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(506) 2223-1327         Published Friday, Feb. 11, 2011,  in Vol. 11, No. 30           E-mail us
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Law firm disputes allegations in Florida fraud case
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The law firm that is facing a civil action in Florida said Thursday that the case lacks substance and probably will be dismissed. The firm, Facio & Cañas also said that it fully supports two lawyers who are accused civilly of extortion and fraud in the Florida case.

The Florida case is the one filed by Craig A. Brand, who operated Farmacia Express Rx Ltda,, a chain of at least 15 outlets in the Central Valley. He claimed in court papers that the lawyers conspired with investors in an attempt to extort money and, as a result, destroyed the firm. The story was published Wednesday.

In fact, said Ernesto Hütt, managing partner of the well-known law firm, a criminal case still exists in the Heredia courts against Brand "The facts that support the multiple accusation of fraud are real and very serious," said Hütt.

Brand also alleged in his Florida filing that he was stopped from going on his honeymoon when he was told at Juan Santamaría airport that a judge had prohibited him from leaving. Hütt said this is not true: "Brand was in Costa Rica at the moment in which the criminal court of Heredia ordered against him the impediment to leave the country, which evidently made him aware of the claim against him."

The law firm managing partner also characterized
the prohibition, called an impedimento de salida, as a standard remedy granted by the laws in Costa Rica, as well as by most of the countries in the world to prevent a person accused of a criminal felony from abandoning the country and evading justice. Brand claimed in his filing that he was ambushed by the prohibition and that the lawyers used it as a strategy.

A.M. Costa Rica has editorialized that in general an impedimento de salida is unfair if the person prohibited from leaving the country is not informed and given a chance to contest it before finding out about it at the airport, as has happened to many expats.

Hütt said the story was not accurate that the accusation of fraud and misrepresentation filed against Brand and his wife is a malicious intent to extort money from Brand.  The victims are simply seeking the return of their investment delivered to Brand as any other investor would do, he said.

The firm plans to contest the case in Florida.

Hütt also asked that A.M. Costa Rica print his reply as required by Costa Rican law. The newspaper has specified jurisdiction in the U.S. State of California where the computer server distributes the news pages each day. In addition, the newspaper considered the Costa Rica right of reply law to be an unjustified intrusion on government into the news gathering process. Still, the newspaper agreed to publish the response as a matter of fairness.


Here is the text of the Facio & Cañas response
In light of the article that appeared in the online journal A.M. Costa Rica on its edition of last Wednesday 9th that refers to a criminal case against Craig A. Brand, in which attorneys from Facio & Cañas have participated representing the victims, Facio & Cañas feels the obligation to clarify the information alleged in the news article and exercise our right of response, granted in the Political Constitution of Costa Rica and in the Law of the Constitutional Court of Costa Rica, in the following terms:

1.It is true that Facio & Cañas attorneys Federico Torrealba and Gianna Cersosimo represent several victims in a case of fraud held before the Costa Rican criminal courts against Craig A. Brand and his wife, Adriana Soto Kuhn.

2. It is not true that this case was brought as a false claim against Craig A. Brand and his wife.  The facts that support the multiple accusation of fraud are real and very serious.  Mr. Craig A. Brand is currently under requirement of the Costa Rican criminal courts, for a multiple case of fraud acted upon and against several United States citizens, in regards to certain investments made by said victims on a drugstore chain formerly known Farmacia Express RX, owned by Brand and his wife Adriana Soto Kuhn and which have closed operations as of this date, as well as related to other investments carried on other projects promoted by Brand.

3. It is not true that Brand is unaware of the criminal trial against him and his wife held before the Costa Rican courts for fraud and misrepresentation against several victims.  Brand was in Costa Rica at the moment in which the Criminal Court of Heredia ordered against him the impediment to leave the country which evidently made him aware of the claim against him.

In addition, a court order of impediment to leave the country (“impedimento de salida”) is a standard remedy granted by the laws in Costa Rica, as well as by most of the countries in the world, to prevent that a person accused of a criminal felony abandons the country and evades justice.  This is not a remedy intended for foreigners, but applicable to Costa Ricans as well.

4. It is not accurate that the accusation of fraud and misrepresentation filed against Brand and his wife Soto Kuhn is a malicious intent to extort money from Brand.  The victims are simply seeking the return of their investment delivered to Brand as any other investor would do.

5. It is true that Brand filed a complaint in the State of Florida, United States of America, against Federico Torrealba, Gianna Cersosimo and Facio Cañas’ partners as well as the victims of the fraud
case held in Costa Rica against Brand and his wife. However, this complaint lacks of the bare  minimum elements, facts and legal fundament of a serious complaint and most likely it will be dismissed.

