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(506) 2223-1327        Published Friday, June 27, 2008, in Vol. 8, No. 127        E-mail us
Jo Stuart
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Heredia central police station raided
11 police officers held in drug-related  conspiracy

By Elise Sonray and Jeremy Arias
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Police officers in Heredia were robbing drug dealers, selling the loot to other criminals and even planting the substances on those they arrested, according to official reports released Thursday

Judicial agents raided the police offices in downtown Heredia Thursday and arrested 10 police officers on charges of conspiracy, selling drugs, and falsifying public documents, said judicial officials. An 11th officer was detained later.

After more than half a year of investigations, agents from the Judicial Investigation Organization made their final move in the corruption case at the central police station in Heredia, said a judicial source. Judicial investigators were tipped off when Fuerza Pública officers raided a drug house in the Guararí section and never turned in the drugs, said the judicial source. The judicial organization workers had knowledge of the raid and became suspicious when no drugs or money arrived, said the source.

Many crimes and corruption were uncovered as the investigation progressed, said investigators. There were only two judicial agents investigating this case under the supervision of the Heredia regional director.

The Fuerza Pública officers detained Thursday ranged from recruits to veterans. Some local Fuerza Pública officers were credited with helping in the investigation.

The police officers are accused of raiding drug houses or “bunkers,” taking the drugs, mainly crack cocaine, and then selling the drugs to dealers, said the judicial source. Judicial agents also said they suspect the police placed some of the crack onto drug users and then later arrested the users to avoid suspicions. The judicial source said the amount of money that had been made in the operation could not be estimated.

“It was an organized group, and it happened many times,” the source said. Each sale could have been worth 100,000 colons ($200) or more.
Many of the incidents are believed to have taken place in the Guararí low-income neighborhood, said a judicial spokeswoman, an area known for its drug problems.

Judicial officials from San José did not participate in the investigation, but Thursday the San José division sent out six agents and three vehicles to participate in the raids. In addition to the police headquarters, three homes were raided.

The Judicial Investigation Organization in Heredia notified the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública about three days before the raid. The security minister, Janina Del Vecchio was out of the country when the agents informed the security ministry about the investigation, said the judicial source. The Fuerza Pública is an agency of the ministry. The Judicial Investigating Organization is an agency of the courts.

Erick Lacayo Rojas, the general director of Fuerza Pública, released a statement. Lacayo said the Fuerza Pública would not permit acts of corruption within the Fuerza Pública and encouraged citizens to report any suspicious activity, according to a ministry release. Lacayo also said the security ministry fully supports the Judicial Investigation Organization and that citizens should continue to trust police as the ministry fights to keep officers honest.

Investigators arrested three of the officers in their homes and seven officers at the central station. Another officer was arrested later in the town of Acosta. One woman and ten men were arrested in the case, said a spokesperson for the Fiscalía Adjunta Heredia.

The suspects were being held at the prosecutor's offices in Heredia, said a spokeswoman for the Judicial Investigation Organization Thursday evening. Names have not yet been released. Two of the suspects are charged with infraction of the drug substance law, and eight are charged with abuse of authority, conspiracy, conducting illegal raids, falsifying documents, using false documents, and violation of the illegal substance law, said a spokesperson for the Fiscalía Adjunta Heredia. 

Stiffed investors can still join Milanes criminal case
By Saray Ramíez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Former investors who lost money when Savings Unlimited closed down can still join the criminal proceeding, according to a prosecutor and a lawyer close to the case.

Since Luis Ángel Milanes Tamayo surrendered to investigators a week ago, investors who had given up hope and failed to file a complaint with the Ministerio Público are wondering what they could do.

There are two organized groups of creditors who are hoping to make a deal with Milanes so he will not have to face trial for fraud. There are only about 250 persons who have perfected their claims by supplying supporting documents, according to persons close to the case.

Savings Unlimited had about 2,200 clients and about $200 million on its books when Milanes vanished Nov. 23, 2002. Also being investigated are eight other Milanes associates, including his brother, José.

