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of the A.M. Costa Rica staff
The feeling among young Costa Ricans varies widely from sympathy to full-blown disillusionment in the country’s political system after the nation’s president ended up in a campaign funding scandal.
A handful of English-language students discussed Pacheco’s predicament before attending class Tuesday. Many expressed admiration for the president’s rally against corruption, while others feel he’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
"I think he’s having problems because he tried to organize this country against corruption and the whole country is corrupt," said Laura Montero, a 26-year-old accountant from Heredia. "He walks and talks like an honest man, but maybe he’s not."
Juan Carlos Chinchilla, a computer system repairman from Aserri said: "Abel is still a good president even though he may have accepted illegal campaign contribution."
Ana Yanci Ramirez, a 32-year-old secretary, who sees Pacheco as "Costa Rica’s father figure," said he is innocent.
Ms. Ramirez said she respects Pacheco’s openness amid speculation of wrongdoing. "In Costa Rican politics, we have to go with the least bad person," she added.
Aleksandra Valverde was far less lenient: "Everyone and everything in politics is corrupt."
The allegations emerged last week. They include a claim, which Pacheco accepts, that his campaign accepted illegal contributions. The principal contribution at issue is a $30,000 check from Waken International, S.A., a Panamá corporation. The Costa Rica Constitution forbids campaign funding from outside the country.
Pacheco’s primary excuse is his staff handled most of the checks. But some checks were endorsed by Pacheco.
The opinion of North Americans questioned elsewhere was generally in favor of the president.
"I think that he is a very good president. He is a very honest person. Obviously if he is giving up his immunity he doesn’t have anything to hide," said Rhonda Linden an English teacher at the Centro Cultural Costarricense Norteamericano from Fargo, North Dakota.
Hiram Belt, 29, from Atlanta, Ga., who works in
|Internet advertising, said that Pacheco
went for the common man then pulled the strings in his favor.
Lou Armando, 28, from San Jose, who works for a sports book here cited Pacheco’s contemporaries as the key. "For 20 years he said what we can do, then he went to become president. But the guys around him aren’t that good," said Armando.
A formal complaint has been filed with the Tribuno Supremo Electoral. Pacheco said he would surrender his immunity if asked to do so.
The complaint covers nearly all the Pacheco ministerial team and the two vice presidents. Those officials met Tuesday at Casa Presidencial to support the president, who was out of the country meeting with other heads of state.
The investigation is not necessarily partisan. The treasurer of the campaign for Rolando Araya Monge, Pacheco’s main presidential opponent, revealed that he, too, accepted a check from Waken. That one was for $25,000. But the campaign official said he realized it would be an illegal donation so he deposited the money in his own bank account and used it to buy Christmas presents.
Bryan Kay and Garett Sloane contributed to this report.
Who is Waken?
Waken International S.A., is located in the Panamá Free Zone and operated by Abdul Mohamed Waked, a Muslim of Lebanese ancestry who was educated in the United States, according to an Internet search.
The firm is an airport shop operator, a major distributor of a range of exclusive goods for both the duty-free and the local markets of Central and South America. Duty-free operations include fully owned stores in Panama and Bogota airports, said the Internet search.
Waked International also got at $4.5 million contract in Panamá to expand the duty-free shops and install new boarding areas and waiting salons at the terminal at Tocumen Airport.
Waked Internacional de Colombia is a cosmetics distributor for Japanese interests.
Waken, himself, has been a spokesman for the free zone, which is a controversial operation in Panamá where some firms renting space engage in illegal activities such as money laundering, arms shipments and narcotrafficking.
The U.S. Embassy is getting ready for its annual action sale. At least once a year, the embassy dumps excess furniture, computer equipment and household goods.
The goods are on view at the embassy warehouse next Tuesday and Wednesday, Oct. 1 and Oct. 2, from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Those who visit to examine the goods can make sealed bids at the same time.
The items are divided into individual lots, and bids are taken on the lots and not the individual items. To insure that the bidder is serious, the embassy requires a 25,000-colon deposit with each bid. That’s about $68.
The warehouse is 200 meters west of the snack food maker Fábrica Jack’s in Pavas. Jack’s is about 300 meters south of the embassy itself.
Last year the embassy had some good buys on furniture and cell telephones. There also were some washing machines and dryers.
The bulk of the computer equipment was several years old. But a forklift truck would have been a
good buy if anyone needed such a machine.
Embassy officials won’t talk about the sale over the telephone, but employees will be at the warehouse, said an announcement. The embassy does not get the money from the sale. The income goes to the U.S. general fund.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Colombia faces "enormous, complex and complicated" challenges in confronting sluggish economic growth, high unemployment, and the significant deterioration of the nation's security situation, says Alvaro Uribe, the president of Colombia.
At a session hosted Tuesday by several of Washington's most prominent think tanks, Uribe outlined his agenda for restoring public confidence in the government's ability "to produce an environment in which the average Colombian can lead a safe and prosperous life."
