A.M.  Costa Rica
Letters from our readers
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Jo Stuart
About us
San José, Costa Rica
Since mid-October 2003 we have included letters as part of the daily newspaper. We did this after requests from readers. Such letters can be seached by author's name and topic.

The letters below begin with those published after June 1, 2003

For letters published earlier in 2003, Click HERE

For letters posted earlier in 2002, click HERE

For letters  post from April to December 2002, click HERE

For letters posted in 2001, Click HERE

We've made exceptions lately for the benefit of full discussion of a few key issues, but our general policy is full names and hometown and/or country on any letter we publish.
—The Editor

He considers U.S. policy to be stupid

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I do believe that the U.S. government must have and official policy to piss off as many of our friend, neighbors and allies as is humanly possible. Or they are just being incredibility stupid.

We veto a U.N. Security Council resolution objecting to the "Israeli Wall" as in "Berlin Wall" and the next day our Embassy convoy is attacked in Gaza.   Dah! 

We stop the transit lounges in our major hub airports and require transit passengers who are going to another country to pay an additional $100 to obtain a transit visa or to reroute or otherwise change their travel plans. All while U.S. airline are suffering losses. I can bet a lot of Central and South American passengers are going route their European trips thru Havana and Madrid.

And what about the troops that are home from Iraq on R&R? Many are complaining in interviews that they dread going back because the routine is "kick down doors in the middle of the night and search houses for guns and gold and . . . whatever."  I do suppose I would be a little upset if I had one of these midnight Gestapo visits.

Add all of this to the 16 famous words of the State of the Union speech and today's revelation of Colin Powell's speech to the U.N. Security Council about WMD.

We bought into the airport security policies and found that the TSA that replaced the private baggage checkers did not go through security check and some were, in fact, felons and ex-felons, that just before the Iraq bombing there were severe layoffs and in May Homeland Defense tried to layoff air marshals because they needed to cut the budget and the hotel bills were to high.

And do we now feel that we are any safer flying or waiting in lines at the airports?

I guess the question is, are our leaders stupid in using these tactics or are we stupid for buying into these activities in the name of defense?

There has to be some reason here. We run an open society here or a closed society, but we can't have it both ways. We pay for our security at the airports and subsidize the airlines and passenger for their losses, or we close them down and fund $19m wireless internet systems, business school and $8m zip code systems in Iraq. 

Doug Gesler
Kent, Wash./San Jose
He questions our integrity

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

So with ALL the things going on in Costa Rica with the corruption, child-prostitution, poverty and crime, not to mention the world problems, the ONLY thing you "journalists" could come up with for the front page was  how mistreated the poor Ticos were when going to MIAMI.

Which by the way is not even remotely similar to the rest of America. I fly weekly into Houston, L.A. and New York and never have problems. Miami is consumed with the same Third World, Latin garbage that plagues all of Central America. "And I'm from BRAZIL!"

Could I begin to tell you the countless times when I was treated rudely at the Costa Rican borders when trying to enter the country. That doesn't end up on the front page.

And have we forgotten that it was ONLY two years ago that four planes were hijacked and flown into buildings to kill people? Is it unclear to you and the rest of the smelly, dirty backpackers who seem to have time and money to go traveling, that the (United States of America), not Amerika, is in a WAR at the moment and the security threats are at an all time high, especially at the airports?

The only thing to say is GET USED TO IT! Fly around it.

Who names are on that list of names with the Madam who was pimping out little girls in Costa Rica?  Is that going to disappear too like the Villalobos money?

You people amaze me with your total lack of integrity.

Raphael Pinhieros 
Rio de Janeiro, Brasil 
He’s impressed by Pacheco’s stand

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

"For each forest that we protect, each aquifer that we protect, each river basin that with grand effort we restore, each ton of coal we keep is an act of solidarity with the survival of the human species," Pacheco said. 

Many of his positions have really annoyed me, especially his support for Bush and support for the war in Iraq. I thought he was little more than a U.S. puppet. But to stand up to Harken, W's old company, and any part of the U.S. oil industry, which seems to be our current government, takes cajones. My respect for him and my hopes for Costa Rica, where I hope to live someday, have both risen a notch or two this morning. 

Johns Rabun 
Huntsville AL 35806 
 More Canadians carry passports, he thinks

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

We read with interest the article today re Canadian's and U.S. citizens needing passports. I think that this will likely be much less of a problem to Canadian's than residents of the United States. 

For some time now we have been told that entering the U.S. is much easier if we are carrying a Canadian passport. There is nothing preventing entry without one, but I think that you will find that a majority of Canadian travelers now carry a passport when they travel. 

Perhaps Americans (citizens of the U.S.) feel that a passport is not a requisite to entering a foreign country. American's seems to be a term applied to residents of the U.S. All people living on these continents are Americans arn't we? 

John Phippen 


Muslim reader comments on stoning

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

How about that, I am an American citizen, raised in Costa Rica, and I am of the Islamic faith. I have studied Islamic law so I can comment on the issue of the Nigerian woman: It would've been against Islamic Sharia to stone her because she was single. [Amina Lawal]

In Islam there is a clear distinction between adultery (when married) and fornication (when single). Adultery can carry the punishment of death but only if there are four credible witnesses of the sexual act. There have been many articles published in Islamic magazines how erroneous such sentence would've been. It was also said that even from an Islamic standpoint, giving birth to a child does not constitute proof of adultery/fornication. 

Most people are ignorant of Islamic laws, and they quickly seized on the most far out notion of any Islamic law. In here the Los Angeles Mosque, one of the Islamic scholars argued that stoning is nowhere in the Quran as a sentence. It is not Islamic law that needs revision but those who impart the law should be better knowledgeable of the law. 

The flaw is not in the law but in the one imparting it. Most Muslims here in America were shocked to hear the news and even angered that such sentence would even be called "Islamic". In my opinion TRUE Islamic law prevailed, something very misunderstood by most people. 

Malika Ibrahim
Los Angeles, Calif.
Another reader disagrees with  Jo Stuart

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

RE: Jo Stuart’s column Sept. 12.

