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These stories were published Monday, Dec. 29, 2003, in Vol. 3, No. 257
Jo Stuart
About us
Police take into custody one of the approximately 50 persons who were detained Saturday during the Cacique Carnival that drew some 65,000 to the downtown. 
A.M. Costa Rica photos
Twin festivals
keep streets busy

The National Tope horse parade Friday and the Cacique Carnival Saturday drew tens of thousands to the downtown.

The carnival under sunny and partly cloudy skies had the largest turnout that clogged sidewalks. Both events were televised locally to an even greater audience.

Our report is 


The Tope Nacional or horse parade would not be complete without a few cans of Imperial. But not for horses.

The breaking news took no vacation this year
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

What promised to be a long weekend of relaxation and family time turned into the most dramatic period of breaking news this year.

The drive-by assassination of newswoman Ivannia Mora Rodríguez about 8:30 Tuesday night started reporters scurrying. The killing hit close to home.

Then after every newspaper in San José closed down for a Christmas break, the earthquake hit about 1:14 a.m. Thursday, Christmas Day.

That was the same day law enforcement officials announced an arrest in the Mora murder.

Then Friday night and early Saturday, prosecutors made arrests in the July 7, 2001, murder case of radio commentator Parmenio Medina. This is the single-most important active criminal case in the nation.

Television and radio stations, too, had to 

redistribute their personnel. Typically employees work nearly around the clock.  They were gearing up for the National Tope horse show Friday and Carnival Saturday. 

Instead, they had to staff and tape the Friday arrest in the Mora case and the arrival of the Rev. Mínor de Jesús Calvo Aguilar as he got of a plane from Liberia early Saturday morning. He is one of the suspects in the Parmenio Medina case. The story is HERE!.

Both La Nación (in Spanish) and A.M. Costa Rica published Internet reports of the earthquake by the afternoon of Christmas  Day. Al Dia published a print edition complete with earthquake photos Friday, although La Nación did not come out with a print edition until Saturday.  A.M. Costa Rica had a Friday issue scheduled.

Only El Diario Extra continued the Costa Rican tradition of a long holiday weekend. That newspaper will not resume print publication until today, although its Web page contains a complete report on the arrest of the priest.

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Arrests made in nation's most well-known murder
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Investigators arrested a priest and the financial backer of a religiously oriented radio station Friday and Saturday in the murder case of Parmenio Medina Pérez, a radio political commentator.

Arrested was Mínor de Jesús Calvo Aguilar, the priest who founded and was active on the radio station. Also arrested was businessman Omar Luis Chaves Mora.

The arrests were initiated by Francisco Dall'Annese, the new fiscal general or chief prosecutor of the country. Both suspects had been questioned at length about the assassination of Parmenio Medina and both have denied involvement. The case is the highest profile criminal case in the country.

Father Mínor founded and Chavez supported Radio María, which raised large amounts of money from the faithful for various causes. Parmenio Medina, who had his own weekly satirical radio show on another station, denounced the religious station for financial irregularities and for the conduct of the priest..

The then-Roman Catholic archbishop closed down Radio María, in part because of the issues raised by Parmenio Medina.

The radio commentator was gunned down by men in an adjacent car in broad daylight not far from his home July 7, 2001. His murder received widespread international exposure in journalistic circles.

Dall'Annese, who has been on the job since Dec. 1, said he was going to make the arrests Christmas Day but another case involving the drive-by assassination of another communications figure caused him to rescheduled the twin detentions.

On Christmas, Dall'Annese and agents stopped a former partner of Ivannia Mora Rodríguez when he tried to leave the country by air.

They said he was an important figure in the investigation of the Tuesday night murder of the 33-year-old newswoman and said they wanted him to stay in Costa Rica for the duration of the case. The man who is an Uruguayan national was jailed.

The arrested man is Eugenio Millot, director of the Red Castle publishing group, who told reporters Wednesday that he himself had been targeted by threats. He had worked closely with Ms. Mora for several years. She left Red Castle just two weeks ago to take a job publishing a magazine for local creditcard holders. Friends said she had received 

unspecified threats. Red Castle puts out a half dozen business-oriented magazines.

