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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Sept. 6, 2004, Vol. 4, No. 176
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Ex-president sucked into growing Caja scandal
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Ricans were stunned over the weekend as the widening scandal involving the medical and social agency enveloped a former president who still is a leading politician.

The latest to be caught up in the scandal is Rafael Ángel Calderón Fournier, who was president from 1990 until 1994. He resigned as an official of the Partido Unidad Social Cristiana Sunday a few hours after a judge ordered that he not be allowed to leave the country.

Also Sunday, agents from the Judicial Investigating Organization and prosecutors from the Ministerio Público executed at dawn a search warrant on the downtown banking offices of BAC San José.

The new aspect of the scandal involved a payment of more than $400,000 from a Panamá corporation operated by a major drug supplier into a second Panamá corporation run by the Calderón family.

This is the same scandal that led to the imprisonment of the former executive director of the medical and social agency, the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social. The Caja provides most of the public medical care in the country and also provides pensions.

The scandal has been growing since late April when the Spanish-language newspaper La Nación revealed that the executive director, Eliseo Vargas, was living in a sprawling Santa Ana home that actually was owned by an official of the drug company, Corporación Fischel.

Joining Vargas in preventative detention were Walter Reiche Fischel, the executive president of the company, and Rándall Vargas Pérez, the company’s lawyer.

After Vargas came under fire, the then-board of directors of the Caja used public money to take out newspaper advertising in his support. That led to allegations of misusing public funds which put them under investigation.

Then there were other allegations generated by a group of experts asked by President Abel Pacheco to look into the operations of the Caja.

The latest revelation came Saturday by Channel 7, Teletica. The news station disclosed the relationship between Harcourt Holding, a Panamanian corporation headed by Reiche, and Sultana Panamá S.A., a Panamanian corporation headed by Calderón.

The television station said that $440,500 was transferred from Harcourt to Sultana and that the money was part of an $8 million commission that Reiche and Harcourt got for negotiating a contract between the Caja and a company from Finland.

The deal with the government of Finland was for $39.5 million loan that was used to purchase medical equipment from Finnish companies. The deal had to be approved by the Asamblea Nacional, which did so in December 2001.

Sunday the same television station outlined a series of transactions involving bearer bonds that were cashed by various associates of Calderón, including his wife, via BAC San José, the former Bank of San José.

The widening scandal has many implications. Caderón is of the same party as President Pacheco, and used his political weight to get Pacheco elected. And Pacheco was a legislator when the loan with Finland was approved.

Calderón's departure from the political party leadership will be for as long as he is being investigated.

Despite the complexity of the transactions and the lack of specific criminal charges, the average Costa Rican seems to be well briefed on the situation. Nearly all are attended at Caja Hospitals and are either receiving or expect to receive a Caja pension.


 
Who are you backing this year in the U.S. presidential race?
Who’s your candidate? Bush or Kerry? 

A.M. Costa Rica is open to letters from readers stating political opinions. Because overseas voters have to file early, September is the perfect month to present such views.

Try to hold your praise or condemnation to 350 words. Sign your full name and also include your hometown. Send them HERE!

We will publish them as space is available. 
BELOW are some today. 

 

 
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Marijuana plantation
is harvested by cops

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Anti-drug police located and destroyed more than 61,000 marijuana plants near Río Madre de Dios and Río Hondo de Siquirres on the Caribbean slope, they reported.

The action was announced Friday. Officials said the quantity of marijuana was enough to produce 28,000 kilos of processed marijuana or 112 million cigarettes. That would put the street value of the marijuana around $10 million.

The plants were about eight feet tall, officials said.

Agents of the Policía de Control de Drogas were joined by the Servicio de Vigilancia Aérea of the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública. The areas had been kept under surveillance since their discovery last week. 

Officers had to walk three hours to reach the site and confronted a number of poisonous snakes en route, said officials. The operators of the marijuana farm are still unknown, officials said.

New dike to help
protect two towns

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Every time there is heavy rain, newspapers are filled with photos of flooding and displaced residents, mostly on the Caribbean slope.

But some 3,500 residents of El Carmen and Cocal de Siquirres have a little more protection from flooding. A $310,000 dike project was inaugurated there Friday.

