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These stories were published Monday, June 13, 2005, in Vol. 5, No. 115
Jo Stuart
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Which one would NOT 
get a tourist visa under 
the proposed rules?

A.M. Costa Rica graphic

Bad Boys, Bad Boys, you can't come here (soon)!
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The new immigration law would bar wife beaters but gamblers are OK.

Terrorists and drug lords would be rejected at the border, as will anyone who has been convicted of carrying a weapon illegally.

These are some of the categories of persons who would be banned from the country under the legislation that has received the first of two votes in the Asamblea Legislativa.

In addition, the law repeats the contents of the current legislation giving immigration officials wide latitude to keep out persons who might be a threat to the public order. This was the category an immigration official used a week ago to bar former Pavones resident Danny Fowlie.

Immigration entry points have been fortified with computer systems during the last year, and it is likely to expect that soon officials will be able to enforce such rules. The proposed law says that persons with certain criminal histories must be rejected immediately.

The original draft of the immigration update, presented in February 2003, also contained a provision against illegal gamblers, but lawmakers have taken that classification out of the draft.

In addition to drug lords and narcotics traffickers, the current draft proscribes conmen, murderers, coyotes who traffic illegal immigrants, and those convicted of tax evasion.

The rejection applies whether the conviction took place in Costa Rica or in a foreign country.

Anyone convicted of sexual abuse of minors also is not welcome, according to the draft, as are persons who deal in environmental or archaeological items considered part of a nation’s heritage.

The proposed law also lists anyone convicted of crimes against minors, the aged or handicapped as persona non grata. And a domestic violence crime is mentioned specifically. Presumably a 

conviction for husband beating also would lead to rejection.

A late addition to the legal draft is exclusion for persons connected to a criminal gang or organization. This suggests that lawmakers were aware of the growing threat of youth gangs who have been trouble in Honduras, Guatemala and elsewhere in Central America.

But the law also covers biker gangs, and one U.S. citizen already has been refused entry this year because of his alleged relationship with the Hell’s Angels Motorcycle Club.  The new law makes such associations specific reasons for rejection at the border or entry point.

When a security vice minister and Marco Badilla, director general of Migración y Extranjería, presented the measure to lawmakers more than two years ago, convictions that could lead to refusal at the border were fewer. They included crimes for which the penalty was three years or more in prison.

However, the draft, which will face a second 
hearing and presidential review before it becomes law, specifies no time. It would appear that a mere conviction for domestic violence would make a tourist vulnerable to rejection at the border or airport.

Similar qualifications are imposed for permanent residency.

Fowlie, a U.S. citizen, would fall under this category if the law is approved. He completed an 18-year term for marijuana trafficking in the United States, although he insists he was a victim of judicial overkill.  He made the news because he seeks to reclaim lands he owns in the Pavones region.

Large quantities of expats now in the country would be vulnerable when they return to Costa Rica from trips or when they seek to change their immigration status.

Many expats are perpetual tourists here because the process for permanent residency requires a fingerprint check. They leave the country every 90 days to renew a tourist visa to avoid scrutiny of their prior lives.

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Immigration will stop
use of official stamps

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rican immigration officials are eliminating transaction stamps, and those who will be affected most by the change are foreigners with residency in the country.

The change was announced over the weekend.

Marco Badilla, director general de Migración y Extranjería, said the change was prompted by the great amount of time spent by the employees in his department finding and pasting stamps on official documents. Frequently immigration officials outside of San José had trouble in just locating the stamps.

So now the agency has set up two bank accounts, 242480-0 at Banco de Costa Rica and 215936-6 at Banco Nacional, into which persons may make deposits for various immigration needs.

Costa Ricans also will use the accounts for updating their passports.

Foreigners who have appointments for renewing their residencies have to make a deposit one day earlier, said Badilla.

Foreigners pay 1,250 colons (some $2.64) for renewing their residency identification and 1,013 for the small booklet carried by permanent residents. Fines for renewing the residency late also will be collected via bank deposit. The fine is 300 colons a month.

Badilla said that this system would work in conjunction with a new method of providing identifications for foreigners in the coming months. Foreigners will be issued an identification card much like the driver’s license-sized plastic document carried by Costa Ricans.

Stamps are used continually on official documents in Costa Rica. Tourists even purchase stamps for permission to leave the country.

