A.M.  Costa Rica
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Jo Stuart
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Letters for Vol. 2 up to April 18, 2002
For letters posted in 2001, Click HERE

A modest agricultural proposal

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

The plight of the coffee growers, workers, their families, and the economies  of the coffee growing countries is severe.

It is the same as the dilemma of cocaine growing countries. The products  have much in common. Both are stimulants with absolutely no food value, whose production might stabilize in a completely free market. Both are  competitors to each other and to foodstuffs in a starving world. There is of course, a clear parallel with other crops: hops and grains.

So in the tradition of Jonathan Swift, who wrote "A Modest Proposal" that  the starving Irish sell their babies to the English for food, I offer  a viable but much less severe alternative. 

Let them grow hemp. 

It would serve the dual purposes of providing a crop that has real-world  value (clothing, rope, etc.) AND driving our friends at the DEA and the  Department of Justice right up the wall. Remember, they must have SOME  illicit appearing crop to rage at, and hemp is already high on their list. And imagine those gringo kids trying to smoke industrial hemp and getting  only a severe cough for their trouble. 

My way everyone wins :)

John French


Producer angry and will tell the world why

Dear A.M. Costa Rica

I am the producer of an internationally syndicated outdoor adventure TV series here in Canada. In February of this year we were returning, by bus, from a shoot in Nicaragua. I had just previously filmed for 10 days in Costa Rica for this same series.

We usually fly, even on short hops, but the bus was more convenient at the time. Upon our arrival in San José, with our crew, including my 18-year-old daughter (her first trip out of Canada) I was physically assaulted for no reason whatsoever by some moron lurking around the bus terminal. It occurred within 30 seconds of stepping off the bus. I was furious, as you can imagine. Quite a scene then erupted. We are positive they were trying to create a diversion in an attempt to steal our gear and/or luggage.

Regardless, after a terrible 10-hour journey I didn't need the extra aggravation. There were no police at the station, and nobody we could turn to for help. It was a very upseting experince for all of us, especially my teenage daughter. Later that afternoon, I reported this incident to the Costa Rican police (at our hotel) who promised to get back us us, in writing, with the disposition of this incident. We even had the offending bully on videotape from our broadcast camera, and this was shown to the police. He is clearly seen giving the camera the finger.

In Canada, he would have been arrested and throw in jail for assault. Thousands of Canadians travel to Costa Ricas every year and spend significant amounts of money there. It is my intention to broadcast this incident, complete with video, to 80 nations worldwide, including two national networks in Canada. Canadians should hear first hand about these people and the lack of follow-up from the police. 

Thank you.

Gordon C. Sivell 

EDITOR'S NOTE: Mr. Sivell produces "Don't Forget Your Passport," a one-hour outdoor adventure travel show that can be seen on the Outdoor Life Network in Canada every Monday as well as on the Travel Channel in Europe, according to the companyís Web site.

Ice breakup doesn't mean heat did it

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

While the article in A.M. Costa Rica didn't make the leap, several media outlets have blindly jumped on the global warming bandwagon. I'm not questioning the existence of global warming, but I find it too convenient to tie global warming into the break away of the Larson B ice shelf. [Story, March 22]

Structurally, the ice shelf was a cantilever structure floating on water under dynamic forces from the mother glacier, the supporting sea, and the changing ice/snow loads. It broke away because it collapsed under it own weight. As a structural material, ice is ok under compression and terrible in tension. The single-faceted connection of a cantilever was in tension from day one. It was only a matter of time before the supported loads out grew its connection.

Thermally, ice is an insulator and the core temperature of the ice would not be effected by global (surface) temperatures.The temperature of the thick core's cantilever connection would remain constant and structurally consistent.

Either the external forces increased or the connection was weakened (as implied by global warming). If anything, global warming would have delayed this break away by melting away the supported surface loads (as A.M. Costa Rica reported), reducing the tension forces in the connection.

Since the ice shelf was glacially fed, perhaps the glacier pushed a little too hard. Or maybe sea currents changed in a way as to undercut the cantilever connection. Or maybe the sea level lowered enough to reduce it floating support.

But these rationals aren't consistent with global warming.

Steve Clark
A reponse to political questions

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

"Where does it all end?"  This question Doug Gesler [below] poses is neither disloyal nor unpatriotic as he self-condemns. The root question is "Where did it begin?".

Perhaps with a perverted hijacked form of a religion, where "intolerance" is preached against any individual who is not a male nor of the same religion. This 'intolerance' is transgressed into murderous acts on women and children with promises of virginal sex in heaven. There are nations who teach this 'intolerance' as part of their official educational curriculum. There are other nations developing devices of mass destruction to carry out this form of justice. We have another half-dozen countries providing support for these so-called freedom fighters. Yet there are very few religious leaders speaking out against this hijacking of their religion.

Whether its killing 3,000 international souls on 9/11, fire bombing 300+ innocent Hindus on a train, or blowing-up oneself at a wedding celebration ó it is a plague on this small world.

Terror is a cottage industry, providing power for the few and employment for the many.It provides training, international travel, quick advancement in the ranks (unless you get to wear one of those belts), social security for the family, and of course, those heavenly virgins. In addition, it keeps the focus off internal national problems and on the collective evils of U.S. policies. So which head of state is going to change this?

Of course there is U.S. foreign policies for those who want to find justification for some of these horrific acts. If you subscribe to this rational, you are indeed providing credibility for future terroristic acts. On an individual level, you are saying 'yes' to road rage (you can't expect someone to be personally responsibility for their acts if they don't agree with the driving habits of another).

So . . . "Where does it all end?"

1) Just say "No" to violence and agree to table all grievances for third-party arbitration:  Pros: Politically ideal, everyone can climb on board. Cons: Unimplementable, the U.N. is trying - but not there yet.

2) Change any and all policies to appease individual terror groups: Pros: Solves current threat. Cons: Encourages future threats - Don't like the new Volkswagon design, kidnap the CEO! An endless cycle of redesigns (and CEOs).

3) Wait for ET: Pros: Just as Americans came together under attack, so will the world - when little green freedom-fighters from Mars attack to resolve U.N.'s galactic policies. Cons: not likely.

Or... If your dog has fleas, deal with it! Systematically, go after the fleas on the dog, in the bedding, in the carpet, and in the yard. Once the fleas and eggs have been eradicated, invest in protective measures. Don't give up. Above all, don't blame the dog.

To answer Doug's other loyal and patriotic questions:

"Since Sept. 11 we have been forced to take action to protect our security and to defend our country and our way of life. But when does it become paranoid?". Isn't "paranoia" when you think someone is trying to hurt or kill you, but in reality ó they aren't. I would of thought 9/11 would have answered any ambiguity to this question. 

"Are our troops, if captured, going to be considered prisoners of war when we deny that status to those we are holding in Cuba?". This was answered last week with a bullet to the head of our fallen Navy SEAL. While writing this response, CNN had a pity story on the many Taliban in Afghan prisons, where they are so over-crowded and under-facilitated the poor guys had nowhere to sleep and little to eat. Cuba is looking pretty good!

"We wonder why American journalist are kidnapped and murdered. We are targets!!!".  Many non-Americans have died as well. In fact, Pakistan is the capitol of kidnapping and murder. Many more educated professional Pakistanis have been kidnapped and/or murdered than our lone American perspective?

"... why do we use these tragedies to extract revenge?. . . Mr. Bush has only been in office 13 months, what do we have to look forward to?" My question to Doug, 'Why do we use these tragedies to extract 'political' revenge?'. 

Steve Clark 
Curridabat, Costa Rica
 Mugging victim gives his opinions

Dear A.M. Costa Rica: 

I am the person who sent the [letter] "An American Citizen describes his mugging"   [below].  I support Paula Loftis' position on acceptable theft. 

