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(506) 2223-1327         Published Wednesday, April 2, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 65            E-mail us
Jo Stuart
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Another chapter in Berrocal case
Uribe writes precise letter about terrorist penetration

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The president of Colombia wrote a letter Tuesday that the Óscar Arias administration is using as evidence that politicians here are not on a list supposedly found in a raid against terrorists.

But the letter from Álvaro Uribe contains a lot of qualifications and does say that a 2005 arrest confirmed that the terrorists, the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, had established a network in Costa Rica.

Arias called a late afternoon press conference to
farc emblem
Terrorist shoulder patch
unveil the letter he asked Uribe by telephone to write that morning.

The situation stems from comments made by then-security minister Fernando Berrocal Soto March 15. He said he said "what doesn't fit in Costa Rican democracy
is an alliance of political sectors with these criminals of FARC and these narcotrafficking criminals." Spanish-language newspapers began to speak of a formal list of terrorist supporters, and Berrocal lost his job Sunday in the political backlash.

Allegations have come from all points on the political spectrum suggesting that Arias and his brother, Rodrigo, the minister of the Presidencia, are trying to hide political relationships.

For example, Albino Vargas, a union leader who is a political enemy of Arias, said in a published interview that Arias himself was one of the first persons to have contact with the terrorists and their international representatives.

The Uribe letter is precise. Up until now from material in the computers of Raúl Reyes, Colombian officials cannot confirm that politicians or other Costa Ricans have had direct links with the terrorists, it said, adding that no mention of political leaders here have been found.

Reyes was the No. 2 terrorist leader. He was killed in a Colombian military rain across the border into Ecuador March 1. As a result of the raid, three computers were captured, and Costa Rican officials were able to find some $480,000 that a terrorist leader had stashed in a Santa Bárbara de Heredia home safe in 1997.

Uribe said that the information shared with Costa Rican investigators was just enough to find the money that Reyes and another terrorist leader known as  Rodrigo Granda had delivered to the homeowners, Francisco Gutierrez Pérez and his wife Cruz Mary Prado Rojas. Both are identified with leftist causes but deny they knew what was in the safe.

But then in his letter Uribe also said that when the man known as Granda was captured in 2005 his personal agenda showed that the Fuerzas Armadas had "established a nucleus of help that was directly linked to some Colombian nationals living" in Costa Rica.

Berrocal, after he left his minister's job said Monday that the terrorists were trying to establish Costa Rica as a safety zone since about 2000. He pointed to the many Colombian political refugees living here. Earlier he said at least 2,000 of them have ties with the terrorists.

Investigators found a top terrorist commander, Héctor Orlando Martínez Quinto, here. He was deported back to Colombia in December 2006. He has been credited with organizing the Costa Rican fishing fleet into a cocaine transport system.

In addition, officials know that many northbound drug boats rely on supplies of gasoline provided offshore by Costa Ricans. 
Berrocal, who was officially the minister of Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública, advocated a hard line against local drug vendors as the foundation of his attack against local crime.

Uribe agrees to humanitarian mission

There is no doubt that Costa Rican politicians have had contact with top terrorist leaders. Granda, before he was arrested, met with Rogelio Ramos, who was security minister from 2002 to 2006.  Granda also is believed to have met with Arias.

José Merino del Río, an independent in the Asamblea Legislativa, said in the Monday session that people should not be judged because they met with both sides and were attempting to resolve the war between the Colombian central government and the terrorists. The conflict has been raging for more than 40 years.

The concentration on a supposed list has taken the emphasis off other indications of terrorist infiltration and what the local investigators know.

The chief prosecutor, Francisco Dall’Anese, for example, said Monday in a statement that law enforcement officials have known since 2006 that persons linked with terrorists were in the country with the knowledge of the Dirección de Inteligencia y Seguridad Nacional. However, he complained that his Ministerio Público was not informed. The intelligences agency is under the presidency.

Last July Costa Rican officials deported five Colombians they say were planning to kill the minister of the Presidencia and the security minister because of their anti-drug activities. Five other Colombians and two Costa Ricans remained under investigation. The information for these arrests came from telephone intercepts, officials said at the time without elaborating further. This suggests that a long-term investigation has been going on.

The Panama News this week also reports that the terrorists were sold cell telephones that had eavesdropping bugs implanted to capture the conversations. So U.S. officials and their Colombian counterparts probably have extensive knowledge of who is helping the terrorists.

