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(506) 223-1327              Published Monday, Sept. 17, 2007, in Vol. 7, No. 184           E-mail us   
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Her word rules, and he goes to jail
Some women swindle with domestic violence law

By Garland M. Baker
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Women are kicking their mates out of the house in record numbers in Costa Rica.  Some of them are enjoying it and using the law designed to protect women against domestic violence to swindle expats.  Many expats come to Costa Rica in search of a relationship and end up shooting themselves in the foot by making bad choices.

Police in Heredia say women are abusing Law 8589 Article 7.  The article states, “In order to protect the victims, they will be able to request, from the start of the complaint, the protective measures contemplated in the law against domestic violence, as well as the necessary precautionary measures foreseen in the penal code of procedure.”

Yes, an expat male — or any male in Costa Rica for that matter — can be tossed out of his own home by his wife or girlfriend by merely having a complaint filed against him by the woman if she says he was being abusive.  Abusive, as it stands today, can mean anything, including just raising one's voice. 

Two weeks ago a woman put her expat boyfriend in jail all night when he raised his voice to her adult son — he is over 18 years of age — for popping bubble pack and painting satanic symbols on the wall. The son, who has tested positive for drugs in the past, became vocally abusive, so the expat called 911.  When the police arrived, the girlfriend and her son asked the police to take the expat to jail.  Officers did so without question.  The woman also said that he struggled with the son and bumped into her.

The man who was jailed is the legal owner of the home.

The girlfriend took a coat to the expat that night because it was very cold in Heredia.  Either she had a guilty conscience or she was looking for information.  While at the jail, she spoke with the police, and they gave her pointers on what she should file with the judge the next morning in court.

In the morning, the police escorted the tired man from his jail cell to the court.  He was lucky, he had a cell phone, and the police let him use it in the patrol car.  He called an attorney who met him at court. 

The judge told the man that the police would take him to his own house where he could pack two suitcases of essentials but that he had to vacate his home immediately.

A police officer escorted the expat and his attorney into the house.  While the retired man gathered his belongings, the police officer told the attorney that throwing men — mostly foreign men — out of their homes in Heredia was their daily routine.  He said they use to chase robbers and other bad people, but now they were bored because mostly they just deal with domestic violence cases.  The police officer further said: “Women in Costa Rica are taking advantage of this new law. They throw out their boyfriend and then steal their things and leave.”

Other women do not leave.  They start court cases against expats for damages or palimony to wear them down to get a payoff.  The lucky ones get  off with the women taking a few TV sets and the
women kicking
Get out of the house!

home computers.  At least in these cases the expat can move back into his house.

When the girlfriend does not leave the home, expats have a serious problem.  They have to file other court cases to get the unwanted tenant out of their house.  These processes can take months to years.  Usually, domestic violence injunctions — called medidas here — are for six months.  Normally, a judge will not rescind a medida, and the frustrating part is that no one takes an accused man seriously.   In most cases, the medidas expire before a judge ever makes a decision.

In this case, that of the expat put in jail and thrown out of his house, the man is staying in a hotel.  The girlfriend and her son used the words, “my husband” and “my stepdad” in their court complaint.   But, in fact, they have no legal relationship with the man. This case looks like it is going to be a long one.   The expat feels frustrated and helpless.  He may just pack up and leave Costa Rica. 

Women taking advantage of the law for their  personal gain overshadows the reason the laws were passed in the first place.   Many women and some men have died because of domestic violence situations.  Some 25 to 30 women die a year on average.  There are around 30,000 domestic violence complaints filed a year.  A University of Costa Rica study said 58 percent of women interviewed in a survey experienced some kind of physical or sexual violence in the past 16 years.

However, there are no firm statistics on how often women use the new laws to end a relationship and take the possessions a man must leave behind. The law, of course, only protects women. A man cannot use this law to get an abusive woman from the home.

Garland M. Baker is a 35-year resident and naturalized citizen of Costa Rica who provides multidisciplinary professional services to the international community.  Reach him at  Baker has undertaken the research leading to these series of articles in conjunction with A.M. Costa Rica.  Find the collection at  Copyright 2004-2007, use without permission prohibited.

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Myth-busting movie promised
for Speaker's Forum Tuesday

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Sam Butler promises a myth-busting documentary movie Tuesday for the next edition of The Speaker's Forum.

Butler is presenting " Zeitgeist," a movie that seeks to demolish three myths. The first myth is that of the Dec. 25th birth of Jesus Christ. The movie shows that a number of other individuals presented as divine predate Jesus and share the same birthday. Horus, for example, the Egyptian god with the head of a bird, was born of Isis on Dec.25, according to this movie.