Normally I don't respond to letters like Lansen's [below], but I feel the readers need to be warned on the true level of crime in Costa Rica and the ambiance of the country.

My mugging was not the only crime perpetrated on me. I experienced thefts from my dwelling and person on my last two trips. I was walking down a street the day before I was mugged minding my own business and a passerby yelled at me in a loud and very mean spirited tone: "Yankee mother fucker.".

I can't begin to tell you the numerous assault stories on Ticos and others I heard during my three-month stay, and they occurred in different cities. Many of these stories were related to me firsthand, not hearsay. I spent a lot of time asking questions, since I had planned on this being my future home. I suggest the readers do the same. 

Many of these stories I wouldn't have been known if I hadn't asked specifically. I am still amazed at how many people in Costa Rica have been victimized. I keep hearing how dangerous the U.S. is. There are certainly pockets of high crime areas. However I can choose not to be in them. Unlike in Costa Rica, I have never been mugged, had a burglary or been pickpocketed. 

In the U.S. you can reduce your odds of being a victim by living and being in safer places at safer hours. This is much more difficult to do in Costa Rica. I live 12 miles from downtown Los Angeles, Calif., and in the three months (not three weeks like Ms Lansen) I was gone, my apartment was not watched by anyone and was protected by all of 1/16-inch thick glass window panes, and no bars. I do not live in a security building.

No break-ins and no real expectation of same. Long story short  Look at all the bars, razor wire, and guards in Costa Rica. The locals really do not have luxury of spending money where it is not needed. I don't think travelers should be warned away from the country, but I feel a certain moral responsibility, in my opinion, to paint a more realistic picture so people can make a better informed opinion.

Again the people that get victimized the most are the residents of Costa Rica. Unfortunately, Ms. Loftisí "one nasty experience" isn't so unique. It is true that there are incredibly wonderful people in Costa Rica. It is equally true that there also astr some not incredibly wonderful people, and they are the ones to watch out for. 

Still Anonymous 
Disputes concept that theft is acceptable

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

To Paula Loftis and all other who are victims of crime in Costa Rica:

I feel badly for anyone who is a victim of crime. Anywhere. But based upon the crimes I see reported, and have heard of secondhand, the country I would most warn people to travel to would be the United States. Certainly not Costa Rica.

My husband and I recently traveled back to the United States from the same area Ms. Loftis reports from. While we were there, in an area south of Tampa, there were five murders, 15 muggings, four home invasions, two rapes, a few drive-bys, lots of petty thefts, and, I'm sure, many, many complaints similar to herís at the local malls. I'm not talking about New York City, or New Orleans, I'm talking about three weeks in one community - the Sarasota, Bradenton area of Florida, just south of Tampa.

My point is that one incident, no matter how much culpability one did or did not have in it for lack of awareness, is NOT status quo for the entire country or community where the crime occured. It is certainly not reason to warn travelers away from a country that contrary to what she experienced it nothing but incredible. 

During the three weeks we were back in the States, our home here was not vandalized, but was cared for and watched by our Tico neighbors. We left here in a hurry because of a medical emergency and came back to a completely clean, cared-for and intact home in a Tico neighborhood. Previously, we've been stranded on a deserted road with a broken-down vehicle and no cash, only to have someone fix our car and feed us before we sent on our way. 

I've been stranded at the airport with a phone card that didn't work, only to have a woman let me use hers, and refuse to accept anything from me. I could go on and on. It's awful that one nasty experience ruins what is mostly a wonderful experience in a wonderful country filled with incredibly wonderful people. I hope that Ms. Loftis tries us out again.

Vicki Lansen
Is theft acceptable in Costa Rica? 

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

RE:   Theft, Malignancy and morealdestitution.

My husband and I recently relocated from the U.S. to Costa Rica. The wildlife, environment, national parks and our impressions of the Costa Rican people were some of the reasons.  However, on March 6, 2002 that impression radically changed with the realization that the country is widely and malignantly infected with theft and the acceptance of stealing. 

In a country that appears outwardly highly religious, the widespread stealing by the Costa Rican people, and those that do not steal, their apathy and acceptance of stealing, is a contradiction in their lifestyle.  On March 6, 2002, I was eating lunch at the Plaza del Sol food court in San Jose.  A Costa Rican lady with shoulder length dark hair who was nicely dressed and professional appearing took a table next to me. 

She kept edging her chair against my back.  My desire to not be an "ugly American" kept me from saying what I would have in the States, to get away from my chair and quit being rude.  I had my shoulder bag next to my leg and wedged against the wall. Usually I stick my leg through the strap, but this time I was less careful. However, I would never need to secure my belongings like that in the U.S. while eating in a public place. 

When I leaned forward to speak with my husband, my leg lost contact with my bag, and the woman grabbed my bag.  Within a couple of minutes I was aware of it missing and jumped to my feet yelling in Spanish "Police" and in English that the woman had stolen my purse, stop her.  I saw a woman running go around the corner. 

Two security people stood dumbfounded and just stared at me. I ran after her in time to see her speed off in a late model, dark gray Nissan, Hundai or small Japanese brand sedan without license plates.  She was going very fast in the parking lot, and another three security guards looked at me, looked at her speeding in the parking lot and were rooted to the spot.  In fact, the security guards stood in the way. 

There was absolutely no attempt by security or anyone else in the shopping mall to assist me.  I am of German descent with blond hair and blue eyes and certainly will never blend in by my appearance. I later heard the security guards refer to me as a "gringo" and shrug their shoulders.  The security guards also stated that communication problems kept them from acting. 

Does a woman running through a mall and speeding to her car and out of a parking lot not justify suspicious behavior to stop her? I cannot help but believe that because I am clearly not Costa Rican that prejudice was at work in the situation as well.  The thief was a nicely dressed Costa Rican female; I was a foreigner and looked like a tourist. 

My husband and I asked that the police be called by the security guards.  There was a general shrugging of shoulders and statement that it was not necessary and would be of no use.  We went to the OIJ office and were told by the lady at the desk that there was no reason to file a police report unless we could absolutely identify the thief and provide license plate numbers and an absolute description of the car.  We reported that money, credit cards, U.S. checkbook, a camera, a driver's license and two passports were stolen.  We thought it would be important to report the crime.  We were told no report was necessary, to talk to the embassy for new passports. So again no reason for reporting the crime. 

It is clear to thieves that no action is taken, there are no consequences, accountability, and that theft is not punished.  I have traveled extensively in countries with known crime concerns but have not encountered any problems or such a blatant corrupt attitude as I have experienced in Costa Rica. 

I am also an exceedingly cautious individual, as I am sure others are as well when they travel.  Theft is very much accepted and prolific in Costa Rica.  The incident I experienced was a bold crime. . . .Since my experience numerous people have shared that they have suffered theft at the hands of the Costa Ricans.  The general perspective is that stealing from another person is an acceptable way of living. 

There is encouragement that I accept this behavior as intrinsic to the Costa Rican people. A crime is a crime, a sin is a sin.  Definitions do not blur from country to country or between ethnic groups. It is not moral behavior.  My trust of the Costa Rican people has been shattered, my personal safety has been violated. 

If this can happen while in broad daylight with a multitude of security guards and other people around and no aid is offered, then there is clearly something quite wrong with Costa Rica.  The apathy by law enforcement is appalling.  How can the country even be aware of the prevalence of crime if reports are not accepted or encouraged?  Why would tourists come to a country where they can not relax and enjoy their vacations but must be constantly vigilant and worried? 

Economically the country has suffered and will continue to do so.  I cannot in good conscience encourage tourists to visit this country without fear and concern for their possessions and well-being.  If they do, there is a high likelihood they will be victimized and receive no assistance when it occurs. 

