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Jo Stuart
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These stories first were published Oct. 19, 2001

A.M. Costa Rica photos
The drums did some talking Thursday under the hands of Jimmy Mulleady. Meanwhile, Eduardo Tiscornia had the chance to explain how he constructed a rattle from Mexican shirka seeds to distinguished visitors. They were Daniel Gal, ambassador of Israel, his wife, Jacqueline, and Karen Olsen Figueres, the former first lady.

Artist branch out
at handiwork fair

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

There's not a lot you can do with busted tree limbs someone chucked in the trash.

That is unless you are six artists from Monteverde who constructed their display area at the national artists fair with the castoffs. 

The six got their display space Wednesday at 9 p.m. By midafternoon Thursday they had used old limbs, moss, a few plants, some bananas and a lot of creativity to manufacture a jungle house as a setting for their wares.

Like others at the fair, they are trying to sell goods and make contacts for future sales. The event is a traditional precursor to the Christmas season, although many of the big sales are in bulk to souvenir shops and other tourist venues.

There are more than 100 stands of high quality art and handiwork at the event, but no display smacks of the jungle more than that of Arte Panetaria of Monteverde.

The national fair of artisans continues through Oct. 28 at FERCORI, Feria International de Costa Rica, on Calle 25 at Avenida 3 in Barrio California. Admission is 200 colons a person.

The event is sponsored by a handful of governmental agencies, including the Institute of tourism and the Municipality of San Jose. 

Patrick Moore, one of the six artists, said the organization primarily gives workshops at Monteverde. He said he came originally from Long Island. A giant mask dominating the display is his creation. He used a maché of banana leaves, armadillo shells for the eyes and animal skins for the eyebrows. A beard once was the tail of a goat, he said.

Moore is the only U.S. citizen. Others in the organization are from South America. They were stocking their 20-foot by 10-foot stand Thursday afternoon with batiks, clothing, musical instruments, more masks, lamps, hand-made non-animal-fat soaps 
and kaleidoscopes. All are from recycled materials, said Eduardo Tiscornia of Argentina.

Jimmy Mulleady of Uruguay proved to be a show starter with his handmade drums. He beat out a

Milagro Rodríguez makes a suggestion in the construction of the artists' glade at the exhibition.

rhythm for a few minutes and the unpopulated area in front of the stand filled up.

The six seemed to bridle at the suggestion that they were a 1960ish hippie commune. But among the exhibitors, they are unique. The men sport dreadlocks tucked under a scarf. ("You look like the Taliban," one visitor said.)

Not many people were at the show Thursday, but the weekend will bring many more. During next week the commercial buyers will visit.

Live entertainment is scheduled for the weekends, and a large stage awaits. A few native English-speakers were seen doing some early Christmas shopping. 
Jo Stuart considers
bad things,
including the street kids


Double murder and a suicide ends midmorning argument
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A man described as either a French citizen or a French Canadian shot and killed a man and a woman early Thursday then turned the gun on himself.

The man was identified by investigators as Jacks Pistrin or possibly Jacques Pistrin, 45 years. 

The shooting took place in Los Cuadros de Guadalupe where the three persons were neighbors.

Also dead are Incarnación Lacio Sandoval and a man identified by the first name of Theodoro, who 

was a companion and perhaps the husband of the 
dead woman, according to the Judicial Investigating Organization.

The shooting was the culmination of a long-running dispute between the two households and took place about 9:30 a.m., investigators said.

The man confronted the couple over a personal matter and ended up pulling out a gun. The woman was shot at least eight times, according to police at the scene.

After shooting the two victims, the man killed himself with one shot to the head.

Writing about the bad things in Costa Rica important, too
Taxista advice 

I had a chatty taxi driver the other day. I couldn’t believe my luck when he stopped at the light on Avenida Segunda next to the National Theater in a downpour. I was grateful, and I told him so.

