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These stories were published Friday, Dec. 26, 2003, in Vol. 3, No. 256
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Quake response termed example of cooperation
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rican officials say the response by two nations to the Christmas Day earthquake south of the border with Panamá is a great example of international cooperation.

While Cruz Roja emergency workers from Costa Rica went into Panamá to help injured residents there, Panamanian firemen entered Costa Rica to help local firemen handle a leak of ammonium gas at a palm oil processing plant in Laurel, which is right on the border.


Our earlier story HERE!


Despite the time of the quake, 1:14 a.m., and the holiday, Christmas Day, officials from both countries seemed to react quickly.

Walter Navarro Romero, director general of the Fuerza Pública here, got in contact with his counterpart in Panamá, Carlos Barés Weeden, director general of the Policía Nacional de Panamá. Navarro said that the relationship between both police forces has been marked by a spirit of cooperation which extended to the  Christmas quake.

At a lower level officials in Ciudad Neily were in communication with their counterparts along the border, said a report from the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública.

Officials now say that the quake was of 6.1 magnitude. No deaths were reported in Costa Rica, although a baby died in Panamá when a wall fell. More than 55 persons were injured there. Costa Rican injuries were fewer, some 21, according to officials.

The most serious damage in Costa Rica included the gas leak at the Coopeagropal plant in laurel, the rupture of water lines in Roble and Naranjo de Roble, and the collapse of houses.

One of those whose home was damaged is Lt. Emilio Pérez, Fuerza Pública commander of the 

Comisión Nacional de Prevención 
y Atención de Emergencias graphic
Red dot in Panamá shows where quake hit. Orange dots show Costa Rican locations where damage was reported.

southern zone who lives in Barrio San Juan in Corredores. Four homes were destroyed in Laurel and one in Alto Conté. Another was destroyed in Agua Buena.

Two bridges on the Interamerican highway and some cave-ins along the same road also were reported.

The quake was some 20 kms. (12 miles) southeast of Puerto Armuelles in Panamá.


 
Oh, No! Guess who is in the hospital again
This year, 2003, began with my taking a nose dive down a hill, being taken to the hospital in a Cruz Roja ambulance and then spending the rest of January recouperating. It seems to be ending in a similar fashion — not another fall, but a cold unchecked that rapily developed into either pneumonia and bronchitis or a lung infection, depending upon who was diagnosing.

Christmas time is not a good time to get sick, even for somone like me who tends to lie low during the Christmas season. But parties and visitors are bound to happen, and this year my long-time friend Paula was coming from Miami for 10 days beginning the 17th, I was attending an early Christmas luncheon on the 20th, and a new friend was coming on the 23rd. And I had an invitation to a much-looked-forward-to dinner on the 24th. Not a good time to come down with a cold on the 16th. 

My cold hit full force on the day of Paula’s arrival, an unduly cold day in San Jose (read miserable). The weather got worse, and so did my cold. But we managed to dine out a couple of times and do some shopping, and I was still standing on Saturday for the turkey dinner at the Gran Hotel. I barely sampled the dinner, which was really quite good, but took my part in the skit I’d prepared (believing fervently in the old show biz adage the show must go on.)

Paula had become convinced that either a mustard plaster or Vicks Vapor Rub would clear up the congestion in my chest. So after lunch, we walked around the corner to the farmacia. They were reluctant to sell us the dry mustard they had beause they were sure I would be badly burned, but we insisted we would be careful. 

On the way back to the hotel, I knew I had gone as far as I could. Fortunately, in the lobby where I stopped to rest, we met Christine, her husband and lucky entourage (her table had won most of the door prizes at lunch), who asked if I was okay, decided I wasn’t and bundled me off to the Clinica Biblica in their car.

I paid the 70,000 colones they wanted in order to admit me to emergency, but it was six hours later, after two X-rays and a blood test when it was decided that I needed to stay in 

Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart
jostuart@racsa.co.cr

the hospital. They wanted another $1,000  before they would admit me. I didn’t have $1,000. By now I had sent Paula home. She was having a pretty poor vacation as it was, and I had no credit card with me. They wouldn’t wait until the next day. The man in the next cubicle was making a similar plea.

What made me think Costa Rican hospitals were any different than those in the U.S.? "Show me the money" seemed to come before "Then do no harm." Suddeny I realized that I didn’t want to stay there anyway, so I told them I would call a Cruz Roja ambulance and go to the Calderone Guardia where my insurance would cover me. 

