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These stories were published Thursday, July 21, 2005, in Vol. 5, No. 143
Jo Stuart
About us

A little kiss from the bus,
and the world stops
By Jesse Froehling
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

For all the noise, exhaust, lack of signaling and speed limit enforcement, the public transit system in San José is remarkably reliable and effective.  You can hop on a bus nearly anywhere in this city, and for the price of a gumball in the States be whisked away to your destination of choice. 

The journey may involve standing with your face smashed in someone's armpit or the incredibly annoying stop-and-go as the bus picks up people every

 10 yards or so.  But you'll get there – probably quicker
than you expected.

However, if you ride the bus often enough, chances are, you'll be delayed sooner or later.  Maybe one of the tires will go flat or maybe a sleepy street dog will decide that the middle of the freeway looks like a good place for a siesta and cause a traffic jam to Escazú.  But more than likely, with the way people drive here, your bus will get in a wreck.  The law of averages says so. 

On a bus between Sabanilla and San José, I heard the unmistakable sound of a vehicle crunching another one.  The bus driver slammed on the breaks so I assumed we were involved.  In the bus, the impact was hardly noticeable.  On further inspection, the car we had rear-ended had apparently been knocked forward about 20 feet and the rear bumper lay at the point of impact on the ground.

In the States, we would pull off the freeway to avoid impeding the flow of traffic.  Information would be exchanged, fingers would be pointed, no one would be happy and 20 minutes later everyone would be on their way.  In Costa Rica, that's not the case. 

It is illegal in Costa Rica to move a vehicle that has been involved in an accident until a transit officer accompanied by a representative from the Instituto Nacional de Seguros has assessed the situation. 

While sitting in the bus, I remembered hearing something similar but thought that we were only waiting for a police officer, not the special transit police.  Either way, judging by how long it takes to get through a bank or supermarket line, or do anything that involves paperwork in this country, I figured we were in for a wait.   

The young driver leaped out of her car already screaming into her cell phone.  “Look at my car!” she yelled at the bus driver.  “Get out of the bus!”  He seemed to think it was a much better idea to stay in the bus and chew a little harder on his toothpick. Judging from the young woman's body language and tone of voice, I agreed with him.

“Get out of the bus!” she yelled again. This time she stamped her foot and pointed at him for emphasis. 

“Get out of the bus! Get out of the bus! (unintelligible Spanish) Get out of the bus!”  Meanwhile, traffic was starting to back up and there was much honking of horns and shaking of fists. 

Another Sabanilla bus pulled up behind us and it was nearly empty.  I was relieved.  My side of the bus was in the sunlight, and I was starting to sweat heartily.  We all got out except for the driver.   

Apparently, this second bus driver was worried about the extra weight, or maybe he was late.  For whatever reason, he decided not to pick us up.  So instead we stood on the side of the road and watched traffic flow around the accident. 

A young man went out to the woman to console her and nodded his head in agreement when she stamped her foot some more and pointed at our driver. 

Finally, a police officer slowed next to the woman.  Once again, I expected that we would soon be on our way, but this police officer simply wished to stop in the middle of traffic to shake hands with the man consoling the young woman and ask him how his day was.  He soon sped off.

A half-hour later, another Sabanilla bus pulled up behind ours.  This bus driver was kind enough to let us on his bus, and we were soon in San José.  When we left, the man was still consoling the young woman in the middle of traffic but now she was giggling. 

The bus driver was still in his bus chewing his toothpick. 

Traffic was still backed up, fists were still shaking, horns were still honking and the transit police accompanied by the representative of the Instituto Nacional de Seguros had not shown up.  

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, July 21, 2005, Vol. 5, No. 143

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Documentary features
plight of Nicaraguans

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The plight of the Nicaraguan immigrant in Costa Rican society has been turned into a documentary directed by a North American.

The film title “NICA/ragüense” puts the emphasis on the word Nica, a disrespectful term for a Nicaraguan.

The 55-minute film will be shown free Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the Sala Gómez Miralles of the Centro Costarricense de Producción Cinematográfica. The centro is a unit of the Ministerio de la Cultura, Juventud y Deportes.

The director, Judy Fleming, and her Nicaraguan co-director Carlos Solís have produced a work that has been called provocative in the Spanish-language press. The stars are the thousands of Nicaraguans who migrate to Costa Rica to work or to have a better life.

The film notes that poverty and unemployment are the main reasons the Nicaraguans leave home.

