A.M.  Costa Rica
Letters from our readers
Jan. 1 to May 30, 2003
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Jo Stuart
About us
San José, Costa Rica
The letters below are those published after 
Jan. 1, 2003 to May 30, 2003

For letters posted earlier in 2002, click HERE

For letters  post from April to December 2002, click HERE

For letters posted in 2001, Click HERE

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

Operation is person’s responsibility 

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

The recent article about the woman with the terribly tragic results of breast surgery gives us the chance to look at the issues of personal choice, personal responsibility and professional competence.

Vanity surgery is a personal choice. The benefits are improved appearance and feelings of well-being. The risks are negative results from surgery. Once someone has elected vanity surgery (or any surgery for that matter) after weighing the risks vs. benefits, then they assume personal responsibility for the results, absent incompetence or malpractice by the surgeon. If the physician does not adequately inform the patient of known risks, or if the surgery were botched, meaning done incompetently or by malpractice, the physician should be held to account.

Adequate information doesn't mean signing a form that gives the physician the right to do what they want. It means specifying the probably of known negative consequences. Like, I just had a cardiac stress test, and the physician informed me beforehand that I had a risk of "one in 10,000" of having a serious reaction to the test.

Surgery goes sour sometimes. We can refuse the surgery if we are not willing to accept the odds presented to us, even if we will die without the surgery. There are known chances of infection. In the U.S. there are tens of thousands of infections every year resulting from surgery — serious infections, that cause thousands of deaths. The choice of using silicone breast implants is one of those choices that an informed patient can make. They are not illegal, and, in fact, there is strong evidence to support arguments that they are not as dangerous as claimed by some people. But the choice to use them or saline solution implants is the patient's.

If a person gets an infection, or if an implant bursts, despite reasonable precautions, and the physician responds using best practice, then what happens is on the patient. They knew going in that there was a specific risk even in the best of surgical practices.

Having said all that, we move into the area of personal responsibility. My Scottish-Canadian grandmother taught me that when I make my bed, I must lie in it. If I ever decide to get vanity surgery, then I damn well better be prepared to walk around for the rest of my life disfigured, because that can result from the known risks.

I do not know the particulars of the case at hand, having seen only an emotion laden web site of horrendous fotos. I would like to see the statement of risks and benefits signed by the patient prior to surgery. Did it specify silicone implants? Did it adequately describe the risks? I would also like to know if the physician used any practice not recommended by the manufacturer or the appropriate medical boards.

One of the things I like about Costa Rica is that I don't have to bear the expense of other people's poor choices as much as I do here in the States. Like, people walking down the street in Costa Rica are responsible for looking where they walk. If they fall into a pothole and die of starvation that is their problem.

When Costa Rica reaches the point of litigation that we have in the States, the cost of living to support multitudes of tort lawyers will reach the same level it has here. It is common knowledge that the average manufactured product in the U.S. has as much as 20 percent of its cost devoted to future liability claims.

Life is a balance.

John French 
Philadelphia Pa.
He wants Owaldo set free

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

A recent story appeared discussing the fact that alleged child kidnappers/murderers would most likely receive light sentences for their crimes. [See stories May 14 and 16]

Contrast this with the judicial "system" incarcerating an individual for a year or more which individual has not been charged with any crime but is merely being detained. That individual is Osvaldo Villalobos. Certainly if the government has any suspicion that they will prove some offense they can proceed with their investigation without incarcerating Osvaldo until their alleged case is established. 

Osvaldo's passport can be lifted; he can be monitored by the wearing of a an ankle monitor bracelet much as is done in the United States; He can be required to report daily to a probation office and other reasonable restrictions can be imposed. 

Releasing Osvaldo in this manner at this time would establish that Costa Rican justice is not medieval. In regard to the letter of Mr. Donathan published on May 15, [below] it would appear that the attorneys have to date done little or nothing except to collect fees and in the case of presidential candidate to file a small brief after the fact. 

The judicial authority could solve the problems and doubts of the investors/lenders by making it clear that the government has no intention of retaining any money legitimately loaned/invested to "The Brothers "and to at least set forth the course of their investigation and as to what they are looking for. 

The judicial authority should publish a list of the accounts which have been seized or frozen and the amounts of each such account and permit investors/lenders to file their claims without the necessity of the investors/lenders alleging any corruption, fraud or criminal activity on the part of "The Brothers." for in actuality no one really knows the circumstances. The filing of a claim would merely establish the investor/lender interest in a fund being held by he government and nothing more. 

Las Vegas, Nev.
Little sympathy here

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

What I found even more horrifying about the Strange woman who had a bad boob job, was that she actually mortgaged her home to have the procedure done. Our fountain of youth culture certainly could never help her with common sense. And it is a shame that she is bad mouthing Costa Rica, because I know women that have had the same problems here in the U.S.A. Where is she going to live now? Her doublewides?

A Brooks 
Applauds article of woman’s plight

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Thank you so much for exposing a too often occurrence — serious and sometimes deadly infections with breast implants. Infections are but one of many complications that frequently occur. [Story]

I head an international support group for women harmed by breast implants.

I have watched in horror as the public relations machines of the silicone manufacturers have exported not only these dangerous products to Costa Rica, but also their misinformation. Last summer, La Nación printed an article falsely claiming that "silicone is inert" and underplaying the very real risks with breast implants of all kinds.

The photos [elsewhere] showing the implants being "sterilized" was especially disconcerting. The high heat can weaken the silicone shells and is not recommended by the manufacturers.

In my 8 years of working with thousands of women harmed by breast implants, this woman's experience of a serious and life threatening infection is duplicated worldwide, even by "board certified plastic surgeons" in the United States.

For more information, please visit our Web site:


Ilena Rosenthal 
San Diego, Calif.
He would rely on defense lawyer 

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

This is a follow up on a letter that I wrote a while back saying that the Enrique Vallalobos case could not be solved by throwing money at lawyers.

Now let’s see what they have accomplished. They have succeeded in clogging up a already painfully slow legal process with six hundred law suits and gave the government a reason to declare the case as "complex," thus tying up not only their clients money but that of at least 5,400 other people for no less than another 18 months . 

Plus help keep a innocent man in jail for another year. I say innocent because no one has proven otherwise. Now let’s take a look at one of the lawyers involved in this case, José Villalobos. He is a politician with a axe to grind and will, of course, take $300,000 to keep his name in the news but so far has done nothing. He perhaps filed a brief with the court after the fact. Why wasn't he in court trying to stop this "complex" ruling? 

The best chance as I see it is to let Edgardo Garcia Vargas do his job and stay out of his way. No one has more to lose than Enrique Villalobos . I will continue to believe that Enrique is a honest man until it is PROVEN otherwise. 

Jim Donathan
Muskogee Okla.
A Marxist critique of sex tourism

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

It was refreshing to see Dr. Donnelly's letter regarding sex tourism in Costa Rica. I'm not sure where he got his statistics from, but some of his points need to be expressed again in the hopes that the trend to "modernize" sex laws can be reconsidered.

It was not so long ago that the age of consent in various states of the USA was far lower than it is today, even as low as 12 in some states during the mid-20 century. There are many societies around the world which still do not place taboos on sexual relations at that age. The reason behind this is clear: many people reach puberty at or before that age and are physically mature (though in most cases smaller since the body continues to grow for decades more).

Emotional or mental maturity is the remaining factor to be considered in determining if a person is ready to have sex. This latter factor should not be delineated by an arbitrary age, though Americans have drawn the legal boundary at 18, conveniently coinciding with completion of primary education. This is rather silly, since I am sure we all know of a lot of people who never really become sufficiently mature to be good parents, or to handle the emotions aroused by sexual relationships, regardless of their age. 

So why is the age of consent so high now when compared to the history of man? Are people really maturing slower than before? Not as far as I can see. Kids today are more informed and mature than I was at their age. Is it just a resurgence of the Puritan ethic which America is making enormous attempts to export along with its culture of commercialism?

More likely it is to enlarge the pool of available workers. Teenage moms tend to not be in the workforce or to be unskilled if they are. A smaller pool of workers means labor costs are higher and corporate profits are lower. The government, after all, is most concerned with protecting business, and business wants skilled workers. 

I predict that the government will again attempt to raise the age of consent as secondary education becomes crucial to commercial competitiveness. The importance of becoming a worker and contributing to the profits of others is directly enhanced by both a culture of consumerism and abstinence from sex. Sex may be used to sell products and even be a product in itself but if the workers get too interested in it then productivity goes down. So making it available on a limited basis is an economic goal, hence laws regarding the age of consent have been promoted and passed.

Regardless of government and media attempts to change attitudes about sex, it is still a natural human drive which demands satisfaction. Laws and the puritan ethic drive men away from areas where they are made to feel bad about themselves because of their normal sexuality, and towards places where attitudes are more humane and open. 

