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These stories were published Monday, Oct. 11, 2004, in Vol. 4, No. 201
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Mario Laguë was prime minister's spokesman
New Canadian envoy to present credentials
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The new ambassador from Canada will present his credentials today at Casa Presidencial.

The ambassador is Mario Laguë, a fluent Spanish speaker who was the former communications director to the Canadian prime minister, Paul Martin.

Laguë served as Quebec’s representative in Venezuela and Mexico. He served as communications director from December 2003 to July 2004. He resumed a role as a civil servant then in the Privy Council Office, said news reports at the time.

Laguë’s appointment has been attacked in Ottawa by critics of the Martin Liberal Party government. They suggested the appointment was political patronage, according to Canadian press reports. However, others said that Laguë was an experienced diplomat in his own right.

He is the former owner of a communication firm.

Laguë also was linked to a scandal that surfaced this year involving a federal government $100 million sponsorship program that critics said was designed to put money into liberal-friendly advertising firms, and involved double-billing, false invoices and payments for fictitious work, according to The Ottawa Citizen at the time.

There was no suggestion that Laguë was involved in illegal activities but rather that he worked in 2002 to sugar-coat the report of an audit that criticized the program. The Canadian press has called him Martin’s spin doctor.

Laguë replaces Louise Leger, a career diplomat.
The presentation of credentials is a largely ceremonial event and marks the start of  an ambassador’s official duties in the host country. The Canadian Embassy is in the La Sabana Oficentro.


 
Soccer victory triggers a release of tensions
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A decisive soccer football victory capped a week full of news of corruption, and Costa Ricans pulled out all the stops.

The 5-0 victory Saturday was against division leader Guatemala, and the local press described the victory with words that translated to "thrashing." 


More on scandals BELOW


Fans took to the streets for at least four hours Saturday. With horns blowing and Costa Rican flags flying, cavalcades of cars traveled Avenida 2 and 1. Some fans set off fireworks. 

At the Fuente de la Hispanidad in San Pedro, fans invaded the streets, as is the custom. And police showed up, as is the custom. Officials reported that some revelers, in an advanced state of intoxication, suffered injuries as they ran into moving vehicles.

Two youths were arrested for smashing the windshield of a police car. Three others were held as robbery suspects. Some 28 persons 

were detained for vandalism and destruction of property, police said. Four policemen suffered injuries when revelers hurled rocks at them.

Bystanders credited the outpouring of support for the team as a reaction to the flood of bad news about official corruption. Only the day before did Francisco Dall'Anese, the chief prosecutor, report that he had obtained an international arrest warrant for Miguel Ángel Rodríguez, the former president who quit the same day as secretary general of the Organization of American States.

The soccer team has had a lackluster history this year, too, so Saturday was a day for celebrating Costa Rica and releasing the tensions built up by the bad news. Well-known forward Paulo César Wanchope got three of the goals.

Costa Rica plays Canada Wednesday in Canada. Canada, in last place, tied with Honduras Saturday. 

Guatemala still leads the group of four teams in the 2006 World Cup preliminaries with seven points. Costa Rica and Honduras have six points each. Costa Rica’s national team won one of the 32 World Cup berths two years ago.

 
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Fewer murders reported
for country in 2004

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica has seen a reduction in the number of murders this year when compared to the first nine months of 2003. 

The Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública calculated the decline at about 17 percent.

There were 190 murders in Costa Rica during the first nine months of this year, said the ministry. In 2003 there were 227 murders in the same period. For all of 2003 300 murders were reported, and ministry officials said they were confident that the final toll this year would not be as high.

In San José there were 94 murders reported in the first nine months of 2004, eight less than during the same period in 2003.

In 2003, Costa Rica posted a murder rate of 7.14 per 100,000. The country has 4.2 million residents. That compares with a New York City murder rate of 7.38 per 100,000, according to U.S. Census Bureau population estimates and data from the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation. Detroit has a staggering 44.7 murders per 100,000 residents, and Washington, the District of Columbia, had 45.8 per 100,000 residents.

