exchange rate
A.M. Costa Rica

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These stories were published Thursday, Oct. 28, 2004, in Vol. 4, No. 214
Jo Stuart
About us
An A.M. Costa Rica editorial
We would like to see Bush win on Tuesday
Oscar Arias Sánchez said six weeks after the New York and Washington terror attacks that killing from afar is also a definition of cowardice." He was referring to Bill Clinton’s use of cruise missiles against Osama bin Laden.

Sitting around wringing your hands and talking peace while other people do your fighting also is cowardice.

And a newspaper that fails to state a position in this, an extraordinary election year, also is a coward.

A.M. Costa Rica is owned by a Tico corporation, so about as far as we can go is to say that we hope George W. Bush wins re-election.

Cowardice is a word that has been thrown around about both U.S. presidential candidates. We reject this. John Kerry volunteered for four months in action in Vietnam. George Bush went through flight school. Anyone who knows anything about flying high-performance aircraft knows that your life is in your hands at each takeoff.

Fighting terrorism is dirty business. There only is one way to end such threats, and that is house-by-house and town-by-town, exactly what coalition troops in Iraq are doing.

We do not question John Kerry’s patriotism. We think he is an opportunist, but most 

politicians are. However, we question the competence of the Democratic fringe.

Kerry’s sister in a stop in Mexico suggested eliminating terrorism by inviting more foreign 
White house photo 
by Eric Draper
George Bush
students to study in the United States. We already tried that, and we taught them how to fly passenger jets.

Bush gets low grades in human rights. John Ashcroft, the attorney general, has made terrible blunders. We believe these were in response to a bloated and ineffective intelligence service and State Department where people sit around all day calculating their pensions.

The colossal naiveté of some Democrats down here is appalling. This is not a sanctuary. This is a fat target for international terrorists. A dance club in Tamarindo. A hotel in Manuel Antonio. How hard would it be to catch North American tourists when they least expect it?

Better the fight be joined in the Middle East. And until victory.

Miracle continues for the Boston baseball team
By Joe Medici
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

After 86 years of waiting and hoping, Red Sox Nation can finally sleep soundly. The Boston Red Sox swept the St. Louis Cardinals in the fourth game to win their first World Series title in over eight decades.

The Red Sox took an early lead when center fielder Johnny Damon hit a solo home run. The Red Sox never turned back. Behind superb pitching and defense, the Red Sox maintained the lead through nine innings, finally winning 3 to 0.

10 days ago, the Sox were on life support down three games to nothing against the New York Yankees. Solid pitching and batting got them

 back in the series and they rode a hot streak through the Yankees and the Cardinals.

The Red Sox had not won a World Series since they traded Babe Ruth after the 1918 season. Until last night, the supposed curse of the bambino had haunted them in post-season play. Last night, however, the Sox took control of their own destiny.

Even here in Costa Rica, where baseball is not that popular, the game received rave reviews. In San José, Gringos and Ticos alike watched as Boston bested their 86-year-old curse.

Boston now enters an off-season full of questions. Several of their star players will become free agents, including their ace pitcher Pedro Martínez. 

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La Costanera, Quepos, Parrita, Manuel Antonio

Another president
comes under scrutiny

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Another ex-president has been sucked into the growing corruption scandal.

The nation’s chief prosector said Wednesday afternoon that he would look into allegations involving José María Figueres Olsen. Figueres is of the Partido Liberación Nacional, and this is the first time that allegations of corruption have been made against that party.

News reports claim that Figueres got $900,000 from the French telecommunications firm Alcatel.

Two other presidents of the Partido Unidad Social Cristiana have either been jailed or put under house arrest.

A spokesman for the court was delicate when referring to the case. The spokesman did not name the chief prosecutor, Francisco Dall’Anese, or Figueres.

