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These stories were published Tuesday, Aug. 12, 2003, in Vol. 3, No. 158
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New police stations pay off on the first day
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

They had big inaugural ceremonies Sunday at the new police stations built in three south coast communities. A scant 10 hours later the reassigned officers at one of the new stations figured in a big bust of cocaine and heroin.

With 10 new policemen now on duty in Ojochal, Dominical and Cruce de Barú, officials said they expect more such actions stopping the influx of drugs from Pamaná.

The new police stations were constructed with citizen help on donated land in all three communities, according to the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública.

Rogelio Ramos, minister, Vice Minister Ana Helena Chacón and Walter Navarro. director general of the Fuerza Pública, made the rounds Sunday inaugurating the new facilities.

Costa Rican and expat residents of Ojochal had pushed for the new station to stem an increase in crimes in the area.

Later Sunday agents identified a suspicious vehicle and its two occupants. They stopped it. In all, a number of agencies were involved, including the Fuerza Pública, the ministry said. A release identified also the Policía de Control de Drogas, the Instituto Costarricense de Drogas, the Judicial Investigating Organization and the Policía Fiscal.

The officers now stationed at Cruce de Barú were the ones who actually stopped the vehicle in conjunction with the Policía de Control de Drogas. They took two Costa Rican men with the

A.M. Costa Rica/Frank Scott
Felix Campos Mora, chief of the Ojochal delegation, accepts a plant from resident Tania Veronica Lopez. The theme Sunday was ‘a plant for the future.’

last names of Morales, 39, and Salazar, 21, into custody after officers said they found nearly four kilos of heroin and two kilos of cocaine hidden in the passenger side floor. Each kilo is 2.2 pounds.

The car was believed headed from Pérez Zeledón to Palmar Norte, said police.

Ramos in his visits praised citizen participation in the fight against lawlessness, said the ministry.

North American sought for questioning in death 
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Investigators say that a U.S. citizen is being sought for questioning in the death of a Colombian woman whose body was found in her home early Monday. 

The woman, Alexandra Bulgarin Escudero, 26, worked in a casino but Fuerza Pública officers did not say which one. Other sources said she worked at the Hotel Real Cariari.

The woman lived with her two children in Barrio Gúell in south central San José near Plaza Vieques. She suffered severe fractures of the skull and a possible bullet wound. She was found unclothed on a couch of her house about 5:30 a.m.

The person who found her was a neighbor who took care of her children while the woman worked shifts. The woman had been here some time but only brought her two children to Costa Rica five months ago, neighbors said. Agents from the Judicial Investigating Organization now  are handling the case.

Neighbors said that the woman had a relationship with a person they described as a U.S. citizen, although they could have meant an English-speaking North American. Although investigators stop short of calling the individual a suspect, they want an interview. 

Some neighbors said the individual being sought was a woman who had had a relationship with the victim.

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Workmen from the Compañia Nacional de Fuerza y Luz make a real mess out of an Avenida 8 intersection. Work started there this week for installing new lines, and a half dozen blocks are reduced to one-lane traffic, thereby creating massive traffic jams for eastbound vehicles. Similar work on Avenida 10 pretty well limits access to the downtown.
A.M. Costa Rica photo
Check out our humor contest HERE!

 
Highway to Pacific
said to be blocked

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Transit officials said Monday night that the highway connecting San José with the Pacific coast had been cut by landslides.

There was little more information but the Central Valley by and large avoided heavy rains Monday even though storms hit some areas at the untypical hour of 5 a.m.

The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional registered only small amounts of precipitation for Monday, but other sections of the country were drenched, including the northern zone that has been fighting heavy rains since Saturday. Some roads were reported blocked there.

The highway west to Puntarenas was believed to be blocked in the vicinity of Atenas.

Beef from Canada
again goes to U.S.

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — After reviewing the investigative data from a case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy in Alberta, Canada, United States officials now believe the risk to public health is "extremely low" and "will begin immediately to accept applications for import permits for certain low-risk ruminant-derived products from Canada," U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman said Friday.

The United States had halted imports of "live ruminants and most ruminant products" from Canada in May after the discovery of a single case of what is known as "mad cow" disease.

