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These stories were published Thursday, Sept. 30, 2004, in Vol. 4, No. 194
Jo Stuart
About us
Handicap center
a party

There was a lot of clowning around when the Fundación Roberta Felix inaugurated it's support center for handicapped children in Quepos.

Melvin Vega Elizondo couldn’t be happier, thanks, in part, to the help of a clown, a volunteer from the local hospital.

See story:


Fundación Roberta Felix photo

Saray Ramírez Vindas/A.M. Costa Rica
Bridge under
troubled waters

Rush hour traffic in Desamparados came to a halt about 5  p.m. Wednesday when heavy rains drove the Río Cucubres out of its banks and inundated a bridge on a major highway.

The scene is at a bridge just east of El Cruce de
Desamparados. Only the very brave made the trip as water swirled over the wheels of passenger cars.

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Sala IV says prison
idea is constitutional

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Sala IV constitutional court said that a maximum security prison managed by a private firm is not unconstitutional.

The magistrates, in a split vote Tuesday, rejected an appeal by the Defensor de los Habitantes that sought to change the way the new prsion will be administered. The appeal had been languishing since 2002.

The $72 million project at Pococí  is in the hands of a U.S. firm, Management & Training Corp., that operates prisons.

The former minister of Justicia, José Miguel Villalobos Umaña, broke with president Abel Pacheco over the cost of the project, and Pacheco fired him.

The prison would hold some 1,200 of the nation’s worse criminals.

Visa lottery in U.S.
will be electronic

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The United States said Thursday that it is seeking applications for the 2006 Diversity Visa Lottery. Applications will be accepted between Nov. 5 and Jan. 7. 

Persons seeking to apply must register electronically, online through the designated Internet Web site, during the registration period, said an announcement from the U.S. Department of State.

The 2006 Diversity Visa Lottery marks the second year that electronic registration is required. Paper entries and mail-in requests for Diversity Visa Lottery registration are not accepted, the announcement said.

The lottery each year awards 50,000 immigrant visas to persons from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States.

Central America is included in the countries where residents may submit an application. Applicants must have either a high school diploma or equivalency or have worked in a job that requires at least two years training, said the announcement.

Winners of the visas will be selected at random by computer from among all qualified entries. Those selected will be notified by mail between May and July 2005, said the department.

Talamanca cash crop
harvested by cops

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Police whacked down or otherwise uprooted some 408,000 marijuana plants in 58 different areas in Talamanca de Limón over the last week, they reported.

The anti-marijuana effort was one of a continuing series over the last four years that targets marijuana growing in the mountainous region populated mostly by Indians.

The U.S. government loaned four cargo helicopters, said Rogelio Ramos, minister of Gobernación, Poicía y Seguridad Pública. The helicopters let police get into the areas with their tools. The helicopters were in the air 109 hours and made 30 flights, said Ramos.

About half of the estimated $100,000 cost of the operation was paid for by the United States.

The latest marijuana haul included about 50 tons of material suitable for smoking, said officials.

Jazz concert next week

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Rachel Cook, a singer from New Orleans, La., will be the featured performer during a jazz concert Oct. 9 at the Teatro Eugene O’Neill at the Centro Cultural Costarricense Norteamericano in Los Yoses.

The event will be at 8 p.m. The event is sponsored by the U.S. Embassy, a local radio station and a local hotel. General admission is 2,500 colons, some $5.60.

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Officials anticipate no investigation of Bruce Harris
By Saray Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

There appear to be no plans to investigate the actions of Bruce Harris while he worked as an advocate for children here.

That was the consensus from a top official of the security ministry and the director of the nation’s child welfare agency.

Harris had left Costa Rica earlier this month after his 15-year-career with Casa Alianza was cut short when he admitted buying sex from a 19-year-old male in Honduras. The youth was a former Casa Alianza client

Rosalía Gil Fernández, minister of Niñez, and Ana Elena Chacón, vice minister of Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública, both said that an institution such as Casa Alianza should not be judged by the actions of a single man. They said no investigation was in the works.

Minister Gil also serves as director of the Patronato Nacional de la Infancia, the primary child-care agency.

The officials commented after a signing ceremony for an agreement between the government and the U.S.-based International Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

However, others in law enforcement favor an investigation.  One official in charge of day-to-day enforcement against sex crimes said that actions like those demonstrated by Bruce Harris do not just appear full-blown in a 50-year old man. The official, who has a lot of experience in such cases, favored a detailed and rigorous investigation.

Everyone agreed that Harris ran Casa Alianza with an iron hand. Only he was allowed to talk to the news media, and he was known for raising his voice at staffers. During the time he was Latin American director for Casa Alianza, the organization embarked on a number of investigations that resulted in criminal action against child pornographers, pedophiles and wayward priests.