6. As of the fact the Facio & Cañas did not comment on the case it is inexact.  As a matter of fact we sent the response on Wednesday Feb. 9th, the same date in which the article of AM Costa Rica appeared online.  From the moment we were contacted by James Brodell, editor of A.M. Costa Rica journal, we showed our great interest in providing our comments. However, we were not informed of the date of publication of the article, nor of any deadline, but on the contrary we were told, that there was no rush, since he was only preparing a note for future publication.  Moreover we called Mr. Brodell by phone on several occasions and left messages with his secretary prior of realizing that the article was already prepared and published.

7. It is correct that the criminal complaint against Brand has been turned into a private action case, as Costa Rican laws provide for that situation when a in a criminal case an action for recovery of damages against the accused is filed.  However, the criminal case is definitely not rejected but rather currently very active, since a one year renewal of the impediment to leave the country against Brand and his wife was ordered by the Criminal Court of Heredia during this same month of February and remains in full force and effect until February 2012.

8. Finally, with respect to the statements of Yosvani Alfonso, we cannot refer to them because they are unknown to us. However, we can confirm that Mr. Alfonso was an original complainant of the fraud accusation against Brand and his wife, but renounced his right to continue prosecuting Brand, as he was entitle to, for reasons unknown to us.

Facio & Cañas has all the evidence to support these allegations and will be filed in the proper forums for such purposes: the courts.

Finally, I can assure that our lawyers at Facio & Cañas comply with and practice the highest levels of professionalism and ethics which they apply to the attention of the cases they handle, so we completely support all actions taken by Federico Torrealba and Gianna Cersosimo in this particular case and acted by virtue of the request made by their clients, in full compliance of the duties of legal representation and in protection of their clients’ constitutional rights, as well as under the permitted legal actions granted by the Costa Rican laws.
Sincerely,
Ernesto Hütt
Managing Partner
Facio & Cañas

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Our readers' opinions
U.S. officials are crooks
and should be in prison


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I don't understand why A.M. Costa Rica or anyone else unrelated to Murdoch and cronies (?) would print anything that comes out of Janet Napolitano's mouth. Any such utterings are pure rubbish and detrimental to the spirit of a once great society.

Janet Napolitano like many others of the gang should be in jail instead of receiving newspaper coverage for all the hideous disinfo she and her buddies in crime are spreading and all the anti-social, criminal policies they endorse, especially that hideous walking corpse companion of hers, the fellow with the hi-pitched voice, Chertoff who actually looks like he just came out of where he really belongs, a deep stinking dungeon.

Both are enemies of the U.S., enemies of the American people. They still try to make Americans believe that CIA creation Al CIAda is a threat to U.S. security while the secret government in D.C. is the real culprit. Inform yourselves, dear readers, by first throwing your TV out the window and then cancel any subscription to the slime that oozes from ALL the MSM companies.

In a bizarre way Napolitano is right, though, as Al CIAda is the one responsible for any type of threat to the good ol' U.S.

Printing articles of the sort I am commenting on are born from pure disinfo policy and should at least include a critical comment lest the unsuspecting reader is left gobbling up blatant political fallacies. "We, the People" are not as uninformed anymore as they think . . . hopefully.

Axel Marquardt
San Jose

EDITOR'S NOTE: Ms. Napolitano is secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Michael Chertoff is the former secretary and co-author of the USA Patriot Act. Rupert Murdoch is chairman of News Corp., the media company.

Investment in annuities
would help Social Security


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

A proposal to reform U.S. social Security.

1.) Forget the stock market and equities completely. The average person doesn’t feel comfortable with these markets, and it is a political loser, which will only lead to “dead on arrival” for any proposal. I say this as one who was a day trader in stocks for over 10 years.

2.) Since virtually everyone feels comfortable with and has a warm feeling for highly rated and conservative insurance companies, let’s use annuities (contracts with an insurance company) as our only vehicle for non-government private investment.

3.) Allow people to put up to 50 percent, if they so choose, of the total Social Security contribution into one or more of a selection of annuities where the money would have to accumulate until age 55 or older before annuitizing. When annuitized, they would receive a monthly check for life, the size of which would be controlled only by actuarial tables and the current value of their contribution. The government will collect the money and forward it to the insurance companies designated.

4.) The government would have to approve of participating insurance companies and be prepared to insure, only the contribution, against default of any such company.

5.) Because there can be no catastrophic loss such as with hurricanes or tsunamis or earthquakes, participation on the part of the insurance industry should not be a problem. Perhaps we could tolerate foreign insurance companies if they confined their investment of these funds to the U.S.A. and maintained acceptable investment quality standards and ratings.

