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These stories were published Friday, June 24, 2005, in Vol. 5, No. 124
Jo Stuart
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Visitor finds U.S. expat murdered in Escazú
By Saray Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A 65- to 70-year-old man believed to be a U.S. citizen resident of Costa Rica has been murdered in Escazú.

A would-be visitor alerted police to the crime about 6 p.m. Thursday. The visitor, a woman, was unable to obtain a response to repeated ringing and asked a security guard to check on the man's welfare.

What they found was the man, tentatively identified as Edward Johnn Chopho, dead on the floor of his apartment in the VillaGarcia complex in San Rafael de Escazú. A security guard told a reporter that the man had lived in the complex for about six months.
The complex is some 100 meters north of the popular Villa del Rey Chinese restaurant, which is some 400 meters west of the Mas x Menos supermarket in Escazú.

Edward Torres of the Fuerza Pública in Escazú said that the man was married but not living with his wife and that the case was being treated as an apparent homicide. There was no sign of forced entry on the apartment, and the victim was believed to have been dead for about three days. Nor was there any obvious motive.

A reporter was told that the man suffered wounds to the head and bled profusely in the apartment. The complex is an upscale one with 24-hour security. The Judicial Investigating Organization has taken over the case.

Family violence takes its toll even here
"You always hurt the one you love." Remember that old song? There is some truth in it. The latest statistics are out, and they say there is reduction in the threat more damaging to the sanctity of marriage and the family than gays. And that is violence.

Between the years of 1993 and 2002, domestic violence has dropped by more than half, according to a report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics and reported by The Associated Press. Still, "domestic, dating and family violence are still taking a terrible toll," according to Ester Soler, president of the Family Violence Prevention Fund. That toll claims mostly women, according to the statistics, and most of these victims are white and between the ages of 25 and 54.

Family violence is defined as all types of violent crimes that are committed by someone related to the victim. Although the statistics are for the United States only, family violence is not confined to the U.S.

I am inclined to think that the general prosperity in the States during the 90s is responsible for this decline, but while I was in the States I saw an interview with one of the authors of the book "Freakenomics." He made a case for the relationship between the drop in crime in the 1990's and the legalization of abortion in the 1970's. Fewer unwanted children meant fewer neglected and miserable children and, thus, fewer adult criminals, according to his argument. Perhaps there is also a relationship between fewer unwanted children and a lower incidence of family violence. Interesting thought, but I am not mentioning these statistics to discuss the reason.

I get letters from hopeful visitors to Costa Rica asking about crime here, and should they be concerned about visiting this country. There is crime in Costa Rica (it seems to have increased, not decreased in the past years) but as in many other countries, many of these crimes are
Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart

'personal,' that is, committed by someone related to or at least familiar with the victim. They are not random crimes. When I was at the I-House in San Jose, California, a young woman who worked at the small store on the corner was murdered.

Most of the students living in the I-House knew her because they took their film to that store to be developed. Fear was rampant among them — fear that a killer was loose and who knew who might be the next victim? This fear continued until it was learned that the killer was related to the victim. Whenever there is a murder or violent crime committed in a neighborhood, the silent hope of those who hear about it is that there was a “reason” for the crime. This is not callous; it is just self-preservation.
So that is the good news. The bad news is that the second most common crime in Costa Rica is probably theft and is committed by someone who sees something someone else has and wants it. Usually this is accomplished through stealth, but sometimes the thief thinks the quickest way to get what he wants is to conk the owner over the head (or worse, since there are more guns available here).

I am not advising that people coming to Costa Rica should leave their family members at home and come only with a half empty knapsack. Every day thousands of tourists travel safely in this country and go home vowing to return as soon as they can. A lot of their pleasure has to do with the hospitality and kindness of the Costa Rican people. So come, enjoy the country. Just be as circumspect and alert as you would be in any country.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, June 24, 2005, Vol. 5, No. 124

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Collector gunned down
by three bandits

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Bandits gunned down the 25-year-old collector for an appliance firm Thursday afternoon in Garabito de León XIII.