Legal documents bear stamps, and some cost more to print than their face value. For example, there are legal stamps for a colon, which is one 474th part of a U.S. dollar at this writing.

Man with automatic weapon
sprays center, kills guard

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A wild shooting at a popular San José nightspot cost a guard his life early Friday.

The man was Ricardo Richard Campbell, 44, who worked for a private firm at the Centro Comercial El Pueblo. The location is well-known for its bars, discos and souvenir shops and much frequented by tourists.

The incident that set off the shooting was an argument between two women inside a bar. The women were accompanied by men who joined the dispute until they were ordered out of the establishment.

When one group took to the parking lot, one man is believed to have grabbed an automatic weapon from his vehicle and began spraying the area with .45-caliber bullets.

This was about 3:30 a.m., but the centro is frequently in operation until dawn.

The guard died trying to protect customers in the bar Ebony 56, said witnesses. He was urging customers to go to the floor when a bullet tore through his head.

Murder and shootings are no strangers to the nightspot, but the quantity of bullets — perhaps as many as 65 — expended in this situation is something new.

Escazú father dies
and his son is held

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An Escazú resident died early Sunday and police detained his son.

The man, identified as Germán Murillo Quirós, 65, suffered at least two bullet wounds in the head from a .25-caliber weapon.

The Fuerza Pública said that the shooting took place in a private dwelling in Escazú centro about 1:45 a.m.

The son, 21, was being held for questioning by the Judicial Investigating Organization.

Two U.S. tourists face
heroin smuggling count

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two U.S. citizen tourists face allegations of international drug trafficking because anti-narcotics agents say they found heroin in their luggage.

The two men entered the country at Paseo Canoas from Panamá Thursday night.

They were identified as Lewis Arrington, 63, and Keith Crochett, 38.

 A report from the Policía de Control de Drogas said that each had a half kilo (1.1 pounds) of the drug hidden in their luggage.

In another drug-related case, Fuerza Pública officers in the southern zone confiscated a vehicle that was carrying 37 kilos (81 pounds) of cocaine. Two occupants of the truck fled after a chase. That happened Thursday night.

Saturday at about 5:30 a.m. Fuerza Pública officers confiscated 38 kilos more in La Unión de Limoncito de Coto Brus and arrested a Costa Rican national.

Our readers write

Reader in Switzerland
objects to negativity

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Like many people interested in Costa Rica, I read your newspaper quite often, mostly by curiosity, but also because I’m a Costa Rican living in Switzerland and like to know what’s going on over there.  Therefore, I have noticed that your articles are generally negative, and the opinion given on an issue is usually one-sided. 

For instance, I found the article, printed on May 9, 2005, about condos pretty disturbing. It was as if all hope was lost for Costa Rica and showed how bad things are done over there. 

Other articles I found unnecessary were those about crime in Nosara (such a big deal for a few robbers on a road, while without knowing it many of our neighborhoods have more crime) or some that implicitly talk about the incapability of Costa Ricans to develop their own country. 

I know my country well and also love it, despite it having good and bad things, but to be honest with you if I didn’t know the place and wanted to visit it, and then read your articles, I would change my mind and wouldn’t set foot there. 

I also read Costa Rican newspaper La Nación, which is sometimes criticized for its pessimistic point of view on the country, but in that case reporters keep their opinion to themselves and expose the information.   I’m not asking you to only print "positive news", but it would be good to keep a balance between Costa Rica’s weak points and strong points. 

Esteban Coto
Lausanne, Switzerland
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This Tico sayings is a lot deeper than tempus fugit
Hay más tiempo que vida

"There is more time than life."  This dicho reminds us of our mortality, that lives have beginnings and endings, but time goes on forever.  Each day we have allotted to us is precious, and we need to make the most of it. We must enjoy life while we have it, for tomorrow may be too late.

Events of the recent past have brought this dicho and the depth of its meaning into sharper relief for me. My father had a coronary by-pass and valve replacement operation a week ago last Thursday. To see a man who has always seemed so strong, so vital, and so indestructible lying helplessly in a hospital bed, completely dependant upon others for his care and survival was a sobering experience. 

It was a powerful reminder of the utter transience of human existence and of its fleeting fragility. One can easily imagine each human life as a tiny sliver on the immense wheel of time, like a great mandala suspended in infinite space. In simpler terms, it was a very sobering experience.

