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These stories were published Friday, July 25, 2003, in Vol. 3, No. 146
Jo Stuart
About us
And you think that
cell phones are bad?

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fighting San José traffic is much easier and more relaxing when you have a little television set to keep you entertained.

Particularly if you are a taxi driver.

One licensed driver has been working in and around San José, by his own count, for five to six years. Perched on the passenger side dashboard is a tiny 5-inch Samsung television, attached permanently and wired into the vehicle’s electrical system.

He is the most obvious, although several other taxi drivers have mounted television sets below the dash but in a way that the screen still is visible to passengers and the driver.

The set came in handy Wednesday night as the U.S. soccer team took on Brazil. (The U.S. lost 2-1.) A passenger commented that the play-by-play in Spanish was a little too fast for comprehension by a foreigner. 

The driver quickly switched on the television set, adjusted slightly the single antenna and began a commentary on the activities taking place on the playing field.

He still had one eye on the road. Most of the time. The picture flashed in and out until the taxi left the downtown and the tall buildings that blocked the signal.

Although the driver seemed calmed and relaxed by the soccer game coming from the United States, the passengers were not. 

Pacheco on hot seat
over campaign funds

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

More than a year after his election, President Abel Pacheco finds himself dogged by campaign financing questions.

The issue came up Wednesday in the Asamblea Nacional when Humberto Arce of the Bloque Patriótico said he had asked Pacheco to reveal the financial transactions related to a bank account owned by Leilable S.A.

The firm Leilable S.A. was set up in 1987 by Pacheco and his wife Leila Rodríguez, said Arce. He wanted to known the origin of the deposit of some 1.4 million colons put there March 24, 2002. That was about $4,000 then.

Arce said that when Pacheco appeared before a legislative investigatory committee May 29, the president said that he only had a personal account at Banco Popular and another at Bank of America. At that time, Pacheco authorized the deputies to get records of financial transactions involving these two accounts.

Arce said he would like to see the same provision made for the Leilabel S.A. account at the Banco de Costa Rica. Arce also has some other transactions he would like explained, including one of some 1 million colons in favor of  Rodolfo Montero Barquero, the ex-treasurer of Pacheco’s Partido Unidad Cristiana campaign.

And Arce also expressed his concern about two transactions from Banco Interfin and Interfin Valores that total some 33 million colons in February and April 2002.  That would be about $93,000.

Montero until recently was a director in the Banco International de Costa Rica, which is a joint venture between Banco Nacional and Banco de Costa Rica. When Montero appeared before the megacommission investigating campaign financing, he declined to answer some questions, saying he had a constitutional right to stay mum, the committee reported.

Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart

The once and future famous mojito

A couple of years ago my friend Anabel returned to Costa Rica from a visit to Cuba and raved about a drink she had there. She couldn't remember the name or how it was made. All she could tell me was that it had mint and rum in it. For a while I thought she was describing rum punch that I had sampled when I visited Barbados, but that didn't seem to be it.

Then the other night my daughter and her husband took me to a Cuban restaurant in Pasadena called Xiomara's where we joined their friends, Art and Maria. They were drinking a pale green drink that looked awfully refreshing, and I asked them what it was. A mojito. I ordered one and knew immediately that that was the drink Anabel was talking about. It was both refreshing and delicious. I decided this drink needed more research, so from then on every restaurant we patronized was first 'vetted' as to whether or not they served mojitos. 

Then I wanted the recipe and Art, being Cuban, volunteered to send it to me. With the recipe he sent a brief history of the drink from the book, "The Drinks Bible for the 21st Century" by Paul Harrington and Laura Moorehead. According to them, "The mojito was born in Cuba in this century's teen years" and came into its own during "the cocktail sipping halcyon days" of a Cuba made famous by the Mafia-supported extravagance and writer Ernest Hemingway, who spent much of his time in Cuba and most of that time drinking mojitos. But somehow, like Hemmingway, outside of Cuba, the mojito seemed to fade from peoples' consciousness. 

Today there is a revival of the mojito. Shortly after I tried my first one, I saw on CNBC a whole segment devoted to the making of a mojito. I prefer the recipe Art sent me. Handful of fresh mint, 2 teaspoons of sugar, 1 ounce fresh lime juice (one whole lime), 2-3 ounces of light rum and soda water

Method of mixing (and I am told the order of ingredients is very important). Place a small handful of fresh mint, the sugar and a splash of soda water in a pint glass. Use a pestle to crush the mint and dissolve the sugar until the mixture smells like spearmint gum. Squeeze both halves of the lime into the glass, leaving one of the halves in the mixture. Add the rum and fill the glass with ice. Top it off with more soda water and garnish with a mint leaf.