More than 50 percent of the coffee harvested in Costa Rica is done with the hands of Nicaraguans, the film said, and in shots of daily life the film shows Nicaraguans talking about their fear of being in public places and saying that they have to pay blackmail to police.

Schoolchildren say that their teachers mock their accents in the classroom, and that they are ashamed of being Nicaraguans.

The documentary also takes viewers to La Carpio, the informal settlement where police detained many of the Nicaraguan residents in an immigration check Jan. 30, 2004. The check and subsequent detentions became an international incident.

The film also cites Costa Ricans who have helped Nicaraguans, including finca owners, musicians and legislative deputies.

The deep prejudice toward Nicaraguans is a sensitive topic in Costa Rica and the documentary is sure to become a major point of discussion.

The centro is in a turn-of-the century building on Avenida 9 on its northwest corner with Calle 11. The location is north of and across Avenida 9 from the parking area attached to the towering Instituto National de Seguros building.
Intel elects director

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Intel Corp. has elected James D. Plummer, dean of the Stanford University's School of Engineering, to Intel's board of directors. With Plummer's election, the Intel board now consists of nine independent directors and two directors who are executive officers of Intel, CEO Paul Otellini and Chairman Craig Barrett.

Plummer is a UCLA graduate who went on to receive his master's degree and doctorate in electrical engineering from Stanford. He began teaching at Stanford as an associate professor of electrical engineering in 1978 and was appointed dean of the School of Engineering in 1999.

Intel has chip manufacturing facilities in the Central Valley.
Vannessa plans buyout

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Officials at Vannessa Ventures Ltd., the company that runs the Crucitas gold mine north of San José, said it intends to buy out the minority interest to gain 100 percent ownership of Vanarde Mining Inc., said a statement by Vanessa President John Morgan. 

Vanarde owns the Potaro diamond project in Guyana, the statement said.  After the acquisition, Vannessa will own 100 percent of Vanarde, the statement added.

The Crucitas gold mine is approximately 100 kilometers north of San José near the small town of Coopevega, said Vannessa's Web site.
Car collides with bus

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A car colllided with the rear of a public bus in Guadalupe Wednesay night and three or more persons went to the hospital.

The force of the crash sheared off much of the top of the car that ran under the rear of the bus. At least one occupant was thrown out of the car, witnesses said.
Opinion from readers

They're happy to be
in less expensive Panamá

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I read the interesting letter by Randall Valverde of Atlanta, Georgia. I had the impression that he felt that even though he lived in Georgia, he was an expert on Costa Rica and Panamá.

We lived in Costa Rica for five years. We started looking for a new location when immigration became difficult to work with.  Other incentives to move were the escalating crime rate and inflation. I was mugged near San Pedro Mall at 6:30 p.m. with two policemen only a half block away as well as many other bystanders. Calling 911 was not helpful. Finally got a taxi to take me to the hospital for seven stitches in my head.

We checked out Nicaragua and Panama. We decided on Panamá. Panama gives pensionados some terrific discounts. Overall, Panama is a cheaper place to live than CR.

The traffic in Panamá is not nonsense, as Mr. Valverde claimed. The drivers are certainly more courteous than in CR. They actually stop and let pedestrians cross the street. As to the heat, we found Nebraska (where we lived in the States) to be hotter. We have A/C but do not need it all the time. Our electric bill last month was $50.01, our telephone is $25.00 a month for unlimited local use, and we have free Internet.

We are happy that we moved to Panamá where a dollar is still worth a dollar.

Myrna and Donald Reed
Panama City, Panama
They are not worried
about mosquitoes here

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

My family and I just spent a week in beautiful Playa Hermosa the first week of July.  The only encounter we experienced with mosquitoes was at dusk on the farm that hosted the Independence Day celebration on Sunday, July 3rd.  I was also concerned after reading such reports.  To my surprise, the mosquitoes were scarce.  I would encourage doubting, would-be tourists to visit Costa Rica.  As in the U.S., with the West Nile virus, common sense will tell you to take the same precautions.  There are now sun screens available with DEET.  Fear of dengue is not a valid reason for not visiting Costa Rica.

Lisa Weatherly
Orlando, Florida
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The Rev. Guillermo Guillén gives Holy Communion to participants in a Mass celebrated Wednesday at Hospital Calderón Guardia. The priest was assisted by the Rev. Ángel Plaza. Both are chaplains at the hospital and assigned to the Roman Catholic chapel there.

A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas

Still no clear evidence of arson in hospital blaze
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Investigators are unable to establish a cause for the fire that destroyed several floors at Hospital Calderón Guardia early July 12. And they also are unable to determine if the fire was arson.

