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These stories were published Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2002, in Vol. 2, No. 250
Jo Stuart
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A.M. Costa Rica photo
Workmen struggle with a water main break on Calle 9 in the heart of the downtown about noon Tuesday. Traffic was rerouted, causing significant tie-ups. The Instituto Costarricense de Acueductos y Alcantarillados sent workmen to the scene. Such scenes  might be more common because the institute is complaining about its funding, and officials are seeking increases of from 17 to 50 percent to fix, among other things, worn out water lines and limited water supply, plus other structural problems.

Butterfly garden ready to open in January
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Butterfly lovers, rejoice. The Museo Nacional will be inaugurating its Jardín de Mariposas or butterfly garden around the 15th of January.

The sunken garden is behind the walls of the former Bella Vista fortress that is now the national museum. The fortress walls provide the perimiter of the garden which is topped 
with a discrete black netting to keep the critters in.

The garden has been in the works for more than two years. The first step was in planting the vegetation that butterflies would like. 

The creatures that will breed and repopulate the garden are those types of butterflies typical of the Central Valley.

Museum staffers also will conduct research. The museum is up the hill and east of the downtown opposite the Asamblea Nacional building.

Deputies lead the break for yuletide holidays
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

That rumble you hear are people leaving San José. The sound now is just a bit louder than a whisper, but the Christmas exodus is here.

As usual, the first to take advantage of the holidays are the national deputies. They voted 47 to 8 Tuesday to go on holiday until Jan. 16.

The final order of business was approval of permission for U.S. military boats to dock at Costa Rican ports as part of the joint anti-drug effort.

Employees of the Asamblea Nacional have to work until Friday, but they join their counterparts in the Poder Judicial in taking a vacation until Jan. 10.

Critical areas of the Poder Judicial, including the central reception area for complaints at 

the Judicial Investigating Organization will be open with reduced employees.

Most of the executive branch will close Friday, too. Independent agencies and institutes will maintain emergency services and some regular services during the days between Christmas and New Year’s. Most banks will be open then also. 

Typically, Costa Ricans try to spend Christmas week at their favorite beach, although the two days after Christmas are big. Dec. 26 is the day of the tope horse parade, and Dec. 27 is the day of the traditional carnival parade. Those who can’t make the beach, find diversions at the nearby Zapote festival that runs for a week. Whether the festival will feature the unique Costa Rican bull baiting again this year still is up in the air. Health and safety officials still are inspecting the arena that some believe is unsafe.

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My husband, Dennis Gilbride needs immediate triple bypass open heart surgery. Our doctor expects to be able to perform this life-saving surgery at the end of this week, probably Saturday. Dennis has a rare blood type (O negative) and the doctor said that if people will donate blood early this week, he can probably trade whatever blood is donated for the type that my husband needs. A lot of blood is needed for this surgery. Please help to save my husband’s life. It does not matter what your blood type is. Please donate blood early this week at the Clinica Biblica blood bank between 7 a.m. and 3 p.m., and tell the staff when you donate that you’re donating blood for "Dennis Gilbride who is Dr. Elliott Garita’s patient." Thank you, and God bless you. 

Raids here target ring sending cocaine to U.S.
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Drug investigators made five arrests Tuesday and said they have busted up a gang that sent cocaine to the United States by hiding the substance in metal pallets used for shipping cargo.

Police took into custody a suspect with the name Del Río at a hotel he owns near La Fortuna de San Carlos in the vicinity of Arenal Volcano. Police grabbed a suspect named Roberto Castañeda in the upscale Urbanización Los Arcos near Cariari. His last name actually may be Velasco, police said.

A suspect named Bueno Chaves operates a shop in Los Alpes in Coronado where he manufactures the type of metal shipping pallet that was a key to this case. The shop also makes furniture. He was arrested there.

A man named García Alzugaray and a woman identified as his wife underwent arrest at their apartment in Escazú.

All the arrested individuals were identified as Cubans. The operation was carried out by the Policía de Control de Drogas of the Ministerio de Seguridad Pública.

The case began last Nov. 26 when U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration officers intercepted a 

Photo courtesy Ministerio de Seguridad Pública
Metal pallet with top floor removed shows a stash of packages said to contain cocaine.

pallet in Miami. The pallet contained 100 kilos (220 pounds) of drugs hidden between double floors. Police confiscated some two kilos (4.4 pounds) of cocaine during the raids and arrests Tuesday. They said the substance was of the same type confiscated in Miami.

