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(506) 2223-1327       Published Thursday, Jan. 22, 2009,  in Vol. 9, No. 15        E-mail us
Jo Stuart
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Villalobos victims have a lot of company now
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Villalobos investors can stop feeling stupid and alone.

Remember all those folks who said "3 percent a month!" snicker, snicker, snicker!

Well now it turns out that most of the world was a big ponzi scheme. The $1 billion dropped with Luis Enrique and Oswaldo Villalobos appears to be peanuts compared with the $50 billion loss attributed to Bernard Madoff.

Even the gnomes of Zürich were taken in by the New York promoter. The Auriga International Advisers, a pretty solid Swiss investment company, admitted Wednesday that it had dropped $350 million.

Some big ticket individuals are joining the Villalobos crew on the soup line.

The ponzi schemes seem to be popping up all over. In Colombia the democratic government is endangered by the failure of the DRFE, which appears to be another pyramid scheme. The company began in the sticks offering high interest and spread to urban areas. What makes DRFE unique is that operators left taunting notes to "stupid people" when they blew town.

New arrivals to Costa Rica probably are unaware of the influence of the Villalobos operation on the small economy here. Luis Enrique Villalobos maintained an office on the second floor of Mall San Pedro, and he promised 2.8 percent interest per month to persons who gave him money. Many did.

North Americans moved to Costa Rica for the sole purpose of being near their money and getting payments from the Hermanos Villalobos. Luis Enrique promised that he would not tell anyone who had given him the money. Anyone being the U.S. Internal Revenue Service.

At the beginning of each month creditors would come to Mall San Pedro to receive their supposed interest in cash in envelopes. There were thousands of separate accounts. They also could get a free gift of a Bible.

The time was great. Some had many thousands of dollars on account with the Villalobos brothers. With a $500,000 investment, a creditor could expect $14,000 in interest per month. Such a sum goes a long way at the Hotel Del Rey and other similar places where men meet women and booze flows freely.

Those who were here then shed a tear for the end of an era.

The blowup came July 4, 2002. Police raided the money exchange house operated by Oswaldo Villalobos and the back room maintained by Luis Enrique.

The brothers struggled on for a few months and then Luis Enrique fled. Oswaldo stuck around to be convicted of fraud and jailed.

But they were not alone. The judges said the Villalobos were involved in a ponzi scheme. But it is looking more and more like the subprime mortgage market in the United States also was a ponzi scheme. All over the world holders of U.S. securities are finding that their investments were junk.

That makes people like Luis Milanes look good.  He was a Villalobos competitor who also offered high interest, supposedly for investments in his many casinos. While Luis Enrique built churches and gave away Bibles, Milanes introduced his customers to babes and gambling.

Milanes blew town in late November 2002,

A.M. Costa Rica renews reward

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

With this edition A.M. Costa Rica renews its reward of $500 for information leading to the capture of Luis Enrique Villalobos.

The last time we did this, all the Villalobos fans got all huffy because Villalobos was going to come back and pay off everyone. Yeah, right.

Now $500 is not much. But, as before, we seek others to put their money where their mouth is and fatten the reward. We figure a few thousand dollars is enough to get some action. Just send a pledge to A.M. Costa Rica, and we will publish it.

Of course a lot folks now figure that Luis Enrique was running a ponzi scheme and that  there is no money to speak of. But we figure there is about $30 million out there, unless, of course, if Enrique invested with Bernard Madoff.

leading some to believe that he was the alter ego of Luis Enrique.

Luis Enrique has never returned, and he appears to be betting on the expiration of the statue of limitations from his finca in southern Nicaragua. Prosecutors never moved against his wife and others who were major players in the scam.

Milanes, who owes his creditors about $200 million, did return. He was treated well, and a judge let him free to go live in the penthouse of the Hotel Europa while he keeps an eye on his casino empire. He was supposed to give money to the state as a bond of sorts, but it appears that the Ministerio Público, the prosecutor's office, has not been keeping track.