According to the authors, one of the secrets of making a good mojito is letting one half of your squeezed lime bob in the mixture. The lime rind "adds a faint bitterness that "is the sine qua non of this drink."

And the aftermath: "As you sit and chew on mint leaves after you've finished your drink, you'll notice one of the mojito's greatest charms and its only liability. 

While it is one of the rare cocktails that actually improves the odor of your breath, you could walk away from the experience with bits of green mint lodged embarrassingly in your front teeth." That is easily avoided by always carrying a small pocket mirror. 

One of the reasons I like the mojito is that it seems like the perfect drink for Costa Rica. Costa Rica makes very good, reasonably-priced rum. Limes are about five cents each, and mint is almost always available in the supermarkets, the Central Market and the ferias. The most expensive ingredient is the soda water. My goodness, you almost can't afford not to drink it.

Of course, I haven't been home for six weeks, and when I arrive, they may be greeting people at the airport with mojitos, and all of this is old news. 

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Suspect in murders
hangs self in prison

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A man jailed Tuesday after he killed his female companion and their two children killed himself while being held in San Sebastian prison early Thursday, said officials

The man, Jhonathan González Alvarado, 20, hung himself with the sleeve of his shirt, Fuerza Pública officers said. The man had been under observation but only every 15 minutes. The death took place about 2:30 a.m.

The triple murder Tuesday was in the precario Triangulo de Solidaridad in San Gabriel de Calle Blancos, Goicoechea. A precario is a do-it-yourself informal subdivision of modest homes. The area is north and east of San José.

Dead are María Martínez Pichardo, about 30, and her two daughters, Johana, 3, and Yorleny, 4, according to Fuerza Pública officers. The bodies were taken to Nicaragua for burial Thursday morning after an all-night wake in the community where they had lived.

González, who was the subject of a judicial no-contact order, is believed to have killed the children and the woman because she would not give him the equivalent of about $100 that she was planning to send to Nicaragua to support four other children that she has there, said investigators.

Jorge Sánchez Madrigal, 34, who is being held in the murder of his 8-year-old neighbor also was said to have tried to kill himself last July 11 and early July 12 while being detained in the same prison. He eventually was transferred to la Reforma in Alajuela.

The death of the girl, Katia Vanesa González Juárez, generated strong emotions after her body was found where Sánchez lived.

The death of Jhonathan González did not generate any sympathy among the neighbors of the slain family. One female neighbor went on local television complaining that hanging was too quick for González and that he should have been killed slowly and painfully.

Costa Rica does not have a death penalty, and murderers traditionally get out of jail in much less time than their formal sentence. However, pending legislation would beef up the penalty for killing a child.

But they didn’t
arrest the horse

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

When the undercover agents set up a deal to purchase 25 pounds of marijuana, he was expecting a suspect but not the horse.

But like something out of a modern western, the suspect showed up mounted in order to transport what investigators say was a large quantity of marijuana.

The purchase and subsequent arrests happened Wednesday shortly before noon in Piedras Blancas de Osa, said a report from the judicial Investigating Organization.

Detained was the horseman, Ramsey Mora Alvarado, 34, and an associate, Alberto Calderón Quiros, 28, said agents. They are facing investigation on a charge of growing, packaging and selling the marijuana. 

After the arrest, agents raided the home of the men and said they found large quantities of marijuana seeds and implements used to process marijuana.

Surprise discovery
leads to an arrest

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Police found a man sprawled near his motorcycle on a Puriscal highway July 18, and it appeared that the man, with the last name of Mesén, was yet another victim of Costa Rican traffic. He had injuries to the head and face.

His body went to the Judicial Investigating Organization morgue for a determination of the cause of death. Forensic investigators found, instead, that the man died from a bullet wound to the right side of the head, and the hunt was on for a suspect.

Agents now have arrested Romulo Morales, 67, and held him for investigation of involvement in the death. They said he had had personal problems with the victim.

New airport route
opened to traffic

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A new road that connects Juan Santamaría International Airport with points south is now in service.

The $600,000 project is two lanes of asphalt for some 840 meters (about 2,730 feet). It connects the airport with Ojo de Agua, San Antonio de Belén and Santa Ana, said the Ministerio de Obras Pública y Transporte in an announcement that the route was open.

The new road, now called Calle La Candela, was needed due to expansion and work at the airport, the ministry noted.

Employee bus goes
off road to hotel

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A bus taking hotel employees to work lost its brakes and plunged off the road Thursday, injuring nearly all of the estimated 60 persons on board. Several were trapped for a time in the wreck.

