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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2002, Vol. 2, No. 35
Jo Stuart
About us
A.M. Costa Rica photo
It's off to a better life, perhaps in a small plastic bottle
The sugar cane harvest is upon us, and this load is headed for the collection point in Grecia. If the individual sugar canes have led a good life, they might be reborn as Cacique guaro, the breath-stopping, low-priced alcohol that is favored by day laborers, soccer fans and newspaper editors. The gray smoke you see all over the Central Valley is cane farmers burning the underbrush in advance of harvest to eliminate the clutter.
Immigration cracking down HARD on illegals
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rican immigration agents are cracking down hard on tourists who overstay their visa limit, mainly in Guanacaste.

Two business owners from different parts of the Nicoya Peninsula actually have been deported, in one case after agents hauled a U.S. woman off a San José-bound bus and put her in chains for two days. (see related story)

Those who were deported are what are called "perpetual tourists," that is persons who live here but fail to apply for residency permits.

Ryan Piercy, executive director of the Association of Residents of Costa Rica, said he thinks that immigration controls are getting better.

Others say that immigration checkpoints in the Guanacaste area have proliferated along the route from the Nicaraguan border to San José.  In part, the new agressive behavior by immigration agents might be linked to recent disclosures about massive shipments of drugs and guns through Costa Rica. The international campaign against terrorism might also have sparked what appears to be much tighter security.

Immigration agents last conducted sweeps on the Nicoya Peninsula in September, October and early December. Although they detained a number of foreign residents who did not have their papers in order, no one is known to have been deported.

Piercy said at that time Immigration agents were courteous and advised foreigners who were in the wrong how they could correct their status. Piercy also said that the addition of new computers and programming at Juan Santamaría Airport probably gave immigration agents more evidence and leads on foreigners who flout the residency laws.

The woman who was departed is Patricia Lynn Sultan, who owns a small tourist resort in San Miguel near Playa Coyote. She was held incommunicado in chains for two days, taken from Puntarenas to the Nicaraguan border and then to the airport in San José, said her husband, Faoud Sultan, who remains at the resort while his wife is in Naples, Fla.

Piercy said that his association knows of a businessman in Playas del Coco who also was deported from the country. The man had been 

in the beach community for about 2 1/2 years and crossed every three months into Nicaragua to renew the tourist visa.

Costa Rican officials generally consider persons who leave the country for the legally required 72 hours to renew their tourist visa to be "perpetual tourists," if they do so two or more times without going anywhere else.

Persons deported from Costa Rica cannot return for 10 years. Thatís a big problem when the person owns real estate or a business,  Piercy said.

His organization provides services to foreigners who come to Costa Rica, including contacts with lawyers who can process residency papers if the individual qualifies.

A touring U.S. couple reported Monday that they passed through one checkpoint over the weekend when they were enroute from Guanacaste to San José. They had valid documents but pretended to be sleeping, so immigration agents did not bother them.

Another traveler, a Costa Rican woman, said she experienced a checkpoint just north of Cahuita Sunday about midday. But when the police officer entered the passenger bus and found that only about half of the 35 persons aboard had valid papers, he left.

Immigration scrutiny generally is more intense in Guanacaste because of the great number of illegal immigrants from Nicaragua. 

Piercy said he generally agrees with tight enforcement of immigration rules because in order to obtain legal residency a foreigner must submit to a police records check. "If they enforced residency, they would have less organized crime here," he said, noting that many Colombian gangsters come here and stay despite being illegal.

He said his association was trying to develop a close working relationship with the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería, the immigration service, so he could be alerted to changes in policies and enforcement rules.

A number of U.S. and Canadian citizens have simply stayed in the country when their tourist visas expired. In the past, they could pay a small fine when they exited the country, and that usually took care of the illegality. But the fine has been eliminated, and agents are checking the paperwork more carefully.