The media has defined this as "sex tourism." Use of the word "sex" as a pejorative term has become pervasive. A quick examination of the economic effects of "sex tourism" give clear indications why there is such a big push from America to stop it. Since America isn't a very good sex tourist destination, money from sex tourism flows out of America and is distributed to poor people in undeveloped countries. This reduces the money available for corporate profits for an extended period (though all money eventually finds its way back through exports of American goods or through normal channels of foreign investment). It's the time value of that money which becomes the lost residual which enhances the lives of residents of the less developed nations.

Pacheco's attempts to change laws and attitudes about sex will have far more impact on the Ticos than on the tourists. No, I don't think the country will fall apart because of it, but no one in Costa Rica gains from these changes, with the exception of prosecuting attorneys and those taking their mordita. 

Juan Ochoa-Ramirez 
He sees necessity of sex tourism

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I believe it is a mistake to pass laws discouraging sex tourism in Costa Rica as Dr. Pacheco recently proposed. Sex tourism is all that Costa Rica has going for it. When Cuba is eventually open to U.S. citizens, Costa Rica will no longer have to worry about sex tourism. Costa Rica will be bankrupt shortly thereafter. 

The magnificent natural beauty of Hawaii is much greater than Coast Rica.. Here you must drive along dirty inadequate roads with shacks along the way everywhere to get to the places of natural beauty in Costa Rica . Hawaii is a hundred time safer and only slightly more expensive if equal quality accommodations are chosen. 

Like almost all Americans I've never chosen a woman under 18 years of age in Costa Rica. This is because of our cultural values and also out of respect for Coast Rica law which I believe states under 17 years of age is illegal. [Editor’s Note: The law says 18 years]

I resent hearing of the scams Costa Rica has perpetrated against Americans relating to sex with underage Coast Rican children. There are essentially no Costa Rican children over the age of 15. 50 percent of Costa Rican women have had a child before the age of 15. As a physician, this tells me that the majority (90 percent) of Coast Rican females become sexually active at 12 or 13 years of age. 

On almost any Costa Rican road on the weekend you will see numerous the 30- or 40-year-old men walking hand-in-hand with 13- or 14 year-old women. Unfortunately, all too often a 12 or 13 year old Costa Rican child will have as her first man her own grandfather. Dr. Pacheco certainly knows the truth of the unfortunate sexual habits of Costa Ricans. 

If anyone knows more accurate statistics, I would appreciate being corrected. I've enjoyed living in Coast Rica most of the time for the last eight years, and I would like to see Coast Rica prosper. There are enough negative things in Costa Rica already. Please don't shoot yourself in the foot one more time. 

Allen M. Donnelly, M.D. 
Temple, Texas, and San Vito, Costa Rica
The government leads the public mind

Dear A.M. Costa Rica: 

Here is a quote you might want to memorize: 

"Of course the people don't want war. But after all, it's the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it's always a simple matter to drag the people along whether it's a democracy, a fascist dictatorship, a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to greater danger. It works the same way in any country." 

-- Spoken by Hermann Goering, Nazi, as recorded in the records of the Nuremberg Trials. 

Dennis Covey
U.S.A. is fraud capital, not Costa Rica

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

The results are official. The good old U.S.A is the fraud capital of the world. 

While some Americans have excoriated Costa Rica as being a location where fraud occurs, they should look to their own country. The SEC made it official yesterday [April 29 paper]: major corporations with millions of investor/victims have committed fraud. Merrill Lynch, Citibank etc. etc. There were millions of victims . . . not just a few thousand. 

So Costa Rica bashers should hang their heads in shame. While fraud exists wherever people exist, the homeland of many of the complainers — the U.S.A. — takes the prize for fraud. 

Meanwhile, someone in Canada is taking legal action because Costa Rica DID NOT intervene and stop the easy-money operations. Others are taking legal action because Costa Rica DID intervene!

Costa Rica should hold their jackets and let them fight each other. 

Jack Evans
Denver/San Jose
Ashcroft does not practice what he preaches

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

"The rule of law is the essential cornerstone to building the community and civil structures so important to freedom and prosperity's enduring strength," Ashcroft said in remarks Monday to the Council of the Americas' 33rd Washington Conference [See April 29 paper]. Ashcroft defined the rule of law as effective law enforcement, an absence of corruption, respect for human rights and a strong independent judiciary."

These are great ideas! Too bad he doesn't support the same goals at home here in the U.S.

An absence of corruption? This administration, appointed in the wake of a disputed election, is owned by the likes of Haliburton, the Carlyle Group, Enron, GE, big oil, etc. Where is their emphasis? All the benefits of the tax cuts are going to major contributors, the wealthiest 1  to 2per cent, while almost all the costs measured in reduced services (including cuts to veterans benefits) are falling on the rest of us.

Respect for human rights? Look at GITMO in Cuba, the PATRIOT Acts I - and II (which is far worse), the crackdown on the use of medical marijuana by cancer and AIDS patients, the increased use of the death penalty, restrictions on dissent, cuts to basic legal, nutritional, and medical programs that benefit the poor, etc. Four of the amendments currently in the Bill of Rights are under assault by this Administration through its "Patriot" acts!

But a strong independent judiciary? That's almost the worst. Every appointee to the judiciary made by this administration is a hard-core, right-wing, neo-con, ideologue. Before we preach, and that's what this so-called "Christian" administration likes to do to the rest of the world, we need to make some improvements here at home.

And as far as CAFTA goes, look at the mixed record of NAFTA. My advice to my Central and South American friends would be to remember what our Native Americans used to say: "white man speaks with forked tongue." Or, in the words of Tom Waits, "the large print giveth, and the small print taketh away." Always be skeptical of the motives of the U.S. government, particularly this one. These guys are only in it for the money.

Johns Rabun 
Huntsville Ala.
Another plea to Luis Enrique Villalobos

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

This is a supplement to a previous open letter and I am hopeful that you will print it.

Dear Luis Enrique Villalobos: 

It has been much too long since your friends — your investors/lenders — have heard from you or from any of your representatives. And by this lack of communication are we to take it that you have abandoned the Christian ethic and high morality that you put forth to those who entrusted their funds to you in good faith?

I am hopeful that this letter finds you in good health and living securely for you should know that many of your friends-investors/lenders have not been doing so well. Many have lost their life savings, their health and a substantial means of sustenance and, if rumor has it, some have even lost their lives.

I do not believe that other than a small group wish you any harm, and most are praying that you are receiving good solid legal advice, are in good health and that you are carrying on and will continue to carry on your former legal business enterprises so that investments/loans can repaid and hopefully interest as well.

Your investors/lenders cannot continue to throw good money after bad in order to pursue various legal strategies. They cannot long continue to rely on rumors and empty or unsubstantiated promises and assurances for their comes a point in time when patience is wearing thin.

Are you certain that you are receiving good advice and that the lawyers who are advising you now do not have conflicts of interest based upon the fact that they assisted you in forming, organizing and conducting many of your businesses.?

Have your lawyers advised you that having issued checks in the United States which were returned marked "account closed" and or " insufficient funds" that you may well be criminally liable in the U.S. even though your activities in Costa Rica were above board.

As a good espousing Christian, don't you think that the time has come for you to come forward  — not for your investors/lenders but to prevent any stain upon your persistent avowal of being an honorable and upright Christian — a reputation upon which your investors/lenders relied in turning their funds over to you. 

Yours in brotherhood 

Don Donelly 
Las Vegas, Nev. 
Tourist tax won’t have effect, professor says

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

The naivete of those who argue that the increase in the exit tax will affect tourism amazes me. If someone buys a $500 airline ticket and then spends $100 a day for hotel, food, and other entertainment/tours (a modest estimate) for a 10-day stay, the increase in the exit tax is less than 1 percent of total vacation cost. When is the last time you refused to buy something because it went up by a penny for every $1 of its price? Inflation alone in the United States is more than this. True, it's counterintuitive that the increase comes during a decline in tourism, but use your head!

One can always argue that there is a price-sensitive segment of the market (e.g., backpackers) that could be discouraged by the increase. Does Costa Rica need to focus its tourism efforts on this segment?

Grady Bruce, PhD 
Professor Emeritus of Marketing 
San José
Not much here worth invading for, he says

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

In response to Mr. Corgan's letter:

I agree that political stability and peace always occur after violent conflict. That's the nature of any type of struggle. Effort is expended, power shifts or is consolidated, and an equilibrium results. As far as people's involvement in struggle, it is generally accepted that as long as the result is what was desired, the number of injured or dead on the opposing team is no reason to feel grief or guilt.

It's easy to wave the flag when you are on the winning side. But how great do you suppose your heros would be if they were suddenly transformed into average citizens living under a cruel dictatorship? Would they risk their lives to speak out against the existing powers? How long would their political convictions hold out in a stinking dungeon under the supervision of some government employed sadist/policeman? 

