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Investors with Luis Enrique Villalobos Camacho are becoming increasingly restive, and some are seeking legal advice in an attempt to recoup their money.
Villalobos has not returned telephone calls to A.M. Costa Rica for a week, and judicial officials who are investigating the case have been equally unavailable or tight-lipped.
Villalobos is the businessman who borrows money from a heavily North American clientele and pays nearly 3 percent a month in interest. Usually he pays the monthly interest during the last week of the month or in the first week of the next month.
This much is known of the current situation:
Villalobos employees have promised investors that they will begin to receive late monthly interest payments shortly. Originally, payments were to begin Monday. They were to be made in alphabetical order.
Later, employees told some investors that a subcontractor had been hired to distribute the money to individual bank accounts. There is no clear explanation why a third party was chosen.
The company said it will now make payments in check or via bank deposit instead of the frequent payments in cash and checks.
No one has reported receiving interest payments, although some could have. Several persons contacted by A.M. Costa Rica who have last names beginning with early letters of the alphabet said they had not been paid.
Villalobo’s office appears to be under the daily management of David Mathieson, and some investors have talked to him. No one contacted has talked to Villalobos himself for much of the week.
Operators of predominately North American restaurant and entertainment facilities report a drastic decline in clientele as a direct result of the delay in Villalobos interest payment to local investors.
A number of North Americans who have nearly all
|their assets with Villalobos are
suffering a cash crisis.
The current situation happened this way:
A judge froze the local bank accounts of Villalobos July 4 as part of a search of his office and the Ofinter S.A. money exchange house he says is operated by his brother. Both facilities are adjacent on the second floor of the San Pedro Mall. Ofinter started operating normally a few days later changing colons for dollars and dollars for colons. A second Ofinter operation on Calle Principal in downtown San José also continues to operate. It, too, was raided.
Canadian police sought local help in a drug and money laundering investigation, which prompted the raid. At the time it appeared that Villalobos was an innocent victim of overzealous police because the Canadian suspects seemed to have had contact only with Ofinter.
The delay in unfreezing the Villalobos accounts makes it clear that a more complex investigation is under way.
When investors deposited money with Villalobos ($10,000 minimum) they were given a personal check they were supposed to hold as security. All parties knew that the funds to cover the check were not in the account, and the check was never actually supposed to be presented to a bank.
Now some investors said they want to cash in their check when the judicial freeze is lifted. One said he was told by Mathieson that he would forfeit interest if he did so. Others said they would try to embargo the bank accounts while they sought legal recourse.
In addition to the accounts here in Costa Rica, Villalobos maintains an account in New Orleans where many investors made initial payments.
Such payments made to a U.S. banking institution on behalf of Villalobos would seem to subject him to U.S. investment and lending laws.
Villalobos generally is believed to be doing business as a private individual, but some of his accounts are reported to be in the name of coporations.
|U.S. ambassador pushes
free Guatemalan vote
Special to A.M. Costa Rica
WASHINGTON, D.C. — It is essential that Guatemala's national elections in November 2003 are free, transparent and fair, and that the Guatemalan constitution is strictly adhered to, says John Hamilton, President George W. Bush's nominee to be U.S. ambassador to Guatemala.
Testifying Wednesday at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Hamilton said the United States would "of course" work with whichever candidate wins in a fair contest.
Hamilton said the United States would also continue to help Guatemala strengthen its judicial system and the national police, and to support and defend the members "of its courageous human rights community."
Hamilton said the most important goals for the United States in Guatemala are to strengthen democracy and respect for human rights, and to refocus attention on the 1996 Guatemalan peace accords. U.S. goals, he said, include strengthening the rule of law and combating all forms of terrorism, organized crime and corruption — such as drug trafficking, smuggling, and trafficking in persons.
Special to A.M. Costa Rica
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Worldwide economic growth will help spur a 60 percent increase in international energy consumption between 1999 and 2020, with much of the demand increase coming from the developing world, according to a top U.S. Energy Department official.
In a presentation yesterday to a conference sponsored by the Alliance to Save Energy in Washington, Guy Caruso, administrator of the Energy Information Administration, said the agency projects adequate resources to meet demand for the next two decades.
