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These stories were published Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2003, in Vol. 3, No. 30
Jo Stuart
About us
as a 
A.M. Costa Rica staff
But what about the dreaded revisión tecnica?
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The cool kid had one. The greaser kid had one, but he messed it up by cutting and customizing it beyond recognition.

Now one sits in the covered lot of a Sabana car sales company.

We are talking 1956 Chevrolet sedan here, perhaps one of the coolest cars made and certainly within reach of the high schooler who had a dad with deep pockets. Not so the Chevrolet Corvette, which remained an expensive dream.

Some fans think that the ’56 Chevy is the best of the line, back when cars were cars, gasoline was 11 cents a gallon and step on it meant 225 horses disguised as a V-8 engine leaping forward.

These were the days before environmental concerns, seat belts and even FM radios. The Nobel Prize for physics that year was shared by three scientists who created something called the transistor. Worldwide, the Hungarians were revolting, and the Suez crisis dominated Mideast politics.  In music, some guy named Elvis made a few songs about hotels and hound dogs.

For at least a decade the 1956 Chevy was the 

standard by which all other cars in the 
possession of high schoolers were measured. Be it two door or four door, the car still is a classic. 

Chevrolet even advertised a bright red Chevy for the fire chief, suggesting that the firemen knew something that car buyers should also know. Such ads turned up in Life, Look and the Saturday Evening Post. They were magazines.

Chevrolet also made a few ambulances on the frame of the 1956 Chevy, as well as a station wagon, the Nomad, and a pickup truck.

Kleinman Motor on Avenida 10 has the blue and white Chevy for sale for $20,000. Similar cars range in price in the United States from between $4,500 and $18,000 depending on condition. The car carries a low Tico license plate number.

For those without a lot of discretionary capital, the Franklin Mint offers a metal version of this classic car at 1:24 scale for $120, and model maker Revell will sell you a plastic 1:25 version for $13.99

Although Cuba has a reputation for keeping classic U.S. cars in service, Costa Rica has its share, although they usually are only seen in parades and weekend expositions.

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

It is Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, and if the 16th president were alive today he would be 194 years old.

Born Feb. 12, 1809, to a modest Kentucky family Lincoln attained the heights of the presidency of the United States of America in 1860. The top-hatted president guided the country through its most insecure period since its birth. Lincoln is credited with preserving the union through the Civil War.

Through the efforts to secure the United States he was also able to issue the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed the African-Americans from slavery.

Lincoln was assassinated April 14, 1865, by John Wilkes Booth, a southern sympathizer. The bearded president was at  Ford’s Theater in Washington D.C. when he was shot.

The day used to be a holiday, but in order for Americans to have a three-day holiday, both Lincoln’s birthday and that of the first president, George Washington, are celebrated together, this year next Monday.

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U.S. trade proposal would quickly cut import tariffs
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The United States has proposed eliminating tariffs on certain goods from other Western Hemisphere countries as part of a proposed Americas-wide free trade zone. 

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick told a news conference here Tuesday that tariffs on goods such as sugar and citrus would be eliminated on a specific timetable depending on the country. 

The trade representative says the proposal, which includes ending tariffs on textile and apparel goods within five years, is part of what he calls "bold proposals" to lower barriers throughout the region. 

The United States is pushing for the creation of a free trade zone stretching from Alaska to the tip of South America by 2005.

Zoellick said that under the auspices of the U.S. proposals, approximately 56 percent of agricultural imports from the Americas would be duty-free on day one, with other agricultural tariffs phased out in increments of five years, 10 years, or longer, depending on the needs of different countries. He emphasized that the United States is proposing a comprehensive agricultural negotiation that would not exclude any product. The trade representative said that the United States would also seek to eliminate non-tariff barriers that impede agricultural trade.

In the investment area, Zoellick said the United States is proposing that foreign investors receive the same protection as their domestic counterparts.

The U.S. proposal also would give businesses outside the United States non-discriminatory rights to compete for contracts for goods and services purchased by 51 U.S. government agencies. Chile and Caribbean nations would be eligible for contracts with 79 government agencies.

