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(506) 223-1327        Published Monday, Sept. 25, 2006, in Vol. 6, No. 190       E-mail us    
Jo Stuart
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Supermarket shoppers make easy targets for thieves, defensora finds
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Just because there may be a guard at the door does not mean you are totally safe. The defensora de los habitantes learned this lesson Saturday when a
thief stole her purse in an Escazú supermarket.
The defensora is Lisbeth Quesada, who lost an estimated 300,000 colons (about $575) when someone took her purse. Also gone were cellular telephones, credit cards and personal papers.

A reporter found that supermarkets are a good hunting ground for thieves a month ago when a man reached into her purse and tried to steal her wallet as she,

herself, reached for a product on the supermarket shelf.
She described the man as slender, well dressed and fast afoot.

The man dashed out of the south San José supermarket when the reporter caught him with his hand in her purse. She grabbed his hand.

The reporter also said that supermarket workers made no effort to stop the man despite her screams. The man breezed right by employees who made no effort to detain him.

There are no statistics exactly how many thefts take place in supermarkets. However, shoppers frequently are preoccupied with prices and products and become good targets.

Not even clear is if Defensora Quesada reported her theft, although she was able to get some of her possessions returned. She called her own cell phone and spoke to the thief. Later the purse was returned minus money and credit cards.

The defensora is the nation's ombudswoman and draws attention to social problems.

Populist Chávez begins to generate concerns among elite here
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The intemperate speech by Venezuela's president, Hugo Chávez, at the United Nations last week drew a rebuke Sunday from La Nación, the nation's leading Spanish-language newspaper.

In an editorial, the newspaper called Chávez a threatening buffoon, the new supreme anti-Yanqui and a threat to the security of the hemisphere. The newspaper frequently reflects the thoughts of top politicians.

The newspaper editorial said that Chávez had insulted U.S. President George Bush in the U.N. speech. Chávez called Bush the Devil. But this was not what worried the La Nación editors.

They noted that Chávez has cultivated alliances with some of the most dangerous and dictatorial regimes in the world and has embarked on an armament plan that has grave implications for South America.

The newspaper noted that Chávez was consolidating his authoritarian regime in Venezuela.

Chávez has long been criticized, principally by the United States, for cracking down on a free press and those who would oppose him in elections. One organization and its leaders face treason charges because the group accepted money from the United States to promote democracy.

La Nación noted that Chávez has directed diplomatic efforts towards Russia, China, Belorussia, Vietnam, North Korea and Iran in the last few months and that he made a $3 billion arms deal with Russia.

Chávez supports the nuclear intentions of Iran and has threatened to acquire such technology himself, the newspaper said.

His actions and his praise of groups such as
Hezbollah are more than bravado, pretensions of greatness or seeking conflict with the United States. His actions represent a clear risk for South American stability for all the countries of the area, except perhaps for Evo Morales, the president of Bolivia, who seems to be a Chávez ally, said the newspaper.

Latin nations need to reevaluate their relations with Chávez and not support his efforts to a seat on the U.N. Security Council, said La Nación, adding that Latin nations should support the independent sector of Venezuela or regret that they had not later.

Venezuela is awash in oil revenues, and the vision of Chávez having access to nuclear bombs sends the shivers through the Bush administration.

Many in Latin America praise Chávez as a successful populist leader.  Even some U.S. expats wrote e-mails last week praising his insults to George Bush. However, the more astute politicians recognize that Chávez is erratic, and reports from Venezuela say that many there resent his international pretensions and lack of stress on involving daily life.

The United States claims Chávez is turning a blind eye to drug smuggling by Colombian rebel groups through western Venezuela. And Colombian leaders have had run ins with Chávez over sanctuary to guerrillas.

Chávez would seem to represent those attributes that President Óscar Arias Sánchez has been criticizing at the United Nations last week. Arias is promoting a treaty to keep weapons out of the hands of regimes that do not respect human rights.

