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These stories were published Friday, July 4, 2003, in Vol. 3, No. 131
Jo Stuart
About us
A.M. Costa Rica photo
U.S. Marine color guard hoists Old Glory about 11 a.m. Friday in San José as part of the July 4 celebration.

It's perfect weather
for July 4 celebration

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
(posted about 1 p.m. July 4)

A typically large turnout took advantage of magnificent weather to show up at the U.S. Independence Day celebration Friday.

More than 4,000 U.S., citizens and family members came by 10:30 a.m., and more continued to come for the morning affair.

The only snag was encountered by a group seeking to obtain petition signatures in support of a lobbying action by creditors of fugitive financier Luis Enrique Villalobos Camacho and his brother Oswaldo. Security guards would not let the group enter the Cervercería Costa Rica facilities west of San José.

The highlight of the event was the raising of the colors by three members of the U.S. Marine detachment at the U.S. Embassy. Earlier story BELOW!
How much 
is that doggie
on the Internet?

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Remember the strange response to a classified ad in which someone wanted to purchase a "used dog."

A.M. Costa Rica speculated last Monday that the response to one of the animal classifieds might have been automated because people selling cars have received similar messages from people who said they wanted to ship the vehicles to Africa.

But the plot thickens.

The same reader who first placed the dog ad now reports she has successfully negotiated by e-mail a $1,500 price for the stray animal. There is only one catch. The buyer wants her to cash his $5,500 check and send him the difference by Western Union or other speedy service.

This transaction probably does not mean that every stray dog on the streets of San José is worth $1,500. Instead, the higher probability is that the $5,500 check, allegedly certified, is bogus. Said the e-mail reply from one Fredrick Cole Thursday:

"Yeah I think the price is okay for the dog, and I believe we get the deal rolling. I will like you to let you know that a certified cashier check or money order of the amount of $5500 will be send to you . . ."

Cole, who uses a Yahoo return address, is prepared to trust a total strange to send him back $4,000.

The whole operation is probably computerized, and none of the scamsters realize they have been negotiating for a used dog instead of a used car. And they don’t care. They just want the $4,000 return check.

Or we have solved the country’s stay animal problem as well as its financial deficit in one clever move. Who cares about bananas, coffee, microchips or tourism? Costa Rica will just export $1,500 street dogs.


Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart

Nostalgia, reunions, and going home again

One of the reasons I am in the United States is to attend a reunion celebrating the 25th anniversary of the opening of the San José State University Phyllis F. Simpkins International House (once called the International Center). I was director there from 1985 until 1992. Former residents from all over the world will be coming "home" to see old friends — and probably make new ones. I am told there are 24 marriages that have come out of the International House.

To this end, I am on the Coast Starlight Amtrak train going from Los Angeles to San José. It is going to take me 10 hours to get there instead of the hour or so if I flew. I really don’t like to fly. I did fly from Costa Rica to the U.S. and caught the first cold I have had in over 12 years.

So far I have listened to a very tired mother talk about the miseries she went through taking her child to Disneyland. Her litany of disasters was punctuated by her daughter’s gleeful bursts about the wonderful time she had. And I have heard about growing up in Western Pennsylvania from another woman ("When we all had 23-inch waists."). 

I tried for the first time, a Crispy Creme donut — actually two donuts, since there were two to a box. A dollar each! I must admit I expected more. When I was a kid in Mayville, New York, we had a bakery that made glazed donuts, and some nights we would stay up until after midnight when we knew the donuts were coming out of the ovens and go and get them fresh and warm. We could smell them as we approached the bakery. If my memory serves me, they were 60 cents a dozen and far superior to Crispy Creme.  I have no idea if that bakery is still operating in Mayville. 

I am sure the movie theater, another of our favorite places, has long since been torn down. It was rickety even then. That is where I first saw Katharine Hepburn in her early movies. That is where I thought all of the people in New York City lived in apartments and had butlers and wore long gowns and tails when they went to nightclubs — and everybody could do the fox-trot. 

That is where I learned manners and proper etiquette and tried to imitate the way Ms. Hepburn talked. She and Myrna Loy were my heros back then. I wanted to grow up with Myrna Loy’s voice and sense of humor and Katharine Hepburn’s diction, brains and daring. 

I walked around with a book on my head to improve my posture and attain that splendid hautiness of hers. There seems to have come an end of an era with her death and Gregory Peck’s passing. He personified nobility of character and integrity.

I suppose every time a famous person dies someone somewhere says something to that effect. But eras do pass, and people and places do change. Those movies I saw were as far from reality as the action-packed-with-computer stunts movies of today, but they still had their effect on me. And now I am going back to recapture another era — my time with the former residents of the International House. 

Nina and Leann met me at the station. The train was over an hour late but they were in such high spirits when they greeted me with hugs, I thought they were drunk. They were just happy that we are together again. 

Nina was a resident and then my assistant in the International House, and Leann is the present director and was my protege. Leann juggles a career with marriage and two stunningly beautiful children and Nina, who is with the Norwegian Embassy, is on her way to Kabul, Afghanistan after the reunion. 

