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Uncle Sam distributes U.S. Flags at another successful American Colony Committee July 4 picnic Wednesday. Our story is


Four arrests made in new Parrita prostitution ring
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Judicial agents detained a women, 31, and three men Wednesday morning as suspects in a prostitution ring that involved minors. Agents said that the Parrita-based organization had been under investigation since last August.

The Poder Judicial later identified the woman by the last names of Amador Ávila. The woman was ordered held for three months preventative detention, although prosecutors did not ask for restrictions on any of the men, said the Poder Judicial. The court hearing was in the Juzgado Penal de Aguirre y Parrita

Informal sources aid that one of the men had been an unsuccessful candidate for mayor. The men were identified by the last names of Vega Ugalde, Godínez Mora and Mora Cortés,

Last December the current mayor of Aguirre and his municipal driver were detained to face allegations that they recruited minors for prostitution. Not clear is if there is a relationship between that case and the one announced Wednesday.

In both cases, those detained were accused of recruiting young women who came from poor families.

The Judicial Investigating Organization said Wednesday that the men involved in the new case were 37, 42 and 52.  The case was being handled by the  Sección de Delitos Contra la Integridad Física, Trata y Trafico de Personas.

Involved are three young woman, ages 15 to 17, said the judicial police.

Last month A.M. Costa Rica recounted the efforts of an organization called Seeds for Hope that seeks to open a house in the central Pacific for girls, ages 12 to 17, who were forced to exploit their body. The story suggested that there was a thriving business in underaged prostitutes in the area.

The judicial police said it was the woman, Ms. Amador, who was in charge of recruiting girls into the business. The agency said that she tricked them by offering work with a high income only to exploit them sexually. The ring would provide out call services to local hotels, said the Judicial

Parrita arrest
Judicial Investigating Organization photo
 One of the men arrested in Parrita is led to a
 waiting vehicle for transportation to prosecutors.

Investigating Organization. They said that the ring collected from 70,000 to 100,000 colons for the services of the teens. That is from $140 to $200.

The girls were kept in a home in  Río Seco de Parrita which was raided Wednesday at 6 a.m. That is also where the woman lives.

She was not home when agents arrived, but she was located on the street a few minutes later, agents said.

Two other raids were also in Parrita and one was in Atenas, said agents.

There was no explanation why prosecutors did not seek restrictions on the men. Short of preventative detention, judges typically at least order the suspects not to approach witnesses and to keep themselves available for questioning.

Tourism chamber will address issue of weak dollar
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The national tourism chamber, along with other tourism associations, is hosting a press conference today about the impact of the exchange rate on the industry.

Currently the rate from dollars to colons is 1 to 498.5. The Cámera Nacional de Turismo said it is worried that the fluctuating rate could have a negative impact on the influx of tourist.
The 9 a.m. press conference will be a place for interested parties to put this idea into perspective, as well as discuss the future impact, the chamber said. 

The goal is to create a proposal for the government designed to stop a decrease in tourism before it happens, the chamber said.

Tourism operators generally receive payment in dollars but have to pay expenses in colons, so they are vulnerable to a weak dollar.

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Popular Internet figure
mourned by expats

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A Seattle native and a moderator for a popular Internet discussion
Mr. Lesser
Kayo Byron Lesser
group on Yahoo died Tuesday after battling asbestosis for years.

The 65-year-old man, Kayo Byron Lesser, died at 11:30 p.m. in Hospital Calderón Guardia from bronchial pneumonia, according to his family. 

He was graduated from Tahoma Maple Valley High School and worked for Heat and Frost Insulators and Firestop Containment Workers Local 7 in State of Washington.  He moved to Costa Rica in 1991 and was living in Cartago.

Many on the Costa Rican living discussion list site expressed their appreciation for Lesser, commented on his cheerful personality and gave condolences to his family.

Lesser is survived by his wife, Teresa Guillen, three children, Trevor Lesser, Jamey Lesser, and Desey Lesser, and stepson Jorge Lesser Guillien.

Arrangements are by the Funeraria del Magisterio in San José.  Funeral services will be  11 a.m. today at Montesacro's Curridabat cemetery. 

