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These stories were published Friday, Jan. 17, 2003, in Vol. 3, No. 12
Jo Stuart
About us
Ah. . 
Ah. . 
Ah. . 
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The tickle begins in the back of the throat and in two days, the symptoms include a full-fledged cough. Let’s give a welcome to the change-of-season sniffles.

With Central Valley temperatures dipped down to 16 degrees (about 62 degrees Fahrenheit), Ticos and Gringos alike share the post holiday trials. Is there anyone in the valley without a runny nose?

The basic Tico home is ill-equipped for withstanding chilly weather, and most homes are short on blankets. The typical wind during this season, called "summer" by Ticos, doesn’t help.  Wednesday night the weather bureau registered 40-km. winds, some 24 mph. Such gusts blow right through the average home.

On the side of the good and the just are the widely available fruits. Mangos have been on the street for three weeks. Water apples are numerous. Pineapples are ever-present. All are a great source of vitamin C.

The real danger is if the sniffles turn into something more serious. Pneumonia is a possibility in some circumstances. Drug stores are stocked with products to remove symptoms. Many actually will give a vitamin or medicinal injection for a modest cost.

Of course, what everyone needs is another two weeks at the warm beach.

Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart

Too Much News Can Be Perplexing

With my ribs badly bruised, I’m not getting around much. Generally what I have been doing is resting on my sofa, which means I have been watching a lot of television. Mostly I watch news and C-Span. The news is pretty bad, but the good news about the bad news is that I am in no danger of laughing. Laughing really hurts my ribs. Even the bad news, however, is very confusing. Fortunately, looking perplexed does not hurt my ribs. 

It is well known now that the U.S. government is threatening war with Saddam Hussein because he may have weapons of mass destruction — from now on known as WOMAD. (The Dialect Society has chosen weapons of mass destruction as the phrase of the year, so I am giving it an acronym). One of our reasons for declaring war on Saddam is that he hates us and has even threatened us. In her book, "Understanding Arabs," Margaret Nydell says that in the Arab world a threat is as good as a done deed. That is, having made the threat it is not necessary to do anything further. Not aware of this, the administration thinks that threats and hostility are two good causes for going to war. 

Another reason is that Saddam has killed thousands of his own people with poison gas. Pictures (obviously, just recently developed) of women and children killed some 14 years ago have verified this. This atrocity was done during the war with Iran. Only once did I hear that the Kurds had turned coat to fight on the side of Iran. Today that is called being a traitor, and it is dealt with harshly. However, Saddam must learn the rules: If you’re going to kill innocent people, only kill the innocents of the enemy, and then by WOMAD dropped from a plane, not with gas.

I am also a little confused about the new style of diplomacy. In my dictionary it is defined as conducting of relationships between nations, as in building up trade or making treaties. A diplomat is tactful and skilled in dealing with people. The Bush administration has said it is dealing with North Korea diplomatically. We’ll talk but only about North Korea’s need to dismantle its WOMAD. But there will be no discussion and no dialogue. It looks like we’ve moved from Wild West to Mexican standoff style of diplomacy. 

Some newscasts report negotiations between the U.S. and North Korea had been progressing nicely. Then last October Bush confronted North Korea about its WOMAD. North Korea readily admitted what it was doing, stating that Bush’s calling them a member of the Axis of Evil the previous year, and threatening to disarm them was, in their mind, a threat to their existence so they are preparing for a possible war. 

Nonsense, a White House spokesman assured viewers, Bush’s rhetoric had nothing to do with North Koreas latest action. Obviously the North Korean leaders don’t know that when an American leader from Texas makes bold and threatening statements (i.e. "I want Bin Laden dead or alive." "You are either with us or against us.") he doesn’t really mean it. Lighten up.

