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(506) 2223-1327         Published Monday, June 9, 2008, in Vol. 8, No. 113        E-mail us
Jo Stuart
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'Gee, judge, I'm just too busy'
Getting haled into court seems to be optional here

By Garland M. Baker
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Getting someone to show up for court in a criminal investigation is a Mickey Mouse game of hide-and-seek in Costa Rica.  Good people usually obey the law, and bad ones do not.  The whole process is another reason criminals get away with their illicit acts in this country.  Getting witnesses to show up for a trial is even harder if they do not want to appear.

When the criminal court wants a person to show up for a deposition, a prosecutor sends the individual a citation. The citation is prepared on a single half sheet of paper. The document requests the person’s attendance usually within 24 hours of the date of the citation. The form contains the prosecutor’s name and the court issuing the document. 

In many cases, the legal form letter contains erroneous information because an overburdened assistant fills it in from a template.  One individual received a citation in a defamation case stating it was a homicide investigation.  This frightened the accused because he remembered giving the accuser a verbal bashing but not killing him.  Calling the prosecutor cleared up the matter. The assistant made a dedazo, Costa Rican slang for something mistyped.

When a person does not go to court per a prosecutor’s request, the prosecutor’s assistant will send out another and another citation.  If none of them is successful in bringing the person to court, the prosecutor will make a decision.  He or she will either close the file and drop the case or send the police to escort the person to court for the deposition.

Some may believe that dropping a case because the people will not show up in a criminal investigation is ridiculous, but one example happened right here in San José last year.  An expat couple had all their belongings — including a very expensive computer, cash and other very valuable items — stolen in the lobby of the Hotel Presidente in downtown San José.  Video cameras show the apparent collusion of hotel staff.  The San José prosecutors’ office sent citation after citation to the suspected staff members.  They never showed up at court. One of them called the prosecutor’s assistant and told him they were too busy to go.  Yes, the court closed the case.

Getting key witnesses to court for a trial is also difficult if they do not want to show up because they go into hiding.  The Poder Judicial,  the name of the judicial authority in Costa Rica, does not look for them very hard either.

A retired couple fighting to get their condominium back had to hire a private investigator to find a key witness.  The detective had to look for a month to find the individual.  However, that turned out to be the easy part.  When he went to the criminal court to request police assistance to bring the person into San José, the Poder Judicial denied his petition.  The authorities gave him one of the citations described above and said "Give this to the witness."
The Costa Rican detective, with many years
policeman with summons

experience working as a private investigator, was at his wits end.  He went to speak with the attorney of the retired couple.  The attorney, an experienced and well-known lawyer, started asking around if anyone
knew the witness.  One of his acquaintances, a prosecutor in another court, knew the name of the party and said he thought there was another case in which the witness had already received citations and did not show up for a deposition.

This, in fact, was the case.  Only after pulling a few strings and calling in some favors, the lawyer convinced the court to issue a warrant for the witness.  However, having a warrant meant nothing.  The attorney said to the private investigator that he had to bring the witness to the police because the police would not go get him.

The investigator had to create an elaborate ruse involving a supposed business deal to convince the witness and maneuver him to a location where it was convenient for the police to arrest him.  The keyword here is convenient.  The maneuver worked and the police arrested the individual for the court. 

Now for the funny ending:  The police captured the witness because an independent private investigator dropped the individual into their laps after a month of torturous work moving the legal bureaucracy into motion.  The police took their time getting the person to San José where the court deposed the individual in the case responsible for the warrant.  The court gave him a citation for the case of the retired couple and let him go.

Even funnier still: The man honored the citation and showed up the next morning in court contrary to everyone's expectation.

Garland M. Baker is a 36-year resident and naturalized citizen of Costa Rica who provides multidisciplinary professional services to the international community.  Reach him at  Baker has undertaken the research leading to these series of articles in conjunction with A.M. Costa Rica.  Find the collection at, a complimentary reprint is available at the end of each article.  Copyright 2004-2008, use without permission prohibited

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More rain is compounding
Alma recovery efforts

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Nearly two weeks have passed since Tropical Storm Alma vented her wrath on the Pacific coast and southern Costa Rica, but some communities remain cut off.

Heavy rains Sunday in the mountains compounded the problems. San José itself got 50 mms. (nearly two inches) between 5 and 7 p.m. Some mountain dwellers reported day-long rains. However there was little precipitation recorded on the Pacific coast.

The national emergency commission estimated that some 500 million colons, about $1 million, have been invested in the immediate needs of storm victims and communities. These include matresses, blankets, food, water, machinery contracts and the purchase of materials to fix washed-out roads.

Casa Presidencial said Friday that some 500 million colons more would be earmarked for humanitarian assitance in the budget that covers the second half of the year. Rodrigo Arias Sánchez, the minister of the Presidencia, was in San Isidro de El General over the weekend for a first-hand look at recovery efforts. That town and the larger canton of Pérez Zeledón were hard-hit by the storm.

