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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Sept. 27, 2002, Vol. 2, No. 192
Jo Stuart
About us
A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas
Transit officer Juan José Salas pulls over a truck at the Escazú toll plaza where opportunistic policemen are checking out slowing vehicles.

Transit cops inspect
vehicles at toll booths

By Saray Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Transit policemen are running a checkpoint on the autopista Próspero Fernández  between San José and Santa Ana  where motorists slow down to pay the toll.

Officers have been operating for three days near the Escazú toll booths checking out vehicles for compliance.

Juan José Salas, who was in charge Thursday afternooon, said that officers are checking the weight of trucks and also checking out cars to make sure drivers had their vehicles inspected in the new revision tecnica. Passenger vehicles with license plates ending in 4 or lower should have been examined.

If a transit officer catches a motorist who is in violation of the inspection law, the fine is about $35.

Officials also are there to regulate traffic now that the Ministerio de Obras Pública y Transporte has decided to institute a voluntary 100-colon toll.  The voluntary pay line is the right-hand toll lane. Other lanes are for heavy vehicles and passenger car drivers who just want to pay the 75-colon legal toll.

The mininstry claims that slowdowns at the toll booths were the fault of drivers being unable to produce the new 75-colon toll. The regulating authority refused to let the ministry raise the toll from 60 colons to 100, so the slowdown took place the first day the 75-colon toll was enforced.

In addition to the Próspero Fernández, the toll increases and the voluntary 100-colon toll include the autopistas Florencio del Castillos between San José and Cartago plus the General Cañas autopista west  of town to the Juan Santamaría Airport.

Transit colonel held

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Investigators took into custody Wednesday the official in charge of the transit police in Puntarenas. They identified the man as Col. Antonio Sevilla, the local director.

Agents for the Judicial Investigating Organization said that the man was nabbed in a sting operation in the Casa de la Cultura in the Pacific port town.

Investigators said they arrested the man after he received money from an employee of a car agency. The employee asked the man to use his position to stop several cars whose owners owed money to the agency, investigators said.

The agency has the right to embargo or levy a financial order on the cars, but the transit official does not have any right to charge money for performing his official duties, said investigators in explaining the allegations in the case.

Other investigators said the man had been in the position in Puntarenas for a number of years.

Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart

Finally I can't take it anymore

The war drums are deafening, drowning out the voices for peace and containment. When a German leader gets reelected by talking against war and an American president raises his approval ratings by talking of nothing BUT war, I get depressed. And when I have heard enough accusations about the demonic Saddam Hussein that are never backed up with proof, I despair. 

And when the president of the U.S. says "We must go to war to keep the peace," and a Democratic candidate for the Senate says the U.S. will pay for the war by "growing the economy," I begin to wonder if along with Alice, they have all fallen down the rabbit hole. Thoroughly depressed, I followed the advice of Dr. Andrew Weil and turned off my TV.

I decided to go see a movie instead. And since I haven’t been sleeping well lately, figured I could relate to "Insomnia." I might even get some useful hints. The movie was showing at the Variedades. Fortunately, I had put some earplugs in my purse and had a sweater with me. I like this movie house, but it tends to keep both the air conditioning and sound up high.

"Insomnia" is about a cop who once manufactured evidence to catch a criminal he is convinced was guilty. The cop is played by Al Pacino, whose impersonation of someone who has not slept for a week had me suffering from acute sleep deprivation. The antagonist is a brilliant but crazy killer (a miscast Robin Williams) who has something on the cop. 

The only solution for the so-called "good guy" is to kill the killer. The ending is the only ending possible, but not before some innocent people are dead. I left the movie still depressed. Was this the world writ small? Was "The Sound of Music" showing anywhere?

What could I do to lift my spirits? Like Candide, I could go home and cultivate my own little garden and ignore the rest of the world. My kitchen is my garden. Would I get bored? Would I get fat?

Then my friend Bill White came to my rescue. He was entertaining at lunch maestro Per Brevig, guest conductor of our national symphony next Sunday, and I was invited. At lunch were a group of other music lovers as well as one of the writers currently at the colony. All were interesting and delightful people.