César Zuñiga Lizano, a prosecutor involved in the case, said Thursday that creditors have a very short time to file against Milanes and his associates. They must also be ready to provide supporting documentation of their claim, including the check that Savings Unlimited issued as a security, he said.

Zuñiga said the case is drawing to a conclusion and suggested but did not say that creditors might have a little as a week.

Ewald Acuña Blanco, a lawyer who has assembled a group of former Savings Unlimited clients, also said via e-mail Thursday that claims still can be filed with the Judicial Investigating Organization.
Zuñiga said that North Americans who do not speak Spanish well will need to provide their own translator to make contact with investigators. He said that English-speaking experts are otherwise occupied in his agency. However, the former clients may not need their own lawyer, he added.

Former investors from the United States and Costa Rica have contacted A.M. Costa Rica this week asking what to do. They became aware that Milanes had returned to Costa Rica from news articles.

A flood of new filings by former investors could upset any deal that Milanes is trying to make with those who already filed complaints.  As a condition of his continued release, he had to sign mortgages on about $12 million in real estate in favor of the judiciary. He also owns bank accounts that have been frozen for years.

One source estimated that the 250 or so persons already in the case represented about $40 million in deposits. Just those persons who contacted A.M. Costa Rica this week represent about $5 million more, according to the numbers they provided.

Even if Milanes settles with the current complainants, there still is the possibility of another criminal case, said Zuñiga. In addition, some creditors are exploring civil law options.

Milanes had been negotiating with prosecutors for weeks before an immigration clerk in El Salvador spotted his fake Costa Rican passport. He was believed to be headed to Costa Rica to continue negotiations. He was arrested briefly June 19 and let go on bond the following day.

Since then he has spent his time visiting local casinos, some of which he owned. He enjoys gambling and playing poker. He is being accompanied by a handful of men.

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German Marín, director of Tránsito, checks out the work of his officers at the Y-Griega intersection Thursday.

Big city traffic jam results
from handing out tickets

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Traffic became knotted Thursday evening at the Y-Griega intersection when traffic officers enforced the no-drive rules in the expanded restricted zone of the metro area.

Reports from the scene said that traffic was snarled because tránsito officers were stopping cars and handing out tickets to those motorists whose license plates ended in 7 or 8. Vehicles with these numbers may not enter or move in the restricted area during peak hours under the rules that went into force Thursday.

Traffic police said they handed out nearly 1,000 of the 5,000-colon tickets Thursday to violators. Although the government plan was well-publicized, the vastly increased area covered by the rules was not, and nearly everyone was unaware that the Circunvalación four-lane highway south of the city was considered off limits.

A.M. Costa Rica had reported that the restricted zone was south to the Circunvalación, meaning that motorists with forbidden final digits could use the highway to circumvent the restricted zone. Even a map put out by the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes seems to show that the major highway could be used.

The Y-Griega intersection is on the Circunvalación at the main access to heavily populated Desamparados.

With the Circunvalación off-limits, there does not appear to be an easy way for motorists with targeted digits to enter the central city.

Reports from elsewhere in the metropolitan area said that traffic moved better Thursday due to the reduction in the number of cars and also heavy vehicles which also are being restricted by a separate decree.

The forbidden numbers for Friday are 9 and 0 and the restricted hours are from 6 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. and from 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Symphonic orchestra honors
famous musician Ray Tico

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional will honor famous Costa Rican musician Ray Tico with performances of his songs today and Sunday at the Teatro Nacional.

The orchestra will perform reinterpretations of Tico's “Bésame amor,” “Eso es imposible” and “Romance en la Habana” among others, according to a Ministerio de Cultural, Juventud y Deportes release. Today's performance is at 8 p.m. and Sunday's will begin at 5 p.m. General admission is 2,500 colons (about $9.70) and tickets are available at the theater box office and online, according to the release.

Tico was born in Limón in 1928 and learned to play the guitar by the time he was 6 years old. He later became a well-known Latin American musician and songwriter, whose works have influenced the region . He died in August.

