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(506) 2223-1327               Published Thursday, June 24, 2010,  in Vol. 10, No. 123        E-mail us
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New salaries slightly favor those earning least
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Workers getting lower wages will get a slight boost when the new minimum salaries take effect July 1. The Consejo Nacional de Salarios approved Wednesday a 4.2 increase for the lowest three levels of workers.

The Consejo also authorized a 3.96 per cent increase for the rest of the private workforce.

Also Wednesday, the Defensoría de los Habitantes urged the Ministerio de Trabajo to move against employers who failed to pay the minimums. The Defensoría cited a report from the Estado de la Nación that said 600,000 employees were being short-changed.

The Unión Costarricense de Cámaras y Asociaciones del Sector Empresarial Privado, an employer group, supported the higher percentage for lower-earning workers. These include the Costa Rican categories of no calificados, semicalificados and calificados.

The employer group did say that the higher increase represented a blow to the agricultural sector and those small and medium businesses that have a high percentage of workers at the minimum salary. Employees considered no calificados include agricultural workers. Semicalificados are warehouse workers and cook's helpers. Calificados include skilled construction workers, among other.

In fact the labor law is far more complex with minimum salaries mandated for many occupation
types. There also are special categories, such as coffee pickers, who are paid by the day.
Monthly minimum salaries

Now
July 1
no calificados
206,045
214,699
semicalificados
221,949
231,271
calificados
233,518 243,326
técnicos
251,538
261,499
especializados
269,555
280,229
bachilleres
379,747
394,785
licenciados
455,712
473,758
Current exchange rate is 520 colons to the dollar

The employer group noted that the increase means an additional 50 percent increase because of mandated social charges on salaries.

Ofelia Taitelbaum is the Defensora, and she said that her office receives daily questions from the public over the minimum salaries.

She urged the minister of Trabajo, Sandra Piszk, to put more employees in the ministry's inspection department because she said she believes only 6 percent of the nation's employers are subject to scrutiny.

Ms. Piszk had proposed a 4.2 percent increase in an appearance before the council. Employers sought 3.96. Worker groups sought 7.2 percent.

Six months ago the Consejo approved increases that also favored those on the lowest rungs of the salary ladder.


Reporter, newspaper given access to sales tax list
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Expats who owe sales tax might soon find their names in El Financiero, the weekly business newspaper put out by Grupo Nación.

Reporter Alejandro Fernández has been trying to get a list of those individuals and firms that owe the country money. But the Dirección General de Tributación has rejected his requests.

So the reporter and his newspaper went to the Sala IV constitutional court.

The magistrates ruled in their favor, according to a decision released Wednesday.
The court said that the information sought was of public interest in that the income to the Ministerio de Hacienda and delayed payments affect the public.

Fernández sought a complete list of individuals and firms and the process the state was using to collect the money.

He also wanted to know how much these processes cost. He also wanted to know the total amount that is outstanding.

Public access to information of public importance is guaranteed by Articulo 30 of the Costa Rican Constitution, the court noted.


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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, June 24, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 123

Costa Rica Expertise
Costa Rica Expertise Ltd http://crexpertise.com E-mail info@crexpertise.com Tel:506-256-8585 Fax:506-256-7575

Pure LIfe Development
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Click HERE for great hotel discounts

Professional Directory
A.M. Costa Rica's professional directory is where business people who wish to reach the English-speaking community may invite responses. If you are interested in being represented here, please contact the editor.


Dentistry
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Appraisers

BEFORE YOU BUY and OVERPAY
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ask Angela Jiménez
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• certified appraisals
  
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Now offering the smaller, better and less expensive hearing aid
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Accountants

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Legal services

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More about us at www.burkecr.com
Ph. 011 506 2267-6645
info@burkecr.com 

The registration of Burke Fiduciary S.A., corporate ID 3-101-501917 with the  General Superintendence of Financial Entities (SUGEF) is not an authorization  to operate. The supervision of SUGEF refers to compliance with the capital legitimization requirements of Law No. 8204. SUGEF does not supervise the
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Persons contracting its services do so for their own account and at their own risk.
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Real estate agents and services

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Collection services

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5919-


Pre-school credit cards
offered starting today


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Banco Nacional said Wednesday that it would be issuing debit cards or similar to youngsters from newborn to 6 years.

The bank has created a Cool Plus Master Card for youngsters between 4 and 6 years and a Cool Club ID card for children up to 3 years.

The bank said it was trying to get youngsters to have an incentive to save money. The cards will be launched today with a clown show at the auditorium of Banco Nacional.