6.) The insurance companies selected would have to conform to conservative investments of the funds, e.g., in bricks and mortar, and U.S. infrastructure, such as highways, pipelines, port improvements, electrical distribution and improvements, communication satellites, Internet improvements, major overhaul of airports including new facilities, and air traffic control etc. The cascading effect of all this money entering the real economy would dwarf the known, extremely positive, effects of the Marshall Plan and the GI Bill combined and should augur well for 20-30 years of tremendous economic growth.
Clifford Dukes
La Aurora de Heredia

Failing to appear protected
errant motorcycle driver


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Some time ago I stopped my car behind another car at a stop sign in Guadalupe.  When the car in front started moving, I did too.  At that moment a motorcyclist decided to cross from right to left between our cars.  I apparently touched him a bit, and he hit the car in front and broke the tail light.  When the trial came up, the cyclist did not show up.  A few days later I received a notice that each person would be responsible for his own damage.  The cyclist was clearly in the wrong and should have paid for the damage.  INJUSTICE!
Raymond Schlabach

 
Find out what the papers
said today in Spanish


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!

From the Costa Rican press
News items posted Monday through Friday by 8 a.m.
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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Feb. 11, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 30
Latigo K-9

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A lawyer talks about the failing of the legal system here
By David G. Housman*
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

After 30 years as a resident here and a U.S. attorney and C.P.A., at the editor’s request, I make the following observations based on experience of my U.S. tax clients here of the legal system in Costa Rica.

1. It is in the 19th and not 21st century. It needs to be computerized from top to bottom. This costs money. Not doing it costs more and daily increases the time and expense for most clients (and increases the fees for lawyers).

2. There are a few good honest attorneys in Costa Rica. Unfortunately they are outnumbered by the incompetent and lazy ones. Many do not return phone calls promptly — some not at all. And there are, from my experience, a greater percentage of outright criminals here in the legal profession.

3. Discipline of attorneys is woefully inadequate in terms of supervision and punishment with the result that many clients suffer, especially the foreigner.

4. The system takes an excessive amount of time. Cases move slowly — not thru the weeks and months, but most thru the years, I have one client who is involved in probate litigation for 12 years, on a $500,000 estate and the end is not yet in sight. Jokingly, I have said in many cases that the
parties will not live to see the conclusion of the case — again often unfortunately true. Some judges do not devote full time to their duties.
5. The system is not geared to move each case along with due speed at each part of the case. What time deadlines there are, are more often observed in the breach, Many judges will not push each case as rapidly as they can and some not at all. Sanctions for undue delay or frivolous lawsuits are again pathetically nonexistent or inadequate.

Result is uncertainty for the client, the attorneys and the court, with undue delays causing hardship. Many cases take years in Costa Rica which would be decided and finalized in a year in the U.S.

Justice delayed is justice denied, which is all too true in this country.

6. Some fees, particularly by younger less experienced attorneys, are excessive and some even more. The governing body seems to exercise little or no control in this regard, leaving the cheated client with no practical recourse.

7. As a result I advise my clients to do almost everything possible to avoid going into litigation— a very poor settlement is 99 percent of the time better than a great court victory. I have yet to hear any client praise the system —and that speaks for itself.

I hope in the years to come the competent conscientious attorneys will improve the system and prove me wrong.

*Attorney Housman lives in Cuidad Cariari



Magistrates order that child be returned to U.S. mom
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Sala IV constitutional court in another action involving Trina Atwell Chavarría has ordered her daughter, Emily, returned to her until a appeal of her refugee status is decided, the Poder Judicial said Friday.

The court did so even as it rejected an appeal from the mother. The girl is in the custody of the Patronato Nacional de la Infancia.

The Poder Judicial clarified the summary that was reported Thursday. Earlier story is below.
______________

Trina Atwell Chavarría has lost an appeal to the Sala IV constitutional court, but another appeal is pending in her case.

Ms. Atwell, a U.S. citizen, is seeking to keep her daughter Emily in Costa Rica with her even though the father, Roy Koyama, obtains sole custody from a court in Green County, Missouri.
The Sala IV decision was released as a summary Thursday. Although three magistrates sided with Ms. Atwell, the vote was that the habeas corpus appeal was rejected.

Ms. Atwell sought to recover her daughter who was taken to a shelter two weeks ago by the Patronato Nacional de la
Infancia, the child welfare agency.

The summary noted that Ms. Atwell came to Costa Rica and sought refugee status for herself and her child. She said that she and the child were victims of family violence on the part of the father.

The court noted that the case had been resolved under the Convention over the Civil Aspects of Minors, the so-called Hague convention.

A family court judge ordered the child returned to the father, and the decision was upheld in a subsequent appeal.

The pending case is believed to be the one filed by the Defensoría de los Habitantes, which questions the procedure involved in the court cases.


