. 6, 2001

A.M. Costa Rica photo
Prof. Otto Silesky, one owner, is proud of his Sabor y Sueños and his mural by local artist.

Tango devotees find
a place to call home

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

They come from all walks of life. There is an engineer, a university administrator, a medical doctor, a music professor, students, businessmen and business women.

And they all dance the tango. One little secret of Costa Rica is that there is a thriving, highly skilled and growing group of tango dancers and tango singers that would generate envy even in Buenos Aires, where tango is a religion.

Now the group will have a headquarters where the tango can be presented as a show, can be danced for fun and can be learned from formal instruction. The new location, a Barrio Escalante restaurant, will be inaugurated Dec. 15 with the show "Con Permiso Soy el Tango," a fast course in tango history and dance.

Maria Julia Berdé of Cartago is the operator of Argentico Producciones and the producer of the show. She said Wednesday that the restaurant Sabor y  Sueños will provide space for the group and the show.

The group has an in. José Brenes, the engineer, is one of the owners of the restaurant, and he also is a dancer with the professional group Tango Asfalto, a part of the production.

Mrs. Berdé has a long history of presenting tango shows in the area, perhaps 40 shows in the last several years. But she said Wednesday that the terrorist attacks in the United States and general uncertainty caused cancellation of some of her productions, and the event Dec. 15 is a way of getting the tango tradition here back on track.

She also was involved in setting up classes last year for two visiting tango instructors from Argentina. She plans monthly classes at the restaurant.

". . . The tango sums up the feelings of a people, the pain, the happiness, the irony and the roughness of reality," said Mrs. Berdé. "There is a tango for each situation in life and its followers exalt it above any other existing rhythm."

Those who love the tango can be found in every country of the world, she said.

The tango came from the lower classes in Argentina, although Uruguay also makes a claim as the birthplace of the dance. Advocates call it the most sensual of the partner dances. The most famous singer was Carlos Gardel, who was the Argentine national hero until his death in a plane crash in 1935.

The restaurant, which opened in October, features two large dance floors. Also there on display are works by local artist Anna Victoria Carro and a giant mural by Tico artist John Ongulo, who interpreted a Vincent Van Gogh painting. There also are two bars, but tango tradition generally frowns on drinking alcohol while dancing, although many dancers make up for the abstinence later.

As a center for tango, the restaurant is a latecomer when compared to the many years the Tango Bar has been hosting what amounts to tango karaoke in the El Pueblo tourist mall in north San José.  Many of the participants and anticipated audience of the Dec. 15 tango show also are regulars at the Tango Bar where a customer can stand up on impulse and deliver an impassioned tango song to the melody of the bandaleon, the unique tango instrument. And many do.

However, the Tango Bar is too small to accommodate dancing. But its many years of existence shows how deep the tango tradition runs in Costa Rica.

Tango show includes dinner

"Con Permiso Soy El Tango," the event Dec. 15, begins with dinner at 7:30 p.m. The show will feature the piano expertise of Manolo Vera, who seems to be able to play any tango song without any visible music.

The group Tango Asfalto includes, beside restaurant owner José Brenes, Adela Marín, Ana María Nuñes, Ana Luisa Nuñez and Mauricio Jaras.

Another performer will be university administrator Joaquin Brizuela and professional singer July Massiel, who has been known to bring tears to the eyes of audience members with her rendition of "Don’t cry for me, Argentina" from the musical "Evita."

Moderator will be Rolando Hernandéz, said Producer María Julia Berdé.

The restaurant is 25 meters west of the traffic circle and street lamp known locally  as the "rotonda del Farolito." The location also is about two blocks north and east of St. Teresita’s Church. 

Reservations may be made at 258-2762. As part of the evening two tickets to Panamá on COPA Airlines will be raffled off.

Yet another
virus hits

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

There is a new computer virus afoot, and it is worse than the W32.Badtrans.B@mm that showed up after Thanksgiving. 