Many wonder what kind of deal has been struck between prosecutors and Milanes. The former fugitive has signed over some property to the state, but some creditors question the ownership of some of the tracts.

Milanes said that he would negotiate with some creditors, but his lawyer quit, saying that he did not have much cash and was not about to pay anyone. In Costa Rica, an individual can avoid a criminal charge if the victims agree.

The Ministerio Público is mum, suggesting that white collar crime is not much of a crime.

Meanwhile in the United States one ponzi after another is falling as investigators apply pressure.

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Despite chilly temperatures
there is no snow in sight!

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Teeth were chattering Wednesday night as the temperature in the Central Valley fell to 16 degrees C. Although that is better than 60 degrees F., the wind around 20 kph (12 mph) made the temperature seem lower than normal.

This is the annual period of complaining about the cold weather. Costa Rican homes are less than perfectly insulated. And this year there is the encampments of earthquake victims in tents around San Miguel de Sarapiquí who have to endure the chill.

By contrast, of course. much of the United States and Canada are experiencing temperatures below freezing.

More is predicted for today. Temperatures in San José are expected to reach as high as 20 degrees C (68 F) and drop to 15 C (59 F) after sundown. Temperatures are predicted to be a degree colder in Cartago.

In addition there is a chance of light rain this evening.

Multiple quake commissions
become topic of questions

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Why does the country need three commissions to handle the reconstruction after the Jan. 8 earthquake.

That was a question put Wednesday to Rodrigo Arias Sánchez, the brother to the president and minister of the Presidencia.

The government has set up two commissions, one of government ministers and the second of business leaders. There also is the official national emergency commission.

President Óscar Arias Sánchez has empaneled a Comisión de Reconstrucción and a Comisión del Sector Privado. Among other things the reconstruction commission is supposed to keep track of the money donated to help earthquake victims.

The question was put to Rodrigo Arias at the end of the Consejo de Gobierno Wednesday.

Rodrigo Arias responded that the emergency commission is a first responder. When it comes to reconstruction, the government commission made up of the various ministries can handle the rebuilding more efficiently.

After past emergencies the reconstruction of bridges and roads was coordinated by the national emergency commission working directly with the various ministries, like the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes.

Meanwhile, Wednesday the Movimiento Libertario called for the central government to create a budget to show how it would apply donations that are coming in to help earthquake victims.  More than $600,000 has come in already.

Our reader's opinion
Obama didn't promise
that he would do anything

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Regarding your front page comments about President Obama's ability to deliver on his promise(s):

"Obama also noted that many question the scale of his ambitions. That seemed to be an undercurrent among those watching the inaugural here. Some Costa Ricans who had followed U.S. politics wondered if Obama had promised much more than he could deliver."

Our new President did not promise that HE would accomplish anything.  His promises are that he will use his position to facilitate US, the United States of America, doing what we are fully capable of doing without being thwarted by greedy profiteers and power mongers.  He has reminded us of President John F. Kennedy's, "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country."

If the U.S. citizenry stops asking, "what more can I get from the government and the taxpayers?  How can I take advantage of those in a weaker position socially or economically?" and starts asking and thinking about what they can do to make the U.S.A. and the world a better safer place for everyone, then WE CAN DO IT.

President Obama alone can not deliver on his promise(s), but WE THE PEOPLE can.

I am looking forward to a new and brighter future for all of us.
Bess Herzog
Houston, Texas
Rio Cuarto, Alajuela

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Jan. 22, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 15

Goverment seeks to borrow up to $1.5 billion for projects
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The nation is assuming nearly $1.5 billion in new debt under plans from the Arias administration.

One loan is for $500 million to benefit the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad. The lender would be the Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo. The terms are for 20 years at 5 percent. The loan is supposed to keep the electrical generating plants functioning.

Another loan is from the World Bank for $72.5 million to refurbish the city of Limón. The government will invest $7.5 million in this.

