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These stories were published Thursday, Jan. 9, 2003, in Vol. 3, No. 6
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A.M. Costa Rica/Garett Sloane
Father and son relax at home after midnight robbery and shooting
Bandits stick up Austrians and then shoot one
By Bryan Kay and Garett Sloane
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Robbers held up a father and son Tuesday at midnight while the pair were looking for a place to share a beer. One gunman shot the son above the ankle.

Mateos, 55, and Oliver Lill, 30, were walking past the Campero fast food restaurant in La Sabana when three men approached them and forced them to the ground by waving a knife and pistol. 

"Get on the ground. Get out your money," Oliver recalled the men saying as one assailant hit him over the head with a gun.

While on the ground and in the midst of their first violent affront while living in Costa Rica, the father and son said they were scared. They are from Austria, and Mateos has lived in Costa Rica for more than 20 years. He runs a business selling optical devices. Oliver has been visiting for more than 15 months.

"I gave them what they wanted and thought, ‘Just go. Just go.’" Oliver said.

The robbers got away with what Oliver described as a meager 2,000 colons ($5.25), $31 and credit cards. 

With the stick-up over, the robbers retreated to a get-away car. The victims started to get up when a 9-mm. bullet blew through Oliver’s leg, right above his ankle. The bullet passed through a bone and out the other side of his leg.

Oliver said he was surprised the shot came because the bandits had already gotten the money and the robbery appeared over. Oliver said he and his father were looking at each other thinking of what to do next when the gun fired. 

Oliver’s first words after being shot for the 

first time in his life were, "We have to call the credit card company." He obviously had not lost his train of thought, which was occupied with what to do next, and priorities had not changed. 

Oliver said he has managed hotels and knows how easy it would be for the thieves to tap into his credit account.

Mateos said he thought the shot was fired because the attackers were scared by someone in a gray Range Rover who saw the crime, and seemed to begin following the criminals. 

Mateos said he thinks the robbers intentionally wounded his son to cause the people in the Range Rover to help him. In this way the interested bystanders would not pursue the thieves.

Oliver said he is not interested in seeing the police nab the perpetrators or testifying against them. He said he fears the Costa Rican justice system will have these men right back on the streets with a mind to retaliate against him. He said this round he suffered was enough. 

Oliver is resting comfortably at home now, and he said the doctors say his leg will heal in two to three months. 

He placed a positive spin on the attack when he said it comes at a good time, because he just left his job at the Hotel Real Inter-Continental in Escazú and he planned on relaxing anyway before returning to Austria in mid- January. He said the attack may delay his departure a little. 

Mateos and Oliver currently live in Sabana Sur. A collector was robbed and shot at midday just before Christmas in the mainly residential area. And a series of other street crimes seem to be giving the once-quiet neighborhood a reputation for danger.

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Free trade negotiations will start here Jan. 27
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The United States says it will begin free trade negotiations with Central American nations Jan. 27 in San José.

U.S. trade officials said Wednesday the talks will be aimed at eliminating tariffs and other barriers for goods and services between the United States and Central America. 

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick says the proposed agreement would give Americans better access to affordable goods, and improve Central America's prospects for development.

The United States hopes to create a free trade zone spanning from Alaska to the southern tip of South America by 2005. Opponents say the free trade zone would crush local markets. 

The announcement also came from ministers from Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua.

Costa Rican Foreign Trade Minister Alberto Trejos lauded the launch of the negotiations as an "important moment" for Central America. Given the small size of the region's economies, he said, trade is the only way for those nations to transition from relative poverty toward development. He remarked that the pact should allow the region to encourage more sophisticated production activities to create jobs and increase investment.

Beyond launching the pact negotiations, Zoellick and the Central American ministers agreed to a special framework for immediately addressing sanitary and phytosanitary issues related to agricultural trade. According to a press release Wednesday, this special effort will focus on problems such as import bans on U.S. pork, poultry and dairy products.

Nine rounds of negotiations are planned, and five negotiating groups will address topics including: market access; investment and services; government procurement and intellectual property; labor and the environment; and institutional issues such as dispute settlement, according to the press release.

At a press conference Wednesday in Washington, Zoellick elaborated on the United States' interest in pursuing a free-trade agreement with the Central American nations.