It is obvious you don't agree with US policy, the invasion of Iraq, George Bush, et al

However, rather than make substantive arguments against U.S. policy in Iraq which could have merit, you try to grandstand and sell a catchy headline which has become commonplace in the media today. Fortunately for you, few people bother to look at the details anymore, so I doubt you will have much negative feedback.

The real issue is will Iraqis be better off in the future under democracy or were they better of under a fascist dictatorship. Obviously Iraq isn't going be rebuilt in a day. It will take years. Certainly there will be casualties and bombings, but there is no evidence they will go on indefinitely, as you seem to imply. In fact, reporters have noted Baghdad is getting back to normal. Businesses, schools, and public places are open and will continue to do as time goes on. However this never makes headlines — what does is a soldier being ambushed or killed.

What bothers me most is that you are so dead set on trashing the U.S. government and George Bush, that you would say Iraqis were better off under Saddam, who as you know tortured, murdered, mutilated and killed tens of thousands (perhaps more) of his own people to remain a fascist dictator for 25 years. Ms Stuart, you know that Saddam was a fascist akin to Adolph Hitler, and you know the atrocities. How many Iraqis so you think he murdered, killed, or tortured? Funny how this is not mentioned in your article, because you need to downplay this to bolster your argument.

For the record, Ms Stuart, I didn't vote for Bush and I'm not particularly fond of him. But to suggest for one second that Iraq is not going to be better off as a democracy where its own people have rights to vote and choose their leaders is absolute lunacy. Your article sickens me, frankly, to think you would minimize the tragedy of many thousands of Iraqis who were murdered beaten, tortured, etc. . . . under Saddam for two decades, so that you could sell a headline that "Iraqi people are no better off than before". Of course they are better off. They now have a chance to have a free country. Even if Iraqis screw it up on their own, at least they had a chance to live free.

I think your headline should read, "I believe Iraqis are no better off today in a representative democracy than they were under the 20-year Fascist dictatorship of Saddam Hussein". Does that sound better to you?

Craig E. Christopher 
Atlanta, Ga. 
He says Jo Stuart needs to wake up

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

RE: Jo Stuart’s column Sept. 12:

Stand up, take a deep breath and open your eyes. Obviously they are closed. Also you might want open your ears also.  There are no more screams from the torture chambers.  I think you missed the mass graves when you had your eyes shut, and the #1 WMD, Saddam Hussein and his sons. Did you ever read about what those monsters did to people? 

You liberals are all alike, you only see what you want to see, you only hear what you want to hear and you ignore any good. Granted it will take some time, but it is happening every day, for democracy to take hold. There are no magic wands that you wave and things change overnight.  It takes courage and a strong will to do what GWB is doing.  Thank God, we have a man of principle and courage in the White House to accomplish this task. 

I said it before, Costa Rica does not need an army, because it has one, the USA's.  We would never let anything happen to Costa Rica.  Wake up,  pretend you are at a railroad crossing and "look and listen" to something other than the DNC, sorry, I meant CNN.

Dennis G. Goodwin 
York, PA. 
But this reader praises her column

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Kudos to Jo Stewart for her 9/12 article,  It echoed a program I heard  last night on Radio for Peace international (shortwave) in reference to the "New American  Century."

With so many reports on the same page it is baffling that we don't hear  this on our mainstream media! (well, not really). Thank you for your fairness in reporting.

Craig Cushenberry 
Near Truckee, Calif. 


He thinks that Jack Caine is humorous

Dear AM Costa Rica:

RE: Your Long Running Humor Contest

Based on your lead story of today, I vote for Jack Caine!

What a great sense of humor he has. He now replaces Villalobos the Lawyer as the funniest person in Costa Rica.

His satirical website that you reference is laugh-out-loud funny. Who wouldn't agree that ICE should be privatized to avoid a "terrible president" (SIC) and his referring to unilateral as UNI-LATERAL (SIC) is a side splitter. 

Based on his funny premises on the satirical website, I'm thinking of also sending funny petitions to everyone in the United Sates Government demanding punitive actions against: China, Russia, Mexico, Cambodia, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, well, you get the idea. 

How you folks down there think up this humorous stuff is beyond me.

Keep up the good work of bringing a smile to our faces.

C. K. Hobbs 
New York, N.Y.
Not please with value-added tax

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I read with considerable alarm the article that you featured today concerning the new tax proposal supported by the Pacheco Administration. 

Apparently, the populist politics has the upper hand. All that this 'value-added' tax will do is drive new money away from the Costa Rica economy and such a tax in a small country like this will ultimately fail. 

Why can't Costa Rica go the way of Belize or other offshore centers and reap the income benefits of tax refugees from the U.S., Canada and Europe? Costa Rica already has the highest per capita external debt of ANY third world country. Why would anyone invest in such a financial arena? 

David Grey 
He links militarization with police school

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Laura Carlsen's piece in A.M. Costa Rica on military solutions to the  domestic and global problems of Latin America offered by the U.S.  government is a highly insightful exposition.

I would add only one comment. There is a continuum of physical and  political aggression that includes military, security, and police forces.  Many distinctions between them have all but disappeared as they are  interchangeably used to suppress opposing political views. Hence my extreme concern about the proposed International Law Enforcement Academy in Costa Rica. I wonder whose police forces will be trained there, and whose definition of "police" will be used to set the "curriculum"? No one has  addressed that question.

Just a few days ago, the U.S. allocated another $20 million to train  Colombian military AND police forces. Where will the training take place?  Costa Rica is, after all, the proposed international site for Latin  American police training, isn't it.

John French 
Philadelphia, Pa. 
EDITOR’S NOTE; Perhaps we have been deliquent in not fully explaining the law enforcement academy, but the curriculum will be established by a muiltinational group under observation by human rights experts, according to Rogelio Ramos, mininster of Seguridad Pública, who has been the lead spokesman for the Pacheco admininstration on the topic. 

He urges testing for Hepatitis C

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I hope all veterans, anyone who ever injected illicit drugs, as well as  anyone who ever received a blood transfusion before 1992 attend the Aug. 30 meeting reported in A.M.Costa Rica recently and take the free test for  the Hepatitis C Virus antibody.

