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These stories were published Wednesday, April 27, 2005, in Vol. 5, No. 82
Jo Stuart
About us
Canadians wary of U.S. rule
on passports at border
Managua cardinal
calls for end to violence
Pacheco needs advice
on free-trade treaty
U.S. Supreme Court refines rules for expats
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Conviction in a foreign court does not count when an individual faces sentencing in the United States, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Tuesday in a case involving a Japanese firearms violation.

In a second case, the court said in a split decision that a plot to defraud a foreign government of tax revenue violates the federal wire fraud statute.

Both cases are relevant for expats living overseas. Although the decisions are narrow and specific, attempts to circumvent Costa Rican law by people in the United States probably would be a U.S. crime. And a conviction of a U.S. expat in Costa Rica on a gun possession charge would not prevent him or her from buying a gun in the United States.

In the first case, Small v. United States, Gary Small was convicted of trying to smuggle firearms and ammunition into Japan and served five years in prison there. Upon returning to the United States, he bought a gun in his hometown in western Pennsylvania.

He then was charged in the United States under a law that prohibits "any person . . . convicted in any court ... of a crime punishable by
imprisonment for a term exceeding one year . . . to . . . possess . . . any firearm."

Small pleaded guilty but reserved the right to challenge the legal interpretation.

The court said that "considering the scope of the phrase ‘convicted in any court’ it is appropriate to assume that Congress had domestic concerns in mind."

"Moreover," the court decision said, ". . . foreign convictions may include convictions for conduct that domestic laws would permit, e.g., for engaging in economic conduct that our society might encourage, convictions from a legal system that are inconsistent with American understanding of fairness, and convictions for conduct that domestic law punishes far less severely".

In a second case, the U.S. Supreme Court said that a plot to defraud a foreign government of tax revenue violates the federal wire fraud
statute. The individuals involved in the criminal case carried out a scheme to smuggle large quantities of liquor into Canada from the United States to evade Canada's heavy alcohol taxes.

The convicted men, David and Carl Pasquantino and Arthur Hilts, challenged the U.S. wire fraud statute. That statute prohibits the use of interstate wires to effect "any scheme or artifice to defraud, or for obtaining money or property by means of false or fraudulent pretenses." 

The defendants based their appeal on a common law concept that prevents one country from enforcing the laws of another. They were charged with wire fraud because they used a telephone to advance their scheme.

After a long historical analysis the country concluded that the offense was complete the moment the men executed their scheme intending to defraud Canada of tax revenue inside the United States. Therefore, said the court, only domestic conduct is at issue. Because the law  punishes frauds executed "in interstate or foreign commerce," it is not a statute that involves only domestic concerns, said the court. 

Trial testimony showed that Hilts would drive a rental truck from Niagara Falls, N.Y., to Maryland where the alcohol tax is low, and bring truckloads of liquor back. The cheaper alcohol was then smuggled in the trunks of cars into Canada during 1998 and 1999. The men evaded up to $5.8 million in Canadian taxes on 39,000 cases of alcohol, according to testimony.

Both cases had been argued in November and were released Tuesday.

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Pacheco wants outside look at U.S. free trade treaty

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Abel Pacheco is kicking the free trade treaty with the United States to a committee.

The president said Tuesday that he would ask a five-person committee to examine the treaty and provide him with opinions on possible negative effects or infringements on the sovereignty of the country.

Pacheco said he wanted persons who were not in politics, were not in business or were not members of unions.

Pacheco said there were a lot of lies and misinformation about the treaty, which is between five Central American states and the United States.

The Pacheco administration fielded a negotiating team that studied and dickered with U.S. negotiations for nearly a year. His administration signed it Jan. 25, 2004, although Pacheco has not personally done so.

The president has been reluctant to send the measure to the Asamblea Legislative where lawmakers must either approve it or reject it. There is no set time limit for that to happen. Pacheco has claimed he did not want to send the measure to the legislature until a proposed new fiscal and tax plan was approved.

Some legislators are studying the trade treaty now informally. In addition to the treaty itself, there is an annex specifically about the relationship of Costa Rica and the United States. The annex incorporates a number of Costa Rican laws that seem to discriminate against foreigners.

Some unions and public employees threaten street protests if the measure is sent to the legislature. Pacheco has been sitting on the measure for more than 14 months. Other Central American nations already have ratified the measure. The treaty is now being considered by the U.S. Congress.

