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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, June 28, 2002, Vol. 2, No. 127
Jo Stuart
About us
Kidnapping band stalking valley, cops say
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Judicial Investigating Organization late this morning issued a general alert for residents of the Central Valley to watch out for a band of kidnappers who target professionals.

The alert said that a professional in Escazú was stopped Thursday by persons in two cars that carried lights that resembled those of police cars. The man was threatened and carried off to Zurquí where his family was extorted by telephone to pay a ransom. They paid a 
considerable sum three hours after the kidnapping, said Gerardo Láscarez Jiménez, subdirector general of the judicial agency.

He identified the band as probably composed of South Americans. He said citizens should stay alert and adopt strong measures of security for their protection. He said that they should watch their neighborhoods and be on the alert for strange vehicles. They should keep car doors locked and avoid conversations with strange people, he said, among other normal security measures.

He said the kidnapped professional has not filed a complaint with the agency, and that agents learned about the case through confidential sources. The subdirector took the unusual step of personally contacting media outlets by facsimile.

Garcia Rojas Quirós
Guzmán Duarte Salas
Muñoz Vásquez Chavarría

Police flooded by cases
of missing individuals

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The death of a boy, a possible kidnap victim, has triggered reports to local police agencies of other persons who are missing.

The fluid Costa Rican society is one where individuals vanish easily. But the Judicial Investigating Organization made a special request Thursday for information relating to 10 missing persons cases.

Still missing is a Colombian man, William Duarte Quintero, 52, who walked out of the Desamparados panadería or bakery shop where he worked last June 17 and vanished.

And police have changed the case of Kimberly Garcia Gordoms, 15, from one where they simply want to talk with her to a missing persons case. She lives in Moravia and left her house June 19.

Deylin Auxiliadora Rojas Cruz, 17, is a Nicaraguan who lives in Granadilla Norte in Curridabat. She vanished in March.

Jazmín Hernández Quirós, 13, lives in Barrio México and vanished April 28.

Ligia Guzmán León, 42, left her house in Mata de Plátano Goicoechea May 28 and vanished.

Walter Enrique Salas Torres, who lives in Barrio Cristo Rey also is missing but little information was available about his case. The same is true of José Antonio Muñoz Camacho, also Nicaraguan, who lives in Pavas. Heís missing, too. Agents also released little information on Carpió Vásquez Serrano, just his photograph. 

Dagoberto Chavarría Varela, 39, is from Heredia and vanished May 12.

Information on Chavarría should be directed to agents in Heredia at 277-0300.  Other reports of contacts should go to 295-3575 or 295-3574.

Meanwhile, in Santa Cruz, the prosecutorís office is seeking the Calero Gutiérrez family, formerly of the Guanacaste town of Filadelfia. They filed a criminal complaint, and a suspect now is in custody, agents said. They need the family to continue to press the complaint.

The death of Osvaldo Faobricio Madrigal Bravo, 4, has sparked renewed interest in missing persons cases. His body was found behind a dam in Santa Ana June 11. But Jessica Valverde Pineda, also 4 when she vanished in late February, has not been located. She is a presumed kidnap victim.

Meanwhile, in Heredia, police arrested two men who a 10-year-old girl said tried to grab her as she walked to school Thursday about 7 a.m. This happened in the Mercedes Norte section of town. 

The girl managed to get away and told someone at her school. Police quickly arrested the two men, identified as Nicaraguans 34 and 28 years of age.

No progress has been reported in the case of Osvaldo Faobricio Madrigal, but the staff of the Judicial Investigating Organization held a memorial service for him Thursday afternoon. His father is an anti-drug agent with the investigating organization.
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Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart

Living in Costa Rica where sometimes itís not so great

Complacency can be a dangerous thing. I live in an apartment building with a day-time maintenance man and a guard at night. We have a tall fence in front with a locked gate. I have two locks on my door but seldom use both because one always seemed enough and I always had trouble coordinating them. I not only was complacent, I often was rather smug talking about how safe I was ó Iíve even left for a month without a worry.

Yesterday I came home after lunch out. It was about 3:30 in the afternoon. I opened the door, and as I did, I saw a small part of the door jamb was splintered. On the floor in front of me was part of the lock, some splinters of wood and lots of screws. On the dining room table were a couple of computer disks, a folder with papers and nothing else, most notably not my laptop. It was there when I left at 10:30. 

