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These stories were published Monday, May 26, 2003, in Vol. 3, No. 102
Jo Stuart
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A member of the military delivers a salute over the graves of the fallen in this photo from the U.S. White House Commission on the National Moment of Remembrance. 

Americans to pause
for rememberance 

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Today is Memorial Day in the United States, the day that Americans are encouraged to reflect on the personal sacrifices that have maintained the country’s liberty.

At 3 p.m. local time U.S. citizens are invited to pause for a minute of silence, according to the White House Commission on the National Moment of Remembrance.

"As you participate in the moment you are helping reclaim Memorial Day for the noble and sacred reason for which it was intended—to honor those who died in service to our nation," said the commission.

Pacheco asks strikers
to return to work

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

In his strongest pitch yet to striking communication workers, President Abel Pacheco said he would protect them from retribution if they returned to work.

In a talk broadcast several times over the weekend, Pacheco denied he and his administration were strangling the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad. This is the big monopoly known as ICE that controls power generation and distribution, telephones and Internet services.

Workers went on strike more than a week ago, ostensibly to force the Central Bank to issue some $100 million in bonds the company wants.

In his talk, Pacheco said he was sure the majority of ICE workers did not know that the company has 294 billion colons in loans over the last few years. That’s $750 million.

Costa Rica’s debt is limited, and other social needs could use that money, Pacheco said. Otherwise, he said, all of the strikers demands have been met, including support for rate hikes.

The Central Bank Friday agreed to float $40 million on the international market for ICE.

"Finally," said Pacheco, "if the strike is to hit me, then don’t punish the people of Costa Rica."

He further promised that those who returned to work would be protected from their fellow strikers and that they would not be blacklisted for doing so. However, the strike is expected to continue today, despite pronouncements by the president.

He's ashamed that he was a member of military
By Stan Underwood
A.M. Costa Rica reader

Cathy and I went to church today here in Castle Rock, Colorado. The pastor, during his warm-up portion of the service, made mention of the fact that this is Memorial Day weekend. He then said something to the effect that we wouldn't be able to enjoy the freedom of being able to go to church, maybe not even to be alive, if it weren't for the American veterans who served in the U.S. military.

At about that point, the pastor asked military veterans in the congregation to stand up.

For some reason that I couldn't verbalize, I refused to stand. Cathy asked me to stand several times, but I was determined not to. Now, I think I understand...

— When I was in the Air Force, the American citizens hated the Vietnam War. . . and by association, they hated us. I remember that my fellow airmen and I were admonished over and over, time after time, to never go into town (Amarillo, Texas) in uniform. Our close-cut hair was bad enough. The locals would often provoke a fight or simply gang up on a GI. There were a lot of beatings. We were made to feel ashamed and to act like second-class citizens because we were in the military.

— Years later, as a member, and twice-elected commander of my American Legion Post, I saw the membership of all veteran groups dwindle, and it became difficult to find guys to turn out 

for projects. Virtually everyone said that ever since Bill Clinton became president, military service and patriotism was way out of style.

A reader's view

— Even now, and even after George Bush's success in Iraq, the American people really have no use for the military. During the last presidential election, Tom Daschle and the Democratic Party made a point that ballots from the members of the military should not be counted. And, the majority of the American people apparently agreed. I remember Jay Leno's monologue one evening included a joke: "I don't know why we should have to count the votes of the military. Especially those overseas. If they don't care enough about this country to stay here, why should they have the right to vote?" There was a big applause and laughter on that one.

So, as this Memorial Day comes around, I want to tell you all something. I'm ashamed that I ever served in the Air Force. Bill Clinton proved that those who avoided military service have more influence in America than those schmucks who do serve. My recommendation to my grandkids is this: DO NOT SERVE IN THE MILITARY! LOOK OUT FOR NUMBER ONE. Let the fools sign up or get drafted. You're far better off looking out for yourself, and screw everyone else!

As for me? I can't wait to move to another country.

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Casa Alianza wants U.N. to probe Dundee Ranch
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Casa Alianza, the child advocacy organization, said it has asked the Geneva-based U.S. Committee against Torture to investigate the Academy at Dundee Ranch because of "complaints about cruel and inhumane treatment of children." 

Casa Alianza included with its request a narrative by an ex-director of the ranch.  That person is believed to be Amberly Knight, who has charged that the mostly North American youngsters at the ranch were given substandard food and forced to kneel for prolonged periods on concrete floors.

Casa Alianza declined to release the text of her narrative. It is not immediately clear what the result of such a U.N. investigation would be. Casa Alianza said that under international treaty U.N. personnel would be able to perform an inspection. 

