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(506) 223-1327       Published Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2006, in Vol. 6, No. 256             E-mail us    
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A.M. Costa Rica/Noel Dekking
This was the scene over the weekend at the Peñas Blancas border crossing with Nicaragua
Christmas is the season to throw away the timetable
By Noel Dekking
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

People traveling around Central America during the holiday season should be wary of extensive tie ups at borders and the resulting delays in travel time. 

Thousands of Central Americans leave Costa Rica every December to make their journeys home for Christmas. While some may drive cars or fly, many of the seasonal travelers opt for the more economic option of taking the bus. 

Travelers leaving Costa Rica can normally make bus reservations just days or even hours before departure, but bus lists may fill up weeks in advance during the holiday season.  Some bus companies will take Internet or phone reservations up to a month in advance, a good option for those not wanting their December travel plans spoiled because of filled reservation lists. 

As can happen with the computer systems of the most advanced airlines in the world, the paper-on-a-clipboard reservation method can also overbook departure dates.  For bus travelers, 
calling or visiting the station a day in advance for confirmation is a good idea.

Thousands of people leaving the county in a short period also creates crowded lineups at borders, making timetables from bus companies more than a little inaccurate.

At times, bus company workers either don’t know what sort of delay a traveler should expect, or they will quote a smaller amount of time not wanting to discourage potential customers.  For example, on Dec. 18, Tica Bus was quoting a maximum of an hour delay in travel time because of the Nicaraguan border crossing.  In fact, to pass through immigrations and customs on each side was taking up to three hours due to the flood of people.

Another cause of travel delays is the increased border security and customs checks.  On a 22-hour bus trip from San José to San Salvador, El Salvador, a bus was forced to stop seven times for passport and luggage checks.  The idea is to stop the traffic of illegal drugs, people and weapons between countries, but the delays certainly adds to the time one should allot for travel.


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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 256      

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Bloody brawl blocks
Autopista General Cañas


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A bloody battle broke out Tuesday afternoon when an automobile missed a turn and ended up plowing through a group of youngsters just north of the Autopista General Cañas within sight of Parque la Sabana.

An expat who said he was among the motorists who were stalled when the brawl entered the highway said he fired a pistol shot in the air because he thought someone with a large rock was going to kill a man. That was about 4:30 p.m.

Three persons went to Hospital San Juan de Dios and the Fuerza Pública detained four persons.

Spectators said they thought the melee was guaro-induced.

A driver who was headed home to Alajuela after viewing the tope horse parade turned onto a service road instead of the highway and this is where his car went through a crowd of youngsters. Eventually one young man launched a large rock through the window of a car.

The expat said he saw one man seemingly lifeless on the west side of the highway, and men were kicking him in the ribs. A second bloodied individual ran across the westbound lanes of the highway, and a man with a large rock was in pursuit, said the expat.

That's when the shot was fired, to keep the second man from smashing the bloodied one in the head with the football-sized rock. Police arrived a short time later.

Canadian returned to face
charge in murder at mall


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Investigators have sent a Canadian citizen back to face a murder allegation there. He was identified as Jaime Humberto Restrepo, a native Colombian who has Canadian citizenship.

He was arrested July 13 by local agents of the International Police Agency and the Dirección de Inteligencia y Seguridad. He is facing a murder count in the death of Maurico Castro, 31. Castro's father died in a similar murder four days later in Colombia.

Gunmen killed the younger Castro at the Square One Shopping Centre in Mississauga, Ontario. Two other men  have been detained. Police theorize that the case revolves around a payment for a drug shipment.

No holiday for crooks,
unhappy expat discovers


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Robbers did not take Christmas Day off.

Men with guns pried open the door to a Sabana Sur apartment building, threatened the caretaker and his wife with small arms and then broke into the apartment of an expat Monday afternoon.

The man said he lost three flat-screen televisions a new laptop, a digital camera and a strongbox containing cash and papers. He said he was perplexed as to why the robbers only entered his apartment. There are others in the building.

