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These stories were published Monday, Feb. 17, 2003, in Vol. 3, No. 33
Jo Stuart
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Pacheco says Coast highway wait was too long
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rican officials got an agreement Friday for the loan they needed to finish the coast highway.

President Abel Pacheco said that with the money from the loan, if approved by the Asemblea Nacional, the following would be done:

• The completion of the road from Quepos to Savegre
• The construction of the Savegre-Barú stretch
• Rehabilitation of the stretches from Pozón to Parrita and Barranca to Caldera.
• Construction of bridges over the rivers Portalón, Matapalo, Hatillo Nuevo, Hatillo Viejo, Tárcoles and Parrita.

The section of road is the last remaining gravel stretch of the coast highway south of Quepos. It runs to Barú, almost to Dominical.

The president noted that the coast highway project was begun more than a quarter century ago.

"Definitely we should not have waited so long," said the president. "How many lost opportunities, how many children with futures cut off, how many old people died without seeing the progress in this zone, how many hopes of so many people to earn money?"

Pacheco said the project was an example of what should not happen in Costa Rica. The agricultural producers, the fishermen, tourists

Photo by Casa Presidencial/José Salazar
President Pacheco plants a few pineapples during his trip to the Central Pacific. He was at a joint Guatemalan-Costa Rican agricultural farm.

and residents had to pay with their patience for the inefficiencies of the state, he said.

The loan is from the Banco Centroamericano de Integración Económica.

Babe Ruth organizers eye world series try
By Garett Sloane
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Some exciting prospects for the new Babe Ruth League, baseball for children, seem to be coming together with the efforts of organizers, parents and Marines here.

Rawlings Sporting Goods Co., Inc., sole manufacturer of Major League baseballs, has shown interest in helping to build a new field near its factory in Turrialba, according to Curtis Johnson, commissioner of Babe Ruth/Cal Ripken baseball in Costa Rica.

The league can build the field if fundraising efforts are successful with the new Baseball Helping Baseball program Johnson is coordinating. The fundraiser is designed to sell key chains made of scrap leather from the Rawlings factory, which donates the scraps.

Fundraising will also help supply the new league with equipment and uniforms. Sponsors are coming forward to outfit teams with their corporate logo, Johnson said.

The league is hoping Babe Ruth baseball will send the new teams to the world series in the United States this year, Johnson said. The Costa Rica contingent of Babe Ruth has around four teams in three separate age groups. Johnson said he wants to teach the children enough baseball to be competitive in the league.

Any team sent to the world series would be composed of the best players from all of the teams associated with the league, Johnson said, adding that he is working to incorporate teams already in  the San José area.

Other efforts the new commissioner is trying to head are attracting fresh players and volunteers to umpire the league. He said there is a lot of interest being shown by parents and children at the Country Day School where a meeting is set for Tuesday at 3:30 p.m. to inform people about the program.

Johnson, former sergeant in the Army and

A.M. Costa Rica photo/Garett Sloane
Curtis and Cindy Johnson outside their chalet-style home where they said they enjoy the view of the valley. 

Vietnam veteran, is talking with members of the Marine detachment at the U.S. Embassy to volunteer as umpires in the league.

Costa Rica baseball is not popular and takes a far-back seat to the fanaticism of soccer culture here, but that does not mean talent has not come from these parts.

A former member of the San José Águilas, a Bad News Bears-style children’s team, has recently signed within the Mets organization, Johnson said. The childhood dream of baseball is attainable even here in deprived Costa Rica.

Johnson can be reached through www.costarz.net for people interested in helping or donating to the league. 

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A war protestor ads his name to a giant petition that was circulated Saturday in front of the Teatro Nacional. About 400 protestors expressed their unhappiness with a likely U.S. war with Iraq.

A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas

European free trade
not considered likely

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The possibility of a more formal free trade agreement being sought between Central American countries and the European Union, is not as likely as some might have thought, according to Andrew Standley, head of the European Commission here.

Costa Rica, along with Colombia, was last week hit with the blow that its current favorable trade tariffs arrangement with the union will probably be curtailed in June.

The possibility of such a free trade agreement has been suggested from various quarters recently, including from the Costa Rican Foreign Ministry and from within the union.

Standley said any formal two-way, regional agreement between Central America and the union depends on two prior conditions.

First, he said, there would have to be more regional integration, with Central American countries eliminating customs barriers between themselves.

