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(506) 223-1327        Published Wednesday, April 26, 2006, in Vol. 6, No. 82         E-mail us    
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Skin color determines treatment
Xenophobia has very deep roots in Costa Rica
By Jay Brodell
editor of A.M. Costa Rica

Deep within the consciousness of many Costa Ricans is a fear of foreigners and those who are different.

These fears engender prejudice and manifest themselves as suspicion and bad treatment of persons with darker complexions.

The influx of Nicaraguans has reinforced this xenophobia and prejudices as Costa Ricans level blame on the newcomers for all sorts of social ills.

Prejudice is one reason the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica suffers from a lack of investment and governmental care. There is no secret that dark-skinned residents of the Provincia de Limón could not even travel freely into the Central Valley until the second half of the last century.

International visitors of any skin color do not face most of these problems because they are perceived to be wealthy and travel mainly in tourism circles.

A growing social movement brought this issue home to Casa Presidencial Tuesday. An umbrella group called the Confederación Solidaridad was joined by representatives of the Comisión Costarricense de Derechos Humanos. At issue are housing and the new immigration law that Nicaraguans see as restrictive.

Perhaps as many as 1 million Nicaraguans and other non-Costa Rican Latins live here. If they have darker skin they are lumped into the same category. And skin color and an accent denote a certain socio-economic group in the minds of the generally white-skinned Costa Ricans in the Central Valley.

The public treatment rubs off as Panamanians, members of local Indian tribes and others refer to themselves as "black" even though they may have a skin color similar to a Northern European who spent a few days in the Costa Rican sun.

When North American visitors enter the downtown Gran Hotel Costa Rica, for example, they may not be aware that native Costa Ricans with darker skin are refused access by the nearby guard.

In a department store like Universal a dark-skinned shopper kicks off a major operation among security personnel. Three to four radio-equipped guards surround the shopper during the entire visit.

Costa Ricans in public jobs, like banks and ministries, are always officious, but even more so when they think they can behave high-handedly with a customer from a lower social group.


Even on police reports and bulletins the suspects, if not Costa Rican, are referred to by their perceived nationality.

Crimes, then, are the handiwork of Nicaraguans, Panamanians and residents from Limón, a euphemism for black.

When gunmen raided the Banco Nacional branch in Santa Elena de Monteverde in March 2005, one, a Nicaraguan, killed a police officer and held hostages over night. This inflamed hatred of all Nicaraguans.

When a rottweiler caught a burglar at a junk yard in Lima de Cartago Nov. 10, police stood by for at least 30 minutes to watch the dog inflict wound after wound on the culprit, an Illegal Nicaraguan who later died.

The death-by-guard-dog brought to the surface the latent Costa Rican dislike of Nicaraguans. Cell phones, the Internet and personal conversations were filled with macabre jokes glorifying the dog and denigrating Nicaraguans.

The dog attack became an international incident as the government of Nicaragua sent a prosecutor to investigate. Nicaraguan officials also were here 14 months ago to investigate complaints when Fuerza Pública officers sealed off the La Carpio urban slum where many live substandard lives. Police conducted checks of identity and immigration status.

But is is not the official actions that pierce the souls of many darker residents here. What hurts is the day-to-day slights, the verbal abuse and the preconceptions that darker skinned individuals have to be household maids or agricultural workers instead of professors, bankers or executives.

The discrimination extends to employment. Job seekers here still provide and employers seek photographs to accompany resumes.

Although there are laws that promise equal treatment, the enforcement is haphazard. Plus employment is laced with other variables beside skin color like gender bias and good old boyism.

Meanwhile, some Nicaraguans will continue to step into the gutter when Costa Ricans pass by.


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A.M. Costa Rica

Second news page



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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, April 26, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 82


Costa Rica Expertise
Costa Rica Expertise Ltd http://crexpertise.com E-mail info@crexpertise.com Tel:506-256-8585 Fax:506-256-7575
 


Click HERE for great hotel discounts


Our readers' opinions

He endorses adviser
who helped him out


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Thank you for the recent articles on purchasing a used vehicle in Costa Rica.

After having all I could stand of George Bush, I decided last year to leave the U.S. for Costa Rica.

I bought a finca in Turrialba and moved in January. The farm included a well-used truck, so I wanted a better vehicle to see this beautiful country.  I contacted my local mechanic who suggested several vehicles.  After doing some research I decided to look for a Hyundai Galloper diesel.

I found a Web site which is operated by Russ Martin.  Russ helps Gringos locate a car and guides them through the entire process, which can be very intimidating to most newcomers as indicated in Garland Baker’s excellent article. I met Russ in San José, and he took me to three used car dealerships that specialize in importing Hyundais from Korea.  I bought a ‘94 model from Kim Autos for $7,000.