In other news reports, the administration has said that North Korea has been working on their bomb for several years. And, in fact, it was the fault of the appeasement policy of the Clinton Administration that is to blame for today’s situation. It is not surprising, after all, Bill Clinton inherited a budding economy from George Senior and left an emerging recession for George W., Bill Clinton botched the job of getting rid of Saddam Hussein after the Gulf War (remember the Wag the Dog accusations?) and so we have the problem with that dangerous dictator today. If Clinton had not tried so vigorously to find a peaceful solution in Israel, we would not be having so many suicide bombers today.

If Clinton had gone after Bin Laden a little more enthusiastically (like they’re doing today), Bin Laden wouldn’t be around and chances are there would not have been a 9-11. So far no one has mentioned how Clinton is to blame for the alarming increase in crime in the past two years. I am sure we will soon find out. I am being told that a majority of the American people are for war with Iraq, The latest poll I’ve read said that 83 percent of the people were in favor of attacking Iraq if the U.N. okayed it and we had allies. Without these conditions, the number drops to 34 percent. This same poll showed that 83 percent of those people thought there were Iraqis among the 9-11 terrorists. 

There is an online poll by TIME asking who is the greatest threat to world peace, North Korea, Iraq or the United States (how did we get in there?) The majority responded, The United States. Bummer. 

More Jo Stuart HERE!

A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas
The blue flag flies along with the Costa Rican banner, a reminder that communities displaying the blue flag are environmentally conscious. Awards for 2002 were made Thursday. See the story HERE!

Villalobos case
Abel Pacheco denies
government to blame

By Saray Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Abel Pacheco does not believe that the Costa Rican government should take the blame for the demise of the Villalobos investment operation. 

Pacheco, when asked about the situation by a reporter, said that he could not understand what kind of people would trust all their money to a person they do not know. He called investors in the failed operation "innocent" and "naive."

"If everybody who was robbed on the street blamed the government and the president every time that bad things happened, they would not find the parties that are really responsible," said the president, speaking in Spanish.

More letters BELOW!

Some investors who lost their money blame the government for raiding the Mall San Pedro operation of Luis Enrique Villalobos Camacho July 4. Although the raid was prompted by a request for financial information from Canadian officials, a lot of investors believe that Costa Rica took advantage of the situation and seized more material than it needed to satisfy the Canadians.

Villalobos continued to pay his 2.8 to 3 percent per month interest to his investors until he closed his office Oct. 14, leaving all or most of them without their September interest payments. He has not been seen publicly since.

Not many people blame the Costa Rican government for the demise of Savings Unlimited, a similar operation run by Louis Milanes. He left the country after closing his operation in Edificio Colón the weekend of Nov. 22. However, a few Savings Unlimited investors have suggested that Milanes might have had money invested with Villalobos.

Pacheco and the government have been vilified in letters to A.M. Costa Rica and on Internet discussion groups.

The president only spoke for a few seconds about the case Thursday. He was at Casa Presidencial for a ceremony about environmental responsibility.

Pacheco did say that the Superintendencia General de Entidades Financieras had a responsibility in the case. That lending watchdog group has issued a report which has been viewed as a defense of why it allowed Villalobos to operate unregulated for many years.

But Pacheco also noted that no laws prevent people from simply borrowing money. Villalobos did that, and the Superintendencia said that to do so does not violate any law in Costa Rica. 

It also said it lacked the resources and power to find out what Villalobos did with the money and turned the matter over to prosecutors.

Pacheco was not about to back down from the famous Bible comment that infuriated investors when it was published in the Wall Street Journal a week before Christmas. 

In fact, he repeated his view:

"The Bible says the number of fools is infinite."

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Americas to foster collectivism against terrorism
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The third regular session of the Inter-American Committee Against Terrorism, which will take place Jan. 22 through 24 in El Salvador, aims to expand the Western Hemisphere's collective approach to fighting terrorism in a number of concrete ways, according to three regional officials.

The committee, a technical body of the Organization of American States, "is part of the global war on terrorism that many people don't know about, but it's a very important element in the global effort," said Roger Noriega, U.S. ambassador to the organization. 

As "an instrument for applying the rule of law to criminal groups that seek to do our people harm," the committee "has really transformed itself into a ground-breaking body and is a model for the rest of the world to follow," he added.

