The title says it all. We are reproducing, with due authorization, an article published on May 6, 2008 by the newspaper A. M. Costa Rica showing very significant gaps between the version of the General Prosecutor and that of federal officials in Miami, which had not been reported before by any Costa Rican newspaper. Here is also a link to the original newspiece published by A. M. Costa Rica.
By Elise Sonray
and the A.M. Costa Rica staff
MIAMI, Florida — Significant differences have emerged between the account of Costa Rica's fiscal general and those of U.S. federal officials here.
The fiscal general, Francisco Dall'Anese, said last week he was treated so badly when he tried to enter the United States April 23 that he immediately booked a return flight and did not keep an appointment with U.S. prosecutors. “They treated me worse than a criminal” said Dall'Anese in a letter he wrote to the Costa Rican minister of foreign affairs. “They never respected my rights. They knew exactly who they were detaining.”
Dall'Anese returned to Costa Rica without completing his mission to continue the investigation of bribery allegations against former president Miguel Ángel Rodriguez and elevated his treatment to the level of an international incident.
A spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security said that Dall'Anese was processed upon arrival and admitted to the United States, which took a total of 31 minutes. During his processing U.S. Customs and Border Protection became aware of his position in Costa Rica and did everything possible to expedite our process, the spokesman added.
Dall'Anese, who does not speak English, said he was detained for at least an hour and 30 minutes and deprived of his liberty. The U.S. spokesman, Zachary Mann, declined to discuss specifically why Dall'Anese was brought in for more questioning and said that officials do not discuss any travelers processing in order to protect the privacy of those persons, and for national security and law enforcement reasons as well.
But Mann defended the immigration agency and said that "Our officers were/are very professional and attempt to treat all arriving passengers in a professional and courteous manner."
Dall'Anese was escorted into another room with others who were there for further questioning, said Mann. This is not at all uncommon, he added.
There are 20,000 to 25,000 visitors at the Miami International Airport on any given day, said Diane Loftus, another agency official. Each day about 1,000 of those are brought in for further questioning as part of the process. 99 percent of those 1,000 are admitted into the United States, she said.
“We're looking for that less than 1 percent bad guy,” said Mann.
As for the reasons behind the session of further questioning for Dall'Anese or anyone else, that is a private security matter, said Mann, but there are no ulterior motives in these cases.
“We treat everyone equally,” he said.
A statement released by the U.S. Embassy in Costa Rica, said Dall'Anese's questioning had nothing to do with the bribery case of Christian Sapizian, the Alcatel telecom company and former president Rodriguez or any cases Dall'Anese might have been working on.
“We can assure the foreign ministry and the Government of Costa Rica that Mr. Dall'Anese in no way was chosen for this security procedure for personal or professional reasons."
The U.S. Embassy in Costa Rica has made apologies to Dall'Anese, the government and the people of Costa Rica, presumably without getting the full story from Homeland Security. The embassy statement said that the incident was analyzed by the highest ranking of the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security, "and they have taken corrective action."
Mann, the main Miami spokesperson for Homeland Security, said he was unaware of any “corrective actions.”
Officials at the Miami airport said the job of border patrol is not easy but the goal is to make the country safer. “Anyone in the world would appreciate that fact,” said Mann.
Here are some differences between the Dall'Anese account, what the U.S. spokesman said and what a reporter learned while touring the Miami reception facility:
Dall'Anese: He was taken to another room where someone was handcuffed and obvious under custody.
Spokesman: Dall'Anese might have seen someone in handcuffs being escorted through the room from a detention area.
Reporter observation: There is a detention area in airport separate rooms adjacent to where Dall'Anese waited.
Dall'Anese: A Spanish-speaking immigration officer told him that there was confusion between him and another Costa Rican with a similar name.
Spokesmen: Officials did not know who Dall'Anese was when he arrived. The processing was to confirm his identity. There are occasions where passenger processing may require an extra review to confirm one's identity and/or resolve any other issues due to many possible factors.
Dall'Anese: Once he said he wanted to return to Costa Rica due to the insult to his country, an immigration agent immediately put an entry seal on his passport and escorted him to the American Airlines ticket counter.
In his letter, Dall'Anese said after he told an immigration officer he wanted to return to Costa Rica, he was set free but accompanied by the officer in order to confirm that he really was buying a return ticket.
“So I told officer Vega that we would save time if he would give back my documents and we would go to the airline so I could immediately return to Costa Rica under the offense they were doing to my homeland," said Dall'Anese.
"Then came the biggest surprise of all: After a few seconds they returned my documents, stamped my entry to the United States, let me go, but accompanied me to the offices of American Airlines to be sure of our return to Costa Rica the following morning.”
Spokesman: Dall'Anese did not know where the ticket counter was and asked to be shown. He was not escorted. He was free to enter the United States.
Dall'Anese: He said he suspects he was put into a hotel room without international calling on purpose.
“Curiously the habitation 540, in which I stayed, in the Miami airport hotel, did not have international access, despite my complaints. I was never offered this service,” he added
Spokesman: After Dall'Anese was released he was basically on his own. “I don't know where he stayed,” said Mann.
Dall'Anese: He suggested that he was being picked on as the result of orders from higher U.S. officials and that an immigration agent said he was under orders not to discuss the matter. Dall'Anese said he may have spent as much as an hour talking with this agent, identified by the last name of Vega.
Reporter: There was no access to John Vega at the Miami arrival center.
Spokesman: "Bottom line we did our job, professionally, and once we knew who he was we expedited the process and he was admitted into the U.S.A. End of story."
After Dall'Anese returned to Costa Rica he appeared before magistrates of the Corte Suprema de Justicia. Most seemed to accept his version of the incident without question.
The magistrates forwarded a complaint to the foreign ministry to be sent to the United States and also complained about an unrelated case involving three judges who passed through New York.