A.M.  Costa Rica
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Jo Stuart
About us
San José, Costa Rica 
The letters here were published from April to December 2002

Current letters may be found HERE

For letters posted earlier in 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 mostly agrees with Jo Stuart

Dear A.M. Costa Rica: 

I am a faithful reader and I think Jo Stuart is a wonderful writer and I agree with 90+% of everything she writes. Yes, she is somewhat liberal in many of her attitudes, and so are a lot of her writers. I look forward to her column every week. 

I travel to Costa Rica about three weeks out of every year for vacations and have been doing so for many years. I think she articulates the feelings that a lot of us have for this special country. Oh, I also have to admit I, too, like anchovy pizzas! 

Bill Edwards
Arlington, Va. 
She seeks meaningful discussion, not insults

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I feel the need to respond to Leo Leonowicz's letter [below]; especially his charge that Jo Stuart is somehow unpatriotic because she wants peace rather than more Americans and other nationals killed in a senseless war.

It is precisely because my father was a disabled veteran of WW I, my uncle was gassed in France and spent most of his remaining life confined to a Veterans' hospital, my husband is a veteran who saw combat in the Pacific in WW II, and his only brother was shot down and killed over Germany, that I feel so strongly that we must solve our problems without the rush to killing each other.

This is particularly true in Iraq. Bombing Iraq will not find Osama bin Laden. It will not dismantle the Al Queda network. Rather than "liberating" Iraq, it will simply kill a great many innocent Iraqis, not to speak of the number of American and Allied young people. 

With all due respect to you, Mr. Leonowicz, I would like to suggest that you engage in your dialogue with Jo Stuart and A.M. Costa Rica with thoughtful discussion rather than insults.

Bonnie Hano 
Laguna Beach, Calif.
P.S. My husband and I served in the Peace Corps in Costa Rica and lived in a small, Tico, coffee-growing community for 10 years. 

VeriSEAL says they were the first

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Your story of the arrest of Frank Stephen Jett (26 August 2002/AM Costa Rica) incorrectly attributes identification of Mr. Jett and his criminal activities to "PhonyVeterans.com." In fact, "PhonyVeterans.com" was operated by our friend Mr. Michael "Fat Mike" Anderson until his passing in 2001 as a result of complications related to injuries he sustained during his military service with the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne in Southeast Asia. 

Mike had "mirrored" our original profile of Frank Jett. VeriSEAL was the first to publicly expose Frank Jett on our website in July 2000 following several tips from individuals who had been involved in business dealings with him in the U.S. and Costa Rica. We contacted Mr. Jett and advised him that his impersonation of a U.S. Navy SEAL in furtherance of his . . .  activities would not be tolerated. Alerted to federal warrants for his arrest, for nearly two years, and as recently as May 2002, we regularly made several U.S. federal law enforcement contacts aware of Mr. Jett's exact whereabouts and continuing . . . activity.

It is unfortunate that insufficient research at A.M. Costa Rica resulted in the citing of a source which has merely copied our original information and was not in any way involved in proactive efforts to assist in the apprehension of Frank Jett to the extent that VeriSEAL was.

BMCS (SEAL) Kent Dillingham, USNR 
VeriSEAL Group


Jo Stuart called a ‘babbling fool’

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

With all due respect to you and yours — for I have long loved reading your news and daily insights on Costa Rican life. But I must take serious exception to the sterotypical, anti-Christian, and outright racist opinions that eternally spew from the columns of Jo Stewart. 

Hey, I'm a gringo that lives in Costa Rica. I am married to a Tica. I live-and love-in this country because this is the place of my wife's birth. And whatever makes her happy makes me very content. I did not come here to exploit Ticos, eat cheaply in their restaurants, spout pithy bumper-sticker leftist rhetoric, or generally complain about and run down America at every given chance. 

So, why on earth, I ask, do you allow such bubble-headed banter — such as hers — to masquerade as expert "on-the-scene" opinion on your website? This woman clearly wouldn't know Cartago if she were standing in front of the Virgen de Los Angeles. That's the grandest cathedral of the city, for shut-in, uninformed, expatriated heathens like Jo. 

It is a grave disservice to your readers to post her smug, self-satisfied, self-absorbed points of view without a counter-balancing opinion more in touch with reality. C'mon, couldn't y'all find someone who actually gets out of their cozy little condo once in a while to write about the real Costa Rica? There is so much more to this place than she will ever have a clue about. 

Furthermore, as a vetran, I am disgusted by the lack of grace — nay, ingratitude — she shows to those who toiled, fought, and yes, died, defending the very freedom and comfort she now enjoys. Arlington Cemetery, that awesome Garden of Stone, is chock-full of heroes who fell to make the world safe for Jo Stewart's demented demogoguery. 

True, Costa Rica has no standing army. Bully for Costa Rica. But the peace and security of this nation that she so self-righteously touts is, in fact, provided by Amerca's Armed Forces. Yes, nobody messes with CR. Not because she has no enemies or because Ticos are morally superior to anybody. Its simply because America would stride across the water and stomp any would-be belligerent like a bug. We Americans, as a nation, have never liked it when innocent people get picked on. It just plain ticks us off. And we have often rolled up our sleeves and spilled our blood, the very blood of our sons and daughters, to prove it. 

Even now, as we sally forth to liberate the long suffering people of Iraq, yet another nation amoung countles others, if history is any guide, I eagerly await the next column from this babbling fool as a public service: 

Leo Leonowicz 
Guadalupe, Costa Rica


Reader says eyebrow belonged to editor

Dear A.M. Costa Rica: 

On your article about "Latin's Rasing eyebrows" over the appoinment of Henry K......

"The Latin American view of this history and Kissinger’s naming seems to be another case of "Do as I say, not as I do" by the United States. Many countries are moving against those powerful officials who duck accountability for their actions. The United States encourages this, but not with Kissinger. 

"So Latins have trouble swallowing the idea of a man who orchestrated terrorist activities should be picked to study the origins of the U.S. terrorist attacks. And they wonder about the veracity of this highly pragmatic politician."

I looked around the article for any examples of "Latins have trouble swallowing the idea of a man who orchestrated terrorist activities should be picked to study the origins of the U.S. terrorist attacks. And they wonder about the veracity of this highly pragmatic politician."

I didn't find any quotes or other instances backing up such a broad and blanketed statement. I read and watch a lot of news in English and Spanish, and your article supprised me as it was the first time I'd heard that Latins were holding this point of view. 

In journalism, I always find it more effective and persuasive to throw in a few actual instances, quotes or other pieces of information. Even Maria on the street corner vegetable stand making a comment about it is better than just some theories about the 1973 Allende scandal. Are you sure it wasn't just your eyebrows that were raised?


Travis Gardner
Playa Potrero, GTE
Our columnist called on her tax problems

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

RE: Ms. Stuart:

I was very disappointed with the tone of your article this week. I don't understand why people have such difficulty with paying their proper share of taxes. How I wish people would realize that these same tax monies are what helps the less priviledged and less fortunate souls in America.

I know that some of these tax funds will go towards the military(unfortunately), but can't you be compassionate enough to remember that the taxes that you provide to the government is also what sustains our social programs? 

It may be true that charity begins at home, but because charity-giving does not come easy to a lot of people, it is necessary for our government to step in and act in this capacity. I am thankful that the government realizes its' duty in this regard - I only wish that they would increase the taxes collected in order to be more successful in funding the much needed programs that they provide. 

Instead, the present government is taking these much-needed tax dollars and foolishly giving it to people who The only way for our social programs to improve to the levels of other more socially-advanced countries is for the government to step in and collect the tax dollars owed to them and use it wisely. If people would spend less time practicing tax-avoidance, maybe this would be a better world to live in.

Nettie Cornelius 
Ipswich, Massachusettes, USA 
He disputes NAFTA opinions

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

(In reference to Ms Varda Burns letter below)

I am not an international investor, nor am I for world domination by Microsoft or McDonalds - but I do favor truth and facts over fear mongering.

I would like to ask whether or not she has even looked into the NAFTA agreement or the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI).  If so, could she please reference a chapter/section/article for her accusations.  If not, maybe this NAFTA site will help: 


I could not find any reference to this plague where U.S. corporations are allowed to "override laws of nations in order to do business and that includes environmental laws."

In Chapter 11, Article 1114.2,  I did find:  "The Parties recognize that it is inappropriate to encourage investment by relaxing domestic health, safety or environmental measures.  Accordingly, a Party should not waive or otherwise derogate from, or offer to waive or otherwise derogate from, such measures as an encouragement for the establishment, acquisition, expansion or retention in its territory of an investment of an investor.  [snip] "

In searching for "MAI," I found more anarchists sites that were more interested in shutting down the WTO in Seattle than any education materials (i.e. the actual MAI document). The only document I did find was drafted in 1997: http://multinationalmonitor.org/mai/contents.html

It basically says international investors should be treated no better nor no worse than local investors.