Readers respond

Alajuela hotel uses
bank exchange rate

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Regarding your article about exchange rates in today's A.M. Costa Rica, you say "tourists should avoid hotel  . . . exchange rates".  This seems to be based on a sample of one hotel?

We and a number of small hotels I am aware of use the daily exchange rate — my source comes daily from the Gallo Pinto message board.  Others get it at their local banks.

It seems important, at least to this hotelier, that Costa Rica does NOT get the reputation for exchange rate gouging true of some other Latin countries. We would certainly, if asked, advise the members of our Innkeepers association to use only the official daily exchange rate (I have never had a problem with an exchange rate transaction I can remember).

To do otherwise merely leads tourists to be suspicious of all financial transactions they engage in.  Tell the Del Rey "bad form" if you like but please don't paste all hotels with the same brush?

Pura Vida Hotel 
Alajuela, Costa Rica
She agrees on rates

 Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I totally agree...I always use the official bank rate and don't want to be categorized with the Del Rey. (exchange rate-wise or in any way!) 

Joan Inman 
Playa Grande, Costa Rica 

We now accept
other currencies

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

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.

The U.S.-based company does all the math and either converts payment to U.S. dollars at the current rate of exchange or places the money in the newspaper accounts denominated in the correct currency.

The exchange is invisible to advertising customers who simply make payments in their own national currency.

Pay Pal is a handy, secure system that allows customers to send or receive money with a few strokes on the computer keyboard once an account has been established.


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A.M. Costa Rica
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James J. Brodell........................editor
Saray Ramírez Vindas...associate editor

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FAX: (506) 223-1190

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Passport thefts cause officials to call for copies
By Clair-Marie Robertson
and the A.M. Costa Rica staff

U.S. citizens are robbed or are victims of theft at a rate better than nearly two a day, according to statistics released Wednesday.

Thieves or robbers took some 293 U.S. passports in the first half of 2004. Some 56 per cent of tourists are from the United States.

These figures were acquired from the U.S. Embassy and used to support the Costa Rican government’s decision to relax rules regarding tourist identification, officials said.

Security officials basically approved what everyone already does: keep the passport in a safe place and carry a photocopy.  The decision was announced at a conference Wednesday about how to improve tourist security in Costa Rica. Rogelio Ramos Martinez, minister of Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública, Rodrigo Castro, minister of Turismo and ambassadors from 39 countries also attended. 

Ana Helena Chacon, vice minister of Seguridad Pública, was the one who announced that tourists will not have to carry their original passport.

She said that the majority of items that get stolen have been left unattended. "Wallets and bags that are stolen are left on the beach while people go swimming. In every five violent crimes that are committed, four victims know their assailant so on the whole tourists are safe here," she said.

The conference came in advance of the peak tourism season that begins in December.

The conference also covered several topics including how to protect children from sex tourism, how to 

improve medical care on the beaches of Costa Rica and also how to implement stricter regulations for canopy tours and water rafting.  "These were the topics we covered in some depth. All of this has the same aim, to make the tourists stay in Costa Rica as pleasant as possible." said Vice Minister Chacon.

Ramos said that San José, Puntarenas and Quepos are where the most reports of theft are received. "We intend to put a stronger police presence in areas where tourists frequent so that we can take preventative action against thieves." said Ramos. He put forward the example of the Río Tarcoles bridge north of Jacó, where tourists stop to look at crocodiles basking on the banks below.

Organized gangs targeted the parking areas close to the bridge where tourists left doors unlocked and bags in full view. "I am happy to say that we controlled the criminal activity there and no more thefts have been reported to us." said Ramos. 

Castro, the tourism minister, said that preventative methods will be put in place to coincide with the high season of tourism in Costa Rica in December. A tourist guide titled "Let’s travel safe" has also been produced and will be placed in hotels and tourist hotspots around the country. "This will help tourists know what they need to do to be safe when they are on holiday in Costa Rica," said Castro.