Drugs in trucks confiscated
at both national borders


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Anti-drug police confiscated some 12 kilos of cocaine at the Peñas Blancas border crossing with Nicaragua Friday about 6 a.m. They detained a Guatemalan man with the last names of  Burrión Jiménez. Agents said that the stash was hidden in a truck battery.

At the southern border with Panamá anti-drug agents confiscated 32 kilos inside a tractor-trailer that was returning empty from a cargo run to the south. Detained was the driver, a Salvadorian with the last names of Mejía de León.

Our reader’s opinion

Those who drop their claims
need to do so circumspectly


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I have heard some talk recently concerning the right of plaintiffs in civil cases to withdraw their claims shortly before trial.  In federal court in the United States (at least when I practiced law actively up until a few years ago), a plaintiff had no right to withdraw a claim after the defendant had been served with the complaint.

The reasoning was, in essence, that once a defendant had incurred expenses and begun to defend himself, the plaintiff could not simply drop the claim and walk away scot free.  The plaintiff would be permitted to withdraw his complaint in two situations only:  first, if the defendant agreed to the allow the plaintiff to withdraw his claim (and here, typically, the plaintiff would have to agree to cough up some or all of the expenses of the defendant) and, second, if the plaintiff convinced the court of some change in circumstance and the court was persuaded to allow the plaintiff to withdraw his claim.

The technical term for this in the States is “voluntary dismissal,” and it is addressed in Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41, if you’d like to look into this on your own.  (Each state will have a similar rule of procedure in its state rules of civil procedure.)  Also implicated is the issue of res judicata, which is the area of law addressing when a claim is barred from being re-litigated, which is a serious concern because a mistake in this area can cause a person to be barred from bringing a claim subsequently because it is deemed to have been previously adjudicated.

While the rules of civil procedure in Costa Rica, of course, differ from those in the U.S. — most notably in the fact that the court has some type of pendant jurisdiction over civil claims incident to a criminal prosecution, something which does not exist in the United States as far as I know — I would be very surprised if there were not some parallel rule of procedure in Costa Rica.

However, in either jurisdiction, if one is involved in financially significant litigation, a decision in this area should be made very circumspectly and deliberately because of the possible ramifications with respect to res judicata.

John Meyer
Atlanta, Georgia

EDITOR’S NOTE: This letter relates to the possible legal obligations facing those who have withdrawn claims against Luis Enrique and Oswaldo Villalobos Camacho. The nature of those obligations, if any, are specified in the case files which will not be available until the courts reopen Jan. 8.
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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 256  







The band La Sapoteña

Young spectator meets a horse

Pilsen rope artist


Horse lovers do not disappoint and bring tradition to capital

Paseo Colón full of horses

Photos by
José Pablo Ramírez Vindas


Riders representing the Hacienda Pinilla showed up in traditional outfits.


Carlos Guadamus Hidalgo of Piedades de Santa Ana let his horse, La Vieja de la Montaña have a little lunch.


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Mr. Ed would have been right at home Tuesday in downtown San José as another edition of the traditional tope played out. An estimated 3,000 horses and riders took the the streets.

The show almost didn't take place. The organizing commission canceled the event, but the Municipalidad de
San José took over and produced this year's version. Some of the participants brought their own mounts, but others rented horses for the tope. Among these were some politicians.

Mr. Ed, of course, is the talking horse who starred in the 1960s television show of that name. Had he been present Tuesday, he probably would have said exactly what a lot of the participants did say: "Pass me another beer."


The mounted unit of the Fuerza Pública shows off the dress uniform.



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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 256        




A young hospital patient is all smiles as he returns from his 35-minute air flight. He was one of 40 kids who got the chance to see Costa Rica from the air.


Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública photo

Hospital de Niños youngsters get a flight for Christmas
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Some 40 youngsters from the pain and burn units at the Hospital Nacional de Niños got a chance to see the country from the air Tuesday.

The Dirección de Vigilancia Aérea of the Fuerza Pública took them on 35-minute flights as an airborne Christmas present.

