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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Jan. 23, 2004, Vol. 4, No. 16
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The Bruce Harris defamation case
Guatemala should end this judicial joke 
By Jay Brodell
editor of A.M. Costa Rica

To put it delicately, Bruce Harris can be a pain in the neck. The regional director of Casa Alianza believes in strong government presence when people try to raise their kids.

Harris has been active in shining the spotlight on North American pedophiles even though much of the problem here is home grown. Last April he filed a formal complaint when Televisíon Nacional de Chile aired the name and photos of a 9-year-old child who became pregnant in Costa Rica, even though her parents approved. 


An editorial


We may not share all of the goals and ideas that Bruce Harris has, but what is happening to him in Guatemala is a hemispheric disgrace. For years, Harris has been trying to bring some honesty to adoptions in that country. The free-for-all seems mainly to benefit lawyers. 

One of the lawyers, a politically connected individual, is pressing a defamation charge against Harris. Apparently in that country truth is not a defense against defamation. And defamation is criminal.

 

A lot of countries have libel laws, but these usually are civil cases where plaintiffs can win money. Harris faces five years in prison.

There are many technicalities to the Harris case, but the fact is clear that he is being punished for telling what he believed to be the truth and doing so in an official capacity with the government. If that can happen to Harris, a respected international figure, what chance does the average individual have?

Costa Rica (and even some U.S. states) have criminal libel laws. But at least these venues accept truth as a defense.

Costa Rica is a leader in human rights. Harris lives here and his organization works here. The government of Costa Rica should strongly suggest to the government of Guatemala that vestiges of the Inquisition are not appropriate in Central America.

And if Harris is convicted (a good bet), the country should take diplomatic steps to express its anger.

We suspect that Harris will be convicted by the stacked court system. But we also believe that he will be vindicated by the international legal system. Guatemala should avoid this hemispheric embarrassment by terminating this judicial joke.


 
Death toll is three kids and a suicide
Father's rampage puts focus on protection laws
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Another father facing a court no-contact order went wild Thursday. This one shot his pregnant wife, killed three youngsters and killed himself. 

The crime prompted a war of words between the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública and the Poder Judicial, the court system. The ministry said the man should have been in jail. A  spokesperson for the Poder Judicial said the wounded woman never followed through on a complaint in May 2002 and that a no-contact order was issued after an incident Dec. 21.

Of the last 245 domestic violence attacks handled by the Fuerza Pública some 83 involved persons who disobeyed a no-contact order, the ministry said. Several cases were murders like the one Thursday.

Minister Rogelio Ramos, a likely presidential candidate in the next elections, called for an urgent reform of the law to put persons who are domestic violence aggressors in jail.

The killings took place after 11 a.m. Thursday in the low-income area of La Carpio west of San José.

The first on the scene were Fuerza Pública officers Walber Porras Alemán and Leonardo Chavarría who had been told by a taxi driver that a man was threatening a woman several blocks away.

As they arrived, the woman, Marta Alvarado Lacayo, 30, came through the door bearing a wounded child. The woman, who was in intensive care at Hospital México, suffered two 

bullet wounds to the stomach. Officials said she was two months pregnant.

The child, Daniel Alvarado Lacayo, 8,  suffered a wound to the ribs. He survives.

Porras drew pistol fire from the house as he tried to approach. He was not hit but a bullet pierced the sleeve of his uniform, officials said.

The man doing the shooting was Wilbert López Arroñica, 33. At some point he killed Lilliana López Alvarado, 5, and Junion López Alvarado, 3. Manuel López Alvarado, 11, died later in Hospital México. The weapon was a .25-caliber handgun.

Two children, Lisbeth López Alvarado, 7, and Darwin López Alvarado, 9, survived the bloodbath.

The woman filed a complaint in 2002 in the Juzgado de Violencia Doméstica del II Circuito Judicial de San José. But the woman never showed up at a hearing in June 2002 to press her case, said a court spokesperson.

The court spokesperson said that on Dec. 21 the Juzgado de Violencia Doméstica de Turno Extraordinario issued a no-contact order and told López to move out of the La Carpio home. He also was ordered not to approach the members of the family. A hearing had been scheduled Feb. 12 on this complaint.

