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These stories were published Monday, June 20, 2005, in Vol. 5, No. 120
Jo Stuart
About us
Those who choose citizenship have long road
By Garland M. Baker
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Becoming a citizen of Costa Rica is a long, tedious road.

The process is slow and requires patience.  Filling out the forms is easy enough, but every document presented to el Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones or Supreme Court of Elections is put under a microscope to see if one qualifies.  The mere misspelling of word or name in any document can put the process on hold for months or years. 

Once the wait is over, taking the oath of citizenship is a joyful day.  One truly feels part of the country much more so than being a permanent resident.

Here are the different types of Costa Rica citizenship:

By birth: Children born within the territory of Costa Rica, regardless of the nationality of the parents, have the right to Costa Rican citizenship.

By decent: Children born abroad have the right to Costa Rican citizenship if at least one parent is a citizen of Costa Rica.

By naturalization: Central Americans, Spaniards and Latin Americans by birth who have lived in the country for at least five years can apply for Costa Rican citizenship.  Central Americans, Spaniards and Latin Americans, other than by birth, as well as foreign nationals who have lived in the country for at least seven years can also apply for citizenship.

Foreigners who have married a citizen of Costa Rica can apply for Costa Rican citizenship after two years.

As of June 6, 1995, articles 16 and 17 of the Costa Rican Political Constitution were modified to state there are no grounds for loss of Costa Rican citizenship even if there is a voluntary or involuntary reason to renounce it.  This means you can never lose citizenship once you obtain it. This change to the constitution came about because Dr. Franklin Chang, a Costa Rican-born scientist and NASA astronaut, became a U.S. citizen and was consequently stripped of his Costa Rican citizenship. There was a public outcry in Costa Rica. The country did not want to lose such an illustrious Tico to the United States. In response the law was changed.
What is dual citizenship?

A person is considered a dual national when he or she owes allegiance to more than one country at the same time. 

Can one keep U.S. citizenship after becoming a Costa Rican?

Yes. However, the U.S. government does not encourage this as a matter of policy because of the problems it may cause.

Dual nationals owe allegiance to both the United States and the foreign country, and they are required to obey the laws of both countries.

Dual citizens are torn by mixed loyalties

The country where a dual national lives generally has a stronger claim to that person's allegiance. 

Recognizing the trend, the United States is tolerant of dual citizenship despite the stern wording in the U.S. naturalization oath where one renounces allegiance to all other nations.

In other words, the United States looks the other way. The United States is merely accepting a growing reality.

One of the most important reasons the United States permits dual citizenship with Costa Rica is because there is no army here and one does not have to swear to protect the country, just to uphold the constitution.

One of every 100 people on earth lives outside their country of birth. Transmigration in recent decades has reached an unprecedented scale. With the shrinking of the world through cheap travel and telecommunications, governments are beginning to catch up with an unstoppable trend — dual or even multi-citizenship.

A second or even a third passport has become not just a link to a homeland but also a glorified travel visa, a license to do business, a stake in a second economy, an escape hatch, even a status symbol.

There are also practical reasons to carry two passports.  It is much easier to travel in countries that are antagonistic to Americans with a passport from Costa Rica, which is known as a peaceful country, sometimes referred to as "Little Switzerland."

On a personal note, this writer is very happy to have gone through the process to become a naturalized Costa Rican citizen even though the “tramite” or “red tape” took two years and six months.  The new identification card or cédula will take some getting use to.  It now reflects two last names, both father’s and mother’s Mother’s is a very long and difficult to pronounce Russian-German name.  Nobody in Costa Rica can pronounce Garland let alone Brungardt.   In fact, this is why the process took so long. No one at the Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones could get it right.

Garland M. Baker is a 35-year resident and naturalized citizen of Costa Rica who provides multidisciplinary professional services to the international community.  Reach him at  Baker has undertaken the research leading to these series of articles in conjunction with A.M. Costa Rica. Copyright 2005, use without permission prohibited

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, June 20, 2005, Vol. 5, No. 120

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Sunday was another perfect day, and the downtown of San José was filled with shoppers and strollers. The perennial band of Peruvian musicians so moved an older citizen that he danced and danced.

Embassy red-lines
Centro El Pueblo

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The U.S. Embassy has ruled the Centro Comercial El Pueblo to be off -limits to its employees because of a wild shooting incident that killed a guard.

