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(506) 2223-1327         Published Monday, June 2, 2008, in Vol. 8, No. 108         E-mail us
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Heavy damage and plane crash attributed to storm
See story HERE

Immigration, U.S.A. targeted, too
In-laws of slain physician campaign against suspect

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The in-laws of a physician gunned down in a home in Moravia have embarked on a publicity campaign against the man accused of the killing. The campaign also is critical of the United States and immigration officials because the suspect is a U.S. citizen who was here illegally.

The dead man is Harlen Fonseca Reyes, 28. He was seated in the dining room of his home watching television May 22 when a bullet struck him in the head. Police say the bullet was fired from a neighboring rooftop by Frederick Marlon Kelch, 48, a man with a U.S. criminal background.

The in-laws, Carlos Chaverri Montero and his wife, Ligia Oreamuno Castro, said they take exception to Spanish-language newspaper reports that said their son-in-law was hit by a stray bullet. In both television interviews and in a written statement, the pair say that the bullet that killed their son-in-law was followed by another shot that was directed at their daughter, Ligia María Chaverri Oreamuno. The distance was only 10 meters or slightly more than 32 feet, they said. Both the father and daughter also are physicians.

The couple's statement said that their daughter was spared because the bullet hit a concrete post while she was attending to her dying husband.

Four more shots followed, they said. The older couple share the home in San Vicente de Moravia where the shooting took place. Jorge Rojas, director of the Judicial Investigating Organization, said the gun used in the killing was an AR-15 semi-automatic military rifle.

Chaverri and his wife said that earlier that day the
suspect told them that they were agents of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and that he had plenty of money to get a good lawyer and get out of jail if he killed them, said their statement.

They are insisting that the killing and the shootings were premeditated and not the work of an insane man..

Kelch has been sent for six months psychiatric evaluation. He barricaded himself in his home with his wife and children for about nine hours before he surrendered to investigators. Even then he insisted on being taken away in a armored vehicle.

The couple in their statement were critical of the United States for giving pensions to persons suffering aberrations produced by wars so they could come to Costa Rica, to sow "death and sorrow." There has been no confirmation that Kelch is a former serviceman.

"Why do we have to accept this source of dirty dollars in our country?" they said. "Why are not the immigration authorities a little more selective to prevent these monsters from coming to our country to sow death, drugs, vice and irreparable misfortune to those of us who are born, grow up, live and serve in this country?"

In a clear attempt to influence the courts, they said that they hoped that the suspect would not be able to hire a good lawyer to trick justice and to get him free.

The dead physician also is survived by a daughter.

Kelch has been here about eight years and was living here on an expired tourist visa at the time of his arrest, officials said.


Election tribunal lets Casas off in case of the infamous memorandum
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones has declined to find that the former vice president was guilty of misconduct in office. But the election tribunal also characterized as unacceptable the memo that started the case. The decision was made public Friday.

The former second vice president is Kevin Casas  Zamora, who was one of the authors of a memo sent to President Óscar Arias Sánchez last year outlining a hard-nosed approach to a free trade treaty campaign.

The memo said, in part, that the Presidencia should lean on local office holders of his Partido Liberación Nacional and threaten them with loss of financial support if they could not deliver a yes vote in an October referendum for the treaty.

Casas ended up resigning when El Seminario of the Universidad de Costa Rica got hold of and published his memo. The harsh ideas in the memo were never executed. Still the case went to the
election tribunal which adjudicated election complaints.

The tribunal magistrates dismissed the claim by Casas that the memo was a private document. They said the title "memorandum" makes clear that it is a public document. However, they also accepted an internal audit of the Ministerio de Planificación y Política Económica that said Casas never used public facilities to promote a yes vote for the referendum. In addition to being second vice president, he was minister of that agency. Such use of public facilities would be illegal.

The claim of prohibited political participation came from a handful of citizens, including Mario Quirós Lara, a Movimiento Libertario legislator.

The Casas memo came at a time when it seemed the treaty was destined to defeat due to inaction by its supporters in the central government. Arias eventually rallied his forces and managed to win approval by a margin of about 3 percent of the voters.


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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, June 2, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 108

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German suspect arrested
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía
y Seguridad Pública photo

Sven Sigurd Radspieler is directed to a police van

Man wanted by German courts
turns up at Alajuela airport


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Agents arrested a German man who had been living in Escazú to face allegations of illegal drug trafficking, said a police spokesman.