I looked around. Everything else seemed normal. I walked into my bedroom. My old brown purse that I hadnít used in months, was in the middle of the floor. Next to it was an old straw hat. Although my bedroom has not benefited from my clear-the-clutter activities, I knew I hadnít left either of those things there.

I walked three steps to my closet. It looked like the aftermath of an earthquake. Everything that had been on the shelves was on the floor ó except, as I was soon to discover, my computer carrying case and my passport.

In my still cluttered office the only things missing was the box of my back-up disks of all my columns and the book I was writing. 

I have heard people whose houses have been broken into say that they felt violated. I didnít feel so much violated. I felt as if someone had taken away my life 

"Get a life," is a popular joke saying. Well, someone had gotten mine, and now I was going to have to get another one. No passport, no computer with all my files, addresses, no back up. I walked into the living room (by now I was feeling as empty as a person without a life could feel) and decided to watch the news to see who was worse off than I. No remote control!

Of course I had to report it. I canít tell others to report crimes and not do it myself. I had called in the day superintendent and the manager of the apartments had come, both to give me sympathy and not much more. It was 5:30. I didnít want to go anywhere, but my neighbor Ulises, insisted, saying he would go with me to help with translation. 

Ulises Obregon is not only a neighbor and friend, he is a lawyer, and I figured that that couldnít hurt. The OIJ, referred to as "the oeejota," is the court building next to the new pedestrian walkway. We entered the office marked Recepcion de denuncia. Denouncing the thieves was the least of what I wanted to do to them, but it was all I could do. 

We took a ficha and sat down to wait. There were maybe a dozen people in the room before us, but I figured half were friends or family. Two people in shorts, obviously tourists, were there with two backpacks. I spoke briefly with them and learned that one of their bags had been stolen shortly after they arrived. "Welcome to Costa Rica," I thought bitterly. 

After over an hour Ulises took my ciudadano de oro card to the processor in the other room to see if that would speed up my complaint. It did. First a young woman took down the information, then another young woman took more particulars and told us to wait. In a few minutes she took us to another office where investigating detectives told us they would be by that evening before 10 and not to touch anything.

When we got back to my apartment, I insisted we have a drink (isnít that what just about everybody does?) and we had some snacks while we waited. Just before 10 two young detectives, one male, one female, showed up. Unfortunately, neither of the thieves had stopped to have a glass of water so she couldnít dust for fingerprints. 

The male detective opened a case to reveal a portable and began to type faster than I ever have. Oh, for a portable typewriter, I thought. The sum total of the evening was three pages (all carbon copies) detailing the disappearance of my intellectual life. As I was getting ready for bed I remembered my tape recorder, the only other thing they might have carried out unnoticed. They hadnít taken it. The reason was it was under a stack of books on my bed table. I hadnít got around to putting that in order yet.

When I first arrived here someone (A Tico, as I remember), said that Costa Ricans are opportunists. It seems that if you donít do everything you can to keep your home safe, thieves feel almost obligated to use that opportunity to rob you and teach you a lesson.

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Growing dengue epidemic worries health expert
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

MIAMI, Fla. ó An all-volunteer medical team here has embarked on the latest of a series of humanitarian missions to El Salvador to help fight the dengue epidemic, which the Pan American Health Organization says has resulted in an estimated 1,300 people in the country suffering from the disease.

Meanwhile, the head of the organization warned that the impact of the disease is spreading south perhaps as far as Costa Rica.

The non-profit Miami Medical Team Foundation, founded in 1983, is a group of physicians who volunteer on missions to help victims of epidemics, local wars, and natural disasters. The group is making the trip to El Salvador at the invitation of the Salvadoran government to treat those with dengue, a mosquito-borne disease which causes high fever and severe dehydration. A more serious strain of dengue can cause death. The team left here Thursday.

On June 13, El Salvador's President Francisco Flores declared a state of emergency in the departments of San Salvador, La Libertad, Santa Ana, and Cabanas, with a caution alert issued for the rest of the country. The health organization said dengue is a chronic problem in El Salvador and outbreaks peak during the rainy season, which usually runs from May to October. 