Hay más tiempo que vida, the dicho kept running though my mind over and over like a mantra as we waited the long hours to hear if our tata was going to be all right. Now, I am amazed at how quickly he bounced back only four short days after surgery. He was walking and exercising, eating talking and even laughing. At 87 years old — his birthday was just two days before the operation — he taught us a great lesson about loving life through his struggle to survive and get better. 

Hay más tiempo que vida, but ironically, it is our vida, our "life," that actually gives us time; time to contemplate our own existence and our relation to those around us, time to travel and experience our world, time to relax and enjoy that world, time to be kind to others and time to live in peace and harmony with them. 

way we say it

By Daniel Soto

But life also gives us care, worry, and fear. Fear for the survival or our planet, worry over the situation in Iraq and care for those who suffer there, worry that our children are going to inherit a world in turmoil far worse than the one we inherited from our parents, just to name a few. 

But hay más tiempo que vida admonishes us to stop the relentless march of time for a nanomoment and take a good look at our lives, our values, our hopes, and our fears in order to make our lives and our world better before it’s too late, because, after all, time won’t stand still forever.

My maternal grandmother used to repeat this dicho  frequently, and when I was a child I thought that its meaning was not to worry because time will take care of everything. Now, after having witnessed my tata’s fight for his life, I realize that this dicho is actually telling us to cherish life and enjoy what it offers us while we may, because time will continue on even if we are not here any more.  So perhaps it’s really true, then, that living well is the best revenge, at least over the tyranny of time if not over our enemies.

Animal refuge staff
mourns mascot's loss 
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Pepito, the canine mascot for the Asociación Humanitaria Para la Protección Animal, died of skin cancer recently.  He was the sole surviver in a litter that was burned with lighter fluid, according to Lilian Schnog, the organization's president.  Pepito was blinded by the accident but reportedly didn't let his handicap ruin his attitude. 

Ms. Schnog writes that Pepito was in charge of welcoming new dogs to the refuge and was quite adapt at putting the frightened newcomers at ease.   Ms. Schnog also writes that Pepito's will to live made him quite an inspiration and the shelter began using his photograph as one of its symbols. The Asociación Humanitaria Para la Protección Animal is a private organization in Heredia that cares for cats and dogs and arranges for their adoptions.

Demographer says that English sure to dominate U.S.
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

When Americans today use the telephone for business, to make airline reservations or check on their banking account, for example, they often must choose the language they wish to speak. For English, callers are asked to press one . . .  and two for Spanish.

The choice is a minor inconvenience, which Americans never needed to make until the recent arrival of the Hispanics, whose native Spanish has become widespread in advertising, radio and television broadcasts, and government services.

"Increasingly, America does not speak the same language," says Robin Toonkel, who represents U.S. English, an organization that is lobbying Congress to make English the official language of the United States. Ms. Toonkel believes formal recognition is needed to maintain English as the language that has unified Americans throughout the nation's history. 

"We're not of the same race, we're not of the same religion, we're not of the same nationality, but we can always speak the same language." Ms. Toonkel said, adding that she believes Spanish threatens to divide America into two language groups, each conducting business on its own.

But demographer Phillip Longman of the New America Foundation in Washington rejects such fears. Longman notes that children of Hispanic immigrants go to English-speaking schools and many aspire to work in professions, such as law or science, that require English. 

He adds that even Hispanic communities as large as Miami and Dade County, Florida, where Cubans alone number about 650,000, cannot have political influence if their representatives speak only Spanish.

"I quickly realized that the town's power structure was almost entirely controlled by Anglos, and that Hispanics who were in positions of power were thoroughly plugged into the rest of American culture," Longman added.  "They also spoke English and their children spoke English."

The politics of language cuts both ways. On the campaign trail last year, President George Bush often spoke Spanish in the Hispanic community. His rival, John Kerry, did the same. Ms. Toonkel of U.S. English, however, believes that was improper. She says, "I think 

they may have been pandering to a certain community, but certainly, if I was Korean, or if I was Vietnamese, I would say, 'Wait a minute! They want their votes; they don't care about me. I'm not that important?" 

Linguists say that Spanish has more vitality than other immigrant languages in the United States because nearby Spanish-speaking countries support a steady stream of new speakers. 

