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These stories were published Monday, Sept. 8, 2003, in Vol. 3, No. 177
Jo Stuart
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Young and old had their day for folk dancing Saturday at the Costa Rican Independence celebration of the Association of Residents of Costa Rica. The dancers were from the Christian Communities of Children and Aging, a lay Catholic group which brought members from all over the Central Valley, from Limón and from San Ramon to perform.
Campaign funding probe gets additional life
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The scandals over campaign financing are not going to go away soon. The Asamblea Nacional approved a 90-day extension Friday for the special commission looking into the way the last presidential election was financed.

Luis Gerardo Villanueva, the president of the commission, said that the group’s mandate would expire Sept. 11 unless renewed. But there still is much work to be done, he said.

The commission has hearings with bank presidents and members of major political parties, and it may want to call President Abel Pacheco in again, Villanueva said.

The commission president said that members also might want to call in Rogelio Ramos, minister of Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública. Deputies would like to hear more about the cases of Pablo Li and his wife Anita Vemon and their aid to the Partido Liberación Nacional and the Partido Unidad Social Cristiana, Pacheco’s Party.

Li, a naturalized Costa Rican citizen from Taiwan, and his wife, a Costa Rican, fled the country last week two days before tax police descended on their holdings. They are suspected of evading taxes. Both are subjects of international arrest warrants.

Also sought is José Trinidad Sosa, a Salvadoran businessman, who also fled. The trio are accused of failing to pay some 4 billion colons in income taxes. That’s about $10 million.

The flight of the business owners is embarrassing to Pacheco because they donated extensively to his campaign and he has promised to tighten up the collection of taxes. The president’s close relationship with Taiwan and reports of unreported campaign contributions from there further complicate the case.

Deputies on the special commission will decided next Friday whether to call Ramos. if they do, they certainly will want to explore what the security minister thinks caused the pair to flee just two days before a planned raid.

Bible reading
will mark
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Although the place is adjacent to sidewalks and a popular location downtown, the Plaza de la Cultura is not public. Instead, it is operated by the Fundación del Banco Central, and the plaza serves as the roof to the several underground museums. Those who walk through the plaza, sit there or feed pigeons there do so under the rules of the central bank.

So when in 1999 the Sociedad Biblica de Costa Rica wanted to hold a Bible reading, the effort was blocked by the foundation which pointed to its rules and regulations that prohibited religious events in the plaza.

The Sala IV constitutional court recently overruled the central bank and found in favor of the Bible society that had filed a court action over the denial. The constitutional court said that it was not reasonable to discriminate against an "historic book with universal interest."

So the Bible society has planned a Bible reading Sept. 27 in the plaza to mark its court victory.

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Arenal Volcano area gets a big lift for tourism
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The big show is over for now, but the audience continues to come. The blowout of the northwest side of Arenal Volcano Friday has stimulated tourism in the area, and local emergency officials have had to call on the Fuerza Pública to keep tourist from straying into the danger zone.

One of the main attractions of Arenal are the frequent night eruptions that show small spurts of lava and glowing rocks falling from the summit. Viewers sometimes have to wait for the notorious cloud cover to lift. Reports from Arenal were that the mountain continues to put on a good night show visible when the clouds dissipate.

Other attractions of Arenal are the hot pools and the swim-up bars where visitors can bathe in soothing warm water while one hand is wrapped about one of those drinks with the little umbrellas. There are several tourist locations that provide accommodations in view of the volcano summit. 

The volcano is about 210 kms. or 130 miles northwest of San José.

A.M. Costa Rica/Claudio Granados Gómez
Here is the photo that we ran Friday night showing the blowout that took place about 10:30 a.m. Friday.

Robbers kill man
in San Pedro center

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A 19-year-old man put up resistence to robbers around midnight Friday and died for his efforts in the center of San Pedro.

The man, identified by police as Jairo Bustos Brenes, suffered two knife wounds in the chest. A friend, also 19 and with the last names of Ruiz Rivera, suffered wounds, too.

The holdup happened just south of the Outlet Mall in San Pedo de Montes de Oca, said the Fuerza Pública. Bustos and two friends were confronted by three robbers.

Dominical blaze hits
four businesses there

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An early morning fire Saturday destroyed two businesses, a pharmacy and a fruit store in the center of Dominical, according to police.