U.S. Embassy officials and others have been shy about releasing statistics about passport theft. Each day one or more U.S. citizens show up at the embassy with tales of robbery or theft. Lots of thefts take place from the trunks of rental cars.

Unless a valuable document like a passport or a device like a laptop computer is taken, tourists usually do not make a report. So the actual number of robbery and thefts are unknown, although it is much higher than nearly two a day.

Unforgiving killer awaits the unwary at the beach
By Don Johnson 
Latitude 8 Lodge 
Playa Zancudo, Costa Rica

The tragic drowning last week on Playa Zancudo was newsworthy. However, this tragic accident should serve as a reminder to visitors, and locals that the beauty of the Pacific Ocean on our coastline camouflages an unforgiving killer. 

Hopefully a mention of the following safety concerns posted in A.M. Costa Rica may save the life of another potential victim.

1. Stay inside of the large beach breaks or swells unless you are a strong swimmer. 

2. Ask locals about known shore rips and learn 

how to survive if you are caught in a rip or current.

3. Beware of outgoing tides and do not allow low tide conditions to lull you into thinking it is safe to venture beyond the beach breaks.

4. Always attach the leash from your board to an arm or leg.

5. NEVER swim, surf or boogie board alone.

6. NEVER mix alcohol or social drugs with swimming or boarding.

Unfortunately, a combination of one or more of these mistakes once again proved to be a deadly mixture.

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Beer sometimes is better than garlic
By Kevin Huey
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

"CLACK, CLACK, CLACK, CLACK, CLACK."  I pulled open my crusty eyelids and turned my head slightly to find the source of this torturous sound.  Big mistake.  Sharp, stabbing pains shot from my forehead to the rear of my cranium. 

"Ahhhhhhhhh" escaped from the back of my paper-dry throat and across my swollen tongue. 

My head fell back into the pillow and I began inhaling quick, shallow breaths.  It was then that I noticed the unpleasant odor of stale beer and dried sweat, and realized that it was coming from me. 

My arm shot out and knocked the demonic alarm clock to the floor, where it continued its piercing, rhythmic assault on my skull. 

As the pain eased into a dull ache, I rose up in the bed and leaned against the headboard.  My unfocused stare came to rest on the pants that I had been wearing for — well, a few days, anyway. 

Even the wrinkles had wrinkles.  I automatically reached for the half-empty beer that always waited attentively on the nightstand and carefully brought it to my lips.  I realized with slight apprehension that I had not checked the top of the can for cigarette ash, even as the first welcome swallow pushed its way down my mucus-coated throat.  I felt great relief at the absence of a floating butt.  I returned the can to its station, then stood on unsteady legs and braced myself on the mattress with one arm as I kicked the evil timepiece under the bed. 

I walked heavily into the kitchen, each step creating pulses of pressure on my temples, and started a pot of coffee.  Then I extracted a large can of beer from the refrigerator and sat down in the creaky wooden chair next to the small, scarred Formica table to wait.  I noticed that it was night again as I turned up the can and greedily sucked down about half of the contents.  I spent the remainder of the time until the coffee completed its cycle staring at the calendar on the wall, trying to determine what day it was. 

The photo for October was of a sexy Tica in a black bikini with a pointy witch hat leaning over a washing machine.  I really loved that calendar.  The realization that the coffee machine had ceased it gurgling noises trickled into my consciousness.  I lifted the can, emptied the rest into my gullet, and then tossed it at the trash receptacle in the corner.  It bounced off the precarious mound of its brethren and knocked several clattering to the floor. 

I rinsed out a large plastic cup and poured in about three-quarters of the steaming liquid from the pot.  Then I added half the cubes from a plastic ice tray and swirled them around with the handle of a dirty spoon until they completely melted. I raised the cup to my mouth perhaps six times during the next four minutes until it too was empty.  Then I went into the other room and fell on the couch to wait out the nausea that always followed this daily ritual. 