Developing countries in Asia and Central and South America will account for approximately half of the total increment in energy demand, Caruso said. Overall, he said, gross domestic product growth will be most rapid in the developing world — at 5 percent a year — compared to 2.7 percent in the industrialized world.
An improving economic outlook for Russia and the other former Soviet states will lead to modest yet steady annual growth in energy demand in the region over the next two decades, reversing a decrease in demand during the 1990s, Caruso said.
Oil will continue to account for most of the world's energy consumption, he said. Most of the increase in oil demand in industrialized countries will be in the transportation sector where there are few economically competitive alternatives to the fuel, he said.
But oil's share of total energy consumption will not increase, Caruso said, because some countries will switch from oil to natural gas and other alternative fuels for electricity generation.
A projected increase in worldwide oil use — by an expected 2.2 percent annually through 2020 — will mean that countries will continue to rely on supplies from Gulf members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, Caruso said.
Those countries currently account for nearly 80 percent of the world's oil reserves, he noted. Oil producers not affiliated with the organization — especially in the Caspian Basin, Latin America and West Africa — are expected to also increase their oil production and keep their prices competitive with those of the organization, he said.
Caruso said natural gas is the fastest growing part of world energy consumption. But, he added, "extensive investment" in infrastructure will be needed to expand consumption of the "relatively clean" fuel.
Electricity use will continue to grow — increasing by two-thirds between 1999 and 2020. Growth will be greatest in developing countries where standards of living are improving and efforts to develop national energy grids continue.
Coal has remained the dominant fuel for electricity generation but is being replaced, particularly in Western Europe, by natural gas, Caruso said.
The administrator said that as use of fossil fuels increases, so too will carbon dioxide emissions. By 2020, developing countries that still rely on fossil fuels will account for almost half of global carbon emissions, he said.
Nuclear energy and renewable energy sources, he added, are not economically competitive with fossil fuels, but international commitments to reduce greenhouse gases could change this situation, Caruso said. Growth in renewable energy fuels will grow by 50 percent over the next 20 years, but will remain at just 20 percent of total electricity generation, he said.
The Alliance to Save Energy is a consortium of business, government and consumer leaders that promotes energy efficiency.
Latin U.S. economies linked, diplomat says
Special to A.M. Costa Rica
LIMA, Peru — Strong, stable, and vibrant economies in Latin America benefit people in that region and in the United States alike, says E. Anthony Wayne, assistant secretary of state for Economic and Business Affairs.
Speaking Oct. 3 in Lima at an Andean Regional Investment and Trade Conference, Wayne said that for the United States, "nowhere is it more important for prosperity and progress to take hold than in Latin America."
Wayne said the United States sells more to Latin America than to the European Union, and that U.S. trade with its partners in the North American Free Trade Agreement is greater than with the European Union and Japan combined.
Regarding U.S. backing for the Andean region in particular, Wayne said President Bush has proposed, and is delivering, support across a number of fronts, with security "the most urgent and visible." But Wayne added that U.S. promotion of long-term economic stability in the region "can only be achieved with sustained effort and the right incentives."
To that end, Wayne said the U.S. Congress recently approved an extension and expansion of the Andean Trade Preferences Act, which he said has been good for trade, investment, and jobs since its inception in 1991.
The official said that on Sept. 25 the United States announced that
Colombia, Bolivia, and Peru will be granted new trade benefits available
under the expanded program. In addition, Wayne said the United States is
also working closely with the government of Ecuador in order to be able
to recommend that Ecuador also receive trade benefits in the near future.
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services
CARACAS, Venezuela — Hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans marched through the streets here Thursday demanding that President Hugo Chavez hold early elections. While the protest was underway, a top member of Venezuela's joint chiefs of staff turned in his resignation - warning of deep splits within the military.
Shouting anti-Chavez slogans and carrying blue, red and yellow Venezuelan flags, Venezuelans marched through the downtown area Thursday calling for the populist President to hold early elections, or step down.
Protest organizers billed their demonstration as the "Take-over of Caracas" and said one million protesters would participate to show their discontent with Chavez, who has governed the oil-rich nation since 1999.
