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These stories were published Monday, July 5, 2004, in Vol. 4, No. 131
Jo Stuart
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Visiting senator leans towards free trade pact
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A senior U.S. senator who has opposed the free trade treaty between the United States and Central America now says he is leaning toward the measure, thanks in part to a trip here.

The man is Richard C. Shelby, a Republican of Alabama who has been a senator from his state since 1987. He is considered a conservative.

Shelby said that the enthusiasm of those 

A.M. Costa Rica photo
Uncle Sam hands out U.S. flags to adults and youngsters alike.

This lad just wants
his independence

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The young man jumped back as if he had been hit with an electric shock.

He was a 20-ish native English speaker who brought friends to the Independence Day celebration Saturday at Cervercería Costa Rica.

What he wanted was to take photos of his friends standing with Uncle Sam, this year the alter ego of long-time resident Bill Barbee.

The young man suggested a little more action, and Barbee pushed out his finger recruitment poster style and said "I want YOU for the war in Iraq." There was some suggestion about the U.S. Marine Corps.

"No, No. No," said the shocked young man as he actually jumped back three feet. 

That was the end of the photo session.

Our Independence photo coverage:


associated with the Port of Mobile, Ala., has influenced his thinking. That city is in his state, and the senator said he would be meeting again with those working in the shipping industry at the port and the local chamber of commerce there. Those associated with the port see an economic advantage to the treaty, he said.

Shelby voted against the North American Free Trade Agreement that joined México in a pact with the United States and Canada. He also voted against giving President George Bush trade promotion authority. 

That authority gave the administration the power to negotiate trade agreements, and Congress could not modify them. Congress could only vote in favor or against a proposed treaty.

The Bush administration said that such authority was crucial in negotiating trade agreements.

Of the trade agreements, Shelby had said in the past: "I believe they promote unfair foreign competition and facilitate the movement of labor-intensive, well-paying jobs from the United States to Mexico and other countries. I do not believe that these measures have been beneficial to American industry or our economy. In fact, I feel that they will continue to have a devastating effect on many American workers and their families."

Shelby and U.S. Sen. John Cornyn took advantage of the Independence Day break in the Senate schedule to visit Central America. They ended up at the Independence Day celebration in San José Saturday. They were joined by their wives, Annette Nevin Shelby and Sandy Cornyn. The Senate resumes Tuesday.

Senior senators like Shelby are fairly independent of the wishes of the sitting president, although in this case George Bush also is a Republican.

Cornyn, who is serving his first six-year term in the Senate, also is a conservative Republican, but he has supported the free trade pact since it was approved by the United States and five Central American countries. They are Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. The Dominican Republic also seeks inclusion.

The politics of the trade treaty is complex. John Kerry, the presumed presidential candidate of the Democratic Party, said he opposes the free trade treaty and would seek to have it renegotiated if he is elected. His concerns are on environmental and labor protection grounds.

The U.S. Senate, which is divided on the issue, must approve the agreement, and some senators must stand for election in November. So the makeup of the Senate could change. Now Republicans control by a slim margin.

Cornyn said a vote on the free trade agreement probably would not come before January or February in the new 109th Congress.

The administration of President Abel Pacheco firmly supports the free trade agreement. But here, too, the measure must be approved by the Asamblea Nacional. Some segments of the economy are violently opposed to the treaty.

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Pacheco on corruption:
more action, not crimes

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Abel Pacheco complained over the weekend that the public may be getting an incorrect view of corruption during his term of office.

There is more corruption visible not because there is more corruption but because complaints are being filed against what corruption there is, he said in his weekend radio and television talk.

The president has seen a number of corruption investigations launched, but the bulk involve independent agencies that do not report directly to Casa Presidencial.

The Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social is one of these. Its former executive director and the head of a big pharmaceutical supplier both are in preventative detentions while an investigation continues.

Another investigation involved the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, yet another independent agency. A third case, that of Alex Solís, the embattled contralor general de la República, is a legislative appointment.

Pacheco took decisive action when a cabinet minister was accused of padding the expense account. The woman was forced to resign quickly.