By the time we were halfway home he knew I was here alone, had two children in the States and wrote about Costa Rica for A.M. Costa Rica. When he asked what I wrote about, I  told him about the city, the parks, the ferias, the kindness of the Costa Rican people. After a bit he said, "Yes, but you must also write about the bad things, too, or tourists will come here expecting only good things and get into trouble and never want to come back." 

So, Señor Taxista, here are some of the bad things — well, maybe. Tourists want to know  about the beaches and the rain and cloud forests (in case you wondered, a cloud forest is just a rain forest with an altitude), and hotels and stuff outside the city. And it is true when my friends say I am a "city girl" (a figure of speech), I would be as happy spending time in the seven greatest cities in the world as I would gazing at the seven wonders of the natural  world . . . well, nearly. 

Let me start by saying that one of the more unfortunate things to happen in Costa Rica was President Jose Maria Figueres’ announcement upon becoming president, that if rich Americans, et al., could afford to spend $700 to come to Costa Rica, they could afford to pay $15 to see its wonderful national parks. 

Granted, the fees to enter the national parks was  ridiculously low, but $15 for each? I winced when I heard this because I knew what would happen. Every small hotel owner, every pension and bed-and-breakfast owner —  everybody in the tourist business — thought, "If they can pay $15 to see a park, they can pay more than the $20 (or whatever nice low price) they are paying for what I have." 

And prices went up all over Costa Rica, without a concomitant rise in the quality of service, 

A.M. Costa Rica photo
Justin, a street child, mugs for the camera
Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart

accommodations or product. Suddenly, Costa Rica 
was no longer the reasonable destination of natural wonders and beautiful people. 

The only thing that went down was the number of  tourists who came to visit. It took a few years and a change in policy to recover from that, but prices, I think, are still too high. (Although with the world situation the way it is now,  and hearing that the government is suggesting that hotels lower their prices, I suggest you negotiate.)

Another unfortunate (unfortunate is too tame a word — tragic is better) turn of events is the  increase in the number of homeless children on the streets. This, too, involves the government action, or lack of it. With the withdrawal of money for the Salvation Army shelters, some 200 children were simply dumped onto the streets. 

If you walk in San Jose early in the morning, you will see the youngsters, not in groups, but in lonely, and probably hungry, isolation, huddled in doorways or under cardboard near trash, waking up from a nightmare night. It is scary when a country gives up on its children.

Apropos of children’s shelters: I thought one very regrettable statement was made by the manager of the refuge when a government representative commented that it was smelly and not very clean. Major John Mowers said that they didn’t want to make the accommodation "so nice that kids don’t care about improving their situation." (Quoted in Tico Times, July 6,  2001). 

Most of these kids have moved from abusive unloving (and probably dirt-poor) homes to the streets and then the shelter. What is there in their life as a model to inspire a move to, say, a one-bedroom apartment with a jacuzzi? You should give them the best you can so they learn to be comfortable in nice surroundings and to want to take care of it, and dream of duplicating or making it even better. This is not to criticize what Major Mowers was doing. I applaud that. I am sure he regrets that statement.

Well, I have come to the end of my column and I haven’t really responded to the advice of my kind taxista. I would have asked him to give me some ideas, but by then we had arrived home and he had a living to make in the rain and I wanted to dry off in my apartment.  Maybe next time.

Californian makes history with underage pimping conviction
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A former California man became the first U.S. citizen ever convicted of selling children for sex in Costa Rica.

Casa Alianza in San José initiated the investigation of the man and is pleased with the results: A news release about the case was posted at the organization's web site early Friday, within a few days of the conviction.

The convicted man is Richard Riley Casper, 43. Police grabbed him in November 2000 at his house in Sabana. He faces eight years in jail on the charge of offering underage girls for sex..

Casper directed Internet pages in which he promoted Costa Rica as a destination for sex tourism. He would follow up his Web page promotions with discreet offers of young girls, according to investigators.

Prostitution is legal in Costa Rica. But pimping or being the negotiating broker of prostitution is not. The legal age of consent here is 18 years.

The director of Casa Alianza dismissed some Web pages as a ploy.