Paula Loftis 
Quepos/Manuel Antonio 
An interesting and depressing post-script: I learned today that despite reporting my Costa Rican bank debit card stolen within 30 minutes of the theft, the thief was able to use the card in excess of U.S. $1,000 at various merchants. Some of the charges were quite large. Not one single merchant verified ID or signature.  It would have been impossible for my ID, blonde/blue eyes and a different height, to have been a match for the thief, a taller dark-haired Costa Rican female. 

The merchants deserve to be stuck with these expenses because they support thievery through their behavior.  More is the pity that there were several missed opportunities to catch the thief in these transactions.  The thieves clearly count on this sloppiness. Again, I have been told that the country does not care about theft and have no safeguards in place to serve as deterrents and certainly no penalty for the thief. 

He found friends when he needed them

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

On March 8 I was walking to a museum, stepped into a pothole and fell, hurting my ankle. I was in my second week at the Costa Rica Language Academy, so knew little Spanish. 

A large number of people helped me with cheerful compassion during the day. Someone found an ambulance which charged me $15 to take me to the Catholic Clinic Hospital. There I saw a physician within 20 minutes who had me x-rayed and referred to an excellent osteopathic surgeon. My torn ligament was treated with a cast.

The entire experience cost me around $200. A later search for crutches involved many other friendly Ticos. A cab driver looked all over town to find gringo-sized crutches, charging me $7.00 for his efforts over 90 minutes.

Like many tourists I've had a negative experience, too, when my wallet was taken during my last trip (which can happen anywhere).  But after three visits I believe that Costa Rica has the friendliest people anywhere and is the perfect place to live. I can't wait to retire there soon! 

Paul DesRochers 
Dallas, Texas 


Doesn't think column was justified

Dear A.M. Costa Rica: 

I have generally appreciated this paper and read it daily. I really object to the letter re: child custody being elevated from a letter to the editor to column-like status. 

I appreciate the dilemma of Mr. Stumbo and believe that he is entitled to his opinion with regards to this country. I don't believe his comparison to the Taliban or twisted statistics that 50 [percent] of the women here are at least part-time prostitutes should be elevated to the second page. It is very offensive rhetoric. 

I am glad to be in a country that tries to protect the rights of women. The divorce rate is very high here, as are incidents of abuse against children and mothers. I strongly concur that children need their fathers as well as their mothers. I wish that many of the absentee fathers would accept this as truth. 

Letís keep the letters to the editors for opinions such as this. If not, why not do a carefully researched article presenting the bigger picture with more than one-sided anecdotal reasoning. 

Colin Benner
Mr. Brenner refers to the commentary "Law designed to protect women is being abused" that was published March 11 here.

Brother wants  murderers caught

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

My sibling brother, Slavko Curuvija, the owner of daily Dnevni Telegraf (The Daily Telegraph ) and newsmagazine Evropljanin (The European ), was assassinated on 11 April 1999.

From what has been established on the case so far, apparently it was the former government of Slobodan Milisevic that put Slavko to death for his struggle against the regime as such and its war-mongering policy, undemotratic doings, suppression of human rights and freedoms. Therefore, I had no reason to cherish any hopes for assassins and other participants in the grim persecution of my late brother being brought to court while Milosevic was power.

It was in a strong resurging hope that I welcomed the democratic changes take place in Yugoslavia, expecting that the incumbent administration should meet a chief electioneering pledge it had made and arrest the ordering party and assassins of Slavko Curuvija.

Regrettably, over the past year and a half, I have run out of resources at my disposal in urging the administration to try and make even a least progress off the standstill in the investigation. All I have done was to no avail. For all my queries and enquiries, I have met with nothing but neglect or stonewalling.

 Accordingly, an ultimate resort I may hope to turn to could be international community representatives and journalists asking of Yugoslav President Kostunica, Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic and other officials with the Serbian and Yugoslav Governments to know what has been accomplished in this respect, primarily, why the assassins and ordering side are still at large. 

Therefore, I am imploring You to help, according to Your goodwill and power, to spur on the on the Yugoslav and Serbian authorities to see resolved this atrocity, which was also a . . .  case of media repression in the reign of Slobodan Milosevic and Mira Markovic, as soon as possible.

Jovo Curuvija
Where does it all end, he asks.

Dear A.M. Costa Rica: 

Regarding your article about military aid to Columbia, where does it all end? We escalated military action in Afghanistan with no foreseeable end in sight; we are making threats to invade Iraq. 

There are significant increases in the fighting between Israel and Palestine and no foreseeable return to the cease fire. We have lost troops in military action in the Philippines, and now we are being asked increase military aid to Columbia and to remove current restriction on the drug aid so that it can be used as military aid in their 30-year-old revolution. 

Does that mean we send troops there too? Since Sept. 11 we have been forced to take action to protect our security and to defend our country and our way of life. But when does it become paranoid? 

We can't label every government or group that we disagree with a terrorist and put them on a hit list. We can't make exception to our constitution rights in the name of expediency or security.  Are our phones monitored, our cell phones, our e-mail, certainly. 

Are our troops if captured going to be considered prisoners of war when we deny that status to those we are holding in Cuba? And why Cuba? Is that some kind of slap in the face to these prisoners. 

We wonder why American journalist are kidnapped and murdered. We are targets!!! Our government had made any American overseas a target or for that matter, any American at home, as we saw in September. 

I can understand the defense and security measures but why do we use these tragedies to extract revenge? Its only hurting us in the long run. Mr. Bush has only been in office 13 months, what do we have to look forward to? 

If you raise the questions, you are considered disloyal and unpatriotic, but if you want to continue our way of life you had better consider them. Remember we have elections this fall.

Doug Gesler 
Kent, Wash.
About Democrats and 'axis of evil'

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Reading the article [2/26/02] just confirmed my belief that the Democratic Party is comprised largely of the "granola element:"  the fruits, nuts and flakes of the North American left. 

Characterization of Iran, Iraq and North Korea as an "axis of evil" upset one. "We have to stop talking about it as evil," said one. If not evil, how would one characterize these terrorist, rogue nations? Philanthropic? Follow bin Laden's money trail, and you'll find their fingerprints all over the blood money. If you characterize those who supported the strikes on 9/11 as somehow less than evil, I'd be real interested in hearing it. . . .(I'm upset only that President Bush didn't add two other nations to the list: Saudi Arabia and China, both of whom were also involved in the 9/11 strike.) 

"It implies that we are all good," said Jerry Ledin. No, it just says that those three nations are NOT "good". 

"We have become an irrational country," said someone else of the United States. And perhaps we have. The U.S.A. continues to permit even those who despise it to freely enter its borders. The world has never known a country so powerful that misused its power less. And, as you might notice if you take off your rose-colored lenses, there's aren't too many people beating on the doors of North Korea or Iran or Iraq to emigrate there. 

No, all this just reminds me of an old cliche: "Being criticized by those people is like being called ugly by a frog." 

No wonder Democrats ó here and abroad ó have become so irrelevant. 

Fred A. Quinn II 
Independent in San Francisco, Calif.


Seeking postcard from here

Dear A.M. Costa Rica: 

My name is Jerzy Matuszczak. I am 45-years-old man from Krakow, Poland, who collects blank postcards. I have already over 25.000 and hope one day it will be the biggest world collection. I would like to ask your friends to help me and send some blank postcards from Costa Rica. 

Thank you very much for kind help. 

Jerzy Matuszczak 
31-462 Krakow 
ul. Pilotow 22/21 


Thinks ambulance rate is subsidized

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

In regards to Mr. Beach's question [below] about the cost of ambulance service to return his grandmother to home, I suspect that the charges may have more to do with Mr. Beach being charge the entire cost of the trip home, whereas when his grandmother was rushed to hospital, the CR health system covered the bulk of the cost. Just a thought 

Pete Peplow
Ontario, Canada
$1,553 for an ambulance ride?

