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Jo Stuart
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These stories were published 6 September, 2001
These television shots spared the A.M. Costa Rica staff from standing in the rain.
Costa Rica gives its fans what they came for
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The sound you heard exactly at 10 p.m. was the collective voices of the Costa Rican people as their dream came true.

That was the time when an official called an end to the World Cup semifinal match in rainy Saprissa Stadium with Costa Rica ahead 2-0.

Not only from the 24,000 people at the sold-out stadium, but from hill and beach, house and bar the voices chanted out. Then the automobile horns and fireworks started as the nation embarked on another boozy celebration. Traffic police were ready to pick up the pieces.

The Costa Rican National Team scored once at about 40 minutes into the first half and again about 24 minutes into the second half. The U.S. team was shut out.

The game hinged on precision passing, which Costa Rica did and the U.S. team did not. U.S. players frequently booted the ball away.

The steady light rain made the field slippery although tarps had been placed on the grass for most of the day. 

This means that Costa Rica moves far ahead of the U.S. in the qualification bracket for the World Cup finals matches in 2002 in Korea and Japan. The U.S. still might win one of the three spots because there are more games to play.

More stories below:

Police nab scamsters
who victimized
property owners

see below

Residents group
plans a big party
for Saturday

see below

Bar owner mystified and doesn't like jail conditions
By A.M. Costa Rica staff

Roger M. Crouse isn't really sure why he is in jail, and he is not very happy with the accommodations.

He is the 50-year-old Canadian bar owner who got jailed while investigators piece together the circumstances when he shot a man who attacked him with a knife.

"I was just protecting my life," said Crouse Wednesday in a telephone interview from the jail near Liberia. He said friends had rallied around him since the incident but he still does not have a clear idea as to why he is in the jail. His friends have helped him hire a lawyer.

Crouse said a female judge whose name he does not know ordered him into preventative custody the day after the shooting in a proceedings in Santa Cruz, the administrative center of the northern Nicoya Peninsula.

Crouse owns Gaby's Bar in Playa Coco, a beach resort in northwest Guanacaste. He said he was concerned that threats were being leveled against him by associates of the dead man in Playa Coco. But he said he has investments in the area, including the bar, and he was planning on returning to the town when his legal problems are resolved. He also said he runs a limo service

Crouse is from Nova Scotia and has lived in Costa Rica for 11 years.

David C. Smart, consul with the Canadian Embassy, visited Crouse to assure that he was being treated well. Smart cannot discuss the case because of confidentiality rules, but he said he has seen worse jails in other countries.

The shooting happened Sunday night, Aug. 19 at the bar. A patron was creating a disturbance. Crouse said the man seemed to be under the influence of some substance.  Police came and took the man away, but let him out of jail so he could return two hours later. The man came at Crouse with a knife, Crouse said, and Crouse was forced to shoot the man in defense of his own life.

The dead man was identified as Miguel Antonio Villegas Salguero, in his 30s. Crouse shot him with a single bullet in the chest.

Friends continue to operate the bar on his behalf.

Meanwhile, all is not tranquil at the prison, located on the outskirts of Liberia. The 4-year-old facility was built to hold 80 persons and now holds 120, Crouse said. Some inmates sleep on mattresses on the floor, and in many places there is no roof, Crouse said. 

Crouse said the day is periodically interrupted by fights, and one inmate tried to stab another inmate Tuesday evening. Guards delay entering the prison area until they have assembled a force of six or seven men, Crouse said. So there is a delay in putting down disturbances. 

Man being held in sales scams
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Investigators are holding a man they claim ran scams on property owners here. They had been seeking him for more than a year, and they  found him in downtown San José Tuesday, they announced Wednesday.

The man, who is not fully identified, is about 35 years old and said he was born in the United Arab Emirates, said investigators.

They began to seek him after complaints began piling up about the scams from several places in the country.

The scam worked like this, according to Fraud Section investigators:

The con man would scan the newspapers seeking advertisements of property for sale. He would contact certain property owners by telephone and tell them that he had just arrived from the United Arab Emirates and that he wanted to buy a property in  Costa Rica.

Once in contact the con man would send FAX messages showing the state of his finances, including bank accounts and credit cards. All of this information was false.

Later he would set up a meeting with the property owners, the potential victims, at some place in San José. Then he would convince them to bring him money claiming that he had been robbed and that he needed to file a complaint with the Judicial Investigations Organization so he could get his money back and eventually complete the deal.