Running water will be cut
for many daytime Sunday

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Residents of sections of the metropolitan area will not have running water from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday, according to the Instituto Costarricense de Acueductos y Alcantarillados.

The water company said the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad has to inspect a tunnel at dam Río Macho, and the water must be shut down. The utility company plans to inspect the walls of the nearly mile-long tunnel and repair damage.

Affected areas will be most of the city of San José east of Calle 1, Curridabat, Desamparados, San Pedro de Montes de Oca, La Union, Moravia and Coronado.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, June 27, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 127

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This Mapache project is one that is awaiting a sure supply of water. Work continues sporadically.
Suspended construction puts squeeze on Pacific developers
By Elise Sonray
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

After nearly a month of suspended construction on the pipeline that would bring water to communities on the northern Pacific coast, developers say they are worried about the future of their company.

Amid protests, pipe burning, and reports that people are contaminating the water with gasoline, developers must wait for the municipality of Carillo to study the project and reach an agreement with the town, said Marío Solís an engineer for Grupo Mapache.

After an analysis by the Laboratorio Nacional de Aguas, the Instituto Nacional de Acueductos y Alcantarillados reported that there was indeed traces of gasoline in at least one Sardínal water well.

Grupo Mapache, a development firm that sells lots, condos and golf property in Guanacaste, would be one of the main companies that would suffer if the construction of the aqueduct does not get passed, said Solís. But, he added, the communities of Playas del Coco and Ocotal would also greatly suffer from the decision. Two new development projects are underway in those communities, said Solís.
Developers are desperate to deliver more water to coastal  areas via the 9 kilometers (about 6 miles) of pipes. Without sufficient water it is impossible to obtain development permits, and the small aquifers in Coco and Ocotal cannot support projected demand.

Solís said he didn't understand why community members would be angry about the pipeline. He said the new pipe would replace the older one and bring more water to communities on the coast and new development projects.

Felipe García, a Fuerza Publica officer in Sardinal, said in a May interview that villagers believed there would not be enough water for the village and that the water will all be going to tourism and hotels on the coast instead of to local people. Police had clashed with protesters, many of them from the Central Valley, and tear gas was used. Some of the pipes were destroyed.

Police officers in Guanacaste and the Sardínal area said they had no suspects in mind as to who contaminated the water with gasoline and that they could not even confirm that there was gasoline in the water well. “Someone would have to do a through revision to confirm these rumors,” said Alvís Ortíz, chief of Fuerza Pública in Carillo, he said he had not heard of any studies which had been done. 

A look back in time shows there have been real changes
Everyone says that thieves and robbers are everywhere although there is little violence.  “Ticos are opportunists,” a Tico told me.  (I think the opportunists include foreigners, too).

However, I left my purse with all my valuables – passport, credit cards, everything – on the bus the other day.  At two in the afternoon.  Talk about opportunity.  I chased the bus, to no avail.  I stopped buses and told the drivers my plight and even hailed a private party who chased a bus for me.  Nothing.  I went back to my apartment to be miserable.  At 7 p.m. the phone rang.  It was the superintendent of buses, who told me that my purse had been found by an employee. All was intact, including the cash.  That trip was the last run of the day. As far as I’m concerned, Ticos are honest and helpful and kind.

I wrote that in 1992. I don’t know if one would have a similar experience today. Things change.  But some things don’t.  Last Friday I had an appointment with my dentist in Guadeloupe.  He has been my dentist since I saw his name on the bulletin board at the Spanish language school I was attending when I first arrived in l992.  A student had commented, “If you want a good dentist, call Dr. Furchtgott.” 

After my appointment, I caught the bus back to San José and since it was early afternoon, decided to do some errands.  That meant I walked from the Parque España, my favorite city park, to the Auto Mercado to Avenida Central.  When I walk around San Jose I inhale the gasoline and diesel fumes as if I, like the buses, run on them.  I reflect the smile aimed at me from a fellow pedestrian for two blocks, when lo I get another one.  It’s no secret; I love walking around downtown.  I think of it as bebopping around the city. 