The communities are on the banks of the Río Reventazón, which frequently is in the news, particularly in December 2002 when the two communities were flooded out.

New book features
traditional music 

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Composer Luis Castillo spent 25 years finding and transcribing traditional Costa Rican music. The result is a new book "La música más linda de Costa Rica."

Although the book is in Spanish, two CDs and a video also are available. The work will be presented to the public Thursday by the Ministerio de Cultura, Juventud y Deportes. 
 

Free trade barriers
topic of seminar

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Standards and technical barriers to free trade will be the topics at a regional seminar that begins today and runs through Thursday at the Hotel Radisson in north San José.

The seminar is sponsored in part by the U.S. Agency for International Development.
 

U.S. Embassy closed

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Today is Labor Day in the United States, the traditional end to summer.

Because the day is a legal holiday, the U.S. Embassy here will be closed as will its consular operations.

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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What to say when the promises are flowing freely
Del dicho al hecho hay mucho trecho.

"It’s a long way from what one says to what one does."  We use this expression to illustrate how some people promise things, but it takes them a long time to carry out those promises, if, indeed, they do so at all. This brings me back to one of my favorite topics; our roads in Costa Rica. The government promises to do something, but results are very long in coming, if they ever come at all.

Since I was a kid — and that was a long time ago — I have been hearing about the Costanera Highway. But the last time I drove from Quepos to Dominical, about four months ago, it was one of the worst roads I have ever been on, almost as bad as the Arenal-Tilaran road around Lake Arenal. Even in our 4 X 4 it was slow going.  I seem to remember way back when the government was saying that by the year 2000 the Costanera would be done. What a never-ending trecho this promise has turned into!

There’s an expression in English that goes something like "The road to Hell is paved with good intentions." I think that "Del dicho al hecho hay mucho trecho" has something in common with the sense of this English saying.  Another English 

The
way we say it

By Daniel Soto

expression that has a similar meaning is "Put your money where your mouth is." In other words, just shut up and do something!

Next time someone promises you something that you would really like to see happen, but you have your doubts about it, that’s the time to employ today’s saying Del dicho al hecho hay mucho trecho. In short, just do it!


 
Oneida Nation calls on Berlitz to save language
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Off and on for 25 years, elders of the Oneida Indian Nation of about 1,000 people in New York State have tried to teach the ancient Oneida language to their children. The young people have learned enough for rituals, and not much more. 

Only about 150 true Oneida speakers remain in the tribe's three enclaves in the United States and Canada. So, the Oneidas are taking a drastic step to save their dying language.

As anyone who's tried to learn a language can tell you, just memorizing lists of vocabulary words doesn't work very well. Oneida young people studied and studied, only to forget most of what they learned when they stepped back into a world awash in English. 

Tribal elders concluded that only serious language immersion would work. They turned for help outside the nation, to the Berlitz organization, which employs its trademark Berlitz Method at 400 language centers in more than 60 countries. 

Richard Van Vliet is the instruction supervisor at the Berlitz office in Rochester. He's developing a textbook and a guide to show the Oneidas how to teach themselves their own language. 

"This language is very difficult, because what they do is incorporate nouns inside of verbs," he explains. "Let's say that I want to say, 'I see the cat.' You take the word 'see' and put 'cat' in between the three letters. You'd have an 's, c-a-t,' and then an 'e-e.' It makes it very difficult to learn."

Brian Patterson is an elder of the Bear Clan, one of four in the Oneida Indian Nation. Patterson says when the government imposed U.S. citizenship on all Indians early in the 20th century, it took Indian children from their homes and placed them in boarding schools where it was forbidden to speak any language but English. 

"A whole generation of our people missed their language," says Patterson. "And so now we're struggling to catch up. I heard a linguist say one time, 'There are no dead languages. They are just sleeping.' The first Oneida word that I learned, I was watching a Saturday-morning cartoon in which these human-looking monkeys were dancing around a fire, yelling 'OH-tuh, OH-tuh, OH-tuh.' And my mother came into the living room. She was just laughing. I couldn't understand why she was laughing at these monkeys yelling 'OH-tuh, OH-tuh, OH-tuh.' Well that's kind of a swear word in Oneida." 

