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These stories were published Wednesday, March 19, 2003, in Vol. 3, No. 55
Jo Stuart
About us
A.M. Costa Rica photos/Saray Ramírez Vindas
Unhappy taxi drivers fill up a highway near Casa Presidencial in Zapote with their parked vehicles after a slow procession from La Sabana.
Taxi drivers block roads but don't see minister
By Saray Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Some 2,000 taxi drivers and about 850 vehicles came to Casa Presidencial Tuesday to protest the existence of unlicensed "pirate" cabs.

The drivers were not completely happy with an accord signed the day before by 44 taxi syndicates. One leader of the drivers, Luis Campo, mimicked president Abel Pacheco when he pulled a red card from his pocket to criticize one of the persons who had signed the accord.

The red card is used in soccer football, and Pacheco has used the same action to comment on government actions. But the president was in Honduras Tuesday and not around to see Campo.

The Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transporte estimated that some 9,000 pirate taxi drivers ply their trade from time to time in the country. Only 100 transit policemen work in San José, and they have other duties, said a printed release.

The minister, Javier Chávez, did not show up to meet with the drivers. In fact, the drivers found the roads blocked when they first arrived at Casa Presidencial after a slow caravan from La Sabana. They never did get into the grounds.

The transit police also estimated the number of 

Taxi drivers are on the outside looking in at Casa Presidencial, but they won some concessions.

taxis at 150, far less than a number reached in a count by a reporter.

Rather than special measures to eliminate pirate cabs, the ministry basically says that existing rules are sufficient to curb the problem. However, officials did say they would ask the courts to change the procedures so complaints could be filed easier against pirate cabs.

The complaints against pirates is a sign of the growing financial stress on taxi drivers, who now are paying more for fuel. Some have even taken to adjusting their taxi meters so they run more rapidly. The rate is controlled by law, and that is controversial, too.

A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas
Dark clouds, a sun headed to the horizon and generally clear sky overhead created this sight Tuesday night.
Gender office
to watch judiciary

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Poder Judicial has created a gender office, the Secretaría Técnica de Género.

The existence of the office was made known in a press release Tuesday, but the office was established in February, the release said. In charge is Milagro Rojas, a lawyer who specialized in gender studies in the Universidad Rafael Landivar of Guatemala. 

She will be monitoring and evaluating the activities of this branch of government, which includes the courts and the Judicial Investigating Organization.

The office is being paid for by money obtained from the InterAmerican Development Bank which provided the funding for the modernization of the Poder Judicial, the judicial branch of the government.

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Thousands sign in support of Nigerian woman
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Esmeralda Britton, the Costa Rican woman’s affairs minister, Tuesday left for Mexico accompanied by a pile of signatures of Costa Ricans who voted with their pens against the death-by-stoning sentence of Amina Lawal, the Nigerian woman who had a child out of wedlock.

A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas
Stacks of petition books are on display at the Consejo de Gobierno meeting Tuesday
Minister Britton left on a diplomatic mission, at the behest of Roberto Tovar, Costa Rican foreign minister, to meet Adenike Ebun Oyagbola, Nigerian ambassador to Mexico. Ambassador Oyagbola is also the Nigerian ambassador to Costa Rica.

Before leaving for Mexico, Minister Britton and Tovar outlined Tuesday the national solidarity in Costa Rica that exists towards Ms. Lawal’s predicament. The ministers ask the Nigerian government to pardon the life of Ms. Lawal. 

Tovar said the country has shown huge support that affirms Costa Rica’s stance to the right of life. He highlighted “the profound humanitarian sentiments and solidarity of the Costa Rican population.” 

Nearly 100,000 Costa Ricans have signed the books supporting the Nigerian woman’s right to life. The books were in various locations, including in ministries, universities, community organizations, municipalities and the Inter-American Human Rights Institute. 

There are still more signing books in circulation and will continue to be available for signing, said a release from the Foreign Ministry.

The initiative to collect signatures promoting the right to life of Ms. Lawal began after Minister Britton pointed out Feb. 25 the woman was to be stoned to death at the beginning of 2004, according to the Nigerian Court of Sharia Law.

Ms. Lawal was already divorced when she had her child. Her appeal to overturn her sentence will be heard Tuesday in a Nigerian court.

Tovar said that the offer made by Abel Pacheco, Costa Rican president, to welcome Ms. Lawal and her children into Costa Rica for their protection is still open.

Big tourism boost
seen by minister

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica is looking to Europe to boost tourism numbers, and Rubén Pacheco, minister of Turismo, said Tuesday that he expected 400,000 more tourists by 2004.

He listed a deal made with the Spanish airline Iberia that will increase by six the number of flights that arrive in the country from Spain by way of Miami. This will begin at the start of May.