Find out what the papers
said today in Spanish

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Here is the section where you can scan short summaries from the Spanish-language press. If you want to know more, just click on a link and you will see and longer summary and have the opportunity to read the entire news story on the page of the Spanish-language newspaper but translated into English.

Translations may be a bit rough, but software is improving every day.

When you see the Summary in English of news stories not covered today by A.M. Costa Rica, you will have a chance to comment.

This is a new service of A.M. Costa Rica called Costa Rica Report. Editor is Daniel Woodall, and you can contact him
From the Costa Rican press
News items posted Monday through Friday by 8 a.m.
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Police told to end their practice of arbitrary night club raids
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The security ministry got its hand slapped by the constitutional court in a decision announced Wednesday over the policy of raiding night clubs.

Operators of the Club Oh! brought the case before the Sala IV of the Corte Suprema de Justicia. The business caters to gays, and the proprietors claimed that police were involved in homophobia behavior when they raided the club last April.

However, what happened at this club was the same that happened at the Del Rey and the nearby Key Largo in the same weekend.

The Sala IV warned the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública not to repeat the actions that brought the appeal.

There were parallels between what happened at Club Oh! and at the Key Largo and Hotel Del Rey. Police entered, sealed off the exits and began checking identifications of those present. In the case of the Del Rey and the Key Largo, reported last April 16, officers were accompanied by volunteers of the Fundación Rahab, which provides training for former prostitutes.  Women present in the two locations were required to submit to an interview and fill out a form with identification information.

There was  no mention of the participation of Rahab volunteers in the summary of the Club Oh! appeal. However, the club
appeal claimed that it was only in its location that police behaved in this way, according to a summary.

Police harassment of customers in the Del Rey goes back years, and many persons can recount being locked in while police checked identifications. Other times, the police do not prevent persons from leaving if they have first had their identification checked.

In one case more than 100 police officers in all types of vehicles blocked the streets and descended on the Del Rey one Friday evening in time for the then-security minister, Janina del Veccio, to do a standup in front of the building for evening television news shows. Police managed to collar two foreign women who may have been in the country illegally.

According to the Club Oh! appeal, police left behind at that establishment a form saying that everything was in order.

Municipal police or other municipal officials sometimes accompany the Fuerza Pública in these night club raids.

The idea is to suggest that a main reason for the raid is to check and make sure the business is in compliance with municipal licensing. Of course, that data would be found easily at the municipal offices.

At the time of the raids at the Key Largo and the Del Rey, police officers said that they had taken the same action at other locations, but they did not specify which ones.

Chase at sea results in capture of supected marijuana boat
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The situation may seem like bringing coal to Newcastle, but a combined effort between the United States and Costa Rica resulted in the capture of six men in a fastboat Tuesday night.

Unlike most fastboats that carry north cocaine from Colombia, this one was carrying marijuana south to Limón.

The Talamanca mountains are full of marijuana plants, but the security ministry said that the marijuana was being imported because local police are doing such a good job controlling local supplies. Another possibility is that the marijuana, believed to have originated in Jamaica, is of a stronger variety called hi red.

A U.S. patrol craft spotted the fastboat offshore and gave chase. A boat of the Servicio Nacional de Guardacostas intercepted the craft and brought it to shore. During the chase, it appears that the crew, three Costa Ricans and three Nicaraguans, dumped the cargo into the sea. Law officers were trying to recover the load some 180 kilometers (112 miles) at sea. Aircraft of the Servicio de Vigilancia Aérea, also were involved in the chase.

four held
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía 
y Seguridad Pública photo 
Guardacostas officer keeps crew of fastboat under guard.

High seas evict 35 families in Caldera as warning is issued
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

High seas in the Pacific routed 35 families in  Espíritu Santo de Caldera early Wednesday, and some houses were destroyed, said the national emergency commission.

The agency issued a warning for vacationers and those living along the coast that high seas will continue for the week.

The agency, the  Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias specifically mentioned  Palo Seco, Parrita, Playa Azul, Tárcoles, el Cocal de Quepos and Isla Damas as areas that might be subject to erosion as a result of the seas.

