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(506) 223-1327        Published Monday, July 10, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 135       E-mail us    
Jo Stuart
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Police officer gunned down at Caribbean vehicle checkpoint
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Presumed auto thieves opened fire and killed a Fuerza Pública officer early Sunday at a vehicle checkpoint just north of Cahuita on the Caribbean coast.

Dead is Mario González González, 47, an 11-year veteran of the police unit, who took five bullets in his body, said a spokesman for the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública.

One of the vehicles involved had been stolen from a U.S. citizen Saturday night in Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, said the spokesman. It was recovered later in Valle de La Estrella.

The killing happened in Tuba Creek, just a few miles north of Cahuita. González and fellow officers Yanán Díaz, Gerardo Rivera and  Felipe Morales were on duty checking the papers of passing vehicles about 2:15 a.m.

Two vehicles pulled up, a Toyota and an Isuzu, and those inside opened fire on the officers.
González was hit twice in the back, twice in the chest and once in the left arm, the ministry spokesman said.

The killers took the service revolvers of González and Díaz, the spokesman added.

The Cruz Roja took González to the Clínica  del Valle de la Estrella where he was pronounced dead about an hour later.

About 4:30 a.m. police found both vehicles along a railroad track south of where the shooting took place.  Officers in Puerto Viejo de Talamanca said the U.S. owner of the Isuzu had reported that he and his female companion had been robbed of the vehicle, some $7,000 in cash and paintings that were in the vehicle. The paintings still were there when police recovered the car.

The Toyota had been stolen days earlier in  Sarapiquí, police said.

Gonzalez leaves a wife and four adult sons at his home in La Selva de Guácimo.

Sweep of Jacó yields 48 persons who are here illegally
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

This weekend it was Jaco's turn to be swept by police. There also were police sweeps in Parrita, Quepos and Barranca, but the bulk of the effort was in Jacó, which has developed a reputation for easily available drugs and wide open prostitution.

Among 48 illegal foreigners detained in Jacó, police said they found a Swiss woman and two U.S. males. They and some 35 Nicaraguan men, eight Nicaraguan women and a Colombian woman are being held and face deportation, said Comisionado Juan José Andrade, regional director of the Fuerza Pública in the Provincia de Puntarenas. The sweeps in Jacó took place Friday, Saturday and Sunday, officials said.

In addition to locating illegal foreigners, the main goals of the sweeps were to suppress the drug trade and locate persons who had arrest warrants outstanding, police said.
Police confiscated 11 baggies of marijuana, seven doses of crack cocaine, all carried by various tourists in Jacó, and seven knives, they said. Fuerza Pública officers were reinforced by the Policía Especial de Migración and the Unidad de Intervención Policial.

In Jacó police detained a man identified by the last names of Aguilar Varela, who faces a charge in the Juzgado Penal de San José of aggravated robbery.

In Quepos, police confiscated 24 doses of crack and a pistol. In Barranca, police seized 64 baggies of marijuana and 58 doses of crack. In Esterillo Oeste at Parrita they confiscated 65 marijuana cigarettes, 14 doses of crack and located a man with the last names of Álvarez Arce who must answer an arrest warrant of aggravated robbery, they said.

The Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Publica has been staging sweeps like this in tourist areas to enhance the safety.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, July 10, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 135

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Our readers' opinions
Tamarindo park battle
has a long history

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

On Saturday, June 24, 2006, a group of neighbors met at the Parque de la Independencia to begin the process of creating a central park for the community of Tamarindo — a green oasis where children can play, and families can meet; a park that preserves a piece of Tamarindo´s natural habitat, with native trees that provide homes and nourishment for native animals like iguanas, howler monkeys & parrots. We want the Parque de la Independencia to be a permanent symbol of our community’s pride.

The protection and maintenance of the public zones in Playa Tamarindo has been a priority of the Association Pro Mejoras since 1994, when the Municipal Council of Santa Cruz unanimously agreed to authorize the association “to maintain the public zones, parks and alamedas of Playa Tamarindo, not allowing any change or sale of them, and that they would be for the exclusive use and enjoyment of national and international tourists.” 