However, there are plenty of scandals to go around. Members of the diplomatic corps here have been quietly subsidized by the government of Taiwan, and that fact fell quietly through the cracks. In another case, Pacheco was criticized for overpaying employees in Casa Presidencial, allegedly, said one newspaper, so they would keep their mouths shut.

And there remains the question of illegal funding in the 1998 presidential election and the 2002 election that Pacheco won.

Land invasion stalls
due to police presence

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fuerza Pública officers kept tight security over the weekend on the Standard Fruit Co.ís  Bambuzal finca in Río Frío de Sarapiquí.

A number of squatters who invaded the property and were driven off had threatened to try to retake it.  Police were working on the order of the Tribunal de Juicio de Heredia.

The court order forbids the people to invade the property. Some of the squatters ended up again in the Catedral Metropolitana in downtown San José Sunday night.

The squatters set up houses on the property but were driven off by police in a bloody encounter. The squatters have lost at every level of court actions that they have taken.

Third body located
from triple surf deaths

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Officials have located the body of the third of three teenage girls who died in the Pacific surf. They became the first casualties of the countryís midyear vacation that lasts until Aug. 2.

The three girls were swimming at Playa Bandera  and vanished about 10:30 a.m. Saturday.

The body of Kendy Ballestero Barboza, 15, was found in Esterillos de Parrita about 3 a.m. Sunday.

The bodies of her 21-year-old sister Shirley Ballestero Barboza and Cintia Sánchez Cerdas, also 21, had been recovered earlier. All were residents of Poás de Aserrí on vacation at the Pacific beach.

For traditional crimes, police said they are beefing up operations in places frequented by tourists. This includes most of the beaches in Guanacaste.

Police said they specifically were reinforcing Flamingo, Tamarindo, Playa Grande, Brasilito, Conchal, Sámara, Nosara, Puerto Carrillo and Playas del Coco, in addition to other recreational areas and national parks around the country.

It is common for crooks to use the periods to continue their trade in vacation spots.

Police also warned vacationers to take reasonable steps to secure their homes while they are away. Walter Navarro, head of the Fuerza Pública, said these steps could be as simple as getting someone to pick up flyers left at the door and to lower the volume of telephones so that it would not be obvious that the home is empty.

Child rescued from bonds

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Neighbors told police that two parents in Lomas del Río de Pavas had their 3-year-old daughter tied up in their house and that she was being beaten.

Police staged a raid and took a man with the last name of Noguera Castro and his wife with the last name of Moraga into custody Sunday morning.

The girl was hospitalized. A neighbor who started to fight with police also was detained.

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There's an expression for doing things by halves
A medio palo means "half of the stick" or "half way." Costa Ricans use this expression when someone has promised to finish something, and they do not do it.

For example, when politicians promise us a wonderful new road from Santa Ana to Orotina, and after many years it still isnít finished, thatís a medio palo. One wonders sometimes what makes people promise something and then not deliver on the promise. It would be convenient to say that this only happens in Costa Rica, but we know this is not the case. So many empty promises exist that sometimes we just donít want to hear any more.

Nothing is more annoying then when we hire someone to do a job for us and they promise to finish by Friday, letís say. But Friday comes and goes, and the work is still not done. Of course, we Costa Ricans are always quick to make jokes to defuse such annoying situations. We might simply say: "Hey, I said Friday. I didnít say which Friday." But I have come up with an idea for how to prevent this. Knowing my fellow Costa Ricans as I do, I would say, "OK, Iíll pay when the job is done." 

Of course people come up with a hundred reasons why they need to be paid at least half their fee in advance. But if you do so, be prepared to be left a medio palo.

A medio palo also might express the way some U.S. citizens feel when we arrive in Costa Rica to try to make it our new home. Of course I have a sort of home court advantage in that I was born here. But have you ever heard the saying "you canít go home again?" 

Well, Iím one who did go home again, and things are

way we say it

By Daniel Soto

very different. Itís true (except for my crazy family, they will never change). I often run into old school chums here. Some recognize me, but most do not. So, you see I sort of feel a medio palo, half here and half back in the States. 