While the United States currently serves as chairman of the committee, the chairmanship is expected to pass soon to El Salvador, the country hosting the upcoming conference. 

That conference, said Noriega, will facilitate information-sharing among organization member states in order to tighten border controls, to disrupt the trafficking of weapons, drugs and people, and to prevent money laundering.

Margarita Escobar, El Salvador's ambassador to the organization, emphasized that the countries of the hemisphere "are very much aware of — and very much united in efforts to deter — those [terrorist] threats to our democracies and to our social and economic development." 

The entire region recognizes that it is "vital to combat terrorism," she said, because of "its links to drug trafficking, money laundering, and other forms of organized crime," among other reasons.

One of the great advantages of the committee is that it allows the organization member states "to respond [to terrorism] within our own constitutional frameworks," Escobar pointed out. The committee aims to help each country, and the region as a whole, "to respond coherently to terrorist threats and to protect our people and institutions," she said.

Stressing inter-American solidarity in the war on terror, she told reporters that "we need to understand that terrorism is the antithesis of 

democracy; the terrorists' methods are not those of the civilized world."

Whatever the ideological differences between regional governments, "I believe that the [organization] member states are committed to a fruitful dialogue" at the conference, Escobar said. She also praised "the work that the United States has done to combat terrorism and to coordinate hemispheric efforts" against a common enemy.

Noriega, questioned about the likelihood of problems resulting from ideological disputes between the United States and other members, said he shares Escobar's view that the region will maintain a close alliance against terrorism.

The true danger to the hemisphere, he argued, "is terrorism," not factional disagreements. "We do have a very strong commitment to work together in this cause," he said. "This is the position of all the countries — to work together to defend our democracies. And we are very motivated to cooperate here."

Noriega advised reporters that the committee will focus on such issues as "making sure that governments are applying appropriate, rigorous standards on producing travel documents" and that "they're cooperating in a practical way on the movement of commerce across our borders," for instance. 

The committee will examine "the practical ways each of these countries goes about applying rule of law," helping government officials keep track of "who's doing business in their countries, who's moving across borders, what sort of financial transactions are going on, and [whether they are] structured in a way that is apparently designed to evade detection," he said. "And these are technical, complicated things."

The current committee budget for 2003 is roughly $400,000, Noriega estimated, but he said "that doesn't count the personnel that are assigned full-time from a couple of countries, including the United States, and there will be significant additional contributions announced."

Finally, he warned his audience that "political commitment is essential if you're going to have people adopt the right policies and then have these governments put the financial resources behind them." Only political will, he concluded, will ensure that each member state is held accountable for meeting its obligations under the committee on terrorism.

Foreign service seeks future diplomats

By Garett Sloane
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

If you are out of work and want to make some extra cash and get some expenses paid while you live abroad then Uncle Sam is hiring.  The foreign service exam is taking place April 12, and the Department of State is recruiting vigorously.

In a press release Wednesday the department issued this solicitation: “The U.S. Department of State continues to seek service-minded U.S. citizens interested in an international career from all walks of life who reflect the skills and diversity of the nation.”

The release promises a far more glamorous life than one would expect from a government office job. The department is offering positions where potential statesmen may organize a state visit by the vice president and oversee multi-million dollar budgets.

Of course the process is a long and challenging one, of exams and interviews and security background checks, but help can be found at www.careers.state.gov.

If a candidate passes the fine tooth scrutiny and wins a job, then the starting salary is between $36,900 to $66,500. 

Also, the potential to one day become ambassador to paradisiacal Costa Rica will be a step nearer.

The registration date for people overseas to take the exam is March 5, and overseas test sites will be arranged.

Chavez visits U.N.:
discusses power transfer

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

NEW YORK CITY — At the United Nations Thursday, Venezuela's embattled president, Hugo Chavez, said he would step down if he is defeated in a referendum. But, Chavez says he is against holding the referendum Feb. 2, as the opposition is demanding.