Zoellick said that while trade between the United States and Central America is significant for both sides and already totals $20 billion per year, the Bush administration believes it can greatly increase. He indicated that the free trade pact will move the Central American nations even beyond the considerable market preferences they currently enjoy and toward a full trade partnership with the United States with reciprocal commitments.

The pact will also "strengthen democracy and promote prosperity in a region that has experienced too little of both." He added that the openness of the pact will promote the "indispensable building-blocks of a free society — such as respect for the rule of law, private property rights, competition and accountable institutions." Zoellick explained these values will, in turn, reinforce democratic institutions in Central America.

Moreover, the free trade negotiations are also providing an opportunity for the United States to "try and combine aid and trade in an innovative way to promote development," he said. The trade representative said that his office will work with the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Small Business Administration and others to "improve Central American capacity to negotiate the agreement, implement the agreement and connect it to the overall development strategy." Zoellick noted that the White House has allocated $47 million in trade capacity assistance in 2003, approximately a 75-percent increase over 2002.

Zoellick acknowledged that the Inter-American Development Bank, the Organization of American States, the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, the World Bank, the Central American Bank for Economic Integration, private foundations, businesses and non-governmental organizations will also contribute to trade capacity-building initiatives and assist in integrating trade and development efforts. 

"What we hope to try to do is transform traditional trade agreements into a broader project that will show the power of free trade to strengthen democracy and to promote prosperity," he said.

Zoellick argued that the pact will also help level the playing field for U.S. businesses as they compete in Central American nations already party to trade agreements with Canada, Mexico, Chile and others. 


 
U.S. citizen living here held on pimping allegation
By Saray Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A U.S. citizen, James Carls, 51, is facing a charge of aggravated pimping after two underage girls filed complaints against him Tuesday, according to a spokesperson for the Ministerio Publico.

Fuerza Pública officers took the man into custody at his Zapote residence after three girls attracted attention by shouting at his apartment from the street.

Carls was ordered held for three months pre-trial detention while the case is investigated. Investigators confiscated his computer and took as evidence a number of photos the girls had.

Police officers also took into custody a Costa Rican male at the same time. But Wednesday the 

spokesperson for the ministry said that no charges were being leveled against that man. There was no proof that he did anything criminal, said the spokesperson.

The pimping charge alleged that Carls negotiated prostitution transactions on behalf of women for third parties. Although prostitution is legal, procuring or pimping is not, a spokesperson for the Judicial Investigating Organization said Wednesday. The pimping of underage women is what brings the aggravated label.

A whole series of other charges could follow if investigators find that Carls engaged in sexual acts with underage women. If the photos were of underage women and were sent elsewhere by computer, there could be additional charges here and also against anyone who willingly accepted the  electronic images of underage women.


 
 
Minnesota choir here
for multiple shows

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The choir of the University of Minnesota at Duluth is spreading music in Costa Rica from Monteverde to San José. 

The group of students and professors arrived Monday at the Daniel Oduber International Airport in Liberia and are touring until Jan 16. The event was coordinated by the administration at the Centro Cultural Costarricense-Norteamericano. 

A press release from the cultural center said the choir’s tour is meant as a cultural exchange between the youth of the university and the citizens of Costa Rica. The release said the choir will have a chance to experience the natural beauty of Costa Rica as it performs in Monteverde and near Volcan Arenal. 

The University of Minnesota Choir was supposed to perform in Venezuela, but that destination was changed due to recent political turmoil there, according to the release.

The choir will perform religious, gospel and Latin American songs.

The first stop in the tour is the Iglesia de Santa Elena in Monteverde tonight at 6 p.m. The group will perform Saturday in La Fortuna de San Carlos at Templo Parroquial at 8 p.m. 

On Tuesday the choir is off to Cartago to perform at the Basílica de Nuestra Señora de los Angeles at 6 p.m. A San José show will be held at Hogar de Ancianos Carlos María Ulloa Wednesday at 10 a.m. All of these performances are free to the public.

On Jan. 16 at 7:30 p.m. the choir will perform a benefit concert at the Teatro Eugene O’Neill which will cost 2,000 colons ($5.26) per person. Proceeds of this event will go to the Asociación  Pro Niños con Enfermedades Progresivas. The theater is in the cultural center at Los Yoses.

Public school year
to include Saturday

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Pacheco administration has come up with an idea to provide public school students with the legally required 200 days of education next year and at the same time not spend any more than anticipated.