Caribbean countries would enjoy immediate duty-free access on the highest percentage of their goods and agricultural products, followed by Central American nations, Andean countries and, finally, nations within South America's Mercosur trading bloc, under the U.S. proposal.

Addressing the skepticism of some Latin leaders who have questioned the commitment of the United States to open its market, Zoellick argued that the United States is up to the challenge of leading regional efforts to fulfill the promise of the free trade area of the Americas.

Chief negotiator
touts pact benefits

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A free-trade agreement between the United States and Central America would benefit all participants in a number of ways, said Regina Vargo, assistant U.S. trade representative for the Americas.

Speaking Tuesday at a panel discussion on the proposed Central America Free Trade Agreement, Vargo said one benefit of the trade pact would be to strengthen Central American democracy and prosperity. The Central American countries, she said, have worked very hard to put a peace process in place to establish democracies and undertake economic reforms following economic and political turmoil in the region during the 1980s and '90s. She is the chief U.S. negotiator for the pact.

Democracy and economic reform, she said, "are beginning to take hold" in Central America. She added that though the free trade pact, the Central American countries have an opportunity "to lock in these domestic reforms and to deepen regional integration." The countries in the proposed pact would be Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua.

EU tariff decision on Tico plants delayed until June
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The European Union delayed until June a decision to end Costa Rica’s position within its favorable trade tariff system for developing countries.

Roberto Tovar, the Costa Rican foreign minister, said, however, that he remains positive. He said that he has to see the news as positive, saying that the country has more time to prove to the union the negative effects of Costa Rica’s removal.

Fears are rife in the Costa Rican government that national production and the workers who cultivate the products concerned (fruit, nuts and ornamental plants) would be adversely affected by the country’s removal. The specific products, as the system regulations stipulate now, enter the union tariff free from Costa Rica.

Colombia is facing the same scenario with the union. 

The Foreign Ministry here says that the decision to remove Costa Rica would also indirectly affect Nicaragua, since many of the people employed in the industry that produces these products are Nicaraguan.

Germany and Holland, the biggest importers of the affected products within the union, have indicated their support for Costa Rica, as has Spain. Other union member states have inferred support, but have not officially disclosed it. It appears France and Italy may oppose Costa Rica’s pleas.

Helmut Zöckel, the German ambassador to Costa Rica, last week went further and said that any decision would definitely affect Germany.

Minister: Rebels needed
help with car bomb

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

BOGOTÁ, Colombia — Marta Lucia Ramirez, defense minister, says foreign groups may have aided those responsible for last week's deadly car bombing of an exclusive nightclub here. The attack left 40 adults and children dead.

Speaking Tuesday in Washington, Ms. Ramirez said last Friday's attack was a highly sophisticated operation that probably involved technical assistance from outside the country. 

Ms. Ramirez says the rebels accused in the attack are accustomed to life in the jungle, where they have no access to the intricacies of car bombing. 

She also says officials here have contacted Britain and Spain to determine whether the Irish Republican Army or the Basque separatist group, ETA, played any role in the bombing. Ms. Ramirez is in Washington to seek more U.S. aid for war-ravaged Colombia. 

In August of 2001, Colombian authorities charged three alleged members of the Irish group with training Marxist guerrillas and carrying false documents. 

The Colombian military says the men were training members of the rebel Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, the group accused of bombing the social club. The group has denied military cooperation with the Irish group. 

The group also says rightist paramilitaries frequented the club. 

In a related development, the permanent council of the Organization of American States is meeting Wednesday in Washington at the request of the Colombian government. The government here wants the organization to adopt a resolution declaring the country's rebel groups as terrorists. 

The group and a smaller guerrilla group, along with the paramilitaries, are listed as terrorist organizations by the United States. 

For nearly 40 years, Colombia has been mired in a civil war that pits rebels, paramilitaries and the government against each other. The conflict leaves thousands of people dead each year.

Drugs seized in Mexico

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

MEXICO CITY, Mexico — The army here has arrested three suspected drug smugglers and seized more than two tons of cocaine from a plane that landed in the northern part of the country Monday. 