My research took all of 15 minutes.  Granted I did not read either documents in whole.  If there are other actual chapter/section/articles which contradicts these - please inform us.  I trust the leaders of Costa Rica will actually read the agreements before signing.

Thanks for bringing this issue to us.  Lord knows we don't want to better our lives down here with jobs.  I've seen this exploitation you speak of first hand, where the US corporations routinely round up our "gentle people" and force them in labor camps called McDonalds or Intel.  Oh how they hate it!

Steve Clark
Curridabat, Costa Rica
Not sure the bombing was by Al Qaeda

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Jo Stuart said: ". . . the peaceful, tourist mecca of Bali is the latest target of the Al Qaeda terrorists . . . The terrorists seem to have developed a blood lust . . ."

Unless Ms. Stuart is a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff or the Department of "Defense" and is privy to classified information that most of us aren't, it would be wise to not assume that this is an act perpetrated by Al Qaeda. 

Let's wait and hope that their "blood lust" isn't as indiscriminate as that.

Ryan Daley
San Pedro
She shares a song with readers

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Culture shock is a very real thing.  It sounds like what Mr. Rocharde is suffering. After five years of living and traveling around the world alone, including CR, I have deduced the following pattern, at least for myself, when in a foreign environment:

Year 1: exciting, pura vida, everything is new, fresh, present, even Paseo Colon tantalizes (probably the most haranguing and polluted street in the country, followed by that road out to Pavas). You are an outsider, a traveler. People invite you to things and love your different-ness and vice-versa.

Year 2-3: More settled, but on the fence. Neither committed to staying, nor wanting to leave, because little things are starting to grate. Less invitations, because you're old news, but still not one of them, maje. You find yourself questioning things, in an effort to find a way that works for you, which comes across as complaining. And no one wants to be near a whiner. So you're even more isolated. Catch-22. Little things grating soon becomes big things goring. This is culture shock.

Year 3+: You commit to staying, or you leave. If you stay, you make more friends and find more fun things to do because you're committed, and this sends out a vibe that makes people treat you as such - both with locals and foreigners. Pura vida!

If you leave, well, you leave. The worse thing you can do is get stuck in stage 2. I lived and worked in Costa Rica, admittedly not on the beach but in San Jose, for 2 years. Despite having a well paid job I found it tough in the end, especially as a single foreign female - I think couples have it easier. 

I resorted to anti-depressants for the last three months, for the first time in my life. Then my doctor there told me that a huge percentage of the Tico population were on the same medication!

In the U.S.A., I find myself again in Stage 2, after exactly a year and a half here. Culture shock is inevitable. Now I have to decide if the car culture, commercialism, and the fact that when I say A people hear B and vice versa, really does get my goat, or if it's simply ... culture shock. 

But on reflection, there are some things I could have done different in CR, and I would like to offer the following tips to the prospective resident:

1) Go live there for six months at least before deciding to move permanently. Unless you're a seasoned nomad, being a tourist and a resident in CR are two entirely different things.

2) It helps to have a partner. Someone to give mutual support, especially if you are female. Men who are in CR for surfing and/or the women and/or hanging out seem to have it easier. Their good luck.

3) If you have to live in San Jose, live in Escazú or somewhere nice, and pay the extra rent. People come to CR for the nature, and if you are staring at a polluted street or concrete and bars, you could get depressed. San Jose has got its neat bits, but its kind of . . . tough. For me, jumping on the bus every other week and going to the beach got old. Your home environment needs to be nurturing.

4) Ideally, live and work out of San Jose, on the beach or in the jungle if you can swing it. Isn't that what we all want?

5) Get with foreigners for support. Nothing wrong with locals, and you'll make good friends with some of them in time. But unless you're a total recluse, it helps to able to reach out to people on you can relate to, at least at first, and when you are having a bout of culture shock. Join those groups and activities listed in the Tico Times classifieds. Make an effort to do this, even if they seem uninspiring. I became a workaholic and did not seek out enough support while there and this was, I think, a mistake. I seem to get more emails from them now that I am in the USA...

6) Yes, lower those expectations! After living in stripmalled, overworked and comparitively puritanical USA, I am craving for the relative looseness and unorderliness of a second or third world country. 

7) Learn Spanish. It blurs (though does not erase) the line between gringo and maje.

8) A well-traveled Tico told me this and I have never forgotten it: get out of CR at least once or twice a year or you will go crazy. I think this means you can go to Panama or Nicaragua, just over the border. These countries have a different, wonderful feel, perhaps because the people have suffered. 

When I first got to CR I was enthralled by Paseo Colon. At the end of 2 years I thought it was hell on earth. Guess what? Paseo Colon had not changed. Something simply changed in my head. A lot if it is in your head.

I hope this helps. If you would like more bedtime reading about my travels and life in Central America see my personal website:

Lynette Chiang
Eugene, OR
PS: I wrote the following song which many of you may have already seen.  When I performed it for my Tico workmates, they were not at all offended. In fact, to their credit, they laughed uproariously and said, "YES! THAT IS US!" We could all learn to lighten up.

MAE (Tico for 'mate', 'dude')

I met a man in San Jose
His smile was like the sun
He said, mae, come to my house in the hills
Meet my wife and my kids and my mum
I waited for him in Paseo Colon
I waited til the sun went down
I waited til the pulperias shut their doors
And the Periferica bus stopped going round

He said mae
He said mae
He said mae
He said mae .. pura vida

I met a woman in Escazú
She looked as happy as a bird in flight
I wanted to reach out and touch her heart
To know if there was pain behind a smile so bright
I told her all about my loneliness
About my family and friends so far away
She said, mae, poor thing, let’s have a coffee
But before I got her address she had turned away

She said mae
She said mae
She said mae
She said mae … don’t worry

There is a magic place where there is no army
Where the people have no need to pray
Where no matter what they’re feeling deep inside
It’s always ‘Pura Vida’ which means ‘Have a Nice Day’
And tomorrow is the soonest you can get things done
And today is a day to chill out
And you’ll never be a Tico no matter how you try
You’re just another foreigner who cannot understand why 

They tell you mae
They tell you mae
They tell you mae
They tell you mae…

Words and Music Copyright 2000 Lynette Chiang

Uncle is present in spirit at least

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I grew up in a stoic Canada, we didn't have all lot of money but we ate well, played outdoors in snowstorms that the adults worried about. We went to school because we had to. School interfered with playtime! 

As I grew up there weren't any relatives close by, my parents had a lot of friends and those friends became my favorite people, an extended family. They were there for birthdays, anniversaries, Thanksgiving and Christmas. It was a happy childhood, leaving me with a wealth of memories, funny stories that I won’t bore you with! 

I learned my lessons well and I prospered, shoveling snow from sidewalks, doing odd jobs. The main thing I learned was, "measure twice, cut once", it became a watch word in life. It helped me achieve a place in my adult life that still reaps rewards as a father and grandfather. 

I stay in close contact with my family. I have a favorite 'uncle' in Costa Rica, he's present at all the parties, birthdays, anniversaries, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Though he can't be there in person, he's there in spirit. When the table talk turns to some of my favorite things, Uncle Luis is 'toasted' and thanks are given for "a favorite Uncle"! 

Gerry Caunter 
San Rapheal


She oposes free trade agreement

Dear A.M. Costa Rica: 

I’m an American from Massachusetts I would like the leaders of Costa Rica to reconsider joining the free trade agreement. 

Before they do they should fully educate themselves with the Multilateral Agreement on Investment. This agreement allows multinational corporations to override laws of nations in order to do business and that includes environmental laws. It enables corporations to sue nations if they interfere with their corporate profits. Basically the free trade agreement and the Agreement on investment are all part of a larger plan to enable world domination by big corporations, and Bush is their man. 

It's a tough situation for Costa Rica because the country needs money but remember they will end up owning this beautiful, unique nation and will only exploit your gentle people. I fear that even now it will be impossible to stop this agenda.

Although the standard of living here in the U.S. is high, we have over 21 million homeless men women and children. Millions have no medical coverage or safety nets even though we pay taxes. This form of capitalism and the "Free Trade Agreement" will not be good for Costa Rican people or their country. 

Varda Burns
A theft traps woman here

Dear A.M. Costa Rica: 

On 20th June of this year, I was pick pocketed in the Alajuela bus terminal in downtown San José by a group of professional thieves (3 to 5 persons). They were very good at what they do, and took advantage of a lapse in vigilance on my part, and I fell for the diversion they invented to distract my attention. 

As (bad) luck and my stupidity would have it, I had my wife's green card in my wallet, and she is still stranded in Costa Rica as of this date. Luckily, she is staying with her family. I returned to the U.S. on our scheduled flight home on 24th June. 