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Perhaps someone has some insight, legal knowledge etc. about this situation.

A few months ago my grandmother was rushed to CIMA by ambulance for which we paid 45,000 colons. Not a problem. When she was ready to go home from the hospital, we needed to call a private ambulance transport company. We live on the Central Pacific. She does not require special machines, oxygen etc., so it was just to be able to provide a comfortable ride for her.

A few days ago we received a payment from the insurance company in the mail. We called the ambulance company to inquire as to how much our outstanding bill was to which we received a reply in the sum of $1,553!

Hello! Does anyone see anything funny about this. We could have flown her back here in a helicopter twice for that amount. We could have chartered a private plane to bring her back or sent her to Paris roundtrip, flown her to Miami and paid for a specialist etc.

I donít care if the insurance company is picking up the tab, this is blatant discrimination, fraud, rip off, scam! Even though it is common practice here to charge people according to the color of their skin, hair, accent, country of origin, Iím sure Costa Rica must have some law against discriminatory billing. If anyone knows please clue us in.

Frank Beach 

The barber/beauty contingent praised in the letter.

He found a great barber shop

To A.M. Costa Rica:

. . . I am writing to thank you for the recommendation of the barbershop in the central market. After reading one of Jo Stuart`s columns where she described this barber shop, I made it a point to locate it. 

What a pleasant surprise it was. Right in the middle of the mercado central was this bright, clean and very modern barber shop and beauty salon. I took advantage of the open chair and got a haircut for 1,000 colons and a manicure for 1,500 colons. What a deal. I am attaching a photo of the shop with their staff.

Thank you again. 

Don Gordo 
Good of the child emphasized

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I want to apologise to both Mr. Stumbo and Mr. McLean for not telling them what they wanted to hear. Unfortunately, both these gentlemen think that keeping things "simple" is not in their favour (nor that of their kids) and that doing battle with the so-called "system" will produce better results. 

If the scenario goes as it looks like it is, both of these gentlemen will not only have attorneys but also politicians in their corner. If they're pushy and loud enough they might even get George W. B. to label the Costa Rican moms "terrorists" and get U.S. Special Forces down here!

On that sarcastic note (I just couldn't help myself) I'll again reiterate that "keeping it simple" is exactly what works best in resolving custody issues. It becomes a quagmire when the attorneys get into the fray, let alone politicians! 

I also need to add that it does take two, both parents, to make a genuine effort to do what is best for the kids. Depriving a child of either parent (if both are capable to parent) is not healthy. This usually comes to light later in life (and usually in adulthood) when folks attempt to heal the old wounds and reconcile. Most comment that they "wish they would have done it differently."

So, I say to both Mr. McLean (and Mr. Stumbo) Take a "time out" fellas! Let the ego and emotions cool a little. Think about all the things you've done that you could say "I'm sorry" for (that goes for Moms, too) and maybe think back to when you were 5 or 6 and what would have been most important to you way back then!

Johann Wagener 


What can be done about the trash?

Dear A.M. Costa Rica: 

Thank you for your dedication to informing those of us who have moved here from the United States with current information about the activities happening in Costa Rica. 

I wanted to know what you thought could be done about the trash situation. I find that Ticos are the worst offenders here at Playa Flamingo where I live to throw trash on the ground, the streets, the beaches or anywhere even when there is a trash can 10 feet away from them. I have a real distain for people who do not respect private or public property and see no recourse for their behavior. 

We at Playa Flamingo have just recently received the Blue Flag award for our overall cleanliness and clean water at our beach, yet much effort by our local residents goes into picking up trash that others leave behind. 

Trash floats in on a daily basis from the ocean, and you can't imagine all the junk that I've picked up personally. We are in the process of coordinating a task force to help keep our beaches clean. 

What, if anything, has been written about this issue in other areas of Costa Rica? What suggestions have been given that may be worthwhile in reading on AM COSTA RICA? How could this issue be brought to the attention of other interested persons? 

I appreciate your time and response to this matter.

Babe Samra (aka Theola)
Playa Flamingo
EDITORíS NOTE: The letters page will entertain responses to the above letter with an eye to publishing good ideas to keep down the trash polllution. 

Says wife didn't want mediation

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

[This is a reply to Mr. Wagener (below)]

You are so good at simplifying life . . . perhaps you should join the rest of us in living reality. Do you not understand that at some point all this nonsense has to stop? How many children have to be taken and more than likely separated for good from one of their parents? 

Yes, I agree the child is what is most important. But shouldn't that be the case prior to having problems between parents. Knee-jerk reactions are wonderful . . . perhaps you should work for the U.S government. Theyíre very good at invoking law or action after the fact, and need someone working on their knee-jerk think tank.

You have to understand . . . the shelter my wife went to first and foremost claims that they try and work on mediation . . . however, the woman ultimately gets to decide if that is what she wants. In my wife's case she had one goal in mind: get out of the U.S. and back to C.R. Nothing had to do with my son.

I have no problem supporting my son and am overjoyed to do so. But I refuse to have the absolutely poor U..S. legal system drag me down emotionally & mentally. This type of legal abuse has to end! Do you not understand that if people throughout history did not say that something was wrong with a legal or political system, made a sacrifice and fought the system that we would not live with many of the wonderful amenities that we enjoy on a daily basis to this day. 

I am too young to live the rest of my life wondering if I could have changed this and possibly kept together families or kept a father with his son. The puppet masters who make the laws and make judgment on these cases need to have their strings cut or a different hand controlling them. It's time for change! 

Furthermore, I cannot talk with my wife, because she didn't do anything wrong in her eyes or even in her culture. I'm done playing the psychological games that my wife likes to always get going with me. Everything she does always has some hidden agenda (just like us getting married). Usually hoping she can make me look bad. 

But I never give into that. It's time for this to end with her so I can focus on a son who will never have a father, which, according to Mr. Wagener, is what is right, because surface value is his emotional currency to discount a life. My son will be taken care of as he always has been. That has always been and will continue to be my promise to him.

Jay McLean
Minnesota, U,.S.A.
More on the blocking of RACSA

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Thank you very much for writing about the RACSA spam problem. RACSA is being blocked for more than the freewwebhost4u.com scam as told in Kreuzahler's story

ISPs (Internet service providers) throughout the world have heard this for years. It is known as "Hacker X" ó an unknown hacker gains control of an ISP's server or e-mail addresses and does bad things. The ISP or e-mail address owner claims innocence and blames "Hacker X". If RACSA attempts to pass their version of the "Hacker X" story on to the Internet community, many will frown and shake their heads. RACSA was a rogue spam domain long before the arrival of freewebhost4u.com and any attempt by RACSA to blame the spam on one incident will insult the intelligence of Internet adminstrators

RACSA, a long-time host of small time or "chickenbone" spammers recently began welcoming and offering refuge to prolific and notorious Internet spammers. The spammers and their operations are so well known that they had difficulty getting connectivity with legitimate ISPs. If these spammers did manage to get connectivity with a legitimate ISP, it would dump them soon after their first spam run complaints began coming in along with the history of the spammer. 

RACSA ignored both spam complaints and reports of the spammer's history. The new RACSA customers were not only sending massive amounts of bulk junk scam e-mail but also using forged e-mail headers and other ISP servers as relays to shift the blame to innocent ISPs. This has become an offense punishable by instant disconnection with most providers. RACSA ignored complaints and allowed the spamming and the abuse of other ISP addresses and hardware to continue.

What was most galling about RACSA was/is the response of their service provider, opentransit.net to complaints. When an ISP fails to discipline their customers who violate the ISP rules, the next step is elevation of complaints to their internet service provider. Opentransit refused to take any action againt RACSA without a mound of impossible-to-assemble spam data from the spam recipient. RACSA seemed to be inviting and harboring the worst of the spammers and opentransit seemed to be supportive with their unrealistic demands concerning the spam runs. I would be willing to bet that the international blocking of RACSA mail was accelerated by opentransit's intransigence and attitude and may be prolonged by the same.

