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(506) 2223-1327       Published Wednesday, March 4, 2009,  in Vol. 9, No. 44      E-mail us
Jo Stuart
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Cash reporting requirements extended to many
Arias scheduled to sign anti-terrorism law today

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Óscar Arias Sánchez is scheduled to sign today a law against terrorism and money laundering.

The measure has been promoted as a way for the country to stay a member of the Egmont Group, a 20-year-old informal organization of countries designed to fight money laundering. But the law is much more.

Based on the draft available at the Asamblea Legislativa, the law brings real estate brokers, dealers in precious metals and stones, casinos and professionals into the category that must report transactions of more than $10,000.

The law also provides specific penalties for terrorism and for those who promote terrorism financing. Money laundering is broadly defined to include handling funds from drug and human trafficking, fraud and a host of other crimes. The penalty for doing that is from six to 20 years. There are lesser penalties for corrupt public officials and even fines for corporations that do not provide effective supervision of employees.

Arias is supposed to sign the bill at a 12:30 p.m. ceremony in Casa Presidencial.

The measure was introduced to the legislature Dec. 2, 2003. At one point it was shelved, but last April 16, Francisco Dall'Anese, the nation's chief prosecutor, appeared before a legislative committee and said the law was needed.

The country could be handling money for Al Qaeda, Colombian drug terrorists and even European terrorist organizations without the international support of the Egmont Group, Dall'Anese told lawmakers.

At that time the Egmont Group has given Costa Rica a May deadline for passing the legislation, but the deadline was extended until February.
money laundering bill

Specifically cited in the legislation are the country's major financial watchdogs, the Superintendencia General de Entidades Financieras, the Superintendencia General de Valores and the Superintendencia de Pensiones. The law updates several pieces of anti-drug legislation.

The United States has called Costa Rica a money laundering haven. Last week in its annual drug report the U.S. government said that Costa Rica should pass legislation that removes contradictions in its offshore banking sector and pass laws to cover the cash flow generated by Internet gambling, dealers in precious metals and jewelry and intermediaries in any business activity that might use cash or non-bank financial institutions.

The legislation being signed today appears to do exactly that.  It differentiates  between entities registered with the various financial oversight agencies and those that are not.

Those who are not involved in the systematic transfer of funds, like, banks, trustees and companies like Western Union, still have to report transactions over $10,000. That means nearly every real estate transaction and payments to professionals like lawyers, architects and even physicians of amounts over $10,000.

There also are provisions to keep accurate records for five years and to make positive identification of the parties involved in such transactions.

Taxi fares will take a 6% dip, price regulating agency decides
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Taxi fares will be going down a bit more than 6 per cent, the price regulating agency has decided. The drop, announced Tuesday, is due to lower fuel costs.

For urban rides calculated by the taxi meter, the price for the first kilometer will decline 40 colons, and subsequent kilometers will decline 45 colons. That's about 7 or 8 U.S. cents.

For rural taxis, the drop will be 40 colons.
The new rates are supposed to take effect Tuesday after the resolution by the Authoridad Reguladora de Servicios Públicos is published in the La Gaceta official newspaper.

The new urban rates are 430 colons (77 cents) for the first kilometer and 385 colons (69 cents) for subsequent kilometers.

In rural areas, the rate will be 430 colons for both the first and subsequent kilometers.  Taxis fitted for the disabled are 5 colons higher than the urban kilometer rate.

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Aerial survey will cover
site of Jan. 8 earthquake

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The government and the national electric utility are paying $750,000 to get air photos of the area that suffered the most damage during the Jan. 8 earthquake.

Representatives of the Comisión de Reconstrucción and the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad outlined the project Tuesday morning at Juan Santamaría airport.

The Spanish firm Stereocarto is the contractor. It will provide color, infrared and topographical maps of the area, which is estimated at 500 square kilometers or about 193 square miles.

Officials said they would use the photos to determine where to rebuild and where to place utility poles and other services.

The topographical measurements will be done with a laser device aboard the company's twin-engine aircraft. This device will take reading once or twice for every square meter. Later these readings will be converted into three dimensional maps.