Since then, the Association has invested tens of thousands of dollars in order to protect these vital green areas from slipping into private hands.  The Adopt a Park Program was developed in order to directly involve community members in the preservation of these last patches of green. The Parque de la Independencia is the pilot project of this program.

The Parque de la Independencia has a long and embattled history, and has become an important symbol to the community of Tamarindo. The community first got together to inaugurate the park on Sept. 15, 1994, Costa Rica’s Independence Day.

Unfortunately the inauguration was ruined when a private individual showed up with police and claimed the park was his private property.  The same thing happened on July 4, 1998, when the community tried to set up a soccer field in the park.  A law suit was filed against the association, accusing it of “violent usurpation.” 

Finally the second Regulatory Plan upheld the community’s position, and included the Parque de la Independencia as a green zone intended for public enjoyment of open air recreation.

Every town in Costa Rica has a soccer field, a central park where the community meets and has its yearly fiestas.  Tamarindo residents want the Parque de la Independencia to remain a soccer field.   But the mayor of Santa Cruz wants to build municipal offices and a parking lot in the green zone.  His plans also include granting a 20-year concession for a supermarket to the private investors who will fund the project.

A contractor broke ground for the municipal building in March of this year, without obtaining a change in land use — an arduous process requiring approval from various government ministries.  Neighbors complained to Edwin Ortiz, who is in charge of the maritime zone and the plan regulador for the municipality.  Mr. Ortiz ordered the illegal construction to stop. The contractor finally moved out of his bodega, leaving behind construction debris and a badly damaged playing field.

On June 3, members of the community met to clean up the construction debris. A small group of neighbors pledged to raise the funds required to make the Parque de la Independencia a beautiful central park, shaded by native trees, with a well-kept soccer field.  A park no one would dare to take from the community.

The Soccer Patrons donated $5,000 to start the restoration of the soccer field and to reforest the park. The park is not large enough for a regulation soccer field, so members of the committee created a plan for a field suitable for younger players.  A landscaping plan for the trees, donated by Hacienda Pinilla, was created by a biologist.  Water and electricity were reconnected, and a work crew was hired to get the park prepared for the Saturday, June 24, event.

Neighbors began arriving at 8 a.m, with shovels and machetes, ready to work.

Overgrown weeds were cleared away from the roadside.  The trees planted by the association six years ago were trimmed.  Then community members were asked to adopt a tree, and 51 trees were planted around the soccer field.

The Adopt a Tree effort raised $1,100, which will be used to make the soccer field. One of the goal posts that had been damaged was welded together and put back in place.  Everybody brought food and drinks, and the event concluded around 12 p.m. Just before a gentle rain.

June 24 was a great first event.  But much more work and money is necessary to achieve our goals.  Readers who are interested in making a donation or to be included on the mailing list for future events may contact soccerpatrons@tamarindocommunity.org

For further information about the adopt a park program, they may contact the Association Pro Mejoras at directora@tamarindocommunity.org .

Thank you from the Soccer Patrons:

Brock and Midge Menking,
Helen Acosta, Chris Spilsbury
and Rick Macsherry, Kathy
and Dale Doshack, Gabriela
Valenzuela and Jerry Hirsch,
Joe and Elke Bergeron, Rick
Nicastro and Sandi May and
Nina Weber and Walter Hoevel

Sunday is kids' day
at Museo nacional

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
Sunday is the day for the Festival de la Juventud en el Museo Nacional. Concerts, kung-fu, taichi, origami and many other attractions figure in the program of the day.

Sunday is the last day of the mid-year vacation for public school children. Entry is free, and those who come also can visit the exhibitions at the museum, said an invitation.