In addition, Cóndor of Germany will begin direct flights Nov. 2, and British West Indias Airway will begin flying to Costa Rica April 10.

Later in the day there was some negative news. United Airlines, which flies to Costa Rica, said that the firm would declare bankruptcy and go out of business if the impact from the Iraq war was severe. The firm has said it is in delicate financial shape.

Costa Rican may be experiencing the worst tourism season  in recent years, and actual tourism seem to be much less than the 5 percent increase government officials were expecting.  The world economic situation and threats of war are two main reasons.

Pacheco has said the country would look to South American nations as an untapped source of tourists.

Easter vacation 
will be all week

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Public employees in Costa Rica will get all of Holy Week off instead of just the Thursday and the Friday. The government wants to save money, and by making workers take vacation time, officials will not have to pay for unused vacation. Plus there will be savings on utilities.

Ovidio Pacheco, minister of Trabajo, said Tuesday that there is low demand for government services them.

Costa Ricans traditionally go to the beaches or mountains during Holy Week. Many businesses close, too.

United States ratifies
biodiversity agreement

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The United States has announced its ratification of an international agreement that paves the way for greater coordination and protection of marine biodiversity in the Wider Caribbean region.

According to a State Department release, the United States Monday deposited its instrument of ratification of the Protocol Concerning Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife. The protocol, adopted in 1990 under the framework of the Cartagena Convention for the Protection and Development of the Marine Environment in the Wider Caribbean Region, will enter into force for the United States 30 days after the date of deposit.

The protocol is one of three agreements under the framework convention — the other two dealing with cooperation to combat oil spills and land-based sources of marine pollution. According to the State Department, the convention and its protocols constitute legal mechanisms that enable the 28 countries of the region to protect, develop and manage their common coastal and marine resources individually and jointly in the Caribbean.

Americas warned: Stay
alert to pneumonia strain

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The nations of the Western Hemisphere should stay alert to an unusual form of pneumonia, caused by a yet-unidentified virus or bacteria resistant to existing drugs, says the Pan American Health Organization.

The organization Monday said 150 cases of the atypical pneumonia of unknown origin have been reported since Feb. 26, and the disease is spreading rapidly through Asian nations. Nine cases, in nine countries, have been fatal. 

In the Americas, six probable cases have been reported in Canada, all occurring in members of a family that had traveled to Hong Kong in February. China and Vietnam report the most cases of the pneumonia. 

The World Health Organization is making travelers, airlines, and crews aware of the symptoms, but has not issued a recommendation to avoid travel.

The disease, known as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, is spread from person to person but only through close contact. The organization said there is no evidence to date that the disease spreads through casual contact.

David Brandling-Bennett, the organization’s deputy director, said his organization has asked its member countries in the Americas to be on the lookout for any cases of the rare pneumonia.

"We have to strengthen our epidemiological surveillance, maintain flow of the information, and request our countries to be on alert and immediately report any suspected case," he said.

The main symptoms and signs of the syndrome include high fever, cough, and shortness of breath or breathing difficulties. A proportion of patients develop severe pneumonia and some patients have needed ventilator support.

Journalist killed
in Colombia

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

BOGOTÁ, Colombia — Authorities here say a journalist has been slain outside a local radio station. 

Police say Luis Eduardo Alfonso Parada was gunned down in the pre-dawn hours Tuesday as he went to work at the Meridiano 70 radio station in the northeastern Arauca province. 

Parada, who also worked for the leading El Tiempo newspaper, is the second employee at Meridiano 70 to be slain since June, when station manager Efrain Varela was killed by suspected paramilitaries. 

Reports say witnesses saw two men fleeing the scene on motorcycles. International news sources say police have a description of the killers. 

Arauca province is one of the country's most violent areas, as rebels and rightist paramilitaries battle for control of the region. 

Press groups have described Colombia as one of the world's most dangerous places for journalists, as many have been threatened or slain amid the country's 39-year civil war.

Brazil scans damage
to northern Amazon

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

BRASILIA, Brazil — The environmental minister here has flown over the country's northern Amazon jungle region to assess damage done by nearly 700 wildfires burning out of control in the area. 

Marina Silva and other officials flew over the Roraima state near the border with Venezuela and Guyana Monday. 

The forest fires burning out of control in the region have entered the Yanomami Indian reservation — home to one of the world's last hunter-gatherer tribes. 

Officials say the fires have been fueled by unusually dry weather caused by the El Nino weather phenomenon. They also say the trouble began when fires started by farmers to clear land began raging out of control. 

Authorities fear a repeat of wildfires that erupted in the same part of the Amazon in 1998. The area is home to one third of the world's plant and animal life.