Ranch owner Narvin Lichfield and his Costa Rican wife, Flora Herrera, are facing allegations of depriving the youngsters of their liberties. He was arrested Thursday night after two days of investigations at the location near Orotina. 

The estimated 200 youngsters who were at the Academy at Dundee Ranch are troubled individuals who had been sent to the ranch for a form of behavior modification practiced there. The parents paid about $30,000 a year for the program. At least half of the youngsters have left or been taken elsewhere. 

Many of the youngsters have behavior problems, have used drugs and alcohol or have other undesirable vices. The school, one of eight operated by the Worldwide Association of Specialty Programs and Schools in St. George, Utah.

Casa Alianza cited unspecified news reports that said the academy does not have permits from the Ministry of Public Education nor the Ministry of Health.  About 100 of the teens at the ranch had expired tourist visas, officials have said.

Parents who sent their troubled youngsters to the facility have to sign a contract. Presumably the 

contract allows ranch officials to exercise control over their students.

A group of youngsters fled the facility Tuesday when a public prosecutor told them they had rights under Costa Rican law and could not be kept there against their will. The youngsters are not fully accounted for.

Casa Alianza has been helping Susan Flowers, a non-custodial parent who had a 15-year-old girl at the camp. Ms. Flowers has been active on the Internet and in contact with officials and the news media in reporting on alleged abuses at the ranch. Being non-custodial means that a judge in the United States gave her husband full custody of the child, and it was the husband’s decision to send the girl to Costa Rica.

Ms. Flowers has said her husband won full custody because she did not have the money to oppose him in court.

The Academy at Dundee Ranch is a former hotel. It features, among other amenities, a swimming pool.

Rosalia Gil, minister of the Patronato Nacional de la Infancia, appeared on television Sunday night and said, essentially that Costa Rica does not maintain behavior modification facilities like the one in Orotina nor do officials have experience with such facilities. Therefore, officials hope that the facility is removed to the home nation of the youths there.

Bruce Harris, regional director of Casa Alianza, responded by e-mail to a question about what parents should do if their teen were out of control. 

"Rather than dealing with a teen when s/he is out of control, " said Harris, "if there is sufficient care taken with the younger child before he becomes a teenager, then there would not be as many problems."

"If there is a teen with a problem  we would need to know what exactly are the problems before offering advice as to what to do," he said, adding, "Teens generally reflect family and emotional issues."

Out-of-control teens are a lose-lose situation
Parents with out-of-control teens have no good choices.

Would you want your teen to be doing cocaine or worse with his shiftless friends or kneeling on a concrete floor gaining discipline at Dundee Ranch?

It doesn’t matter that a lot of the North American parents have contributed to the problem with bad relationships and vicious divorces. A number have voted with the checkbooks to entrust their teens to institutions like those of  the Worldwide Association of Specialty Programs and Schools.

An editorial

Dundee Ranch near Orotina is one of the boarding schools/behavior modification facilities. It is a for-profit venture and charges some $3,000 a month.

Coming now to second-guess the parents is the local fiscal, the Costa Rican child welfare agency, a non-custodial parent and Casa Alianza. They apply the governmental version of the thermonuclear bomb.

Not only do they close the place, but, according to a parent, the fiscal tells the kids that if they are over 15 they cannot be held against their will. The concept of in loco parentis is not in his lexicon. The crack dens of Jacó are that way, youngsters!

Some of the teens still are missing, according to most recent reports.

The facility is destroyed. Half the estimated 200 youngsters have gone elsewhere. The rest will soon. The owner and his wife are facing charges.  Some 90 persons have lost their jobs or soon will.

The charges leveled at the school are not very persuasive. Much of the complaints come from a former director who has turned on her former employer and from a non-custodial parent. We 

await more serious evidence — if it exists.

The child welfare agency, the Patronato Nacional de la Infancia, is critical of the food, the training of the staff, the physical plant. 

This is the same agency that can find Costa Rican kids sleeping on the sidewalk within a block of its main office. You would think that they would have a little more understanding.

Dundee Ranch has a swimming pool, and some Costa Rican schools do not have books. 

Nevertheless, we have to assume that all parties in this disaster mean well. If that is the case, the differences are of philosophy. The do-gooders here are horrified that someone may whack a youngster or place them for lengthy periods on a concrete floor to meditate on their faults. Have they never heard of Catholic school?

The more pragmatic Dundee school officials recognize that they are the last resort for many of the youngsters. The students already have had their share of shrinks, counselors and probation officers in their home country. 

Time was when you could send male youngsters like this to the U.S. Marine Corps to have their life straightened out. These days even the Marines don’t want to bother with losers.