The man arrested Friday, Sven Sigurd Radspieler, 38, was wanted by German officials since April and has an extensive criminal history, said a spokesperson  from the International Police Agency. Agents arrested Radspieler near the Juan Santamaría airport as he was looking for a hotel to spend the night, they said.

Radspieler entered the country earlier this year, said the spokesperson, but it was not until April that authorities in Munich issued an international arrest warrant for his capture. Officials believe Radspieler may have previously been hiding in the Dominican Republic, said the spokesperson.

Authorites followed Radspieler's steps through Costa Rica, they said. He visited several hotels in the central Pacific in a rented vehicle with his family, said the spokesperson. He was living in a luxury condominium in Trejos Montealegre, Escazú, added the spokesperson.

Radspieler was planning to travel to Mexico and then to Argentina Saturday, said the police spokesperson.  The Tribunal Penal de San José is holding Radspieler until his extradition is carried out, said the spokesperson, he could receive a maximum of 20 year in prison.

More police reported working
in tourist town Tamarindo


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Police agencies are presenting a show of force in Tamarindo. There are now 24 officers stationed in the beach town, according to the Cámera de Turismo Guancasteca.

Tamarindo was well known for having little police protection despite its status as an important tourism center.

The chamber said that there now are 20 Fuerza Pública officers assigned to the town as well as two tourism police officers and two municipal police officers. In addition, the police have an all-terrain vehicle and two motorcycles, said the announcement.

Radar, positioning system
donated by German school


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A German university has donated a radar system and a global positioning navigation system to the Servicio Nacional de Guardacostas. The radar has a 60-km range, some 37 miles.

The entire donation from the research center of the  University of Kiel is valued at about $4,000, said a release from the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública.

The university researchers have worked in conjunction with the Costa Rican coast guard to study activity under the sea near the junction of two tectonic plates. The work included placing a series of buoys that were recovered in January with the help of the coast guard, said the release.


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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, June 2, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 108


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Heavy damage, including plane crash, attributed to storm
By Elise Sonray
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Pilots who have flown into the international airport at Tegucigalpa were not surprised by the Friday accident that claimed five lives.

To reach the runway a pilot must follow narrow valleys that turn slightly in one direction and then the other, one pilot said. Sometimes hillside homes can be seen above the pilot's eye level due to the closeness of the hillsides, he said.

And once reached, the landing strip, built in 1948, is short by international standards, some 1,600 meters or 5,249  feet.

The accident Friday happened because a commercial aircraft landed too far down the rain-slicked runway to avoid skidding over a highway and into a hillside. The accident was the most serious of events that were caused by Tropical Storm Alma.

However, in Costa Rica property damage was widespread.

The TACA plane flight 390 was flying from El Salvador and slid off the runway about 9:45 a.m., according to the TACA release. There were 17 Costa Rican passengers and seven U.S. citizens aboard the flight, 390, said the official TACA report. The accident occurred during harsh winds from Alma and the wet runway.

The Costa Ricans on the flight were reported to be in stable condition after the accident, said the Costa Rican foreign ministry.

The pilot of the plane died as did one passenger and three people on the ground, according to reports.

The passenger killed on the flight was Harry Brautigan, president of the Banco Centroamericano de Integración Económica, said Casa Presidencial.  The aid agency is 
based in Honduras. Friday President Oscar Arías Sánchez gave his condolences to the family of Brautigan on behalf of himself and all of Costa Rica. “Mr. Brautigan lived a full life in which he served his country and Central America with the best of his spirit,” wrote Arias in his letter.
 
Meanwhile after effects of the tropical storm continued in Costa Rica with many areas on the central Pacific and the southern zone cut off by flooding and landslides. The emergency commission said it is stepping up efforts to the three areas hit hardest by tropical storm Alma: Pérez Zeledón, Aguirre and Parrita. The situation is slowly improving, said an emergency spokesman Sunday.

Because many communities are isolated due to flooding and landslides on the main roads, rescue workers are airlifting supplies via helicopter, said a spokesman from the emergency commission. 

Rescue workers are concentrated in San Isidro de El General, where they are loading food and supplies in helicopters to many areas.

Daniel Gallardo, president of the emergency commission said that in total 5,400 people have been affected directly by the storm and 55,000 have been affected indirectly due to lack of drinking water and other necessities.