The commissions said that Alejandro Gutiérrez of Universidad
Nacional determined that the families that were displaced and forced to more to a public shelter had constructed their homes in the maritime zone. Gutiérrez is an oceanographer.

The commission also said that operators of small boats should take care.

Meanwhile there continues to be an area of unsettle air just off the Pacific coast. The low pressure area is generating showers and thunderstorms as it moves west at about 10 mph, said the U.S. Nacional Hurricane Center in Miami.

The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional is predicting afternoon thunderstorms today in the Central Valley and the Pacific coasts. There is a probability of morning rains in the northern zone and on the Caribbean coast, it said.

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Just like home; The Marines and the flag, the hot dogs and the three-legged race
U.S.-backed program gives youngsters new skills in English
By Aaron Knapp
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

More than 2,000 U.S. citizens and their guests attended the annual American Colony Committee’s Fourth of July celebration at Cervercería Costa Rica Wednesday not only to commemorate their home country’s independence, but also to celebrate the cultural exchanges between the United States and Costa Rica.

The exchanges took shape in games played by U.S. citizens and Costa Rican guests such as sack racing, water-balloon tossing and volleyball while the University of Costa Rica’s band played classic American tunes. And dozens of Costa Rican high-school-aged students enrolled in the Access program attended.

Paid for by the U.S. State Department and operated by the Centro Cultural Costarricense Norteamericano, the program is a two-year, intensive English course for high achieving but disadvantaged teens..

“Kids have gotten jobs because of the English that they’ve learned, and they’ve been able to help their families with higher income and a better a life, more opportunities,” said Arturo Muñoz, academic director at the Centro Cultural.

In its third generation of students, the program was designed to teach English to high scoring students from impoverished families in order to give them a fighting chance in the international labor market.

Although the United States funds the same program in other countries, the State Department has awarded 400 Costa Rican students a $2,000 scholarship to go through the program free of charge over the past four years.

“It’s very important that Latin America continue its development . . .and for that to happen, they have to be able to access new markets and be able to adapt to the globalization,” explained Mark Tauber, a U.S. Embassy public affairs officer. “If we’re going to help these countries develop, become bigger partners with us in trade relations, education exchanges, we’ve got to be able to give them basic English skills.”

In addition to going to their normal schools during the week, the Access program requires that students go to class again every Saturday for a four-hour English lesson.

In many cases, neither the public schools nor the students’ homes have electricity or Internet, and Lynn Yrby, an Access teacher at a school in the Guadalupe neighborhood north of San José. She said she sees her role as being an ambassador from the United States and exposes her students to different places and cultures in the world.

“These kids come from very poor families and . . . some of these kids are raising their siblings, some of these kids have so many obligations to their families and it’s difficult for them to get time to study,” said Ms. Yerby. “What’s great about this program is that we can expose them to the outside world, because . . . it’s difficult for them to contact people outside or contact cultures outside of their communities.”

Exposing the students to cultures and places in the United States is a major part of the program, and it seems to have sparked not only interest in the United States, but also goals of someday moving there and eventually achieving the classic American Dream with the family, the house, the car and the job.

“My dream is go to the United States and have a house, have a good job, have a car, maybe a family,” said Access student Jonathan Jiménez, 16. “I like living here, but I like to speak English, and I think that I’ll enjoy living in the United States.”

In addition, Jiménez says that the Access form a camaraderie that is stronger than the bonds students form with the rest of
A.M. Costa Rica/Kayla Pearson
 Access students happily showcase their homemade
 American Flag.

their peers at their regular school, because things are more relaxed and fun in their Access classes, but also productive.

“In the course, it’s more fun, because in high school it’s more . . . . ,“ said Jiménez trailing off as he tried to come up with the words. “More stressful,” interceded his friend, Juliana, also 16, who wants to become a systems engineer. “And in the course we can play, we can speak English, we can make jokes with other partners . . .  it’s more fun,” Jiménez continued.

