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A U.S. citizen who has spent 10 years off and on in Costa Rica is creating a company to help other North Americans navigate the complex legal system.
He did this in part because he has been fighting to get back his son who was taken by his Costa Rican wife.
The man is Ralph Stumbo, who had been a resident of Heredia and operated several businesses including the Liberty Cafe there. The company is the North American Consul for Justice, which he is setting up as a Costa Rican corporation.
His premise is that Costa Rican family law "leans heavily towards radical feminism," and men need extra help and advice to even the situation, as a brochure said. Stumbo made a presentation to American Legion members Saturday.
His e-mail address suggests that he is a fighter: email@example.com, the little shark. He said he has been fighting throughout a rocky marriage that began in 1993 and ended just Thursday.
Stumbo estimates that he has spent close to $200,000 in both the United States and Costa Rica for a half-dozen lawyers, investigators and expenses associated with his marriage and, more recently, in attempts to get back his son, Marco Raffaeli Stumbo, 3 1/2.
Although he is a fluent Spanish-speaker, Stumbo’s story resembles that told by many unhappy North Americans. He married his wife, Flor María Gaitan Tejada, when she was 18 in 1993. He was 33. Since the birth of his son, his wife filed for divorce here, got a separation order and made at least 15 complaints to police here and in Florida where they lived for a time, claiming domestic violence. Stumbo denies behaving violently.
But the couple’s domestic problems might have remained not worthy of newspaper coverage if his wife had not taken the son from Naples, Florida, to Costa Rica Aug. 1. According to Florida court papers in Stumbo’s possession that act was contrary to a judge’s order and constitutes a crime. He has an original copy of a judicial order telling police to pick up his son for temporary custody of the court.
Last Thursday Stumbo said he was involved in a judicial hearing by telephone with Cynthia A. Ellis, a circuit court judge in Naples, and she granted him a divorce and custody of the son, who was born in Texas. His wife did not appear, either in person or by telephone, he said.
Stumbo’s encounters with the law, including time in a county jail in Naples, plus a string of problems here has prompted him to set up his company to help others avoid what happened to him. He claims most of his problems had been instigated by his wife or her friends.
The company offers "legal advice customized for the
A.M. Costa Rica photo
male visitor to Costa Rica," according to a pamphlet. "Don’t be fooled," it adds," con men, swindlers, local police and government officials take advantage of cultural and language barriers to manipulate new arrivals to Costa Rica.
Other companies with similar services exist, but Stumbo is unique in targeting just males as his potential customers.
Stumbo further claims that "kidnappings of North American children in Costa Rica have reached epidemic proportions, and the Costa Rican government sanctions this activity."
International parental kidnapping is a U.S. federal felony, and the
U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation reports that one of its most-wanted
individuals is Chere Lyn Tomayko who fled Texas in 1997 with her daughter,
Alexandria Camille Cyprian in violation of a court order. The FBI said
that Tamayko, a licensed nurse, may have fled to Costa Rica. Further information
and photos are at:
Several other police agencies report Costa Rica as a possible destination in parental child abductions.
A Texas man was arrested in an apartment in Moravia Dec. 20 on a similar charge because he is alleged to have taken his two daughters from Texas Oct. 19 when he was supposed to have them only for the weekend.
Stumbo said he was arrested in his Naples condo by police July 27 after his wife made another report of domestic violence. He said she did this to give her time to arrange her trip with the son to Costa Rica. He spent three days in jail and then managed to have the charges dismissed, in part because there was no evidence and his wife did not show up to testify, he said. He said he spent 28 days after his release from jail trying to locate his wife and finally found her here.
He said he has talked to the FBI about his case and expects to proceed further when a certified copy of the judge’s divorce decree reaches Costa Rica.
In the meantime, he is working full time on setting up his legal aid company, that includes an English-speaking legal team and accountants. "I have been provoked for over 10 years," he said
editor of A.M. Costa Rica
When it was all done, the hardest part of getting the marchamo for my little blue car was getting the sticky tag on the windshield correctly. That and coming up with all the money to get by the ecomarchamo.
The marchamo is the combined insurance, tax and vehicle registration certificate required in Costa Rica.
The ecomarchamo is the certificate showing that your car is not producing too much pollution. You need the eco certificate before you can pay the registration.