The Fuerza Pública said it arrested López three times Dec. 21 including at about 6 p.m. that night when he violated the order of protection at the home.

Officers said that he showed up at the home Tuesday but left before police arrived.

Jo Stuart's column can be found BELOW today
 
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New southern airport
promised by Pacheco

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The government announced Thursday that it would construct a new international airport in the southern zone and that the planning for the new airport will begin next week.

The announcement came after a meeting of President Able Pacheco and members of the Junta de Desarrollo Regional de la Zona Sur.

The announcement about the airport was made by Karla González, vice minister of Transportes. She also outlined the work that would be done on the existing airports in the area. These include airports in the communities of Golfito, Palmar Sur, Drake, Laurel, Carate and Puerto Jiménez.

Also at the meeting was Rodrigo Castro, minister of Turismo, and Ricardo Toledo, minister of the Presidencia.

The schedule would call for bids on the new airport sometime in 2005.

"We would hope that at the end of this government we are in an advanced process of construction of this airport, said Minister González. She did not make clear exactly where the new airport would be located.

Land would have to be purchased, and the vice minister said that a group of technicians would travel to the Southern Zone to figure out the location that is best for such a project.

The government plans to spend millions of colons this year to upgrade terminals in the zone and to recover some runways.

The new airport would generate a flow of more tourists to the area, which is considered to be economically depressed. Right now Juan Santamaría International Airport in Alajuela is the principal arrival point for persons going to the south. From there they can travel by smaller planes or by highway.

The Daniel Oduber International Airport in Liberia services mainly the tourist trade for the benefit of the Pacific beach communities in Guanacaste.

Science, technology
prizes are announced

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two microbiologists and a physicist from the Universidad de Costa Rica were honored Thursday with national awards for their work.

Lizabeth Salazar Sánchez and Marieta Flora Diaz took the national science prize with their work on the molecular factors involved in heart attacks and clogged veins. They also did work that was honored on the causal agent of gangrene.

José Alberto Araya Pochet, director of the Centro de Investigación en Ciencia e Ingeriería de Materials, was the technology prize winner. His work was within the area of nanotechnology.

The awards were announced Thursday by the Ministerio de Cultura, Juventud y Deportes. They were among more than a dozen other awards handed out in literature, history and music.

Many communities win
prized ecology award

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Some 56 beaches and nine inland communities received their Bandera Azul Ecológica 2003 Thursday at a ceremony at Casa Presidencial.

President Abel Pacheco also took the opportunity to sign an executive decree that guarantees that the ecology program will continue. He also said he wanted the communities to consider access for the handicapped and encouraged them to set up local regulations and committees to manage the program.

The president also urged them to set up a system for recycling solid wastes and to incorporate in the communities a certification of pure water that is given by the Instituto de Acueductos y Alcantarillados, the water company.

This was the eighth year for the blue flag program which shows that the communities have complied with stringent ecological requirements.

Attachment hoax
may be new virus

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Oh, NO! Not another virus.

A reader reports that she received an e-mail titled ""Billing Notice From racsa.co.cr's Accounting company." The e-mail contained an attachment. The e-mail warns that if the attachment is not opened in 24 hours RACSA, Radiogáfica Costarricense S.A., will discontinue service.

The message obviously contains a computer virus, the reader concluded. She contacted RACSA, the Internet monopoly, but suggested that readers be warned that the promoters of the virus have a list of RACSA subscribers or some other way of getting the e-mail addresses. Similar virus messages may be making the rounds.

Crowd protests change
in president’s policies

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Ecuadorian police say thousands of anti-government protesters took to the streets in two cities Wednesday to show their opposition to President Lucio Gutiérrez. Police say at least five people were arrested after authorities used tear gas to disperse the crowds in Quito and the port city of Guayaquil. At least nine people were said to be injured.

 The demonstrators were protesting the social and economic policies of President Gutiérrez. He was elected in 2002 after helping to lead a coup two years earlier against previous president Jamil Mahuad. 

Opposition leaders say Gutiérrez has turned away from the populist policies for which he was elected.