Sex, adultery, gambling and taking drugs as the basic drives
Anyone who visits downtown San José in the evening and finds himself — or herself — on First Avenue between 7th and 11th streets, can see all of our basic drives being fulfilled one way or another.  Other sections of the city and country have similar locations, but this is the one I know.  There you can see female sex workers and their male clients sitting in a casino at roulette wheels, probably enjoying a drink and a bite to eat.  Outside on the sidewalk you will probably walk around a street person sleeping or begging for food.  Or they could be high on or selling some sort of drug.

There you have life according to its basic drives.

I’ve been thinking about this lately because I’ve seen the news about underage prostitution, obesity and some new drugs that kids are now taking in order to get high. If I think about it, I can remember programs on sleep, too.  How much we need and how much we get. And lest we forget, there is the recent much hyped Super Bowl game where probably more money changed hands in bets than was paid to see it. ( I include gambling as a source of experiencing a different reality because, unlike in the ‘real’ world one makes a bet and learns within a short time whether one is right or wrong, rewarded or punished.)  Then there were the tailgate parties loaded with food and drink, and even the scandal of young girls selling sex.

What is interesting about this is that all of these pursuits – sex, food, sleep, and a need for a different reality (altered consciousness) are basic drives, and all of them, sadly, can become addictive.

Fornication and sex, adultery, gambling and taking drugs or drinking alcohol are considered vices and illegal in some societies. Even when legal, and even though it can bring in more money for the time involved than most professions, selling one’s sex is considered despicable by many.  Gambling and drink are more likely to be thought of as weaknesses. All can have unintended consequences.

The three main monotheistic religions, Judaism, Islam and Christianity are more concerned with controlling these drives than earlier polytheistic religions were.  Pre-Christian Greek and Roman hours long feasts, complete with dancing girls and music are remembered in art, literature and even in the movies.

Although the Constitution of Costa Rica mandated Catholicism as its state religion (freedom of religion is
Butterfly in the City
 
. . .  Musings from San José

By Jo Stuart
jostuart@amcostarica.com

Jo Stuart


also guaranteed), both gambling and prostitution are legal, governed by certain laws and regulations.  Intolerance for drugs has increased in Costa Rica when the U.S. sponsored drug war expanded and with it the corruption that seems to accompany all wars.

The countries of Europe, especially those where organized religion has become less influential, are more tolerant of the pursuit of these drives. Countries where religion is of primary importance to either the people or the governments are less tolerant because they influence the laws that are passed.

In order to reduce the incidence of HIV Aids and hepatitis, Portugal decriminalized the personal possession of drugs and replaced punishment with treatment.  According to statistics, this move has been a success in reducing the cases of HIV Aids and even the use of drugs. 

Although gluttony is considered sinful in the preaching of today’s most prominent religions, and how much we eat or sleep has become the concern of the medical professions, and promoted the sale of many legal drugs, neither is against the law. So, we are left totally free to eat and to sleep to our hearts’ content.

“To eat drink and be merry” is condoned by at least two religions. (See Ecclesiastics 8:15 and Luke 12:19). I guess it depends on how you go about being merry.  One might suggest that being merry was the Bible’s way of saying getting high or enjoying an altered consciousness. But I wouldn’t bet on it.

There is more in the news than what I have been talking about.  History is unfolding in Egypt. Freedom and the pursuit of happiness, which includes making a living for a livable wage, may not be basic drives, but they are basic rights that should be extended to everyone. And the desire for peaceful change, which the demonstrating Egyptians have shown, should prevail in the world if our species is to retain its humanity.


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Here are some more reader ideas on how to stem crime

These are the final letters that were sent in to respond to the request for ideas on how to stem crime. Some are condensed.

The problem is rooted
in quest for political control


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Crime cannot be eliminated, only reduced to a manageable level. If unemployment is reduced to middle to low single digits the crime rate will automatically be reduced. The vibrant economy that created those jobs will provide revenue to keep the remaining crime under control. The problem with this solution is Costa Rica's dinosaur of a government. If the left wanted solutions there would be some hope. Unfortunately, the left requires major social and economic problems to sell their divisive tripe as the only solution and therefore control the ignorant and the elite. The ignorant are suckers because they don't get it, but the elite understand the power that flows from that kind of control. The elite are controlled by it because they dig it.

Ron Guell
New Orleans

Response time of police
is measured in hours

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Magistrate is theft victim........ I say boo hoo, I'm sure the bad guy gets prison time. I wonder if it took the cops eight hours to get to the crime scene here. I bet not.