But the education unions and others are considering demonstrations against the plan that would have students go to school Saturday  mornings.

President Abel Pacheco and Ástrid Fischel, the minister of Educación Pública, planned to offer students only 175 days in order to create a shorter school year and pay less money to teachers and others who work at schools.

That plan was turned down late last year by the Sala IV, the constitutional court. Minister Fischel Wednesday noted that international treaties exist that mandate at least 200 days of education for children as a basic right.

Under the Saturday plan that still has to gain acceptance from the teachers union, the school year would start March 3 and run until the last Saturday in November. The government saves the salaries it would have paid teachers for the period Feb. 3, the usual starting date, and March 3.

Minister Fischel will be meeting with union representatives Monday.

The Saturday classes will only be half-day, she said. Students will not be required to wear their blue uniforms that day, and teachers who work Saturday will have Monday as a day off. The idea is to offer enrichment courses that day, she said.

Some schools in the country only have one teacher. No decision has been made yet on how to handle that situation.

For a period during the 1980s Costa Rican school children went to class on Saturdays.

Court says detention
of U.S. citizen is legal

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

RICHMOND, Va. — A U.S. federal appeals court has given the Bush administration a major victory, ruling that the War Powers Act can be used to jail U.S. citizens as enemy combatants without constitutional protections afforded in criminal proceedings. 

Wednesday's unanimous decision by the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals here came in the case of American-born citizen Yaser Esam Hamdi. 

Hamdi was captured in Afghanistan by U.S. soldiers in November, 2001, while he was fighting with the Taliban. The three judge appeals court wrote that Hamdi was squarely within the zone of active combat overseas when captured. 

Hamdi was sent to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, along with other war prisoners. After investigators discovered he is a U.S. citizen, Hamdi was transported last April to a military jail in Norfolk, Va.

The court ruled that battlefield captures in overseas wars are covered by the War Powers Act. It wrote that courts are not in a position to oversee the U.S. military when commanders decide who should be detained in an area of combat. 

U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft is hailing the court's ruling as an important victory for the president's ability to protect the American people. He says it also prevents enemy combatants from rejoining the enemy. Hamdi complained that authorities have not brought any charges against him and have denied him access to a lawyer even though he is a U.S. citizen being held on U.S. soil.

The appeals court decision overturns a lower court ruling that Hamdi has the right to an attorney and must hear any charges against him. Hamdi's lawyers could still appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. 

The 21-year-old Mr. Hamdi was born in Louisiana to Saudi parents, who later returned to Saudi Arabia with their son. 

Toledo seeks power
to battle terror

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

LIMA, Peru — Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo has asked Congress to grant him special powers to create new anti-terrorism laws. 

In a nationally televised address late Tuesday, Toledo said it is important to enact new laws so that those responsible for terror will not be free to shed blood again. 

Toledo's request comes days after a constitutional court struck down decrees passed in the early 1990s to fight rebel insurgencies.

The measures overturned included the use of secret military courts with masked judges and harsh sentences for terrorists and collaborators. The court ruling could open the way for new trials for many people. 

The military courts were initially popular with Peruvians who were tired of 10 years of civil war. However, international human rights groups criticized them for not allowing defendants a fair trial.  Former President Alberto Fujimori, now in exile in Japan, used the laws to imprison hundreds of leftist rebels.
 

British culture in film
subject of festival

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

British culture will be showcased at a film festival beginning Jan. 20 at the Sala Garbo theater.

Georgina Butler, British ambassador to Costa Rica, and Nicolas Baker of Sala Garbo are hosting the opening party of the British Film Festival. The party will begin at 9 p.m. that Monday following the showing of the first British film of the event "The Pillow Book" which will start at 6:45 p.m. The movie stars Ewan McGregor, popular for his work as young Obi Wan Kenobi in the most recent Star Wars movies.

Also showing at the festival will be "The Croupier" among other British productions. The festival offers different movie options from the U.S. film-saturated Costa Rican cinemas.

Tickets are available for 1,500 colons ($3.95) at the Sala Garbo box office at Calle 28 and Avenida 2. For more information on the festival contact Sala Garbo at 222-1034 or the British Embassy 258-2025. 

New York and Canada
seek Winter Olympics

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

New York State and the Canadian Province of Quebec are planning an historic joint effort to host Winter Olympic Games. New York Governor George Pataki announced Wednesday the United States first ever bi-national bid for the Games.

