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(506) 223-1327        Published Tuesday, July 4, 2006, in Vol. 6, No. 131       E-mail us    
Jo Stuart
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Some thoughts for July 4
Posturing against media is long U.S. tradition

By Jay Brodell
editor of A.M. Costa Rica

Today is the 230th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence and the birth of what today is the United States.

The nation's history, grand as it is, also contains some dark periods when the central government leaned on rights and used the threat of foreign enemies to sidetrack liberties.

Consider the Alien and Sedition acts of 1798, the so-called copperhead press in the Civil War era, the Palmer raids of 1918 to 1920, the Red scare of the 1950s, the Pentagon Papers case and the current terrorist threats.

The nation survived the earlier internal assaults on liberties, and there is no reason that it will not survive the current battering by the George Bush administration.

In 1798 the enemy was the French, who had just lopped off aristocratic heads and went to war with the British. As always, there were strong political overtones. The alien act, for example, greatly extended the period required to become a U.S. citizen. The ruling Federalists and President John Adams thought that newly minted citizens of Irish, British and French roots would vote for  political enemy Thomas Jefferson.

As with the attacks today on The New York Times, the Federalists, using federal courts, went after newspapers that opposed them. Some of the outspoken editors also happened to be aliens. Some were arrested and prosecuted. Others went underground. Enforcement of the sedition act helped lead to the defeat of the Federalists in the 1800 elections. The public had had enough.

The Copperhead press were those northern newspapers that opposed Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War. Disagreement with the administration was not permitted. Among those who physically cracked down on newspapers was Gen. Ulysses S. Grant. Other newspapers were seized.

And the administration was not shy about providing false information to newspapers.

General Ambrose E. Burnside empaneled military tribunals to handle the dissident U.S. citizens. One tribunal in Ohio actually exiled a war protester, a former newspaper editor, to Tennessee.

All the time there was a strong need for correct information and public discussion of the great tragedy of the Civil War.

The Palmer raids take their name from the U.S. attorney general of the time, A. Mitchell Palmer. For three years federal raids were made under the presumed authority of the 1917 Espionage act and the 1918 Sedition act. The targets were Eastern Europeans and Socialists. The backdrop was the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia.

Most major newspapers supported the raids, but ethnic papers and pamphleteers were singled out.

Palmer and his assistant, J. Edgar Hoover, rounded up more than 10,000 persons during the three years, including some 250 they put on a boat and shipped to Latvia.

The raids were encouraged by a string of bombings that hit U.S. cities in 1919.

It was Wisconsin Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy who gave his name to an era: McCarthyism, the Red scare of the early 1950s. And McCarthy did take on the State Department and the U.S. Army for alleged Communists in the ranks. However, the U.S. House UnAmerican Activities Committee independently generated the Hollywood blacklist that eventually included nearly 400 actors, directors, writers and others. These were people with alleged Communist sympathies.

McCarthy's claims provided a quick answer why the the Russians got the nuclear bombs, China went Communist and what happened in Eastern Europe after World War II. Some of his claims eventually turned out to be true when Soviet archives were opened.

But McCarthy and assistants (including one Robert F. Kennedy) also knew how to use the press and reporters hungry for a story. And McCarthy didn't hesitate to punch out a newspaper columnist who disagreed with him. Ironically it was Edward R, Murrow and a television show that led to the decline in McCarthy's popularity and eventual censure by the U.S. Senate.

The New York Times gets the credit for printing stories based on the Pentagon Papers, a candid study of United States policy and involvement in the Vietnam war. Publication in 1971 enraged then-president Richard Nixon.

The U.S. government went to court to seek an injunction against The Times and The Washington Post, which also began running stories based on the papers. The U.S. Supreme Court eventually rejected the government's position but said a future case with better evidence might be decided differently and that injunctions against a publication might be upheld, First Amendment notwithstanding.

So when The New York Times published stories about the administration's program monitoring global bank transfers, the wounded outrage from the Bush administration should be expected. And congressmen facing election battles should be expected to join in the condemnation, as they did in a non-binding vote.

But Times editor Bill Keller knows that the role of a newspaper is to print the information it finds to be newsworthy without second- guessing the future.

