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These stories were published Monday, March 8, 2004, in Vol. 4, No. 47
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Workmen recoating highways with asphalt were busy over the weekend, including here at the Fuente de Hispanidad in front of the Mall San Pedro. The traffic tie-ups were lengthy  in many directions.

Similar work elsewhere universally failed to provide much traffic control. 
 

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Much-awaited Canadian show is mostly rehash
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Villalobos creditors did not gain much from a Canadian television report on their investment failure, but the Hotel Del Rey downtown and the Beetle Bar in Jacó got invaluable publicity for a related feature.

The Canadian television CTV network’s W-Five show broadcast both a segment on prostitution and a segment on the failed Villalobos high interest operation Saturday night. Both segments, about 20 minutes each, are available as video on the Internet. 


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Both shows can be called rehashes. In the prostitution sequence, the television report featured another appearance by Bruce Harris of Casa Alianza. "There are thousands of girls who are being sexually exploited by perverts who think that for 20 or 30 dollars, they can have sex with a child," said Harris.

Harris, in a segment shot at Avenida 1 and Calle 9, characterized sex tourists downtown as overweight, 50 or 60 year old men who could not get a date elsewhere. 

Reporter Victor Malerich chimed in talking about the Hotel Del Rey as a location where one would find "doughy white men" and some "spectacularly beautiful women." That might have been the wrong message.

The network went into the Blue Marlin Bar at the Del Rey with a hidden camera, talked to some tourists describing their adventures and concluded that "The Del Rey is nothing more than a brothel posing as a hotel," something the owners would dispute.

Then it was off to Jacó and the Beetle Bar where the hidden camera recorded a man claiming he could obtain the services of a prostitute for "10 to 20 bucks."

The show and Harris failed to mention that child prostitution is overwhelmingly a local problem. The camera crew recorded a girl, reportedly 14, being picked up by police at Parque Morazan. The girl carried a teddy bear. But the station also dug up an August 2000 video to show prostitutes being paraded in a brothel.

The station also showed a clip from a press conference by President Abel Pacheco. Pacheco asked of sex tourists "Who is more at fault, the 

one who sins for the pay or the one who pays for the sin?"

The station also reported on the raid of a Hatillo prostitution operation that provided girls younger than 18, but the reporter did not mention that most of the clients of the operation were Costa Ricans.

The show also said that a Canadian law exists that penalizes persons who are involved with underage prostitutes even if overseas. But the law is not being enforced, the show said.

The Villalobos segment entitled "The Brothers," also was superficial but did touch on most major points. Jeff McLeod of British Colombia was featured as a man who lost $120,000 when the Villalobos brothers closed down and had to return at age 52 to driving a truck.

Ron Tucker, a strong Villalobos supporter, was interviewed, but so was Michael Nash, a Hamilton, Ontario lawyer whose father, Keith, invested $180,000 and sued to try to get it. 

The television sequence all but called the Villalobos operation a con game that paid "astronomical interest" of from 3 to 4 percent a month. But then it suggested that the operation run by Luis Enrique Villalobos Camacho and his brother Oswaldo was involved in money laundering and drug trafficking. These are allegations that have yet to be made by prosecutors.

The show recounted the request from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police that led to a raid on the operation’s Mall San Pedro headquarters July 4, 2002.  But it also quoted a man identified as Guillermo Hernandez, said to be a senior Costa Rica prosecutor, who said that officials here were not aware of the Villalobos operation until the moment of the raid. In fact, Costa Rican officials had been investigating for two years.

The show also featured two meetings of Villalobos creditors, one group here and the other in Canada. Canadian creditors were adamant that Costa Rican officials had closed down the operation for political and financial reasons. This is the group that hopes to bring an international arbitration case against the country.

A reader who viewed the show in Canada said via e-mail that he thought the creditors came off looking like whiners and greedy. That was not the response the creditors sought. They had hoped the show would be more critical of the Costa Rican government.

 
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Some deep questions
on the proposed taxes

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

As deputies ponder a new tax package of almost 500 pages, a few questions leap to mind.

1. If Costa Rica lags in collecting taxes now, will not the new measure hurt more those individuals and businesses that try to be honest?

2. Who will pay the proposed tax on real estate rentals, now estimated at 8 percent for properties rented for more than $390 a month? Residential contracts make no provision for this, and the tax would be $80 a month on a $1,000 rental.


