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Protests over possible Iran-U.S. war planned here
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
and wire service reports

International relations between the United States and Iran have become so tense that expats here will be demonstrating against a possible war. That will be Saturday in San José.

One of those doing so will be Carlos Arredondo, a Costa Rican who is a naturalized U.S. citizen. He made headlines in the United States in 2004 when he torched the van that Marines used to bring him the news of his son's death in action in Iraq. Another son, Brian Luis, committed suicide in 2011, and Arredondo blames that act on depression brought about by the death of the first son, Alexander.

Carlos and Mélida Arredondo will be joined by  Jim Scarborough, who was identified in a news release as a member of Veterans for Peace. He served in Vietnam. The Arrendondos are members of Military Families Speak Out, the release said.

The demonstration is to be held on the pedestrian mall in downtown San José west of the Plaza de la Cultura. The action here is in unison with other demonstrations in the United States against a new war.

Thursday James Clapper, the director of U.S. national intelligence told the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs that senior Iranian officials are "now more willing to conduct an attack in the United States."  He said Iran is trying to penetrate and engage in the Western Hemisphere.

Iran is developing or has developed a nuclear weapon and makes no secret of the desire of officials there to use it on nearby Israel. Some reports this week said that Iran also is developing a medium range missile that could hit New York and major European cities.

Members of the U.S. congressional panel also expressed concern Thursday that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's ties to several Latin American leaders could pose a threat to U.S. national security.

Some U.S. lawmakers and military leaders have said they feel Ahmadinejad is reckless enough to engage Israel and the United States. His government already has threatened to use force against U.S. warships operating in the Persian Gulf.

The chairwoman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, said some people might question whether the Iranian-Latin American connection is a threat, but she said there is cause for concern.

"Iran’s Ahmadinejad recently returned from his ‘Tour of Tyrants’ trip to visit Venezuela,
Carlos Arredondo
File photo by  Andy Carvin
Carlos Arredondo at a Jan. 27, 2007 Iraq war protest in Washington D.C.

Nicaragua, Cuba and Ecuador.  Media reports have
indicated an increased presence of Iran’s Quds Force in these countries and offices of Iran’s intelligence services surfacing throughout the region," said Rep. Ros-Lehtinen. "The fact that the military arm of a state-sponsor of terrorism has its operatives within multiple countries in our hemisphere is certainly cause for alarm and merits congressional focus."

Obama administration officials say the United States is keeping a close watch on Ahmadinejad's ties to Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. During Ahmadinejad's recent visit to Venezuela, he and Chávez praised each other and joked about concerns in the West about Iran's relations with Latin America.

The United States and Europe have been tightening sanctions on Iran in recent months because of Iran's nuclear program. Iran says its program is for peaceful purposes. Also on Thursday, the U.S. Senate Banking Committee approved tough new sanctions on Iran, which now will have to go to the full Senate floor.

Arredondo, who lives in Barrio México, also is known as El Gringo when he joins other informal bull fighters in the ring at Zapote. He was living in Hollywood, Florida, when the Marine casualty assistance team brought word of his son's death in An Najaf, Iraq. The 20-year-old Marine was on his second tour of duty in that country and died from gunfire.

Arredondo described the experience in the left-leaning magazine The Nation. He became highly agitated at the news and took a can of gasoline and a propane torch into the Marine van. But he said that the ignition was accidental. He was burned but blown clear by the subsequent explosion. He said he attended his son's wake on a stretcher due to the serious burns.

He spent a year recovering and then became an anti-war activist. U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy helped him obtain his citizenship in 2006.

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Teatro Nacional to begin
2012 season Tuesday

By Shahrazad Encinias Vela
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Teatro Nacional is ready to launch the new year with more than 3,200 artists lined up for its 2012 schedule. The opening day is Tuesday.

The inaugural event is the play “Pendulum,” an open performance by University of Costa Rica dancers at noon. This is the Teatro al Mediodía, inside the main hall. There are a total of 37 noon performances this year.

