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These stories were published Thursday, Aug. 19, 2004, in Vol. 4, No. 164
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U.S. woman finally finds roots in Costa Rica
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A woman in the U.S. state of New York always heard that she had Costa Rican roots, but it took an A.M. Costa Rica classified ad to prove the fact.

The woman is Florence Carrillo Chaney, 68, who heard her father say repeatedly that she was a descendant of Braulio Carrillo, the country’s third president. But she had no way to prove it. After her father, Camilio Carrillo, died 30 years ago she had no real connection with the country.

So a year ago she penned a short classified asking if anyone could help her locate relatives in Costa Rica.

The challenge was taken up by Minor Hernández of Heredia, a Costa Rican who spent years in the United States. He said he was anxious to help, particularly since he had to obtain birth certificates of his own children from the Registro Civil, where the country’s births are recorded.

For 50 colons in stamps, Hernández was able 

to obtain a copy of the birth certificate of Camilio Carrillo, and that showed his relation to the early Costa Rican politician. Additional checking shows that the daughter of Braulio Carrillo, Esmeralda, was Ms. Chaney’s great-grandmother.

Camilio Carrillo came to the United States in the 1920s. He had worked as a cook on a ship, and this allowed him to come to New York.

Ms. Chaney, who lives near Albany, does not speak Spanish and has never been to Costa Rica. But she has suggested she would like to make contact with relatives here.

Braulio Carrillo is best known today for the sprawling national park that bears his name and the autopista from San José to the park that also carries his name. 

He was head of state from 1835 to 1837 and from 1838 to 1942 until he was deposed by Gen. Francisco Morazán.

As president, he was known as a crusader against vice and as the person who developed the basic codes of government.

Response to Moore story shows divided opinions
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

"Bush is a fanatic and your editorial on Michael Moore's movie shows you just don't get it!" That was one reader’s reaction to a story Wednesday that suggested filmmaker Moore produced a work of propaganda and not a documentary.

Others were more philosophical, such as Lucy Wrestler from Indiana: 
"The Democrats have "Fahrenheit 9/11" film and the Republicans have the book ‘Unfit to Command.’ And considering that it is the electoral vote which decides who wins, is it worth our money to spend it on a film or a book?"

Ross Martin of Quepos and Toronto said Moore’s work was not the only propaganda:

"Fahrenheit 911 might contain the odd falsehood and exaggeration (but not many) and certainly has the style of propaganda, but let's compare this to the White House, the world's mightiest propaganda machine. 

"The White House, courtesy of the current occupants, bombards the world with its highly suspect version of terror and freedom, full-time and unfettered, through the major media networks, most of which like Fox can hardly be described as independent, critical or unbiased.

"Compared to this juggernaut of carefully orchestrated misinformation management, Mr. Moore's little film is a speck in a dust storm, the squeak of a mouse against the roar of a hurricane."

Some readers agreed with the point of the story:

"Glad to see your article about Moore's film. I just had a terrible rift with a friend in L.A when I said I had no desire to see the film because I find Moore's other work to be propagandistic. He criticized me for criticizing a film I had not seen and says that all documentary is biased. Is it really???? 

"Anyway, good article this morning! I think Moore is really doing damage to Bush but maybe it'll backfire on the Democrats. Who knows?"

Another reader wrote:

"Thank you for a balanced report on the film  I am a meztizo, half American half Tico living in the U.S.A. I read your newsletter on the Internet, and found your analysis of the movie to be right on. 

"Unfortunately, those who want to believe the worst of George Bush will swallow this propaganda, masquerading as a documentary, without any further thought. The fact that Moore still has the gall to proclaim it as gospel, after his distortions have been revealed, shows me that his ends justify any means in his world. Thank you for taking the time to do a little research on his movie and presenting both sides."

Moore’s movie opens in San José Friday in three selected theaters. The film has won awards as a documentary work.

 
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Tourist theft suspects
can speak English

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The criminal band that has been preying off tourists for at least a year includes some members who speak English, according to the Fuerza Pública.

In that way, police said, the criminals can get closer and win the confidence of their victims. The general technique is to get the victim off-guard and then steal bags and other goods.

Police arrested six suspects in the vicinity of the Plaza de la Cultura in the heart of San José downtown late Tuesday afternoon.

Comandante Eduardo Guzmán, chief of the metropolitan force, said the six who were arrested were about to score on a couple of U.S. tourists.

The arrested individuals included three South Americans, a Mexican, a Nicaraguan and a Costa Rican. One was a woman. Several have been arrested in the past for stealing items from tourists at bus stations. Another had a warrant outstanding on an allegation of aggravated robbery, said police. 

In addition to a close check of the detained individuals police records, the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería will determine the status of the persons who are not Costa Rican.

Two held at airport
as drug mule suspects

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Anti-drug police arrested two women, 26 and 19, Wednesday when they tried to leave the country via Juan Santamaría Airport. Police said the pair had ingested or otherwise hidden on their bodies 129 ovules containing cocaine.