If you think about it real hard, you might come to the realization that idolizing the popular leaders of whatever political ideology you currently adher to as part of the search for your personal identity, is not a substitute for having those ideals which are a necessary basis for morals and ethics. Politicians generally must abandon their ideals for the sake of expediency and success; as a citizen you are not required to do so.

The fact is that "horrors" exist or existed in every type of political system ever known to man, not just Marxism. Dictatorships can be evil or benevolent; democracies can be cruel or benign. It all comes down to the psychology of the people within the society and how they treat each other.

The decision to invade Iraq was made (according to what your heros said in public) to remove Saddam Hussein from power. This is evidenced by the fact that the "Coalition" stated they would not invade if Saddam and his sons left Iraq. This leaves the question of why Saddam Hussein was chosen instead of other dictators. 

The initial argument was that he had weapons of mass destruction. This can't be the only reason though, for there are many other oppressive regimes who have just as many, if not more, such weapons. Well, perhaps we can argue that he was the most cruel. But then again, there are a lot of things happening in Africa which are far worse than what was going on in Iraq. How about Saddam getting ready to invade his neighbors? That clearly wasn't happening, particularly after Iraq was so soundly beaten a decade ago. Hiding Al-Queda? No solid evidence of that, and we can be assured that if there was evidence, we would have seen it over and over on CNN.

This leaves oil. Plain and simple. But what has this to do with C.R. and its lack of an army? Does C.R. need the U.S. to be world policeman and save it in the case of an invasion? Only if there was a reason to invade C.R.! The country has a higher standard of living than its neighbors, but it has no vast wealth, no inherant high-productivity, no agressive stance or intent to interfere with the domestic affairs of its neighbors. 

What would an invader get by attacking C.R? Monkeys and parrots? Banco Nacional? ICE? Coffee plantations that can't turn a profit? The leftovers of ex-pats' investments? C.R. doesn't have an army because CR doesn't need one (which, for me, is why I love it so much).

If the Ticos prefer to keep their blood where it is, good for them. I think GWB feels the same way about his own, otherwise he would be a soldier and not a politician, ¿verdad? 

John McLaughlin 
Phoenix, Ariz.
Liberal view is not reality, he says

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

RE: Jo Stuart

As a former long-time resident of Costa Rica (13 years), I've really enjoy reading A.M. Costa Rica. I was especially delighted by your recent columns "When in Rome..." and "The Other Side of The Coin." So I thought I'd share a few thoughts. There are three sides to that coin you know.

I'm of the generation of Bill Clinton and was an anti-war protesting college student/hippie type. Abbie Hoffman, Jane Fonda, et al., were my heroes. Therefore, I am quite familiar with the liberal world view and mindset. 

Liberals visualize the world as they would like it to be: A world without hunger, war, prejudice, racism, intolerance, and suffering. They then ensue to base their convictions, opinions, and policies on the premise and with the purpose of achieving this utopian dream. Liberals are idealistic, to say the least. It was a luxury I enjoyed greatly as a naive responsibility-less young person supported by my parents.

What I failed to acknowledge was that there are tyrants, oppressors, terrorists; the Hitlers, Stalins, bin Ladens, and Sadaams of this world who refuse to cooperate with my liberal dream for the world. These nightmare makers have been with us throughout every generation farther back than history records. The reality that you and every other liberal must wake up to is that the world just isn't the way you wish it was. I appreciate the nobleness of the dream, but it is only a dream. It's time to wake up.

The reality, as proven by history, is that every lasting, legitimate peace that has ever been enjoyed by anyone, anywhere on this planet has been achieved through violent struggle, war, victory over an oppressor, and at the expense of the blood of courageous patriots. Indeed, the peace and democracy Costa Rica enjoys today was secured through their own 1948 civil war. It has always been this way and will always be. I wish it wasn't, but it is.

I lived in C.R. during the 80s and did a lot of work with Nicaraguan refugees fleeing the horrors of Marxist Communism in their country. Of course C.R. did little to help Reagan in his quest to liberate those people, and it was always an issue of debate. One question I would frequently ask Costa Rican friends was, "So what would you do if Daniel Ortega, Fidel, and the Sandinistas decided to export their revolution to Costa Rica as they have promised? I mean, if he attacked, they could easily reach San José by land in 8-12 hrs. What would C.R. do without an army to defend itself?" 

The response was always the same. They would answer, "Oh the U.S. would defend us..." and they would remind me of the proximity of troops in Panama, while citing some treaty and conflict that happened years ago when the U.S. military did just that. I would then say, "Oh, so it's not that you're against armies and war. It's just that you want someone else's blood to be sacrificed for the peace and freedom you enjoy."

This is the hypocrisy of the liberal anti-war view. They try to cloak it in transparent and ridiculous "oil for blood" and capitalist imperialism rhetoric, but it's because they have no substantive defense of their position. 

The truth is, their freedom to protest and dissent was won through war at the cost of the blood of patriots. I challenge you to show me one country in the world or in history that enjoys true freedom, liberty, peace, and democracy where it's not that way. And whatever stability we do enjoy in the world will be guaranteed by great leaders like G.W. Bush and Tony Blair and great countries like the U.S. and Great Britain.

God Bless America,

Steven Corgan 
Wildwood, Missouri U.S.A. 
Raising the exit tax for what?

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Once again a display of shooting oneself in the foot. So tourism drops and raising the exit cost is supposed to do what? Increase the desire to come here?? I doubt it! Just another example of Costa Rican government being it's own worst enemy! Good Grief! 

Pat Schmit
Pérez Zelledón
Expats are not phyically restrained

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

The last time I checked the "ex-pats," they did not show any signs of being physically restrained in any matter or form from leaving Costa Rica. If they are so unhappy about the current situation in Costa Rica, then my suggestion is to go back to where they very eagerly came from, It may have gotten better. 

The reason they are in Costa Rica, is certainly because they were not happy with the situation at their previous place of residence. Therefore it does not come as a surprise to me and many angry nationals, that they feel dissatisfaction with their present situation. 

The ones that move on to Nicaragua or other "New Paradise" will begin to complain all over again, complaining and dissatisfaction being the reason that brought them to Costa Rica in the first place. Please, Do not torture yourselves; leave while you can and before things get worst! 

A very upset Costarrican
Edgar Kranshuler
San José
He wants a balance of freedoms

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I would like to follow up Leo Leonowicz's rebuttal to Varda Burns [below] with this: 

Not in agreement with everything said by Mr. Leonowicz, but do agree with the gist of it.

My curious quote to sum up this whole debate about civil liberties is: "Who needs liberties when Freedom is already lost?" Guess who said that? The point is, yea, how cool if the FBI can't place a wiretap on my phone or on anybody else’s, including Osama Bin Laden if he were here in the U.S., but meanwhile I've lost the freedom of fearlessly visiting or working at a World Trade Center (let's just say all of Manhattan), flying on American Airlines, visiting the Sears building or any other high profile edifice, crossing the Golden Gate bridge, and, (I haven't wholly forgotten) opening mail from strangers! 

Let's just say that you've got to give something to get something, eh? Too many liberties makes for anarchy. Too little freedom makes for a life of fear. Just ask anyone on the streets of Iraq today. They know all too well how too little freedom had them cowering in fear, and in recent days, how too many liberties made for anarchy.

Phil McQuillan 
Sierra Vista, Ariz.
He provides a list of truths

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

How wonderful to read the recent letters to the editor on your site. I see that there is no lack of polarization in the opinions expressed about world issues here. So may I ask for a turn at informing the public about the exact, precise, correct, and unequivocable truth about the world today? 

I'll even be so kind as to use bullet formatting to lend credence to my views and provide a list of adjectives and adverbs that the readers can insert where they wish in order to emphasize those points they wholeheartedly agree with. Let's get started! 

• People will always agree with their own ideas, especially when reiterated by another. 

• Hypocrites will never become self-enlightened about their own hypocracies. 

• Government is only needed where society fails. 

• Governments are never satisfied to fill only those functions that society does not provide. 

• Gaining power is the motivation behind all human behavior. 

• People prefer to think about the consequences of other people's actions rather than those of their own. 

• If you're not sensitive, then people can't hurt your feelings.

With wisdom such as this I should found my own cult! Of course a cult requires funding, especially if it is to ever advance to the level of "sect" or "religion." You can send your donations to. . . . Oh, wait, we're missing the key ingredients of mysticism or dogma, so I guess I'll just have to rely on your moral support (I'd ask for Pacheco's, but it seems he's already pledged it away for some other purpose.). 

Now for that list of adjectives and adverbs that I promised earlier: 

moot, constructively, mere, various, terrorist, worthwhile, clearly, total, paranoid, weighty, broader, suspected, radical, foreign, Islamic, delusional, posh, oppressive, merry, Mao-jacketed, misinformed, warped, unkindest, innocent, trumped up, bungled, loving, real, mere, chump, and generally 

If these words look familiar, it is because I plagiarized them from previous recent letters. All sarcasm aside, I do appreciate your willingness to print letters that express such diverse views. I am sure that you agree that the desired outcome is that these opinions encourage people to think for themselves, not to become conformant to their favorite institution and cease personal growth. Pura vida, 

Carlos Ochoa 
He hopes foreign efforts are over

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

As usual "right on" president Pacheco I was disappointed to hear of the criticism of President Pacheco by some ignorant Costa Rican politicians, following his statement that he would do the same thing President Bush has done in similar circumstances. He usually tells it like it is. 