Woman's trip to see her mother ended in chains, deportation
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

She was a month over on her tourist visa, but it was the way that immigration agents treated his wife that brings Faoud Sultan to tears.

Agents took her and others from a San José-bound passenger bus, placed her in restraints and did not allow her a single telephone call for two days, according to Sultan. They did not even release her chains for basic hygienic routines, he said.

Then immigration agents took her to the Nicaraguan border, then changed their minds and took her back to Puntarenas where she had been arrested and then on to San José and Juan Santamaría Airport where she was ordered to leave the country.

Mr. and Mrs. Sultan are both U.S. citizens.  She is Patricia Lynn Sultan, 35, and she was on her way by public bus to the airport anyway to be with her ailing 80-year-old mother in Naples, Fla., who was facing heart surgery, said Sultan.

The couple have been in San Miguel on the Pacific coast in the southwest part of the Nicoya Peninsula for three years. They own Casa Sultan Pacifico just 50 meters from the beach, a group of 11 cabinas. Sultan said he has been coming to Costa Rica to fish for 25 years. Their business employs eight Costa Ricans, he said.

Sultan, 45,  said he obtained Costa Rican residency but didnít think that his wife needed to do so. She took advantage of the chance to renew her tourist visa occasionally. She is not fluent in Spanish, he said.

Sultan said he did not seek special treatment because he and his wife are U.S. citizens. He said that immigration agents should "show some kind of respect for human beings," whether the persons involved are Nicaraguan, Chinese or Americans.

He said he did not find out about his wifeís problem until she finally reached Naples. There was no chance for a telephone call, legal consultation or an appeal of the deportation order, which is possible under the law.

"I could hear the tears on the telephone," said Sultan of the time when he finally heard from his wife. He said he was at the point of tears himself.

Since then, the couple have sought help from a lawyer and from the U.S. State Department. Sultan wondered why there had not been a special advisory from the U.S. Embassy when Costa Rica decided to get tough on immigration laws.

Mrs. Sultan is still in Florida, and her mother is recovering. But there is no indication when or even if she will be able to return to Costa Rica and her business.

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Weekend toll grim
all over Costa Rica

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The weekend was a deadly one all over Costa Rica. Traffic accidents led the parade of fatalities, but one young man died after being gored by a bull at a festival, and a woman fatally stabbed a man she said came to rape her 8-year-old daughter.

Traffic mishaps claimed six lives. Three persons drowned, and a taxi driver was held up by bandits and shot, according to the Judicial Investigating Organization. They gave these details:

The young man who died from being gored in the stomach was identified by the last name of Monestel. He died about 5 a.m. Sunday in Puntarenas from wounds suffered Saturday night when he climbed on a bull in Bijagua de Acosta. He originally was treated in Quepos, then moved to Monseñor Sanabria Hospital in Puntarenas.

In Puerto Limón a man named Chavez, 52, entered a dwelling in the center of town about 9 p.m. There he was confronted by the mother of an 8-year-old girl who said the man had raped the daughter Friday. She had a knife. Investigators said that the man entered the dwelling with the intension of abusing the girl again when the mother stabbed him in the neck with a knife.  He died outside the house, and the woman was not detained, police said.

The traffic deaths were these:

--a man named Hernández hit by a vehicle while walking along a road in San Rafael de Alajuela about 12:15 a.m. Sunday. The vehicle fled.

--a man named Arguedas, 33, drove a motocycle into a truck about 12:15 a.m. Sunday in Las Vueltas de la Guácima de Alajuela.

--a man named Carvajal, 51, died when hit Sunday about 2:40 a.m. while crossing a street in Barrio Pilar de Guadalupe.

--a man named Cedero, 42, died about 4:15 a.m. Sunday in Venecia de Matina by a car that fled the scene.

--a man named Arce who died at 3 a.m. Sunday in Hospital México after being taken there late Saturday from San Rafael de Alajuela. He, too, was walking along a road when he was hit by a car that fled the scene.  It could not be determined immediately if this was related to the Hernández death.