However, more than just being fun, Muñoz says that learning English is vital in helping these students finding jobs that will allow them to pull themselves and their families out of poverty, and the students recognize it.

“For me it’s important because, it’s an open door for a new world,” said Hugues Castro, a 17-year-old aspiring hotel manager. “I think this is my future, because now you need English for everything, for whatever work,” added Jiménez.

Although Jiménez at first said he wanted to work with electrical technology, he later confessed that he has had a dream of becoming a war hero and military commander since he was very young, and his real dream is to someday move to the United States to join the armed forces.

“My mother and all of my friends told me that I’m crazy and I’m so stupid,” he said. “My mother told me that I can do other things that are more fun or that I like, and maybe she’s right, but I think that if in the future I have the opportunity, maybe I’ll get it.”

At the Fourth of July of event, the students were allowed to come for free if they wished, in order to learn more about American culture, and at least 50 of the 108 students currently in the program across the country opted to participate.

“I think that America is a helpful country, because they are giving us the food, the drinks, and we don’t have to pay,” said Castro. “It’s a huge celebration and they want to share with us this celebration.”

“I think that it’s good to learn about other cultures, like the Americans, it’s good for me,” added Juliana.

After their program ends in December, all three students plan to continue studying English in the hopes of one day of traveling to the United States and possibly living there long-term.

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Mexican electoral officials
begin presidential recount

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Mexican electoral officials are recounting votes from more than half of the 143,000 polling stations in Sunday's presidential and congressional elections in response to claims of widespread fraud and other irregularities.

A spokesman for Mexico's Instituto Federal Electoral said 78,000 ballot boxes will be reopened this week.  Edmundo Jacobo announced the recount Wednesday, just hours after initial tallies showed candidate Enrique Peña Nieto of the Partido Revolucionario Institutional, known as PRI, winning the presidency by nearly 7 points over his nearest rival.

However, runner-up Andres Manuel López Obrador refused on Tuesday to concede, after accusing Peña's party of vote buying and coercion.  Obrador, a leftist, also accused Mexican news media of extending favorable coverage to the PRI, which ruled the country for seven decades until 2000.

​​​​​​Tuesday's allegations of widespread vote buying were fueled by scenes of thousands of people rushing to groceries to redeem pre-paid gift cards they said the PRI had given them ahead of Sunday's vote.  A shopper identified as Josefina explains.

"For helping them with votes and all, they gave us a card for supporting them, and all that for 100 pesos, and 100 pesos are gone in five minutes," Josefina said.

Local Soriana resident Elisa voiced displeasure with the alleged giveaway.

"I think this is an abuse and undignified. It's dirty that a person running for the presidency takes advantage of hunger, ignorance and poverty and gives away money in cards that people are now using.  He gives away money to buy his votes," Elisa said.

The PRI has denied any wrongdoing.  But Obrador said his workers had detected irregularities at more than 100,000 polling stations.

Mexico's interior secretary, Alejandro Poire, offered a different analysis of Sunday's polls.

""We would qualify this election as taking place in peace, with security, with transparency and within the law," Poire said.

In 2006, López Obrador demanded a recount after losing the presidency to Felipe Calderón by slightly more than half a percentage point.  His requests were refused, triggering protests by the candidate's supporters that choked Mexico City for weeks.

Counterfeit goods linked
to organized crime rings

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Fake designer brand purses, clothing and even prescription medications are made and sold around the world.  Investigators say it is bigger business than the illegal drug trade.  And police say that when consumers buy counterfeit items, they could be contributing to the funding other crimes.  Many of the counterfeit items from the Pacific Rim enter the United States through Los Angeles.

Bargain hunters flock to downtown Los Angeles and an area called Santee Alley, where clothing, sunglasses, watches and toys pack tiny stores block after block.  Santee Alley is also known as a haven for counterfeit goods.

Anita Grey has been shopping at Santee Alley for years.  She says she would never buy fake designer products, but she has seen them.

“I know years ago when I come down, you would see it.  And now, you don’t see it at all," said Grey.

Investigator Kris Buckner says that is because police have raided stores that carry fake designer goods so many times that people who sell them are more careful.