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Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart

Actually, it is more like strolling.  I join the throngs of other walkers and strollers, picking up the energy that is in the air for the sharing.  It is not hostile or stressed energy.

But I have learned to carry my handbag as safely as I can, and I am always aware of my surroundings.  In my first four years here I was pickpocketed twice and had my purse stolen twice (both times while inside in a restaurant).  In one case my biggest worry was replacing my resident carnet, but a street cleaner found it during his rounds and managed to return it to me before I had to go to immigracion to get a new one.

I have since learned how not to offer an opportunity to would be thieves.  I think of a fellow expat who wanted change for his 5,000 colon note.  He approached a crowded kiosk on the street and waved the bill over the heads of the shorter Costa Rican customers buying newspapers and candy.  A passerby reached up, snatched the bill and ran off with it.  I don’t tempt spur-of-the-moment thieves that way.

When I first arrived I couldn’t find a policeman.  The few they had in the city did not wear uniforms.  (I was told that uniforms might make them feel too much like an army.)  Today the police force has increased by tenfold (my estimate only) and they have T-shirts with “Fuerza Publica” stamped on them and uniforms, and even cars and motorcycles.

Thievery and other crimes have also increased. So have gun stores, drugs and illegal immigration. 

One of the big changes since I moved here is the large-scale real estate development.  New apartment and office buildings, new luxury homes are constantly appearing.  New gigantic stores like in other countries.  I wonder when the bubble will burst here as it has elsewhere.  And like elsewhere, the cost of gas has skyrocketed.  I think the effect is going to be that in the future, not only people, but also countries, are going to follow Candide’s philosophy and cultivate our own gardens.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, June 27, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 127

Casino owners dicker with government on operating hours
By Elise Sonray
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

New decrees cracking down on casinos should be published in a week, said a spokeswoman from Casa Presidencial. Meanwhile the casino association is trying to negotiate with Vice President Laura Chinchilla before the decrees come out. The negotiations are only about one thing, said the president of the casino association Thursday: hour cutbacks.

“We agree with the decrees 95 percent,” said Rafael Vargas, president of the Asociación de Casinos, “the 5 percent we don't agree with is the schedule change.” The new decrees would limit casino hours to 6 p.m. to
2 a.m. That's only eight hours a day. For 24-hour casinos, this translates as major losses. “Thousands of workers would lose their jobs,” said Vargas.

Mirian Ulloa, a spokeswoman for the decrees department at Casa Presidencial said that three of the decrees are expected to come out in about a week. The time casinos have to fall in place with the regulations depends on what is stated in the decrees once they are published in the official newspaper La Gaceta, said Ms. Ulloa. This period could be anywhere from a few days to six months. Ms. Ulloa did not specify which new regulations will come out in La Gaceta, only that one was in regards to health codes, another general regulations, and the third business and tourism.

The Asociación de Casinos has held a number of meetings to discuss the new decrees, said Vargas. Although rumors of lawsuits have come up, Vargas said there is no chance of a legal action until La Gaceta publishes the new regulations. Vargas said he did not wish to comment as to what Ms. Chinchilla's reaction had been to the talks.
“We would like to see casinos open from noon to 6 a.m. or maybe 2 p.m. until 6 a.m., something easier for us to work with,” said Vargas. When asked what casino owners would do if the government did not negotiate the hours, Vargas said the association would have to discuss the issue before making any sort of decision.

Other casino owners agree with Vargas. “A stronger legal basis could improve the business” said Shelby McAdams, owner of  the Club Colonial Casino and the Sleep Inn, “it might create more competition, too.” McAdams said he didn't think the decrees would cause any major changes in the operations of current casinos.

McAdams added he wasn't planning on making any major changes in his operation. One of the requirements is that a casino be located at and owned by a hotel and only 15 percent of the space of the hotel can be dedicated to gambling. McAdams said Club Colonial Casino was less 15 percent of the Sleep Inn, and that he did not expect any problems with the new law.

