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(506) 2223-1327        Published Tuesday, July 29, 2008, in Vol. 8, No. 149       E-mail us
Jo Stuart
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What happened to the U.S. honeymoon couple?
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

In the three years after they vanished, the mystery of the U.S. honeymoon couple has surrendered just one tantalizing clue.

This is the case of  the King Fisher I, a  Flamingo-based sportsfishing boat that left with the two honeymooners and a crew of three at noon exactly three years ago today. The boat, the crew and the passengers vanished, and an extensive air and sea search failed to turn up any clues at the time.

The honeymooners were Mark Vockery and his bride, Laura McCloud Vockery. Vockery was a fire and safety instructor at Eastern Kentucky University. Friends do not think he would have gone to sea without at least a life jacket, particularly because he was in the company of his wife. He also was reported to be a strong swimmer.

The Costa Ricans in the crew were Captain Harold González Rodríguez, assisted by his brother Danilo González Rodríguez, both in their 20s, and Mayel Gómez Alanís, a 16-year-old.

Lisa Herrington, the twin sister of Laura, has kept her memory alive and seeks to know what really happened. "Losing a family member is devastating to say the least, but losing a twin to being held against will or murdered for no reason whatsoever, and to not even have an honerable funeral, is just pure immoral," she said this week.

At the time of the disappearance the Pacific, as now, was a drug route for Colombian smugglers. More recently reports have surfaced along the Pacific coast of modern pirates who have been preying on fishing vessels.

There also have been reports from sportsfishing captains that they have been threatened by armed crews members of commercial tuna boats.

At the time of the disappearance much was said in news reports about the bad weather and the poor condition of the King Fisher I. The theory was that the boat left port, took on water and plunged to the bottom of the ocean within sight of land.
Mr. and Mrs. Vockery
Mark and Laura Vockery

However, Ms.  Herrington said the family in Kentucky found out that the boat had been recently refurbished. So suspicion grew about something other than mechnical or structural failure.

Then 15 days later someone used Vockery's credit card at a Payless shoe store in Guatemala, Ms. Herrington reported. According to a distorted story the family received, a Guatemalan fisherman found a man's body 200 miles at sea and took what valuables he could, including the credit card.  Ms. Herrington said that much of this information comes from an anonymous tipster who called the U.S. Embassy there.

There have been no reports of his sister's body or those of the three Costa Ricans.

"I honestly think this is a true case of crime, and my sister and her husband were victims," siad Ms. Herrington.

Weekend water accidents claim four, perhaps five
By Jeremy Arias
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The beaches were dangerous destinations this past weekend. The Cruz Roja and Fuerza Pública officers reported four people drowned and one young man was missing.

A Canadian woman, 23, drowned at Playa Dominical on the central Pacific coast at about 2:11 p.m. Sunday, according to Fuerza Pública official Byron Martinez Madrigal. He identified her phonetically as Sonia Bossie.

Another adult man and a 10 year-old boy drowned in the same area later that day, according to Cruz Roja representative Carlos Volaños. “It's a very dangerous beach,” Volaños commented, “There are many strong currents there.”

A 17-year-old youth also disappeared Sunday and is presumed drowned at Playa Junquillal in Santa Cruz, Guanacaste, Volaños said.
“There was a search for his body, but it has ended.” Volaños said, “They could not find him.”

Fuerza Pública officer Jacqueline Salazar in Puerto Viejo reported the death of a man who drowned Saturday in a river on the Kèköldi Indian reserve.

“He drowned on Saturday, but his body was collected today,” she said, “The body remained in his house until officials could arrive.”

In other accident news two Costa Rican girls, 5- and 7-years-old, were struck by a vehicle Saturday in Parrita. The 5-year-old died of her injuries in Hospital Quepos, Volaños said.

The 7 year-old was listed in critical condition, and was to be transferred to the Hospital Nacional de Niños in San José through Juan Santamaría airport as of Monday, Volaños said.

Transit police were unable to provide additional information as of Monday.

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U. Latina riot results
in 35 being detained

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

There were 35 people detained at the Universidad Latina riot that occurred Sunday afternoon. Of these, 17 men were passed to the prosecutor's office, according to a Fuerza Pública representative.

The 17 men arrested were being held as of Monday for crimes ranging from destruction of property and rioting, some of the men were minors, according to Randall Picado, the sub-director of the Fuerza Pública.

As many as 3,000 people began to riot outside of the concert when they were denied entry. If attendees presented a certain number of Snickers candy wrappers they could get in for free, but space ran out and many were refused entry, Picado said.

Rioters smashed hundreds of windows at the university and ransacked the university cancer clinic, among other officers. Computers and other items were stolen. Nearby businesses, some closed on a Sunday afternoon, also were ransacked.