Officials say the 12-seat Beachcraft airplane was en route from the Colombian island of San Andres when it landed at some 250 miles northwest of here. 

The drugs were discovered when soldiers inspected the plane. The three men arrested include two Colombians and a Mexican national.

Monday is added
to musuem schedule

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The museums of the Banco Central de Costa Rica will be open an additional day. These are the museums that are found under the Plaza de la Cultura in the downtown and include the Museo de Oro Precolombino, one of Costa Rica’s top tourist attractions.

The bank announced the additional day for visitors Tuesday and said that the extended schedule would continue through the dry season.

In addition to the famed gold museum, the underground structure features the Museo de Nunmismatica where coins and currency from early Costa Rica may be found, and a rotating exhibition area.

In the exibition area now is an ambitious display of handiworks by Costa Rica’s Boruca Indians.

The bank also announced that the Grupo de Jazz de Lalo Rojas (Hijo) will entertain visitors in the lobby of the building this Saturday. More information is available at the Web site: www.museosdelbancocentral.org

Power tower survives
attempt with firebomb

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Someone took aim at an electric tower in Limón and launched a molotov cocktail at it.

The homemade bomb struck an Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad structure at around 8:30 p.m. Monday, according to the Ministerio de Gobernacion Policia y Seguridad Pública.

No damage resulted in the attack, according to the security ministry. Investigators do not have a suspect.

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Also, we invite you to join one of the most active discussion groups on the case.  Find out what people who care are saying. Join at irccr-subscribe@yahoogroups.com


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Two murder cases on human rights court docket 
By Garett Sloane
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights will be handling cases from its seat in San José from Monday to March 8. The session will be the first of four planned for the year. 

The seven judges of the court will hear cases submitted by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in Washington D.C. The commission chooses which cases are worthy of being brought before the court.

Cases during this session involve a supposed execution of an anthropologist in Guatemala in 1990 and the presumed torture and execution of a man in Honduras in 1992.

The presentation of these cases and others are open to the public.

The court rules on cases after hearing evidence from the supposed victims and the states, which are accused of not maintaining the agreed standards of human rights written in the American Convention on Human Rights and other treaties. The convention is a pact between members of the Organization of American States.

The court has the power to award damages to victims and coerce states to comply with human rights agreements.

Lori Berenson, an American, is before the court, but her case may not progress during this session. Berenson is currently in a Peruvian jail convicted of terrorism. The court will eventually decide if she has been treated fairly by Peru.

Colombian refugees in Costa Rica recently chose the court building as protest grounds. The refugees want to be resettled from Costa Rica and entered the gates of the court Feb. 10 to express their desire. The court has no power to help the refugees. No case is before the court regarding the refugees.

The court received an additional $600,000 for this year’s budget from the Organization of American States. The increase is going to construction in the building. A $500,000 budget increase has been added for next year which will go to more personnel and longer court sessions.

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights was established in 1979. Costa Rica pays $100,000 a year to the court budget as part of the agreement to have the court here.

Our reward offer is still $500

Louis Milanes

Luis Enrique Villalobos Camacho
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

This newspaper seeks the prompt return of two men who ran high-interest investment operations that have gone out of business.

Luis Enrique Villalobos Camacho, 62, was associated with Ofinter S.A., a money exchange house, and with his own private investment business that had about $1 billion in other people’s money on the books.

Villalobos closed his business Oct. 14 and vanished.

Louis Milanes operated Savings Unlimited and several casinos in San José. He left the country with other members of his firm the weekend of Nov. 23. He may have as much as $260 million in his possession. Both operations catered to North Americans.

Villalobos had about 6,300 customers. Milanes had about 2,400.

Villalobos and Milanes are the subjects of international arrest warrants.  Associates of both men have been jailed.

A.M. Costa Rica has posted a $500 reward for information leading to the detention of either man with the hopes that others will make similar pledges. The newspaper believes that investors only will see some of their money when the two men are in custody.

Milanes has few supporters in San José. On the other hand, as the letters frequently on this page show, Villalobos still has supporters who believe that he will reappear and settle his debts. They believe he is in hiding because of a predatory Costa Rican government.