Women's rights group,
founded here, is honored


Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation Wednesday announced that it will award the 2010 Women’s Rights Prize to an organization founded in Costa Rica and one other. The organizations have contributed significantly to advancing women’s reproductive health and rights in many countries, said the announcement.

The organization that was founded in 1987 in Costa Rica is Comité de América Latina y El Caribe para la Defensa de los Derechos de la Mujer. This regional organization in Latin America and the Caribbean says it promotes, monitors and defends women’s rights as human rights and contributes to the construction of real democracies in which women can fully exercise their human rights and participate at all levels of society with freedom from violence. 

The organization was founded two years after the United Nations Third World Conference on Women in Nairobi, Kenya, at which female lawyers gathered to discuss the need for judicial and political reform to defend women’s rights.  Currently, about 200 individual and organizational associates in 14 countries are affiliated with Comité de América Latina y El Caribe, which is based now in Lima, Perú.

The other organization that is being honored is the Center for Reproductive Rights which says it is dedicated to winning for all women the right to decide whether and when to have children, the freedom to exercise that right, and access to the best reproductive healthcare available.

The New York-based foundation said that both were being recognized extending and defending the rights of women through litigation, law reform, and education. The two organizations will share a $500,000 prize.

In addition to the cash award, both organizations will receive a gold medal.


Seven downtown families
evicted by morning blaze

By the A.M.. Costa Rica staff

A fire believed started by a scented candle heavily damaged the second floor of a downtown building Wednesday morning and evicted the seven families living there.

The blaze was at Avenida 5 at Calle 6. Firemen said they got the call at 9:09 a.m. The initial investigation showed that the blaze started in the mattress of a child's bed.

Firemen from four stations responded and managed to keep the flames from spreading. The structure has stores on the first level.


Key route reopened
but not this morning

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The on-again, off-again Ruta 32 is on again. Highway officials opened the road early Wednesday even though they announced they were closing it the day before.

A slide covered the highway about 1:30 p.m. Tuesday and blocked traffic in both directions. Dirt was up to six feet deep.

The road will be closed today from 5:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. because engineers from Spain are surveying the slipping hillsides with sensitive instruments. Closings are scheduled for the same time Saturday and Sunday, too.


Decree sought to protect
children from mistreatment


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Defensoría de los Habitantes is promoting an executive decree designed to protect children from violence.

The Defensora, Ofelia Taitelbaum, was scheduled to meet with President Laura Chinchilla Wednesday afternoon to promote the idea. She said that an average of 2.48 cases of mistreated children a day come in to the Hospital Nacional de Niños. 

Although the true number of mistreated children is hidden, she said indications are that such cases are increasing.

She said she has been working on the proposal for three months to develop an integrated strategy to prevent, detect and promote the rights of children. A decree issued by the president has the force of law without going through the legislature.

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A.M. Costa Rica 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 weekday.

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.

Searching
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.

Newspages
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.

Classifieds
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.

Advertising information
A summary of advertising rates and sizes are available for display and classifieds.

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
Directions to our office and other data, like bank account numbers are on the about us page.


For your international reading pleasure:


News of Nicaragua
News of Central America
News of Cuba
News of Venezuela
News of Colombia
News of El Salvador

News of Honduras
News of the Dominican Republic
News of Panamá

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, June 24, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 123

Rapid Respose
Rock and Roll


Arbitration ruling hinged on legality of Villalobos deals
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An attempt by Canadians to get back money lost in the Villalobos Brothers high interest scheme failed mainly because an international arbitration panel did not think the case involved legal investments.

The long-running case pitted 137 Canadians against the government of Costa Rica. The Canadians argued that Costa Rica had failed to provide adequate protection for their investments and that the country forced the failure of the Villalobos enterprise with a police raid.

A.M. Costa Rica reported the ruling in May, but the written ruling only recently became available online. The three-arbitrator panel ruled that it did not have jurisdiction because the money given to the Villalobos brothers was not an investment as defined in a Costa Rican-Canadian treaty for the protection of investments which came into force in 1999

Instead, the panel, formed by the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes, said:

"By actively seeking and accepting deposits from the Claimants and several thousand other persons, the Villalobos brothers were engaged in financial intermediation without authorization by the Central Bank or any other government body as required by law. The courts of Costa Rica after a lengthy and extensive legal process determined that Osvaldo Villalobos, because of his involvement in the scheme, committed aggravated fraud and illegal financial intermediation. In securing investments from the Claimants, the Villalobos brothers were thus clearly not acting in accordance with the laws of Costa Rica. The entire transaction between the Villalobos brothers and each Claimant was illegal because it violated the Organic Law of the Central Bank."

