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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Oct. 31, 2002, Vol. 2, No. 216
Jo Stuart
About us
A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas
A solitary bird sits upon a cross in the Cemeterio de Desamparados to give us our Halloween photo.

Some parties mark
Night of the Witches

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Halloween is basically for North Americans here tonight, and several bars frequented by ex-pats will be having parties.

The Fuerza Pública officers have been put on a higher level of alert for the Night of the Witches, as it is called in Spanish. But there is no real level of anxiety.

There is one party at El Ché Bar and Restaurant in San Rafael de Escazú at 8 p.m., and some customers threaten to wear costumes. Prizes are planned. Elsewhere, several movie houses in the San José area are showing Halloween themed shows. Check individual theaters for screenings and times. 

Slot machine tax seen
hurting smaller casinos

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Casino insiders expect a major contraction of the industry if the Asemblea Nacional approves a proposal to tax slot machines.

Some operators of large casinos welcome the measure because they believe that smaller operations will fail and they will get more business.

The tax proposal is for a monthly fee of from $250 to $300 per slot machine. In a casino like

Analysis on the news

Fiesta on the Avenida Central boulevard, the tax would be in the neighborhood of $18,000 a month because that location has about 65 slot machines lining its walls.

The tax is part of a temporary, emergency fiscal plan to help balance the national budget.

Casino operators will be encouraged to reduce the number of machines if the tax proposal finally becomes law.  That should have a negative impact of those few firms that provide the machines on a contract basis.

The 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week casinos in San José central might have an advantage, but even now the slot machines are underutilized except on certain weekend nights.

At beach and other resort locations, the slot machines provide atmosphere for the gamblers who frequent the operations, mostly on weekend evenings.

Machines in Costa Rica return from 97 percent to 88 percent of the money that gamblers place in them. The devices are heavily weighted in favor of the house. With new taxes casino operators will be tempted to ratchet their percentage higher, making it more difficult for gamblers to win.

Fig tree fright is the winner in story contest
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The votes are in for A.M. Costa Rica’s first Halloween story contest. And the winner is (drum roll, please) . . . Lucía Wrestler and her story titled "Higuerón de Los Yoses."

As promised, A.M. Costa Rica will send, Ms. Wrestler, the spookiest yarn-spinner, the grand prize of $25. Her story is taken from her childhood experiences and involves a landmark fig tree (higuerón).

Ms. Wrestler grew up in Los Yoses and works at the University of Indiana. She hopes to return here after retirement.

Read the stories

We received four creative, well-written entries, which made selecting the winner extremely difficult. One item of interest was that all the tomes were scribed by females — perhaps our male readers were just too occupied.

Thank you to all of our contributors and Happy Halloween. We plan to continue the contest next year.

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Six Haitians charged 
with people smuggling

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

MIAMI, Fla. — Federal authorities here have charged six Haitians with immigrant smuggling one day after more than 200 Haitians streamed to shore outside the city from an overcrowded boat.

The six men are charged with coordinating the trip and operating the 16-meter wooden freighter that transported the illegal immigrants from Haiti's northern coast.

Marco Jimenez, U.S. attorney, says he will request that the men be held pending trial. "Alien smuggling not only violates our laws, but it is well-known in our community that it endangers and costs many lives," he explained.

If convicted, the men face up to 10 years in prison.

Meanwhile, anger has reached boiling point among Haitian-Americans in south Florida.

Haitian-Americans here have been demonstrating virtually non-stop ever since authorities rounded up the would-be immigrants from a highway and bused them to a detention center outside the city.

Jacques Despinose is one of a multitude of voices demanding that the new arrivals be freed. "We want the Haitians to be released," he said. "We want them to have the right to go before a judge [to plead their asylum case] like everybody else."

Haitian-Americans bitterly complain that the vast majority of their countrymen who sail for U.S. shores are repatriated, while all Cubans who make it to U.S. soil are allowed to stay. Johnson Dormeus says there is a double standard, and it is not fair.

"If they [U-S officials] give the Cuban people freedom, they have to give the Haitian people freedom, too," he stressed.