Judicial investigators have said they were hampered because the finca where the death happened is some distance from Puerto Jiménez, the local commercial center.  Investigators did not reach the scene until 4 p.m. Wednesday, the day the body was discovered.     My wife and I lived on the beach in Puntarenas and we were robbed over 15 times on our property and inside our home, We were hit at 1 p.m. Jan. 8 when the earthquake hit and it took the O.I.J until 11 p.m. that night to drive five miles to our house. My neighbor, five houses up the street was robbed while sleeping and also hit 22 times in one month.

Bill Walkling
Puntarenas

All types of police need
to handle any crimes

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

In response to your article on Tips for Crime Reduction.

1. Cross train and allow ALL public police agencies to write traffic tickets and enforce ALL the laws. While there is a need for a specialized Investigation unit for rape, murder, drugs, etc. Municipal Police, Fuerza Pública, Transit Police, GAO, etc, should all be allowed and expected to enforce ANY violation they see with regards to traffic. The increased revenue from the traffic citations alone would outfit ALL the police with better weapons and equipment.

2. Every piece of property has a FOLIO number, cross reference it with the TAX database, Collect the unpaid taxes. No need to raise taxes and create more ways to evade paying. Enforce and collect existing taxes that are owed.

3. After talking with several of my local police, some have the mentality that it is futile and disheartening to arrest someone, only to have them released before they finish their paperwork. Why risk your life for little pay and no sense of accomplishment. Punishment needs to be enforced, as well as the existing laws.  Additionally the system of fingerprints is antiquated and some criminals have 20 different names all under the same set of finger prints. The problem is worse for youngsters as they are not required to carry ID, and often lie to the police. Increasing the funding available for better computer systems would allow better record keeping. Someone arrested 12 times likely has a few other records in other locations under other names.

4. There needs to be better self-protection laws. Currently there is no “Make my day law”, and even wounding or killing someone in self-defense is a crap shoot on how you will be dealt with. The courts even favor the criminals, if you injure them as they attempt to steal your belongs. Victims and criminals are supposed to have 100 percent equal rights (which is one of the things I love about Costa Rica). However the judicial system seems to favor the criminals most of the time.

5. Security guards and police need to be legally protected better when they need to use their weapon. Most security guards I’ve employed and spoken to, are scared to use their weapon in the line of duty due to the legal issues.

How many times is it reported that security guards are robbed?  It’s rarely reported a security guard has fired their weapon to protect what they were hired to. They are ineffective for a reason, and it is by design. Using lethal force to protect one’s self or belongings and taking the so called “precious” life is against the law. When a criminal takes a “precious” life, the judicial system seems to devalue the life taken.
 
Crime will continue to flourish until the RISK (meaning punishment) versus REWARD starts to favor the RISK side of the equation. People only follow laws when breaking them has consequences. We speed and talk on cell phones when no transit police are around. The same applies to REAL criminals that steal, rape, murder and maim.

On a side note, many lives are needlessly lost due to many citizens not having any training in BASIC first aid. Many of the car accident/gunshot/stabbing victims could be easily saved by the first person to encounter them if they just knew or followed BASIC first aid. Do your part and go take a BASIC First Aid training class.

Craig Salmond
San José


End investigative monopoly
and give street cops power


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

One big problem is that the Fuerza Pública is not allowed to investigate anything. Their mandate is to maintain the peace. So all of the investigation falls to the Judicial Investigating Organization which has a few offices scattered around the country. That is just ridiculous.

In other countries the local law enforcement can investigate crimes, and being local they usually have a good idea of what is going on, and who is doing what. The passive nature of the Fuerza Pública is what guarantees its ineffectiveness. Unless they catch someone red-handed they can't do anything. That law needs to change. Also the officers have high school education at best. And they are underpaid. So what is the force made of? People who don't have much incentive to work, and when they do often don't have the training or education to carry out the task at hand.

Then there is the revolving door of the court system. Serious reform needs to happen to the courts, and penalties applied to criminals. The population often feels powerless in the face of the law as the courts have no teeth, and the investigators have little ability to investigate. Worse still is when the courts apply laws and sanctions to government entities who then completely ignore them. Example in point the Instituto Costarricense de Pesca y Acuacultura and shark finning. What kind of example is it for the rest of the country that government institutions can blatantly ignore courts orders? Shocking really.

Jason Borner
Osa

More people arming selves
as victims fight back


Dear A.M. Costa Rica;

Regarding the opinions on what might help with crime here.

I do agree that off-duty police officers should be armed if they choose to be. I have noticed over the years here that there are more and more people arming themselves and fighting back. Used to be dangerous to defend yourself for fear of being accused of a crime yourself. I notice that it seems to seldom happen here anymore that the victim of a crime is accused for defending him or herself.

I do believe this is a useful deterrent.

I think several of the ideas have merit.