Arias has formed a high-level commission, including Laura Chinchilla, the minister who replaced Berrocal. The commission will travel to Colombia to meet with police and anti-terrorism officials there.

The Asamblea Legislativa has formed a special commission to look into penetration by the terrorists here. And Berrocal, who leaves on a two-week vacation Thursday, said he wants to appear before the commission as a private citizen.

Some Costa Rican politicians are known to have traveled to South America to meet with individuals allied with Hugo Chávez, the Venezuelan president. Chávez seems to be forging an alliance with the terrorist group. Some Costa Rican political figures fear that Chávez is bankrolling activities here, including efforts against the free trade treaty with the United States.

Mercenaries grabbed the terrorist Granda as he walked on a Caracas street in 2005. The abduction to Colombia caused an international incident, but the event also revealed that Granda was in Venezuela to attend a conference of the political movement headed by Chávez.

Chávez also is trying to establish his own regional trade group. He also has found a friend in Nicaragua's president, Daniel Ortega. There is some evidence of penetration by the terrorists and their allies into Panamá.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, April 2, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 65

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International adoption rules
become law in United States

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

A new international treaty covering the adoption of children has come into force in the United States.

The treaty covers govern both incoming and outgoing intercountry adoptions between the United States and other treaty countries. Adoptions have been controversial issues in Latin America and many private adoptions have been lucrative practices for politicians and lawyers.

North American would-be parents frequently look south where mothers sometimes surrender a child because of the size of their family.

The treaty is the  Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption. The provisions of the Hague Convention now

The Hague Convention establishes international norms and procedures for processing intercountry adoption cases involving more than 70 member countries. It mandates safeguards to protect the interests of children, birth parents and adoptive parents. It also provides that member nations recognize adoptions that take place within other member countries.

As the designated U.S. central authority, the Department of State is responsible for ensuring that these new requirements are met for all intercountry adoption cases under the Hague Convention involving a U.S. adoptive parent or child, the department said.

The agreement will change the U.S. intercountry adoption process with respect to other countries in many ways, said the State Department. It listed these:

• Establishing federal accreditation of adoption service providers, through accrediting entities designated by the department.

• Launching the Adoption Tracking Service that the department will use to track incoming and outgoing cases. For the first time, it will be possible to track the cases of American children who are adopted by citizens of other treaty countries.

• Establishing a registry which will track public complaints related to intercountry adoptions.

• Using a new Department of Homeland Security petition forms (I-800A and I-800) for  adoptees.

• Issuing new certificates from consular officers stating that the requirements of the agreement have been met for an adoption or custody declaration completed overseas.

• Issuing a declaration from the department for outgoing adoptions or custody declarations, documenting that the new requirements have been met.

Child trafficking penalty upheld

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Sala III criminal supreme court has confirmed the 10-year sentence handed out to Carlos Hernán Robles Macaya for trafficking in children for adoption. An identical sentence was confirmed for  Rodrigo Johanning Quesada. Both men are lawyers.

Law officers raided a home in La Uruca in September 2003 where they found nine babies. Most were from Guatemala. Robles was identified as the lawyer who was handling the legal aspects of the adoptions. The Sala III usually gets to hear criminal court case when defense lawyers file an appeal.

Still no signs of boy, 8,
who vanished from school

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Agents continue to investigate the family of a boy who disappeared from his school playground, said Ronald Montero, the director of the Judicial Investigation Organization in San Rámon.

Winston Esteban Vargas, 8, disappeared March 14 from Escuela República de Colombia in downtown Naranjo, said a judicial spokeswoman. The boy's teacher noticed he wasn't in class after the morning recess, said Eladio Torres Mesén, director of Fuerza Pública services in Naranjo.

Montero, who is heading the investigation, said Tuesday, that agents have searched the homes of numerous family members but have found nothing. Agents will continue to investigate family members and take calls from anyone who has information, he said. A numbers of tips have come into the judicial offices he said, but so far all of them have turned up negative results.

Initially investigators suspected the parents because they did not live with young Vargas. The Patronato Nacional de la Infancia took custody away from his parents because of some type of problems, said Torres. Vargas was living in a children's home in Naranjo, according to officials.

Montero said investigators still have hope that the child is alive. The entire nation is now aware of the case thanks to the news stories, he added. “There is no time limit,” he said, “we will work until we solve the case.”