Hepatitis C is a devastating, long term infection that accounts for  thousands of deaths every year, and is the leading cause of need for liver  transplant in the U.S. It is estimated that over 400,000 Vietnam vets are  infected. As many as a third of blood transfusion recipients in the U.S. were  infected before the virus was identified and excluded from the blood supply  in 1992. Worldwide, about 175 million are believed infected and capable of  spreading the virus to others through blood contact. In the U.S., among those  who have ever injected drugs using shared needles, as many as 80 to 90  percent are infected.

Hepatitis C is well labeled the silent epidemic, first because it can lie  dormant for several decades before destroying the liver, and, second, because  health agencies have not responded to it as they have to HIV/AIDS, which is  also caused by blood contact.

John French 
Philadelphia USA
EDITOR’S NOTE: Health Visions in conjunction with Roche Pharmaceutical is inviting all war veterans to a conference Saturday on "The Risk of Hepatitis C."  The guest speaker is Dr. Hernando Gonzalez, a gastroenterologist. The event is at 10 a.m. at the Hotel Corobici (Room Corcovado 4-5). Free screening and testing will be available, the organization said. Those who wish to attend can confirm at 260-0535 or 367-3251.

The lowdown on that lowdown worm

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I just read A.M., specifically RACSA's comments about this new virus, which is NOT a virus, but a worm. AND as usual, RACSA pretty much got it wrong..

Here is the real story if you feel it is worth repeating, which it IS because this is a nasty little sucker and you (and your readers) can expect more trouble from it including denial of service problems.

It's real name is the  W32.Blaster.Worm  So far, and estimated 165,000 computers have been infected.

A worm is defined as a program that makes copies of itself;  from one disk drive to another, or by copying itself using e-mail or another transport mechanism. The worm may do damage and compromise the security of the computer. It may arrive in the form of a joke program or software of some sort.

This one is NOT generally spread by e-mail though it CAN be. As a matter of fact, this worm spreads by slipping into any computer connected to the Internet or to another machine on the same network. Unlike many other kinds of malicious code, the Blaster worm requires no human intervention for infection, like downloading an e-mail message or clicking on an e-mail attachment.

Computers connected to cable modem, DSL, ISDN or any other "always on" connections are particularly vulnerable becasue THEY are connected directly to a network... in this case their cable company or Internet supplier.  Once lodged in a computer, it can scan a network (the ISP, cable company, RACSA, etc.) looking for other machines with the same vulnerability and try to infect them.   EVERY user of high speed, "always on" Internet connections should absolutley be running a firewall at all times.  Virus protection will protect if it IS sent by e-mail, but may not protect if sent through the network.  The better virus detection programs WILL protect however.

The worm targets only Windows 2000 and Windows XP machines. While Windows NT and Windows 2003 Servers (like RACSA's)  are vulnerable to the aforementioned exploit (if not properly patched).  Many ISPs do NOT perform the patch on a timely basis due to lack of understanding or simple complacency.  This worm attempts to download the msblast.exe file to the %WinDir%\system32 directory and then execute it. This worm does not have mass-mailing functionality.

The worm also attempts to execute a Denial of Service (DoS) on the Microsoft Windows Update Web server (windowsupdate.com) so as to prevent customers from applying the patch on their computers directly.

Here are some solutions:

1. Get a GOOD virus protection program, one with an automatic update feature.  Anywhere fron 1-20 new viruses and worms are created daily and let loose upon the world.

2. If you use high speed connections that are always on, use a firewall!  No exceptions!

3. If you think you are infected with this worm, download and run the following program to remove it.


4, Worried about YOUR vulnerability??? Run a security scan on your PC if you are running high speed.  A free one is located at:


Run all the scans you find there and fix, or have an expert fix, all problems.

PC's infected with this worm may  become sluggish, may crash or automatically reboot several times. Microsoft acknowledged yesterday that this worm disrupts a computer's operations, but does NOT  appear to destroy files on the hard drive or permanently damage the PC

Next, folks should go to the Windows Update pages at Microsoft and download/install the patch AFTER they are sure their PC is not infected.

A good source of virus knowledge can be found on my website at http://ticosites.com/news/.

This page is updated every ten minutes.

Tim Lytle 
Black Coral Group 
San Jose, Costa Rica
EDITOR'S NOTE: As much as we would like to blame RACSA for misinformation, we have to take the rap on the Blaster worm. We confused it with a virus that was let loose last week and moves via e-mail in our story of Wednesday, Aug. 13.

He say Jo has a short memory

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

My only comment to you [re: Jo Stuart’s column Aug. 1] is that the memory is as usual rather short (usual for the human being). Chamberlin also thought appeasment was the answer to all ills. Look where it got us! I suppose I should add that had you any experience in the Middle East, you would not suggest using Arab armies to sort the mess out! 

Jeremy Titman
Policeman opposes police academy

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

One hopes the current proposal to establish an "international police  academy"  in Costa Rica will be vigorously opposed by the legislature and  the Costa Rican people. 

As a retired former policeman and criminal investigator, the militarisation of American police and rise in police violence is hardly  a surprising coincidental circumstance and  has been a cause of  personal concern for some time. 

The introduction of the Patriot Act is a recent example of more erosion  of  U.S. civil liberties and another step toward completion of the  Police State. Costa Rica’s  easy going people, its democratic  traditions and approachable police should not allow  themselves to  succumb to the unwarranted hysteria and fear driving  U.S. policies. 

The U.S.A. now has 2.1 million of its' citizens incarcerated — more than any  other country, and more than all of Western Europe combined.  Over 70 percent of inmates are incarcerated for non-violent drug offenses. The  result has been not only an unacceptable, despicable waste of youthful  potential, but the creation of  an enormous and  repugnant penal  industry built upon controversial and sententious principles. 

The only benefit derived seems is  shameful grist for our political  adversaries, and  providing careers for those with violent propensities  far worse than the imprisoned. 

 H. Franz 
Las Vegas, Nev. 
A confused reader seeks help

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Why is it that over the past two to three years that so many conspiracy theories abound?  Is it the lure of intrigue, sinister deeds and government cover-ups that provide the fertile soil for the growth of cynicism and fabrication?  Or is it that this has always been happening and now new technology such as the Internet allows the crazed fringe a forum to broadcast and proliferate their ideas?

