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These stories were published Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2003, in Vol. 3, No. 5
Jo Stuart
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Restaurant is only a short distance from the beach where the attacks took place.
A.M. Costa Rica/Garett Slone
Gang beat, bit and nearly drowned women
By Garett Sloane
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The two women who were attacked on Playa Manuel Antonio during the beginning hours of Dec. 22 suffered severe blows to their faces and bodies. One of the women was badly bitten and almost drowned.

Christina Mari Avolio, 24, and Catalina Segura Sossa, 29, friends from the state of Washington, were vacationing at the Hotel Arboleda in Manuel Antonio during the Christmas holiday season. After a Saturday night at Mar y Sombra restaurant the women were jumped upon as they walked on the beach only 50 yards from the popular bar, which was beginning to wind down for its 2 a.m. close.

The police report said Ms. Avolio and Ms. Segura were walking to find a place to use the bathroom when a gang of youths grabbed them and struck them with their fists. The women’s clothes were torn off at the beginning of the assault. Ms. Segura suffered the worst of the attack when she was almost drowned in the surf and bitten on her chest.

According to the police report, Ms. Avolio struggled against her attackers and scared the mauling group off with loud, alerting screams. The women were not raped, but in the case of Ms. Segura, some of the teenagers forcefully fondled her, the report said.

Frederico Ramirez Muñoz, owner of Mar y Sombra, was tending to his night’s receipts when the beaten women stumbled almost naked to his bar and restaurant carrying their ripped clothes. His daughter who is the same age as Ms. Avolio ran to the aid of the women and provided them with clothes from her home while they waited for police and medical attention.

Muñoz calls this attack the worst he has seen in 34 years of owning the restaurant. He said he has seen fights and petty thefts but nothing so vicious as this attack. He lamented that while this could mean trouble for tourism the most troubling aspect is the state of the youth of nearby Quepos. "What kind of citizens will they become," he said about those who assault people for kicks.

Muñoz said the attackers are known as the "Teletubies." The name of the gang is taken from a popular children’s television program. The gang members dress in different colored shirts reminiscent of the colors that characters in the television show wear.

The gang is not a secret organization on the streets of Quepos, which is only a short ride from Manuel Antonio. Most everyone knows them from police to taxi drivers to business leaders to residents. They have been terrorizing the streets for years, and usually target tourists or foreign residents.

Melinda Nelms, 26, from Colorado and currently employed at a hotel in Quepos, said she has been targeted a couple of times by members of the group. One time they surrounded her while she walked home at night and lifted her skirt. This incident and one where she said members tried to snatch her purse were not reported to police.

Denis Chinchilla Araya, nicknamed Neñe, is the commonly known leader of the gang. A 21-year-old taxi driver, whose brother was in the same year at school with Chinchilla, said the man inspires fear in most people in the community. He said Chinchilla, an adult, is known for fighting, and he has been seen headbutting trees in anger lending to his psychotic image.

The taxi driver, who did not want to be named because he fears the gang’s reprisal, said the youths are known to surf by day and raise hell at night. 

Chinchilla is named on the front page of the police reports as a suspect in the attacks. He and seven other youths between the ages of 15 and 18 were questioned and released by police while the investigation into charges of violation, attempted violation and robbery are investigated.

Violation and attempted violation are separate charges, the former indicating definite sexual assault and the latter an attempt at sexual assault, but they carry the same 12 to 18-year jail sentence. Violation in the Costa Rican justice system covers a broad array of sexual attacks and not just rape. Robbery can carry a possible four-year sentence, according to an official at the Judicial Investigating Organization.

The official said he is optimistic that justice will be carried out in this case, and his office is very troubled by the incident. He described the wounds the women suffered as horrifying bites and bruises that swelled on their faces and around their eyes. He said he was personally affected by the crime, and wanted the publicity to help ensure it would never happen again.

The official said one of the gang members was cooperating with officials by serving as a witness in the case, but the official also said the gang is known to threaten people who go against them. He hopes this witness is not deterred from helping. The official said if the witness is not scared, then a conviction is likely.

The official also said the fact the two women have left the country does not pose a problem for the investigation because the women already signed a deposition in front of a judge and identified attackers in a lineup.

Also, the fact that some of the perpetrators are minors does not mean they can not receive harsh penalties if convicted, the official said.

The attack poses a serious affront to the tourism industry that would rather Quepos and Manuel Antonio be seen as destinations of nature and serenity, not havens for predators of tourists. 

Russ Jensen, president of the Cámara de Comercio, Industria y Turismo de Aguirre, is heading efforts to raise awareness of the growing troubles with the youth in Quepos. On top of a stronger police presence he said he would like to work more with civic organizations and families to bring children positive activities and outlets like sports clubs.

Jensen said the tourist sector of Quepos and Manuel Antonio has been requesting assistance for years and he hopes this attack will move the community to finally act.

Our edition  suffers
from technical woes

Today’s edition of A.M. Costa Rica has fewer news stories because of technical problems with the Internet.