Despite the scientific evidence showing that these products are safe, Veneman noted, Japan and South Korea have asked for "additional assurances" that products they are receiving from the United States do not include products of Canada.

Veneman said the United States does not feel "the science justifies those requests to exclude Canadian beef from our beef and beef products," but noted that since Japan is the largest export market for U.S. beef and Korea is the third largest, "any disruption in trade to these countries would bring economic harm to our industry."

As a result, Veneman said, the Department of Agriculture has developed the Beef Export Verification program in response to these concerns about the safety of beef and beef products.

Day to check water
scheduled in October

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Officials from the United States and Britain have announced that the first World Water Monitoring Day will be held on Oct. 18 to encourage people around the globe to test the quality of their streams, lakes, wetlands and coastal waters.

The first World Water Monitoring Day was announced at a news conference here by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials and representatives of America's Clean Water Foundation and the International Water Association based in London, England. 

Last year, more than 75,000 Americans participated in National Water Monitoring Day, which was organized by America's Clean Water Foundation. Foundation President Roberta Savage says the goal now is to involve people throughout the world in the event and establish a base line for evaluating water quality trends.

Car bomb blast
injured 20 persons

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

BOGOTA, Colombia — Authorities in central Colombia say about 20 people were injured in a car bomb blast Sunday.  The explosion occurred near a gas station in the town of San Martin in Meta State. Authorities blame leftist rebels with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, for the attack. 

The bombing was the third in the South American nation in three days. On Saturday, one person was killed when a car packed with explosives went off along a highway about 50 kilometers south of here.

Friday, a car bomb blast that authorities said was meant for a passing military patrol killed five civilians, including two children, in northeastern Colombia.

Zapatistas give towns
municipal powers

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The leader of Mexico's Zapatista rebels says the group is handing over control of indigenous villages to newly created town councils. 

Subcomandante Marcos made the announcement Saturday in a taped message played during a festival in the southern state of Chiapas. 

He said the town councils will be responsible for negotiating disputes among Indian groups and collecting local taxes. Subcomandante Marcos said the rebel soldiers will no longer operate road checkpoints, but will be able to respond to emergency situations. 

There was no immediate comment from federal officials on whether the self-determined councils are legal. 

In 1994, Zapatista rebels from the Chiapas region staged a brief revolt to fight for the rights of indigenous people. Several communities have since opposed the rule of state and federal governments.  Most of Mexico's indigenous people live in the poorest regions of the country.

Big prison break
frees 84 in Brazil

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

RIO DE JANIERO, Brazil — Authorities in Brazil said 84 prisoners have escaped from a maximum security prison in the northeast of the country. Authorities said the jailbreak was the largest in the state's history. 

Police say the inmates escaped Saturday from a facility in Joao Pessoa, in Paraiba State, through a 50 meter-long tunnel they dug under the prison. Police said at least one prisoner has been captured and that a manhunt for the others was continuing.

France seeks suspect
in death of nuns

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — France has asked Argentina to extradite a former navy captain for the kidnap and murder of two French nuns.

The French Foreign Ministry said it is seeking the extradition of Alfredo Astiz, one of several Argentine military officers who were arrested last month on suspicion of crimes during Argentina's military dictatorship from 1976 to 1983.

The former navy officer, known as the Angel of Death, reportedly infiltrated rights groups and identified victims to be abducted. He was tried in absentia by a French court in 1990 and sentenced to life in prison for the murder of two French nuns who reportedly had helped anti-government activists in Argentina. 

Top soldier going
to visit Latin lands

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, embarked on a trip to Latin America Monday, according to the Defense Department.

Myers will visit El Salvador, the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Colombia during his trip and thank his counterparts for their contributions to Operation Iraqi Freedom, the department said. While in the region, Myers will meet with U.S. and foreign troops.
 
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Lawyers

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IRS says 1,299 taxpayers applied for amnesty
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Internal Revenue Service says it got applications from 1,299 taxpayers who admitted dodging their financial obligations via offshore schemes. Some 48 countries were represented.

The U.S. taxing agency said that it has collected $75 million and identified nearly 200 offshore promoters not previously known to the taxmen.

