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These stories were published Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2004, in Vol. 4, No. 237
Jo Stuart
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Margot and Richard Frisius have a mission: repopulation of macaws. Their 17-acre aviary in Río Secundo is home to 200 birds.

See story


A.M. Costa Rica/Joe Medici

Key high-speed Internet connection has failed
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

One half of Costa Rica’s international Internet cable system has been cut off due to a failure or damage underwater.

Radiográfica Costarricense S.A., RACSA, said Monday that the Arcos 1 cable failed Friday but the company switched to an alternate.

For most consumers there was no obvious reduction in service, at least in the Central Valley.

In 2001 RACSA connected to the MAYA-1 submarine cable and in 2003 to the Arcos-1 cable, which is part of the New World Global Network Ltd. Both cables go undersea to Florida where they enter the U.S. internet system.

RACSA said that operators of the system had assured them that the cable would be back in service within a week. However, the Internet company also said that it had been told that the damage or problem with the cable was under water.

International experts are beginning the work necessary to identify the place and to position a special ship above the area where undersea devices will be used to make the necessary repairs, RACSA said.

The Maya 1 cable runs from South America to Hollywood, Fla., and contacts Costa Rica at Limón.

The Arcos 1 completes a circle running from Florida the Bahamas to the Dominican Republic and along the north coast of Venezuela and Colombia then north along the Central America nations back to Florida.

The Maya 1 cable suffered a three-hour outage last June 2. If the second cable fails, RACSA will have to fall back to satellite connections, which are much slower and do not have the high-sec capacity of the undersea links.

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La Costanera, Quepos, Parrita, Manuel Antonio

A funny thing happend
on the way to the mall

By Joe Medici
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The alleyway is only about 50 meters long, but it helps to cut 300 meters off of the route to the bus stop. I know that alleyway well. I take it every day on my way downtown. During the day the alley is just fine, but at night the spot is perfect for a robbery. Perfect.

I was in a hurry to meet some European friends who had just arrived in town. So Sunday night I rushed out of my San Pedro apartment and headed for a bus to the nearby mall. Via the alley.

During the day, the alley, once a train right-of-way, is a bit unsightly. Old and busted rail tracks overgrown wild grass and large potholes dominate. At 7:30 p.m. the alley is dark and menacing.

There I was quickly walking through the alley. I had my head down, staring at my feet in order to avoid the potholes. I almost walked right past the two robbers.

As soon as I saw them I knew they intended to take my wallet and so I quickly took a mental note of the contents of my pockets: gym membership card, 3,000 colones, a few business cards, and my old college ID card. I immediately began blessing the day friends told me to keep my credit cards at home. I slowly dug my hands into my pocket and began fishing for anything else they might have wanted. I was in no mood to fight, just let them have the money and head down to the bar anyways.

Slowly the men walked in front of me and in Spanish, they instructed me to hand over my money. Instinctively I told them that I didn’t speak Spanish. At that point, the taller of the two men responded in English that I didn’t need to speak Spanish, and that he just wanted my money. The other man quickly pulled a small blade from his pocket and in response I immediately pulled my wallet out of my pocket, along with everything else that was in my jacket. I handed it over to them quietly and then turned towards the nearest end of the alley and ran towards the bus. 

Eventually I made it down to the bar and expressed my tale of woe to my friends. They all had a good laugh over my bad fortune and then begrudgingly accepted my weak economic status and ordered me a few beers. I spent the better part of the night imagining how the thieves would spend my money, how often they attempted such crimes, and what on earth they planned to do with my gym card. 

Progress in mine removal
praised in Central America

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The Organization of American States says that contributions by other nations around the world have helped in the destruction of more than 1 million landmines in Latin America.

The organization said it welcomed the more than $27 million in donations it has received from the global community for its mine-removal activities since the inter-American body began working in this field in 1991. Countries in the Western Hemisphere that have supported this effort include the United States, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, El Salvador and Guatemala, the OAS said.