Several factors conspired against my little blue car. One is that Costa Rica has dramatically lowered the permissible amounts of harmful vehicle emissions. The second is that the blue car has an owner who drags his feet on routine maintenance and even getting the marchamos for 2002.
That is why the little blue car and foot-dragging owner were in line at Quiros y Compania about 10 a.m. Jan. 2. That was the day the Costa Rica Insurance Institute awarded late-paying drivers as a free day, even though the deadline was supposed to have been Jan. 1. Nearly 30 percent of the country’s vehicles had not been re-registered by that date.
Nearly all of them were in line at Quiros y Compania, it seemed. And the line snaked out into Avenida 10 in front of the San José Municipal Building.
As with all lines, the little blue car eventually got to the garage and the air-testing equipment. It did not take a sophisticated, computer-controlled device for the technician to realize the muffler was hanging by a thread.
"Go and come back," he said, and he nearly shook the muffler free. Of course I knew the muffler was a little suspect. After having braved the roads to Nosara, it was a wonder that the muffler, rusted as it was, still clung to the underside of the car.
So, while the little blue car was getting a muffler at Muflicentro San Martin, S.A., a tuneup also seemed appropriate. After all, these guys at Quiros seemed to be serious.
One muffler: 27,000 colons
One tuneup: 30,000 colons
Oil change: 8,500 colons
Other minor repairs: 7,000
But is is back to Quiros the following day, Friday, with a freshly tuned car sporting a new muffler. The line and the wait were minimal.
That’s when the dramatic reduction in permissible air pollution came
into play. Last year the little blue car passed the emissions test easily
with .50 percent carbon monoxide coming from the tailpipe. The permissible
limit then was 2 percent. This year the limit dropped to .30, and the little
blue car produced .54 percent, according to the tailpipe probe.
. . . the blue car has an owner who drags his feet on routine maintenance and even getting the marchamos for 2002.
After demanding to see the law, the test results and the results of a retest, the little blue owner scurried back to the mechanic. Other drivers were having problems, too. Drivers with pollution machines seemed to have waited until the last minute. Or they were back for another go at the computer-controlled emissions machine.
The problem could be either a faulty catalytic converter or dirty fuel injectors, said the beaming mechanic. And because the catalytic converter seemed to be the original one on the 1992 Hyundi Excel, that at least had to be changed.
One catalytic converter installed: 31,000 colons
Tax: 4,030 colons
And, of course, the car would handle better and
certainly pass the emissions test if the fuel injector nozzles were cleaned.
Cleaning injectors: 33,0000 colons
Getting them out to clean: 10,000
Tax: 5,590 colons
But there was no line at Quiros y Compania Saturday morning, and the little blue car produced a respectable .30 percent of carbon monoxide and passed the test with other emissions measurements similarly within limits.
One emissions test: 2,100 colons
Then it was off to Mas x Menos by bus (to avoid a ticket for not having a registered car) to obtain the marchamo.
Naturally, when the Servimas representative called up the little blue car’s data on the computer, the prior owner’s name still was listed. So it was off to a copy center to make duplicates of critical papers.
Photocopies: 70 colons
Back at Mas x Menos about 12 persons awaiting their turn at one of the two clerks. About half were seeking a vehicle marchamo. This time all was in order and the clerk collected the money:
Obligatory insurance: 10,433 colons
Other stuff 859 colons
More other stuff: 1,500 colons
Personal property tax: 14,694 colons.
The total payment at the Servimas booth was 27,486 colons. The other stuff categories includes payments for items hardly anyone knows for what. This includes 20 colons for, it appears, helping the little animals in the forest. I didn’t even know the little animals had a legislative lobby or used money for that matter.
Considering that there are 600,000 vehicles in Costa Rica, the little animals are getting 12 million colons (about $35,200).
The other category also includes a 3 percent penalty for late payment on the marchamo and a daily interest of 174 colons for late payment of the personal property tax.
There also could be amounts listed for unpaid traffic tickets.
The registration was reasonable when compared to the fee for a neighbor’s 1999 BMW sedan, which is about 295,105 colons (about $860). You still can check the fees on individual vehicles by looking up the license plate number at the Insurance Institute Web site: www.ins.co.cr.