Artists to gather at 
Poás Volcano

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Artists from all over the country will be at the foot of the Poás Volcano Saturday for a contest sponsored by the Dirección General de Cultura, the Oficina de la Primera Dama and Banco Popular. The location is San Pedro de Poás.

An estimated 145 painters will have four and a half hours to do their best and then submit their work to judging. If they do not win they have 10 more such contests coming up from now until Sept. 20.

The top prize is 300,000 colons, some $775.

San José, the patron,
is celebrated today

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Today is the Dia de San José, a religious feast day in honor of the patron of the capital city. A concert with five bands is planned for the Plaza de la Cultura in the center of the downtown.

Motor accident
claims 2 lives

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A youth and a young adult were killed Monday night in a motor vehicle accident in Alajuela.

A 17-year-old girl, identified by the surname Picado, and a 21-year-old male, identified by the surname Salas, died around 200 meters north of the Coyol de Alajuela Bridge, as a result of what officers call “an apparent false anticipation,” which lead to a collision of automobiles.

According to the officials, there was a collision between two vehicles, a Toyota and a Hyundai Excel. Another person was injured in the accident, identified by the surname Zamora, who was the driver of the Toyota.

A male identified by the surname Arias drove the other car — the Hyundai — which was carrying the two who were killed.  The Judicial Investigating Organization is conducting an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the accident.

Two youths killed near 
Casa Alianza in Honduras

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two teenagers were killed outside a Casa Alianza building in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, Tuesday morning, according to Bruce Harris, the San José-based regional director for the child advocacy group.

Arturo Carrasco, 17, died in the street and Jorge Perdomo, also 17, was taken to hospital where he underwent surgery, said Harris in a release Tuesday. The pair were former street children whom the child advocacy group once worked with.

“Arturo’s is another name in the interminable list of murdered children in Honduras,” said Harris in the release, while Perdomo was in hospital, still alive.

Harris said according to witnesses, the boys came running across a bridge towards Tegucigalpa, pursued by at least two armed youth or adult males. The two teenagers were shot as they were running, he said.

“The aggressors escaped and are considered to be members of a gang that operates in the zone,” said Harris.

A large proportion of the children who are killed in Honduras never receive justice, said Harris. The killers, he said, often are never found.

Casa Alianza is appealing for people to contact the Honduran authorities to ask that the killings of street children be stopped and that this particular case be investigated.

Ramon Custodio, the human rights ombudsman in Honduras, did not respond to questions put to him by press time regarding the two youths' deaths.

Through his work championing the rights of children, Harris is himself no stranger to trouble. He is currently awaiting trial in Guatemala for defamation. A lawyer there brought the case against Harris to court after comments he made about her in a conference focusing on international adoptions.

Mexico, Argentina says
no to war in Iraq

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Mexico and Argentina say they cannot support a war against Iraq. 

President Vicente Fox told his nation Monday evening that Mexico shares the values and goals of the United States, Britain and Spain, but not the timing or process for action against Iraq.

Mexico was one of the undecided non-permanent Security Council members that declined to support the U.S.-backed resolution setting the stage for war. 

Fox said the U.N. charter states that force should be a "last and exceptional recourse" that is justified only when other measures have failed. 

Argentina says while it does not support military action against Iraq, it remains firmly critical of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. 

Carlos Ruckauf, Argentine foreign minister, said in New York Monday that Britain had contacted Argentina about the matter but that his government's response was "no." Ruckauf told Argentina's Telam news agency that military action is not the way to disarmament.
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Protestors ready to march soon after war starts
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Opponents of the war with Iraq have a full schedule of activities, but the timing depends on when the war starts.

A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas
Tovar stops short
of condemning war

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

"Costa Rica is in favor of peace, doesn’t want war and has not lost the hope that there will be peace, said Roberto Tovar Faja, the foreign minister.

He spoke to reporters after the weekly council of government meeting at Casa Presidencial. However, Tovar stopped short of speaking against the war with Iraq.

"If Iraq had complied with all the resolutions of the United Nations we would not be in the moment that we are living today," he added.

The protestors plan to march from the Channel 7 television building in La Sabana to the U.S. Embassy in Pavas on the night after war starts.

A gathering Tuesday night did not materialize because the war did not either. Organizers said they would be on hand at the television station at 5 p.m. today if the war begins before then.

President George Bush gave Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein 48 hours to leave his country. That was Monday night. So a likely time for hostilities to start is around 7 o’clock tonight.

The march would include candles, flags and white handkerchiefs.

Thursday organizers expect to march from the University of Costa Rica to deliver signed petitions against the war to Casa Presidencial in Zapote. Among the groups are the Centro de Amigos para la Paz and representatives of the Campaña por la Paz.