The panel also said that evidence on the record shows that deposits with the Villalobos brothers were structured as personal loans to Luis Enrique Villalobos. "Drawn by the high interest rates and the confidential nature of the scheme, more than 6,200 persons deposited a total of approximately US$405 million with the Villalobos brothers over the years of the scheme’s operation" the panel noted. The Villalobos operation paid up to 39 percent a year on moneys rolled over and slightly less if interest was withdrawn monthly.

A key point in the decision to dismiss the case was that Canadians did not control their investment, which is one of the requirements listed in the investment protection treaty. In fact, the panel described at length the curious way that Luis Enrique Villalobos documented the money that came in from those who loaned him money.

The panel noted that Villalobos gave depositors so-called guarantee checks from a Banco Nacional account. At the same time Villalobos or an aide told the depositor that the check could not be cashed because there was not sufficient money in the account.

Costa Rican judicial employees had told the panel in an August hearing that particular bank account remained inactive with very little money since 1997.

Villalobos workers sometimes would outline the terms of the borrowing agreement on the back of the check, the panel said, adding that if a depositor wished to withdraw principal, he or she would present the guarantee check when requesting payment and surrender it upon payment.
woman investor
A.M. Costa Rica file photo
Costa Rican woman investor reads the bad news on the Ofinter S.A. front door Oct. 14, 2002. The woman was in tears and said her family lost a large amount of money.

"Many of the depositors, like the claimants in this case, were foreign nationals," the panel said. "They often deposited significant sums of money with what appears to be relatively little investigation and research, relying instead on the recommendations of friends and acquaintances who had previously deposited funds with the brothers and attested to the fact that the Villalobos brothers had regularly paid them the high interest rates promised. The Villalobos brothers provided minimal documentation to the persons depositing funds with them, and thereafter issued no periodic reports on the status of the funds received or the enterprises in which the funds were purportedly invested. Moreover, the Villalobos brothers made no reports to the tax or other governmental authorities of Costa Rica or any other government on their operations or on the income earned by depositors in the scheme."

The panel said that based on the evidence presented, it is clear that the claimants did not exercise the kind of due diligence that reasonable investors would have undertaken to assure themselves that their deposits with the Villalobos scheme were in accordance with the laws of Costa Rica.

Sandra Morelli Rico of Colombia was president of the panel, which also included two professors, Jeswald W. Salacuse of the United States and Raúl E. Vinuesa of Argentina.

The panel cited a total investment of approximately $405 million over the years of the scheme’s operation. A.M. Costa Rica has said more than $1 billion was lost when Luis Enrique Villalobos closed down his operation Oct. 14,  2002. However that amount included accrued interest.

The panel also said that the subsequent conviction of Oswaldo appeared to justify the police raid on the Villalobos operation and the Ofinter S.A. money exchange houses related to the brothers.

Despite the panel ruling, A.M. Costa Rica has reported that Costa Rican officials knew for a long time the nature of the Villalobos operation and failed to take steps to stop it.

Had the panel accepted the case for an arbitration decision instead of dismissing it on technical grounds, the Canadians were believed to be ready to provide evidence of the involvement of highly placed Costa Ricans as silent partners of the Villalobos brothers.


Leon XIII
A.M. Costa Rica/Google Maps graphic
León XIII is west of Tibás and one of those areas the central government wants to improve.
Wireless Internet might be a solution for service in slums
By Dennis Rogers
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The Instituto Costarricence de Electricidad finds itself in a bind after the Sala IV constitutional court ordered it to supply Internet access to a claimant, after the agency told her it wouldn’t because “technicians can’t enter the area.” Leon XIII in Tibás, where the woman lives, is one of the rougher parts of northern San Jose.

The magistrates said ICE’s actions “violate the affected party’s fundamental rights to communication and information, as a public service.” ICE is a government agency, even though its monopoly is broken, and is subject to the court’s jurisdiction the way a private company might not. As yet there is no legal precedent on the question. So far the only other broadband internet providers are cable television companies, who will not enter the poorest parts of the city for economic reasons, and are far from universal coverage in many better-off zones.

ICE in a plaintive press release cited unspecified “technical reasons” it couldn’t provide the service to Leon XIII. It is a “socially responsible entity, which attends to clients in all parts of the country…in spite of the technical and geographical limitations it faces.” The administration was quick to add that it would be looking for a solution, since “various telephone lines meet in the area.”