It seems that every time I hear from governments today there seems to be lots of smoke?  Is it just possible that, ‘where there is smoke there is fire’?  And why do I feel like I am living in the middle of a raging forest fire my vision blurred and my lungs choking?  Smoke, spin, propaganda, misinformation, disinformation, party line, BS it all comes down to lies, no matter what the justification.

So here is a question I would like to understand better:  Dr. David Kelly bled to death committing suicide.  You have heard about Dr. Kelly, he is one of the worlds leading experts on chemical weapons that died in the English country side last week.  The BBC has disclosed that Dr. David Kelly was the principal source for its controversial report claiming Downing Street "sexed up" an Iraq weapons dossier. 

Dr. David Kelly reportedly warned of "many dark actors playing games" in an e-mail sent hours before he bled to death from a slashed wrist.  The message, sent to a journalist, appeared to refer to officials within the Ministry of Defence and British intelligence agencies with which he had exchanged blows over interpretations of weapons reports in Iraqi. 

His e-mail gave no indication he was depressed and it said "he was waiting until the end of the week" before judging how his appearance before the committee had gone. This would suggest that he was in a "wait and see mode" not an "end it all now" frame of mind.

Dr. Kelly was the pre-eminent senior adviser on biological weapons to the U.N. biological weapons inspections teams (Unscom) from 1994 to 1999.  So why would a person of such stature kill himself by cutting his wrist?  Is it possible that such knowledgeable man could not find a better way and place to kill himself? 

When I studied psychology, I read something that has always stuck in my mind ? "Once is an accident, twice is a coincidence, three times there is a pattern". 

Could it be possible that Dr. Kelly’s death along with the following be pattern or is it just coincidental that the world's top microbiologists are dying?

1. Nov. 12, 2001: Benito Que was said to have been beaten in a Miami parking lot and died later.

2. Nov. 16, 2001: Don C. Wiley went missing. Was found Dec. 20. Investigators said he got dizzy on a Memphis bridge and fell to his death in a river.

3. Nov. 21, 2001: Vladimir Pasechnik, former high-level Russian microbiologist who defected in 1989 to the U.K. apparently died from a stroke.

4. Dec. 10, 2001: Robert M. Schwartz was stabbed to death in Leesberg, Va. Three Satanists have been arrested.

5. Dec. 14, 2001: Nguyen Van Set died in an airlock filled with nitrogen in his lab in Geelong, Australia.

6. Feb. 9, 2002: Victor Korshunov had his head bashed in near his home in Moscow.

7. Feb. 14, 2002: Ian Langford was found partially naked and wedged under a chair in Norwich, England.

8 & 9. Feb. 28, 2002: San Francisco resident Tanya Holzmayer was killed by a microbiologist colleague, Guyang Huang, who shot her as she took delivery of a pizza and then apparently shot himself.

10. March 24, 2002: David Wynn-Williams died in a road accident near his home in Cambridge, England.

11. March 25, 2002: Steven Mostow of the Colorado Health Sciences Centre, killed in a plane he was flying near Denver.

12. June 24, 2003: Leland Rickman, associate clinical professor of medicine at the UCSD School of Medicine, died suddenly on June 24 while traveling and teaching medicine in Lesotho, Africa. Actual cause of death, apparently due to natural causes, is not known.

Uday and Qusey are dead ? Again!

This is the fourth time since the start of the invasion of Iraqi that the demise of the brothers has been reported - talk about cats having 9 lives.  While watching CNN and MSNBC I was taken aback by the "experts" being interviewed saying several times that they were surprised the brothers were together with Saddam’s 14 year old grandson and only one bodyguard. 

It seems the brothers did not like each other very much and their pattern suggests it was not like them to be together.  My reading also proposes that they each travel with several body guards and always have a ‘backdoor’.  With this in mind was it an accident or a coincidence that they were together with only one bodyguard in a house with no way out?

According to the media these four individuals, including one 14-year-old child, managed to fight off 200 heavily armed members of the 101st Airborne for six hours, before finally perishing in a hail of Hellfire missiles launched by helicopter gunship. 

An anonymous soldier "involved" in the operation allegedly told Steve Centanni of Fox News that containment was not an option. "We received direct fire from the building multiple times. We used a scaled escalation of force, and had to use bigger caliber weapons to render the building safe". 

I am amazed the four lonely defenders could stay alive more than five minutes under these circumstances never mind hours in private Mosul villa, which had earlier been used by members of the 101st Airborne as requisitioned accommodation.  It is a good thing that the Iraqi army did not have such fighters or the U.S. and British dead would be much higher.

I would have thought the spin doctors would have wanted these guys alive and all the army had to do was surround the villa and wait.

Because my eyes are so full of smoke, I decided to write to your readers in the hope that someone with clearer vision can provide an understanding of what is really going on.


Upset by forest iniative story

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Just read the story about Powell wanting to stop illegal logging in OTHER countries!!! 

How like the United States! Here they are working on
destroying the national parks systems in the United States so as to have logging companies up there destroy the trees in said National Reserves yet they want the rest of the world to be held accountable?? PLEASE!!

Enough of that country using the "do as we say not as we do"
consciousness!! It's just another NOT acceptable meddling into other countries business! I'm not saying that destroying OUR forests is a good idea but the regime up there has NO RIGHT telling anyone else what to do or not to do!! Especially considering their own behavior on things like
global warming, pollution, exploitations et al!!

Send Mr. Powell packing!!

Pat Schmit
Perez Zelledon
Farewell to Alajuela friends

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I am writing to bid farewell to a couple of very special people, known  to a great number of the gringo community of Costa Rica.

Fred and Darlys McLeod, owners of the Hotel Las Orquideas Inn in  Alajuela, have sold the hotel and their famous Marilyn Monroe bar, known  for the best chicken wings anywhere. This weekend, July 12th, they,  sadly, will be leaving Costa Rica. In their 14 years in Alajuela they  have made innumerable friends, entertained thousands of visitors, and  helped countless people make a smoother transition to Costa Rica as a  retirement destination. They have filled Alajuela nights with excitement  and laughter, most notably at their fabulous Halloween parties, to which  people traveled annually from all over the world.

