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These stories were published Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2004, in Vol. 4, No. 223
Jo Stuart
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Marchamo fees do not seem to have risen much
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Next Monday banks and other agencies will begin collecting the marchamo, the right of vehicle circulation for 2005.

Slight increases in the marchamo seem to be offset by depreciation in most vehicles. Several vehicles showed increases of about 3.4 percent, significantly lower than the devaluation of the colon and inflation for the year.

A typical 1992 Hyundai Excel will cost 31,341 colons (about $70) to keep on the road, up from 30,321 in 2004.

A 2005 Toyota  will be assessed 158,161 colons. ($351.50), according to a random check of the Web site of the Instituto Nacional de Seguros, where you can search  by plate number.

The big difference in the fees assessed against each vehicle is the property tax. If a vehicle owner does not pay the tax one year, the amount is simply added the following year. That’s why a local new car company has a 1973 Toyota with a marchamo bill of 432,675 of which 250,000 ($555.50) is unpaid taxes.  The total represents 18 years of taxes. The vehicle probably has been junked years ago, but the taxes endure and grow. The figures again come from the Web site.

Vehicles owners who do not pay the marchamo by Jan. 1 face a 3 percent a month fine as well as other charges. They also run the risk of getting a traffic ticket for failing to pay the fee.

Past indiscretions can come back to haunt motorists at marchamo time, too. The fee includes unpaid traffic fines. Those who think a mistake has been made have a way to appeal the assessments.

Each passenger car owner pays an obligatory 

insurance fee of 9,873 ($22). Responsible motorists augment this insurance with additional coverage purchased from one of the institute’s many agencies.

The institute, a government monopoly, is a full service organization. It collects the marchamo and writes additional insurance. It dispatches investigators to accident scenes. Residents here know to await the investigator even in the case of a minor crash.

And if a vehicle catches on fire, the institute also is the parent agency of the bomberos, the firemen. A point of continual discussion is how will the firemen be financed if the INS monopoly on insurance ends due to international treaties or government action.

The institute also charges an obligatory 13 percent sales tax on the marchamo fee.

Banks and insurance agents receive a small commission for collecting the marchamo, and the competition is significant. By Monday signs and banners will appear begging motorists to pay their annual fee. Banco de Costa Rica already has flyers at branches promising a 1 percent kickback for owners who pay their marchamo there.

In addition to money, a vehicle owner needs to present proof that revisión tecnica rules have been met. That’s the vehicle safety inspection program. Institute computers carry a notation showing if the vehicle has been inspected. But rules say an owner should bring the revisión tecnica documents as well as the registration and the individual cédula or other identification document.

In return for the money, the vehicle owner will get a stamped receipt from which a corner can be torn and displayed as a sticker on the right-hand side of the front windshield.

More than 1,000 routed from homes by flooding on Caribbean
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Some 1,200 persons on the Caribbean slope have been flooded out of their homes, but the weather experts say that relief is on the way. Little rain fell in San José Tuesday.

In the center of Limón about 300 mms. of rain fell Sunday and Monday. That’s 12 inches and the reason a number of Caribbean rivers flooded out of their banks.

The Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias said that about 560 persons were being housed in public shelters in Matina, Siquirres and Talamanca. An equal 

amount found shelter with friends and family.

The Río Sixaola in the south and the Barbilla, Matina, Chirripó, Colorado and Reventazón all were at flood stage and out of their banks, the commission said.

The cold front that stationed itself over the Caribbean during the weekend was responsible for the heavy rain. In San José chilly weather continued with the mercury hovering around  17.4 Celsius about 11 p.m. Tuesday, said the Instituto Meteorológico Nacional. That’s 63.6 F.

Guanacaste had sunny skies Tuesday, but the southern Pacific continued to have rain.


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Three embassies closed
to honor veterans

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The U.S., Canadian and French embassies in Costa Rica will be closed tomorrow, Nov. 11, for Veterans and Remembrance Day. The embassies will reopen on Friday at their normal times. 

Veterans Day is a national holiday in the United
States. It celebrates the lives of the men and women who have served time in the military. Remembrance Day is celebrated throughout many other countries whose troops served in World War I. The holiday
celebrates those troops who lost their lives in the war.

Veterans and Remembrance Day are both celebrated annually on Nov. 11. On that day, in 1918, German forces agreed to an armistice, which effectively ended the War.

The United Kingdom also celebrates Remembrance Day, but the embassy will remain open. 

Many people in the United States confuse Veterans Day with Memorial Day. According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, "Memorial Day is a day for remembering and honoring military personnel who died in the service of their country, particularly those who died in battle or as a result of wounds sustained in battle.