Web page was on vacation

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The U.S. Embassy reports that its Web page has been out of service for a few days. However, it was back in service by Thursday evening. 

A spokesperson said that the problem was with the computer server that distributes the Web page. The page contains useful information about Costa Rica and policies of the embassy and of the United States.

They’re back in business

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

New Fantasy, a supposed sauna and massage parlor, is open again at its Barrio Amon location. The upscale sex tourism destination was closed up by the Municipalidad de San José Friday because officials said there was more going on than just massages. 

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Life in a Pacific beach town has its pluses, too
Marlene Henderson is the owner of the Hotel Verde Mar in Manuel Antonio and has sent a glowing report of Quepos and the surrounding area in response to our request for information about life outside of San José.

Quepos, she says, is really a farming community with lots of tourism. (It originally was built by United Fruit in the 1930s.) Tourists are attracted to the Manuel Antonio National Park and Beach, which this year was named one of the top 100 beaches in the world. 

Says Marlene, "We have little squirrel monkeys, howlers and white faced monkeys who come to drink in our outdoor shower. We have rivers with whitewater rafting, the jungle is all around us, not to mention the national park and the ocean with all it offers — kayaking, dolphin watching and world class fishing. We have more animals that cross our property than we can even name."

The beach, she says, is uncrowded, even at Christmas (the heavy tourist season for all beaches). "Imagine, instead of going for a nice walk down another city block, you could take a stroll on the beach every evening and watch the sun set over the ocean, unless you felt like taking an evening dip in the 84 degree ocean water or the pool. It’s a bit warm here, but who wants it to be cool at the beach!" 

Thanks to tourism and the large foreign population, "we have a good selection of most things in our beautiful town." (Since I think San Jose is beautiful, I will grant Marlene the same poetic license in describing Quepos.) She goes on, "There are several very big grocery stores with a good selection of American items for those of us who don’t cook arroz con pollo on a regular basis." And if you wish to dine out, there are some wonderful locally owned restaurants, and locals can eat French, 

Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart
jostuart@racsa.co.cr

Italian even American any time they have the urgeand, "our restaurant prices beat most other areas of Costa Rica." 

Quepos even has an Italian ice cream store and an Italian bakery that "has better sandwiches than they do anywhere in Italy." (I am beginning to think that I can quell my desire to spend part of my time in Italy just by visiting Quepos.)

Health care is good there with a new hospital that is reasonably up to date. And as for schools, there is a good selection, including an excellent private school which costs about $1,000 a year. Some dedicated local business people who still oversee it established this private school.

"We don’t always have the luxuries we are used to — but they are coming. We are glad you folks are there in the city so we have access to a bit more, but it sure feels good to get back to our town."

Quepos is located on the southern Pacific coast 145 kms. (about 90 miles) from San José, a four-and-a-half to five-hour bus ride over the mountains. 

It must be said that Marlene’s description of the area, especially the prices, differs from what some guide books say. They seem to find it quite expensive for both lodging and food. But my most recent guide book is several years old and living in a community and visiting it can bring different impressions.


 
Caribbean leaders try to end political crisis in Haiti
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Leaders of the 15-nation Caribbean Community have unveiled a series of proposals they say could end Haiti's political crisis. The leaders say there is a real danger of violence escalating in Haiti. 

Caribbean Community leaders meeting in the Bahamas said Haiti's President Jean-Bertrand Aristide should dismantle armed gangs of his supporters, allow protesters to gather peacefully and work with the opposition to appoint a new prime minister who would organize new elections. At the two-day closed door meeting in the Bahamas the leaders also called on Aristide to release people arrested in anti-government protests and to respect freedom of the press.

No Haitian government representative attended the meeting. Opposition leaders who did said they will not accept any proposals that allow Aristide to stay in power until his term expires in two years.

Opposition lawmakers and a growing coalition of students, business leaders and journalists say Aristide should step down because he has done nothing to alleviate poverty and is allowing members of his government to harass and intimidate government opponents. Aristide and his supporters deny the allegations. 

Jamaica's Prime Minister P.J. Patterson who led the Bahamas talks says he is concerned that opposing positions in Haiti have hardened to the point where the potential for violence and instability is elevated.