The new virus is W32.Goner.A@mm, and it is worse because it does more damage. The computer worm comes as an e-mail attachment  in the disguise of a screen saver for the computer. The computer virus also can spread through various chat connections. 

The e-mail that delivers the virus has the subject "Hi," and purports to be from an acquaintance who is sending a niffty screen saver. The e-mail body reads, "How are you? When I saw this screen saver, I immediately thought about you. I am in a hurry, I promise you will love it!"

Once the attachment is opened, the virus goes to town.

The worm distributes itself by using the Microsoft Outlook address book to mail itself to any e-mail address in the book. W32.Goner.A@mm is a mass-mailing worm that is written in Visual Basic, according to Symantec Corp., a maker of antivirus software.  The worm has been compressed using a program that reduces its size. Once the attachment is opened, the worm grows to a larger size, attacks hard drives and begins the mailing process, the company said.  See www.symantec.com

There have been several reports of the Goner virus in Costa Rica. But the W32.Badtrans has infected many computers among A.M. Costa Rica readers. That is obvious because when the A.M. Costa Rica news digest is mailed each day viruses in the computers of readers respond by sending  a duplicate of itself to A.M. Costa Rica.

This W32.Badtrans virus, also a worm, is particularly harmful, according to the Symantec Corp., because it secretly logs keystrokes, collects passwords and other confidential information and then mails this data to certain Internet addresses.

The Goner virus was only discovered this week. It is unique because it can spread itself through the program called Internet relay chat and certain instant messaging systems. It also acts to disable antivirus software when it enters a computer, according to Symantec. If the antivirus software is in use, the worm writes a secret computer script that will cause the antivirus software to be deleted the next time the computer is started.

Police sweep nets
cars and airplane

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Police staged a  five-day crackdown on vehicles in the southwestern part of the country since last Friday and ended up confiscating 52 vehicles, seven motorcycles and even an airplane.

The Judicial Investigating Organization said that the idea was to check for stolen cars. In addition to the judicial police, the Ministry of Public Security, transit police, and the National Insurance Institute were among those organizations participating.

In all, some 3,685 vehicles were stopped and checked for correct papers, the police said. The stops were made in Abrojo de San Vito de Coto Brus, in Dominical, in Puerto Jiménez, along the Interamerican Highway, in Sávalo, Pavones and Ciudad Cortez. This involves operations in four cantons: Osa, Golfito, San Vito de Coto Brus and Corredores, the police said. 

Investigators said that the southern area was vulnerable to the shipment of stolen cars. The police found a number of vehicles with motor numbers altered, others without documents and some with the motor number that did not coincide with the numbers on the vehicle’s papers. 

Police also grabbed three shipments of contraband clothes, perfume, toys, tires and games, all coming from Panama, they said. The airplane was found in San Vito without correct papers. Police also found a pistol.

For Canadian and Costa Rican free trade
The lowly potato becomes a key treaty ingredient
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Ricans pay 41 percent duty on imported french fries. But that, and a lot of other protectionist measures, will be discarded if a Costa Rican-Canadian free trade treaty gets the OK in the National Assembly here.

The measure is well on its way to approval in Canada, according to John W. Gartke, commercial and economic counselor at the Canadian Embassy here. 

Potatoes not only are a good example of protectionist measures, they figure in politics because Rolando Araya Monge, the presidential candidate of the Liberation Party, says he will ask fellow party members to vote against the treaty. His party has effective control of the Assembly.

The vote here is a take-it-or-leave-it proposition because lawmakers cannot make changes in the treaty as presented by the administration and the Ministry of Foreign Trade, said Gartke.  He will be among those people calling on deputies to ask them to support the measure.

The heavy hand of politics can be seen in the treaty. Dairy, poultry, egg and beef products were exempted from tariff reduction, according to a Canadian summary prepared by the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. In addition, Costa Rica will exclude from tariff reduction a number of import sensitive agri-food products, including table potatoes and some fresh and frozen vegetable products, said the Canadian department.

