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These stories were published Thursday, Sept. 12, 2002, in Vol. 2, No. 181
Jo Stuart
About us
Neither rain nor hail, but rules do slow mail
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Persons who send letters to the United States or get packages from there are being hit with a double whammy.

The Costa Rican customs officials have tightened up the clearance process and many more packages are getting the full treatment, according to James D. Fendell, president of Aerocasillas, the courier firm.

Meanwhile, in the United States, customs officials are delaying the shipment of mail brought in by courier if it already has a U.S. postage stamp affixed, he said.

Fendell said he has spent a lot of time in discussions with U.S. officials because his company is expanding at a rapid rate and now provides courier service to 18 countries.

The firm, like other courier services here, maintains a delivery office in Miami, Fla., where letter mail and packages destined for Costa Rica are delivered by the U.S. Postal service and other delivery operations.

The firm carries the letters and packages to Costa Rica where they eventually are delivered to their addressees. What has happened in the last few months, said Fendell, is that more packages are going through the formal customs process. This slows up the whole clearance procedure, he said, and sometimes his customers have to pay a little more because the firm has to use the services of a customs broker.

In the past, a shipment containing a book might be cleared through customs in an hour,

said Fendell, Under the new procedure, the clearance process might take a day, he said.

Individuals can bring in about $20 worth of goods a day without paying customs duties. Sometimes the customs officials allow items with a declared value of up to $100 through without assessing duties.

But Fendell described the whole process as "very subjective," and said that Costa Rican customs does not follow its own rules.

Nevertheless, he said that the average expat living here could easily bring in a book or two or some CDs without excessive problems with customs. 

The problem with U.S. Customs also is aggravating for Fendell. He said the Customs Service considers letters sent through Aerocasillas to be "remailed" if they arrive in the United States with U.S. postage affixed. "Remailed" material must languish in customs for 48 hours he said. This is presumably a security matter.

The net result is a little slower delivery of letter mail from Costa Rica and a slightly higher charge, perhaps as much as 10 to 12 cents for the customers due to delays in Miami. Some letters have spent five to six days in U.S. Customs, Fendell said, as he wondered what the effect might be for expats here paying monthly bills by mail.

On the other hand, if Aerocasillas affixes the U.S. postage in Miami, the letter sails right through customs because officials there assume that the company has a clear record of where the letter originated, said Fendell.

A tribute from firemen
for the Sept. 11 heroes

Costa Rican firemen blast a watery salute into the sky as a tribute to the New York City firemen who died trying to rescue Sept. 11 victims in the twin towers of the World Trade Center.

There were a series of activities Wednesday, including the dedication of ground for a monument and the inauguration of a photographic exhibit of Ground Zero shots.

See our report:


A.M. Costa Rica photo

Couple held in robbery-murder of U.S. tourist
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Investigators took a young couple into custody Wednesday to face charges that they murdered a U.S. tourist when they invaded a house last January.

The suspects were described as boyfriend and girlfriend. The man, identified by the last name of Alpizar, is 25 years old, said agents. He was captured by investigators in Cinco Esquinas de Tibás about 6 a.m. Wednesday.

Twenty minutes later, agents arrested the 19-year-old girl, identified by the last name of Castañeda, at a home in Río Segundo de Alajuela.

The dead tourist was identified at the time as Steven Ines Hartling, 54, of the state of Maine. He was only in the country a short time when he became involved unintentionally in the home invasion and stickup. That happened in Itiquís de Alajuela early in the morning of Jan. 17. About 1 a.m. a woman who had applied for a position as a domestic showed up unexpectedly and asked to be let into the home.

The occupants thought she was moving some belongings in anticipation of her new job. Instead, she was helping at least one man gain access.

At the time of the murder, police said that three persons pulled off the crime, so the possibility exists that another person might be arrested.

The gunman or gunmen began to ransack the home, but Hartling resisted the intruders, and a gunman shot him in the chest, said agents. He died at the house, agents said.

Alpizar is facing investigation on charges of aggravated robbery, vehicular robbery and carrying a prohibited weapons as well as premeditated murder during the commission of a crime.

The girlfriend is facing investigation for being an accomplice in all of the above crimes.

Agents for the Judicial Investigating Organization said they worked for a long period on the case and used tips and surveillance to identified the alleged robbers.

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Montreal to host
world drug forum

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Canadian city of Montreal will host what organizers are billing as the first World Forum on Drugs, Dependences, and Society, scheduled for Sept. 22 through 27.

