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(506) 223-1327              Published Wednesday, April 11, 2007, in Vol. 7, No. 71            E-mail us    
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escazu ufo
A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas
What the heck is this thing?
These things get in the way of our sunset shots
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Once again a scenic shot of a Costa Rican sunset has captured what appears to be an unusual object in the sky.

The photo was taken Monday from Guachipelin, Escazú, while the sun was fading from the sky. Some shots captured the sun setting.

But one, taken a few minutes later after the sun vanished, shows a brightly painted sky, but there is a small object in the frame. A magnification of the object suggests that it is three-dimensional because it shows a rim of light on the far side.

The photographer was facing west at a point about 500 meters south of the Multiplaza Mall traffic circle.

A.M. Costa Rica published photos containing a white disk and a similar object March 31, 2006. Those shots were taken from the Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones near Parque Nacional and included the tall headquarters of the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad. The same photographer, Saray Ramírez Vindas, took the earlier shots. She had been in the building for a press conference and joined other photographers taking photos of a spectacular sunset.
Later editors learned that Daniel Rodríguez, a photographer from Prensa Libre, also took photos that showed the same disk-like object. Prensa Libre is part of the La Extra publication group. That photo was published May 19, 2006.

Once again Monday Ms. Ramírez said she had no idea of what was on her photo until she began to study the digital shots Tuesday evening.

Local UFO investigators studied the March 31, 2006, photos and identified additional dark objects that appeared to be in the sky.

Escazú is better known for its mythical witches than flying saucers, but some sightings have been reported over Santa Ana to the west. In January 2006 Costa Ricans in downtown San José were excited to see a metallic object in the sky. That turned out to be a weather balloon.

Speculation suggests the objects might be some kind of experimental craft that uses Costa Rica as a quick land transit point between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. After all, Costa Rica does not have an air force with high-speed interceptors or ground-based modern weaponry. The U.S. F-117 Nighthawk stealth fighter generated UFO reports between 1981 and 1988 when it was acknowledged by the Air Force.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, April 11, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 71

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Villalobos witness claims
brothers worked together

By Arnoldo Cob Mora
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A witness testified Tuesday that she dealt with both Luis Enrique and Oswaldo Villalobos when she made a $10,000 investment in the Villalobos high-interest operation.

The witness was Vicky Araya Méndez, who said she made the investment about six months before the offices closed Oct. 14, 2002. She said she managed to collect two months interest.

The woman testified that she received two checks in return for her investment and that a man she identified as Oswaldo Villalobos told her the security checks could be cashed at one of two banks. She said she did not remember the names of the banks.

Luis Enrique Villalobos usually gave undated checks to investors with the understanding that the checks could not be cashed. They were more like a personal promissory note.

Ms. Araya also testified that she knew Luis Enrique was the operator of the business and that Oswaldo was his business associate because she saw a story on television that said that after the high-interest operation and Oswaldo's Ofinter S.A. money exchange house closed.

The prosecution is trying to show that Oswaldo and Luis Enrique Villalobos both were involved in the high interest operation because Oswaldo is on trial for allegations that relate to the high-interest operation and not his money exchange house. Luis Enrique continues to be a fugitive

The impact of Ms. Araya's comments might not be significant because she was uncertain about other things.

Also testifying Tuesday was Humberto Nápoles, a Cuban, who put $25,000 in the Luis Enrique Villalobos operation. He said he as told that Luis Enrique used the money for investments in tourism and other activities. He said he was impressed with the operation.

The allegation of fraud is based on the prosecution's contention that the Villalobos high-interest operation had no real economic activity except to take money from investors and use part of this income to pay interest. A previous witness, Bobbie Cox, a Villalobos friend, speculated that Luis Enrique could have invested in certain unspecified European investments that easily paid enough so investors here could get up to 3 percent a month.

In addition to fraud, Oswaldo Villalobos faces money laundering and illegal banking charges.

Prosecutor Walter Espinoza said Tuesday that the defense has no more witnesses and that he is trying to locate some 20 prosecution witnesses who have yet to testify.

Dominical theater group
to present a musical

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Dominical Little Theatre is presenting "Dames and Dudes, a Musical Revue on the Barú" this weekend and next.

The show is characterized as a musical review "transported by the tunes of Tin Pan Alley to the sweeping mega-musicals of the nineties accompanied by lively narration peppered with references to the legendary collaborations of some of the greatest composers and lyricists in contemporary history."

The show is at Villas Río Mar, and ticketing and other information is available at 787-8250, 398-0915 or 849-0179. The Río Barú has its mouth at Dominical.

Keith Scott will be accompanied by veteran fiddler Nancy Buchan and Dominical newcomer Cam Marshman on bass, said an announcement. Featured artist Kezirah Bradford will be performing Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Bad week for the railroad

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The week already has been a bad one for the railroad.  The urban passenger train ripped away the lower part of a bus Monday, and a passenger car was broadsided in a mishap Tuesday.

In Valle de Estrellas on the Caribbean coast a locomotive struck a bull and derailed Tuesday. That was a cargo train hauling bananas.

