Violent demonstrations
March 22, 2000 La Nacion

The police and demonstrators have clashed several times in different areas
around San José, as a result of rallies against a bill that is aimed at the
modernization of the Costa Rican electricity and telecommunications
institution (ICE in Spanish). While those who favor the bill claimed that it is the
only way for ICE to develop according to the current times, those who oppose it claim that it will result in the sale of state assets to the private sector and in higher power and phone bills. Even
though there have been only minor injuries in the clashes between the police
and the demonstrators, traffic in San José has run askew, because of
barricades in many of the main thoroughfares. Also, minor demonstrations
were staged in other towns throughout the country.

Widespread search

The police have launched a widespread search for three young men who
are suspect of participating in the murders of two U. S. coeds -Emily Eagen
and Emily Howell, both 19- in the Caribbean area near Cahuita. FBI agents
arrived here to lend their Tico counterparts a hand in the investigation of the
case. According to official sources, both robbery and rape were not
involved. Also, Miss Eagen's parents, Charles and Shirley, arrived here. In
a brief statement, Mr. Eagen said that they came to learn about the
investigation and to visit the place that their daughter loved so much. "She
had told us how much she loved this country, its people and her friends
here. She told us that this was heaven," Mr. Eagen said.

Archaeological smuggling

At Customs in Juan Santamaría International Airport, agents from the
Judicial Investigative Police (OIJ in Spanish) confiscated 43 archaeological
pieces that a Costa Rican tried to smuggle out of the country. The pieces,
some of which date back 2,000 years, were destined to Europe and the
smuggler had claimed that they were replicas. National Museum experts
said that a price for such materials cannot be quoted, but police sources
estimated it at $1 million. The OIJ are contacting their counterparts in
Europe, in an effort to locate the people the pieces were destined to, as well
as other that might have received previous shipments. The smuggler, 54,
was identified only by his family names, Jiménez Vindas.

Fugitive sent back to the U.S.

William Kalteux was extradited to the U.S., where he was wanted in a New
York court on charges of abuse and homicide. Allegedly, the fugitive killed
his wife. Another U.S. citizen, Raymond David, was arrested here. He is
wanted in Florida for conspiracy to swindle.

Vigilance in Northern Zone

The Minister of Public Security, Rogelio Ramos, announced a vast plan to
improve security in the Northern Zone of Costa Rica, in the areas close to
the border with Nicaragua. The official announced extra efforts to fight
crime, improved migratory controls, and more patrols with new vehicles.
This was the Minister's response to requests for improved security in the
area, from where many Costa Rican farmers have fled because of the
operation of criminal gangs, whose members are mainly former Nicaraguan
guerrillas.

324 pounds of cocaine seized

The police confiscated 149 kilos (324 pounds) of cocaine in Paso Canoas,
at the border with Panama. The drug was hidden in one of the fuel tanks of
a Guatemalan trailer truck, whose driver was arrested.

Joint patrols at full throttle

Just 10 days into the implementation of the U.S.-Costa Rica joint patrols, a
Mexican tuna boat was detained for allegedly polluting the Pacific Ocean,
while 119 other boats were boarded to verify that they were not carrying
drugs. Also, another 100 small boats were decommissioned for not meeting
security standards or because they were engaging in illegal fishing. Costa
Rican authorities stated satisfaction at the first results of the joint patrols,
that are aimed at fighting drug trafficking and other illegal activities in Costa
Rican waters.

Divorce gaining ground

The rate of divorce is fast rising in Costa Rica. In 1999, one in every four
marriages ended in divorce, according to official sources. In just six years,
the number of divorces doubled, while the number of marriages seems to
have halted, an average 23,500 a year from 1995 to 1999.

Two U.S. coeds murdered

On Monday, March 13, a teenager accidentally found the bodies of Emily
Howell, from Lexington, Kentucky, and Emily Eagen, from Ann Arbor,
Michigan, both 19 and students at Antioch College, near Dayton, Ohio. The
finding took place on a roadside near the Caribbean town of Cahuita, in the
Caribbean Coast. The two girls were shot and the car they were driving
was found, burned, more than 100 miles from the site they were found. The
Costa Rican police launched a widespread investigation, particularly to
locate the men the girls were last seen with.
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Model trade agreement with Canada

The eventual Free Trade Agreement Costa Rica is negotiating with Canada
would become a model for the relations between small and large
economies, according to negotiators from both nations. The Costa Rican
Vice Minister of Foreign Trade, Anabel González, said that this trade
agreement is also within the framework of steps the Government of Canada
is taking to assume the continental leadership that the U.S. cannot take
regarding trade negotiations. The latter because the U.S. Government has
failed to get the fast track approval, through which trade agreements signed
would not then be subject to modifications by Congress and the Senate.