Pataki said the busy corridor between Montreal, Canada, and New York State's Adirondack Mountains provides an ideal venue for the Winter Olympics. 

"I am proud to announce that we are working with Premier Landry of Quebec to put together America's first ever bi-national olympic bid, the bid to have the games hosted jointly by the north country and by Quebec. It will be exciting opportunity," said Pataki.

The governor did not specify a particular Olympic year. But he said New York State and neighboring Canada have much to offer, including well-known winter sports resorts and olympic experience.

The Adirondack village resort of Lake Placid hosted the Winter Olympics in 1980 and 1932. The Summer Olympics were held in the Canadian city of Montreal in 1976. The two are about 200 kms. (120 miles) apart. 

Pataki made his announcement just two months after the U.S. Olympic Committee selected New York City over San Francisco to compete as the host city of the 2012 Summer Olympics. 

The next Winter Olympics will be held in Turin, Italy in 2006.

Venezuelan banks
join work stoppage

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

CARACAS, Venezuela — Bank workers in Venezuela say they will go on strike for two days to support a national, anti-government work stoppage.

A bank union official said Wednesday the labor action will begin today and is part of the effort to force President Hugo Chavez to resign or call early elections.

The union is calling for a complete two-day shutdown of banks, which are already operating on a limited schedule as a result of the general strike, now in its fifth week.

Pro and anti-government demonstrators gathered in the capital for rival rallies Wednesday. Reports say troops used tear gas to disperse Chavez supporters and prevent them from clashing with the opposition. Chavez opponents then canceled their planned march in the capital.

The general strike has especially affected the country's vital oil industry. The government says it plans to decentralize its state-run oil company to crack down on dissent. Energy Minister Rafael Ramirez said Tuesday the headquarters of Petroleos de Venezuela will be moved from Caracas and split between operations in the east and west.

Some 30,000 oil workers are on strike. President Hugo Chavez has already fired dissident oil executives. The government has not indicated what would happen to the striking workers' jobs. 

On Tuesday, thousands of Chavez opponents rallied outside the federal tax agency in Caracas, vowing to stop paying taxes as part of the anti-government efforts.

The opposition says Chavez's leftist-leaning policies are leading the country into economic ruin and Cuban-style communism.

The populist president says he is a champion of the poor and refuses to heed the opposition's demands. He has agreed to a referendum in August, halfway through his six-year term.
 

Devaluation was 11.4 percent

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The colon, Costa Rica’s currency, lost 11.4 percent of its value during the year 2002.

The exchange rate of the colon was fixed at 339.62 to the U.S. dollar on Dec. 31, 2001. The value on Dec. 31, 2002 was 378.39 to the U.S. dollar.

The colon is devalued daily by the Central bank as a way of avoiding price swings.
 
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Our reward offer is still $500

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.

More letters on Villalobos
Only when we agree 
that he’s a crook

Dear A.M. Costa Rica: 

I do not know you and vice versa, but I do not think LEV deserves a Wanted Award at this time. If and when we all can agree he is a crook, then by all means I am with you. Thanks for your re-consideration. 

Jerry Richmond 
Shasta, Calif. 

We are not journalists

Dear A.M. Costa Rica: 

You are not a journalist. This is the National Enquirer of Costa Rica. Go to school. Learn the difference between reporting and editorial content. 

Remove me from your mailing list. 

I will not buy from any advertisers that I have seen in your rag previously. I will not read your "National Enquirer" any longer. 

Joe Sullivan
Costa Rica 


He’s convicted without a trial

Dear A.M. Costa Rica: 

It seems as IF the 600 or so who have filed a claim along with your newspaper have convicted the Brothers without a trial. It also seems as if your newspaper lives off of hits on your web site. 

You have set yourself up as Judge and Jury. Seems to me that you would want to represent the sides of all concerned. What happens if the 6,000 or so hits go away. I have even quit reading your paper because I find you don't report the news but only your thoughts and nothing more. A REWARD LIKE THE OLD WEST. WHY NOT DEAD OR ALIVE. 

W. Lane Tarleton 

This is white-collar crime

Dear A.M. Costa Rica: 

Although I am not a Brothers investor I do agree with the viewpoint that only in cases where there is massive and justifiable public support, for example in criminal cases involving extreme child abuse and involving a known and fugitive perpetrator, a news publication can take responsibility and do everything within its power to help bring this person to justice in order to prevent more damage being done. 