The cantons most affected are Parrita, Pérez Zeledón, Puntarenas, (Cóbano, Lepanto and Paquera on the Nicoya Peninsula) Hojancha, Nandayure, León Cortés and Aserrí, said a spokesperson from the commission.

In an assessment Sunday the commission reported nearly 1,000 homes were destroyed or damaged due to the storm, 19,095 people were affected directly and 55,000 people were affected indirectly due to lack of drinking water or other necessities. There are now 1,500 people in shelters, 100 bridges were damaged, 117 stretches of roads affected, and 26 communities are without electricity.


Landslides on the Interamericana trap at least a thousand
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

More than 1,000 people suffered from the cold, lack of food and a shortage of water when they were trapped between landslides on the Interamerican highway early Thursday morning, said said a spokesperson from the Cruz Roja.

Seven landslides at Cerro de la Muerte covered the southern part of the Interamerican highway and forced many to spend as much as 48 hours in their cars, trucks or buses, said an emergency spokesperson. Houses were severely damaged and filled with mud and an entire section of the highway near San Isidro de El General collapsed. The highway will be closed for at least a week, according to
reports. Those who must travel are being urged to use the coastal highway.

Passengers in seven buses, including Ticabus, and over 50 vehicles had to survive stranded on the highway, said a spokesperson from the emergency commission.   Hundreds of rescue workers from the Cruz Roja, Cuerpo de Bomberos, Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias, and other organizations worked to free the passengers, said the Cruz Roja. 

Officials from the emergency commission are coordinating with the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes, local authorities and the municipality, said a spokesperson.


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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, June 2, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 108


Two lawyers acquitted of money laundering in drug case
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A San José court acquitted two lawyers who were accused of international drug trafficking Friday, said a spokeswoman.

The lawyers, with the last names of Venegas Mora and Arce Chavarría, were implicated in a 2004 case involving 1,829 kilograms of cocaine.

Venegas and Arce were accused of money laundering in the drug smuggling operation, according to the Poder Judicial.

The Tribunal de Juicio de San José absolved Venegas of charges of money laundering and falsification of documents
and absolved Arce on charges of money laundering, said a court spokeswoman.  Out of the seven men on trial the court only acquitted one other man with the last names of Gamboa Mora on money laundering charges.

The court sentenced the remaining four men on charges of transporting and storing cocaine, said the spokeswoman. The court sentenced a man with the last names Méndez Mora, to 15 years, a man with the last names Paniagua Paniagua to 10 years, and two men with the last names of Barboza Zeledón and Porras Rojas to eight years each, said the spokeswoman.

The prosecutor originally asked for a 24-year sentence for Venegas and a 12-year sentence for Arce.


New international treaty seeks to outlaw cluster bomb use
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Delegates from 111 countries have formally adopted a comprehensive ban on cluster bombs.

The treaty comes at the close of a 12-day meeting Friday in Dublin and bans the use, production, transfer and stockpiling of cluster bombs.  It requires signatories to destroy their stocks within eight years and to assist in clearing contaminated areas. The United States boycotted the international meeting.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the development and urged all countries to sign the pact without delay.

The United States is one of the world's largest cluster bomb makers.  Also boycotting the Dublin conference were Israel, Russia, China, India and Pakistan.
In a compromise aimed at pleasing North Atlantic Treaty Organization members, countries that sign the treaty will still be allowed to have military cooperation with those that do not.

Cluster bombs are fired from artillery or dropped from planes.  They explode in mid-air and scatter hundreds of smaller bombs over a wide area.  The bomblets that do not explode on impact can remain active for long periods, and frequently kill or maim unsuspecting civilians months and even years later.

Speakers at the Dublin conference say they are happy that the treaty helps stigmatize the weapon.

U.S. officials say they also are concerned about the dangers unexploded bomblets pose to civilians.  But they say the weapons are still needed, and should be upgraded so that the unexploded bomblets become harmless.


Negroponte visiting Latin America to promote fight against organized crime
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte is visiting Central and South America to meet with regional officials on a range of issues, including security and trade.

Today Negroponte will begin a two-day visit to Medellin, Colombia, where he is leading the U.S. delegation to a meeting of the Organization of American States General Assembly.
He will travel to El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala from Tuesday through Friday. While in those countries, Negroponte is scheduled to meet with government and business leaders on issues including the Merida Initiative, in which nations partner to fight criminal organizations.