I have friends in Costa Rica who are affected by the blocking and would like them to have open access to all via e-mail, but RACSA's inaction on the the shoulders of opentransit's arrogance have closed most administratorsí ears to any acceptance of RACSA mail any time soon.

L. Amber Cartel 
Madera, Calif.
EDITORíS NOTE: While the mailing of bulk unsolicited e-mails (spams) is not illegal, Radiográfica Costarricense, S.A., (RACSA) has irked Internet administrators all over the world by failing to exercise tight controls of its customers, even though the use contract with RACSa forbits such mass mailings. The adminstrators have set their computers to reject any messages coming from RACSAís computers. Since RACSA is the government monopoly Internet provider in Costa Rica, nearlyh all e-mails go through the RACSA computer.

Keep the discussion focused on the child!

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I am again compelled to comment on the most recent letter regarding another upset dad who feels let down and betrayed by both his soon-to-be ex-wife and the agencies here and in the U.S. (below).

For what it's worth, here's a bit of advice. First off, try not to let your wife's attempts to extort you result in you depriving your child of support. Look for other options in providing care: e.g. send clothes, etc. or place money with a third party who can then dole it out when needed (via a power of attorney). 

These options and several others that I won't go into here are ways of spending your hard-earned money in ways that will benefit both you and your child rather than buy a few attorneys new cars. I would also suggest looking for ways to mediate with your ex. There are people in the U.S. (and maybe here) who provide these services (for a fee) and will again be money well spent since it may help both you and your ex focus first on your child's wellbeing and then how to protect yourselves against each other. 

Bottom line children are always the "real" victims in these situations. First and foremost because they don't have a choice in picking their parents and are stuck with the luck of the draw. And the saddest part of it all is that there are people out there who feed (financially) on this stuff. Being twice divorced and the father of six fairly well wrapped children (the last of which I am raising solo), I can look back and see all the mistakes made in the name of righteousness. 

At times I reminisce on my first divorce and an incident outside the court room where our attorneys were engaged in a heated battle at one end of the hall while my ex and I were working on resolving our differences at the other. That was the day the "lights" went on for me when the judges words; and I quote, "I'm not interested in listening to your complaints. I'm here to protect your children." Those words would not stop resonating in my head. He was right! On that note; stay focused on your child!

Johann Wagener

 The U.S. system denies him custody

Dear A.M.  Costa Rica:

My Costa Rican Wife took my child from me a couple years ago very similar to the Stumbo case. She is now trying to get child support from me in the U.S. I hired a Costa Rican lawyer through a Costa Rican friend of mine in the U.S. months ago in order to handle this case appropriately. That being the divorce, child custody issues, child support and my rights as a father to see and have a part in raising my son.

My son had everything for him in the U.S. My wife left because she never ever really wanted to be in the U.S. The nuclear family situation is hard for the average Costa Rican to get away from . . .which I wish we had a bit more of in the U.S. However, my wife has done everything to deny me contact with my son and occasionally calling collect to have me talk to my son in the hope that I will send her money, which is mostly her way of blackmailing me with guilt for something I did not cause or do. 

I do not want my son being used as a bargaining piece between the both of us. But she does not think she did anything wrong by taking my son and now claims by trying to get child support money from me that she is, "just doing what is right."

So now I have had to also hire a domestic lawyer in the U.S. to combat my situation with the county child support division, who in my estimation have no juristiction over this case for the reasons that my son was born in Costa Rica, we were married in Costa Rica, both of them live in Costa Rica, and the U.S. Department of State even claims it is in Costa Rica's juristiction and I should pursue legal action in Costa Rica.

If I go to Costa Rica now, I could be arrested until I pay child support. However, I just want my son back with me. My wife is using him as a way to extort money out of me through the U.S. system. I want my son back and my soon-to-be ex-wife can go her separate way and see if she can find another willing gringo to dupe. I don't mind paying child support from her; however I'm not about to pay based on the standard of living in my state. My wife could quit her job and live like a queen. Not to mention the county here helped her take my son and leave the country.

She went to a women's shelter to buy time and get free help from the lawyers who worked there. So I want the county to get my child back from me. They helped create this situation in which I will likely never see my son again. Her documents that she provided to my county even included generic child care reciepts from four months in a row that have serial numbers that are exactly in order. [This] tells me they are fake. And her current address she gave them she is not living at, and the phone number she gave is not her phone number either. I just want my son back and allow him all the opportunities both cultures have to offer because I love them both.

My wife see's this situation as a money making scheme. Either way I end up losing in all of this as well as my son who will likely never know who I am or was and will only know me as the father who never wanted him.  And the U.S. would dare to ask me if I would die for my country. Hell no, but I'll die fighting the U.S. system! 

Jay McLean 
Minnesota, U,.S.A.
Editorís note: The name is a psuedonym for a U.S. citizen who has provided his full name to A.M. Costa Rica

He won't come because of crime 

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I have never been to Costa Rica but over the past six months I have done a lot of research about your country. I have come to this conclusion that American's have about the same importance as road kill. 

I don't know who runs your law enforcement in your country, but it is obvious they are not in control of the crooks. It leads one to believe as long as they rob or kill only Americans we would not bother you. It's plain to see that the welcome mat is not out for American's other than the sex trade. So, thanks, but no thanks. I'll take my retirement check somewhere else. 

F. Thacker
Ohio, USA

A man describes his mugging

EDITOR'S NOTE: The location described in this letter has been the spot where a number of North Americans and Costa Ricans have been mugged in the last six months. Police have made no effort to provide protection in the area and most of the muggings have not been reported officially. 

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I am finally back home in the States, here are the details of my robbery between the blue kiosk and the storefront near Avenida 1 and Calle 5, on the south side of Avenida 1 while I was heading eastbound:

On Nov. 30, 2001, at 8:45 p.m. I was assaulted from behind with a carotid choke hold. I saw two guys for the 4 seconds of consciousness that I had. I could only identify one fairly beefy arm around my neck from the back and another guy's lower body and his arms going for my wallet in my front pocket before I lost consciousness.

When I came to, I noticed a guy my age with a scraped up head and a Tico restaurant security guard walking toward me. It turns out that the guy with the scraped up head had just been assaulted five minutes earlier at the same spot. He was coming out of the restaurant after washing his scratches and scrapes and noticed me laying on the sidewalk. 

He was the only one that came to my aid willingly. He said the Tico guard didn't want to go, and none of the people walking or driving by stopped to help. He told me that because of his prior police training, that he was able to avoid being choked out. However the three guys he grappled with managed to slam his head into the sidewalk causing him to get scraped up pretty good. He managed to punch one of them three times in the crotch though. They didn't get anything from him.

I thought I was the lucky one until I noticed that I had a definite loss of equilibrium and probably sustained some kind of head injury.

About 20 minutes later a total of 10 police showed up in four motorcycles and two cars! The restaurant had called them. The "new generation of police" only asked us for the description of the suspects. We weren't asked if we were hurt, needed help or wanted to file a report. They were all gone in a few minutes. I honestly believed that the police situation had improved, but they were (as in the past) conspicuously absent from a location where people were getting mugged at least two and a half months before us. In a matter of minutes, it went from no cops to too many cops, to no cops again.

On this trip I would decide whether to permanently move to Costa Rica. Crime and corruption being utmost on my mind, I heard way too many stories of people being assaulted and robbed, including many Ticos. Many of these people weren't in the wrong place at the wrong time. I am more bothered by the lack of respect for the police, their inattentiveness, and lack of concern by the citizens to get involved. There is not much deterrence to committing crimes. I was robbed five minutes after another guy by the same robbers. They apparently felt safe enough to stick around for a second attempt. In my opinion crime has gotten worse each year I have visited.