Even in these cases extreme, caution is in place remembering what happened in Britain when a newspaper published addresses and photographs of alleged child-abusers resulting in devastation of lives of innocent people. 

Not giving in to pressure to withdraw your reward does show steadfastness and even courage but each and every time the reward article is published it should be a journalistic decision made at that particular time and taking into consideration all known facts up to that moment. 

That is what is expected of a serious and unbiased news publication. Anything less than that is propaganda and ultimately will make readers question the truth of all articles presented by A.M. Costa Rica. At the end of the day, we are talking alleged white-collar crime, and you might better serve the general public and journalism by being more creative and professional in trying to find ways of getting questions answered by EV and LM instead of using your otherwise excellent publication as a Post Office Bulletin Board. 

Mike de Heer 
Monteverde 

Reward should be $5 million

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

If you are really serious about the REWARD you did put up on Enrique Villalobos head, then please do it according to the "VALUE" of the Man and not insulting him, with that Chicken Shit amount, reflecting only the seize of your operation and the small shoes you are walking in...or is it a bike, what keeps you moving around?? but not the seize of operation he was running. 

So, if you believe that Enrique is a Crook, who defrauded at least $300.000.000  to $ 500.000.000 in real money and cheated some 6.000 plus investors, O.K, I accept that opinion of yours. But at least make your REWARD a 1 percent, which would be a REWARD of $ 3 - $5.000.000. Then you are talking and I will take you serious! 

Otherwise, you are just a joke and in this tragic matter a very bad joke, not being helpful nor funny only disgusting!

Take your "Change" of the "Table" and leave and recognize the stupid mistake you did by putting up that "Reward" of yours and apologize to Enrique, that would show some greatness and would be rewarded by many of your valuable readers! 

If you have still any doubt about it, so let your READERS take a fair VOTE and let's see, what the public opinion votes for. That's at least what you owe the man, who made you known and grow beyond expectations! 

Thank you for your time 

Wolfgang Hilbich 
Hotel La Amistad 


We manufacture news

Dear A.M. Costa Rica: 

What are you going to do to keep your publication afloat when you can no longer manufacture facts regarding the Villalobos brothers? I remember a "news" article in which you cited the enormous number of hits your publication received with regard to this issue. I'll bet the number was greater than the 600 you mentioned this morning. 

Terry S. Warth, Ph.D. 


He is sick of Enrique’s photo

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Once again I am asking you to remove the photograph of Enrique Villalobos. I'm getting sick of looking at it every day. If you choose to keep publishing it, then I must say good bye to amcostarica. 

Chuck Carroll 
Guadalajara, Mexico 


We are in bad taste

Dear A.M. Costa Rica: 

Please remove your "Wild West" add re: Senor Villalobos, It is incorrect as well as being in EXTREMELY poor taste. 

Baxter Lemmond 
Atorney at Law 


An obscene suggestion

Dear A.M. Costa Rica: 

$500. That's all you have? Go get fucked. Why waste people's time. They didn’t think that Mr. Villalobos was a criminal when they got there interest payment in cash every month. They probably made there money & more. It's a game. If you don't have the money to play it, then don't play, & cry latter. 

Alice Solis 

 

Crooked CEOs hiding here?

Dear A.M. Costa Rica: 

It has come to my attention, at the other side of the world, that you are offering a reward of $500 US for the Villalobos brothers and their partners. (Editor’s note: The reward is for Enrique Villalobos and Louis Milanes.)

As an investor in the company, this seems like a very small reward for such a big time "personality"! Also I find it strange that he should be treated like a criminal when over the last 25 years he has paid incredible dividends to his investors, and was actively reorganising the interest payment formula when he had to flee the authorities. 

It strikes me that in CR, like in many Latin countries, you are guilty until proven innocent, unless of course you have "friends" in very high places for 4 years. 

With investments in many countries around the globe, I am always reading about the huge financial scandals amongst the "great" big business guys, darlings of government: Lloyds of London, BCCI, Maxwell, Bond, Nabisco, Enron followed oh so quickly by World Com (and 5th Amendment farces) to site but a few. I doubt any of them have behaved as well as our Don Enrique. 

I am by nature a pessimist, but I believe, that once left alone to carry on "business as usual," most investors will eventually get their money working for them again. That is when "the Powers That Be" in the CR government fully admit they have NO case against him. 

