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(506) 2223-1327       Published Wednesday, May 27, 2009,  Vol. 9, No. 103     E-mail us
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Coffee vending scam figures linked to two killings
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A U.S. citizen has been identified by investigators as the intellectual author of two contract killings. The killings were prompted by disputes over a franchise vending business that preyed on mostly older residents of the United States.

The Judicial Investigating Organization detained two Costa Ricans Tuesday and said they were the actual gunmen. The U.S. citizen is in prison on a fraud complaint relating to the business, they said.

Agents said the trio were linked to a murder Nov. 1, 2006, of a Colombian man at the Las Garantías  Sociales traffic circle and the killing of a pirate taxi driver Sept. 9, 2007, in Los Anonos de Escazú.

Agents arrested a 33-year-old Costa Rican man identified as the bodyguard of the U.S. citizen in Turrialba Tuesday while he was at the wheel of his car in the vicinity of the settlement of Cervantes.

The second man, 35 and a resident of the Los Guidos section of Desamparados, came into police hands near Casa Cuba in that canton.

The Judicial Investigating Organization did not release their names, but the case revolves around a series of scams from Costa Rica that collected up to $13 million from customers in the United States.

The products offered for sale ranged from franchises to sell coffee, health insurance and what was called energy products, said U.S. investigators at the time indictments were handed down.

The call center employees used voice-over-Internet protocol and U.S. mail drops to disguise the fact they were based out of the country, according to the Judicial Investigating Organization. The call center was based in Escazú and later in Office Centro la Sabana.

The Judicial Investigating Organization arrested one of the managers of the franchise operation last Dec. 9. He is Jeff Pearson, who has been named in a U.S. warrant. The man was detained in Santa
Ana where he was traveling with bodyguards. Investigators later searched his luxury home in Rohrmoser where they confiscated evidence that was to be sent to the United States. He is believed to have been jailed here since his arrest while U.S. officials seek extradition.

The U.S. Justice Department also is seeking a man identified as Stephen Schultz, who is a former employee of companies.

Also indicted in the United States is a British citizen identified as Sirtaj Mathauda, who uses the name of Mark Boland.

The investigators said they theorize that the U.S. citizen was upset with business partners and asked his bodyguard to take care of the individuals and that the bodyguard enlisted the services of his friend.

The murder Nov. 1, 2006 took place in Zapote and claimed the life of Diego López Enao, a Colombian and caused injury to a Limón resident in the same car identified as Roy Ricardo Lindo Calvo, then 34. In all, killers pumped 17 bullets into the vehicle. Police suspect the weapon was an Uzi machine pistol.

A female taxi passenger survived the Sept. 9, 2007, attack when killers failed to see her in the back seat of the vehicle which had polarized windows. The confrontation took place near the Los Anonos bridge in Escazú and took the life of the driver, Luis Guillermo Rojas Meza, also formerly of Colombia.

The U.S. Justice Department said that the franchise operation here used the names Apex Management Group, Inc., USA Beverage, Omega Business Systems, Inc., Twin Peaks Gourmet Coffee Inc., Cards-R-Us Inc., Premier Cards Inc., The Coffee Man Inc., Powerbrands Distributing Co. and Nation West Distribution Co. The business was considered fraudulent because the salesman made false promises and told lies to induce persons to invest from $10,000 and up in vending operations that were bound to fail, said the Justice Department.

Police prevent robbery and capture three in Sámara
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fuerza Pública officers stifled an attempt to rob a store in Cangrejal de Sámara Tuesday and detained three suspects they found inside the establishment, they reported.

No member of the trio carried identification documents but police were able to identify them after their arrest. They have the last names of
González Rodríguez, Velásquez Medina, and Cabalceta Segares.

Someone saw the men enter the store, thought they were suspicious and called police, the Fuerza Pública said.

Sámara on the west shore of the Nicoya Peninsula has been at the center of a wave of robberies and home invasions, some of them fatal.

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Ministerio de Agricultura y Gandaría photo
Curled and yellow leaves are a symptom

Invasive citrus disease
threatens Costa Rican crops

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Agricultural officials took action Tuesday to protect the country from a bacterial disease that can cause serious damage to the citrus crops.

