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These stories were published Monday, March 10, 2003, in Vol. 3, No. 48
Jo Stuart
About us
A.M. Costa Rica photos
Nobody ever called this pair of oxen 'tiny.'

Complex wheel design

Crowd awaits boyeros

Day of the Boyero features a slow, uphill march
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A boyero is the Costa Rican version of a cowboy. And Sunday was a day for honoring their spirit.

Raising an ox (or a buey in Spanish) and maintaining a cart is a hobby now, but at one time the oxen-pulled vehicles were the backbone of Tico transportation. That’s how sacks of coffee got from the Central Valley to the port of Puntarenas over rough trails.

Some 120 entries showed up Sunday in Escazú center to participate in the parade up a 1.5 km. hill (about a mile) to the church of San Antonio de Escazú. Most of the entries were oxen and carts although a few matched pairs of younger animals participated to learn the ropes. This was the 20th annual display.

The traditional March fiesta in Escazú is the largest gathering of boyeros and their animal outside of the early December parade of ox carts to downtown San José.

Some residents along the route sold food and 

drinks. There even were a few cans of beer. But the bulk of the goodies awaited the boyeros and friends at a park west of the San Antonio church. Several thousand spectators lined the parade route and participated in festivities in the park.

The long uphill march took place under blue, cloudless skies and an unforgiving sun. Boyeros pulled and coaxed their animals. Some used the traditional metal-tipped cane. The placid oxen are easy to control. Surgery early in their lives insured that. They took the walk in stride.  In addition to the cane and a good hat, the best-dressed boyero also carries the all-purpose machete in a leather scabbard.

As the line of march passed the church, a priest blessed the animals and their handlers with holy water.

The tradition of painting the carts as a work of art is only about a century old. And the entries Sunday ranged from drab to masterpieces. Some say drab is more traditional. The event was sponsored by the municipality of Escazú as well as the association of hobbyists.

Pacheco promises some rapid construction work
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Tempisque Bridge that cuts down motor vehicle travel time to the central Nicoya Peninsula will be in operation within six weeks, President Abel Pacheco said Sunday in his weekly television talk.

The bridge, a gift from Taiwan, was due to open for Christmas but first problems were found with the cables, then the access roads constructed by Costa Rica began breaking up even before they were used.  Pacheco said the roads would be fixed soon. A ferry takes vehicles across the Río Tempisque now. 

Pacheco also announced another gift from Taiwan. The country soon will begin the construction of a road from Naranjo to Florencia in the Northern Zone with the aid of the Taiwanese government, which will supply the money and the technical and engineering support, said Pacheco. He said this is good news for San Carlos, Upala, Los Chiles and Guatuso.

For Central Valley residents, the president said that Ciudad Colón-Orotina  highway would be 

begun as soon as the Contraloría General de la República has signed off on the contract. This project cuts the travel time from San José to Puntarenas and Jacó from two hours to one, the president noted.

Pacheco also said that in June the government will open bids from companies that want to widen the General Cañas autopista from San José to Juan Santamaría Airport. The road will be widened from two to four lanes further on to Manolos, said the president. A similar widening from four to six lanes will be done on the San José to Cartago highway, he added.

Pacheco also said that in the first 90 days of operation, some 4,500 tourists have arrived at the Daniel Oduber International Airport in Liberia, thus bypassing San José enroute mostly to Pacific beaches. He added that the Limón Airport will get a new layer on its runway within a month so it, too, can serve as an international airport.

Some of the projects mentioned by Pacheco have been announced in the past, but his talk puts timetables to the work. 

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Stumbo says he's not surprised at custody ruling
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Ralph Stumbo said that he is not surprised that the court did not accept his custody and divorce ruling from a Florida court. He said in an e-mail that "we are here in Costa Rica, and in Costa Rica the woman always gets custody."

"This ruling serves to substantiate the fact that Costa Rica does not comply with the Hague Convention and actually has contempt for the U.S. legal system and for that matter Americans living here," he said.

