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These stories were published Thursday, June 13, 2002, in Vol. 2, No. 116
Jo Stuart
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Sele falls
to Brazil,
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica lost its World Cup chance early today when Brazil defeated the "Sele," 5-2 in Korea.

Brazil put in three quick goals in the first period with Costa Ricaís Paulo Wanchope finally scoring once as the period came to a close.

Ronald Gomez headed in a cross goal kick 12 minutes into the second period,  and Tico hopes rose. Then at 17 minutes into the period and less than two minutes later Brazil scored, both times on the soccer equivalent of fast breaks.

Costa Rica needed at least a tie to advance to round two of the World Cup elimination. Instead, Brazil and Turkey will go forward in the reduced field of 32 national teams. The game was watched live by thousands of bleary eyed Costa Ricans who saw the game last until nearly 2:30 a.m. local time.

Airport stamp vendors want to clear names
By Saray Ramírez Vindas
and Christian Burnham
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Airport tax stamp vendors at Juan Santamaría International Airport are fighting for their good name.

The private solicitors line up at the airportís entrance to sell stamps as incoming travelers exit taxis and buses. The vendors say they are being unfairly characterized as bandits by the airport administration.

All travelers leaving the country must pay a departure tax represented by stamps before entering their aircraft. The cost for tourists is $17.  Costa Ricans pay $43. The vendors earn a 6 percent commission on each sale.

The airport broadcasts a bilingual announcement every 20 seconds instructing travelers not to buy stamps from the vendor. The recorded voice instructs travelers to purchase the stamps at a booth located inside the restricted airport lobby.

The tax stamps, called "timbres," are sold to anyone with valid identification in the San José office of the Banco Credito Agricola de Cartago. The Costa Rican Association of Gerontology (AGECO) has the sole authorization to sell departure stamps inside the airport.

"The company who owns the airport is trying to take away our livelihood, " said Eduardo Herrera, who said he has been selling the stamps at the airport for the past 12 years.

He and other vendors said they had filed a complaint with the Sala IV constitutional court claiming that the airport operator, Alterra Partners Costa Rica, was affecting their work because of the recorded announcement. They characterized the recorded announcement as a deliberate attempt to make travelers shun them. 

Airport and government officials have said that many irregularities have been found in stamp sales at the airport. They claim that up to a $1 million a year is lost in revenues because stamp vendors recycle stamps, doctor them to look like they are new or in other ways defeat the purpose of the tax levy. Some cases of stamp "washing" have been reported.

The stamps are attached to a small piece of paper, and the traveler fills out the paper to include a name, passport number and other 

Stamps are affixed to bits of paper
A.M. Costa Rica/Christian Burnham
These vendors say they are not crooks

information. The paper and the stamps are surrendered to the check-in clerk at the airline the traveler is using at the same time baggage is checked.

It is unclear how these stamps that are in the hands of the airlines could be recycled. But officials claim that they are.

One traveler, Terry Huse of Washington, D.C. area Wednesday said he had problems on a previous trip but that he had purchased his stamps at a local hotel. The stamps were placed on the wrong part of the paper, he said. there was nothing illegal about the stamps themselves.

Others have been forced to repurchase their stamps from the official vendor inside the airport when officials pronounced the ones they had purchased as recycled or false.

Hotels, tour operators and others in the travel industry also can purchase stamps in bulk for resale to travelers. The paper blanks to which the stamps are affixed are available at immigration offices.

In the past, stamp vendors could follow travelers almost into the airport. With increased security imposed by Alterra the vendors and anyone else without an air ticket are restricted to the roadway where vehicles drive up to unload outgoing passengers. Alterra took over management of the airport in May 2001 and has a 20-year management contract.

Travelers traditionally have purchased stamps from these independent vendors because the official sales booth inside the airport was not always open or caused long delays.