In a related initiative, the Offshore Credit Card Program, the IRS said about 2,800 tax returns are under audit and more than $3 million in back taxes has been assessed.

The credit card operation started in October 2000 when the IRS issued a series of summonses to a variety of financial and commercial businesses to obtain information on residents who held credit, debit or other cards issued by offshore banks.

The Offshore Voluntary Compliance Initiative was of particular interest to creditors of the Villalobos Brothers and Saving Unlimited high-interest schemes because many U.S. citizens had not paid the taxes that were due to the United States on the estimated 3 to 4 percent a month interest.

At least seven such high-interest operations crashed in the last year in Costa Rica, but many U.S. participants have staggering tax liabilities from previous years. Canadians are not taxed on the money they earn outside their home country.

Applicants to the offshore initiative had to provide full details on the person or persons who promoted the offshore arrangements by April 15, noted the IRS. Eligible taxpayers could avoid criminal 

prosecution and certain penalties but would still have to pay back taxes, interest and some penalties.

People from all walks of life applied for the program, including lawyers, dentists, business executives, estate heirs and numerous other occupations, said the IRS.

The IRS said that in the weeks and months ahead, it will continue working on the offshore and credit card programs. As part of this process, the IRS will continue its work to identify and pursue civil and/or criminal penalties against those engaged in improper offshore transactions, a release said.

"We have a multi-pronged approach on offshore tax evasion, and we will continue to aggressively pursue this issue," said Bob Wenzel, IRS deputy commissioner for services and enforcement. "Our continuing efforts send a strong signal to offshore tax evaders and others considering hiding their money overseas."

Many U.S. citizens who participated in the high-interest schemes thought that their interest income was exempt from U.S. taxation. The United States does exempt up to $80,000 of overseas earned income but there is no exemption for unearned income like interest.

Some U.S. creditors of the high-interest operation who have paid taxes have found that they can deduct their loses to the Villalobos Brothers and Savings Unlimited and gain significant repayments from taxes they paid in previous years.

The IRS does not like to refund taxes, and the amended tax returns likely will stimulate official interest in the status of U.S. citizens in Costa Rica.

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:

editor@amcostarica.com

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:

threats@amcostarica.com

Let the contest begin.


 
Some 15 modest proposals for new laws
By Edward Bridges*

Having lived here for over 13 years, I thought the following new laws would be very effective at solving common Costa Rican problems.

1. Regarding traffic accidents caused by buses, taxis and motorcycles.

a. First accident involving any of the above: Suspend driver’s license for one month.

b. Second accident from same driver above: One year suspension of driver’s license.

c. Third accident from the same driver above: Execution of the driver by hanging. With the exception of motorcycle drivers who should be dead after the second accident anyway — and if they survive through a third accident, we should not doubt God's judgment. Certainly they are blessed somehow.

2. Only ICE workers, teachers and taxi drivers should be allowed to vote in Costa Rica since they are the only ones the government listens to anyway.

3. Enact a prostitution license requirement for all ages and all nationalities which allows the license holder to conduct their business legally. This way the government will be able to once and for all verify how many hookers are in Costa Rica, how many are underage and how many are imported.

4. Municipal law for all hotels and bars which requires these establishments to clearly identify with signs the "Hooker" and "Non Hooker" sections of their lounges. This would clearly warn patrons where to sit or where not to sit with their girlfriends or wives.

5. Require all hookers to wear a large emblem on their clothing, identifying them as hookers. This way their clients will not be hitting on our daughters going to piano practice in downtown San José at night.

6. Require all Costa Rican police to wear name tags so we can identify them as legitimate police and also report them when they ask for bribes.

7. Enact a law which requires all state banks to offer express lines for foreigners only.

8. Politicians should not be required to report the source of political campaign funds and should be allowed to accept donations from foreign sources. With this law, Costa Rica should eliminate any salary payments to any politicians while in office. Since this would mean they are getting paid twice and also would avoid their embarrassment in accepting the meager salaries being offered currently.

9. Costa Rica should make it legal for any investment company to steal funds from their clients. This way no one would ever loose money investing in Costa Rica without being completely aware of the real risks.