Bear Clan mother Marilyn John took some of the old lessons on the Oneida reserve, recitations that were practically useless in everyday life.

"The language has a different meaning when you speak it to one another than English," she notes. "When we have our ceremonies down at our long house, or our council house, it means so much more if it's in the language than it does in English. Just talking about Mother Earth. You just can't put in English what that means."

Norma Jamieson is a Canadian Oneida and one of the last remaining Oneida speakers. She was a language teacher in the old days, and now she's starting over, the Berlitz way, with lots of full sentences, role-playing, and repetition. Today's lesson: a chair is not just a chair.

"'Chair' is 'uh-NEETS-squah-huh-LUCK-quah' in Oneida. And 'uh-NEETS-squah-huh-LUCK-quah' means, 'You put your backside onto the chair': 'uh-NEETS-squah-huh-LUCK-quah.' And that's what 'chair' means: 'You set yourself on it.' The action involved," explains Ms. Jamieson. 

Sherri Beglin and Sunny Shenandoah are two of the eight Oneidas now learning their own complex language from Norma Jamieson and another instructor. It's not a class. This is their full-time job, all day, every day for a year. They are paid by the tribe to do it, so they're sure to be motivated.

"I've dreamt it. People have told me I'm sleeping when I'm saying it," she says. "There have been a few times, like when I answer the phone or I talk to people, I just automatically speak to them in Oneida without even thinking. I even talk to my cat in Oneida!"

Whenever Sunny Shenandoah's grandmother spoke Oneida as a little girl, she was beaten. Now Ms. Shenandoah has the entire tribe behind her efforts to learn, use, and teach the language.

"The hard part right now is that there aren't many people who speak it," says Ms. Shenandoah. "But I think once we get more and more people speaking it, it'll just grow and grow until everyone can speak English and Oneida. And that means 'it's my responsibility to learn the Oneida language.'"

There is one big disappointment about the language-immersion program so far: only women have signed up. That's partly explained by the culture's matriarchal traditions. The men complain they're too busy with their jobs at the tribe's casino or elsewhere. 

But this Indian nation has devised a clever way to get boys, if not men, interested. Lacrosse is a Native American game that many others have learned, and it's played with a passion on the Oneida reserve. So the newly trained Oneida speakers are helping coaches slip more and more Oneida words into a place where boys are sure to learn them, on the lacrosse field.


 
U.N. seeks investigation of Guatemalan farmers' clash with police 
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The United Nations is calling for an investigation into Tuesday's clashes between riot police and landless farm workers in Guatemala.

Earlier this week, Guatemalan officials said at least seven people were killed when police moved to evict squatters from a farm in southern Guatemala.

The U.N. mission asked authorities to look into 

possible human rights abuses committed during the eviction. 

Prosecutors say authorities excavated a suspected mass grave Thursday, but found no bodies. Peasants have accused police of killing as many as 20 farmers and dumping their bodies into a pit.

The United Nations is also asking Guatemala to look into the alleged kidnapping of a farmer in the same area last year.


 
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More reader views on the U.S. presidential race
 
Send Dems to Costa Rica

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I wonder how long before all the Dems in the U.S. move to Costa Rica. I am always amazed to read all the anti-U.S. and Bush bashing comments in your paper, as well as the other English-speaking newspaper printed in your country. 

Maybe unhappy Americans have acted on the comment " if you don’t like it here, move" and have come to your country. Good! The United States is the greatest country in the world for opportunity and personal freedom. That’s why so many people hate us. 

Just look at Costa Rica in the last week and notice how disrupted your country has been by some lazy good for nothing strikers. It proved to be terrible for tourist and business people alike. 

The land of bribes and dishonest public servants, please keep your arms open and we will continue to send you our Democratic Party members before they redistribute the wealth in our Great Country.

Mike Michael 
Quepos, Costa Rica 


He’s done his best

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I, like many expats living here, am a veteran, and I believe President Bush has done the best he possibly could under the circumstances.  The 9/11 attack was a tragedy that got by the intelligence community.  Some do & that is unavoidable. 

Fact is they are the enemy and if they keep their security tight enough there is little chance of learning their plans.  Actually they were suspected but every possible attack is suspected and nothing concrete was found. 

