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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, July 17, 2002, Vol. 2, No. 140
Jo Stuart
About us
Two men held in death of U.S. college student
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Investigators have arrested two men in the brutal murder of a U.S. university student who died May 13 in Golfito.

The arrests came Monday in the community in extreme southwest Costa Rica. The men were identified by their nicknames and surnames: "Caballo’ Castro, 38 and "Coco" Zumbado, 47. The men are believed to be well-known in the center of Golfito.

The dead university student is Shannon Martin, who died from as many as 15 stab wounds while she was trying to return to her living quarters from a bar. The murder and the brutality of it shocked the community. She was a soon-to-be graduated University of Kansas biology student  conducting research here.

Investigators detained a female suspect last Nov. 21, and identified her by the last name of Cruz. She was 27 when arrested. She has been held and questioned repeatedly since.

Investigators are working on the assumption that the killers had plans to rob Miss Martin as she walked back alone from the popular Jurassic Bar nightspot. Instead, the robbery turned to murder.

When Cruz was arrested, investigators said 

that a key piece of evidence against the woman is the sweatshirt Miss Martin was supposedly wearing the night of the murder. 

The suspect is said to have confided to a female friend that the sweatshirt she was wearing at the time was the one she took from Miss Martin when she killed her. 

The attack took place not far from the airstrip in Golfito.

Investigators said they had enough evidence to arrest the two men, but they wanted to question them more to satisfy themselves that the two men were involved.

When Cruz was arrested, observers made the assumption that others still were being sought because Ms. Cruz was probably not physically capable of committing the crime by herself.

Miss Martin returned to Costa Rica in May to conduct six days of additional research for her senior year thesis.  She was supposed to graduate a few days after her death. She was staying with a host family in Golfito, and the crime happened between the bar and the host family's home. 

The dead woman’s mother, Jeanette Stauffer, has visited Costa Rica several times to urge investigators to solve the crime.

A.M. Costa Rica photo
Franklin Chang Díaz received a hero’s welcome during his visit to the Hospital Nacional de Niños Tuesday afternoon. Chang was accompanied by two crew members of the space shuttle Endeavor, American Commander Kenneth Cockrell and French Col. Philippe Perrin. Chang brought along his wife, Peggy, and daughter.

A throng of reporters, cameramen, and 

autograph-seekers surrounded Chang like the rings of Saturn as he passed through the crowd of hospital staff and patients. Chang visited children in the hospital’s cancer ward before making a brief speech at a press conference.

More activities are planned for Chang today, including a presentation of photos taken in space and lunch with President Abel Pacheco. Later he gives a speech.

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Police bust up highway protests over inspections
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fuerza Pública units staged dawn raids on two highway blockades early Tuesday, arrested protestors and restored vehicle movement.

The raids were in Guápiles and Pérez Zeledón where main highways had been closed off and on for nearly a day by groups opposed to the current motor vehicle inspection procedure.

In all, 40 persons were arrested. Some 106 persons, 13 of them minors, went to jail Monday from six different locations where road blockages were set up.

The protests were unfriendly. Participants put together a number of molotov cocktails from empty beer bottles and plastic containers. Police confiscated one firearm.

In two cases Monday, protestors prevented families from transporting dead children for burial. In Las Juntas de Pacuare protestors stoned the family that was trying to transport the body. In El Empalme two men tried to ram their vehicle into a patrol car but went into a field instead.

Protestors were well armed Tuesday with sticks, stones, and knives, even though there was no gun play. But they melted before a phalanx of police in riot gear and shields.

More than 100 persons, including several policemen, were treated by Cruz Roja attendants during the two days.

Police moved in on the protestors in Guápiles just before 6 a.m. They fired tear gas and ran down and arrested fleeing individuals. The protest had blocked the main road from the Central Valley to Limón.

Further south in Pérez Zeledón protestors had blocked the Interamerican highway. Some 31 persons were detained here.

Limón was another trouble spot, but smaller by comparison. Only two persons underwent arrest there. In Pavas near San José there was no trouble Tuesday, although Monday youth gangs clashed with police. Police said gangs blocked the roads so they could charge motorist money to drive home.

Some minor road blockages continued to crop up into Tuesday night, particularly near Limón, but police make quick work of them.

The protestors ostensibly are opposed to vehicle inspections done by Rivete SyC, a Spanish-Costa Rican firm that has a contract to check every vehicle in the country. But the protests have grown so violent that some opposed to the vehicle inspections are disassociating themselves from the highway protests. Inspections started Monday.

Investment firm operating normally, letter says
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Villalobos investment firm is operating normally and is trying to distance itself from the money exchange business that was raided July 4 at the request of Canadian authorities.

In a message to some of its investors, the manager of the firm who identified himself just as "Dave," also said that the investment organization took precautions to safeguard records "some time ago." He was responding to his own question; "Has my privacy been compromised."