Failure to comply with Sala IV orders is a serious matter for government officials. Last year the mayor of Liberia was hauled off in handcuffs in front of television cameras for not fixing drainage problems in a poor neighborhood there.

Leon XIII resident Blanca Manazares says telephone coverage and other public services are well distributed there, though as it’s a “conflictive zone,”  ICE’s telephone repairmen usually come with a police escort. Ambulances and taxis normally enter as well.

The court apparently found the technical arguments unconvincing, while the six months it took ICE to provide a negative answer can’t have helped. Authorities in general are used to poor people in Costa Rica who feel and act powerless against unresponsive bureaucratic machinery, but this individual’s success with the court could push ICE in a direction that will help it compete with new arrivals.
Wireless technology around the world has proven revolutionary in many poor societies, with the usual examples the farmer in Bangladesh who can pay for a call to check on market prices for his crops instead of suffering from the predations of middlemen, or the fisherman offshore who can see who is offering the best prices for his catch before heading in.

One less-noted area where wireless coverage can be a lifesaver is literally, if phone technicians are indeed at physical risk in working in what is euphemistically referred to in Costa Rica as “marginal areas.” While slums here are relatively tame compared to Río or Kingston, meter readers and repairmen are regularly robbed and threatened with harm in these zones.

Cell systems are also less at risk of copper theft, though one tower in Desamparados has been stripped multiple times, according to news reports.

Wireless options for the Leon XIII resident do exist, and the court ordered ICE to provide service, “be it the ADSL or wireless data card, according to the convenience and choice of the plaintiff.” The 3G system rolled out in December has a data-only option, at slightly cheaper rates than the Acelera fixed service for supposedly the same transfer speeds, but has been excoriated in blogger forums for its slow speeds and unreliability.

ICE subsidiary Radiográfíca S. also has a WiMax service in the immediate urban area. Towers are still somewhat scattered and the system is limited to line-of-sight. The window antenna offered for a mere $6 per month rent (“while supplies last”) probably wouldn’t work in densely-populated areas. Including the decoder the price is $35/month for the cheapest package, nearly twice the ADSL from ICE. The $100 installation fee would likely be too much for any slum dweller.

In the poorest parts of the metropolitan area, a roof antenna to get at a WiMax signal might be an unwanted signal that there is computer equipment within the house. To attempt to provide common infrastructure such as Wi-Fi would run up against known problems, as with the public phones which are always out of order in Leon XIII because, as Manazares puts it, “people tear them apart.”


You need to see Costa Rican tourism information HERE!

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, June 24, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 123

Escazú Christian Fellowship
xx
Guoadalupe Missionary Baptist Church

Page One is HERE!    Page Two is  HERE!    Page Three is HERE! 
Page Five is HERE! 
Page Six is HERE! The sports page is HERE!
Next
Page



volcano belching
Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico de Costa Rica photo
Gas pours from the crater without obstruction, scientists say

Towering columns at Turrialba are just gas, scientist says

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Although the Volcán Turrialba is putting on a great show with tall columns of gas coming form the peak, there is no indication that the gas is carrying ash, according to a report this week from the Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico de Costa Rica.

Javier Francisco Pacheco, who prepared the report along with Floribeth Vega and Federico Chavarria, said the Heredia-based observatory has received a number of calls reporting ash falling some distance from the volcano. Pacheco dismissed these accounts and said that the gas may just be carrying fine dust a long distance.
He said that the gas release accompanied by continuous tremors within the mountain shows that there is little obstruction to the gas flow. If rocks, magma or some other obstruction were present, the mountain would have a different signature on the recording devices, he said.

Pacheco said that the gas columns are as much as 4 to 6 kms (2.5 to 3.75 miles) into the sky and frequently are seen by airline pilots flying over northern Costa Rica.

The column of gas tends to hang together.

The presence of ash would suggest the presence of magma and a possibility of an eruption.



Autistic child guaranteed schooling by Sala IV decision

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An autistic child has the right to go to school, the Sala IV constitutional court said in a decision released Wednesday.

The child's parents sought to enroll him in a Hatillo 2 school, but teachers there said they did not have the resources to handle the child.
The court said the child had been attending a school in the Hospital Nacional de Niños in 2009, but health experts there suggested the child was ready for a regular school, said the decision.

The decision is against the Ministerio de Educación Pública, which now must provide the resources for the child's education.