--a man named Ruíz, 27, who died about 3 p.m. Sunday when his motocycle left the road in a place known as El Semillero in Sierpe de Osa.

The three people who drowned were:

--a child named Aguero, 7, who died about 4 p.m. Sunday in Pío Santo Domingo de Osa when he was caught by a waterfall and swept to the bottom of a deep spot.

--a man named Jiménez, 45, who died about 2:45 p.m. Sunday while swimming with friends in the Río Santa Fé in Guatuzo de Caño Negro.

--a man named Cambronero, 25, who died about 3:40 p.m. Sunday in the Río Sardinal in Palmitas de Puerto Viejo de Sarapiquí. He, too, was swimming with family members when he disappeared into a deep area.

The taxi driver, named Chacón, suffered a bullet wound of the left leg when two men he had picked up shot him about 12:30 a.m. Monday in Rancho Redondo de Goicoechea.

Meanwhle, police were investigating the discovery of an unidentified man about 30 years old whose body was found in a ditch Sunday about 11 a.m. in Dulce Nombre de Tres Ríos. There were no visible signs of violence, investigators said.

In San José, men with shotguns came into a bakery on Avenida 13 between calles 6 and 8 and took 500,000 colons (some $1,450).

Queen visits Jamaica
to mark her jubilee

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

KINGSTON, Jamaica ó Britain's Queen Elizabeth is expected to address Jamaica's parliament Tuesday, one day after arriving on the Caribbean island on a three-day visit to mark her golden jubilee. 

The British monarch and her husband, Prince Philip, received the red carpet treatment Monday as they arrived in the capital, Kingston, for the jubilee visit. 

A delegation led by her representative on the island, Governor-General Howard Cooke, and Prime Minister P.J. Patterson, were on hand to greet the royal couple at the Kingston airport. 

The queen's visit comes amid a debate over the monarchy's relevance in the former British colony. Although the island gained its independence from Britain in 1962, Elizabeth remains the ceremonial head of state. There is an ongoing debate over whether this should continue.  The queen wraps up her visit to the island on Wednesday.

Peruís high court
upholds sentence

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

LIMA, Peru ó The Supreme Court has upheld a 20-year prison sentence for Lori Berenson, the U.S. citizen convicted of terrorist collaboration with Marxist rebels. 

Presiding Judge Guillermo Cabala made the announcement Monday, confirming the sentence that a civilian court imposed on the 32-year-old New York native last June. 

The latest ruling exhausts all avenues of appeal in Peru for Berenson, who was arrested in 1995 following a failed bid by the rebel Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement to take over Peru's Congress. 

Berenson was charged with being a member of the group known as the MRTA, then convicted by a hooded military tribunal in 1996 and sentenced to life in prison. That sentence was overturned in August 2000 and a new trial ordered. 

In a civilian retrial last June, she was acquitted of being an active member of the group, but convicted of helping the rebels plot the attack on the Congress. 

Berenson has maintained her innocence and condemned the Supreme Court's decision. Reports say Berenson's parents have begun a campaign to pressure Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo to grant her a pardon. 

Last June, President Bush urged then President-elect Toledo to consider humanitarian concerns in the Berenson case. Bush is scheduled to visit Peru next month for an official visit.

Don't miss Patricia Martin's 
twin reports on Playa Flamingo

Click HERE

Head of Ochoa family
dies in Colombia

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

BOGOTA, Colombia ó The patriarch of one of Colombia's most infamous drug trafficking families has died at the age of 78. 

Family members say Fabio Ochoa Restrepo died Monday at his ranch in the Medellin area following complications from a kidney ailment. They also say he had been in ill health for several years. 

Ochoa's sons were major players in the now-defunct Medellin cocaine cartel, whose reputed leader, Pablo Escobar, was killed in a shootout with Colombian police in 1993. 