Through the years I have been an onlooker as Bill conceived of the idea of an artists colony, built studios and got it up and running. The colony was established not only to honor his children, Julia and David, but also to offer writers, composers and painters an opportunity to work in an environment where peace is pervasive and war is not an option.

Along with lunches for visiting conductors, Bill is now having gatherings to meet and say farewell to the various artists and experience some of their work. 

These gatherings are becoming regular salons. I have dreamed about having an ongoing salon after reading a biography of Madame Germaine de Stael. A writer and thinker in her own right, Germain de Stael became famous for her gatherings of other expatriate intellectuals, first in Switzerland where she fled during the political turmoil in France in the 1790s, then in Paris, eventually in exile because of her criticism of Napoleon. (What do the French say? "The more things change, the more they stay the same.") 

But how nice it would be to devote myself to attending gatherings of interesting people who will talk about what they are doing, about literature and art, morals and religion, about the way of the world. 

Oh dear, the way of the world must include politics. 

More Jo Stuart HERE!

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THE ART BEAT: Lebanese craft shop
Many foreigners immigrated to Costa Rica to find a future here. There are those who fled their home country due to its bleak social conditions.

In the process, all of these immigrants unconsciously brought the diversity of their culture in their desire to better themselves to a new but unknown land. Their wish offered them peace, security and a successful future.

This is the case of Samir Raghaloul, a young Lebanese Catholic from Hasrum, located in the north of Lebanon. Raghaloul arrived here from a far away land nine years ago, with his father, a carpenter, mother and youngest brother.

Photos and text 
by Saray Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Raghaloul family came to Costa Rica to pursue their life free of the woes of their homeland. They found this country to be more accepting than Lebanon. They opened an Arabic bakery, and then his parents returned to Lebanon. 

People from all cultural backgrounds will identify with the Raghaloul family’s story, no matter where they come from. Like Samir, many immigrants have found it easy to adapt to the Latin culture and have also found new family and friends.

In ancient Middle Eastern history, Ajiram 


was a Phoenician emperor from around 2000 B.C. 

That’s where the name of the new Raghlaloul souvenir shop derives from.

Upon entering the shop, all of your senses will transport you to a magical world. After some browsing, you may decide to bring a souvenir home from your trip, such as Phoenician statues or original Lebanese carpets.

At the very least, you’ll take away the sensation of having been far away from here. If you want to visit and enjoy this art gallery, go to Paseo Colón between Calles 22 and 24.

  A rich inventory

Phoenician statues stand guard

Lavish glasses

Brazilian polls show
left running in front

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

BRASILIA, Brazil — With 10 days to go until Brazil's presidential election, a leftist candidate tops the opinion polls and may win a first round victory with an absolute majority of the votes. 

The focus of the race now is to see who will come in second, and possibly face the front-runner in a runoff election later in October. 

The catchy campaign song for leftist candidate Luiz Inacio "Lula" da Silva invites Brazilians to vote for change. "Only if you want it," goes the song, "then it will happen." 

Da Silva, a former metal worker and union leader known by his nickname, Lula, has stressed the theme of change after eight years of a centrist government that brought economic stability, but low growth. 

Brazil, the world's eighth-largest economy, is still struggling to overcome widespread poverty. About 53 million people, one-third of the population, live below the poverty line and Brazil's income distribution is one of the most skewed in the world.

Luiz Pedone, University of Brasilia professor, said voters appear to want change that will bring economic growth. 

"There is a hope, a need, and demand for change after eight years of the same government. For change of government, change of doing other things that could work better in terms of employment, in terms of making the economy grow, that we have not had in the past 10 years. The average growth has been very little, 2 percent a year, which for a country like Brazil is nothing," said Pedone. 

Opinion polls show da Silva has successfully capitalized on this desire for change, and now leads his three major rivals with around 40 percent of the intended vote.

Some surveys show da Silva could win an absolute majority Oct. 6, an outright victory that would let him avoid a runoff election later in the month with the candidate who finishes second.

This prospect has spooked financial markets that fear da Silva and his leftist Workers' Party (PT) would halt the free-market reforms of the current government. The markets also are uncertain about how Lula would manage Brazil's $260 billion debt. 

