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These stories were published Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2002, in Vol. 2, No. 165
Jo Stuart
About us
Los Anonos bridge work and detours begin today
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Work begins this morning on the Los Anonos bridge over the Tiribí River on the old road from La Sabana to Escazú.

This would be a good place to avoid for the next 100 days that the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transporte estimated the job of widening the bridge will take.

A ceremony this morning about 8:30 a.m. will mark the closing of the bridge to traffic, said a release from the ministry. Construction is supposed to start an hour later.

At the ceremony will be Javier Chaves, minister, representatives of the contractor, Dimón S.A., and various functionaries of the utility companies that will be relocating lines and pipes.

The bridge is one-lane now, and traffic takes turns going either east or west.  Less than a year ago workmen installed traffic lights at either end of the bridge, but drivers treat these like suggestions.

The contract is between the Consejo Nacional de Viabilidad, the government road agency, and the construction company. Officials signed the 

agreement in February, and in late May the Contraloría General de la República reviewed and countersigned the document, thus letting the work go forward.

The project is estimated at ¢172,000,000 or about $470,000.

Even the official releases from the ministry characterize the Los Anonos bridge as a headache. Locally the span is known as the suicide bridge, either for actual suicides there or the opportunity that the bridge presents for such an act. It is about 400 feet long and several hundred feet above the river and the community below.

The ministry suggested alternative routes. Technically it is possible for a small vehicle to turn off the main road just west of the bridge and descend into Los Anonos using a street aptly named Bajo de los Anonos, cross the river and ascend on the other side. But most drivers will prefer to stay on main roads.

The ministry suggests using the connection with the carretera Próspero Fernández at the north end of Escazú. From there a motorist can go east to La Sabana or turn onto ruta nacional 39, the Circunvalación, to go to Hatillo or Pavas and return.

Some reason for optimism detected in the case of Roger Crouse
By Saray Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The lawyer for Roger Crouse is optimistic after a court visit to the murder scene Friday.

But Crouse still is in jail, facing a possible premeditated murder conviction for what he says is a case of self-defense.

The lawyer, Frank Paniagua, said the possibility exists that Crouse will be able to prove that he shot Miguel Antonio Villegas Salguero because the man was trying to kill him with a knife.

Crouse, a Canadian, is the Playas del Coco bar owner who has languished in jail for a year until his trial began. The next session, perhaps the last, will be Aug. 27 in Liberia.

Paniagua said he is encouraged by the testimony of Jorge Aguilar Peréz, a forensic pathologist for the Judicial Investigating Organization. The pathologist testified Friday. He would not repeat his testimony in a telephone call to reporters, but Paniagua said the testimony is favorable to Crouse.

According to the lawyer, the pathologist said that it

would be possible for a man holding a knife to suffer a fatal bullet wound, fall and still be holding the knife in death.

The prosecution in the Crouse trial always has been troubled because a knife was in Villegas’ dead hand. Villegas, a local man well known to police, caused a disturbance at Crouse’s Gaby’s Bar Aug. 19, 2001. Police came and took him away and took his knife. Police let him go two hours later even though he threatened the life of Crouse. Villegas promptly returned to the bar, and Crouse said that is when the man came at him with a knife with fatal results.

The prosecution expected that a fatally wounded man would drop a knife and has suggested that Crouse put the knife in the man’s hand after the shooting.

The lawyer said the pathologist testified that a body spasm near or at death could have caused Villegas’ hand to gripe the knife strongly and hold on to it even in death. The pathologist also testified that Villegas had ingested a large quantity of drugs and alcohol before the shooting.

A detailed earlier story on the Crouse case is HERE!

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Learning a language: Playing baseball en español
By Domenico Maceri
special to A.M. Costa Rica

Alfonso Soriano, second baseman for the New York Yankees, a Dominican, has been in the United States for only two years but he knows enough English to give interviews without the aid of an interpreter.  Cuban-native Orlando Hernandez, a teammate of Soriano, who has been in the United States for five years, still cannot do interviews in English. If one person can learn English in two years, what’s wrong with the guy who can’t do it in five?

Not a thing. The two players’ circumstances, though similar, are not identical. People learn languages at different speeds and their comfort level also differs. Some people manage to acquire enough of a language to function in a very short time. Like any field, language learning requires a certain talent. Time is important, but it’s not the only criterion.

Some people are shy and even in their native language would be reluctant to talk in public. When they switch to a language they barely know, a feeling of insecurity may make it impossible to speak the language. This reluctance to use the new language can easily be interpreted as unwillingness to Americanize or do one’s job.

Yet, there are people who recognize their limitations and prefer not to make mistakes that can cause trouble for them as well as others. Hernandez, nicknamed El Duque, has stated that although his English has improved, he still does not feel comfortable talking to reporters in English.

He is afraid his "English words may get mixed up" and cause problems. He feels his chances are better with an interpreter than with his uncertain English. To communicate effectively at this stage, the interpreter is the best avenue. Hernandez may not have any choice about pushing himself to give interviews in English.