Officials said that samples would be taken all over the country of insects that could carry the disease. So far they do not think that the disease, yellow dragon in English, has reached Costa Rica. However, the disease has been reported in Belize, Florida, Brazil and some Caribbean Islands.

The bacteria is Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus, which causes the leaves to yellow and fall off. It also causes the fruit to be deformed and to have a sour taste. The disease turned up in Florida in 2005, causing great concern there.

In Asian and in the Americas the disease is transmitted by the oriental citrus psyllid, Diaphorina citri, which is the insect that agricultural employees will begin to monitor and sample.

A major problem is that there is no cure for the disease and the citrus tree must be destroyed to stop the spread of the bacteria.

The Ministerio de Agricultura y Gandería will beef up border controls where employees will pay particular attention to citrus plant imports. Florida officials suspect that the disease came to that state on an imported plant.

The Comisión Técnica Fitosanitaria of the Servicio Fitosanitario will be spearheading the protective actions. Some plant disease workers will be going to other countries to study the problems and the control technique there.

The bacteria is called  Huanglongbing in Chinese and sometimes referred to as HLB. The disease is called dragón amarillo in Spanish.

The ministry said that Costa Rica has 25,000 hectares (about 62,000 acres) planted in citrus, which produce an income of 4.1 billion colons each year, about $7.2 million.

Hospital Nacional del Niños
marks 45 years of service

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

There is one institution in Costa Rica that regardless of political or social views everyone sees with pride.

Costa Ricans have a special feeling for children, and the Hospital Nacional del Niños summarizes that feeling.

Gruff airport taxi drivers may not praise anything until they carry their visitor past the hospital on Paseo Colon. Then they will open up and speak with pride about how the country cares for children. The hospital is world famous.

The hospital celebrated its 45th birthday Tuesday. President Óscar Arias Sánchez called it an icon, and helped with the donation of 24 chairs that will provide places for parents to sit and even sleep as they keep watch over their sick children.

The hospital originated in the polio epidemics in the 1950s. More than 2,000 children suffered serious crippling because of the disease in 1953. Carlos Saenz Herrera and Roberto Ortiz Brenes, both physicians, created the Asociación Pro-Hospital Nacional de Niños. The association generated enough funds to open the hospital in 1964. 

Ortiz then created an institution which would help fund the hospital and the fun park was put forward as a possible idea. Parque de Diversiones was opened in 1981 and all profits being donated to the Hospital de los Niños as well as other charities. Today the hospital employs 1,740 individuals. It is operated by the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social.

Each year the lighting of the giant evergreen on the hospital's north lawn is a national attraction. And those children who are patients and can do so fill the balconies of the hospital to witness the event.

Four ambassadors present
their credentials to Arias

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Four new ambassadors have presented credentials to President Óscar Arias Sánchez. They are:

Moisés Tambini of Perú, a lawyer for and confidant of President Alan Garcia who has represented his country at the United Nations. Alfredo Martínez of Belize, a former minister of the economy.  Hoang Cong Tuy of Vietnam, who has a master's in teaching English and who has worked in his country's ministry of education. Eija Rotinen of Finland, who also has represented his country at the United Nations.

Phone firm sets cell outages
for work on GSM network

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad said Tuesday that empoyees will be working on the GSM cellular network and this may cause outages through June 18 for up to 30 minutes from 7 to 11 p.m. The company gave this list:
Alajuela: Desmonte, San Mateo de Orotina, Cerro Gallo, San Pedro de Poas, Santiago de San Ramón, Atenas centro, Sarchí, Carrillo de Poas,  Palmares centro and Grecia centro.

San José: Puriscal centro, Guayabo de Mora, Grifo Alto, San Pablo and San Pedro de Turrubares. Alajuela: Barrio del Carmen, Orotina centro. Puntarenas: Cercanías del Puente del Tárcoles, La Ceiba,

San José: San Ignacio de Acosta and La Lucha. Cartago: Tejar del Guarco, Taras, San Marcos de Tarrazú, Guadalupe, Tobosi, San Blas and Cartago centro.

Thursday, June 4
Cartago: Cerro de la Muerte, Barrio Pitahaya, Cañón del Guarco, San Rafael de Oreamuno, Caballo Blanco and La Lima. San José: Fátima, Calle Fallas and San Antonio de Desamparados.