This was the summary provided Wednesday by the press office of the Poder Judicial. The statement bore the approval of Francisco Dall'anese, the nation's chief prosecutor, who said that there is no investigative hypothesis that answers satisfactorily the information investigators have.

The statement may have been instigated by news stories in the Spanish-language press that branded a nurse at the hospital as the person who may have started the fire, which killed three nurses and 15 patients as well as one other person.

The blaze began in a fourth-floor storage room jammed with paper products, diapers and similar flammable items. A nurse was seen leaving the room not long before the blaze broke out. The blaze heavily damaged a building that is the oldest of the hospital complex.

Firemen initially said the cause was a ballast in an illumination fixture on the fourth floor. But then the storeroom one floor below emerged as the starting point.
Investigators have interviewed the nurse, and she has reported nothing was amiss when she left the room.

The Poder Judicial statement said that three prosecutors have studied all the available evidence, including videotapes. However, the statement said that some results from the crime lab still were awaited.

The mourning continues at the hospital. A Roman Catholic Mass was celebrated there Wednesday. The purpose was to ask God to provide peace for the families of those who had died and also for the souls of the victims.

The Mass follows by a day one held at the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social in the downtown for the same purpose.

Wednesday the Mass was celebrated outside the hospital. Today a Mass will be celebrated  at the Catedral Metropolitana at 11 a.m.  On Friday a Mass will at 2 p.m. in the Iglesia Santa Teresita just east of the hospital.

Saturday a Mass will be celebrated at the hospital at 8 a.m. This ceremony will kick off a marathon set up to raise money to help rebuild the hospital. The structural damage has been estimated at $8 million, and the loss of equipment and special medical devices has been set at $12 million more.

Murder confirmed in case of man who died in Escazú
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

U.S. citizen Eduardo Chopot died in his Escazú apartment from multiple blows to the head, and investigators consider the case as a murder.

That was the word Wednesday from Jorge Rojas, director of the Judicial Investigating Organization. However, Rojas said that his agents do not have a clear motive.

Chopot, 76, who came from  the town of Hamilton in the state of Montana, was found June 23 in his apartment at the VillaGarcia complex in San Rafael de Escazú. He had been dead for several days.
The body was face down on the floor with visible wounds to the head, but investigators at that time were uncertain if he had been struck with an object or had simply fallen and suffered his injuries when he hit the floor.

Although many persons presumed Chopot had been murdered, the account from Rojas Wednesday is the first official confirmation.

Rojas said Wednesday that an autopsy revealed that Chopot had been struck several times with a blunt object and this caused the bleeding that led to his death.
The complex where Chopot lived is guarded, and there is a high probability that the man died at the hands of someone he knew.

To establish the facts in the case, agents are putting together a biography of the victim, said Rojas. They will use this information to identify friends, associates and perhaps a motive. Rojas said that at least one suspect has been identified but agents do not have strong proof.

Agents have a lot to study. Chopot was a Spokane, Wash., businessman who developed a taste for gambling. In the early 1970s he constructed a  15,000-square-foot dwelling on some 30 acres near Hamilton and called it Sleeping Child Hot Springs, according to an acquaintance in Hamilton.

At one point he was in debt to Las Vegas casinos to the tune of $12 million. Documents filed in a Hamilton court show that he lost heavily. Court filings include copies of his signed and dated chits issued by the casinos. On one day, June 19, 2000, he borrowed $100,000 at 8:43 a.m.; $100,000 at 8:44 a.m.; $100,000 at 9:05 a.m. and $200,000 at 8:50 a.m.

But the court records also show that a settlement was reached between Chopot and and the casinos June 15, 2004, but those records are sealed. The entire case was dismissed in July 2004.

Very simply . . .  your choices here in Costa Rica of finding your dream home are limited to:

1. a Tico home:  claustrophobic, cold water, and postage stamp land size.

2.  a rare American-style home . . . normally at a VERY inflated price . . . in Grecia, a town of 50,000 less than an hour from San José  there are MAYBE five existing homes for resale suitable for most "gringos."

3.  a renovation;  problem here is that it typically costs more to remodel than to build from scratch.
And of course, we have all heard the horror stories about building in Costa Rica: the builders that absconded with the money —  the five-year wait until completion — the shoddy workmanship . . . and so on.

BUT... think for a minute:  "what do Ticos do when in the market for a new home?"  ANSWER:  "they BUILD" So...just maybe...the horror stories are an exaggeration... or....

