A.M. Costa Rica

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These stories were published Wednesday, July 28, 2004, in Vol. 4, No. 148
Jo Stuart
About us

Jovel Guzmán Salazar of Purical brother-in
-law of the gunman.
Faces of the relatives
Sister-in-law and niece of the gunman 

Victor Hugo Víquez, brother of hostage Janneth Víquez

Chilean Embassy siege ends as a nightmare
By Saray Ramírez Vindas
and Jay Brodell
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica’s image as a land of peace and friendship was shattered Tuesday when a Fuerza Pública embassy guard killed three diplomats.

The policeman held seven other persons hostages inside the Embassy of Chile for more than six hours. Then he killed himself. The survivors were believed to be in good condition but suffering from nerves and shock.

The three dead are all from Chile. They include the consul of the embassy, the first secretary and a clerical secretary. The seven who were not harmed include Costa Ricans, citizens of Chile and a Nicaraguan.

The dead are Cristhian Juseff, the Chilean consul in the embassy;  Roberto Nieto, the first secretary; and Rocío Sariego, the secretary.

The embassy is 200 meters north of Avenida Central in Barrio Dent in San José east side not far from Mall San Pedro.

The hostage taker was José Orlando Jiménez Jiménez, 54, who worked as the police officer assigned to guard the premises for the last five years.

Authorities has no motive for the takeover or the killings. Others said Jiménez was being reassigned and did not want to leave.

Jiménez is believed to have killed the three staffers about 3:45 p.m. when he took control of the embassy. Shots were heard then. Cruz Roja workers who finally entered the building after 10 p.m. said the victims had been dead for hours.

Officials only entered the embassy when they could not contact Jiménez. Tactical squad officers entered through the rear doors to find Jiménez had shot himself in the head.

The takeover and standoff made headlines in Chile as well as in Costa Rica. Neither the 

Photos by Saray Ramírez Vindas

Chilean ambassador nor the country’s foreign minister, who is visiting Costa Rica, were among the hostages.

Officials thought all the hostages were alive  even as late as 9 p.m. when they asked Jiménez to continue negotiations. A report from the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública in correctly said that all were in good condition at that time.

The survivors are:

• Leonardo Banda, Chilean, director de Prochile, a trade organization.

• Janneth Víquez, a Costa Rican, an employee of Prochile;

• César Gómez, Chilean, aide to the ambassador;

• Cecilia Montero, Costa Rican, an employee of Prochile;

• Xinia Vargas, Costa Rica, secretary to the consul;

• Janneth Aguilar, a Nicaraguan with Costa Rican residency, in charge of cleaning;

• Leonardo Guerra, Chilean, associated with Prochile.

The diplomatic nature of the hostage-taking was an embarrassment for Costa Rican officials. Rogelio Ramos, minister of security, was on the scene within 45 minutes along with Francisco D’Allanese, the fiscal general or chief prosecutor. Later they were joined by Ricardo Toledo, minister of the Presidencia.

More than 200 police, investigators and rescue workers blocked off the section of Boulevard Dent where the embassy is located. Through the late afternoon and early evening relatives of the hostages and of the police officer were arriving at the scene. Jiménez lived in Puriscal, and his wife traveled from there after hearing the news.

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John Kerry’s sister 
will make visit here

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Diana Kerry, the younger sister of the U.S. Democratic presidential nominee will be in Costa Rica Aug. 28 beating the drum for her brother.

Ms. Kerry is an expat herself and has spent much of her life teaching overseas in Indonesia, Thailand, Iran and France. She recently lost her drama teching job in Boston due to budget cuts.

She has supported her brother since his first Senate campaign in 1984. this year she is a delegate to the Democratic national Convention where her brother will be nominated officially.

She is chairman of Americans Oversea for Kerry. Two weeks ago she was in México seeking votes from U.s. citizens there.

Her visit was announced by Jo Stuart, president of Democrats Abroad of Costa Rica. The Aug. 28 event willbe a picnic at a private ranch in Asserí.

Due to her years overseas, Ms. Kerry wouldhave a lto in common with U.S. citizens here, said Ms. Stuart, adding that Ms. Kerry is supposed to be a great speaker.

In a previous campaign stop in Montana, Ms. kerry said that President George Bush, the presumed Republican candidate, had abused his authority.

"The way to fight terrorism is to seek friends around the world, to participate in educational exchanges and scientific collaboration," she told a Montana newspaper.

In Meexico she told exp[ats that they could help the United States "get back to having a president we can feel proud of." 

Immigration lawyer
fears dirty money

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A lawyer for the immigration department told lawmakers Tuesday that the rentista category for residency should be eliminated because it provides a loophole for dirty money.

The speaker was Jonhny Marín, chief of the Departamento Legal of the Dirección de Migración y Extranjería. He was responding to a motion made in committee to reinstate the popular residency category.

Rentistas only have to show they have an income of $1,000 a month without showing where the money comes from, and that could be from drug trafficking or swindles, said Marín.

The scene was a discussion in the Comisión de Gobierno y Administración, which is studying the proposed new immigration law.

Carlos Avendaño of Renovación Costarricense proposed to reinstate the rentista category. and that provoked discussion and Marín’s comment. Avendaño’s motions finally was defeated.

In fact, rentista applicants must provide police reports and have $60,000 in an approved bank in Costa Rica or elsewhere. Banks are required to know the source of their customers’ money.

Elimination of the rentista category is opposed by the Association of Residents of Costa Rica because self-employed and professionals may not have a formal pension to qualify for pensionado status but they have the money to be a rentista.

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James J. Brodell.........................editor
Saray Ramírez Vindas.... associate editor

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Men in
dark blue

Security was tighter Tuesday at Casa Presidencial after officials decided to issue credentials to reporters and others who come there. Cars were being inspected, although there is no indication that any threats have been received.

