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Jo Stuart
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These stories were published Thursday, Sept. 13, 2001
Bit touchy

A man came
to Banco Nacional
at the foot of Paseo Colon Wednesday, and the guard became nervous because the man was carrying a big backpack and had on camouflage. 

Police came in droves, searched him and let him go. 

A.M. Costa Rica photo
A jittery country continues to cope with terror
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The  country remained jittery Wednesday as the Costa Rican flag flew at half staff, the first of two days of mourning.

The U.S. Embassy announced that business would be as usual today and those persons who had visa appointments when the embassy shut down Tuesday morning could call 900-1-847-2872 to get the visit rescheduled.

Airplanes still were not flying into the United States, and a number of persons, perhaps as many as 500, were stranded in San José or Alajuela. But for the most part, these involuntary tourists remained in hotels and accommodations in and around the airport, waiting for the United States to lift the flight ban.

Workers in some bars and restaurants downtown said they had slightly greater business than had been expected, but there was no crush. One waiter speculated that all the extra tourists were doing what expats and Ticos were doing: spending a lot of time in front of the television.

Despite announcements that the United States would list restrictions on flying by midday Wednesday, only flights that had been sidetracked at the height of the World Trade Center terrorist attack were allowed to travel on to their U.S. destination.

Moncton, New Brunswick, in Canada seemed to be a gathering place for diverted planes. "We have 16 aircraft here, ranging from our own Air Canada, Canada 3000, Air France, Air Martien from the Netherlands, British Airways, TWA, Continental . . . almost 1,800 people," a friend wrote a A.M. Costa Rica reader.

The bulk of the planes in Canada were inbound from Europe when the attack took place. Several flights to the United States from San José were sidetracked to Mexico.

And Canada resumed domestic flights at midday Wednesday, a reader reported.

In the Central Valley, Tom Hoy of Heredia got his answer about donating blood. After spending two days seeking a place to donate blood for the injured in New York and Washington, Hoy reported that what he planned would not be possible. He spent lots of time on the telephone with local health officials and embassy employees. But finally

 a physician at Hospital Cima told him that the U.S. would not accept blood from overseas. The doctor recommended making blood donations for Costa Rica locally.

In New York, Jessica Perez e-mailed her family again and said she was glad to be alive. She was the 18-year-old student who was studying just two blocks from the World Trade Center and wrote a description e-mail to her family at the height of the Trade Center fire.

"I finally was allowed to leave my building at 5," she wrote, "We had to walk through ash and cover our faces with cloths cuz it was so bad outside. They let us leave after the other building (#7) collapsed. Our area filled up with smoke again, and we lost electricity."

She also said that if she wanted to be scared walking the streets of a city she would have moved to the Middle East. "This is just not supposed to happen here. Bueno, I have to get going but just know that I am in a safe place, and, well, one terrorist attack per lifetime is enough for me."

She is the daughter of Juan Manuel Perez Echeverría and Loy Amack de Perez, who now live in Ecuador, and the granddaughter of long-time 
resident here Shirley Amack.

Similar stories abound in the Spanish language press of persons who came close to tragedy in New York but avoid death through circumstances. Costa Rican diplomatic missions there reported no loss of personnel.

A main local concern was the availability of gasoline and what might happen to the price.

For those still with uncertainty about family members, the U.S. embassy released the following telephone numbers:

Assistance for families of victims, U.S. Department of Justice: 800-331-0075.
American Airlines:  800-245-0999. 
United Airlines:  800-932-8555
Red Cross information about victims: 212-604-7285

Some newspapers are beginning to compile lists of the dead and injured, but there were few names available late last night. One such link is:


Coco business owners were concerned before shooting
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Friends and associates of Playa Coco bar owner Roger M. Crouse are trying to get together enough money for an adequate defense fund.

Crouse, 50, a Canadian, remains in preventative detention in a Liberia prison for what appears to be a clear case of self defense. As he said by telephone Tuesday, he is starting his fourth week there.

Friends estimate that his defense may cost from $3,000 to $10,000.

Meanwhile, business owners in Coco, unhappy at what has befallen Crouse, also are upset at police response in general.

Crouse shot and killed a man in his Gaby's Bar the evening of Aug. 19. The man came at him with a knife, Crouse told investigators.

But what has other business owners concerned is that police had been called to the bar earlier, took the man away, yet allowed him to return two hours later to confront Crouse. They see it as one of a string of incidents that suggests weak enforcement of the laws.

Even before the shooting residents were upset, according to Patricia Ciai, owner of Pato Loco Hotel in Coco. She said business owners met with police just three days before the shooting to try and get answers as to why those arrested in crimes are seen walking the street a few hours after their arrests.

"If this goes on,"  said Mrs.  Ciai, "it's like giving 

them impunity." She said there had been incidents where individuals had been caught stealing items from shops in Coco but spent only a few hours in the custody of the local Fuerza Publica

She blamed the distance between the beach community in northwest Guanacaste and the administrative center in Santa Cruz where those involved in the judicial process live and work. Rather than become involved in smaller cases in Playa Coco, the judicial employees tell police to let the scofflaw free, she suggested.

Mrs. Ciai also said that the problem of continual petty thefts is linked to the heavy use of drugs by local people in the beach community. 