On April 11, a similar opposition march of some 600,000 people led to violence between pro and anti-Chavez forces prompting some elements of the military to overthrow Chavez. However, he returned to power less than 48 hours later on the shoulders of his supporters.
This time, the march took place without major incidents reported. However, there was some violence reported on several highways leading to the capital where reports say Chavez supporters tried to block protesters from reaching the capital.
Chavez, who is in the midst of a six-year term, has offered to hold a referendum in August 2003 on whether he should step down. But for Thursday's protestors this is out of the question.
Luis Sayago, an English interpreter, says Chavez must leave office now. "It's a good demonstration of what the real feeling of this country is," he said. "The feeling of this country is that we're fed up with Chavez, we want no more Chavez here. We are fed up with this guy, and we're not going to take it any more."
Other demonstrators want the Venezuelan military to intervene.
Jose Manuel Ranilla, a company administrator, says he does not want to see another coup attempt, like the one in April. But he does think the armed forces should force the populist president to hold an early referendum. "What we want, he says, is a democratic solution let us go and vote now whether we want Mr. Chavez or not, and not wait until next year," said Ranilla.
While the protest was underway, Rear Admiral Alvaro Martin Fossa, a top member of Venezuela's Joint Chiefs Staff, tendered his resignation. In a public announcement carried by several Venezuelan television stations, Admiral Fossa complained of irregularities, and warned President Chavez that the Armed Forces are disunited, unhappy and politicized.
However, he stopped short of directly criticizing the Venezuelan leader a former army paratrooper who led an unsuccessful coup against the government in 1992.
The navy officer was later placed under arrest Thursday when he turned himself in to the Defense Ministry, according to his lawyer.
Embassy closed Monday;
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
The U.S. Embassy in Pavas, where employees get off both for Costa Rican and U.S. holidays, will be closed Monday, according to an announcement.
The holiday is Columbus Day, which is being celebrated in the United States on a Monday so most workers get a three-day holiday.
The celebration here is Saturday, El Dia de las Culturas.
The Museo Nacional will hold a celebration Sunday in the Bellavista facilities east of the downtown. There will be music and workshops. But there also will be a roundtable about the Sala IV constitutional court and Indian property rights, said a museum announcement. That is at 2 p.m.
The museum also will inaugurate a mural honoring the Rey Curré of the Boruca tribe.
|Congress gives Bush
power to wage war
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Congress has handed President Bush a major victory, as both the House of Representatives and the Senate overwhelmingly approved a resolution giving him the authority to use military action — if necessary — to disarm Iraq.
The Republican-led House was the first to pass the resolution, which gives the president broad authority to use force against Iraq, with or without United Nations support. The measure also encourages the president to exhaust all diplomatic means first and requires that he report to Congress every 60 days if he does take action.
Bush immediately welcomed the vote. "The gathering threat of Iraq must be confronted, fully and finally," he said.
But more than half the House Democrats — concerned the measure would give the President too much power — voted against it, even though their leader, Rep. Dick Gephardt of Missouri, was a co-sponsor.
Gephardt reflected on the vote. "To our enemies, who watch this democratic debate, and wonder if America speaks with one voice, I say 'have no doubt.' We are united as a people defending ourselves," he said.
Hours later the Democrat-led Senate passed the resolution.
Sen. John McCain, an Arizona Republican, was a co-sponsor. "Our friends and allies must know that we do not target Saddam's regime simply because he is a bad man, although his continuation of his tyranny is a rebuke to every decent value of humanity," said Senator McCain. "We contemplate military action to end his rule because allowing him to remain in power with the resources at his disposal would intolerably and inevitably risk American interests in a region of the world where threats to those interests affect the whole world."
But some Democrats expressed concern that a possible conflict in Iraq would detract from efforts to fight terrorism. Others said Bush had not made a case for use of force against Iraq, while still others argued that unilateral action would set a dangerous precedent.
Sen. Carl Levin the chairman of the Armed Services Committee cited an example. "If China decided that Taiwan, which it has labeled a 'renegade province', is a threat to its security, then, with this precedence, it can attack Taiwan," he said.