Among the many speakers at the forum will be Mary Ann Solberg, deputy director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Organizers said they expect more than 3,000 delegates at the conference from about 50 countries, representing such areas as public policy, social services, academia, the legal system, law enforcement, community services, education, and the health care industry. Their mission will be to find solutions to the growing problem of addiction to both illicit drugs and legal substances, as well as compulsive gambling.

The participants will attempt to lay the groundwork for a concerted effort aimed at prevention and treatment of and rehabilitation from drug dependency. Special attention will be paid to such public health questions as the connection between chemical dependency and the risks of contracting HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases.

Luc Chabot, the forum's general director, said in a statement that more and more people are affected by drug dependency.

"Substance abuse is a major problem that exacerbates all other social problems," he said. The forum, he added, will be an opportunity "to focus on this crisis and to develop avenues of action for a strategy that is truly integrated on the regional, national, and international levels."

Organizers said the forum will provide "a window of opportunities" to promote international efforts to stem drug dependency, such as advancing a United Nations declaration on drug demand reduction, an Organization of American States resolution on compiling good socio-economic data on illicit drug use, and reviewing tobacco issues ahead of a 2003 World Health Organization convention on tobacco control.

A number of speakers will be from Canada, while Latin America will be represented by Augusto Perez-Gomez and Guillermo Castano Perez from Colombia, Lilliam Garcia de Brens from the Dominican Republic, Dagoberto Lima Godoy from Brazil, and Graciela Touze from Argentina.

Chileans remember
Pinochet coup

By A.M. Costa Rica wire services

SANTIAGO, Chile — Chileans have marked the 29th anniversary of the military coup that toppled democratically elected President Salvador Allende and brought Gen. Augusto Pinochet to power. 

Low key ceremonies were held here Wednesday as people remembered Allende, who was deposed in 1973. 

Residents attended services for the estimated 3,000 people who died or disappeared under Pinochet's 17-year dictatorship, according to international news sources.

Unlike past years, the ceremonies took place without any major acts of violence. A small explosion at a water company was reported, but police say there were no injuries, only slight damage and no one claimed responsibility for the attack. 

A march in honor of the victims of political repression during the Pinochet dictatorship turned violent Sunday. Police had to use tear gas and a water cannon to disperse protesters. 

This year's ceremonies were overshadowed by the anniversary of the Sept.11 terrorist attacks in the United States. Chilean President Ricardo Lagos attended a Sept. 11 remembrance ceremony at the U.S. Embassy in Santiago.

Argentines demand
end to crime surge

By A.M. Costa Rica wire services

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — Thousands of citizens have taken to the streets here to protest a crimewave plaguing the country as it struggles to emerge from a four-year recession.

A group of small business owners called for the demonstration, which took place late Tuesday, to press for more security. The group said fear has paralyzed Argentine society, and it appealed for an end to robberies, kidnappings and other crimes. The protest was the second since Friday. 

A steep devaluation of the peso currency and Argentina's default on its huge public debt have forced millions of Argentines into poverty.

Meanwhile, Argentina says it will partially lift restrictions on savings accounts next month in an effort to give depositors more flexibility with their money. 

Roberto Lavagna, economy minister, said Tuesday that the measure will take effect Oct. 1, but that it will apply only to accounts worth $1,944 or less. 

Lavagna said savers will be offered the chance to swap frozen deposits for government bonds and private bank debt. He is quoted as saying the measure will benefit between 60 and 65 percent of all savings account holders. 

Argentina is mired in a severe economic crisis and has been torn apart by social and political upheaval since the banking restrictions were imposed in December. The government froze depositor accounts to prevent a massive flight of capital out of the country. 

Violent protests forced two presidents from office in late December and in early January the government devalued the national currency, the peso. Since then, the peso has lost more than 70 percent of its value. Argentina also has defaulted on $141 billion in public debt. 

The government is currently negotiating with the International Monetary Fund for fresh financial aid. The fund has conditioned future assistance on Argentina's development of a viable economic reform plan.

Feared criminal riots
in Brazilian jail

By A.M. Costa Rica wire services

RIO DE JANEIRO — Brazilian officials say at least six people are feared dead and six others have been taken hostage in a prison riot allegedly started by this country's most notorious criminal. 

Police said the rebellion began Wednesday with the outbreak of fighting between two rival gangs at the Bangu prison here. Authorities suspect that alleged drug lord Luis Fernando da Costa was behind the trouble at the maximum security facility. 