I was in Vietnam in 1970-71 and I remember the mood of the American people.  I'd say 97 percent were behind us when we came home, but it was the 3 percent that are always there to oppose everything, that were in the airports making the news.  Allow 80 percent silent majority and 17 percent ignored by the media and yes, the news was against us, but the people weren't. 

Sadly, John Kerry was among the returning vets and the 3 percent.  Either he served with an extremely vicious group of sadists who randomly were thrown together with him, the Saint amongst them, or his liberal feelings colored what he saw and what he remembered.  Truth is, if Jane Fonda would've dropped her drawers for me, I'd have sworn we used atomic weapons, agent orange, and high cholesterol to kill NVA! 

Steve Silverman 
Golfito, Costa Rica


Bush '1984' newspeak

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Recall George Orwell's novel 1984. He was off by only 20 years. 

We now have the Republican National Convention and their "ministry of truth."   Bushspeak or rather Rovespeak talks about protecting the country, but the truth is they've played right into al Queda's hands and made us more UNsafe. 

It's now easier for al Queda to recruit. The administration's own experts agree we're less safe. Senior military personnel constantly criticize the administration's actions as counterproductive and reckless. So, in 1984's terms: ministry of truth: we're safer because of Bush. If you say it often enough, it becomes the truth. 

This is just one example of the Rove/Bush "ministry of truth" Other examples are "economy is strong: millions more added to poverty"; "helping working Americans with tax cuts: middle class shares more of the tax burden since tax cuts were for top 1 percent"; "taking care of Americans at home: more are uninsured"; "helping the American worker: giving tax breaks to corporate sponsors of Republicans who ship jobs overseas"; "Osama bin Laden and al Queda caused Sept 11: let's attack weakened-with-sanctions-for-12-years-Iraq because that man tried to kill my daddy"; and don't forget "We're in a war, you can't change leaders midstream: we'll never win this war and will just replace names at will to keep it going forever." 

These are just some examples of the way Rove/Bush is using "1984" as their playbook. Unfortunately, too much of the corporate sponsored news media are just spewing whatever is given to them from Rove/Bush as truth and have not been asking questions of this administration.

Pete Thelen 
Quepos, Cost Rica
He sends us a poem

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

As I am a disabled veteran with inadequate health care here in the States, my wife and I look to Costa Rica as if it is the promised land.  I may be a one trick pony, but I look to see what promises are made and kept.  Despite all the rhetoric that George Bush spouted in 2000 to get veterans to vote for him, the only thing he's done for disabled veterans in the last four years is to create more of us.  I remember him saying "A promise made is a promise kept!" 

My grandmother had a better saying "A man who lies in the daytime will lie in the dark as well."  The United States can't abide four more years on this path. However, I sure wish the Democrats would have picked someone more worthy to run. 

He said

"We’ll be home before next summer." Then he headed out the door. 
His wife and child softly cried as Daddy went to war.
He came back before the springtime underneath a flag.
Just another soldier sent back home in a body bag.

His son watched the funeral and didn’t understand
Why his Daddy had to die for oil and desert sand.
But today becomes tomorrow, and weeks roll into years.
And Daddy’s picture was all he left and Mamma hid her tears.

Because his Daddy was a "hero"- a boy who fell and died-
The son grew up a dreamer, filled with love and pride.
Then, as a man, he raised his hand and swore that he would stand
Go out and fight for freedom in someone else’s land.

He said
"I’ll be home before next summer, Mom."
And wondered why she cried.
As I sit and write this, one thought fills my mind.
Is this what Bush meant when he said "No child left behind"? 

George Silver 
Washougal, Wash.

 
 

Worried about money

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

We need to get rid of Bush before he bankrupts us.

Martha McJunkin 
Bethesda Md.

 

Neither one

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Neither! I’m still waiting for a candidate that is for the people not lobbyists and big business (might be a long wait).

Don Nicks
Florida City Fla.


You can depend on Bush

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I am supporting Bush for President, because you can depend on him and believe his word. Kerry is a rich liberal who switches his words. Owns six palacial homes and cannot relate to the common man. 