Two hours later Fuerza Pública officers arrested a man who drove a car similar to the one in the slaying, but his actual involvement was uncertain.

The dead man is Óscar Solano Rojas, who drove a motorcycle on his rounds to collect monthly payments from time purchasers at the well-known Importadora Monge.

The murder took place after three men approached Solano and demanded that he give them the money he carried. He refused, police said, and the bandits shot him in the chest and both legs. The chest wound caused his death a few minutes later. The bandits tried to steal the motorcycle but they dumped the vehicle a short distance away and fled in a car.

Officers detained a man with the last names of  Aldecaba Fernández about 3 p.m. in Cuatro Reinas de Tibás. Officers said they found a 9-mm pistol in his car. The blue Hyundai was similar to the one in which the murderers fled. The Hyundai is a popular vehicle here, as is the blue color, and it is not unusual for citizens to carry unregistered guns for protection. Later in the night officers suggested that he may not be a suspect in the killing.

Don Quixote inspires
community contest

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

It seems the rural Guanacaste communities of Corozalito, Pilas de Bejuco and Pueblo Nuevo are getting a history lesson from the Hotel Punta Islita.

Officials at the hotel, along with a host of other organizations, came up with a contest among rural communities in celebration of Miguel de Cervantes' masterpiece, Don Quixote de La Mancha, which is now 400 years old.

The hotel, along with organizers from the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo al Aire Libre de Islita and the Fundación Villafranca y Zürcher para la Educación a Través del Turismo, started the process a few weeks ago when it held a workshop about the book.  For many of the citizens of those communities, it was their first experience with the noble horseman from La Mancha. 

After the workshop, organizers revealed their plan, called La Quijotada Educativa, which was designed to educate the community about the novel.

Each community, along with a local teacher, is bestowed with the task of designing and implementing a project to support the community's school.  The winning project earns $1,000 towards its plan.   

A panel of judges, made up of the directors and higher-ups of the sponsoring organizations, have visited each community and evaluated in the context of the Quijotada Educativa factors like sustainability of the project, active participation of the community, creativity, and real usefulness. 

The prize will be awarded tomorrow.

New school to open
on Indian reserve

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff  

The Tayni Indigenous Reserve is getting a new school.

July 4 the first secondary school in the area will open.  More than 200 people from the community, along with the British Embassy, volunteers from Raleigh International and area development organizations all coordinated their efforts to build the school.

Raleigh International, a U.K. Based non-profit organization, provides young volunteers to community and environmental development projects in Chile, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Ghana, Namibia, Sabah-Borneo and Fiji.

The volunteers and workers put in long hours hauling sand from the local river to the build site and lived with local families.  When the work was finished, they had built a small, three-classroom school with a lunch room, bathrooms, and a house for the local teacher.  

The reserve is in southwestern Costa Rica.

Ocean festival starting

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

“A week for the ocean,” is a free festival put on by the Asociación de Educadores Marinos de Puntarenas (EDUMAR), which will happen Monday through July 1 in Puntarenas and San José. 

This festival is being held to gain approval to create a more marine culture in Costa Rica, and to start reversing the historical processes which have negatively impacted marine resources.  Sponsors include authorities from the health and education sectors, Asociación de Educadores Marinos de Puntarenas and MarViva. 

For more information contact Michelle Soto Méndez of the Asociación Marviva.

Body of snorkeler found

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The body of Manuel Paños, 29, a Spanish tourist has been found in the Pacific off Guanacaste. The man vanished Tuesday after going snorkeling at Playa Manzanillo. The man was vacationing there with his wife, said police, who directed an extensive two-day search.