The director of the drug police, Allan Solano, said that Del Río and Velasco are being considered the leaders of the group. The investigation will continue with the expectation of more arrests, police said.

More marches held
in Venezuela’s capital

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

CARACAS, Venezuela — Tens of thousands of flag-waving opponents of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez have marched near the tomb of Simon Bolivar on the anniversary of the 19th century independence hero's death. The march came one day after police fired tear gas at anti-government demonstrators who blocked thoroughfares in the capital. 

Meanwhile, government efforts to free the country's oil industry from the clutches of a 16-day national strike are provoking new protests from petroleum workers and Venezuela's merchant marines. 

In recent days, troops loyal to embattled President Hugo Chavez have attempted to seize control of oil refineries, tankers and fuel delivery trucks whose crews joined an opposition-led national strike. The Venezuelan leader has gone so far as to tell soldiers to ignore any judicial injunction that impedes the execution of his orders.

The actions have provoked lawsuits and bitter dissent. Oil workers say troops and replacement workers are unqualified to operate complicated and potentially dangerous machinery. 

Days after armed troops took control of a tanker on Lake Maracaibo in northwest Venezuela, a group of striking merchant marines appealed for help to César Gaviria, the Organization of American States secretary-general.

Merchant marine Captain Anibal Abad said: " I ask you in your capacity as a mediator, to intervene to guarantee the rights of all of my colleagues [in the merchant marines] that have been flagrantly subverted by the Venezuelan government."

Gaviria is on an extended mission in Caracas, attempting to broker an accord between the government and the opposition.

Venezuela's normal oil output of about 2.5 million barrels a day has ground to a halt, shutting off oil exports and forcing the government to look into ways of importing fuel.

Opposition leaders have been disheartened by recent statements by President Chavez insisting he has no intention of relinquishing power. But they cheered Monday's resolution by the Organization of American States that rejects any attempt to subvert Venezuela's democratic process. Striking union leader Carlos Ortega hailed the OAS action as a hemispheric affirmation of the opposition's right to peaceful protest

Ortega said the resolution backs the right of Venezuelans to choose their leaders and signals that attacks on the country's democratic institutions is incompatible with the rules that govern the inter-American system.

For their part, government officials label the opposition as coup-plotters, attempting to force the ouster of a democratically elected government through illegal means that bring great harm to the nation.

Commission proposes
U.S. intelligence agency

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A U.S. commission studying ways to fight terrorism has recommended that the government establish a domestic intelligence agency to collect information about potential terrorist attacks. The commission also wants that agency to report directly to President Bush. 

The panel, headed by a former Virginia governor, James Gilmore, warns in its latest report that the Federal Bureau of Investigation should not be turned into what the commission calls a "secret police" with the sole mission of preventing terrorist attacks. 

Mr. Gilmore says the FBI should focus on law enforcement, while a new intelligence agency, called the National Counter Terrorism Center, should coordinate information about possible attacks. "If you take an organization that has an arrest function and then you place with it a stepped up intelligence gathering organization against the terrorists and you begin to put these things together," says Gilmore, "there is the risk that the arrest capacity together with the intelligence operation does begin to create more of a feeling toward a secret police." 

The panel's proposal to revamp America's intelligence gathering operations comes a week after a report by a joint congressional committee that recommended the appointment of a Cabinet-level intelligence chief. Gilmore's commission, which was established by the U.S. Congress before last year's Sept. 11 attacks, also proposes that the military be used to fight terrorism inside the United States only in support of civilian authorities. 

Gilmore says protecting individual liberties is critical to winning the war against terrorism. "Protecting this democracy and the individual freedoms of the American people is paramount to achieving ultimate victory in this conflict," he said. 

Car hits police group
and kills one officer

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A motorist drove into a group of police officers early Tuesday and killed one who could not get out of the way quickly.

The dead man, an officer with the Policía de Tránsito, was identified as Edgar Araya Fallas, 35, of the San José detachment.

The motorist whose car struck Araya fled the scene in a blue Toyota Corolla, but transit police and members of the Fuerza Pública took a suspect into custody about a kilometer away, said investigators.

The suspect was identified as Allan Rosales Espinoza, 21, who suffered injuries and had to be hospitalized.

The death took place in the radial of Alajuela where police had gathered because each Monday night motorists race their vehicles there, said investigators. Suddenly the vehicle came upon the officers at a high rate of speed, they reported. The vehicle hit Araya dead center, tossed him onto the hood and roof and then threw him some 75 meters down the road, (some 240 feet).

Araya leaves a child and a pregnant wife.
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