Hundreds of Haitian-Americans protested Wednesday at the offices of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) here. They also hounded Florida Governor Jeb Bush during a campaign event in the city. Bush, who is running for re-election, is the younger brother of President Bush, a fact that was not lost on the protesters.

Mexicans gain insights
into army politics

By A.M. Costa Rica wire services

MEXICO CITY — The Defense Minister here says the trial of two generals accused of drug trafficking strengthens rather than damages the army's reputation. The trial has captivated the public because it offers a rare glimpse into the closed world of high-ranking military officers. 

The Mexican military is not known for its openness and has in the past been accused of covering up internal problems. But the court martial of Generals Arturo Acosta and Francisco Quiros has been open to the public. Local television news programs are even using video clips from the proceedings.

The two men are accused of helping infamous drug lord Amado Carillo Fuentes to smuggle cocaine from South America to the United States during the 1990s. In a separate charge, they are accused of murdering 143 leftist activists and insurgents during the so-called "dirty war" of the 1970s.

Military prosecutors have presented testimony from a dozen witnesses linking the two generals to drug trafficking, but lawyers for the accused say the witnesses are criminals who cannot be trusted. 

The two generals have denied knowing Carillo Fuentes, who died after botched plastic surgery in 1997. They say they may have met him without knowing who he was, but they deny having known him personally and having received money and expensive gifts from him.

In an appearance before a Mexican congressional committee Wednesday, Gerardo Clemente Vega Garcia, defense minister and army general, rejected the notion that the court martial has to do with an internal struggle in the military. 

He said there is no fight between the old guard and a new guard. He said there are no guards, there is one army that demands justice of all, including the top commander. He said if he were charged with a crime, he would have to respond to the charge.

Acosta and Quiros face up to 40 years in prison if convicted. The trial is expected to conclude this week.

Over-fishing threatens ocean’s marine life

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

ARLINGTON, Va. — A new report by the Pew Oceans Commission said habitat damage and harmful fishing practices are endangering the ecological and economic benefits produced by some of the most diverse and productive ocean ecosystems of the United States.

A press release Monday said the report — the latest in a series of science reports on the threats facing the nation's oceans — finds that many current fishing activities are harming the ecosystems on which future fishing depends, and that this phenomenon is getting worse. 

"If we are serious about saving our fisheries and protecting the sea's biodiversity, then we need to make swift, and perhaps painful, decisions to preserve and maintain the oceans' ecosystems," said Paul Dayton of Scripps Institution of Oceanography, one of the authors of the report.

The report addresses three primary threats to the long-term health of ocean ecosystems: over fishing, by catch of non-targeted species and habitat damage.

The report finds that one result of over fishing is decreased prey available to predators, such as sharks and tuna, often resulting in a ripple effect throughout an ecosystem. 

The report also finds that by catch accidentally captured by drift nets and other indiscriminate fishing equipment has severely depleted most species of turtles, many marine mammals, several species of albatross, and several skates and rays.

The report's authors propose a new approach to fishery management that begins by reorienting fishery and ocean management programs toward the primary goal of protecting natural resources, and also requires an increased investment in ecosystem research and monitoring.

Nicaraguan leader willing 
to forgo immunity

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

MANAGUA, Nicaragua — President Enrique Bolaños says he will give up his immunity from prosecution in order to face charges of illegal fundraising. 

Bolaños made his announcement here late Tuesday. Both Bolaños and Vice President Jose Rizo face a complaint in the nation's Supreme Court that they violated campaign finance laws. 

International news sources report some of the money funding the Bolaños campaign is alleged to have come from overseas, which is illegal under the country’s constitution. 

The president insists he is free of guilt and says the allegations against him are meant to distract from the legal problems of his predecessor, Arnoldo Aleman. 

Last month, Aleman was ousted as speaker of the National Assembly amid allegations he stole nearly $100 million from state coffers. But as a member of Congress, Aleman also has immunity from prosecution. The former president denies wrongdoing during his five-year term that ended in January. 

A.M. Costa Rica/Bryan Kay
Boats in Quepos bask on the sand under the morning sun and surrounding mountains.