The school is at fault if officials there have not complied with Costa Rican immigration procedures and obtained student visas for the youngsters. The government said about 100  were not legal. 

But from the very beginning, this campaign was not about paperwork. It was about philosophy, that someone interested in filthy money would dare to set up a corrective school when child rearing should be in the domain of the government.

— Jay Brodell

Week is a big one
for those in tourism

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

This is a big week for the tourism industry where seminars and exhibitions during the day give way to parties at night.

It’s the week for Expotur, which will be opened formally by President Abel Pacheco Tuesday at 
7:30 p.m. Hotel Melía Cariari, according to Casa Presidencial.

The actual event will be at the Hotel Herradura and Conference Center west of San José enroute to Juan Santamaría Airport.

Seminars start today, but Wednesday and Thursday are the days that vendors man booths to show their wares to visitors. Both vendors and potential users of tourism products, mostly travel agents, pay to participate in the event, which is sponsored by the Asociación Costarricense de Profesionales en Turismo.

The event comes at a time of stress for the tourism industry. Many San José hotels are up for sale, reflecting a tightening of tourist budgets, primarily in the United States and Canada. Total tourists are reduced, in part by concerns generated by the coalition war in the Iraq. 

When Pacheco speaks Tuesday he doubtlessly will stress his government’s opposition to sex tourism.

U.S. citizen needs
blood donations

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Keith Harris Lindsey, a U.S. citizen, is supposed to have an operation Tuesday at Clinica Biblica in San José and because of his medical condition friends are trying to locate 10 units of O-negative or A-negative blood.

A family friend, Beverly Penner, said Sunday night that Lindsey is a long-time associate of the Canadian club and that he and his wife have helped with a lot of charitable work.

Would-be donors should visit the clinic’s blood bank no later than today, said Mrs. Penner, adding that donations of other types of blood also would be welcome.

Rains come back
to Central Valley

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A bit more than four inches of rain fell Saturday and Sunday at the government weather station in Barrio Aranjuez. Some 69 mms. were registered.

The weekend rains followed an unusual three days of clouds but little rain in the Central Valley. Afternoon downpours are highly likely from now until Christmas.

Heavier rains are believed to have fallen elsewhere in the country.
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New Argentine leader is facing big challenges
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — Nestor Kirchner was sworn in Sunday as president and pledged to rid the country of rampant corruption and cure its economic problems. Presidents Fidel Castro of Cuba, Hugo Chavez, of Venezuela, and Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of Brazil were among the heads of state who participated in the inauguration. 

Calling for cultural and moral changes in Argentina, Kirchner promised to address the serious internal issues that plunged the country into crisis. 

After taking the presidential sash from his predecessor, Eduardo Duhalde, Kirchner, Argentina's sixth president in a year and a half, greeted deputies in the National Congress before leading a parade down the famed Avenida de 

Mayo to the presidential palace, the Casa Rosada. 

The president, a center-left politician from Patagonia, has his work cut out for him: Argentina must renegotiate billions of dollars of foreign debt, work to secure a new deal with the International Monetary Fund and put a stop to the increase in unemployment and malnutrition. 

Kirchner has been critical of the United States and the monetary fund and is often compared to several leftist leaders in Latin America, such as Brazil’s da Silva. 

The past 18 months have seen political and economic chaos in South America's second largest country. Now that political order has been restored, Kirchner must face the hard decisions fast or risk pulling Argentina further into economic crisis. 

Latin economic summit embraces stability as goal
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

CUZCO, Peru — Latin American leaders have closed the annual Rio Group summit here with the signing of a resolution promoting regional democracy and economic stability.

Leaders of the 19 member nations signed the so-called "Cuzco Consensus" Saturday, during a closing ceremony at an historical Incan site. The document is the product of two days of talks focusing on ways to tackle economic hardship, social unrest and political instability. Costa Rica was represented by Roberto Tovar, the foreign minister.

Speaking at the closing ceremony Saturday, Peru's President Alejandro Toledo also voiced support for

 a plan to create a regional investment program to combat poverty. The plan would earmark portions of foreign debt payments to fight poverty.

Toledo said the presidents of Brazil and Mexico will present the idea at the June meeting of leaders of the seven most industrialized nations and Russia, in a bid to win their support.

Friday, several Latin American leaders proposed a resolution calling on the United Nations to help combat drug-related violence in Colombia and other Andean countries.

A Peruvian newspaper reported the Cuzco summit also resulted in an agreement between six South American countries to rebuild the historic Inca trail that once criss-crossed the Andean mountains.

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