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These stories were published Thursday, Oct. 23, 2003, in Vol. 3, No. 210
Jo Stuart
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Gunmen abduct U.S. citizen 
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
As of 11 a.m.

Masked men with guns abducted a U.S. businessman who also is a lay minister near his home late Tuesday.

The Judicial investigating Organization confirmed the kidnapping. The man is Richard Hinkle, operator of a clothing store in a San José-area mall.

A friend say the man was returning home from watching the fourth game of the baseball World Series in the company of one of his children. Gunmen grabbed him when he got out of his car.

The Judicial Investigating Organization said the crime happened in Ribiera de Belén west of 

town and that further information would be released by the Ministerio Público, the country’s independent prosecutorial entity.

A friend said that Hinkle was a member of the International Baptist Church but has been spending his time lately as a lay minister to a Baptist church group in San Pedro.

The style of the crime suggests what has been called express kidnappings, popularized in Colombia, in which an individual who may have money is grabbed for a short time and the abductors settle for whatever cash and valuable items close relatives can muster quickly.

A number of such kidnappings have taken place in the last two years, however police also have arrested groups of individuals they said were responsible for some of the crimes.

Montezuma connected
by an alternate route

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

Montezuma, the famous beach at the tip of the Nicoya Peninsula, remains open for business despite months of concern over a possible major landslide.

Residents confirmed Wednesday that the town now has an alternate route.

Access to Montezuma was limited in July when a hillside just west of town began to move and caused displacements of soil and trees. The principal paved access to the town ran right over the hillside.

Residents, most of whom depend on the tourism trade, were upset by rumors that the hillside was at the point of collapse. National television furthered the image two months ago by showing photos of fractures in the hillside.

The Camara de Turismo de Montezuma met with the Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias. A geologist and several experts in materials studied the situation and suggested to the residents that they wait to open the main road to see if a major slide would take place.

So that visitors could avoid the point where the earth is showing stress, a new route has been opened from Las Delicias, a small community to the west. That town connects with Cóbano, the principal trading center in the southern Nicoya.

The Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transporte has placed signs on the road to direct traffic to Montezuma. The route is slightly longer than the paved and graveled main road that runs right over the endangered hillside.

The new route is not in jeopardy from the heavy rains that were hitting the area even up until Wednesday.

Four hotels below the hillside may be in danger if a major slide takes place. Residents hope that the situation can be resolved with the arrival of the dry season.  That also is when the tourist resort gets plenty of visitors. Most come by ferry from Puntarenas via Paquera.

Montezuma’s small business district and beaches are below and just east of a ridgeline that provides scenic views but also can cause the kind of erosion that is being seen now.

A. M. Costa Rica photo
New lights are being installed downtown as part of the project to put the unsightly electric lines underground. This shot was taken along Avenida Central. 

Puffing on the job
would draw fines

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Smoking in the workplace will be illegal whether the boss or an employee is the one doing it. That was the decision Wednesday by the Comisión Permanente de Asuntos Sociales that is preparing a tobacco control measure.

However, that means some lawmakers will be fined, said Peter Guevara of the Movimiento Libertario. He told the committee that legislators smoke in the halls, the cafeteria, offices and other rooms of the Asamblea Nacional.

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Media census tries
to list every outlet

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Students at the Universidad de Costa Rica have taken on the job of cataloging all the communications media that operate in the country.

This will be the first such effort in 10 years, according to an announcement. The project is by the Escuela de Ciencias of the Comunicación Colectiva. Included in the census will be companies that are involved in audio visuals, ad agencies, television and radio broadcasters, international press agencies, newspapers and magazines.

Alberto Rojas Rojas, a professor, will supervise the project, which eventually will be incorporated into a data base. The census will include circulation or viewership of commercial outlets as well as the rates they charge for advertising. The announcement noted that the Colegio de Periodistas maintains a list but that the census will be far broader in scope.

The group of 20 students will spend three months on the project. They plan to travel all over the country. Rojas said the goal is to not leave a single communication media out, the announcement said.

Major Intel project
is Pacheco’s topic

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Abel Pacheco has set up a press conference at the facilities of Intel in San Antonio de Belén this morning to help announce a major new investment by the chip-making firm in Costa Rica.

Informal reports suggest that the company is prepared to invest an additional $100 million. The announcement could not come at a better time. Costa Rica is negotiating a free trade treaty with the United States, something Pacheco supports. The computer company’s announcement will support those who favor free trade and the additional investment it will bring to the country,

Ex-president’s farm
target of landless

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

LA PAZ, Bolivia — Dozens of landless peasants have invaded a farm belonging to the family of former President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada. 

Head of the country's Landless Movement, Angel Duran, defended the move Tuesday, saying the constitution allows for unused land to be turned over to those who have none.  He said there are plans to occupy more unproductive farmland. 

The landless group joined poor miners and indigenous groups in weeks of violent protest against Sanchez de Lozada. About 80 people were killed and many more injured in the marches that paralyzed the capital, La Paz. 