However, just so you know, when we went before the labor board to have our employee rules approved by them, we were informed that drug testing in the private sector is simply not allowed in Costa Rica. They did indicate that one hotel in the area was allowed to have such a clause in their internal employee contracts, but that was only because said hotel was offering many former addicts an opportunity to work.

So, in closing, please check carefully if drug testing is allowed in the private sector. I am not sure if what I was told is true or not.

I think drug testing you should be encouraged in many situations, bus drivers, policemen, medical personnel. In fact, I do believe it would be very helpful if drug testing were allowed in both public and private sectors. Some people's lives probably depend on it. But I am not really aware of what the law is for sure. And you ought to verify that for the benefit of your readers.

Thanks for the topic, I think security is the biggest issue on our minds today in Costa Rica,

Robbie Felix
Quepos, Costa Rica

Let cops take vehicles home
to use in the community


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:


Regarding crime.  Your ideas are great but my experience dictates that nothing will be followed as you have offered.  In many U.S. cities, both large and small, the law officers take their marked vehicles home and use them for errands and personal use.  Just think what a police car in the parking lot at the supermarket could mean, let alone at home.
 
I decided not to come to Costa Rica to live because of crime and price increases.   Does the government really want expats and investment?
Jake Olsen

Why do police herd up?

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:
 
Has anyone noticed that the few policemen there are on duty stand around in little groups of four or five, talking? They wouldn't notice a criminal unless he inadvertently bumped into them while escaping a robbery or crime.
Sharon Smith, MD
Take tips from Muslims
and chop off some fingers

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Crime and punishment are two issues man, as a society, has always had to deal with, and each society has its way of dealing with it. Societies that can afford it, throw money that the problem by hiring more cops and judges, buying squad cars, radios and weapons. Rudy Giuliani, former mayor of New York, did a good job at bringing down the crime rate in that city by spending lots of money.

Costa Rica talks the language of a civilized nation, mentions non-violence communication as the way to conduct human relations, blames the society for producing criminals, the “pobrecitos” of the criminal world for its lack of social fairness, and economic opportunities, but acts ineffectively in solving the crime problem, thwarted, in part, by a lack of money and imagination, having a justice system, where swift and fair justice is a joke, corrupt judges and cops are constantly revealed, and a legislature incapable of passing laws that contain a high degree of common sense. 

An example of that is the new “caught red-handed “ court, where in some cases within 24 hours the criminal is caught, judged, sentenced and led off to jail. Hallelujah! One less criminal on the street, but…that creates another problem: overcrowded jails. No one thought about the effects of a speedy trial, meaning no decent place to put the recently convicted, so now the country is faced with human rights violations of prisoners. Build more prisons you reply. Can’t do that; there is no money, not even to build sorely needed classrooms in public schools. 

Giving the prison system out in concession to a foreign company, where no major investment by the country is required, would mean it is no longer run by Ticos. If you don’t think that is not a factor, think about the opposition to Riteve, the Spanish company, which has made vehicles in the country safer and cleaner running, the new toll road to the Pacific coast, given in concession, also to a Spanish company, which has cut off more than an hour from the trip on the old road, and, heaven forbid, the port of Limón, the most expensive port in all the Caribbean being given in concession to a foreign company to get the shipping costs down in benefit of the whole country.

Furthermore, where to build a modern prison is another problem: no one wants buildings in their neighborhood that houses criminals, violent and otherwise, so the people protest and carry placards –“Not in our town.”  The government, always afraid of public protests, backs down on its plans to build the prison in______ (you fill in the blank), and back to Square One on finding a location.

In spite of the lack of common sense or political will shown by the government, the country can not give up in its efforts to lower the crime rate — we owe it to ourselves, if nothing else — so I offer a cheap and effective means to lower the crime rate, while Costa Rica gets its act together on the way to becoming a civilized country that can adequately deal with crime, and mete out appropriate punishment.

It begins with a simple premise.  It is known with absolute clarity that when the odds are in favor of you getting caught, being prosecuted and punished for a crime you are thinking about committing, that you are less likely to commit that crime. It is called a deterrent, and to some degree the “caught red-handed” court acts as a deterrent, where it operates, which is not in all of the country, thus a lower crime rate for petty offenses in those towns where it does.  Secondly, get the media to join in a campaign against corrupt cops and judges by investigating cases and publishing names and photos of these corrupt ones. The media is ultimately the value setter for the people. The Church says it is, but that is no longer the case today.

Demand of the legislature, legislation that make sense, publishing names of diputados that vote in favor of stupid  or ill-conceived laws or blocking of good laws. Anonymity is the best friend idiot and corrupt officials have. The media has to let the public know who these people are.

Finally, I would propose the use of corporal punishment; it is cheap and effective. Public flogging or caning would do wonders for reducing petty crimes. Cutting off a finger or a hand for repeat offenders would certainly reduce recidivism.  After the punishment, there is no need to feed or to house these criminals; the debt to society is paid…think of the money saved.