Our readers respond

Retired lawyer laughs
at arbitration scheme

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I read with humor the letter to the editor from Gordon Yantzi, one of the whining Villalobos investors who now want the Costa Rican government to take their loss.  While residing in Costa Rica during 2000 to 2003, I heard MANY stories before the disappearance of Mr. Villalobos about how GREAT his investment vehicle was doing.  I had to laugh at that time because it was such an OBVIOUS Ponzi scheme.  My only amazement was that it had existed for so many years. I concluded those guys were the best con men I had ever heard about.  As a retired attorney, I advised EVERY Gringo I met who was invested to get out and take their profits.  But greed kept ALL of them in. 

I even met a Canadian CPA (a conservative profession in a conservative country) who laughed at my advice and lost over $100,000.  Guess I had the LAST laugh!

Now I am now totally amazed that any of these investors could possibly want to blame any government for their own stupidity for investing in such an obvious fraud.  And these are probably some of the same people who believe Mr. Villalobos will return some day on a big white horse with all their money plus interest!
Jack Agnew
Clearwater, Florida
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Our new five-star food and restaurant page
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Bacchus continues to be something special
When Bacchus opened its doors several months ago, it became an instant hit.

It received accolades from two publications and my dear friends, the very discriminating Costa Rica Women’s Group Out to Lunch Bunch. We joined the parade and were surprised at the smooth execution of a challenging menu, service without the frenzy of newness and joy on the faces of the two charming host-owners, originally from Turino, and the diners. A new restaurant in a large space replete with excellent art on the walls is a very costly undertaking without a high probability for success. Where was the anxiety? Very impressive indeed.
We returned with friends a few months later and again to answer readers’ questions about the spun sugar golden sombreros and baskets on and around some of the exotic desserts. Both visits were flawless. In the past few weeks, we dined there again for lunch and with a larger party for dinner. On all occasions, every dish met expectations. Extraordinary flavors? No, just solid, consistent, nicely prepared, very good food. Neither were the presentations on a par with the desserts, but they were lovely, not ostentatious.
Devoid of radical changes, the menu continues to evolve slowly. One new addition, the Mediterranean salad, speaks volumes for simplicity and perfection. A bed of crisp cool arugula supports about 20 warm and juicy shrimp and shaved Reggiano Parmigiano cheese, tossed with light citrus vinaigrette. Other salads (¢ 2,750-2,950) include Caesar, caprese, Greek and smoked trout with an oregano vinaigrette. At this writing the colon is about 475 to the U.S. dollar.
French onion (¢ 2,450) or Spanish gazpacho
(¢ 2,250) soups, eggplant parmigiana (¢ 2,250) and  filo pastry stuffed with chicken breast, mushroom, spinach, onion and gorgonzola are hot options as appetizers. The cold selection adds the following to the mix: corvina ceviche (¢ 2,850), Norwegian salmon carpaccio (¢ 2,950) or tartar (¢ 3,250), steak carpaccio with balsamic vinaigrette and parmesan cheese(¢ 2,950), octopus tossed with black olives and celery in a creamy sauce (¢ 3,150) and a king size antipasto for a table of three or four (¢ 6,250).
Pasta dishes fall into two categories, fresh and dry. The fresh group contains well made ravioli, fettuccini, cannelloni, gnocchi and lasagna. The dry are spaghetti, linguini, bucatini and penne. Prices range from ¢ 2,850 to 3,550. The house special linguini with smoked salmon in a white wine cream sauce is delicate and delicious as are potato and spinach gnocchi in a creamy gorgonzola sauce. For anchovy lovers, the spaghetti ala puttanesca fits the bill.