Genuinely  "nice" people, they have demonstrated their caring and  generous nature through their personal help to staff members present and  past and by the fact that so many, many people count them as friends.

They are off now to travel, spend time with their kids, visit their  visitors and generally become reacquainted with style of life back  "home".

Costa Rica will be the poorer for their leaving; those of us who remain left with an empty spot in our lives. But we all wish them well, hoping  they enjoy retirement and that they will not forget us. We certainly  won't forget them! God Bless!

Noel Montagano 
San Pedro de Poás de Alajuela 
He cites errors in our article

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Thank you for your original story on our Declaration of Independence and Revolutionary War. I am sure I am not alone among American expats here having roots going all the way back to those glorious days of our history, and may not be the only one to have noticed some factual errors in your article.

The holiday marks the adoption by the Continental Congress of the Declaration of Independence, not its publication. It was first published in Philadelphia on the next day, July 5, and later proclaimed in various other States at various times. The instrument was probably not actually signed, in the version with which we are most familiar, until August. It was a document that said the colonies were no longer subject to the British king, but not the only one, nor the first.

On June 7 1776 the Continental Congress had already adopted Richard Henry Lee's Resolution "That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved." The Declaration of July 4 was drafted (and redrafted by Thomas Jefferson and others) for publication to announce the fait accompli .

Your article's "What followed was the U.S. Revolutionary War." is grossly inaccurate. The war was already well under way by July 4 1776: On the night of April 18-19 1775 Paul Revere rode to Concord to warn the Minute Men.

Bryant Smith
Palo Seco
Editor’s Note: The above letter is condensed from the original.

This reader appreciated investor story

Dear A.M. Costa Rica: 

Laurels to A.M. Costa Rica! Darts to those who urge boycotting!

Today's "Personal Report from the Trenches" reveal the true feeling of most investors, more accurately than anything I have read. Most of us are afraid to reveal our opinion as to the final outcome, as we continue to hope and pray that someday, we will see some of our money. When we are admitting the truth to ourselves, we know it is unlikely that we will ever see any money. Yet we don't want to be identified as giving up. 

Why afraid? Many investors believe that "Villalobos will find out, who his friends and loyalist are." Therefore, they fear being exposed as given up! The thinking is that the loyal will benefit in the end.

You have performed a great service to the investors and all readers in keeping the public informed. Many investors have suggested boycotting your daily news for reasons stated herein. Keep up the good work!

(Please withhold name.) 
He’s doesn’t have sympathy

Dear A.M. Costa Rica: 

Regarding the woman who lost her money with the Brothers, she can back hand me all she wants but sympathy? I think not. 

A piece of advice: if you want sympathy don't mention your maid, the problems in your private clubs and organizations, fewer parties and trips, and how tough it is to stay in a place others dream about visiting for vacations. 

The real world has no free lunches and your buffet is now closed. Quit whining. 

Jim Shaw 
They are seeking Vault clients

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Due to the closing of The Vault Holding Co. and the unfortunate death of Mr. Roy Taylor, we are trying to find out the names of the other investors, so we can discuss a course of action, realizing that there is a power in numbers in any proceedings. 

Obviously there will be court intervention and probably a liquidation of any and all assets, and, as a group, we should be part of the proceedings to insure that everyone is represented for the dispersal of the assets. 

Ian and Patricia Nethercote 
E-mail to costarican_vault@yahoo.com
How could they let him shoot himself?

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I have visited your country three times in the last four to five years. I find it simply incredible that the arresting authorities, even if they did not know that Mr. Taylor had a gun, permit, or carried a gun, would not have frisked him or searched his person or patted him down when they arrested him and put him in handcuffs! [Original story HERE!]

In the U.S., as you probably know, that's like standard operating procedure, to protect the officers as well as the alleged suspect. I just find it sooo incredible that a man in custody in handcuffs is allowed to go the bathroom alone, without at least an officer within sight (depending, I guess in C.R., whether there was a window available for a possible escape), but much more sooooo incredible that he would not have been searched when arrested!. 

The only other possible explanation is that he took a gun from an officer, which would be very bad publicity for "trained" police officers. Even if he'd had a gun hidden in his bathroom, again an officer standing there watching would have prevented what happened. Again, as I'm sure you know, in the U.S. very seldom are arrested, handcuffed suspects allowed to urinate in complete privacy or at least to urinate in an area which is not first searched for the very reason that weapons could have been hidden there to then be retrieved and used on the officers.

Why, also, was he not immediately put in a patrol car and/or taken to the jail? The way the police procedure works (or does not work) in C.R. continuously amazes me.

Hopefully, it won't take C.R. police 20 years to learn from this one mistake. (it always seems to take any C.R. authority years and years to get anything done, i.e. building a bridge, or fixing a computer problem so teachers can get paid, the list seems endless every time I read your paper!)

Judith Loring 
Montana, USA 
Another good Villalobos point

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

The editorial on Monday the 16th regarding The Brothers (How did he make his money?) raises a very important question. If that question ever gets answered his investors will know for the first time what kind of business they where loaning money to.

When the offices of the Brothers closed and the owner left the country, the media reported all the company’s employees had been terminated. My first thought was if they were deeply involved in factoring, business loans, real estate loans, or the like, how are they now going to recover these funds?

I have many friends who loaned money to the Brothers. All of them would benefit from the truth, without possibly throwing good money after bad. 

Bill Wendell
Santo Domingo de Heredia 
More ways not to get burned

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Thanks for your story on Internet fraud. There are many who fall for the examples you mention.

There are several others that may be even more troublesome. I have received a number of e-mails that look like they are from Pay Pal or eBay. Two of the most popular Internet services. They claim one thing or another and ask that you log in and provide some information.

Everyone should be very suspicious of these emails. I consider myself very computer and Internet savvy and I was amazed at how good they look, and it's not surprising that people fall for them. Just remember, eBay and Pay Pal (which eBay now owns) will never ask for any contact information in an e-mail. Don't log into any sensitive accounts via an e-mail link. Close the e-mail program and go to your browser. Open the site from there.