Each ovule contained 10 grams of cocaine, police said.

The pair were identified by their last names of Cordero Pizarro and Muñoz Mendoza. The last is the younger woman.

Agents of the Policía de Control de Drogas said they detected nervousness in the younger woman when they detained a third woman, a Peruvian, in an unrelated case of suspect documents. After an interview, the women were taken to a medical facility and x-rayed, said police.

The women were on a flight to Denmark via Mexico and Amsterdam, said police.

Fishermen safe at home

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Six Limón fishermen whose boat’s motor failed Tuesday in the Caribbean have been rescued by the Servicio Nacional de Guardacostas.

They spent the night at the mercy of the sea.

The fishermen, the crew of the Natalie II, were found about 8:40 a.m. in Estero Negro near Cahuita on the Caribbean coast, said officials. The men were nervous and tired but otherwise unharmed. They returned to their homes after a medical exam.

Soccer team advances

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

ATHENS, Greece — After nearly everyone counted them out, Costa Rican soccer players scored a 4-2 victory over Portugal Wednesday and moved into the Olympic quarterfinals. Costa Rica will face Argentina Saturday.

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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Readers comment on the high costs of fuel
Black smoke means a problem

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

It's interesting that after chasing out Harken the goverment is worrying about oil prices. I don't wish to get involved in debating the pros and cons of drilling in ecological fragile areas, but they have done it safely in other parts of the world. Energy independence would be a marvelous thing for Costa Rica. 

There is a lot of fuel wasted in Costa Rica. We have all followed buses, trucks, taxies, and even a lot of the newer large vans that are belching out huge clouds of black smoke. Choke, gasp - that black smoke, my friends, is unburnt or incompletely burnt diesel fuel. Now, I spent some years of my life working on boats, and my specialty was diesel engines. Excessive black smoke is usually caused by four conditions that I know of. I am sure some of your readers know of others also. The four conditions are, in order of frequency of occurence: 

1. Incomplete combustion caused by an overloaded engine. Too much fuel is injected into the cylinder for the amount of air available for combustion. For a diesel to function properly it must have 120 percent of the air actually required for combustion, that is - a 20 percent excess. In practical terms this means the driver needs to downshift to increase engine RPM, increase the amount of air available for combustion and reduce the load on the engine. 

2. A malfunctioning turbocharger or blocked air filter. Both of these conditions will prevent the engine from getting the air it needs to function properly.

3. Fuel with a low cetane rating. Gasoline is rated by its octane number, and diesel fuel is rated by its cetane number. The higher the cetane number, the better it burns. Fuel left in storage for a long time loses its cetane rating. Crappy fuel from the refiner may have a low cetane rating.

4. A problem with the fuel injection system, including injector pumps, governors and injectors. Modern diesel engines are extremely durable and reliable if properly maintained, so fuel system problems (other than plugged filters) are rare.

I have wondered for over a year now why this pollution problem seems so much more severe here in Costa Rica. Even almost brand new vehicles can be seen going down the road with clouds of black smoke coming from the exhaust. What is different here? The test for emissions at Riteve is a joke. They check your engine without putting any load on it, not a very realistic situation. One time when I was getting my car inspected, I watched as they put a 10-ton Mercedes truck through the test procedure. All went well, no smoke as they checked the emissions, brakes etc. The truck went to the last stop and got its nice new sticker and left. I watched it pull out of the gate onto the road leaving an ugly black fog behind it!

This black smoke is wasted fuel and wasted energy, and is also particulate pollution. It is not as dangerous as the invisible stuff, but it is bad. Take a look at the grimy buildings in and around San José. How do you think they got that way?? If you live and work around this stuff you don't need to smoke to get a lungful of black stuff, just go outside and breathe!
Pete Todd
Central Valley
Why mess with the free market?

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

As you are aware, A.M. Costa Rica has published two recent letters of mine pointing out dumb Costa Rican laws legislated by an ignorant government.  The fact is I could write a daily column on this subject and never run out of topic. 

Here we go again: Today's headlines in various publications comment on the "high" gas prices. Unfortunately high gas prices are not a joking matter.  What is a joke is how the Costa Rican government plans to deal with the situation. 

The government has several solutions in mind: Gas rationing, even and odd driving days based on license plate number, car pooling, and even changing the office hours of the government agencies.  And, of course there is the always present "new commission" to study the problem. Another commission that wastes the tax payers money is just what Costa Rica needs. 

Nowhere in the articles that I read mentioned any shortage of gasoline. So where is the problem?  This is a "dumb law nipped in the bud".  I hope your readers will go to all of the Costa Rican publications and read the articles concerning the high cost of gasoline.  Then I want one of them to write a letter to the editor explaining exactly how any of the governments proposals will effect gas prices. They don't. 

This is just another example of a government filled with incompetent people intruding in the free (not in Costa Rica) market.  I would like to mention that one of the articles that I read indicated that 37 percent of the price of gasoline can be attributed to the tax.  The article went on to say that 30 percent of the revenue from the gas tax goes to improving the roads and the rest goes into the general treasury. 