“They’ll come up and offer you the goods, and then they’ll take you to a warehouse," said Buckner.

For the last 15 years, Buckner has been tracking down people who sell and make counterfeit products.  He says the problem is not limited to downtown Los Angeles.

“You got to look at the global marketplace," he said. "It’s estimated that 10 percent of the goods you’ll see out there are estimated to be counterfeit.”

Buckner says the estimated $500 billion a year counterfeit goods business is bigger than the illegal drug trade, and that it is tied to local streets gangs and international organized crime.

“Then you have groups that have ties to Hezbollah, Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas that have engaged in this activity, " he said. "The problem is it’s a perfect opportunity for these guys to make money.”

Buckner says criminal elements often make fake goods in the United States in underground sweatshops.

“They will traffic undocumented folks to the U.S. and force them to work in these situations until they pay their fee to come here to the United States," said Buckner.

Deborah Greaves with the designer brand True Religion Jeans warns against buying fake goods on the Internet.

“One of the biggest threats that people need to be aware of now is that with the online counterfeiting is that these groups not only are selling you a fake product, but they’re also harvesting all of your personal information," said Ms. Greaves. "They have your credit card. They have your address.  They have everything they need to steal from you.”

At the Port of Los Angeles, police seize counterfeit purses, clothing, prescription medications, appliances and cigarettes.  Investigators say large amounts of the fake and stolen designer items come from China through ports across the United States, smuggled inside shipping containers.  Police say that in this port complex alone, more than 14 million containers arrive every year, but they are able to check fewer than 1 percent of those containers.

Former Monetary Fund chief
under investigation in Spain

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A Spanish court has launched a fraud investigation against former executives of key lender Bankia, including the one-time chief of the International Monetary Fund.

Spain's top national court said Wednesday it would examine fraud, embezzlement and stock price manipulation charges against 33 officials. Among them is Rodrigo Rato, the bank's former chairman and the Fund's managing director from 2004 to 2007.

Bankia is at the center of the Spanish banking crisis that eventually led Madrid to seek a $125 billion bailout for the country's banking system from neighboring countries in the 17-nation euro currency bloc. Bankia's collection of failed real estate loans and falling stock price has angered Spanish investors and forced a partial government takeover.

Bankia is seeking $24 billion of the bailout money. Rato became chairman of the bank in 2010, but was forced to resign in May as the bank's financial difficulties became apparent.

The Spanish bank woes are part of the eurozone's economic difficulties that show no sign of abating. A new Markit Economics survey showed that eurozone businesses retrenched further in June. For the second quarter as a whole, economic activity in the currency bloc was the weakest in three years.
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Thieves take weapons
from office of refinery

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Another public agency has had weapons stolen.

The Judicial Investigating Organization said that someone broke open a locker in the administrative offices of the  Refinadora Costarricense de  Petróleo S.A. in Limón.

Taken were five shotguns and five 9-mm. pistols a well as two bulletproof vests and ammunition, said judicial agents.

The weapons are used by the refinery's own security force.

The weekend theft was discovered about 7 a.m. Monday when workers showed up at the offices, said the judicial agents. The refinery is a public agency.

The Policía de Tránsito lost hundred of new handguns when robbers raided a facility at its headquarters in Plaza Víquez in San José. Some of these weapons were recovered as far away as Panamá.

Murder-for-hire plot
blamed on permit denial

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Investigators said that two businessmen hired hit men to eliminate a Pérez Zeledón municipal engineer who was blocking plans for a gas station.

Four persons were detained during four raids conducted Wednesday in that community and in Dominical.

Investigators said that the engineer would not approve the gas station for technical reasons and that he now is under police protection.

Chief of office for victims
faces abuse allegations

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The nation' chief prosecutor confirmed Wednesday afternoon that a member of his staff was being investigated for sexually abusing subordinates.

Jorge Chavarría, the chief prosecutor, said the case involves five women. Three of them claim sexual harassment. The suspect, who was detained, is the head of the Poder Judicial's office in defense of victims.

The crimes alleged appear to have taken place over a long period but the women only filed complaints this week.

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