On the second floor of the Teatro Nacional, the Foyer, there will be 12 performances this year. The Foyer is a smaller room with a ceiling painting found on the old five colon note. The late afternoon musical acts, Música al Atardecer, will feature 32 different performances there.

Besides these performances the main theater will feature 122 events, including 18 dance, 44 musical and two flamenco performances, an opera, and the Festival de Poesía. The singer Pablo Milanes is the first big evening show of the year for the theater Feb. 23.

This year the theater has opened up a call center for those who have questions. Adriana Collado, director of the Teatro Nacional, said this year the theater is more accessible to the public. In the past, the theater catered to international acts, but now they have included more national acts.

“This is a theater that we can really say is ours,” said Manuel Obregón, minister of Cultura y Juventud.

Ticket prices vary on the performance. Teatro al Mediodía tickets cost 1,000 colons, and one for the Música al Atardecer costs 2,000 colons.

Our reader's opinion
Nearby pig farm helps
keep expat a vegetarian

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

The article on the environmental problems associated with meat production made me think about life in my small village near Quepos. The piggery not far from my house shovels its considerable amount of pig excrement into a ditch that, when it rains, flushes into the nearby Naranjo river. When it comes time to butcher, this is done in front of the other pigs, with earth shattering screaming heard throughout the village. Unwanted meat waste is then flung into the field in the hope that the buzzards will take it, meanwhile creating a stink from hell.

The villagers seem to accept all this as normal enough, but it seems to bear little relation to the nicely presented piece of pork most of us see in the supermarket. I haven't seen it, but I don't think I would find the processes of the big industrial meat packing operations any more reassuring.

I have been a vegetarian for many years, and have yet to meet a Costa Rican who is one. In fact, when this comes out, I often get looks of confusion and concern. Perhaps a low meat diet is still seen as a sign of poverty.

Meat production probably will soar with its associated problems. But in the meantime, if anyone wants to join my vegetarian club of one, let me know!
R. Martin

Find out what the papers
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By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Here is the section where you can scan short summaries from the Spanish-language press. If you want to know more, just click on a link and you will see and longer summary and have the opportunity to read the entire news story on the page of the Spanish-language newspaper but translated into English.

Translations may be a bit rough, but software is improving every day.

When you see the Summary in English of news stories not covered today by A.M. Costa Rica, you will have a chance to comment.

This is a new service of A.M. Costa Rica called Costa Rica Report. Editor is Daniel Woodall, and you can contact him HERE!
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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Feb. 3, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 25
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Main street will be closed this weekend for two city events
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Closed streets will cause changes in bus routes and taxi stands in downtown San José this weekend from Saturday until Monday for two different events sponsored by the Ministerio de Cultura y Juventud.

Alternate routes will go into affect Saturday at 4 a.m. until 5 a.m. Monday.

All buses that enter San José through Avenida 3 will have to use the alternate routes, as the avenue between calles 17 and 23 will be closed, said the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes. This is the street that runs south of the Estación al Atlántico and the Biblioteca Nacional and north of Parque Nacional.
The closure on Saturday is for the city's cultural festival, Enamorate de Tu Ciudad. There will be dancing, theater, art, music, and workshops for children and adults.

The events will take place in Parque Nacional, Parque España and Parque Morazán. This is for families to enjoy, said a representative for the ministry of culture.

Sunday is Un Domingo de Febrero en la Estación where there will be music and art for the people and tourists of San José. The concerts will run from 1 p.m. to 11 p.m. The ministry of culture expects approximately 5,000 visitors.

The events will take place around popular tourist spots such as the Asamblea Legislativa and Biblioteca Nacional.

Networking site exclusively for expats is seeking members
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An online community exclusively for expats already has 400 members in Costa Rica, and is seeking more.

The organization is InterNations, and membership is by invitation only.

The organization describes itself as the online community exclusively for expatriates and global minds based on over 250 cities worldwide. A get-together for those who may be interested in becoming members is scheduled for Thursday in Escazú.

