A.M. Costa Rica

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These stories were published Monday, Aug.15, 2005, in Vol. 5, No. 160
Jo Stuart
About us

This newspaper's fourth birthday even surprises us
By Jay Brodell
editor of A.M. Costa Rica

Today is the fourth birthday of this newspaper. We started the daily publication because we believed there was a need for something more than stale, weeks old news for the English-language community.

However, we never envisioned A.M. Costa Rica becoming the indispensable morning daily that it is to thousands. We were thinking more of a community bulletin board.

But events of Sept. 11, 2001, less than a month after our first edition, set the standard. North Americans and others were desperate for information then, and tourism here took a terrible shot when air traffic was halted. Readership took off from there.

Another defining issue for the newspaper was the collapse of the Villalobos high-interest borrowing business that had supported so many expats.

The newspaper has handled more than 400 news stories on this matter in the last three years. Villalobos still is the leading word every month on our search engine.

In 2001 we did not anticipate this readership success. This month A.M. Costa Rica will receive about 2.3 million Internet hits and from 2,000 to 3,500 persons will pore over the pages each weekday, some 90,000 each month.

The advertising success can best be described by those who use our services, and, incidentally, pay for what people read every day. Entire businesses have been built on A.M. Costa Rica advertising. A local reader says that his advertising brings from 40 to 60 leads a day. Response to our advertising is instantaneous, and we have helped brokers and individual homeowners move a lot of property and tourism operators book hundreds of rooms.

From the very beginning we have been cautious with accepting advertisers. We do not want the kind of predator who will take advantage of our readers. Some days we reject more customers than we accept. You will not find online casino ads here nor ads promoting Costa Rica as bookmaker or sex destination to the world.

None of this success would be possible without you, the reader. So today is a day for you to celebrate, too. After all, without readers, A.M. Costa Rica would not exist. And we thank you.

U.N. refugee agency concerned by new immigration law here
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

GENEVA, Switzerland — The United Nations refugee agency has expressed concern over the impact a new Costa Rican immigration law moving towards final approval would have on refugees and asylum seekers. The agency called on lawmakers to review key elements related to refugee status, forced return and right to work.     

“We urge the Costa Rican government to enact a new law that will effectively deal with the immigration issues the country faces while at the same time respecting the nation's commitment to human rights,” said Jennifer Pagonis, spokesperson for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees at a briefing here.

The refugee agency, she said, recognized and appreciated Costa Rica's long tradition of receiving asylum seekers and refugees, most importantly during the Central American conflicts of the 1980's, and the current reception of significant numbers of Colombian refugees.  The agency also realized there was a need to modernize Costa Rica's legislation to reflect the new realities of migration wave, including trafficking in persons and the smuggling of migrants.

“However, we believe that some of the provisions of the proposed legislation are restrictive and contrary to the spirit of the 1951 Convention on Refugees. This could lead to an exacerbation of the already unfriendly climate . . . ,” she said.    
She explained that the proposed law does not contain any definition of a refugee as stated in the 1951 Convention, to which Costa Rica is a signatory member and there is no reference to the key principle of non refoulement, or forced return, although this principle is found in the Costa Rican Constitution.     

The proposed law, she said, also creates unjustified reasons for removing refugee status contrary to the 1951 Convention. For example, any sanction leading to the withdrawal of refugee status would automatically apply to other family members without consideration for their individual protection needs, she said.    

Finally, she said that the proposed law does not guarantee refugees the right to work, although the right to work is respected in practice by Costa Rican authorities.    

The refugee agency has advised the government over the past several years on the construction of a new law. 

“We will continue to do so in the hope that any new legislation on asylum and immigration will protect the right of people whose lives are in danger to seek safety in other countries as stipulated under international refugee law,” she said.

The immigration law already has passed first reading in the Asemblea Legislativa and has generally received a green light in a review by the Sala IV constitutional court.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Aug. 15, 2005, Vol. 5, No. 160

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Our readers' opinions
Story about Tamarindo
tied to current events

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

In regards to the recent letters about the poor over-worked, underpaid police in Tamarindo: Please allow me to relate my only experience with them.

About five or six years ago I was enjoying a day of boogie boarding at my favorite beach, Playa Flamingo.  The day was still young, so I decided to check out the waves of Tamarindo, just south of Flamingo.  I parked my car in the center of the pueblo, and headed south on the beach with my boogie board.  Just a few hundred yards down, I was approached by a local who had apparently been living on the beach and bumming money from tourists.  With his pants nearly falling off, he walked up directly to my face, put out his hand and asked for money.  I politely told him that I carry no money on the beach, said “Lo siento” and continued on my way.

The next thing I know: “KA-WHAM!” A rock larger than a grapefruit crashed into my boogie board.  Not knowing what had happened, I turned to see this same filthy creep reaching for a second large rock to finish his attack. Rather than striking him or running away, I quickly walked back and footed his shoulder as he reached down.  He fell onto his back in the water, and I immediately walked back to town to talk to the police.  Unfortunately, no one was in the office, and a lady passing by said they were on a break and did not know when they would return.