Da Costa is also known as Fernandinho Beira-Mar. Colombian authorities deported him in April of last year after his capture along the Brazil-Colombia border following a massive manhunt. 

Colombian authorities said he regularly traded with leftist rebels there, providing millions of dollars a month in cash and weapons in exchange for cocaine. 

Officials said Da Costa's jailing on murder and drug trafficking charges has not limited his criminal activities. They have released taped cellular phone conversations in which he is allegedly overheard negotiating the purchase of a missile. 

Brazil's prisons are overcrowded and have often been criticized by human rights groups as having some of the world's worst conditions. Inmate revolts are common.

Police step up efforts
in downtown stores

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Christmas is coming. Can a step up in police protection be far behind?

The Ministerio de Seguridad has announced a program to cut down on crimes on the streets and in the stores of the downtown.

Representatives of the Fuerza Pública met with a group of merchants Wednesday night to outline the program. Officials said it was well received.

Police will provide a four-session workshop for employees and workers downtown. A statement from the ministry said that everyone will be welcomed, including those from the most prestigious shops to those who work as bootblacks and newspaper vendors.

Autopista tolls 
will be going up

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Tolls are going up on the major highways.

The Autoridad Reguladora de los Servicios Públicos has agreed to raise the toll on the Autopista General Cañas from 60 colons to 75 colons. That’s from 16 to 20 U.S. cents.

In the Carretera Braulio Carrillo, the toll is going to 250 colons for passenger cars.

The toll for trucks is proportionally greater. the petitioner for the increases was the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transporte.

Foes renew pressure
to oust Chavez

By A.M. Costa Rica wire services

CARACAS, Venezuela — Opposition party demonstrators demanding President Hugo Chavez's resignation blocked roads here Wednesday in various parts of the capital.

Officials said the roadblocks disrupted traffic downtown. They said two major highways were also blocked. 

The scattered protests were held to coincide with the five-month anniversary of the April 11 shooting deaths of 19 people during an opposition-led march.

They get our tourism,
we get their beer

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica will be getting some favorable tourism promotion Dec. 6 in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia and Austria.

That’s when a program called "Travel Mania" airs its first segment, and the featured country is Costa Rica.

A film crew has been here filming most of the main tourist locations. The country was chosen because of its emphasis on sustainable tourism, said a release from the Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores y Culto.

Among the locations filmed were Monteverde, the canals of Tortuguero, Parque Nacional de Santa Rosa, Volcán Rincón de la Vieja and a butterfly farm in Vara Blanca de Sarapiquí.

Intel declares dividend

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

SANTA CLARA, Calif.—  The Intel Corp. board of directors has declared a two-cent per share quarterly dividend on the company's common stock. The dividend is payable Dec. 1 to stockholders of record Nov. 7.

Intel is the world’s largest computer chip maker with facilities in San José.

Pacheco going to Germany

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Abel Pacheco is off to Germany next month to celebrate their Central American Day. Festivities are scheduled Oct. 15, 16 and 17.
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9/11/02 - A day of somber remembrance
A.M. Costa Rica photos
A start and rendering of the 9/11 memorial
James D. Fendell, chairman of the American Colony Committee, prepares to make introductions of Carlos Villalobos, vice mayor of San José, Ambassador and Mrs. John J. Danilovich, the Rev. Jorge Dobles and Susan Tessem, also of the American Colony Committee. They were on the platform for the dedication of a new monument for the victims of the World Trade Center attack.


Vendor William Garita
sells patriotic headgear
handmade by his wife.

The service of a junior fireman is volunteered as
a photo-op for the salavating press crew.


U.S. and Costa Rica united in mourning 
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Wednesday was a day of remembrance in Costa Rica. The shadow of Sept. 11, 2001, hung heavy over the expat community even though most of the day was bright and sunny.

The U.S. Embassy held a family gathering about 8:30 a.m., and Costa Rican President Abel Pacheco was a surprise guest. The embassy flag was lowered to half-staff.

At 9:30 Carlos Villalobos, the vice mayor of San José, and ambassador John J. Danilovich, were the principal speakers at a small park just east of the Centro Cultural Costarricense Norteamericano in Sabana Norte. That’s where a monument to the victims of the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington will be erected.

The funds are coming from the municipality, the centro and the Costa Rican American Chamber of Commerce, which has its building nearby.

The monument, designed by Architect Eddy Morales Barquero evokes the image of the twin towers. The park is shaded by giant trees, but the location still is within easy access for students at the centro.