The local contact, which InterNations calls an ambassador, is Monique van Hussen. She is an independent consultant with more than 24 years working experience in trade, development cooperation, press and cultural activities in Costa Rica, Honduras, El Salvador and Panamá in the private and public sector. She worked for the Netherlands Embassy for 24 years, and in her position as Trade, Cultural and Press Officer gained much knowledge in foreign and domestic affairs, networking, trade fairs, and cultural matters, InterNations said.

She said that those who would like to attend the Escazú event can contact her at

InterNations maintains a Web site.

The organization said that global minds are welcome to join the network of like-minded people within a community of trust and confidence, connecting expatriates with other expats in Costa Rica. The Web site notes that unlike some social

  networking communities, fake names are forbidden and that the initial signup is free. The site also contains a listing of businesses geared to expats.

Ms. van Hussen said in an announcement of the Thursday meeting:

The members of InterNations are diplomats, managers and employees of multinational companies, IGO's and NGO's, foreign correspondents as well as their families. They are well-educated, career-oriented, dynamic and internationally mobile — true global minds. We are present in more than 250 local expatriate communities around the world uniting members of 180 nationalities; we recently hit the 400,000 members mark.  On the InterNations Web site, expatriates can find advice on expat life and local support all over the world. Our guide and the local forums offer helpful tips on places to see and things to know for expats.

InterNations provides a unique platform for expatriates to network and interact within a cosmopolitan community geared towards the special needs of expatriates, said the Web site.

Ms. van Hussen notes that she was born in the Netherlands, crossed the Atlantic in the early 80’s and has made Costa Rica her home for the past 30 years.

Steady light in the city sky has to be the Planet Venus
Monday, unable to sleep, I was lying in bed looking out the window at the night sky.  There were no stars to be seen, save one.  A very large, unblinking bright ball was high above the volcano Poás.  Obviously it was not a star; it had to be the planet Venus.  And the following morning, I read that the next transit of Venus will be occurring this year in June. 

Except for the book, “Transit of Venus,” by Australian writer Shirley Hazzard, I had no idea what that meant.  It seems that Venus will be crossing between the sun and the earth, and it will be visible in Costa Rica, as well as the U.S. and Europe.  There is also an asteroid or other heavenly body with the name Venus attached to it that will be zooming through the skies. And there is the book, “Women are from Venus, Men are from Mars.”  I agree with that.  One simplification: women tend to use their seductive powers to persuade and men tend to use their strength and threat of force to persuade.  Put another way, women talk too much, men fight too much.

Venus and Mars personify these differences. 

Tuesday night I began looking for my new friend, Venus.  She was nowhere to be seen until again around 9:30 when she appeared light years away in the middle of my window.  I was unable to detect any movement, but it was not long before the planet was at the top of my window, just barely in view.  This time there seemed to be a circle of darker sky surrounding the bright orb. 

I have learned that there is a morning Venus and an evening Venus, the same planet, seen at different times.  I have never been a stargazer but now I can see how people who are, can spend hours looking through their telescopes at all of the activity out there.  I am sure they know why stars and planets glow in the dark and can tell me if the earth does, too.

Obviously, humans have been looking at the skies for thousands of years and have been inspired to create many
Butterfly in the City
. . .  Musings from San José

By Jo Stuart

Jo Stuart

myths, especially about the Planet Venus, including that the earth was first settled by an inhabitant of Venus who chose a site in South America at the edge of Peru.  I cannot help but continue to think that history is written by the victors and myth by the vanquished. Or put another way,  people of the past write myths, today we have historians.  In short, it is just what you choose to believe.  In my recent research on the ancient, past I learned that the Old Testament of the Bible has many similarities to the earlier Sumerian religious writings.

But my friend Señor Ardilla (Mr. Squirrel) keeps bringing me back to the present by running along my fifth floor window sill looking at me quizzically and then running the length of it.  At first I thought he was casing my joint, looking for an entry and something he may have missed during his last visit. Now I think it may be Mrs. Squirrel, after all.  The last time he went by, he had a mouthful of straw.  She is building a nest somewhere!  I have no idea which sex builds the nest, and realize how little I know, not just about the occupants of the universe, but about the fauna and flora other than human on this planet.