Accordingly, I went to four different bar/restaurant/
hotel businesses to get help.  Nothing!  No one did anything except the last bartender.  He said the owner wasn't in but that he would pass on my concern.  I left him with my phone number and a complete description of the attacker right down to the exposed pubic hair.   Totally disgusted, I drove back to my home in Arenal, vowing never to return to Tamarindo.

Maybe the police were busy that beautiful sunny day.  Possibly shaking down a tourist for a traffic issue.  Or possibly protecting the public by busting some gringo for smoking a joint on the beach.  But do not cry to me about the poor overworked police or the Tico justice system.  Some of us have lived here long enough to know better.

Two days after my attack, I was sitting on a plane heading off to Colombia to visit my fiancée.  I pulled out a brand new copy of The Tico Times that I picked up before going to the airport.  My skin began to crawl as my eyes fell upon a story about a 52-year-old male, German tourist murdered on the beach (the day after my visit).  Further, the article said that the police had picked up a suspect, but let him go for lack of three witnesses!!

I feel this is all quite relevant in light of the recent murder of a young male tourist from Australia.  He also was killed in Tamarindo.  Getting away with murder would be very empowering to someone who knows they could do it again for lack of three witnesses.

Loren Salazar
Houston, Texas
Tax on cash imports
raises lots of questions

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I have been reading with interest the articles about the $500 million tax plan for Costa Rica. Just getting the law passed is no guarantee the money will be paid or collected by the Costa Rican tax collection department. This $500 million will not suddenly appear all at once.

Now the idea of deleting the global income from the tax proposal has surfaced. Supposedly, only money coming into the country will be taxed. This concept raises a great many issues. Would the tax (similar to the withholding system in the U.S.??) be collected on cash brought in by residents at the airports, at the land and sea border entries?

How about a foreign check  (including SS and pension checks) deposited into an existing bank account? Foreign travelers checks cashed at a bank? A foreign check given to a local church and they in turn deposit it into their bank? The use of foreign credit and/or debit cards used for purchases or at ATMs? There are a great number of Costa Ricans working in foreign countries and sending money back to their families. These families need the money just to survive, what with high inflation which seems to go up every day. At what point is this taxed?

What about the citizens of Costa Rica who have bank accounts and property in foreign countries (particularly in the U.S.)? I am thinking of goverment officials and many professionals. At what point is the income taxed? If the global income tax is deleted, and only money brought into the country is taxed, how will the tax on this money be collected? How about the tax due on bribes, commissions, consulting fees or what ever they might be called?

The bottom line of the tax package is based on the truthfulness, honesty, and integrity of the residents of Costa Rica. The people of Costa Rica are going to look to their leaders (past and present) as examples and "do as they do"!

Myrna Reed
Panama City, Panama
Pacheco supports pact
with Taiwan on trade

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Abel Pacheco is seeking a free trade treaty with Taiwan, he told the country Sunday in his weekly television talk. The show was taped, and Pacheco was in Taipei where news reports said he and Chen Shui-bian, the Taiwanese president, issued a statement supporting such an agreement.

The statement also said that Taiwan wants to construct an industrial park here as part of a chain of such developments the country is bankrolling all over Central America.

Taiwan has strong ties to Costa Rica. Some legislators have called for a break in diplomatic relations in response to allegations that substantial sums from Taiwan were used to finance Pacheco’s presidential campaign. Many employees of the Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores y Culto received premium pay that has been traced to Taiwanese grants.

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Don't mess with the mother or a mother's love
Mentarle la Madre

“Remind you of your mother.” Now, you may think this dicho is a nice one, but really it’s not. In concept it is actually related to the English expletive signified by the letters SOB. If someone should say to me me mento la madre, it’s a sort of thinly veiled way of calling me an SOB.

You may consider this dicho a rather odd choice, especially considering that today is Mother’s Day in Costa Rica, but mentarle la madre actually gives us a good indication of the high esteem in which Costa Rican mothers – indeed mothers throughout Latin America – are held. For, in Latin society, casting aspersions upon one’s mother is considered the basest form of insult. Our mothers are sacred, and to defame them is profanity in the extreme. It has even, at times, been considered a legitimate defense against charges of assault in a court of law for the defendant to claim that his mother had been insulted by the plaintiff.

This is to say that verbal attacks on one’s mother are considered, purely and simply, to be “fighting words.”

As a young man, I remember a boy who lived near our house. He dropped out of school at the age of 15. Not long after that he was arrested for stealing. Whenever I passed by their house, I’d say hello to Doña María and ask her about Ricardo. She always responded positively, though, of course, everyone in the neighborhood knew otherwise.

Every Saturday Doña María would make her way to the Penintenciaria Central, where Ricardo was an inmate, for her weekly visitation. She would buy him cigarettes and food and magazines to read and then, being short of funds, she would walk all the way to the jail, and all the way home again. From the front porch of my grandmother’s house we would see her on Saturday evenings making her weary way back from visiting her son. I remember how exhausted and care-worn she looked trudging up the street, as though the weight of the world rested upon her drooping shoulders.