Two men on a motorcycle pumped four bullets into the newswoman’s head as her car was stopped at a traffic light in Curridabat about 8:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Dall'Annese said the most difficult part of making the case would be to located the actual gunmen.

Investigators believe they know who pulled the triggers in the Parmenio Medina case and have pointed to a group of gang members, who are in jail, dead or in flight.

Fuerza Pública officers assisted prosecutors when they arrested Father Mínor at the Hotel El Sitio in Liberia. He had traveled there with other priests for the holidays.  Officials knocked on his door at 3:55 a.m. and said he cooperated but asked to pray. He came back to San José on a Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública aircraft. When he arrived at Juan Santamaría Airport he was in handcuffs. He was jailed for investigation.

Dall'Annese told reporters that strong evidence exists against both Father Mínor and Chaves. That evidence is believed to be the testimony of a jailed individual who recently decided to tell investigators that he was the middleman in the transaction that led to the death of Parmenio Medina.

The man is expected to testify that working on the orders of Father Mínor and Chaves he contracted with a gang of gunmen, and the gunmen are the persons who actually shot Parmenio Medina as his car approached his home in San Miguel de Santo Domingo de Heredia.

One of the gang members is dead, another is in flight and at least one is in jail on another charge.

Parmenio Medina came to Costa Rica from Colombia in 1968. He started his radio show, La Patada (The Kick), some five years later. The show was characterized as anti-corruption and satirical.

Radio María was founded by Father Mínor in 1999, and Chaves paid a lot of the bills. Parmenio Medina is believed to have obtained inside church documents that questioned the finances of Radio María. He disclosed some of the presumed problems on his show and generated a lot of backlash among followers of the priest and Radio María.

Parmenio Medina also made much of an incident when Father Mínor was stopped in a car after dark in the vicinity of La Sabana Park with a young male passenger. The priest said he was giving the man driving lessons. Parmenio Medina ridiculed that explanation.

Man rests in road
and is run over

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Judicial Investigating Organization said that a U.S. citizen named White died 15 minutes after midnight Friday when he was run over by a microbus. His is the only reported death of a foreigner over the holidays.

Investigators said it was a strange case. The 22-year-old victim hired a taxi in Playa Hermosa de Jacó and asked that he be taken to Parrita. At a point along the route he asked the taxi driver to stop, got out of the car and lay down on the road. 

The other vehicle tried to avoid him but could not, investigators said.

Police shelter hit
by firebomber

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The place may not be Fort Apache, but San Juan de Dios de Desamparados was the place where someone firebombed a small police shelter Thursday morning. 

Fuerza Pública officer José Perez Monge reported he heard an explosion after which there was a lot of smoke. He managed to rescue three firearms from the burning structure. The case is being investigated as a criminal event.

Man dies in street
in San Pedro

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An unidentified man died in San Pedro de Montes de Oca about 4 p.m. Friday, the presumed victim of his own band of robbers.

The man, believed to be about 50 years old, suffered a fatal bullet wound just as the Joyería Reyes was being robbed, according to police.

Three suspects were taken into custody by Fuerza Pública officers. The victim died in the street, and many passers-by saw his body draped with a sheet.

Cartago cops stop
possible home heist

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Cartago police believe they broke up a planned home invasion. They arrested four persons.

Officers said a car was seen parked in front of a home in Tajer. Police chased it to Cartago centro where the arrest was made, Avenida 3 at Calle 13.

In the vehicle police said they found two firearms, ski masks and drugs. One of the arrested persons was a minor.

Former mayor leads
Guatemala elections

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

GUATEMALA CITY, Guatemala — Former Guatemala City mayor Oscar Berger seems to be leading in the count for the runoff election here.

Guatemalans voted Sunday in a runoff presidential election between the top two vote-getters in the Nov. 9 ballot. No candidate won more than the 50 percent of the vote needed to win the presidency outright last month.

Under sunny skies and the watchful eyes of about 10,000 election observers, Guatemalans cast their votes.