Russ charged $200 for his service, which included negotiating and guiding me through the process for registration, inspection, etc.

For an extra fee of $300 the car salesman (Miguel Fuentes) offered to have the Galloper inspected, licensed, and delivered to me in Turrialba, which I accepted.

The Galloper was delivered as promised. I took it to my local mechanic and asked him to do a complete inspection and repair everything he found wrong.
He found several minor items and the total charge was $140 for parts and labor.

I have had the Galloper for six weeks and it is running great.  Russ and Miguel did everything they said they would do, and I highly recommend their service.

Ted Douglas
Turrialba

Importer got greedy
and visits auctions now


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Good series on used cars in Costa Rica. Here is a scenario I have personal knowledge of.

A former Costa Rican friend (emphasis on former) has a pretty good business buying cars in the U.S.A. and bringing them to Costa Rica. He is a first-rate mechanic,  so people trust his opinion on the cars he buys.

When he first started doing this it was at the request of his customers, he would get a shopping list, enough money to buy the cars (up front) and then he would shop around in the eastern seaboard area of the U.S.A. Until he filled his “orders.”

At first these cars were purchased from individuals and were carefully inspected and selected. The cars were then shipped to Costa Rica. He made a reasonable commision for his efforts, and offered a warranty. He owns a garage so the repairs are done there. As word spread his business increased, and he got greedy. Now he has a dealer’s license in an eastern state and so is able to attend the wholesale auctions where the dealers get rid of the used cars they can’t retail to the public. So, here is how he operates now:

You want a 1999 Bugthrasher, and you are told that this will run about $11,100 in the U.S.A., so you give him $10,000 up front. Ten other people do something similar, and off to the States he goes with a pocketful of other peoples’ dough. He then scours the auctions and fills his shopping list, and of course the 1999 Bugthrasher at auction costs $6,500.

The cars are loaded into a container and shipped to Costa Rica. You then pay for all the expenses that you so nicely tabulated in Tuesday’s article. With the profits he buys more cars while he is still in the States which he will sell on speculation when they get to Costa Rica. Not all the cars sold at auctions are lemons, but you get my drift — huge profits at little risk.

Worse, his customers don’t know these cars are from auctions.

Pete Todd
Pavas

Another endorsement
from satisfied buyer


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

No doubt the stories published so far provide valuable advice to your readers, and they do need to be careful. However, so as not to give the impression that
all is bleak, I share my experience.

I have purchased two used cars here in Costa Rica, a 12-year-old Toyota Tercel at the time and three years ago a 6-year-old  Toyota Corolla. Bought both from the same importer who is in Grecia.

I was referred to him by a friend who has purchased four different cars from him. We have had no trouble with any of them. He, for one, does care about his reputation and is careful with what he buys to resell. Both cars had over 100,000 on the odometer when I bought them, so I doubt they were rolled back. 

I will buy from him again whenever I need to, but hope this car still has a number of years left.
John Kendall
Escazú
Professional Directory
A.M. Costa Rica's professional directory is where business people who wish to reach the English-speaking community may invite responses. If you are interested in being represented here, please contact the editor.

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You need to see Costa Rican properties for sale
on our real estate page HERE!





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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, April 26, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 82





 

Rape victim from U.S. leaves without filing complaint
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The female U.S. tourist who was the victim of a brutal rape on the Manuel Antonio beach Friday has left the country without filing a criminal complaint. Residents are concerned that five men implicated in the bloody attack are still at large in the community.

That was the word Tuesday from the famous beach community, as more details of the case became known.

The woman and a local man were walking on the beach about 3 a.m. when the couple found themselves surrounded by five men. The men beat up the male companion and dragged the woman off to a mangrove.

The man, now bloody from the beating, managed to get to the nearby Mar y Sombra restaurant and contact police. A local policeman said that the woman, when found also was badly beaten and bloody.
An original police report over the weekend said that four men were detained and questioned when they showed up at a construction job with bloody clothes. The word from Manuel Antonio is that the fifth man escaped being interviewed by police.

This is not the first attack in that area. One resident said Tuesday that the Mar y Sombra does not maintain adequate security outside the establishment or on the beach nor do the police. The beach is so big and the bar and disco attract a lot of people, said the resident.

Foreigners are victims because "They, too, are a little buzzed, culturally out of their element and cannot sense that danger is afoot," said the resident, adding that the atmosphere around Mar y Sombra changes drastically in the early morning hours.