However, Gartke said that the treaty is very important because it shows the possibilities of a smaller developing nation working with a much bigger and more developed partner. Because all nations in the Western Hemisphere are engaged in developing the Free Trade Area of the Americas by 2005, this treaty represents a good test case, he said.

The way the treaty is structured, Gartke said, Costa Rica will have more advantages early on than will Canada. Some 86 per cent of Costa Rican goods will be tariff free when and if the treaty is approved, he said. Only 65 percent of Canadian products will be free of duty, he said.

"It takes into consideration that Costa Rica is a small, developing economy," he said. Additionally, "The treaty will provide for new and transparent rules that will govern the movement of goods and services between Costa Rica and Canada."

As he was speaking, he noted, four shipping containers of Canadian potatoes were tied up in Costa Rican customs and had been for some time.

The french fries, a potato product, are a good case in point. A small order costs 355 colons slightly more than a U.S. dollar, at a downtown McDonald’s. Most people do not realize that the basic product is subject to such high import duties.

During the first year of the proposed treaty, the duty on potato products will decrease 5 percent, Gartke said. In addition, a 1 percent customs administrative charge on everything imported will be eliminated. Then each year 5 percent more will be peeled off potato products.

The entire process will take up to eight years, and Gartke hopes importers and distributors will pass the reductions on to consumers. Meanwhile, he is not expecting any firm decision on the treaty until after the Feb. 3 presidential elections. At the same time potato producers here will be lobbying their deputies to reject the treaty because they believe that without high duties they will be at a competitive disadvantage.

However, Gartke said Canada has made some initiatives to help Costa Rican potato producers. A genetics expert has visited and suggested that there be better coordination between producers and processors. Plus, some training and technical advice has been offered.

The text of the treaty can be found in English and French at http://www.dfait-maeci.gc.ca

While the Costa Rican agreement is being considered here, Canadian officials are opening the first session of trade talks with a similar aim with Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras and El Salvador in San Salvador this week.

The Costa Rican agreement was approve by negotiators in April, nearly 10 months and seven separate sessions after the talks started.

Terrorism's link to drugs stressed in D.C. confab
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON — The links between terrorism and narcotrafficking are real and growing, according to current and former U.S. officials who participated in a special symposium Tuesday here. 

Hosted by the Drug Engorcement Administration Museum & Visitors Center, the session, "Target America: Traffickers, Terrorists and Your Kids," brought together government officials with private-sector experts in an effort to educate the American public about what Drug Enforcement Administrator Asa Hutchinson called the "extraordinary link between drugs and terrorism." 

The symposium was part of an effort by the Association of Former Federal Narcotics Agents (AFFNA) to develop a museum exhibit and educational program that will explore this theme.

In remarks opening the symposium, Hutchinson said there is "a strong case to be made that drug trafficking proceeds are being funneled to terrorist organizations," such as the Taliban, the FARC group in Colombia and Islamic Jihad. "It is clear that bin Laden's terrorism has been protected by a regime funded by opium trafficking," he added.

U.S. Rep. Mark Souder of Indiana told symposium participants that "the interrelationship between drugs and terrorism is not new." "When you [attempt to] control and look for terrorism," he said, "you find lots of other things. We'll see funding for narcotics when we look for terrorists." He is a Republican.

Raphael Perl, senior policy analyst for international terrorism and narcotics issues with the Congressional Research Service, said that in areas where government control is weak, the criminal world, the narcotrafficking world and the terrorist world all exist. 

In Perl's view, three things are different about the situation today: one, in today's global economy, both legitimate and illegitimate activities are dramatically increasing. Two, money from the drug trade is increasingly important for terrorists, because state sponsorship is on the wane. Three, the U.S. homeland is now the preferred target, not only for drug traffickers, but also for terrorists.