Eating for a record
on weekend menu

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rican chefs will try to get in the famous Guinness Book of World Records, said Martha Salazar Vocera of the National Chef Association of Costa Rica.

The attempt at the record  for the largest buffet will be at the conference Room of the Herradura Hotel Sunday.

The chefs will put out 450 different dishes that are 100 percent Costa Rican — from traditional fare to the newest innovations in national food. 

The category is a real one with Guinness. Peru now has the record with 330 different plates. The object of the event also is to show the tourist market that Costa Rica has a very good gastronomic tradition that many restaurants left behind for international cuisine.

Costa Rican food also is of good quality, which is why the country is an important exporter of vegetables and fruits in the world, the association noted in an announcement.

The public is invited to help the chefs finish off the dishes. The meal will cost around $10 and is free for children under 12 years. The meal is styled as all-you-can-eat and runs from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. 

Contraband booze
leads to arrest

By A.M. Costa Rica staff

Investigators intercepted a man early Wednesday morning near Peréz Zeledón driving an Isuzu packed full of 52 cases of Corona beer and 36 bottles of vodka. The booze had been purchased at a duty-free shop.

In addition, the man had 5,000 colons ($13.50) in cash for the purpose of bribery, according to Judicial Investigating Organization officials. The man has the last names Reyes Alvarado.

Dead man blamed
in August murder

By A.M. Costa Rica staff

A dead man was identified Wednesday as the suspect in the murder of a 62-year-old women last August. The victim, Maria Isabel Jimenez Chacón, was killed in her San Raphael de Desamparados home on Aug. 24.

The suspect was shot and killed by a security guard as he was acting suspiciously at a car parts warehouse in Alejuela, according to the Judicial Investigating Organization officials. The man has the last name of Calvo. Calvo died a day later at the Hospital de Alejuela.

Business have say 
in the free trade area

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

QUITO, Ecuador — Business leaders from across the Americas convened here Tuesday, to begin crafting recommendations that they hope will help shape a free trade area of the americas scheduled to be launched by 2005.

Over 400 business leaders, representing each of the 34 nations that the trade agreement will comprise, meet through Thursday.

During the course of the three-day event, the business executives took part in a series of workshops aimed at forging recommendations on such trade-related subjects as agriculture, investment and market access.

These recommendations will be submitted to the 34 trade ministers who will meet here Friday. Robert Zoellick, U.S. trade representative, will lead the U.S. delegation to the meeting of trade ministers here.
Professional Directory
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A.M. Costa Rica's Halloween Contest Story
The Finalists
Higuerón de Los Yoses
By Lucía Wrestler Ch.
There’s an old saying that little pitchers sometimes have big ears.  And in a household where there are children of varying ages, there are at least three levels of gossip: that overheard from parents and grandparents, that overheard and spread by the servants, and lastly, that overheard and commented on by the children.

Living in San Pedro and needing to go to San José in those days there were three ways to go: by the old bus system, called cazadoras, getting a lift from someone you knew whose delivery route went to San José or walking. 

And when walking there were two ways to go: either hopping the rail ties and hoping no train came by or by the main road where the giant ficus tree was, the famous higuerón of Los Yoses.

And, of course, if you did go by the main road past the higuerón, you made sure to scamper by in daylight.

Attending the Calvert School in San José had a lot of wonderful advantages: the school was bilingual and right in front of the National Park. One great disadvantage was that you sometimes ate your cazadora money during recess or just after school.

Of course, by then it was by mutual consent, and all four children would decide to walk home to San Pedro. Which meant running part way, around the higuerón tree. First time we did it, we got home after five and it was starting to get dark. Grandmother was waiting for us at the door and gave us such a dressing down we all chastely went into the family room and proceeded to do our homework. Mother came home around six and we were just sitting down to supper.

After supper she retained us at the table and informed us that under no circumstances were we ever to walk home from school, especially at dusk.  That considering that the area all around the higuerón was just a coffee plantation, with no houses nearby, we should never, ever do it again.

