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These stories were published Tuesday, Nov. 25, 2003, in Vol. 3, No. 233
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A.M. Costa Rica photo
Anti-free trade marchers were out in force Monday. Our story is BELOW!

Dad has 'em

Youngster

In the Gringo bar

Self portrait
We come up a little short in this experiment
By Jay Brodell
editor of A.M. Costa Rica

The experiment was an important one: Will people treat gringos like dweebs if they wear short pants, chorts in Spanish.

This is a question that has confounded the most erudite expat here.

Some take the position that wearing shorts in downtown San José is impolite. Take one look at a tourist fresh from the beach wandering the pedestrian mall in plastic sandals and swim trunks, and you get the idea.

What works at the beach sometimes is frowned on in the city.

Other are less fashion conscious. Even some long-time expats here wear shorts and would not dress in any other way.

Now it is true that the big joke is that a beer belly, bald head and short pants comprise the national uniform of the gringo in Costa Rica. And it is true that a lot of Costa Ricans rolls their eyes when they see a 60-year-old in shorts. But they just might be making an artistic statement.

But would there be negative reactions? There seemed only one way to find out. 

For three weeks I have hit the high and low spots of San José clad in a pair of bermudas. Not to the ministries nor Casa Presidencial. But to the general offices, bars, restaurants and streets.

Rather than hostility, I noticed a greater friendliness from Ticos when they thought I was a tourist. And I didn’t have any run in with crooks who target tourists.

I noticed Fuerza Pública officers wearing shorts, especially those on bike patrol. Some Transito officers do, too.

There were a few hot, sticky days when shorts seemed the preferred choice. Then there were the hot, sticky days that turned to chilly and rainy. Which is why I have this grating head cold.

But in general and only for men, we declare shorts an acceptable but not formal costume. 

After all, if Costa Rican women can display their belly buttons, old gringos ought to be able to show knobby knees.

 
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From our readers

He objects to gripe list
about Gringos here

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

This is in response to the lead article by Jay Brodell on Monday, Nov. 24, titled: Several factors seem to be ganging up on them: Foreigners get the sense that they are picked on.

I really question whether this is a news article worthy of first page coverage.  To me, it sounded more like a gripe list, but then I'm not an editor.

If the expat community might want to consider the point of view that everything is relative.  If they feel "picked on," all they have to do is look at how the U.S. operates and they can find the origin of many, if not all, of the offenses they feel that they are encountering.

1.  Costa Rica has a president that "seems to take pleasure in telling creditors of the failed Villalobos investment operation that they are fools."     Presidents are presidents, and they all seem to do and say what they want.  Our president, in complete defiance of international laws and the U.N., declared war on a country that never attacked the US on the premise that they might have something harmful that has never been found.  At least Pacheco is continuing the criminal investigation. 

What is Bush doing about his buddies at Enron that helped create U.S. energy policy?  Why don't we hear any more news about those infamous "Weapons of Mass Destruction" and why are we spending $87 billion for schools and infrastructure in Iraq while refusing to spend more on our schools that continue to deteriorate?

2.  "Police officials seem to be targeting unfairly single adult North American males…"  This generalization may or may not be true, but at least they are doing something about the problem unlike Guatemala and other countries.  Just like our McCarthyism era attitudes, they will eventually get it right, just give them time.  Of course, there is no prejudice in the U.S. now, right?

3.  "Tighter rules, spawned by international accords after Sept. 11, 2001, make banking more difficult."  It is nearly impossible to open a bank account in the U.S. if you are not a lawful resident of the U.S. so if you can get a bank account then you are better off than the average foreigner in the U.S.

4.  "A new immigration proposal contains monthly financial requirements that would put rentista and pensionado status out of the reach of most North American foreigners."  This one hurts me as it did put the rentista out of my reach.  But again, how does the U.S. treat foreigners?  We offer political asylum but not economic asylum.  Countries are free to close their borders any time they chose.

5.  "A requirement that U.S. and Canadian citizens soon must show a passport instead of other identifying documents ends years of easy entry and may hurt tourism."  Why are citizens of the U.S. and Canada so arrogant as to think that they shouldn't need a passport to travel?   Is this an extension of our arrogance in world affairs?  At least I don't have to pay for a visa to enter Costa Rica but if you are a CR citizen, you cannot enter the U.S. (legally) without a passport and visa.

6.  "An immigration probe of older residency approvals…"   Well, don't you think the U.S. is doing the same?  Look at what happened to the Muslims that volunteered that their immigration papers were not correct.  If they weren't put in prison, they were immediately deported.  Could you put all of your financial and family arrangements in like selling your house and car place and leave CR permanently in less than 7 days?  How about if you were in jail and nobody knew?

7.  "The Registro Nacional has thrown out several hundred thousand older filings because they contained errors, thereby jeopardizing the land and vehicle titles of foreigners who are among the most likely to have been the victims of slipshod lawyers and notaries."  I don't have a comment about this, but I do have some land in Florida they may want to buy really cheap.