Although he has a contract with the Yankees that pays him millions, the management has decided that his interpreter services will no longer be available. Until recently, Leo Astacio, the club audio and video specialist, had been his interpreter in interviews with the press. Before Astacio, Yankee first base coach Jose Cardenal acted as Hernandez’s interpreter. 
He resigned when Yankee management refused to pay him $30,000 for his language services. 

Hernandez is not the only major league baseball player to have to face the issue of language since more and more foreign players are joining the ranks of American baseball. In the last 10 years a 

number of players from other countries’ including Rene Arocha, Chan Ho Park, Hideo Nomo, Rey Ordonez, Hideki Irabu, Rolando Arrojo, Ichiro Suzuki, Kazuhisa Ishii, etc. joined major league baseball teams.

It is estimated that 23 percent of major league baseball players are Latinos. The figure rises to 40 percent in the minor leagues. Of the 25 players on the Yankee team, eight are Spanish-speaking.

One of them, Mariano Rivera, the All-Star closer, has been very vocal about the need for Latin players to learn English. According to him, it’s important to communicate with the teammates as well as the manager in English because the interpreter may not be able to catch all the nuances.

The Yankees have stated that they would provide interpreters for Korean or Japanese players. Spanish is less of a problem because Yankee staff members who speak Spanish are plentiful.

Using the available staff knowledge to help a Latin player is a strategy used by the Los Angeles Dodgers with Fernando Valenzuela. The Mexican pitcher did not speak English at the beginning of his career. Tommy Lasorda, the team’s manager, communicated with him in Spanish. In addition, the Dodgers Spanish-language broadcaster, Jaime Jarran, served as Valenzuela’s interpreter.

Like Lasorda, other managers learned Spanish. Tony La Russa, Dusty Baker, Lou Piniella are three examples but there are others who realize that you can get more out of athletes if you make the effort to learn their language. Using the players’ language makes them more comfortable and ultimately they produce more for the team.

Little by little baseball players, like other immigrants, learn enough English to get by. Ramiro Mendoza, another Yankee pitcher, who is from Panama, also used to have a tough time with interviews in English. But now he does them. Yankee management is not very happy with Hernandez because of his inability to return quickly to playing baseball from his injuries.

It has been speculated that their lack of continued support in providing an interpreter for Hernandez is a reflection of their dissatisfaction. Whatever the case, El Duque, who makes millions playing baseball, could easily hire his own interpreter. It’s a choice most immigrants don’t have.

Domenico Maceri teaches foreign languages at Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria, Calif.

A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas
A vendor’s display of baskets in Escazú gives the impression that there might be interesting items inside, at least Indiana Jones’ girlfriend or a really big snake. But they are empty awaiting owners.
Columbian residents
are skipping town

By A.M. Costa Rica wire services

BOGOTA, Colombia — An international research group says more than a million Colombians have left the country in the past five years to escape the violence and misery of nearly four decades of civil war.  The International Migration Organization reported Monday that at least 1.2 million citizens legally emigrated to countries such as Venezuela, Ecuador, the United States, and Spain. 

A spokesman for the organization noted the total includes only those who have left the country legally. It is not known how many additional people have left the country without notifying    authorities.

U.S. confronts a sticky public relations problem
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The United States has a little public relations problem. Some Costa Ricans think that the new international police training academy proposed for San José is a spinoff of the U.S. Army School of the Americas.

Graduates of the Fort Benning, Ga.-based School of the Americas are considered to be responsible for some of the worst human rights abuses in Latin America, according to critics there.

The worry about having a foreign military operation base here and the possible expenses are twin concerns that have been festering among some segments of Costa Rican society since June 6 when an accord to base the school here was announced.

So Tuesday, U.S. Embassy officials and top Costa Rica security officials took their case to reporters. That basic thrust of the presentation was that the proposed Academia International para el Cumplimiento de la Ley is good for Costa Rica and is not at all connected with military training.

The embassy effort at public relations was only partly successful. Channel 7 Teletica ran the story Tuesday night but also included scenes from a video about a military school in Panamá. A casual viewer would think that policemen attending the San José training academy would be crawling around with their face in the mud under the shouts of a drill instructor.

The bulk of the presentation Wednesday was by Carlos Alvarado, minister of Seguridad Pública. Also supporting the school were Carlos Arias, fiscal general; José Manual Echandi, the defensor de los habitantes; Carlos Avendaño, a deputy; and Arnolo Brenes, a representative of the Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores y Culto.

Also there were U.S. Ambassador John Danilovich and Vance Stacy, the former area director for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration who will be director of the school.

The school is a foreign version of the similar academies in the United States. Four other international training centers are located around the world. 

The school here would provide specialized training for police officers from all over the Western Hemisphere. Courses may be as short as two weeks.