The second part of the movie, according to Butler, says that the official story of Sept. 11, 2001, is a myth and it will be exploded by Michael C. Ruppert (author of “Crossing the Rubicon — The Decline of the American Empire at the End of the Age of Oil”), Theologian Professor David Ray Griffin (author of “The New Pearl Harbor” and 24 other books), Webster Tarpley, historian and co-author of the unauthorized biography of George H. W. Bush (1992), and author of the recent  “9-11 Synthetic Terror: Made in U.S.,” and others.

The Federal Reserve System and the U.S. Internal Revenue Service comes in for scrutiny in the third section of the movie. Butler said that the documentary claims the 16th Amendment was never properly ratified by the U.S. states, and even if it were, wage earners and salaried persons weren’t covered and don’t have to pay income taxes.

The movie starts at 6:45 p.m., and Butler suggests that guests arrive at the Escazú location by 6:15 or 6:30. For more information call 289-6333, 821-4708, or 289-6087. Entry is 1,000 colons, a bit less than $2.

The Speaker's Forum is an effort by Butler and others to provide a place for discussions of topical issues for the expat community.

Credit card suspect falls
into hands of tourist police

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Policía Turística grabbed a man Saturday, who officers say, ran up $140,000 on a stolen credit card.

The man was identified by a store owner in downtown San José when he made a second round of purchases using the same credit card, they said.

The man was identified by the last names of Arteaga Aguilera by the Ministerio Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública.  They said he was Colombian.

The owner of the credit card had filed a complaint more than a week ago.  Arteaga Aguilera was carrying new tennis shoes and other newly purchased items when he was detained, officials said. They also said that he had in his possession sales slips for all the items purchased with the stolen credit card.

Tourism police are on patrol in the center of the city.

Honduran ambassador dies
of apparent heart attack

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Marco Antonio Hepburn Collier, ambassador of Honduras to Costa Rica, died Friday afternoon of an aparent heart attack while he was traveling to participate in independence day activities.

The ambassador's driver took him to Hospital San Juan de Dios, where he was pronounced dead a short time later. The ambassador had been working here for a little more than a year. His body was returned to Honduras Saturday.
Police sweep nets six
in downtown San José

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Police and judicial agents conducted a sweep of the San José downtown over the weekend and made six arrests.

A man with the last names of Linch Myne was jailed for three months to face an investigation for robbery. A woman who has the last names of Segura Vargas also was detained as a robbery suspect.

Two men were held on marijuana possession charges and two more were held for other reasons, one for a disturbance allegation and another for failing to pay child support.

Restaurant worker burned

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A kitchen employee suffered serious burns when a cylinder of gas exploded Saturday at the Machu Pichu restaurant in Escazú. A second man suffered lesser injuries. The most seriously injured victim went to Hospital San Juan de Dios.

Heredia man dies in Jacó surf

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A man drowned in the surf at Jacó Saturday when he was trapped in an ocean current. The man was identified as a resident of Heredia. Lifeguards reported an unsettled condition of the sea and said they had made many saves over the weekend.

Two quakes rattle Parrita

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two small earthquakes took place in the quake-prone central Pacific Sunday. The first was at 5:30 a.m., and the second took place four hours laters. Both were less than a magnitude 4.0. The location for both was about 7 kms (4.5 miles) southwest of Parrita on the Pacific coast.

Telecommuting project planned

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad says that it will conduct a six-month pilot project starting in October that lets 20 employees at the Sabana Norte headquarters work from their homes. The plan will be evaluated at the end of six months. The communications company is trying to involve productivity and quality of life, it said.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Sept. 17, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 184

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There was no violence at any independence observance
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The independence holiday ceremonies took place without any violence Friday and Saturday.

Government speakers in Cartago were heckled continually by young people who expressed their opposition to the free trade treaty with the United States. The evening ceremony included receiving the torch of liberty that had been carried from the Nicaraguan border by a relay of school children.

President Óscar Arias Sánchez was the principal speaker. In fact, he attended both the Friday evening event and a Saturday morning observance in San José. Both times he used crutches because he is suffering from an inflamed Achilles tendon in his right foot.

The Fuerza Pública showed up at the independence ceremonies Friday without weapons. Some 60 women police officers were put in the front row to be a calming influence on protesters.

Arias has been plagued by vocal protesters for months at public events. Last week the government changed its policy of trying to exclude disruptive individuals from official events. Officials said that every citizen has a right to attend independence celebrations.

The Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones sent observers to the Cartago event in anticipation of trouble. Many parents kept their children away from the ceremony in anticipation of trouble.