On one occasion when he was being interviewed by a particularly irritating female American newspaper reporter, the subject of underage prostitutes was brought up. When the reporter asked President Pacheco if he planned to make prostitution illegal in Coast Rica, he answered no. 

This reporter in a style unfortunately all too common in American journalism was asking the same question repeatedly with only slight modification, I guess, expecting that he should change his mind and agree with her. The question of when he planned to make prostitution illegal in Coast Rica. President Pacheco answered it never. You could some how sense the irritation in his voice. He also stated some of the finest women he has known in his life have been prostitutes. 

That has also been my experience in Coast Rica. It is commendable that the educated population of Costa Rica elected a politician who tells the truth. President Bush says things like they hate us because we love freedom. Could the truth be the Arabs hate us because for the past 50 years we have unfairly sided with Israel in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. 

We gave last year $4.5 billion to Israel. That is $40,000 for each Israeli family of four. The president now proposes to more than double that: $10.5 billion. In some ways I regret that I voted for this man. 

Some of our politicians like Mayor Guiliani have such a strong aversion to the truth because of their constituency that they do things like refusing a check for several million dollars in order not to listen to a polite explanation of why 911 occurred by that Saudi Arabian businessman. I hope the United States does not become involved in foreign religious or territorial squabbles in the future. The cost to us as anation has been a horrible, and the end is not yet in sight. 

Allen M. Donnelly, MD 
Supports restaurant at the beach

Dear A.M. Costa Rica: 

It is my hope that Mar y Sombra will survive. I spent many hours there on my visit to Costa Rica and found it charming and relaxing.  The authorities should work with the management to make it a better place. A lot of money is spent there. Locals work and are able to support themselves and their loved ones. 

Raymond La Palme
Some ideas for unemployed protestors

Dear A.M. Costa Rica: 

Now that "peace rallies" against an Iraqi war are moot, it seems to me that the advocates for peace, civil liberties and human rights can now act constructively to achieve the following: 

o Rally in support of civil rights for women in those Muslim countries where women are treated as mere chattels. 

o Protest to the Syrian Government that they arrest the members of the various terrorist groups that have found sanctuary there, such as Hezbollah and others who continue to threaten a continuation of terrorism and homicide bombings. And urge Syria to turn over any member of the Saddam regime who may have found refuge in that country. 

o Protest the use of drugs. And for those of you who use drugs recognize that that is a terrorist act and reform. 

o Vigorously support aid to the street children of Costa Rica and other countries. 

o Find a worthwhile social project and devote time to it. Any other ideas would be welcome.

Don Sherwood 
Las Vegas
He defends the Patriot II law

Dear A.M. Costa Rica: 

Nothing so clearly illustrates the total failure of the American public school system as that recent letter by Ms. Varda Burns. Her somewhat paranoid tirade against Attorney General John Ashcroft and George Bush over the Patriot Act betrays the lack of reality and substance that all too often enters into public discourse when weighty matters are being debated. 

The House of Representatives, co-joined by the Senate, passed this particular piece of legislation to give broader powers to the government to monitor suspected terrorists and those that aid them. You know, radical foreign Islamic types who check out such New York Times' bestsellers as, "Nuclear Bomb Making for Fun and Profit," and "Anthrax Made Easy." They've also been known to crash planes into buildings, killing thousands of innocent people, I'm told. So I don't have a problem with this. But should you, Ms. Burns, please feel free to elect a different representative or senator — as is your right under the Constitution. That is what we call freedom and democracy. 

The land you describe, a police state, lacking in civil liberties, due process, and social and civic justice was, in fact, Iraq under Saddam Hussein. How ironic that you would project this onto America — home of the free. Just how much more delusional could anyone possibly get? Have you not seen the torture chambers, rape rooms, and posh palaces of Saddam and his sons?  Or the cheering crowds that greeted our troops as they liberated them from these oppressive thugs? 

Clearly, you have been reading far too many Jo Stewart columns and it has begun to affect your judgment. She and her merry band of Mao-jacketed malcontents have been wallowing in their loathing and contempt of America for years now. They, too, have a seriously paranoid, misinformed and warped view of the world at large. Don't let them alarm you. Stick to reading more deep, cheerful and positive news for your political insights. Might I suggest USA Today? They have lots of pretty colors, pie charts and graphs. 

But seriously, your attack on Ashcroft was the unkindest cut of all.  For I don't recall hearing an outcry from leftists when Janet "Flame-On" Reno torched 80 innocent people in Waco on trumped up charges of child abuse and gunrunning. Nor did I hear a peep from y'all when Randy Weaver's wife and baby were gunned down by yet another bungled raid by federal jackboots. Or Elian Gonzalez — when he was spirited away to a Cuban concentration camp at gunpoint. Fear not, he is now safely being brainwashed under the loving guidance of a team of psychologists and political commissars. You see these were real civil rights violations — not mere figments of your imagination. Good gracious, when leftists speak of civil rights you do tend to reserve them only for brutal dictators, their dutiful henchmen, or their terrorist lackeys. Why is that? 

In closing, your statement that 46 percent of "our dollars" are being spent on defense is pure poppycock. The IRS states that 18 percent of the federal budget goes to defense. It is on the back of your 1040 tax booklet, sweetie. Check it out. Truth is, that is the lowest percentage of GDP (about 3 percent) dedicated to the military since before World War II.  It's chump change. More than half goes to pay the troops. But there are many positive benefits to this sort of spending. Just try and imagine what World War III would do to the federal budget. 

My goodness, one generally has to travel to a bowling alley to hear such ill-informed opinion. But I certainly want to thank you — Jo and the rest of the gang — for sparing me the trip. 

Leo Leonowicz 
Guadalupe, Costa Rica
Government should worry about economy

Dear A.M. Costa Rica: 

I'm treasurer for a non-profit organization that has money invested with the Brothers, operated by Luis Enrique Villalobos Camacho. Perhaps I'm a bit more objective and hopeful, but I believe it is clear that no one with an understanding of finance leaves $7 million in a bank account unless they need the liquidity quickly. 

The government raided the office of. Villalobos one week before his investors would arrive to receive their monthly income, but the Costa Rican government seized their cash, computers and records making it impossible to conduct their business. Villalobos has been in hiding ever since to avoid jail, as his brother is still receiving, and, possibly, to maintain the privacy of his investors. 

By May 26th, the government needs another extension from the courts to continue the investigation.  Considering the current unemployment, lower tourism and Standard & Poor’s lowering the evaluation of Costa Rica and the new bond issue, I believe it is clearly best for the government and the economy not to pursue an extension and that could bring a quick resolution to the question of investments.

It's, once again, up to the court and the government to resolve the issue or extend it causing pain to investors and the people they employed. 

Steve Silverman
Golfito, Costa Rica
Concerned by Patriot II Act

Dear A.M. Costa Rica: 

I'm not sure how many Americans in Costa Rica have been following Ashcroft’s Patriot II Act? They virtually wipe out our civil liberties here. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, the Federal Bureau of Investigations can now monitor you. Without your knowledge they can wiretap you, check the books you take out of the library, the websites you visit and all online interactions, credit card charges, phone calls, travel plans, hospital records, visas to other countries and bank records. 

At a recent liberties union talk at a church here, we were told that the government can now "disappear" you. Aschroft will have the sole right to determine if the group you belong to is a terrorist organization or could have the potential to be one. Or if you gave money to an organization that could be construed as a terrorist organization, he alone could have the right to take away your citizenship. 

So if you gave money, for example, to starving Palestinian children that could also be regarded as participation in a terrorist organization. The interpretation will be left up to him alone. Recently a man in Colorado, who belonged to the American Friends Service Committee, found he was on a list because he belonged to that organization. An Arab student in New York was investigated because he visited the free speech website. 

Now Ashcroft is proposing a genetic records bank and state ID cards. As if this is not enough, you no longer have the right to due process. No trial, legal recourse, nothing. They can just take you away and not tell you why. Anyone who doubts this should go to the liberties union website and educate themselves. I would also recommend truthout.com and democrat.com if you dare.  In addition, Ashcroft is doing this in secret or at least trying to. Even though we will not be told what information they are collecting about us, all our statistics will be given to any and all corporations that desire them without our knowledge. 

Democracy in my book has now taken on the status of window dressing. It is not a surprise that Costa Rican records are now being bought up by corporations. So what freedoms do we have? Freedom in America now means you are free to consume. We no longer have job security, safety nets, healthcare coverage or services. We pay taxes but they don't go to us and 46 percent of our dollar goes to the military.  And in my opinion it will get much worse. 