I was pretty sure that it was Friday, Halloween, which meant that I had been drinking almost every waking moment for the last three days.  I arose and extracted what I assumed was a clean shirt from a pile in the corner, then put it on as I walked to the bathroom to brush my teeth. 

I carefully avoided gazing at myself in the mirror until this task was completed, then patted my front pocket to check for my wallet as I strode out the front door and into the cool night.  I reached into my back pocket and removed a crumpled pack of cheap cigarettes and some mangled paper matches.  There were three slim little happy sticks remaining, but unfortunately, two were twisted beyond repair.  I straightened the third and shoved it between my lips, managing to light a match for it on my fifth attempt.  Then I drew the warm, comforting smoke deep into my lungs, and the jittery feeling from the massive caffeine dose began to subside. 

I scuffled along for the ten blocks to Micky’s bar, a faux Irish establishment around the corner from the University of Costa Rica, owned and operated by a Chinese immigrant named Wu.  As I slid onto the stool next to my buddy Juan, I caught the eye of the bartender, Pati.  Actually, he was Wu’s nephew and had been nicknamed Patty to imply some Irish connection.  He had quickly been renamed Pati by the clientele, which refers to a baked meat pie popular on the Caribbean coast. 

He was at least six feet, four inches tall and must have weighed 300 pounds.  He looked just like a sumo wrestler and at the moment, he had a small leprechaun hat perched on his huge head.  Uncontrollable laughter burst out of me in a torrent, and as I saw the tightening of his lips at my response, it just increased.  He placed two shots of tequila in front of me and said "dos rojas" in a flat voice.  At that moment, I realized that there was an incessant tugging on my sleeve. 

Juan was saying "John, John, John, John, John!." 

"WHAT!" I replied in a too-loud voice as I turned to stare into his bloodshot eyes. 

Juan possessed two endearing qualities that made me value him highly as a friend.  First, he never corrected or dissected my bad Spanish.  Second, however bad I felt, he always looked worse. 

"Dos rojas" repeated Pati. 

I placed my right hand, palm outward, in front of Juan’s face as I removed my wallet from my pocket with my left.  I peeled out the two red bills and slid them across the bar.  Then I turned my attention back to Juan. 

"What?" I asked at a normal volume. 

"El Cadejos followed me home last night," he replied in a slightly hysterical tone. 

I looked closely at him for a moment, then I pushed one of my tequilas in front of him. 

"Is that the Colombian mafia or something?" went through my mind.  "Is that the Colombian mafia or something?" came out of my mouth. 

He lifted the glass to his lips and downed the shot in one gulp, then turned to look at me. 


"No, no, the dog," he replied. 

"So a dog named El Cadejos followed you home?" I asked, as I reached for my glass. 

"It is not just a dog!" he exclaimed, "It is a magical animal.  Let me tell you the story.  At one time there was a young muchacho called Joaquin that lived in Cartago.  He went out drinking every night, and it worried and upset his family.  After he had been gone for a week, his father went out to find him and told him never to come back home.  His father’s eyes blazed red and when Joaquin refused to answer, he was changed into a huge black dog with chains and burning red eyes.  He will follow bad drunks home and they must never turn to look at him.

 "Or what?" I prodded. 

"It will drive you insane," he replied, eyes dropping to the floor. 

I held up two fingers to Pati, signaling another round, then stared intently at Juan’s small brown face, waiting for the rest of the story. 

"Last night, after I left you at your doorstep, I was walking home," he began, "I had stopped at the music store and was staring in the window at that life-size poster of Shakira in her tight, little white dress when I heard the tinkling of chains and saw the reflection of a large beast walking up behind me.  Then I smelled dead, rotting flesh, like from the swollen dogs that have been hit by cars and lie beside the pista.  I knew instantly that it was El Cadejos, so I turned and walked away very fast.  I could still hear the tinkling behind me, so I knew that he was following.  I began to run as fast as I could, and I almost fell a few times because of the bad sidewalk, but finally I reached my door and made it inside.  Then I was safe, because I was home and I didn’t look at him." 