There is nothing wrong with the bread basket, but I urge you to try an order of focaccia with rosemary (¢ 1,750) with whatever starter you choose. Another gem of pure simplicity — paper thin pizza dough dusted with salt and rosemary, drizzled with olive oil, blistered in a hot oven. They are so good you might want to figure on an order for every two or three people in your party. The other focaccia, calzone and pizza choices offer nice combinations of fine ingredients for an average of ¢ 3,000 and fill two entire menu pages. Even after so many visits, I have yet to try a pizza because the starters, pasta and main courses are so pleasing.
Dr. Lenny Karpman

we eat

The seafood and meat main courses cost ¢ 4,000 to about 6,000 and include prawns, salmon, trout, duck, pork and steak in a variety of very nice combinations and presentations. The least expensive is an entire grilled trout with spinach salad and baked potato for
¢ 3,950. The most expensive is duck breast in a port reduction on yellow polenta with a ragout of mushrooms (¢ 6,350).

Steak tartar is often a challenge. The beef needs to be coarsely ground to be tender without becoming a paste. The seasoning should be bold but not overpowering the steak flavor. Bacchus’ rendition is simple, straight forward and perfect for my preference.

The texture and taste of the meat, dressed in a nice Dijonaise mustard sauce, brings smiles to my old bearded face. It comes with cucumber slices and crisp fries (¢ 4,550). The salmon in tarragon butter (¢ 4,550) is very nicely done, moist and delicately flavored. The house fricassee of large prawns, mushrooms and grilled baby zucchini in a garlic white wine sauce with spinach quiche is a justified favorite (¢ 5,750).
Our usual scenario is to eat too many focaccia wedges with salad or appetizer followed by a pasta dish or main course. Invariably none of us has room for dessert, so we order one for the table with the appropriate number of spoons to taste.

When there are four of us, the chef adds an extra fried pastry half moon filled with hot apple compote so we can have one each as part of “Ravioli fritos rellenos de compota de manzana verde, con salsa de toffee y helado de vanilla.” A golden lacey spun sugar basket cradles the half moons, the ice cream and the caramel sauce (¢ 1,950). The other six dessert choices are quite good as well.
All these goodies reside in a nice location with its own secure parking lot.

The old road from Escazú to Santa Ana is two-way to the east and divides into two one-way streets as it goes west. As you reach the divide from Escazú turn right. From Santa Ana, left. Take the road north until it ends.

The restaurant is around the corner to the left. Inside, past the desk, the décor is stunning, rustic oversized red painted brick floors, earth tone walls from pale beige on the garden walls to shades of butterscotch and papaya, oriental rugs, striking colors from the beautiful Max Rojas paintings and Burgundy accents on the tables. Cane ceilings, a two meter wide garden and wrap-around patio completes the tasteful environs.
Outstanding. Four Stars  $$$

Three get 27 years each in Escazú home robberies
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Three men got sentences of 27 years in prison Thursday for their roles in a crime wave that touched homes in Escazú and Sabana Oeste. A fourth man got nine years.

The men were a gang that broke into homes and condominiums to commit robbery. One of the convicted men is a former agent for the Judicial Investigating Organization. Two other ex-agents were acquittted. The case was decided by a three-judge panel in the Tribunal de Juicio del Primer Circuito Judicial in San José.

The findings involve a series of home robberies, and some men were convicted and other acquitted in each.
The convicted former agent is Jorge Palma Vargas. Also getting 27 years were Astrubal Madrigal Brenes and Elias Crisanto Loria Calvo.  Carlos Campos Marchini got nine years.

The decision said there was not sufficient evidence to connect Alexander Villegas Hernández and Donny Campos Sánchez to the crimes.

The robberies took place more than a year ago. Masked, armed men would break into a condominium or apartment complex and tie up whoever they found there.

Sometimes they would injure the individuals. Then they would take any valuables they could find.  They operated in the daytime.

Two small earthquakes rattle ground around Quepos and Parrita
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The martinis in the central Pacific were shaken, not stirred Thursday. Two small quakes rattled the area.

The first, about 9:15 a.m. was measured at a 4.1 magnitude. The epicenter was about 25 kilometers (15.5 miles) northwest of Quepos and south of
Parrita. The blame was placed on a local fault.

The second arrived about two minutes to 3 p.m. and had a magnitude of 3.5, said the Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico de Costa Rica. The second quake was east of Parrita.