A lot of investors at the organization are concerned that the U.S. Internal Revenue Service and other taxing authorities would find out that they had money invested at interest rates from 3 percent to 3.5 percent per month.

Costa Rican authorities said they obtained about 50,000 customer names when they conducted the raid, but the names could include check-cashing and money-exchange customers of Ofinter S.A.

Investigators raided the offices of Ofinter in Mall San Pedro and on the second floor of a commercial building downtown. They also raided the home of the firm’s accountant and the home of one of the owners.

Up until now the assumption was that Ofinter and the high-interest investment business were pretty much the same. Money-exchange transactions were conducted in the Ofinter storefront in the San Pedro Mall, and in the back offices Luis Enrique Villalobos Camacho and associates accepted loans from a heavily North American clientele.

However, explanatory advertisements placed by the money-exchange firm listed Alvaro Segura Carvajal as manager. In his letter to investors, Dave said that allegations of drugs and drug money "have to do with Casa de Cambio Ofinter, which has nothing to do with your business with us."

The letter also said that the Villalobos investment organization, whatever its name, still is paying normal interest and that its assets have not been frozen. "Our ability to do business hasn’t been affected," said Dave.

Costa Rican investigators froze up to 50 bank accounts as part of the raid. These are believed to be working accounts of Ofinter.

The letter also outlined the organization’s policy for 

paying back interest and returning principal. Dave said he needs two weeks notice in writing for investors to obtain three or more months of back interest. And the firm needs a month’s notice in writing to return principal, he said.

The letter also said that the organization has received deposits since the raid and it would be happy to receive more. 

In his letter, Dave asked himself "How does the future look?"  The reply:

"Fine. We’re still doing the same good business we’ve always done. This business is healthy and continues as normal."

The letter was available for investors who visited the San Pedro office, and copies were faxed to some who made inquires over the telephone.

The letter fails to clear up all the details of the setup of the organization and its relationship with Ofinter. Dave, himself, was kept out of his office several hours July 8 when investigators returned to the San Pedro location to continue their search. 

Canada requested the raid because Royal Canadian Mounted Police were in the process of arresting six persons there to face charges of money laundering. Several of them had links to Costa Rica, and one owned a condo in Jacó. Investigators said that some $300,000 of their money had passed through Ofinter.

The police raid was aggressive. A number of boxes of documents were taken for further study. The situation is of interest to the North American community because a number of residents here and visitors have substantial investments with Villalobos. He contends that his loan business is private and between friends.  He never has explained specifically how his firm generates the profits necessary to pay 3 to 3.5 percent monthly interest, some 42 percent compounded annual.

He has been doing this for more than 20 years without many complaints and he may now have as many as 5,000 investors. Villalobos is scheduled to pay another round of interest payments to investors beginning next week. Payments typically are in cash and paid in person at the San Pedro Mall office.

However, some out-of-town investors are urging Dave and Villalobos to pay the interest at other Ofinter outlets in Costa Rica.

Bush makes public his domestic security proposals
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Bush has unveiled a detailed strategy to protect Americans from terrorist attacks on U.S. soil. The lengthy document calls for strong action and a coordinated approach to domestic security.

The National Strategy for Homeland Security is, in essence, a plan of action. More than eight months in the making, it is meant to be the guiding philosophy behind all future domestic counter-terrorism measures. In its almost 100 pages, the document lists steps that should be taken to prevent further terrorist attacks.

At the core, is creation of a national Department of Homeland Security. Creating the new department is a massive undertaking involving more than 100 government agencies and almost 170,000 federal employees. 

But President Bush said a coordinated approach to combating terrorism is essential to meet the overriding objective: "All of us agree that protecting Americans from attack is our most urgent national priority and that we must act on the priority." 

Members of Congress and top administration 

officials surrounded the president as he unveiled his homeland security strategy and talked about the big challenges ahead. He urged lawmakers to speed up work on his proposed government reorganization and begin debate on the necessary legislation to create the security department by early August. 

The homeland security strategy is wide ranging and envisions a number of changes in state and federal laws over the coming years.

It calls for expanded extradition treaties with other countries, and enhanced presidential powers to re-organize the government and transfer funds from one agency to another.

Long-term initiatives include strengthening port security, the development of new vaccines against biological agents, and the deployment of more sensors to prevent terrorists from using radioactive and nuclear weapons.

On the state level, there is even a recommendation to change the rules for driver's licenses, setting national guidelines and making it tougher for terrorists to get this important form of identification. The administration is not, however, calling for the creation of a national ID card.

Casa Alianza reports that Nicaragua is deadly for street kids
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

At least 97 Nicaraguan children and youths under the age of 23 met violent deaths during the last eight months of 2001 according to information collected by Casa Alianza Nicaragua.

The vast majority of the victims (74 percent) were young boys and youths. 32 percent of the victims were under 17 years old and 61 percent were 18 and younger, making the average victim a mere 16 years old, Casa Alianza said. The Nicaraguan statistics were collected by Casa Alianza's legal aid office and through newspaper reports.