"Even though the Web pages on Costa Rica do not always explicitly offer children for sex, there are ways to infiltrate the pages as a client and many times the operators will offer under-age sex for high sums of money," Bruce Harris, the executive director of the organization's Latin American programs, said in the release posted to the group's Web site.

Casa Alianza took some credit for the conviction in its release: "After a lengthy investigation coordinated by the special prosecutor on sex crimes 

of San José, with support from Casa Alianza, the 
American was detained together with a large quantity of child pornography and other incriminating documents which provided important evidence in the trial." 

The group also said that Casper was convicted during a three-day, closed-door trial in which two young girls offered false testimony in an attempt to exonerate the Californian. The group said that charges would be filed against the girls.

The group also said on its Web page that it has filed more than 300 complaints with officials against foreigners and Costa Ricans who exploit children. 

It was Casa Alianza that said the man was the first U.S. citizen so convicted, and that statement also was made by prosecutors when the conviction was announced. The judicial officials said they were handling dozens of similar accusations against foreigners.

Harris was involved in a controversial U.S. news network documentary last year in which the president of Costa Rica, Miguel Angel Rodríguez, said that child prostitution was not a big problem.  The rest of the documentary undercut that position.

The group said that more than 20 persons from Europe and North America have been convicted of various sex crimes as a result of its activities over the last three years.

In one such case, a Canadian man was sentenced in September to 23 years in prison for manufacturing and distributing pornography of youngsters via the Internet. He was identified as Fahny Hanny, 45.

The Web site of Casa Alianza is:


Republicans plan a big weekend to consider elections in 2002
U.S. Rep. Tom Davis of Virginia will be the main guest when Republicans Abroad of Costa Rica celebrate their Pura Vida Weekend Nov. 3 and 4.

The theme will be "Agenda for leadership in a new America." 

Davis is on the Government Reform Committee's Subcommittee on the District of Colombia.  He is a co-chairman of the Information Technology Working Group, which promotes awareness of issues to compute technology industries, and he spearheaded much of the Y2K compliance efforts.

Davis has been a leader of forming lobbying and gift rules and has contributed greatly to ethics reform, said a GOP announcement. 

Davis also is the elected chairman of a National Republican Committee group that is in charge of the strategy of all the House races in 2002.

Prior to serving in Congress, he was chairman of the Fairfax  County, Va., Board of Supervisors, the governing body for the county. 

Republicans Abroad International officials attending for the weekend, according to a Republicans Abroad release, are Joan Shepherd, global chairwoman; Chris Fussner, global co-chairman; Joan Hill, voter registration chairman, Michael Jones, executive director, and Peter Mai, deputy director, 

Also expected are country chairmen from El Salvador, Cancun, Mexico, and elsewhere, said the announcement. 

"GOP Pura Vida Weekend 2001 is an annual event when the Republicans Abroad Chapter of Costa Rica plans their annual events to celebrate the ideals of 

the Republican Party and commit themselves once
again to work for these ideals and support them financially through our membership in Republicans Abroad International," said Susan Tessem, chairwoman. 

"There are 6 million  U.S. citizens who live abroad. They work, live, participate in their new-found international communities and continue to pay U.S. taxes, vote and make a difference," she said.  "The Costa Rica chapter has made a considerable difference in winning this year the Most Outstanding Chapter for Republicans Abroad International." 

On Saturday, Nov. 3 at 11 a.m. the group will hold a champagne reception and brunch in the Hotel Alta on the old road to Santa Ana, going west from Escazú.  Following the reception and brunch, the main presentation is a Checklist to Election Victory panel discussion by guests that will cover the election issues of 2002 that particularly are of interest to U.S. citizens living abroad. These include topics of trade, foreign policy, tax exemptions, the 2010 Census, voter registration and absentee voting, said the announcement. 

Panel members also will discuss the responsibilities and support they need from U.S. Citizens living abroad for a victory in the 2002 U.S. Senate and House races.

On Nov. 4 members will go for a cruise on the Manta Raya to Punta Coral Island for a day in the sun.

For more information and reservations, those interested may call Susan at 228-9167 or Shirley at 235-7292.

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