New York City has posted a major decline in murders and other crimes due to aggressive policing, begun in the early 1990s under Mayor David Dinkins.
 

Two disasters planned
this week in San José

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

This week contains  International Disaster Reduction Day, so Costa Rican emergency workers are planning a few disasters, all simulated, of course.

The first is an earthquake and fire at the Escuela Unificada at Parque Morazán Tuesday at 9 a.m. Then there is a vertical rescue off the La Llacuna building and parking structure in downtown San José Wednesday at 9 a.m.

Both Wednesday and Thursday some 20 institutions associated with disaster response and rescue will have booths set up on the Plaza de la Cultura. The idea is to provide educational material to citizens.

Also Wednesday 53 members of local emergency committees will be honored in a 9:30 a.m. ceremony for their 10 years or more efforts.

The U.N.-designated Disaster Reduction Day is a way to focus educational efforts about natural disasters.
 

Nicaraguan quake felt
all over Costa Rica

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An earthquake felt all over Costa Rica hit near Nicaragua’s pacific coast just before 3:30 p.m. Saturday.

The U.S. national earthquake Information Center said the location was 80 kms. (50 miles) west of Rivas. The magnitude was estimated at between 6.9 and 7.1.

The quake was some 60 kms. deep, some 37 miles.

The sensation in San José was of a gently rolling floor, although the quake lasted for nearly a minute.
 

Men with machinegun
spray trio in vehicle

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Assailants with a machinegun sprayed a car containing three men in Desamparados and left them wounded in the Loto 2 area Saturday. One man died from the wounds.

Fuerza Pública officers said they found the three, all with bullet wounds to their bodies.

Police said it appeared the trio were intercepted by two gunmen who were carrying the illegal weapons,

One of the men, identified as a Panamanian named Rooper, was dead when police arrived.  He suffered multiple bullet wounds of the back and legs.  A man identified as Codero also suffered wounds to the leg, but the third man, identified as More, had a bullet in the head.

The car occupied by the trio had 20 bullet holes.
 
 
 
 
 

 

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A perfect expression about politicians and others
Tener más concha que una tortuga

"To have more shell then a turtle" We employ this dicho when talking about people who seem to have no sense of shame. It’s an old expression, and some times it gets abbreviated to just que concha la tuya. Another expression that means the same thing is que cara de barro or "what a face of mud," meaning expressionless, or without cracking a smile.

When your neighbor back in the States borrows your lawn mower in August and never returns it but comes round asking to borrow your snow blower in January with nary a wink of his eye you might say of him ¡Ay, el tiene más concha que una tortuga! Or when a taxi driver picks you up in La Sabana and delivers you to el Teatro Nacional via Cartago and asks you for the 25,000-colon fare with a totally straight face, you might very well say of him — amongst other things — ¡Que cara de barro!  It pays to be on the lookout for those among us más concha que una tortuga. 

These expressions you can also mix and match with some of the other dichos we’ve already talked about like chavalo más cara de barro, or ese mae tiene más concha que una tortuga.

Something that happened to me in a restaurant in Heredia a few months back also illustrates the use of these expressions: I took my family for Sunday lunch at one of our favorite restaurants near the Universidad Nacional. We had a very pleasant, leisurely meal with some wine, espresso coffees, and lingered over our Sambuca liquor afterward. 

I paid the bill, and we started to leave. Up to that point it had been a very pleasant afternoon. One of the two waiters who had been serving us took the signed copy of my credit card receipt, and we said good-bye. 

Just when we were about to get into our car the other waiter came running out of the restaurant demanding to know what I had done with the credit card receipt. I said that his colleague

The
way we say it

By Daniel Soto

had picked it up. I followed him back into the restaurant amid the accusing stares of the patrons.

We found the other waiter who quickly confirmed that he had indeed picked up the receipt. Now, we’ve been going to this particular restaurant for quite some time, and I was a little shocked at the idea that anyone there would think I’d try to get away without paying. The waiter apologized profusely, and said it would never happen again. 

"You bet ya," I mumbled under my breath as we passed by our vacant table and I scooped up the generous tip I’d left a moment earlier, all the while thinking ¡más concha que una tortuga tiene! 