Chavez says the Feb. 2 date does not leave the time necessary to work out the technical aspects of a national referendum on his controversial presidency, including constitutional changes.

During a news conference, following a meeting with Kofi Annan, U.N. secretary general, Chavez said that, according to the Venezuelan constitution, new elections cannot be held before mid-August, halfway through his term. But he said if he lost the election, he would willingly step down. 

The Venezuelan leader said he is not aware of a compromise proposal by Cesar Gavira, head of the Organization of American States, to hold new elections in May or June.

Chavez blamed subversives for the growing opposition to his government and the oil strike that is crippling the nation. "What we are confronting is a subversive movement, which has unhesitatingly used tools of terrorism to try to impose its views against the national constitution," he said.

Chavez, who survived a coup attempt last April, cited the nation's four major private television stations and what he called right-wing business coalition as part of the subversive plan. He said he is willing to work with what he called democratic opposition in order to make the referendum on his term constitutional.

Suspect arrested
in Medillin bombing

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

MEDELLIN, Colombia — Authorities say they have arrested one man in connection with a car bomb attack near the attorney general's office here that left four people dead and 32 injured. 

Officials say the 88-pound device exploded in a nearby parking lot Thursday, blowing out windows and damaging nearby buildings and cars. City hospitals were put on emergency alert. 

Investigators have blamed the attack on the rebel Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, the nation's largest guerrilla group. 

They also say the guerrillas may have been retaliating for the mass arrests here earlier this week of suspected rebel militias. 

The city has a history of extreme violence. In the 1980s and 1990s, the now-defunct Medellin cartel killed hundreds of Colombians in a bid to control narcotics smuggling. 

For the past 38 years, the country has been mired in a civil war that pits leftist rebels, rightist paramilitaries and the government against each other. The conflict has left at least 40,000 people dead in the past decade alone.

Colombia gets money
to spur economy

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The International Monetary Fund has approved a $2.1 billion loan for Colombia to support its economic program over the next two years. 

The approval Wednesday allows for the immediate release of $264 million as standby credit. 

In announcing the loan, Horst Koehler, managing director and chairman, praised Colombia's government for making necessary economic reforms. 

The country's congress recently approved legislation that included tax, pension and labor market reforms and measures to improve government efficiency. 

Argentina defaults one debt, agrees on another

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — The Inter-American Development Bank is still waiting on a $680 million payment that was due Wednesday, as an agreement was reached on the re-financing of the country’s debt with the International Monetary Fund.

In a statement, Argentine officials said the country could not meet the deadline because of technical issues involved with operations of its central bank. 

Roberto Lavagna, economy minister, said the payment delay will be brief and resolved within the framework of broader refinancing agreements with multilateral organizations. 

The Inter-American Development said it was suspending loans to Argentina until the country got up to date on its repayments.

The country also has reached agreement with the International Monetary Fund on refinancing billions of dollars in short-term debt. 

Lavagna signed a letter of intent Thursday on debt rescheduling with the fund. The fund's executive board is to review the agreement next week. 

The accord clears the way for the country to reschedule $6.6 billion it owes to the fund between now and August. Officials say part of the debt is to be paid off within three to five years. 

The officials also say that the deal will enable it to make a $1 billion payment to the fund due on Friday. 

The South American nation is struggling to emerge from its worst-ever financial crisis. The country has been in severe recession for nearly five years and defaulted on $141 billion in public debt. 

Just over a year ago, the fund withheld critical aid to the country, saying the government had failed to control spending. The fund has conditioned future aid on the development of a viable economic plan.

Native Americans
track drugs on border

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A Native American unit of the U.S. Customs Service that works to track down illegal drug smuggling has produced its most recent success in seizing large amounts of marijuana along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The Customs Service said the efforts of the Native American trackers, nicknamed "Shadow Wolves," led to eight separate seizures since Jan. 10, 2003, of 1,600 kilos of marijuana with an estimated street value of $3.6 million. The largest of these seizures occurred when 720 kilos of abandoned marijuana was recovered near the Arizona town of Vamori.