The only disruption that demanded police action took place in the northern San José suburb of Moravia Saturday, and the cause seemed to be alcohol instead of political views about the free trade treaty. Two policemen were injured and 15 persons were arrested after a street brawl. Municipal officials closed down a local bar, although the bar operator said that his customers were not involved in the street incident.

In Cartago Arias delivered a message of unity through the whistles and jeers. Then he allowed a Special Olympic athlete to light a cauldron with the torch of liberty. In all, eight Special Olympic athletes were honored. They will compete in a world event representing Costa Rica in  Shanghai, China, this summer.
Arias at Monumento nacional
Casa Presidencial photo
President Óscar Arias delivers his message Saturday at the Monumento Nacional, which depicts the Central American nations driving out 19th century filibusterer William Walker.

At both the Cartago evening event and the San José ceremony Saturday, Kevin Casas, the second vice president of the country, was absent. His is in political Siberia because he helped author a memo calling for a more aggressive effort in the campaign to get the free trade treaty passed. His memo became public, and the campaign against the treaty has been getting a lot of milage by criticizing it.

The independence day also was marked by parades both Friday night and Saturday all over the country. It was the nation's 186th birthday.

Memo by Casas is classic case of Echar más leña al fuego
Echar más leña al fuego.
“To throw more wood on the fire.” This dicho of course means the same in English as in Spanish, which is “to heat things up,” usually more figuratively speaking than literally.
I was especially reminded of today’s dicho last week when the big scandal broke in Costa Rica over a memorandum apparently written by Kevin Casas, the second vice-president of the country, and Fernando Sánchez, a member of the national congress and cousin of the president of the Republic, Óscar Arias.
The memorandum has to do with tactics to be used in the campaign in favor of the adoption of the TLC (CAFTA in English, or the Central American Free Trade Agreement with the United States).
The headlines in La Extra read “El Si echo al Vicepresidente Casas de la campaña a favor de TLC.” Of course the word echo, as applied here, means that he was “thrown out,” or in other words “fired.” Mr. Casas claimed, however, that he was only stepping down from his leadership position with the “Vote Yes” campaign. Be all that as it may, Mr. Casas' memo certainly did indeed throw a lot more wood onto the fires of controversy surrounding the ratification of the trade agreement.
The scandal has erupted because the memorandum in question outlines a campaign that employs scare tactics designed to compel people to support passage of the TLC out of fear of some rather dubious consequences if they do not, rather than simply supporting the treaty on the basis of its merits. The most interesting thing about this whole sordid business is that Mr. Casas' memorandum reveals what appears to be part of the established official strategy of the pro TLC camp.
The memorandum was sent anonymously to the weekly Semanario Universidad, quite possibly the only newspaper left in Costa Rica willing to publish anything casting the TLC in an unfavorable light. However, before publishing the memo Semanario Universidad contacted its authors asking them for explanatory comments. The only response was that the memorandum was intended to be a private and confidential communication between its authors and its recipients, which included President Oscar Arias.
The memo favors exploiting primarily the following four fears:

1.) Fear that YOU will lose your job. (Questionable at best)

2.) Fear that “democratic institutions are under attack.” (Much media attention has been focused on perceived “threats of violence” from the anti-TLC side.)

3.) Fear of foreign (i.e. Venezuelan and Cuban) influences in the campaign to defeat the TLC. (So far this has been shown to be totally unfounded)

4.) Fear of the effects of a NO vote on government. (Whatever that means)

way we say it

By Daniel Soto

The memo goes on to recommend “sowing resentment” against leaders of the “Vote No” movement like, for example, focusing on the common complaint — not without a kernel of truth I hasten to point out — that union leaders “earn a lot of money and do nothing.”

Of course, such accusations could never possibly be leveled at the scores of saintly politicians who have lined up in support of TLC. (yeah, right!)

But the worst — and possibly even illegal — tactic is to tell citizens the out and out lie that their town or village will not be eligible for government funds if they don’t vote yes on TLC.

Now the people from the “Vote Yes” side say none of this has been implemented, but a lot of this stuff will sound pretty familiar to anyone who has been following the words and deeds of the “Yes” campaign in the run up to next month’s public referendum on the trade agreement.

Vice President Casas has stepped down from his position as minister of planning in the Arias administration. Both President Arias and his brother Rodrigo, who is minister of the Presidencia, have sought to distance themselves from the memo and have made statements condemning it.  But, like Lady Macbeth, they’re finding it rather difficult to remove the persistent stain of guilt by association.

What really bothers me most, now that all this dirty laundry has been aired, is that many Costa Ricans now say that they will vote against the TLC because of the scandal rather than because they understand the treaty and do not believe it to be in the best interests of their nation.