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, April 2, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 65

Morgan Buckner, a high school sophomore from Grass Valley, California, with her purchase.
Spanish student and purchase
A.M. Costa Rica/Eise Sonray

Downtown artist is still
pulling in the crowds

By  Elise Sonray

of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Although some downtown entertainers may feel left out now that the usual crowds are infatuated with fiberglass cows, there are still a few artists who draw attention.

Claudio Salas paints mirrors on the Avenida Central pedestrian mall. Tuesday more than a dozen people circled around him to watch him work, not with a paint brush, but by karate chopping and smearing paint onto glass with his hands.

“I paint everything” said Salas. “Beaches, volcanoes, forests, anything.” Salas uses oil paint and latex gloves to work.

Morgan Buckner, a high school sophomore from Grass Valley, California, paid 5,000 colons ($10) for her painted mirror. Ms. Buckner is on a school trip with her Spanish class, she said, and has been traveling around the country to experience the culture. 

Salas said he has been painting all his life and learned it all from his grandfather. “They are 5,000 colons, but if you cry a little I can lower the price,” he said. 
karate chop artist
A.M. Costa Rica/Eise Sonray
Claudio Salas applies his karate chop technique

Ministry reports excess chemicals found on 10 percent of fruits and vegetables
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The agricultural ministry said Tuesday that 10 percent of the fruits and vegetables sold to consumers in 2007 had elevated levels of chemical residue, mostly insecticides. They based this statement on a sampling of the products.

The minister said this was an improvement over the prior year when the percentage of samples showing elevated levels were about 20 percent.

The Ministerio de Agricultura y Ganadería, also said that a new set of standards governing the use and maximum residuals from 5,000 approved agrochemicals soon will be published.

Checking vegetables and fruits is under the control of the ministry's  Servicio Fitosanitario, which has a special department. Since June 2006 agricultural inspectors have
been checking fresh fruits and vegetables in supermarket warehouses, local farmers markets and at the farms.

Javier Flores Galarza, minister, said the samples also include soil and water at the farms. Suspect vegetables and fruits are further analyzed at the ministry's lab.

Products that are sampled include tomatoes, lettuce, sweet peppers, carrots, celery, onions, chayote, potatoes, garlic, cucumber, papaya, among others.

The ministry said the biggest problems were in the use of unauthorized products or applications contrary to the manufacturer's instructions. Sometimes application equipment is miscalibrated, too, the ministry said.

The good practices program of the ministry seeks to alert farmers to the misuse of chemicals and to keep them within permitted maximums.

A report to readers and advertisers
Readership increases during March and suggests greater world interest here

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Readership for this newspaper continues to grow, and statistics suggest that persons in other countries continue to have interest in Costa Rica as a vacation and retirement destination.

According to statistics from the newspaper's server, there were a record number of unique readers, 58,318, during March. Unique readers are those that are counted just once each day. In April 2007, the next highest month, there were 58,049.

The 4.5 million hits in March were a record, too. Hits were 4.6 percent higher than February and 21 percent higher than March 2007 when there were 3.8 million hits. A hit is when the server sends out a Web page, a photo or some other type of file.

The upturn is good news because readership has been relatively flat over the last year, perhaps due to economic problems in the United States. More than 60 percent of the this newspaper's readership is outside Costa Rica.

The newspaper has shown a 34.7 increase in readers in the last three years and a 201.3 percent increase in the numbers of pages reader by visitors each day, according to the March statistics. Newspaper statistics are available HERE!

The increases come at a time when readership of printed newspapers is declining. Some analysts are even talking about the disappearance of printed products in the next 20 years. In part, this is due to the skyrocketing cost of printing and distribution and younger readers who have interests in computers.
Here is how we have grown
in the last three years!

Pages read
March  2008
4,539,092 133,790 1,197,184
March 2005
2,162,418 99,351 397,368
Percent increase
109.9 %

Internet publications have hardly any distribution costs. There is no delay in publishing on the Internet, which is why A.M. Costa Rica can be in 90 countries every morning at 2 a.m. In fact, the newspaper staff has noted a small pocket of readers in Kabul and in Baghdad. These are likely servicemen and women with the armed forces there or diplomatic or international agency personnel.

Another advantage is that Internet publications usually do not spent extra money for color or movement on the pages. There also is instant response via Web page and e-mail links.

The statistics provided by the A.M. Costa Rica server are not under the control of the newspaper. Because the statistical program requesters hits, reader visits and page views, newspaper editors know exactly how many persons viewed a specific page or how many readers visited during a certain period. One problem with printed newspapers is that persons may buy or subscribe to a local paper but they often do not actually read it.

