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These stories were published Friday, April 4, 2003, in Vol. 3, No. 67
Jo Stuart
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New books feature facets of country's history
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two limited edition works unveiled Thursday spotlight outstanding churches of the Central Valley and Guayabo de Turrialba, a pre-Hispanic settlement.

Both books were published by the Centro de Investigación y Conservación del Patrimonio Cultural of the Ministerio de  Cultura, Juventud y Deportes.

The first book, "Templos del Valle Central," is a study of five churches built at the end of the 19th or in the first half of the 20th century.  Just 1,000 copies of the book, written in Spanish, were printed, all with funds provided by the Patrimonio, said the ministry.

The churches are the Iglesia de Palmares (built of stone), the Iglesia de San Isidro de Heredia (built of brick), the Iglesia de San Isidro de Coronado (reinforced concrete), the Iglesia de Rincón Grande de Pavas (adobe) and the Iglesia de María Auxiliadora (built of wood covered with a galvanized steel coating).

In addition to an important economic investment, the churches represent a communal effort relevant to the reinforcement of the religious and cultural identity of the communities in which they are located, said a release from the ministry.

Authors of the work are Carlos Zamora 

Hernández, Yanori Alvarez Masís and Ileana Vives Luque, all historical experts with the Centro de Investigación y Conservación del Patrimonio Cultural.

The second book, "Guayabo de Turrialba, una aldea prehispánica," also is in Spanish and was printed in 500 copies.

This book was financed with a grant from the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. The work documents the restoration and conservation that various institutions have undertaken at the archaeological site over the last 20 years. The work also gives a summary of the investigations that have taken place there and analyzes the gradual development of the site over 2,0000 years by the pre-Hispanic residents of what is now Costa Rica

Authors of "Guayabo de Turrialba" are Rodolfo Tenorio Jiménez, Luis Hurtado de Mendoza, Elena Troyo Vargas and José Enrique Garnier Zamora. All but Garnier are archaeologists. He is an architect and dean of the Facultad de Bellas Artes at the University of Costa Rica.

The books will be distributed to universities and libraries as well as institutions working in the areas studied, said the ministry. The public may see the books at the Centro Nacional de Cultura, which is the old liquor factory just east of Parque España and southeast of the towering Institution Nacional de Seguros building in Barrio Amon.

The continuing saga of renewing my residency
Whenever I have to get involved in local red tape, I consult with Lynda whom I consider a tramites or procedural guru. So when I set out a second time to renew my residency, I called her. She wasn’t at home, but I remembered that she had said something about going to the ICT in the Post Office. 

I was covering all bases, so I went there first, starting out at 11 a.m. They told me I had to go to Immigration, but there was a blue bus that would take me right to the door. However, they would not recommend that I go to the bus stop because it was in a bad part of the city. So once again I walked to the Alajuela bus. I decided to keep my own eye out for the overhead bridge at which point I would buzz the driver. It was a very short ride. Unlike the first trip, I did not go all the way to the airport by mistake.

The walk to the entrance of the Immigration was discouragingly long. (But not the eight blocks I first thought) I wondered if the new entrance was to discourage the faint-hearted who would find it easier just to head for the border. 

Posted outside the building were "helpers" (that is what I call them), one of whom asked what my intention was and then took me to where I could buy the necessary stamps. Stamps are needed for every tramite in Costa Rica. They are never very expensive, but there are so many that they must represent a sizeable income for the country. 

Once inside the building, I still had to walk the entire length of it to get to the Office for Pensionados. Ironically, it was just a few feet away from what used to be the entrance to the building. But the good news was there was a very short line and I was served in no time at all. 

Because my passport was a replacement for the one that was stolen, I had to take it to another desk to get my entrance date verified. Waiting at the window, a lovely young woman said hello in a very friendly way. I responded but she said, "You don’t remember me, do you?" I had to admit I didn’t. She told me she was the person who had renewed my residency two years before 

Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart

at the other office. At first I was embarrassed but I realized that there are many very pretty Ticas but few white-haired Gringas. 

At the window where I had to fill out another form and retrieve my passport, I was told to come back the next day at 1:30. Of course, that magic number of three was going to be fulfilled. On my way out, it dawned on me that I might need some cash to pay for my renewal so I stopped at the information window. He didn’t know and suggested I return to the office and ask. No, I only need some stamps (which I had, thanks to the helper).

This time I caught a blue bus that was waiting and got off on the Paseo Colón and then made my way home, feeling pretty good.

The next day I decided to have lunch at my favorite sandwich place, Quiznos, on Paseo Colón and catch the blue bus there. After discovering there were blue buses not going to Immigration, I caught a cab. (Being an American I am compulsive about being on time.) 

After picking up my official papers I was on my way home when I realized I still had an expired cédula. No one had told me what to do about getting new identity papers and I had neglected to ask. The following day (my fourth visit), I waited in the Pensionado office empty of any official. After 45 minutes I asked the young man waiting next to me if he could help me with some information. 

He was a treasure trove and informed me that I had to go the Banco de Credito de Cartago and deposit $100 and then come back with two photos and another stamp. I trudged back to the bus.