As for businesses like the nearby Horseshoe Casino, which is not at all connected to a hotel, Vargas said he didn't believe it would be shut down since it was there before the decree was created. The government has not mentioned the Horseshoe (at Avenida 1 and Calle 9) or casinos like it in press conferences about the decrees. But officials did stress the hotel connection.

The laws Ms. Ullua said would next come out are: 34580-S Reglamento para el otorgamiento del permiso sanitario de funcionamiento a los casinos, 34581-MP-TOUR-MSP-G Reglamento de casinos de juego, and lastly 34578-MEIC- TOUR  Reglamento de empresas y actividades touristicas.

Panama, Costa Rica try to stem malaria outbreak at border
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rican and Panamanian officials are working to prevent additional malaria outbreaks in the district of Laurel along the Costa Rica-Panama border, according to the Ministerio de Salud.

There have been 17 cases of malaria in the Laurel district since the beginning of June, primarily involving working women, leading officials to suspect a link between the agricultural coconut oil extraction and the disease, the ministry's release stated. The culprit? Female Anopheles mosquitoes.

Both country's health officials are conducting door-to-door searches to identify locals who may be infected to secure treatment as well as spraying homes.
mosquito freeborni
U.S. Centers for Disease Control
Anopheles mosquito in search of a meal

Venezuela's Chávez will be heading to Moscow, the Russian prime minister says
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin says he is looking forward to meeting Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in Moscow to discuss prospects for trade and economic cooperation between the two countries.

Putin made the comments to Venezuela's Vice President Ramon Carrizales during talks in Moscow Thursday. The Russian leader said it is unfortunate that the volume of trade and economic cooperation between the countries is so small.

Russian news agencies quote Carrizales as saying the visit
by Chávez may take place at the end of July, but they gave no specific date.

Cooperation between Russia and Venezuela has been focused on the energy and mining sectors.  Venezuela also is a major buyer of Russian weapons. Last year, trade between the two nations exceeded $1 billion.

In recent years, Russia has sold military helicopters and Sukhoi fighter jets to Venezuela, which also has purchased 100,000 Kalashnikov-style rifles from the Russians. The United States bans arms sales to Venezuela, citing its links to Cuba and Iran.

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

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Woman linked to rebels
said she never opened safe

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The woman in whose home investigators found some $480,000 said she never opened the safe for 11 years.

The woman is Cruz Mary Prado, who has been linked to the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia because a description of the contents of the safe and the directions to her home showed up on the computer of a slain rebel commander.

Investigators showed up at the Heredia home March 14, two weeks after Colombian military forces staged a surprise raid into Ecuador, killed the rebel commander, known as Raúl Reyes, and recovered the safe.

The woman appeared before a legislative investigating commission Thursday. She declined to give answers but submitted a document.

In the document, she said that the raid on her home was based on spurious proof and illegal without any chain of custody of the money.

The Colombian rebels have been branded a terrorist organization by the United States and other countries because of their killings, kidnappings and drug trafficking.

However, Ms. Prado said she was dealing with the political wing of the rebels when she gave hospitality to representatives who were in Costa Rica in an effort to negotiate a peace with the central Colombian government.

A third party delivered the locked safe to her home, she said.

She said that she thought the safe contained documents relating to a series of meetings held in Costa Rica for that purpose but that she never opened the small floor safe. The woman's husband, Francisco Gutiérrez Pérez, is a well-known academic.

Phone company reversed
call charges to itself

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Some 195,094 customers will get a rebate because the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad assessed incorrect charges from September 2006 to July 2007 when callers reversed the telephone charges.

The Autoridad Reguladora de los Servicios Públicos said it studied the utility's telephone operations and found that the 110 service was incorrectly charging users during off-peak times and on Saturdays and Sunday.

The 110 service allows a caller to reverse the charges. There are two rates, one from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays and a lesser rate from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. and weekends.

The company said that about 17 million colones (about $34,000) would be returned to those who had used the services.

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