The OAS said the Central American region, in particular, has made considerable progress in mine removal. In 2002, Costa Rica became the first country supported by the OAS Mine Action Program to be declared "landmine-safe," and Honduras was given the same designation in October 2004. El Salvador completed its mine removal process in 1993, in accordance with that country's peace accords, the OAS said, while Nicaragua and Guatemala also have made progress in mine removal and the destruction of unexploded ordnance. Both those countries are expected to conclude these activities within the next two years, the OAS said.

The OAS Mine Action Program supports such efforts as preventive education on the dangers of landmines, humanitarian mine removal, destruction of landmine stockpiles, rehabilitation of landmine victims, and development of databases on the issue of landmines.

Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Honduras, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela are countries in Latin America where stockpiles of landmines have been destroyed, the OAS said.

Woman knifed to death

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A 25-year-old woman, Maritza Romero Obando, died Sunday morning from injuries inflicted by a knife. Police quickly arrested her 30-year-old former male companion with the surname of Aragon.

The murder happened in Paraiso de Cartago.

The woman became the 20th to be so murdered this year. She is survived by a daughter, 9.

U.S. citizen reported dead

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A 51-year-old U.S. citizen has died in Quepos, the Judicial Investigating Organization reported.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Embassy identified the dead man as Robert Dean Gattis, 51.

The cause of death is being investigated.

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A.M. Costa Rica photos/Joe Medici
Not all of the birds are hand-fed like this, but some like to perch right on the shoulders of Margot or Richard Frisius.

Two macaws keep an eye out perhaps for food in the Frisius back yard.

Their goal is to put more macaws back in the air
By Joe Medici
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Frisius family has a goal in mind: to repopulate Costa Rica’s dwindling macaws in their own backyard. While their goal may be a bit lofty, Margot and Richard Frisius are giving it a go with their 17-acre aviary in Río Segundo.

Richard and Margot began their birding journey in 1980 when they settled in Costa Rica. They began caring for wounded macaws immediately and, after a few years, caring for birds became their new life’s work. Richard remembers back when they first moved to Costa Rica and began setting up aviaries. "We were told that macaws didn’t breed in captivity in Costa Rica," Richard said in his home in Rio Segundo. 

In 1986 they were credited as the first aviculturalists to breed macaws in Costa Rica. Since then, they have hired a full-time staff, worked with dozens of volunteers, and established one of the most reputable aviaries in Costa Rica, Amigos de las Aves.

Their 17 acres are separated into two eight and a half acre areas. Each section contains several large aviaries, where the Frisiuss and their staff breed and care for 

several different species of macaws and other types of birds. 

In total, Amigos de las Aves cares for over 200 birds. "The hardest part about breeding the birds is that they are like people, they don’t all get together," joked Richard. Every year, the group breeds several Macaws, which are then released into the wild before they are 4-years-old. 

The group hopes to use their facilities to promote a stronger macaw population in Costa Rica through breeding and public education. "There used to be macaws up and down the coast, but due to poaching and loss of habitat, the population has suffered," said Margot. The group plans to continue their journey until the macaws once again thrive in the wild. 

This year, the group plans to release around 40 macaws into the wild. The birds will be released in Tiskita, an area near Panamá on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast. 

Amigos de las Aves is a non-profit corporation that relies mostly on out of pocket funds and donations. Several larger corporations, such as the Chiquita Banana Corp., donate food and other supplies for the birds. The Web site is

Anti-violence bill contains some unusual clauses
By Clair-Marie Robertson
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Joe Frazier has not seen his children for three years. He said that he is worried that if a new bill passes to protect women against violence he might not ever see his children again. The bill, however, is proving difficult for the Asamblea Legislativa to pass. 

It is not only Frazier, a U.S. citizen, who has raised objections regarding the 166-page bill.  In a press release, the Movimiento Libertario said that the bill duplicates existing laws on domestic violence and sexual harassment at work. The political party also said that the bill shouldn't be passed because it only applies to women. 

Many women disagree, and at least 300 of them held a march Thursday demanding the bill’s passage. They cite statistics that show 20 women have been murdered by companions or ex-companions just this year.