Efforts by opponents of the resolution to delay the vote or narrow the scope of the measure proved unsuccessful.
Cuban player defected
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services
MIAMI, Fla. — A star pitcher who recently defected from Cuba's national baseball team in Mexico has resurfaced here along with a baseball agent who is already touting his client's pitching prowess.
Baseball observers say Jose Contreras could be the most talented player ever to defect from Cuba. Until recently, the ace pitcher of Cuba's national baseball team, the 31-year-old Contreras boasts a blazing fastball clocked at more than 93 mph.
His career record in Cuba was 117 wins and just 50 losses. He gained notoriety in the United States in 1999, when he gave up just two hits over eight innings in a nationally televised exhibition game against the Baltimore Orioles.
Contreras and a coach deserted the national team last week in Mexico. They entered the United States near Tijuana where they were picked up by U.S. immigration agents.
Cuban officials have expressed shock and outrage over the desertion, accusing the men of betraying their nation's trust. At a news conference in Miami Thursday, Contreras stressed that his defection had nothing to do with politics.
Contreras said he does not see his defection as a traitorous act. He said he, like everyone else, deserves to be able to apply himself in his chosen field. He went on to say the United States has the best baseball in the world and that he wants the chance to prove himself here as a pitcher.
In defecting, Contreras left behind a wife and two children. He says he does not believe his family will face reprisals from Cuban officials, but adds that he hopes they will be able to join him in the United States in the near future.
Jaime Torrez, Contreras' agent, indicated several major league clubs are already expressing interest in the pitcher. He didn't give details, but said Contreras is sure to succeed in the major leagues.
In order to become a free agent, Contreras would have to establish residency in a third country, as several other Cuban defectors have done in years past. Otherwise, he would be subject to next year's U.S. amateur baseball draft and would be limited to negotiating with the team that selects him.
In Cuba, baseball players earn the equivalent of $20 a month. The new minimum salary for a major league player is $300,000 dollars a year.
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services
NEW YORK CITY — The winners of the prestigious Maria Moors Cabot Prize for international journalism are being honored here. The Cabot Prize is presented to reporters and editors in recognition of outstanding coverage of the Western Hemisphere, in particular Latin America and the Caribbean.
Anne Nelson, who administers the prize for the Columbia University School of Journalism, home of the Pulitzer Prize, says the Cabot Prize does more than acknowledge individual journalistic achievement.
"It is this chance to keep Latin America and relationships between the Americas front and center for a new generation of journalists, and say, 'Wait a minute, just because we are not at war with these countries does not mean we should go to sleep and forget about them.'" she said.
One of this year's recipients is Michele Montas-Dominique, news director of Radio Haiti. She says the Cabot Prize is not just an honor it is a "shield" that can protect journalists from violent attacks led by groups or states that are hostile to the press.
"My husband, who was also a journalist, was assassinated two years ago on April 3, 2000, while he was entering the radio station where we co-anchored the news program," she said.
"From what was gathered in terms of information, there was a contract for two. I was supposed to be killed that day. So, I have had a bodyguard ever since, going around with protection all the time. But I think the best protection is that the spotlight be put on the conditions in which we work in Haiti, as journalists. A prize like this puts the spotlight on that."
Ms. Montas-Dominique is honored this year along with three other journalists: David Adams, Latin American correspondent for the Florida newspaper The St. Petersburg Times, Sergio Luis Carreras of the Argentinean daily La Voz del Interior, and Robert Rivard, editor of the San Antonio Express News in Texas.
Giuliani set to foil
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services
MEXICO CITY, Mexico — The government here has hired former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani to help the city cut its notoriously-high crime rate.
Giuliani, who opened a consulting firm after leaving office last January, announced Thursday he will be a paid consultant to the government here for one year.
He compared this city to New York City in the early 1990s, when it was considered to be America's crime capital.
The mayor is widely credited for drastically reducing New York's high crime rates during his eight years in office.
Hundreds of crimes, including rape, murder, and armed robbery, take place every day here — the world's second most populous city, home to 17 million people.
Vicente Fox, Mexican president, has made crime fighting a priority.