Children between the ages of 5 and 9 are most affected. In an interview, Miami Medical Foundation President Manuel Alzugaray, an orthopedist, said his team plans to make another trip to El Salvador starting July 4, with later trips also planned to that country. Alzugaray said the team that left Thursday consisted of four doctors, a nurse, and a logistics expert. It is urgently needed

because local doctors in the country are "exhausted" from fighting the epidemic. 

On a recently completed trip to El Salvador, Alzugaray's team included the chief air pilot for the Miami-Dade County mosquito control department, and an entomologist from the county's mosquito control section.

Alzugaray said El Salvador's dengue epidemic represents a "very serious situation" and that the disease is spreading into Honduras and Nicaragua, with some parts of Guatemala and possibly Costa Rica also affected. The disease could also threaten South Florida and U.S. states along the Gulf of Mexico because of the high number of people who travel to those areas from Central America, some of whom might be carrying dengue, said Alzugaray.

Alzugaray said the most serious victims of dengue become dehydrated, with uncontrollable temperatures and hemorrhaging.

To combat the illness, his group donates intravenous solutions, anti-fever medications, antibiotics, multivitamins, nutrients, and other medications. Measures to stop the spread of the disease include mosquito repellent, anti-mosquito aerosols, mosquito nets, and plastic mesh to cover windows and doors.

The cycle of dengue disease begins when a mosquito deposits eggs in stagnating waters. The eggs become larvae and then evolve into mosquitoes. 

Adult mosquitoes hide in humid and dark places in houses, buildings, and bushes during the day, and bite their victims at night. Efforts to control mosquitoes include fumigating houses, buildings and surrounding areas, and airplanes spraying the countryside.

A.M. Costa Rica photo
Hernan Bravo outlines the new policies while Pablo Cobb, ICE president, beams agreement.

ICE promises to be very green 

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad said Thursday it would be strong defenders of the environment and require its subcontractors to be the same.

The institute also said that it would adopt a more harmonious and transparent attitude with the people who live in the communities affected by its projects.

The institute runs the telephone system and the electrical generating facilities in Costa Rica. It also is parent to Radiográfica Costarricense S.A., the Internet company.

The company said that it has tried to use a strategy of generating energy through renewable sources. But its board of directors passed a strong environmental measure March 19 requiring the company to conduct its activities based on the fundamental principals of sustainable development and conservation, protection, recovery and responsible use of the environment.

Pablo Cobb, executive president of the board, said that the independent institute was aware of the strong emphasis that the new president Abel Pacheco was putting on environmental protection. Pacheco has proposed putting stiff protections in the Costa Rican Constitution. 

Cobb said that ICE would adhere to international environmental norms and standards. The institute builds high tension lines, hydroelectric plants, thermal electric plants, dams and other massive projects that have heavy impact on the environment. Cobb said that such impact was unavoidable but promised that ICE would be as sensitive as possible.

The institute has been criticized for a high-handed attitude in dealing with individuals and groups in communities affected by the high profile projects. The Borucas Project in southern Costa Rica requires a dam to create a lake bigger than Lake Arenal. The Indian residents there said they have been slighted by ICE.

Cobb promised a better dialogue and a better consensus with the indigenous peoples. After the public meeting at which the promises were presented Hernan Bravo, vice president of the board, said that a thermal generating plant in northern Costa Rica also has caused similar local concerns.

Court cuts counts
in abduction case

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Michael Louis is a U.S. citizen detained in Moravia in north San José because he fled from the St. Louis, Mo., area with his two children from the United States without permission of his ex-wife and the courts.

After he was captured here and his children returned to the mother, he became a resident of San Sebastian, the prison south of downtown, and the U.S. government began extradition proceedings against him to bring him back to face 14 charges ranging from parental adoption to racketeering.

The Costa Rican criminal court dismissed all but two charges in an extradition hearing this week, according to the manís lawyer, Arcelio Hernández Mussio.

The lawyer also said he would file an appeal to get the two remaining charges thrown out.

The dismissal means that Louis may only be tried in the United States on the two remaining charges, the lawyer said. The two remaining charges are parental abduction, resulting from taking the children to Costa Rica.

Another source said that Costa Rican law does not recognize parental abduction and, as a result, the case brought by the U.S. government might not result in extradition. Costa Rica only will extradite if the charge alleged is a crime here.

The charges that the U.S. government brought against Louis ranged from tampering with a witness, to structuring transactions to evade reporting requirements, to interstate and foreign travel or transportation in aid of racketeering enterprises, according to his lawyer.