As people across the nation wave their flags, George Bush is spending billions on the war and the post-war effort, while every state in the nation is struggling to survive. Former President Bill Clinton's huge surplus has now been replaced by a huge deficit. I don't think people will be so patriotic when the bill for the war comes in. 

Halliburton, Dick Cheney's company, and all post-war contracts have been given solely to American corporations. They will make billions. Bush has not adequately funded the Department of Homeland Security and states cannot afford to fund it in light of their bursting deficits.  Bush's precious "NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND" legislation has not been funded either. Get the picture? Now is the time for all Americans to speak out and use what is left of our ability to protest. 

Varda Burns


An open letter to peace protesters

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Costa Rica does not have a standing army. Why not, you may ask. 

If Costa Rica's territory had been invaded after it disbanded its army, who do you think would have intervened on its behalf? The United States, of course. 

Had Saddam gone into exile, the war would not have been necessary and thousands of lives would have been spared and property as well. Where were the peace protestors when it came to calling for civil rights in Iraq — and elsewhere for that matter?

Where are the peace protestors when it comes to calling for rights of women in the various Arab countries? 

Where are the peace protestors — who want to save lives — when it comes to helping the street children in Costa Rica and elsewhere in Central America?

Don Sherwood
Las Vegas, Nevada
Saddam is a danger to the world

Dear A.M. Costa Rica: 

Many countries that adore peace and enjoy it as much as we do in Costa Rica are becoming scarcer day-by-day. That is why we must support and conserve those who believe that peace is a treasure that we must protect and fight for. 

Are we in favor or against the war in Iraq? Of course, nobody likes war and it doesn't benefit anyone when countries are fighting. But just as our   forefathers fought for our liberty and fought wars to protect themselves and live in freedom, we must also fight for our security and for the security of the rest of the world. 

Recently there have been many opinions for and against the war in Iraq and the support that our country has given. We must analyze this matter as a whole. A country that has been led by a dictator, who has grown to be a menace to his neighbors, his own country and to other free countries, has managed to end the patience of the rest of the world. 

Saddam Hussein and his allies have had deaf ears to the recommendations that the United Nations have given: his days are counted. There is nothing more dangerous to peace than a leader with a twisted mind, money, hate, and who feels mighty and who has no respect for those who are not fanatics like himself. That is what the big murderers in history have shown themselves to be. 

Saddam Hussein has become a danger to the world with his chemical and   biological weapons. For twelve years he has played games with the United Nations, thinking he could outsmart them. He sacrificed his own people.  We in Costa Rica, known for our love of peace, respect and human   rights, must give our ten cents worth and support, at least morally, those who are fighting for the security of humanity. 

Not everyone understands when spoken to in a nice manner. Because of war many of us enjoy freedom. That is why to maintain peace sometimes war is necessary.

Gregory Kearney Lawson
San José


He thanks Pacheco for supporting U.S.

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

An open letter to Dr. Abel Pacheco,
president of Costa Rica.

Thank you, many others of Costa Rica and Central America for your support for my country, the United States of America, during these very difficult times.

I had lived in Costa Rica except for one year from March 14, 1991, till June 16, 2002, besides living there for three months when I was in the Peace Corps in November 1975. I was involved with the dehumidification process for the Intel Corp. of Costa Rica since February 1998. 

Through my own business of being a consultant and broker of climate control systems under the name Excalibur Good and Cold Corp. I have visited INA, University of Costa Rica, your government Institutions along with those in Zapote on many occasions, and I will continue to do so in the future when I return to Costa Rica. 

My corporation was a member in good standing with the Costa Rican - American Chamber of Commerce, and I am also the president of the Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES) of Costa Rica (Chartered Sept. 10, 1994 ). We have over 400 chapters worldwide. I represent respectable companies from the United States, England and Canada for worldwide business in the heating, ventilation, air-conditioning, refrigeration and dehumidification industry from 95 to 1 percent relative humidity (HVAC-RD). 

Jerry Wisz
South Beloit, Illinois 


Where are the terrorists?

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

The whole world is well aware of the Colombian factions of the both left and the right who are slaughtering innocents and then churning out propaganda that it was done by their adversaries. They are both deplorable and deserve the worst that happens to them.

But the United States has reached a new level of propaganda when it claims, as General Hill did in A.M. Costa Rica on Thursday (3/13) that radical Islamic groups are operating in the tri-border area of Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay, and on Venezuela's Margarita Island.

Maybe I am mistaken, and the general is correct. Has anyone actually seen any Muslim terrorists running around in these countries as he claims? Or is my government now trying to justify the violence it has been funding in South America for decades by using the rubric of Muslim terrorism as a shield.

John French 
Philadelphia USA
It doesn’t take much to terrorize

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

It seems to me that Jo Stuart and almost everyone else (CNN, the anti war protestors) have forgotten what a few letters laced with less than a gram of anthrax did to the US Postal Service, the federal government, and the lives of dozens, if not thousands, of people, from Washington D.C. to Florida. 

They have forgotten the terror that spread worldwide just because of a few letters that were dropped into a mail box somewhere in New York. I confess, I do not remember how many letters, how much anthrax, how many people died, how many people got sick, how much money the federal government spent to clean up the postal system. 

I, like most of the people in the U.S. have forgotten the details, BUT, I have not forgotten that Saddam has had,or still has, tons of anthrax, and other things that make anthrax seem like a picnic. Who supplied him with these weapons of mass destruction is really beside the point right now. There are many nations that have these terrible weapons, the difference is that they haven't used them in almost one hundred years (WWI). 

Not so for Saddam Insane. Jo's tongue-in-cheek analysis of Saddam Hussein is typical of those who have very selective memories. She and many others love to point out the failures of the U.S. governments efforts to support different leaders of other countries. These people seem to forget that "absolute power corrupts absolutely" and that sometimes it comes down to a choice of choosing the lesser of two evils as in the case of Iran vs. Iraq. 

Yes, the US government did support Saddam Hussein, Noriega in Panama, Marcos in the Philippines, and many other two bit dictators, who once in power, became monsters. Thank God the checks and balances written into the Constitution of United States of America doesn't give absolute power to one individual. 

No one in their right mind wants war, however, how big a war does Jo Stuart and all the rest of the antiwar movement want? Jo Stuart says that Bush senior refused to get involved with Iraq and Kuwait border dispute over access to the sea GET REAL!

Saddam said himself that it was about the oil, not access to the sea. Bush only got involved after Iraq invaded Kuwait and was murdering, raping and pillaging the country for months, and refused to leave. Where were you, Jo Stuart, when these atrocities were going on, where are the pictures of the murdered Kuwaitis, burned bodies that I vaguely remember on CNN. 

No we don't see those photos on the news anymore, instead we are asked to believe that, Saddam is a product of, and I quote, "Draconian measures taken to defang him" You have to be kidding!! You need to look up the word Draconian. Jo you made a comparison to the way we treated Germany after W W II, is that what you want W W III, if nothing is done about this mad man that is what the world could be looking at, if he were to attack Israel or Turkey with these chemical or biological weapons. 

Saddam's ambition is to control all of the oil in the Middle East. Read the newspapers. What is happening here in Costa Rica just because there might be a war. Don't blame it on Bush or big oil companies, it is NOT about oil. I repeat.....IT IS ABOUT A MADMAN AND ANTHRAX, AND OTHER EVEN MORE DEADLY AGENTS!! 

You and others need to take just a moment to think about what it takes to send an army to fight in another country. On the other hand, what does it take to send a few letters? 

George W. Bush and Toney Blair understand the difference, and have put their respective administrations on the line because they understand the difference. Sadly, there are a lot of people in the world that, like you, have very short memories, and no clue of how small the world has gotten in the last 30 years. It doesn't take an army to kill thousands of people, and those thousands of people will not be soldiers, they will be innocent women and children, because these weapons are not smart bombs. 

Dave Shade 
Cuidad Colón
He hopes they got airport robbers

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

On a Sunday evening in September 2000, my wife, a visiting friend from Australia, and I, were robbed in a similar way to what was described in your front page story today [Feb. 27]. We were traveling from the Pacific to our Santa Ana home and were about 5-7 kms. short of the airport traveling on the InterAmerican Highway. 

The circumstances were very similar to what your article reported today. We suffered a blowout and had just pulled over on the shoulder when a dark colored Hyundai Elantra pulled in front of us and then backed up to within 8 or 10 feet of our old SUV. 

Two big men got out and approached us on either side. Both had in hand VERY large screwdrivers. It was very dark that evening, and it was also raining so I did not really see the men well. A woman got out of the Hyndai and came to the back of our vehicle. She opened the back of our Trooper as the two men seemed to change their behavior from menacing to being helpful. 