Many of the maps and satellite photos of the area were done before the quake, which caused major landslides and transformed mountainsides.  The area is in the vicinity of the Volcán Poás north of Heredia and Alajuela centros.

Warning system will alert
area to slides and floods

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

When the rains come in April and May, the gashes of raw land produced by the Jan. 8 earthquake will erode and cause problems. To know exactly what is happening the national emergency commission said it is setting up an early warning monitoring system on the Río Sarapiquí to protect residents downstream.

Stations are in Vara Blanca, Cariblanco, Para Gallo, Ujarrás, La Isla de Sarapiquí, La Virgen de Sarapiquí, Chilamate and San Miguel de Sarapiquí.

The stations are in radio communication with locals, the emergency commission headquarters in Pavas and the Instituto Meteorológico Nacional in San José. Among other data, the commission will be getting a readout of rainfall in the watershed.

Geologists have reported that there is an abundance of unstable earth in the area that can be washed away by rains. The debris can block the river setting the stage for walls of water and other dangers.

Through the year, the area can get up to 5 meters or more than 16 feet of rain.

Remote school to get power,
Sala IV court says in order

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Being in the hills is no reason not to have electricity, the Sala IV constitutional court has decided.

In a decision released Tuesday, the court ordered the  Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad to provide electricity to the school in Los Ángeles de Drake in the canton of Buenos Aires, Puntarenas.

The court appeal was made by a man who is head of the local school board of directors. The court noted that lack of electrical power means that the students do not have the benefit of a kitchen or adequate facilities for learning.

The electrical utility was ordered to provide an adequate technological solution for the school.

The community is in the foothills of the Talamanca mountains.

Youth gang is targeted
by Fuerza Pública actions

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Fuerza Pública reported that it had broken up a youth gang that terrorized Puerto Viejo de Sarapiquí.

The gang was active in the area and involved in home invasions where the occupants were tied up and in robberies in bars and the public streets, said police.

Four members of the gang were detained Monday, police said. They face allegations of robbery, attempted murder and rape. One individual was a minor.

Police said that after the arrests were made some residents filed complaints. They had been afraid to do so earlier, they said.

Medical firm celebrates
its new facility in Heredia

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

ATEK Medical Costa Rica has begun manufacturing medical devices, and now employs 65 persons, according to Casa Presidencial. The company held an open house Tuesday.

The facility is in a free trade zone in Barreal de Heredia near the Juan Santamaría airport. ATEK said it took possession of the building late last year and is currently producing several product lines.

ATEK Medical, based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, has developed and launched more than 300 unique products and specializes in product management and full-service manufacturing.
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Investor issues an emotional plea to Enrique Villalobos
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The human side of the Villalobos fiasco frequently is lost among the many stories about the trial and legalisms. Tuesday the stress and grief of many was brought home by an e-mail plea from a self-described small investor who begs Luis Enrique Villalobos Camacho to please honor his commitment.

We print it here with just a few spelling and editing changes.

I have been traveling to Costa Rica for years now and was a investor with the Villalobos Bros:  I have so prayed that things would be straightened out by now!  I invested with them after a friend told me about them and had been with them for many years! 

I trusted a very large part of my very small saving with them in hopes of retiring in C/R by now with a small income to live out the rest of my life!  I invested with them and never saw one colon of money from them because I wanted to leave the money to build for about 5 years and then to move to C/R and retire there!

I am now still working because of the problems with them!  I do not blame them, at this time. I only want my original investment back!  If only you would print this letter to tell him that he is slowly killing his loyal U.S. investors that trusted him with their hard earned money! The people with investments of over 100,000 dollars are the ones that had money to invest and had businesses that made them money!

All the little investors, like me, that only wanted to better their retirement and are not looking to make tons of money, only to have enough to get by on! If he would only return the money of the small investors, people with under 100,000 dollars so we can retire and pay our bills. My health is not good, and I so want to have but a few good years and not work until I die! If you, Mr.
Villalobos, can or are reading this please for you to only honor our certificates that you gave us. 