Wednesday there were eight vendors working the area and all seemed to be on first-name basis with each other. They wear badges identifying themselves as stamp salesmen, but the badges are mostly self-awarded.

One suggested that the effort to cut the vendors out of the stamp business had purely economic motives. "They want to monopolize the sale of stamps," said Roy Aurturo of Alterra.

Some 2.2 million travelers use the airport each year, many of them for foreign trips. so the commission on stamps can be significant.

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Guess what? Your two-month tax extension is nearly over
Hey, you, there on the beach! Does "I.R.S." mean anything to you?

It better. They are waiting for your tax return reflecting all those killer stock deals you make in 2001 way up north.

While you were spinning your wheels drinking frothy stuff with little umbrellas stuck in it, tax time came and went. But you are lucky. As an overseas U.S. citizen, you get an automatic two-month filing extension.

Donít take any deep breaths yet. That means your tax return is due Saturday. And, bingo!, you get another break. Because the day, June 15, falls on a weekend, you have until midnight, Monday, June 17, to file your return.

This may not be easy. Unlike the States, there wonít be any smiling postal workers standing outside collecting envelopes at 11:55 p.m.  And a Costa Rican postmark probably doesnít count.

So you can fly to Houston and mail your tax return, if you can get an air ticket. Serves you right for procrastinating. Donít try to stuff the envelope in the pocket of the Marine guard at the U.S. Embassy. Anyway, Marines donít use pockets. Even if you took a digital photo, the I.R. S. probably wouldnít buy it.

Ah, but there is a way. Thanks to the wonders of technology, you can file your tax return electronically now from the privacy our your own 
Internet cafe. Why these folks at the I.R. S. these days are downright friendly.

Check out http://www.irs.gov/elec_svs/
partners.html. Thatís where the new, friendly I.R.S. lists third-party companies that will accept your tax info online. In some cases, they actually will produce a return and file it electronically with the I.R.S.

The biggies are there, like H&R Block and software maker Quicken. There also are some firms that specialize in online preparation. A couple of firms will even file your return for free if you use the 1040EZ short form. Other charges range from $4.95 to what ever the traffic will bear for more complex returns and personal online consultations.

At least one, TaxAct.com, has software that recognizes the special needs of taxpayers living overseas. In other words, they let you file for the $76,000 income deduction on overseas earnings. 

(Psssst. The cash you line up for every month is NOT earned income. I wonít tell if you donít tell.)

Although a lot of expat residents here are laundering their incomes through blind corporations and secret bank accounts on some coral reef, those pesky companies and banks in the United States insist on sending you those little W2 forms showing annual earnings. 

And they send them to the I.R.S., which is not always totally friendly even now.

So unless you want a little first-hand experience in arrest and extradition, the deadline is midnight, June 17.

ó Jay Brodell

Chang is off on his final spacewalk of mission this morning
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Frank Chang Diaz is going to spend seven hours today on his third and final spacewalk.

NASA photo
Frank Chang Diaz works on the space station robot arm during his first walk Sunday.
The Costa Rican-born astronaut is scheduled to leave the Interntional Space Station about 8:45 a.m. Costa Rican time with fellow mission specialist Philippe Perrin of the French Space Agency.

Chang and Perrin will begin work replacing a faulty joint on the space stationís robotic arm.

Wenesday was a busy day of stowage and transfer activity for the crews of the shuttle Endeavour and the International Space Station.

The 10 astronauts and cosmonauts, working together, have transferred approximately 4,500 of the expected 4,665 pounds of material that will return to Earth inside the Leonardo Multi-Purpose Logistics Module. 

All of the items slated to be moved from Endeavourís middeck to the station have been transferred and the astronauts are now restowing return items.

Also Wednesday, Endeavourís small steering jets were fired in a series of pulses to gently raise the stationís orbit by another mile, in the second of three such maneuvers designed to raise the station's altitude by a total of about six miles.