The decision came from the Sala Primera of the Corte Supreme de Justicia in San José.

Stumbo and his wife Flor María Gaitán Tejada have been involved in a prolonged battle over custody of their son Marco, 4. Their case has been given a lot of press coverage because Stumbo has raised international legal questions and has become somewhat of a poster boy for similarly aggrieved fathers.

The court was asked to validate a January 2002 judicial order from a Collier County, Fla., court awarding Stumbo a divorce and custody of the child. For a number of legal reasons, the court did not.

But Stumbo disputed the court’s logic in his e-mail: "Their arguments are at best weak and  clearly demonstrate their lack of understanding of how the U.S. system works, and  shamelessly expose 

their contempt for the North American system."

Stumbo was particularly critical that the court did not accept as genuine paperwork that had been authenticated by the Costa Rican consul in Miami. The documents were the written decisions of the Florida court.

Said Stumbo: "Every expatriate living here knows that every time you turn around, the C.R. government is asking for a translated, authenticated document at $40 USD a page. Ironically, when it becomes inconvenient to accept these documents as true, Costa Rica simply negates the work done by their own Embassy.  Fantastic."

Stumbo said he would continue his fight for visitation rights at the family court in Heredia.

The case is a complex one. The boy was born in the United States and has dual citizenship. Originally the couple got a separation in Heredia. But then they reconciled and moved to Miami. Ms. Gaitán took the boy when she returned to Costa Rica from Naples, Fla., Aug. 1, 2001. That is when Stumbo went to court there and eventually obtained custody and a divorce.

Among other concerns expressed by the Sala Primera here was whether Ms. Gaitán was notified of the Florida court action involving her.  Stumbo said he made sure she was served with U.S. legal papers. Nevertheless, Ms. Gaitán never participated in the U.S. action.

Latin woman advancing a bit, World Bank says
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Women in Latin America and the Caribbean have made significant advances with regard to equality but traditional social patterns continue to undermine their participation in the labor market, and hinder the ability of households to escape from poverty, a new study of the World Bank says.

According to "Challenges and opportunities for gender equality in Latin America and the Caribbean," prepared to commemorate International Women’s Day on Saturday, women have made significant improvements in education and access to the labor market. However, the report indicates that there is much to be done with regard to poverty and social exclusion, reproductive health care and protection from domestic violence.

In spite of the significant progress over the past 20 years, gender inequalities remain an obstacle to the full development of the countries in the region, said Maria Valria Pena, Leader of the World Bank’s Gender Unit for Latin America and the Caribbean.

The study describes what the bank calls the most important changes in the condition of women in Latin America and the Caribbean over the past two decades and the challenges, both by region and by country, points out that even though the participation of the women in the formal economy has continued to increase, there are still obstacles-especially those in rural areas and affecting indigenous women.

The report says the participation of women in the labor market continues to be much lower than that of men. In Brazil, 56 percent of women take part in the labor market; in Chile, 44 percent;

Colombia, 56 percent; Mexico, 43 percent; and Peru, 55 percent; while in all of these countries the participation of men is over 88 percent.

It says although the salary divide between genders has narrowed considerably in many countries such as Honduras, Venezuela, Brazil, Colombia, Argentina and Mexico, women earn less than men in all countries of the region with the exception of Costa Rica. The report also says in Argentina, women earn 98 percent of what men earn, in Mexico 89 percent, in Colombia 84 percent, in Peru 80 percent, 77 percent in Brazil and Chile, in El Salvador 74 percent, and in Nicaragua 64 percent.

Even though Latin American women have almost reached the same level of education as men, and in some countries have even surpassed them, they continue to participate less in the labor market and earn less than men‚ continues the report. 