Berger is running on the ticket of a conservative alliance of three parties favored by the country's traditional business elite. He has been leading in opinion polls with a 10 to 16 point advantage over his rival, Alvaro Colom, a left-leaning engineer. 

Colom, the former director of the governmental National Fund for Peace, is running on the ticket of the centrist party he founded. Colom arrived early to vote, surrounded by a crowd of supporters and press. He ran a strong Internet campaign, but most Guatemalans do not have computers.

Pollsters say the tendency in the opinion polls is unlikely to change, but Colom maintains that the opinion polls were manipulated to favor Berger and predicts an upset. He says he is feeling calm and secure of winning. He says his parties' surveys show they will win with an eight to 12 point lead.

Cuban congress protests 
Guantanamo prison

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

HAVANA, Cuba — The Cuban government has accused the United States of running what it calls a concentration camp at the U.S. Guantanamo Naval Base in eastern Cuba.

In a statement released Friday, Cuba's parliament said, "In the territory illegally occupied by the Guantanamo Naval Base, hundreds of foreign prisoners are subjected to indescribable humiliations." 

The statement said the prisoners are isolated and denied the right to communicate with their families or have access to appropriate legal defense.

The United States has kept more than 600 people from several countries captive for nearly two years at Guantanamo. They were detained on suspicion of terrorism in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and elsewhere. The Bush administration maintains that the prisoners are "enemy combatants" who do not have the legal status of criminal defendants or prisoners of war, and therefore may be held indefinitely.

Earlier this month, a U.S. federal appeals court ruled that prisoners at Guantanamo cannot be held indefinitely without access to lawyers or American courts. The court said the United States is obligated under international standards to provide such access. 

Cuban President Fidel Castro has long opposed the presence of the Americans at Guantanamo, saying the naval base is illegally occupied by the United States. Washington leased the base long before the 1959 revolution that brought Castro to power.

Mexican cleric cleared
of laundering claims

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

GUADALAJARA, México — Authorities announced Friday that the probe focusing on Roman Catholic Cardinal Juan Sandoval has been dropped. Deputy Attorney-General Jose Vasconcelos says investigators found no evidence of wrongdoing on the part of the Guadalajara cleric. 

The inquiry began in July after a former attorney-general alleged that Cardinal Sandoval or his subordinates may have accepted donations from drug traffickers. 

Cardinal Sandoval has consistently denied the allegations. The clergyman has maintained that the allegations were intended to deflect attention from his claims that former politicians were behind the 1993 shooting death of his predecessor, Juan Jesús Posadas Ocampo. 

Cardinal Posadas was killed in broad daylight at a Guadalajara airport. A government inquiry concluded he was caught in the cross-fire of a shootout between rival cocaine cartels at the airport. 

Cardinal Sandoval and other critics have alleged that Cardinal Posadas was killed because he knew about links between drug traffickers and senior politicians. 

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A lady clown

Santa Ana drummers

Two days of festivals
Cacique Carnival dancers performed despite monsterous viewer.

Ready for carnival!
Hawaiian Tropics queen
High above the crowds
A weekend when the excitement just did not stop
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The two days of post-Christmas celebration hit the city at the same time the rainy weather broke this year. 

The Tope Nacional or horse parade Friday and the Cacique Carnival took place under partly cloudy and sunny skies. More spectators attended the carnival, perhaps because beer and scantily clad women were the order of the day.

Those facts raised some objections from those who brought children. Police made only a few arrests 
on Friday but took about 50 persons into custody on theft, disturbance and marijuana charges plus a

few for behavior toward women Saturday.

Cacique is the brand name of the national liquor, guaro, but it was beer that was in evidence at the carnival and horse parades. Some persons on floats were even handing out cans. 

Some companies and television stations had stands set up along the route. For the horse parade, entertainment provided by the television stations filled the otherwise dead air because there were many gaps in the line of march.

For those who did not have enough, the evening Festejos Populares at nearby Zapote were an evening attraction.