That this happened on a street with a fair amount of car traffic on it, a fair amount of pedestrian traffic and a restaurant with an open front that was packed with people that I had just passed 30 seconds before was surprising.

I have lived almost all my 55 years in two major U.S. cities and never been mugged. Nor have I been mugged in the 25 other countries I have visited. Until now I had attributed this to my "street smarts". I have visited Costa Rica for the last seven years. When I got mugged in San Jose, I was sober, out early, not carrying much money (they got $35), and not flashing any obvious signs of being target.

I wish to remain anonymous due to the fact that I have a pending application for health insurance, which precludes existing conditions. And although my vertigo has cleared up after 6 weeks, I don't want to jeopardize my application. The insurance was supposed to be approved weeks before I was assaulted, but that is another story.

My heart goes out to the good people of Costa Rica, but I am looking for a safer place to settle. 

A Mugged U.S. Citizen

Another voice on behalf of Stumbo

Dear AM Costa Rica:

I am founder and elected chairman of the Costa Rica chapter of the Asociación de Padres de Familia Separados: Los Niños Necesitan Ambos Padres, (adiospapa.org), an international organization based in Spain, and with programs in Peru, Mexico, Venezuela, Paraguay, and several countries in Europe. 

APFS-CR is the first men's organization in Costa Rica dedicated to promoting equality before the law. We have compiled a body of information documenting the fact that men in Costa Rica are disproportionately being victimized and criminalized as the primary aggressors in family aggression cases in this country. A series of studies from around the world have documented and established the fact that as many women are the aggressors as are men. It's about a 50/50 split in domestic violence, all the way up to homicides. 

Here in Costa Rica, false denuncias for domestic violence are being filed by women at an alarming rate. The famous Costa Rican family law attorney, Lic. Pedro Beirute has published several articles on this subject. The result of these false denuncias has had a devastating effect on the families and individuals within it. By outright lying, the women filing these claims attempt to emasculate their spouses by destroying the family, alienating his children, and evicting fathers from their homes in one fell swoop. 

The power of a wife's unsubstantiated allegations to the authorities is devastating. Typically, the false denuncia is only the first step. What follows is a brainwashing of the children and, thanks to the incredibly slow judicial system here, she has plenty of time to teach them to hate their father and later to say they never want to see him again. It would be a very rare occasion that a psychologist interviews the children in domestic violence case sooner than six months after the father has been kicked out of the house with only the clothes on his back, and hefty pensión alimenticia to pay or go to prison. 

There are many fathers, and I am one of them, who have had their children excised from their lives by the court and their mother and who are may never able to see them again, although they never committed any kind of aggression or violent act. The children then grow up without the influence of a father, and also without paternal grandparents. 

For most children, this is something that warps them for the rest of their lives. In many of these cases, falsely filed by the mother, it is the mother who is the abuser, not the father, and it is the mother who ends up with the custody of the children, to continue abusing them at her leisure, without interference from the father. His only function is to fund her flavor of parental control, being relegated to the position of non-decision making bill-payer. 

She then, with the help of the court and her family, constructs a firewall around the children and herself, and, if the father tries to see his child, the mother is free to continue ó for as long as it takes, putting more false denuncias of domestic violence against the father, without witnesses, without proof, without, in many cases, even any semblance of internal consistency.

In one case, a child lost teeth, suffered permanent facial scarring, and showed evidence of sexual abuse while under the care of the mother (all documented with an exhaustive forensic report per order of the fiscal judge). In this historic case, the father was awarded custody and the mother received a restraining order. She was also charged with felonious battery by the fiscal, but convicted of a lesser charge since the domestic violence law is gender-based. 

The mother found a family member to type up a fake court order, gave it to another family member on the force, and took the baby at gunpoint. The father was isolated, stripped of all his natural rights, and left for the legal sharks. To say the domestic violence law always favors the mother is a considerable understatement. To say that the father is usually isolated and stripped of all his natural rights regarding his children is certainly more accurate, but perhaps is also an understatement, too. 

Most people grew up regarding the judicial system as being fair, and that under the law, everyone is equal, and that Dad will always be your father, but that simply is not true, to the great chagrin of many fathers living the nightmare. For more information, try some of these sites for starters: www.childrensjustice.org,www.acfc.org, www.dvmen.org, www.dadsdivorce.com, www.lbduk.org, as well as our mother site, which includes most of the studies conducted on the problem throughout the world, adiospapa.org

Take Ralph Stumbo's case, for example. His case isn't about custody, because he was already has legal custody of his son. It's about kidnapping and the gross violation of his son's rights to a relationship with his Dad. But once here, the ex-wife was able to inject gender issues into the case, build the firewall around herself, and enjoy the protection of the local legal system ó at least temporarily, and in violation of national and international laws. 

And, although I hate to say it, it is entirely possible that Ralph will suffer the same fate as many fathers here: he wonít even be able to SEE his son ever again, let alone talk to him. By the time the slow legal process has run its course, his son with whom he formerly had an exemplary and loving relationship, will be conditioned to say he doesn't want to see Ralph again, and that might end the matter right there. The son has the right to see his father, but the father doesnít have the right to see his son. 

I sincerely hope that doesn't happen, that Ralph will at least be able to be heard in a court of law and the case will be adjudicated fairly. To help with this cause, I would appreciate it if A.M. Costa Rica might consider running a two- or three-part series in his paper about this problem, that would not only reveal its roots but also depict its patterns and its consequences, including the spiritual, physical, and financial ones for the father, and the sense of inestimable loss felt by most children at having their father cut out of their lives and remembered as some kind of mongrel. 

Again, I am NOT referring to legitimate domestic violence cases and rational separations and divorces, where visitation can be established and the father remains the father, although maybe only a weekend father. I am referring to the cases where mothers manipulated the domestic violence law to their unfair advantage by lying, cheating, misrepresenting and falsifying facts, often aided by unscrupulous lawyers, and with terrible and sometimes fatal consequences to the children and the father and the paternal grandparents. 

I believe that if people really knew about the injustices suffered by some fathers ó and potentially, all fathers ó they would not tolerate it any more than we willingly tolerate discrimination against women. 

James E. Marshall, Ph.D.
Coordinador, Asociación de Padres 
de Familia Separados de Costa Rica: 
Los Niños Necesitan Ambos Padres 
Ciudad Colon

Says Stumbo case shows injustice

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I read the story in the Naples News on the Ralph Stumbo  baby kidnapping and was really touched by the injustice of it all.

If the baby was from Cuba, it would be world news, but because the child is in friendly Costa Rica nothing is done.

A U.S. court rules kidnapping, and C.R. does nothing? That does not seem friendly?  That is a felony. Would they protect murderers, too? How friendly a country is that? 

Legalese aside, the fact that the mother won't even let the father see his son, is unreasonable and really unfair to the child.  I can see why the court ruled custody for Mr Stumbo. Unless he is a horrible wife beater, (at which the court would not given him custody), then he should be able to see his son.  Her isolating their child from his father in any country is kidnapping. She is obviously  not thinking of the child but herself and is a museum-piece unfit mother.  Stumbos big mistake was marrying her. But everyone makes mistake in love.

I don't know for some reason this article really resondated with me so much so that I wrote to the Florida paper and you. .
I hope your articles strike a chord with the FBI or someone in the U.S. government, (or even the C.R. govt) who can justify their paycheck by doing their jobs.  If they won't, they should be goofing off at less important jobs not ignoring cases were peoples' lives are so crtically affected (a real child), and not be collecting our tax dollars by ignoring their duties.