Many of the protestors are University of Costa Rica students, and the university has urged them to participate. Rector Gabriel Macaya pointed out in an e-mail message that the Consejo Universitario Feb. 25 passed a resolution encouraging students to protest against the war.

The students were encouraged to join with national and international protests and to raise their voices in defense of the right to live in peace and harmony with nature.

After delivering the signed petitions Thursday, protestors plan to march to the Plaza de la Democracia where a concert for peace is planed to start there at 3 p.m. That concert will last until at least 10, organizers said.

On the same day they march to the U.S. Embassy, protestors plan to gather later at the official residence of U.S. Ambassador John Danilovich in Escazú for a peace vigil.

A rally also is planned for Saturday in Parque Central, but details have not been released. However, the time is set for from 2  to 6 p.m., although all depends on when the war starts.

Responses to our editorial supporting Bush BELOW!

Our reward offer is still $500

Louis Milanes

Luis Enrique Villalobos Camacho
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

This newspaper seeks the prompt return of two men who ran high-interest investment operations that have gone out of business.

Luis Enrique Villalobos Camacho, 62, was associated with Ofinter S.A., a money exchange house, and with his own private investment business that had about $1 billion in other people’s money on the books.

Villalobos closed his business Oct. 14 and vanished.

Louis Milanes operated Savings Unlimited and several casinos in San José. He left the country with other members of his firm the weekend of Nov. 23. He may have as much as $260 million in his possession. Both operations catered to North Americans.

Villalobos had about 6,300 customers. Milanes had about 2,400.

Villalobos and Milanes are the subjects of international arrest warrants.  Associates of both men have been jailed.

A.M. Costa Rica has posted a $500 reward for information leading to the detention of either man with the hopes that others will make similar pledges. The newspaper believes that investors only will see some of their money when the two men are in custody.

Milanes has few supporters in San José. On the other hand, as the letters frequently on this page show, Villalobos still has supporters who believe that he will reappear and settle his debts. They believe he is in hiding because of a predatory Costa Rican government.

An invitation to enter our photo contest
The first A.M. Costa Rica photo contest welcomes your submissions and will award a prize of $100 in each of five categories.

The deadline for submission is April 15. The contest was announced in November.

Five categories have been established:

1. DEADLINE NEWS: A news photo that shows a breaking news event, such as, but not only, crime, accidents, fires, arrests.

2. SCENIC: Landscape scenes which may or may not include people as a secondary emphasis.

3. WILDLIFE: Photos that have as their principal subject one or more animals, plants or insects. 

4. SPORTS: A photo related to one of the major or minor sports, team or individual.

5. PEOPLE:  A photo that has as its principal emphasis one or more persons, including individual portraits. 

Deadline is April 15

BASIC RULES: The photo must be taken by the person who submits it, and he or she, as a condition of submission, agrees to give A.M. Costa Rica the right to publish the photo in A.M. Costa Rica. Upon publication, the photo will be covered by A.M. Costa Rica’s copyright, which the newspaper will happily assign back to the contestant upon request. As a condition of submission, the contestant affirms that he or she owns full rights to the photo and that it has never before been published in any professional medium.

The photo must have been taken within the borders or territorial waters of Costa Rica between Nov. 15 and the contest deadline. 

Only one entry per photographer is allowed in each category. Judges reserve the right to place the photo in another category during the selection process.
Employees, shareholders or interns with A.M. Costa Rica may not enter the contest. 

This is an open competition. No distinction will be made between professional and amateur photographers.

A.M. Costa Rica, at its option, will publish photos and information including the name of the photographer, as submissions are made.

The management of A.M. Costa Rica and judges are the final authority on contest rules and submissions.

TECHNICALITIES: The photos must be sent digitally via e-mail to 

editor@amcostarica.com, and the subject line must specify "photo contest." Within the body of the e-mail, the contestant must specify into which category the photo is submitted. The photo should be between 4 and 8 inches in width and contain no less than 72 pixels per inch of density. Each photo should not be larger than 200 k.

The e-mail message must clearly state the name and the circumstances surrounding the taking of the photo and the date the photo was taken. 

The photo should be in jpeg format and sent as an attachment with the file name as the number of the category in which it is being submitted followed by the name of the photographer.

For example, the file name of a photo in the sports category taken by Mr. Jones would be 4jones.jpeg or 4jones.jpg

PRIZES:  A first place winner will be named in each category, and the prize will be $100 paid via Pay Pal, the electronic fund-transfer system.

Letters on our editorial supporting Bush

He calls editorial ‘honest’

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

You are correct in your commentary, and I commend you on your trust and honesty for stating it so accurately.

I read A.M. Costa Rica every day since I found your web site about six months ago.