Some questions on the news


3. As the colon continues to devalue, will taxes be collected on more and more residential leases?

4. Will the new tax laws get rid of all those pesky stamps that have to be attached to official documents. If so, who is going to pay for the Cruz Roja and swimming pools for the lawyers?

5. Has anyone actually estimated the impact of assessing some $500 million in new taxes on a struggling economy?

6. The proposed law levies more taxes on bigger and more successful enterprises. Does it make sense to penalize success?

7. The proposed law contains a graduated income tax both for corporations and individuals, but Title IV, Article 33 of the Costa Rican constitution says: "All persons are equal before the law and there shall be no discrimination against human dignity." Does Costa Rica have constitutional authority to pass a sliding tax scale? The United States had to pass a special constitutional amendment to create its graduated income tax.

8. By levying a tax of from 10 to 30 percent on passive income, like interest, does not the proposed law exert an inflationary effect on how much it will cost to borrow money?

9. Has anyone except a few legislators actually read the whole new tax proposal?

10. And on a whimsical note: If professionals will have to pay an estimated 8 percent tax on their income, does that mean the hookers downtown will be issuing facturas?

The tax package is becoming a political football, but the government’s Partido Unidad Social Cristiana is trying to generate the votes necessary to pass the measure.

La Carpio deeds sought
for resident there

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Enrique Bolaños of Nicaragua was in town on a private visit over the weekend, but he managed to squeeze in a meeting with President Abel Pacheco to ask for more consideration for his countrymen living here.

Specifically Bolaños tried to convince Pacheco to hand out deeds to the predominately Nicaraguan residents of La Carpio, the much troubled area near Hospital México.

La Carpio was the site of an immigration raid a month ago, and that raised hackles in Nicaragua because many residents were detained for much of the day.

Pacheco stopped short of making a promise to the visiting head of state, but he did say that deeding the land to the persons who have de facto ownership would give them a better quality of life and allow them to seek loans on their property.

Bolaños noted that many of the residents have been in Costa Rica for years and have family ties with Costa Ricans.

 

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Newsman among those killed in Haitian shootout
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — At least six people including a Spanish journalist were killed in Haiti Sunday when militants loyal to former President Jean Bertrand Aristide attacked a crowd outside the National Palace. More than 30 people, including a U.S. newspaper photographer were wounded in the incident.

U.S. Marines returned fire from the grounds of the National Palace against militants who attacked a crowd celebrating Jean Bertrand Aristides departure last week. The shooting appeared to come from rooftops.

The militant pro-Aristide supporters known as Chimeres, which roughly translates as ghosts, attacked a crowd of several thousand who had marched through the capital on Sunday to celebrate the departure of Jean Bertrand Aristide.

The crowd had gathered in front of the National Palace in a festive demonstration when the shooting started. Haitian photojournalist Daniel Morel was near the Chimeres when they started firing on the crowd. "We were some yards away when the shooting started. I saw two guys go down. That's all I saw," he said.

It was the most violent incident to occur since Aristide's departure. Looting and violence which had been rampant in the capital in the days following Aristide's departure had largely subsided.

In response to the violence last week, Haitian authorities declared a state of emergency. But despite the state of emergency, Haitian police had made no moves to disarm the armed gangs who populate the Port-au-Prince slums and who have threatened violence since Aristide departed the country.

Speaking late Sunday, Haitian Prime Minister Yvon Neptune condemned the violence and said all efforts will be made to find those who carried it out. "I have instructed the national police force to take all possible measures to find and apprehend the assassins from whatever political corner they may be from," he said. "To arrest them, put them in jail and bring them to justice."

There are about two thousand multinational troops

in Haiti. U.S. Marines and French troops provided some security for the march as it got under way early Sunday, but there were no multinational troops outside the palace grounds providing security for the demonstration when the shooting started.

U.S. Marines and French troops fanned out across the city Sunday night following the attack to prevent any further violence. 

Ricardo Ortega, a New York correspondent for the Spanish television station Antena 3, was shot in the chest and abdomen and died at the hospital, the Associated Press reported from the scene of the shooting.

The political fallout continues about how Aristide left Haiti. He is now in exile in the Central African Republic. He insists he was kidnapped by U.S. forces. Senior U.S. officials, including Secretary of State Colin Powell and White House spokesman Scott McClellan, have repeatedly denied the accusation.

However, Aristide's U.S. attorney, Ira Kurzban, maintains his client was in fact kidnapped.  Kurzban says his immediate concern is to ensure Aristide's freedom of movement and speech in his temporary home in exile in Africa.