Sting operation used
to capture ex-cop

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Investigators in Limón used a sting operation to round up three men to face investigation for vehicle theft and extortion, agents said Thursday.

One man who was arrested is the retired comandante of the Fuerza Pública region centered in Limón. 

Agents expanded on the arrest Thursday. They said the case began Monday when a Kia Exportage was stolen in the center of Limón about noon.

A short time later the owner of the vehicle got a telephone call saying that the thieves would return the vehicle if 500,000 colons ransom were paid. Otherwise, the vehicle would be torched, agents said. That amount is about $1,400. This newspaper incorrectly reported the amount as 50,000 colons in Thursdayís edition.

The owner contacted police who determined that the call originated at a public telephone in front of the former railway station in the city. Thatís where the vehicle owner told thieves he would deliver the money to get the vehicle back, agents said. The exchange was to be Tuesday.

When the suspects made the pickup at the same telephone they were arrested, and the car was found in a parking lot nearby, said investigators for the Judicial Investigating Organization.

The spokesman for investigators identified the former top policeman in the region as Francisco Noguera Solís, 43, who was head of the Limón district in 1997 and 1999. Also arrested was Francisco Noguera Rosalis, 18 and Michael Guillen Thompson, also 18.

New memory idea
may reduce computers

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

BUFFALO, N.Y. ó U.S. researchers have developed a magnetic sensor only a few atoms in diameter that could increase data storage capacity by a factor of a thousand and could ultimately lead to supercomputing devices as small as a wristwatch.

According to researchers at the State University of New York here in Buffalo, they have demonstrated that their tiny sensor, made of nickel, produces a 3,000-per cent change in resistance in an ultra-small magnetic field.

As stored "bits" of data get smaller their magnetic field gets weaker, making the bits harder to detect and "read." Reliable reading of the data depends on producing a large enough magnetically-induced change in the electrical resistance of the sensor.

The current technology used in the heads, or sensors, that read bits from a storage disk is based on an effect called "giant" magnetoresistance. Inside a hard drive, a GMR device senses the local magnetic field of a stored bit of data.

The effect created with the new nickel device is called "ballistic" magnetoresistance and employs an electrical conductor that is only a few atoms wide and long. Researchers predict that the new sensor could enable the storage of 50 or more digital video disk full-length movies on a hard drive the size of a credit card. Current commercial sensors enable the storage of a single DVD movie on a hard drive.

Besides being useful for the multi-billion-dollar data storage industry, the techniques could improve magnetic measurements and the study of magnetic effects in individual atoms.

Summit wrapped up
in northern Canada

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

World leaders meeting in Canada have wrapped up their summit expressing confidence in the world economy and a commitment to fighting terrorism. In a summary from Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien, the G-8 leaders said they are confident in the economies of their countries, and in the prospects for worldwide economic growth. 

They say they are committed to bringing terrorists to justice, and to reducing the threat of terrorist attacks. 

Earlier, the leaders of seven of the world's main industrialized countries pledged $20 billion in aid to the newest G-8 member, Russia. The money will be used to help Russia decommission nuclear weapons over the next decade, and keep them from falling into terrorist hands. 

Meanwhile, the summit's host, Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien, announced that the world's leading industrialized countries will support development aid for Africa. The new agreement offers an unspecified amount of increased aid and foreign investments to countries that weed out government corruption and pursue free market reforms. 

It was reached following a meeting between G-8 leaders, United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan and the presidents of Algeria, Nigeria, Senegal and South Africa. 

In the closing summary, G-8 leaders say urgent reforms are needed in Palestinian political and security institutions and the Palestinian economy. The leaders say they want the Palestinians to carry out free and fair elections. 

The leaders also said Pakistan must put a permanent stop to terrorist activity originating from its territory. They urged Pakistan and India to engage in a sustained dialogue to work out their disputes. 

G-8 members are Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States.

Marchers remain peaceful

By the A.M. Costa Rica Wire Services

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina ó  Thousands of anti-government marchers demonstrated their anger toward the country's president but remained peaceful thursday. They were protesting the deaths of two people as police tried to break up a riot the day before. 

Thousands of protesters told President Eduardo Duhalde it is time to go. Some carried signs calling him an assassin. But on Thursday night no violence was reported as picketers filled the streets here, protesting the deadly violence of a day earlier. 

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