My wife's ticket home is now worthless because it was a special fare and Continental Airlines has informed her they will not honor the ticket. I am still fighting with the credit card companies to have the fraudulent charges credited back to my accounts. 

Though my wife has been a permanent resident of the U.S. since 1978 and never been convicted of any crime, the U.S. consul in San José refuses to issue her a transportation letter that will allow her to return home to her spouse, 3 children, and 1 grandchild. 

I have appealed to my congressman and senator to no avail and have now hired an immigration attorney to do battle with the U.S. State Deptartment, which agency has issued a security advisory opinion on my wife. The whole experience will end up costing us months apart and several thousand (if not more) dollars. Moral of the story: never carry important documents on your person in Costa Rica! Thank you for your attention. 

Tom Marino


He opposes U.S. help in pot sweep

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

As an American citizen, I hope I am not supposed to be proud of our government's participation in destroying the livelihood of the Indians in 

Furnishing Blackhawk helicopters to help destroy the livelihood of people who admittedly have no other way to generate cash is sickening in my estimation.  We have so many battles to fight that are important!

Send the Blackhawks to Colombia to wipe out cocaine, the source of a truly dangerous and deadly derivative — crack.

Jerry Kahler
He’s for legal marijuana to help tourism

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Goodness me I’m amazed I thought I was returning in time to the days when Columbus and the conquistadors were returning to Central America.

I am amazed.

Beans and clothes plus the odd inoculation to the Bribri peoples' children.
In exchange for (with American help) their cash crop of marijuana.

This is what happened hundreds of years ago but instead of beans and clothes it was mirrors and beads.

Hemp or marijuana is a very valuable and diverse crop, which can aid the pain relief for a multitude of sufferers i/e multiple syrosis, nerve pain, appetite enhancer, etc.

It can also be made into clothing, paper, soap, and toiletries, etc.

It is also a recreational drug, which has been decriminalized in the U.K., Switzerland and the Netherlands, and others. As well as the Scandinavian countries and others will follow.

These countries are devoting there police and customs to the true class A drugs heroin, crack cocaine, ecstasy and amphetamines which are ruining there children and filling the jails with dealers, as well as putting a big strain on the countries health systems.

And off course the thieving (from the addicts) and the price to keep the perpetrators in jail.

Costa Rica needs more tourists. So why not take a leaf out of Holland's book and legalize it.

Allow it to be sold under legislation in the Caribbean area (Limon) with licensed cafes and watch the visitors to that region increase.

Thus allowing the local Indians to make a descent living out of it instead of criminalizing it.

Why, with the help of American black hawk helicopters, is this going on these days to these very proud indigenous people? (Perhaps America should focus on Colombia)

Come on Costa Rica get your act together.

Yours in amazement,

Donald Mac Donald 
Ayrshire, Scotland
Police should target crooks, too

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

After having read your recent news story of ten "bad" men accosting downtown tourists and literally taking over the city center, it is refreshing to know that the government is still able to find people willing and able to deal with an illegal street intrusion from girls of foreign origin. 

How quickly otherwise hard working ladies and sailors are being swept from our streets. It would seem that the immigration section might now have all of the brave, fearless and undaunted enforcement people, leaving the now undermanned police force to apprehend the tourist molesters. 

Possibly there has been a major transfer of police over to the immigration department, leaving the city vulnerable to the wishes of the gang of ten street crooks.  Or is it easier to harass immigration deviants than to pick up the gang of ten ruling our streets? 

On the surface, it would appear that the government has now changed its focus to driving out illegal visitors and unwary ships’ crews, rather than hauling our toughies away from now dangerous streets. 

A.M. Costa Rica — a great news source — thanks and keep up the good work. And in the meantime, let’s hope the Dutch don't send their banana boats to a different foreign port. 

H. G. Hayes
Says tax plan shortsighted

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Well, it looks like the big wigs are at it again, getting ready to "cut off their nose to spite their face" (as my Sainted, deceased Irish mom used to say).  Haven't they been to Palmar Sur or Villa Sierpe lately, or the Golfito area?  I guess with all their congressional perquisites they don't have to travel and spend the night at the Duty Free area in Golfito to save a few bucks. 

When they made it no longer profitable for the banana company to operate there, United Fruit had to move to another country, thus striking a devastating blow to the Costa Rican banana industry from which it has never recovered, and their own government did it to them! Anyone can see that the area has never recovered from the politicians stupidity back then, and it looks like history is going to repeat itself again (is that an oxymoron?). 

Any official or semi-official entity of substance in Golfito is located in one abandoned by the fruit company because of the Costa Rican politicians stupidity (if they were good businessmen, they wouldn't be wasting their time in politics anyway). 

Now they seem ready to do it to the sportsbook operations, putting many locals out of work again and shutting off the flow of hard currency in another 'quick fix' excursion into the vast realm of stupidity that exists as a result of the Government’s shortsightedness! And there are no buildings or acreage to leave behind — just unplug their equipment and walk away! 

Don't the politicians anywhere know that you can't fill a bucket until you repair the holes in it? (Even illiterate Hank Williams sang about that over half a century ago!). 

Bob Foster 
Currency tied to productivity

Dear AM Costa Rica:

I write with respect to the recent debate concerning the pros and cons of Costa Rica, specifically with respect to Thomas C. Payne's letter in which he attributed the declining value of the colon to the deficit spending of the Costa Rican government.

Mr. Payne is, of course, largely correct. However, he fails to mention the other major factor in the value of one currency relative to another. Namely, the productivity of the respective citizens of the two countries being compared.

To illustrate this, if a person can buy a dozen eggs in the U.S. for a dollar, and he can buy a dozen eggs in Costa Rica for, say, 250 colons, a dollar is worth the same to him as 250 colons as far as eggs are concerned. 

However, if egg producers in the United States develop more efficient ways to produce eggs and the price of a dozen eggs falls to fifty cents, 250 colons is no longer equal to a dollar in this context. A dollar is now worth 500 colons, and the value of the colon has fallen by half.

My choice of eggs as an example was completely arbitrary. I might just as well have chosen computer chips, bananas, or television sets. However, the value of one currency relative to another takes into account all areas of the economy. When one economy becomes more productive than another, the value of its currency will inevitably appreciate against the other currency.

This is another cause of the declining value of the colon and, in my opinion, the more significant one. Productivity increases in Costa Rica are simply not keeping pace with productivity increases in the United States and, for this reason, the value of the colon continues to fall against the dollar. 

Unless this pattern changes, the value of the colon will continue to fall regardless of the deficit spending of the Costa Rican government. The fiscal irresponsibility of the Costa Rican government now increases the rate of the colon's slide, but the value of the colon will continue to erode regardless until Costa Rican productivity increases faster than productivity in the United States.

This is a far more serious problem for Costa Rica than deficit spending because it is far more difficult to correct. I can recognize the problem, but I know of no simple solutions.

North Americans and Europeans often envy the easy-going lifestyle of many Ticos, as I myself do. Nevertheless, while I may have a bank account denominated in dollars, euros, or pounds, I will not have one denominated in colons any time in the near future.

John Meyer, J.D.
Atlanta, Ga.
Does not agree with future resident

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

RE: Future resident already a Costa Rica connoisseur [Oct. 7]

You are letting folks write their own headlines, or is this one of yours and a great work of blind facetiousness? 

Mr. DesRochers should be working for ICT. If he only understood a bit more Spanish and the conversion rate. (six cents for 2 pounds of rice. . . hello). Wait until he gets the bill for dry cleaning his shirt here. Wait until he opens a bank account in a CR bank, has an account with the electric company, the phone company and RACSA. 

Wait until he's a resident and goes to a CR ER on the Caja. When was the last time he saw a private security guard outside his local burger joint with an AKC-47? He's never been to Zapote at Christmas time and that's obviously no bull. 

I won't even start on the crime issue, property rights and personal freedom. No Ashcrofts? He hasn't met the head of our Catholic Church. The rest of his commentary is. . . well it sounds really nice, but come on. . . not the commentary of a "connoisseur." 

The symphony is supported by the government. They don't need his help. Help the street kids. Help them now.  Don't' wait until you’re a resident. A year or more is a long time for a child to wait for food and shelter because their "stunning," "eager," equality minded mother won't bother. 

Bobby Craig 
Barrio Amon
San José 
He’s not impressed with police

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I was amused to read the last paragraph of your editorial today [Sept. 30] and I quote "If evidence is lacking, and Aguirre is simply a convenient fall guy, Costa Rican justice is in serious trouble." 

Since the main function of the Costa Rican police force seems to hang around on street corners and occasionally hassle homeless people or the odd tourist who happens to look them straight in the eye, it is fair to say that Costa Rican justice does not need to find a scapegoat to be in serious trouble. 