"While those who died are also remembered on Veterans Day, Veterans Day is the day set aside to thank and honor all those who served honorably in the military — in wartime or peacetime."

Alajuela man subject
of SEC hearing in U.S.

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The U.S. investment regulators have asked for an administrative hearing to be set up for a man officials said now lives in Alajuela. They identified him as Donald L, Knight, 62, a former resident of Edmund, Okla.

Officials from the Security and Exchange Commission claim that Knight, while still in the United States, ran up the price of a stock, Broadband Wireless International Corp., by making false statements and false reports with the commission.

On Aug. 21, 2001, the commission obtained a court order that enjoined Knight from violating the security laws, said the SEC.

Now the administrative hearing will seek to determine if the allegations against Knight are true and if he should be banned from having any role in the securities business. An administrative judge has about seven months to schedule a hearing.

Action seeks an end
to sports hunting here

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Defensor de los Habitantes said Tuesday that the Sala IV constitutional court has agreed to study an appeal that seeks to eliminate sports hunting in Costa Rica.

The defensor filed the appeal because of fears that certain species would be eliminated by continued hunting. The defensor in a release said that the country lacks population studies of wild animals and also lacks recourses to control hunting.

If the Sala IV approves the appeal, it is being asked to order the Ministerio de Ambiente y Energía to prohibit sport hunting.

Youth gangs are topic

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Today and Thursday at 9 a.m. members of the Asamblea Legislativa will be involved in a forum discussing the phenomenon of gangs in Costa Rica. 

Among those invited are Marco Badilla Chavarría, director general of Migración y Extranjería, María Fullmen Salazar Elizondo, viceminister of Seguridad Pública, and Gilberto Corella Quesada, president of the Colegio de Abogados.

The gangs, called maras, are stronger in the United States, México and northern Central America. But there is evidence that the youth gangs are gaining footholds in Costa Rica, thanks to outside influence.

Man dies in Jacó mishap

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A 56-year-old man died in the center of Jacó about 7 a.m. Tuesday when a tow chain broke and he was trapped between two vehicles. He was identified by the last name of Berrocal.

Investigators said that Berrocal had trouble with his truck, and that another trucker came to help him. But the driver was trapped accidentally between the two vehicles.

Elections in Uruguay praised

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica has congratulated the Republic of Uruguay for its successful and democratic presidential elections over the weekend. The nation also congratulated Tabaré Vázquez for his victory.

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U.S. newspaper profiles youth who was at Dundee
By Joe Medici
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Milwaukee, Wisc., Journal Sentinel this week published a three-part series documenting the struggles of Joel Snider, a troubled youth who was sent to the Dundee Ranch in Orotina, Costa Rica.

The series reports on Snider’s early struggle with drugs and depression and how his parents eventually sent him to the Dundee Ranch. The ranch’s pamphlets and brochures promised a disciplined environment for troubled teens. Snider’s parents, who live in Wisconsin, hoped that the ranch’s focus on discipline could help their 280-pound teenage son.

During his time at the ranch, Snider and other students were routinely treated sternly. The complaints from many of these children eventually were evaluated by Costa Rican authorities who started to monitor the ranch. 

Finally, on May 20, 2003, Fernando Vargas, a Costa Rican prosecutor, led 50 police officers into the facility for a legal search. The warrant had been issued in response to a situation regarding Nicole Flowers, one of the students at the ranch. She was being held against her will and her mother, who did not have custody of her daughter, wanted her to be released.

During the raid, the prosecutor informed the 

youths that they could not be held against their will under Costa Rican law. The raid failed to produce any solid evidence, however, and soon the prosecutor was forced to leave without any of the students. After the raid chaos ensued in the ranch and youngsters escaped.

Snider’s parents withdrew him from the academy a few days after the raid. Since that time, the program has shut down. This fall, however, a new program called Pillars of Hope is attempting to open on the same property.

Harold Dabel is the new administrator of Pillars of Hope. He was listed as part of the managing team at the Dundee Ranch and his new team is leasing the property from Narvin Lichfield, the original owner of the ranch who  briefly was detained by officials after the raid. Lichfield was associated with the World Wide Association of Specialty Programs and Schools.

A Pillars of Hope official said the group plans to begin admitting students soon. The Costa Rican government, however, has said that the group does not yet have permission to open its doors. 

The Milwaukee Journal series mainly is a profile of Snider and his family under stress. The stories even report on how Snider smuggled cocaine into the ranch. The newspaper said the youth was scarred by his experiences. His parents spent in excess of $25,000 to send him here.

Hostage-taking at L.A. consulate ends with police shooting suspect
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

LOS ANGELES, Calif. — Officials here say they believe a hostage situation at the Mexican Consulate is under control, adding the man believed to be behind the standoff was shot and wounded by police.