The 21 agents of the Shadow Wolves, who are officially designated Customs Patrol officers, also worked with local police officers to make two other large marijuana seizures on the Tohono O'odham Nation Indian reservation, where the Native American group is based a few kilometers west of the city of Tucson.

The Shadow Wolves were founded in 1972 under a program created by the U.S. Congress to track drug smugglers transporting contraband — mostly marijuana — on Indian reservation lands. The Shadow Wolves say their name refers to the way the group hunts, like a wolf pack. If one wolf finds prey, it will call in the rest of the pack.

Beyond their efforts to track down drug smuggling along the U.S. border, the Shadow Wolves have traveled to Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia to train customs officials, border guards, and national police in those countries to detect and follow the tracks of people who may be transporting components of weapons of mass destruction.

The Shadow Wolves teach skills they learned on reservations searching for game or tracking their grandparents' free-roaming cattle and horses.

These drug seizures by the Shadow Wolves are among a number of recent successes the Customs Service has scored intercepting narcotics and currency all along the U.S. southern border.

The Customs Service reported that its inspectors in Corpus Christi, Texas, seized over 55 kilos of cocaine from a motor tanker arriving from Venezuela Monday. That same day, the agency announced that Customs inspectors had seized $1.7 million in narcotics and nearly $380,000 in undeclared U.S. currency at ports of entry in south Texas extending from the cities of Laredo to Brownsville. 

Earlier, on Jan. 10, Customs seized nearly $1 million in cocaine at the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge on the U.S.-Mexico border.

In addition, the agency announced Jan. 7 that Customs aircraft had tracked a drug-smuggling boat off the Bahamas, leading to the seizure of 3,190 pounds of marijuana.

Monday is holiday
for Martin Luther King

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

This Monday is Martin Luther King Jr. Day. U.S. federal buildings and offices will be closed in honor of the civil rights leader born on Jan. 15, 1929. King’s assasination and the murders of other political leaders of the time helped characterize the generation of the 60s.

As a non-violent preacher King marched hand-in-hand with the black and white sympathizers of a cause that challenged an unjust social system. He organized the Montgomery bus strike which helped defeat the South’s segregationist policies.

In 1963 he led a 250,000 person gathering and delivered the "I Have a Dream" speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. He was a profound and mesmorizing speaker with a building cadence. The final words of his most remembered speech were: 

"When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of that old Negro spiritual, ‘Free at last! Free at last! Thank God almighty, we are free at last!’"

In 1964 King won the Nobel Peace Prize for his commitment to non-violent resistance and equality.

Leading a workers’ strike in Memphis in 1968 King was shot. The last strike he led was not just a cause for African-Americans, but a fight for all. 

In Washington D.C. a memorial for King is being constructed in the monument lined mall in front of the Capitol. His will be the first monument for an African-American at the prestigious site, and only the second to honor a person other than a former president. 

The U.S. Embassy in Costa Rica will be closed in celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Police brave flames
to rescue old folks

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Officials from the Academia Nacional de Policía braved flames and brought three people from a burning home early Thursday, including a 94-year-old woman.

A spokesman said that Rafael Jiménez Eduarte, one of the police officials, spotted and smelled smoke early in the morning and entered the building. There he saw one of the two women living there. She told him that others were in the building.

Another officer, Francisco Núñez Conejo, and an administrative employee, Yibrán Coronado Arias, of the national academy soon arrived. They entered the building, too, even though the air was not breathable, said the spokesman. The academy is but 50 yards from the structure that was destroyed.

The officers had to force Rosalía Gómez, 94, to leave the building to get her to the sidewalk. In all, the three men got three of the occupants from the building.

When firemen arrived a short time later, they managed to find and rescue the fourth. Everyone rescued was over the age of 60.

Jiménez had to be hospitalized, as was one of the occupants. Flory Hernández Gómez, 61, operates a beauty shop at the location, but all the equipment, all the clothes and all the furniture were lost in the flames, said officials. The beauty shop is the family’s sole support.