Fuerza Pública officers and presidential security staffers were enforcing the edict.

Saray Ramírez Vindas/A.M. Costa Rica

Ex-Peace Corps volunteer faces sex charge from here
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A U.S. Peace Corps volunteer has been indicted in California for having sexual relations with a 14-year-old while the man was in Costa Rica.

The man is Timothy Ronald Obert, 36, according to a news release from the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California.

The man is being charged under a law passed in 2003 that make it illegal for U.S. citizens to engage in illicit sexual conduct with another person anywhere in the world. This is the so-called PROTECT Act.

A federal grand jury studied the case and handed up an indictment on one count that alleged that Obert engaged in oral sex on the minor on July 5, 2003. Obert was arrested in his hometown of Santa Cruz June 23 and has been jailed since. A plea hearing is scheduled in August.

The U.S. attorney involved, Kevin V. Ryan, issued a press release on the case June 24, but the prosecution might have gone unnoticed here except that Casa Alianza, the child welfare organization, issued its own press release reporting on what had taken place. 

There has been no statement from local Peace Corps officials or the U.S. Embassy.

According to facts supplied by the U.S. attorney,  Obert came to Costa Rica in September 2001. Before that he had repeatedly sought and obtained positions working with underprivileged children, said Ryan. Obert told the Peace Corps on his application that he worked in Nicaragua and was responsible for outreach to children in need of food and medical attention, said the U.S. attorney.

From June to August 1998, Obert worked at an orphanage in Honduras and from October to December 1998 Obert worked as a refugee camp volunteer in Nicaragua, said the U.S. attorney.

Obert faces a possible 30 years in prison on the charge.

The prosecution is the result of a year-long investigation by Immigration & Customs Enforcement with assistance from the immigration Panama attaché office, the Department of State, the Peace Corps Office of Inspector General, and the Judicial Investigating Organization of Costa Rica, said Ryan. 

"This is one of the first PROTECT Act prosecutions and also one of the few prosecutions of a Peace Corps volunteer for crimes allegedly committed during service in a foreign country, said Ryan.  "I would like to thank ICE, the Peace Corps Inspector General, and the authorities in Costa Rica for their invaluable assistance in this prosecution." 

U.S. firm in labeling Cuba as sex tourism destination
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. officials have refused to back down from President George Bush's charge that Cuba promotes sex tourism — something Cuban President Fidel Castro denies. 

State Department spokesman Adam Ereli says the issue of prostitution in Cuba is well documented. He referred to a 2002 human rights report that said Cuba had replaced Southeast Asia as one of the 

world's top sex tourism destinations. 

He spoke Tuesday — one day after Castro lashed out at Bush and called his accusations "lies." Bush has said Castro promotes sex tourism because it is a vital source of cash for the Cuban government. 

The Associated Press reports that while prostitution exists in Cuba it is unorganized and far less visible since 1999 when the government launched a massive crackdown on street crime. 

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On 51st anniversary embargo still is controversial
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Celebrations Tuesday in Cuba commemorated the 51st anniversary of the start of the Cuban Revolution. It was after the 1959 revolution, when Fidel Castro and his Communist Party came into power, that the United States began a trade embargo against the Caribbean nation. Decades later, the economic blockade remains in place, as does Castro's regime. 

President John Kennedy and his administration announced a total embargo on trade with Cuba in 1962, with intent to change Fidel Castro's repressive rule. Camila Ruiz, the Washington, D.C. director of the Cuban American National Foundation, says despite the years that have passed, the embargo still remains an important policy tool for the United States: 

"As soon as we start opening up that part of it, it's going to mean a windfall of money of hard currency into the regime, which as we know does not trickle down to the population. Basically what it does is help the regime to maintain power and to have more resources to continue its repressive practices."

But for Joy Gordan, philosophy professor at Fairfield University in Connecticut, the blockade should be lifted. Ms. Gordan says economic sanctions historically are not very effective. 

"One study says that in about a third of the cases economic sanctions will actually result in what they say they are trying to achieve," she said. "And 

another study that says it's less than 5 percent. Certainly if the goal on the sanctions in Cuba is to change the regime, well its been many decades and that hasn't happened." 

Ms. Gordan says humanitarian damage in Cuba has been extensive as a result of the extreme restrictions. And despite the fact that Cuba has trade agreements with more than 60 other countries, Ms. Gordan says the U.S. embargo hurts the Cuban people in specific ways. 

The fact that Cuba cannot buy pharmaceuticals from the U.S. has a huge impact because many of the pharmaceuticals that have come on the world market in the last 20 years are by U.S. companies, or foreign companies that are owned by U.S. firms.

But Ms Ruiz disagrees. She says the U.S. embargo is NOT to blame for Cuba's problems. Rather, she finds other reasons for Cuba's lack of resources. 

"A lot of times they don't have anesthesia or basic needles, and these are things that are consistently donated by corporations in the United States to Cuba," she said. So where are all those medical devices or syringes or you know the anesthesia or the aspirin going? It's certainly not going to the population. 

Ms. Ruiz says lifting the blockade will not improve humanitarian conditions in Cuba. For Ms. Gordan, however, humanitarian relief will reach the vast majority of the Cuban people only when the embargo comes to an end. 

New York mayor out seeking votes in Haitian capital
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is scheduled to visit Haiti Tuesday.

He will discuss relations between his city and Port-au-Prince, and attend a ceremony to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Haiti's independence. The visit was postponed from January because of 

violence that led to former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's ouster.

Bloomberg will also make stops at an elementary school and at a hospital.

He will use his private jet for the one-day trip, which The New York Times newspaper says is an effort to court immigrant voters for his re-election.

Jo Stuart
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