Laura Escalante Monje is responsible for distributing Movimiento Libertario ideology. She said. "The law that they are trying to pass is discrimination. Women are not better than men. What we need is a law that is based on equality for all sexes and all ages." 

A press release by the Movimiento Libertario lists the main objections that the party has regarding the introduction of the law.  The law is specifically related to violence against women.  But Escalante said that the bill is hypocritical in that it discriminates against men.   There are three main issues that the movement has against the bill. The first is that the law attempts to prevent discussion between partners which could hamper the resolution of disputes. The movement said that the bill also prohibits reconciliation between couples. In addition to this, neighbors and relatives are encouraged to accuse spouses. 

The movement said that the bill features many details that go against the national constitution.  The party leadership also said that the bill is open to interpretation and can therefore be abused.  Their main focus is the section titled: "Relationships of power and trust." Escalante said that just because a man might hold a position of authority does not mean that the man is automatically guilty.  Escalante said that the bill violates the right to be presumed innocent until proven otherwise. 

The bill also states that if a woman is killed by someone they know then that person should be sentenced to a longer term in jail then if the assailant were a stranger.  "Why should there be a difference if the woman knows or doesn't know the person that killed them?" said Escalante. Another detail in the bill which Escalante believes controversial is if the victim is economically dependent upon the assailant. The bill states that if this is the case, the length of sentence will automatically be increased by a third.  Another article states that if you insult, ridicule, or embarrass a women you could be sent to jail for two to six years. 

Escalante also said that Libertarians have requested that the concept of femicidio be removed from the bill.  The movement states that this is because it discriminates against men. If a woman is murdered, the man is sentenced to 20 to 35 years of prison. But if a man is murdered, the sentence varies from 12 to 18 years. "Why should a woman’s life be worth more than a man’s or a child’s?" said Escalante. 

The consequences of the bill has left some men worried about what their rights are in Costa Rica. Originally from Texas, Frazier met and married a Costa Rican woman. He said that all was well when they lived in Texas but upon moving back to Costa Rica her family began to get too involved. So the couple decided to move to Panamá. Frazier said that it was then that his wife abruptly took the children over the border back into Costa Rica. "I have not seen Kerry or Brandon for some time now. I still have all the presents I bought them for their birthdays and Christmas." 

Frazier said that he is very disappointed and frustrated with the family courts in Costa Rica. Kerry is 3 and Brandon is 6.

"Men have no rights at all when it comes to their children in Costa Rica," said Frazier. He said that he does not think that his case is moving anywhere and that no one is interested in his plight. In addition, he said that the children’s mother frequently fails to attend court appearances but never gets reprimanded. 

"I am an honest man and have never hit a woman in my life, I don’t drink and I don’t smoke I don’t take drugs, and yet I have been treated very unfairly." Frazier said that he hopes that the anti-violence bill is not passed.  If the bill becomes law, he fears that the scales will be tipped even more in  favor of women.

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Teletica issues a strong denial
Online allegations prompts a quick meeting of officials
By the A.M. Costa Rica

A quirky online publication claims the nation’s chief prosecutor is bugging 2,900 telephones and conspiring with a television anchorwoman to assume the presidency as a strongman and shut down the legislature.

The allegations were presented as a Sala IV constitutional court appeal and a transcript of a 

purported telephone conversation between the chief prosecutor and the television newswoman. The claims prompted top officials to hold an emergency meeting Monday.

The television station involved, Channel 7 Teletica, issued a strongly worded denial during both the 7 p.m. and the 10 p.m. news broadcasts.
The allegations were contained in Campanada, an online publication by Carlos  Roberto Loría Quirós. 

Teletica photo
Pilar Cisneros Gallo
Loría, a lawyer, is best remembered by expats as the Costa Rican who issued a strong printed defense of Luis Enrique and Oswaldo Villalobos Dec. 4, 2003.

Monday Loría published what appears to be a recurso de amparo or appeal for aid, drawn up by him seeking intervention by the Sala IV. Loría claims the chief prosecutor, Fiscal General Francisco Dall’Anese Ruiz, has overstepped his authority by bugging 2,900 telephones, including some used by government ministers.