Harris had a close working relationship with the nation’s child care agencies before the revelation that ended his career at Casa Alianza. Among other roles, he was an adviser to President Abel Pacheco on matters relating to exploited children.

Government signs international pact to share data on missing kids
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica signed an agreement with the U.S.-based Center for Missing and Exploited Children Wednesday that will give law enforcement here access to the center’s international network.

President Abel Pacheco said the agreement was "an immense step forward in our fight against activities such as pedophilia, the kidnapping of children and the sexual and workplace exploitation of boys and girls."

According to a summary of the agreement, Costa Rica will exchange information with the center in order to locate missing or exploited children and to identify gangs associated with these activities.

The center also will provide training and promote programs of prevention, said the president. Other goals will be to develop the conscience of the citizenry and the community to their responsibility to avoid such crimes. Pacheco said he was particularly impressed with the technology of the center to use the Internet to increase levels of protection against gangs that use the net for illegal activities.

Pacheco said that in the United States the center has established a 93 percent success record in locating and rescuing minors.

Casa Presidencial issued a release on the signing ceremony. In it figures from the Judicial Investigating Organization were cited. These statistics show that from January to July of this year, 197 minors were reported missing and all eventually returned to their homes or to whomever was in charge of them.

Involved in the agreement is the Patronato Nacional de la Infancia, the Ministerio de Gobernación, 

Saray Ramírez Vindas/A.M. Costa Rica
Ana Elena Chacón, vice mininster of security, puts her name to the agreement while, from left, Rosalía Gil, President Abel Pacheco and Craig Millar of the Center for Missing and Exploited Children watch.

Policía y Seguridad Pública and the Judicial Investigating Organization. Full details of the agreement were not known because the specifics are contained in a protocol that was not released.

The center has a reputation for inflating the estimates of missing children. The Denver Post won a Pulitzer Prize in 1985 for articles that showed the actual number of U.S. missing children was much lower than child advocates claimed. Most missing children in the United States are teenagers who are gone overnight.

Harris case prompts lots of letters from readers
Harris probe sought
covering both sexes

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

John McLaughlin has correct instincts, but does not go far enough in the Bruce Harris case!

We agree absolutely that Bruce Haris should be immediately investigated for sexual improprieties among Casa Alianza clients. If warranted, then Harris should be put on trial. This should be in the legal venue of Costa Rica. We have first "dibs" on Harris, and there is no reason why another country should have all the fun.

However, John McLaughlin either does not realize (or is trying to spare personal pain to the parties involved) that Bruce Harris has a wife and two children, all cohabiting a home in Curridabat. While Harris has been caught red-handed with an adult male prostitute, it seems to reason that Harris is very possibly bisexual. This is a person who can enjoy sexual relations with either men (such as the adult prostitute) or women (such as his wife). For the moment, we should leave his children out of this. It's a public investigation, not a family matter.

Therefore, when looking for victims within Casa Alianza, possible relations with both young men AND young ladies should be investigated.

But then McLaughlin would let it go at identifying DIRECT VICTIMS, just as the Catholic Church only pays legal damages to DIRECT VICTIMS of gay priests. What this ignores is the CULTURAL CLIMATE that a sexual pervert imparts to an entire institution, be it a corporation, a church or a Casa Alianza. If a normal boy sees that being "gay" is a way to an easier life, what would any intelligent boy do? This permeates the culture of the institution.

So, the investigation of Bruce Harris should emcompass BOTH boys and girls, and both the direct victims and others forced to live in this culture. I think we should know exactly what kind of sex and how much sex goes on within Casa Alianza, and then judge Mr. Harris' 15 years of leadership. I want a blow-by-blow expose, worthy of Ken Starr, and with the white heat of publicity.

McLaughlin says ¨"we now know exactly what type of person Mr. Harris is sexually atracted to." I assume he means what type of boy-person, and there are so many types of boy-persons, just as there are many types of girl-persons. How does McLaughlin know this? Has he met the adult prostitute? 

Richard Frost 

McLaughlin writes again

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I feel compelled to respond to Ross Martin's comments regarding my letter about Bruce Harris (a letter which was edited by the way). The reason for writing was not because I care if Mr. Harris is a pervert, which I do not . . . .

The reason for the letter is that Mr. Harris has stood up so strongly and proclaimed in a loud voice what is wrong when in fact he does not feel that way about certain aspects of the very thing he proclaimed so vehemently. This is known as hypocrisy and THAT is what I oppose.