As a result, Brazil's currency — the real — has sunk to record lows against the U.S. dollar. 

Analyst Pedone said this reflects uncertainty over the true intentions of the leftist Workers' Party. 

"There is this unknown question about whether the PT is going to be a social democratic [party] playing within the rules of the game in modern, contemporary capitalism or is it going to still be a party that will propose socialism, and statism, etc," he said. 

Da Silva, who ran unsuccessfully for president three times before, has moderated his tone and leftist views in an effort to relieve concerns.

Much of Brazil's business community favors Da Silva's chief rival, Jose Serra, of the governing Social Democratic Party. Serra, a former health minister, has pledged to continue economic reforms and create eight million jobs if elected president.

But opinion polls show him with only 20 percent of the vote. 

Serra's hold on second place is shaky as surveys show a third candidate, Anthony Garotinho, former populist governor, gaining ground. Garotinho, who governed Rio de Janeiro state, is campaigning on the promise to raise Brazil's minimum wage, which is about $55 a month. 

A fourth candidate, Ciro Gomes, of a Workers' Front coalition, was running a strong second in August, but lost much of his support after a series of campaign blunders.

Colombian army claims
life of leftist leader

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

BOGOTA, Colombia — The Colombian army says the commander of a leftist rebel unit blamed for kidnappings and assassinations has been killed in combat.

Officials say Jesus Vargas died Wednesday during heavy fighting near the town of Acacias, south of here. 

Vargas commanded the 54th front of the rebel Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) which is active in the Meta and Cundinamarca departments (states). 

News reports say he was accused of murdering a local priest in 1998. Vargas's death comes one day after the army announced it had captured Fabio Gil, commander of the FARC's 23rd front, in Bogota. 

Last Friday, the army reported killing 200 rebels in a series of air raids on guerrilla camps.

The Revolutionary Forces is one of two leftist guerrilla armies fighting Colombian troops and right-wing paramilitaries in the country's 38-year civil war. 

Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, who met with President Bush at the White House Wednesday, has pledged to crack down on the violence.

Pinochet off the hook
in civil court case

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

SANTIAGO, Chile — A Chilean appeals court judge has thrown out seven lawsuits that accused former dictator General Augusto Pinochet of human rights violations during his 1973 to 1990 rule. 

Judge Gabriela Corti made her decision earlier this week, saying the retired general is mentally unfit to stand trial. The general suffers from dementia and other health problems. 

The seven cases involved human rights violations that allegedly occurred here, 120 kilometers (74 miles) north of Santiago. The plaintiffs say the cases involved the torture, death and disappearance of various leftist opposition figures during the general's regime. 

The ruling follows a similar decision from Chile's Supreme Court in July. The high court ruled that Pinochet's health problems prevented him from standing trial for his alleged role in the so-called Caravan of Death, where opposition leaders were rounded up and killed in the early months of the dictatorship. 

Americas’ first ladies
to hold conference

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

MEXICO CITY, Mexico — Mexican President Vicente Fox and his wife, Marta Sahagun, are hosting a conference here Thursday for the first ladies of the Americas.

Twenty-two of the hemisphere's 35 first ladies are attending the conference, which is focusing on child poverty and looking at creative ways to address the issue.

Among those in attendance are U.S. first lady Laura Bush, Canada's Aline Chretien, Colombia's Lina Maria Moreno de Uribe and Maria Yolanda Ferrer, the secretary general of the Federation of Cuban Women.

New trade benefits for
Latin nations

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The George Bush administration announced Wednesday that Colombia, Bolivia, and Peru will be granted new trade benefits under the renewed and expanded Andean trade preference program called the Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act.

The Act, which was approved as part of the Trade Act of 2002, promotes economic development in the Andean Ridge and provides incentives for non-narcotics production.

The Act, which will include Ecuador once it meets eligibility criteria, renews the Andean Trade Preference Act that expired in December 2001 and provides duty-free access to an additional 700 Andean products, according to a fact sheet released by the Office of the United States Trade Representative.

Once Bush determines that providing preferential access to these new products does not harm U.S. producers, approximately 6,300 Andean products will enjoy duty-free access to the U.S. market under the expanded program.