Tourism investment is steady

In 1999, private investment in tourism followed the average rhythm of the
last five years and reached some $24 million. Because of this, the Costa
Rican Board of Tourism (ICT in Spanish) expects a similar behavior this
year, thanks to the arrival of new international hotel companies. However,
local businessmen do not share such optimism and, rather, assert that the
investment in tourism has lost momentum in recent years.

Research lags behind

Costa Rica is indebted to science. The investment on scientific studies is not
enough to buy a ticket to the developed world, according to experts. In
1999, the nation invested roughly 0.5 percent of the Gross Domestic
Product to research, according to sources at the Ministry of Science and
Technology. That amount is far below the 2 to 3 percent allotted to that end
by developed countries. University sources claimed that an increase in the
funding of research is a must, if Costa Rica does not want to lag farther
behind on the road to development.

Violence scares Ticos away

The violent events that have become a constant in the northern part of
Costa Rica closest to the Nicaraguan border have made many Costa Rican
farmers flee, in an effort to find a safer environment for their families. Even
though they have to abandon their farms and houses, the Ticos have been
forced to do so because of gangs operating in the area, mainly former
Nicaraguan guerrillas, who, for example, staged 15 robberies and one
murder just last December. The Costa Rican police has launched several
operations, but the criminals have been able to evade them because, as a
Tico officer said, they obviously have military training.

Lower income from bananas

Even though Costa Rica exported more bananas in 1999 than in recent
years, it received less money from its sales abroad. Sector sources said that
this summarizes the crisis the producers are suffering, as a result of lower
prices in the international market and increasing production costs resulting
from irregular weather.

Costa Rica-Nicaragua, OAS promotes dialogue

The Organization of American States (OAS) is promoting new dialogue as
a means to overcome the differences between Costa Rica and Nicaragua
over navigation in the San Juan River by Costa Rican policemen. San José
resorted to the OAS after repeated efforts with Managua to patch the
differences had failed. The Costa Rican Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs,
Walter Niehaus, stated satisfaction at the participation of the OAS, that he
considers a means to achieve a prompt agreement with Nicaragua.

Anti-drug War: Regional police

The idea of establishing a Central American police to fight drug trafficking in
the region is one of the proposals of the Central American Treaty Against
Drug Trafficking, that was discussed here the last week of February, during
the first regional summit against drug trafficking and corruption. At the
meeting, U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense Ana María Salazar urge that
the region's countries join a regional strategy against drugs. The top Israeli
anti-drug official, Shlomo Gal, also attended the summit and offered to
provide Costa Rica with aid to fight drug use. On the other hand, the
Assistant Chief of the U.S. South Command, Alfred Valenzuela, asserted
that the international airport in Liberia, Guanacaste, is not to be used as a
base for anti-drug operations, as had been rumored.

Nicaragua wants debt written off

The President of Nicaragua, Arnoldo Alemán, announced the possibility
that Spain write off the debts of Costa Rica and Guatemala, so that, in turn,
these countries would do likewise with Nicaragua's debts. However, Costa
Rican and Spanish authorities claimed that they did not know whether the
government in Madrid has accepted the proposal. Because Nicaragua owes
Costa Rica $500 million, but Costa Rica owes Spain only $25 million, local
authorities do not consider such a proposal feasible.

In search of key to alcoholism

In the genetic matter lies the key to explain why some people are more
prone than others to fall victim of alcoholism. Researchers know it, but have
failed to identify in which of the 46 chromosomes of each human cell the
alteration takes place. The task is to find it and, even more, to find the
precise site in the gene that would explain the addiction to alcohol. Through
a joint project of the University of Costa Rica and the University of
California in San Francisco, Costa Rican scientists are doing research that is
hoped to result in an improvement on dealing with alcoholism. With
425,000 people who drink excessively -in a population of barely 3.5
million-, Costa Rica is considered an excellent field for the research.