Earlier this month U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said he was very disturbed by the situation in Haiti and said he urged both Aristide and the opposition to seriously examine a proposal by Haiti's Catholic bishops to mediate the crisis.

Bahamian Prime Minister Perry Christie is expected to travel to Port-au-Prince soon.


 
Caribbean coastal area in Colombia faces yellow fever threat
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

BOGOTA, Colombia —  Health authorities say the death toll from an epidemic of yellow fever along the country's Caribbean coastline has risen to eight.

Officials have ordered the temporary closure of five national parks in the region in an effort to 

prevent the spread of the mosquito-borne disease. The ban includes a park in the Sierra Nevada Mountains that is popular with foreign hikers.

Last September, leftist rebels from Colombia's National Liberation Army, the ELN, kidnapped eight foreign tourists in the region. One tourist managed to escape shortly after he was captured. The others were eventually freed.


 
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Investigators try to crack local kidnapping gang
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Robbers have been pulling citizens off the streets, holding them and forcing them to divulge their automatic teller codes and other personal financial information.

But investigators usually have found out about the crimes second-hand because few persons file formal criminal complaints.

Early Thursday they had enough to go on because an Escazú woman, who has the last name of Quiros and was snatched Nov.3, had filed a complaint.

Investigators raided three homes in Cuidadela 15 de Setiembre and arrested a man and a woman, the presumed authors of the crime.

Agents said one of the houses that was raided was the one to which robbers took the woman hostage last November. She was kidnapped in broad daylight about 2 p.m. and spent about seven hours as a hostage while criminals made purchases with her credit cards and cleaned out her bank accounts via automatic teller machines. Eventually the robbers took her to a mountaneous part of Alajuelita where they dumped her and ignited a fire to destroy her vehicle nearby.

A spokesman for the Judicial Investigating Organization said the fire was to destroy clues.

Investigators estimate that at least 14 such 

hostage cases happened all over the Central Valley last year, but only three complaints reached the hands of investigators. They believe the persons arrested Thursday were involved in all of them.

Investigators also are seeking information on the murder of a man who was gunned down in a Guadalupe bar in December. A spokesman said that the shooting may have been connected to the string of crimes.

In all, agents and Fuerza Pública officers raided three homes. One was where the arrested man, identified by the last name of Campos, lived. The home of the woman, identified by the last name of Rodríguez, also was raided, as was a third home.

The crime is considered a case of deprivation of liberty instead of a kidnapping. No ransom was sought. This type of crime is a variation of the so-called "express kidnapping" where an individual is grabbed and the criminals settle for whatever amount of money that the person’s family can raise on short notice.

Some cases of deprivation of liberty have been described as heavy handed collection methods, as in the case of U.S. citizen Richard Hinkle, the owner of Brand Fashions at the Real Cariari Mall. 

He was grabbed by masked individuals outside his home at Ribiera de Belén west of town on an October evening. That crime for which arrests were made has been attributed to a financial dispute.


 
Visiting patriarch will give Castro religious honor
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

HAVANA, Cuba — The Patriarch of Constantinople is in Cuba, the first Orthodox Christian leader to visit Latin America. 

On Sunday, Patriarch Bartholomew will consecrate a church, said to be the first church of any faith built in Cuba since Fidel Castro's Communist government came to power 45 years ago. 

President Castro, dressed in his familiar olive-green uniform, greeted the black-robed patriarch upon his arrival from Turkey Wednesday. A group of children sang Greek hymns. 

Organizers of the visit say Patriarch Bartholomew 

will present Castro with the Order of Saint Andrew the Apostle to thank his government for building the cathedral.

The patriarch is regarded as the highest dignitary of the Greek Orthodox Church and is considered to be the successor to Bartholomew the Apostle. Fourteen patriarchs represent some 250 million Orthodox Christians around the world. An estimated 2,000 practicing Orthodox Christians live in Cuba. Many of them are immigrants from countries of the former Soviet Union. 

Cuba's government began to tolerate some religious expression in the early 1990s and allowed a visit by Pope John Paul in 1998. Most of Cuba's Christians follow the teachings of the Catholic church.

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