Arias was critical of the United States and Russia, but did not mention Venezuela by name despite the seeming over investment in jet planes, tanks and guns. However, Costa Rica hopes to obtain cheap petroleum from Chávez.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Sept. 25, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 190

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Two boats from Costa Rica
figure in drug intercepts

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Ricans figure in two cases of boats containing what appears to be cocaine stopped at sea.

The first case involved the Navegante I, which was detained in waters off Panama. Four Costa Ricans, fishermen from the Quepos area, are in custody.

Saturday Guatemalan sailors caught up with a boat in that nation's waters. On board were three Costa Ricans and a Colombian.

Panamanian officials said the boat there was carrying 621 kilos of cocaine and 34 kilos of heroin.

Guatemala officials estimated that there had been more than 1,000 kilos on the boat they intercepted. But the crew dumped most of it at sea, they said. All that was left was 116 kilos of suspected cocaine, they said.

Trio held on  drug counts
have a short jail stay

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Wednesday night saw the climax of a five-month investigation in Nicoya iniciated by citizen complaints about drug dealing.

The Judicial Investigating Organization agents raided a beauty shop and a bar. They made three arrests and said they confiscated marked money that came from a controlled drug buy and also a small amount of cocaine.

Arrested were two men, 30 and 40, and a woman, 30. They were turned over to the Ministerio Pública, the nation's independent prosecuting agency.

The Judicial Investigating Organization issued a news release and photos of the raid. Agents said both the beauty shop and the bar were being used to sell cocaine.

Friday neighbors in the center of Nicoya where the two businesses are located were furious. A juez de garantías, the first stage judge in a criminal case, released the three persons, even though one of them had been convicted earlier on an unrelated drug trafficking charge, said the Judicial Investigating Organization.

The agency said that the treatment of the suspects is totally under the control of the judge. Neighbors told agents that business would resume as usual at the bar and beauty shop, agents said.

There was no information as to whether the judge simply dropped the charges or released the trio pending further court action.

More Mideastern nations
reach diplomatic accord

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The foreign ministry announced that Costa Rica has resumed diplomatic relations with Yemen, Bahrain and Kuwait.

The original announcement came from New York where Bruno Stagno, the foreign minister, is attending the opening session of the U.N. General Assembly.

The foreign minister announced last week that relations had been restored with Egypt and Jordan.

Arab countries broke off relations with Costa Rica in 1984 when the country decided to locate its embassy in Jerusalem The Arias administration just announced it will move the embassy to Tel Aviv from Jerusalem, a city many Arabs consider occupied territory.

Sagno said from New York that he is continuing discussion with Syria with the goal of resuming relations.

Russian diplomat to visit

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Sergei  Kisliak, a vice minister of the Russian Federation, will visit Costa Rica Tuesday and Wednesday. He is in the foreign ministry.

Among other topics of discussion, Kisliak will discuss Costa Rica's plan for an international arms treaty. President Óscar Arias Sánchez has named Russia as one of the major arms suppliers to the world.

Kisliak has been a spokesman for Moscow in defending its $3 billion arms deal with Venezuela.

Costa Rica has had diplomatic relations with Russia since 1970.

Our reader's opinion
U.S. military medical care
is not like Medicare

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:
Regarding the controversy over TRICARE.
Referencing the letter of  Mr. Jim Young in the Sept. 21 edition, he states that “TRICARE and FMP will continue to pay on an “as billed” using basic Medicare standards.” This sentence explains why retired service members are being DENIED their just due entitlements! 

Mr. Young, we retired service members are not on Medicare, we are under TRICARE (a different system)! Now the question as to why TRICARE is a different system is that it is an ENTITLEMENT granted under the authority of the United States Congress. Since when does the rule regarding the requirement for a retired service member to be enrolled in Medicare part B, allow the deprivation of that entitlement by a contractor to the United States, using Medicare rules? (As I understand it, all TRICARE areas are serviced by private companies contracted to the U.S. government). It appears that the reason that retired servicemen are being denied their entitlements is that we are being treated under Medicare rules, not the rules established by legal authority regarding TRICARE and retired servicemen!