Uribe's agenda for Colombia is based in part on strengthening the nation's military in order to enhance security and the rule of law. In view of the increasing violence Colombians endure at the hands of the nation's three armed terrorist groups, "it is time for us to make our effort stronger to stop these groups ... it is time to protect our people with determination," he said. "The weaker the government facing terror, the stronger the terrorist groups."
In addition to enhancing the government's ability to provide physical security, the other pillars of Uribe's agenda include reforming state institutions to create a leaner executive branch and a more transparent and accountable congress, and fostering structural reform and macroeconomic stability.
The Colombian president said he hopes that these efforts will eventually foster a virtuous cycle of greater security, increased investment and stronger economic growth. However, he acknowledged that — in the short term — simultaneously strengthening the state's security apparatus, reducing the nation's fiscal deficit and fostering growth is a "daunting task" that will require creativity.
Progress is already being made in reducing and reallocating public expenditures and increasing fiscal revenue, according to Uribe. He estimated that additional pending measures should increase tax collection by at least 2 percent.
Uribe said that his administration, in accordance with international
finance institutions, would also support the structural reforms introduced
by the previous Colombian administration and noted that his government
has submitted several new reforms to Colombia's congress.
"Colombia's greatest asset lies in [the fact] that it
|has always honored in a timely manner
our debt, both with foreign as well as domestic creditors," Uribe said.
Based on his administration's consultations with the International Monetary Fund, Uribe said that Colombia is close to securing an agreement that recognizes that the nation is dealing with its "dire problems."
He observed that his administration has also received commitments from several foreign governments to open their markets to Colombian goods and to partially fund Colombia's efforts to combat drug trafficking.
Reflecting on the funding that the nation's terrorist groups receive from their involvement in the illegal drug trade, Uribe said: "Colombia has to destroy narcotics. This is the only way for us to take terror away from our country."
He cited the destruction of 100 percent of the coca cultivation in Colombia as a goal of his administration and described stepped-up spraying and interdiction efforts.
Uribe also emphasized the importance of alternative development initiatives to assist Colombia's poor rural farmers. He said his administration, with the assistance of the United States and the international community, hopes to reach an agreement with 50,000 campesino families to participate in alternative development programs.
The United States recently allocated $731 million for the Andean Counterdrug Initiative, which sustains and expands previous U.S. support for Plan Colombia and enhances counter-narcotics support for Colombia and its neighbors.
The three major components of the intiative are eradication, interdiction, and alternative development, according to the U.S. State Department.
The U.S. Trade Act of 2002 also renewed and expanded the Andean Trade Preference Act, which provides preferential access to the U.S. market to a variety of goods from Colombia and other Andean countries.
During his three-day trip to Washington, Uribe will meet with President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and Secretary of State Colin Powell.
He will also meet with international financial institutions — in part, he said, to discuss their support for Colombia as his administration undertakes the task of addressing the nation's "enormous and complex difficulties."
by U.S. Justice Dept.
Special to A.M. Costa Rica
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Justice Department has indicted the leaders of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia on drug trafficking charges and seeks their extradition to the United States, U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft has announced.
In a news conference Tuesday, Ashcroft said the AUC leaders are charged with trafficking since 1997 more than 17 tons of cocaine into the United States and Europe.
The indictment charges forces leader Carlos Castano Gil and two other members with five counts of drug trafficking. Besides Castano, those named in the indictment are military commander Salvatore Mancuso, and member Juan Carlos Sierra Ramirez. These three individuals face sentences up to life imprisonment if convicted of all charges, Ashcroft said.
Ashcroft said the indictment of the three members "marks once again the convergence of the two top priorities "of the U.S. Justice Department: the prevention of terrorism and the reduction of illegal drug use.
The attorney general said that the indictment charges the forces leaders, not as "freedom fighters" against leftist guerrillas in Colombia, but "as criminals, violent drug traffickers who poison our citizens and threaten our national security."
Ashcroft praised Colombian authorities, in particular, for helping the United States bring drug traffickers to justice. He said that since 1997, there have been more than 50 extraditions of Colombian nationals to the United States.
Ashcroft paid tribute to the "leadership and commitment" of Colombian President Alvaro Uribe "to proceed vigorously against drug traffickers and terrorists, wherever they are found."
According to the indictment, Castano directed cocaine production and distribution activities in forces-controlled regions of Colombia, including protecting coca-processing laboratories, setting quality and price controls for cocaine, and arranging for and protecting cocaine shipments both within and outside of Colombia.
The charges against the forces members follow the indictment in March
of several members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, a left-wing
guerrilla group also named on the State Department's list of foreign terrorist
Panama beauty crowned
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services
NEW YORK CITY — Miss Panama has been crowned Miss Universe, replacing Oxana Federova of Russia, who became the first woman in the pageant's 52-year history to be fired.
Justine Pasek, the first runner-up, was crowned here Tuesday at a news conference. Ms. Pasek was quoted as saying she wishes Ms. Federova well and is very happy to be taking over the job.
Pageant organizers say Ms. Federova was stripped of her title because she had failed to fulfill her duty to appear at scheduled promotional and charity events.