Youngsters also will be able to learn about special interest clubs that are available, including the Sociedad Tolkien de Costa Rica and Club Harry Potter,
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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, July 10, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 135

Purdue history professor says:
Walker's ghost still haunts U.S.-Latin relations

EDITOR'S NOTE: July 12 marks the 150th anniversary of American  William Walker's inauguration as president of Nicaragua.

By the Purdue University News Service

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Today's anti-American feelings in Latin America are as much about history as they are about current feuds over oil and leadership issues, according to a Purdue University history  professor.

"U.S.-Latin American relations suffered a horrific setback 150 years ago, when an audacious Tennessean conquered Nicaragua and plotted to take over other Central American countries," said Robert May, a  professor of history. "William Walker may be

Robert May
America's forgotten  president, but he left an imprint on Latin America that exacerbates current concerns, especially in Central America."

Walker, who assumed Nicaragua's presidency 150 years ago, was a 19th  century filibuster, a commander of a private American military force that invaded foreign countries without U.S. government permission.  These soldiers — taking actions that might be considered terrorism by 
today's standards — attacked Mexico, the Spanish colony of Cuba,  British Canada and the Central American states repeatedly until the U. S. Civil War, May said.

May acknowledges that feuds between Latin American countries, like Venezuela, and the United States are fueled by a variety of modern  issues and that Walker's filibustering invasions were just a few of many incidents of U.S. armed aggression against Latin American states in the 19th and 20th centuries. However, May is concerned that today's policy-makers are not aware that Walker's actions more than a  century ago still strongly resonate among Latin American citizens.  During the 1980s, Sandinista leaders referenced Walker's invasion to rally Nicaraguans and world opinion against U.S. policies in Central America.

"Because Walker invaded Nicaragua and assumed the presidency, he affected world affairs much like Osama bin Laden has since 2001," May says. "In the United States, Walker regularly dominated newspaper headlines. Books, poems, magazine articles and plays were written about him.

"Walker had thoughts of conquering all of Central America once he subdued Nicaragua, and many Americans celebrated his successes as proof of Manifest Destiny — a belief that God intended the
William Walker
in a U.S. LIbrary of
Congress photo

United  States to further expand territorially. He even legalized slavery there."

Despite some Americans who supported filibusters, many were critical of Walker. Unfortunately, other countries were convinced that the U.S. government was using filibusters to steal foreign lands, May said.

Almost a year after Walker's July 12, 1856, inauguration, Nicaraguans ousted him with the help of armies from other Central American states. In 1860 Walker was executed by a Honduran firing squad when  he again tried to invade Central America.

This year there will be a number of commemorations in Central America marking Walker's invasion and ouster. In addition, these countries celebrate national holidays that mark the defeat of Walker and his army. A national monument in San José, Costa Rica, even celebrates Walker's defeat, and the international airport in San José is named for a soldier who helped defeat Walker.

"During a recent trip to Costa Rica, I became aware that many Costa Ricans share a belief that the Central American Free Trade Agreement is somehow a continuation of Walker's aggressions," May said. "People oppose this free trade agreement partly on that basis, however irrational the correlation might seem, and attack President Bush's intervention in Iraq as a supposed continuation of William Walker's  policies. Some Central Americans even make a lot over the fact that Walker's last name is President Bush's middle name.

"Americans have forgotten the story about Walker's plundering, but many Central Americans have not."

May is author of "Manifest Destiny's Underworld: Filibustering in Antebellum America," and "The Southern Dream of a Caribbean Empire, 1854-1861." In March, he gave a series of talks in Costa Rica about  Walker.

Virgen del Mar fiesta kicked off with port investment
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Sunday was the start of the Fiesta of the Virgen del Mar, the patroness of the nation's fishermen.

There was the traditional parade of fishing boats in the harbor with one carrying the image of the Virgin.

President Óscar Arias Sánchez was there to sign a document that will allow the reconstruction of the  capitanía of the port. The Instituto Costarricense de Turismo will pay 50 million of the 75 million ($146,000) cost, and the  Instituto Costarricense de Puertos del Pacífico will pay the rest.  The port hosts a number of cruise ship passengers each year.