Saturday, June 6
San José: Paseo Colón, Mata Redonda, Alajuelita centro, Desamparados and Hatillos.

Tuesday, June 9
San José: San Rafael Abajo Desamparados, Barrio Cuba, La Uruca, La Pacífica, San Jerónimo Desamparados, Plaza Víquez and Escazú centro.

Thursday, June 11
San José: San Francisco de Dos Ríos, Barrio Don Bosco, Sagrada Familia, San Sebastián, Sabana Sur, area around Multiplaza Escazú, Rohmoser and Rincón Grande de Pavas.

Saturday, June 13
San José: Barrio Los Angeles, Trejos Montealegre en Escazú, San Sebastián and Hatillo 1. Alajuela: Barrio Agonía, la Maravilla y Aeropuerto Juan Santamaría. Heredia: Barreal.

Tuesday, June 16
Heredia: Cariari, San Antonio de Belén and Llorente de San Joaquín. Alajuela: La Garita, Grecia, El Coyol and Alajuela centro.

Thursday, June 18
Heredia: San Antonio and La Ribera in Belén. Alajuela: Barrio San José and Invu Las Cañas. San José: San Rafael de Escazú and Sabana Sur.

Peace Corps  getting 50 more

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

U.S. Embassy officials will swear in 50 new Peace Corps volunteers Friday at the ambassador's residence in Los Laureles, Escazú. The volunteers will be working with the Patronato Nacional de Infancia, The Ministerio de Agricultura y Ganadería and the Dirección Nacional de Desarrollo de la Comunidad.

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Criminals and mobs targeting Cruz Roja ambulances
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Cruz Roja said Tuesday that it has been forced to adopt measure to protect its rescue workers who have been victims of mobs, robbers and vandals in the last few weeks.

Miguel Carmona, Cruz Roja president, said that among the measures taken by the agency is a prohibition on entering certain dangerous areas. He said that some local headquarters will not be kept open at night and that police will be called to accompany ambulance crews when necessary.

Monday night gunmen fired into the Cruz Roja office in  Ipís de Guadalupe and threw rocks at the installation, the Cruz Roja said. José Luis Madrigal, the local director, said that two emergency workers were inside and managed to safeguard the building until police arrived. Neighbors, he said, saw two individuals kick open the metal portón or gate that provides protection to the facility.

Earlier Monday an ambulance and crew in Desamparados responded to an emergency call from the La Capri section. The two crewmen, identified as Antonio Solano and Pablo Mora, arrived to find a young man who told them that his mother was gravely ill.

When the two ambulance attendants got out of the vehicle, they were held at gunpoint, beaten and pistol whipped, the Cruz Roja said. Robbers sacked the ambulance and took personal property of the two men, said William Guzmán, the local administrator.

Saturday in Parrita in the central Pacific coast, a crowd threw rocks and destroyed the windshield of another ambulance. The Cruz Roja attendants were there to assist a young man who had been shot in the leg. That was about 11:30 p.m. the Cruz Roja said. The crew members needed treatment for pieces of glass in their eyes.
Cruz Roja volunteers
Cruz Roja photo
Cruz Roja workers respond to all emergencies, includng this recent flood on the Caribbean coast.

The crowd seemed to want to sack the ambulance and approached with rocks and sticks. They beat the sides of the vehicle causing damage, the Cruz Roja said.

"We regret that third parties are being affected by these methods, but our first responsibility is to assure the physical integrity of personnel who provide humanitarian and objective service," said Carmona. "We hope that the population understands."

In the case of the La Capri section of Desamparados, Carmona said that those needing medical help should come to the main entrance of the community where ambulances will pick them up. No ambulances will go into the community, he added.

The Cruz Roja is not a public agency although recent legislation gives it some public funds. The agency raises a lot of its money via a lottery and from donations. Its ambulances are the primary first responders at accidents and at routine requests for ambulance services. It includes paid workers and volunteers.

Two Fuerza Públic officers detained while escorting shipment of marijuana
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The security ministry suffered another embarrassment early Tuesday when two Fuerza Pública officers based in Cuidad Neilly were found escorting a vehicle with 30 kilos of marijuana.