That is when Anabel came to the rescue (just as she had at a crucial point in January). And that is when we learned that to secure the free services of a Cruz Roja ambulance you must call them from the scene of the emergency, not midway. That, I realized, is how we learn by our mistakes and not by doing things right. We did everything right at Bill’s when I fell down the hill, but didn’t know what it was we were doing right. Now I did.

Clinica Biblica informed me that if I took a taxi to Calderone Guardia I could not take my X-rays, reports and stuff I had paid for (which had now come to over $400). A private ambulance cost another 18,000 colones. (I was beginning to dislike the Clinica Biblica, a hospital I had always liked). However, I wanted to arrive in an ambulance in the hopes that, seeing the X-rays and test, the Calderone would transfer me to another gurney, not a bench. 

Anabel followed in her car and stayed with me until after 2 a.m. when they finally, after taking more X-rays and more blood tests (dismissing those I had brought - talk about the CIA and FBI!), checked me into a ward. But I was finally where I wanted to be --in a bed, under covers and able to sleep.

To be continued 

 
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Newswoman's associate stopped from traveling
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Law enforcement officials stopped a former supervisor of Ivannia Mora Rodríguez when he tried to leave the country by air Thursday morning.

They stopped short of calling him a suspect in the murder of the 33-year-old newswoman, but said they wanted him to stay in Costa Rica for the duration of the investigation.

Although police did not identify the man, he is believed to be Eugenio Millot, director of the Red Castle publishing group, who told reporters Wednesday that he himself had been targeted by threats. A judge Thursday afternoon said he must not leave the country and must sign in every 15 days.

The detention at the airport was handled personally by Francisco Dall'Annese, the recently appointed fiscal general. He warned newspeople against making any assumptions from the action and characterized the case of the assassinated newswoman as a complex one.

She was murdered while she sat in her sports utility vehicle at a traffic light in the center of Curridabat about 8:30 p.m. Tuesday. Two men on a motorcycle drove by the left side of the vehicle and pumped three bullets into her neck and head.

Typical of Costa Rican tradition, she was buried Wednesday afternoon.

Investigators said that their efforts in the case 

were made more difficult due to the total absence of clues. The murders wore helmets that hid their faces, and witnesses gave descriptions that ascribed six different colors to the motorcycle. 

Ms. Mora, a graduate of the Universidad de Costa Rica, was a specialist in economic journalism. She just finished working for the Red Castle magazine Estratagía & Negocios. She had worked for El Financiero, the weekly economic newspaper produced by La Nación, and also for La República.

A study of her writings available on the Internet did not uncover any investigative-type stories that might cause retribution. Instead, she was mostly an editor and the third person named on many stories, which were predominately interviews with business leaders.

Ms. Mora recently left her position at Red Castle to take a post overseeing the magazine put out by Credomatic for its credit card users. Ms. Mora and Millot were believed to have been the key figures in developing the publishing group.

For Millot to leave the country is not unusual. Red Castle has interests in five countries, including the United States. Officials said he held a round-trip ticket.

Dall'Annese, himself, said that any evidence officials have against Millot was weak. That evidence is believed to be based mostly on the relationship of Ms. Mora with him and the fact she left the company. She was married and the mother of a 2-year-old.


 
So many bulls, 
so little time

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica’s traditional holiday effort at mass suicide is off and running, literally.

Health officials gave approval Wednesday, and the Christmas bullfights began at 3 p.m. Thursday at the Festeos Populares in Zapote. 

This is where hundreds of Costa Ricans get in a ring with a 1,500-pound fighting bull and endeavor not to end up on the front page of the nation’s newspapers.

One unlucky lad did two years ago, and a La Nación photographer depicted him prone with a snorting bull doing a bovine version of a tap dance on his back and head.

The traditional bull fights were in doubt because the original ring was torn down after getting bad marks from health officials. The ring that is there now is temporary, erected in just a few weeks. The bull fights are considered a major attraction for the Christmas carnival that lures thousands.

The bulls and their tormentors are also subjects of television shows, that air here and on some Spanish-language channels in the United States. The whole idea is to be fleet afoot so that the bull does not either perforate a participant or flip him 75 feet into the stands.

In general, there is safety in numbers because the bulls seem to have a short attention span and fail to press home their attacks on any single participant. There may be 200 persons in the ring at one time, and only one bull.

After their five minutes of fame, the bulls are led away and a fresh replacement enters.

Bridge disaster 
claims many lives

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

LA PAZ, Bolivia — Officials say at least 19 people are known dead, and another 40 are missing after a bridge collapsed into a rain-swollen river earlier this week. 

Authorities say most of the victims were on a passenger bus carrying about 45 people. At least three other vehicles were swept into the river, including a military vehicle used in army anti-drug operations. At least two soldiers were killed. 