But I do recommend that you look for Venus.

It seems amazing that not a star is visible over the city lights but she is making her presence known.

If I am wrong and that is not Venus in the sky, then someone up there is watching us.

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Spaces filling up fast for the Sunday Super Bowl extravaganza
By Andrew Rulseh Kasper
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff
and wire service reports

Costa Rican places to watch the Sunday Super Bowl game between the New York Giants and the New England Patriots are filling up fast.

The Sportsmen's Lodge in San José will host an evening with a $50 flat fee that covers all-you-can-drink Costa Rican beers and imported liquors such as Johnny Walker Red, José Cuervo in addition to a variety of non-alcoholic beverages and six football-style food items. The event starts three hours before kickoff until an hour after the game. During the evening there will be a visit by the Pilsen girls, a mariachi band, raffle prizes and football pools. Out of the initial 200 limited tickets for the party only 30 were left Thursday night.

Other sites around San José are also filling up fast. Chubbs sports bar in Gringo Gulch is selling seats in its television-filled bar for 15,000 colons, which is subtracted from the bill at the end of the night. Chubbs will have a raffle and specials but only about seven seats and two tables remained for purchase Thursday night. The staff predicts it will sell out Friday. Papi's sports bar nearby is not planning anything special and hopes to have space for the overflow customers from other  establishments. Hooters in Escazú as well as San Pedro will be displaying the final football showdown of the season but all their reservable tables have already been claimed. People hoping to get a seat will have to arrive early for the first-come, first-serve tables.

The Hotel Del Rey in San José, which has one of the biggest bar and dining areas in the city, claimed it will fill up with people until no more can fit. But the Super Bowl party will actually start a day early, with a beach party Saturday. The  actual Super Bowl event will begin Sunday when everyone wakes up and starts to party again, said one bartender. The official football kickoff is at 5:30 p.m. central time. The hotel will have a free buffet as well as regular drink specials and flat screen televisions in all the bars. The establishment also advertises that the bartenders and waitresses will be dressed as cheerleaders.

Byblos Resort and Casino in Manuel Antonio is urging Super Bowl goers to make reservations quickly as well to ensure a spot to watch the championship game on one of its large projectors or flat screen televisions. Byblos will have two 96-inch projection screens, one 62-inch projection television and four flat-screen televisions. Drink specials are two for one Finlandia Vodka and Jack Daniels whiskey during the game. Food items range from 500 colons for a boca snack to full entrees. Doors open at 3 p.m. And the bar will remain open after the game until at least midnight, it said.
Hotel Cocal and Casino in Jacó will be hosting the game in two separate environments Sunday, allowing patrons to chow down and drink in its restaurant or keep a close eye on their Super Bowl from the Cocal's casino. At halftime there will be a free buffet consisting of standard game time snacks such as pizza, chicken wings, hot dogs, as well as the restaurant's standard menu. The bar will open Sunday at 10 a.m. and later fans can kick back with two-for-one cocktails or national beers. Viewers can catch the game on any one of the eight large, flat-screen televisions.

The Point Sports Bar and Grill in Puerto Viejo lets sports fanatics relax under the palms near the surf and enjoy American football Caribbean style. But heard over the sound of the waves will be the Super Bowl football game on a 110-inch projector and six other televisions at the restaurant. The bar will offer a bucket of six beers for 5,000 colons and two-for-one mojitos all Sunday. Their menu consists of American comfort food like chicken wings and hamburgers as well as typical Caribbean dishes. But the staff warned potential guests to show up early for a bar seat or make an indoor seating reservation because expats all along the coast have been flocking to the joint to watch football games this season.

This Sunday’s Super Bowl championship game is between the New York Giants and New England Patriots. For those attending the game in Indianapolis, Indiana, and participating in events in conjunction with the Super Bowl, major security efforts are being undertaken. It is important enough that U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano was in Indianapolis Wednesday to discuss the operations.