After that we tried real hard to hold on to our cazadora money and not give into temptation. But, one day, playing in the park, I lost my share.  We went to the place where we usually caught the 

cazadora and begged the guy who collected the 
fares to please let us on and we promised to ride all four on a seat for two. That one time, not being rush hour, he acceded but informed us that it would be a one time only.

Two days later, our cook was talking with the maid and told her how the oldest boy of her friend had disappeared the previous evening. He was 12 and had been walking home from San José. The last anyone had seen of him was as he started to walk the lonely stretch of Los Yoses.

That afternoon, grandmother was overheard telling the cook that one shoe belonging to the boy had been found at the foot of the higuerón.

For several days the house was abuzz with whispered gossip, but no matter how much the little pitchers enlarged their ears, they could not catch more than a word here and there: music, witches, shrieking laughter, a boys voice begging for help.

There was no way we could make heads or tails of it.

In October, when the rainy season was coming to an end, it happened again. We were short on the cazadora money. It had been raining so it got dark earlier and we were still in San José. As the streets were wet, we could not go back by the rail ties as you sometimes slipped on the slick steel of the nails and the ties and you risked falling when you should be getting out of the way of the train. So we all bunched together as best we could and started home by the road.

By the time we passed La Luz, it had started raining again and seemed to have gotten darker. Skipping puddles we hurried as best we could, the little ones practically running to keep up with the older ones. There were no lights on the road and very little traffic. As we neared the higuerón, the rain started coming down harder.

By that time we were all holding hands and running as best we could, not caring how muddy or wet we were. As we passed by we heard someone call out to us from the higuerón, telling us to come in out of the rain.

By Jody Broyles
I knew I shouldn't have taken the short cut through Espada Park, but it was just too chilly to go the long way around.  And anyway, Halloween was a couple of nights ago, the moon wasn't full, and I didn't believe in ghosts in the first place.

Sure was windy, though.  I shivered a bit hugging my jacket around me.  And it seemed awfully dark for 8 o'clock at night.  "Of course," I said aloud,  "the time change, that's what it is."

"Hooooo . . .”

The first time I heard it I thought it must be the wind whistling through the branches and although I quickened my pace, I told myself it was only because I was in a hurry to get home.

"Hooooo!  Hooooo!" 

Didn't sound like it was coming through the tree tops, though; listening to it carefully it seemed to come from in back of one large old oak.  "Hooooo . . ." And, it seemed to get louder the closer I got.

For a brief moment of panic I considered bolting off the path before I had to pass the tree. "Come on now, Barbara, get a hold of yourself.  You've walked this way ever since you were a kid and nothing ever happened 

"Hooooo!  Hooooo!  Hooooo!"

"It's me, Barbara, I snapped at the phantom sound. There, that'll show you. "Who? Who?" Now I really was scared. I mean, it's one thing to hear the wind howl, but it's quite another when it asks you a direct question.


Should I turn and run back out of the park?  No, that made no sense, I'd already come three quarters of the way. I could have bolted the other direction, but then it surely would follow me. The point was nothing made sense, least of all the fact that I seemed frozen to the path.

"Who? Who?"

I gathered all my strength and courage and although I was shaking I heard my voice boom out into the dark night. "My name is Barbara Gonzales and I'm going to walk right past that tree and no one's going to stop me because I don't believe in ghosts!"

"Boooo Hooooo!   Booooo Hooooo!"

Oh, no. Now, it sounded like it was crying. And that was when I saw him huddled against the gnarled trunk of the old tree. "Booooo Hooooo!" It took a minute for my heart to stop pounding, but it seemed so silly to be scared, he was such a little ghost, and he was crying.

As I knelt down next to him I could feel he was as frightened as I was, and even if he wasn't real, his tears were.

"I didn't mean to hurt your feelings."  I stammered.

"Boooo Hoooo!"  the little ghost sobbed.

"What's the matter?"  (Oh, great, Barbara, here you are in the middle of Espada Park having a conversation with a child ghost ... a ghostette? ... a ghostling?)

"I blooooo it," he wiped his nose with a dirty diaphanous sleeve.

"Blew what?" I asked.

"Halloooooweeeen," he cried " I blooooo it, I missed Hallooooween!"

