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These stories were published Friday, Feb. 14, 2003, in Vol. 3, No. 32
Jo Stuart
About us
Anxiety mixes with surprise
Emotions run high in the U.S. and Britain
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The United States is an armed land of anxiety, according to wire service news stories and reports from readers.

Police presence is up following last week's decision by officials to raise the terrorist threat alert level from elevated to high. But the increase in security has also heightened public anxiety, according to a public opinion poll.

Britain, too, is in high security, and police at London’s Catwick Airport Thursday grabbed a Venezuelan who had a live hand grenade in his luggage. Police grabbed two more men at nearby Heathrow Airport because they were inside a perimeter fence.

Readers in the United States expressed mixed emotions in messages to A.M. Costa Rica Thursday. A woman in the western state of New Mexico said the sky over her home was full of military planes Wednesday night. She lives near Los Alamos and Sandia National Laboratories, two prime terrorist targets.

A man, a physician said " . . . I am 52, and have never seen anything like this in the United States. Everyone in this country filled with fear and apprehension." Both readers said they were headed to Costa Rica in a few days. The woman said she would sell her home and move her family here.

Another reader expressed skepticism that all the security was necessary. He is an accountant in Oregon. "I know Bush is having a hard time drumming up support for a war in Iraq. It seems just possible that this could be merely a ploy to make us all feel the danger so we will support the ‘cause.’" he said. 

An East Coast reader said that government warnings have caused metro area residents in New York City, Boston and Washington to clean all the hardware stores of bottled water, duct tape and plastic sheeting. The idea is for residents to seal off an interior room in their home against chemical and biological agents.

Increased vigilance can result in numerous false alarms. On Thursday alone, two New 

York City bridges were closed for a time as police investigated suspicious activity. In suburban Atlanta, authorities evacuated a high school after they discovered a suspicious device in a hallway. 

In Washington, tourists were startled at the sight of vehicle mounted anti-aircraft missiles pointed skyward.

Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge briefed members of Congress on the threat Thursday and Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison says there are numerous potential targets.

"I think every American needs to be very vigilant, particularly urban areas, particularly big buildings," she said. "Those are some of the general things that we are getting. Buildings that have a particular international significance, like our United States Capitol [which houses Congress]."

Also Thursday, the FBI issued a new warning to a wide range of industries to check for possible terrorist infiltrators among their employees. Authorities are particularly concerned about companies involved in telecommunications, energy and heavy industry who could become prey to an attack.

The CBS News-New York Times poll found that 82 percent of those surveyed in the northeastern United States believe a terrorist attack is likely in the next few months. 

Not all readers here are convinced the United States is doing a good job of protecting its citizens. A Pacific beach hotel owner wondered Thursday how Cuban defectors could bring their boat up to a major hotel in Key West, Fla.  The Cuban Coast Guard boat cruised right into Key West harbor and docked at the Hyatt with no problem, she said.

In Costa Rica there are no obvious signs of increased security. But the government said Thursday it was watching the U.S.-Iraq situation with "profound preoccupation." The message from the Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores y Culto said that the government of Costa Rica insists vehemently that Iraq carry out U.N. resolutions with regard to disarmament and collaborate with the international arms inspectors.

Finally, I understand what Pogo meant
It's Valentine's Day, and unfortunately there is more hate in the world than love. Right now the United States is on Orange Alert against a terrorists attack. People are being asked how this affects their lives. I realize that, although I worry about my friends and family in the States, I am not at all concerned about my own safety. I simply can't imagine any terrorist group wanting to bomb Costa Rica. 

This, in spite of the fact that Costa Rica is a democratic country where the people enjoy great freedom (two things that the terrorists are supposed to hate). I also realize that here in Costa Rica we have not had alerts regarding Ebola, salmonella, anthrax or other scary bacteria and food- and airborne poisons. The only epidemic scares there have been since I have lived here is dengue and for a short time in Santa Ana, hepatitis. Once Santa Ana went on city water, that scare went away. I drink the water from the tap without concern.

And now the worst plague of all is threatening the U.S.: war. When I hear President George Bush speak I always think of the song Johnny One Note. He talks of nothing but war with Iraq, a country that ironically, right now, seems to be the safest place in the Middle East for Americans.