And second, everything depends on the outcome of the World Trade Organization’s Doha development agenda negotiations, where member states are discussing trade liberalization on a world scale, said Standley. 

If the outcome of the Doha negotiations is more favorable to the union than a Central American regional agreement would be, then it is possible the union would not proceed with a regional one, said Standley. The union wholly controls the current system.

Costa Rica was initially supposed to drop out of the current tariffs arrangement — known as graduation — in January, but appeals against the country’s removal have kept it in the system until now.

Chopper and crew
lift baby and mom

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two pilots Servicio de Vigilancia Aérea de la Fuerza Pública snatched a woman giving birth from the Talamanca wilderness Saturday.

The woman, Mariela López García, 19, walked three hours to Ñari in order to reach a radio base of the Comisión Nacional de Emergencias in order to seek help.

The woman was eight months pregnant and suffering from serious bleeding, said officials.

By the time helicopter pilot Martín Sanabria and copilot Roberto Cortés arrived Saturday morning, the woman had just given birth. They had a paramedic with them. Both mother and daughter were airlifted to the Hospital de Turrialba in good condition.

Venezuelan charged with terrorism in Britain

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

LONDON — British police have charged a Venezuelan national with three separate terrorist offenses after he carried a live grenade into London Gatwick airport last week. 

Police Sunday identified the suspect as Hasil Mohammed Rahaham-Alan. He is scheduled to appear before a judge Monday. 

Police have charged him with possession of an article for the purpose of committing terrorism, possession of an explosive with intent to endanger life and property, and carrying a dangerous article aboard a British-registered aircraft. 

Police arrested Rahaham-Alan Thursday when a live grenade was found in his bag after he arrived on a British Airways Caracas-to-London flight. 

Bring your sled!

                By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Travelers from Costa Rica might have problems if 
they are going to the U.S. East Coast or planning to change planes at any airport there.

Heavy snows were falling in Washington, D.C., and 
the New York City area was bracing for up to two 
feet of snow.

Colombian president
resilient after violence

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

BOGOTÁ, Colombia — Officials here say President Alvaro Uribe still plans to visit the southern city of Neiva Saturday, one day after a bombing blamed on leftist rebels left at least 18 people dead and 30 others injured.

Investigators say the explosion ripped through a house Friday as police, acting on a tip, searched the premises. Several nearby houses were destroyed when the 200-kilogram bomb exploded. The blast also left a large crater in the ground.

Local police officials say evidence leads them to believe the explosion may have been part of a plot to kill Uribe. Authorities say they found mortars that could have been used to fire on Uribe's plane as it flew overhead at a low altitude.

Authorities suspect the rebel Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, the nation's largest guerrilla group, was behind the violence. 

The latest trouble comes as Uribe steps up efforts to defeat the group as well as a smaller leftist rebel group and a rightist paramilitary organization. 

For nearly four decades, Colombia has been mired in a civil war involving the outlawed armed groups. The conflict has resulted in thousands of deaths each year.

U.S. citizens warned of 
danger in Bolivia

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. State Department has warned U.S. citizens not to travel to Bolivia and urged those already within the country to be vigilant.

The warning comes after two days of violent protests that killed 26 people and injured 100 others in the capital, La Paz.

Troops were patrolling the streets Friday, one day after cars and buildings were set on fire and gutted as rioters clashed in the streets. Looters ransacked stores and government buildings.

The violence erupted Wednesday as troops clashed with striking police officers and other demonstrators who were rallying against a tax hike. Hours after the unrest began, President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada appealed for calm and suspended the increase.

White House announces
cyber protection strategy

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The White House has issued a National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace, which identifies steps that government, private companies, and individuals can take to protect the information infrastructure — collectively labeled cyberspace — that is critical to the security and well being of the United States.

These infrastructure areas include banking and finance, insurance, chemicals, oil and gas, electricity, law enforcement, higher education, transportation, information technology and telecommunications, and water.

The report, issued Friday, identifies three strategic goals: preventing cyber attacks against America's critical infrastructure, reducing national vulnerability to such attacks, and minimizing damage and recovery time if cyber attacks do occur.

It also lists a number of initiatives to protect national information systems. Among them are strengthening law enforcement in the cyberspace realm, identifying vulnerabilities in infrastructure, improving Internet procedures and digital controls, reducing software weaknesses, increasing physical security, and setting an agenda for cyberspace security research and development.