They said persons who want to make donations could call 226-3880 and 359-5070,

British celebrities
face child sex charges

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

British celebrities are reaching the end of an extremely testing week, with three of their cohorts being arrested for crimes against children.

First it was Pete Townshend, lead guitarist with the Who. He was arrested last weekend in connection with Operation Ore, the U.S.-fronted inquiry into child pornography on the Internet.

Then on Wednesday both Matthew Kelly, the presenter of T.V. show "Stars in their Eyes," and Tam Paton, of lesser fame as manager of 1970s Scottish band the Bay City Rollers, were arrested in relation to an inquiry into sexual abuse on young boys.

Though it appears Kelly has been released without charge, he is on bail.

Townshend has a little more immediate explaining to do. His credit card was logged with a U.S. child porn Web site. He rebuts the suggestions that he is a pedophile, claiming he was "researching."

Peace groups gather

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A coalition of anti-war groups will gather at the downtown Plaza de la Cultura Saturday at 4 p.m. to demonstrate against an anticipated war between the United States and Iraq. The demonstration is expected to last at least until 6 p.m.

Another cycle death

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A man on a motorcycle died beneath the wheels of a bus Thursday morning on Calle 12 between avenidas 2 and 4, said the Judicial Investigating Organization. They identified him as Ronald Sancho Castro, 28.

Know this family?

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A Salvadorian man contacted Costa Rican officials Thursday asking them to locate a familiy near Golfito, Edgar Saul Sandoval and wife Petrona, to tell him that his mother Paz Sandoval was gravely ill in El Salvador. The man seeking the family is Miguel Angel Rubio Sandoval at comer@sal.gbm.net
Professional Directory
A.M. Costa Rica's professional directory is where business people who wish to reach the English-speaking community may invite responses. If you are interested in being represented here, please contact the editor.


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New appointee will manage environmental actions
By Saray Ramírez Vindas
and the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Abel Pacheco said Thursday his administration will name an environmental czar as a way of fulfilling its commitment to the environment.

The czar, actually called the environmental comptroller or contralor ambiental in Spanish will 
Pacheco hoists flag
hold dominion over all environmental work by government agencies.

Pacheco made the announcement at the end of his speech which he gave as host of a reception in the garden of Casa Presidential for the 49 communities that won the blue flag award for environmental protection in the garden of Casa Presidential.

Pacheco said that the czar would be rigorous and demanding in the environmental field.

Later, his aides said that a provision exists in a 1996 law to create the post but that the functions now were being handled by an employee in the Ministerio de Abiente y Energía. The minister of that agency, Carlos Manuel Rodríguez said that he would open a competition to fill the post from someone within the ecological movement.

Pacheco also said that his administration would move ahead with two initiatives Monday in the Asemblea Nacional. The first is the series of environmental guarantees that Pacheco and his administration want inserted into the Costa Rican Constitution. Basically, the guarantees say that when the environment is pitted against some other need in court or in an administrative proceeding, the environment comes first.

Pacheco also said he would push a law for the protection of water resources.

The ceremony marked the seventh year for the awards of the blue flag for ecology. A number of representatives for the honored communities were in the audience.

The environment is closely linked to tourism because Costa Rica promotes itself as a place to enjoy natural surroundings. The tone of the administration with respect to tourism was put forth by Rúben Pacheco, minister of the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo. He told the gathering that Costa Rica was interested in quality tourists and not just in quantity.

His statement jives with recent administration tax proposals and police actions.  The Pacheco administration has been pushing the environment and taking action against other reasons tourists come to Costa Rica. 

Pacheco noted in his speech that the first public action he took as president was protection of the environment. Just a few days after his inauguration he ordered a halt to open pit mining and tighter rules on logging. 

More recent actions have targeted the non-environmental side of tourism. The casino industry has been hit with taxes on gambling tables and slot machines. A new tax has been levied on alcohol. And immigration police are staging weekly raids on tourist hangouts where visiting men meet local women.