Some others who are más concha que una tortuga are all our wonderful politicians who, when they’re running for office, make us all the same promises over and over, but after they’re elected they conveniently forget all about the wonderful bridges, new roads, schools, and hospitals they’d been talking so much about before the election. 

Believe me, it isn’t Alzheimer’s. It’s just another case of más concha que una torguga delivered with a lot of cara de barro. 


 
Court backs municipalities on funds for roadways
By Saray Ramírez Vindas
and A.M. Costa Rica staff reports

The Sala IV constitutional court has sided with municipalities and has told the central government to hand over money budgeted for road repairs.

The court decision was announced Friday, the same day the court acted on an appeal for help from a group of municipalities. The court said that the government does not have the right to change the destination of funds generated by a specific tax.

The Ministerio de Hacienda, the budget and taxing authority, has violated the fundamental rights to those who live in the districts which had made the appeal, said the court.

They were the municipalities of the cantons of Hojancha, Nandayure and Nicoya. The defendants were the president, the minister of Obras Públicas y Transportes and the minister of Hacienda.

Also joined in the case were officials from Orotina, Puriscal, Aserrí San Mateo, Heredia Los Chiles and Montes de Oro.

Municipalities are specifically listed as recipients of the dedicated tax in a tax law. The government has been withholding the money because it says it does not have enough money to make the payments. Some feel the government is using the money as a lever to win approval of the proposed new tax package in the legislature.

The problem that municipalities have in fixing their roads was the topic of a meeting last week at the Ministerio de Obras Públicas.

San Carlos in the northern zone is ready to declare war, according to the mayor, Alfredo Cordoba. He was among those who met with ministry officials last week before the court decision was announced.

Maria Lorena Lopez, vice minister, said that the ministry would pay 547 million colons (about $1.2 million) in roads repair for those municipalities with more problems. Vice Minister Lopez has presented plans to solve problems in rural areas.

San Carlos will benefit with the repair of 40 kms., some 25 miles. Los Chiles will get a similar amount.

But Cordoba was not put off. He expressed his unhappiness with the lack of support from the central government and said: "I’m going back to San Carlos with a very negative and aggressive attitude, unsatisfied with the insufficient help the government announced for his municipalities."

He said he recognized that the tight budget problems were not the fault of the ministry. At the same time he said he considers it necessary to find a way and take those necessary measures to push the government to come up with the funds.

Cordoba said that the economy of the areas in the rural zones were at stake because of the impact that bad roads has on tourism.


 
Ecuadorian fugitive using false name hid in prison 
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C.  U.S. law enforcement authorities have deported one of Ecuador's most wanted fugitives from the United States to the Ecuadoran city of Guayaquil, according to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

The agency said it had worked with Ecuadoran authorities to deport Reinaldo Gustavo Zamora-Sandoya, an Ecuadoran citizen, on grounds that he was a criminal alien in the United States.

Zamora-Sandoya was wanted by police in Ecuador for allegedly killing two police officers in that South American nation while robbing a bank and then throwing money into the street in order to attract a crowd to help him make an escape. Following that crime, the immigration agency said he illegally entered the United States sometime in 1993.

Zamora-Sandoya was convicted of crimes in the United States under an assumed name, and he believed U.S. federal officials did not know his real identity, the agency said.

Zamora-Sandoya was arrested in New York in 1995 for grand larceny, criminal possession of stolen property, unauthorized use of a vehicle, resisting 

arrest, and reckless endangerment. He was convicted and sentenced to nine months in prison.

In 1998, he was again arrested in New York and was convicted for an armed robbery under the charge of conspiracy to obstruct via robbery. For this crime, a judge sentenced Zamora-Sandoya to 95 months' incarceration and ordered him to pay $1.35 million in restitution, the agency said.

Agency official Victor Cerda said a top priority is the deportation of foreign-citizen criminals.

