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These stories were published Thursday, July 3, 2003, in Vol. 3, No. 130
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A personal report from the trenches
Villalobos creditor learns how to pinch pennies
By an Anonymous Villalobos creditor
Written for A.M. Costa Rica

A Year Later - July 4th

How unfortunate that the date is supposed to be a celebratory one, at least for Americans.  As with the other watershed events which mark our personal histories, July 4, 2002, will be remembered.  We investors know where we were and how we reacted when we first heard the news:  the Brothers had been raided.

I was with friends.  We were stunned and, for the most part, mute.  Only one of us cried, but I didn't.  Tears would mean instant (and as it turned out, accurate) acceptance of the unthinkable:  The raid was factual, that meant you were now broke and faced a radically different future.  So I held off, hoping against hope that it was a mistake.

We were cruelly teased over the next couple of months.  Yes, there was a raid, but listen:  the interest was continuing to be paid!  And so we hung on, trying to finish up projects begun but, also, putting off trips home and the like.

Our maid escaped from El Salvador when guerrilla warfare reigned.  Her brother disappeared.  She knows, after the decades since, that he is dead. But her mother still hopes. Unwilling to nail down the lid on the coffin, we, too, continue to keep fluttering a tiny sliver of hopeful light.

One cannot subsist on hope alone, and so we do what we can to survive.  We get jobs, low-paying, won't meet our daily living expenses, and are grateful for them.  We bunk in with friends and try to be good guests, but we look for signs that they are getting tired of our presence so we can move on — where?

When rent becomes unaffordable, we get rid of our possessions, one way or another, and try our hand at house-sitting.  So we see notices for garage sales and tentative forays into small businesses and services which we think may interest those who can still afford to pay for them.

Our lives become quite simple because we're focused on survival.  We no longer eat out, take taxis, see movies, have parties, shop for clothes, take trips, give to charities, buy gifts, entertain friends.  We've cancelled subscriptions and memberships, and un-invited friends who were to visit us from abroad.

When repairs are needed, to anything, our hearts are in our mouths. Will the cost be affordable?  What happens if there's a death in the family and we can't afford to go to the funeral?  God help us if we have an accident because we no longer have insurance of any kind. If we get sick, we worry, not about our health, but loss of work and the money that feeds us.

Our friends are incredibly thoughtful and generous.  It cannot make up for a destroyed future but we are extremely appreciative of gestures and offers.

What else of sensitivity and kindnesses?  Well, clubs and organizations have reduced their membership fees and costs of various functions.  Few now are prone to pressuring people to support this and buy that and "It's only X number of colons."  We think of ways to be supportive without reaching for our

A.M. Costa Rica file photo
A Villalobos Brothers customer, on the verge of tears, reads about the closing of the Mall San Pedro Office last Oct. 15.

wallets.  We're starting to give away our little keepsakes when gifts are called for.  I'm thinking and hoping these will be appreciated as much.

To those who have no sympathy for us and call us idiots to have invested with the Brothers, I say "the back of my hand to you."  We had planned to withdraw our funds in another couple of years.  At that time, had all gone well, we would have been called, instead, lucky and smart to have done it.

We know who our friends are, we know we're doing the best we can with the hand dealt us.  We'll celebrate the small victories and take what pleasure we can from life, and we will survive.  It just isn't very much fun right now. 

EDITOR’S NOTE; Our writer still can’t bring herself to be identified. But she reflects what a lot of expats here are feeling one year after police and prosecutors raided the Villalobos Brothers high interst operation.
 

Vault Holding Co.
is messy affair

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

While the investigation into the Villalobos Brothers still is up in the air after a year, agents seem to be overwhelmed by the case of The Vault Holding Co.

The owner, Roy Taylor, shot himself in police custody June 24, but the paperwork that remains is massive and confusing.

Taylor’s wife, Lilliam Corrales Banquero, remains in custody, but there is speculation that she may not be his wife, thanks to an undissolved union contracted by Taylor in the United States.

Taylor left more than 50 companies, and prosecutors are freezing bank accounts right and left in a scattergun approach to tie up firms Taylor controlled.

Meanwhile, some persons who put money with Taylor are trying to draw up a client list by asking such persons to contact them.

Vault offices remain closed, but other companies associated with the Vault but not actually owned by Taylor continue to operate. Among these is the Jacó bar Filthy McNasty’s, according to majority owner Kells Faulkner.

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Some quick solutions for the problem of adding school days
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A number of plans have been advanced to help students complete the required 200 school days for this academic year. The students lost between 20 and 26 days when teachers went on strike for a month.