The 'Policia' is a complete joke; they have no idea about policing methods. Investigating crime is something that they are not sure what it is and, if you insist, they will take four hours to fill out a report that will never be looked at again once you have left the building, and the only people who ever get arrested for anything other than 'public nuisance' offences are those stupid enough not to pay the officer 'chorizo.' 5000 colones is normally enough for a 'Get Out of Jail Free' card. 

In the policias eyes, the victim is responsible for the crime! Why is this so? Because it's less work if they don't have to investigate it. 

Michael Rochard 
Lourdes, San Pedro
At last we have the cause!

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

It's a relief to know the truth after all those conflicting medical studies. 

The Japanese eat very little fat and suffer fewer heart attacks than the  British or Americans. 

The French eat a lot of fat and also suffer fewer heart attacks than the  British or Americans. 

The Japanese drink very little red wine and suffer fewer heart attacks than the British or Americans. 

The Italians drink excessive amounts of red wine and also suffer fewer heart attacks than the British or Americans. 

The Germans drink a lot of beer and eat lots of sausages and fats and suffer fewer heart attacks than the British or Americans. 

CONCLUSION: Eat and drink what you like. Speaking English is apparently what kills you.... 

Charles Green
Indio, Calif.
Commentary on Jo Stuart’s column

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is a reponse to a column published Friday.

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Are you out of your mind? 

No proof, maybe you should watch t.v. more!  Those dead Kurdish babies clutching their mothers.

I suppose you think the Holocaust never happened. It’s liberals like you that make the world UNSAFE with your naive, stick-your-head-in-the-sand mentality. Get real, lady. I dare you to print this. You won't. 

David Shear
Pompano Beach, Fla.
Another voice on 'English-only'

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I was pleased to see Mr. Maceri's commentary, "English Only Laws: Beyond Symbolism" in A.M. Costa Rica today. He is correct to wonder what issues we are ignoring while we waste time worrying about whether or not we have declared English to be the one and only language of the U.S. There is research that supports his commentary, and I would like to add it here in the form of an excerpt from the following article:

"Is All-English Best? A Response to Bengtson," TESOL Matters 12.3, 2002. P. 5. Stephen Krashen.

Krashen is a leading researcher in the area of language acquisition. The bulk of this article addresses the pros and cons of bilingual education, but it also gives the reader the following important data:

"Immigrants are acquiring English rapidly and well. Mexican-
Americans are typically accused of not acquiring English, but according to the most recent census, 74% of Spanish-speakers said they spoke English ‘well’ or better, and only 8% said they could not speak English at all. This is nearly identical to the figures for speakers of other languages. Among children of families that spoke another language, only 2.3% spoke no English. These figures are quite impressive and are even more impressive when one considers that they include newcomers. (data available at http://www.census.gov/population/socdemo/language/table5.txt and http://www.census.gov/population/socdemo/language/table2.txt).

"According to a Rand Corp. report (McCarthy and Valdez, 1985), over 90% of Mexican-Americans born in the United States say they are proficient in English, and among those born in Mexico who are permanent residents of the United States, over 75% said they spoke some English and nearly half said they spoke English well. The Rand researchers concluded that "the transition to English begins almost immediately and proceeds very rapidly." (See Tse, 2001, for additional evidence showing that immigrants and their families are acquiring English.)

"One does, of course, run into immigrants who don't speak English. The Rand Corp. results suggest that these are usually new arrivals or those who have not been able to find the time or opportunity to acquire English."

Dr. Krashen's research ought to tell us that there is no reason for any state to spend a penny to coerce immigrants to learn English — They already are, and always have, for precisely the reasons Mr. Maceri mentions in his commentary. 

In my own area, where we have many Mexican immigrants working in agriculture, ESL classes are always so full that there's a waiting list to get in no matter what time of year you want to take the classes. No one is coercing these people to enroll — they are DYING to learn and willing to work all day in the fields and go to school at night in order to learn. If we spent as much money setting up ESL classes as we have on passing these meaningless laws, the statistics on English acquisition among immigrants would be even more impressive than they already are!

Thank you for your kind attention.


Laura Zink de Diaz
Federal Project Director, Migrant Education Program
State Transitional Bilingual Program Specialist
Mount Vernon School District
Mount Vernon, Washington


We are puritanical journalists

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Nice that you are keeping us informed about such topics as:

Eco-amendments commit state to defense (Sept. 19) 

I guess I just fail to see the relevance of this comment at the end of that article: "At the same time, the administration is ignoring and perhaps even planning a crackdown on sex tourism, which is a significant factor infrequently mentioned by politicians." 

What in the name of God does preservation of the ecology have to do with sex tourism?  A far more relevant comment might link the damage done to the ecology by squatters.  The latter is of far more interest to the gringos who read your publication. 

I find this kind of puritanical journalism offensive and degrading to Ticos and their culture. Do you have to stick references to prostitution (a legal activity in Costa Rica) into everything you write about?  Is the sole purpose of your website to provide a pulpit for casting shame on a people who, regardless of their active libidos or need for economic gain, are superior in many ways to yourself? 

Perhaps you should just get the hell out of Costa Rica and move to a country where people are more reserved, like Saudi Arabia. 

I intend to take an extended stay in Costa Rica in the near future because I love the country, its culture, its people, weather, and many other things.  I do not plan to turn off my sex drive while I am there, nor am I going to feel any guilt about it. 

If a Tica or some other Latina makes a few dollars in the process that is between her and me. Regardless of how I personally feel about your opinions, here's something else to consider: 

If a young child was searching the Internet for information on how Costa Rica is trying to preserve its rainforests and came across your article, do you think it is relevant to expose that child to the concept of sex tourism?  Especially if the child had no understanding of what sex is or why someone might travel to have it? 

Your rationalizations do not equal high-minded morals.  Offending people really isn't an endearing quality.  Please knock it off. 


John McLaughlin 
Phoenix, Ariz.
He’s fed up with U.S. and Canada

Dear A.M. Costa Rica: 

I'm wondering who I agree with more at this moment, Paul or Jo. The truth is both of them. I'm only 22 years old, and I have traveled throughout most of the world and have now come to Costa Rica from my homeland, Canada. I have been here for just over a month and I can honestly say that I will do whatever it takes to make ensure Costa Rica remains my home. 

Having lived in the United States and Canada, I have come to realize how wasted life there has become, and how worthless life really is. The sense you get here is mostly indescribable, it's difficult to explain when my family asks why I go on and on about Costa Rica. I could go on and on about how inexpensive it is, how beautiful it is or how relaxed it is. But what really makes this place a treasure, a gem, is the people and their mentality. 

I have never in all my travels encountered individuals who are so peace loving, so willing to help. It is a major shock coming from a city like Montreal or Toronto where even when you speak the language they couldn't give a damn about your needs and would leave you in the street to die just to avoid being bothered with the fuss of having to report the matter to police. 

North American's have lost touch with reality. They are consumed with cut throat, back-stabbing and the eternal war machine. America wants a war to topple a leader who they "don't like." Classic case, as Jo put it, America is either your best friend, or your worse enemy, and they switch between rolls so well it sickening. 

Their target has never really been Saddam Hussein or Weapons of Mass destruction, that's just a smoke screen for the larger reason. OIL OIL OIL. 

And it's ironic that the US cannot come up with one shred of proof, you think by now they would have found a way to get a bomb or chemical into Iraq to create a conspiracy so they can kill Saddam Hussein. Even an American U.N. inspector declares Bush's accusations a plot and lies to start a war, and he states that Iraq has done nothing wrong and has no weapons. 

It doesn't matter if it's the US, or Canada, they are all from the same grain, or should I say, Canada is being converted more and more to the American mentality its scary. Toronto is a model American city gone bad. Never has my stress been so low and my happiness been so high. 

I love my new life here, it is simple and honest, what life was like in the 20's in North America I guess. The only one thing that bothers me here is to see all the Costa Rican's who are continually taken advantage of by money hungry Americans who come down here for a quick buck. They think they are above the law and that the locals are here at their call or worse for their pleasure. 

I have seen some really sad Americans down here, one's who apparently got nowhere back home, so they came here thinking things would be better. The moral of the story is don't take advantage of the kindness and peacefulness of this land. Learn from it, and make a difference whereever life takes you, for it is the people I meet here everyday that foster this wonderful country and it's ways.

Dieter W. Doneit

We’re a little slow

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

"This slows up the whole ". . . in your article about mail today. I guess you meant "slows DOWN". You slow DOWN things.It SPEEDS up the whole . . . get the picture? Slow DOWN . . . Speed UP . . . Otherwise, I enjoy your paper. 

John V. Pettinari 
Orlando, Fla. 

That wonderful sauce

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

RE:  Jo Stewart

Ah yes! Lisano sauce! I have been racking my brain trying to remember the name. Please send several cases. Nothing here like it! 


Jeana Johnson
North Carolina, USA
Jo Stuart is a treasure

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Right on, Jo!