Cerda, who heads the agency's Office of Detention and Removal, said: "Our officers and agents work very closely with international, federal, state, and local law enforcement and corrections personnel to identify those people whose crimes make them deportable. The individual in this case was trying to hide in the prison system under a fake name, but we determined his true identity. He's being returned to Ecuador for violation of immigration law and will have to answer for the crimes" he is accused of committing.

The office said that between March 1, 2003, and February 28, 2004, it removed from the United States more than 78,000 criminal aliens and an additional 68,000 non-criminal aliens.


 
Jamaica makes $16 million deal with U.S. to preserve rainforests
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The United States and Jamaica have reached an agreement to reduce Jamaica's debt to the United States in exchange for a program to restore and preserve the island nation's tropical rainforests. 

The U.S. State Department announced the agreement Friday. The plan calls for a reduction of almost $16 million in Jamaica's debt. The Jamaican government is to fund projects over the next 20 years designed to preserve the island's resources.

Jamaica is said to have many unique plant and animal species, which are vulnerable to extinction. 

The agreement was reached in cooperation with the Nature Conservancy, which is contributing $1.3 million to the effort. 

The agreement was completed under the Tropical Forest Conservation Act of 1998. The U.S. law is designed to provide eligible developing countries opportunities to reduce their debt to the United States while generating funds for conservation efforts.


 
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A.M. Costa Rica is now able to deal in four more important world currencies, thanks to its association with Pay Pal.

Until now, the newspaper accepted payment internationally in U.S. dollars. Colons were accepted in Costa Rica. However, now the newspaper will accept Canadian dollars, euros, pounds sterling and yen via the Pay Pal Internet system. 


 
Powell and Saca consider a successor to Rodríquez
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Secretary of State Colin Powell said he regrets that Miguel Ángel Rodríguez has had to resign because of corruption charges dating to his term as President of Costa Rica. Powell discussed the issue Friday with the President of El Salvador, Antonio Saca. 

The corruption scandal, centering on alleged payments to Mr. Rodriguez from the French telecommunications company Alcatel, had been brewing for several days and the former Costa Rican President's resignation Friday was not unexpected. He was secretary general of the Organization of American States.

At a joint press appearance after a meeting here, both Secretary Powell and Salvadoran President Saca expressed regret over the turn of events, with Powell calling Rodríguez a man of skill and determination who the United States had supported for the OAS post.

Actually the United States was a latecomer in supporting Rodríguez and only did so after it was clear that Rodríguez had sufficient votes from hemispheric nations to win the position.

The former Costa Rican president, who had held the OAS post for only two weeks after succeeding Colombia's Cesar Gaviria, will be replaced on an interim basis by the assistant secretary general, Luigi Einaudi of the United States.

President Saca said he would like to see Rodríguez succeeded by another Central American, and that those countries will be consulting together soon to come up with a candidate. 

Under questioning, Secretary Powell said there is merit to the idea but that he is not committing the United States at this point:

"President Saca makes a good case that Central America is deserving of having a strong candidate who is selected to be the next secretary general," he said. "President Rodríguez was from Central America, but of course we all have to wait and see what other countries in the Hemisphere believe. And we have to see what candidates come forward. It's important that the OAS have the best-qualified candidate." 

Saca was in Washington for a meeting of Salvadoran expatriates, more than a million of whom are believed to be living in the United States and whose remittances of millions of dollars to El Salvador are a major component of the country's economy.

The Salvadoran leader said he appealed to Powell for an extension of the legal residency of some 240,000 Salvadorans holding temporary protected status, granted because of past natural disasters and political upheaval in El Salvador.

Powell said the State Department is considering the issue with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which now makes policy in that area.

At the same time, he praised El Salvador for its support for the United States in the war against terrorism and especially its efforts in Iraq. 

Powell said the 380-member Salvadoran contingent in the U.S.-led military coalition in Iraq has conducted itself with great bravery and done a very good job.


 
Rodríquez letter says he is being persecuted
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Miguel Ángel Rodríguez said he is quitting his post as an international diplomat because he realizes that he was underestimating the time and effort his defense in Costa Rica will take. He said he was being persecuted by the courts and the media.

Rodríguez said this in his letter to the chairman of the Permanent council of the Organization of American States where he is secretary general.