Colombia estimates that the previous Andean Trade Preference Act generated more than $1.2 billion in exports to the U.S. and supported more than 140,000 jobs. 

Guard shot in Tibás

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A guard died Thursday night when he tried to stop the theft of a vehicle in Tibás. Police at the scene said one man was arrested at the scene.

Fuerza Pública officers said the guard was Leonardo Delgado Carvaja, in his 50s. The body was found in the parking lot of the Bar Kilates. He suffered a bullet wound to the heart about 9:15 p.m. during a shootout. Police took into custody one suspect, identified as Iván Pérez Cárcamo, they said. A second suspect fled in a car.

Police said the guard went to investigate what appeared to be an attempt to steal or burglarize the car of the bar’s owner.

Teenager's suicide sparks human rights issue

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

MANAGUA, Nicaragua — This country will be denounced this week before the Inter American Commission on Human Rights after the suicide of a 15-year-old boy inside the Tipitapa adult jail in August 1999, says Casa Alianza, a child advocacy agency. 

Wilmer Gonzalez Rojas, from an economically devastated family, stole a cheap watch from a pedestrian in Managua and, although just 14 years old at the time, was condemned to three years in prison.

Despite it being illegal, Wilmer was sent to an adult prison after his first conflict with the law. Wilmer was suffering in the jail and started to have problems with other juveniles held there. He was beaten on different occasions by uniformed prison guards, according to Casa Alianza. 

The boy was then transferred to a gallery normally used for high-risk adult male prisoners. He was kept in solitary confinement for two months during which time he twice tried to kill himself. 

The response from the prison guards was to strip Wilmer naked and place him back in the cell. Wilmer was later taken to the prison psychologist and the boy pleaded with the professional to return him to the cellblock with the other youths. 

The boy's pleas went unheard and he was thrown back, naked, into solitary confinement. Two hours later, the emotionally tortured boy hung himself with a bed sheet, said Casa Alianza.

The Nicaraguan prison authorities investigated the suicide and, in a confidential document, confirmed that the boy had been beaten, punched and kicked on several occasions by prison guards. They also confirmed that he was to be held in solitary confinement for up to six months. 

Such treatment is in clear violation of international human rights norms as well as the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which was ratified by Nicaragua in 1990, said the child advocacy agency. The response from the authorities was to fire the psychologist and suspend two prison guards for 30 days. 

In August 2000, as a result of the lack of a criminal investigation into this case, Casa Alianza — with the support of Wilmer's mother — presented criminal charges against the director of Nicaragua's national prison system and against the director of El Centro Penitenciario La Modelo de Tipitapa for premeditated homicide, alleging the institutional responsibility for the suicide of the boy. 

The criminal case has lain dormant for two years, despite repeated requests to the judge by Casa Alianza lawyers to move the case. 

As a result, Casa Alianza and the Center for Justice and International Law will present the case this week before the Inter American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States in Washington.

"Through the tragedy of Wilmer's death, our goal is to make sure that critical changes take place in Nicaragua's juvenile justice system to make sure that other children do not suffer in the same manner", stated Bruce Harris, Casa Alianza’s executive director for Latin America. 

"International law is quite clear in that the detention of a child should be a last resort - especially for this type of petty crime — and never, ever should a child be held in solitary confinement and much less be in an adult jail". 

Casa Alianza also said that the Inter American Commission on Human Rights will study the merits of the case and, if they feel the case is valid, will admit the case and request information from Nicaragua to justify the actions taken.

Washington braces for 
Anti-capitalist protesters

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Authorities here are bracing for large protests Friday, as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund begin their annual meetings. 

More than 180 member countries are set to participate in three days of talks focusing on development, debt relief and the world economy. 

Police say they expect as many as 20,000 people on the streets of the U.S. capital demonstrating against the policies of those international financial institutions, as well as against U.S. foreign policy. 

A group called the Anti-Capitalist Convergence says it will try to shutdown the city by disrupting traffic with a mass bike ride. Authorities say other protest groups are planning to go to subway stations to disrupt morning rush hour travel Friday. 