The killing of street children and at-risk youth is widespread across Latin America. The average 

age of murdered children in Nicaragua is the lowest in Central America. In Nicaragua, the average age of the murdered children is 16, in Honduras 17 and in Guatemala 17.6. 

In Honduras and Guatemala, the favored murder weapons used against children and youth are firearms, but this is not the case in Nicaragua, said the organization. Firearms count for just 36 percent of the killings. Knives, beatings, poisonings and suffocation make up the remaining 64 percent.

According to Casa Alianza's findings, the number of police involved in the murders of children and youth in Nicaragua is less than half the level of police involved in murders of children in neighboring Honduras.

New anti-corruption
initiative for Colombia

By A.M. Costa Rica wire services

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The government of Colombia has signed an agreement with the United Nations to launch a new 18-month, $500,000 anti-corruption program that will be implemented in coordination with the U.S. Agency for International Development and the World Bank.

The U.N. Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention said in a July 9 statement that it will provide technical expertise to assist Colombia's government in its fight against corruption.

The agency said the objective of the program is to increase the capacity and integrity of government institutions, including national prosecutors, by implementing anti-corruption reforms in three pilot jurisdictions.

The agency's anti-corruption program for Colombia is aimed at increasing transparency and accountability at both the national and municipal levels. The agency is working closely with Colombian officials to assist a Colombian-led initiative to strengthen government financial management and control systems, as well as to enhance public participation in Colombian civic life.

Ex-IMF economist raps
his former employer

By A.M. Costa Rica wire services

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — The International Monetary Fund's former chief economist, Michael Mussa, took a swipe at his own ex-employer, blaming the organization for Argentina's economic collapse.

Mussa argues in a new book that the International Monetary Fund bears heavy responsibility for Argentina's financial collapse at the end of last year. Mussa, who served as IMF chief economist from 1991 to 2001, is particularly critical of the large loan it extended to Argentina last August. 

He says that loan should have never been made because by then, the government's failure to close its chronic budget deficit had made a financial meltdown inevitable.

Intel says profits
dropped in quarter

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Intel Corp. reported a significant drop in its second-quarter profits Tuesday and announced that it will cut about 4,000 jobs in the second half of the year.

The company’s second-quarter earnings, excluding acquisition-related costs, were $620 million, or 9 cents per share. That's down from $854 million, or 12 cents per share, during the same period last year.

Intel, the world’s largest computer chipmaker, employs a large number of Costa Ricans at its manufacturing plant here in San Jose.
Professional directory

A.M. Costa Rica debuts this week its professional and service directory where business people who wish to reach the English-speaking community may provide a description of what they do.

This is an appropriate place for medical professionals, real estate agents, contractors, lawyers, Web designers and similar.

The assumption is that anyone advertising here has at least one staff member fluent in English. In most cases, English is the first or second language of the business.

If you are interested in being represented here, please contact the editor.


United States Dentist in Costa Rica: Dr. Peter S Aborn, Prosthodontics and general dentistry private practice. 25 years in New York City. 5 years in Costa Rica. Professor and director of postgraduate prosthodontics Universidad Latina de Costa Rica. Former chief of prosthodontics Lenox Hill Hospital, New York City. Education: N.Y.U College of Dentistry; Westchester County Medical Center; Eastman Dental Center; University of Rochester Graduate School of Medicine and Dentistry. Location: 300 meters from the U.S. Embassy. Telephone: 232-9225. Cellular 379-2963. E-mail: jopetar@amnet.co.cr. 


American/Costa Rican attorney located in Costa Rica. Specializing in business law, commercial law, real estate sales, immigration law. Lic. Gregory Kearney Lawson. KEARNEY LAWSON & Asoc. Tel/Fax: (506) 221-9462 gkearney_lawson@hotmail.com 

Legal and Consulting Specialists
Foreign Residents and Business Owners
Reliable and Responsive o Excellent References
Stafford, Obregón y Valle
Consultants • Lawyers • Notaries
Apdo. 11846-1000, San Jose, Costa Rica
Tel: 5-06-253-9655  Fax: 5-06-280-4576 
Cel: 5-06-386-9324
E-mail: ulimar@costarica.net

Real estate agents

Coldwell Banker Coastal Properties Escazú
Manager Nancy Bruno
289-5790 office
387-6820 cell
Located in the new Plaza Itskazu, next to the Court Yard Marriott Escazu #203

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Professional Web site design and development in English, Spanish and Italian. Our services include: design and layout of Web site, search engine optimization and submission, Web  site hosting, e-commerce solutions (sell your products on your website by accepting credit cards online), registration of domain names and professional Internet consulting. We have complete 'one price' Web site packages that include design, marketing and hosting at low prices and includes a listing on our Web sites.  Visit www.istarmedia.net or e-mail us at webmaster@istarmedia.net or call at 399-96427/16/02

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