A confrontation between at least 3,000 angry concert-goers and about 100 Fuerza Pública officers ensued. Most of the officers were from Montes de Oca or San José Centro, according to Picado, the municipal police were not involved, he said.

Picado estimated at least 100 million colons in damage to the university alone, or about $200,000. The actual cost of damages is likely much higher.

Our readers' opinions
Woman's point of view:
You're scum of the earth

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

In response to letters from Norwood and Clanton, and I intentionally did not use "Mr." in addressing these men:

A few questions for these "visitors" to said establishments. If this is such a profitable business, then why don't you keep those resources in the U.S.? Could be it's illegal here? Do you really think this business isn't hurting anyone? How about the women themselves, who evidently have no self worth?

Do you think this is truly an occupation one aspires to? Have you a sister? Or what about your own mother? Why not bring them on down, set them up with their own little stall, e-mail  photos back home for the rest of the family to view how business is flourishing? You're the scum of the earth, and it's men like you that I cringe at whenever I walk down the streets of San José, or sit in a restaurant and and hear your broken Spanish as you proposition some young woman, too naive or stupid to understand the snide, disgusting remarks you and your buddies mumble under your breath as your plan your evening with  these women.

I'm sure no respectable woman would touch you with a 10-foot pole, which is perhaps why you advocate so intensely for these brothels. Prostitution may be the oldest profession in the world, but that doesn't make any more respectable.
Katie Mullins-Hall
Cincinnati, Ohio
Puerto Limón, Costa Rica

Who approved concert?

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I just wonder who approved the U. Latina concert [See above] and what were they thinking?  I live near the university and was on my way home on the bus when at least 30 drunk and unruly teenagers got on the bus, drinking and yelling on the way to the concert.  I would guess that it was not U. Latina students who did the damage but delinquents who are not students.  Whoever approved the concert should be fired!  I am sure the university's new owners will not let it happen again.

John Primm 
San Pedro

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, July 29, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 149

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What is the Chere Lyn Tomayko case all about anyway?
By Jay Brodell
editor of A.M. Costa Rica

Curiously, the Chere Lyn Tomayko case is not a lot about the Texas woman who fled the jurisdiction of a court in Fort Worth to hide out in Costa Rica for 11 years.

The Costa Rican political figures who rushed to her support appear at first to be fools who dive into a situation without finding out the facts. There is a high probability that Ms. Tomayko was not the victim of any aggression as she claims and simply fled Texas because she did not want to share custody with an ex-boyfriend.

An analysis of the news

But the political figures are not fools. They are  clever and each has an individual agenda. The women's institute director wants to be seen as a crusader for women in order to justify the existence of her agency.

In the higher ranks of the Óscar Arias administration there is the need to distance the country from the United States, in part to impress China and also to impress Hugo Chavez, who may come forth with some cheap oil.

Even more, there is the need to distract the public mind from a growing financial scandal involving a supreme court justice on the presidential payroll, a host of so-called secret advisers from all over the political spectrum and the conversion of some $1.5 million donated by the
government of Taiwan for the poor of Pavas.

Then there is the languishing implementation agenda of the free trade treaty with the United States. Free trade doesn't look so good now that the United States is flirting with  recession. Wouldn't it be nice if the United States pulled the plug over a treaty violation instead of staging a political defeat in the Asamblea Legislativa?

One of the real concerns about the free trade treaty is the lack of respect for law in some Latin countries, including Costa Rica. This country already has said it will continue with  the excessive import duty on North American vehicles under the guise of an internal tax. The treaty will be distorted and bent the same way Janina del Vecchio and the Defensoría Publicá bent and fractured the law and the Costa Rican Constitution to justify refugee status for Ms. Tomayko last week

So the Tomayko case is just an overture to the diplomatic messes that will come from the trade treaty. In short, Costa Ricans have a real problem following the letter of a legal agreement.

But there is another reason that powerful people want Ms. Tomayko to stay here. They sure do not want her to give up their names and the circumstances that allowed her to stay here for 11 years to a federal grand jury. Aiding and abetting a federal fugitive is a felony for U.S. citizens here, and there has been plenty of aiding and abetting during the last 11 years.

Cyprian's lawyer says his client's human rights were ignored
Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I've been representing Mr. Roger Cyprian in this case even though the "case" is more the U.S. Government vs. Mrs. Chere Lyn Tomayko. I am totally surprised if not badly impressed by the reaction of President Arias who has been yelling for more than 20 years that he won a Nobel Peace Prize. Now I'm wondering how come a Nobel winner (even though it was supposed to be for the country and not him personally) could support the violation of human rights, in this case, Mr. Cyprian's rights.

Furthermore, if Costa Rica really believes that the U.S. courts do not respect human rights, should the U.S. extradite the Costa Rican lady who is in jail waiting for a judge to order her extradition to a country, that has demonstrated that their Judicial system does not respect the existing treaties nor the laws?