The full text of the agreement is HERE!

A reader’s opinion

About toxic chemicals 
and alleged free trade

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Tuesday’s e-zine has caused me to set text on screen once again.

First was the article on hemispheric vaccination programs designed to "eradicate preventable diseases". However, a look at the history of vaccination will show that TB, syphilis, SIDs, autism and cancers exploded in our world following the introduction of some vaccines. 

Further, knowing that the current process of sterilization utilizes formaldehyde and mercury (known as Thimersol) which is then injected into the body along with the so called vaccine, I wonder why any educated person would be willing to take the risk of exposing oneself to these highly toxic chemicals. 

The cure for disease is to rid the planet of chemicals! Yet these people insist on filling our children’s bodies with chemicals, calling them vaccines, and then selling us for the rest of our lives more poisons called medicines. 

We need a worldwide organic agriculture movement which demands clean, healthy food. Clean, healthy air and water. Proper sanitation. And the true healing tools denied us by the ruling elite. The cure for all disease is as close as electricity and herbs. 

If together we refuse to buy carrots and tomatoes that are not organic soon the industries will naturally provide us with the good healthy nutritive foods we need to live disease free. As long as the food we eat is full of poison, we will continue to be a foolish and ill society. I suggest you do a comprehensive research to find out the truth about vaccines.

But what really gets me is these American senators who have come here to Costa Rica because they love and care about Costa Rica and only want the best for us. They are here to convince the government of Costa Rica to ratify the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), but what they are really doing is setting the region up for higher taxes, richer rich people, loss of the middle classes and an outrageous new poverty the likes of which you have to go to the Ozark mountains, or northern Mexico to witness today. I quote from your article:

..."We care about Costa Rica’s future, and much more is to be gained by Costa Rica than the United States," said U.S. Rep. James Moran, a Virginia Democrat, adding a few minutes later: "If you don’t participate, Costa Rica will be on the sidelines." ...

So, sounds like the classic "plata or plumo" (silver or lead) that is offered by criminals. Either you take our offer and we will allow riches to flow (to the top echelon) or you will suffer under our punishing hand.

CAFTA requires C.R. to produce so much sugar, so much of this and that and forces C.R. to import so many dead pigs and chickens (from U.S.). I don’t have the exact amounts but this newspaper had published them in the past. 

The effect of large scale farming is to remove the small farmer, who is forced by economies of scale to sell his land and become a peon to the giant agriculture international conglomerates that have a few suits at the top and a bunch of slaves everywhere else. 

CAFTA forces C.R. to find land and farms willing to grow thousands of hectares of single crops for export. Failure to do so is punishable under the terms of the treaty by the World Trade Organization. The outcome of these rules is to make Costa Rica dependent on the U.S.A. for much of its food. And then when the U.S.A. stops supplying food?

CAFTA requires C.R. to open it’s markets to international competition. I fear ENRON under some other name will march in to San José and buy up the water companies, the phone and Internet providers and start competitive insurance and then, after demanding that the government step in to help upgrade the structure, disappear with the cash leaving the people holding an empty bag.

I am all for trade, but not a trade that makes the masses poor and a few rich while creating new taxes and debts forcing humanity into generations of servitude. 

Freedom means personal choice, and CAFTA is about NO CHOICE.

Bob Jones
Tilaran Costa Rica 
EDITOR'S NOTE: Mr. Jones sees a lot of implications in the free trade treaty that we are unable to see.
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Country Day takes on the 1960s with production of 'Hairspray'
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Just where can you see today those early 1960s big hair?

It would have to be at Country Day School this weekend.

Said a release from the school:

Country Day School players present "Hairspray," the musical comedy Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m.  With a cast of over 50 fabulous and talented characters, "Hairspray" features music, dance and marvelous costumes from 1962 in the Broadway production of "Hairspray" based upon the New Line Cinema Film, written and directed by John Waters. 

In Hairspray it’s 1962 — the 50’s are out and change is in the air.  Baltimore’s Tracy Turnblad, a big girl with big hair and an even bigger heart, has only one passion-to dance. 

She wins a spot on the local TV dance program, "The Corny Collins Show" and, overnight, is transformed from outsider to irrepressible teen celebrity.  But can a trendsetter in dance and fashion vanquish the program’s reigning princess, win the heart of heartthrob Link Larkin, and integrate a television show without denting her "do"?  Only in "Hairspray!"