He has pressured the city’s Mayor, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, to take
Setting a man straight or kicking a dead horse?
|It seems that I
have managed to upset a few readers but since I am no stranger to controversy,
I take back not one whit of what I said in my letter. However, some of
the readers who wrote in made some good points of their own and I'd like
to respond to them.
To Guillermo Jiminez writing from Fairfield, I am not saying that Costa Rica is the only place in the world where scams and the like exist. There are many con artists, as you have discovered, in the US. But I am not suffering from culture shock. I've lived in Germany, the Middle East and the Far East as well as 20 years in the US. I speak several languages and have a pretty good grasp of Spanish.
I also don't behave like a rich gringo. I don't own a car here. I don't wear expensive jewelry or throw money about. The one thing I am is very observant and my letter contains my observations and opinions. Am I wrong in some of them? Possibly! Am I wrong in all of them? Absolutely not!
To Vickie Lansen from Quepos, we are going home. It would be hypocritical and inconsistent of us to make our comments and complaints and still stay here. Within the month we will have permanently moved out of Costa Rica. Also for your information, I have had a pretty happy and fulfilled life. It is interesting that you chose not to rebut some of the things I said but merely make a personal attack for me daring to express my opinions. At least I have some!
From Martin Emanue from Heredia, another personal attack. Why not enter into a debate about the remarks? Is it that you don't have anything to say? Or is it just that you are so vested in your decision that you are unwilling to admit to flaws in 'paradise'?
By the way my comments on the level of IQ and common sense in Costa Rica are not random slams on the natives. It is a comment on the educational system. In case you don't know, the standard way of measuring IQ is based on problem solving questions that require analytical ability. You find me a Costa Rican who scores above 100 and I will show you one who wasn't educated entirely in this country.
Common sense is also a product of analytical ability and is in spite
of, not the result of, education. Finally, I never said anything about
|letter carefully. You just got hot
under the collar and thought you would dash off a few hostile lines.
To Diego Hoffman in Atenas, if you can disprove anything that I said, I will be more than glad to listen. It's not slander, it's not half-truths and it's not verbal diarrhea. It's my opinion and I stand by it. You are welcome not to agree.
To Martin Rice, you make some valid points but I'm sorry, your argument that people buy one nail at a time because they are poor doesn't really hold water. While there is a lot of poverty here, there are also a staggering number of people driving vehicles, some new, some old. And many of those are people who do work in other people's homes.
Driving to a store to buy one nail is not about being poor, it is about not thinking beyond the moment or the cost of the action. That indicates a lack of commonsense.
To all and sundry, those that wish I would leave on the next plane and those that wish I would give Costa Rica another chance and be more accepting of the limitations, we are leaving. So many people have told us that we need to lower our expectations. Maybe that is true but we don't see why we should.
We are leaving and will never return. We wish that it were otherwise. We made a massive commitment to move here 2 years ago and hoped that it would be the place that we would spend the rest of our lives. It has been a great disappointment.
For those expatriates who have made Costa Rica their home and love it, more power to you. If you can accept all of the things that we find unacceptable and unpalatable, it doesn't mean that you are right and I am wrong or that I am right and you are wrong. It simply means that your expectations differ from ours. If we were all the same, we would watch one TV channel and read one newspaper!
There is nowhere on this planet that is perfect. There are many places
that are much worse than Costa Rica and there are many that are better.
The U.S. is far from perfect, especially in these times of heightened paranoia
One man's remarks sparks a heavy debate.
I believe there are many U.S. citizens living here who feel as I do, but are afraid to publicly voice their opinions opposing recent scathing views from newcomers to this country as posted in amcostarica.com.
I wrote my earlier response (to one of the most distasteful letters to the editor I have ever read) at 4 a.m. as I was heading out the door from my home in Quepos on my way to Panama for a pleasure trip. I said to the writer of that letter, "Go Home Already!"
My journey to Panama, on mostly "indirect" buses, took me through some of the most beautiful, breath-taking country I have ever seen, and afforded me some of the most generous and courteous traveling companions I have ever experienced.