Discussions are also expected to cover commercial relations, trade, development and security concerns. Costa Rica is not on his itinerary.


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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, June 2, 2007, Vol. 8, No. 108

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The public's opinions
Readers sound off about government cigarette initiative

Smoking is addictive
and not inalienable right


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Nicotine produces an addiction more powerful than either cocaine or heroin, the obvious difference being that nicotine and their delivery system, cigarettes, aren't illegal. But health and legality issues aside, I would no more want to sit next to someone smoking crack or shooting heroin in a bar or a restaurant than I would want to be enveloped in the stink of a cigarette, whether the place was ventilated or not.

Barry Schwartz and his fellow pro-smoking nazis seem to believe that they should have an inalienable right to indulge in their addiction anywhere/any time they please. no matter who they may be offending or making ill. One has to wonder where entitlement issues of this magnitude come from? Does nicotine addiction reduce human decency?
Dean Barbour
Manuel Antonio

She wants cigarettes gone

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

One of my concerns about moving to Costa Rica was the lack of laws regarding smoking. Mr. Schwartz comments that anti-smokers are always trying to take away their freedom. I would like to tell him about non-smokers' lack of freedom.

First of all, there are many of us who have allergies and asthma which are triggered by inhaling second-hand smoke. We must sit in our condos and houses with windows shut so we don't go into coughing fits and sneezing and severe asthma attacks. We go to restaurants, and we cannot go outside on the patios to enjoy the beautiful fresh air and sunshine because the smokers are there contaminating the air. We are again trapped inside.

We cannot go to bars or pubs because of the smoking. We sit in our cars and breathe their smoke or at bus stops or for that matter just about anywhere we are running to find clean air to breathe.

My feeling is, if they want to stink up everything, they should do it in their own houses, cars, with their windows closed. If they want to make themselves sick or get one of the many diseases associated with smoking, why must we be forced to get sick as well. People are told to stay away from hospitals if they are ill so as not spread their germs. Smoke is far worse than anything else for our health.

I wish cigarettes would be totally wiped off the face of this earth so we can all enjoy breathing fresh air (as fresh as it can be with all the other pollutants)!!!

I hope Mr. Schwartz will open his mind to how we feel and stop being so selfish just because he cannot give up his coffin nails!

Arlene Cooney
British Columbia, Canada

Heart disease is worse

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

First of all, smoking is not good for you, can prove deadly, and no one should smoke. Secondly, no one should be forced to be a second-hand smoker. Thirdly, health care costs are high because of smoking. True, but not anywhere as high as heart related problems -— or the deaths — that obesity causes. 

With that preamble out of the way, let's look in an objective way at the no-smoking bans that legislators and councilpersons all across the globe feel compelled to pass. A cursory glance will show that the proponents of the ban smoking in public places fall into three categories:

1.) politicians who have spotted that the once very fashionable habit of smoking has fallen into disgrace, and that many political points can be garnered by being on the windward side of the public opinion breeze,


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2.) the righteous self-appointed do-gooder defenders of the public welfare, and,

3.) the single visioned, those suffering from a severe case of tunnel vision.

There is often overlap with the last two; politicians, on the other hand, have 360 degree vision and there is very little righteous about them, otherwise there would not be long professional careers in that profession.

What has been swept aside by the hoopla, exaggerations and fallacious arguments are the rights of choosing your non-affecting of others pursuit of happiness, and that of being compensated for loss of legitimate income.

There is logic in banning smoking in places where the public has to go: government offices, hospitals, libraries, schools, sporting or entertainment events, on buses, etc.

But where you don't have to go, where you have another choice, there is no logic to the ban unless you fall into one of the three categories above and want to come up with twisted logic to make your point. If you don't want to be a forced second-hand smoker — and don't want your kids to be either —  don't go to "public" private restaurants where smoking is allowed.

If you like your drinks, want to do it in a "pub", and don't like smoke, don't go where there is smoking; go to a non-smoking bar and there will be plenty from which to choose, for barkeeps and restaurateurs are always looking for ways to make money, and if they discover that a non-smoking clientèle is just as profitable or more so as a smoking one, believe me, that's the direction they will go. The point being: don't take away the people's right to choose.

With these smoking bans, bar and restaurant owners having smoking allowed on their premises, are forced to suffer economic loss. Not one anti-smoking law has included in it compensation for depriving an operator of his legitimate income. That is tantamount to confiscation of property.