Officials say six people were rescued after the incident Tuesday in the Chapare River near the town of Villa Tunari, nearly 650 kms. (390 miles) southeast of here.

A search continues for possible survivors and the bodies of victims believed to have been swept away in the raging river after the collapse of the 350-meter-long (1,140-foot) bridge. 

Heavy rains are blamed for the collapse, and for other damage in the area. The Bolivian government has declared a state of emergency in the region.

Easier work visa
planned by Bush

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Bush administration is planning to propose a way to make it easier for immigrants to find work legally in the United States. 

Republican officials say President George Bush is preparing to send to Congress recommendations for an immigration policy that helps match willing employers with willing employees. 

But Bush has said he is firmly against "blanket amnesty," or a mass legalization for undocumented people living in the United States. 

The White House has not provided many details of the proposal. But it is expected to draw on an immigration bill proposed by Arizona Sen. John McCain. The bill calls for the creation of an electronic job registry that would allow U.S. employers to post jobs for American and foreign workers. 

The bill would also create a new type of temporary work visa. 

Mexican President Vicente Fox has tried to improve the status of the estimated three million illegal Mexican immigrants in the United States 

Fox has pushed for an immigration agreement with the United States since he took office three years ago. But bilateral talks have stalled mainly because of U.S. security concerns in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States. 

EU mars probe fails
to repond to hails

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

LONDON, England — European space officials say a second attempt to contact the Beagle 2 Mars probe has failed.

Europe's first-ever Mars probe was supposed to have landed on Mars at 2:54 UTC Thursday. That’s 8:54 p.m. Wednesday Costa Rica time. It was programmed to send a signal to a U.S. Mars orbiter that would confirm a successful landing and that the probe is working.

Engineers on earth have heard nothing after two separate attempts to pick up a signal Thursday. They will try again later today.

Lead scientist Professor Colin Pillinger says he is disappointed, but says the initial silence is not a problem at this point. He told reporters in London there is no reason to believe that the Mars probe is lost and says the chances are good it survived the perilous journey through the Martian atmosphere.

If all goes as planned, Beagle 2 will probe the Martian air and surface for past or present signs of life. Two U.S. Martian probes are scheduled to land on Mars next month. A Japanese spacecraft failed to enter Martian orbit earlier this month and is now floating in space. 

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Search on to find source of mad cow's infection
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Agriculture Department officials are using all their resources to trace the birth location of the cow suspected of being infected with what is called mad cow disease, and the sources of feed she ate, says Ann Veneman, secretary of agriculture.

In a Wednesday briefing, one day after Veneman announced that a slaughtered cow in Washington state had "presumptively" tested positive for mad cow, the secretary said the risk to humans from the disease is "extremely low" because the parts of the cow that could be infected -- the spinal cord, brain and parts of the intestine -- had been removed before the tissue parts were sent to a meat processing plant.

As an added precaution, Veneman said, the Department of Agriculture (USDA) recalled more than 4,500 kilograms (9,900 pounds) of beef from the processing plant. However, she added, this was done more out of concern for the public's perception that there could be a risk to human health.

A duplicate sample from the suspect cow has been sent to an internationally recognized laboratory in England for confirmation of USDA's findings that the cow was infected with mad cow, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), Veneman said.

"We are using an abundance of caution" in the investigation, she said.

The meat being recalled is the carcass weight of the total of the 20 cows the slaughterhouse processed Dec. 9, when the sample of the suspected cow was taken, Veneman said. The dairy

farm on which the cow had lived since October 2001 has been quarantined, she added.

Veneman said several countries have offered to help the United States in the investigation of the suspected origin of the disease. 

In 2003, the United States exported $2.6 billion worth of beef, with most of it going to Japan, South Korea, Mexico and Hong Kong. This amounted to 10 percent of all U.S. beef production, said Ron DeHaven, deputy administrator for veterinary services at the Agriculture Department’s Animal Plant Health Inspection Service, the agency responsible for analyzing testing samples.

Canada, which discovered one case of mad cow in May 2003 in Alberta, has not announced a ban of U.S. beef imports, DeHaven said. This is because Canada recognizes the soundness of the U.S. inspection and response system, which it has used as a model for making improvements to its own system, he said.

Asked why it took 13 days to obtain the test results on the Washington state cow, DeHaven said that the cow did not exhibit abnormal behavior at the slaughterhouse, only weakness related to calving. Samples taken after slaughter were sent to the testing lab in Ames, Iowa, where thousands of samples from animals with perceived health problems are tested each year, and where the testing of this sample was not expedited because there was no particular reason to expect a positive test result, he said.