But the obvious solution to continue classes during the scheduled midterm vacation that begins Friday has been discarded. Teachers didn’t strike all that time not to get a vacation.

However, high sources in the Ministerio de Educación Pública reveal that these plans still have a chance:

1. Make teachers talk twice as fast one day a 
week. Students would pick up an extra day each 

week that way without actually having to do anything serious like going to school on Saturdays.

2. Send tape recorders home with each student one night a week so they can sleep through a whole class day much the same way they do while they are in school. (This plan may be discarded because the ministry that could not pay the teachers correctly probably cannot arrange the purchase of 100,000 tape recorders)

3. Pass a presidential decree forbidding students from getting sick, thereby saving sick days.

4. Buy an hour of television time each day during Power Rangers and cleverly disguise it as a worthless kids’ action show. Subliminally teach math.

5. Make every month a leap month with 33 days, thereby fooling students and teachers into going to school extra days each month.

6. Declare "practicum" days each Saturday and give students credit for doing what they always do on Saturdays: play, work with parents, visiting family and friends.

7. Create a special course: Consumer studies, and give credit to all the young ladies and gentlemen who inhabit the shopping malls many hours every day.

8. Just give the numbers of school days a fast count and hope no one notices.


 
RACSA moves to block
customer access to site

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Radiográphica Costarricense S.A. says it has blocked access by its customers to an internet domain because the site is under investigation.

The decision raises a multitude of free speech and international law issues.

The government Internet provider said it took the action as a result of an order by Judge Zoila Rosa Soto Morice of the Juzgado Penal del Primer Circuito Judicial of San José.

The domain is www.bancodesanjose.com, which does not seem to be under the jurisdiction of the Costa Rican Academia Nacional de las Ciencias which issues the co.cr domains familiar to persons living here.

The judge took the action at the request of Luis Rodríguez Cruz, fiscal auxiliar of the Unidad de Delitos Varios of the Ministerio Público. The prosecutor told the judge that an investigation exists involving extortion and an informational crime.

The domain in question was set up only last June 24 through Tucows, Inc., a computer and Internet service company found on the Web.  A lookup of the domain shows no individuals associated with it.

The domain seems to be located elsewhere than Costa Rica.

The Banco de San José is a well known local bank.

The RACSA statement was attributed to Alberto Bermúdez, an engineer and assistant manager there.

Michael Moore film
on tap for Saturday

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Democrats Abroad will host a 5 p.m. showing of "Bowling for Columbine" Saturday at the Costa Rican Tennis Club, Sabana Sur.

The film is Michael Moore’s latest described in an announcement as a modern satire to make you laugh, and think. 

The film gets its name from the use in the film of clips from the Columbine High School security cameras. That was the high school in Jefferson County, Colorado, where Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris killed 15 and wounded at least 20 fellow students April 20, 1999.

However, the film’s official Web site says "This is not a film about gun control. It is a film about the fearful heart and soul of the United States, and the 280 million Americans lucky enough to have the right to a constitutionally protected Uzi."

Actually, even in Colorado Uzis, automatic weapons, are only permitted with special licenses, and Harris and Klebold first tried to blow up the high school with propane bombs before resorting to firearms when the bombs failed to go off.

Moore won an Oscar for best documentary with the film.

Tickets are 3,000 colons for adults and 2,000 for students. This includes bocas and a cash bar, said a club announcement. Seating is limited and information is available at 249-1856.
 

Escazú man found
dead in his home

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An Escazú man, identified by police as David George Nedverg, 57, was found dead in his home in Trejos Monte Alegre Wednesday. The Judicial Investigating Organization is treating the case as death from an unknown cause.

Nedverg, a U.S. citizen, was a stockbroker here and in the United States, said a Judicial Investigating Organization spokesman. There were no indications of violence and the body was found in the bedroom, said agents.

Tovar backs court
despite U.S. cutoff

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica is in favor of the International Criminal Court and one of its own is a vice president of the court, Roberto Tovar Faja, foreign minister, said Wednesday.

He was responding to the decision by the United States to cut off military aid to countries that support the court. The United States does not want its servicemen being tried by an international body for violation of human rights.

Tovar also said that the United States can be sure that Costa Rica will not be arbitrary or conduct a political persecution against U.S. citizens.

Elizabeth Odio Benito, a Costa Rican, is a judge of the International criminal Tribunal.

The fund cutoff for Costa Rica is less than $1 million and does not affect anti-drug grants.

Bandits riddle car
get $87,000 deposit

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A shootout in Barrial de Heredia Wednesday morning netted robbers nearly $87,000 in colons when they caught a messenger and an accountant on the way to a bank.