One day I asked my Mother why Doña María went so religiously to visit her son since Ricardo was no more than a common chapulin (a juvenile delinquent). In answer she held up her two hands, fingers spread apart.
way we say it

By Daniel Soto

“A mother’s children are like the fingers of her hands,” she said. “She can no more forget one of her own than she could cut off one of her fingers. A mother’s children are a living part of her.”

After a year Ricardo was released from prison. I remember hearing him loudly berate and verbally abuse his mother as I walked past their house on the way to visit my grandmother one afternoon. I felt angry and sad to hear him speak so harshly and insolently to the one person on earth who loved him so unconditionally and had supported him unquestioningly while he had been incarcerated.

I felt as though I should intervene and explain a few things about respect to young Ricardo. But my mother had also taught me that it was unwise and nearly always futile to become involved in the domestic disturbances of others. So, alas, I passed the house by, and continued on my way. But those coarse insults that I’d heard Ricardo hurling at his poor mother echo troublingly in my memory even today.

A few months later Ricardo was arrested again; this time on the much more serious charge of assault with a deadly weapon. Soon we noticed that Doña María had resumed her weekly pilgrimages to the jail. Rain or shine, she never missed a Saturday. Her unflagging devotion to her ne’er-do-well son impressed and moved me deeply. Though Doña María’s lot in life was a sad one, her response to it made me love and respect my own mother even more.

Happy Mother’s Day to all of you, even if you yourself are not a mother, for to quote last year’s Mother’s Day dicho: Madre, solo hay una.

Suspect in murder of teen released but another is taken into custody
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A 35-year-old man whom police arrested in connection with the murder of a 16-year-old school girl in Tárcoles de Garabito is free now. 

A spokesperson with the Judicial Investigating Organization said that investigators lacked sufficient evidence to charge the man so they let him go.

Police originally arrested the man, identified by the last names Gamboa Arguedas, for surprising the victim, Luz Elena Guzmán Pérez, and her 14-year-old sister as they walked home through a wooded area.  The man who killed the girl tied her younger sister to
 a tree before taking Guzmán out of sight.  He then shot her in the chest.  The younger sister freed herself and ran away, police said. 

At the time police arrested Gamboa Arguedas, they said that he had shown up at a home in Luganilla de Jacó begging the inhabitants for food and a place to stay.  The people in the house grew suspicious and called police, officers said then.  Agents determined that the man worked on a nearby construction job.

Police now have arrested another suspect in the case.  He was taken into custody Saturday in Río Frío while he was riding on a bus to the  Caribbean coast, police said.   

Police halt visit by 10 persons dumped by their illegal guide in Cañas
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A group of 10 Nicaraguans who were trying to get to the Central Valley were detained in Cañas after police found them stranded in a bus station at 5 a.m. Friday, officers said.

The group had been left by their human traffickers a few minutes before the police arrived, said officers. 

Nobody in the group was able to present valid
documentation that would allow them to legally pass through Costa Rican soil so they were turned over to immigration officials in Liberia who will deport them, officers said. 

Nicaraguans pay coyotes handsomely to be smuggled into their country of destination.  The situation is much the same at the border between the United States and Mexico where migrant workers pay coyotes to be smuggled north across the border to work in the United States.  

U.S. runs out of 2006 work visas for foreign, skilled, would-be employees
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The United States has stopped accepting requests for H1-B specialty work visas because its quota of 65,000 visas for 2006 has been reached.

The government's immigration services agency said Friday that any further visa requests that are received will have to wait until late next year.

The specialty work visa program allows American
 companies to hire skilled workers from abroad with advanced skills, including scientists, engineers, or computer programmers. The 65,000 visas granted annually normally can be extended for up to six years.

Congress decides how many visas are to be issued. In addition to 65,000 regular H1-B visas, it also has approved an additional 20,000 work permits each year for foreigners who hold an advanced degree (master's or doctorate) from an American college or university.

Two men living here held in million dollar robbery in central Europe
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Investigators arrested two men from the Czech Republic Friday in connection with robberies in their country in which officials said, netted more than $8 million. 

The men, Jim Hanzlik and David Kohout, were arrested as they drove through Sabana Sur said
Eduardo Guzmán, chief of the Policía Metropolitana. 

The two are accused of a 1987 crime in which men robbed $8,223,990 in the Czech town of Kollin, Kutna Hora.  A total of four men were involved in the crime, but only two robbers were able to escape, police said. 

The suspects were living in Santa Ana and were trying to gain residency here under false names, police said.

Mother dumps baby in exchange for a quick getaway on a motorcycle
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A 7-month-old baby was abandoned in a taxi early Friday morning, said police. 

A taxi driver, identified by the last name González, said he picked up a woman about 2 a.m. Friday in Goicoechea.  The woman asked him to take her to Los Cuadros but before they arrived the woman asked
him to stop near a public phone so she could make a call. 

When she got out of the taxi, a man pulled up on a motorcycle, police said.  The young woman hopped on the back, and the pair took off in the other direction leaving the baby inside the cab, police said. 
The baby was placed under the care of the Patronato Nacional de la Infancia, police said.

Jo Stuart
About us
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