I am a Gringo who has lived in Alajuela for three years, commuting back-and-forth to South Florida while maintaining businesses in both locations. I left Costa Rica three days before 9-11 and due to circumstances that evolved from that event, I have not yet been able to return as of yet.

I still have a business and web site based from Costa Rica. 

I look forward to returning in the near future to visit friends and business associates, and to continue my association with a country that has become part of my life.

Again, thank you for your honest commentary. It is time to stand up for what's right, our leaders and our troops in the field.

Frank Pomeranz 
Florida U.S.A.
This reader is disappointed

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I am very disappointed in your editorial concerning the War. 

You left out too much. For example : What happened to the coverage of the Corp. fraud? Could the trail of this corp. crime be leading directly to the door of the White House? How about the fact that nearly half the people in the U.S. have no health care and good jobs are disappearing so quickly that the opportunities for young people are nearly non-existent. Homelessness is at an all time high and the schools are a joke. This war is a diversion from that. As usual the American people and the people in the world are being lied to and misled. This resident in the White House represents only Corp. interests and big oil money. The War is to secure oil. Simply that. 

Not to say Saddam is a nice guy. Far from it, but who created that monster? Could it have been the U.S. that provided him with WMD? 

The real Hitler figure here is G.W. Shrub. Violence only breeds more violence. An eye for and eye till the whole world is blind. 

This is not a just war in any man's estimation. It will kill even more innocents and create more hatred toward the U.S. and make us all targets. 

We have alienated friends that diplomacy has worked for half a century to secure. 

The only good I see coming out of this War is to show the U.S. as the rogue nation it has become. 

I have enjoyed your newsletter and will probably continue to read it, but I am sorely disappointed in your stand. Have you caved in out of fear of that mass murderer in Washington? 

Suzanne Smith
Pérez Zeledón
We are hypnotized 
by Bush

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

It seems you and some of your readers have fallen under the hypnotic spell of the "selected" president of the United States and the incantations of the war-mongering zealots.

Let's look at some more factual information, not the fantasy.

- Hussein is an evil, maniacal, corrupt, power hungry, repressive dictator. Not quite at the Hitler level, but he probably aspires to that, I doubt few think otherwise. This is an important point, because too many narrow-minded people, those who dares speak against the oil barons' misguided rush to war, are some kind of Hussein-kissing peace nuts (what is wrong with them, not wanting American and Iraqis to be killed). Almost everyone wants to see Hussein removed from power or neutralized in some way, the difference is only in the method.

- There appears to be no real link between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda, at least none that even the Bush/Cheney controlled CIA can find. In fact, Bin Laden probably hates Hussein and his ilk, because, however wrong his logic may be, Bin Laden sees himself as a "true believer" and fighting a holy war against the infidels. To Bin Laden, Hussein is an opportunist and capitalist who would only mention Allah if it was to his advantage. Iraq has been a secular, western society during Hussein's rule. He did our dirty work against the Iranian in the 1980's because the Iranians were seen as a terror threat to the United States. He has always been willing to sell to or work for the highest bidder.

- What is taking place in Iraq now (weapons development, etc.) has been going on for years with absolutely no oversight by the rest of the world. We know have (had) inspectors back in Iraq who were making some, albeit slow, progress. Hussein's programs have certainly been much more controlled now than they have been for years.

- Iraq is a sovereign country that has not been shown to be an "immediate" threat to the United States or its citizens at this point. That is, other than the 300,000 American troops our administration has put in harms way. Yet, other countries (e.g. North Korea) that probably pose a more urgent threat are ignored. During the first Gulf conflict, Hussein "crossed the line" by invading another country. There are many people who supported that war, but do not support this one.

So why is there this sudden rush to war? Iraq poses no imminent threat to the U.S. or the rest of the world, especially now with a few hundred thousand troops surrounding and occupying the country. Therefore, the "threat" angle doesn't really fly. Is it because Georges Jr. has always felt that it is our place to be the purveyors of democracy throughout the world, even at the cost of American lives? 

If the president feels that way, you would never know it from his campaigning and his first year in office when he did nothing but rail against the Clinton administration's "nation-building" and getting involved in other countries' problems. Is it to control the spread of weapons of mass destruction? Again, many countries have these weapons and we don't seem to be bothered; and I'm not sure if starting a war and creating anarchy in a country of warring factions is a way to contain these weapons.

So, what is the reason for the rush? Actually, pick any one of these reasons for starting a war, George already has used and discarded, at various times, each of them. Well, then there must be something else we aren't seeing; reader Dave Shade says emphatically it's NOT about oil, that is right after he points out that Hussein's goal is to control all the oil in the region - hmmm?