I continue to receive the Nigerian e-mail scam letter, and now Iraq and China have entered the "Help me get X million dollars out of the country." They ask for contact details and then, once you have provided them, ask for bank routing numbers and a copy your drivers license (for security in indentifying you.) Just delete them.

Finally, have a look at the following websites for other scams on the Internet:

http://www.fraud.org/internet/inttip/inttip.htm http://www.wired.com/news/culture/

Thanks for the article. I hope it prevents a few more people from falling to these thieves.

Hunter Schultz 
Chicago, Ill.
He didn’t like our legal interpretations

Dear A.M. Costa Rica: 

Among several egregious errors in your article "Creditors will petition to get Villalobos pardons" published this morning, the most disingenuous is your misinterpretation of the relevant statutes. 

The Petition to the U.S. President will not be under the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 as amended, a general provision, but under the statute governing U.S. participation in the Inter-American Development Bank, a specific provision, and there are significant differences between the general and the specific provisions. 

Under the specific Inter-American Development Bank provision, there is no three-year stalling period accorded to offending countries, as there is in the more general provision, and the president is not given the discretion to waive the prohibitions of the specific provision that he has under the general one; the general provision says that none of the funds appropriated shall be made available without any specific direction to the President, whereas the specific provision speaks directly to the President: He "shall," not merely "can" as you wrote, "direct," not merely "ask" as you say, the U.S. Executive Director of the bank, not merely the "representative" as you say, to vote against the aid. 

And, since a negative vote by the U.S. Executive Director amounts to a veto, the President's direction is effective to block the aid. Your readers can see for themselves how wrong you are at the web pages linked to www.grupomakai.com/helms.html

You can't even practice good journalism: Why do you try to practice law? 

Bryant Smith
Playa Palo Seco

EDITOR’S NOTE: We are sorry to disagree with Mr. Smith, but we think that a waiver provision in the Foreign Assistance Act gives the president of the United States the option so he does not have to cut off aid to countries when they take properties of U.S. citizens in a legal manner. The Helms amendment was aimed at unjust confiscation.

They are not criminal complaints

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Having read the case file, I just wanted to let you know that 600 investors DID NOT file criminal charges against Villalobos. 

The 600 filings include many investors that filed as third parties of good faith and others as Ofendidos (offended parties, without saying what the offense was). Under the criminal code and drug laws, there are articles that protect third parties of good faith. Basically, a third party of good faith provides documentation to prove that his investment or asset was clean (e.g. documentation of the sale of homes, stocks, etc. to provide a money trail). 

On 16 Dec 2002, the court made a decision that third parties of good faith do not have ultimate rights in this case, that the frozen assets are the product of illegal activities and that the assets would eventually be forfeited to the state. 

This decision is on my website if you're interested. Few people have actually filed fraud charges against Villalobos, although I'm pretty certain that the Victim's Assistance Office was working towards creating this. 

Jack Caine
Class Action Center
Is this a friendly country or what?

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Now you have a professor who claims Costa Rica is one of the world’s friendliest countries. I came here believing this. I brought all the money I could save in my lifetime. I invested it with a company with a perfect reputation and lived on the interest.

Then the government closed down this company and froze my money. So far I have lost $18,000 for my rent and food. My grandkids will lose their opportunity for college.

This is a friendly country? I'm stuck. I'm too old to work. I can't afford to move. This is a friendly country?

By the way about 6,000 other people are in the same fix. This is a friendly country?

Desperate in Quepos 
Bob Wilbert
Pop quiz for rightists 

Dear A.M. Costa Rica: 

I've come up with a pop quiz for right-wing warmongers to consider before they open their yaps about the war in Iraq. I'll try to keep it simple, but I will also use factual information ALWAYS left out by these propagated lambs. 

In fact, I truly believe that if these self-professed "rightists" actually knew the true facts, they would quickly become "leftists." But of course that would require admitting that they've been wrong all along is supporting a regime that over the last half century has invaded many weaker countries and slaughtered hundreds of thousands of people — a tough task for gun toting red-neck yahoos. The questions: 

1.) You're an Iraqi citizen and parent, and in the early 1980's your country has a 97 percent literacy rate and one of the best health care systems in the world. The 'just force' of the U.S. in the Gulf War destroys most of the countries electrical supply rendering clean water in the country obsolete. Any funding needed to rebuild Iraqi infrastructure, as requested by the U.N., is blocked by the US. UNICEF estimates that over 10 years roughly 500,000 children die as a direct result. 

Do you cheer on the U.S. soldiers this time around because of your fear of not doing so, or because you have been drinking contaminated water and your mind is damaged as a result of depleted uranium (used in 20,000 tons of U.S. bombs dropped on Iraq throughout the 1990's)?

2.) You're an Iraqi in 1991 who's listening to Bush Sr. and when asked to rise up against Saddam Hussein you do so as you think your being freed by the "leader of the free world." You gather your friends and make a public decree that you're going to rebel against Saddam and then make a move to retrieve your weapons from the U.S. army, who has them under lock and key.

Surely you expect that since the US has urged this uprising that not only will the U.S. forces be backing you up, but also you'll have access to your own weapons to fulfill Bush's wishes. When the US military refuse to give you your weapons to fight with and refuses to help you fight, do you believe this time around that the U.S. is really here for regime change? Or do you have nothing to believe because you're buried in a mass grave with all your friends?

3.) You're a citizen of the world who understands what is in U.N. resolution 667 and specifically the clause in it that states that the number of weapons inspectors can only increase in proportion to the physical size of the locations being inspected. The U.S. then shows up with 10 times that number of U.S. weapons inspectors and demands entry. 

The U.S. also makes no bones about the fact that their representatives are CIA, who've also just stated publicly that they are going to assassinate you (this is all documented, historical information). You refuse, as 667 is a legal document and the agreement of this document is being broken by the U.S., not Iraq. When Fox news reports verbatim from the U.S. administration that Iraq has not complied with U.N. inspections and Resolution 667, do you actually believe them? Or do you get off your lazy butt and read sources that use historical and documentary record, which quite clearly prove that the U.S. has, at least three times, made it virtually impossible to adhere to U.N. weapons inspectors?