Loría also claims that an alliance exists between Dall’Anese and the television newswoman, Pilar Cisneros Gallo, and other newspeople to supply them with information about corruption. He further claims that Mrs. Cisneros accepted payoff money from the French telecommunications firm Alcatel but that Dall’Anese has agreed to overlook that fact. 

Loría in his posted appeal also says that newspeople are trying to make Dall’Anese a presidential candidate who would acts as a dictator and close the Asamblea Legislativa.

There is no indication that Loría actually has filed the court brief or if it has been accepted by the high court. 

The Alcatel firm is at the heart of allegations of corruption that have put two ex-presidents in preventative detention.

Gerado González, president of the legislature, said Monday that he asked for a meeting of a number of officials in emergency session. Among these were Rogelio Ramos, minister of Gobernacíon, Policía y Seguridad Pública; Alfonso Chávez, acting president of the Corte Suprema de Justicia; Vice President Linneth Saborío; the defensor de los habitantes, José Manuel Echandi; and representatives of the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, which operates the telephone system.

González is of the same political party, Unidad Social Cristiana, as the two jailed presidents, Rafael Ángel Calderón Fournier, who served from 1990 to 1994,  and Miguel Ángel Rodríguez, who served in the top job from 1998 to 2002.

Dall’Anese has been aggressive in following up allegations that officials, including the presidents received kickbacks on major government contracts. He has uncovered a $9 million kickback on a $39 million contract for hospital equipment and he has uncovered a flow of money from Alcatel to high officials of previous administrations.

The allegations by Loría rest on what he said was a transcript of a telephone conversation between Dall’Anese and Mrs. Cisneros. But he did not give a date. In the conversation the pair speak at length about individuals and the corruption cases.

The television station rebuttal was delivered by Ignacio Santos Pasamontes, director of Telenoticias, the news division. He labeled the telephone transcript false and said that whoever created it waited until Mrs. Cisneros was on vacation before making it public.

He said that at first television employees were threatened with death and now they are threatened with low tricks in an effort to make them stop their work of exposing corruption. Since Sept. 4, when the ex-presidents began to make news, no one has questioned the contents of the information transmitted by the station, he said.

"This conversation never existed," he said. He said if the transcript were of a real telephone call there should be a recording cassette. "Where is the cassette to listen to?"

Who are the enemies of the fiscal general, Santos asked. Who are the enemies of the press, he continued. "In the answer to these two questions you will understand who is behind this set up," he said, adding:

"Despite the death threats and despite the meanness like this, because we have an obligation to you, we are going to continue doing our job."

The Costa Rican Constitution guarantees security of communication. Except in special cases, such as investigations of drug trafficking, telephone tapping is prohibited.

U.S. withholds praise of Cuba on release of dissidents
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The United States says Cuban dissidents released from Cuban prison Monday should never have been jailed in the first place. News reports from Havana say several political prisoners held since a major crackdown on dissent last year were freed on health grounds. 

The U.S. State Department pointedly passed up the opportunity to praise the Fidel Castro government for releasing the dissidents.

At a news briefing State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the United States joins the families and friends of the prisoners in welcoming the end of what he termed the "unjust detention" that the Castro government had subjected them to.

Those released Monday were among 75 leading opponents of the Communist government who were arrested in March of 2003 and sentenced to prison terms ranging up to 28 years for treason or, among other things, having contact with U.S. diplomats. 

Asked about the release, spokesman Boucher said they never should have been imprisoned in the first place.

He said credit, if any is due, should go to those in the international community who have put pressure on Cuba to end the incarceration of what he termed "brave people who were jailed solely for exercising their human rights".

"We really don't give any credit to the Cuban government for releasing them, since they never should have been jailed to begin with," Boucher said. "And we hope that they can return to their work to build a truly just and open Cuban society. 

"We continue to condemn the unjust incarceration of dozens of other prisoners of conscience in Cuba, and we repeat our call to the Cuban government to release all political prisoners immediately."

Wire service reports from Havana, quoting family members of prisoners and human rights activists, differ on the number of dissidents released Monday.

Jo Stuart
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