What could I say; he was right, Halloween was three nights ago.  Luckily I remembered my Child Psych. class the night before . . . positive reinforcement just might work with tiny ghosts as well.

"But you certainly scared me," I said consolingly.

"Yoooooou?"  His pale blue eyes searched mine.

"Oh, yes,” I said,  "You see, I didn't even believe in ghosts and then I heard your eerie sepulchral moans through the dark night..."

“What's seepooooolkral?"

I thought a moment. I had violated the first law of Elementary Ed.; using a vocabulary to confuse rather than enlighten. "Spooky," I said.

The little ghost straightened up with pride. "I'm spooooky!"

"Oh, definitely."

"And I'm scary, tooooo!"

"Oh, very scary."

His luminous eyes seemed troubled for a moment.  Hands on tiny hips, he confronted me. "How come you ain't screamin' then?" What could I do, he left me no choice. If I didn't comply with his wishes I knew I'd hurt his feelings and he'd start up his infernal boo-hoos again. I really had no alternative but to let out a blood curdling scream.

I heard the policemen running through the park, flashlights darting through the dark oaks. They got there sooner than I wanted or expected.  But just before they reached me I looked up into the gnarled boughs of the old tree.

All that remained was a small, spooky smile which seeped silently into the shadows.

Halloween Tale
By Janet Dunn
7:30 p.m., Tuesday

“Thanks for ringing, Dee, and for passing on Doris’ message from Atlanta. See you soon and I’ll expect Lou around 9.00 tonight from the airport by taxi. Ciao!”

Dee was our closest neighbor albeit across the two acres that surrounded our quinta, and Doris, my business partner, had rung her earlier as I was in the garden cleaning the pool, had left the answer phone off by mistake and had not heard the phone. She had rung to check if I was OK, me being on my own running our B&B in Alajuela and that I had enough candles to cope with our latest power cut (August 2001).

So, I thought, I´ll go and make sure Room 2 has curtains drawn, bed turned down and enough candlelight for Lou, then wait for our Canadian guests to come back from the once-tried-never-forgotten lomito al cebolla found just up the road.

8:05 p.m., Tuesday

The Canadian guests return, the dogs signal by barking that they were at the main gate, as the lights, gate buzzer and gate mechanism are all off, because of the power cut. I ran out of the front door to let them in (manually!), complete with torch and profuse apologies.

They were replete and happy, parked their 4x4 and said they’d like an early call and breakfast to go to catch seeing Volcan Poas and the crater before the cloud came down.  Off they went to their rooms with cheery “good nights” apiece and torches and candles abounding . . . I go to check the candles elsewhere in the house are OK and not in danger of burning dangerously.

9:20 p.m., Tuesday

Dogs bark. I go to the front door and shine a torch on the main gate. I see a man, instantly presume that it’s Lou as I see the lights of a taxi retreating down the road. 

"Hi, I’m Lou Gibbs!  Hope you’re expecting me!"

Hearing that, I hasten towards the gate, giving explanations (which he had already heard) why he was in relative darkness. 

"Welcome to the quinta!" I say, and we shook hands.  Firm handshake I thought and from that and his general manner and voice, I felt that he would take all this darkness business and candle palaver in his stride.

He knew Costa Rica, loved it and was going up to stay with his friends in Guanacaste on the morrow.

"Do you have everything you need?," I inquired, showing him where everything was in his suite, and, having assured him of an early call and breakfast, I then retired to bed, extinguishing all the candles as I went.


5:45 a.m., Wednesday

Electricity had returned during the night so I set up coffee on the terrace for guests and made sure the early calls had been heard! Breakfast in the dining area of the kitchen being duly laid and declared ready. Our guests sat down, exchanging who’s who information, plus immediate plans for the day and other pleasantries.

The Canadians loaded up first, outlined roughly what time they might be back and set off for Volcan Poas crater, thence to explore the surrounding Parque and finally to try their hand at bargain — spotting and handicraft shopping at Sarchi.