In Costa Rica investigators usually do not pursue a report of a crime unless a complaint is filed and the victim promises to show up for court.


Policemen
on the move


The Delta Uno downtown police delegación on Avenida 3 is no more. The Fuerza Pública unit that was located just east of parque Morazán moved Tuesday to a new location on Paseo de la Vaca or Libano in northwest San José. The new location boasts a high level of criminal activity, drug dealing and prostitution, so police will be where the action is.


A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas


Pacheco will try to play the peacemaker between Venezuela and U.S.
By Saray Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Ever the optimist, President Abel Pacheco said Tuesday that he would try to mediate between Venezuela President Hugo Chávez and Laura Bush, wife of the U.S. president.

Both Mrs. Bush and Chávez will be here May 8 to attend the transfer of the presidency from Pacheco to Óscar Arias Sanchez, and Pacheco said this might be a good time to talk to both of them.

According to Pacheco,  it is possible to live in harmony, tolerance and respect, and if he gets the chance to put an end to the differences between brother countries this would be good for peace in all of the America Continent.

Chávez is looking more and more like a totalitarian with his Bolivarian revolution and effort to emulate Fidel Castro. He has accused the United States of trying to oust him and has warned the Venezuelan people that the United States is planning to invade.
Mrs. Bush, of course, has no official office in the U.S. government, other than her appointment to represent her country at the inauguration.

Pacheco made his comments at the weekly press conference after the Consejo de Gobierno. Also there was Carlos Manuel Rodriguez, the environmental minister who was missing in Parque Nacional Corcovado for three days last week. 

Rodríguez expounded on his adventure.

Rodríguez explained what happened to him, something that has been treated heavily in the national media.  He said he saw a puma menacing a young tapir, so he decided to follow and document what happened. That is when the mother tapir attacked him and caused him to fall over a bank into unconsciousness.

He said he did have a compass, which is how he found his way west to Drake Bay where he was found.

The park is on the Osa Peninsula and is rugged.





You need to see Costa Rican tourism information HERE!



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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, April 26, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 82




New legislature told to be active in law-making
By Saray Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The new members of the Asamblea Legislativa were told Tuesday that even though they will become members of a deliberative body, deliberation should be reasonable.

"Inaction is the enemy of democracy," said Óscar Fonseca Montoya, president of the Tribunal  Supremo de Elecciones.

The 57 successful candidates were there Tuesday to pick up the credentials that said they have won election.

Actually in Costa Rica, legislators or deputies are elected when citizens vote for a party slate. So a party that wins 30 percent of the popular vote in a particular province gets 30 percent of the deputy seats there.

Fonseca's comments were obviously directed at the current legislature, which has been criticized for inaction. The Movimiento Libertario consistently tried to derail a new tax plan by proposing hundreds of amendments. This kind of parliamentary stalling is not traditional here, and many persons measure the success of a legislative session by the number of new laws that are passed.

The tribunal also designated temporary leadership for the assembly for its initial session May 1. President is Francisco A. Pacheco Fernández of the Partido Liberación Nacional. Pacheco is a candidate for the permanent job of assembly president, but the designation Tuesday simply means that he and five colleagues will organize the activities at the first

A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas
Gilberto Jerez Rojas, one of the new deputies, admires his diploma-like credentials from the Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones.

session. He received the designation because he is the oldest, the Tribunal said. The session Tuesday was the first time the new legislature met as a group even though the session was informal.


Chávez flip-flops on Venezuela's continued role in the Andean trade bloc
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez says his country is willing to reconsider pulling out of the five-nation Andean Community trade bloc.

Chavez on Monday said Venezuela would reconsider its decision if Colombia and Peru reconsider their free trade deals with the United States.

Bolivian President Evo Morales has called on Chávez
to reverse his decision, and he also called for a meeting to save the bloc.

Last week, President Chávez said the bloc is "fatally wounded" because Colombia and Peru finalized free trade agreements with the U.S.

Advocates say the free trade deals open up markets and create more jobs.  Critics say the pacts leave developing countries at a disadvantage with competition from cheaper U.S. products.


Pedestrian dies while crossing railroad tracks in Sabana Sur Tuesday
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A Pavas women died Tuesday and became the first fatality attributed to the new, revived passenger train service.

The woman, Ana López Centeno, was crossing the rail line in Sabana Sur when she was struck by the
locomotive and passed under its wheels. The accident happened in a stretch where the rail lines run close to the highway. Ms. López was on her way to work.

The new passenger train mixes with vehicle and foot traffic throughout its route from Pavas to San Pedro. A handful of accidents with vehicles have taken place, but this is the first death since service was reistituted. 






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