But, at the same time a young couple arrived from the front porch of a house next to the highway. Within 30 seconds, the three from the Hyundai were back in their vehicle, which quickly pulled away into the dark. I immediately suspected that some luggage was missing from our vehicle, which turned out to be true. 

We reported the loss the next day at the appropriate office in the central court complex in San Jose. The process took about five hours. The investigator who talked with us last said that we were lucky that the young couple walked up to our car. We were told we otherwise would have probably lost everything. And, we were told that this method of robbery had been going on for several years with fromtwo or three to as many as a dozen similar robberies occuring on the airport highway each week. 

Our friend from Australia lost everything of value from her holiday, which at that point, after 2+ months was nearing its end. Her monitary loss was around $6,000. But, the loss of her airline tickets, and all documents was a much greater pain. 

I hope that the capture of the robbers this past week will end this form of violence, most of which has involved robbing tourists. 

Tom Larson
Santa ana


Embassy effort is an embarrassment

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

This is an open letter to U.S. Ambasssador John Danilovich

Dear John Danilovich,

I am sure this letter will likely be passed on to Peter Brennan, the public relations person at the embassy, which is fine. But I want to express my disappointment in the complete lack of help and support from the embassy for my foundation here in Costa Rica.

I have recieved several e-mails and a few phone calls, and the only result has been a call from someone in the States asking me to donate something to a school for wealthy children in the U.S. I work with the poorest children in the county here in Aguirre. I work 16 hours a day, and I recieve the support of many wonderful Americans and their foundations. I appreciate and love the wonderful Americans that support us and bring donations and visit the kids with me. However, it is absolutely embarrassing to me how little effort you all are willing to make to suffering children in a developing country. 

I know you are busy, and I know the world is in crisis. But I have more access to Abel Pacheco, the German Embassy, the Canadian Embassy and various others than the U.S. Embassy. Your embassy seems to have a "what have you done for us lately" mentality, and what I have done for you lately is paid countless dollars in federal taxes which are being wasted if not one dollar of those taxes has been used to help suffering children. Furthermore, what an embarrassment for me that the embassy can afford to pour drinks down the throats of the richest people here in the country to the tune of thousands and thousands of dollars and contribute not one colon to handicapped children living in poverty so profound that many do not eat every day.

I am embarrassed today that my government cares so little about the suffering in the world. I am saddened and disapointed that my tax dollars seem to not have been ever used to help one kid get a wheelchair, a medical treatment, food, clothes or whatever.

I wish you the best with all your efforts. However, I am saddened that your priorities are those of enriching the U.S. and leaving the poorest of the poor, the most abandoned population in this country to find support through other channels.

 God bless you and all the embassy employees. I hope you do enjoy your lives here in this lovely country. But I also pray that you will all open your eyes to what really counts in this world. I know when I am laying on my death bed I will not be thinking about how many deals I made in Silicon Valley, or how many companies I started or how many dollars I made. I will be thinking about how many lives I touched for the better. Please consider that the biggest gift we give ourselves is to give unselfishly.

Robbie Felix 
Quepos-Manuel Antonio
War has little effect here

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

As a daily reader of A.M. Costa Rica, I have been almost amused by the coverage given the anti-war/anti-American protestors. As things unfold half a world away between the United States and British forces and the tyrant Saddam I cannot help but think that the real palpable effect on Costa Rica is and will be negligible.

These protests serve only one purpose. They encourage the expression of anti-American attitude among the clueless. It gives the left-wing politicos and college professors a vehicle to practice their craft. It gives them a tool to stir the pot of discontent and distract the people from the real problems that confront Costa Rica today. 

Turn your eyes, interests and intellect inward folks and help make this beautiful country even more wonderful. With respect to Costa Rica the happenings with Iraq have all of the significance of a flatulence in a wind storm. 

Thomas C. Payne Dalton
Georgia/Playa Matapalo
He says the problem is the U.S.

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Yet another diluted American view [that of D.G. Goodwin below]. I side right along side with Jo [Stuart]. This American seems to have the same and classic mentality that has gotten America in the world of trouble it's in, amidst an economy which is in shambles, a government that could care less about anything if it doesn't involve going to war and a president who can barely speak proper and grammatical English. 

I would suggest "Hooked on Phonics," or better speech writers. Seems they are all from rural trailer parks in Texas. I nearly fell over in my chair when I read the part "He (GWB), and the U.S.A. are the reason that Costa Rica does not need an army." That is the funniest thing I have ever heard. The REAL reason we don't need an army is because unlike the U.S., we Costa Rican's don't go around attacking countries at will, maiming and massacring innocent civilians and causing atrocities in ever corner of the world nor is our population so messed up that we need to protect ourselves. 

The U.S. and its people only have themselves to blame for the "High" Terrorist State they find themselves in. Their government has been corrupting nations, leaders and steam rolling over whatever is in their way for years. Remember Osama, Saddam and Noriega, to name a few, were all once very good allies for the U.S., until the U.S. was done using them for their interests and screwed them over like they have so many others. 

Open your eyes, in fact American's alike should open their eyes. Protests are occurring worldwide against U.S. policy and morals, or lack of them. Millions gathered in Rome over the weekend. Millions gathered all over the U.S., in your own country!!!! 

Your President, if he even deserves that title, is trying to attack a nation which has done NOTHING wrong, and, I'm sorry, but just like Wolf Blitzer said, we need a little more proof than a few phone conversations which could have been created by the U.S. government using two Iraqi's living in D.C. What proof does the world have that the U.S. is not lying the way they always do to start war? I'm willing to wager big bucks that anything Colin Powel has said is simply a cover up to provide false proof to get approval for war. 

You ASSUME there are trucks or trains with these weapons of mass destruction, yet the funny thing is, you have no pictures of them, you don't even know how many might exist and the U.N. inspectors have to this day found jack squat ! 

With your amazing intelligence services who can't even detect the terrorists that enter from Canada to the U.S., yet they have no credible info about what is ACTUALLY going on in Iraq, it's sickening. Yet the allegations and lies keep flowing, all in the name of OIL. 

Will you allow your President to do the exact same thing Hitler did in World War 2, attack nations without cause?? You Americans live in a horrible double standard: War is bad, and nations which start war need to be punished by the U.S, yet the U.S. is free to declare or provoke war whenever they want with whom they want. 

The only thing the U.S. is good for is war, poverty, crime and illiterate people, in the millions of course. Do you hear about mothers chopping up their children in Costa Rica or Canada? Do our news broadcasts feature 90% murder, rape, rampages, snipers, road rage, mutilations, child abuse and robbery, just to name a few constant U.S. headlines. 

You created this society you live in, you have no culture, no morals and then you have the audacity to think you are our savior here in Costa Rica? We did this on our own; your U.S. companies are here because they prefer to abuse Costa Ricans with LOW and SICKENING pay wages, not because you want to pump money into our economy. 

Without us, your companies would have to pay FAR more in wages alone in the U.S., and I wonder how well INTEL would be doing without us. A friend of mine just quit there because it's a sweat shop, where a trained and educated employee was paid a mere $500 a month. In the U.S., they would have closed that company down by now. 

We don't need American money or support. It's all dirty, and we don't need your ways to corrupt our society and culture the way it has everywhere else. Fix your own damn problems LOCALLY and then if there is time left over save the world, you guys have more problems domestically than the entire world has combined. 

Your people are starving on the streets, they’re drug addicted, because the U.S.A. is the largest worldwide consumer of illicit drugs. Your health system works only for the rich. The rest can worry about life and death, because the government won't. 

Instead of fixing your country you waste billions on a military which is only good for destruction, rape, killing and oppression, then when your done, you offer your services to rebuild what you destroyed at the expense of the people who built their entire lives to get where they are. You all think you are the highest beings, the best and a product of God, well here is your reality check, God does not support ANYTHING that represents the U.S. and its ways. 

You guys can continue for the rest of your lives with your arrogance, but your money is running out, and so is your time, every negative action or word uttered about other nations will only bring on more terrorist strikes and more death to innocent people, American or otherwise. If you are willing to compromise your young men in a war which the whole world is against, if you are willing to sacrifice your people domestically with worries like "When will they strike again....where will it be" then go for it, you have made your bed, now lay in it. 

Question, how many more people need to die before the U.S. backs down and stops pushing its weight where it shouldn't. Apparently you learnt nothing from Vietnam. It's time to think about your actions or take responsibility for escalating the violence against your nation and it's people, as your bringing this on yourselves, all of it. 

Who gave Saddam his weapons ? Who sells weapons to the Israelis to kill the Palestinians, then sells to the Palestinians to kill Israelis? WAKE UP. You created all this terror, no one else. you created Saddam. You funded Saddam and now you don't like him anymore and want his OIL. America the great ! YEAH RIGHT. America the weak. 

Dieter W. Doneit-Schmitz
San José
In response to Jo Stuart

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

In response to Jo Stuart’s column Feb. 14:

I also love your country, and mine, the U.S.A. I have been there maybe 25 times, I own real estate there and have many friends there. I have to take issue with you when you say we do not fund the social and education programs. Nothing could be further from the truth. We have funded social and education programs to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars, and where has it gotten us? 