They said the blaze was reported about 4:55 a.m. Firemen had to come from Pérez Zeledon to fight the blaze. No injuries were reported, police said. The structures represent a significant part of the town’s commercial area.

Powell sees solutions
to Mexican problems

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, after meeting with Mexican Foreign Secretary Luis Ernesto Derbez, says he believes progress is possible in resolving long-standing differences with Mexico on immigration issues.

Powell said one large legislative solution to the problem is unrealistic. He said an upcoming November meeting with Mexican officials would be an opportunity to look at smaller steps to immigration reform.

Mexico wants Washington to grant legal status to more than four million illegal immigrants already in the United States and make it easier for temporary workers to cross the border.

The Bush administration wanted to forge an immigration agreement with Mexico in 2001, but the idea rapidly slipped off the president's agenda after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11 that year.

IMF gives $4 billion
to Brazil’s government

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The International Monetary Fund has approved a $4.1 billion loan disbursement to Brazil. The money is the second-to-last installment of a $30 billion credit line the fund extended to Brazil last year.

The fund says the government of President Luiz Inacio da Silva has pursued prudent fiscal and monetary policies that have been indispensable in restoring confidence in Brazil's economy.

Brazil's financial markets rallied and stocks rose more than 1 percent Friday amid optimism over the government's structural reforms.

Monteforte Toledo,
author, dies at 92

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

GUATEMALA CITY, Guatemala — One of Guatemala's leading literary figures, Mario Monteforte Toledo, 92, has died from heart disease. 

Monteforte Toledo wrote several novels, short stories, and plays over the course of his life. His most famous is perhaps "Donde acaban los caminos," or "Where the Roads End," written in 1952.

Monteforte Toledo was also a sociologist, a lawyer and actively involved in political causes. In the mid-1940s, he served as president of the congress during the left-wing government of Rafael Arevalo. In 1951, he was appointed Guatemala's envoy to the United Nations.

After a CIA-backed coup in 1954, Monteforte Toledo fled Guatemala and went into exile in, among other places, France, Ecuador and Mexico. He returned to his homeland in 1986.

U.S. airline policy
hits privacy snag

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

ROME, Italy — A top U.S. official has urged European leaders to cooperate with the United States in the war on terrorism by sharing information on airline passengers. 

Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said in Italy on Saturday that the EU's current policy prohibiting the sharing of passenger information must be balanced by the right of those same passengers to travel safely. 

A new U.S. law went into effect in March that requires airlines to submit passenger data — name, address and birthdate — within 15 minutes after an aircraft departs for the United States. 

Last month, the European Commission, noting the information request violated EU privacy laws, said Washington had failed to prove passenger data would be safe from abuse. 

Ridge said it was important to develop an acceptable procedure to ensure both privacy and a greater level of air security. 

Dalai Lama in U.S.
for several visits

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. — The Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, has started a 16-day visit to the United States, leading an interfaith religious service here.

The exiled Tibetan Buddhist leader joined representatives of 25 religions at the service, saying all faiths have the same basic aim — to help develop compassion among their followers.

Sunday, the Dalai Lama was to dedicate a new interfaith temple in Bloomington, Ind. The Dalai Lama's brother, retired Indiana University Professor Thubten Norbu, has been the director of a Tibetan cultural center in Bloomington since 1979.

The Dalai Lama will travel to Washington today for a four-day visit. Officials say he wants to express gratitude for continuing U.S. support for Tibet and for the human rights of Tibetans. The Dalai Lama is expected to meet with President George Bush, other administration officials, and members of Congress during his Washington visit.

China's government has criticized the United States in the past for its support of the Dalai Lama. A Chinese government newspaper said earlier this week the visit could damage U.S.-China relations.

Another plunge into river

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A woman, Silvia Brenes Rojas, 40, died Thursday night when her vehicle plunged over a cliff in Piedras Negras de Mora into Río Jaris, a distance of some 35 meters or about 115 feet, according to police.

Two men had gallons of booze

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two men in a pick-up were carrying 50 gallons of bootlegged liquor, police said. The pair were stopped in Santa Bárbara de Heredia Friday afternoon. The men have the last names of Carrillo Herrera and Solórzano, police said. The pair were turned in by neighbors who knew they were carrying the liquor, police said.

Poll shows dip
in Bush supporters

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A new poll shows a majority of Americans feel President George W. Bush has made the country safer from terrorist threats, but feel he has not helped the economy. 