Reservations are available at 289-8406.  Tickets for adults are 2,500 colons ($5.33), and those for children are 1,500 colons. 

The main characters and the student actors include:  Tracy Turnblad  (Allison Fontaine-Capel), Edna Turnblad (Lyonel Arias), Wilbur Turnblad  (Tim Hawkins), Velma Von Tussle (Julia DesChenes), Amber Von Tussle  (Olivia Jampol), Link Larkin  (Thomas Wielemaker), Corny Collins  (Jonathon Liebembuk), Penny Pingleton (Michelle Atkinson), Prudy Pingleton  (Paola Di Tolla), Motormouth Maybelle (Gabriela Castejon),  Seaweed J. Stubbs  (Brian Hylton) and  Little Inez  (Suzy Shepard).

Cardinal calls for an end to violence in Nicaragua
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

MANAGUA, Nicaragua — Cardinal Miguel Obando called Tuesday for a stop to the violence that has led to days of street violence in this capital.

Meanwhile, President Enrique Bolaños Geyer, in an afternoon press conference, blamed the violence on the Frente Sandinsta and pledged to serve his full term. He also decried the negative image of Nicaragua that was being projected by the violence.

The cardinal, the long-time peacekeeper between the major political forces, was returning from Rome where he participated in the election of the new pope. In a short talk to reporters at the airport, he called for a return to negotiations. 

Cardinal Obando is the witness of honor to the National Dialogue brokered between the two majority political parties and the Bolaños government.

During the absence of the cardinal, the Bolaños negotiating team withdrew, citing the bad faith tactics by the Frente Sandinista led by Daniel Ortega and the Partido Liberal Constitucionalista led by Arnoldo Aleman. 

Bolaños was in shirtsleeves when he gave his press conference. He had just returned from witnessing the massive march his opponents staged through the streets of Managua.

When marchers became aware that the presidential party was nearby, they began throwing stones and water bombs and firing homemade mortars. Bolaños and his ministers and aides were forced to crouch between two vehicles. Police kept the marchers at a distance.

The president was uninjured in the attack. However, his eldest son Enrique Bolaños Abaunza was struck in the head by a rock and was rushed bleeding to the Hospital Militar for treatment. After review by physicians the 

president's son got five stitches to his head and was kept overnight for observation. 

The attackers have not been arrested or identified by police. The protests are ostensibly over increases in bus fares, but the confrontations with police and the march Tuesday were at least encouraged by the Sandinistas.

Earlier Tuesday some 25,000 demonstrators filled the streets of downtown Managua in a nonviolent march calling for a general strike in response to the increases in prices of public transportation. The protests spread throughout much of the Pacific region of Nicaragua with student demonstrators burning tires and briefly blocking the Pan American Highway at key positions in the city of Leon, Rivas and Masaya. 

Diego Lara, officer in charge at the Peñas Blancas border crossing in Costa Rica, said Tuesday night there were no unusual delays there. He is with the Fuerza Pública.

No violence was reported in the rural demonstrations. However, 90 persons have been arrested in Managua. Many will be charged with the crime of terrorism. Minister of Government Julio Vega said that he would seek the maximum penalty available under the law. 

Julio Centeno Gomez, the attorney general for Nicaragua and strong opponent of the Bolaños government, has refused comment about future court actions. 

Public transportation in Managua remains at a standstill with thousands of workers walking to their places of employment after another bus was burned Monday night at a barricade near City Hall. There were also reports of scattered violence against taxi drivers working in the central part of the city.

Dionisio Marenco, mayor of Managua, proposed a solution through the imposition of an additional gasoline tax, with the proceeds directed to the public transport sector. The government initially rejected the proposal. However today the national assembly is scheduled to discuss the topic during a morning session.

In case you missed it:
A.M. Costa Rica, April 5, 2005
Our readership more than doubles in one year
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A.M. Costa Rica set another readership record in March when the newspaper registered 2.16 million hits. That was a 22.9 percent increase over February and a 106 percent increase over March 2004, the first month the newspaper exceeded a million hits.

Other statistics had similar increases.

Some 397,368 individual pages were viewed by 99,351 readers. And 45,435 of those readers were registered as unique, which means they were only counted once regardless of how many times they visited the pages in a single day. 