The men were coming from a company that produces medical instruments to make a deposit at a bank in the vicinity of the CENADA supermarket.  Two men on a motorcycle started shooting at the vehicle in which the two were riding and even managed to overturn it. 

About 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Palí supermarket in La Florida de Tibás, five men took about 130,000 colons or about $325.

Inflation was 4.34%,
says census agency

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Inflation in Costa Rica for the first six months of the year was 4.34 percent, according to the Instituto Nacional de Estadisticas y Censo. This is about half a percentage point above the estimate for the same period last year.

That 2002 figure was 3.84 percent.  Transportation and medical costs were higher and contributed to an increase in the general index, said the institute.

The institute keeps track of individual food products and economic sectors, and many of the increases can be traced to government action. For example, transportation is up because taxi drivers got a raise in rates. Alcohol is up because taxes were increased.

Inflation is a little higher when based on the rate of exchange with the U.S. dollar. The price of the dollar has increase about 20 colons since Jan. 1. That represents a 5.3 percent inflation rate.

Two held to face
cycle robbery counts

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Investigators have arrested two men they claim stuck up motorcyclists to take their vehicle. The men may have been part of a band that stuck up motorcyclists in Curridabat, Tres Ríos and Desamparados. More than 10 such robberies have been attributed to the band, said agents.

The Judicial Investigating Organization made raids in San Rafael Abajo de Desamparados and San Sebastián to arrest the men early Wednesday.
 
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Toronto declared free of SARS by WHO officials
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The World Health Organization has declared Toronto to be clear of the SARS virus. It said it expects Taiwan, the only area in the world still on a list of areas with recent local transmission of the disease, to be cleared on Saturday if there are no new cases between now and then. 

The World Health Organization has removed Canada's largest city from the list of areas with recent local transmission of severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome after no new cases had been reported in Toronto for 20 days. 

The organization's head of communicable diseases, David Heymann, called the development a major achievement in public health and said it is hoped that this marks the final phase of the global emergency. 

"Toronto has passed the 20-day milestone, that means that it has been 20 days since they last identified and isolated a probable case of SARS," said Hyemann. "This signifies that transmission of the virus within Toronto has been interrupted." 

Although there have been no recent new cases of respiratory sickness reported in Toronto, a number

of victims remain critically ill, and the death toll there could yet rise. 

Toronto has had the largest SARS outbreak outside of Asia, with 39 deaths and almost 250 cases. Last week, the World Health Organization lifted its travel ban recommendation on the Canadian city. 

Heymann says that if there are no new SARS outbreaks in Taiwan, the last remaining place on the list of areas with recent local transmission of the disease, it too could receive the all-clear designation from the World Health Organization.

But at least 810 people have been killed since SARS was first diagnosed in southern China late last year, and Heymann warned that countries must remain vigilant to ensure there is no more spread of the disease. 

"The threat of SARS is still with us and we must continue surveillance, intensive surveillance, looking for cases for at least another year," he said. 

Heymann says much research is required to find out where the virus came from in nature and how to prevent it from coming into human populations in the future. 


 
Vancouver wins bid to host 2010 Winter Olympics
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

PRAGUE, Czech Republic — The 2010 Winter Olympics have been awarded to Vancouver, Canada. While the announcement was made here thousands celebrated the news in Vancouver. 

Gathered in front of giant video screens, the 10,000 people gathered in Vancouver's main hockey arena went wild when they heard the news.

The awarding of the 2010 Winter Olympics to this west coast Canadian town of two million finished a more than five-year campaign to secure the games. Many of the events will be held in nearby Whistler, a ski resort about two hours north of Vancouver.

After the announcement, the crowd poured onto the streets of downtown, joining other revelers that watched the live telecast from Prague in hotels and restaurants.

Delegates at the meeting of the International Olympic Committee voted in favor of Vancouver on the second ballot, beating Pyeongchang, South Korea by only three votes. In a surprise upset, believed front-runner Salzburg, Austria, was eliminated on the first ballot.

The Vancouver Bid Corporation that arranged the presentation to the Olympic committee will now dissolve and a local organizing committee will form. It has cost over $25 million so far. 

The total costs are estimated to be about $1 billion. The bid committee estimates that will be offset by an estimated $1 billion in revenues, mostly from selling broadcasters the right to televise the games. Major construction and infrastructure improvements, such as improved highway access, will begin within two years.

The last time the Olympics were in Canada was the 1988 Winter Games in Calgary. The only other time was Montreal for the 1976 Summer Olympics.

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