Just when I start feeling comfortable here, I have to return to the States, and as soon I feel comfortable up there, itís time to come back to Costa Rica. When Iím here, I miss something from the States, like the freeways, for example. But when Iím there, I miss Costa Ricaís weather, the mountains, the ocean, and the laid-back attitude. 

And when Iím in either place I always miss my friends and family in the other. I donít know if Iíll ever be more than "a medio palo." But maybe in this case itís not such a bad thing to be after all. 

Daniel Soto divides his time between Indiana and Costa Rica, where he owns a home in Santo Domingo de Heredia.

Campaigns for/against
Chavez hit streets

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

CARACAS, Venezuela ó The government and opposition have launched their official campaigns ahead of next month's referendum on whether to recall President Hugo Chavez.

Supporters and opponents of the Venezuelan leader took to the streets Saturday to rally support for their side before the Aug. 15 vote.

Opponents of Chavez, who was briefly ousted in a 2002 coup, accuse him of trying to steer the country toward a Cuban-style dictatorship.  But Chavez says he is working to help the poor.

U.S. Coast Guard photo
Talk about a bad day at the office. This boat captain not only grounded his craft in a narrow strait in Alaska, but he also took out a navigation beacon that marks the channel.

U.S. will insist on electronic cargo manifests
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The United States begins full enforcement of a regulation concerning electronic sea-cargo notification Tuesday. The measure is intended to combat terrorist threats, U.S. Customs and Border Protection says.

Customs said that advance electronically filed information on cargo required by the regulation will allow the bureau to identify and eliminate potential terrorist threats before a U.S.-bound ship leaves a foreign port.

Under a 2002 U.S. law, all modes of transportation are required to file electronically advance cargo manifests.

Although the requirements for electronic 

notification of cargo information took effect March 4, the bureau had been applying "a progressive enforcement strategy" to violations. Enforcement for bulk carriers and passenger vessels began April 2 with denial of preliminary entry, issuance of penalties at each arrival port and denial of unloading to vessels in violation, according to Customs.

Warnings had also been issued to offending carriers. But, effective Tuesday, there will be no exceptions or waivers to the regulatory requirement to automate cargo notification, the bureau said.

CBP had stated in March that the phased enforcement was needed to give itself more time to work with shippers and carriers on modifying critical aspects of data interchange systems and to make the transition smoother.

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Nine-year resident unhappy with immigration plan
Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

This is a copy of a letter I have sent to the Association of Residents of Costa Rica, which is building a case to modify or defeat proposals in the legislature to change Immigration laws.

I am a U.S.A citizen retired in Costa Rica for nine years. I first obtained pensionado status, then achieved permanent residency status. As a resident, I have strong concerns about the changes to Immigration laws that have been proposed to the legislature.

A letter from a reader

Based on what I have read, the rentista status is to be eliminated on the grounds that it has been abused. Abuses have certainly occurred, but they are not due to the inherent nature of this status but rather to the fact that enforcement of requirements is non-existent.

For example, rentistas are required to file a letter from a bank based in another country stating that a minimum of $1,000 will be transferred each month to the applicant's account here in Costa Rica for a period of not less than five years. 

However, rentistas are never asked to present evidence that the transfers are actually occurring. A rentista can deposit $1,000 or more each month in his or her account from sources here in Costa Rica without fear of any check on the source of such deposits. In this country, laws are enforced selectively, if enforced at all. It is the ineptitude of the Costa Rican government, its lack of forward thinking, and its failure to enforce requirements that has enabled abuses.

Now we are presented with proposed changes that demonstrate even more inept, flawed, forward thinking. Elimination of the rentista category and blind-sighted restriction of residency to pensioned retirees will obviously cripple, if not destroy, foreign investment. 

Retirees typically do not establish businesses that will employ Costa Ricans. They simply live here and spend whatever is necessary to sustain their lifestyle, usually a modest lifestyle. The proposed changes, including denials of inversionistas (investment category), will "slam the door" on young, productive, imaginative entrepreneurs who by their labors and intellect could provide a stimulus to our stagnant economy and innovative ideas and procedures that this nation desperately needs as it struggles to enter the 21st century. Furthermore, these changes will send a message to the world that foreigners are not welcome here ó hardly a stimulus to growth in tourism.