I have been to Costa Rica twice and love every bit of it. I look forward to the next trip  Knowing the Costa Rican people as I do, means that they would really like George W. Bush. If some other country interfeared with Costa Rica, Bush would be the first to send help. 

Joe P. Stevens 
LaSalle Parish Homeland Security 
& Emergency Preparedness 
Jena, La.


A vote for Kerry

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

We vote for Kerry 

Alastair and Laura Murray 
Tilaran, Guanacaste

 
Send us
your views!
You, too, can declare your position. Try not to ridcule other writers. But sent your well-reasoned comments to editor@amcostarica.com

 
Comments from our readers on other stories
She sees racism 
in ‘Faces’ Web site

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I visited Faces of Costa Rica, and I am very impressed with Janna's work. Although, I have to say I am perplexed that the West Indian segment of a "Faces of Costa Rica" Web site would exclude photos of the beautiful people of the Caribbean coast and represent them via plantains. 

This is an insult to the West Indian people and the culture they contribute to Costa Rica. What about their history and the growth of three-day Carnival in Limon in October? This just validates that the deeply-rooted racism towards the Caribbean region continues. 

Elizabeth Smith


Ms. Crabb replies

First, I want to thank Beth for taking the time to write with comments about my Web site. I do not/did not have a photograph of the West Indians in Costa Rica, and decided that no photograph was better than putting a picture that did not do the article justice. Unfortunately, the time schedule for the project, and the fact that I don't live in Costa Rica, made it difficult to get information after that fact.

I collected information and did research during the three months I was in Costa Rica, and spent the following two semesters designing the Web site, doing additional research and writing the articles. As I did this, it became clear that were I able to return to Costa Rica before graduation, I would collect a number of additional photographs and interview additional people.

Unfortunately, this was not the case and I had to work with what I had. I discussed pages such as the one you address with my committee members, and they agreed with my decision. Because of copyright issues, and the fact that the Web site was designed for a journalism master's project, I had to be very careful about copyrights. That said, if you know of anyone who would like to offer a photo that I could post (crediting the photographer), I would be happy to post it.

As for the information provided, you are right that it may seem one sided (and probably is). I was not able to spend much time on the Caribbean coast, because my job took me mostly to Guanacaste, which meant that I was dependent on information provided by others. 

When I spoke to Ticos I sensed the same prejudice that you comment on, and did not really trust the information from those sources. Which meant I was largely dependent on books and Web sites (mostly books) which largely focus on plantation life, poverty and racism (at least the ones that I came across). 

I am fully aware that this is not an area I am well informed on, and would appreciate any information that you could give me. The nice thing about Web site is information can always be changed and added!

Thanks again for your interest in my project.
 

Janna Crabb 
Import duty high, too

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Read the article about the scam today.  Just as a matter of fact, in Denmark where I am from, the import duty on cars is roughly 180 per cent. The figures are similar in Norway, so for get about CR being the most expensive car country "in the world," a term too often misused by North Americans — they generally see "the world" as ranging from L.A. to N.Y.  Keep up the good work. 

Henrik Bodholdt 
Tamarindo


She wants world news

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

'Enough already!' 

 "This newspaper set another record in August when 67,351 unique daily readers signed on for their Costa Rican news" was written in Friday’s edition of your online newspaper. They signed on to read the Costa Rican and world news — not just about the U.S. election. 

Am I the only non-American who has had 'enough already'! There wasn't a mention of the terrible standoff in Russia, the hurricanes that have caused damage and that are expected to do much more in the next few days. Nothing about the son of the ex-Prime Minister of Britain, supposed involvement in a coup. Nothing of the French hostages. I am aware that in Costa Rica there is the largest group of 'ex-pats' from U.S. than in any other country of the world, but your readers are not only Americans. Please take us into consideration.

Dorothy Davidson 
Cartago
 

They shoot protestors

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

It is too bad that Kimba Reich  had trouble getting back to the city during the protests. Everyone always has a deathly sick relative in the car. Tell her to try North Korea next time.  They shoot the prostesters on site so that the sick people can get through. One of the reasons I come to Costa Rica is that there is no urgency day after day. As good as it gets!!! 

James Ludlow 
Miami, Fla. 


 
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