The reports says this situation is all the more acute for rural women, since they also deal with high fertility rates, a high number of dependents and lack of access to land. Although access to land has significantly increased in countries such as Colombia, Costa Rica, Honduras, Nicaragua, Chile and El Salvador, Mexico is the country with the region’s biggest gender gap in land ownership, with women only holding 21 percent of all land titles, says the report.

The report says in education, the gap between men and women has been closing in all countries in the region, and in some, women have reached a higher level of education than men, such as in Brazil, Costa Rica, Venezuela, Argentina, Jamaica, Nicaragua and Colombia. The report says this is due to the fact that fewer boys enroll in school and leave school more frequently in order to help their families economically.

Chile denounces offensive on Iraq by U.S. forces

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

SANTIAGO, Chile — President Ricardo Lagos says the March 17 deadline set for Iraqi disarmament is too short, and he voiced opposition to a possible military strike against Baghdad.

Lagos told reporters here Saturday that weapons inspectors should be given more time to probe charges that Iraq has illegal weapons of mass destruction. He also said it could take Iraq as much as four months to destroy its banned weapons.

The president's statements suggest the previously undecided country would not support the March 17deadline, which was set Friday by the United States, Britain and Spain.

U.S. officials have been trying to win backing for military action from Chile, which currently holds a rotating seat on the U.N. Security Council. 

U.S. President George Bush called Lagos on Friday, in an effort to gain Chile's support.

Japan refuses to banish
former Peruvian leader

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

TOKYO, Japan — The government here says it has no plans to act on an international arrest warrant for former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori — who lives in self-imposed exile here — on charges of kidnapping and murder. 

Officials here repeated Sunday their stance that it will not hand over a naturalized Japanese citizen to a nation with which it does not have an extradition treaty. 

A foreign ministry spokesman said the country has not yet received the extradition request. The international police group Interpol reissued an arrest warrant Saturday, based on charges in Peruvian courts that accuse Fujimori of the kidnapping and murder of political opponents in the early 1990s. He has also been charged with multiple counts of corruption while in office. 

Fausto Alvarado, Peru's minister of justice, says the arrest order should be valid here, where Fujimori has been living since 2000. 

Fujimori was born in Peru, but is the son of Japanese immigrants. He fled Peru in November of 2000 amid a corruption scandal involving his former intelligence chief, Vladimiro Montesinos, who is currently on trial for corruption.

Judge orders arrest 
of bombing suspects

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

BUENOS ARIES, Argentina — A judge has ordered the arrest of four Iranian officials suspected of involvement in the 1994 bombing of a Jewish center here.

Federal judge Juan Jose Galeano filed the arrest order Friday for the officials who worked at the Iranian Embassy here at the time of the attack. The bombing of the Argentine-Israeli Mutual Association killed 85 people. 

The arrest warrant is based on information from a recent investigation, accusing Iranian officials and members of the militant group Hezbollah for the attack. The order did not name suspected members of Hezbollah.

The investigation found that in the days before the 1994 attack there was unusual movement of Iranian diplomats in and out of the country.

The judge appealed for international cooperation in the capture and extradition of the suspects.

The Iranian government has denied any involvement in the attack. The warrant names former Iranian intelligence and security minister, Ali Fallahijan. 

Argentina has the largest Jewish community in Latin America, with an estimated 300,000 members.

Andean neighbors open bridge connecting them

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The presidents of Peru and Ecuador inaugurated a bridge connecting the two nations Saturday. 

The $1.8 million bridge spans the Canchis River near the Peruvian town of Namballe, 500 miles northeast of Lima. 

Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo joined Ecuador's President Lucio Gutierrez for the ceremony, saying the bridge is a sign that a long-standing border dispute is a page that has been turned. 

The neighboring nations signed a peace agreement in October 1998 ending territory disputes that led to wars in 1941, 1985 and 1995. Under the treaty, Ecuadorian boats have access to the Amazon River and its tributaries. In return, Ecuador gave up its historic claim to a large swath of Amazon jungle. 