It was John Kennedy who told an earlier Times editor that he wished the newspaper did not agree to his demands and sanitize a 1961 article about the upcoming Bay of Pigs invasion, a major U.S. disaster. So in the case at hand it will be history that determines who is the patriot.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, July 4, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 131

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Executive branch trying
to get OK on sewer loan

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The executive branch held what were called emergency meetings with leaders of the major parties in the Asamblea Legislative Monday to point out that a big loan from Japan has a July 31 deadline.

The loan, some $130 million with a mere 2 percent interest, is designed to pay for part of the work in modernizing the sewers in the metropolitan area.

Rodrigo Arias, minister of the Presidencia and brother to the president, met with party leaders in an effort to get an agreement to eliminate some of the legislative roadblocks.

The measure has not even been studied in committee at the legislature, which must approve the loan.

Part of the sewer project is to build a sewage treatment plant so that raw sewer no longer is dumped into the Río Tarcoles and then into the Gulf of Nicoya.

Soccer coach loses his job
after World Cup disaster

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Alexandre Guimaraes, the coach of the Costa Rican national soccer team, said Monday he no longer held the job.

His leaving had been anticipated because the national team lost three straight games in the World Cup in Germany last month.

Guimaraes probably is the most hated man in Costa Rica after the the disaster in Germany. He has a losing record as coach. He was employed by the Costa Rican Federación de Fútbol.

He was more successful four years ago when he coached the national team to a reasonable record in the World Cup in Asia. But many players were different then.

Our reader's opinion

It's the constant pressure
that wears you down

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I was a resident of Costa Rica from 1993 to 2003, have a Tica wife for 12 years, lived in Santa Ana, Santa Maria de Dota, Escazú, San Antonio de Escazú, and traveled during that time the entire country except Tortuguero and along the Nicaraguan border where bandits were active. I consider myself an expert regarding Costa Rica and know more about the country and its culture than many Ticos and most Gringos. I'm not shooting off my mouth but establishing my credentials.
I left Costa Rica and returned to the States for a variety of reasons but the most important one was to reduce the constant stress that pressured me 24 hours a day, from one source or another. It accumulates, and those who have written recently who live outside the Central Valley for a couple or three years will feel it too, unless they are dumb as a fencepost.
If you avoid San José as much as possible, you might last longer. But it's not possible to live a normal existence without going to San José because many goods and services necessary to support this "normal" lifestyle are only available in the city and its environs. This then entails driving on roads which often are the worst in the hemisphere, dealing with blockades by ICE, onion farmers, teachers and their students and the threat of these actions which are more numerous than the actualities. Landslides and washouts add to the problem, and if you live remotely, you always must have a plan "B" to fall back on in their event.
After you are in country a while and have developed a circle of friends and acquaintances you will begin to acquire a biography of crimes which have been committed on them: your friend who was attacked on the front porch of his house, had his gold chain ripped off his neck by a chapulina who took it immediately to a local jewelry store for melting to destroy the incriminating evidence.

Or another who was choked into unconsciousness in San José Central by a team who operated on the same area with impunity for years. Or stories from your wife who was mugged on the street four times and once in a taxi. Or the time in front of the Banco de Costa Rica on Avenida Segunda when you witnessed a womans necklace ripped off while dozens of people clapped and whistled to signify their disapproval without raising a hand to help or stop the thief a small youth who jogged away. 

Or the other crime you witnessed only a block away when a woman's purse was grabbed off her arm and the thief did not run but calmly walked away. Or when your house was broken into and a leather jacket you bought in Turkey, distinctively different, was stolen and a little while later you saw a Tránsito on a rotunda wearing it. And on, and on.
Don't forget the stress of never knowing what is the law because it is never absolute, but constantly changing, depending upon the wishes of the president, Sala IV, the mayor or commissioner.
After a while it builds on you and you accept a certain amount of paranoia as normal, being concerned about protecting your property and locking and double locking and barring, and hiding, and worrying about your appearance and the reputation of the area you may be visiting.
And then you read the paper and see the drivel written about how it is no different than a big city in the States.   H O G W A S H. This is written by ignoramuses, the aforementioned fence posts, or people who invested here based upon the romance not the reality and are trying to rationalize their decision.
What's pitiful about it, is that it will never get better because Ticos blame it on the Nicas and now have a new whipping boy, the Columbianos. They have a word for it in their culture, and they understand the problem but are so non-confrontational they choose not to do anything about it. Their phrase . . . "no importa."