No one believes that just having candlelight vigils, protests, and rallies can solve the problems of the world and avoid war (although it worked pretty well for Gandhi). Those opposed to the war simply think that other methods, no matter how arduous and time consuming they may be, can work. However, the Bush administration has never seemed interested in anything but war, they change their mind daily on whether or not to get United Nations approval and act like they can do whatever they want. The attitude smacks of 19th century British colonialism.

This administration has us on a collision course that severs our links with allies we need to fight terrorism and merely fuels Al Qaeda recruitment. It will also pile costs on American taxpayers just as budget deficits are forcing cuts in education and homeland security. A U.S. war threatens the lives of thousands of Iraqi civilians in a country where half the people are under the age of 15. With tough inspections, we can disarm Saddam without the loss of a single life.

James Wolf 
Orlando, Florida, USA


Bush has thin claim 
to legitimacy

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

For the first time in History The United States is rushing towards a preemptive strike against a sovereign nation under the auspices of a clear and present danger to the U.S.. This fact is made all the more extraordinary by the fact that the president who is leading us to this has but the thinnest claims of legitimacy as a president. 

My fear, and the fear of many around the world is that a Pandoras box is about to be opened that the world leadership and most certainly Mr. Bush has little capacity to close once opened. The implication for world petroleum prices, terrorism and stability in a region that has been on the brink of explosion for years is clear. 

It is remarkable and disturbing that a man whos only qualification for leadership seems to be his family name and the vast amount of financial and political resources that name was able to buy or coerce, has since September 11th been able to literally change the face of U.S. politics, and to almost single-handedly supervise the destruction of the American economy, the Middle East Peace process, create deficits that will impact the U.S. and potentially world economies for years to come, and lead the U.S. to the brink of a war that while possibly justified, is condemned by most of the worlds other powers.

As an American, I am concerned that since September 11th, a day when worldwide people identified with and supported the United States, Mr. Bush has managed to destroy the sense of goodwill and support that people around the world expressed that day, and create instead a sense of resentment not seen since the days of Vietnam. 

Mr. Bush has done what many thought impossible He has out-cowboyed Ronald Reagan, the last American president whose projection of power and seeming arrogance offended much of the world. Unfortunately Mr. Bush has neither the political charisma, nor the capacity of Ronald Reagan. 

Whereas Reagan was a man with a clear agenda and the capacity to execute it, Bush is a man who seems more focused on rhetoric than substance. Bushs ignorance of geopolitics and at times even the English language has evolved from the subject of late night humor, to become something of worldwide concern, as the world has woke up to discover that indeed The Emperor has no clothes. 

His single-minded focus on Iraq at a time when millions of Americans are out of work, and when the very REAL threat of domestic terrorism looms is compelling enough, but when you combine it with the saber rattling in North Korea and seemingly monthly press releases by Osama Bin Laden, the entire affair takes on a surreal quality that is hard for any rational person to understand. 

In less than three years, the United States has went from a country leading the world into a new century of technological achievement and enlightenment, to one whose economy is broken and spinning out of control, whose leader is laughed at or hated in capitals around the world, and one that is slowly watching its great democratic traditions being eroded by new laws and interpretations of laws that allegedly protect, us while in truth they slowly rob us of the freedoms and due process that made us the envy of the democratic world. 

There is no argument that Saddam Hussein is an evil man, but the world is full of evil men. The United States has a spotty record at best in playing policeman to the world, less so when it is clear that the rest of the world does not support fully such actions. 

George Bush during his campaign for President liked to tout the fact that he would run the country like a CEO. Well I learned a long time ago that a good CEO sets priorities. A good CEO does not set about major acquisitions and mergers when the question of his own companies health is in doubt. A good CEO knows how to prioritize. 

From this CEOs point of view Mr. Bush has many lessons to learn about prioritization. Turning world opinion against the United States at a time when we need our allies more than ever is not wise. Fighting a war on multiple fronts while the very heartland of the United States remains exposed is not wise. Granting massive tax cuts at a time when the U.S. has a growing deficit is not wise. Ignoring the threat of one enemy who openly proclaims his possession of the very weapons that we attack another for allegedly having, is not wise.

Two and a half years ago, the American people and indeed the world got a taste of what was to come when George Bush strutted arrogantly around his Texas ranch acting presidential while the election was still very much in doubt. His rhetoric and arrogance has only grown stronger with time, and it is with great trepidation that we watch the face of the American democracy and the world being changed by a man who acts as if he has a mandate, but whose legitimacy will likely be the subject of debate for years to come. 

It is this very arrogance, and Bush’s own statements about, the man who tried to kill my daddy, that causes rational men and women to ponder if this war is about self defense or simply an old fashioned Texas-style feud, where the son is bound by honor to correct the errors of the father or persecute any, insult to the family honor. 