Where in the Costa Rican bill do you find mentioned a program to help smokers kick the habit with stop smoking clinics or low cost pills or patches? You don't. So cut the public's welfare demagoguery of the ills and costs of smoking, and second-hand smoking.

If there was a sincere interest in helping people live healthier lives, the proponents would start with heart disease by banning chicharrones, greasy fried chicken and tacos sold in those hole-in-the-wall not too hygienic places, and those sugar-laden soft drink. But they don't. So what does that tell you about the smoke ban proponents? For the answer go to the categories above.

Absolutely, regulation is needed, and no smoking campaigns, but insincere legislation is one of the highest forms of immorality.
Robert Nahrgang S.
Escazú

Argument is mindless drivel

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

It's foolishly ironic of Mr. Schwartz to call the commendable effort to clean up smoking in public places nazism.

It's refreshing to see the government starting to address quality-of-life issues. It's good for the Ticos, and it's good for the kind of tourism the country seeks to attract.

The non-smoking public has every right to be protected against smoke that contains proven carcinogens. His assertion that second-hand smoke is not harmful, and that there is adequate ventilation in most places here are mindless drivel.

No one is taking away his cancer sticks, but don't puff on me, pal.

It's a good start at raising awareness of personal hygiene. From this maybe they can then start to curb the trash problem as well.
Hari Khalsa
Santa Teresa

He questions smoking study

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:
 
I didn't know if I should chuckle or shake my head at the letter from Barry Schwartz concerning the anti-smoking laws being considered in Costa Rica. It shows the same type of misguided logic employed by those who still don't think wearing a seatbelt is safer, i.e., ignore the hundreds of studies that don't agree with your point of view and focus only on the one that does.
 
I believe the study to which Mr. Schwartz refers is the “Environmental tobacco smoke and tobacco related mortality in a prospective study of Californians, 1960-98” by the UCLA School of Medicine. Even if we ignore the fact that the researchers conducting this study were paid by the tobacco industry (because being paid to conduct research is only wrong when on the other side of Mr. Schwartz's argument), the real problem is the scientific methodology of the study.
 
This study had 120,000 participant enrolled and chose to use (as a measure of exposure to second-hand smoke), the 35,000 non-smokers with a smoker as a spouse. The conclusion being, there was no measurable difference in mortality between people married to smokers and those married to non-smokers during the period 1960-1998. This, of course, makes the spurious assumption that living with a non-smoker constitutes no second-hand smoke exposure.
 
This survey traced subjects enrolled in 1959, a time when second-hand smoke was so omnipresent that most of the population was exposed to second-hand smoke on a daily basis, whether or not their spouse smoked. This was true in 60s as well as, the 70s and even into the 80s, in much of the country.

During much of that time, second-hand smoke was common in most public locations — not just restaurants and bars, but many offices and airplanes. In fact, the smoking spouse may in many cases had no affect on the total. It wasn't that uncommon for the smoking member of the house to go outside or on a porch to smoke. It should also be noted that the study, did not (as Mr. Schwartz implies) completely rule out second-hand smoke disease, only that "no significant associations were found" and the conclusion of the study states ". . .  although they do not rule out a small effect."

However, even setting aside all of the studies, whether or not they support second-hand smoke impact, the main reason for banning smoking in public places is common courtesy. I, like many non-smokers, find it offensive to have to smell smoke while trying to eat and it ruins my enjoyment of the meal.

I also don't want to come home and place my clothes outside because they smell of smoke. There is no difference between forcing others to smell cigarette smoke and someone getting on a public bus and turning on their boom box to full volume — it is bad manners and boorish behavior.

I'm glad to see Costa Rica working on this and hope to enjoy the benefits on my next visit.
James Wolf
Orlando, Florida


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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, June 2, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 108



As expected, Saprissa takes national soccer championship
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Deportivo Saprissa won the national soccer football championship Sunday afternoon by a single goal that came late in the game.

The match with rival Liga Deportiva Alajuelense had been moved from Thursday because of the weather.
Just when the game looked like a tie that would go to a shootout,  Try Benneth sent a pass from the right side to  Michael Barrantes. He was well paced in front of the net and easily scored the goal. That was 82 minutes into the game.

The outcome was no big surprise. Saprissa has dominated la Liga, and this is the club's fourth national title. 

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