The Bush administration seems to have as its goal regime change in Iraq, and then, once democracy and freedom are established in Iraq we will go after North Korea. These two nations are notorious for their abuses of human rights. Both their repression of their people and the deprivation they have caused to their populations are because all of their money has gone to support weapons of mini and mass destruction. The U.S. wants to stop this process and give these people all the good stuff we have in the States. 
There seems to be one catch. In order to free these people and fight the war on terrorism, the U.S. government must divert most of its own money to that end. Education, social welfare and health programs cannot be properly funded.

Money is needed for our armed forces, for Homeland Security, for bombs and guns and even more WESOMADs. Included in the cost of war are billions in bribes to other countries to go to war with us, but not one cent for food or energy to bribe North Korea to desist in their plans to go nuclear. Then more will be needed to rebuild the destruction of war. Soon, perhaps, there will be no money left for peaceful programs. The 

Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart

poor will get poorer, the sick, sicker, the dumb dumber. 

And then, to fight the war on terrorism, the administration has found it necessary to curb the civil rights of both aliens and citizens in the U.S. The first step was the Patriot Act. Now there is talk of Patriot Act II that will extend the power of the government to curb the freedom of its people who will have no recourse to fight this governmental power. All of this is in the name of defense and war to fight two repressive regimes that have ignored the needs of its people in order to maintain its power base. Slowly, the stateless terrorists are winning: Americans are losing their democracy and their freedom.

Not having an army, Costa Rica does not have to maintain it or supply it with weapons. I realize that over the years less and less of the money saved as a result of that has been spent on education and health care (which is where it was supposed to go). But, meanwhile, at least, the people living here have not had to worry about the damage done to their health from radiation and nuclear waste or from the accidental release or theft of bio and chemical killers. 

There are some who sneer at Costa Rica’s disarmament and state that it will be the United States that comes to the rescue of Costa Rica should anyone attack it. Of course they will. That is what the U.S. does, not just for Costa Rica but for all countries, whether they ask or not. As the most powerful, best-armed country in the world, the U.S. has become the worlds self-appointed samurai. The unfortunate outcome may be that with more and more money going to the production of weapons and missile defense systems, the U.S., like North Korea, will have only one product to sell weapons.

Pogo was right, We have seen the enemy and they are us. If all of this comes to pass, I wonder who will come forth to rescue the American people? 

More Jo Stuart: HERE!

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Coast highway loan will be formalized today
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rican officials will sign the loan papers today in Quepos to set up the financing for a major link in the coast highway.

President Abel Pacheco and Javier Chávez, minister of Obras Pública y Transporte will be there. So will a representative of the Central American Bank of Economic Integration, which is making the $60 million available for the work.

The road now from Quepos to Dominical is gravel. This link on the coast highway is not covered with asphalt although the road is graded and has 

drainage in place. When finished, the coast highway will rival the Interamerican.

The coast highway cuts a lot of travel time between Nicaragua and Panamá because the Interamerican goes from the coast to San José and then through Cartago before heading south through the country’s mountains.

The ministry also has in the planning stages a major link in the northern part of the country that will connect Nicaragua with the coastal highway on the Caribbean. That will provide a major north-south route and also open up the shipping facilities in Limón

British Embassy photo
Sir Francis, I presume? says Col. Ian Blair-Pilling to the British sailor who volunteered to portray the 16th century privateer.

Drake's back at his bay,
thanks to British gala

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The British naval supply ship RFA Black Rover visited Drake Bay last weekend, representing the first time a British Navy-related ship has visited Costa Rica in 22 years, according to the British Embassy.

The ship had spent the last two weekends in Costa Rica, having docked in Puntarenas the previous weekend. The visit was a goodwill gesture organized by Georgina Butler, British ambassador to Costa Rica. Black Rover regularly crosses the Atlantic to replenish British Navy frigates patrolling the Caribbean in the fight against drug trafficking.

The visit to Drake Bay on th Osa Pennsula represented a strong historical tie for the British, since Sir Francis Drake, the man whose name the bay carries, landed there in 1579. While Sir Francis’ goal was to add to Queen Elizabeth’s empire, the parade last weekend was nostalgia. No more so than for Ms. Butler, who counts herself as a big fan of Drake.

The ship’s visit kicked off a week of festivity. The British Embassy, which coordinated the weekend, invited local dignitaries, as well as Rogelio Pardo, the Costa Rican science minister, and Ian Blair-Pilling, the British defense attaché for Central America among others.

Many local people turned out for the weekend. That group contained a number of children. A reenactment of Drake’s landing was played out, in which the children had active parts.

Queen Elizabeth I sent Drake to try to wrest control of the Americas from the Spanish. He had a largely unsuccessful trip.