The embassy passed its decision along to the public via its Web site.

The Centro Comercial El Pueblo is located in Barrio Tournon in the north central part of San José and is a popular nightspot with a handful of bars that offer dancing. The center also is where a number of souvenir stores are located.

The shooting took place about 3:30 a.m. June 10. Two groups of individuals were ordered out of the center because they had been fighting. One man pulled a machine pistol from his vehicle and sprayed the buildings. The dead man was Ricardo Richard Campbell, 44, who worked for a private firm. He was killed as he hustled customers in the Ebony 56 bar to safety.

Police foil creativity
in locating drugs

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Drug traffickers are getting creative in their efforts to smuggle their illegal wares through Costa Rica, if weekend police reports are accurate.

Friday night officials stopped a Golfito woman and an Acosta man 23 miles north of the Panamanian border.  Officers grew suspicious when the couple said that the sleeping, year-old baby girl in the back of the Isuzu Trooper they were driving wasn't theirs.  The woman said that the girl had been entrusted to her by the girl's mother but couldn't remember anything about the woman, said police. When the police searched the car, they said they found three kilos of cocaine under the baby girl's seat.  The baby was turned over to the Costa Rican child welfare agency, the Patronato Nacional de la Infancia, and the couple was arrested.   

The next day, police at a checkpoint in Coto Brus caught a Golfito man with 112 small packages of what they believed to be marijuana.  The packages were in the doors of the Chevrolet he was driving.  The officers said they found the red packages when one of them noticed a small crack in one of the doors. 

Also this weekend, another man tried to get through a Coto Brus checkpoint with over $18,000 and 530,000 colons ($1,123) strapped to his body.  The man with the last names of Araya Ramírez had a warrant out for his arrest for an aggravated robbery allegation.  His two companions were arrested for disobeying police. 

And on Thursday, police detained five persons including a father and his son as part of an effort to bust up a presumed drug cartel in Guayabo de Mora.  Captain Roy Chavarria confirmed that police had been investigating the cartel for months.  In a raid, police captured about 227,000 colons ($471) and marijuana stuffed next to the vegetables in the suspects' refrigerator.  They also confiscated toys, electronics, three vehicles, two cell phones, various debit cards, seven watches and a welder among other items. 

27 illegal residents
detained in Jacó sweep

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Immigration police cracked down on Jacó late Friday and early Saturday and even sealed off a section of the community so each vehicle leaving the area could be inspected.

Papers for more than 400 persons were checked, and 27, including one U.S. citizen, were detained and taken to San José for processing for deportation, said a spokesperson for the security ministry.

The police operation was an effort to protect tourist and residents, said Comisionado Juan José Andrade, regional director of the Fuerza Pública. He said that similar efforts will be extended to other beach communities.

In Jacó officials mainly checked on persons in nightclubs. However, later Saturday police erected a checkpoint at Esparza on the Panamerican highway and detained three men who carried firearms and a man facing an allegation of carrying marijuana.

Father slain on Father's Day

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A man who has eight children died when he was shot in the head by two persons who tried to steal his cellular telephone. Ironically, the day was Father's Day.

The man, Ronald Valverde Soto, 42, was set upon by two persons in a taxi as he walked with a woman near the Caribbean bus station in San José about 4 a.m. Sunday. Valverde of Tibás was seeking a taxi after having been out dancing.

Driver killed in Cahuita

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A Cahuita man died Sunday after he offered a lift in his pickup to three men in that Caribbean beach community.

Once in the truck, the men put on masks and fired into the cab. The victim,  José Lizano, was carrying a sum of cash because he was going to purchase property, officials said. A passenger was injured.

MasterCard says credit card
data was stolen at Tucson firm

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

PURCHASE, N.Y. — MasterCard International reported  Friday that it is notifying its member financial institutions of a breach of payment card data, which potentially exposed more than 40 million cards of all brands to fraud, of which approximately 13.9 million are MasterCard-branded cards. MasterCard International's team of security experts identified that the breach occurred at Tucson-based CardSystems Solutions, Inc., a third-party processor of payment card data. Third party processors process transactions on behalf of financial institutions and merchants.

The security vulnerabilities in the processor's systems allowed an unauthorized individual to infiltrate CardSystem's network and access the cardholder data, MasterCards said.