Then there is the $850 million loan from the Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo to finance improvement in the nation's infrastructure, including the area affected by the Jan. 8 earthquake.
Lawmakers approved Tuesday a $65 million loan from the  Banco Internacional de Reconstrucción y Fomento to pay for emergency relief from the earthquake. The other loads still are in the hopper at the legislature, but the Arias administration is pushing for approval. Óscar Arias Sánchez has little more than 15 months left in office.

One big goal is the Limón project. In addition to improvements in the city, the administration is hosting a meeting Tuesday of exporters and other international organizations. The plan is to discuss the impact of privatizing the docks in Limón and Moín.

Workers there strongly oppose the measure, but the Caldera docks in the Pacific have been put out on concession, and the Arias administration is planning the same for the port on the Caribbean. The hope is that the firm that wins the concession will pay for major improvements in the handling of freight.

Woman becomes icon for tough drunk driving law
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A woman with the last names of Acuña Aguilar has the distinction of being the first person to go to trial on a drunk driving charge under the new traffic law.

The trial will begin at 5:30 p.m. in the Juicio de Flagrancia in Goicoechea.

Others have been brought to justice before here, but all
have sought abbreviated processes and not a full trial.

The woman was detained Jan. 1, just hours after the new law went into effect, in Santa Ana.

Fureza Pública officers detained her and called Tránsito officers to the scene to check on the sobrieity of the woman. She blew 2.24 grams of alcohol per liter of blood, officials said. Drunk is .75 grams per liter under the new law.

Civil unions continue to outpace those conduced by clergy
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Catholicism may be the official religion of Costa Rica, but since 1995 more civil marriages have been registered than church marriages, according to the Registro civil.

The trend continued in 2008 when some 25,302 were recorded. Only 5.318 were church weddings and less than 400 were marriages done outside the country but registered here.
In 2007 there were 24,186 marriages, the Registro Civil said. The Registro is part of the Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones

In 2008 May with 3,690 unions was the month with the most weddings, not the traditional June.

Some couples said that they prefer a civil union because the Roman Catholic Chruch requires that couples take a course before being married and that church weddings cost more.

You need to see Costa Rican tourism information HERE!

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Jan. 22, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 15

Frogs endangered by being on menu, new study reports
By the University of Adelaide news service

The global trade in frog legs for human consumption is threatening their extinction, according to a new study by an international team including University of Adelaide researchers.

The researchers say the global pattern of harvesting and decline of wild populations of frogs appears to be following the same path set by overexploitation of the seas and subsequent chain reaction of world fisheries collapses.

The researchers have called for mandatory certification of frog harvests to improve monitoring and help the development of sustainable harvest strategies.

Corey Bradshaw, University of Adelaide associate professor, says frogs legs are not just a French delicacy.

"Frogs legs are on the menu at school cafeterias in Europe, market stalls and dinner tables across Asia to high end restaurants throughout the world," sasid Bradshaw.

"Amphibians are already the most threatened animal group yet assessed because of disease, habitat loss and climate
change — man's massive appetite for their legs is not helping."

The annual global trade in frogs for human consumption has increased over the past 20 years with at least 200 million and maybe over 1 billion frogs consumed every year. Only a fraction of the total trade is assessed in world trade figures.

Indonesia is the largest exporter of frogs by far and its domestic market is two to seven times that.

"The frogs' legs global market has shifted from seasonal harvest for local consumption to year-round international trade," said Bradshaw. "But harvesting seems to be following the same pattern for frogs as with marine fisheries — initial local collapses in Europe and North America followed by population declines in India and Bangladesh and now potentially in Indonesia.

"Absence of essential data to monitor and manage the wild harvest is a large concern."

A paper about the study is soon to be published online in the journal Conservation Biology.

México reports production decline by state-run oil company
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Mexico's state-run oil company, Pemex, said its 2008 production of crude oil fell 9.2 percent from 2007.

Pemex said Wednesday that daily production last year dropped to almost 2.8 million barrels compared to three million barrels the year before.

The oil company blamed bad weather and operational
factors at its biggest oil field, Cantarell, for the production 2008 shortfall. Exports were also down 16.8 percent last year. 