The National Strategy warns that making cyberspace secure is a difficult challenge that "requires coordinated and focused effort from our entire society — the federal government, state and local governments, the private sector, and the American people."

Nevertheless, the report concludes, "For the foreseeable future two things will be true: America will rely upon cyberspace and the federal government will seek a continuing broad partnership with the private sector to develop, implement, and refine a National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace."

Task force removes sanctions on Ukraine

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Financial Action Task Force, a 29-member global body aimed at fighting money laundering, has announced that it will lift sanctions imposed last December against Ukraine but is recommending them for the Philippines unless that country adopts stricter money laundering laws by mid-March.

In mid-December, 2002, the task force had labeled Ukraine as uncooperative in the fight against money laundering, and several task force members, including the United States, announced countermeasures against Ukrainian banks and financial institutions.

However, because of Ukraine's recent enactment of "comprehensive anti-money laundering legislation that addresses the main deficiencies" first identified in 2001, task force members have withdrawn the application of additional counter-measures, the task force said in a release Friday.

Ukraine will remain on the task force's list of non-cooperative countries and territories "until it has implemented effectively its new anti-money laundering legislation," the task force said.

Jochen Sanio, task force president, hailed the development as "a significant success for the task force and Ukraine in the fight against money laundering."

With respect to the Philippines, the Paris-based task force said it was recommending the imposition of counter-measures for that country's failure to enact adequate anti-money laundering measures. The task force called on the Philippine government to take appropriate measures by March 15 to avoid sanctions that would otherwise go into effect as of that date.

The task force said it was removing Grenada from its list of non-cooperative countries and territories because the Caribbean island had implemented significant reforms to its anti-money laundering system.

The current list of countries is: Cook Islands, Egypt, Guatemala, Indonesia, Myanmar, Nauru, Nigeria, Philippines, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Ukraine. The task force said it would review the status of each at its next plenary meeting in June.

Tremor rattles south

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Officials reported a small earthquake Friday about 6:19 p.m. that registered 4.1 on the Richter scale according to the Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico de Costa Rica.

The quake was some 14 kms (8 miles) south of Coto and about 16 kms. (about 9.6 miles) deep. the area is just north of the Panamá border.

Libertarians oppose
environmental draft

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Movimiento Libertario has come out against President Abel Pacheco’s constitutional amendment for environmental guarantees. Federico Malavassi, the party leader in the Asemblea Nacional, said one section of the measure was badly drafted and ambiguous and another section, in effect, creates a state monopoly on environmental scientific work.

The concerns were voiced at a press conference at the assembly Friday.

Malavassi said that the Constitution already grants citizens the right to a safe and ecologically balanced environment. The proposed text prepared by the executive branch tries to substitute new wording for this section, but instead endangers the environment with inexact terminology.

The party leader also said that he disagreed with a section that creates a state institution as the only one that can set up criteria for political actions on the environment. He said that for his party such a concession establishes an unconstitutional monopoly and duplicates the work of three existing agencies.

Wake up, Brighteyes,
it’s immigration cops!

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

If they don’t get the illegal residents at night, they will get them in the early morning.

That why police from a handful of agencies raided some 20 locations Friday morning in the capital. Hotels, pensions and places where rooms are rented were the targets of immigration agents and others.

Marco Badilla, director de Migración, said 14 undocumented individuals were detained including one U.S. citizen. Agents also found eight persons who had outstanding warrants and many more who had ignored court dates.

Sanitation investigators from the Ministerio de Salud closed down one hotel, three pensions and three rooming houses for violations, said a release from the Ministerio de Seguridad Pública.

Czech citizen held
in old fraud case

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A man in Sámara has been identified as a fugitive from a fraud charge in the Czech Republic, said investigators.

They identified him as Pavel Holub, 57, who is accused of skipping out on a $5.8 million loan in his home country.

The arrest was made by the International Police Agency (INTERPOL), members of the Dirección de Inteligencia y Seguridad and agents of the Judicial Investigating Organization in Nicoya.

The man entered Costa Rica in 1992 and set up a corporation, J.P.L. S.A. He was arrested in Sámara at the former Barracuda disco, said police. He was believed to be in the tourism business. He was granted residency in 1994.

The penalty for such a crime in the Czech Republic is 10 years in jail, said investigators.

Goverment reaches
pact with workers

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The government early Sunday came to an agreement with workers at the Instituto Costarricense de Eletricidad. They had threatened a strike.