The men were put on leave and identified by the last names of Delgado Rojas and Prado Mora, said the regional director of the police agency, Alcides Arce.

The two vehicles aroused the suspicions of police officers who were maintaining a checkpoint on the Interamerican highway at Paso Real, Cantón de Buenos Aires. The two vehicles left the main highway in an action that the police at the checkpoint interpreted as an effort to avoid them.
About 3:45 a.m. police officers intercepted the two vehicles about 10 kilometers south of San Isidro de El General.
Janina del Vecchio, minister of Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública, tried to put a positive spin on the arrest. She praised the police officers who stopped the vehicle for their hard work and honesty.

The Poder Judicial said that a prosecutor in Perez Zeledón went before a judge to seek three months preventative detention for the trio involved.

The security ministry has had problems including the robbery of 320 kilos of cocaine while under guard at the Golfito court building and a helicopter that crashed carrying 395 kilos of cocaine, which was piloted by a former ministry air employee.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, May 27, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 103

Puerto Rican Supreme Court nominee grew up in poverty
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

President Barack Obama hopes to make history with his first appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court. If confirmed by the Senate, federal Judge Sonia Sotomayor would become the first Hispanic on the high court and would join Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg as the second woman on the current court.

Supporters say Obama made good on a promise to nominate a Supreme Court justice who not only has a good understanding of the law, but who will bring valuable real life experience to the court as well.

"It is experience that can give a person a common touch and a sense of compassion, and understanding of how the world works and how ordinary people live," said the president. "And that is why it is a necessary ingredient in the kind of justice we need on the Supreme Court."

Judge Sotomayor, 54, grew up in a public housing project in the South Bronx, one of the poorest sections of New York City. Judge Sotomayor's parents came from Puerto Rico and her father died when she was 9. It is all part of what Obama called an inspiring life's journey.

"I firmly believe in the rule of law as the foundation for all of our basic rights," Judge Sotomayor said. "I strive never to forget the real world consequences of my decisions on individuals, businesses and government."

Despite her humble beginnings, Judge Sotomayor has an impressive legal resume, graduating first from Princeton and later Yale University Law School. She was first appointed as a federal judge in 1992 and is one of the most experienced jurists nominated in decades.

Liberal and Hispanic activist groups welcomed her nomination.

Brent Wilkes is with one the country's oldest Hispanic rights organizations, the League of United Latin American Citizens. "She has been an outstanding jurist, well-liked by many, tough, but fair-minded," he said. "She is going to help this court understand some of the people coming before the court and what their experiences have been."

"By the year 2050, the expectation is that Hispanics will
represent about 30 percent of the U.S. population, and that is the context for why the decisions of a court that impacts the lives of all Americans should be informed by the Hispanic experience," said Ramona Romero, president of the Hispanic National Bar Association.

Ms. Sotomayor must now prepare for confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Supreme Court confirmations can become politically charged, and already some conservative groups are lining up against the president's nominee.

Wendy Long is with the Judicial Confirmation Network. "They still want liberal activists who decide cases based on feelings and personal political agendas, and not on the text and history and principle of the Constitution and our laws," said Ms. Long.

But it remains to be seen how far Republicans will go to block Judge Sotomayor's appointment. Democrats control nearly 60 of the 100 Senate seats, making it difficult for Republicans to pull together enough votes to stop her through parliamentary delaying tactics.

But Republicans like Sen. John Kyl of Arizona are promising a thorough review during the confirmation hearings.

"We will distinguish between a liberal judge on one side and one who does not decide cases on the merits, but rather on the basis of preconceived ideas," he said.

Democrats remain confident about Judge Sotomayor's chances of being confirmed by the Senate. Sen. Charles Schumer, a Democrat of New York told a television show:

"I think Republicans will oppose her at their peril," he said. "It is very hard for a senator of either party to vote against her."

Judge Sotomayor's confirmation would not be expected to alter the political dynamic on the court, where a conservative faction generally holds sway over a liberal-leaning minority, often by votes of five to four.

She is expected to generally follow a more liberal line on the court, somewhat in the mold of the man she would replace, retiring Justice David Souter. 

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users guide

This is a brief users guide to A.M. Costa Rica.