Rodríquez admitted to no wrongdoing in his letter, which was written before it became known that Costa Rica has issued an international arrest warrant.

In his letter Rodríquez did not confront the allegations directly. First he said: "Last Thursday, I was informed of an investigation on payments made to different persons by suppliers of public entities in Costa Rica."

Then he said: "Consequently, I do not want to subject the organization to a cruel and protracted persecution of its secretary general, not only in the courts but also in the media.  Nor do I want to subject my beloved family to the cost of a long-distance defense."

Rodríguez said he would leave office this Friday, at which time he will lose diplomatic immunity.

The former Costa Rican president said that every nation except Costa Rica advised him to stay and 

A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas
The nation's chief prosecutor, Francisco Dall'Anese, tells reporters that a judge has issued an arrest warrant for former president Miguel Ángel Rodríguez.

that they "reminded me of the basic human rights rule that no one should be considered guilty being convicted in a court of justice, even less so when charges have not even been brought." Meanwhile more allegations keep surfacing about Rodríguez and how winners of public contracts would have to make secret payments.


 
Arrest warrant issued for ex-president Rodríguez
EDITOR’S NOTE: There was an updated story that was published Friday evening. We publish it here for those who may have missed it.

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

Posted Oct. 8, 2004 at 8:30 p.m.

A Costa Rican judge has issued an international arrest warrant for former president Miguel Ángel Rodriguez, alleging that he has conspired to commit corruption and receive illicit payoffs.

The order was issued by Isabel Porras of the Secundo Circuito Judicial and was announced about 6 p.m. Friday by Francisco Dall’Anese, the fiscal general, the country’s top prosecutor.

The action came just a few hours after Rodríguez resigned his post in Washington, D.C., as secretary general of the Organization of American States.

Dall’Anese said that a letter outlining the arrest warrant and the charges were delivered to U.S. Embassy officials here and that Costa Rica is seeking the help of the United States to bring Rodríguez back to Costa Rica.

This is the climax of a long series of scandals dating back to June. Rodríguez told officials at the OAS headquarters in Washington that he would be leaving Oct. 15. Dall’Anese said that he would like to

hurry up the arrival of Rodríguez to Costa Rica.

Others in the judicial system expressed fears that the former president would seek political asylum in another country.

Dall’Anese said that the judicial branch was handling the situation the same way it would for any other suspect who was in a foreign land.
Rodríguez, who was president here from 1998 to 2002, took over the OAS top spot just 15 days ago.

There was no word on any judicial activity involving the wife of Rodríguez, Lorena Clare Facio. Others involved in the scandal said she accepted money.

Rodríguez has been linked publicly to payoffs by the French telecommunication firm, Alcatel, that received a $460 million contract to improve cellular telephones. Just last week Dall’Anese said Rodríguez was a witness and not a suspect.

A judge prohibited Rafael Ángel Calderón, another former president, from leaving the country because of his apparent involvement in a $9 million payoff from a loan deal with Finland and the purchase of $39 million in medical equipment in 2002.

President Abel Pacheco said earlier Friday that he felt betrayed by Rodríguez and his alleged involvement in the scandals. He also said he hopes that Rodríguez is innocent.


 
The time has come for more stories of spooks and banshees
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

If the local political and financial news are not scary enough for you, we invite you again this year to submit your efforts to our annual Halloween short story contest.

Once again the prize will be $25 and worldwide recognition though the pages of A.M. Costa Rica. After all, we are read in 89 countries each day.

The stories must have a theme that is consistent with Halloween: Spooks, witches, goblins, ghosts. 

By submitting a story to editor@amcostarica.com you are certifying that the story was written by you, that it is original and unpublished and that we may publish it. We will. Graphics are welcomed but will not be part of the evaluation. Deadline is Oct. 25 at midnight, of course.

Judging will be by the strange figure that inhabits the A.M. Costa Rica offices after hours. We’ll just leave the computer on for its decision.

Try to keep the stories around, 1,000 words or less and make sure that there is a connection with Costa Rica.


 
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