What a treasure it is, week after week, to read the wonderful insights and wisdom of Jo Stuart. Her most recent article struck at the heart of my main reason for wanting to become a permanent resident of Costa Rica. On the issue of war with Iraq, she describes herself as a dreamer. "It is easy to be one when you live in a country that hasn’t had an army or a war (or enemies) since 1948," she says.

Every time I visit Costa Rica I am enchanted by the peaceful, warm quality of Ticas and Ticos. What a contrast with the United States, and particularly with my own state, Texas. Killing people is considered the way you solve problems here. The death penalty is supposed to solve crime, even if the accused is a juvenile or retarded. If someone tries to steal something from you, it’s OK to shoot him (or her) to death. War is the only answer to foreign policy problems. The amount of money spent on one weapon system could feed and clothe thousands of poor people around the world.

Anger is everywhere, especially on the highways, where SUV’s and trucks, often with drivers bearing arms, threaten to crash into you if they feel you’re not driving fast enough. Television commentators scream at each other or yell at guests. Children kill each other at schools. Their electronic games and television "cartoons" are filled with violence. The biggest movie and television hits feature gory murders and car crashes galore.

Costa Rica certainly isn’t perfect. You have to guard your wallet and watch out for the drivers.

But I’m looking forward to being there to apply for residency in two weeks, and moving there permanently next year. I can deal with the inconveniences of security and walking the streets carefully.

What a small price to pay for the lack of violence, the friendliness, the climate, the utter beauty of one of the most peaceful places on earth.

I can’t wait! 

Paul DesRochers
Dallas, Texas
We are picking on Liberación

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Is it really necessary to continue whining about the pile of rubbish in front of Partido Liberación Nacional's headquarters?    Have you been around to he offices of other political parties to see if you can find some way to embarrass them too, or is it Partido Liberación Nacional that you dislike and have thus singled out?  Please try to be more professional in the future. 

John McLaughlin
Phoenix, Arizona

Family thanks us for coverage

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Roger's family cannot thank you enough for your never failing efforts to keep his case public and giving it the attention it needed so that his battle was not forgotten. Your coverage has been fantastic. I have no doubt that your coverage played an important role in seeing this through to a "just" outcome. 

I  had dreamt that headline about two weeks ago and  have been praying ever since that it was indeed a premonition.  I am sure others will benefit from reading about his experience.

Thank you so much. 

Mariann McPherson
For Roger Crouse’s
family in Canada
Reader objects to smart-alecky ways

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Generally, I enjoy reading your publication, and find it informative and relatively objective.  However, I do wish to object to your tendency to use smart-alecky ways within many stories to try to put down Ticos and Costa Rica, and suggest that somehow the U.S. (or Canadian) way of doing things is superior, and that problems that occur in Costa Rica would never occur in North America. 

This is blatantly false (and there may be a tinge of racism there as well) as both the U.S. and Canada are also full of problems. We just tend to think that somehow if problems occur in our countries, "well, that's different." It isn't. 

Specifically, I object to your coverage of the Roger Crouse case. I am glad that you reported on the case, and that an innocent man has now been found innocent. But your coverage has been quite slanted, you know, suggesting that Costa Rican investigators weren't doing anything right, and that gringos don't get a fair shake in Costa Rica. 

I have lived in Costa Rica off and on for many years, and am all too familiar with the common Gringo thinking that they should be able to go to a foreign country (especially a poor one) and do almost anything they like, and not be subjected to any laws, and when they are, it's because they're being unfairly picked on. 

Go to the Gran Hotel restaurant any day and listen to Gringos going on at length about this, while insulting any and all Costa Ricans and Tico customs. 

I especially object to your statement in the Aug. 28 edition that: "The Crouse case was watched closely by other foreign residents of Costa Rica because neither in Canada nor in the United States would he have been incarcerated, much less threatened with 8 to 12 years in prison upon conviction." 

Are you serious? Wasn't he charged with murder? So I guess you'd better tell everyone how it's all in people's imagination that hundreds of people are on death row in the U.S. for murder. (Of course, most of them are black, so maybe that somehow doesn't count.) 

Please stop trying to inject clever falsehoods (posing as "analysis," I guess) into your stories and concentrate on digging into the facts of the events you are reporting on. 

John Lawson 
Toronto, Canada
Thanks us for coverage of Crouse case

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I was very happy to read your headline today that Roger Crouse has finally been found not guilty and released.

Now what? The poor man was held for over a year, robbed of everything he worked for and owned!! This happened because he was a foreigner, but after all murder is a very serious crime?? From what I've read, its okay for Ticos to murder tourists, a lot of tourists. Also it's now okay for Ticos to rob, kidnap and murder other Ticos if they have money. 

Makes a thinking tourist want to book the first flight to the country and invest all their money. What an adventure! 

In an earlier letter, I commented on the new tax proposal, taxing the foreign income of foreign residents, as being taxation without representation. This case makes a point of what I was talking about.

Correct me if I've missed something here, but foreigners have the right to be robbed, cheated, wounded or murdered. You only get in trouble if you resist. The bad guys are all from Nicaragua, Panama or Colombia, Europe or North America, never a Costa Rican.

I also found it strange that A.M. Costa Rica was the only source of news in this case. Makes you wonder why? But if you read between the lines of other English-speaking news sources "the man who would be king" probably did not want it published. Ever wonder how the other news sources seem to have an insider info source when it comes to government doings? Read the name on some small news stories. Is there any relationship and is that the insider edge? 

While still in tears after Sept. 11th, 2001. In November 2001, I read that North Americans are cowards and that we should roll over and take it. Save the money we would spend fighting terror and send it to developing countries. The "want to be king" lives very well and does not feel compelled to share his wealth with the starving people of Costa Rica. That’s the cowards job!!

I'm very happy that Roger Crouse is finally free. I resent that he was so badly abused because he did not choose to murdered by a drunken, drugged-up Costa Rican. I'm sure that Roger Crouse now wishes he had never seen Costa Rica. Some will blow off his story. He should have done this or that. The fact is many people just don't care until it bites them in the butt.

Thank you A.M. Costa Rica for keeping us informed. 

Sharon Johnson
Naples, Florida
Thanks from Gail Nystrom

Dear A.M. Costa Rica and Jo Stuart:

Thanks so much for your article about our activity on Sunday. The kids and I would like to let your readers know that it was such a wonderful experience for us. The kids were especially proud of themselves for being able to face all those "gringoes" and actually like it. I appreciated your presence with us that afternoon as well. We really are changing the lives of these young people. 

Gail Nystrom 
Costa Rican 
Humanitarian Foundation
Editor’s Note: The children inolved are rescued street kids.

Not pleased with tax on vehicles

Dear AM Costa Rica: 

I am an American living in the States. I plan to live in Costa Rica within the next year if I can establish a successful auto business there. 

I read with interest your article today (Aug. 15) on the president’s plan to end poverty. The whole system is incongruent with the stated objectives in this plan. 

For instance, anywhere you go in Costa Rica takes forever! Yet, if a Tico wants to buy a $3,000 car they charge him almost $3,000 impuestos, practically insuring that he can't afford it. Coupling this with 20 to 40% interest rates to finance this car only exacerbates the problem. Why not put a more reasonable tax on autos so more Cost Ricans can afford a car, therefore enabling them to travel more freely, work in more areas where buses aren't running and making the whole population more mobile?

Adding a small tax to this purchase say, 1 or 2% dedicated to ROAD CONSTRUCTION would also help. 

Jack Lyons
She prefers our only brewpub

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

If you really want a good, locally-produced beer, I'd suggest forgoing all of the brands listed in your taste test and heading over to K&S at Plaza Cristal in Curridibat. 

Having found none of the brands produced by Cervecería Costa Rica to be worthy of actually drinking (with the possible exception of Bavaria Dark), K&S was a welcome discovery. They brew their beers right on the premises, and you can even take liters or kegs home with you if you like.

Pints are reasonably priced (around ¢500 the last time I checked), and they also have some pretty darn good eats, too. I'd suggest trying the Baron Rojo or the Chivo Blanco; both are excellent. Now if they would just start bottling their beers and selling them in stores.

Wendi Patrick
EDITOR’S NOTE: K&S in Curridabat (about 600 meters south of La POPS) is the only brewpub we know of in Costa Rica. Top bands also play the location. The restaurant is moderately expensive but the view of Plaza Cristal is great!

He wants the beer-tasting job!

Dear A.M. Costa Rica: 

As a long-time beer drinker, I found your beer-tasting story interesting but strange. As any experienced beer drinker knows, Heineken is one of the finest lagers in the world. That is a fact. 

Your story even said it tastes exactly the same as Heineken made in Holland. That shows me the testers were probably Bud drinkers. Most Americans don't know a good beer. All Costa Rican beer is good —  far far better than American beer. 

Rock Ice the best? What a joke. Next time get some beer drinkers that know beer, not some schmucks. I hit your site most days and enjoy it. Keep up the good work. 