Danilovich a guest
at chamber lunch

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

John Danilovich, the U.S. ambassador to Costa Rica, will be the guest speaker at a lunch Tuesday to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the American Chamber of Commerce.

The event will be held at the Hotel Real Inter-Continental here in San José, starting at noon. The lunch is being hosted by the Costa Rican branch of the chamber.

The chamber here deals with over 400 representatives from more than 380 multinational and local companies. The chamber started out as the American Business Council, formed in the 1950s.

Democrats Plan
free trade debate

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Democrats Abroad of Costa Rica will pose the prominent question of the moment at its monthly meeting in San José Feb. 24: "Is CAFTA good (or bad) for Costa Rica?"

Ruth Dixon-Mueller, a group spokesperson, said that former Costa Rican President Rodrigo Carazo is the featured speaker who will head up the debate into the Central American free trade agreement (CAFTA) currently being discussed between the United States and five Central American countries, including Costa Rica.

Carazo was the country’s president from 1978 through 1982. He is staunchly against the proposed free trade agreement with the United States.

Although not confirmed, the Democrats plan to have a speaker in place who will be on the pro-free trade side of the fence.

Ms. Dixon-Mueller said the group wants many people from the English language speaking community to attend.

The Democrats group has advised that the starting time for the event will be at 3 p.m. and not the usual 12 p.m. The meeting of the group, like others, will be held on the 5th floor of the Gran Hotel Costa Rica in central San José.

Admission is 3,500 colons and reservations should be made by Feb. 21. Drinks and bocas will be served at 3 p.m. Contact Dorothy Sagel at: 249-1856, or Ms. Dixon-Mueller at: 494-6260. 

Bouncing boat 
bad for digestion

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Coast guard rescued three fisherman Wednesday after the men bounced 72 hours in the violent sea. 

The Servicio Nacional de Guardacostas received a radio transmission around noon revealing the position of a ship with a sick crew. The Morgan C, manned by three seamen with digestive problems, was located 30 nautical miles from Cabo Velas, a cape just north of Tamarindo on the Nicoya Peninsula.

Strong winds and waves prevented an easy rescue, but by around 9 p.m. the sick men were taken from their boat, according to a press release from the Ministerio de Seguridad Pública.

The men identified as Alexánder Chavarría Bermúdez, Alfredo Madriz Campos and Alberto Reyes Porras were in their fishing vessel in very choppy waters. The crew experienced 72 hours of turbulent waves, so turbulent the men became sea sick, said the ministry.

The fishermen were treated in a local hospital for dehydration and have since been released, according to the press release.

Harris gets air time
for Casa Alianza

By the A.M.Costa Rica staff

Bruce Harris, the Central American director for child advocacy group Casa Alianza, will be featured in an interview with British radio station, BBC Radio 4, Tuesday.

Harris, who is British, heads the group’s division in the region, and is seen as a great champion in helping to bring child abusers to justice and sustaining the rights of children.

Fergal Keane, a BBC Radio 4 journalist, will interview Harris on the award winning "Taking a Stand" program.  The pair will discuss Casa Alianza and the director’s work with the organization.

Harris recently reported that the group is trying to get Prince William, of the British monarchy, to join Casa Alianza’s St. Andrew’s University branch. The prince is in his second year of studies at the university.

Casa Alianza is a branch of the New York-based Covenant House.

The show will air at 9:00 a.m. and again at 9:30 p.m. the same day. BBC Radio 4 can be reached on 92-96 FM/198 LW in Britain.

For those people tuning in outside of Britain, the show can be reached on the BBC’s Web site: www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/news/takingastand/shtml.

For further information on the show, e-mail Harris at: bruce@casa-alianza.org

Americas speak against
terror in Colombia

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON D.C. — The Organization of American States has condemned the Feb. 7 bombing by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia of a Colombian nightclub as a "despicable terrorist attack."

The organization’s Permanent Council said in a Wednesday resolution that it pledged its cooperation in "pursuing, capturing, prosecuting, punishing, and when appropriate, expediting the extradition of the perpetrators, organizers and sponsors of the attack" on the nightclub in Bogotá.

The organization issued what it called "its most vehement rejection and condemnation of the numerous terrorist acts perpetrated by armed groups in Colombia operating outside the law." The U.S. State Department has designated the Colombian rebels as a terrorist organization.