Under terms of the agreement, the giant power and telephone monopoly will postpone some 86 billion colons in investments. That’s some $225 million.

The administration of President Abel Pacheco ordered the institute to cut expenses late year, but the independent institute balked. It’s politically active workers took up the fight.

The institute will be obligated to seek higher tariffs.

The effort was all part of Pacheco’s plan to cut the budgetary deficit.

Former police officer
killed in robbery

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A trip to the hardware store was a fatal one for a former municipal police officer.

The former officer, Walter Murillo Bolaños, 47, decided to go to Ferretería el Pipiolo in Plaza Víquez Saturday. The area is a few blocks south of San José’s downtown. He needed to purchase some screws for a job that he was doing, said police. the man worked as a window installer.

Four men showed up to hold up the store and one shot Murillo. The robbers got 125,000 colons (about $327)and fled in their car.

Donation of books
urged for schools

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Librería Pluma in Guadalupe has donated a considerable number of textbooks to the public schools of Ciudad Colón in order to increase the selection of books in the libraries there and is encouraging other people to do the same.

Many of the libraries in these schools are very limited, said Tom Mead, an organizer of donations on behalf of the library.

Patty Picado, owner of the Librería Pluma, also encourages people to donate any books that they no longer need to their local school libraries.

She said she is sure that schools would welcome books in both English and Spanish. Ms. Picado said there are no books that should be thrown away.

Those interested in donating should contact Mead on 249-0450 or by e-mail at trmead@racsa.co.cr.

Vice presidents to meet

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Vice presidents of Central American countries will meet in San José Feb. 27 and 28. The event is being organized by Lineth Saborío Chaverri, first vice president of Costa Rica. The event will be in the Hotel Barceló San José Palacio
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Visible sign of support sought from Luis Enrique
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A group of investors has hopes of getting a letter delivered to Luis Enrique Villalobos Camacho, the fugitive financier.

The investors, members of the Costa Rican Global Studies Group, seeks a blessing by Villalobos on efforts to hire a lawyer to bring civil and criminal actions against the Costa Rican government.

That was disclosed Sunday night by J. Duke Moseley, moderator of the group, which started as an Internet discussion site. Moseley said that he visited Oswaldo Villalobos in prison Sunday and that the Villalobos brother said he would try to make sure the letter would be delivered.

Luis Enrique Villalobos is believed to be in hiding since he closed down his high-interest investment operation more than four months ago, Oct. 14. The studies group specifically wants the man to give his approval of a plan to hire José Miguel Villalobos Umaña, the former minister of Justicia, to bring the legal action. They seek a visible sign of support, perhaps another e-mail message or fax to A.M. Costa Rica.

Moseley used to be vice president of another 
group, the United Concerned Citizens & Residents of Costa Rica. However, he said Sunday he resigned that post and also as interim president during a weekend meeting. He said he had personal differences with other members of the group.

The United Concerned Citizens is the group trying to raise $100,000 as an upfront fee for José Villalobos. Moseley was leading the group because the president, John Manners, was in Florida.

Moseley said he had differences with other members of the board of directors, but none of those he named would address specifics Sunday night. Several other directors also resigned, although one, John Watts, said he did so for health reasons. Moseley said one point of contention was his view that the group should reach out more to Spanish speakers. He is Costa Rican and estimated that perhaps 2,000 of the estimated 6,400 Villalobos investors are mainly Spanish speakers.

Despite the leadership difficulties, Moseley said that the group has raised $20,000 in cash and $60,000 in pledges toward the fee sought by the lawyer.

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.

New letter on Villalobos situation
The right to fail
is not for timid

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

In his Feb. 14th letter Colin Brownlee shows his ignorance of the U.S. form of government and the attitude of the typical American when he chastises us for not being outraged because some stocks crashed. 

The main difference between our capitalist society and a socialist one is that a socialist form of government takes away your right to fail. A Canadian may not realize that we in the U.S retain that right. Many people became wealthy during the time the companies he mentions were going 

broke by making different choices about where to invest. 

If you compare the value of the "lost pensions" before the stock surge of the 1990's began and after it ended the results are about right in most cases. Many people lost the false profits that showed up on their statements. So did they really lose anything? 

Our right to assume risk gives us the possibility of great success. Our system does not require us to participate. There are more secure investments for the timid. The question about the legitimacy of our president is best left to Americans that understand our legal system.

Ken Orttel 
Andover, Minnesota 

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