 The next day I decided to give it a rest. 

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Lawyer and teacher held on child porn charges
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A lawyer and a retired educator are facing investigation on charges of making child ponography and of having sexual relations with a minor. The charges followed a police raid Tuesday.

Arrested in the southern city of San Isidro de Pérez Zeledón were the lawyer and the educator, both with the last name of Barrantes. Investigators said that the educator Barrantes had faced allegations three previous times for sexual abuse of minors.

The coordinated raid involved members of the Centro de Información of the Fuerza Pública, the Judicial Investigating Organization, the Ministerio Público and the Juzgado Penal de Pérez Zeledón.

Investigators gave credit to the personnel of a photo studio in the same town and also Casa Alianza, the child advocacy group based in San José.

The principal evidence in the case is a roll of film with 36 exposures. Information provided by the photo studio enabled investigators to meet the legal requirements for a search. On the film, among other images, is that of a woman in erotic poses in front of a vehicle that is the property of the lawyer Barrantes, said agents.

Other photos showed a male minor dressed in women’s clothes and also an adult engaged in what appears to be sexual relations with a minor, said a release from the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública.

ARCR annual picnic will be Saturday in Heredia
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Association of Residents of Costa Rica will combine business with pleasure during an outing Saturday. The event will be at Montelandia, a park-like center in the Heredia hills above San Rafael.

The day-long event, described as both an annual picnic and "a day out just because," follows a business meeting of the association at which nominations will be entertained for a vice president. A nominating committee also will be picked to select officers for the fall elections.

The first call for the meeting will be at 9:30 a.m., although most of the members will not be there by

then. The actual meeting probably will take place at least an hour later.

The real agenda for the day is an outing with the family. The association is predominately English-speakers although that is not mandatory. 
It is a major organization of foreigners who live in Costa Rica and provides a host of services for foreigners including a monthly seminar.

Organizers promise a day of hot dogs, hamburgers, fun and games and outdoor activities. Reservations are being accepted through today at the association offices, 233-8068 and 221-2053. An e-mail address is arcr@casacanada.net. Tickets are 3,500 colons for adults and 1,500 colons for children ($9 and $3.85).

U.S. harshly condemns
crackdown by Cubans

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The United States is condemning in unusually strong terms the Cuban government's move to put on trial at least 78 political dissidents. The State Department says the dissidents face what it termed "summary justice" in "kangaroo courts." 

The State Department is describing the Fidel Castro government's crackdown on dissent as the "most despicable act of political repression in the Americas in a decade."

It is calling on the international community to join the United States in condemning the action and in demanding the release of the defendants, whom it described as "prisoners of conscience." 

The comments follow the announcement by Cuban authorities Wednesday that 78 opposition activists rounded up in recent weeks will be tried for treason and subversion. 

Prosecutors are seeking prison terms ranging from 10 years on up, with 11 of the accused facing life imprisonment. 

In a written statement condemning the trials, State Department spokesman Philip Reeker said dozens of Cubans, whose only "crimes" were to demand fundamental rights, now face "summary justice in regime kangaroo courts." 

He said the Cuban government has denied the international media and members of the diplomatic corps permission even to observe what he termed "these sham proceedings." 

Reeker said well-known activists, including democracy advocate Marta Beatriz Roque, poet and journalist Raul Rivero and labor activist Pedro Pablo Alvarez are among those facing life prison terms. 

He said a number of the organizers of the internationally-acclaimed "Varela Project" democracy petition movement face 15-to-30 years imprisonment. 

The crackdown began in mid-March, with authorities in Havana accusing dissidents of being part of an alleged anti-government conspiracy, led by the chief of the U.S. diplomatic interests section in Cuba, James Cason. 

Judge OKs civil trial
for Colombian bottler

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

MIAMI, Fla. — A U.S. federal judge has agreed to allow the trial of the main South American Coca-Cola bottler for murder and intimidation of union leaders in Colombia. 

Judge José Martínez ruled Monday that the suit may proceed to trial against Colombian bottler Panamco and its subsidiary company Bebidas. 

The suit alleges that in the 1990s Panamco hired right-wing paramilitary members to kill a union leader and intimidate other labor organizers. 

The United Steelworkers of America and the International Labor Rights Fund filed the suit on behalf of Colombia's food industry union (Sinaltrainal). 

The judge dismissed similar charges against the Coca-Cola parent company based in Atlanta, Ga., and its Colombian subsidiary.  Coca-Cola and the bottlers have denied any involvement in the violence. 

Police find cache
of rebel explosives

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

BOGOTA, Colombia — Police say they have seized two tons of explosives and arrested at least six suspected rebels during a raid here.

Authorities said the suspects were arrested Wednesday after police stormed a warehouse in a middle-class neighborhood. Investigators believe the suspects are members of the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the nation's largest guerrilla group. 

The FARC has been blamed for a series of car bombings in Colombia, including an attack Feb. 7 that killed 36 people and injured more than 100 at an exclusive Bogota nightclub.  The FARC has denied involvement in the attack.