A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas
Roberto Smikle of the Comite Manejo Cahuita receives that community’s seventh straight blue flag for the environment from Carlos Manuel Rodríguez, minister of Ambiente y Energía.

Some winners are new

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Six beach communities in the Province of Puntarenas, three in Guanacaste and two in Limón made the blue flag list for the first time this year for their work last year. Four communities that are not on the coast also were honored, all for the first time Wednesday.

The rating system has a lot to do with water quality, water treatment, garbage handling, education and security. There is a formal evaluation. 

The new additions from Puntarenas are: Mal País, Quitzales, Doña Ana, Barú and La Colonia in the Parque Nacional Marino Ballena.

The new Guanacaste beaches are: Manzanillo, Panamá and Pelada de Nosara.

In Limón the new additions are Negra de Puerto Viejo and Gandoca in the Reserva Nacional de Vida Silvestre Gandoca-Manzanillo.

The four communities not on the coast but awarded blue flags are San Roque de Grecia, San Gerardo de Rivas in Pérez Zeledón, San Marco de Tarrazú and La Fortuna de San Carlos, which is near Arenal Volcano.

The remaining Puntarenas beaches on the blue flag list are: Blanca, Manuel Antonio, Espadilla Sur, Puerto Escondido, Gemelas, Isla Tortuga, Limoncito, Bejuco, Tulemar, Zancudo, Mantas, Agujas, Ballenas, Esterillos Oeste and Punta Uvita.

The repeating Guancaste beaches are Conchal, Bahía Junquillal, Ocotal, Grande, Tamarindo, Hermosa, Pan de Azúcar, Monte del Barco, Flamingo, Sámara, Carrillo, Junquillal, Punta Islita and Punta El Madero.

The repeating beaches in the Province of Limón are Puerto Vargas and Blanca, both in the Parque Nacional Cahuita, Chiquita, Punta Uva and Cocles. 

Many of the beaches have been on the list for the full seven years.

A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas
Reprentatives of the Province of Limón 
display the flags their communities have earned.

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 the Villalobos case
Writer responds
to his critic

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

In response to Ellen Beattie [Jan. 16]. Let me say first off that, yes, I have been to Costa Rica on numerous occasions. I met a Tico family several years ago while vacationing in Costa Rica. Yes VACATIONING!!. I invested $20,000 in a business with 2 Tico families. They opened a souvenir shop in Puntarenas when the new dock opened for cruise ships. 

I was a partner with these two families. I did not have these people as servants as many of your investor friends did. I gave them a sense of pride and ownership. I gave them a chance to make something of their lives. Your investors hired Ticos to be cooks, gardeners, dishwashers, etc. etc. and probably paid them squat, and they probably worked 70 hours a week.

The business went well for a couple of years, and then the ships stopped coming to Puntarenas and forced the business to close. I lost $20,000 and the Tico families lost what they had invested, a lesser amount, but none the less, that was all they had. The difference being that myself or my Tico friends did not get a handful of cash every month. We did it the old-fashioned way. We set up an honest business, PAID TAXES, and gave it our best shot. We were not in control of what took place with the dock and the end of the cruise ships.

Your ignorant friends gave money to a man who absconded with it, and you say that they would do it again. Well you and your greedy friends deserve to lose the money. You give an example that if an account had been opened in 2002 and no interested paid because of the shutdown, that is a capital loss. Well you go and tell the IRS that you LOANED some one $50,000 and they did not pay you or pay you interest and you are taking that as a capitol loss. Please tell me the number of THAT tax code!

You tell me I don't make enough money to be aware of tax loopholes. I make enough money so that I don't have to look for tax loopholes to get out of paying my taxes. My wife and I have a very successful business and have for over 20 years. I have money because I am not stupid enough to think that I can make a quick dishonest buck.

My wife and I can travel anywhere in the world anytime we wish and have done so and will continue to do so because I HAVE THE MONEY TO DO IT !! Villalobos is traveling with all of your friends’ money.