I will now also make a promise if I am able to get only my original investment back!  I WILL keep all the money in Costa Rica.  I will NOT take the money back to the U.S. PLEASE, Mr. Villalobos, return the money that we so trusted with you!

All of the small investors are being hurt very badly by this and it is causing a terrible pain from your loyal friends. We only want our money returned, no questions asked and I will be very happy to keep all the returned money in C/R!

Please, Mr. Editor, to print this letter so all will see the pain of the small investor! Thank you very much! 

The writer went ballistic when A.M. Costa Rica suggested that he sign his name. Like many older, nearly broke individuals, he is frightened.

The other Villalobos brother, Oswaldo, is believed tending the library at the senior citizens' prison where he has been incarcerated for fraud and illegal banking.

To help the letterwriter and others find closure A.M. Costa Rica has offered a $500 reward for information leading to Enrique Villalobos' capture. Somewhere along the line he took $1 billion from investors in what prosecutors describe as a ponzi scheme. He has been a fugitive since late 2002.

A Canadian investor has pledged $150 more for the reward, but most of those victimized by the scam remain silent. As one creditor said in an e-mail last week "We are all old and broke."

Except Luis Enrique. He's older but probably doesn't have to do a second shift at McDonald's.

Immigration agency gets hit with a triple whammy
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Sala IV has redefined the time it should take the immigration department to issue a renewed cédula.

Last month the court ordered the Dirección General de Migración to come up with a cédula in a reasonable time. But in a decision released Tuesday, the court said that a cédula should be renewed in a month.

This is one of a flurry of constitutional court cases presented by foreigners who have to wait as much as a year for a residency appointment.  In the case in which the decision was released Tuesday, the foreigner got an appointment date of Sept. 17 before filing the court case.

In another decision announced Tuesday, the Sala IV told the immigration department that two months and 15 days was just too long for a lawyer to wait to review the files of
clients. In this case, a lawyer said he approached the
immigration department Nov. 21 and asked to see three files. He received an appointment date of Feb. 5. The Sala IV said that this delay represented a violation of the constitutional principles of access to information.

That was not the only problem for the immigration department Tuesday. Late in the day Heidy Bonilla Gutiérrez, the public relations person for the agency, issued a request that the news media alert those who have residency renewal appointments scheduled from April 6 to April 10 to call the immigration offices. She said the appointments were assigned in error.

What she did not say is that those dates are of Holy Week, the week before Easter that is generally a holiday here.

Someone at the agency must have misread the calendar. Ms. Bonilla said those affected should call 2299-8025, 2299-8026 or 2299-8019. They also can contact her via e-mail at:,

Aunt blows whistle to authorities in battered child case
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A boy's aunt turned in the child's parents in Parrita, and the 2-year-old was found to have life-threatening injuries.

The Fuerza Pública took the father and mother into custody Monday night.

The Patronato Nacional de la Infancia, the national child welfare agency, said it received a complaint Friday. The aunt, however, said that this was the second time she tried to make a report.

The Poder Judicial said the case happened in El Tigre de
Parrita and that prosecutors have questioned the mother and father, who are facing attempted murder charges.

They were identified as a 20-year-old woman with the last name of Brenes and a 24-year-old man with the last name of Carmona. Child welfare officials also removed an infant from the home.

The older child remains in critical condition in the Hospital de Quepos with internal injuries to his liver, kidneys and other internal organs.

The aunt, a neighbor with the name of Brenes, said that the infant had a large black eye.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, March 4, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 44

México and its drug war causing concern in United States
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A Pentagon document suggested that Mexico could become a failed state as drug trafficking cartels continue to challenge government authority with widespread violence. Authorities in towns on the U.S. side of the 3,000-kilometer border are expressing concern that the Mexican war could spill over into their communities.

Texas state officials are developing contingency plans for the border region in case Mexico's violent drug war surges over the border. Local police in many Texas border towns say they need more state and federal help. What is happening in Mexico is a three-way war, carried out between two competing drug cartels and the government of Mexican President Felipe Calderón, who took on the cartels after he took office in December 2006.