David Brown
Kemah, Texas
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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, July 4, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 131

Mini construction boom hits Caribbean's Cahuita
By Annette Carter
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

There’s a mini construction boom in Cahuita, a small village on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast about an hour south of Puerto Limón.  A portion of the road leading into Cahuita from the highway is being paved, Cahuita’s first shopping center is under construction and scheduled to open in October and a local man is building a gymnasium.

Safari White Sands Shopping Center will offer space for 10 businesses.  Owner Wayne Palmer Wallace, a local businessman, said he saw a need and decided to fill it.

“People were asking for buildings to rent and there is no place in the center of Cahuita,” Palmer said.  Palmer said he sees the venture as prosperous both for himself and for the community.  “I hope so because I’m investing a lot of money here,” he said.

Palmer owns the Safari Ferreteria hardware store, which includes a bicycle shop offering sales, rentals and repairs, Supermarket Safari and Cabinas Safari and Cabinas Safari Ocean View. He plans to move the current small ferreteria into a larger space in the shopping center in order to offer more variety.  The bicycle business will remain in the current location.

Palmer said he has already rented two additional spaces in the new shopping center.  One will be a dentist’s office and the other an entertainment arcade for kids.  A souvenir shop is a possibility for a third rental and he said there is talk about a bank moving into one of the spaces but added, “It’s up to the community if they want one.”  The closest bank to Cahuita is a Banco de Costa Rica in Puerto Viejo about 20 minutes south.

A small stretch of road from the shopping center to the center of town is currently being paved, a project of the Asociación Desarollo Cahuita and the Junta Administrativa y de Desarrollo Económico de la Vertiente Atlántica, a government agency that funds community projects.  Association president Rodolfo Enriques Pineda said the project will pave about 200 meters of road at the entrance to Cahuita from the highway to the center of town.  He expects the project to be completed in the next month at a cost of 35 million colons, about $68,000. 

“Local and international people like this project because it means no contamination,” he said.  The association president is referring to a problem business owners have with dust and dirt from passing cars flying into their businesses.  He said the association plans to send a letter to the government

A.M. Costa Rica/Annette Carter
Wayne Palmer Wallace in front of the Safari White Sands Shopping Center currently under construction.

requesting funds for 5,000 more meters of paving in 2007.  Currently, most roads in Cahuita are unpaved.

Lastly, Cahuita will have its first gymnasium when a project being constructed by local business owner Hernan Spencer is completed.  The building is located just northwest of the city park. Spencer said the second floor of the two-story building will have space for stationery bicycles and other cardiovascular exercise equipment.  An outdoor area for free weights, a small soda and a self-service laundromat will take up most of the first floor.   He is also building two small apartments at one end of the building.  Personal training and massage will also be offered at the gym, he said.

Spencer said his project is for the community.  “I wanted to do something especially for the kids, so they would have something to do,” he said.  In a twist, Spencer also said he will cook on Sundays for the “crackheads and junkies” as a way to help them “clean up their act for at least one day.”  “If you don’t help them and show them they have another option they will never find it,” he said.

Spencer expects the gym to be open in the next month or two.

Our readers ordered up nearly a million pages in June
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Readers of A.M. Costa Rica viewed nearly a million pages in June. That was another record for the newspaper that shows continued growth.

Readers from more than 80 countries viewed 984,096 pages during the month. That number represents a 163.9 percent increase over June 2005 when 372,065 pages were viewed.

Overall, when compared to June 2005, the statistics for last month show a 75.7 percent increase in
Internet hits and a 15.3 percent increase in readers. The figures are generated by an independent statistical program run by the newspaper's server provider in the United States. The statistics are reported HERE continually for the benefit of readers and advertisers.

The growth comes at a time when Internet publications are getting more recognition as a provider of all types of content, ranging from news to personal diaries.

At the same time, traditional print newspapers are suffering a decline in readership and an increase in advertising rates.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, July 4, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 131

Feds and bankers meet on tightening money flow
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The U.S. Treasury Department has helped launch a new U.S.-Latin America private-sector initiative aimed at strengthening defenses in the Western Hemisphere against money laundering and terrorist financing.