In death, kidnapped youngster becomes much larger than life
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The death of a 4-year-old boy is sending shock waves through the Costa Rican social system. Even before investigators really know why someone murdered the boy, politicians, police and social activists are taking action.

Acting President Lineth Saborío and Minister for Children Rosalía Gil were among the mourners Wednesday morning for services for the boy, Osvaldo Faobricio Madrigal Bravo. He is the son of a drug investigator for the Judicial Investigating Organization.

Acting President Saborío is the former director of that organization. 

Services were at a Desamparados church with burial at Campo Santo La Piedad. Minister Gill, director of Patronato Nacional de la Infancia, said later she would empanel a government committee to raise the consciousness of Costa Rican families, presumably to the possibility of child kidnappings.

Police officials said they are stepping up surveillance, particularly of schools.

Police said the boy was taken from his home in Higiuto de San Miguel de Desamparados June 4 while he was playing outside his family home. Workmen located the badly damaged body floating behind the Brazil dam in Santa Ana Tuesday. An autopsy report is not yet available.

The public consciousness seems to be ahead of the politicians. A wave of urban rumors has been sweeping San José and also the Desamparados area.

That section is vulnerable because a girl, Jessica Valverde Pineda, 4, who lived in Los Guidos de Desamparados, vanished in late February. 

Several false alarms in which citizens notified police about a possible abduction have been registered, In one case the child was with a father who was involved in a domestic dispute with his wife.

A recurring rumor claims that a child narrowly avoided abduction when fast acting guards at a mall/supermarket/other public place were able to stop a criminal. According to the rumor, the child turned up with head shaved and dressed in different clothing in a rest room.

That attempted abduction never happened a check of police agencies, malls and supermarkets showed Wednesday.

But investigators have contributed to the public concern by stating that a band of child abductors are working in the Central Valley. They have not explained adequately how such a band can support itself with two or perhaps three stolen children in the course of a year. Police reply that there may be cases yet to be revealed.

According to police, Osvaldo Madrigal was taken by a neighborhood worker, carried by taxi to Pavas and then handed over to a mysterious foreign couple. 

The worker and the taxi driver are in custody. But police have not given more details. They are searching for the foreign couple.

No one really knows what happened to young Jessica. She went to a small store in her low-income residential area. The store owner said a man was nearby and there may have been a car. But descriptions have been inconsistent.

The waters behind the dam where Osvaldo Madrigalís body was found Tuesday come, in part, from a river that runs near his community.

Inspection contractor
opens up more sites

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Spanish-Costa Rican firm that has been picked to inspect the countryís motor vehicles said it is finishing up several more inspection stations.

The inspections were put off from mid-June to mid-July because the stations were not ready.

The firm Riteve SyC says it will provide complimentary inspections that have no value under the law as a way of introducing motorists to the process.

Meanwhile, some activists and politicians from the Partido Liberación Nacional are filing an action before the Sala IV constitutional court to void the inspection law on the grounds that it awards an unconstitutional monopoly.

The firm, that has invested $22 million, says it probably will start inspections for real in mid-July based on the last digit of the vehicle plate number.

The company has modified the 80 points of its inspection system in response to protests and demonstrations from vehicle operators. Now fewer points will result in a reinspection, the company said.

No fee has been established for the inspection yet.

Two shot on walk

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two people walking on a San José street, Calle 12 between Avenida 3 and 5, were shot at by two men on a motorcycle.

The man, Marvin Blanco Moñlero, suffered bullet wounds and went to Hospital Calderon guardia. The woman, Silvia Madríz Muñoz suffered a small cut. 

Neither said they had any idea who might have done the shooting.

Intel has new chip

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

SANTA CLARA, Calif. ó Intel Corp. has released the Intel Celeron processor at a speed of 1.80 GHz. The processor represents Intel's fastest offering for the desktop PC market. 