Muslim countries apply corporal punishment, and the crime rate is very low in these countries. I can hear your reaction to this kind of punishment: the Muslims use it because they are barbaric, inhumane, and with no notion of human rights, especially for women, and we in Costa Rica are a civilized people; we do things differently. Yes to all of the above, but that is not reducing the crime rate in Costa Rica. In fact the violent crime rate is going up, so does not that suggest doing something different than what has been done? I think it does. Why not corporal punishment?
Robert Nahrgang S.
Escazú

Tighten penalties for youth
to make them accountable

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Wake up Citizens of Costa Rica!

In answer to the editor's article, I have a few of my own opinions to go along with those ideas presented. Most of the crime in our area normally goes unanswered. The police here just sit in their office because of insufficient funds to maintain and drive their vehicle. Sort of an answering service for after-the-fact of a committed crime.

If anyone is assaulted or robbed here, by the time the police arrive, if they do, the criminals are long gone. We had a small community meeting last week and if any of the criminals were in attendance, they would have been elated to hear the response from the mouth of the police attending. There are absolutely no patrols of the area. They just about admitted that they can do nothing to help us. They want us to do their job by gathering evidence on our own. Walking a beat is even non-existent here. I believe many of the crimes are committed by the youthful here who can escape just about any form of punishment. Just read from an article from this past December from a neighboring country.

Associated Press        Published December 05, 2010
CUERNAVACA, Mexico – A 14-year-old boy accused of participating in four beheadings for a Mexican drug cartel will be tried under a state juvenile law that carries a maximum of three years in prison if convicted, a judge said Sunday.


This should be a wake up call to all of those countries with spiraling juvenile crime. Just how do you grasp this especially if you are the offended party? This is a complete breakdown of the legal system in these countries with soft laws regarding youth. How innocent can a 14 year old be that he can benefit from the archaic legal system. These outdated laws were created when the innocent youth were untainted by world around us. Its time to catch the laws up with the violent society we now have created for ourselves. If they are old enough to commit an adult crime, then they should be treated as such. This revolving door policy for juveniles must be addressed. And they should double the penalty for adults that use juveniles to commit crimes for them. Put this issue on the fast track, Ms. President.

As I have mentioned previously, the 80 million dollar Stadium should have been reduced to 40 million and the other 40 million to build a new prison. The citizens would have been better served.

The existing youth crime is costing Costa Rica plenty. Especially in tourism. I am in the business, and I know many who will never visit Costa Rica again due to theft and violence committed on them. More important is how many of their friends they will relate their sad stories too who also will be sure to take their vacations elsewhere. How I long for the “Good Old Days”.

I would like the police to be more accountable for their time on the job and to share with the community the arrest records and the report of crimes committed locally and a description of the perpetrators. It would be nice to have this information to share with each and all of us in the community to help us be more aware of times, locations, type of crime, vehicle descriptions, etc. Right now we only have word of mouth without the facts. How about a once a month meeting with the community with the police to share this information and what they have done to resolve the crimes committed in the prior month. The Fuerza Pública tells us that when it leaves them and goes on to the OIJ to solve, their hands are clean. How about having a  representative from the OIJ to attend that meetings also. I believe there's a book, “It Takes a Town” some years ago. Maybe we can come together here in Nuevo Arenal and be an example for the rest of the small towns who are experiencing this blight.

Tom Ploskina
Nuevo Arenal

Put names and the faces
of criminals in public view

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

The judicial system in Costa Rica appears to grant all the benefits of the law to the perpetrator and none to the victim.  The percentage of criminals from arrest to sentencing is in the low 20th percentile.  Further, the criminal is hidden from view, the police protect their identities.  How does that help other victims identify criminals who have violated them?  Most criminals have been at it so long, that a quick identification would surely bolster the case against the perpetrator allowing more people to come forward.  Greater than the fine/sentence is the exposure of a criminal to his peers which has more impact on his conduct.  Costa Rican society is about appearances, name and reputation.  This is the very reason that slander was such a serious crime.  So you can literally be violated, cheated and not tell anyone.  Not for me, I tell everyone.
 
The victim is not protected.  When you make a denuncia (charge or complaint) against someone you have to include your phone number, your address.  This info goes to the criminal.  If you do not have both surnames and spelled correctly, the case is thrown out.  You must also have his address.  Your chances are further reduced if you are a foreigner.
 