The Austin-based Stratfor company, which provides government and private sector clients with analysis on a wide variety of international issues, has been keeping close watch on Mexico. Stratfor analyst Marco Papic says there is a chance the Mexican government may pull back from the war on drugs in order to address the overall breakdown in law and order in the border region.

"We are watching for signs that the Mexican government decides, 'It is much more important to solve the violence, so let us negotiate with the cartels to have some sort of truce so that we can clean up all this other ancillary crime that is going on, especially the spike in kidnapping and so on,' " Papic said.

Papic said Mexican government forces may have had little luck in curbing cartel murders, but they have had some impact on smuggling operations.

"We are seeing the drug flow actually divert from the border and into the Caribbean again," Papic said. "We are even seeing strange drug flows from the Galapagos Islands up to the United States, trying to avoid Mexico because the Mexican government efforts have, at times, been actually effective."

So far very little of the violence in Mexico has spilled over into the United States, and Papic says he does not expect that to change, since it would not be in the drug traffickers' interest to provoke a U.S. clampdown on the border.

"Drug cartels need commercial traffic to continue," Papic said. "Any sort of disruption of commercial traffic across
the border, any sort of large scale stoppage of the flow of goods and people would actually make it a lot more difficult for the Mexican cartels to ship drugs."

For similar reasons, Papic does not believe the drug cartels want to see a failed state or a total collapse of government authority in Mexico.

"For the cartels, the real issue here is not to topple the Mexican government," Papic said. "For them, the Mexican government is a great conduit for doing business because Mexican government officials are corruptible."

Observers close to the border say Mexico may yet be able to gain control of the situation. Professor Howard Campbell at the University of Texas in El Paso, says Mexican society is far more resilient than some critics might think.

"I don't think the Mexican state is going to fail, I don't think Mexican society is going to fail in some total collapse way. What we have are serious threats to public security," Campbell said. "But these are things that can be minimized and lessened if Mexico and the United States work together, identify the most serious and real problems and try to fight them in very focused ways."

Campbell says one of the things the United States can do is make a greater effort to stop gun smugglers. Most of the guns used in shootings in Mexico can be traced to the United States, where private citizens have much broader rights to buy and sell firearms than do average citizens in Mexico.

"It seems to me the United States should bear the brunt of responsibility for trying to stop the flow of weapons from the U.S. to Mexican drug cartels because we are the source of those guns," Campbell said. "I know many people do not like this, but it seems to me the most effective measure would be control of the sale of weapons."

But enacting stricter controls on gun sales in the United States is politically difficult because gun owners see such measures as a violation of the right to bear arms guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Many guns are bought and sold privately or at gun shows with little or no documentation.

U.S. Authorities have concentrated their efforts on arresting and prosecuting people who have conspired to smuggle large quantities of weapons into Mexico in violation of both U.S. and Mexican law.

Fidel Castro said to be defending his brother's changes
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Former Cuban president Fidel Castro says he was consulted on leadership changes in brother Raúl Castro's government, and two top officials replaced on Monday were seduced by what he calls the "honey of power".

In an article attributed to him Tuesday on a government Web site, Fidel Castro said the two officials took on an "unworthy role" that gave hope to the country's enemies.  The former president did not identify the officials, but media accounts have focused on former foreign minister Felipe Pérez Roque and former cabinet chief Carlos Lage. 

Pérez Roque and Lage were younger than many others in Raúl Castro's ruling circle.  Although Lage lost his job as cabinet chief, he apparently retains his position as a vice president on the policy-making Council of State.  Pérez Roque once served as Fidel Castro's personal secretary.

Pérez Roque and Lage were among 10 government officials removed in the personnel shakeup.  
Fidel Castro dismissed suggestions that the changes showed a shift from "Fidel's men" to "Raul's men."  Raúl Castro has said the changes were intended to make Cuba's government more compact and functional. 

He formally took power Feb. 24, 2008.