Crouse said that his assailant seemed to be under the influence of some kind of substance when he approached menacingly with a knife. The man was Miguel Antonio Villegas Salguero, in his 30s. 

Crouse said that he has seen other Canadians come and go from the jail since he has been there. Two young Canadians spent just four days in prison before their bail was posted, he said. They were there because of a knifing in a bar, he said.

Although a friend has obtained a lawyer, Crouse said he has yet to see the man. And he really does not know why he is being held in preventative custody. 

Some friends suggest that the judge feared that Crouse would flee the country, but he has been here 11 years and has the bar and a limo business in Playa Coco. He is originally from Nova Scotia.

Trip to U.S. was quicker than planned for Ticos
By A.M. Costa Rica staff 

A con man offered residents of the San Carlos area travel to and good jobs in the United States. Then he took their money and abandoned them in and around San José, according to investigators.

Police accused the man of having conducted three such swindles, including two in which he took 50,000 colons ($150)  and one in which he got 20,000 colons ($60).

Investigators located the man whose name was not available in La Uruca last week and detained him.
Investigators said the scam worked like this: 

The con man would take a room in a rural area and 

begin to advertise locally that he could bring people into the United States through Mexico without the need for a visa. He also promised certain employment in a Los Angeles hotel at the rate of $80 a day.

For the paperwork, passport, travel and his efforts the man wanted 80,000 colons ($240). Once he got the money, the man would dump his victim at a likely place in the Central Valley, including Parque Central or Juan Santamaría Airport, and vanish with the money.

According to agents with the Judicial Investigation Organization, investigators are working closely with police in San Carlos and Pérez Zeledón to see if there are other cases of the con being worked there. 

A reader reflects on the horror that came from New York
By Carol Calkins

It is a new day, but it feels very old and historically familiar. In one sense, I am glad that my father didn't live to see what happened yesterday. I am certain it would have broken his heart as it has ours.  To think that so many people have gone through so much past torment to assure peace and a stable lifestyle only to have it rent asunder in this way is beyond comprehension.

I watched literally all day yesterday - transfixed in front of the  television until about 1:45 this morning when I couldn't keep my eyes open any longer. It is so strange to be sitting here in a beautiful, tranquil setting and thinking about the horror at home.  As is the nature of terrorism, it leaves us on the edge of our chairs wondering what will be next.

There was a graphic they replayed over and over showing the four planes' courses. Watching those little images turning and heading back toward their targets was surreal. If there had been any doubt about a mastermind behind all of this, that one little choreographed display of purpose eliminated it.

Those calls from the people aboard those planes were tremendous acts of courage.  I guess once it sunk in that they were going to die anyway, it became a matter of just doing whatever they could. For four planes to be  taken over by men with knives - seems like the other passengers could have managed to overcome them somehow, at least on one of the planes. 

The best was the last when that man called his family and said that they were doomed but that he and two other guys were determined to do something.  And they most likely did prevent the blowing up of the White House.

I keep thinking and hoping that what we imagine to have happened to the passengers before those flights ended was worse than the realities, but that can't be possible.  To be watching out the window as they headed into those buildings or toward the 

A personal view

ground, not to mention whatever hell occurred onboard before that - I can't get my mind around it.

All of those rescue workers and firemen who died . . . Such a comparatively few injured taken to the hospitals . . . Such complete destruction . . . What a terrible, stunning blow.

I kept thinking back to when I was in New York a few years ago and standing on the observation deck of the Empire State Building.  I remember staring at those two twin towers and being so impressed with the entire complex.  Hard to believe that they simply don't exist anymore.

Once we get past this initial shock, surely the positive from all of this hell will be a renewed position on dealing with monster minds of the Middle East.  Surely we won't tip-toe around with them any longer or allow ourselves to be held hostage anymore. They have shown us that there are no limits as to what they are capable of or willing to do, so we should be able to deal with them without any sense of guilt or fear.

As for the governments that have supported them, hopefully they will eventually take away from this the understanding that we clearly hold them culpable and that we will include them in our retaliation unless they ferret out those people and hand them over to us. And even then, we will never be certain that they weren't part of it in a more covert way.  How could we ever trust anything they say?  We have had opportunities before to take a more forceful stand, and each time we have stopped just short of the mark. It left us looking as weak and vulnerable as we obviously were, and it left the door standing open for what has transpired.

Let us pray for wisdom.

Carol Calkins lives in La Fortuna


Four face
In Jacó
drug bust

Investigators arrested four persons they said were major distributors of cocaine paste in the Jacó area.

Arrested in a sting operations Tuesday were Tony Bravo Diaz, 28, Luis Barquero Gonzalez, 44, German Molina Figueroa, 29, and Marvin Jímenez Salazar, 21, according to a statement from the Judicial Investigations Organization.

Investigators said they set up a purchase with the four men at a restaurant in Jacó of a quarter kilo of cocaine paste in exchange for 750,000 colons (about $2,250). 

After the deal was completed, police arrived and arrested the suspects, according to investigators, who then found a quarter kilo of cocaine paste divided into two packages in a vehicle nearby. 

Police said they had been investigating for eight days.

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