Sanchez de Lozada announced his resignation last week and fled to the United States.  Bolivia's new president, Carlos Mesa, has promised to respect the country's large indigenous population. 

Chile and Vietnam
sign trade accord

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

HANOI, Vitnam — Chilean President Ricardo Lagos and his Vietnamese counterpart, Tran Duc Luong, have pledged to increase trade and cultural relations between their countries. 

Their meeting in Hanoi Wednesday, marked the first visit by a Chilean president since Vietnam and Chile established diplomatic ties in 1972. Lagos arrived in Hanoi late Tuesday.

His three-day visit is expected to focus on opening embassies in both countries, providing mutual technical assistance, and improving trade by shipping goods directly rather than through a third country. 

The two presidents also have signed agreements on fisheries cooperation and the easing of visa requirements for diplomatic visitors.

Chevron Texaco faces
big pollution suit

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

LAGO AGRIO, Ecuador — An Ecuadorian court has opened a billion-dollar lawsuit against U.S.-based oil company Chevron Texaco for alleged pollution. 

Hundreds of Secoya Indians dressed in body paint and feathers marched outside the court Tuesday in this jungle town about 180 kms. (about 110 miles)  northeast of Quito. 

Lawyers representing about 30,000 Indians say the company dumped oily wastewater into local rivers over a 20-year period ending in 1992. They allege the pollution has caused cancer in residents, killed farm animals and ruined crops. They are demanding that the company pay to clean up the area. 

Lawyers for the company challenged the court's authority in the case Tuesday, saying the damages were caused by Texaco and not the company resulting from its 2001 merger with Chevron.  Chevron Texaco representatives have said the oil company followed appropriate practices at the time, and paid for a $40 million clean-up project. 

The case was first filed in the United States 10 years ago, but U.S. judges ruled last year that an Ecuadorian court should hear the complaint. 

Senate in Chile
OKs U.S. trade pact

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

SANTIAGO, Chile — The Chilean Senate has approved a free trade agreement with the United States. 

The free trade bill passed the Senate Wednesday by 34 to 5, with five abstentions. The vote paves the way for the accord to go into effect early next year. 

The pact, that the two nations signed in June, eliminates tariffs on more than 80 percent of their annual exchange. 

The Chilean House of Representatives and the U.S. Congress already approved the agreement earlier this year. 

Chilean officials hope the agreement will contribute to their country's economic growth. The Bush Administration sees the pact as a step towards building a Pan-American free trade zone.

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Photo by Barbara L. Gerber
David, the Axe Man
By Barbara L. Gerber

In New York City, the land of the rudest people on the face of the earth (even rivaling the French), pretty Jennifer boarded the subway train, packed to standing room only, as usual on a workday morning. She grabbed the overhead rail, forcing her into a pose that revealed how beautiful her young dancer's body was. 

She was deep in thought when she felt a rough hand graze her back snagging the spandex as it forced its way down her garment. She turned as far as the crowding of the passengers allowed to see who the rude groper was, but everyone behind her looked on in a New York City stare. 

She felt uneasy the rest of the day, dreading the subway ride home again after sundown. After work, she left her building and walked fast toward the train, avoiding the vomit and urine that was frequently present at the underground station. She had her cell phone pressed to her ear, recounting the morning episode to her father who lived in Arizona. The late October winds swirled trash around her feet as she stepped into the train. The door closed and Jennifer was lost in the darkness.

The next day, Jennifer’s boss grew uneasy when it was 45 minutes past the time when Jennifer was due to arrive. Jennifer was as reliable as the morning sun, so it was extremely unsettling by the end of the day that Jennifer hadn’t replied to the many messages left on her cell phone inquiring as to her whereabouts. Her boss hoped that Jennifer had gone to see her parents in Arizona as she often commented how much she missed them.

Three days passed, still no word from Jennifer. That morning it was again past starting time, so Jennifer’s boss looked up her parent’s home phone number in the file and called. There was a three-hour time difference, and Jennifer’s father, David, answered the phone with a half good-natured, half "why the hell are you calling at this hour" tone to his voice. He listened carefully and quietly while being informed that his daughter could possibly be missing. 

David hung up the phone, acquired a plane ticket to New York via the Internet, loaded up his dog in a plane crate and packed a few clothes and toiletries in a sports bag. He then changed his mind and put the articles in a full-sized suitcase so he could check his bag. He had decided to take an axe, and an axe would never make it through the metal detector at the airport. He left a scribbled note for his wife, and nine hours later, he stepped off the plane in New York City. His dog Harley shivered once, and then they made their way to the building where Jennifer worked. Harley picked up Jennifer’s scent immediately, and followed it to the station where the trains came and went. 

They were there for hours. The dog sat patiently and expressionless. Suddenly Harley howled once indicating that he had picked up the scent, and David hid the dog in his coat and boarded the train. They got off the train where Jennifer would have got off to go to her apartment, but the scent was cold. David boarded another train and backtracked, getting off at every stop until Harley picked up the scent. 