Judith Kent
San Joaquin de Flores,  Heredia


Citizens must take action
and report the crimes


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I think the solution has to be with the people. How many of us have had something stolen from us or we were attacked and we never reported the crime. Most Costa Ricans do not report any robbery of a cell phone or break-in unless the value of object is more than $200 or $300. They say that the police will not investigate anything less. So we all have to report all crime that occurs. We the victims must take responsibility for whatever happen to us. Crime is everywhere. Let us become more aware of what we can do to improve the situation. Take the necessary action to reduce crime in Costa Rica.

Enrico Cordova

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Feb. 11, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 30

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Suspect caught in U.S.
after bridge fatality here

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A suspect in the traffic death of a government worker near the Río Virilla bridge has been detained in Atlanta, Georgia.

The Judicial Investigating Organization said Thursday that the man, who was not identified, was stopped by Customs and Border Protection when he tried to enter the United States after flying from San José Thursday morning.

Agents said that they managed to locate the car, a Kia sports utility vehicle, suspected of being involved in the case in Heredia and tracked the operator to identify the suspect. Informal sources said the man was a Canadian tourist who was staying at a hotel in Heredia.

The man is facing a murder charge because the motorist who hit two Ministerio de Obras Pública employees about 10 p.m. Wednesday fled. Police at the time said that the motorist was driving recklessly. The man was expected back in Costa Rica late Thursday.

The bridge is the one that has been undergoing reconstruction since Christmas. As a result of the accident, the ministry said that the Autopista General Cañas will be closed from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. until work is finished there  in about 10 days in order to protect the individuals working on the span.

Killed was Óscar Lépiz Delgado, a 24-year veteran of the ministry. Injured was a co-worker Marco Vincio Calderón Astúa, a man with nine years service, the ministry said.

Brazilian government takes
steps to curb the budget


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The Brazilian government says it is implementing $30 billion in budget cuts to curb rising inflation.

Officials made the announcement Wednesday, but said the decision will not impact spending on social programs or infrastructure.  Finance Minister Guido Mantega said the government will remove all remaining stimulus packages that were put in place two years ago to counteract the global financial crisis.

The cuts are equivalent to 1.2 percent of Brazil's total gross domestic product for this year. Full details are expected to be released next week.

Brazil's economy grew more than 7 percent last year.  Inflation is running at around 6 percent, above the government target of 4.5 percent.

Last month, Brazil took steps to stop the rise in value of its currency, the real, as part of an effort to stabilize its financial system.

The measures make it more expensive for Brazil's commercial banks to invest in the currency.  Investors have been buying the real on speculation it will continue to strengthen against the dollar.

President Dilma Rousseff has promised to resolve the currency imbalance that is hurting some Brazilian industries that export their products.

Brazil, Latin America's biggest economy, is now considered one of the world's major emerging economies, along with Russia, China and India.


Radio newsman murdered
in apparent robbery in Haiti


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A journalist in Haiti has been shot to death on a street in the capital, Port-au-Prince.

Reports say the journalist, Jean Richard Louis Charles, had just emerged from a bank when three men attacked him and shot him in the head.

A police officer nearby shot and killed one of the gunmen. The other two attackers escaped.

Police are investigating. Some reports say the shooting was an attempted robbery.

The journalist worked for Radio Kiskeya, which has posted a statement on its website expressing "dismay and deep sadness" for the death of its employee. The station suspended its regular programming and played music in his honor.
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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Feb. 11, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 30

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robbery suspect
Judicial Investigating Organization photo
One suspect is led to an investigator's car

Shoot-first robbery suspects
detained in Desamparados

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Judicial investigators conducted raids in Desamparados Thursday morning and detained two men they claim were robbers who shot first before asking victims to hand over belongings.

The men are 19 and 25. They were detained in Barrio La Paz in Loma Linda de Desamparados

Agents allege that these are the two men who confronted two telecommunications technicians while they worked on a cellular tower last Jan. 17. A robber put five bullets into one man and robbed his companion. The victims were employees of the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad.

Agents are accumulating a list of robberies in the area that can be attributed to crooks with the same manner of operation. They said that many persons had failed to file complaints out of fear or because they did not expect results. They urged them to do so.

Agents detained a third man Thursday on the public street near the entry to Calle Fallas in san Rafael Ariba de Desamparados and said he was linked to the other men.


Fire destroys older homes

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Firemen blame a short circuit for a blaze in Barrio Pitahaya Thursday morning that destroyed two homes and heavily damaged three more.

The blaze was a group of wooden structures about 70 years old, said the Cuerpo de Bomberos.

The area was about 500 meters north of Paseo Colón in San José. Five adults lost their homes, firemen said. No one was injured, they added.  The blaze was reported at 8:23 a.m.


Orchard show planned

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The editorial section of the Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad plans a show or orchids starting today at Multiplaza in Escazú. The event runs through Monday. The location is in the covered parking lot of the commercial center. The publishing house also promises big discounts on its titles.





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