Some 50 U.S. and Latin American private- and public-sector representatives held a roundtable discussion at the Treasury Department headquarters last week. They agreed to begin a long-term private-sector dialogue on combating money laundering and terrorist financing through a series of conferences, seminars and workshops that join U.S. and Latin American banks in a direct exchange, according to a Treasury statement.

The initiative with Latin America is based on the successful March launch of a U.S.-Middle East/North Africa Private-Sector Dialogue addressing the same issue.

The June 30 roundtable included officials from the U.S. Federal Reserve, the U.S. Department of State and several Treasury agencies — the Office of Foreign Assets Control, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.  They were joined by representatives of the Florida International Bankers Association, the American Bankers Association and major U.S. banks,
and members of the Latin American Bankers Association.

The Treasury Department said it is dedicated to promoting prosperity and stability in U.S. and global financial systems.  As part of this objective, Treasury said it seeks to promote awareness and implementation of core anti-money laundering/counterterrorist financing standards internationally to safeguard the financial system against rogue nations, terrorist facilitators, money launderers, drug kingpins and other international security threats.

Pat O'Brien, Treasury's assistant secretary for terrorist financing, said his department recognizes the importance of the longstanding ties between the U.S. and Latin American financial sectors.  With this in mind, O'Brien said his department is "eager to help launch and facilitate this dialogue to help bolster our defenses against the dual threats of terrorist financing and money laundering, and foster greater understanding and cooperation between our regions."

O'Brien added that with the strong support of the U.S. and Latin American banking communities, and leadership from financial policy and supervisory authorities from both regions, "we look forward to seeing successes and taking key strides with Latin America."

Mexico remains calm even though two candidates declare victory
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Mexico remained calm the day after a presidential election that ended in a tight race too close to call and two candidates both claiming victory. Most Mexicans appear ready to wait a few days for official results, even if the candidates are not.

Newspaper headlines Monday announced the impasse, in what is described as the closest presidential election in Mexican history. Excelsior, one of the nation's oldest newspapers had one word in its large headline- "Quien?" — Spanish for "who?" El Universal proclaimed a "Vote-for-vote Fight," while Reforma's headline put forth the question: "And the winner is?"

The anxious situation is the result of a close vote count in Sunday's election between presidential candidates Felipe Calderón Hinojosa of the ruling Partido Acción Nacional and Andrés Manuel López Obrador of the leftist Partido Revolución Democrática. Federal electoral experts said the vote count was so close that they could not determine a winner through a random sample quick count. They said the slight difference between the two candidates fell within the margin of error for the quick count and that a complete, official count would commence Wednesday.

The results posted by the electoral body since the close of polls Sunday show Calderon with a lead of about 1 percent, but any large influx of votes from an area where López Obrador was popular could change the picture.

That leaves politicians, journalists and commentators in a state of high anxiety, but there is little of it apparent in the rest of Mexican society. The Mexican stock market rallied at its opening Monday and many people on the streets of Mexico City said they were content to wait until Wednesday, or even longer if  
necessary, for a final, official election result.

A woman named Giselle said that she has total confidence in the electoral institute and the nation's electoral system, but not as much in the candidates. She said she fears that if Calderón is the winner, López Obrador might not accept the results and create problems.

But Jorge, who says he voted for López Obrador, dismissed that notion. He said the country would remain calm and that losing candidates would accept the final result, whatever it may be.

But concern over possible strife remains a hot topic among many political analysts, including George Grayson of the College of William and Mary, who recently published a book about López Obrador. He says the fiery populist will call for widespread protests if he does not win.

Whether that scenario plays out or not, there is no question that the election results reveal deep divisions in Mexican society. Whoever ends up being declared the winner in the presidential race will have won only slightly more than a third of the vote and, as Reforma columnist Sergio Sarmiento notes, the percentage of Mexicans who actually brought the new president to power will be even less — around 20 percent — when the abstention rate of 40 percent is taken into account.

The national Congress, likewise, will remain divided between three parties, so that no major reform can pass without the formation of coalitions, something that current President Vicente Fox was unable to achieve during his six-year term. Sarmiento and other political analysts fear another six years could pass in a political impasse while much-needed reforms are left on the sidelines.

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