John McLaughlin 
San José, Costa Rica

Harris blamed Gringos,
Michigan man says

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

In response to the letters written by Ross Martin and Edward Bridges supporting Bruce Harris I agree with Mr. Martin that "we should all be a bit more carefull before we publicly air our assumptions about the character of others." 

Unfortunately Bruce Harris often publicly aired his assumptions about others without carefully investigating the facts. Mr. Harris has made a career out of blaming gringos for the social ills of Costa Rica while ignoring the local nature of the problem. 

Mr. Harris has appeared on numerous television news stories attacking the activities that he now describes for himself as an "error in judgement". These stories include his recent allegations concerning the Michigan Boys Fishing Tournament held last April in Flamingo. 

Mr. Harris insinuated that the tournament participants were not fisherman at all but merely sex tourists looking for sex with underage girls. These allegations were made in a public forum and heard by the wives, children, family and coworkers of the tournament participants. It did not matter if a person did nothing wrong, Mr. Harris's allegations harmed everyone involved.

I wonder if Mr. Bridges will pray for those who Mr. Harris falsely accused? Now that Mr. Harris has been caught in the very activities that he regularly blamed on others, his supporters come to his rescue saying no crime was committed, the boy was 18 and prostitution is legal. Would Mr. Harris have made such an argument two weeks ago? 

The supporters of Mr. Harris applaud his courage for admitting his mistake, unfortunately this "courage" only surfaced after Mr. Harris was exposed after the young man complained to the authorities. Despite Mr. Harris's admission to a "15 minute mistake," I find it hard to believe that a person would engage in sex with a young boy for the first time when he is in his 50s. 

It is a generally known fact that pedophiles often seek out careers that put them in close contact with children. I am sure that Mr. Bridges is correct when he states that Mr. Harris "has changed forever, the lives and futures of tens of thousands of hopeless children." The question remains whether he is a "great man" or a sexual predator. 

This issue must be resolved for the good of the children whose lives have been changed by Mr. Harris. It is clear that a thorough investigation is needed and appropriate charges should be filed if a crime has been committed. 

John Frazer 
Harris did damage
as well as good

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

On the Issue of Bruce Harris, I applaud Casa Alianza for both their public esposition (partially) of the sexual predatory nature of a former zealot, employee Bruce Harris. I also applaud Casa Alianza for consequently dismissing the services of Bruce Harris. 

It appears that Bruce Harris — the virtuous white knight against the exploitation of children was caught with his pants down (colloquialism) with a same gender prostitute in Honduras. 

Mr. Harris is a controversial figure who in my opinion has done as much damage as he did good in his relentless pursuit for those institutions and individuals who exploited children. The fact that Bruce Harris was such a self-righteous, high-minded arrogant asshole as well as a rumored hedonistic homosexual further exacerbates the deviancy in his participation in the filthy disgusting underworld of bottom feeding 'johns' who pay young men for various forms of sexual favor .

What has not yet been uncovered is the extent of the partially digested contents of Mr. Harris's sexual proclivities. Frankly, those who pay for sex normally do so as a part of their lifestyle, and few have not either deliberately or accidentally engaged a minor in sexual activity. What do we really know about the dark side of Bruce Harris. We hit an iceberg but still only see the tip. 

We know that he supports the institution of 'legal' prostitution which is a statutory variable country by country. Many moral esthetics consider the institution of legalized prostitution nothing more than legalized institutional exploitation of the poor. I wouldn't think that such a highly driven virtuous man like Bruce Harris — a crusader adorned in a white robe that made his living in a zealous frenzy as this madman in hot pursuit of those who would exploit children would involve himself in human exploitation in any form. 

For many uneducated poor, prostitution is not a career choice but an act of basic survival. Prostitution buys them food, shelter and for many, drugs. Support a prostitute in many cases and support the drug trade. Many prostitutes began their careers as abused minors —  the same folks that Mr. Harris was purportedly protecting. Is this what attracted Bruce Harris to Costa Rica in the first place —  its sexually liberal lifestyle sporting a very healthy population of prostitutes of every variety and flavor? 

Could Mr. Harris have been operating as a crusader out of the guilt he felt for the human exploitation of prostitutes. I for one would like to know more about the dark side of Bruce Harris because I believe that this incident with a male prostitute was not an isolated incident and that perhaps his employer learned of other sexual engagements between Bruce Harris and those who have not yet reached the age of legal consent. 

Bottom line, Casa Alianza considered Bruce Harris's sexual behavior unacceptable and therefore terminated his further employment. I applaud this brave and just decision on the part of Casa Alianza and for making public the questionable sexual behavior of Mr. Bruce Harris. Casa Alianza did not need a man who could be considered by many to be a part of a greater social problem not a part of the greater social solution. 