Later in the day, marches and other protests are scheduled near the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, as well as government buildings and corporate targets. 

Police plan to close streets near the meeting sites, which are not far from the White House in central Washington. Some 3,000 officers will be on duty, and neighboring cities are sending in police reinforcements. 

Finance ministers from the Group of Seven, large industrial economies, meet on Friday. Delegates from IMF and World Bank member countries will meet Saturday and Sunday. 

Hundreds of people were arrested during similar demonstrations at the International Monetary Fund and World Bank meetings in April 2000. There were fewer problems reported at last year's meeting.

Big sale is Saturday

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Canadian Club has its fourth annual outreach sale with all the proceeds for charity Saturday.

The event is in Bosques de Doña Rosa in Cariari. More information is available at 293-2739 from  Moe and Irene Laframboise.

A club member said that the inventroy of items for sale is massive and includes books, crafts, baked goods, lunches, computer stuff, toys, clothes and housewares.
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Dead man's pants held stash of marijuana
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The U.S. citizen who died after being shot in Playa Hermosa Tuesday morning only suffered one bullet wound. But the bullet pierced both legs and severed the femoral artery, causing him to bleed to death.

That was the verdict of an autopsy conducted by the Judicial Investigating Organization.

There was a surprise for the medical examiner, too. The victim, identified as Loel Perri Hill, in his 30s, and a resident of the community, carried  a stash of marijuna in his genital region, said investigators. That also was disclosed by the autospy.

Consequently, investigators are looking at other scenarios that may have led to the man’s death. 

However, the man was a surfer, and those close to the surf scene say that the genital region is a typical place for such persons to carry drugs.

At first investigators said that the man suffered three wounds, two in the leg and one in the nose. 

The autopsy disclosed that both leg wounds were from the same bullet, and injury to the nose came from a blow and not a bullet, investigators said.

The man accused of the shooting is Jonas Scott Gradei, also of Playa Hermosa, according to investigators. He will be examined by forensic physicians to see if he, too, has injuries. Any injuries would help his case of self-defense.

The shooting took place in Comdominiums Playa Hermosa Tuesday morning and the victim was pronounced dead at a clinic in Jacó.

Remittances help poorer economies, says pollster
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The billions of dollars sent each year by immigrants in the United States to their families in Latin America and the Caribbean are crucial to sustaining the economies of poorer countries in the Western Hemisphere, says a noted pollster of Hispanic trends in the Americas.

Speaking Thursday on a new survey he conducted of remittance senders, Sergio Bendixen said "it is difficult to overemphasize" the importance of remittances from the U.S. to Latin America. 

Bendixen said the remittances are "crucial and life-sustaining" to families in the region, allowing them "to keep their heads just above poverty and destitution."  Remittances amount to 10 times the total of U.S. foreign aid sent to the region, Bendixen said.

Such remittances offer families "a ray of hope and bring at least minimal nutrition to stave off hunger," he added. The remittances also enable families to build sturdy little homes, rather than be forced to live in hovels, Bendixen said at the Inter-American Development Bank on the topic, "Remittances: The Latin American Issue of the New Century."

Bendixen said findings from 1,000 interviews conducted by his Miami firm, Bendixen and Associates, last November and December, showed 

that $18 billion in remittances was sent by immigrants in the United States to Latin America and the Caribbean in 2001, with another $5 billion sent from Europe, Japan, and Canada.

The immigrants in the United States send the remittances often at "tremendous personal sacrifice," Bendixen said.

He found that the poorest of the poor, those making less than $20,000 a year (or less than $400 a week), were usually the most dedicated about sending money from the United States to their families back home. These immigrants, he said, send money home on a regular basis, and do so "with almost religious fervor."

Bendixen said the personal sacrifice includes the cost of sending remittances. Money-wire transfer companies such as Western Union and MoneyGram charge a fee that takes a considerable bite out of the incomes of U.S. immigrants, many who already are earning low wages.

In addition, exchange rates in the home country can lower how much the U.S. currency is worth in Latin America.

Bendixen found that an overwhelming majority of Hispanic immigrants in the United States are unaware that their families in Latin America receive less money than what was originally sent from this country. 

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