Most printed newspapers are audited by independent agencies to establish accurate circulation figures. But there is no way to tell if subscribers actually are reading the pages.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, April 2, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 65

U.S. drug companies get incentive to invent tropical cures
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

For the past 50 years, the development of new drugs to treat tropical diseases that affect nearly one billion people has languished because it has not been profitable for drug manufacturers in the West. But that could change with a so-called voucher program that will give U.S. drug manufacturers a major financial incentive to develop drugs for illnesses that are rarely seen in developed countries.

Last year, U.S. drug makers were handed what some say could be a huge financial benefit.

The U.S. Congress gave the Food and Drug Administration permission to issue what it calls a voucher to any pharmaceutical company that is granted regulatory approval for a new tropical medicine. The list of eligible diseases includes tuberculosis, malaria, and schistosomiasis along with other illnesses caused by worms and parasites.

The voucher will give a manufacturer expedited consideration of any experimental medicine that the company believes could become what is known in the industry as a "blockbuster" drug. Previous blockbusters include Viagra for erectile dysfunction and Prozac for the treatment of depression.

Timothy Cote is director of the FDA's office that oversees the approval of products for diseases affecting less than 200,000 people in the United States.

"Drug sales for [a] typical blockbuster can extend between $3 billion and $10 billion to $12 billion, that's with a 'b,' billion dollars per year in sales," said Cote. "So, making it faster to review those has a financial value if you have $5 billion in sales and you can speed the review process up by six months, well that's $2.5 billion, which is a lot of money."

The average review process by the FDA takes between 10 and 18 months. Under the voucher program, the U.S. regulatory agency will consider applications seeking approval for blockbuster drugs within six months.

Cote says the expedited review in no way compromises safety.

"It doesn't change the review," he said. "It doesn't guarantee an approval. It only says that we will speed review of some
other drug. Now, this voucher will only be most useful for blockbuster drugs that have large market potential in the future."

Despite such guarantees, Aaron Kesselheim,  a Harvard University Medical School professor, thinks racing to develop drugs for tropical illnesses in order to get a voucher is a bad idea.

Kesselheim points to a just-released study by colleagues at Harvard which found that U.S. regulators, feeling the pressure to approve new drugs in a shorter time frame, approved medications that were five times more likely to be withdrawn from the market for safety reasons.

The researchers also found that more than 4 percent of new drugs that found their way to consumers had to have a stern, black box safety warning added to the packaging.

Kesselheim says the financial lure of a voucher may attract companies with no experience in developing drugs for tropical diseases.

"A company that might be really good at making cardiovascular medications is going to try to get faster reviews to enter the tropical disease development world and might not be as skilled as other manufacturers who might be focused on anti-infective products," said Kesselheim.

James Geraghty is senior vice president of Genzyme Corp., a biotechnology firm that develops new drugs and stands to benefit from the voucher program.

Geraghty says the FDA's program will not compromise the safety standards of the drug manufacturing industry.

"Expedited review does not involve, we don't ever intend it to involve, any lowering of standards," he said. "It's just a prioritization system that provides for prioritization and acceleration of review for important public health reasons, not in any way a reducing of the standards of that review."

Harvard's Kesselheim thinks there are better ways to encourage the development of new drugs for neglected diseases, including front end commitments from developing countries to Western drug makers to purchase large quantities of tropical medicines once they are developed. The voucher program is scheduled to take effect in September.

Colombia's Uribe agrees to let humanitarian mission meet with jungle hostages
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Colombian President Álvaro Uribe says he has agreed to a French request to let an international mission try to meet with hostages held by leftist rebels, including French-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt.

Uribe said Tuesday the humanitarian mission would try to check on the health of the captives who have been in the custody of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia He said that once the military knows the coordinates of any meeting between the rebels and the mission, military operations in the zone will be suspended.

The Colombian leader said the mission would include the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Uribe made his remarks after speaking by phone with his French counterpart, Nicolas Sarkozy. Earlier, the French leader made a televised appeal for the terrorists to free Ms.
Betancourt, who has been held since 2002.

He said Ms. Betancourt, who is said to be ill with hepatitis B and a skin condition caused by insect bites, is in danger of dying.

Ms. Betancourt holds joint French-Colombian citizenship. She is among a group of high-profile hostages whom the terrorists wants to exchange for hundreds of colleagues.

The French foreign ministry says it had been in negotiations for the release of Ms. Betancourt with a terrorist leader, Raul Reyes, who was killed March 1 during a Colombian military attack on a jungle hideout in neighboring Ecuador.