More letters on Villalobos situation
He’s against trade pact
because of frauds

Dear  A.M. Costa Rica:

I was interested to read the news of the U.S. investors group protesting  Costa Rica’s desire for a free trade agreement with the U.S. Although I  agree Costa Rica should be denied this trade pact, I am afraid their methods are a bit off.

Don't protest in Costa Rica, write and e-mail the U.S. government. And do not just write to the government, but also write to U.S. travel advisory, major travel agencies, state representitives, newspapers and press in  the U.S., Intel Corp., NASA, and any other U.S. entity involved with  Costa Rica. Tell them the truth.

The truth is: 1. Costa Rica is the number one source in the world for fraud and theft of money and property of U.S. citizens. Even more loss to fraud then the pariah state of Nigeria. Congratulations, Costa Rica, you are finally number one at somthing in the world.

2. Tell them that a simple internet search in Google pulls up over 43,000 entries under the search of "Costa Rica Fraud."

3. Tell them no U.S. money should go to Costa Rica for any reason.

4. Tell them Costa Rica has defrauded U.S. citizens of over one billion dollars and destroyed many lives in the process.

5. Advise them against traveling to Costa Rica and do not even consider banking or investing there. They may well lose their belongings and investments.

Let Costa Rica’s president and tourist promotion groups explain again and  again the incredible amount of fraud and theft of U.S. dollars. Let them  explain why they should enjoy a free trade agreement with the U.S. when  their corupt little government runs on state-controlled monopolies and  has been known to steal millions of dollars in foreign infastructure developement to protect these pathetic monopolies.

Costa Rica has achieved a reputation with U.S. citizens as a pariah state that should not be trusted. This is a reputation that Costa Rica will  wear for many decades to come.

All of the ongoing scandalous financial fraud and the lives it has destroyed  should not be forgotten for many, many years. I used to love Costa Rica, but I am so thourghly disgusted with the ongoing  news, fraud, theft, and deaths, that we have stopped our plans to return  to live there again. I have removed all moneys I kept in Costa Rica banks, sold my property, and completely dis-invested in Costa Rica. I would  advise all of the angry American citizens there to do the same.

Protesting to the Costa Rican government is an exercise in futility. There  is no justice to be found in that route. The Costa Rican government will  steal the rest of the investors money locked up in the Villalobos bank  accounts. 

It is time to stop trusting Costa Rica.

Sign me as one of the TAXPAYING U.S. citizens whose life has been destroyed by this pariah state and its citizens. It is a very sad state of affairs for an otherwise beautiful country. The current corrupt government is on a course of ruining the economy and setting a very negitive view of  Costa Rica which will outlive this failure of an administration for decades  to come. 

David Laurence 
Seattle, Washington USA
She wants money back

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Re: The Brothers

Hopes for the situation returning to the way it was are fading. 

Villalobos (the lawyer) has stated the battle is being lost on two fronts, legally  and publicly. The United Concerned Citizens and Residents have begun legal action. However, publicly it appears to be of little concern beyond those actually involved. This must be addressed. Perhaps the UCCR should take an ad out in every newspaper in CR, explaining the treacherous actions and short sightedness of President Pacheco’s  government. People are entitled to know exactly why they don’t have a job or money. Of value would be highlighting the resulting economic devastation needlessly imposed. For example:

- $60 to $70 million U.S. dollars lost from the economy each year - 6300 investors losing their savings needlessly - Lost jobs across the entire economy - Increased defaults in loans - Lost taxes - Lost tourism - Declining real estate values - Construction projects halted - Potential tax source lost - Damage to Costa Ricas image.

All this at a time when the government is already in financial difficulty!

It would help if investors would step forward, make some noise and not be afraid of the tax repercussions.  They should be willing to pay taxes on money that they  have as opposed to evading taxes on money that they don't have. This would allow  them to pressure the government into acting responsibly.

What I really can not understand is that the politicians appear to be acting on  behalf of the banks and not the people who elected them. If they do not wish The Brothers to be in business, so be it, but at least allow the investors their money  back. Otherwise they are just down right mean guys.

It is apparent the low key approach has not worked. 

Sharon Hamm 

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