The paradox here, of course, is that who, even among those that have actually read this dense, murky, often equivocal and imprecise document, can actually say they understand it?

Still, Costa Rica is the only country to actually approach the ratification of the TLC in a truly democratic fashion. Nowhere else has this treaty been submitted to a public referendum in which all citizens have the right to register their approval or disapproval of it.

For this fact alone Costa Ricans can be justifiably proud regardless of the outcome of next month’s vote.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Sept. 17, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 184

Panamanian politico's murder indictment threatens trade deal
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

U.S. officials are raising pressure on Panamá after its national assembly named as president a man who was indicted in the United States on murder charges. Officials say the issue may jeopardize approval of a free trade deal between the two nations.

The U.S. State Department spoke out earlier this month when Panamanian lawmakers selected Pedro Miguel González to lead the country's national assembly. A spokesman said the government was disappointed at his election, and noted there is an outstanding arrest warrant in the United States for González because of his alleged role in the 1992 killing of a U.S. soldier in Panamá.

Thursday, U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutiérrez also raised the issue while leading a congressional delegation to Panama City for talks with President Martin Torrijos about a pending free trade deal. Gutiérrez said the González election is a new problem that needs to be addressed, adding it was up to Panama's government to decide how to resolve it.

Some U.S. lawmakers said González's role as top lawmaker could lead them to delay approval of the free trade deal or block it altogether.
González has denied any role in the shooting of Army Sgt. Zak Hernández Laporte and the alleged attempted murder of another U.S. soldier in Panamá. The attack took place during a visit by former president George H. W. Bush to the Central American nation. A Panamanian court acquitted González of similar charges 10 years ago.

Former State Department official Peter DeShazo, who was in Panamá at the time of the killing, said the outstanding arrest warrant against González has remained on the bilateral agenda for years.

"This is an issue that is important to the United States because Zak Hernández was a member of the U.S. armed forces. And it's been a long-standing issue that has gone unresolved," he said.

DeShazo said there was strong support in Congress for the trade deal with Panamá before González was named to the national assembly post.

U.S. lawmakers are considering the Panamá trade deal, as well as similar agreements with Colombia and Perú. U.S. officials say the deals will help American exporters by cutting duties on their products to the three nations. They say 90 percent of imports from Colombia, Panama and Perú already enter the United States duty-free.

Hugo Chávez reports that he got a message from Colombian rebel leader
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez says he received a new message from Colombia's largest rebel group as he mediates a standoff between the leftist rebels and the Colombian government.

Chávez said the message received Friday is from Manuel Marulanda, the commander of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia. He did not reveal the details of the letter.
The Venezuelan leader is trying to secure an exchange of rebel-held hostages for imprisoned rebels.

He says he is ready to meet with a rebel representative to accomplish that goal.

The rebels' hostages include soldiers, police officers, French-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt and three Americans. A Colombian senator, Piedad Cordova, initially asked Chávez to act as a mediator, a role that Colombian President Álvaro Uribe later approved.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Sept. 17, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 184

Woman's World Cup is reaching record number of viewers
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The fifth Women's World Cup in China is being broadcast to a record number of viewers around the world.

China hosted the inaugural Women's World Cup 16 years ago. At that time, 12 nations competed, with the United States winning the title. But football fans following that team and the others often had to wait about a day for game results to appear in newspapers.

This year, the 16-nation tournament is being viewed live on television by millions of people around the world. At the same time, Australian coach Tom Sermanni says the players are very aware that their efforts are being noticed.

"We have been getting a lot of the feedback in the press, telling us the kind of fan publicity we have had back there and how positive it has been," he said. "And I think that is a great thing about our team. They are very conscious of about how they do things, and about their image and about women's football. And I think they are great ambassadors for women's football in Australia."

The 32 matches of the Women's World Cup are available in
200 territories on six continents. Broadcasts have increased 25 percent from just four years ago.

In Germany, viewership for the opening game in Shanghai when Germany beat Argentina 11-0  equaled what would be expected for a major European Champions League men's match, about 20 percent market share, or 2.2 million viewers. Japan with 20 percent and Sweden with 57 percent also posted very high market share numbers.

When asked about tournament coverage in his nation, North Korean coach Kim Kwang-Min said he expects it will attract more fans for his team's final first-round game Tuesday against Sweden in the Chinese city of Tianjin.

"We are sure more fans from the DPRK will come to join and to cheer the team up in the valley of Tianjin," said the coach.

The Federation Internationale de Football Association is also offering free live broadcasts on the Internet of all matches in selected territories. Free two-minute highlight videos are also available across the world shortly after the final whistle of each match. The Women's World Cup concludes Sept. 30 in Shanghai.

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