You focus on the negative, all the crime, a little too much, but I like a different perspective. There is so much violent crime here in the States, but people do tend to think of Costa Rica as a peaceful paradise. Of course there is no such place. 

Anyway, keep up the good work and I will continue to hit your site almost everyday. Let me do a beer tasting. I have seen another side of Costa Rica, having a upper-class educated Tica as a girlfriend for over two years. Meeting her family and travelling around with her and them has been a very rich educational, cultural experience. A story in itself. Saludos 

Ron Zollinger
Anacortes, Wash.
Circulation contentions questioned

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Congratulations on the increased readership reported in the article of 8/2/2002 entitled "Growth in AM daily readership continues strong." I have read your Web site every day since the almost the very beginning and recognize the contributions that your publication makes to the English-speaking Costa Rica fans.

However, as a 22-year employee of a daily print publication here in the States, I must take issue with several statements made in this article. First, I have never of heard of the problem of people who subscribe to the paper but not read it being a major concern. In fact, many more people read a newspaper than actually subscribe as papers are passed between members of a household or left in public places. 

Secondly, contrary to the assertion in this article, while TV and radio are good at generating attention and name recognition, survey after survey shows that newspaper 
advertising is by far the most effective vehicle to reach consumers who are seriously interested in buying something, particularly large ticket items like cars and furniture.

Mike Gordon
Atlanta, Georgia
EDITOR'S NOTE: Mr. Gordon is correct about the pass-along readership of print newspapers. We also agree that anewspaper, if it is read, is the most successful vehicle for advertising. That is why A.M. Costa Rica is a newspaper. 

Will there be justice in dog attack?

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I can't help but comment on the very tragic story about the rotweiller attacking the 2 girls as well as the men that came to their rescue. This is not by any means the first time that this has happened here. Nor is it the first time that there has been "talk" of changing the laws — instead of treating such a horrendous incident as a minor offense, that it be processed as a more serious penal crime. 

I strongly disagree with your comment that there was no indication that the dog’s owner did anything wrong. Just the fact that one little girl is DEAD and another mauled (in the street) is sufficient info for me to conclude that there was most likely gross negligence on the part of the owners or the person in charge of taking care of the dogs. 

Owning these types of guard dogs are comparable to having a loaded weapon lying around, and owners should take more responsibility in protecting the safety of the innocent. 

As usual, there is very little, if any, consequence or punishment for the majority of criminal acts here in CR. Thus, unfortunately, we have very little hope of preventing similar acts from repeating themselves in the future. You are correct that this type of offense is treated as a misdemeanor in the C.R. courts. They call it a "contravencion," and there is a separate judicial office and court for these offenses.

When you and others speak of the penalties or fines involved in a sentencing, it is important to understand that the fine here in C.R. is OPTIONAL. Apparently there was some change in legislation numerous years ago, and it became unconstitutional to go to jail for failure to pay the fine. I don't think you'd be surprised to find that no one pays the fine (and neither do they go to jail).

I have not found any system of restitution to exist here either. Nor have I found the penal court system to be any more responsive. Several years ago, a former worker achieved a sentence against a neighbor for "aggression 3 times with a weapon." Since the neighbor's record was no longer "spotted" (I forget how long it takes for a criminal record to become clean again here), this appeared technically as his first penal offense.

Again, no jail, no enforced fine, and no restitution. 

Your prior article about the very unfortunate Canadian, Roger Crouse, is yet another sad case of a judicial system in which justice does not appear to exist.

I could go on with way more, but will "hold my tongue." When nationals advise one to not bother seeking justice from the legal system here (in other words, don't waste your time and money), they know of what they speak . . .unfortunately. 

Lynn Zamora 
Grecia, Costa Rica
Public relations for the C.I.A.?

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Your Wednesday article on U.S. efforts to revamp its international public relations (a/k/a public diplomacy, or propaganda) is directly followed by your report of the internal investigation by the Department of State's inspector general exonerating the Department of any culpability in the failed Venezuelan coup. This was kind of cute. 

Ask any thinking Latin American if they BELIEVE that the U.S. was involved in the abortive coup, and they will either say yes, or lie. Then ask them which U.S. agency was involved, and with no hesitation they will tell you, the CIA. 

Probe a little further, and the more knowledgeable ones will tell you that one job of our State Department is to turn its blind side toward its own internal CIA-run operations. We call that credible deniability up here in Gringoland. So it is still business as usual. 

Nothing wrong with that, except maybe for our continuing governmental tendency to believe that the common man is stupid. But if there must be one superpower, let it be us! 

John French 
Gaithersburg, Md.
Superman cannot tell a lie

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

The thing that I find humorous is that the State Department’s inspector general is Clark Kent Ervin. And certainly anyone named after the legendary Clark Kent has to be truthful in his investigation the CIA’s and State Department’s role in the Venezuelan coup. This should not be questioned. Nor should he need to revamp his Intenational Public Relations. Come On, Superman is our HERO!!! 

Doug Gesler
Kent, Wash.

The difference in the coffees

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Reminding your readers to "drink lots of coffee (to raise the prices)," as you did in this morning's cover letter, is misguided advice. Please add "fair trade" and "organic" to your admonition: 

"Fair Trade Coffee" so the farmers are more likely assured of fair prices and "Certified Organic Coffee" so the environment is protected. 

For those of us in North America, just drinking more coffee may mean drinking the poor quality, high volume coffee produced by Vietnamese farmers who are also probably exploited. 

Pura Vida from Seattle,

Carolyn Boardman
Chickens on the prowl

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Your article on the fighting chickens said, "Fuerza Pública officers  near Puriscal broke up a chicken fight over the weekend, arrested six  persons and liberated 66 fighting birds."

How could they arrest innocent onlookers and free the participants? Is  this Costa Rican justice at work? The FP have opened the path to mayhem  and violence as a way of life in chicken coops across the land. No hen  will be safe from these macho men roosters. In fact, other roosters will  not be safe either.

And the streets of Puriscal will become a blood bath as conservatives  and socialists fight to gain the upper claw.

What ye sow, so shall ye reap!

John French 
Wants personal recommendations

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

My name is Jean Hebert (Jeano), and I have lived in Costa Rica for 13  years. I would be interested in seeing a list of places that the readers  could recommend that have had good personal experiences. 

This would be a word of mouth list. The professional directory you are going to  make sounds like a good thing,  but these are paid advertising, so a good or bad person or business could take advantage of your service. This I see could be geared to smaller  business that don't even know about your classified service. Some examples could be, stores that sell fabric, make furniture, mechanics, air conditioning, and appliance repairs, small company or family service providers etc., just people that do a good job. Keep up the good work 

Jean Hebert 
Tango Mar
About Episode II; War of the Clones

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

It seems our minds and stars (eh, eh) were in sync. I put off seeing the movie until Saturday afternoon and was very disappointed. And though I didn't fall asleep through the movie, much on the hope that it would get better and didn't want to miss perhaps the only good parts, it never did. 

Your review is very kind to a bad, bad movie. One bit of factoid that was presented in the endless showing of commercials before the movie, pointed out that the $115 million cost (I don't recall if it was I or II) was recovered in product/toy sales even before the movie made it to the screen.

With that in mind, why bother having to make a great movie or include anything original? It will still make money. As for the third episode, when it comes out, I will be there — good or not. Like most, I suppose, I am curious as to how and why he converts into Darth Vader, though we can guess at it. Just my two cents worth! 

Enrico Cacciatore
San José 
Former resident likes our newspaper

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I can not express what a pleasure it is to read your A.M. Costa Rica. I lived in San Jose for 12 years and had to return to the States because of health problems. 

The only source of information I had was the only printed newspaper in English that comes out every Friday and does not give us any or very little news to read about except a school in west San Jose.

Please keep up the good work. I look forward to your news and information every day. I am 75 years old and was a pensionado for 12 years.Thanks Again.

Harry Purcell
Port Richey, floirda

 She says he should volunteer

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I suggest we all pitch in and purchase a subscription to Reader's Digest for  Travis G. who was so offended by the article on mono titis being electrocuted on power lines. 

I personally feel it's important to educate people about the monos, show  them the ill-effects of feeding these creatures, show them the importance of  building safe corridors. 

The subject article was a wake-up call for all  those who sit around and say, "Oh, isn't that terrible that more monkeys  died".  Get out there and volunteer. 

Contact "Kids Saving the Rainforest"  and find out what you can do to help make a difference for the remaining1500 creatures. 

Reader didn't like monkey story

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Great article on the monkey doing the vomit inhalation trick. http://www.amcostarica.com/062402.htm 

I thought it was gonna be another story where the monkeys died and the 3rd died later of injuries it had received. Something boring. 

To my relief and I'm sure any kids that might read the article, we are given graphic detail of the final moments of this creature’s horrid death.