However, Donna Christian, executive director of the Center for Applied Linguistics in Washington, says Latino immigrants recognize the importance of English for their children.

According to Ms. Christian, "Parents are very concerned that their children learn English. And often, they will resist programs that might help their children maintain their native language because they are afraid they won't learn English."

Linguists point out that it usually takes two or three generations for an immigrant group to lose its ancestral language. One of the factors contributing to the loss are career opportunities that take individuals out of immigrant communities. Demographer Longman said another factor is intermarriage. 

"One of the clear trends among Hispanic-Americans is a very rapid rate of assimilation, intermarriage," he said. "And in that sense, Hispanics are not the fastest growing ethnic group in America. White people are, because so many people will become native white in their own estimation and in other people's estimation."

Longman notes that declining Latin America fertility rates will also decrease pressures on U.S. immigration. He adds, "Mexico for example, because of its very rapid decline in birth rates, is now aging at five times the rate of the United States. Its median age by mid-century will be older than the United States on current trends. So the rate of immigration to the United States from Latin America is likely to taper off."

In addition, Longman says the Hispanic birth rate in the United States is lower than in Latin America because immigrants realize the high cost of large families in their new country. Thus, he believes it is unlikely that America will become bilingual. And according to the 2000 census, more than 300 languages are spoken in the United States, making it a multi-lingual society that speaks English as its common language.

Bolivian protesters ready to resume blockades today
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

LA PAZ, Bolivia — Protesters in Bolivia say their demonstrations and highway blockades will resume today if authorities here do not answer their demands favorably.

Demonstrators who have crippled much of the country for the past three weeks lifted many roadblocks Friday, after the appointment of interim President Eduardo Rodríguez. But organizers say a meeting with Rodríguez planned for Saturday to discuss their demands never materialized, so the demonstrations are set to resume.

The protesters eased highway blockades to allow much-needed fuel and other supplies to reach the capital and other cities.

Rural farmers, miners and labor groups in the impoverished country are demanding the nationalization of natural gas and oil resources to spread wealth more evenly among Bolivia's rich and poor regions.

Former President Carlos Mesa resigned last week in response to the protests.

In an atmosphere both jubilant and morose, thousands of Bolivian protesters celebrated the end of their anti-government campaign with a final march Friday through the streets of La Paz. 

Waving the multi-colored flag symbolic of Bolivia's indigenous people, Segundina Flores said she was ready to return home after weeks of demonstrations, assured the will of the people had served to defeat the country's traditional government powerbrokers.

"After weeks of protesting we defeated the government, our struggle was not in vain," she said.

Bolivia's congress late Thursday appointed Supreme Court Chief Rodriguez, the former chief justice of the supreme court, as the country's interim president.

Rodríguez made clear Friday that he had no ambitions to complete Mesa's term, which expires in 2007. But he said early elections could be held by the end of the year. The interim president also promised to work with congress to restore law and order.

The newly selected president was actually third in line to assume the position. Senate President Hormando Vaca Diez and House of Deputies President Mario Cossio Cortez both declined the position. 

Friday's final march by protesters also took on a mournful note. 

Thousands of miners marched in honor of their comrade Carlos Coro Mayta, who was killed in clashes with security forces on Thursday in the historic Bolivian capital of Sucre.

Quick action by more nations is urged on anti-corruption pact
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

BRASÍLIA, Brazil — More nations should sign and ratify the United Nations Convention Against Corruption to advance global anti-corruption efforts, say the countries represented at an international conference here.

In the final declaration Friday at the conclusion of the Fourth Global Forum on Fighting Corruption, delegates said that international cooperation is necessary to effectively implement this and other international anti-corruption conventions. In addition, the declaration calls for strengthening monitoring mechanisms and providing assistance to developing countries to build capacity necessary to comply with those conventions.

The pact has been signed by 123 countries and ratified by 25 since the U.N. signing ceremony in Merida, Mexico, in 2003. President George Bush has asked the U.S. Senate to ratify it.

The declaration also urged governments to deny safe haven to corrupt officials. The statement also focused on corporatons and individuals who participate in corruption as well as identifying stolen assets. The document also urged international cooperation on extradition, mutual legal assistance, and the recovery and return of those assets.

Conference participants also discussed money laundering.

Jo Stuart
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