Mexican President Felipe Calderón has sought more private investment in Pemex to boost falling production. Opponents have said opening the struggling oil industry to private interests would threaten Mexico's sovereignty.

Mexico is a major oil supplier to the United States.  

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Jan. 22, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 15

A.M. Costa Rica

users guide

This is a brief users guide to A.M. Costa Rica.

Old pages

Each day someone complains via e-mail that the newspages are from yesterday or the day before. A.M. Costa Rica staffers check every page and every link when the newspaper is made available at 2 a.m. each week day.

So the problem is with the browser in each reader's computer. Particularly when the connection with the  server is slow, a computer will look to the latest page in its internal memory and serve up that page.

Readers should refresh the page and, if necessary, dump the cache of their computer, if this problem persists. Readers in Costa Rica have this problem frequently because the local Internet provider has continual problems.


The A.M. Costa Rica search page has a list of all previous editions by date and a space to search for specific words and phrases. The search will return links to archived pages.


A typical edition will consist of a front page and four other newspages. Each of these pages can be reached by links near the top and bottom of the pages.


Five classified pages are updated daily. Employment listings are free, as are listings for accommodations wanted, articles for sale and articles wanted. The tourism page and the real estate sales and real estate rentals are updated daily.

Advertising information

A summary of advertising rates and sizes are available for display and classifieds.


A.M. Costa Rica makes its monthly statistics available to advertisers and readers. It is HERE! 

Contacting us

Both the main telephone number and the editor's e-mail address are listed on the front page near the date.

Visiting us

Directions to our office and other data, like bank account numbers are on the about us page.

More murders in Russia
reflect rights catastrophe

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The shooting deaths of a prominent attorney and an opposition journalist this week in Moscow add to a growing list of unsolved murders of Kremlin critics and human-rights advocates in Russia.

Stanislav Markelov, a 34-year-old attorney, was gunned down Monday in broad daylight just a kilometer from the Kremlin. When opposition journalist, Anastasia Baburova, 25, tried to intervene, the masked killer shot her in the head with a silencer-equipped gun.

Markelov fought the early release from prison of Russian Col. Yuri Budanov, who was serving a 10-year sentence for strangling a woman in 2000 during the war in Chechnya. Budanov claims she was a Chechen sniper, but the court rejected his defense. Some Russians consider Budanov to be a war hero.

Ms. Baburoba worked for Novaya Gazeta, an opposition newspaper, where journalist Anna Politkovskaya investigated human-rights abuses in Chechnya before she, too, was gunned down in 2006. Four men are on trial for her killing, but the triggerman and mastermind remain at large.

Novaya Gazeta journalist and spokesperson Nadezhda Prosenkova said the newspaper employees are exposed to excessive risk merely for exercising their right to say what they believe. Ms. Prosenkova says one of the reasons behind that risk is a feeling in Russia that the state does not serve the people, but people serve the state, and that Russian leaders spread fear to stay in power.

Ms. Prosenkova says the problem is not so much lack of human decency, but fear of speech and action. She notes that people cannot articulate this fear, and wonder instead, "What if I do something that is not right, or if somebody does not like it?" She calls this a subconscious and diffuse fear, which is the most frightening thing about it.

The journalist says Russians should not just speak up for their rights, but shout their demands out loud.

But the few who dare are often silenced. In November, journalist Mikhail Beketov was beaten so severely in a Moscow suburb that skull fragments were driven into his brain and he remains in a coma. Beketov had reported about negligence of local officials. Similar crimes are reported across Russia, though some opposition activists merely get their tires slashed. Few perpetrators have been brought to justice.

Pro-Kremlin Member of Parliament Sergei Markov acknowledges excessive criminalization of Russian political, social, and economic relations. Markov traces the problem to what he calls the monstrous catastrophe of the 1990s in Russia. It was a decade of widespread street killings among rival political and economic groups, but also a period of unprecedented media independence that has since been curtailed.

Jo Stuart
Real Estate
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