 "Suddenly, the monkey started vomiting and then went into a seizure. And then quickly the monkey died from inhaling its vomit." Boy, was I relieved to read that. At least now I will know exactly how that monkey died in the throws of agony and despair! 

I was still a little let down because I couldn't imagine the scene. I mean. . . . .monkeys dangling from a wire in a sort of Vlad the Impaler fashion? 

Well, let me tell you, as I scrolled down the page, I was quickly and pleasantly relieved yet again. There was an actual picture of the lifeless primate swaying in the ICE tangle. Thank God for the arrow someone drew in indicating "dead monkey here!"

This is the sort of journalism the news is lacking these days! I want to hear the tape of pilots screaming just before disintegration. A cow was beheaded by a tractor? Show me a picture now, people! I really liked the article and look forward to more like it. 

Travis G.
Flamingo, Guanacaste


Some quotes for timid Americans

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

For the Americans who are willing to give up some freedom(s)  in exchange for more security [April 12], a couple of quotes: 

"If a nation values anything more than freedom, it will lose its freedom; and the irony of it is that if it is comfort or money that it values more, it will lose that too."  (Wm. Somerset   Maugham) 

"Freedom cannot be trifled with. You cannot surrender it for security unless in a state of war, and then you must guard carefully the methods of so doing."  (Arthur Hays Sulzberger) 

S. Yamada
San José
He’s critical of the ‘revision tecnica’

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

This new offensive by the Tico government officials to impose more hardship, through this vehicle inspection program, on the middle and lower classes of Costa Rica populous is atrocious. 

They are already being punished with heavy import taxes on motor vehicles. They are forced to drive these vehicles on terrible road conditions until they no longer can run. Repairs and parts are also very expensive. 

The only people that can afford this program and are unaffected are the "rich" upper class in Costa Rica who I doubt very much have been paying their full share of import duties on their expensive luxury vehicles. 

This motor vehicle inspection program, although it would have merit in a industrial developed country, is another ridiculous idea by these over educated functionaries of this government. The accessibility and affordability of new or newer quality vehicles to the majority of the people should have been looked at before even considering the development and implementation of this inspection program.

Bill Salazar 
Garland, Texas
A collector’s request

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

My name is Jerzy Matuszczak. I am a 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 you, friends, to help me and send some blank postcards with views from Costa Rica. Thank you very much for kind help. 

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

A proposal for natural gas

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I work for the oil industry here in the States. I know that the environmentalists in Costa Rica fought a company "Harken Energy" that has spent over $5 million on development of Costa Ricas natural resources. 

I can understand why we would not want drilling off the coast of Limon. But here is a thought. Why not only go after natural gas? You can drill wells now and only extract natural gas. This would go through a pipe line to the beach and then to a processing plant. 

If there were an accident or the pipe line were to break, there would be no impact on the environment. Natural gas does not hurt anything. The natural gas could be made available to supply all public transportation for the government at a reduced rate. 

This would lower the cost of transportation and get rid of 70 percent of the smog in Costa Rica. Most public transportation here in the States have been converted to natural gas. and it is not very expensive to convert a car or truck to run off of natural gas. 

This idea would put monies into the government, create jobs, help an investor and make the environmentalists happy. 

Greg Bianchi
Alexandria, Louisiana

That vehicle safety test

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Your article "Car-inspection plan starts with free checkups," published May 10, sounds like it could be a disaster in the making!

While the concept of auto inspections making driving safer may sound reasonable, the government approach to performing these tests is far fetched to say the least! In the first place, awarding only one company and a foreign firm at that, reeks suspiciously of corruption, and/or wishful thinking! Putting a pencil to the preliminary information announced so far reveals some interesting facts. 

ONE:  550,000 cars to be inspected every year by 16 stations would be an average of 34,375 per station. Assuming 300 working days a year, that would mean 1,833 inspections per day. 

TWO: Can you imagine the long lines that these 1,833 inspections would cause, and the pollution created while waiting in these lines? Playing musical chairs at immigration is one thing, but waiting for hours with the car’s engine idling, or shutting off and restarting while advancing one space at a time certainly isn’t showing respect for an already ailing environment. 

THREE: 550,000 cars paying ¢8,000. per inspection would cost the owners over ¢44,000.000 ($12,600,000.) a year! This is a portly award to be handed to a foreign firm when Costa Rica already has the EcoMarchamo program in place that could be expanded to include safety inspections. The ¢44,000,000 a year doesn’t take into account the gasoline for the 550,000 autos to get to an inspection station, or the loss of salary for those having to take time off from work to have the inspections performed. 

In discussing this issue with others the consensus of opinion would be to combine the safety inspections with the existing ecomarchamo tests. Also and in conjunction with the program, set up random spot checks, with tow trucks visible to impound cars that have ignored the inspections. This approach would not only be more cost effective, but also insure safer vehicles. 

Perhaps now would be an opportune time for our newly elected president to look into this before Pura Vida Costa Rica "breeds" another ICE. 

Gerald Romaine Thorman
May 17, 2002 
Worried about Argentina's future

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

This morning's article on Argentina's crisis implied that the country's economic melt-down is due to a years-long recession. Not so. The recession is a symptom of the illness, not the cause. The major cause of the recession was a blind obedience to International Monetary Fund’s insistence that Argentina maintain a "dollar standard" with their currency and deregulation of business. The resulting inflation and over-valuation of the Argentine peso caused manufactured goods, agricultural production, and other exports to be too expensive for the world market. The drop in production and exports led to factories moving, inability of agriculturists to sell goods and loss of jobs. That caused the recession. (Let’s face it — this is a full-blown depression.)

But the "crisis" was caused by: a combination of corrupt elected officials, deregulation of banks, and privatization of public utilities and government industries (the country’s major source of income). International bank fraud caused the crisis, and the government has been too timid to take action against the banks, fearing reprisals by the IMF and Washington D.C.

The trigger was a suspicion that things weren’t quite right with the banks. When the general public started trying to withdraw money from their dollar accounts, the banks simply said: "Sorry! We don’t have any dollars. How about pesos?" But the people said: "Wait a minute! We deposited dollars! What happened to our dollars?"

The answer was: "Sorry, we sent them to Spain (or New York, or London, or Berlin — depending on the bank). With deregulation, there were no rules for banks to maintain reserve funds. No laws requiring banks to return depositors’ money! That's a good one, eh? So the government, rather than insisting that banks honor their obligations, simply limited the amount a depositor could withdraw in a week ($250 a week). Then, to help the poor international banks from having to return depositors’ savings, the government arbitrarily converted dollar accounts into peso accounts and devalued the peso from one to a dollar to two to a dollar. It’s about 3.50 to the dollar now.

My wife and I were in Bueños Aires about a month ago, visiting friends and relatives, and it was truly sad to see their plight. Friends who were well-off in December, with nice homes and servants, are now trying to survive on the 250 pesos a week the banks allow them to withdraw, devalued to about $100 a week equivalent. (Imagine yourselves limited to $100 a week here in Costa Rica! Would that be a recession, or robbery? What would your gardener or maid think about not being paid?)

There is fury in the wind in Argentina. While the IMF and Washington thumb their noses at Argentina and ignore the crisis, some really radical politicos with extreme ideas are gaining desperate people’s ears. Many people predict that the inevitable outcome will be either a Juan Perón-style fascist government, or a rightwing military coup. I hate to agree, but without help from the international community, the only solution may be an all-powerful demogague who can reverse past errors, if even then. The question is: what kind of government will arise out of chaos? That’s scary!

John Howells
Pacific Grove,
Violence begets violence in Mideast

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

We, as responsible people in our societies, have to stop and think who are the one who benefit from the suicide attacks to Israel civilians, and who benefits from the attack to Palestine civilians?

The answer as always is the mass arms factories, and the irresponsible  arms traders, the politicians and the xenophobic people in both places.

But we can not denied that the destruction and killing of innocent  people by the suicide bombers and the hundreds of israeli tanks are not  acceptable in our so call "civilized society" To try to put in the balance who should be the most to blame or who are suffering the most,  is an excuse for our society, so we don't have to act responsible.

The Bush Administration has done that, and obviously it has not worked, Since Sharon raised into power in Israel the conflict turned from bad to  horrible. We do not learn about the Israeli and Palestine family that works together to rebuild the house the Israeli  tanks destroyed. We do not read of the thousands of Israelis who opposed the invasion of the occupied territories. We do not hear about the 350  Israeli soldier who choose not to go into the occupied territories.

The violence has to stop, but not by bringing more violence, not by  destroying the dignity of people in the region. Both states must survive is our heritage is our history.

I don't think Costa Rica should move the embassy from Jerusalem, but it  should have a Palestine office as well. It is time that the big boys over  there stop fighting and sit and  listening to their people on how to  learn to respect each other and help us to learn that violence only bring up more violence.