The bus is the property of the Allegro Papagayo Hotel and most of the passengers worked there, said the Fuerza Pública. The accident was only about 200 meters (some 650 feet) from the hotel entrance, said police. The location is between Guardia de Liberia and Tamarindo on the Guanacaste Pacific coast, they said. 

The accident happened about 8:30 a.m. At least 24 ambulances, assorted rescue equipment and even a motorized command post were brought to the scene. A Piper Navajo aircraft, operated by the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública, brought additional paramedics to the scene from Liberia.

Cuban truckers sent
back to their island

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The U.S. Coast Guard has sent back 12 Cubans who were picked up this week in the Florida Straits trying to reach the United States. The case is unusual because of the type of vessel the Cubans used in the attempt to flee their homeland. 

Coast Guard sailors see all types of vessels on the open waters off the coast of Florida, but many say they have never seen anything like the contraption they stopped earlier this week, about 60 kms (some 36 miles) south of Key West, Fla. 

Lashed to several large oil drums was a 1951 Chevrolet flatbed truck. The makeshift vessel, with 12 Cubans on board, was chugging through the Florida Straits trying to reach the Florida Keys. Coast Guard Petty Officer Ryan Das says he and his colleagues will not soon forget the sight. 

"The truck was a 1951 Chevy," he said. "The reaction was surprise. When we got the call it was reported as a surprise. When we showed up it was a truck and everybody was pretty amazed."

The Cubans had modified the truck by dropping the drive shaft from the back axle to turn a propeller. The truck had then been placed on a pontoon supported by large empty oil drums. Coast Guard officials say they had no choice but to sink the truck, which would have been worth a small fortune in Cuba. 

Coast Guard officials also say the 12 Cubans have been sent back home. Under U.S. law Cuban migrants intercepted at sea are sent back to Cuba. Those who set foot on U.S. soil are allowed to stay and apply for permanent residency. 


Nearly half Price!

First forced sale

QUINTA LA GARITA Recently appraised at $1,250,000. One of the most beautiful and best located quintas in all of the La Garita area. Fantastic, incredible 360-degree view from the Costa Rican ranch style house (4,200 sq. ft.) and located at top of 60-foot hill in center of the quinta. Panoramic view of picturesque mountains, valleys, quintas and farms.

• Contemporary guest house (900 sq.ft.) with Jacuzzi and double carport on 3.6 acres.

• Swimming pool with cement deck and bath house.

• Full size professional north-south tennis court with gazebo.

• Asphalt driveway that encircles the inter perimeter of quinta lined with stately full grown Royal palms and over 100 Seka palms .

• Fabulous park like tropical landscaping that includes varieties of old growth trees; producing fruit trees, and countless shrubs, bushes, plants and flowers of incredible beauty.

• Contemporary Spanish cement and black wall aprox. 8-feet high surrounds three sides and the other part is fenced covered with flowering bushes.

• The location is perfect in central La Garita, 200 yards from highway to Atenas and Central Pacific beaches: Jaco, Manuel Antonio, etc.

• Two miles from the main highway No. 1 from San Jose to Puntarenas, beaches and Guanacaste. Fifteen minutes to Airport and Alajuela, and less than 30 minutes to San Jose.

• Cement walkways circle main house and go to various other areas.

• Complete watering and electrical system for entire quinta plus 4 telephone lines and cable access etc.

Information from local realtors say the bare property value alone ranges from $900,000 to $1,200,000 with this kind of flora and view.

SALE PRICE $599,000.

Contact Tom at e-mail: 
or in Costa Rica call home/office tel. 263-4262.
From U.S. 1-800-939-0547. From countries outside U.S.A (506) 263-4262. 

Second forced sale

BEACH HOUSE "CASA LARAMAR" in El Roble de Puntarenas This beautiful on-the-beach property comes with wonderful second story views of the Pacific Ocean, Puntarenas and surrounding areas. Fully secure fenced and gated.

• Magnificent, spaceous two story furnitured home (3,000 sq. ft.) plus small adjoining guest house.

• Two secluded pools, swimming and wading.

• Direct T.V dish.

• 1,000 sq. meters landscape with mature tropical gardens.

• Property is on the beach.

• Within one mile of one of Costa Rica’s best hospitals.

• English-language school very close.

• Ten minutes to downtown Puntarenas’ fresh-sea food restaurants, markets, etc.

• House has 3 bedrooms and 3 baths, huge front porch and upstairs master bedroom balcony with terrific view and it is furnitured.

and LISTED for $299,000. 

Contact Tom at e-mail: 
or in Costa Rica call home/office tel. 263-4262
From U.S. 1-800-939-0547
From countries outside U.S.A (506)-263-4262. 