If I were Don Enrique I would have second thoughts about returning any interest to those who have sought to prosecute, but being a religious man, he will probably forgive them! 

Regarding your advertisement, you could place similar ones all over your pages offering $500 reward for CEO's of most western and far eastern companies whose shares have fallen dramatically over the last year. Millions of stock market investors who thought they had invested in "blue chip" companies and believed their grey faced and suited financial advisers, are effected, including myself. 

But in this scenario, the high and mighty get paid off zillions for having stuffed up! IF investors prosecuting DE are stupid enough to realise that high return is 50% high risk and the very way DE operated was unusual, they would have been better dealing with the men in grey suites in fancy offices or over the impersonal web, and now be wondering what their paper certificates are worth, and who knows may even still have to pay tax ! 

So instead of posting a WANTED AD for DE, how about following World Report and the Business News on CNN and catching up daily with the real big guys, your circulation could triple as some could even be hiding in CR ! 

Flora Whittall 
He was an annual tourist

Dear A.M. Costa Rica: 

As an investor with Villalobus, I have had the pleasure of visiting Costa Rico the past years and enjoying the country and people. I spend about $10,000 each year in Costa Rico from the money I received from my investments. 

I must now curtail my trips without the benefit of interest on my investment. Many of my investor friends also are not going to be visiting Costa Rico. Who suffers? The government and Ticos. The goverment is in financial trouble and inflation on the rise. Surely the government will be worse off financially with a drop in tourism revenue. 

I am but one investor, but if you multiply my expenditures by 6,500 other investors who will no longer travel to Costa Rico, you can see the loss of revenue for the country. Why is Pacheco ignoring this loss of revenue? Has A.M. Costa Rico published any facts on this loss of revenue? 

Maybe you should inform the government and people of Costa Rico of this revenue problem. Let Villalobos operate as he has for 24 years and tourism will again pick up. I was prepared to buy a house in San José but until the situation improves, I will be content to spend my money in Florida. 

The goverments Napoleanic laws are scary, guilty until proven innocent. This is frightening. Please inform all tourists entering the country of your laws so they will not get in trouble or receive a traffic citation and go to jail." 

I have many Tico friends, and they complain of higher costs of purchased goods and high borrowing costs. 

 I will resume my visits when the government allows the innocent "brothers" to resume their legitimate business. 

David Galloway 
Cocoa Beach, Fla. 

He relies on Villalobos’ word

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

As a longtime investor (over 10 years) with Mr. Villalobos, I continue to rely on his integrity and word. Your various articles have demonstrated a built-in bias — the selling of more newspapers? In the United States, we have become accustomed to the principle that a man is innocent until proven guilty and should not be incarcerated without probable cause. 

David Flowers 
Whitaker, Chalk, 
Swindle & Sawyer, LLP 

Investor asks for his money 

Dear A.M. Costa Rica: 

An open letter to Luis Enrique Villalobos: 

On behalf of the investors, Enrique, return our money after the 30-day period that your policy requires. 

I've discussed your dilemma with a lawyer. You must appear in court in order to clear your name. By disbursing our assets, you demonstrate that you have not defrauded clients. This act of good faith will go a long way in exonerating you of the charges.

When you respond to my plea with all due haste, we, the aggrieved, will respond dutifully, as character references on your behalf, when you appear in chambers. You have my word. 

In the event that you don't respond to my request, you demonstrate to the authorities that you have no regard for those folks who entrusted their money into your care;  people that you promised that their investments would always be secure;  not to worry. 

Concerning outstanding dividends, the investors will split the difference with you. In the event there's $1B under management, your share would amount to approximately, $120M. A tidy sum. 

You made commitments to thousands. The Lord expects you to act in a responsible manner. Return to the many that which is theirs. If you don't, why would a man well versed in the Bible expect God to assist a deceiver, whose action or lack of action caused chaos to those who accepted his promises; who invoked the name of the Lord during business transactions? Letters signed off, "-In Christ's name." 

In Christ's name Enrique, return the money. God will protect you in your endeavor to conclude this matter with honor. Once this is accomplished, I, and I'd imagine most of your friends, will provide you with an investment to work with and we can continue our association into perpetuity, the Lord willing. Your will be done, of course. 

 Matthew: 7-12 "..-All that you wish men to do to you, even so do you also to them." 