Ochoa himself was never accused of drug trafficking but always defended his family's reputation. One of Ochoa's sons, Fabio Ochoa Vasquez, is in jail in the United States on drug trafficking charges. 

Last September, Fabio Ochoa Vasquez was extradited to Miami, Fla., to face trial for allegedly smuggling billions of dollars' worth of cocaine into the United States. 

In the early 1990s, the younger Ochoa surrendered to Colombian authorities and served more than five years in prison on the condition he would not be extradited. He was again arrested in Colombia in 1999 after U.S. officials said he resumed drug trafficking. Fabio Ochoa Vasquez has denied the charges.

New military leader
out against Chavez

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

CARACAS, Venezuela ó A high-ranking Venezuelan military officer is demanding President Hugo Chavez resign. 

At a news conference here Monday, Rear Admiral Carlos Molina Tamayo called the president unpatriotic and urged Venezuelans to demand, what he called, a genuine democracy. 

The comments mark the second time in two weeks military officials have publicly opposed the president. Earlier this month, Air Force Col. Pedro Soto and National Guard Capt. Pedro Flores called for Chavez to step down, sparking protests in the streets of Caracas against the president and a flight of foreign capital from the country. 

President Chavez dismissed the earlier comments, saying his country was not facing a military rebellion.  Rear Admiral Molina Tamayo accuses Chavez of installing an extreme leftist regime, and condemns the government's links with Colombia's Marxist rebels. 

Powell denies plan
to attack Iraq soon

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

TOKYO, Japan ó U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell has sought to reassure U.S. allies that new military action is not imminent against Iran, Iraq, or North Korea, countries President Bush has designated an "axis of evil". 

At a news conference with President Bush and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi in Tokyo Monday, Powell said, "we will share our ideas and visions, but U.S. allies need not fear 'a state of war tomorrow.'" 

A number of European Union, Russian and Asian leaders have expressed concern that unilateral U.S. military action against Iraq could splinter the international anti-terror coalition.

On the other side of the Pacific Ocean, in California, Vice President Dick Cheney again defended the president's controversial "axis of evil" designation. 

Speaking to U.S. Marines at Miramar Air Station, Cheney said those countries are well known for seeking weapons of mass destruction and providing sanctuary to terrorist organizations.

Cheney said the president's remarks had caused "a certain amount of hand-wringing in some quarters, but most Americans find it reassuring to have a commander-in-chief who tells the truth and means exactly what he says".

Meanwhile, President Bush has expressed support for Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's economic reform plan and thanked Japan for its support in the war against terrorism.

At the joint news conference following talks in Tokyo Monday, Bush said he is confident in Koizumi's strategy to reform Japan's ailing economy and in his ability to implement that strategy.

Japan has been plagued by a shaky banking system and deflation that has crippled its economy since the 1990s. Mr. Koizumi said his financial reform plan has resulted in steady progress, and he pledged to stick to that plan.

Howard K. Smith,
radio figure, dies

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

WASHINGTON, D.C. ó Broadcasting news pioneer Howard K. Smith, 87,  has died of pneumonia, aggravated by congestive heart disease. 

The family says Smith died Friday night at his home in suburban Washington. Smith joined CBS News as a member of the news team brought together by the legendary Edward R. Murrow during World War II. In 1946, he succeeded Murrow as CBS's London correspondent. 

He reported on Europe and the Middle East until 1957, when he came to Washington as a correspondent and commentator for the CBS network's nightly television newscast. Smith joined ABC News in the 1960s and covered the Cuban Missile Crisis. By 1969, he became co-anchor of The ABC Evening News. 

In 1960, Smith served as the moderator of the first Kennedy-Nixon presidential debate. 

He also wrote several books, including the 1942 bestseller "Last Train from Berlin," which describes Hitler's rise to power and his own reflections as the last American correspondent to leave Berlin after war was declared. 

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