Terrorist attacks on the civilian population, "regardless of their origin or motivation, have no possible justification and constitute a serious criminal phenomenon," the organization said, adding that terrorism "attacks democracy, impedes the enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms, [and] threatens the security of states."

President George W. Bush said Feb. 8 that the Bogotá bombing constituted a "barbaric act of terrorism." On behalf of the United States, Bush offered "our deepest condolences" to the families of the victims. More than 30 people were killed and at least 162 people were injured in the attack.

Woman speared in eye,
and ex-boyfriend held

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A woman who had a court restraining order against a former boyfriend died when she was hit in the right eye with a spear from a speargun, according to investigators.

The Judicial Investigating Organization said she was Kimbley Vanessa Jiménez León, 22, She lived in Golfito where the murder took place.

She was in a soda or small eating place in the center of Golfito about 8:30 p.m. Wednesday when a man launched the spear at her. She died in the Hospital Escalante Predilla in Pérez Zeledón about 2 a.m. Thursday.

Agents said she filed a complaint Jan. 8 against Oscar Solano Canales, 29, the man now being held as a murder suspect. She charged him with domestic violence, and he was told not to approach her, said an investigative report.

Fighting sex crimes is
on international agenda

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON D.C. — More than 120 nations will be represented at the international conference on "Pathbreaking Strategies in the Global Fight against Sex Trafficking" being held here Feb. 23 to 26.

The meeting will highlight strategies from throughout the world that have been successful in the prevention and prosecution of trafficking, or in the protection of its victims," according to a State Department notice.

The conference is being sponsored by the U.S. State Department in partnership with the non-governmental War Against Trafficking Abuse.

Resolution passes
honoring Vietnam vets

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON D.C. — The House of Representatives passed a resolution Wednesday honoring the sacrifices of American soldiers in the Vietnam war and called for a full accounting of the missing in action from that conflict.

Representative Duncan Hunter, Republican of California, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, brought up the resolution for consideration.

The House approved the resolution in a 424 to zero vote during the 30th anniversary of Operation Homecoming, which saw the return of American prisoners of war from their captors as part of the Peace Accord between the United States and communist-ruled North Vietnam.

Protests effective
in stopping tax

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

LA PAZ, Bolivia — Anti-government protesters have clashed with troops for a second day in the Bolivian capital a day after at least 16 people were killed in clashes between troops and protesters near the presidential palace.

Hundreds of troops patrolled the city streets Thursday, but were unable to stop crowds from looting shops and government offices. Several injuries were reported in new clashes Thursday.

The violence started Wednesday, when striking police officers and other protesters clashed with military troops near the presidential palace. Some of those killed included police officers. At least 80 people were injured.

Protesters hurled rocks at the presidential palace Wednesday and set fire to a number of buildings. The demonstrators were rallying against an income tax hike of up to 12.5 percent.

After several hours of unrest, President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada appealed for calm and announced the suspension of the tax hike.

U.S. plane crashes
in rebel lands

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

BOGOTÁ, Colombia — Colombian and U.S. officials say an American government plane with five people on board has crashed in leftist rebel territory in southern Colombia. 

Two people are reported killed and the others feared captured by guerrillas. 

U.S. officials will not say why the single-engine Cessna 208 was in the area, but Colombian military authorities say the aircraft was on an intelligence mission. Searchers who found the wreckage say the plane had been set ablaze. 

Investigators say the plane went down Thursday in the Florencia area as it was attempting an emergency landing, thought to have been prompted by engine trouble. News reports say four Americans and a Colombian were on board the flight that originated here. 

Florencia is the capital of Caqueta province, large parts of which are controlled by the rebel Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, the nation's largest guerrilla group. 

The rebels, along with a smaller guerrilla group, are involved in a 39-year civil war that also involves rightist paramilitaries and the government. The United States has listed the armed groups as terrorist organizations. 

Three-day weekend

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The U.S. Embassy will be closed Monday because that is Presidents Day in the United States.
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Build homes high, Pacheco tells Limón crowd
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Abel Pacheco told Caribbean residents Thursday that they ought to consider putting their buildings back on pilings to avoid the ravages of flooding.

And he disclosed that he will return to the area in a few days to inaugurate a school that is built on pilings.

Such construction was typical of Caribbean homes at the turn of the 20th century. "The Caribbean culture taught us to build on pilings," said Pacheco.

But he also said he remembers when the people began to build conventional ground-hugging structures. He is from that area. And the result was that when flooding hits from heavy rains, people are driven from their homes. That is what happened in early May and in late November 
when heavy rains caused millions of dollars in 

damage to structures, crops bridges and highways.