More questions keep arising from all this situation. Mrs. Tomayko, violated the immigration laws of Costa Rica for over 10 years but now since she never became a legal resident and now she is granted the benefit of an non-existing status of refugee for human rights reasons, legalizing her illegal situation. Does this means that those foreigners who have followed and respected the laws of Costa Rica did wrong and those who did not followed the law, did right?

This situation seems like handling a Mac computer in which you have to think the opposite of what you want in order to get it to respond to your commands. It is not only ridiculous but at the same time real serious.

A minister and a president violate the laws, create a non-existing status and benefit people who have been in the most wanted list. What is next? There are two other U.S. citizens waiting to be extradited for the same reasons. Should they start saying that their family members raped
them so the ministry grants them the same just-created status of refugee for human rights? Or is the Ministry going to reject at least one of them because of his gender? Since obviously the minister doesn't read the files nor follows the legal departments advice and much less what the superior courts have ruled, then anything is possible.

I just hope this is not the beginning of a gender battle that started when the a law to protect abused women was approved in the Congress forgetting the constitutional principle that we are ALL equal to the law and we ALL should be tried the same way. I fully approve the fact that whomever attacks another human being, women or men, should go to trial and be sentenced to serve some time in jail, but I disapprove the creation of special laws to protect genders.

Approving the opposite would be like saying that laws to protect kids should be forgotten and now we should create some laws for little girls and different laws for little boys. If we are going this route, then we have already lost the battle.

Costa Rican, as a sovereign state, has been attacked from the inside. Our system is bleeding and we need someone to help remind both Mr. Arias and Mrs. Del Veccio that they were elected by the Costa Ricans to respect and apply the law, not to create new laws and become actors in a movie that belongs to another country.

Finally, one thing is true, Mrs. Tomayko might be free from El Buen Pastor jail, but she has changed a small cell for a bigger cell called Costa Rica. She is the one who has caused pain and suffering to her family, not Mr. Cyprian who can walk around the world with his head up knowing he has done nothing wrong.

Lic. Juan Carlos Esquivel

Granting refugee status is simply an obstruction of justice
Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

As a Costa Rican, I would like to thank A.M. Costa Rica for the excellent coverage of the Tomayko case. I appreciate the fact that you have not insulted our intelligence the way some other media have, by presenting a one-sided story, and I thank you for covering this story with professionalism and objectivity.

The release of Ms. Tomayko leaves me with a bittersweet taste:  I am happy for the little girls, who have no fault in the mess they were brought into, and for the Costa Rican husband, who has shown the emotional support one would expect from a spouse, but I am extremely sad for Alexandria's father, as the refugee status is basically an obstruction of justice, and the crime will be left unpunished. 

Further, a very bad precedent is created, where a woman simply says she kidnapped her child due to domestic violence, and no thorough investigation is required by Costa Rican authorities to grant her refugee status. It is an embarrassment to our country that our security minister would only consider the say of the fugitive mother and her close family members in order to make such an important decision, which could hurt our diplomatic relations with the United States.

It is also embarrassing that our President Oscar Arias would try to downplay the implications of such a decision by saying it is "such a small matter." My government is
basically saying that the U.S. is incapable of protecting a U.S. citizen if extradited. The national media has misstated the facts to make it seem that Ms. Tomayko fled the U.S. while only she had custody of her daughter, when in reality, both she and Mr. Cyprian, the father, had custody when she fled in 1996, and the child was not allowed to leave Tarrant County in Texas by a court order.

A.M. Costa Rica has also bravely pointed out that U.S. embassy officials apparently neglected their responsibility of communicating with U.S. Department of Justice authorities in order to quickly apprehend the suspect of international parental kidnapping as soon as the embassy had news of her whereabouts.

Now the U.S. Embassy, with a new ambassador and with the Justice Department and the FBI wondering what is going on, issues a statement that the U.S. is disappointed with the security minister's decision to grant Ms. Tomayko refugee status.  A.M. Costa Rica has done an outstanding job of covering this story, and it has served as a reference for local media who are serious about investigative journalism.

Some of us in the legal profession are taking note of these events, and trying to do something to prevent such miscarriages of justice from happening again.
Arcelio Hernandez
Attorney at Law

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, July 29, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 149

Repairs at museum do not include fixing historic bullet holes
By Jeremy Arias
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

While most of the country was enjoying a quiet holiday for the celebration of the Anexión del Partido de Nicoya, six men were hard at work repairing the walls of the Museo Nacional.

It is a restoration project that many think is long overdue.

“It is just and necessary,” said Kenneth Bogantes, 46, a home nurse who was passing by. “It is a building that is very important to Ticos, and it has been in very bad condition for too long.”