Eating feed contaminated with an infected dead animal is the only known way the disease is transmitted to animals, DeHaven said. He said the imports of such feed was banned in 1997. 


 
 
Costa Rica and others cut off U.S. beef shipments
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
and wire services

Costa Rica closed its markets to U.S. beef products Wednesday. Rodolfo Coto, minister of Agricultura y  Ganadería said he would stay in contact with U.S. officials and others involved in health protection. Brasil, Colombia, Chile, Perú, and Paraguay also closed their markets, as did countries in Asia and also Russia.

Stock prices of Mcdonald’s the fast food hamburger chain, fell more than 5 percent on the electronic exchange.

In Mexico, an agriculture ministry official says his country is willing to lift its ban on U.S. beef, as soon as the United States proves that the suspected case of mad cow disease is an isolated one. 

The pledge comes from Food Safety Director Javier Trujillo. He says his primary concern is the health and welfare of consumers and the Mexican cattle industry. But in the interests of bilateral trade, Mexico, which is one of the three largest importers of U.S. beef, is willing to be flexible.

"The very day that we have concluded that this is actually an isolated case, I would be prepared to lift the ban the following day," says Trujillo. 

"Otherwise, we have the obligation, as well as the authority, to keep the restrictions as we can justify scientifically."

Trujillo says a team of Mexican and Canadian specialists is planning to travel to the United States as early as next week to work with U.S. colleagues to investigate the situation. He says the U.S. beef imports ban cannot be lifted until this happens. 

"The ban for those products that are of risk will remain, until we have further information that allows us to really say that we are lifting the ban, without threatening the welfare of the Mexican interest." The Mexican government has announced that, from this Friday, it will allow the import of U.S. items, which have no direct link to mad cow disease. These will include dairy, produce and cattle reproductive products.

The European Union says it has no plans to take additional measures against U.S. beef import bans following Tuesday's announcement. An EU spokeswoman says the 15-nation body is watching the situation closely, adding that current bans on most U.S. beef imports are adequate. 

The European Union has banned the import of most U.S. beef due to health concerns over cattle treated with growth hormones. 


 
Civil War love story describes 'Cold Mountain'
Charles Frazier's acclaimed novel of a love story set amid the devastating American Civil War Between the States comes to the screen as a romantic drama starring Nicole Kidman and Jude Law. Alan Silverman has a look at Cold Mountain.

By Alan Silverman
A.M. Costa Rica wires services

As the clouds of Civil War begin to gather in the 1860s, genteel, educated Ada, played by Nicole Kidman, joins her father far from the front lines in the rural North Carolina town of Cold Mountain. There she meets Inman Jude Law, and the attraction between the two is undeniable. But before romance can blossom, war breaks out, and Inman must go off to fight for the South:

Nicole Kidman says she finds much to admire in Ada, whom she describes as "a very modern woman."

"I think that she is so pure; there is a purity to her and an innocence in a strange way," says Kidman. "She says something, which is 'I'll be waiting for you' and she does and she never wavers off that. She has one of my favorite lines which is 'come back to me, is my request.' I love that because of its purity. It is so delicate and yet so desirous."

After the terrible toll of too many battlefields and lost lives, Inman sets out on an odyssey to return home where Ada is struggling to keep her life together. Her father has died and her world is crumbling when a rough-hewn ball of fire named Ruby arrives at Ada's Cold Mountain doorstep.

Renee Zellweger co-stars as Ruby Thewes, a character she says she admired and knew from when she first read the Charles Frazier novel.

"These characters were so simple and yet complete in their experiences and in the way he describes them and I loved it. I understood it," she says. "It's about change. It's about developing as a person in challenging times. It's about redefining what is important in life."

Director Anthony Minghella also adapted the novel for the screen, as he did with another wartime drama, the Oscar-winning "The English Patient."
The English-born filmmaker acknowledges it was daunting to fully understand the War Between the States and its continuing impact on the American character.

"I filled up the library in my house with Civil War 

Law, Kidman and Zellweger

books, manuscripts, maps and photographs and I still knew I had only scratched the surface of the amount which exists about the Civil War," he says. 

"Of course, you're right to say that as a screenwriter, before you can put a single word into somebody's mouth or describe a scene, you have to feel comfortable that you know enough about it to inhabit it correctly: what people were reading, what they were thinking about, what they were arguing about, what the conventions were, how people courted each other. 

"It took me more than a year of fulltime work before I could even venture near a piece of paper to write a line of dialogue or an instruction because I felt that I had to immerse myself in this territory."