4.) You're in a Kurdish village when a yellow rain appears overhead. Do you realize that these gasses were actually supplied to the Ba'ath Party by the U.S. military? After your horrible death are you a little perturbed by the U.S. attempts to veto any U.N. investigation into the atrocity by trying to pin it on Iran, using forged documentation? 

Do you come to the realization that the U.S. did this as they were supporting Saddam in anyway to fend-off Iran, their main "threat" at the time? Do you realize that the reason that Saddam and his Ba'ath Party are in power is that the U.S. administration and the CIA feared Iran so much that they backed anyone fierce enough to do their dirty work? Saddam was the pal of the U.S. until they invaded Kuwait. He was their man.

5.) The leading state-sponsored terrorist nation in the world has just bombed the crap out of your city. The U.N. and UNICEF both estimate (all counts have names of those killed) 8,500 citizens were killed in this recent invasion — and up to 10,000. Do you think it makes sense that 13 of your family members were blown to pieces as this aggressor is 'freeing' your people? As there are no weapons of mass destruction (and for evidence on this read Scott Ritter's articles found on the internet - a former U.S Weapons Inspector) how do you rationalize the killing of all these men, women and CHILDREN?

In closing, I do NOT understand right-wing philosophy of war-makes-peace. I do understand that most of you listen to too much corporate news media and are basically zombies that are non-critically obeying everything the administration forces on the media to communicate to you. I also understand that you're probably too proud to admit you're wrong and too lazy to work hard to read everything you can to understand the truth about how the complexities of the lies and the motivations of your leaders are so intertwined. 

I also know that if you read the Official U.S. Doctrine called the A Project for the New American Century, you'd be shocked that the administration that Bush Jr. has in place has been planning a military takeover of much of the world since the Reagan years. This is not a conspiracy; you can go on the Internet and read the official documents yourself. But you're probably too scared or lazy to do so. So there is absolutely no excuse for licking the boots of bloodthirsty tyrants like the Bushes,

Look, the day of the dictator began years ago, certainly with the U.S. created Saddam Hussein. With the Patriot Act II being sped through the American system, U.S. citizens are unwittingly throwing away their Bill of Rights. George Orwell was a brilliant man and rather prophetic you could say. As the U.S. continues to promote corporate greed and continue to do all it can to destroy the environment — with or without your help — we'll all be wallowing in a world dominated by military and big corporate money. 

Freedoms that you enjoy today are quickly going to be very hard to take back. Continue to refuse to see the truth and stand up for democracy, and I guarantee you'll be crushed by teaming masses of humanity yearning for liberty and justice. And oh, what a guilty pleasure that will be. Or will we all be too miserable to feel the guilt?

Rich Davis Calgary
He’s sick of Bush-bashing liberals

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I'm sick of all the Bush-bashing liberals who seem to come up with any excuse that the U.S. is out to conquer the world. I think that the Central American Free Trade Agreement is a great idea and I believe, if implemented properly, will be a win-win situation for all the countries involved. 

First of all, Costa Rica does over half its business with the U.S. By easing trade barriers such as tariffs and subsidies will allow Costa Rica to do more business and sell more products to their biggest customer. By generating more money throughout the Costa Rican economy will no doubt improve the quality of life down there.

In response to Carol Warren's letter [below], the U.S. does not act solely on the interests of the white-collar elite. Can you name another country that is giving $15 billion to help fight the aids epidemic in Africa? No other country gives more economic help to impoverished and developing nations than the U.S. Still not convinced? Well lets take Costa Rica for example.

Since 1946, the agency called USAID has given over $1.7 billion to Costa Rica. This money has helped implement many programs that has helped Costa Rica become the Central American success story that it is today. These programs include technical assistance to Costa Rican policy reformers who worked to eliminate price controls and open markets to international competition. During the 1980s, support for private banks financed an export boom, increasing wages and reducing poverty.

USAID has also supported the development of Costa Rica's democratic institutions by supporting improvements in public safety, tax reform, budget reform, privatization, legislative support, and municipal and community development.

Here is one for all you tree-huggers that think the U.S. doesn't give a hoot about the environment. USAID financed the Agricultural School for the Humid Tropical Region (EARTH) which helped educate a corps of experts to protect one of the world's most difficult ecosystems - the rainforest in Costa Rica. (All this information can be found at www.usaid.gov.) And even today, good-old George W. Bush is investing $5 billion in fuel-cell technology research so that we may not have to drive cars that burn fossil fuels.

If the U.S.'s goal is to get rich at the expense of other Central American countries through CAFTA, than why did we help out these nations in the first place? Our economy and those that we do business with have flourished by free trade agreements. We just want to expand these ideals through CAFTA. And Carol, if you think the people in Appalachia are oppressed, take a good look at those people in impoverished countries in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia - you are sorely mistaken.

Joe Iannone 
Chicago, Ill.
He wonders where the weapons are

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

In 1995, the U.N. documented several thousand tons of VX and anthrax —fact. In 1998, Saddam used these weapons against the Kurds — fact. In 2003, U.S. troops discovered several mobile labs designed to produce weapon quality anthrax and 12 buried freight containers containing similar labs (near a weapons factory). My money says they weren't for producing baby formula.

Its been almost two months without discovering what happened to the several thousand tons of known chemical and biological weapons. The U.N. weapon inspector spent almost five years searching for Iraq's nuclear program and was ready to declare Iraq nuclear free when a defector told them which rock to look under.

The best possible outcome for the world would be that Saddam actually secretly destroyed these several thousand tons of known chemical and biological weapons. Common sense dictates that Saddam would have kept some records, some evidence of this to prove to the world of his compliance with the U.N. resolutions. Unfortunately, during the stalled U.N. process, Saddam had more than ample time to export or bury these several thousand tons of known chemical and biological weapons.

Instead of bashing Bush for manufacturing the above facts, ask "Where are the records of the WMD destruction?". The world has a right to know. That is why the U.S. went into Iraq. If you call that "Ill-founded", then you need to think beyond your geopolitical world.

