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(506) 223-1327          Published Thursday, March 22, 2007, in Vol. 7, No. 58          E-mail us    
Jo Stuart
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toledo house
Fuerza Pública officers at Toledo home

A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas
Light illuminates balcony where man was slain

Bandits came back and killed maid for revenge
By Saray Ramírez Vindas
and the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Armed robbers returned to the same Rohrmoser home Wednesday to take revenge on a maid who turned them in just a few days before.

They killed the maid as they had promised, roughed up the wife of a top political leader and fatally shot a man who stepped out on his balcony across the street.

The tale of arrest, release and revenge came from Ricardo Toledo Carranza, a presidential candidate in the February 2006 elections. He was not home about 5:30 p.m. when the bandits struck. But his maid, identified only as Ligia, 40, a Nicaraguan, died when the bandits shot her in the chest.

Also dead is Werner Bohl, 48, a Peruvian, who stepped out on his third-floor balcony to see if he could help. He was the man who called 911 and urged on a security guard before he stepped into view and died, according to his brother, Jürgen.

The three suspects have been arrested. One was captured while in the Toledo home after a brief shootout. He is being hospitalized, and Rafael Gutiérrez, vice minister of Seguridad, said he was just 17.

Two more suspects led police on a chase in a red car and then got in an accident in which a traffic policeman suffered injuries while he was maintaining a roadblock in Hatillo 8. After an exchange of

Ricardo Toledo

Delroy Hernández
gunfire, they were jailed.

Toledo spoke at length with reporters when hearrived at his home about 7 p.m. He complained strongly about the court system which released two of the robbery suspects after they entered his home Friday. That was when the maid called police and broke up the robbery.

Toledo also said the maid became known to the robbers when officers asked her to identify them Friday. They were in jail just overnight Friday. Toledo said that the pair promised that they would return and kill the maid.

Delroy Hernández, a Fuerza Pública lieutenant, confirmed what Toledo said. He said officers chased the pair about a block and a half Friday, caught them and then brought them back to the Toledo home for identification.

Ironically, Hernández was on duty again Wednesday evening and participated in securing the scene.

Jürgen Bohl said that his brother was a computer engineer who had lived in Costa Rica only two years. The building is called Condominios Genoma.

The maid died inside the house near the kitchen. Police said they found a television, a laptop and valuables from the Toledo home in the trunk of the getaway vehicle.

Toledo's wife, Marta Lora Morejón, had her arm broken in three places by the bandits. She also sustained a broken jaw and broken teeth.

The robbers were waiting for her when she returned home Wednesday and unlocked the portón or steel gate of the upscale home. Toledo's son was at home but was not injured, police said.

Toledo served for a time as the chief of staff for then-president Abel Pacheco. He was called the minister of the Presidencia. Later he assumed a position as a member of the Asamblea Legislativa. In the 2006 election, as the Partido Unidad Social Cristiana candidate, he came in fourth with just 3.55 percent of the vote, in part because of public discontent with Pacheco.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, March 22, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 58

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escazu art
A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas
These chunky folks are the work of Manuel Vargas, and they will be among the works on display starting today through Sunday at the San Rafael de Escazú annual art fair.

Fair starts Friday to honor
the Semana Santa squash

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A town near Zarcero is hosting the Fifth Feria Nacional del Chiverre, a traditional celebration of the Semana Santa treat. The town is Laguna de Alfaro Ruiz, which is just outside of Zarcero on the road to San Carlos.

The fair starts Friday and runs for two weekend. The area is where the chiverre is grown. The hard-shelled squash is what Ticos use to make miel de chiverre, a sweet staple of the Easter holidays.

The plants are sown in April and May and the squash are ready for market in January and February. No traditional Tico family would be without its chiverre, scientifically a member of the cucurbit family, Cucurbita ficifolia.

As part of the fair, locals have prepared a number of dishes with a chiverre base.

The event is being co-sponsored by the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo. Highlight includes a cultural festival Saturday and a recreational mountain bike event Sunday. 

March 31 features the Festival Nacional de Cimarronas. These are the street bands that play at many Costa Rican events.

Sunday, April 1, will see a parade of trucks and tractors and a display of modified vehicles.

A more detailed explanation of the squash and recipes can be found in the newspaper archives HERE!

Ciudad Colón merchant
held in visa fraud case

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Investigators detained a Chinese man Wednesday in downtown San José and said that he was involved in bankrolling a ring that obtained fraudulent visas for his countrymen.