I hope you follow up on the story.  This sounds like a  LIFETIME TV NETWORK  movie, only this time the roles are switched and the father is the victim.

Robert Avener
The tourist totals concern him

The following letter has beem edited slighty to save space 

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Tourism In Costa Rica Was Up 4 Percent??

Once again let me say that Iím not putting down Costa Rica. However, I cannot hold my tongue when I read comments by so-called, experts on tourism here in Costa Rica. These statements paint a rosy picture of the tourism industry here in Costa Rica, when, in reality, I believe the situation is critical.

I am referring to the article in the Jan. 23 issue of A.M. Costa Rica (an online English newspaper) and the Jan. 25 issue of the Tico Times. In both of these articles the minister of tourism, Walter Niehaus, was quoted, as reporting that tourism for the year of 2001 was up 4 percent. I live in an area that has a great view of the western central valley. My wife and I watch the incoming flights to the airport, both day and night. After Sept. 11 the number of arriving flights have decreased dramatically. 

For the life of me I could not see how tourism could have been up 4 percent. As I read the A.M. Costa Rica article it became clear that minister Niehaus is wearing rose-colored glasses. In the one and a half years that I have lived here, I have never heard a Tico refer to 171,045 Nicaraguans, as reported in AM. Costa Rica, as tourists. The 47,289 Colombians as tourists is believable. It is a long walk from Colombia. I am not degrading Nicaraguans, I lived in Texas 52 years, and it would be like calling the thousands of Mexicans that cross the border trying to find a better life, tourists.  It just doesnít compute. A tourist, as far as an industry is concerned, is a person that visits a country, on vacation, to see the sights, have fun, and, in doing so, spends money for food, lodging, transportation, gifts, and other expenses related to his or her trip.

Somehow I donít think that people coming to a country looking for work in order to help feed and shelter their families in their home country are tourists. The 0.2 percent increase in American tourists, as reported in both Tico Times and A.M. Costa Rica, an increase of 988 people, is questionable when you deduct the several hundred professional gamblers that were here for a poker tournament. I think they got most of their expenses paid with their entry fees. I am a gambler myself, and I donít believe that the pros ever leave the casino to see the sights, besides, unless youíre a winner, youíre too broke when you finish playing cards. I know I am. 

[some lines deleted] 

Mr. Niehaus is correct in his judgment that the American tourist market is the best one to go after with their newspaper ads. However he is spending money in the wrong direction. It is the price of plane tickets that keep most Americans from coming. I do not understand how a tourist can fly, round trip, from the U.S. to Spain, England, France, and many other countries for less than $400 per person, and with a hotel stay included in some plans. Someone is doing something right!  Someone is getting the airlines to give these fares, how I donít know or understand.

Will someone please explain to me why the tickets to C.R. from everywhere, except Miami, are so high?? Are the hotels across the Atlantic picking up the tab on the plane tickets? Are the tourism ministers in these countries making deals with the airlines? Someone please clue me in, tell me how it works! A plane uses more fuel to fly across the Atlantic, and if Iím not wrong the average wage paid in Europe is much higher than in C.R.

[some lines deleted] 

The type of tourist Costa Rica desperately needs is the average American with an average salary that will spend around $2,000 on a two-week vacation. This includes airfare! The high rollers will still come, but they donít drive to the coast or visit the parks. They donít stop at the little tourist shops or eat at the many great little restaurants along the roads to the coasts. 

[some lines deleted]

Perhaps it would be better to pay the airlines to lower their fairs to C.R than to run ads in The New York Times. After all, New York is running very tempting ads in order to encourage tourism to NY! Costa Rica is in a no-holds-barred battle with the rest of the world for the tourist dollar, and it looks to me that we are loosing the battle. 

I do not want to preach gloom and doom, but I donít think that counting 171,045 Nicaraguans as tourists is going to help the tourism business. Take off the rose-colored glasses and start at the heart of the problem. Be honest, gather together the businesses that live or die by tourism, and come up with a plan. Look at the evidence; when prices were lowered to a level that nationals could afford them. Ticos flooded to the beaches and hotels, saving a disaster in the tourism business. The hotels that did not participate went broke or shut down, costing jobs. As my mother always said "A little bit of something is much better than a whole lot of nothing."

Dave Shade
Ciudad Colon

Reply to a reply

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

By the tone of Dr. Marshall's letter [below] it sounds like he might benefit from signing up for "anger management". It would also help to not mix apples and oranges. Name dropping Osama into this situation seems to me a lame attempt to shift the focus off the issue at hand; ie: looking out for children in custody battles. 

I have no idea as to Dr. Marshall's training, but given his cynical world view(s) it sounds like he promotes or supports Mr. Stumbo's aggressive posture in engaging in so-called "custody battles." 

Better he and other "professionals" try the textbook approach rather than using tactics that continue to produce the same sad results in which there are no winners and untold numbers of emotionally damaged children. 

Johann Wagener, MS.Ed, Ph.D

Thinks writer is unhappy

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

For Dave Shade. [see letter below] You seem to be unhappy. I suggest you move on to a place where everything would be better for you.  And since the transportation costs are more for you to get to CR, why not move on to one of those better, cheaper to get to  places? 

Your address was San Jose. Why don't you learn the language of your surroundings and then maybe things will get better for you, Dave:  I wonder why the stores in San Antonio, Texas, don't all go out of their way to have their employees speak Spanish, Thai, German, Italian, Chinese, Tagalog, Japanese and all the other languages that are spoken here. 

Oh yea, most of those  foreign language speakers learn English. 

Ray VanDerMeer
San Antonio, Texas & Cedros, CR.
Propaganda for Globalization?

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

The recent press release titled, "Countries that dump telecommunications monopolies said to benefit," fails to mention the countries that benefited or how they benefited.  Frankly, it sounds like a typical propaganda for globalization, deregulation, and giving away government utilities to the international corporationsÖ (and "giving" is the right word).

All one has to do is look at Argentina and see what has happened there after they followed the International Monetary Fund's (read that U.S.A, Britain, France, and Spain) demands.  They gave away their only money-making businesses by privatizing telephones, electricity, airline, railroads, etc., in return for almost nothing down and huge chunks of chorizo under the table for the politicians.  They exempted these corporations from taxes, from regulations, from any responsibility.  Consumer costs skyrocketed in telephones and electricity and all the other government entities that went to foreign corporations.

One of the world's prestigious airlines was dismantled and sold for parts by Iberia Airlines.  Banks arenít required to keep money reserves!  When bank depositors tried to withdraw the hard-earned dollars they had deposited, they were told they couldnít have their dollars back, because they had been either lent out or sent back to Spain. "Have some pesos instead." (That's not supposed to be funny.)

Iím going to Bueños Aires next week, and friends there have warned me about conditions since the economic meltdown.  I have to go, but I dread seeing the sad state of one of the most beautiful cities in the world after its experience with privatization, deregulation, dollarization and joining the "global economy."  I only hope Costa Rica doesnít travel the same path.

John Howells
From the Frozen North

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Having become a subscriber to your A.M. Costa Rica news, I look forward to reading it each morning. I was one of the Canadian pals of Pat Martin who visited Costa Rica in December. And how we all loved it. As a matter of fact, we are getting together for dinner tonight to swap our snapshots, and reminisce about our wonderful stay in Costa Rica. 

Itís nice when you look out the window at the snow, and pass the time in the Great White North by skiing, curling, skating, etc., to remember warmly our wonderful stay in your country; all of us hope to return some day. It was fun reading Pat's article. Pat and Peter were wonderful hosts, and our tour guides from Tursa tours, Edgar and Carlos, made our trips into the countryside enjoyable and informative. 