Certainly the good news is that Ms. Napolitano said no specific or credible threats have been made against this year’s Super Bowl, to be played at Lucas Oil Stadium.

While the primary law enforcement responsibilities rest with the Indiana public safety authorities, Ms. Napolitano said the federal government provides a great deal of support and assistance for the biggest sporting event in the United States.

“We’ve provided first observer and anti-terrorism and security awareness training to more than 8,000 stadium staff and volunteers,” she said.

Fans will be subjected to metal detector searches and pat downs, and will be limited to what they can bring in to the stadium.  There is even a limit to the length of spectators’ camera lenses, 15 centimeters or 5.9 inches.

Sunday temporary flight restrictions will be in place prohibiting private aircraft from operating in a large radius around the sports complex.

Traffic police officials suspended in wake of pistol robbery
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The minister of Obras Públicas, Francisco J. Jiménez, has suspended the head of the traffic police and three other persons in the wake of the robbery of 215 firearms from a storage area in Plaza González Víquez.

The suspensions with pay are the expected response to a crime that has embarrassed the Laura Chinchilla administration.

Suspended were César Quirós Mora, the director of the traffic police, and three subordinates who had responsibility for safeguarding the new pistols. They were Glock 19 9-mm. handguns that would have been used by traffic policemen.

The Judicial Investigating Organization confirmed that four men had taken part in the heist early Monday and accomplished it by gagging and tying two private security guards. One of the guards was an employee of the security firm contracted to  guard the premises while the other was an employee of the construction company working on the new police facilities adjacent to the warehouse, said Quirós Tuesday.
The public works minster held a press conference Thursday to announce the suspensions. He said the individuals would be suspended while an investigation continues.

There is more than enough blame to go around. One of the guards did not have a permit to carry the gun he had. The storage area was not secure, and the guards did not know weapons were stored there.

Very few persons knew that the weapons were there, so investigators are considering the criminals had inside help.

The storage was temporary while a more secure structure was being built. The value of the weapons is 83 million colons, the ministry reported. That is about $165,000. The crooks left behind 165 identical firearms because they were locked up more securely. They have since been placed under the control of the security ministry's firearms section.

Judicial investigators have been conducting a number of raids on the homes of known robbers. They have made arrests and found illegal weapons but not the stolen Glock pistols.

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U.S. attorney general again
quizzed on guns to México

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has faced a new round of Republican criticism over a controversial tactic in which U.S. authorities allowed gun buyers to move into México arms destined for drug cartels.

In testimony to Congress Thursday, Holder said Operation Fast and Furious was flawed, and that allowing arms to walk under any circumstance is unacceptable.

"The tactic of not interdicting weapons, despite having the ability and legal authority to do so, appears to have been adopted in a misguided effort to stem the alarming number of illegal firearms that are trafficked each year from the United States to Mexico," Holder said. "Now, to be sure, stopping this dangerous flow of weapons is a laudable and critical goal, but attempting to achieve it by using such inappropriate tactics is neither acceptable nor excusable." 

Holder told lawmakers on the committee Thursday that he never authorized the operation, and ordered it to stop after he found out about it.

Republicans charge that the Justice Department has not provided enough information to them.

The head of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, California Republican Darrell Issa, has accused Holder of protecting staff, deceiving the public and obstructing the panel's investigation.

At the hearing Thursday, he warned of possible congressional action to force the Justice Department to provide information to the committee.

"Mr. Attorney General, you have, the Executive Branch has, executive privilege," said Issa. "It’s narrow. It’s well-defined. There is case law. If you do not find a legitimate basis to deny us the material we’ve asked for, we will seek the remedies necessary to compel."

U.S. authorities lost track of hundreds of weapons they were supposed to be monitoring. Many weapons eventually were recovered from crime scenes. Two were found at the scene where U.S. border agent Brian Terry was shot and killed in 2010.

Holder said the Justice Department is building its case and is close to making announcements regarding arrests and holding those responsible for the agent's death and the flawed operation.