Sharon has to allow the U.N. inspectors in the area. He cannot use the  same excuses Sadam Hussan is using. They are old, and we know he is anti-democratic. The Truth must be know.

Daniel Soto
Indiana, U.S.A. 

He questions validity of murder correlation

Dear A.M. Costa Rica: 

I was moved to write a letter in response to last Monday's lead story about the increasing domestic homicide rate, attributed by Leonardo Mata to the 1995 law that, apparently, forces men out of the house at the mere accusation of abuse by the wife, and without penalizing the woman should later proceedings determine she lied or misstated the facts. 

Then, before I started this response, I read the letter from Mr. Ralph Stumbo, whom I realize has been both the author and subject of many previous letters in A.M. Costa Rica. That was quite a shocking letter, with statements that, if true, are astounding.

No doubt I am jumping into hot water here, and I will confess up front that I am less than well-informed on the subject of domestic violence here in Costa Rica where I am a recent arrival. Nonetheless, here goes. First, on Dr. Mata's theory, surely he must have more to go on than just statistical correlations. I think of the famous example from "Lying with Statistics" that states that, since both teachers' salaries and consumption of alcohol went up during the same period, well, obviously teachers were drinking more.

More to the point in this case, does Dr. Mata have deeper evidence to support his theory that the rise in the murder of female domestic partners is due to this new law? I imagine it would not be difficult to ascertain how many of the homicides since the law was passed were preceded by men being falsely accused by their domestic partners and forced to leave the home. Perhaps Dr. Mata has indeed performed this more rigorous research and is not just looking at the rise in murders alone and drawing his own conclusions; but if he has conducted this research, Monday's article did not cover that part of his investigation. Surely this should be looked into, no?

As for Mr. Stumbo's statements, I trust others better informed will either support or contest with hard evidence his assertion that "More men are murdered or die by suicide as a result of domestic violence than women, and more children are victims of child abuse at the hands of a female family member." If he is correct, it would certainly be a 180-degree reversal of all that I, for one, have ever heard and understood about the perpetrators and victims of domestic violence and the incidence of sexual crimes against children by family members of each sex.

I hope A.M. Costa Rica and its readers will stay on top of this important issue, dig a little deeper and keep us all informed about what's really going on here. In any case, the welfare of the children must be our number one priority, obviously, and personal biases and agendas should be exposed for what they are, if and when and wherever they may appear.

Ron Jones
Ciudad Colón 
Says Palestinian focus was wrong

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

A letter asked Costa Rica to move its embassy out of Jerusalem [article May 2, 2002] . A number signed. 

Answer! They should have signed card of condolence to the family of the 5-year-old daughter who was shot and killed in the middle of the night in her bed sleeping by a PALESTINIAN. 

Costa Rica! Do not throw stones when you live in a glass house. Israel and America are still the best in recovering of earthquake victims.. 

Mario Jessurun Cardozo
EDITOR’S NOTE: The following three letters relate to a story published April 23 about a reporter watching a man molest a child in public in downtown San José.

Kudos to Ms. Vindas

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Kudos to Ms. Vindas for standing up for children everywhere. Her article on her observation of such a common problem, albeit not so flagrant, may somehow, somewhere,  give another person the strength and courage to prevent even worse from happening. 

There's just too much wrong with this old world of ours to subject a child so young to it by someone who is trusted. Hopefully, her actions will make this pervert reflect on his actions and get some much needed help.

Sammy Lester
Montezuma, GA USA

Story showed degeneration of society

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Yesterday’s story of child abuse serves to further illustrate the degeneration of a society that has traded away classic family values and a clear definition of what is correct behavior for the perverse politics of feminism.

I will explain, but first I must ask who is worse, the perpetrator of a heinous crime committed in broad daylight, or those who would sit by and idly watch? 

The cultural dilemma here is twofold. First, recent studies conducted by the University of Costa Rica have determined that incest in Costa Rica is openly practiced and considered to be an entitlement by those who force themselves on children. Their logic is that they have to feed the children, so they want something in return.

Be aware that publication of this gross and twisted cultural idiosyncrasy was suppressed by the Rodriguez regime. Also, let it be known that the majority of the perpetrators are not men. To be sure, statistics from the Childrens Hospital in San Jose show that a disproportionate number of the children admitted for abuse were abused by a female member of the family. Herein lies the problem.

The Instituto Nacional de la Mujer (INMU) has been nothing more than a political abomination and a plank for would-be government officials to stand on while trying to solicit the female vote in Costa Rica. INMU has, in effect, contributed to the rise of domestic violence in Costa Rica, has done more harm to women and children than good, and is the single largest contributor to the decline of the family unit in this country.

Men have been officially excluded from the family and labeled outlaws.  As a result, more men live below the poverty level in Costa Rica than any other group. More men are murdered or die by suicide as a result of domestic violence than women, and more children are victims of child abuse at the hands of a female family member .

The Asociacion de Padres de Familia Separados de Costa Rica (co-founded by The North American Consul for Justice) is now over 375 members strong and growing. Our mission is to support the integrity of the family, protecting the rights of women, children and men alike. Families work best when the work as a unit. 

Passage of the bill sponsored by Karen Olsen has done nothing more than alienate fathers from the nuclear family and bury the entire unit in a sea of litigation where the only winners are the most unscrupulous attorneys. I implore you to contact Dr. Leonardo Mata and investigate these statistics and publish them!

I will not cry for the child your reporter witnessed being violated. I will fight for her and the rights of all children in Costa Rica .Anyone interested in working to preserve the family and make it a safe place for children in Costa Rica can contact me at theconsul@racsa.co.cr.

Ralph Stumbo
Santa Ana, Costa Rica

Children have the right to learn to trust

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I am sorry, sorry for all those innocent young children who want so much to trust us and give us their love. They hunger to hear "I love you," to feel the warm embrace of a Dad, a Mom, Uncle or Aunt. They have the right to learn to trust, to learn how to love, the right to be happy. We assume we have the right to misuse them because we are "the authority figure". We do as we please? 

What have we become? Adults without spines? backbones? We cry — what is wrong with the youth of today? Crime and gangs in the street. Our personal possessions are stolen, and we become irate. We have stolen far more from innocent childern than mere possessions. It is we who have committed the wrongful acts. 

I was shocked when I read the article by Saray Ramírez Vindas . I don't generally comment on things I read, but I could not believe what I was reading, right here in broad daylight!!! It made me sick. 

I too would have been appalled at what had taken place and would have wanted to beat this [noun deleted] into the ground or at least break a few fingers .God, where is a video camera when you need one? 

I'm reading articles at the same time seeing the whole Catholic Church shaking in its foundation.

How can we right the wrongs? Let us start at home by allowing our childern to grow up knowing their elders are their leaders. Let’s start by waking up, growing up. Let’s get our backbones — back. Let’s not stand for adults misusing our youth. Let’s break a few fingers if that’s what it takes. Stand by those who do the breaking. 

I'm gonna go home and hug my kids tonight, and tell them I love them.   Remember, what goes around comes around. It works both ways. 

Dave Corella
Golfito, Costa Rica

He plans on paying his fair share

Dear A.M. Costa Rica

The possibility of residents being taxed on income from their home countries has certainly alarmed many — especially folk from the United States (a country which taxes foreign income!)

I'm looking forward to becoming a resident of Costa Rica soon and believe I should pay some taxes to my new country, even though I will be living mainly on U.S. Social Security. Seems fair to me for Costa Rica to tax my income, especially if deductions are allowed for whatever taxes I pay on the same income to the U.S.

I've read letters here by people from other countries complaining about everything from Ticos speaking Spanish and using the metric system (really dumb complaints!) to the crime problem and potholes (serious concerns).

Those serious concerns require lots of money to take care of. It's not enough to bitch about such problems. We all need to help to pay what it takes to solve them.

I hope to be a full participant in the rich life of Costa Rica and fully expect to pay my share.

Paul DesRochers
Dallas, Texas


He thinks White House protests too much

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Regarding your article today "White House issues two more denial of coup involvement." 

In this case the White House "doth protest too much, methinks..."  They may well have had no prior knowledge of the coup in Venezuela, but they certainly should have, given all of the reported intelligence information that was available.

I guess that we can listen to their numerous denials and draw our own conclusions.  What really show how out of touch and lacking in diplomacy this administration is are the statements made after the coup, or as the administration wants to call it, "the resignation of President Chavez and the appointment of Carmona." 

They probably should have at least waited overnight before jumping on the Carmona bandwagon. The statements made then and the statement that are continuing to make are ridiculous and shows that we really don't have a foreign policy for Latin America. 

Maybe the administration needs to be reminded that President Chavez controls one forth of the world petroleum supply, or are we going to continue to work on becoming totally independent of foreign oil and just drill in the Artic? Keep this in mind in in September VOTE! 

Doug Gesler 
Kent, Wash.
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