"Wow!" I exclaimed and tried to look empathetic.  We had imbibed massive amounts of liquor in the last few days, he and I, so I was not surprised that his pickled brain would drift into hallucinations.  What followed that evening was more of the same, and I must have went into a blackout approximately two hours later. 

When consciousness returned, I found myself lying in a pile of carefully tied, small plastic bags filled with garbage.  I rolled over to my hands and knees, stood up, and looked through the window into the panaderia where I sometimes bought pastries.  It was still dark out, but there were already several people inside, hard at work. 

I began walking the remaining four blocks to my apartment, weaving slightly as I was still somewhat intoxicated.  What was that metallic noise behind me, wind chimes maybe?  I realized that I had walked over a block and the sound was still with me, just as loud as before.  How odd.  I turned around, curious as to its origin and — froze completely. 

Perhaps 10 feet away, a huge black dog crouched and growled menacingly at me.  Large chains looped around and hung from its massive neck, its eyes glowed like red neon.  It slowly rose to a standing position, extending its chest and emitting a low-pitched howl.  Adrenaline flooded my brain and body, the flight instinct took over completely.  I turned and ran like the wind, or at least like a slightly drunk gringo, scared past the capability of rational thought.  Right down the center of the street, chains keeping pace all the way, only one block left to go. 

Then my right foot came down in a pothole and I began to stumble, panic pushing bile into the back of my throat.  I felt a claw tear through the back of my pants and rip down my calf, drawing blood but not damaging muscle. To my amazement, I caught my balance again, straightened up and increased my speed even more. 

I threw open the door to my building and leaped onto the stairs, taking two at a time as I flew up to my second floor apartment.  The beast lost its footing on the steps and crashed through the railing, wood splintering with sharp cracking noises, as it fell to the landing below.  Then I heard its toenails clattering on the tile as it quickly righted itself and resumed its pursuit.  I managed to get the door open and then lock it behind me, throwing the bolts as a large mass slammed into it from the other side. The frame split partially on the first impact, I knew it wouldn’t hold against a second attack.  As I ran down the hall, the monster hit again and the door, frame and all, crashed down into the hallway floor. 

It oriented itself for a few moments, allowing me time to run into the bedroom and slam the door, wedging an old wooden chair under the knob.  I looked around the room in a panic, but there was nowhere to hide.  I lunged onto the bed, then I pushed myself up into a sitting position against the headboard. 

The bedroom door was thin, the wood infested with termites.  El Cadejos was barely inconvenienced as he smashed easily through the barrier and leaped onto the bed.  The bed frame slammed into the wall and bounced off, knocking over the nightstand.  I felt warm urine spreading over my crotch as I froze, hopelessly holding my hands in front of my face in some instinctual, obviously useless defense posture. 

His stench was overpowering and the bile rose again from my stomach, almost choking me.  I felt, rather than heard the low growl in his chest, as his lips slowly pulled back to expose his canine fangs.  Then to my amazement, his snout rose several inches and he sniffed the air.  He gazed down at the half empty beer overturned on the floor, spilling its contents on the tiles.  He jumped from the bed and landed on the floor heavily, shaking the whole structure of the building.  He proceeded to lap up the stale brew with loud slurping noises. 

At that moment, the first rays of the morning sun crept through the partially open drapes and El Cadejos began losing substance.  Within maybe 15 seconds he became transparent and then just faded away.  Only the stench remained.  I stared down at the remaining droplets shimmering in the light for a few long moments. Then I stood, climbed over the broken wreckage that had previously been my bedroom door and chair, and went into the kitchen to take another tall can of beer from the fridge. 

Copyrighted 2004 Kevin Huey and Consultantes Río Colorado S.A.

Jo Stuart
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