What the article did not say was that it is unlikely that 30 percent is spent on road improvements and that the rest is squandered through various instances of corruption. 

Nicholas C. Allen 
Ciudad Colon
EDITOR'S NOTE: The above letter was shortened slightly to remove material not related to fuel prices.

 
Maybe they hired him because he had a terrific resume
By the A.M. Costa Rica wires services

MEXICO CITY, México — Mexican immigration officials have granted a work visa to a former Guatemalan president implicated in a corruption scandal.

A Mexican government official confirmed here Wednesday that the National Migration Institute issued the 12-month visa to Alfonso Portillo on Monday.

The former Guatemalan leader entered Mexico Jan. 14 on a tourist visa, shortly after leaving office. That visa was to have expired Wednesday. Mr. Portillo plans to work for a construction company.

Some members of his administration have been jailed on charges of fraud and attempted bribery, including former Vice President Juan Francisco Reyes Lopez. 

But so far, Portillo himself has not been charged.


 
Riot involving rival gangs breaks out in Salvadoran prison
By the A.M. Costa Rica wires services

A prison riot in El Salvador has left at least 23 inmates dead and 24 others injured.

Authorities say the fighting erupted Wednesday between members of rival gangs at La Esperanza prison in San Salvador. 

Explosions were heard during the disturbances at the prison, which was built for 800 people but houses more than 3,000. 

The trouble in El Salvador comes three months after a fire at a prison in neighboring Honduras left at least 104 inmates dead. The fire was blamed on an electrical short circuit.


 
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Chavez opponents will boycott audit of voting
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

CARACAS, Venezuela  —  Electoral officials are going ahead with an audit of votes from Sunday's recall referendum in which President Hugo Chavez was declared the winner. Tensions remain high, however, as opposition leaders refuse to participate as witnesses to the audit and continue to denounce the results as fraudulent. 

Meanwhile, police say they have arrested two of the three gunmen who fired on an opposition rally Monday, killing one person and wounding eight others. 

As reporters and photographers crowded around, police escorted one of the men accused in the shooting incident to jail. The man, who resembles one of the gunmen seen in photographs from the crime scene, refused to answer reporters' questions as to what political group he might be affiliated. 

The police action came only days after President Chavez denounced the shooting and promised that authorities would take action against the perpetrators. Chavez rejected opposition claims that the shooters were associated with his government or with groups who support him. 

Also on Wednesday, the head of the Venezuelan Electoral Council, Jorge Rodríguez, told reporters that the audit being conducted by the council under the supervision of international observers should be complete before the end of the week. The audit is being based on 150 vote boxes selected at random from the 24 electoral districts. Auditors will check paper ballots against the count provided by electronic machines that were used to tabulate the final vote count. 

Rodríguez says there is no foundation for opposition claims that the machines were programmed to favor the pro-Chavez vote. 

He says the machines were never reprogrammed once they had been prepared for the election. He says accusations of electronic fraud come from a sector that was defeated in the election and is having trouble accepting it. 

But opposition leaders remain defiant, calling on Venezuelans to reject the election results. One of the principal opposition leaders, Enrique Mendoza, the governor of Venezuela's Miranda state, says the opposition umbrella group, called the Democratic Coordinator, is boycotting the electoral audit. 

He says no one from the opposition will attend the vote audit at the electoral council center and he calls on opposition representatives from around the country to stay away from any activity associated with the audit. 

Mendoza and other opposition representatives say the audit of paper ballots is useless since the ballots came from the same machines that were programmed to fix the vote in favor of Chavez. 

But the opposition finds itself increasingly isolated both here in Venezuela and internationally. The Secretary General of the Organization of American States, Cesar Gaviria, and former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, both of whom observed the election process Sunday, say they have seen no credible evidence of fraud. They asked for the audit in order to meet concerns expressed by the opposition, but they made it clear that they remained confident in the results announced by the electoral council on Monday. 

Most nations in Latin America and Europe have announced their satisfaction with the electoral process and have accepted the Venezuelan election results. The U.S. State Department has also endorsed the results, although a spokesman cautioned that every effort should be made to investigate opposition complaints.


 
Amnesty International unhappy with speedy murder trial in Haiti
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

LONDON, England — A leading human rights organization has called the Port-au-Prince trial in which a former Haitian paramilitary commander and a police officer were acquitted of murder Tuesday a "mockery."

Amnesty International says Haiti's interim government failed to ensure justice in the trial of former paramilitary leader Louis-Jodel Chamblain 

and co-defendant Jackson Joanis.  The two men were cleared of the 1993 murder of Antoine Izmery, a financial backer of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. In 1995, they were convicted in absentia for the same crime.

Amnesty International says prosecutors failed to properly investigate the case, and that most of the evidence used in the earlier trial was destroyed or missing. It also charges that key witnesses hid out of fear for their lives.


 
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