Lou had slept well, had changed out of his formal travel gear, into shorts and a short-sleeved, khaki shirt, which sported many useful pockets, I thought. Conversationally, I said we — and he had met Doris, my business partner, in Atlanta at the airport — were planning soon to travel extensively in South America.  He knew several countries well, really well, and said he could recommend several posadas and eateries in Brazil and Chile with absolute impunity.

He asked for a pencil and paper to write down some details, scribbling for about four or five minutes with his right hand, while taking gulps of coffee from the cup in his left hand. Grateful for this info and bearing in mind a taxi was calling in a few minutes to take him to the LACSA internal flight terminal, I prepared his bill. With extras, it came to $55: he gave me $60 and I counted five dollar bills into his hand —  he was still drinking his now third cup with the other!

Taxi was on time and after saying “Buenos dias” to Conchita, our help, as she arrived at 7:30, he shook hands again, thanked me and left.

8:30 a.m., Wednesday

¨Hi, it’s me, Doris! Thought I’d say I’d got to the UK OK and Mary met me at Gatwick with the car. It’s damp and raining here, so what’s new?! 

By the way, did Lou get there?  Met him in Atlanta airport.  Said he was going to Costa Rica to stay with friends but had nowhere to stay last night when he arrived, so I suggested our place.

Got talking to him while I was helping him with his buffet tray in a busy cafeteria and then getting the payment sorted. He was getting into a bit of a fix over it, it seemed to me.  So very, very sad he lost his right arm in Vietnam, wasn’t it?"

Our Eternal Guest
By Diana Evans
I did not hesitate to sell my house in the hot, dry desert of Arizona and move to the lush rainforest of Costa Rica. The property my novio owns is secluded and quiet, surrounded by a variety of colorful, tropical plants and flowers. My favorite time to sit on the porch is at nightfall, when the fireflies are flashing and dancing to the sound of the nearby river.

One day we stumbled upon some old graves while exploring the woods and we pondered who may have lived here and worked the land. We know they owned vacas, but the stalls of the ancient building are crumbling in the dark dampness near the river. My novio claims that wherever he has lived the world over, he has felt the presence of ghosts and this house also has the spirits of those who have lived here before us.

We all know that there are good ghosts and bad. Casper is a friendly ghost, but the mean ghosts like in the movie GHOSTBUSTERS are scary. They haunt houses for revenge for who knows what evil deeds against them, and they want to evict the occupants of the house for invading their territory. They hang around for hundreds of years, not quite knowing what to do besides rocking in old chairs by open windows.

That is what our ghost was doing the first night I saw her, or rather didn’t see her, but knew she was sitting in the rocking chair. At first I thought that a breeze through the window must be rocking the chair, but the night was entirely still and not even a cat was near the chair.

I asked my dear partner if he had seen her before and he answered nonchalantly that yes indeed, she spends most of her time in our bedroom quietly floating around near the ceiling. He claims that she appears as a thin, opaque, white, filmy image not unlike what you’d imagine.

Some mortals have a sixth sense for noticing their presence, while others haven’t a clue that the spirits are everywhere. What I have learned is that with an open mind we can accept that there are other dimensions and within those dimensions are multitudes of possible life, both dead and alive, good vs. evil. 

I can only guess that our elusive but ever-present ghost led a difficult life here decades or possibly centuries ago. For some reason she refuses to pass on to where ever the dead go, whether you believe in heaven or reincarnation or nothing at all. Maybe she’s trying to learn something about us or simply doesn’t like to be left alone.

I’ll ask her since she’s floating around near my chair as I write this. She has no answer; rather she smiles a toothless grin and waves a long, thin, bony finger that resembles a puff of cigarette smoke as if to say I like what you’re doing to our place. 

Reader thinks living here
is scary enough

A medical license in 3 years after watching someone you can't understand hide a cadaver in a closet in a local high school, anatomy class from a Tico (who may not know left from right), pathologists digging through the remains of a decomposed tourist who died while swimming with her pants on looking for projectile wounds, and now the revelation that Jo Stuart is a closet pot head . . . You guys keep your 25 bucks.  You earned it.  The hair is still standing up on the back of my neck.

Bobby Craig
Barrio Amon

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