8.  "A proposed income tax plan could end up double-taxing the foreign incomes of ex-pats here."  Tax laws are always complicated and unjustly favor or discriminate against someone, just like in the U.S., if you aren't a citizen, there isn't much you can do.  Even if you are a citizen, that just gives you the right to vote and, even if you vote, that doesn't mean the looser of the election can't take office.  I believe that as a foreign citizen, you can use Costa Rica's medical system at their subsidized rates.  When a foreigner receives subsidized medical care in the U.S. the first thing I hear is that the foreigners are using our medical services paid for by our tax dollars.

9.  "Some residents, principally U.S. citizens, fear that Costa Rica is too anxious to share financial information with the U.S. tax collectors."  Am I correct in that you said residents, not citizens.  Why do those residents feel that they have any right to determine what a foreign country does or doesn't do?  The U.S. doesn't just share data, they have no qualms seizing foreigners funds on rumors.

Say, why didn't you mention that CR might drop the tax on bringing in your possessions?  If they really feel that they are under siege, come on home.  I'm sure they won't be able to find anything to complain about back here in the U.S., and I'll gladly take their place in Costa Rica if I could get in under the rules that were in place when they did.  Until then I will just have to wait until I can qualify under the new rules...

David McDuffie 
Windsor, Calif. 
11/25/03
EDITOR'S NOTE: The "new rules" are still just proposals that have not been passed by the legislative branch. So Mr. McDuffie and others can continue to sek residency under the existing rules.
 

He says officials
try to distract us

Dear A.M. Costa Rica

Unloved is right on!

It seem that when things heat up for the Costa Rican administration, their first action is to attacked the Gringo. 

If  you listen to Don Abel you would think that every single North American male visitor or resident is a child molester or worse.

That every investor is a fool. And they offer biblical quotations as proof. Questions arise about campaign donations from China or undisclosed bank accounts, and suddenly there is media blitz from Casa Presidencial  about foolish investors, sex tourist or child rapists, all pointing to the Gringo.

What the hell, it takes the citizens minds off the real issues.  I guess if it works for George W., why not Don Abel. 

Doug Gesler 
11/25/03 
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A.M. Costa Rica's professional directory is where business people who wish to reach the English-speaking community may invite responses. If you are interested in being represented here, please contact the editor.


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Open up banking systems, U.S. official tells Latins
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

MIAMI, Fla. — The United States is urging its trading partners throughout the Western Hemisphere to open up their banking system because recent economic research shows how important open, transparent financial sectors are to achieving higher economic growth, says Randal Quarles, assistant secretary of the treasury for international affairs.

In remarks Monday at a meeting of Latin bankers here, Quarles noted that the U.S. Treasury Department is highly engaged in negotiations to establish a Free Trade Area of the Americas, "particularly with respect to the negotiations on trade in financial services." He told bank executives that the Bush administration recognizes that the United States is ever more closely intertwined with the rest of the hemisphere, and cited statistics that illustrate the degree to which the U.S., Latin American, and Caribbean economies are mutually dependent. Said Quarles:

"Our goal is to provide banks with the right to establish a commercial presence in any partner country and have these operations treated on the same basis as any other domestic institution." 

He also pointed to a 2001 World Bank study indicating that countries with fully open financial-services sectors grow, on average, 1 percent faster each year than other developing countries. Higher economic growth ensues because liberalization attracts scarce capital in the form of foreign direct investment and introduces foreign competition, which improves efficiency in accumulating and allocating funds, he explained.

Quarles argued that liberalization produces other advantages, as well. For example, foreign firms bring better practices and new technology for local managers, he said. "Savers and borrowers benefit from reduced inefficiencies, which lower costs and improve service and quality. These benefits can include access to better service channels, faster access to services, better credit assessment procedures and information-gathering techniques, and a wider choice of products and vendors."

Of course, the Treasury Department's interest in free trade negotiations is much broader than liberalization of trade in financial services, he added. Historical experience is clear: reducing barriers to trade and investment is a catalyst for economic growth and development overall, Quarles said, adding:  Free trade provides a foundation for raising living standards around the globe.

Quarles described a number of steps that the Bush administration has adopted to help Western Hemisphere countries resolve and prevent economic crises, and to boost economic development in the region. "The United States has a vested interest in seeing all the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean prosper," he said,

citing strong U.S. support for International Monetary Fund  programs that assist several countries in Latin America. 

At the same time, Quarles praised the leaders of Brazil, Uruguay, Colombia and Argentina for improved economic policies that are boosting investor confidence in their countries. However, he warned that the success of the International Monetary Fund program in Argentina is dependent upon the effectiveness of the Argentine government's efforts to implement it. 

He expressed renewed concerns" over the Dominican Republic's decision in October to nationalize two electricity distributors. That decision — taken without consulting the IMF — prompted the suspension of a two-year, $600-million credit program, he noted. Nonetheless, the United States is working directly with Dominican authorities and with the Monetary Fund, World Bank, and Inter-American Development Bank to get the economic program back on track and restore stability, Quarles said.

The U.S.-Mexico Partnership for Prosperity, according to Quarles, is another example of successful U.S. engagement in the hemisphere. The partnership, launched by Bush and his Mexican counterpart, President Vicente Fox, has focused on improving the remittance channels between the United States and Mexico by giving financial institutions the incentive to introduce new remittance products at lower costs, the assistant secretary said. 