Castro re-elected
Cuban president

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

HAVANA, Cuba — The parliament here has unanimously re-elected President Fidel Castro to a sixth term. 

Castro was the only candidate running to head the Council of State — the supreme governing body of the state. He won January's general elections with 97 percent of the vote amidst calls by dissidents to ignore the polls. 

There were 609 members of the new session of the National Assembly who were also seated Thursday. Castro has held power since 1959 and is the world's longest ruling head of government.

U.S. lawmakers in Cuba

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

HAVANA, Cuba — A bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers is here in what the government says is the largest single delegation of American legislators ever to visit the communist-run island.

The lawmakers include Republican Representatives Jeff Flake of Arizona and Jo Ann Emerson of Missouri as well as Massachusetts Democrat William Delahunt. 

International news sources say New York Democratic Representative Nita Lowey also is among the eight-member group that is expected to meet with both officials and dissidents during the five-day visit. 

The legislators are pushing for changes in American policy toward the country, including an end to travel restrictions for U.S. citizens and easing of trade sanctions.

In May of last year, President Bush reaffirmed his commitment to the four decade-old U.S. trade embargo against Cuba. 

Bush vowed to keep the embargo in place until the government of President Fidel Castro holds free and fair elections, releases political prisoners and reforms the island's economic system.

Lumber crackdown
snags eight loads

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Fuerza Pública has confiscated eight truckloads of illegal wood already this year. The value of the material seized is about 1 million colons  or about $2,600, according to the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública.

Since the middle of 2002, the police have grabbed illegal wood worth about six times as much, including one shipment alone worth 2 million colons, said the ministry.

Police also confiscated a portable sawmill that had a value of about half a million colons or about $1,250 said the ministry.

Police to be notified
when aggressor freed

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Every time a domestic violence offender leaves jail, local police will be notified, according to an order by the Poder Judicial Friday. That way local police will be able to keep an eye on the individual to avoid a repeat offense.

Immigration police
grab 34 illegals

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Immigration police went hunting for illegal residents Thursday in Piedra Azul in Paraíso de Cartago where neighbors have complained about activities of foreigners, said a report over the weekend.

Marco Badilla, director de Migración, said that 34 persons were detained for possible deportation. All held are either Hondurans or Nicaraguans. One man was carrying a ski mask, gloves and a knife, said a release.
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Investor group says it has hired lawyer Villalobos
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The group of investors that wants to bring criminal and civil charges against Costa Rican officials has hired a lawyer.

John Manners, the president of the group, said that in an e-mail message Saturday. He said that a contract was signed, effective March 7, with José Miguel Villalobos, the former minister of Justicia.

Manners said that the group held off making the announcement until Friday, so it was unclear exactly when the contract was made.

Manners also said that the terms of the contract would not be disclosed because "it would serve no constructive purpose." However, the group, the United Concerned Citizens of Costa Rica, held a meeting Feb. 2 where Villalobos outlined his plan to bring pressure on the Costa Rican government.

The members are investors with the defunct high-interest operation run by Luis Enrique Villalobos Camacho, who is now a fugitive and being sought on money laundering and fraud allegations. This particular group of investors generally blames the Costa Rican government and not Villalobos for the demise of the operation that was based at Mall San Pedro.

Villalobos, the lawyer, apparently shares their point of view. Manners said that the lawyer agreed to accept the last third of his $300,000 fee "after EV returns and resumes his business, is more an ethical matter, that can then be handled by EV rather than a matter of legal responsibility of the UCCR board or any of the UCCR members." EV is Enrique Villalobos.

Manners said that the group needs to collect $20,000 more to pay for the lawyer’s first $100,000. Manners said that the group has only reached some 300 to 400 investors out of the estimated 6,400 predominately North Americans who gave Villalobos money in anticipation of returns in the 3 percent per month range.

Manners said that he signed the agreement as did 

Fred Pitts, vice president, and Pierre Herbert, treasurer. Manners also said that Villalobos, the lawyer, understands that the group is acting as a go-between and cannot be held responsible for uncollected funds.