The statistics are maintained by the Internet service provider in the United States where A.M. Costa Rica is hosted. The hosting company keeps track of visits independent of A.M. Costa Rica.

The statistical programs screen out hits and visits by mechanical means, other computers and automated Web crawlers.

The statistics show that the average viewer sees about four pages at every visit to the paper. 

Said Jay Brodell, editor:

"Our dramatic increase in readership over the last three and a half years is no surprise to our advertisers who are getting more and more business from the wave of retirees and would-be retirees who are looking at Costa Rica as a new home and need solid, daily information.

"It’s a new world, and our progressive advertisers recognize that."

A.M. Costa Rica statistics are available on a page that is updated every month HERE!


Canadians wary of the U.S. rule on passports at border
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The 9,000 kilometer—5,580-mile U.S.-Canadian border is one of the most open in the world, and citizens of both countries can cross freely without passports, but a new U.S. law would change that.  Those who make a living from cross-border travel are concerned. 

Without any fences or barriers, the Canada-U.S. border is the longest undefended boundary in North America.  Tens of millions of people cross it every year.  The travel generates over $445 billion worth of trade between the United States and Canada.

For decades, U.S. authorities have not required visiting Canadians or returning Americans to have a passport.  But following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States that killed nearly 3,000 people, the U.S. government rewrote the law.

After a long, and at times emotional, debate in the U.S. Congress, the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act, also known as the 9/11 Intelligence Bill, was signed into law by President George Bush at the end of last year.

Based on the new law, the U.S. Homeland Security and the State Department issued the Hemisphere Travel Initiative, which requires that, by Jan. 1, 2008, U.S. citizens, Canadians, Mexicans, and citizens of Bermuda must present a passport or other accepted secure documents to enter or re-enter United States.

Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin says the plan is raising concerns north of the U.S. border. 

"As you know, this is a measure, as put forth, that would apply not only to Canadians, but to Americans themselves," he said.  "It's also a measure however, that — I think we've seen news reports, in which the president himself has expressed some skepticism.  But I will be talking to him about it and we have raised it."

Roughly 25 percent of Vancouver's tourism market depends on trips by American visitors, and Vancouver is the homeport for most of the summertime cruises to the U.S. state of Alaska.

Rick Antonson of Tourism Vancouver says tourism organizations across Canada are expressing concern about the initiative.  He says sometimes governments and world leaders overlook the tourism industry when they make decisions relating to security or immigration. 

"And the tourism industry often gets underestimated in terms of its impact, job creation, contribution to the 

economy, its ability to, if a place is thriving, create construction jobs — building a convention center, building new hotels, building new restaurants, building new visitors attractions — While being respectful of the security needs, we don't want to see this damage the United State's tourism industry nor Canada's," he said. 

Darcy Rezac, managing director of the Vancouver Board of Trade, says many of his organization's members are concerned about the impact that passport requirements may have on business in general.  He says the organization will be lobbying the Bush administration not to implement the plan.

"We have 5000 members, and a number of them have raised this with us as an area of concern," he noted.  "The Vancouver Board of Trade has a Canada-US relations committee, we're members of the United States Chamber of Commerce and as we do our assessment of the impact of this, we will be going to the chamber and asking them to raise this concern on our behalf with the US government."

But not everyone dislikes the new passport rule. Jim Phillips, president of the Canadian-American Border Trade Alliance, thinks overall that the new passport requirements are good because it might encourage both Canadians and Americans to apply for a NEXUS pass, a document that allows for expedited crossings along the Canadian-American land border. In effect, this would pre-screen visitors traveling to the United States and eliminate the need for a border inspection.

With 90 percent of Canada's population living within 200 kilometers of the American border, however, Phillips sees problems for those wanting to make unplanned visits south.

"The impact on the spur-of-the-moment traveler —  'I'm going to run over and have a pizza, we're going to have a hockey tournament cross-border, my mother is visiting and she lives in the interior of the country and doesn't have a passport' — that is the unintended consequence, because that person would not be able to cross the border," he explained.

Another obstacle facing the change is that, according to Canadian tourism industry figures, less than a quarter of Americans have passports, while just 40 percent of Canadians do.

President Bush told a gathering in Washington recently there might be better ways to allow the legal flow of cross border traffic and ordered a review of the passport requirements. He says other forms of identification, such as fingerprint scans, might be considered. 

Jo Stuart
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