Mexican police find
nine dead individuals

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Mexican police say they have found the bodies of nine people who were tortured and shot to death near the U.S.-Mexican border. 

Authorities say the bodies were found Wednesday in two parked cars on a road outside the northern town of Nuevo Laredo, close to the border with Texas. Police say they believe the victims had been kidnapped in the town as part of a narcotics-related wave of violence in the area. 

Authorities say drug smugglers are battling for control of the region following the arrest last month of suspected drug lord Osiel Cardenas. Mr. Cardenas is believed to have controlled a drug cartel that each year shipped millions of dollars worth of illegal drugs into the United States. 

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Killing of journalists still major problem, OAS says
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The assassination of journalists continues to represent a serious problem for freedom of expression and information in the Americas, says a human rights officer for the Organization of American States.

Eduardo Bertoni, whose title is special rapporteur for freedom of expression, said in a report released Wednesday that assassinating journalists violates the right to life and "leaves all other social communicators in a state of extreme risk and vulnerability."

Bertoni said that "sadly," many of the crimes against journalists go unpunished. Freedom of expression, he continued, "is one of democracy's most cherished rights. Yet practices unfortunately exist in the hemisphere that seek to restrict it."

During 2002, Bertoni said 10 media workers were assassinated in organization member states while they were exercising their professional duties. In addition, Bertoni said the "arbitrary use of criminal slander and libel charges to stifle criticism of civil servants continued and scant progress was noted regarding the promulgation of laws to protect the right of access to information, a matter vital to transparency in public affairs."

Bertoni's findings follow the release Monday of the U.S. State Department's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2002, which documented that freedom of expression and freedom of the press are being restricted in such countries as Cuba, Venezuela, and Haiti.

In Cuba, for example, the State Department said the regime of Fidel Castro continued to harass, threaten, arbitrarily arrest, detain, imprison, and defame journalists and other members of independent professional associations. It also said Cuba limited the distribution of foreign publications and news, and maintained strict censorship of news and information to the public.

In Venezuela, the department said press freedom "deteriorated significantly" during 2002 and that 
violence and threats of violence against the media 

increased markedly, as did government intimidation. As a result, self-censorship by the Venezuelan media was thought to be widespread.

Intimidation of journalists also continued to be a problem in Haiti. The Department reported attacks on journalists by supporters of the Haitian government, and that the country's legal system provided limited protection or redress. Journalists were accused of destabilizing the government and often subjected to anonymous threats of kidnapping and murder, while police and government officials often failed to protect journalists during civil unrest. 

Bertoni, the OAS special rapporteur, praised those countries which have provided financial backing and other support to strengthen his office's activities — a list which includes the United States, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Peru, and Sweden. Such backing, he said, is "indispensable" to the office's "proper functioning and execution of mandated activities."

The official concluded in his report that freedom of expression remains restricted in many countries of the region. Democracy, he said, "demands a sweeping freedom of expression, which cannot take root under the shadow of state mechanisms still in place to curb its unfettered exercise."

To improve the situation, Bertoni recommended that assassinations, kidnappings, threats, and intimidation against social communicators be investigated. He also called for revoking laws concerning criminal contempt, defamation, libel, and slander, and the passing of legislation to allow for access to information.

(Costa Rica has such a law that provides for criminal penalties for those who "insult" high officials. An effort to eliminate this crime seems to be stalled in the Asamblea Nacional.)

Bertoni congratulated journalists, social spokesmen, and defenders of human rights, among others, who have "demonstrated courage and determination in their struggle not to be muzzled in the exercise of this most fundamental right" to freedom of expression.

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.

Letters on the Villalobos matter
This reader invested with eyes wide open
Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

After standing on the sidelines for the past few months reading A.M. Costa Rica on the net and reading all of the ranting and raving from both sides of the "Brothers" issue, I have decided to put in my two cents worth.

Myself nor NO ONE ELSE knows how all of this is going to play out. I do know that throwing money at lawyers will help no one but the lawyers. You have one that said that for a small nominal fee of only $300,000 he will file a lawsuit against some politicians (as far as I know he has not said which ones) and by his own admission will never go to court. What a deal!! How could anyone pass that up? Then there is another group of lawyers that dropped their price. Was this because they were not getting enough suckers?

There are some things that I do know. If the checks that bounced were written on AmTrade

International Bank of Georgia and were dated 1 Oct 02 or later, they bounced because the Georgia Dept. of Banking and Finance closed that bank on 30 Sept. 02, and it is now in the hands of the FDIC.

I also know that when I made my loan to Enrique Villalobos I was told how the money would be invested. I went in with my eyes wide open. I checked Enrique out very carefully and found no one that had anything bad to say about him. 

If he turns out to be a crook, then he fooled a lot of people for many years. We can blame anyone that we want to, but the bottom line is that we have no control over how all of this turns out. 

In the meantime all of you people that are calling each other idiots please keep it up. It is not going to solve anything, but it is entertaining as hell. 

Jim Donathan 
Muskogee OK 

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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