They followed the scent down alleyways until they came to an underground entrance to a small basement dwelling. David knocked, no one answered. He could hear loud music inside and Harley was scratching furiously at the ground by the door, trying to get inside to a familiar scent. David took out his axe and banged on the door with the back of the blade. 

Someone yelled from inside, "Yeah!" 

David said, "I want to talk to you about my daughter." 

From inside a man replied, "I don’t know your daughter, man." 

"I didn’t say what her name was, ‘man’, now, open up!" David ordered. 

The man’s voice cracked as he replied, "I got a gun man. Now get the hell outta here!" 

David screamed in a chilling voice, "Then you better use it now ‘cuz I’m coming in!". Harley backed away. He heard the man indoors scramble away into his house as David began hacking away at the door. He was so strong and determined that it only took about six chops to make a hole big enough to reach his arm into and unlock several locks securing the door. 

Story No. 1

Here is a Halloween story by one of our readers. The story will be judged as part of our Second Annual Halloween Fiction Contest. Input is appreciated.

Once inside David saw a weasel-like man trying to scramble out the small basement window, knocking away the unstable stack of boxes and books he used to elevate himself to reach the window. David caught the man by the ankle and pulled him back inside. The man was scared, as he should have been, because David had a steely glint in his eye, and he was wielding an axe. David jerked the beady-eyed man about while ordering him to tell him where his daughter was. 

The man continued to deny knowing what he was talking about until David head-butted him in the nose, and lifted the axe far above the man’s skull. As the man started to whimper, David noticed Harley barking and scratching at the floor. 

David continued to hold the man’s arm with one hand as he inspected the floor. There was a hinged opening in the floor, locked with a padlock. David broke the lock with the axe and opened the hatch. It was dark below, so David made the sleazy man walk down the steep steps ahead of him. 

David always carried a small penlight, but it was not enough to see around right away. As David’s eyes adjusted to the light, he saw a small cage with something stuffed inside. David saw that the something had blond hair, much like his daughter’s hair. He took his axe and knocked the sniveling man out, sending him crumpling to the floor. David pulled at the sides of the wire cage, blood veins bulging at his temples until the clips holding the frame gave way. 

The young woman flopped out and began to cry. She was unable to stand because she was weak from thirst and hunger and she had been molded into a small rectangle for three days. David picked her up and ran into the night until he came to a traffic-laden street. He hailed a taxi and had the driver call the police. They rode in the police car to the underground residence where Jennifer’s captor lived, but the place was empty. Apparently, the man had regained consciousness and had run away. David was enraged. He vowed justice for his daughter, and took her to a hotel for a good meal and some rest. The hotel had an on-staff nurse who looked after her all night.

The next day, David boarded Jennifer on a plane for home. He was determined to stay behind and find the scum that had abducted his daughter. Days, weeks and months went by, a full year had passed. David’s hair grew long, and Harley’s hair became matted. 

Sightings of the man were frequent. David and Harley played a tormenting game of hide-and-seek with him, driving him to desperation. He wanted to murder someone, but was not given a moments peace to do so. The man finally decided to leave the country and go somewhere that he would not be recognized nor found. 

He checked out tropical travel brochures then set his sights on Costa Rica. He caught the first plane to Miami, and from there took a plane to Costa Rica. As he danced down the plane ramp at Juan Santamaria International, he was giddy with evil thoughts in a new land, but unbeknownst to him, David and Harley had followed. They watched the man as he left the airport and wandered around San Jose for a while. 

The man could no longer keep his murderous cravings at bay when he saw a lovely woman walking down the street who would be just right. She fit the profile of what he was looking for, light colored hair, good looking with a lively step and a perky smile. He couldn’t help but follow. She was mesmerizing. 

He went into a coffee shop and sat near the woman, fantasizing about her lovely throat. "Hola Jo." The waitress said. "How’s the A.M. Costa Rica staff today?" Jo smiled and started to reply, but the words caught in her throat and her smile faded when she saw a long-haired man with an axe and a shaggy dog crouching behind a bush outside. . . . 

Copyrighted 2003 Barbara L. Gerber

It's time to send us your most scary story
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Remember those scary stories you heard while clustered around the campfire? And the strange forest sounds that punctuated the shivery tales?

Well let’s pretend your computer is a campfire, and let’s get cranked up for the 2003 annual A.M. Costa Rica Halloween story contest. Send us your fiction and non-fiction tales that are related somehow to Costa Rica. We’ll pick a winner and send the writer $25.

And we’ll publish the Halloween stories at the end of the month. We will try to publish as many as we can.

The stories must be original and relate to Costa Rica and also to Halloween, ghosts, specters, witches, goblins or at least a tingly feeling along the spine.

By submitting the stories, the authors give A.M. Costa Rica the non-exclusive right to publish them. Send your story to 


Our staff example is HERE!

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