MasterCard said it immediately notified its customer banks of specific card accounts that may have been subject to compromise so they can take the appropriate measures to protect their cardholders.
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Lack of infomation stalls study of soccer team scam
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A U.S. Embassy  investigation into illegal immigration appears to be stalled because officials can't get the information they need.

Nicholas J. Manring said in an interview that embassy staffers have no way of knowing if members of a fake soccer team still are in the United States. He is in charge of the consulate at the U.S. Embassy, the section that issues visas.

The Spanish-language daily la Nación in a news story last month characterized the southern zone soccer team as a thinly disguised effort to smuggle Costa Ricans into the United States to work as undocumented aliens.

Later, an embassy spokesperson suggested that an investigation was taking place, but Manring said Friday he has not looked into the situation very much because he lacks information.

He noted that the consulate issues a visa but it is the Department of Homeland Security that actually admits foreigners into the United States, and personnel there usually use stamps preset to three or six months, thus allowing even the most casual visitor a lot of time to be in the country. The soccer team was in the United States for a weekend friendship tournament.

Manring said he was unable to determine if the soccer team members had returned. Equipment to monitor the exit of foreigners might not be operational at the Dallas airport, he said, adding the Costa Rican immigration records showing arrivals are three months behind.
Manring said he was confident that three other soccer teams also mentioned by La Nación had returned from the United States.

Manring said that officials of Homeland Security have been contacted about the case but have not been asked to do anything. In all from 14 to 17 young men are involved in the soccer team case, he said.

The U.S. government has been vigorous in keeping close tabs on the nation's borders in the wake of the terrorist attacks Sept. 11, 2001. Manring was last in the news when he explained a new device that would electronically record the fingerprint of a visa applicant for comparison with the person who actually requests admission at the U.S. Border.

The United States has upset a number of Latin Americans because they are now required to pay for and obtain a U.S. visa even if they are simply touching down to change planes in the country.

An embassy spokesperson said earlier that unless a person commits a crime, or otherwise violates the  terms of a visa (for example, by working while on a tourist visa), the person is in legal status in the United States until he or she overstays the authorized period of entry. However, the soccer team players are believed to have located employment in the United States.

Immigration is a hot topic in the United States now because of the massive illegal flow along the Mexican border. Many citizens feel that they are endangered by illegal immigration because terrorists and saboteurs can sneak in as well as young men from Pérez Zeledón seeking work.

A little saying that encourages us to be nice to people
Con la vara que mides serás medido

“As you measure others so must you measure yourself.”  This dicho was one of my mother’s favorites. It was her way of teaching us not to be so quick to pass judgment on other people. She would often follow up the dicho with: “If a person has done something wrong, their time will come to pay the price. It is not up to you to pass judgment and mete out punishment.”

Of course this saying is very much like a combination of the Golden Rule; “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” and another of Christ’s admonitions; “Judge not lest ye be judged.”

When I was a child, kids from a certain family in our neighborhood always seemed to be coming over to our house. We were friends, and I never paid much attention to their comings and goings until my grandmother pointed out that those kids usually seemed to show up a few minutes before lunch wanting to play. But, as soon lunch was over, and they’d eaten their fill, they were ready to go home. Once, their father also borrowed money from my father, which was never repaid.

One day, as I was sitting with my family on our front porch, one of those kids passed by. I mentioned to my mother that they were only interested in eating lunch in our house, and that was the only reason they wanted to be friends with us. She replied that that was OK, and we must always be sure that they felt welcome. “But why?” I indignantly asked. “It’s not fair!” She replied that it wasn’t a matter of what’s fair and what isn’t. It’s about sharing with others who are less fortunate even if sometimes it may feel like you’re being taken advantage of. We all grew up and lost track of one another, but I heard that the oldest boy of that family became a very successful lawyer and opened a trading company where he put all the family to work. Though I haven’t seen any of them in many years, the memory of that family and what my mother said about them has stayed with me.

Con la vara que mides serás medido has taught me much, and I’ve tried to apply it in my daily life. My mother always said it was important to be kind to strangers because you never know when you might be a stranger yourself in need of someone’s kindness. Sort of like poor Blanch Du Bois, I suppose, in “A Streetcar Named Desire.”

I soon had an opportunity to put my mother’s philosophy to the test.

Once, when I was in my late teens, some of my sisters and brothers and I were out for a Saturday evening of dancing at a popular San José disco.