The transit police soon will be taking vehicles out of service if their owners have not paid the marchamo. They can tell because part of the marchamo receipt is detachable and affixed to the windshield with a sticky piece of plastic that is provided.
So the total cost of keeping the car on the road, including needed repairs, fees and taxes was 195,201 colons ($573).
Oh yeah, the bus to Mas x Menos: 1.15 colons.
The political season moved up to full speed over the weekend as the major parties continued trying to reach voters. Yellow-shirted supporters of Otton Solís and his Citizen Action Party were at key intersections in the city Saturday distributing literature for their candidates.
Members of the United Social Christian Party were out distributing literature for their candidate, too. He is Abel Pacheco and party members said they were concentrating on 78 key, high traffic areas in the country.
The Party of National Liberation was distributing truckloads of green and white Liberationista flags appropriate for placing on automobiles and trucks. Meanwhile the party announced plans to draft former president Óscar Arias Sánchez to make visits on behalf of candidate Rolando Araya.
|The key event today is the debate
of the four major candidates. In addition to Araya, Solís and Pacheco,
Otto Guevara, the Libertarian Party candidate will take to the television
at 7 p.m.
The debate has a history of its own. Three minor candidates challenged the plan by Teletica, Channel 7, to include only the top four of the 13 candidates. They appealed to the Supreme Electoral Tribunal Nov. 15. The day after Christmas, the tribunal ordered the station to include the other candidates.
Teletica called the ruling a violation of journalistic autonomy and appealed the electoral ruling to Costa Rica’s Supreme Court, which basically decided to stay out of the fray.
So Channel 7 finally decided to hold two more debates, one Tuesday and one Wednesday, to accommodate the minor candidates. These, too, are at 7 p.m.
|Argentina to let
weaker peso float
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — This country has announced a 28.5 percent devaluation of its national currency, the peso, as part of an emergency economic recovery plan.
Economy Minister Jorge Remes Lenicov told reporters late Sunday the government will abandon the peso's one-to-one parity to the U.S. dollar in a bid to boost exports and create new jobs. A dollar will now be worth 1.4 pesos. However, it is not yet clear when the new rate will go into effect.
Remes said the government will let the peso float on the open market as soon as possible. He also said the government has decreed a two-day bank holiday that will begin today. Remes said Argentina plans to begin negotiations with the International Monetary Fund in February on restructuring the country's $141 billion foreign debt. Argentina stopped making payments on its foreign debt two weeks ago.
Sunday's devaluation announcement came hours after Congress granted President Eduardo Duhalde special powers to deal with a crippling four-year economic crisis.
That economic crisis and the country's 18 percent unemployment rate sparked street clashes last month that left 30 people dead and brought down two successive governments.
Chavez hails ‘revolution’
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services
CARACAS, Venezuela — Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is hailing the success of what he calls his "Bolivarian revolution" after his coalition narrowly retained its hold on the presidency of parliament Saturday.
Chavez says lawmakers from his leftist Fifth Republic Movement should carry on with the program for which they were elected and not bow to opposition pressure.
He spoke shortly after legislators returned National Assembly President William Lara to office by only 85 votes to 73. Many lawmakers broke ranks with the government and voted against Lara, even though the president's coalition has an overwhelming majority in the National Assembly.
Chavez supporters scuffled with opposition lawmakers after the vote, which followed a seven-hour debate in parliament.
Chavez won the presidency in 1999 after campaigning on a program of land redistribution and far-reaching anti-poverty measures. He has modeled himself after Simon Bolivar, Venezuela's founding father.
Hitch stops negotiations
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services
Two days of peace talks between Colombia's government and main leftist rebel group have deadlocked over the issue of military patrols around the guerrillas' main stronghold.
Government envoy Camilo Gomez made the announcement Friday following talks with negotiators from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as FARC. Gomez says he hopes the two sides will resume talks by Monday.
The meetings were held in the rebels' demilitarized zone in southern Colombia, which President Andres Pastrana ceded to them in 1998 to further the peace process.
The FARC is seeking a decreased military presence around the Switzerland-sized enclave. The government says the security measures are not negotiable.