"We sent a letter to the secretary-general of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, requesting that the president be treated as a protected person under international law, " Kurzban explained. " And that includes ensuring by the United Nations consistent with the United Nations charter and various other international documents that the president be allowed to speak freely, be allowed to travel freely to and from the Central African Republic and be allowed to, of course, talk to the press and talk to the world about the events surrounding the coup d'etat in Haiti and his kidnapping by United States Marines."

At the State Department, spokesman Richard Boucher repeated that as far as the United States is concerned Aristide was not forced into exile by U.S. troops acting under orders from Washington.

"There was no kidnapping. There was no coup. There were no threats," he said. "We sat down carefully with Aristide and analyzed the situation with him."


 
Peruvian mummies in bundles turn up in path of new highway
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

LIMA, Perú — Archeologists say at least 22 Incan mummies have been discovered on the outskirts of this, the Peruvian capital.

Archeologist Guillermo Cock said the mummies are more than 500 years old. They originate from the period between 1470 and 1530. 

Cock said the spot where the mummies were discovered is part of the largest pre-Colombian cemetery in Perú. He said city planners arranged

the excavation because the site is in the path of a planned highway.

Archeologists say they do not know the exact number of mummies on the spot because they have not opened the burial bundles in which they are swathed. The bundles, some of which have been broken open, are made up of bones and decaying shrouds.

The Incas inhabited an area stretching from Colombia down to Chile. They were defeated by Spanish conquistadors in the 1530s. 


 
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U.S. official cites over 2,000 pedophile arrests 
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

More than 2,000 child predators and sex offenders have been brought to justice in the eight months since the launch of a new law enforcement program known as Operation Predator. Michael J. Garcia, assistant secretary for immigration and customs enforcement, delivered a progress report on the program at a congressional hearing last week.

Garcia says the program is protecting children worldwide. "We have initiated the largest-ever investigation into online child pornography, and we have affected the first ever arrests of sex tourists," Garcia told the House Immigration subcommittee.

Established in 2003 during the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, the agency has achieved the capacity to conduct complex investigations that involve an array of crimes, Garcia says, such as immigration violations, human smuggling and sex offenses. 

As an example, Garcia cited a case in which investigators were able to uncover a human smuggling ring in Texas by tracing a money trail that led to members of the ring, including its leader, who had fled the country.

Garcia says his agency has also taken its investigations into cyberspace: "(O)ur investigators

were unearthing remarkable numbers of child pornographers on the Internet, human smuggling organizations trafficking in children for sexual exploitation, and the relatively new phenomenon of ‘sex tourists,’ American citizens who travel to other countries to engage in sex with minors." 

"Protecting children from these ruthless predators is undoubtedly paramount to our homeland security mission," Garcia said.

He noted that the agency works with a number of other federal and international agencies under Operation Predator, "because child predator investigations often cross jurisdictional boundaries and require specialized assistance to help victims overcome the trauma of their abuse." 

Garcia outlined international cooperation between his agency and INTERPOL. His agency is also working with the International Police Agency, INTERPOL, to enhance foreign government intelligence on criminal child predators, he said. The agency is developing a mechanism to issue INTERPOL notices to foreign law enforcement agencies whenever a convicted sex offender is deported, he said.

Garcia also discussed ongoing international efforts in Cambodia, Thailand, and the Philippines to combat child sex tourism. "We want to send a message loud and clear that international borders no longer shield child sex predators," he said.

U.S. citizen in Pavas held in probe of sex crimes with minors
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A U.S. citizen from Pavas has been detained for investigation of having paid sex with minors and using these individuals to produce pornography, according to the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública.

The man was identified by the last name of Rishfield by investigators who said he was 50 years old and had lived here since 1994.

The man was arrested by the Unidad Contra la Explotación Sexual Friday during a raid of his living quarters. Investigators said they found 100 photographs of unclothed young women who may 
have been underage when the photos were taken.

 They also found videos and a camera with which the photos had been taken.

Investigators are searching to find the individuals who appeared in the photos.

According to information generated by the two-month investigation, the man was paying about 10,000 colons for each of the young women who had been supplied by various pimps. At the current exchange that is about $23.50. The agents said that the pimps had been detained without providing additional information.

The anti-sexual exploitation unit also was responsible for the arrest of a retired physician in Heredia last month for similar crimes.


 
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