Bruce Harris reminds me of an individual who goes to a park and picks up 1 pound of litter and then on the way out of the park buys an ice cream bar and drops the wrapper on the ground. The jury is not out on this zealot. I am certain if he tries to reinvent himself adorning his white cape, there will be those who will further uncover the private life of Mr. Bruce Harris. 

Mr. Harris, perhaps you can reinvent yourself in Thailand or the Philippines. I would recommend that Casa Alianza more carefully screen those to whom they offer employment as Casa Alianza's reputation can affect future financial donations. 

Dr. Roberto Carlos Gayton 


Grings and put-downs
are not wanted here

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

They come uninvited in droves and then tell the locals that they're inferior, unworthy and unable to govern themselves.

They claim to be fair-minded lovers of freedom while trying to ram drastic changes down their hosts' throats.

They seem intent on forcing draconian and sometimes totalitarian measures upon a peaceful, democratic, sovereign people.

Are they the Red Chinese? Is this a story about the North Koreans? Perhaps we're looking at 20th century Bolsheviks recently reanimated after 75 years in stasis.

Nope. I'm referring to a handful of washed-up, burned-out Gringo misfits that have come slithering to Costa Rica after wearing out their welcome back home.

Their put-downs of Tico culture, driving habits, the court system, legal protections for citizens, et al, ad nauseam, reflect their own boorishness and lack of common sense. I have but one piece of advice for them: Get your heads out and go back to gringoland.

L. Torbellino

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Center for handicapped inaugurated in Quepos
Special from the Fundación Roberta Felix

With a backdrop of sunny skies and balloons and the attendance of over 350 guests from as far away as San Francico, Calif., Fundación Roberta Felix inaugurated its new support center for handicapped children in Quepos Friday. 

The official name is Centro de Atencion Integral Roger Evans. It is a development center for handicapped children in the Quepos/Parrita area and will serve approximately 175 children and young adults with severe handicaps such as cerebral palsy, Down's syndrome, parapalegics, blindness and deafness, as well as children with autism, mental retardation, spina bifida and hydroencephalia. 

The center will offer support services such as speech, occupational and physical therapy, tutoring, training, counseling, job training, and will be the primary site for continued distribution of free wheelchairs, walkers, orthopedic shoes, and the many other donated items which have always been distributed by the Felix Foundation.

Roger Evans, for whom the center was named, is a Silicon Valley venture capitalist who donated the building funds for the center. Evans was able to attend, visiting from his home in San Francisco. Although not a seasoned Spanish speaker, Evans gave a speech in Spanish, commenting on his pleasure in supporting a project for such special children.

Various handicapped children gave speeches, danced and participated in the inaugural ceremony.

 It is believed that with 100 handicapped children and young adults present it may have been the biggest gathering of the handicapped community in the history of the Quepos area. Attendance meant for many getting up at the crack of dawn to ready children with very limited access due to the transportation challenges in the area, to make what was for some a very long journey. 

The 175 children with handicaps in the area will be served by the center. A local bus operator donated the transportation for those who live in Parrita, enabling the kids to come from as far north as Esterillos and many came from as far south as 

Roger Evans and Robbie Felix check out a plaque that honors donors.

Fundación Roberta Felix photos 
Nicoll Arrieta Esquivel performs her dance.

Hatillo, which is slightly north of Dominical. Some actually road horses to the main highway in order to catch a bus ride another hour to the center.

Representatives of many sponsoring businesses in the area were in attendance as were representatives of the local municipalidad, the hospital, many teachers and principals, the executive director of the National Council on Rehabitation, a team from the University of Santa Paula in Tres Rios and the mayor of Quepos. Churches, schools, women's organizations and various groups helped with the event.

There were several emotional speeches as services for the handicapped remain mostly based in the San José and Puntarenas areas, limiting severely the availability of treatment and therapy options for the handicapped in rural areas of Costa Rica. It was a very special day for parents of handicapped children, who will now be able to recieve most basic services within the community.

The foundation will be distributing new wheelchairs to the entire community next month, thanks to the Sister Cities relationship with Fort Lauderdale, Fla., the Rotary Club and Wheelchairs International. Marvin Chaney who lives in Florida spearheaded this effort to bring wheelchairs to all who need them in the Pacific Coast area. The foundation will act as the distribution arm of the project.

The foundation has almost already outgrown it's new facility. The organization is looking for help to build a large therapy wing and is asking that those who are interested please take a look at the Web site at 

The foundation operates 100 per cent on private donations and recieves no financial support from the government.

Jo Stuart
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