The disagreement comes about two weeks before the rebels' control of the zone is set to expire. President Pastrana has said any decision to renew the enclave will depend on the outcome of the peace talks. Critics have accused FARC of using the zone to hold kidnap victims and engage in drug trafficking.
Since 1964, Colombia has been involved in a civil war that pits leftist
rebels against the government and right-wing paramilitary forces. At least
40,000 people have been killed in the past decade alone.
Shake rattle and rolling again
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
Another earthquake has rattled the floor of the Pacific Ocean some 40 miles (65 kms.) west southwest of Chinandega, Nicaragua. This one was measured at a 5.4 magnitude.
The quake took place about 2:49 p.m. Sunday, according to the U.S. Earthquake Information Center. A 5.0 magnitude quake took place in the same general area Thursday.
|Castro said not to
U.S. plans for Cuban prison
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services
HAVANA, Cuba — Two U.S. senators say Cuban President Fidel Castro will not oppose American plans to hold al-Qaida and Taleban prisoners captured in Afghanistan at the Guantanamo Bay U.S. naval base in Cuba.
The senators, Arlen Spector of Pennsylvania and Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, both Republicans, met with Castro for more than six hours late Thursday and relayed his comments to reporters Friday in Havana.
Before the American lawmakers' meeting with Castro, the Cuban Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying Cuba has no official opinion on the U.S. plans for Guantanamo, because Havana has no jurisdiction over the U.S. base in eastern Cuba.
The U.S. senators said Castro told them Cuba is ready to cooperate in the U.S.-led campaign against global terrorism. They also said the Cuban president is interested in working together with the United States on anti-drug efforts.
When the senators' talk with Castro turned to human rights and dissidents, they said there was what they described as a blunt and rather undiplomatic exchange about the need for democracy and free elections in Cuba.
Spector and Chafee say they met with Cuban dissidents shortly after they arrived in Havana on Wednesday.
Cuba and the United States do not have formal diplomatic relations. Washington has maintained an economic embargo against Cuba for the last 40 years. Cuba is on the State Department's list of countries that allegedly sponsor terrorism, while Havana has accused Washington of commiting terrorism against Cuba.
On Dec. 27, Washington announced its plan to move prisoners captured in Afghanistan to the Guantanamo base, which has a total area of more than 11,600 hectares at the southeastern tip of Cuba.
U.S. forces have occupied the area since the Spanish-American War in 1898, and the base was leased to the United States in perpetuity in 1903.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Defense Department says special military personnel have been sent to the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to set up the prison.
A Pentagon spokesman announced the deployment order Sunday. The spokesman said most of the soldiers heading for Guantanamo Bay are from Fort Hood, Texas. These will be joined by troops from Fort Campbell, Ky.; Camp LeJeune, N.C.; and the Norfolk Naval Air Station in Virginia.
Officials said the maximum security prison will initially hold about 100 al-Qaida and Taleban, with the first group expected to arrive within 10 days. The facility will be built to hold up to 2,000 prisoners.
The United States currently holds more than 250 suspected al-Qaida and
Taleban prisoners, many at a base in Afghanistan and aboard a ship in the
Gulf of Oman. No decision has been announced on whether to hold military
trials authorized by President Bush for captured foreign terrorists.
Jailed crime writer
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services
A U.S. crime writer has been released after spending five months in a Houston jail for contempt of court.
Vanessa Leggett refused to give a grand jury her notes about a 1997 high society murder in Texas. Ms. Leggett plans to write a book about the case and argued journalists have the right to withhold information that could compromise a source's promised confidentiality.
Prosecutors said the aspiring writer did not enjoy such protection because she had never published any work. A U.S. federal appeals court in August upheld the prosecutors' decision.
The case, which has caused concern among advocates of press freedom,
may not be over. Ms. Leggett was released because the grand jury has finished
its investigation into the murder. But a new probe could mean Ms. Leggett
will be again asked to hand over her notes.
Edward B. Winslow reported that he made an error in a column published Wednesday in which he said that President Bush resisted attempts to crack down on the utilization by Enron Corp. of 2,830 offshore subsidiaries in countries with lax banking-regulation laws. Winslow said that upon reexamination of his notes, the correct number of offshore subsidiaries was 847. The allegation is that Enron used these subsidiaries to mislead investors.
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