Remittances are the earnings that migrants residing in the United States send home to relatives in their countries of origin, and often account for a sizable portion of household income in many countries, including Mexico.

Quarles concluded his speech by comparing the fates of countries that embrace economic reforms with the fates of countries that reject them. 

"Some have expressed a fear that the recent political and economic turbulence in Latin America presages a turn away from market-oriented economic reform in the region," he said. "In considering this view, I find it worthwhile to look at the example of Brazil." 

He hailed Brazilian President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva as a leader with an ambitious vision for social progress, and applauded Lula's willingness to act upon that vision. "The Lula administration's effective implementation of economic policy, to date, enhances its capacity to focus attention and resources on the critical work of improving social conditions for all Brazilians," Quarles observed. "One might contrast Brazil's situation with that of Venezuela, where the turn away from market-oriented policies has resulted in a sharp economic contraction and intensification of social pressures," he said.


 
Newpaper group urges free speech in Venezuela
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

NEW YORK, N.Y. — The Board of the World Association of Newspapers, meeting here, has urged the government of Venezuela to respect freedom of speech and press freedom and to ensure that both the media and journalists can fully exercise them. 

The resolution approved by the organization’s board speaks for the global association of the world’s press. The resolution recognized Venezuelan publishers, editors, journalists and other workers "for their courage and proven commitment to freedom of speech and press freedom." 

The resolution called on the National Assembly of 

Venezuela not to pass bills aimed at regulating the contents of information or censuring it directly or indirectly. 

The Paris-based WAN defends and promotes press freedom world-wide. It represents 18,000 newspapers; its membership includes 72 national newspaper associations, individual newspaper executives in 100 countries, 13 news agencies and nine regional and world-wide press groups. 

President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela has been engaged in a battle with the nation’s media, which generally supports his opponents. The conduct of the newspapers and television stations were heavily criticized by Chávez supports when the president was briefly ousted by a coup in April 2002.


 
A.M. Costa Rica photos
Jorge Brenes, an employee leader from Banco Popular  has a mixed message: ‘Don’t foist free trade on us’ and ‘Merry Christmas.’

Marchers hit city streets
with multiple goals

Banco Popular employee dresses like one of the city’s well-knowen street performers.
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An estimated 3,000 to 4,000 persons marched Monday to protest the proposed free trade treaty with the United States.

Some, like the telecommunication workers for the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, do not want the government to allow foreign companies to compete in that area.

Others are demanding more information from the government on other aspects of the proposed treaty. The negotiations are entering their last phase and little information has been given to the average citizen.

Marchers included a cross-section of the nation’s unions. Among them were workers at the Banco Popular, the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social, public employees, and educators. Some participants wore carnival outfits.

"Don’t foist this on us," was the essence of the Spanish language phrases carried by Banco Popular workers.

Marchers went to the Asemblea Nacional, which eventually will have to hold sessions on any proposed treaty and then take a vote to approve or reject it. The adminnstration generally supports the idea.

Four other Central American countries are negotiating the treaty, too, and some of them have experienced protests.

This is the fifth time that telecommunication workers have taken to the streets on the same matter. When they first did, public support seemed solid. But now, thanks in part to public relations by the Abel Pacheco administration, some citizens see the possible value in a free trade treaty.

Pacheco has linked the treaty to his promise to reduce poverty and increase development. Initially he said he would oppose any foreign involvement in telecommunications. Now he is less definite.

Marchers eventually made it to Zapote and Casa Presidencial where no officials met with them. Then an early afternoon downpour put an end to the march.


 
Murder trial over but big questions remain
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Two of the three persons who faced trial in the Golfito murder of U.S. student Shannon Martin were convicted Monday night and face prison for the next 15 years.

Among those convicted was the woman, Kattia Cruz Murillo, who was linked to the killing because strips of her T-shirt were found at the scene.

Also convicted was Luis Alberto Castro Carrillo, who was singled out by Cruz as having taken part in the murder, according to a witnesses testimony.

Let go was Rafael Zumbado Quirós, who faces unrelated charges in another case.

The three-judge panel delivered a lesser sentence than prosecutors wanted. The young victim, 23 and a senior at the University of Kansas, was stabbed 19 times.

The case remains troubling because observers said it was clouded by hearsay. And there was no clear 

motive established for the killing which took place May 13, 2001. The young woman died while walking from a local bar, the Jurassic, to a home where she had been living while she finished up a biological research project.

The three suspects were well-known in the Golfito drug scene. The brutality of the crime suggested revenge instead of a simple robbery.

The sentence delivered by the judges was some 20 years less than prosecutors sought, an indication of their discomfort with the case. Castro was linked to the crime by third-party testimony in which a witness said that Cruz told him Castro was involved.

The murder scene was badly handled by the local police, and a rigorous investigation of the area was not possible.

Martin’s mother, Jeannette Staufer, was involved as a third party in the trial and has been a frequent visitor to Costa Rica while the case unfolded.


 
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