The poll released Sunday by CBS News shows 55 percent of people say the country's economy is in bad shape. 86 percent said the Bush administration holds at least some blame for the economic crisis and job losses. 

Almost eight in 10 people said the country is now safer from terrorist attack. 

The survey took responses from nearly 800 registered voters late last month. About seven in 10 voters said their decision in next year's presidential election will be based on domestic issues. 

Saturday, a survey from the Zogby research group showed a decline in people who feel Bush should be re-elected, to 40 percent from 45 percent last month.
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A military solution to social problems
Emphasis on 'terrorism' may bring Latin backlash
By Laura Carlsen*
director, Americas Program 
Interhemispheric Resource Center

The Bush administration has launched renewed efforts to reach out to Central and South American countries over the past month. The recent visits of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Richard Myers, signal that Latin America is back on the U.S. government's geopolitical map — but the map is being significantly redrawn.

That both overtures were military comes as no surprise. The trips emphasized hemispheric security as the No. 1 priority for the region, and Myers and Rumsfeld noted that security depends on fighting terrorism. The United States has pushed its southern neighbors to support its anti-terrorist agenda both in the United Nations and in actions such as the recent dispatch of Salvadoran, Nicaraguan, and Honduran troops to back up U.S. forces in Iraq.

Analysis on the news

The war on terrorism has accelerated funding for establishing new U.S. military centers and beefing up old ones in the hemisphere. In the past four years, the U.S. has broadened its military presence throughout Latin America, opening new "forward operating locations" in Ecuador, El Salvador, Aruba, and Curacao.

Spurred in part by anti-terrorism, Plan Colombia alone has funneled over $3 billion in U.S. aid to that region over the past three years, most of it military. The State Department's list of terrorist organizations includes three based in Colombia: the leftist Colombian Armed Revolutionary Front (FARC), the National Liberation Army (ELN) and the right-wing paramilitary group, the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC).

Following his two-day visit to Bogotá, Gen. Myers stated that Plan Colombia military aid and equipment will be increasingly used in counterinsurgency efforts despite former restrictions to antinarcotics activities. Myers underlined the government's position: "Terrorism of any kind affects the stability of not only Colombia, but also the entire Western Hemisphere."

The implications of increased U.S. involvement in internal counterinsurgency efforts could have grave implications, not only for Colombia but for its neighbors as well. Erasing the line between terrorism, the drug war, and counterinsurgency fighting opens the door to increased involvement in Bolivia, where coca producers form the backbone of the opposition movement, and Ecuador, where the indigenous-led movement has ousted governments.

Nobel Peace prize winner Adolfo Perez Esquivel recently warned: "I have no doubt that if Ecuador should become involved in Plan Colombia, Latin America could become a new Vietnam, with consequences as serious as, or more serious, than those of the war in Iraq." 

Speaking in Honduras, Rumsfeld called terrorism a "terrible problem" in the region and also coupled it

with the drug trade. But the U.S government's focus on the war on terrorism clashes sharply with the way Latin American civil society groups are reformulating the concept of security in the Western Hemisphere. These groups note that the region has seen a marked decrease in international imbroglios and an increase in what they call "intrastate insecurity." They emphasize growing threats within national borders, stemming primarily from the social causes of poverty, impunity, and discrimination.

It seems that in the lexicon of the Bush administration, "terrorism" has become a catchall term for interpreting conflicts that have plagued Latin American countries for years, including narcotics production and trafficking, guerrilla and paramilitary activity and illegal migration. In lumping together deeply rooted conflicts under the rubric of terrorism, the United States has allocated huge sums for mostly military solutions while ignoring the larger causes.

However, military solutions to social and political problems not only escalate violence, they don't work. Despite evidence that funding to Colombia has not reduced the violence, U.S. military involvement has increased in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks with little congressional debate about its effectiveness. Unrestricted funding to the Colombian military, which has a long history of human rights violations and paramilitary ties, will end up fanning the flames of an extremely volatile situation that affects the whole region.

On the U.S.-Mexico border, the Department of Homeland Security has included illegal migration among terrorist threats, resulting in a record $6.7 billion budget for border security, much of it earmarked for infrastructure to prevent the entry of mostly Mexican and Central American job seekers. The measures have so far increased migrant deaths and done little to abate the flow of undocumented workers.