Pacheco was in Limón Thursday to give the closing comments at a conference on water. He also took the time to promote his plan to add environmental guarantees to the Costa Rica constitution.

The problem is far greater than just one of construction, said the president. He reminded his audience that pollution is severe in many Costa Rica rivers. He said underground aquifers were being contaminated as were river drainage basins.

"Costa Rica has been extraordinarily blessed with an abundance of rivers, watersheds and aquifers," said Pacheco. At one time Costa Ricans thought that water was in exhaustible, but now the fact is clear that is not, said Pacheco. And that is why the constitutional guarantees are important, he said. He said his administration also would present laws to safeguard the watersheds and the underground and surface water.

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
She accepts blame 
for investing error

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I am an idiot left with a $10,000 pen. With a detailed letter of assurances in hand and in the company of a "friend" who had previously invested with the Brothers and was doing so again, I handed over $10,000 to Luis Enrique Villalobos Camacho on Oct. 2, 2002 via a check. Among other assurances, the letter said, "New rules and regulations have been put into effect in the many places I do business. . .in order to stay ahead of changes rather than behind them, it is necessary to outline the two options that we are faced with." 

One option was a direct deposit into personal accounts for the purpose of "reporting," which I chose as I obtained my money honestly, paid taxes on it and was happy to report and pay taxes on the interest payments I foolishly expected to receive. The back of my canceled check shows it was deposited and paid on Oct. 7, 2003, the recieving bank being BAC FLORIDA BANK, #067008044, Account # 037019414. The rest of the information is fairly illegible.

So, what's my point? My point is that I have deep suspicions that Villilobos is a crook and I, along with everyone else who lost their money is an idiot with no one to blame but ourselves. Villalobos took my money, along with a lot of other peoples' money while pretending to comply with laws and regulations when, in my opinioon, he certainly had no earthly intention of paying it back, in interest, or principal.

My money was not in any of the frozen accounts! Nor was the money many others were forking over in the San Pedro Mall that day, including my "friend" who had years of history with the Brothers. We can't rightfully blame Costa Rica. This is a painful lesson to learn, but any right-minded intelligent person wouldn't have done it in the first place, and if, like me, they did, they wouldn't have the nerve to blame anyone but themselves.

Should I sue Kmart and Lucent Technology because the $10,000 of stock I purchased is now worthless? Give me a break, we took our chances.

I'd sign this letter but my $10,000 pen quit working.

A woman reader
EDITOR’S NOTE: Although we usually require signed letters, we also have experienced the wrath of unhappy investors. So we agreed to keep this woman’s name confidential.
He’s really angry
at frauds up north

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I, too, in my research about Costa Rica came across the information on this "high return" investment scheme put out by people known as "The Brothers." Even just the name raised my eyebrows. In my research, I found out you were not allowed to ask how they could afford to pay such high returns. Well, at that moment, I smelled a skunk. It all just sounded too good to be true. . . well . . .

What further shocks me is that so many people think they actually have a chance of getting your money back and are investing further money in trying to do so. From everything I read, I highly doubt it even exists (except of course what Villalobos managed to keep in foreign accounts and stuff in a suitcase on the way out the door.)

Acting on the advice of a broker in my own stock investments, I found out later that their company had large holdings of the stock he encouraged his clients (me included) to buy. And this practice was common among brokerage companies to help drive share price allowing them to sell, before it peaks. And then the privileged clients are the first advised to sell before the crash. Do you think I am going to waste more money trying to bring justice to this sanctioned everyday corruption in the world of stock investing? Next!!

It's about time someone drilled some sense into these people. Where have these people been? Enron, WorldCom, Tyco, AOL etc etc. There list is so long of the U.S. companies (and many more to come I am sure) that have bilked their own employees out of their pensions, not to mention the millions of investors in crashing stock values. Everything from book cooking, stock manipulation to outright theft. 

Then you have a president, who's right to hold office is still in question, who's trying to restore confidence in the economy and trying to get Americans to start investing again. Give me a frigging break. . . Is the public that stupid?

Where is people's anger in the U.S.? I cannot understand why there is not rioting in the streets? And to throw a little more salt on the wounds, it's not even clear if anyone is actually in jail over these crimes and, unlike Villalobos, these people did not need to flee the country and remain in hiding, they roam the streets free men (maybe with a "little" less cash).

Colin Brownlee 
San Jose & Vancouver, Canada. 
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