Elaborating on the links between terrorists and drug traffickers, Perl said both merge into local ethnic communities in order to gain cover for their activities. He said both operate from base countries where government and the rule of law are weak, and both need to have money laundered. Both seek to create a climate of fear and intimidation, he said, and both target youth, especially for recruitment. And both seek a world incompatible with democratic values.

"To a large extent, terrorist organizations cannot survive without funding from drugs," Perl said. He called terrorists' need for drug-trafficking profits "addictive."

Drug Enforecment Assistant Administrator Steven Casteel, following on Perl's remarks, said "The Taliban were a drug-trafficking group; it's as clear as it can be." Taking control of the heroin trade in Afghanistan when they came to power in 1995, by 1999 they had 71 percent of the world heroin market, he said.

As for the Taliban's announcement in 1999 that they would no longer allow the production of heroin in Afghanistan, Casteel said the the drug agency experts believe it was done for three reasons: First, it was good public relations for them at a time when they were trying to gain international recognition and legitimacy. 

Second, by cutting off the supply of so much of the world's heroin, it quickly drove up the price of all the heroin they had stockpiled. 

Third, they wanted to increase their already-dominant control of the heroin market.

"Two days before Sept. 11," Casteel noted, "we seized 53 kilo[gram]s of Afghan heroin in New York. It was being distributed by Colombians, to show you the [narco-terror] link."

For Larry Johnson, a principal in BERG Associates, LLC, it's crucial that the Drug Enforcement Agency  be brought into coordinated intelligence briefings within the U.S. government. A former CIA and State Department counter-terrorism official, Johnson asserted that drug agents in foreign countries are the best sources of intelligence about terrorists. "Terrorism does not operate without money. That's the bottom line," he said.

The retired director general of the Colombian National Police, Jose Rosso Serrano, said he believes drug kingpin Pablo Escobar was also a terrorist. Using drug profits, Serrano said, Escobar paid to have 500 policemen in Medellin, Colombia, killed. Escobar also paid to have four Colombian presidential candidates killed, along with a high-ranking counter-narcotics official and the Colombian attorney general. 

Additionally, his henchmen were responsible for a car-bombing in Bogota which killed 157 people, said Serrano.  That made Escobar a "narcoterrorist," he said. Serrano also stressed the narcotics activities of the terrorist FARC group in Colombia, as well as those of the paramilitary "self-defense forces" in that country. Finally, he warned about the newest trend among traffickers toward synthetic drugs such as ecstasy.

IMF rejects loan
for Argentina

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

WASHINGTON — The International Monetary Fund says it can not approve a $1.3-billion loan to Argentina, which says it deperately needs the money to fight a crippling 41-month economic crisis.

IMF Executive Board members made the decision Wednesday in Washington, following an assessment of the country's latest economic reforms. Their decision is a blow to Argentina, which is struggling to avoid defaulting on its massive $132-billion public debt. 

The decision may cause the country to default on its many foreign debts. Economists are concerned that such a failure could trigger the collapse of other Latin American economies.

The IMF says it is working with Argentine officials and is committed to aiding in the development of a sustainable program for dealing with the massive debt.

On Saturday, the Argentine government enacted banking reforms limiting cash withdrawals and transfers abroad. The effort was aimed at stopping panicked Argentines from withdrawing their deposits, amid rumors that their accounts could be frozen.

As a result of the measures, retail sales fell by at least 50 percent Monday and Tuesday.

Another setback came Wednesday when an international rating agency, Moody's Investors Service, said the banking reforms effectively end the convertibility between the Argentine peso and the U.S. dollar, which had been pegged one-to-one for a decade.

The country's risk premium shot up dramatically, amid a drop in retail sales and reports of unemployment rates of more than 18 percent. 

Pact aims to prevent
pillage in Bolivia

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON — The United States and Bolivia signed a memorandum of understanding Tuesday "to protect pre-Columbian archaeological materials and Colonial and Republican ethnological materials" according to the State Department.