Once he had the money, he vanished.

Sometimes he would meet his victims at hospitals and show up in bandages, claiming that he had been in an accident and needed money, said investigators.

The man who is suspected of being this con man is being held under an order of deportation to Trinidad and Tobago, but investigators are delaying his exit until they can obtain additional identification and nationality information from Interpol, the international police agency.

Investigators said the man entered Costa Rica on land several times claiming to be a tourist.

Investigators seek addition information from persons who may have been victimized by this scam or who had any communications with the possible scamster. They ask that such people call 295-3312 or 295-3313.

Big party planned for Saturday by residents
The Association of Residents of Costa Rica really has a party planned for Saturday.

The event is billed as Costa Rican Independence Celebration, and it's being held a week in advance of the actual day. The purpose of the party is to express appreciation by the foreign community to Costa Rica and her citizens for making members of the association feel welcome in the country, the association said.

The bash begins at 10 a.m. with flag bearers and a band. The choir of Rescued Street Children from the Fundación Oratorio Don Bosco will sing the national anthem, followed by a welcome by Bob Miller, association president.

Then the folkloric dancing begins with the Santa Ines School Children's Group and the National Folkloric Dance Group and traditional marimba music, both sponsored by the Costa Rican Institute of Tourism.

They have even brought in the runners. The Hash House Harriers, a recreational running group, plans a short (20 minutes) and long (35 minutes) fun runs. So those who participated are encouraged to bring bathing suits and running gear.

Then the Costa Rican National Women's Football Team is scheduled to appear to provide pointers of soccer techniques.

For the less athletically inclined, there is an open bar the whole day.

The event is at the José Martí Club which is north and west of Multiplaza in Guachipelin, Escazú.

The afternoon is filled with merecumbe lessons and dancing.

The association also is conducting its 2001 benefit raffle, and winners will be selected at the event. The top prize is five nights for two persons at Papagayo Resort in cooperation with Occidental Hotels & Resort.

Lesser prizes include a week of Spanish classes by Intercultura, a Calypso Cruise for two persons, a case of wine from Escazú's Casa de Alverado winery, tickets for two persons to the Rancho San Miguel equestrian show, and outrigger and kayak tour for two by Costa Rica Outriggers and a coffee tour for two  from Café Britt.

The association promises additional prizes.

Miller said that one use of the funds generated by the raffle would be to ship in about 40 computers that are being donated by the San Francisco, Calif., Fire Department. The computers will be given to schools, but first the association must pay for the shipping from the United States, he said.

Brazil's Congress may slash Amazon's protection
By A.M. Costa Rica wire services

An environmental struggle is under way in Brazil over a proposed change in the country's forestry code. The proposal would allow farmers to cut down more trees in the Amazon rainforest. Rural lawmakers are pushing for the forestry code change and are hoping to get the backing of the full Congress. 

The proposed change to the forestry code would increase the amount of land that could be legally cleared of trees. Under current law farmers and ranchers must keep 50 percent of their property covered by forest. The proposal would reduce that figure to just 20 percent. Rural lawmakers say their farm constituents believe the current forestry code is too restrictive, and hampers production. 

As a congressional commission prepared to vote on the measure, a coalition of environmental groups Tuesday staged a symbolic protest in the Brazilian capital. Gathered in front of the Congress building, demonstrators dressed as farmers and carrying chain saws stood behind a large green cake, baked in the shape of the Amazon rainforest. Their action was meant to symbolize how the rainforest would be devoured if Congress approves the measure.

Organizations such as the World Wildlife Fund and Greenpeace, concerned about deforestation of the Amazon, say changing the forestry code would make matters worse. The government's environment minister, Jose Sarney Filho, also opposes the proposal. "We believe the Amazon, and 

its environmental riches, should be utilized to improve the quality of life and for future generations," he said.

The government is reported to be trying to reach a compromise on the issue. Lawmakers of the governing coalition parties say the current proposal is unacceptable, but can be negotiated.

The head of Greenpeace's Amazon office, Paulo Adario, said environmental groups are trying to mobilize public opinion against the proposed forestry code change. But he said the whole debate over protecting the Amazon rainforest is now caught up in the political maneuvering surrounding next year's congressional and presidential elections.