Arias also participated in the inauguration of the lighthouse at the Iglesia del Barrio El Carmen. The Virgen del Mar is what the port residents call the Virgen del Carmen.

The festival dates back to 1913 when a boat, the Galileo, was believed lost at sea. The populace prayed for the crew, and the fishermen showed up having been rescued by another vessel.

After his official duties, Arias joined others at the  Catedral de Puntarenas where the Conferencia Episcopal de Costa Rica inaugurated the Fiesta de la Virgen del Mar, which will run through Sunday.

Arias spoke briefly at the religious service and encouraged Costa Rica to raise its anchors to join in the economic policies he has planned.

Casa Presidencial photo
Members of the Conferencia Episcopal de Costa Rica, the nation's bishops, before the statue of the Virgen del Carmen or Virgen del Mar Sunday.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, July 10, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 135

López Obrador rallies his followers for electoral fight
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The man who ran a tight second place in the official count from last Sunday's presidential election in México drew more than 100,000 people to Mexico City's main plaza, known as the Zocalo, Saturday to protest what he claims was a fraudulent process.

He is leftist candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who asked his supporters to refrain from acts of violence while he pursues legal channels to contest the election results.

They came by the tens of thousands, cramming the narrow streets of Mexico City's old central district, waving flags and banners and chanting their disapproval of the official vote result that gave the victory to ruling party candidate Felipe Calderón.

Many carried signs condemning Mexico's Instituto Electoral Federal for having, in the view of the protesters, conspired with the ruling party to steal the election from López Obrador. International observers called the July 2 voting process exemplary and representatives of every party were on hand at every voting station in the country to observe the process, which was mostly carried out by volunteers.

Still, in his address the crowded Zocalo, López Obrador said he and the millions who support him were victims of a massive fraud.

He said he was sure that, in spite of all the anti-democratic practices, he triumphed on July 2.

He called on his supporters not to block roads or engage in violent acts that might hurt the cause. He said he would present proof of his accusations to the 
electoral tribunal. The tribunal is the body established by law for all such complaints and is also the body that is designated to officially pronounce the winner of the presidential race Sept. 6. All complaints brought before the tribunal must be resolved by the end of August.

López Obrador said his assertion that he won the election would be proved by a complete review of the vote.

He called for a recount, vote-by-vote and voting booth-by-voting booth.

The former mayor of Mexico City did not provide any hard evidence of fraud, but he told reporters earlier in the day that he would do that once he had formally presented his complaint to the election tribunal.

Meanwhile, the candidate who won by less than sixth-tenths of a percent, according to the final vote count, Felipe Calderón of the Partido Acción Nacional, is proceeding as if he were already president-elect. He says he will begin forming his transition team Monday. He also received calls of congratulations over the past couple of days from Mexico's current president, Vicente Fox, from President George Bush and from the prime ministers of Spain and Canada.

Calderón has called for a government of unity and has reached out to other parties, including those that backed López Obrador, offering to name members of those parties to his cabinet. But López Obrador and his supporters are having none of it, at least for now, and even if the vote challenge fails, Calderón faces a difficult job ahead trying to rule a divided nation where many citizens are likely to remain angry and distrustful for a long time to come.

Colombia and U.S. reach accord on wording of a free trade agreement
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Colombian officials say Bogota and Washington have resolved differences on the wording of a free trade deal reached earlier this year.

Colombian Trade Minister Jorge Botero said Friday negotiators had resolved all remaining concerns related to sugar, chicken and other farm products.

Botero said the free trade agreement could be signed
by President George Bush and Colombian President Alvaro Uribe as early as October. Once signed, the accord would have to be approved by legislators in both countries.

The agreement has its critics. Blaming free trade negotiations between Bogota and Washington, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in April pulled his country out of the Andean Community of Nations. The group is a trade bloc comprising Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia and Peru.

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