We met a young man from Venezuela who was driving all the way from Los Angeles, California, to Caracas! In the course of our conversation he told us that he had been sleeping in his car for the past week and, among other things, he was in need of a real shower and a good night’s rest. We immediately invited him to come and spend the night at our house. Our parents were at our farm for the
way we say it

By Daniel Sot

weekend and he could sleep in their room. He was very pleased and grateful. That night we gave him the best bedroom in the house, with its own private bath.

The next morning I got up early. I encountered my grandmother in the kitchen who asked me if I knew that my parents had come home late the night before and had gone out again very early that morning?  I said no, that wasn’t the case, and told her we had invited a guest to spend the night. My grandmother, being of a more suspicious nature than I — in my salad days, as it were — declared that he had surely stolen everything in my parents' bedroom that was not nailed down!

Grim-faced and resolute she marched me to the bedroom where we discovered everything to be completely in order. A note of thanks was affixed to the mirror of my mother’s dressing table in which the young fellow had included his phone number and an invitation for us to stay at his house should we ever be in Caracas.

“So you see, Grandmama,” I said in my most didactic tone, “Con la vara que mides serás medido.” “Hrumph,” said she — or words to that effect — and, drawing herself up to her full five feet, she sailed from the room with great hauteur.

But the story doesn’t end there. Several years later, as it so happened, I found myself stranded in Caracas virtually penniless, trying to scrape together the money for a plane ticket to Bogotá where I might join my family. I was walking dejectedly down the street, when a man said to me, “Hey, I think that man across the street is trying to get your attention.” I looked but I did not recognize the guy. He crossed to where I was standing and said, “Daniel, don’t you remember me?” I responded in the negative. Then he reminded me of that Saturday night, now many years ago, in a disco in San José, Costa Rica when I had met a man from Venezuela who was driving all the way to Caracas.

And, of course, he was none other than that same man! He said I must come with him to his house because no one had ever believed he had encountered such kindness as that which we had extended to him in the midst of his long journey home. I had a wonderful evening with him and his family. We ate a delicious dinner, I got a good night’s sleep, and he even loaned me the few additional Bolivares I needed for my ticket to Botogá. All of which reminds me of another dicho that you have in English: “What goes around also comes around.”

The black market peso exchange is a system where drug traffickers sell U.S. drug proceeds (dollars) to brokers for pesos. Brokers then sell the drug dollars to Colombian importers who purchase goods in the United States and elsewhere. By purchasing the U.S. dollars on the black market and not through Colombia’s regulated exchange system, the importers avoid Colombian taxes and tariffs, gaining significant profit and a competitive advantage over those who import legally.   

Drug Enforcement Administration graphic

Peso exchange ring broken up by U.S. drug police
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. —  The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration announced it has broken up a Colombian drug money-laundering ring, resulting in the arrests of 36 people and the seizure of over 21,000 pounds of marijuana, 947 kilograms of cocaine, 7 kilograms of heroin, and $7.2 million in illegal profits.

One Costa Rican, identified as Guillermo Cohen-Marenco, was arrested in the sweep. The DEA said that the ring had many bank accounts, including some in Costa Rica.

The DEA said that the dismantling of the money-laundering ring occurred under "Operation Mallorca," a 27-month investigation that targeted alleged Colombian-based money brokers Gabriel Martinez, Farid Chain and Edgar De Castro.  Chain and other targets in the investigation were arrested in Barranquilla, Colombia, and indictments were returned against four businesses in New York.

The DEA credited the Colombian government's Department of Security for helping to break the most recent case.

Those involved in the money-laundering ring, said the DEA, funneled drug proceeds through the Colombian Black Market Peso Exchange.  Money laundering forfeiture allegations include the seizure of $11.2 million located at international and domestic bank accounts. Drug forfeiture allegations involve the seizure of $1.4 million in properties.

The defendants provided multiple bank accounts throughout the United States, Colombia, Costa Rica, China, Panama, Curacao, Uruguay, Brazil, and Switzerland along with the corresponding instructions 
for the electronic transfer of the narcotics proceeds to
the Colombian owners, said the DEA. It was also part of the conspiracy to organize, operate, and invest in allegedly legitimate business to conceal the origin, nature, and source of the money, the DEA said.