Ms. Federova, a police lieutenant pursuing a graduate law degree at St. Petersburg's Police Academy, denied she had been fired. She said she had given up the title voluntarily because the duties of Miss Universe had interfered with her studies.
Ms. Federova also denied reports she was married or pregnant.
Pageant officials say Ms. Federova has returned the $20,000 diamond and pearl tiara she won when she was named Miss Universe.
Organizers of the pageant, which is co-owned by NBC Incorporated and
New York real estate mogul, Donald Trump, said although Ms. Federova gave
back her tiara, they would have preferred that she resign and regretted
having to take other action.
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services
The American film industry, now about a century old, couldn't have developed without the contributions of many kinds of people from nations all over the world, including Hispanics. That is the theme of the new book, Hispanics in Hollywood: A Celebration of 100 Years in Film and Television.
In his book, author Luiz Reyesre counts the Hispanic influence in the movies, going back to Hollywood's earliest days.
Brazilian singer and dancer Carmen Miranda was the highest paid actress in America in 1945, but still could not get past being typecast in cameo roles as a comic dancer with fruit piled high upon her head.
For the first half of the 20th century, film studios cast Latino males as lazy or untrustworthy characters, or had them play the comic sidekick.
Even roles described specifically as Latino or Mexican were often cast with white actors who used brown make-up to darken their skin.
But in Hispanics in Hollywood, Luiz Reyes says in the industry's earliest years, Hispanics were involved with all aspects of movie making, in front of and behind the camera.
"One of the reasons they came to make movies in Hollywood was the fact that there was an available labor pool of Mexican and African-American workers.
In a lot of those silent movies a lot of the people you see riding horses are Mexican-Americans who worked the ranches in southern California," he said.
"The first big Latino star was Antonio Moreno, who was a matinee idol. He was the first ‘Latin lover’. And he was kind of eclipsed by Rudolf Valentino. You have someone like Ramon Novarro who starred in the original Ben Hur in 1926 and that film helped MGM out of bankruptcy at that time."
The Mexican-born actor went on to star in "talkies" like Mata Hari in 1930, in which he played the "Latin lover" to Greta Garbo as the famous spy.
Author Luiz Reyes says the silent film era was a profitable one for many Hispanic actors, whose accents were irrelevant and darker complexions versatile enough to fit any number of ethnic, non-Caucasian roles.
In 1961, Rita Moreno made a departure from what she described as a career of "Mexican Spitfire" and "Indian Maiden" kinds of roles when she played Anita in the film version of the musical, West Side Story.
Author Luiz Reyez says this part, the Latina girlfriend of a Puerto Rican gang leader, was a breakthrough on many levels.
|Trade sanctions blocking
Cuba’s spending power
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services
HAVANA, Cuba — A top Cuban official says if U.S. trade sanctions against the island are lifted, Cuba could buy up to 70 percent of the $1 billion worth of food that it imports annually from the United States.
Pedro Alvarez, the head of Cuba's state-run food importer, Alimport, made the remark Tuesday in Havana, ahead of a U.S. Food and Agribusiness Exhibition opening there later this week.
About 280 U.S. agriculture companies are expected to participate in the event. Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura and three Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives are among those attending.
Alvarez said the high turnout indicates a desire by the U.S. business community to restore normal relations with Cuba. President George Bush, backed by a powerful anti-Castro lobby, has said he will not allow any easing of the four-decade-old embargo against the island until it moves toward democracy.
The U.S. imposed sanctions on Cuba shortly after President Fidel Castro came to power.
U.S. legislation passed two years ago relaxed the long-standing trade sanctions against Cuba and allowed for the sale of food and medicine to the island as long as the goods are paid for with cash.
A growing number of lawmakers support legislative efforts to ease or eliminate restrictions on American travel to and trade with the communist-run island.
Street kid report
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
A study about street children in Costa Rica will not be presented until Oct. 1, according to Casa Alianza, one of the two organizations making the report.
The report was postponed from Tuesday because President Abel Pacheco was out of the country participating in a meeting with other heads of state.
The president wanted to be present for the delivery of the report, said Casa Alianza, a non-profit advocate for street children. Pacheco has expressed a strong interest in protecting street children from violence, even going so far as to say if the parents will not protect the youngsters, he would.
The Patronato Nacional de la Infancia is the other agency working on the study. This is the government agency charged with helping street children.
Gunmen may work
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
A band of robbers who work in the early evenings seems to have set up shop in the metropolitan area.
A gang of four men stuck up a cellular telephone store Tuesday night about 5:30 p.m.
A gang of four men dressed as security guards stuck up a branch of the Banco Crédito Agrícola de Cartago on Avenida 4 at about the same time Monday.
In both cases there were customers in the premises who were tied up (Tuesday) or herded into a bathroom (Monday).
The bandits were dressed as Seguridad Delta employees Monday at the bank. That is the firm that supplies security for the bank. They took around 4 to 5 million colons, $11,000 to $13,500.
The store stuck up Tuesday night was Cell Net.
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