The man was identified by the last name of Wu. The Judicial Investigating Organization said he was 52 and from Ciudad Colón. They followed him Wednesday on a bus from that town west of San José until he stepped off and was arrested.

At the same time agents raided his home there and two supermarkets.

The case involves the same ring of traffickers who offered Mario Zamora, the immigration director, a $2.5 million bribe. He turned down the money and went public.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, March 22, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 58

Casa Presidencial produces yet another immigration proposal
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Casa Presidencial has revised yet again the draft of a proposed law on immigration that the executive branch will send to the legislature.

The new draft was unexpected because the Arias administration said Jan. 24 that it was ready to send a measure to lawmakers for consideration.

Although a Casa Presidencial spokesperson said that only a few small changes were incorporated in the new draft, the number of words grew by 2,300, not counting a lengthy explanation of motives that has been added as a preface.

The new draft specifically levies a $25 annual charge on anyone who uses the immigration services as a resident. A separate $5 charge would be assessed on persons who were not residents, presumably tourists, cruise ship passengers, business people who visit briefly and those on work visas. This assessment had been talked about but was not contained in previous drafts of the proposed law.

Under the current law, pensionados have to show a monthly income of $600. The first draft of the proposed law reduced this to $300. Now the new draft specifies $500 a month.

Rentistas continue to have to show income of at least $2,000 a month or a bank deposit assuring that level of income. Spouses are included in this amount.

Government officials call the new draft a key element in the fight against corruption, human trafficking and sexual and labor exploitation. Fernando Berrocal, the minister of Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública, said that officials spent 800 hours during the last six months in meetings discussing the new draft. His ministry holds the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería or immigration service.

The $25 a year that foreign residents would pay is earmarked for the Caja Costarricense del Seguro Social and the Ministerio de Educación Pública to help support the overworked health and educational services.

Berrocal said that the new law would provide 6 billion colons (some $11.5 million) to overhaul the immigration information computer systems, transforming the agency from a place where work is done manually to one that is automated.

The immigration agency is having computer problems now
with the link from the Daniel Oduber airport in Liberia and the central computer systems. That has meant long waits for tourists entering and leaving the country.

In addition, the immigration agency has been the victim of internal and external frauds that have provided persons with false renewals of their visas and false documents. A secure computer system would cut down on frauds.

The upgraded Policía Técnica Migratoria will have more powers, and the work of human trafficking will continue to be a crime with a possible 16-year sentence.

Immigration workers who accept bribes could be jailed for up to five years, and private employers who hire persons who do not have the right to work in Costa Rica, such as tourists, could face fines of up to 1.5 million colons (about $3,600) per employee.

The new draft expands the power of officials to grant waivers from the law. The initial draft gave the president of the country this privilege. The proposed draft extends these rights to the director of immigration.

Article 65 of the draft says that the president, after consultation with the Consejo de Gobierno, can issue a decree to legalize the immigration condition of foreigners
The immigration director can do so but only case by case.

Observers expect President Óscar Arias Sánchez to extend residency to illegal Nicaraguans and others on the condition they pay the fees for the Caja and the education ministry.

Such a move would solve how the central government would extend payment of this fee to illegal immigrants who are heavy users of medical and educational services.

The new draft does not differentiate between residents, and there is no provision for a higher monthly fee from North Americans and Europeans as there was in the initial draft.
There is no limit in the new draft on how many times persons may renew their tourist visa. Many foreigners live here as perpetual tourists, leaving every 90 days for 72 hours to renew their tourist visa.

As a news story said Monday, there are no regulations drawn up yet to provide working guidelines for the proposed law or even the law that is on the books. It would be within the regulations where many details are established. The proposed draft makes reference to regulations.

Real estate broker tells how he lost all in Villalobos crash
By Dennis Rogers
A.M. Costa Rica special correspondent

A Dominical real estate dealer lost more than just his money with the failure of the Villalobos high-interest investment operation. “I thought that money was my pension,” said the man, Kent Brown in court Wednesday.

Brown owned a substantial chain of auto parts stores in the U.S. before selling it to come to Costa Rica, ultimately becoming a real estate operator on the south Pacific coast. He had as an employee there, David Matthison, who later became the office manager for the Villalobos Mall San Pedro office.