In addition, the inside pages have not been updated.  We hope to have the situation remedy by later this morning.

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Memorial Service will be Jan. 16 for David Kane
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Friends have selected Jan. 16 at 2 p.m. as an appropriate time to celebrate the life of David B. Kane.

He is the U.S. citizen killed by presumed intruders Saturday morning at his home in La Granja, San Pedro. He was to be cremated with his ashes being shipped to Florida where his father and other family members live.

Meanwhile, police have not made any arrests in the case, although they are known to be questioning many persons. The leading theory is that Kane died in a botched robbery instigated by someone he knew, trusted and let in the home.

Close friends of Kane are putting together the service which will be in the luxurious home he occupied. The structure is a kilometer south of the Banco Nacional and the San Pedro Outlet Mall. The service is seen as a non-denominational gathering at which his friends will share some remembrances. Kane was born Dec, 21, 1944, and spent about five years in Costa Rica.

The robber-murders filled up his four-wheel drive vehicle with a computer and appliances then fled. The burned-out vehicle was found in Alajuela.

David Kane

Two women die in domestic violence clashes
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two women died in two different domestic violence cases reported Tuesday.

In one case, a man pumped 12 bullets into the hapless victim. To do so, the man had to reload his pistol.

The second woman died after being beaten and having an electrical cord wrapped around her neck.

Both cases took place as the Asemblea Nacional is about to consider additional legislation to protect women.

The woman who was shot was identified by the last name of Valerio. She was 43 and lived in Pocora de Pococí. Her presumed killer, a man 

named Makenzie, turned the gun on himself and took his own life with one bullet, said officials.

Makenzie has a record of domestic violence and had been jailed for that offense in the past, said investigators. He faced what was the Costa Rican equivalent of a court protection order that forbade him to come near the woman.

He was waiting for her Tuesday when she left her house to go to work. Both died on the spot.

The second murder took place in Cañas where neighbors discovered a woman named López, 37, dead about 7 a.m. Tuesday, the apparent victim of a strangulation.  Investigators were seeking her husband, a 34-year-old mechanic, for questioning.

The two cases are sure to be referenced in assembly debate over the new legal measures. 

Phone company
praises its progress

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad took steps Tuesday night to assure residents that it was working to eliminate deficiencies in its cellular service.

The institute said it has made major improvements in just the last few days.

In the older TDMA system, the electrical and telephone monopoly said that it had increased available lines by some 103,000 and had improved its coverage with new bases and more modern antennas.

For the new GSM service that went on sale Dec. 11, the company said that 70 radio bases were in the process of being installed and all of them will be ready Jan. 31.

The company said that it activated 31,729 lines  during the last two weeks of December. Of these, 24,619 were the new GSM service

The company has been criticized by customers who could not get their new cellular telephones to work in areas where the signal cannot reach a radio base.

Free-trade talks
begin under cloud

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rican officials say they are about to begin the first round of negotiations to devise a Central American free trade treaty.

But in the United States, some officials are concerned that the whole concept of free trade might unravel before the Western Hemisphere has agreed to a pact. Such an agreement is planned for 2005, and the Central American treaty is seen as a warmup.

However, in Washington the Bush administration has been faced with suggestions that Brazil's new leftist president is ready to form an alliance with leaders from Venezuela and Cuba.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher rejected that idea Friday and said that such an alliance is unlikely because the three leaders have different interests. 

He said the United States has an excellent relationship with Brazil and that Brazil and Venezuela share democratic values. He said that in contrast, Cuba remains a stark exception to those values.

The election of Luis Inacio Lula da Silva, Brazil's first elected leftist president, has sparked concern in some circles that the South American nation may be less interested in a proposed hemisphere-wide free trade agreement. Brazil is an economic powerhouse.

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Louis Milanes

Luis Enrique Villalobos Camacho
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

This newspaper seeks the prompt return of two men who ran high-interest investment operations that have gone out of business.

Luis Enrique Villalobos Camacho, 62, was associated with Ofinter S.A., a money exchange house, and with his own private investment business that had about $1 billion in other people’s money on the books. 

Villalobos closed his business Oct. 14 and vanished.

Louis Milanes operated Savings Unlimited and several casinos in San José. He left the country with other members of his firm the weekend of Nov. 23. He may have as much as $260 million in his possession. Both operations catered to North Americans.

 Villalobos had about 6,300 customers. Milanes had about 2,400.

Villalobos and Milanes are the subjects of international arrest warrants.  Associates of both men have been jailed.

A.M. Costa Rica has posted a $500 reward for information leading to the detention of either man with the hopes that others will make similar pledges. The newspaper believes that investors only will see some of their money when the two men are in custody.

Milanes has few supporters in San José. On the other hand, as the letters frequently on this page show, Villalobos still has supporters who believe that he will reappear and settle his debts. They believe he is in hiding because of a predatory Costa Rican government.

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