Construction workers carted wheelbarrows full of cement from the proposed new entrance on the Plaza de la Democracia around to the renovation site on the north wall along Avenida Central. First the walls will be re-plastered, then painted, according to Manuel Ugalde Fernández, a construction worker.

“We'll use high-powered water to clean the higher walls,” he said, “The museum itself, the plaza, everything will be repaired.”

Ugalde said the plaza reconstruction will be the work for a separate company, because the plaza is municipal property. The workers at the museum have strict instructions not to tamper with the bullet holes that pockmark the old fortress walls, remnants from the civil war of 1948. The museum is the former Bella Vista army fortress.

“No, no, it is prohibited to cover those because they have such historic value,” Ugalde said, Jonathon Blanco, another worker, spoke of the bullet holes with reverence and pride.

“It's historic!” he said, pointing to the scars left in the wake of the bloodiest event in 20th Century Costa Rican history, “It's patriotic!”

The construction group has been working for the last month and a half, Blanco said. According to their contract, the workers have three months to complete the renovation, he said.

“We have to work every day, even Sunday, or today,” Blanco said, wiping the sweat from his brow in the hot midday sun, “The engineer signed a specific contract.”

Guillermo Sánchez pushed a fresh load of wet cement mix up the hill from the plaza to dump on a mixing board, where his co-workers dipped their spades and hurried back to smooth the rapidly drying wall. Beads of sweat dripped down his cheeks as his gloved hand casually brushed at the dried flecks of cement dotting his face.

“We work about five hours a day,” he explained with a weary smile, motioning to the unsteady wheelbarrow, “It's very hard work.”
museum repair
A.M. Costa Rica/Jeremy Arias
Workmen plaster walls of the museum but not the holes

All of the workers' hard labor will pay off in October, when the newly renovated and re-painted museum will host politicians and diplomats, according to Ugalde. The public, including tourists, will no doubt enjoy the change.

“I came here before and was like, this is an interesting plaza, but I didn't know that was the national museum,” said Jenna Pine, 22, an American who is studying Spanish at Universidad Veritas, “It looks like a war-zone!”

Ms. Pine's friend, Jenny Turner, 30, commented on the contrast between the atmosphere of the country and the disheveled museum and plaza.

“It's interesting because the country's name is Costa Rica, meaning 'rich coast' and the people are great, the culture and the land is beautiful,” Ms. Turner said, gazing across the cracked plaza to the museum, “It's unfortunate that the national museum doesn't reflect this.”

Workmen demolished part of the plaza starting in February because the west entrance of the museum is being converted into the main entrance.

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Readers should refresh the page and, if necessary, dump the cache of their computer, if this problem persists. Readers in Costa Rica have this problem frequently because the local Internet provider has continual problems.


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Life as refugee becomes
an Internet challenge

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The U.N. refugee agency and 10 other partners are launching a nationwide campaign to help the victims of forced displacement in Colombia. The campaign will use the Internet to make the public aware of the displacement crisis and to provide practical information on how it can help those who have been forced to flee their homes because of conflict.

The U.N. refugee agency notes the internal displacement crisis in Colombia is one of the largest and oldest in the world. And, for many people, there is no end in sight.

The Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia and other rebel groups have been trying to unseat the government in Colombia for four decades. The conflict goes on and so does the displacement.

Some sources say as many as three million people have been forced to flee their homes. Many have been displaced several times. Every year, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees  reports another quarter of a million people are uprooted.

Spokeswoman Jennifer Pagonis said more than half of all displaced people live below the poverty line. She says they often have difficulty finding a new home and a reliable source of income. Without these, displaced people are unable to achieve long-term security and stability.

Despite their huge numbers, she says many people in the capital, Bogota and other cities are not even aware of the displaced despite their huge numbers and miserable conditions of existence.

This, she explains, is why the Internet campaign is so important. "People who also are living in big cities do not know that there are large numbers of displaced people living on the fringes under some very precarious circumstances. So, that is a way of bringing this home to people who may well be in a position to help if they knew actually what the situation really was. So, it gives them a chance to properly communicate with displaced people as well who have got access to the Internet and a part, certainly of the organizations that are trying to help them," she said.

The Internet-based campaign compares forced displacement to a long-distance race which starts when people have no choice but to flee from conflict, violence or persecution.

The Corre por la Vida, Running for Life campaign stresses that displacement is always forced and that nobody chooses to start on this race.

The race contains numerous hurdles along the way, ranging from finding a new home and a reliable source of income to reaching long-term security and stability.  It may be found at

Ms. Pagonis said the campaign hopes to reach a wide Internet audience, who will be interested in taking an active role in addressing this crisis. She says the campaign aims to get the public and private sectors to join in efforts to help. It hopes to encourage corporate leaders and entrepreneurs to take an active role in helping the displaced.

Jo Stuart
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