“A year is time enough to mourn but not to forget,” Fendell told the crowd. “Though almost 3,000 innocent lives were snuffed out that morning, a new flame of defiant dedication has grown to honor those who fell,” said Danilovich.

More than 400 spectators included U.S. citizens and both English- and Spanish-language students from the centro. “God Bless America” capped the ceremony.

The most colorful event of the day was the tribute by Costa Rica’s firefighters. A wreath was placed at the firefighters memorial in Parque Cañas just north of the Pacific Railway terminal.

Danilovich presented firemen here with a U.S. flag that had flown over Ground Zero. Firemen responded repeatedly by cranking up their trucks and letting loose with the sirens.

Susy Moreno, manager of Correos de Costa Rica, presented U.S. officials including Danilovich with framed larger-than-life representations of the Sept. 11 Costa Rican commemorative stamp that went on sale Wednesday.

The principal speaker was Elayne Whyte, vice chancellor. She told the assembled firemen and guests that those who commit an act like the terrorists did Sept. 11, 2001, “deny their own humanity.”

She noted that Costa Rica quickly came forward to support the United States on the day of the attack.

The memorial day concluded with the inauguration of a display of photos of Ground Zero at the Museo Calderón Guardia. The exhibit runs until Oct. 13. The display also includes fliers prepared by families seeking missing members. 

Ceremonies mark an American tragedy
By A.M. Costa Rica wire services

NEW YORK CITY — Americans across the country took part in emotional ceremonies to mark the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks honoring the more than 3,000 people who perished, as well as the heroes who tried to save them. 

During a solemn ceremony at New York's Ground Zero, relatives of those killed at the World Trade Center stood for a moment of silence at exactly 8:46 a.m. local time, the moment when the first of two hijacked planes sliced into the towers. 

Michael Bloomberg, New York mayor, joined with relatives of the victims to mourn their loss. "Again today, we are a nation that mourns," he said. "Again today, we take into our hearts and minds those who perished on this site one year ago."

Rudolph Guiliani, the former mayor who led New York through its darkest hour, began the emotional process of reading the names of the 2,800 people who died in the World Trade Center attack, which plunged the nation into its on-going war on terrorism.

Near Washington, at the newly refurbished Pentagon building and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, the sites where two other hijacked planes crashed a year ago, mourners also observed a moment of silence to pay tribute to those who lost their lives. 

At the Pentagon ceremony, President George Bush looked back at the events a year ago and vowed the United States will win the war against terrorism. 

"What happened to our nation on a September day set in motion the first great struggle of a new century," said Bush. "The enemies who struck us are determined and they're resourceful. They will not be stopped by a sense of decency or a hint of conscience. But they will be stopped."

People across the world are also observing this anniversary, including in Afghanistan where ceremonies were held at the U.S. embassy and at bases housing American troops, who continue to provide security in the war-torn country.

Amid tight security, a number of American 

embassies, most of them in Asia, were closed and Americans around the world were warned to remain especially vigilant. In Washington, Dick Cheney, vice president, was taken to an undisclosed, secure location, a precaution in the event an attack would incapacitate the President. 

The skies over Washington and New York have been put under jetfighter patrol and Donald Rumsfeld, defense secretary, ordered anti-aircraft missile batteries deployed at the Pentagon and other locations — the first deployment of its kind across the nation's capital since the Cuban missile crisis of 1962.

Seperately, Bush said America is recommiting itself to fighting terrorism, as it remembers the victims of the attacks one year ago on the United States. He spoke at a ceremony in front of the rebuilt walls of the Pentagon.

The president's words were somber but firm. "One year ago, men and women and children were killed here because they were Americans. And because this place is a symbol to the world of our country's might and resolve," he said.

"Today we remember each life. We rededicate this proud symbol. And we renew our commitment to win the war that began here," he said. 

The president looked out at the crowd and up at the large flag unfurled on this day, cascading down the rebuilt Pentagon walls. 

It was originally placed by rescue workers over the side of the ruins left behind last Sept. 11 by a hijacked jet that rammed into the building, taking innocent lives.

"The terrorists chose this target hoping to demoralize our country. They failed," he said. "Within minutes, brave men and women were rescuing their comrades. Within hours, in this building, the planning began for a military response."

With the restored walls behind him and an audience of thousands, including the families of the dead, congregated in front, the president sent a message of bittersweet remembrance mixed with resolve. He said the murder of innocent people cannot be explained, only endured, and though they died in tragedy, they did not die in vain.

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