Old pages

Each day someone complains via e-mail that the newspages are from yesterday or the day before. A.M. Costa Rica staffers check every page and every link when the newspaper is made available at 2 a.m. each week day.

So the problem is with the browser in each reader's computer. Particularly when the connection with the  server is slow, a computer will look to the latest page in its internal memory and serve up that page.

Readers should refresh the page and, if necessary, dump the cache of their computer, if this problem persists. Readers in Costa Rica have this problem frequently because the local Internet provider has continual problems.


The A.M. Costa Rica search page has a list of all previous editions by date and a space to search for specific words and phrases. The search will return links to archived pages.


A typical edition will consist of a front page and four other newspages. Each of these pages can be reached by links near the top and bottom of the pages.


Five classified pages are updated daily. Employment listings are free, as are listings for accommodations wanted, articles for sale and articles wanted. The tourism page and the real estate sales and real estate rentals are updated daily.

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A.M. Costa Rica makes its monthly statistics available to advertisers and readers. It is HERE! 

Contacting us

Both the main telephone number and the editor's e-mail address are listed on the front page near the date.

Visiting us

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Al-Qaida agent is reported
to be detained in Brazil

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A Brazilian media report says police have arrested a key al-Qaida operative in the Brazilian city of Sao Paulo.

The arrest was reported Tuesday by Brazil's daily newspaper, Folha de S. Paulo.

The suspect was not identified by name nor was his nationality given. But the Association Press said a federal police spokeswoman confirmed the newspaper's report that the suspect is a top player in al-Qaida's international communications. She said the suspect is being held under laws that prohibit the promotion of racism in Brazil. 

Mexican gunmen target
leftist political candidates

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Gunmen in Mexico have attacked four leftist politicians in two separate attacks in the country's southwest.

Police say unidentified attackers ambushed a car carrying three Democratic Revolution Party members Monday in the coastal state of Guerrero. Officials say one of the gunmen opened fire, injuring all three politicians.

In a separate incident, Mexico's Public Safety Department said gunmen near Acapulco opened fire on a vehicle carrying a congressional candidate for the Socialist Democratic Party. The gunmen missed the candidate, Manuel de la Barrera, but wounded his driver in the attack.

Political violence is common in Guerrero state, where leftist rebels have fought for three decades. Politicians are campaigning across the country ahead of legislative elections on July 5.

Consumer confidence up,
but home prices are down

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Economic reports painted a mixed picture of the U.S. economy Tuesday. U.S. consumer confidence soared in May, hitting its highest level in eight months.

An industry group, the Conference Board, said its index of the way average people view the economy rose more than 14 percentage points to a reading of 54.9. Experts said consumers were encouraged by low mortgage interest rates and improvements in the stock market.

A separate report showed U.S. home prices continued falling in the first three months of this year. The report from Standard and Poor's/Case Schiller shows home prices dropped around 19 percent from the same period one year ago.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, May 27, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 103

Latin American news digest
 U.N. report airs concern
over poor losing land

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

A United Nations-commissioned study shows that land acquisitions are on the increase in Africa, Latin America, Central Asia and Southeast Asia, raising the risk that poor people will lose access to land, water, and other resources.

The study, carried out at the request of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization and the International Fund for Agricultural Development, said that large-scale acquisitions, often by investor countries interested in food security, can bring many opportunities, including guaranteed outlets, employment, investment in infrastructures and increases in agricultural productivity.

However, the study found, that they “can also cause great harm if local people are excluded from decisions about allocating land and if their land rights are not protected,” the Food and Agriculture Organization said in a news release.

The International Institute for Environment and Development, which conducted the study, found acquisitions of almost 2.5 million hectares ( 6.2 million acres) of land since 2004, and said the trend may be on the rise.

Many countries do not have sufficient mechanisms to protect local rights and take account of local interests, livelihoods and welfare.

“A lack of transparency and of checks and balances in contract negotiations can promote deals that do not maximize the public interest. Insecure local land rights, inaccessible registration procedures, vaguely defined productive use requirements, legislative gaps and other factors too often undermine the position of local people,” the Food and Agriculture Organization said.

The report called for, among other steps, securing land rights for rural communities, involving local people in negotiations, and proceeding with land acquisition only after their free, prior and informed consent.

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