The tope crowd was big. Carnival's bigger.
Coffee girls also pack some bananas

A clown family
A.M. Costa Rica photos
The Tope Nacional Friday was not at all short on horses

U.S. recall of beef expands to eight states
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services 

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. government has expanded a recall of beef to include a total of eight states and the territory of Guam, as a precaution following the discovery of one case of mad cow disease earlier this month. 

A cow slaughtered in Washington state Dec. 9 was found to be infected with Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, known as mad cow disease or BSE. 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said that a laboratory in the United Kingdom has confirmed that the cow was infected. Officials sent samples of the supposedly infected animal to the U.K. for confirmation after its testing results proved positive.

Since the American case was made public last week, U.S. authorities have already recalled more than 4,500 kilograms of beef in the states of Washington, Oregon, California and Nevada. That’s 9,900 pounds.

Department of Agriculture official Kenneth Petersen says investigators have now determined that some of the infected cow's meat may also have gone to Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana and Guam. 

One day earlier, Petersen stressed that the U.S. government is making the recalls out of, what he called, an abundance of caution, not because it believes there are serious health risks to the public: "We are actively tracking the meat as we speak. But we know that the most highly infectious materials related to BSE are the spinal cord and the brain. And we are certain that those products did not make their way into the food supply." 

Mad cow disease is an incurable brain-wasting illness that led farmers in Britain to destroy 

millions of cattle in the 1980s and 1990s. Humans who eat contaminated beef can contract a rare but deadly variant of the disease. 

Chief USDA veterinarian Ron DeHaven said preliminary results show that the infected cow came from a herd in Canada, which had its first official mad cow case in May. "It would appear, based on the information we have today, that the affected animal was very likely to have entered the United States as part of a group of 74 dairy cattle that were imported from the Canadian province of Alberta in August of 2001," he said. 

Finding mad cow disease in the United States has huge trade implications. U.S. beef exports last year totalled more than $2.5 billion. 

DeHaven said a high-level U.S. delegation has gone to Asia to meet with officials in Japan and other Asian countries, starting Monday. "They will be providing the Japanese officials and other Asian officials the latest information relative to our investigation, as well as an update on our overall BSE program in the United States," he said. 

In Asia, Japan and South Korea were among the biggest importers of U.S. beef, but now are among the more than 20 countries that ban it. 

Another big importer, Mexico, said it would lift its ban on U.S. beef as soon as the United States proves that its mad cow case is isolated.

But Canada says it is too early for the United States to say a dairy cow with mad cow disease was imported from there.

Brian Evans, the Canadian food agency's top veterinarian, says the United States has not provided the definitive evidence needed to launch a proper investigation. He said Canada will work closely with the United States to examine all relevant facts. 

Suspected SARS case discovered in China
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

BEIJING, China — China has gone on nationwide alert for a possible outbreak of SARS, while the country's first suspected victim in seven months recuperates in a Guanghzhou hospital.

Airports and rail stations around the country and in this capital city have stepped up health screenings of travelers in an effort to prevent the spread of the pneumonia-like disease. 

Meanwhile, China's health ministry says the patient, a 32-year-old television producer in southern Guangdong province, is in stable condition in isolation. Several people with whom the man had contact before being hospitalized Dec. 20 also are in quarantine but have not shown symptoms. 

A World Health Organization expert is due here Monday. In a statement Sunday, the United Nations agency said tests on the man are inconclusive and urged China to send samples 

overseas for international verification of a diagnosis. 

SARS, or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, first emerged in Guangdong in November 2002. It sickened almost 8,100 people in 29 countries and territories before it subsided in June. A total of 774 people succumbed to the disease.  China was the worst country affected, with more than 5,300 infections and 349 deaths.

If confirmed, the case in southern China would be the first not linked to laboratory accidents since the World Health Organization declared the SARS outbreak over in July. Two recent cases in Singapore and Taiwan were linked to accidents in medical research laboratories. 

With the onset of winter, global health officials have been nervously watching for a resurgence of the disease.  Millions of people will be traveling in China during next month's Lunar New Year holiday, heightening fears of another SARS outbreak.

Jo Stuart
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