Matthew: 14:28-31 Enrique was afraid and as he began to sink he cried out saying.. '-Lord save me!' Jesus at once stretched forth his hand and took hold of Enrique, "-Oh thou of little faith. Why didst thou doubt?" 

Tenth Commandment; "-Thou shall not covet thy neighbor's goods." 

Bill McWade 
New Jersey


He would give them 30 days

Dear A.M. Costa Rica: 

Having read and heard a lot of stories and letters from "investors" in the Brothers and/or Cubans operations, including many tales of woe from retirees, I find it difficult to resist pointing out a couple things that make it difficult for me to have sympathy for those who lost money. 

First, for example, the minimum investment in the Brothers was $10,000, and many of the "investors" invested far more (the median investment seems to be around $100,000.). Since the vast majority of people inhabiting this planet live from paycheck to paycheck, it is clear that ALL of the "investors" have, at least in the past, been FORTUNATE to accumulate sufficient wealth to become "investors." 

What happened to the wealth invested with Villalobos is no different than what happens to the rent money paid (or food money, etc.) paid out by the average human: it was spent. It is only the details of the money's journey which differ. 

If the "investors" now find themselves situated much as the masses, should I be more concerned over their mental health or over the mental health of the majority of people who not only NEVER had any investment capital but are likely to NEVER have such capital in the future. For the latter class of people existence is far more bleak than it has been for the "investors" regardless of the self-pity the former class may be temporarily wallowing in. 

I don't want to accuse all the "investors" of this because certainly some have moved on with their lives. 

Second, for those who had "invested" $100,000. with Villalobos or Milanes for any period of time, and were receiving their $3,000. per month and living in Costa Rica, particularly those who were SPENDING that monthly sum to maintain their "lifestyle." The cost of living in CR is, despite complaints I have heard, rather low. If it weren't then the Ticos couldn't survive. 

But therein lies the problem for certain "investors." They don't want to live like Ticos. "Is a Tico lifestyle so bad?" I ask myself. After all, the Ticos seem, for the most part, to be healthy and capable of experiencing life's joys. Since most Ticos can survive on $400 per month, how ecstatic would a Tico be to have $2,600. a month in disposable income? And since the retirees generally have Social Security to live on as a backup (which typically pays a minimum of around $800. a month), should I waste some of my supply of pity on those who have mainly lost only the ability to pick up prostitutes at the Del Rey or poor girls in their neighborhood? 

Perhaps the Dali Lama with his compassion for everything might have something for these "poor guys" but "por mi" the answer is no. 

The only questions we all REALLY want to know the answers to are "are Villalobos and Milanes crooks?" Very few people KNOW the answers to those questions, though BELIEFS abound. Pehaps they are paying back select investors from their hiding places and shafting those whom they don't see as threats. Again, just another possibility in the realm of possibilities. 

We do know that they enticed people by offering to pay interest in such a way as to allow or even encourage the "investors" to commit tax fraud, not something that indicates the honesty some have accused them of. We also have seen indications that they, whether inadvertent or not, have laundered money. Then there is the secrecy issue... 

If I were an investor I would publish my name, contact info, and bank routing and account numbers with a polite request for either Villalobos or Milanes to deposit my money in that account. Those guys are clever enough to make the deposit without being traced, and can verify the information is correct with a simple phone call. 

They could open a dummy corporation, fresh bank account, make the transfers to all those they owe money to within in a few hours, then return to anonimity. After the request is ignored for 30 days I would make the assumption that the money has been spent, much like the rent. 

Carlos Ochoa
Cartago


 We are held responsible

Dear A.M. Costa Rica: 

Mr. Luis Enrique Villalobos is NOT a criminal. He is wanted for questioning by a government (certain individuals??) whose sole intention is to unjustly imprison him in order to seize by forfeiture the money lent to him by innocent investors. Your continued effort to discredit Mr. V. is also negatively affecting his investors, including myself. Therefore I will hold you and your publication partly responsible for the mockery of justice should his downfall result. Thanks for your consideration. 

Marian Blake Rowe 

Our reward inflames people

Dear A.M. Costa Rica: 

What's your mal adjustment! Your stupid reward is only inflaming a large portion of your English-speaking audience. The only chance the poor guy has is to avoid the Costa Rican "Justice " that wants to confiscate OUR assets. 

Vokoun 
(no other identification)

 
 
 
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