As for enforcement of changes, their proposed classification as reglamentos, rather than laws, will ensure further laxity, abuses, and selective application by immigration authorities on the basis of personal whims.

Residents and the Costa Rican people can only hope that intelligence and common sense will prevail in the legislature.

John R Wood 
Atenas, Costa Rica 
EDITORíS NOTE: The letter a rentistasí bank provides immigration typically says that $60,000 is on deposit and that the bank will notify immigration if the money is withdrawn. There is no provision that the bank transfer $1,000 a month.

U.S. child-molesting suspect caught in Guatemala
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Diplomatic Security special agents, with the assistance of the U.S. Marshals Service, located an accused child molester wanted in Arlington, Va., who fled the country last week to Guatemala, officials said.

The man, Thomas Koucky, is wanted in connection with sexually abusing more than 300 children. He is now in custody and has been returned to the United States, according to the U.S. State Department.

Koucky, a repeat child sexual offender arrested by Arlington County, Va., Police Department Special Victims Unit June 17, faces charges of failure to appear for his scheduled court appearance last Wednesday. 

Thursday night, after Diplomatic Security and the U.S. Marshals Service contacted the Arlington County Police Department to offer assistance with the investigation, the Diplomatic Security special agent assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala located and positively identified Koucky in an impoverished neighborhood outside Guatemala City, the department said.

Knowing that Koucky could flee at any time, the Diplomatic Security agent worked overnight with Guatemalan officials to devise a plan to apprehend the fugitive, the department said.

Early Friday morning, the Diplomatic Security agent and Guatemalan police approached the residence where Koucky was. The Diplomatic Security agent persuaded Koucky to surrender himself to local officials. With Koucky in custody, Diplomatic Security coordinated with the U.S. Marshals Service, Arlington County Police Department and Guatemalan immigration authorities to expel him from Guatemala.

Under escort by a Diplomatic Security agent and a Guatemalan immigration officer, Koucky was returned to the United States this afternoon, the department said.

Diplomatic Security plays a leading role in assisting other federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies with thousands of investigations overseas each year. Koucky is one of 50 U.S. fugitives who have been located and returned in 2004 as a result of a strong cooperative effort between the U.S. Marshals and Diplomatic Security.

Striking teachers in Perú battle police in  hometown of Shining Path 
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

AYACUCHO, Perú ó Riot police have clashed with hundreds of teachers who have been striking over salaries.

Officials say at least 30 people were injured Thursday as the demonstrators looted and burned buildings in this Andean city south of Lima. 

The violence broke out after police used tear gas to evict teachers from city offices they had occupied 

for several days. The educators went on strike June 21. 

Authorities alleged the Shining Path guerrilla movement was behind the trouble. But they ruled out declaring a state of emergency.

Ayacucho was the birthplace of the Maoist-inspired Shining Path, one of Latin America's most feared rebel organizations throughout the 1980s.  The group was weakened considerably following the arrest of its founder, Abimael Guzman, in 1992.

July 4th
again is
The wind cooperated to display the colors

Can you do it without getting all wet?


U.S. Sen. John Cornyn of Texas shares a few words. Others include U.S. Sen. and Mrs. Richard C. Shelby of Alabama in back row. Uncle Sam (Bill Barbee) and Douglas M. Barnes, chargé d'affaires at the U.S. Embassy are in the front row.
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two U.S. senators on a tour of Central America were surprise visitors at Costa Ricaís July 4th celebration Saturday at a recreation area west of San José.

The senators and their wives joined several thousand other U.S. citizens and dependants for the latest in nearly 50 years of Independence Day celebrations here.

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn of Texas and Richard C. Shelby were the guests, and they had just arrived Saturday morning. As always, the highlight of the day was the raising of the colors by embassy-based U.S. marines. This year, in honor of the late President Ronald Reagan, the flag flew at half staff. The national anthems of both countries followed.

The event, which was free for U.S. citizens, was put on by the American Colony Committee at Cervercería Costa Rica.

Clown Rayuela (Emanuella Ulloa) at work.
 And the hair goes flying
Foot races can be a drag

Jo Stuart
About us
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