In Pérez Zeledón, Parrita and Quepos government officials estimate that some 21,000 persons were directly affected. The Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes is investing at least 180 million colons (about $348,000) in repairing area bridges.

The Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias said that in Pérez Zeledón only one shelter, the one at Campo de Exposición, was still in operation with 94 persons and that in Parrita area, just 18 elderly residents were being housed in the Iglesia Evangelista de Jericó.

Vice president promotes
vertical city development

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Laura Chinchilla, the nation's vice president and a likely candidate in the 2010 presidential elections, wants to eliminate what she calls the urban segregation. She has proposed vertical city development to protect green areas.

Ms. Chinchilla's' ideas seem to be similar to housing projects for the poor.

She told the IV Congreso Nacional de la Construcción that development in the Central Valley has been chaotic and that a master plan must be created. She also proposed limits in the use of the ground.

She spoke Friday at the Hotel Real Intercontinental.

Ms. Chinchilla said the current government wants to reverse the social segregation and that it was developing policies for the construction of vertical casas de interés social, that is, public housing.

She said she envisioned the vertical growth of the city replacing deteriorating neighborhoods with inadequate public space.  This policy is being incorporated in the plans of the  Ministerio de la Vivienda, she said.

Our reader's opinion
Canada Day is July 1

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I have to comment on the article about Canadians celebrating Canada Day.

I wonder if our expats forgot that Canada Day is July 1? Maybe they are having the party on June 29 cause its the weekend???  But Canada Day is on July 1.

Maybe you could check with our ambassador, but I have never considered Canada to have "broken away from the Britain's imperialistic clutches"  We became a dominion under the Commonwealth of countries which gradually became more of a figurehead term, much like the Queen is still a figurehead here in Canada. There is still a sporting event called the "Commonwealth Games" - something like 60 nations, I believe, of which the United States, of course,
is not a member (you guys DID break away and your Independence Day is July 4).

Anyway, I know you like to get your facts straight.  Don't know who gave you that info, but they didn't get the whole picture across or have they forgotten?? (I don't think so!). It's fine if they want the party on the date you mention, but it isn't Canada Day.
Diane Madson

EDITOR'S NOTE: You are correct. The June 29 event is being held because of the weekend. And there is a U.S. Independence Day Event July 6, also on a weekend.

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Latulippe held without bail in U.S. awaiting extradition
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

U.S. District Court documents and officials have now confirmed that Gerard Joseph Latulippe was detained in New Hampshire Wednesday on multiple counts of felony fraud.

He is the major figure in the failed Principal Services S.A. where up to 150 individuals, mostly North Americans, lost significant sums of money in what he had described as a hedge fund.

Criminal Chief Robert Kinsella in the U.S. Attorney's Office confirmed that Latulippe was detained by U.S. marshals and is being held in a federal prison complex in New Hampshire pending his likely extradition.

“He's being held in a state prison with which we have a federal contract for those prisoners who are awaiting trial or in this case extradition.” Kinsella said. “As long as all the legal requirements have been satisfied then he will be extradited. We don't anticipate any difficulties.”

U.S. Marshal representative Gary DiMartino later confirmed that Latulippe is being held in the Stafford County jail in Dover. DiMartino said that Latulippe was
detained at or near his address in Ocean Boulevard, New Hampton, New Hampshire. The arrest was based on a request from Costa Rica.

Costa Rican authorities, who first issued a request for Latulippe's arrest on Sept. 27, 2006, have 60 days from the arrest to present a formal document for extradition, according to the extradition treaty between Costa Rica and the United States. Kinsella said the request is forthcoming.
Additional court documents issued Thursday said that Latulippe requested and was denied bail by U.S. Magistrate Judge James Muirhead.

According to the document, Latulippe presented unfounded claims of a recent colon cancer diagnosis as a basis for his bail.

His Florida driver's license carries the social security number of a deceased individual, and his passport identification number does not match the one provided by the government, leading the judge to conclude that Latulippe is likely to dissappear in the event bail is posted, said the document.

James Craig, who is Latulippe's lawyer there, could not be reached. 

A lifelike shark dominates the mural that residents in the Pacific beach town produced Sunday.
Coco wall painting
A.M. Costa Rica/Greg Golojuch

Playas del Coco residents join to produce an ocean mural
Special to A.M. Costa Rica staff

There is more color in Playas del Coco now after a community mural event Sunday.

To celebrate World Ocean Day residents turned out to put an ocean mural on the Rich Coast Diving Center.

Carlos Hiller, an artist specializing in underwater scenes, was in Playas del Coco and directed the work on the mural. Several other events, including a beach clean-up, were sponsored by Ocotal Beach Resort and the Proyecto de Luz Organization with assistance from the Programa Restauración de Tortugas Marinas, a non-profit organization founded in 1997.
The marine conservation and research organization works to protect ocean resources and promote sustainable fisheries policies in Costa Rica and Central America.