Texas-born Renee Zellweger believes writer/director Minghella's adaptation accurately captures the spirit of the era as vividly described in the original novel.

"I love literature that you can experience in a tangible way as you read it. You can smell these places that he describes. You can feel them and hear them," she says. "It becomes a very animated experience when you find someone like Charles Frazier who writes as beautifully as he does. I guess it helps that I'm from the South, too, because I recognize the land and the cultural elements and the traditions. . . and I recognize the weather. I know what he means when he is talking about that heat. I know why everybody is a little drowsy in August."

"Cold Mountain," which opened Thursday, also features Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Natalie Portman and Brendan Gleeson; the film was shot in rural Romania where director Anthony Minghella says he could find unspoiled settings to double for the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina in the 1860s.


 
 
Jailed Cali Cartel bosses face new drug charges
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

U.S. and Colombian law enforcement authorities have filed further charges in their 12-year investigation of the Cali drug cartel. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced the indictments of 11 individuals in Colombia in connection with new charges.

The indictments charge that the suspects, including cartel founding members Miguel Rodriguez Orejuela and Gilberto Rodriquez Orejuela, are involved in narcotics trafficking, money laundering and conspiracy to obstruct justice through multiple murders and payoffs. The immigration press release says the U.S. government will pursue extradition of the suspects for prosecution in the United States.

The Rodriguez Orejuela brothers were jailed in Colombia in 1995 after an investigation by U.S. and Colombian authorities. The current indictment alleges that they continued their illegal activities from prison, with the assistance of key associates.

"This indictment is the culmination of a long-term and detailed investigation of narcotics trafficking at the very highest levels in the world," said Marcos Jimenez, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida where the indictments were returned by a federal grand jury. "These individuals are charged with trafficking thousands of tons of cocaine, generating billions of dollars of profits and protecting that illicit trade through the obstruction of justice."

This week and over the past weekend, officers from the Colombian Judicial Police, a division of the Colombian National Police, working with immigration agents in Colombia, arrested three accused drug traffickers and took one other person into custody pending positive identification.

The indictment spells out three general areas of alleged criminal conduct: 1) narcotics trafficking, charged as conspiracy to import and conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute, 2) money laundering and the related investment of $2.1 billion worth of drug proceeds in Colombia, and 3) conspiracy to obstruct justice through multiple murders and payoffs to individuals and their families to keep them from cooperating with authorities.

The indictment alleges that Miguel and Gilberto, who were jailed in Colombia in June and August 1995 after a massive probe by U.S. and Colombian authorities, continued their illegal activities from prison. At the time of their arrests in 1995, the 

brothers and their cartel were believed to be the source of 80 percent of the cocaine shipped to the United States. After their jailing, according to the indictment, the brothers were assisted by several key associates in maintaining a significant drug and money laundering operation.

The arrests in Colombia and the indictment announced today represent the latest phase of a long-term investigation into the Cali drug cartel that began in 1991. The first phase of investigation was conducted by immigration and customs agents, with the assistance of the Drug Enforcement Administration under the auspices of the Office of National Drug Control Policy's High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area initiative and the Justice Department's Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force initiative.

Launched after the 1991 seizure of 12,250 kilograms (4,950 pounds) of cocaine hidden in concrete fence posts in Miami, the original investigation lasted roughly four years and resulted in two voluminous federal indictments in the Southern District of Florida in June 1995 and June 1996. These indictments charged a total of 130 defendants, including the-then four leaders of the Cali drug cartel: the Rodriguez Orejuela brothers, Jose Santacruz Londono, and Helmer "Pacho" Herrera-Buitrago, with racketeering and a host of federal drug crimes.

Also charged in the original 1995-1996 indictments were six attorneys from the United States as well as Cali cartel managers in several U.S. cities and other nations. These charges ultimately led to the apprehension, conviction, and jailing of most of the Cali cartel leadership in the United States and Colombia in the late 1990s. In total, the case resulted in the arrest of more than 100 defendants and the seizure of more than 47,000 kilograms (103,400 pounds) of cocaine and at least $15 million.

After several years of trials resulting from the original case, ICE agents began receiving new information in 2001 indicating that the remaining members of the Cali cartel were back in business from jail and regaining a foothold in the cocaine market through new trafficking routes. Working closely with their counterparts in the Colombian National Police and the drug enforcement agency, immigration and customers agents began working on a new case. The resulting indictment unsealed this week draws in part from new evidence gathered from December 1997 through July 2002.

Those charged in the indictment are all Colombians.

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