Los Angeles Mayor James Hahn says an armed man stormed the diplomatic mission in downtown Los Angeles early Tuesday, and emerged later holding a female hostage. 

He says the armed man was shot by police and taken to a nearby hospital, while the woman held hostage escaped unharmed. A local television station has been airing video of the apparent shooting.

A police spokesman says an investigation is underway. He says the suspect's motives are unclear, and that he does not seem to know the hostage. An official from the Mexican Consulate thanked police for what he called their "swift reaction."

Uribe authorizes extradition to U.S. of Cali Cartel cocaine king
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

BOGOTA, Colombia — Colombian President Alvaro Uribe has authorized the extradition of a notorious former drug cartel leader to the United States where he is wanted on drug trafficking charges.

Uribe approved the extradition of Alberto Rodriguez Orejuela late Monday, less than a week after Colombia's Supreme Court authorized the move. 

If Rodriguez Orejuela is convicted of drug charges in the United States, he will become the most powerful drug kingpin sentenced to a U.S. prison. Rodriguez Orejuela and his brother Miguel led the powerful Cali drug cartel, which was the world's main supplier of cocaine.

Rodriguez Orejuela has been in a Colombian jail since 1995. At that time, extradition to the United States was banned.

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Hardliner Ashcroft leaving Bush administration
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
and wire reports

U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, the lightning rod in the Bush administration for his unique stand on constitutional rights, is stepping down.

The American Civil Liberties Union was quick to call for a more sensitive replacement. "Mr. Ashcroft's legacy has been an open hostility to protecting civil liberties and an outright disdain for those who dare to question his policies, said Anthony D. Romero, the organization’s executive director.

Ashcroft was one of the architects and the principal promoter of the USA Patriot Act that extended police powers after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States.

Among other things, the Patriot Act allows secret search warrants and certain search warrants issued by a secret federal court panel.

"In his pursuit of a radical agenda, Mr. Ashcroft has insisted that the U.S. government could unilaterally detain American citizens without charge and access to counsel, said Romero. "He has also trampled on the rights of immigrants and, in the face of a scathing report from his own inspector general, Mr. Ashcroft merely uttered triumphal statements that showed no remorse. 

"Before Congress, Ashcroft resisted efforts to scrutinize the manner in which Patriot Act powers were being used or possibly abused. And he showed outright hostility to the democratic process when he told the Senate Judiciary Committee that critics of the Bush Administration would merely ‘aid the terrorists.’" 

However, the U.S. Justice Department, which Ashcroft heads says: "The Patriot Act facilitated information sharing and cooperation among government agencies so that they can better connect the dots. The Act removed the major legal barriers that prevented the law enforcement, intelligence, and national defense communities from

John Ashcroft

talking and coordinating their work to protect the American people and our national security. The government’s prevention efforts should not be restricted by boxes on an organizational chart." 

The Patriot Act led to the jailing of thousands of non-citizens in the United States, many of whom had no relationship to terrorism. Key aspects are up for renewal.

Neither the House nor the U.S. Senate held extensive hearings on the proposed measure, but it was overwhelmingly approved in both places with just one U.S. senator and only 66 of 423 members of the House voting against it.

President George Bush says he applauds Ashcroft's efforts to prevent crime, vigorously enforce civil rights laws, crack down on corporate wrongdoing, stop human trafficking, and fight Internet pornography. 

In his resignation letter, Ashcroft said the objective of securing the safety of Americans from crime and terror has been achieved, and he believes the Justice Department would now be well served by what he calls new leadership and fresh inspiration. 
Ashcroft, 62, is a four time governor of Missouri.

Two Central American countries in special category for U.S. funds
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Seventeen of the world's poorest countries, including Nicaragua and Honduras, are now eligible to compete for grants from the Millennium Challenge Corporation, the new U.S. aid agency designed to support developing countries' efforts to eliminate poverty.

Briefing reporters Tuesday here, Paul Applegarth, the corporation’s executive director,  said the organization is reviewing proposals and concept papers submitted by potential partners and could begin disbursing funds by the end of 2004.

Congress approved close to $1 billion for Challenge

grants for fiscal year 2004, and the Bush administration is seeking $2.5 billion more for 2005, Applegarth said.

In addition to the two Central American countries, those eligible for the 2004 money are Armenia, Georgia, Mongolia, Sri Lanka, Vanuatu, Libya, Benin, Mali, Madagascar, Ghana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Senegal and Cape Verde.

The MCA grant proposals received thus far cover projects ranging from rural development to education and micro-finance, Applegarth said. The projects show a remarkable amount of thought and imagination, he added. However, proposals do not mean every country will get money, he said.

Jo Stuart
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