Sarkozy has said he will personally go to Colombia to get Ms. Betancourt if she is released. The terrorists are holding at least 700 people in secret jungle camps for ransom or political leverage. Three Americans are among them.

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San José, Costa Rica Wednesday, April 2, 2007, Vol. 8, No. 65

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Earliest gold artifact in the Americas unearthed in Perú
gold necklace 4,000 years old
Mark Aldenderfer photo
4,000-year-old Jiskairumoko necklace

A.M. Costa Rica
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Old pages

Each day someone complains via e-mail that the newspages are from yesterday or the day before. A.M. Costa Rica staffers check every page and every link when the newspaper is made available at 2 a.m. each weekday.

So the problem is with the browser in each reader's computer. Particularly when the connection with the  server is slow, a computer will look to the latest page in its internal memory and serve up that page.

Readers should refresh the page and, if necessary, dump the cache of their computer, if this problem persists. Readers in Costa Rica have this problem frequently because the local Internet provider has continual problems.


The A.M. Costa Rica search page has a list of all previous editions by date and a space to search for specific words and phrases. The search will return links to archived pages.


A typical edition will consist of a front page and four other newspages. Each of these pages can be reached by links near the top and bottom of the pages.


Five classified pages are updated daily. Employment listings are free, as are listings for accommodations wanted, articles for sale and articles wanted. The tourism page and the real estate sales and real estate rentals are updated daily.

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By the University of Arizona University
Communications staff

A team of scientists led by an archaeologist from The University of Arizona has unearthed what is, to date, the oldest collection gold artifacts found in the Americas.
The finding suggests that even early groups with limited resources recognized the value of status symbols. The research is published in the current issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Mark Aldenderfer, a professor of anthropology, and his team excavated a site in the Peruvian Andes of South America, near Lake Titicaca. The site, Jiskairumoko, is located in a drainage basin where groups of hunters and gatherers were beginning to make the transition to a more settled existence.

Dates for the Archaic period, when Jiskairumoko was inhabited by these people, are as early as 5,400 years ago and ending about 4,000 years ago.

The site Aldenderfer and the others excavated included a burial that contained a necklace made of turquoise and native gold that had been hammered into shape, and may have belonged to someone with an elevated rank in the community.

Carbon-14 dates for Jiskairumoko range from 2155 to 1936 B.C., making the necklace about 4,000 years old, and some 600 years older than the previous earliest known gold artifacts in South America, or anywhere else in the Americas.

Gold metallurgy is almost exclusively associated with societies with the expertise to create agricultural surpluses. Jewelry requires time and skill to create, as well as sufficient capital required to acquire raw materials, a tall order for anyone who survives by subsistence. The surprise of finding gold artifacts at Jiskairumoko is that this site was a simple village.

The artist who created the Jiskairumoko necklace hammered gold until it was flat enough to roll into small cylindrical beads. The nine gold beads were interspaced with several smaller green stones and a turquoise bead in the center.

The materials were not available from the Titicaca Basin, requiring either a trade or a trip of some distance to acquire the gold and turquoise, or the finished necklace.

Evidence from Jiskairumoko supports the hypothesis that the earliest metal industry in the Andes was with native gold. It also offers some insights into ways in which wealthier people in society competed for and acquired power and prestige.

Hacienda Matapalo gets
permit for its main road

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Hacienda Matapalo has received a permit to begin work on the main interior road, which will go from the property frontage all the way up to the 125-acre nature preserve. This road will provide easy access up and down the property without the need for horses, developers said. 

“Our road team is ready to begin work, the equipment is on its way to the property today” said partner Edwin Acosta.

This road can be accessed directly from the Costanera highway  along the Pacific coast, which is being raised, widened and paved. The finished Costanera Highway will reduce the drive from the new international airport proposed for the Sierpe Valley) to the top elevations of Hacienda Matapalo to only about an hour, said developers.

The new Costanera is making significant progress on a daily basis. Nearly all of the bridges from Quepos to Matapalo are being rebuilt or replaced with many of them already completed.  This stretch between Quepos and Dominical connect the Central Pacific Coast with Costa Rica’s Southern Zone and the Osa Peninsula. It had been gravel with frequent outages in bad weather.

The completion of the new Costanera highway coincides with Hacienda Matapalo’s expected delivery of their Phase One condominiums and villas, the developers said. 

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, April 2, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 65

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