One of five children dies

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

One of five quints born to a San José mother died Monday at Hospital Calderón Guardia. He was  Derek Guzmán Rodríguez. Death was believed caused by a blood clot.

The quints were born March 29 as the products of artificial insemination to Nancy Gabriela Rodríguez Aguirre, 30, and husband Jenner Guzmán Coto, 38.

San José quints generated money and gifts for their family Tuesday even though they still are in the hospital.

One of the babies, Arianna, suffered an infection but now seems to have recovered.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, April 11, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 71

Murder of developer here blamed on $7 million bad deal
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Judicial officials blame a $7 million business deal that went sour for the torture and murder of Robert C. Cohen, a U.S. citizen from Grenada, Nicaragua, whose body was found near a river in Limón province March 10, 2005.

Two persons are facing trial now in the  Tribunal de Juicio de Limón. They are a man named Luis Alonso Douglas Mejía of Honduras and a woman with the last names of Chacón Sánchez, said the Poder Judicial.

Some 16 witnesses have been called to testify, including agents of the U.S. FBI. The trial is expected to last about a month, the Poder Judicial said.

A third suspect, a known hitman, has been a fugitive since the body was found. He is being sought internationally through the International Police Agency (INTERPOL). The man is skilled at adopting identities and has U.S. and British passports, officials said.
Cohen was visiting San José and staying at the Intercontinental Hotel in Escazú. He left the hotel March 6, 2005, about 7 a.m.. The Poder Judicial said he left to exercise. He was believed to have been picked up by two persons in a car.

Cohen was abducted, held hostage and beaten to death by criminals who wanted the code numbers to access his bank accounts, according to the Judicial Investigating Organization at the time Douglas was arrested. Later the Poder Judicial said that the crime stemmed from a bad investment that lost $7 million.

Cohen, 64 at the time of his death, was a developer from Granada, Nicaragua, who was found at the Río Chirripó.

The complex Cohen was developing was to be deluxe townhomes of 1,506 square feet in a gated community with views of Lake Nicaragua, according to the Web site of Coldwell Banker Nicaragua, which was to market the project. Prices started at $175,000.

Campaign launched to snag Nobel Peace Prize for Morales
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Guess who is running for the Nobel Peace Prize. It's Evo Morales, president of Bolivia. The Morales campaign has a multilingual Web page now and it peppering the media with bulletins.

Although Morales has been Bolivia's president only since January 2006, he is the country's first head of state with full Indian blood. The Web page said that he deserves the peace prize, in part, because of his permanent fight for social justice.

Morales also was the candidate of the Movimiento al Socialismo party and most of those endorsing him are left-leaning intellectuals, according to the Web page. He has adopted a socialist course and tweaked the United States by supporting the production of coca.

Winning a Nobel Prize is not like winning and election, and self promotion is frowned upon. But many times committees are formed to general public support for a candidate. Morales is a friend of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Nicaragua's president, Daniel Ortega. Costa Rica's Óscar Arias Sanchez is, himself, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

Evo Morales in traditional dress

These two should have read the footnotes in their marketing textbook
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
The essences of marketing is to find an underserved population and exploit it with your product.

And that is what police say a man and a 15-year-old tried to do in Escazú. They said they detained both persons as they were selling crack cocaine at a kindergarten in Bajo de Los Anonos.
Fuerza Pública officers reported that the 15-year-old was surrounded by young customers when they arrived. They confiscated 59 doses of crack from the youth.

Nearby they detained the man, identified by the last names of  Castillo Rodríguez and said he had 100 doses.

Police said they were responding to a phone call to the 176 line by a concerned neighbor.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, April 11, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 71

Geos satellite still on the job now looking at South America
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A U.S. satellite has been repositioned to generate images of South America as part of a multinational effort to lessen the effects of natural disasters, allow for better agricultural planning and resource management, and provide a host of other benefits.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration maintains a network of satellites that, along with corresponding agencies in Europe and elsewhere, monitor vast stretches of the planet from high above. One of the satellites, the GOES-10, which had focused on the Caribbean region, is now positioned further south, providing an unparalleled view of South America.

"South America can now receive further coverage to the south, with imaging all the way to the South Pole every 15 minutes," said Conrad Lautenbacher. "And our friends in Argentina and Brazil have agreed to provide the information to help all of the nations of South America, to limit the effects of natural disasters, including severe storms, floods, drought, volcanic ash clouds, forest fires."

Lautenbacher was speaking Tuesday at a news conference hosted by the Brazilian Embassy in Washington. He is  National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration admininstrator.

Also attending the event was the director of Argentina's National Commission of Space Activities, Conrado
Varotto, who said, just last week, newly available GOES-10 imageshelped authorities in his country prepare for and respond more effectively to torrential rains.

"We have already some very relevant results," said Varotto. "An example is the recent flooding in the northeastern . . . Argentina, where GOES-10 images helped in the early warning stage in determining the extent of the disaster and the ongoing mitigation process."