The simple fact is this:    BUILDING IN COSTA RICA IS SAFER AND LESS RISKY THAN BUILDING IN THE UNITED STATES.... and obviously the cost is less.

If you are having problems finding your dream home... talk to us.  We work with a small group of very talented and very honest builders who guarantee their work... honor their contracts... and live in the areas in which they build. 

Call us... and come and visit... and see for yourselves .

Call today or e-mail for an appointment:    011-506-444-1695 or 011-506-841-5782  

Targeting the drug money is successful, DEA says
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration is reporting success in attacking the financing of major drug-trafficking organizations in the Western Hemisphere.

DEA Administrator Karen Tandy touted operations conducted under her agency's "Money Trail Initiative," which effectively crippled the ability of drug criminals to finance their illegal dealings.  Under the initiative, Tandy said, the DEA has seized more than $28 million, made 230 arrests, and seized 1,581 kilograms of cocaine and 37,055 pounds of marijuana.

Although money is the main motivation for drug traffickers, "it is also their Number 1 vulnerability," said Tandy.  "In this initiative, we followed the money trail from several cash seizures in the U.S. around the Western Hemisphere, and it led us to identifying and indicting two drug-trafficking brothers, one of whom is on the 'most wanted' drug-traffickers list."

Tandy added that the initiative also helped the DEA to dismantle a major Mexican money-transportation organization and to "tear apart" a violent marijuana-trafficking organization in Detroit.

"That's the kind of damage we will continue to inflict by attacking the drug trade at its financial core," she said.

In the case involving the two drug-trafficking brothers, the DEA said it was able to identify the dealings of Arturo Arriola-Marquez, who has been indicted in the U.S. State of Colorado due to his involvement in the
drug trade.  The DEA said Arriola-Marquez is currently on the run from law enforcement officials in Mexico.

The DEA said Arriola-Marquez was on the U.S. government's "Consolidated Priority Organization Target" list, which is designed to identify the world's most significant international drug traffickers and money launderers.  The list enables U.S. federal law enforcement agencies and federal prosecutors to focus their resources on pursuing these highest-priority targets.

Mexican authorities arrested Arturo
Arriola-Marquez's drug-trafficking brother, Miguel, in September 2004.

The Bush administration in June designated both brothers as "drug kingpins" under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act, which targets, on a worldwide basis, significant foreign narcotics traffickers, their organizations and operatives.

The purpose of the Kingpin Act is to deny significant foreign narcotics traffickers, their related businesses and their operatives access to the U.S. financial system and all trade and transactions involving U.S. companies and individuals.

In another success, the DEA said that by following the money, it was able to identify and subsequently indict Mexican money broker Saul Saucedo-Chaidez, who received and moved nearly $42 million a year in drug money between the United States and Mexico.  Mexican law enforcement authorities arrested Saucedo-Chaidez in February.

$10 million tagged to open markets for U.S. goods in Latin countries
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Department of Agriculture is providing $10 million for 71 U.S. agricultural trade projects to be conducted in Mexico, Brazil, Venezuela, Central America and elsewhere around the world under what is called the "Emerging Markets Program."

In Central America, the State of Minnesota's Department of Agriculture will conduct a $55,000 project for market development of Minnesota products.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said that the program, first authorized by Congress in 1990, supports the promotion and distribution of U.S. agricultural products, trade missions, research on new markets, and activities that encourage free-trade policies.  The program sponsors seminars and training so that potential buyers in emerging economies around the world can profitably use U.S. agricultural goods.

The program defines emerging markets as countries that have or are developing a market-oriented economy and could be a viable market for U.S. products, the department said.
The underlying premise of the program, said the department, is that emerging agricultural markets have "distinctive characteristics" that can benefit from U.S. government assistance.  All agricultural commodities except tobacco are eligible for consideration in the program.

The projects involve work with U.S. trade groups, nonprofit organizations, universities and federal agencies.  In addition to the countries in the Americas, projects in 2005 will be conducted in Asia, Russia, Eastern and Central Europe, and Africa.

In the Americas, the projects to be conducted in fiscal year 2005 include $50,000 to study consumer attitudes and usages for exporting U.S. almonds to Mexico and a $90,000 study of Brazil's competitive potential with regard to its domestic policies, limits on agricultural growth and rising domestic demand for agricultural products.

In Venezuela, a $16,825 project will revolve around an "Institute of Food Technologists Expo," to be held June 24-28, 2006, in the Venezuelan capital of Caracas.  A food technologist develops new and improved food products and sets standards for producing, packaging and marketing food.

Jo Stuart
About us
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