So, we rush towards war. Costa Ricans, and those Americans who have adopted Costa Rica as our home will no doubt have varying opinions on the justness of this war, and the policies of Mr. Bush. Once the shooting starts we will all pray for a rapid and just conclusion. 

None of these things is in doubt. Likewise there can be no doubt that just as September 11th changed the face of the world, this war will likewise do so. Costa Rica is tied closely to the United States in more ways that one. Costa Ricans are already seeing the effects of Bush policies with reduced availability of visas, reductions in tourism and even higher gas prices. 

Few can honestly say that much positive will come from this war. The larger concern is the stifling of constructive debate in the name of patriotism and the attempt to separate the world into US vs. THEM. Few things in life are so clear, what is clear is that the American President has set the United States and the world on what seems to be an irrevocable course towards a conflict that few doubt will have global political and economic implications.

David Scott Anderson 
Heredia, Costa Rica
He’s concerned 
by proliferation

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

A principle, a military principle, or a philosophical principle, is only valid if it is applied uniformly. Many countries, some hostile to our own, possess weapons of mass destruction. We are not attacking them, and we do not plan to attack them. 

As a result of our hostility to Iraq, both North Korea and Iran are now scrambling to acquire nuclear capability and there is little that we can do to stop them. Many other nations have taken this as a sign that they must be prepared to be able to cause mass destructions to Americans in case we decide to make them our next target. 

The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty has virtually been destroyed by our actions. No nation with the means will now remain without the ability to fend off a conventional attack by a powerful nation bent on bullying them with threats. Iraq will be the last great hurrah of the U.S. Never again will the U.S. be able to march in and take over a country without the fear of nuclear attack. 

We are not fighting for freedom. Neither their freedom nor our freedom. We are fighting for other reasons. As a nation, we have never been concerned about their freedom, and to claim that we are now is a sham. It is a lie. We are fighting for other reasons. We are not fighting for humanitarian reasons. None of this, absolutely none of this, was brought on by feelings of humanitarianism. To believe so is to lie to ourselves. 

There are brutal dictatorships all over the world, many of which we have supported at one time or another. As a matter of fact, we supported the brutal dictatorship of Iraq and supplied Iraq with weapons and military aid when they were in a conflict with Iran. We militarily supported Iraq right up until the day AFTER Iraq marched into Kuwait. That's right! The "great evil of Iraq" is what it is because of our military support. Because it suited our hostilities toward Iran. 

We did not care about Iraq then. We did not care about the Iraqi people. We did not hear their cries. We turned a deaf ear to all the death and destruction because WE were a part of that death and destruction. We provided the means to suppress people and to kill people. To claim that ours is a great humanitarian struggle is the highest insult. It is not, and it has not been. We are fighting for other reasons. 

Our professed interested in the people of Iraq is self-deception. We are not interested in the welfare of the people of Iraq. We never have been, and we are not now. We are fighting for other reasons. The rest of the world knows this and that is why we do not have their support. We have alienated nine-tenths of this planet as a result of our actions. We have lost all the good will that we gained in the past. We have shown that we are a country that can no longer be trusted to follow rational ends. 

Even with a clear victory in Iraq, the world will never be the same. Never again will any nation of means be without the capability to strike back in a way that hurts and destroys. We have created a far worse world than existed the day before. We are fighting for other reasons and they have little to do with anything you have mentioned. 

We may quickly overcome Iraq, but we will not overcome our enemy. The enemy is within and is at the highest levels of our own government. Do you know the real reason we are fighting Iraq?: The success of 9-11 to secure GW Bush's presidency. The success of our attack against the primitive Taliban and al-Quaida. This galvanized George Bush and his administration to focus on war as a means to retain political power and to divert attention from our own economy. 

The severe problems with our economy will undo George Bush and his only means to counter it is conventional war. Step-by-step his policies lead in this direction and it was inevitable that it would eventually lead here. His arguments rang hollow, and the longer he raised them, the more hollow they became. Eventually the whole world became aware of the hollowness of his arguments. 

He was being driven, but not by any threats from Iraq. He was being driven by his own policy that was leading him straight to Iraq, and after Iraq will lead elsewhere if we succeed in Iraq without mass loss of life among our military. Because we have the means. And because it supports his politics. It makes him an Imperial President. 

I've heard that term used about Richard Nixon, but it fits no one the way it fits George Bush. As a president at war, it makes his above criticism. Any time someone stands up to criticism him, they are attacked from every corner. They are slandered, they are belittled, they are made fun of. Never any other President followed the actions of an Imperial Presidency more than George Bush. 