Brown said Matthison was a good employee, and he considered the Villalobos operation trustworthy, but could not remember who recommended him. The operation, run by Enrique Villalobos required a referral from another investor to accept a new applicant. Eventually Brown did invest about $250,000, and following the sale of a property, another $250,000, he testified.

In the aftermath of the July 2002 law enforcement raid and the closing the following October when he lost his money, Brown’s life took a turn for the worse. “When the doors
closed, I didn’t have any sort of salary, I had to sell my house in Dominical, dismiss my employees, I lost my wife, the money for my daughter’s university expenses” he said.

After the closure of the investment operation, Brown was involved in the competing efforts to find a strategy that might result in the return of investors’ money.

He and his wife promoted the plan of attorney Ewald Acuña, who claimed to have found a large amount of Villalobos money in Panamá and charged $500 per investor to participate in efforts to share it. Brown contacted investors and placed ads in local English-language media. Acuña is one of the lawyers involved in the Oswaldo Villalobos trial at which the testimony took place.

Wednesday Brown described the efforts of members of the group United and Concerns Citizens of Costa Rica to persuade him to drop his claim against the Villalobos brothers. They told him that if Oswaldo Villalobos was found innocent Enrique would return and pay back the investors. “They called me many times,” he said.

The prosecution is nearly complete in the Oswaldo Villalobos trial. He faces charges of fraud, money laundering and illegal banking. His brother still is a fugitive.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, March 22, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 58

Colombian foreign minister would extradite Chiquita Eight
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Colombia's foreign minister said Wednesday that the government of President Alvaro Uribe will support any attempt by prosecutors to secure the extradition of current or former associates of a U.S. company that has admitted to making payments to a right-wing paramilitary group in the country.

The minister, Fernando Araujo, came to Washington amid a controversy surrounding U.S.-based fruit giant Chiquita Brands International, whose operations in Colombia focus on banana production through a local subsidiary.

Earlier this week, Chiquita pleaded guilty in U.S. court to making payments totaling $1.7 million to the United Self-Defense Force of Colombia, a right-wing militia accused of committing horrific human rights abuses while battling leftist guerrillas. The company will pay a $25 million fine for having supported a group the U.S. government lists as a terrorist organization.

But if Chiquita has made peace with the U.S. justice system, the company remains in the crosshairs of Colombia's chief prosecutor, who said he will demand the extradition of eight people accused of taking part in the Chiquita payments scandal.
Speaking with reporters after addressing the Organization of American States, Araujo said the Colombian government supports all efforts by the country's judicial branch to bring criminals to justice.

"If the prosecutor asks for extradition of any foreigner in any country in the world, we in the government, in the foreign ministry will support the request and will pursue the matter with the corresponding government," he said.

But if Colombian officials are angry over Chiquita's financial dealings with paramilitaries, they have not soured on overall commercial contacts with the United States. The United States and Colombia have negotiated a bilateral free trade accord, and Araujo said he came to Washington to lobby U.S. senators to ratify the pact.

He said, "That is why we are here in Washington: to push for the free trade accord, which we view as an opportunity for economic growth. We are explaining to U.S. legislators the importance of having a formal arrangement that will permit greater investment in Colombia, create more jobs, and overcome the effects of poverty."

The trade deal was negotiated while Republican allies of President Bush controlled the U.S. Congress. Opposition Democrats now hold majorities in both chambers.

Sala IV tells Santa Cruz to act to protect its maritime zone
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Sala IV constitutional court has ordered the Municipalidad de Santa Cruz to move against those who have infringed on the maritime zone along the Pacific.

The court acted on a plea by residents of the area who specifically mentioned incursions in playas La Penca, Playa Potrero, Playa Flamingo, Playa Brasilito. The court said that the municipality should outline for the neighbors within three days what action has been taken to eliminate the problem.

According to a brief summary released by the Poder Judicial, the neighbors also demanded help from the Ministerio de Ambiente y Energía, but the court only upheld the complaint against the municipality.
The initial complaint was filed with the municipality Aug. 15, said the decision.

The complaint also said that developers were filling in a waterway in order to construct hotels and luxury homes. The summary was unclear as to the decision in this aspect of the case. The complaint also said that buildings were being constructed above water pipelines and that this represented a danger to health.

The municipality was given six months to use its powers to guarantee the public use of the maritime zone.

Typically this means the elimination of any construction within the first 50 meters above mean high tide and the elimination of any construction that has not been granted a concession within the next 150 meters.

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