An odd thing happened. At every single checkpoint, and at the border, I was stopped both ways and numerous times my papers and passport were requested while none of the German, Italian or French travelers were questioned.
At first I was annoyed. I felt picked on and "profiled" at every checkpoint! But later, after much thought, I realized that I might be paying the price for my fellow Americans' egoism, elitism, and rude behavior. I find that, without fail, every single Costa Rican I have encountered is gracious, decent and helpful, once they judge me by my behavior and demeanor.
Yet the "whisper," and sometimes "scream," about this country is that it is horribly corrupt, expensive and dangerous. In fact, it is a safer country per capita than the United States. Albeit, sometimes corrupt, Costa Rica is changing. And expensive is subjective, and only the purchaser can gauge the value of the purchase, whether it is land, quality of life, or food!
It's a huge hurdle we United States citizens face here in Costa Rica. We are a country of people who make much more money per capita than Costa Ricans do, and unfortunately so many of our countrymen come here and make sure they know that!
Recent letters in amcostarica.com are testament to the attitude of arrogant newcomers to this country. My credo is that it's their county, and I am a guest, here by choice, and I damned well better behave as such.
It's much cheaper to buy property and live in Panama or Nicaragua. Why don't people go there? I chose living here because it is a country of peace, a country of incredible beauty, a country of humble, simple living. And with great fear of repercussions, I would add that personally, I prefer to live in a country of 4 million people who elected a man whose intellect surpasses Jeopardy winners, rather than a country of multiple millions who elected a guy who couldn't make it on The Gong Show.
Just read the letters — including my own — on the pros and cons of Costa Rica. I have to take exception with the schoolteacher/cop from Idaho who seemed to want to blame Costa Rica's problems on the United States, including inflation as evidenced by the declining value of the colon.
Maybe in the course of her education she did not take a class in economics. The declining value of the colon can, in my opinion, be directly related to the inability of Costa Rican government to live within its means. I read that the government spends about 30 percent more money than it takes in.
Inflation and devaluation are inevitable under these circumstances. I also think that the benefits of having estranjeros who retire and visit here far exceed any problems their presence creates. They bring dollars, pounds, francs and lira. This cash inflow inevitably benefits the country in providing jobs and income to Ticos. I think that the foreigners contribute just as much as they benefit.
To me the major things the Costa Rican government could do to improve the lives of Costa Ricans and foreigners would be vast. For instance, they could take serious steps to end corruption and the bribery that pervades the system. They could improve the performance of law enforcement officers and make them more aggressive when in comes to preventing and solving crime.
Where my property’s location is makes police response to calls for help difficult as, according to them, their police car is broken down. This is ridiculous. Perhaps the idea of a police academy is a good one if the proper curriculum is utilized and the opponents can get over their nationalism driven opposition.
Finally, in those institutions such as banks and government offices where waits and inefficient operation is king, bring in some people, maybe even retirees who have good business experience, and find ways to streamline their operations. I sometimes wonder if they are not intentionally inefficient as it lends itself to more individual opportunities to get a little 'mordida'. If banks and such can operate efficiently elsewhere there is no reason they cannot do the same in Costa Rica. That’s just my opinion.
With respect from one who loves Costa Rica.
Thomas C. Payne
|Wow, Mr. Rochard, and
others who agree: I can only repeat what others have said — love it or
Is someone forcing you to stay there? Or is someone forcing you to be bitter? Like you, we also have had so many of those "bad" experiences . . . but maybe you should take a detour from the path of bitterness and take life for what it's worth.
It's not about having the best, the quickest, the most, the fastest, the richest . . . it is obvious that that doesn't make someone happy. Try to find a little tranquility and a little bit of empathy for all of Latin America. They have had a much longer and harder road to freedom and commodities than you or us fellow Americans have had.
If you are unable to dig deep enough to discover who you really are or what Costa Rica really has to offer you, then perhaps you should leave and find a sell-out job somewhere in the US where your needs and wants can be met by our overflowing capitalism!
Pura vida, I’m moving to Costa Rica April 2003!
With regard to the letters in response to poor, unhappy, culture shocked Mr. Rochard and his ilk, my sentiments are with Mr. Cahill’s answer: “A smart guy like you should be able to get to the airport . . .”