Professional Directory
A.M. Costa Rica's professional directory is where business people who wish to reach the English-speaking community may invite responses. If you are interested in being represented here, please contact the editor.


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Suporters of Rios Montt run wild in Guatemala City
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

GUATEMALA CITY, Guatemala — Violent protests in support of former Guatemalan dictator Efrain Rios Montt have engulfed the capital, forcing the president to call out the army to restore order. 

President Alfonso Portillo took action Thursday, saying in a nationally televised speech that he will not permit any political movement to disrupt public order. 

The U.S. State Department also said in a statement that the violent demonstrations in Guatemala City constitute an affront to democracy and freedom of assembly and a dangerous mockery of the right to protest. 

The reaction came as demonstrators, some carrying clubs and machetes, burned vehicles, smashed windows and blocked traffic throughout the capital. One journalist died of a heart attack while fleeing a mob chasing reporters through the streets. 

Reports say the crowds were angry with judges who have refused to clear the way for Rios Montt to run for president in November. 

Earlier this week, Guatemala's Supreme Court blocked Rios Montt from registering for the election after the nation's highest tribunal, the Constitutional Court, ruled he could run. Guatemalan law bans former coup leaders from seeking the presidency. 

The opposition filed a complaint challenging Rios Montt's candidacy. Guatemala's ruling party nominated him for president in May. 

Rios Montt seized power in 1982 and ruled the country until 1983. During his 18-month rule, the Guatemalan military carried out an anti-insurgency campaign in which thousands of people were killed and hundreds of Indian villages destroyed. 

Previous courts denied his petitions to run for the presidency in 1990 and 1995.

Arrests of 46 ordered in Argentina over 'Dirty War'
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

BUENOS AIRES, Agentina — A judge has ordered the arrest of 46 people accused of human rights violations during the country's 1976 to 1983 military dictatorship. 

Federal Judge Rodolfo Canicoba Corral ordered the arrests Thursday. The warrants name 45 top former military officers — including former dictator Jorge Videla and then-navy chief Emilio Massera — and one civilian.

The Argentine judge acted after the international police agency (INTERPOL) forwarded extradition requests issued by Spanish Judge Baltasar Garzon. 
Judge Garzon has been investigating abuses committed during Argentina's so-called "Dirty War" against leftists and political opponents of the dictatorship.

Argentine President Nestor Kirchner has said his country must repeal the amnesty laws that allowed the killers and torturers of the dictatorship to go unpunished.

He told The Washington Post newspaper in an interview published Thursday that his country will have independent courts, and that there can be no impunity in Argentina.

The center-left Argentine leader met with President George Bush at the White House Wednesday for talks on Argentina's struggling economy.

Kirchner said afterwards that he received decisive and unconditional U.S. support for his economic program. The White House says President Bush supports President Kirchner's efforts to return Argentina to a path of sustainable growth.

We are counting on some funny stories
It's time to tickle that funnybone if you have one
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica is a land of contradictions, and contradiction is one of the chief concepts of humor.

So now is a time to gently explore our foibles in the mid-winter humor contest sponsored by A.M. Costa Rica marking the second birthday of our Internet daily newspaper.  (Yes, it is "winter’ in Costa Rica.)

Send your humorous writings for publication to:


Make your fellow readers laugh and win great prizes, such as:

• water skiing at Lake Poas.

• annual subscriptions to A.M. Costa Rica

• sunbathing expeditions to the sand dunes of Quepos

• Whale-watching expeditions at the patio of the Gran Hotel Costa Rica

• A night of guaro excess with the A.M. Costa Rica editor (your treat).

Any money prizes will be paid in post-dated checks.

We expect to have some famous judges. At least we will have judges.


Consider the possibilities:

• The Escazú Witch Project
• Fear and Loathing in Santa Ana
• Waiting for Enrique
• How Would You like to be President for a Day?
• The Attack of the 100-foot-tall ICE
• The Return of the Arias.
• The Taxista Always Rings Twice
• Mr. Smith Goes to Arbitration

But you can do better than that. The important thing is to be funny. You can use satire or straight humor. But you must write about Costa Rica. (George Bush is out. We can’t make this too easy.)

Your stories can be true, but exaggeration is a tool of humor. We will publish the good ones as fiction.

Some people say our readers cannot possibly top what really has been happening in Costa Rica. But we have faith.

Our second birthday is Aug. 15, and that’s the deadline.

Now some folks will be upset with us, thinking that we are picking on them. These are the folks who are humorously challenged. Why should we take the credit for them being so funny? Nevertheless, if you wish to send us hate mail or death threats, please do not clog up the editor’s mailbox like before. Send your hate mail or death threats to:


Let the contest begin.

No submissions today
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