A U.S. State Department spokesman, Gordon Duguid, said Tuesday the department was monitoring Cuba's political shakeup closely, but refused to elaborate. 

During his presidential campaign, Barack Obama vowed to ease restrictions on Cuban-Americans traveling to the island and sending money to relatives there.  President Obama has also said he would be willing to speak with Cuba's leaders but that he would maintain the long-standing embargo as leverage to push for democratic change on the island. 

Raúl Castro has said he is open to talks with Obama.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has ordered a review of U.S. policies toward Cuba.

Venezuela will try to cut petroleum production costs and seek to boost prices
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Venezuela's state-run oil company, PDVSA, says it plans to cut production costs by 40 percent to make up for falling crude oil prices amid the global financial crisis.

Company president Rafael Ramírez said in a radio interview that cost-cutting measures will include renegotiating deals with contractors that were reached when prices climbed to record high levels last year.
Ramírez, who is also the country's energy and oil minister, said Venezuela will call on fellow members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries at talks later this month in Austria to curb production to force prices up to $70 per barrel. Oil has been trading at about $40 per barrel in New York.  

Venezuela is a major oil producer and has seen the price of its oil plunge sharply to $36.80 per barrel in recent days. 
Crude prices peaked at a record $147 per barrel last July.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, March 4, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 44

A.M. Costa Rica
users guide

This is a brief users guide to A.M. Costa Rica.

Old pages
Each day someone complains via e-mail that the newspages are from yesterday or the day before. A.M. Costa Rica staffers check every page and every link when the newspaper is made available at 2 a.m. each week day.

So the problem is with the browser in each reader's computer. Particularly when the connection with the  server is slow, a computer will look to the latest page in its internal memory and serve up that page.

Readers should refresh the page and, if necessary, dump the cache of their computer, if this problem persists. Readers in Costa Rica have this problem frequently because the local Internet provider has continual problems.

The A.M. Costa Rica search page has a list of all previous editions by date and a space to search for specific words and phrases. The search will return links to archived pages.

A typical edition will consist of a front page and four other newspages. Each of these pages can be reached by links near the top and bottom of the pages.

Five classified pages are updated daily. Employment listings are free, as are listings for accommodations wanted, articles for sale and articles wanted. The tourism page and the real estate sales and real estate rentals are updated daily.

Advertising information
A summary of advertising rates and sizes are available for display and classifieds.

A.M. Costa Rica makes its monthly statistics available to advertisers and readers. It is HERE! 

Contacting us
Both the main telephone number and the editor's e-mail address are listed on the front page near the date.

Visiting us
Directions to our office and other data, like bank account numbers are on the about us page.

Volunteers will seek out
dengue mosquito locations

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

More than 100 persons in Golfito will seek out breeding places of dengue mosquitoes Sunday in the sixth area sweep against the critters this year.

The effort is sponsored by Asociación Terra Nuestra and Cervercería de Costa Rica.  Similar efforts will be held in San Mateo and Orotina where 300 volunteers are expected to be mobilized.

There were 597 cases of dengue in the Golfito area last year. Some 120 cases were reported in Orotina and 70 in San Mateo.  More than 5,400 persons contracted the disease in the country in 2008, according to the Ministerio de Salud.

The effort will include volunteers going home to home to collect those materials that may hold water and create breeding places for the mosquito larva, This includes aluminum and plastic containers, old tires.

More information is available at 2228-4317 and 2288-1022, or via e-mail to

Air passenger detained

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A man from Ghana who has Spanish nationality had what police identified as cocaine on his person and in his luggage at Juan Santamaría  airport Tuesday, said the security ministry.

The man was identified by the last name of Addrisu. The  Policía de Control de Drogas said he was 30 years of age. In all, the man was carrying 1.1 kilos (nearly two and a half pounds) of white powder, they said.

Shabbat dinner March 13

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

English-speaking Jews are invited to a March 13 Shabbat dinner. The event will start with a social period followed by a religious service and then the kosher meal.  Invitations are available by calling 2291-5525 or 2291-6671, organizers said.

Jo Stuart
Real Estate
About us
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