10. Costa Rica should allow any foreigner to immigrate to Costa Rica with no restrictions or qualification. This would not increase the number of immigrants to Costa Rica, but would cut down on the number of bribes.

11. All potholes in Costa Rica should be repaired only by politicians on their free weekends. This would eliminate potholes overnight.

12. All highway or bridge tolls should be denominated in increments of 100 colons. And all automatic collection booths should accept only 100 colon coins. This would eliminate the need for drivers to carry all of those silver coins in their cars.

13. Pedestrians should no longer have the right-of-way when crossing the street. This will cut down on the number of deaths of pedestrian who currently cannot take advantage of the existing law anyway, since they legally have the right-of-way but are dead.

14. All white traffic lines should be removed from all Costa Rican roads. Since no one follows them anyway, why waste money on the paint?

15. All speed limit signs should be removed. Same reasoning. Why waste the money.

*Another loyal reader

More frequent extreme weather is predicted
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The World Meteorological Organization says it expects extreme weather events, such as the stifling heat wave gripping Europe, to become more frequent because of global climate change. 

The World Meteorological Organization calls the record-breaking temperatures in Europe and other parts of the world clearly abnormal. It says extreme weather events set records every year somewhere in the world. But in recent years, it said, the number of such events has been climbing. 

David Carson, director of the organization’s World Climate Research Program, said all the extreme weather conditions occurring now are consistent with global warming and probably are linked with the emission of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. 

He said, on average, the globe has warmed up by 0.6 degrees Celsius over the past 140 years.

"It is very likely that the decade of the 1990s has been the warmest decade for about the past 1,000 years," Carson said. "1998 in the Northern Hemisphere is most likely to have been the warmest year for the past 1,000 years. And already, we are seeing that the year globally in 2003 is likely to be up there amongst the contenders for being amongst the few highest years in terms of global temperature." 

The organization says different parts of the world are experiencing extreme weather conditions, such as drought, floods and thunderstorms. 

In the United States, it says, there were 562 tornados during May. This was an increase of 163 on the previous record. 

It says India experienced a record pre-monsoon heat wave, which killed at least 1,400 people. 

Climatologists in Switzerland note that the country's glaciers are melting at a faster rate than usual. 

As global temperatures continue to rise, Carson said, the world should expect an increase in the number and frequency of such events.

"Everyone should be worried, I think. Even though we cannot say that we have proof that climate change is taking place as a result of human activity, I think there is a lot of evidence there," he said. 

"And, that evidence is mounting year by year; and some of the consequences are, as yet, unknown. There could be some surprises in the system. So, yes, I think there is a cause for some real concern." 

Carson says the international community must share in the problems of, and in the eventual solutions for, climate change. 


 
World Bank sets up fund for indigenous peoples
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The World Bank has announced the launch of a fund to support the participation of indigenous peoples in the decisions that affect their future.

With some estimates placing their number at over 200 million and living in more than 70 countries, indigenous peoples have historically been the most disadvantaged, marginalized, and excluded populations in many parts of the world, the World Bank said. 

Their identities, cultures, lands, and resources are uniquely intertwined and especially vulnerable to changes caused by development programs, it added.

"The economic, social, and legal status of indigenous peoples often limits their capacity to participate in and benefit from development," Navin Rai, World Bank indigenous peoples coordinator explained. "Due to the complexity of these issues, special measures are required to ensure that indigenous peoples are not disadvantaged or further marginalized, and that they receive culturally compatible economic 

benefits under development programs. This Global Fund is helping to address these issues."

The fund is the result of a series of discussions with indigenous leaders from around the world, starting with a roundtable held here in October 2002, that included the participation of 15 representatives of indigenous peoples from various regions of the globe.

The fund will provide support for indigenous people through small grants that will be given to their organizations, thereby offering them a direct opportunity to design and implement sustainable development projects and programs based on their own aspirations, said the World Bank.

The fund will also involve a training program for leaders of indigenous organizations of the Andean countries: Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela. 

A third component of the fund will be to strengthen a newly established advisory body to the U.N. Economic and Social Council, the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issue, which has a mandate to provide advice and recommendations to indigenous peoples.


 
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