Crooks stealing glacier ice
in national park in Chile

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Criminal gangs are becoming a threat to the world’s glaciers, which are already receding quickly, the United Nations said Thursday, citing a case in Chile where police are investigating the theft of some 5,000 kilograms of millennia-old ice from the Jorge Montt glacier.

Mining for ice could pose a major additional threat to the 454 square-kilometer glacier, which is situated in Chile’s Bernardo O’Higgins National Park, and is part of the 13,000-square kilometer Southern Patagonian Ice Field, the third largest frozen land mass in the world after Antarctica and Greenland, according to the U.N. International Strategy for Disaster Risk Reduction.

The Jorge Montt glacier is melting at a rate of one kilometer per year.

The prosecutor handling the case in Chile reported this week that those implicated in the ice theft had been identified as a result of an investigation that followed the arrest of the driver of a refrigerated truck last Friday. The truck was intercepted in the southern Chilean town of Cochrane.

U.S. indicts Swiss bank
in money-laundering probe

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The U.S. Justice Department has indicted Switzerland's oldest bank for allegedly helping customers hide more than $1.2 billion from U.S. tax collectors.

U.S. authorities also seized more than $16 million in assets that the Wegelin bank holds in a U.S. account.

The indictment charges Wegelin with soliciting customers from another Swiss bank, UBS, when that institution agreed to stop hiding secret accounts in 2008.

If found guilty, Wegelin could be fined at least $500,000. Three Wegelin employees who advised customers also have been charged. Each faces a $250,000 fine and as much as five years in prison.

This is the first time the United States has formally charged a foreign bank with helping U.S. depositors avoid taxes.

President Barack Obama has pledged to crack down on U.S. citizens and corporations that use overseas accounts to evade taxes. He says tax fraud costs the country billions of dollars a year in revenue.

Colombian rebels put off
plan to free hostages

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Colombian rebels say they are putting off plans to free six hostages held for more than 10 years because of what they say is military activity in the area.

The Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, or FARC, said Wednesday it will make another attempt to free its captives as soon as what it calls the president's insanity abates.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos says nobody knows where the hostages are being held. He appealed to the rebels to stop what he says are tricks and deceptions, and free the hostages now.

FARC is Colombia's largest rebel group. Its fight with the government has killed tens of thousands of people over the past 50 years. The government says FARC murdered four other hostages in November when troops attempted a rescue.
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Nicoya group threatens
more pressure for bill

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Movimiento Rescatemos Guanacaste. Has given the president 15 days to put a bill the organization favors on the list for legislative action.

The bill calls for a vote in Nicoya to create the Cantón La Península.

This is the same organization that joined with rice farmers Monday to block the Interamericana highway in Abangares. The group promised more pressure tactics if President Laura Chinchilla did not include the measure in the legislative agenda.  During certain times of the year, lawmakers can only consider bills authorized by the president.

The threat was over the signature of Carlos Alberto Chanto C., identified as being in charge of communications for the group.

The canton would include that part of the central Cantón de Puntarenas that is on the Nicoya Peninsula.

Right now residents of Tambor, Cóbano, Paquera, Lepanto, Montezuma and other communities have to go to the administrative center of the central canton to conduct official business.  In the proposed legislation, the Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones would be required to set up an election for mayor and regidores within six months of the measure's passage.

The idea of making the southern part of the Nicoya peninsula its own political district has been floating around since the 1980s. But now 29 lawmakers have signed on to the measure, which has been voted out of a special commission that was set up to study the concept.

That the president will put the measure on the agenda is unlikely. Lawmakers have been devoting most of the time to a proposed new tax that the president wants desperately.

The group said that about 500 persons participated in the Monday demonstration.

Money-laundering hearing
set for today in San José

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A preliminary hearing is scheduled to begin today in the money laundering case of Carlos Howden Pascal, the former president of the Limón professional soccer team.

The case is being prosecuted by the economic crimes office. The hearing is in the Juzgado Penal del I Circuito Judicial de San José. As part of the proceedings, a date for a trial might be set.

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