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A.M.
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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, June 24, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 123

Medical vacations in Costa Rica

Uribe savors his victory
with Canadian trade pact


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Colombian President Álvaro Uribe is basking in the glow of a free trade treaty victory. An agreement with his country being approved by the Canadian Senate. That happened Monday, and Uribe quickly went on radio to tell his countrymen the news.

The Canadian Parliament passed the treaty June 18, and the Senate action was considered very rapid.

The Canadian government faced similar opposition to the treaty as is taking place in the United States where a similar treaty is stalled in the U.S. Senate. Opponents raise human rights concerns about the war-torn South American country.

Uribe said on RCN La Radio that the approval came after long negotiations. He said that the process took eight years. The president suggested that the Canadian decision might help with approval in the United States and elsewhere.

"I believe this is a good achievement for Colombia," said Uribe. "Canada is a country that is growing enormously in its investments in Colombia and I think that this is a conclusive thing for other treaties that are being considered."

Sources in Canada said that the country would have an advantage in the proposed auctioning of valuable oil drilling rights. The agreement goes into effect immediately.

Canada also will benefit by having the right to export wheat and corn free of duty to Colombia. The United States farmers still face 15 percent duties on the grains.


Fugitive drug lord suspect
finally caught in Jamaica


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Authorities in Jamaica say Christopher "Dudus" Coke, the alleged drug lord wanted by the United States, has been captured.

Officials say Coke was taken into custody Tuesday in the parish of St. Catherine, which is on the outskirts of the Jamaican capital, Kingston. Media reports from the island say Coke's arrest was facilitated by a local preacher.

Coke is wanted by the United States for alleged cocaine and arms trafficking. U.S. officials sent an extradition request for Coke to the Jamaican government last August, but Prime Minister Bruce Golding initially refused to allow it to be processed, arguing that the evidence in it had been obtained illegally.

In response to criticism, Golding recently said Coke should be arrested and brought to court for a hearing.

Last month, soldiers and police in Kingston launched an operation for Coke. They raided the Tivoli Gardens slum where Coke has influence, in a failed effort to arrest him for extradition. At least 73 people were killed in resulting clashes with security forces.

Coke is the alleged leader of the Shower Posse, named for the practice of showering rivals with bullets during the cocaine wars of the 1980s.
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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, June 24, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 123


Latin American news
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Press group honors
slain Tijuana newsman


Special to A.M. Costa Rica

In an emotional ceremony held Tuesday the Inter American Press Association honored the memory of journalist Francisco Ortiz Franco six years after his murder. The organization took advantage of the occasion to express outrage at the lack of justice surrounding this crime and announced that it will submit the case to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in the next few days.

The decision to petition the international institution is based on legal proceedings tainted since the murder occurred on June 22, 2004, total silence by federal officials on how the investigations are proceeding, and the clear violation of reasonable time limits for solution of the case.

The ceremony in Tijuana, Baja California, was organized by the Inter American Press Association and the local weekly newspaper Zeta, where Ortiz Franco was joint editor. His widow, Gabriela Ramírez, his two sons, Francisco and Héctor, and his daughter, Andrea, were present for the screening of the documentary “El crujir de las palabras” (word crunching) which narrates the life and death of the murdered newsman and puts the spotlight on the need to combat the impunity and spiraling violence plaguing the Mexican press.

At the ceremony’s close Ms. Ramírez accepted a plaque in recognition of the human and journalistic qualities that Ortiz Franco had brought to his work, stating:  “We are still waiting for justice, for the perpetrators and masterminds to be punished — not the justice that serves only to embellish the speeches of those in power and in fact does not exist if the impunity continues.”

Ortiz Franco was killed in front of two of his children as he was about to get into his car. A masked man, believed to be from the Arellano Félix cartel, shot him four times at point-blank range. Since then, despite the initial mobilization of justice authorities and the public prosecutor’s office, the case has suffered numerous irregularities, the association said.

Ortiz Franco worked alongside Jesús Blancornelas and members of the association some weeks before his death, when a committee working with state and federal government officials was reviewing the case file regarding the murder of “Gato” Félix, also a Zeta co-founder who was killed in 1988. The case also remains partially unpunished. The unsolved murder of Félix was the first of 26 cases that the association has submitted to the Commission on Human Rights  since it initiated its Anti-Impunity Project in 1995.

Blancornelas also was gunned down in a separate incident  but survived. Zeta routinely publishes investigatory articles about the drug cartels and local politicians.





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