Originally from Argentina, Hiller settled in Costa Rica over 15 years ago. Hiller said he wanted to participate in Coco's festivities because he wants to "help educate the children who are the workforce of tomorrow and the future protectors of our environment."

After the mural was finished, a representative from the World Flag Project displayed one of the world flags for the children. The concept and design of The World Flag was developed in 1988. The flag incorporates the individual flags of each of the U.N. member states.

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Agents say León XIII man recruited minors to conduct smash-and-grab crimes
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A 30-year-old man is in jail today awaiting action on allegations he was the leader of a band of young people  who broke car windows to steal items from mostly female motorists.

The man, identified by the Poder Judicial by the last names of Chavarría Castellón, is also believed responsible for the smash-and-grab robbery involving a female magistrate of the courts.

The Judicial Investigating Organization staged a raid Thursday in León XIII, a low-income district, to arrest the man.

So far investigators have linked him to four incidents in the Tibás area but they said they expect many more victims to come forward.
Chavarría did not do the robberies, said investigators. Instead they allege that he recruited juveniles to commit the crimes while he waited nearby in a vehicle to help them in their flight.

The Juzgado de Turno Extraordinario ordered that he be held for three months while the investigation continues.

The smash-and-grab crimes mostly involve women as victims because they frequently leave their purse on the passenger seat.

As the vehicle slows to a traffic signal or for some other reason, robbers smash the passenger side window and take whatever is on the seat.

This type of crime is becoming more and more frequent in areas like Escazú and Hatillo where the traffic flow frequently is halted by a jam or a signal.

Police drug agent inspects remains of a boat that appears to have been torched.
remains of beached boat
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública photo

Police find the remains of a boat and five suspects on the Osa Peninsula
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Searchers have found five Colombians, a burned out piece of a boat, and two outboard motors but no drugs on the south shore of the Osa Peninsula. The search started Wednesday when the crew of an aircraft of the Servicio de Vigilancia Aérea spotted and photographed a suspicious boat.

The crew of the boat seems to have beached the vessel and then burned it, a typical maneuver to destroy any clues. Park rangers of the Ministerio del Ambiente y Energía reported the find on a beach near Sirena in the Parque Nacional Corcovado.

The Policía de Fronteras and the Policía de Control de Drogas as well as the Servicio Nacional de Guardacostas
began a search on the land and sea.

Late Thursday the Policía de Fronteras found one suspect at Playa Carate, east of the burned craft. He told them he was Colombian, 36 and with the name Palacios Castillo, they said. He went to Puerto Jiménez for interrogation.

Eventually officers of the Policía de Fronteras found two more men near Playa Sirena and packages they suspect may be drugs. The two men were put on board the coast guard cutter Santamaría.

Two more Colombian men turned up several hours later.

Some officials suspect that drugs were off loaded at Playa Carate onto a waiting vehicle and then the craft was destroyed on Playa Sirena.

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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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Press groups condemn
Newspaper exec's death

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

International press freedom groups are condemning the recent killing of a newspaper executive in Venezuela's capital, Caracas, and have urged authorities there to investigate the case to see if the killing was linked to his work.

Both Reporters Without Borders and the Committee to Protect Journalists issued statements this week following the shooting death of Pierre Fould Gerges.  He was vice president of the daily newspaper, Reporte Diario de la Economia, which had recently published stories about alleged corruption.

Gerges was driving his brother's car on the evening of June 2 when two gunmen on a motorcycle intercepted him and opened fire.  He was killed instantly.

The Paris-based Reporters Without Borders says the attackers may have mistaken Gerges for his brother, Tannous, the newspaper's president, who had been receiving threats in recent months, mostly by e-mail.  The group says one recent threat referred to a hit man who had recently been freed from prison.

The rights group says the Gerges family is now under police protection.

Separately, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists says four journalists have been killed in Venezuela since 1992 as a result of their work.  It says the local press has been subjected to repressive government measures and that photographers and reporters have been attacked during street protests.

Ecuador and Colombia
agree to resume ties

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The U.S.-based Carter Center says Colombia and Ecuador have agreed to restore some diplomatic ties following mediation efforts by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter.

In a statement released Friday, the center said the two countries agreed to immediately restore relations, without preconditions, at the lower diplomatic level of charge d'affaires.

The statement says both President Álvaro Uribe of Colombia and President Rafael Correa of Ecuador confirmed their willingness to resume ties through their foreign ministries.

The two countries severed contacts in March after Colombia launched an attack against a rebel camp just across its border with Ecuador. A rebel commander and 24 other people were killed. The incident brought Ecuador and Venezuela to the brink of military clashes with neighboring Colombia.

The Carter Center, founded by President Carter, says it is dedicated to promoting human rights and democracy and preventing and resolving conflicts around the world.

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