The area is frequently rattled by small quakes

White House photo by Krisanne Johnson
President George W. Bush delivers a statement about the Central American trade treaty
in the Dwight D. Eisenhower Executive Office Building Thursday.

Bush sends Congress bills to support trade treaty
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. —  President George Bush is urging the U.S. Congress to pass the Central American Free Trade Agreement “as a signal of our nation's commitment to democracy and prosperity for the entire Western Hemisphere.”

Bush spoke at the White House Thursday shortly before his administration submitted legislation to Congress to implement the U.S. trade pact with five Central American countries and the Dominican Republic.  Joining the president were cabinet members as well as officials from previous Republican and Democratic administrations.

“All of us urge Congress to pass the agreement, because America has an interest in strengthening democracy and advancing prosperity in our hemisphere,” Bush said.  “Today, CAFTA presents us with an historic opportunity to advance a free and fair trading system that will bring benefits to all sides.”

The president said the trade pact would lock in the benefits currently enjoyed by exporters in Central America and the Dominican Republic, meaning “good jobs and higher labor standards for their workers.”  Once the agreement is implemented, consumers in those countries will also have access to U.S. goods at lower prices.

“[T]hat brings us a step closer to our goal of an Americas where the opportunities in San José, Costa Rica, are as real as they are in San Jose, California,” he said.

The president described Central America as “a part of the world that was once characterized by oppression and military dictatorship,” and said the region now “sees its future in democratic elections and free and fair trade.”

“[W]e cannot take these gains for granted.  These small nations are making big and brave commitments, and America must continue to support them.  And CAFTA is a good way to support them,” he said.

The trade agreement would also help to create new job opportunities in the region, "which will mean someone will be able to find good work at home, somebody will be able to provide for their family at home, as opposed to having to make the long trip to the United States,” he added.

Following the president’s remarks, a bipartisan delegation of current and former U.S. officials led by U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman spoke to the press outside the White House.

Portman said the trade treaty would benefit American exporters, especially those in the agricultural and
textile sectors.  The 40 million consumers in Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic, constitute the 10th largest market in the world, he said.

However, he said the added stability and prosperity of the region are of larger importance.

“We cannot let these countries down in Central America — these fragile democracies that are making the right moves, doing the right things and creating free markets and are promoting democracy,” Portman said.

Former trade rep Carla Hills said agreements such as this treaty encourage “transparency, respect for property and rule of law," thus attracting investment and promoting political stability.

Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutiérrez said the treaty transcends domestic U.S. political rivalries and special interests.  It “is too important and there’s too much at stake,” he said, adding, “as [President Bush] said, we have to look at the national interest and what is really the right thing to do.”

Stuart Eizenstadt, who served as under secretary of state during the Clinton administration, echoed President Bush’s statement that the agreement will create jobs in Central America and the Dominican Republic and thereby discourage emigration.

Studies have shown that the trade agreement will create $5 billion in income and hundreds of thousands of jobs, which removes some of the pressure for both legal and illegal immigration from Central America, Eizenstadt said. Eizenstadt also said the trade agreement will help to lift labor standards in the region.

“There are labor protections in this bill.  There are fines for violating labor standards of the countries involved if they don’t do so, and there is money -— Congress just added another $20 million, a total of $40 million — to help the countries implement their own labor standards,” Eizenstadt said.

Later Portman issued a statement saying "I'm pleased that the President today submitted to Congress the implementing bill for the Central American - Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement. I hope that the Congress will take up this agreement at the earliest possible time.”

The agreement is a sure thing in the U.S. Senate, but the administration is still some 10 to 15 votes short in the U.S. House. El Salavador, Honduras and Guatemala have ratified the agreement. Costa Rican President Abel Pacheco has shown uncertainty and has asked a panel of citizens to give him an opinion. Asamblea Legislativa approval is required for ratification.

Jo Stuart
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