"At the end of the day this will not be just about only forest protection, but will depend upon the forces that are fighting for influence in the next federal elections, including for president," Adario said. "The majority of the local politicians in the Amazon are in favor of reducing the protection, while the local public opinion according to studies are against. So this is a political game, and I think we are good players . . . but they are good players also. But it will be the Congress who will take the final decision, and the Congress should be, at least, sensitive to the political opinion, or mood."

The congressional commission, which is dominated by rural lawmakers, was scheduled to vote on the proposed changes to the forestry code on Tuesday, but it agreed late in the day to postpone the vote, to allow time to study the opposition arguments.

Bolivia makes citizens
stay home for count

By A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Bustling Bolivian cities were quiet Wednesday, as census officials went door-to-door to count the number of residents in the country. 

The estimated 8 million Bolivians were under strict orders to stay at home, to ensure an accurate count. 

To ensure compliance with the stay at home policy, authorities closed border posts with neighboring countries and police and troops deployed nationwide. 

Only certain professionals, including doctors and journalists with special permits, were allowed to venture away from home.  Bolivian officials will use the census results to determine resource distribution throughout the country. 

In this South American country, up to 70 percent of the population is estimated to be indigenous. The largest of the approximately three dozen different groups are the Aymara, Quechua, and Guarani. 

Bolivia's last census was nine years ago, when the final tally showed that Bolivia had more than 6.4 million inhabitants. Experts are estimating this year's count could go as high as 8.5 million. 

Bolivia is one of the least-developed countries in South America, with about two-thirds of its people living in poverty. 

VW workers OK settlement

Workers at the Volkswagen auto assembly plant in Puebla, Mexico, have approved a wage increase agreement reached by union and company officials, ending a nearly three-week strike.

Union leaders and officials from the German auto giant Wednesday reached agreement on a 10.2 percent wage increase for the Mexican workers. The deal follows intense negotiations between the two sides. 

The more than 12,000 auto workers at the plant had been on strike since Aug. 18. They initially demanded a raise of at least 21 percent.

The workers also are expected to receive food vouchers and an additional bonus to purchase school supplies for their children. With the vouchers and school supplies allotment, the deal amounts to a nearly 15 percent increase in the employees' overall package.

The strike brought automobile production to a standstill at the only Volkswagen plant in the world that manufactures the classic Volkswagen Beetle, as well as newer model cars. 

Fox to address U.S. Congress

Visiting Mexican President Vicente Fox is expected to press for a speedy immigration reform agreement with the United States when he addresses a joint session of the U.S. Congress later Thursday.

The Mexican leader raised the issue Wednesday as President Bush welcomed him to the White House for the first official state visit of the Bush presidency. During a ceremony on the White House South Lawn, President Fox challenged the United States to reach a deal by the end of the year. Mr. Fox said he and President Bush must conclude an agreement by then so that by the time their respective terms in office end, no Mexicans will be living in the United States illegally.

U.S. National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice says both leaders are committed to that goal, whether it happens this year or not. She also said the fact that the two neighbors are discussing the immigration issue is a breakthrough.

The Mexican president has made immigration a priority of his administration and a cornerstone of closer ties with the United States. U.S. and Mexican officials have spent the last six months discussing the issue, including a possible blanket amnesty for illegal immigrants. President Bush opposes a general amnesty, and polls show a majority of U.S. citizens agree with him, including many Hispanics living in the United States.

Also Thursday, Fox is set to accompany Bush to Toledo, in the U.S. state of Ohio to meet with Hispanic groups.

Colombians say rebels used gas

Colombian police officials say leftist guerrillas used an unidentified toxic gas in a recent attack on a village police station in the south that killed four policemen. 

Police say the four officers died slow, agonizing deaths following the attack last weekend on the village of San Adolfo, in Huila province, about 450 kilometers (270 miles) south of Bogota. Police say the attackers were members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, FARC, the country's largest guerrilla band. 

Autopsies are being performed on the bodies of the four officers to determine the exact cause of death. However, one police official said the rebels threw bombs into the police compound that caused smoke and blinded and suffocated the victims. The Bogota daily newspaper, "El Tiempo" quoted one official as saying the victims' bodies showed no wounds from gunfire or shells. 

If it is determined that they were killed by poison gas, this would reportedly be the first ever use of chemical weapons in Colombia's nearly decades-old guerrilla war. 

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