Money does not solve problems, people do. If we could get rid of the social agenda in schools and get rid of the powerful Democratic/teachers unions, then maybe we could get the teachers to actually teach reading, writing and math, instead of "daddy has a boyfriend" or putting "condoms on bananas". Teach kids to read and write, and they can learn anything.

On you comment about GWB. Well after 8 years of a do-nothing (well he did do some things, but he didn't want anyone to know about) president, we now have a man of patience, wisdom and character. I have confidence that he will not send one person into harms way without knowing that it is 100 percent necessary. He, and the U.S.A. are the reason that Costa Rica does not need an army. 

Who do you think would come to the aid of Costa Rica, and Intel, Proctor & Gamble, Squibb, Merck, Abbot Labs, Sara Lee, Microsoft and all the other American companies located in Costa Rica if there was a problem there? 

You have an army, they wear the stars and strips, you just don't want to admit it. 

On the war, it may or may not happen. I hope it does not, but I am afraid there my be no alterative. We cannot trust that this mad man will comply, because we know he has not done so for the last 12 years, and at the same time he has killed, tortured, and experimented on his own people. If you trust that he will do the right thing, well then I think maybe you might have something growing in your backyard that you are putting in your pipe. 

This is reality and we have to live with it, we did not create him, but we will take care of him, for our sake, and for the sake of the people of Costa Rica and the world. 

D.G. Goodwin 
York, Pennsylvania

Our reporting on Venezuela criticized

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

A.M. Costa Rica readers are being exposed to journalistic tripe. The truth is:

1. There is no general strike in Venezuela. Rather, there has been a "lock-out" since December in which owners and managers of key businesses (oil, banks, etc.) have shut down. They are now unable to sustain the lockout as their smaller business members and banks face bankruptcy and no outside funding is yet forthcoming to support them.

2. As the rich attempt to oust Chávez, rightfully fearful of his intentions to move the country toward socioeconomic equality, the vast majority of Venezuelan voters continue to support him, and more importantly, so do the military.

3. Cháves has won half a dozen referendums and votes since assuming office, now that the poor have learned how to vote. And he will win the next one, because he is making some really savvy political decisions, like letting lack of money dictate the decisions of the rich, rather than governmental force.. That is why he appears confident.

4. The only hope for the rich is U.S. intervention, of the kind made famous in the Bay of Pigs affair, and perhaps more recently in the 2002 bungled coup in Venezuela. (By the way, does anyone know what is going on with Rogelio Pardo Maurer, ex-US Department of Defense undersecretary for our hemisphere?)

5. This is a class conflict of epic Marxist proportions, as have been all of the other Latin American conflicts in recent years. The actors in this drama are clearly identifiable along racial lines as well as by social class. The rich are white, the poor are indigenes, and the times they are a changin'.

6. The mass media have misrepresented the conflict to you, the Editor of A.M. Costa Rica, and you have done the same to your readers, unintentionally, I hope. If your position (as represented by the distortions in your reporting) is due to ignorance, you will spend some time learning the facts, and change your reporting habits, if not your position. If you are serving self interest, you will not.

Disclaimer: I am not a Socialist or any of the several other political factions. I am apolitical. I am just doing my Sergeant Friday bit here, and giving the facts as I know them through investigation.

John French 
Gaithersburg Md.
EDITOR’S NOTE: A.M. Costa Rica relies on wire services for stories about Venezuela and commentaries by readers.

He’s no fan of ICE

Dear A.M Costa Rica: 

I wrote a letter yesterday to the president in sheer frustration because of his stance on ICE. Generally his policies are mine also, but this is one opinion I cannot share, keeping ICE state run. ICE has become a miserable failure. And I would go as far as to say that it always has been, for I have never heard a positive word uttered about the company by a Tico, which must mean something. 

I think your article today [Jan. 30] about the strike said it well, the employees are afraid ICE will be privatized. So they went on a march. Well it's clear why they did. Because all of them know better than us common folk that ICE is a failure, cannot meet up to the standards of it's competition in other nations, is ignorant, and what scares them most is that they know they will all be out of work. Because when they do deregulate ICE the same thing will happen here as did in Canada when Bell Canada was deregulated: 67 percent of its clients will tell them where to go and how to get there.  They will go with the competition for cheaper prices, better service, and to finally get rid of these "Made in Costa Rica" endless wait times. When that happens we will see Sprint Logos on the Sabana Norte building. 

Is ICE really so arrogant to think they will be able to hold on forever in the shape that they are in? I have had personal problems with ICE Celular, ICE RACSA and ICE Home Phone Some extensive problems have not been fixed to date and I have given up. In business I have had problems with ICE Corporate Internet and ICE Business Telephone, for example. Yesterday at 8 a.m. my office telephone line mysteriously stopped working.  But I had made calls at 7.30 a.m. The bill is paid, the jack is fine, and so is the phone, yet ICE claims it's not their fault! If I had a dollar for every time they have told me that . . . 

They don't have the foggiest idea what's going on with their own services and the "customer service team" could have been hand-picked off the streets — no knowledge or education what so ever. Bottom line: ICE is useless, their management looks to me like a bunch of bimbos who have no clue how to keep themselves in line and have no interest in developing ICE into a world class provider. Instead, they prefer to provide sub-standard service because they know the likes of Abel Pacheco will not burst their bubble over. 

Well, if they think that's going to continue, they are wrong and should look at the world of telecommunications and see all the monopolies that have fallen over the years. Their time is fast approaching. Thank God. 

Dieter W. Doneit-Schmitz
San José


EDITOR’S NOTE: The following five letters are among those that arrived in reponse to a story by Saray Ramírez Vindas Jan. 24 in which she described stopping a theft on the street and being rewarded with a slap from one of the thieves.

Story spreads fast

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

The story by Saray Ramírez Vindas is spreading fast via the Lonely Planet.Com. Many U.S. citizens were moved by the action by this brave little Tica. To stand up against public crime is the only way to stop it. 

Someone has to make a stand. Recently such a crime occurred here in my own hometown USA. The perpetrators were chased and caught by outraged bystanders. Before the police arrived these would be thieves were soundly beaten and subdued. 

I salute Saray Ramírez Vindas for her bravery and wise choice to do something to stop crime in the streets in Costa Rica. It is sad that after she was assaulted the police made so little effort to charge and prosecute the perpetrators. I will be visiting CR in February and it's encouraging to know there are people like Saray Ramírez Vindas who might one day make a difference. Here's to you, Saray Ramírez Vindas .. 

R L Smith 
Kansas, USA
Hopes blonde was startled

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I just read her story about the backpack thieves and I want to commend her when probably no one will will. She showed great courage and acted for no other reason than what she did was right.

I'm planning a vacation in your beautiful country in the next few weeks and am sure everything will be good for me. I look forward to meeting the people who live there.

The blonde lady who did not say "Thank you:" I hope she was just too startled by what was going on, at any rate, I say "Thank you" for all of us.

Jack Akers 
Arkansas, U.S.
He won’t do business here

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

While I often take exception with the views expressed in your publication, I just want to say I found the article today by Ms. Vindas and the coverage of the news in Flamingo very informative. Ms. Vindas is to be applauded both for her article and her actions. 

I, for one, am glad to see the cops in Costa Rica (hopefully) becoming more diligent and purposeful. Of course I may be suffering from a misconception. And I hope all the estranjeros wanting to do business in Costa Rica read the Flamingo piece. I, for one, entertained the idea of operating a business in Costa Rica but have decided I am just going to retire and take it easy. Thank you. 

Dr. Thomas C. Payne 
Dalton, GA/Playa Matapalo 
Father would be proud

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I am writing to thank you on behalf of the Norte Americano blonde who would have been robbed had you not had the courage to speak up. I have two young daughters and that could just as well been my daughter. 

I know that if that had happened to my youngest daughter, she would probably have been too scared to even think of thanking you. You are very brave and I see from your picture that you are young enough to be my daughter. 

I know that your father would be very proud of you. Please keep your eyes open in the street as I think you are right about those street thugs wanting to get revenge for your bravery. 

Jim Henderson 
Nacogdoches, Texas
Fireman has been there

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I've not been to Costa Rica but have been reading news of Costa Rica on the Internet from Maryland. I think of relocating after being a fireman (retired now) in a pretty busy city further north here in the U.S. 

Anyway, read of Saray's assistance and her reward, a bloody slap in the face  — with no thank you for her spontaneous warning to the blonde backpacker. I've "been there," and I would like to thank Saray — and suggest she forget the indifferent blonde. Indifference, because of its abundance in some quarters, is a cheap commodity. Saray's help and her unwitting courage are priceless, truly, and I pray her family and friends keep her safe from threats. Thank you, Saray. 

Bob McCarthy
Maryland, U.S.A.