Alvarado stressed that the training will add new dimensions to Costa Rica’s ability to handle white-collar and computer crime, corruption, terrorism, traffic in arms and other international crimes.  And the academy does not develop any type of military training, he maintained.

The bulk of the administrative staff will be Costa Ricans under a Costa Rican board of directors. But the United States will pay for most of the expenses.

About 25 persons attended the session, which was directed at the Spanish-language press, radio and television.

Avendaño said that the transnational character of crime requires a transnational solution. He referred to the kidnapping and death of Osvaldo Faobricio Madrigal Bravo, 4, last June as one where investigators could use more training. 

Avendaño, of the Partido Movimiento Renovacion, also deplored the possibility that two men who police say took the child could get a jail sentence of only three years and may spend just months in prisons.

He was challenged by a reporter for Radio Columbia, who asked whether the short jail sentences were due to lack of police training or failure of the laws. Avendaño said that he is seeking changes in the law in the Asemblea Nacional.

No site has been selected for the school, although the leading contender is one in Desamparados, said Alvarado. Legislators still must consider the agreement.

Chavez edits
constitution again

By A.M. Costa Rica wire services

CARACAS, Venezuela — President Hugo Chavez says he may propose more changes to the constitution he helped rewrite after being elected less than four years ago. 

Chavez told a gathering of electrical workers near Caracas Tuesday that certain situations are prompting the government to study reforms.

Last week, Venezuela's Supreme Court dismissed charges against four top military officers linked to April's failed coup against President Chavez. 

That ruling has inflamed tensions between the Chavez government and his political opponents. Chavez initially said he would not tolerate a Supreme Court decision favoring the four officers, but later backed down and urged his supporters to respect any court ruling and remain calm. 

The two admirals and two generals deny government charges that they organized the coup that briefly toppled the president. Troops loyal to Chavez quickly restored him to power.

Swiss bank accounts
returned to Peru

By A.M. Costa Rica wire services

LIMA, Peru — Switzerland has returned to Peru nearly $78 million in funds illegally obtained by the Latin American country's former intelligence chief and a general accused of corruption.

Swiss authorities say the money consisted mostly of the blocked assets of former intelligence chief Vladimiro Montesinos Torres and former Peruvian general Nicolas de Bari Hermoza Rios. Both officials had worked under Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori, who fled Peru in 2000 amid a corruption scandal.

Investigators say the former spy chief obtained $49.5 million of the money through corruption-related crimes. The statement said the money has gone into a bank account in the U.S. state of New York. Another $33 million remains blocked while Peru takes legal measures for its return.

Guatemala approves
adoption rules

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The Guatemalan Congress ratified the Hague Convention on International Adoptions Wednesday night.

The convention, created in 1993, covers adoptions between countries and sets out for such adoptions certain internationally agreed-upon minimum norms and procedures. The goal of the convention is to protect the children, birth parents and adoptive parents involved in intercountry adoptions and to prevent child-trafficking and other abuses.

While the Hague Convention should bring more protection to the thousands of Guatemalan children sent abroad each year, time will tell whether the Guatemalan Congress approved the convention for public relations reasons or because they truly care about their country's children, said Casa Alianza.

Guatemala was the 6th country in the world to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, yet thousands of children are starving to death and street children are being hunted down on the streets of Guatemala City, often by the same authorities who are supposed to protect them, according to Casa Alianza officials.

Long-time bar to reopen

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The relocated New York Bar is expected to open today at noon in its new spot on Calle 9 about 25 meters south of Avenida 1 in downtown San José. 

The watering hole, long a fixture for beer-drinking expats, lost a lease on its former Avenida 1 location, and the landlord, the Del Rey Hotel, demolished the building to provide eventually better access to its Key Largo bar on Avenida 3. the new spot is the former Sharkey’s.

Central American border
dispute to be resolved

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The United Nations and the Organization of American States have both expressed optimism that a long-standing border dispute between Belize and Guatemala can be settled soon.

Kofi Annan, U.N. secretary general, said in a statement that he "notes with satisfaction that significant progress" has been made in resolving the matter. Annan urged both countries to "persevere in concluding outstanding issues."

Ending the dispute, Annan said, will ensure that a "permanent, just, and equitable solution will benefit the peoples of Belize and Guatemala, and signal a new relationship between these Central American neighbors."

The Organization of American States also reported significant progress on issues "which had heretofore been exceedingly complex to resolve." Both countries, the Organization of American States said, will present their recommendations for a "complete and equitable settlement" at the end of August.

The Organization of American States said that delegations from both countries expressed hope that the "facilitation process" for resolving the matter "would soon reach a positive conclusion, opening a new era of understanding, cooperation, and friendship" between the two countries. The facilitation process was developed by the Organization of American States to end the dispute, which — according to U.S. State Department background documents — involves Guatemalan claims to territory held by Belize.

Negotiations to settle the dispute have gone on for many years, including one period in the 1960s during which the United States sought unsuccessfully to mediate, the Department said.
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