Manners said that by signing the contract now, the lawyer can begin the legal battle while the balance of the funds are collected. Originally, Villalobos said he would not work at all unless the group came up with the first $100,000.

Villalobos, the lawyer, has said that he has been unable to find any evidence that Enrique Villalobos had done anything wrong. His plan is to file criminal charges to get the attention of the officials who are working on the Villalobos case. He said he does not expect to actually go to court on the charges.

While a number of investors have concluded that Enrique Villalobos was operating a money laundering and ponzi scheme to suck in gullible investors, the group headed by Manners has stood fast. For months they counseled investors not to do anything, just wait for the return of Enrique Villalobos.

Villalobos, the lawyer, has been criticized for demanding an excessive fee. He was fired by President Abel Pacheco after he questioned the cost of a maximum security prison being planned for Poccí.

Nothing has been heard from Enrique Villalobos since his lawyers sent out a statement from him that was published here Jan. 2. He closed his office Oct. 14 saying that he feared another raid by prosecutors. His office originally was raided July 4, as was the adjacent office of Ofinter S.A., a money exchange house run by his brother Oswaldo. Oswaldo Villalobos has been jailed while the investigation continues.

During the weekend of Nov. 21 Luis Milanes, operator of Savings Unlimited, another high-interest operation, this one housed in Edificio Colón, left town. Investors lost an estimated $240 million in that default.

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.

An invitation to enter our photo contest
The first A.M. Costa Rica photo contest welcomes your submissions and will award a prize of $100 in each of five categories.

The deadline for submission is April 15. The contest was announced in November.

Five categories have been established:

1. DEADLINE NEWS: A news photo that shows a breaking news event, such as, but not only, crime, accidents, fires, arrests.

2. SCENIC: Landscape scenes which may or may not include people as a secondary emphasis.

3. WILDLIFE: Photos that have as their principal subject one or more animals, plants or insects. 

4. SPORTS: A photo related to one of the major or minor sports, team or individual.

5. PEOPLE:  A photo that has as its principal emphasis one or more persons, including individual portraits. 

Deadline is April 15

BASIC RULES: The photo must be taken by the person who submits it, and he or she, as a condition of submission, agrees to give A.M. Costa Rica the right to publish the photo in A.M. Costa Rica. Upon publication, the photo will be covered by A.M. Costa Rica’s copyright, which the newspaper will happily assign back to the contestant upon request. As a condition of submission, the contestant affirms that he or she owns full rights to the photo and that it has never before been published in any professional medium.

The photo must have been taken within the borders or territorial waters of Costa Rica between Nov. 15 and the contest deadline. 

Only one entry per photographer is allowed in each category. Judges reserve the right to place the photo in another category during the selection process.
Employees, shareholders or interns with A.M. Costa Rica may not enter the contest. 

This is an open competition. No distinction will be made between professional and amateur photographers.

A.M. Costa Rica, at its option, will publish photos and information including the name of the photographer, as submissions are made.

The management of A.M. Costa Rica and judges are the final authority on contest rules and submissions.

TECHNICALITIES: The photos must be sent digitally via e-mail to 

editor@amcostarica.com, and the subject line must specify "photo contest." Within the body of the e-mail, the contestant must specify into which category the photo is submitted. The photo should be between 4 and 8 inches in width and contain no less than 72 pixels per inch of density. Each photo should not be larger than 200 k.

The e-mail message must clearly state the name and the circumstances surrounding the taking of the photo and the date the photo was taken. 

The photo should be in jpeg format and sent as an attachment with the file name as the number of the category in which it is being submitted followed by the name of the photographer.

For example, the file name of a photo in the sports category taken by Mr. Jones would be 4jones.jpeg or 4jones.jpg

PRIZES:  A first place winner will be named in each category, and the prize will be $100 paid via Pay Pal, the electronic fund-transfer system.

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