Therefore, who is responsible for this outrage?   This Col. Debra Franco? The TRICARE contractor for Latin America? If, as it appears, retired servicemen are being DENIED entitlements, approved under law, by the Congress of the United States, those parties responsible are possibly opening themselves to legal actions.

In conclusion, let me say that the old saying that if one lives long enough, they well see anything; but this is so unbelievable, and outrageous, that I’m now due for another lifetime of “having seen it all.”

P. Meister
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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Sept. 25, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 190

The double zero can be a much sought individual, too
Más jugado que el doble cero.

“Played more often than the double zero.”
In Costa Rica, like many other countries, we have a national lottery. Some people choose different numbers every time they play, usually basing their choices on this or that hunch they might have at the moment. But others always play the same number on the theory that eventually their lucky number will hit it big. Costa Ricans often play the double zero on the theory that it comes up more often than other digits, and many others simply play it because they think it’s lucky.

Though based upon the frequency with which Ticos play the double zero as their pick in the national lottery, this dicho’s application has a rather interesting twist to it. For example, we often use it to refer to the fellow who has too many girlfriends. The meaning here is that he is the double zero because, like the lottery number, he receives a tremendous amount of attention. Likewise, all the women who are so hopelessly attracted to him are certain that he’s their lucky number — when, in reality, they have about as much chance of landing this guy as they do of breaking the bank at Monte Carlo.

As most regular readers of this column have undoubtedly noticed, I love talking about my family. For one thing they’re a very colorful lot, and for another my job as a writer is made a lot easier because I never have to make anything up! In the case of my relatives, the truth almost always turns out to be stranger, and more interesting, than fiction. They all know that I write about them, and they don’t seem to mind. In fact, they’re rather flattered by it.

When I was a child I adored my older brother Carlos. After I grew up, however, I discovered that he was something of a rogue, albeit a rather handsome and beguilingly charming one, but a rogue nonetheless. At one time he was paying court to more than a dozen women simultaneously, but never with the least intention of marrying any of them. After all, since all of his numerous lady friends took very good care of him, what need did Carlos have of a wife?

Being más jugado que el doble cero, as Carlos certainly was, he considered himself to be a good deal luckier than the average hombre. But one of his lady friends once told me a story of a time when she managed to push Carlos’s luck to the limit. 

It seems that this particular enamorada was not quite as naïve as the others. She had a strong suspicion that Carlos was seeing another woman, so one day she decided to follow him. She tracked him to a downtown San José club where he liked to spend his afternoons shooting pool.

Later that evening he left the club and sped away in his shiny new Mercedes, which, by the way, had been a birthday present from this very lady.

She followed him in her own car as he drove off.  But, since they lived in Barrio Lujan, she figured something was up when he turned in the direction of Guadalupe.

way we say it

By Daniel Soto

But being the doble cero, however, Carlos soon realized that he was being followed and he recognized his girlfriend’s car in his rear-view mirror. So he decide to give her the slip by making a series of sudden turns. But his tenacious lover stayed right on his tail.

Suddenly Carlos got an idea. He turned in the direction of Barrio Otoya and soon pulled up in front of our brother Tonio’s house. He alighted and quickly entered the dwelling just as his suspicious girlfriend pulled up behind the Mercedes.

Hours passed without Carlos emerging from the house. Finally the woman could wait no longer. She got out of her car, walked up to the door and rang the bell. Tonio’s wife answered.

“Where is Carlos?” the girlfriend demanded.

“I’m sorry, he is not here,” Tonio’s wife responded.

“But his car is here. I saw him drive up. Where is he? What’s going on?!”

“Oh, that was hours ago, my dear,” said Tonio’s wife, with a knowing little smile. “He only wanted to park his car here. He left out the back to catch a taxi maybe 30 or 40 minutes ago.”

“Where was he going?” the woman inquired impatiently.

“How am I to know that?” the wife responded, growing a little impatient herself. “I’m only his sister-in-law, not his personal secretary.”