I asked her how she happened to get sent there. She replied, "I was the only one who applied for the job — I don’t like competition." No, Nina just likes challenges.

San José is a city where I spent the largest chunk of my life (and San José, Costa Rica, will probably be the second place). It was the variety of the people and their friendliness that first attracted me. Then there is the university, to me one of the best teaching universities in the state. 

As we drove through the city, Leann pointed out all the changes. The most spectacular is the new combined university/public library, the first of its kind in the United States. That, to me, personifies San José.

As I try to make sense out of all of these words, I recall that the first article I ever wrote about Costa Rica was after my first visit there — and at the time I was living in San José, California and working in the International Center. 

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Many Ticos expect corruption will increase here
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Some 32.3 percent of the Costa Ricans said they expected corruption to increase a lot over the next three years.

In all, 41.4 percent of the people said they think corruption would increase. Some 16.2 percent thought corruption would stay the same, and 39.4 percent thought corruption would decrease. That put the country somewhere in the middle of the responses from 47 countries. 

These opinions were the result of a survey commissioned by Transparency International in which 40,838 individuals took part. Gallup International did the work.

Some 64.6 percent of the Costa Rican respondents said that corruption has a very significant impact on their personal and family life.

The survey sought the answer to a variety of questions, including where would citizens eliminate corruption if they had a magic wand and could do so in one of the many institutions in daily life. Most respondents said they would eliminate corruption from political parties.

Some 29 percent of the Costa Ricans named political parties, just about the average of the 47 countries. Some 14 percent of the Costa Ricans named customs as a highly corrupt organization, somewhat higher than most countries. Only 4.2 percent of the people in the 47countires said customers.

Costa Ricans also cited immigration (12.9 percent), again a higher percentage than the 3.3 percent among all the countries. The judicial system (8.6 percent) and the tax system (15.1 percent) were cited as institutions where corruption could be eliminated.

The findings are consistent with other surveys done here which showed that customs or aduana ranked high as a source of corruption.

Strangely, although many Costa Ricans complain 

How do you think corruption will change in the next three years? (in percent)
Costa Rica Canada USA overall
Increase a lot 32.3 14.9 13.8 19.4
Increase a little 9.1 23.7 22.7 21.3
stay the same 16.2 37.7 35.5 26.3
decrease a little 24.2 13.4 16.1 14.8
decrease a lot 15.2 3.7 5.0 4.5
don't know 3.0 6.6 7.0 10.8
How does corruption affect your personal and family life? (in percent)
Costa Rica Canada USA Average
Not significantly 13.1 17.6 31.1 35.1
22.2 39.9 42.4 31.1
64.6 42.5 26.5 33.8

about the government telecommunications monopoly, only 1.1 percent said that is where they would choose to eliminate corruption.

Transparency International describes itself as the only international non-governmental organization devoted to combating corruption and says it brings civil society, business, and governments together in a powerful global coalition. The organization, which has local chapters, supports free access to government information.

The full report is at www.transparency.org.

She vanished Friday afternoon
Police seek missing Zapote girl

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
(Posted about 11:30 p.m. July 4)

Investigators have asked for the public’s help in trying to find a girl who vanished within 400 meters of her home.

The girl is Katia Vanesa González Juárez, 8. She disappeared after leaving her condominium to visit a friend nearby, said police. This happened about 1 p.m. Friday.

Anyone who may have seen the child is asked to contact the Fuerza Pública Delegación in Zapote and San Francisco at 280-4880 or 286-4336.

The girl lives in a condominium in Barrio Quesada Durán in Zapote, an eastern section of San José. Police rolled out six or more units to search for the girl up to 6 p.m. Friday. The nature of the police response and the immediate request for public aid suggests that investigators suspect that a crime has been committed.

Katia Vanesa González

Court blocks site
for using ‘banco’

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A Costa Rican court blocked access to a Web site because it used the word "banco" in part of its Internet address.

The Internet domain was set up on speculation by an Alajuela man who thought he could sell the site to the Banco de San José. The man, identified as Mariano Castillo, registered the site via the Tucows, Inc., a U.S.-based internet and computer service firm.

The Web site is www.bancodesanjose.com

Instead of buying the site, the bank complained and brought the issue into court where Judge Zoila Rosa Soto Morice of the Juzgado Penal del Primer Circuito Judicial of San José ordered Radiográphica Costarricense S.A, to block the site. It is unclear if Castillo was notified of the action.

A spokesman for the government Internet monopoly also revealed that the firm routinely blocks sites that it doesn’t like. For example, Internet sites that are named in mass mailings that pass through the Internet monopoly may be blocked to frustrate the purpose of the mass mailings, the spokesman said.

The bancodesanjose site is not available on computers in Costa Rica, but a reader in the United States checked the site and found that it contained an ad for cellular telephones.

Another reader contacted A.M. Costa Rica to ask "What happens if they decided to block my site?"

The blocking appears to be of particular Internet servers rather than simply of a Web page, so many more sites are blocked in addition to the single site that may irk Radiográphica Costarricense S.A.