Our economy is about to collapse. Eventually we may be faced with world-wide depression. The suffering is yet to start. Our national debt is now approaching 7 Trillion! Our economy is stagnant. The only support, the housing bubble, is predicted to soon collapse. Where do we go then? The means of political control are now being put into place. Vast police powers have been given to the President to use as he sees fit. Every aspect of our lives can now be invaded with impunity. Our civil rights have been lost. All for an Imperial President who will rule by political might, and who will manipulate the American people by creating new enemies. 

How easily Americans are mislead! How easily they can be made to raise their voices in a howl for the blood of others while arguing that we are here to liberate them. Liberate them, we might, but that is not our aim, and it never was. The aim is the Imperial Presidency! Never has there been greater shame on this nation. Our founders fought to establish democracy, and we are fighting to destroy it.

Rex Bennett 
He didn’t vote for Bush

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Thank you, your editorial was truly a delight to read, unlike the piece written a few days ago titled "Saddam: When did he grow to be a monster?" Although this article did have some valid points I feel it was written in poor taste, similar to all of the anti-war protest that have been going on recently. But, hey, that's freedom of speech, freedom of expression, assembly, etc.. all those things that the Iraqi citizens couldn't even start to imagine (yet).

Let me start by saying, I did not vote for Bush, and generally have not supported many of his actions thus far. We all know the only reason he was even on the ballot for Commander and Chief was because his daddy was president. Actually I didn't support Gore either, but I did find him to be the lesser of the two evils, at the time.

Since that time Bush certainly has said and done some things that have perplexed us all. However on the case of Iraq, he is doing the one and only thing that would ever truly disarm a man like Saddam. We all know that a man like Saddam is never going to willingly disarm him self of these weapons, under any circumstances. Since the start of time men like Saddam have fallen into the same trap that old Satin fell in, pride in overwhelming power. The type of unrestrained power Saddam and other dictators have always leads to treacherous endings, simply because a human being stops thinking like a human being when they obtain that much power.

At some point before this war is over, the world will get behind the U.S, unfortunately it will come at the cost of life, when So-damn-insane unleashes chemical and biological weapons on our troops, you know those weapons he says he doesn't have.

Thanks again for the good read,

Brian R. Wehrer 
College Park, MD
We are amateurs again

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Tuesday's (March 18) unprecedented front-page editorial, blindly supporting George Bush Jr.'s insatiable yearning for carnage, is a shocking example of amateur journalism at its worst, unworthy of even the most outrageous tabloid. To begin with, comparing Saddam Hussein to Adolf Hitler, the deluded but extremely powerful Nazi strongman, and Josef Stalin, the leader of a totalitarian regime of immense size and power, is at best sophistry. 

No one doubts that Saddam Hussein is an evil man; like Stalin and Hitler before him, he has murdered thousands. Nonetheless, Hussein has neither the might nor the wherewithal to threaten even his weakest neighbor: surrounded by hostile countries and regularly pummeled by British and U.S. air power, he doubtlessly views his own survival as a challenge in itself. 

Next, Mr. Brodell attempts to discredit the noble peace movement by dredging up a memories of former British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain's "appeasement" of Adolf Hitler in the late 1930s. Let's not allow a tendency towards the dramatic or a transparent ploy to garner a few dozen more U.S.-based readers to cloud the issue here. 

Saddam Hussin is not Adolf Hitler, who was militarily superior and ready to invade his neighbors. Those who oppose this senseless bloodshed are not weak-willed, inept politicians afraid to stand up for themselves. Peacemongers, indeed! A.M. Costa Rica would do better sticking to street fairs and classified ads, leaving geopolitics to the informed. 

Thomas Oakes C. 
San Jose
We are terrribly wrong

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

You are terribly wrong to think that the way to end the threat of terror both in the U.S. and abroad is through the use of force, especially in an area of the world that is extremely volatile and dangerous. 

War should only be used as a last resort when all other means of diplomacy have been exhausted. It is apparent to most of the world that diplomacy was abandoned by the U.S. and Britain because George Bush knew he could not win a second vote of confidence in the U.N . 

It seems apparent now that his real intentions are to overthrow the Iraqi regime, it was never just about disarming Saddam. The Bush administration has not only deceived the American people but also all the nations of the world through Resolution 1441 who have vigorously attempted to end the conflict peacefully He has shown through his words and actions that he cannot be trusted. 

This is why so many of the leaders and citizens of free nations around the world have a bitter distain for this President and his administration. The real threat to peace and stability is the United States of America through it's own arragonce and disrespect of world opinion. The President's reckless and irresponsible policies both at home and abroad are leading all of us down a very dangerous road. 

He has neglected to consider the serious consequences of his own actions which altimately will lead to world choas as well as the virtual destruction of the global economy. It is time for the American media to question the President as to the the real reasons for his going to war and ask him if this conflict is really justified and in the best interests of the United States. 

J. A. Pizzalato
Costa Rica

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