Such early warnings will be even more critical in the future if predictions of climate change and more severe weather patterns prove correct, according to the head of Brazil's National Space Research Institute, Gilberto Camara.

"It used to be the case that Brazil had no hurricanes," said Gilberto Camara. "We just had a hurricane two years ago. And we expect that such extreme phenomena will be, unfortunately, more common as the warming of the oceans continues over the next decades."

In all, eight countries in the Americas have partnered with the United States to form the Global Earth Observation System of Systems in the Western Hemisphere. It is hoped that more countries will join the initiative in the future. While satellite imaging is an important component, the project also encompasses ocean buoys and other sensors to constantly monitor land and sea conditions. Officials say the information generated is treated as a public good — something to be shared openly and freely to benefit as many people in as many nations as possible.

Thousands displaced as fighting rages in Nariño region of Colombia, U.N. says
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

As thousands have fled their homes in the Nariño region in southern Colombia to escape fighting between the government and rebel forces, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has called for the protection of civilians and urged authorities to provide assistance to those affected.       

In the past two weeks, over 6,000 people have taken refuge in El Charco and La Tola, two small towns north of Nariño, according to refugee spokesperson Ron Redmond.        

Local officials have opened schools and other public buildings to shelter the newly displaced, but despite the efforts of authorities, the church and international organizations, there is a shortage of clear water and basic health supplies. In El Charco, only one out of every 30 people who arrived in the town last week has a mattress to sleep on.       

The conflict in Nariño has been intense for over a year,
and the U.N. agency is worried that civilians continue to suffer in large numbers,” Redmond said in Geneva. 

“We will send a mission this week to the worst-affected areas,” he added. “But the presence of humanitarian staff cannot in itself guarantee security and provide solutions to the thousands of people at risk.”       

Approximately 3,000 displaced were in El Charco this week, but the figures are constantly changing. In spite of uncertain security conditions, several hundred families returned to their homes, while an additional 300 arrived in the town who had been caught behind the front lines of the fighting for several days. There are reported hundreds more trapped by combat facing dwindling food supplies.        

The security conditions continue to deteriorate in the rest of the Nariño region, as new irregular armed groups have emerged and deployed. Dozens of small villages are emptying in the mountainous regions around the Policarpa municipality, and there have been two instances of mass crossings of the displaced across the border into Ecuador.      

Press group expresses outrage at execution-style murder of TV reporter
Special to A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Inter American Press Association has expressed outrage at the murder of journalist Amado Ramírez in Acapulco, México, and once again called on the country’s authorities to take a tougher stance on crimes against journalists there.

Ramírez, a reporter for 14 years for the TV network Televisa, died April 6 in the center of the Pacific Coast tourist resort of Acapulco in Guerrero state. Ramírez, a 20-year journalism veteran, had just wound up his daily news program “Al Tanto” (Keeping Informed) broadcast by the local Televisa affiliate station Radiorama when an
unidentified man fired a .38- caliber pistol five times, according to an initial investigation by the Miami, Florida,-based organization

Ramírez’ murder came five weeks after the municipal police precinct in Acapulco received a telephone call in which a man warned that “beginning today we are going to kill 21 well-known people and radio and television reporters.”

According to some witnesses the killer shouted “I told you not to interfere with us!” but others denied this, saying he merely fired his gun and gave Ramirez the coup de grace as he lay on the floor.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, April 11, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 71

2007 surf champs to be selected this weekend in Jacó contest
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The finals in the national surf circuit will be this weekend in Jacó. The events start at 7 a.m. both Saturday and Sunday.

Jason Torres of Garabito is leading in the men's open division after successes at Playa Guiones and Playa del Carmen del Malpaís. He has 3,077 points with Mattías Braun in second with 2,877, Luis Castro third with 2,783 and Isaac Vega fourth with 2,723.
Natalie Bernold is in first place in the women's division with 4,400 points, followed by Lisbeth Vindas, who has 3,665.

Some 2,500 seasonal points are up for grabs in the 13 categories in the surf finals, so the leaders still could be challenged.

In addition to surf champs the weekend will see the selection of  Miss Surf Costa Rica from the finalists who have been selected in competitions at previous surf events.

Interpol sends DNA expert to help Jamaican police in cricket murder probe
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Interpol has sent a DNA expert to assist the Jamaican police in their investigation into the murder of Pakistan cricket coach Bob Woolmer.

Following a request from the Jamaican police the expert, Susan Hitchin from the General Secretariat’s forensic support and specialised technical databases unit, travelled to Kingston last week, Interpol said. She is based in Lyon, France

Dr. Hitchin will provide the assistance to the investigation by searching the Interpol DNA database to detect any
potential profile matches against those sent to Interpol by member countries, the agency said.

DNA profiles in the database are anonymous with member countries retaining ownership and control of how the data is used and accessed in accordance with their national laws, Interpol said.

Woolmer was found unconscious in his hotel room in March after Pakistan suffered an upset loss to Ireland the previous day in World Cup play.

He was pronounced dead at a local hospital shortly afterward. Police have launched a full investigation.

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