The document, signed by Bolivian Foreign Minister Gustavo Fernández Saavedra and by the U.S. undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs, Charlotte Beers, aims to preserve Bolivia's cultural heritage by imposing "import restrictions on certain categories of material," thereby reducing "the incentive to pillage" from archaeological sites in Bolivia, the State Department said.

In this way, the U.S.-Bolivia agreement offers "a measure of protection to sites and artifacts important to the understanding of Bolivian culture," the State Department added.

Many deaths reported
in northern Colombia

By A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A mayor in northwest Colombia says up to 200 people have been killed near his town over the past few days in clashes between leftist guerrillas and right-wing paramilitaries. 

The mayor of Riosucio, near the Panamanian border, said Wednesday between 150 to 200 bodies were found after fighting erupted between the two sides. The mayor did not indicate whether the dead were civilians or combatants. The town is in a remote area and his claim has not been independently verified. 

Also Wednesday, Colombian officials said they believe paramilitaries with the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia killed a union leader kidnapped last week. The bodies of Aury Sara Marrugo and his bodyguard were found Wednesday in the northern Bolivar Department. 

Resolution in House
cites Iraqi ‘aggression’

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON — Rep. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina introduced a resolution Tuesday that would call refusal by Iraq to admit United Nations weapons inspectors covered by Security Council Resolution 687 "an act of aggression against the United States and its allies."

Graham, along with Rep. Porter Goss of Florida, submitted House Joint Resolution 75 (H. J. Res. 75) to the House of Representatives. The proposed resolution was referred to the House International Relations Committee. Both lawmakers are Republicans, the same party as President George Bush.

"The refusal by Iraq to admit United Nations weapons inspectors into any facility covered by the provisions of Security Council Resolution 687 should be considered an act of aggression against the United States and its allies," the resolution says.

The proposed resolution says Iraq is "a sponsor of terrorism and has trained members of several terrorist organizations."

U.S. intelligence agencies "have reported that a high risk exists that Iraq has continued to develop weapons of mass destruction since the expulsion of the United Nations inspectors, in violation of Security Council Resolution 687," the House resolution says.

President Bush and the United Nations, the document said, "should insist on monitoring weapons development in Iraq," as required by United Nations Security Council Resolution 687 of April 3, 1991.

The Baghdad regime, it goes on to say, "should allow United Nations weapons inspectors into Iraq," as required by that U.N. resolution. The Iraqi government, the proposed resolution states, "remains in material and unacceptable breach of its international obligations."

Mexico will use high tech
to cut down on corruption

By A.M. Costa Rica wire services

MEXICO CITY — Mexico's comptroller general, Francisco Barrio, says better laws and more use of high technology can help reduce corruption in his country. 

This week Mexican President Vicente Fox sent to Congress proposals for changes in the law to allow more transparency in government and greater access to official information by citizens. 

Barrio says these measures will help reduce the corruption that debilitates the bureaucracy and causes citizens to view their government with cynicism and contempt. He says Mexico must become more effective in preventing corruption and not just focus on programs designed to punish those who are found to be corrupt. 

Barrio says better pay and training for bureaucrats would help, but he also favors taking many petty procedures out of their hands. Currently, Mexicans must stand in long lines at government offices and fill out papers at bureaucratic counters in order to obtain permits, register legal changes and perform other procedures. 

Barrio says a new government program using computers and Internet links will allow citizens to bypass the bureaucrats and the long lines. He says the goal over the next 24 months is to eliminate 500 million procedures in government offices. 

Among the other proposals for fighting corruption in Mexico are proposed laws to reform the administrative and public service sectors and a law that would allow ordinary citizens more access to official documents. Many laws, regulations and government procedural information would be made available on the Internet at each federal agency's web site. 

The Fox Administration is also seeking a change in law to provide incentives, including cash payments, to government workers who provide information about corrupt practices and a witness protection program for people whose testimony might put them in danger. 

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