About the marina closure

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

My losses with the Brothers, or the debacles I've experienced attempting to operate a business or the lunacy of everyday illogical life in Costa Rica have never motivated me to write a periodical until I read your article regarding the closure of the marina at Flamingo.

Let me draw you a picture, Oh Great and Wise Government of Costa Rica. Tourism is the number one industry of this country. A fair percentage of those tourists either fish or dive or both, like myself. That is why the largest concentration of fishing charter and dive shop operators in your country are located there. These activities are certainly among the most expensive tourists participate in while in this country. 

Therefore, this marina must directly and indirectly generate a large portion of the revenue of the community and region. The amount of money generated by the hotels, restaurants, entertainment, transportation, fuel sales, fishing charter and diving operations, the airport in Liberia et all and all of the productive jobs, unlike most of the jobs governments create, must be less important to you than serving some probable campaign contributors interests. It is also very interesting that this closure closely coincides with the opening of other marinas in the country. 

The weak claim that the water quality is the motive is silly. The evidence presented by independent tests regarding the quality of the water must mean something! I would love to compare the results of the same tests conducted in your filthy government operated port of Limón!

I keep looking for logical reasons to continue to attempt to produce and invest in the future in this country, but almost daily the Pacheco government seems to be intent on proving that they are possibly the most short-sighted, inept and corrupt government in the Central America. This closure smacks of special interest motivation and appears to be a great example of the buddy system at work. It is totally contrary to the economic welfare of the region it serves. 

Who are the government going to tax when they drive out the most productive members of the community? Possibly the people who lose their jobs and income can come to thier government for assistance. The free enterprise system creates and serves the community unlike this government which depletes and seems to serve itself and it's special friends. 

What are you thinking, Mr. Pacheco, because as far as I can tell logic does not apply to many of your decisions. Possibly we are not the only people who belong to "the infinite number of fools" that you have refered to. What is more dangerious than a fool with power to selectivly enforce the laws? 

P.S. I have NO financial interests in the Flamingo area, just a love of the capitalist system and all that it creates and makes possible. 

M. Valencourt 


War situation neither black nor white

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I watch the letters and hear the opinions pro and con re: the oncoming war in Iraq and see that most have a strongly pro or strongly con stance. I wonder if such is realistic.

Bush could make political hay from this war? Of course, and he’d be a fool not to know it and take it into consideration.

The war is over Iraqi oil? This is a factor, of course. However, I doubt if the U.S. would end up with strong control over Iraqi oil.

Saddam has big war plans dangerous for the region? His past actions show this to be very true.

Iraq has weapons of mass destruction? A strong possibility at least in intent. And, if so, why doesn’t the U.S. make public what it knows which is supposedly motivating this war? I would suspect that, as in most espionage situations, if the U.S. demonstrates that it knows certain things, this will give away the source, shutting it off, and probably kill some brave agents. To gain what? Improved public relations? You’ve got to be kidding! And, yes, the U.N. inspectors are possibly infiltrated or at least spied on fairly effectively.

Are we losing certain freedoms in this war footing situation? I’d say so, and it worries me. But then again, in WWII all mail between the allied countries and between them and any other country was strongly censored. That ended when the war was over, so we must be careful if certain freedoms are not returned to normal after our war with terrorism.

Is the U.S., a perfect bastion of freedom and democracy? Not completely. It’s a human institution and is subject to doing stupid things. Everyone knows about the shameful U.S treatment of its citizens of Japanese extraction during WWII. What is little known is that there were a few hundred Japanese citizens of American extraction in Japan. 

They were not mistreated nor interned in concentration camps. Yes, they were watched rather more closely than the ordinary citizen but on the whole better treated by far. I believe that the only violent deaths among them were caused by an American attack on the ship evacuating some from an island near the end of the war.

In other words this situation is not all black or all white as many would have us believe.

Roy Lent 
He's against police sweeps

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I am just watching TV channel 7, the police force with many immigration agents descending on the Tourist Entertainment Center "EL PUEBLO" and for some odd reason, for a few seconds, I imagined being back in Paris, France, under Nazi occupation, and hiding from the SS seeking Jews, Gypsies, and assorted foreigners for deportation to concentration camps and death, horrible nightmarish thoughts!

Will no one stop this nonsense. . . just think how much money and effort into the deportation of a few prostitutes. Once more, Ramos, our valiant and decorated Minister of Security saved the country!  A hero who seems to have learned a lot from Nazi Germany!  Meantime shootings and robberies continue unabated!

P.S.  How about a wanted poster for Ramos!

John Manners
Santa Ana
EDITOR'S NOTE: We will run your letter, and we respect your opinion. But we would have to disagree with equating a police sweep for illegal immigrants with the criminal activities of Nazis.

How about private security guards

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I suppose my lack of understanding how things are done in Costa Rica is showing here but after reading the article I want to post a question. The police say they know this gang exists, they know they commit crimes, they know who the leader is (and at 21 obviously not a juvenile), and your article described him as psychotic. 

Armed with all this knowledge why are these miscreants allowed to roam the streets and venues of Quepos and Manuel Antonio at will? I went to the establishment mentioned in the article. In the 4-5 hours I was there not once did I see a patrol car, not once did I see a uniformed police officer. One member of the group I was with — a 12-year resident of Playa Matapalo — was accosted by a group of 10 or so kids on the beach, some weilding knives, demanding money. 

The miscreants took off when he roundly denounced them in Spanish and reinforcements arrived. Places like this obviously are profitable judging by the number of people I saw there. If the police cannot handle the problem then perhaps the business owner's need to hire private security forces. 

Dr. Thomas C. Payne
Dalton, Ga./Playa Matapalo
Thanks to those who helped kids

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I have no idea if you print "thank you stories" but if you do, I want to thank all of the sponsors who have helped us this year with the "PANI children in Heredia." This includes a special thanks to "The Santa Claus from the Bronx" who treated the 29 "kids" to his "2nd Annual Christmas Dream Party" which included lunch at McDonald's in Zapote and then a huge gift buying spree at Cemaco Plaza where most of the kids purchased bicycles. 

Add to this many other sponsors including one who bought tennis shoes and socks for all the kids and another sponsor in the US who pays the monthly expense for a special language teacher for our hard of hearing girl. 

I could go on & on but I just want to thank EVERYONE who has helped us in the year 2002. Happy New Year! 

Marjorie Slovachek & Ana Isabel Gamboa
Volunteers in Heredia. 
No fan of Jo responds to criticism

Dear A.M. Costa Rica

Ms. Hano: I freely admit the rhetoric was harsh and far too personal. It was a letter written in haste with a bad attitude--meant for the editor's eyes only. That's one Jay "Bushwack" Brodell for your info. He chose to run it, and I let him because I like a rousing discussion that dosen't sugarcoat the issues. My lovely wife, a Tica, and I also take strong exception towards people like Jo Stewart who talk down to and stereotype Tico people and their culture. This place has very serious social, political, and economic problems that seem to be flying right over Ms. Stewart's head. Costa Rica — where the living is good - yeah right Jo. Good for YOU. 

In truth, the majority of Ticos live in a Hobbsian nightmare where life is nasty, brutish, and short. Runaway inflation, confiscatory taxes, domestic violence, child exploitation by sex tourists, the muggings, the assassination of journalists, the homelessness, the drug traffic, the rampant corruption and graft, the pork and patronage as the politicians rob them blind, the return of endemic dengue fever and cholera on the coasts, the failing public health system, and the dicey potability of the public water supply— need I go on? Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Jo. We Gringos who can afford to live well here ought not to be shamelessly boasting about it to anybody. 

I also dislike the hypocrisy of people running down America — the world's reigning champion of freedom and justice — especially now when our armed forces are already in the field and soon to be battling for their lives to liberate Iraq. True, Costa Rica has no need of a standing army — not with a friend like America — so pleas just say thanks and let it go at that. Besides, the Ticos found out in the 1948 revolution that their generals could not always be trusted, so they disbanded their army altogether. Again, bully for them, I say. 

That said, if you can think of another way to have brought down the cave-dwelling Taliban, short of force, and hence freeing all those innocent little Afghani girls who were being herded daily into the marketplace and bought and sold like goats, please lets hear your point of view. But if you think Saddam, that pit viper in Bagdad, is willing to deal peacefully to resolve this crisis with good faith diplomacy, I think you have your head in sand, lady.

In closing, let me tell you what prompted my original letter. I had been reading some of Jo's previous columns to my wife to get her opinion. The ones that didn't make her burst out laughing in contempt left her with an icy stare on her face. I know that look. Like when she catches me drinking straight out of the milk carton, only it was much more intense. 

Finally she turns to me and says; "Tsk. Yet another Gringo(a) that has come down here to exploit us. Only Jo makes a virtue out of it by constantly patting us on the head and telling us what a good job we're doing pulling her oxcart". My wife, you just gotta love her.

Leo Leonowicz


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