Carol Lynch
Reply to Stumbo response

Dear AM Costa Rica:

I'm sorry, but I just have to respond to the supercilious and demeaning attitude taken by Johann Wagener regarding Ralph Stumbo's wife kidnapping his son. [letter below] As for the approach recommended, I think it is worth about as much as he wants to charge for it, and I can only marvel at how he is able to provide a letter-perfect, textbook solution. I really like it, and only wonder why nobody has thought of it before. 

A perfect and even step-by-step procedure that fits all situations and all the people struggling in them. Why, I even bet it would have worked with Osama Bin Laden, too, had we only known of it! We could have come out of Afghanistan with a bloodless and peaceful solution. That's what we wanted, right?

I suggest to Wagener that he become more knowledgeable about the real world before being so critical toward others who are suffering real nightmares in a real world. Indeed, the insensitivity he shows in writing such an arrogant and condescending letter conveys exactly the opposite message than that intended, and one can only imagine its impact on Mr. Stubbo in his hour of hurt, depression, anxiety, and desperation at having his son taken from him. 

I guess one would have to have been a loving parent himself, and have had that done to him, in order to understand what it's like. It's like having your heart cut right out of your body. Believe me, it's not a time to be "helped" by persons who begin their drivel with comments about "Parenting 101".

James E. Marshall, Ph.D.
Ciudad Colon
Unhappy with costs, services

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Air line tickets are two or three times more expensive to C.R. than to other countries that give better service, have far better roads,  have just as beautiful beaches, and go out of their way to hire staff that speak English.  Bottom line "more bang for your buck".

Dave Shade
  San José
More response on the Stumbo case

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

In response to Mr Stumbo's response [below] to my letter regarding custody battles, I would be more than happy to offer my services (pro-bono) in assisting him and his estranged wife find an equitable solution to their problem. Since parenting 101 is not offered in any university, I am aware that people are usually not well informed on how to do this and need to be open to learning how to parent.

My ground rules are simple:

1) We focus on what's best for the child and always go back to that question each step of the way.

2) We assume that the other parent is "perfect," and we talk about how we are working out our own problems in living in resolving conflict.

3) We first look at all the reasons why the other parent should have custody before getting into the why-nots.

4) We defer decisions to "third-parties," one of which is selected by each of the parents (including one appointed for the child) and base final decision on a "consensus" of opinion by all involved.

 Not a perfect remedy, but one that has been effective in many similar cases.

Johann Wagener
Free trade in only one direction?

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Your story sounds hopeful re: free trade between the U.S.A. and Costa Rica and has been discussed for years. The main problem is that Costa Rica wants free trade only in one direction and that is no duty charged on products from Costa Rica to the U.S.A. But Costa Rica wants to continue to charge high customs duties on products from the U.S.A. This is the bottleneck to the free trade agreement. Just check the duty on automobiles and other U.S.. products. Until the treaty is really free trade between the two countries, nothing will happen. 

Donald E. Thomas
San José
Concerned by discrimination and crime

Dear A.M. Costa Rica: 

When I first came to Costa Rica some 20 years ago, one of the things that impressed me most about the Costa Ricans was their seemingly innate sense of courtesy and respect for other persons, especially foreign visitors. The Costa Rica of 1982 was a very safe place, a place where just a piece of string tied to hold a door closed was the same as a lock and therefore inviolable, and people practically fell all over themselves to help me out in case of any kind of problem. I must say, I really felt loved by them and learned to return that love. I migrated here shortly after, have been here ever since, and am a naturalized citizen.

But things, of course, have greatly changed since those days. The thing that worries me most about how things are now is the soaring and exponential growth of discrimination here, not only against foreigners, but all kinds of discrimination including sex, religion, race, age, personal handicap and so on. 

The story about the two Columbians who were beat and kicked by the police, for example, was a good account of the assault. (A.M. Costa Rica, Jan. 16) But for me, the most glaring thing about it was that it was an assault on them because they were easy prey, being foreigners. So what? 

The thing about it is that I see no difference in principle between that situation and the one just reported, the one about the North American being shot to death while being robbed. (A.M. Costa Rica, Jan. 18) Again, easy prey, like stealing candy from a baby, or a baby from a father.

Over the years here I have observed that virtually all changes here happen as a result of external, or foreign, if you will, stimulus. I have come to believe that, although there is a strong internal pressure in Costa Rica again discrimination, that it must be enhanced, supported, and promoted by foreigners too. 

As A.M. Costa Rica is an appropriate "voice" for especially foreigners here, I urge anyone who has been discriminated against to let others know, and to use other methods aimed at publicizing and educating the public and authorities about discrimination and its disastrous effects on individuals, families, and society. 

From where I stand, Costa Rica is going to have to work harder to become known as a country of human rights and democracy. It just hasn't got there yet. We all need to help, and in doing so, will also help ourselves. 

Anyone interested in joining the Public Interest Group (PIRG) to combat discrimination should call James at 249-4410 or write jmarshall@racsa.co.cr

James Marshall
A reply on custody issue

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Mr. Wagener's textbook observation is well taken and for the most part I agree when it comes to decided which parent gets the child in a divorce case.

However, in some situations, the mother may have chosen to abandon her child. This could be a very difficult and consuming experience for both the child and the male parent. Sometimes, too, the wife is not mentally healthy with, perhaps, bi-polar disorder, depression or something else that makes her not a particularly capable mother.  This makes the situation more complex.

In my case, let there be no mistake, my ex-wife's has, in fact, taken my son from the United States contrary to a judicial order, and we are seeking remedies in the courts of the United States and in Costa Rica.

Ralph Stumbo
San José
NOTE; Mr. Stumbo was the subject of a news story about creating an organization to help foreign men involved in custody battles here on Jan. 7

Thinks that mother is better for child

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I read your article regarding the trials and tribulations of Mr. Stumbo and, even though I as a single father empathise with him, I question his approach to resolving custodial issues both here and in the U.S. 

Having experienced very much the same problem in the States both in my personal life and in my work as a mental health professional, I would concur that mothers are favoured in custody battles. On the other hand, if push comes to shove and it's a level playing field (both parents are capable) I believe that very young children thrive better with their mothers. 

Why? There is a symbiotic relationship between mother and child that cannot be replicated, either with the father or in the lab. That's simply a biological fact. Secondly, a young child (under 8) connects primarily on an emotional level which a mother is usually much more adept at. Another fact of life. 

I suggest that Mr. Stumbo focus on his child's needs and place those above his own. I suggest that he expend his energy looking for ways to resolve custodial conflicts from the perspective of the child's well-being rather than who's right or wrong (or has the best attorney).

There is no painless way to engage in custody battles, but there are healthy and loving ways to resolve them.  I'm reminded of a Bible story of two women who fought over a child and appealed to the king (a higher authority) to settle the issue. In his wisdom the king opted to settle the dispute by cutting the child in two, to which one of the women responded by forfeiting her claim (as painful as that was) in order to save the child's life. Guess who got custody? 

Johann Wagener

Who Supports Terrorism? 

Dear A.M. Costa Rica: 

A couple of days ago, you ran a story about the Republican senators from Pennsylvania and  Rhode Island meeting with Castro and other Cuban officials.  Sen. Arlan Specter reported that after his Rhode Island colleague  met with Cuba's justice minister and the head of the  country's (Cuba's) anti-drug program, "Cuban officials were puzzled why the U.S. government  would not work with Cuba on anti-drug programs, but provided $4 million to the Taliban  government in Afghanistan for interdiction efforts last year." (Miami Herald, 1/4/02)  Is  anyone else puzzled? 

John Howells 

She likes our articles

Dear A.M. Costa Rica: 

I want to thank you for your great publication! I've only been a subscriber for about a month, but in that time I've seen many very interesting and informative articles than I had a right to expect. Thank you so much for all the hard work you and your entire staff put in daily to create this for us!

Laura Zink de Diaz 
Mount Vernon, Washington


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