For nearly all it was the first time they were in the air. The event had the support of some companies. too.

But it was not all fun. The youngsters had undergone intense medical treatments, and the flight was a way to lift
 their spirits, said the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública.

Fernando Berrocal, the minister, said that he was pleased to see the youngsters enjoying the flights and that the police units not only are to prevent crime but to help anyone in need.

The flights involved five aircraft that traveled from San José to Puntarenas and return. Many of the youngsters had to be carried to the crafts. Two physicians supervised.

McDonald's, the fast food company, participated as did the Monstruo character of Deportivo Saprissa and the clown group Los Pirulos, said the ministry.



Changes sought in new immigration law
U.S. brings Angelina Jolie here as part of lobbying effort

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt were in San José Christmas Day to spotlight the status of Colombian refugees here.

The visit had a political dimension, too, because United Nation refugee officials are pushing for Costa Rica to revise the new immigration law that went into effect in August.

The Hollywood couple arrived in the same week that a top-level Colombian revolutionary was extradited after living in Puntarenas for years in the guise of a simple fisherman.

Ms. Jolie has become heavily involved in refugee problems after being introduced to the situation in Cambodia while doing her best-known film there in 2001: "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider." She is a U.N. goodwill ambassador and has adopted two children she met while promoting the cause of refugees.

Ms Jolie won an Academy Award for supporting actress and worked with Pitt in  "Mr. and Mrs. Smith." A short time later he left his wife to be with Ms. Jolie and the birth of their first child was a major media event earlier this year.

While in San José, Ms. Jolie visited a bakery that had been set up for the Colombian refugee owner with a U.N. microcredit plan. Costa Rica has a long tradition of accepting refugees and for years allowed those displaced by the Colombian war against rebels and drug smugglers to enter the country without a visa.

Consequently the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia and other rebel and paramilitary groups established operations here. In addition battle-hardened Colombians have worked independently in the drug-
smuggling, contract killing and robbery businesses here.

The U.N. High Commission for Refugees estimates that Costa Rica is home to 10,000 victims fleeing Colombia’s conflict, a tiny fraction of the 3 million people that have been displaced internally and 500,000 others who have fled their homeland during more than four decades of fighting.

“It's been sad for me to hear so many negative stories that show confusion between refugees, who are the victims of the conflict, and some criminal elements,” Ms. Jolie said, adding that there was a need for greater tolerance and solidarity toward refugees around the world, according to a U.N. report of her visit.

U.N. High Commission for Refugees photo
Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt disucss the refugee situation with young Colombians.

The Office of the High Commissioner has been concerned about Costa Rica's current migration law and its implications for refugees and "we are pleased the government is now reforming it and is willing to re-establish a separate Refugee Department,” said Jozef Merkx, the agency’s representative.

The administration of Óscar Arias Sánchez has promised to pass a rewrite of the immigration law and has declined to enforce the new law aggressively. Ms. Jolie met with some officials while here on her visit.

Ms. Jolie handed out presents during her visit here, too, and she and Pitt watched a group of young refugees perform a dance routine to Colombian music, then chatted with the performers and heard about their problems, said the U.N.

Colombian refugees increasingly are being stigmatized for the very violence from which they fled, said a U.N. summary. The visit by Ms. Jolie was closely controlled and not announced in advance. Most of the information came from U.N. press releases.

Ms. Jolie also met with Colombian refugees in 2002, but that visit was in Ecuador where their living conditions are less hospitable than in Costa Rica. Since being named a goodwill ambassador in 2001, Ms. Jolie has been to trouble spots all over the world promoting the condition of refugees.

Orlando Martínez Quinto was the Colombian whom officials deported Thursday. He lived for years in El Cocal, Puntarenas, and directed the overseas infrastructure of the drug-smuggling Colombia rebels. Just this weekend agents confiscated 600 kilos of cocaine believed linked to Colombian rebel groups and a shipment of weapons and rockets believed being shipped to Colombia.



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