The prosecutor in the Banco de San José case, Luis Rodríguez Cruz, asked the judge to order the blocking because he said the site violated Costa Rican law by suggesting that it was a bank.

However, the actual contents of the site does not do that, and the servers holding the Internet pages may actually be in another country. That could not be determined Thursday night.

Purchasing Internet domains for resale is a recognized business, and many major companies purchase a number of domains that are variations of their main Web pages to protect themselves.

The use of corporate names in so-called "suck" sites (as in "Microsoft sucks!") has been well established as freedom of speech as long as the Web designer does not mimic the site. Duplicating a site to cause Internet users to send money by mistake is fraud.

Today and tomorrow
are independence days

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Today is Independence Day in the United States. And tomorrow is Independence day in Venezuela.

The U.S. holiday marks the publication of the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia, Pa., in 1776. That was the document that said the 13 colonies no longer were subject to the British king. What followed was the U.S. Revolutionary War.

U.S. citizens will gather this morning in a recreational area just off the General Cañas Autopista to celebrate from 8 a.m. to noon. The high point will be the raising of the colors by the U.S. Marine detachment at the U.S. Embassy here. The event is free but only U.S. citizens may attend.

Residents in Guanancaste are invited to a multicultural celebration the road to Playas del Coco in Guanacaste from noon to 7 p.m. Saturday. Citizens of all countries are invited to this event for which an admission will be charged. It is being held for the Association of Residents of Costa Rica.

The Venezuelan holiday marks a similar event in Caracas in 1811 when representatives from the various cities declared absolute freedom for the country. That decision, too, triggered a war with a European power, in this case Spain, and led to the eventual military victories by Simon Bolivar after years of hardship. 

Diplomatic post set
for nation of Latvia

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica will name a non-resident ambassador to Latvia. That was the major development from a visit by Peteris Vaivars, the undersecretary of state in the Latvian Foreign Ministry.

Costa Rica has maintained diplomatic relations with the Baltic nation since 1924, except for the period when Latvia was swallowed up by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics during World War II.

The role of Costa Rican ambassador will be given an envoy in a nearby country. 

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Hero of Talamancan Indians is remembered today
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

July 4 is Independence Day in the United States, but the Indians of Costa Rica celebrate another freedom fighter today.

This is the 293rd anniversary of the execution of Pablo Presbere, a Talamancan Indian who fought the Spanish until he was captured.

Talamanca is one of the few areas of the Americas not conquered by invading Europeans. The Spanish arrived in 1540, but by 1699 they still were trying to figure out how to subdue the Indians of southeastern Costa Rica near what is today the border with Panamá.

The Spanish hit on the idea also used later against the Cherokee in the United States. They began to shift populations of Indians from the Sixaola area to the Pacific coast along the banks of what is 

called today the Térraba River. The populations movement was to reduce the numbers of Bri Bri and Cabécare.

At this time the Indians named Presbere high chief, and he began organizing the Indians for war.

In 1709 Indians put to death two priests, 10 solders and a Spanish woman. The Spanish, based in Guatemala, retaliated the next year by sending 80 soldiers to pacify the area. Some 505 prisoners were captured and brought to Cartago, then the administrative center. Among the captured was Presbere, who faced trial and was executed by the garrote on July 4 of that year.

When Costa Rica won its independence in 1821, the Spanish still had not conquered the Talamanca area. Presbere was declared a "defender of the liberty of the Indian people" by the Asamblea Nacional in 1997.

Maybe TV will keep Venezuelans from fighting
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. and Venezuelan legislators have announced that they will work to create a new television channel in the Venezuelan National Assembly, similar to the C-Span cable network in the United States, which — among its programming — televises live debates in the U.S. Congress.

The announcement was made following the meeting this week of the U.S.-Venezuela Interparliamentary Forum, informally known as the "Boston Group"). The forum was held in Nantucket, Mass.

Regarding the proposed new cable channel, the legislators discussed the need to strengthen the relationship between legislative bodies and the media.

Rep. Cass Ballenger (a Republican of North Carolina), who chairs the U.S. House Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere Affairs, said he is committed to finding private funds to create a television channel in the Venezuelan assembly.

"You'll be surprised at how many fewer fights you'll have in Congress if you know the country is watching," he said. Ballenger and the Nantucket forum's host, Rep. William Delahunt (a Democrat of Massachusetts), serve as co-chairmen of the U.S.-Venezuela Caucus in the U.S. house.

Venezuelan Congressman Nicolas Maduro, of the political party Movimiento V Republica, said he will help secure the television frequency necessary to make the new channel a reality.

C-SPAN was created by the U.S. cable television industry to air live gavel-to-gavel proceedings of the U.S. Congress, and to provide coverage of other forums where public policy is discussed, debated, and decided — all without editing, commentary or analysis, and with a balanced presentation of points of view.

More than 30 legislators from the United States and Venezuela participated in the Nantucket event. This was the second annual meeting of the Boston Group, which was created in 2002 to forge a stronger relationship between the Congresses of Venezuela and the United States.

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