And how do honest taxpayers suffer from your stupid investor's greed? Well how about on the front page of A.M. Costa Rica today where the woman says that she hopes she will not have to go on welfare? 

Well if she does, and many more of the investors do, guess who is paying for these GREEDY, STUPID, SELFISH people? 

THE HONEST TAXPAYER that's who. That's ME.

If I am an ignorant fool as you have stated, why is it that I still have plenty of money to do whatever I want and all of your SMART investor friends and killing themselves and selling everything they have and heading back to the States so that I can support them on WELFARE. Real smart investors that put all their eggs in one basket, and you say they would do it again. 

Well they are not going to have a chance to do it again because they were not smart enough and blew all the money they had. Tough! I suggest that YOU get a life Ellen Beattie, and a SHRINK for you and your dumb investor friends 

Robert W. DePretis
Wants firm reopened

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Seems like the government's action against the Brothers has created two more victims. I feel sorry for Mann and Flett [Jan. 16]. If the government would only drop the case and allow The Brothers to reopen long enough to pay off investors, these people would not suffer. 

Thomas Jefferson was a great patriot in U.S. history. He said (paraphrased) that government was the enemy of the people. Costa Rica is a good example. 

Russell Ledbetter
We need J school

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

While the only reason I open this web page is to see what misinformation you are printing, I read with interest the article on Colwell and Frett . . . and if some of the folks who are able to help read this, then perhaps a generous patron will step forward. 

As you can see by the backgrounds of these folks who invested with "The Brothers," many are very intelligent and do not fit your description of "stupid." I realize that this phrase is usually brought up by someone in a feature article, but I can tell you as the editor feel the same way. You continue to print these articles and say that "Mr. Villalobos closed up his investment firm," "left town," "discontinued paying the investors their interest payments," but being very irresponsible in not stating the "FACT" that the Govt. froze his bank accounts and raided his office taking all his equipment, thus making it impossible for him to continue his reputable business and to continue to pay his friends back for the money loaned to him. 

We are all trying to get by and only the CR Govt. will be blamed for this tragedy and this includes the ones who take their lives because they are so devastated. I am sure that the prosecutors office was so focused on getting Mr. Villalobos out of business that they did not think about the affect on so many others lives. 

Then again maybe they don't really care, as characterized by their placing an additional six months on the freeze. Have you ever thought about returning to journalism school to better understand what "journalism" is?

Mike Shawlee 
Washington, USA 

She seeks official help

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

My heart goes out to all those suffering from the collapse of the Brothers. They clearly had a wonderful track record for over two decades. This alone sets them apart from the usual scams. Their reputation for being honorable businessmen for so long gave people the confidence to trust them. 

Now thousands of individuals and families will face tragedy in their lives. Whoever is responsible for this will have to live with this reality, to know that they are responsible for such deep losses and despair. This is truly a case of cruel and unusual punishment. 

I hope that the Costa Rican government will consider helping those who contributed so much to their economy for so long and allow some semblance of conscience to influence their judgment.

Varda Burns 


He is insulted by insult

Dear AM Costa Rica:

So Albert Barkhordarian calls Costa Ricans "barbarians." 

His letter of 15 January "BARBARIC COSTA RICANS" is an insult to every Costa Rican. He is living in their country, selling them food, making money on them, taking advantage of what their country offers — and calling them barbarians! What utter hypocracy!

Perhaps Costa Rica should reconsider its hospitality to people who insult them in such an ignorant, offensive, arrogant way and ask if it needs to have such insulting guests in their midst. 

A guest who defacates in the kitchen that feeds him is asked to leave. And calling Costa Ricans barbarians is just that.

Perhaps Abel Pacheco and other responsible officials should look into such heinous insults. 

Quit blaming the people whose country you choose to live in, and the government they choose. In short, get a life! 

This sordid letter is all part of the "blame game." Blame the weather. Blame El Nino. Blame the Ayatollah. Blame the Pope. Blame ANYONE. Especially, blame the country which is your host. But for goodness sake, don't blame yourself! 

Jack Evans 
Denver/San José

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