The Intel Celeron processor at 1.80 GHz is based on the 0.18-micron process technology. In 1,000-unit quantities, the desktop processor is priced at $103. Intel, the world's largest chip maker, is also a leading manufacturer of computer, networking and communications products. It has two manufacturing plants in San José.

Woman run over by car

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A woman in Tres Rios accepted a ride with a man early Wednesday but in the vicinity of Urbanización La Carpintera the man abused her sexually and then hit her with the vehicle and then ran over her legs. She went to hospital Calderón Guardia, said investigators.

Cycle kills pedestrian

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A woman, Blanco Hernández, 50, tried to cross a main street in Curridabat about 6  p.m. Tuesday, but she was struck and killed by a morotcycle. 

The accident happened near the Gasolinera La Galera. A woman with her, Flor Jara, suffered injuries, said investigators.

Pacheco to see Bush
this morning in D.C.

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Abel Pacheco will met today at 10:15 a.m. Washington time with U.S. President George Bush in the White house, the Casa Presidential here said Wednesday.

That will be the highpoint of a week-long trip Pacheco and his key ministers took to generate funds for Costa Rica and to acquaint themselves with Washington officials.

Wednesday Pacheco met with World Bank President James Wolfensohn and with Horst Kohler, president of the International Monetary Fund.

Pacheco said that his administration was trying to effect an economic revolution in Costa Rica, but one that would not hurt persons in the most vulnerable sections of the society.

"They understand that the revolution that we have to make in the national economy is not going to hurt our children, not going to hurt our old people," said Pacheco, according to a Casa Presidential statement.

Pacheco characterized the Costa Rican economic situation as "grave."  He said that the two men who are major figures in world finance, and others in Washington were impressed by a proposed law that would change the Costa Rican tax system. The proposals were the result of a committee composed of six former ministers of Hacienda who basically urged tougher enforcement of tax collection and the creation of a value added tax..

Caribbean crime
blamed on youths

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. ó The increasing number of crimes committed by young people ages 15 to 24,  including drug peddling, prostitution, and other offenses related to risky behavior, has become a deadly problem in the Caribbean, the World Bank says.

The Bank said Tuesday that new HIV/AIDS cases among the young are on the rise in the Caribbean, along with sexual and physical abuse, pregnancy, crime and violence, and substance abuse.

The bank made the statement in conjunction with release of its new paper called "Youth Development in the Caribbean," which details the economic and social costs to the region of risky behavior by young people.

The Bank cited Jamaica and Barbados, where nearly $70 million in tourist dollars were lost because of riots among school-going adolescents. This coincides with the effects from the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States, which severely hurt the Caribbean tourism industry.

The paper is available on the Internet at: www.worldbank.org/cgced.

Casto leads march
to elevate communism

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

HAVANA, Cuba ó Several million Cubans participated in marches Wednesday in support of a constitutional amendment that would declare Cuba's Communist system "untouchable." The move is seen as a response to an amendment proposed by the island's dissidents that would open the country to democracy.

Images from Cuban television show President Fidel Castro leading hundreds of thousands of marchers down Havana's coastal boulevard and past the U.S. Interests Section. Castro, wearing his traditional olive-green military uniform, carried a small Cuban flag and was flanked by plain-clothed security men.

Similar government-mobilized marches were held around the country, with large crowds reported in the cities of Holguin and Santiago. Cuban officials said prior to the march they expected one million participants in Havana alone.

The purpose of the demonstration was to reject calls for a more open, democratic society in Cuba. The marchers supported a proposed amendment to the Cuban constitution that would declare Cuba, in the words of the draft, "a socialist state of workers, independent and sovereign, organized with all and for the good of all, as a unified and democratic republicÖ"

Last month, a group of dissidents presented a petition with more than 11,000 signatures to the National Assembly, demanding a referendum on democratic reforms. The so-called Varela Project was given a boost on May 14 when former U.S. President Jimmy Carter mentioned it during an unprecedented address to the nation. His words were later published in the government-controlled newspapers. 

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