But I suspect for many of us that it’s not that simple. Perhaps Mr. Rochard is one of those many ex-pats who, for private and personal reasons, cannot go back. Maybe this is even a main cause for his bitter discontent. For this, I have a suggestion.
Since you are here, give something up for the effort. Trade off a piece of your anger for the children. You don’t have to take them off the streets and into your home to make a difference. They don’t have to be your children.
For example: Joe and Gail, over in Heredia (or my old friend, Gene, from Guachipelín,) who take it upon themselves to clean up and maintain the local play-ground/park in their neighborhoods. Or Ron Durham down in Punta Uva, who cleans and patrols the local beaches, and even got the municipality to provide and maintain regular garbage pick-up.
These culture volunteers (fit and healthy for their efforts) in their own time and at their own expense, mow and tend and pick up trash, while greeting their neighbors and other curious onlookers. And they will all tell you, these involved citizens, that their efforts make a positive difference in the attitude of the locals. If you don’t think a small shift in attitude can make a big difference, ask anyone who rode the city buses ten years ago, before they had wastebaskets, or civic respect.
If we want the next generation to respect and conserve the treasures they (we) have here, then we must teach them why, including the importance and value of dignity and self-respect. Education is the key to improving every level of human society, if it includes this perspective. So do your own part.
If you don’t like how it’s being done in Costa Rica, pick your own little venue and show by example how it could be improved. Give something back, Mr. Rochard, for the good weather, the lax laws and the smiling faces (you don’t get that in L.A…).
Make an effort to get along. Learn enough Tico Spanish to at least exchange polite greetings and social protocol, and you will have the opportunity to see a different face of Costa Rica — one you may like a little better than the one you see now, maybe even including the one in the mirror.
I have just finished carefully reading the letter from Michael Rochard and have concluded either there are two countries named Costa Rica or Mr. Rochard is a very cynical, negative and unhappy man.
You find what you look for, and to find a lot of what he spoke of in Costa Rica you'd have to be delusional or have some incredibly bad luck.
I live and run businesses in both San Jose and New York. As a resident and a business owner, I come into contact with a tremendous amount of Costa Rica. Its people, it's institutions and it's customs. I will completely agree with Mr. Rochard on crime — it is getting really scary and something needs to be done. I feel as safe as I do in major U.S. cities, but I remember when occasional pick pocketing was the biggest thing to be concerned with.
However, to say the whole culture accepts theft is ridiculous. I have many, many Tico friends and acquaintances and they are wonderful, caring and nice people. They are extremely moral and respectful of other people and their property. They also take tremendous pride in their work and are renowned to be some of the finest craftsmen around. I have no idea what you're talking about on that one.
As to them detesting us, I could certainly see why. All the time I see North Americans being bossy, nasty and arrogant. They have no idea of what's around them and that they're in someone else's culture. They don't detest us, they detest nasty, arrogant people who, even though they have it all, are still miserable and treat people poorly. They will shun these types of people and stay away from them. This may explain why you don't have any Tico friends.
You also claim the Ticos are unhealthy. Where did you get that? They are much healthier than any country I visit and I visit many. How many overweight Ticos do you see?
I also must ask you if the education system is so bad why did Intel, Hewlett-Packard and Microsoft choose Costa-Rica to start operations? Because, according to them Costa Rica has by far the best educated workforce of any third-world and even a lot of 1st world countries.
Costa Rica is not perfect, it is a foreign culture. To compare it to or try to make it fit your expectations is insanity. Most of what you experience will be the result of your attitudes and actions. I think it is a great place with some of the best people in the world, the best scenery in the world, a tremendous amount of opportunity and a great place to live.
I have a lot of close Tico friends and business associates. I find Ticos to be much more respectful and pleasant to deal with than Gringos back home and actually prefer my time here. I have loaned money to Ticos and always gotten it back. I have had few problems with repair work.
I think that in order to live well here you certainly have to adjust and lose some of your North American values. For example: that time and money are more valuable than people are. It's certainly not for everyone, and that's why there are a lot of different places to live. Than again, most happy than unhappy.
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