The anti-terrorism lens fails to see crucial factors in regional conflicts: the drug trade may fund terrorists, but it stems from peasants' lack of other productive options and the incessant demand for illegal drugs in U.S. cities. Counterinsurgency efforts may decimate organizations like the FARC, but they also lead to the displacement and death of thousands of civilians, thus creating new sources of social instability.

By framing Western hemisphere security in anti-terrorist terms, the U.S. seeks the moral authority to intervene in regional conflicts in defense of its own particular interests, rather than the interests of long-term conflict resolution. Granting the United States a carte blanche for intervention based on its post-Sept. 11th victim status would be a fatal mistake.

The campaign against terrorism should not be viewed as a boilerplate for security policy in the Western Hemisphere. The results could be the opposite of peace.

*Laura Carlsen <laura@irc-online.org> is director of the Americas Program, Interhemispheric Resource Center. Reader responses and comments to this column and other Americas analysis can be sent to: americas@irc-online.org as well as to A.M. Costa Rica (editor@amcostarica.com).

Fabian was much more than Bermuda expected
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Bermuda residents have begun to clean up after the strongest hurricane to hit the islands in 50 years caused widespread damage and left four people missing.

Authorities say many roads are blocked by debris and thousands of people have no electricity. The hurricane hit late Friday and was moving into the cold waters of the Atlantic Saturday.

Officials in the British colony said rescue workers were searching for two civilians and two police officers who were reported missing and feared dead. Their vehicles were swept off a causeway connecting Bermuda's main island to the airport.

Hurricane Fabian struck the Atlantic archipelago 

with sustained winds of 185 kph (115 mph) and gusts of more than 200 kph (124 mph).

The Category 3 storm caused extensive flooding and damaged hotels, restaurants and homes on the tourist islands. Hospitals reported  minor injuries.

Before the storm hit, authorities had closed Bermuda's airport and evacuated hundreds of people living in low-lying areas. 

Weather forecasters said the hurricane maintained strong winds as it moved northeast into the open Atlantic Saturday. It was not expected to make landfall on the eastern coast of the United States. 

Another storm, named Henri, weakened to a tropical depression Saturday as it swept over the Florida peninsula from the Gulf of Mexico.

Big day planned for school children Tuesday
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Tuesday is the Día del Niño in Costa Rica, Children’s Day. Many special activities are planned for children and about children.

For example, the Judicial Investigating Organization is hosting some 266 youngsters Tuesday morning to heighten awareness to their physical safety. Among notables in attendance will be the official mascot of the judicial police agency, a Labrador named Rock.

The youngsters participating in the half-day program at the Plaza de la Justicia in the courts complex will be from Alajuela, San José and Heredia.

Later today, at 2:30 p.m., the Liga Deportiva Alajuelense, one of the nation’s top soccer teams, will kick off a campaign against child abuse. Among those supporting the soccer team’s efforts will be Rosalía Gil, minister of Niñez and executive president of the Patronato Nacional de la Infancia, the child welfare agency.

A member of the Santa Barbara soccer team, also a top level professional group, has been accused of being involved with an underage girl despite being married himself. The Alajuela soccer team said that the anti-abuse campaign had been the subject of a contest among publicity agencies.

The campaign by the Alajuela team, La Liga, brings

the celebrity of the sports area to the current national push against child abuse.

Another event Tuesday will be a marionette show at the Museo Nacional de Costa Rica. The museum said that the show from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. will feature three children who defend their rights and values. By means of the play children will be able to learn their rights and duties under the children’s code of the country, said the museum.

The event is co-sponsored by Fundación PANIAMOR, which works for children’s welfare.

At the Escuela Carmen Lyra in Concepción de Alajuelita, Tuesday morning will be filled with movies. The Centro Costarricense de Producción Cinematográfica will present the Spanish "El bosque animado" for some 300 youngsters there.

The Museo Histórico Juan SantaMaría will celebrate the day next Sunday for orphans and the poorest children in the area with the theatrical work "El casorio de Tío Conejo." That will be at the museum at 10 a.m.

Meanwhile, Tuesday the legislative Comisión de Juventud, Niñez y Adolescencia will exchange ideas with students during a meeting in the Salón de Expresidentes at 9 a.m. Students will be from the escuela Manuel Camacho Hernández of San Rafael de Heredia and the Liceo Carlos Pascua. The specific topics include the right of expression for minors and violence against children.

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