The girlfriend was furious, of course, but there appeared nothing she could do, at least not for the moment.

As for el doble cero, he managed to get away that time, but as anyone who plays the lottery can tell you, no number always wins. Eventually his luck did run out. But Carlos had an uncanny knack for charming his way out of any potentially embarrassing situation, especially where women were concerned. He always kept his trump card up his sleeve: the ace of hearts.

Security ministry staff gets new tool for tracking those with weapons permits
By José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rican law officials have a $50,000 new system to keep track of those who have valid permits to buy or carry a gun.

The system comes from the Organization of American States and is similar to a driver's license process in which unique documents in plastic are created.

The system is now in the hands of the Ministerio de Gobernación Policía y Seguridad Pública, which issues the permits. In addition to purchase and carry permits, the equipment will keep track of weapons and their serial numbers.

In the past, this work was done by hand with paper documents. Now carry permits will contain a photograph of the individual with the permit, fingerprints and a signature.  Fernando Berrocal, the security minister, said the new system will be more secure.

More Costa Ricans each day apply for permits to buy or carry firearms due to what they believe is the deteriorated security in the country.

The system unveiled Friday is the first in Latin America, and there are plans to link systems installed elsewhere in the future with this one. Patricio Zuquilanda represented the hemispheric organization at a ceremony Friday.

What the new permits will look like.

A.M. Costa Rica photos by José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
Fernado Berrocal looks over the new system
Officials said that since January and through August, police have confiscated 1,209 weapons carried illegally, mostly by criminals. Fuerza Pública officers confiscate on the average about six weapons a day.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Sept. 25, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 190

Venezuela's foreign minister says he was threatened at JFK boarding checkpoint
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Venezuela's foreign minister has rejected a U.S. apology for an incident at a New York airport during which he was detained by security personnel.

The envoy, Nicolas Maduro, said Sunday he was detained at John F. Kennedy airport for an hour and a half after he tried to board a flight to Venezuela Saturday. He said police threatened to beat him, and he said he holds the U.S. government responsible. The U.S. State Department said the incident was regrettable and apologized to Maduro and to Venezuela.
The Department of Homeland Security said there was no evidence that Maduro was mistreated at the airport.

Officials said the incident started when Maduro began to complain after he was asked to go through a routine, secondary security screening.

Ties between Washington and Venezuela's anti-American government have been strained in recent years.

Wednesday Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez called U.S. President George W. Bush the devil during his speech to the United Nations.

Japan and Chile reach agreement on an outline of a free trade pact
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Japan and Chile have agreed on the framework of a free trade pact after seven months of negotiations.

Japanese officials say the two countries approved the basic agreement during talks in Tokyo earlier this month. The free trade accord, once finalized, will abolish tariffs for 92 percent of trade between the two countries.

Among Japanese exports to Chile are vehicles and
machinery. Chile is Japan's main supplier of copper, and
 also exports salmon and wine to Japan. The pact is expected to take effect early next year.

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said in a statement Friday that free trade with Chile will ensure a stable supply of natural resources for Japan, and further strengthen the two countries' relationship.

Japan has been pushing for more free trade agreements around the world. Tokyo has signed such pacts with several countries, including the Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia and Mexico.

Fujimori's intelligence chief, Montesinos, sentenced to 20 more years in prison
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The former head of Peru's intelligence agency has been sentenced to 20 years in prison for his role in supplying weapons to leftist guerillas in Colombia in 1999.

Vladimiro Montesinos was found guilty Thursday at a high security naval prison in Lima's port of Callao, where he is already serving a 15-year term for corruption. The court ordered Montesinos and five co-defendants to pay a fine
of about $3 million. Prosecutors say the men arranged to have 10,000 assault rifles delivered to Colombia's leftist rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.

Montesinos still faces a possible 35-year sentence on charges that link him to a paramilitary death squad in the 1990's.

Montesinos was Peru's spy chief during former President Alberto Fujimori's 10-year autocratic rule.

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Jo Stuart
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