The DEA described that exchange as a system in which drug traffickers sell U.S. drug proceeds to brokers for pesos.  Brokers then sell the drug proceeds to Colombian importers who purchase goods in the United States and elsewhere.  By purchasing the U.S. dollars on the black market exchange and not through Colombia's regulated exchange system, the importers avoid Colombian taxes and tariffs, gaining significant profit and a competitive advantage over those who import legally, said the DEA.

DEA Administrator Karen Tandy said her agency is targeting the financial networks of drug cartels "like never before" to bankrupt traffickers and money launderers.  "In Operation Mallorca, we followed the money around the globe and into the hands of major Colombian drug traffickers," she said.  "We've shown the black market peso exchange for what it is — the largest known drug money-laundering mechanism in the Western Hemisphere."

Ms. Tandy said the DEA denied drug-trafficking organizations over $500 million of their profits in 2004 alone.  She said the drug seizures represent an increase of 40 percent over 2003 and severely affect the ability of drug traffickers to produce, transport and distribute drugs into the United States.

It is understood that major drug traffickers have "insulated themselves from their drug distribution networks, but remain closely linked to the proceeds of their trade," said Ms. Tandy.  "Operation Mallorca is a testament to our focus on the financial side of the drug business."

Crisis in Haiti will get an airing at United Nations
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — U.N. troops are attempting to restore stability amid increasing violence in Haiti's capital. The Haitian people are growing increasingly critical as renewal of the U.N. mandate becomes part of the discussion at the U.N. Security Council this week.

Two U.N. peacekeepers were shot and wounded on Thursday in Cite Soleil, a vast slum in the capital of Port-au-Prince. The soldiers were patrolling the slum when they were hit by automatic gunfire by armed gangs.

This is the second attack on U.N. troops in two weeks. Two weeks ago week, gunmen opened fire on a peacekeeper and two Red Cross volunteers in front of a hospital in the same slum.

The U.N. troops, known locally by their French acronym MINUSTAH, were deployed in Haiti after the exile of the former president, Jean Bertrand Aristide, in February 2004.

Since their deployment, the U.N. forces have faced a rising wave of gun violence in the Haitian capital.

Meanwhile,  the Canadian foreign minister was splattered with red paint by a protester Friday while speaking at a Montreal news conference about the situation in Haiti. The mininster, Pierre Pettigrew, left the conference briefly to change clothes as security guards led the protester out of the room. The incident took place as Canadian and Haitian ministers, officials from donor countries, and the special U.N. representative for Haiti were meeting to discuss progress in the Caribbean nation as it prepares for elections later this year.

Canada is urging the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti to intervene more directly in the internal political process

From Haiti itself, the U.S. Peace Corps has evacuated 16 volunteers and suspended operations amid escalating violence and security concerns. The
withdrawal of the Peace Corps team comes three
weeks after the U.S. Department of State issued a travel warning that ordered all non-emergency personnel and U.S. Embassy families to leave Haiti immediately. The State Department warns of spontaneous violent confrontations between armed groups and an absence of an effective police force in much of Haiti.

Automatic gunfire between gangs, police and U.N. troops in the downtown area has kept businesses closed and thousands of children out of school since late September. In the last nine months, over 700 people have died in violence.

In recent weeks, a wave of kidnappings has struck the city. As many as 10 people are kidnapped per day by armed gangs trying to raise money to buy arms. Ransoms have been reported in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. In the past week, four foreigners were reportedly kidnapped.

The Haitian population has grown critical of the U.N. troops for their failure to reinstate stability. Bumper stickers call the U.N. troops tourists, and banners line the streets asking the MINUSTAH to restore peace so that the population can return to work.

But the U.N. chief of communication and public information, Toussaint Kongo-Doudou, says that the troops are working hard to control the situation, particularly in the city's vast slums.

"To counter the gangs requires strong action, and we've been taking strong action. When the gangs strongly attack, they are answering back. And we are going to keep the pressure until we get these people out. People in the slums, poor neighborhoods of Port-au-Prince, particularly Cite Soleil and Bel Air, are taken hostage. The population there have nothing to do with the violence," he said.

The U.N. mandate to keep 6,700 soldiers in Haiti runs out on June 24. The U.N. Security Council is expected to renew the mandate, and may even recommend increasing the number of troops to maintain order in Haiti's upcoming elections in November.

Jo Stuart
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