Steve Clark 
Curridabat, Costa Rica
Pop quiz for leftists

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I've come up with a pop quiz for leftists to consider before they open their yaps about the war in Iraq. In deference to Pat Schmit, I'll try to keep it simple: 

1.) You're roasting on a spit in an Iraqi torture chamber for the amusement of your captors. You feel somewhat uncomfortable. Do you continue to prattle on about the unjust American war to depose Saddam Hussein, or do you hope and pray for a quick and painless death? 

2.) You're a human shield in Bagdad defending the Ministry of Defense building. Thousands of Iraqi citizens proceed to reveal to you personal tales of repression, death threats, and mass graves full of family and friends. Do you continue to make an ass of yourself in public or do you board a bus and slink away full of shame and regret for your folly? 

3.) You're in an Iraqi rape chamber. You know what's coming next. Do you adopt a sophisticated and philosophical attitude about your fate or do you call Sean Penn on your cell phone and foolishly hope he comes to rescue you and NOT to assist Uday?

4.) You're in a Kurdish village when a yellow rain appears overhead. Do you pout about the lack of umbrellas provided by the U.N. weapons inspectors or do you lay down on the ground and die a horrible death along with so many other Kurds? 

5.) One of the greatest mass murderers of our time has been overthrown. Do you act as if you cared a whit about the 24 million freed Iraqi people or do you, instead, act as lead defense attorney for their tormentor in the court of world opinion? 

In closing, I do understand the leftist philosophy of appeasement and your strict policy of being nonjudgemental in all things. But there is simply no need to abase yourselves in the name of mere politics. And there is absolutely no excuse for licking the boots of blood-thirsty tyrants. It makes you guys look astonishingly misguided and rather silly, actually. 

Look, the day of the dictator is over and the final freedom of the peoples' of the world is coming down the pike — with or without your help. Continue to stand in their way, and I gurantee you will be crushed by teaming masses of humanity yearning for liberty and justice. And oh, what a guilty pleasure that will be. 

Leo Leonowicz 
Guadalupe, Costa Rica 
He defends his name

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

As my family and I have suffered under the weight of having my name in the press as accused of a felony I did not commit, I must clarify two items concerning my struggle for justice against Roy Taylor and the Vault S.A. First, Taylor's ridiculous charge against me is supported by a mere $40 receipt. 

As an INVESTOR in the Vault, my charges against Taylor, attempted extortion and investor fraud among others, are supported by receipts and cancelled checks (signed by Taylor) amounting to some $30,000.

I leave it up to the reader as to the validity of the ridiculous charge against me and its apparent purpose. As far as my investment is concerned, I have never received a penny of interest nor any accounting statements and my requests for the return of my principal have been ignored by Taylor, et al. As I am just a single investor in The Vault, this struggle has truly been David vs. Goliath. 

Brian Smith
San Francisco, Heredia 
Not impressed by Defense claims

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

TSK TSK TSK.. Mr. Feith. Methinks the man protests too much. Not only have weapons of mass destruction NOT been found since the end of the "war," they weren't found by the U. N. inspectors either. Though Bush couldn't wait to get his dirty little ill-founded "war" going. 

And to ask the world to believe that that rag tag of an army that Iraq had that couldn't even defend themselves., that used a rifle made in Russia in 1946 to shoot down a helicopter, just what are we talking about here?

Well, folks, it's bushit and bushit only. And now Bush wants his little Star Wars project up and running by 2004, and none of this gives people pause? And have we so soon forgotten the lies of the Pentagon to Kennedy to start a war against Cuba with more of it's baseless manipulations of "facts"? I haven't!

AND further, if what we are truly worried about are weapons of mass destruction, how is it possible that the U.S. aside from it's Star Wars "project" and being armed to the teeth. why aren't THEY made to disarm as well? I'd love to hear the spin on that one! 

Pat Schmit
Perez Zelledon 
Give Jafek more time, he says

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Congratulations on your great on-line newspaper, I am a happy daily reader. I'd like to comment a little about all the bad news lately on companies like The Brothers, The Cuban, Costa Rica Green and others. I have been an investor in some of these programs myself for a long time and I have always been well aware of the risk I was running.

I could have put my money in some bank here in Costa Rica and would have run a very similar risk and I wouldn't make as much money. Some fellow investors are now putting in formal complaints, which I think is incorrect since nobody obliged us to invest there. We all knew what the risk was from the moment we invested it.

It's like investing your money in a business which will always depend on many things you don't have control of. I particularly have invested with Tom Jafek of Costa Rica Green, who I have known for many years and who always has paid me. 

After 9/11, things became more difficult in the money market in general and the last war made business slow down worldwide. This affected the U.S. economy, the Costa Rican economy and the world economy. 

But ever since the Brothers and the Cuban's downfall, fellow investors got scared and started complaining. That's their good right, but they should know that complaining doesn't make business go better, instead it creates a bad feeling about investing in general. 

Did we complain when we lost money in the stock market? Sure, I did too, but I didn't put a formal complaint, what good would that do me? Please don't make a mistake fellow investors, no Ewald Acuña and no Abel Pacheco (the Costarican President) will get our money back. 

Only being positive and helping guys like Tom Jafek to concentrate on their job will get it back to you. I trust Tom to to the job for us if we leave him to it. We all made the decision to invest out of our free will and that decision is our own responsibility.

J.M. Legrand 
She does not trust motives of the U.S.

Dear A.M. Costa Rica 

I had to laugh at today's story about the many benefits that the proposed Free Trade agreements will bring Costa Rica. At their core, these proposals are not about trade. They are about protecting foreign investment — say from the U.S. — against any interference by local governments or groups who would like to have a say about financial deals that will greatly affect their lives. 

They are a series of legal arrangements intended to prevent local government from acting in their own public's interest. The very fact that the Bush Administration is so supportive of free trade should give everyone in Central and South America cause for pause. U.S. behavior around the globe amply indicates that this country does not do anything to help other people. It acts totally in the interest of a wealthy elite and the multinational corporations that bought Bush the White House.

Just come visit Appalachia, and see how well the U.S. cares for the less fortunate and oppressed! 

Carol Warren 
Webster Springs, W. Va. U.S.A. 


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