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These stories were published Wednesday, July 20, 2005, in Vol. 5, No. 142
Jo Stuart
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Reports of dengue cause tourism problems
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Word of Costa Rica's dengue cases has reached North Americans, and would-be tourists are expressing concern.

The situation is complicated by the fact that few occasional tourists know what dengue is and they are equating it with the much more serious malaria or yellow fever.

In fact, the estimated number of dengue cases this year, primarily from the central Pacific coast, will be about the same as in 2003. The reason this year's totals seem higher is because officials embarked on a major public relations and control effort last year.

María del Rocío Sáenz, the minister of Salud, estimated Tuesday that the country would have about 20,000 cases of dengue this season. Officials are unhappy about that because many of the sufferers end up in public hospitals generating an expense for the government.

A.M. Costa Rica has received e-mails and calls from the United States from persons planning trips to Costa Rica. But they were concerned by reports of a dengue epidemic. Clearly, the reports of sharp increases in the disease is affecting tourism.

Dr. Sáenz also said that the government would soon embark on a major public relations campaign to get residents to eliminate the 
breeding spots for the Aedes aegypti mosquito that carries the virus. In addition health workers will be seeking out such places themselves.

The Ministerio de Salud is seeking 178 million colons (about $370,000) for the effort.

Dr. Sáenz said that the health agency emphasized inoculations for older adults earlier this year at the expense of a renewed attack against dengue.

The minister was joined by President Abel Pacheco, himself a physician and psychiatrist, who said that spraying against the adult mosquito was not nearly as effective as destroying the breeding places and the larvae.

The primary protection against the day-biting mosquitoes is a dose of repellent applied before leaving the home, apartment or hotel room, said officials. In addition, visitors are encouraged to stay in screened areas.

Dengue has been equated to a severe cold. But being affected multiple times can make a person susceptible to hemorrhagic fever, which can be life-threatening. Some 18 suspected cases of this condition have been found among the 9,000 known dengue cases so far this year, said the minister.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides extensive information on the disease via its Web site.  

Referendum idea advances in the Asamblea Legislativa
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rican voters are a step closer to having referendums on national questions.

A legislative committee studying the matter has reported out a bill that would institute such a procedure in the country.

However, what citizens can vote on would not be wide open. Broad areas cannot be addressed by public referendums, according to the draft of bill No. 14.850.

Off limits are budgetary matters, tax and tax collecting matters as well as credit and pensions, security, approval of government loans, contracts and administrative acts.

In addition, only one referendum can be held a year, and none can be held within six
months before or after a presidential election, according to the draft.

The measure now goes for discussion to the legislative floor where major changes can take place.

In order to call a referendum citizens will have to get signatures from 5 percent of those registered to vote, a monumental task. However, a two-thirds vote of the Asamblea Legislativa can call a referendum as can a simple majority of the assembly with the approval of the executive branch.

The Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones would be in charge of the voting.

The legislature was ordered by the Sala IV constitutional court to create a referendum system.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, July 20, 2005, Vol. 5, No. 142

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Annual celebration
kicks off in Nicoya

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

To celebrate the Annexation of the Nicoya to Costa Rica, the town of Nicoya is holding its annual week-long fair that started Tuesday and is scheduled to end Monday. 

There are traditional food and drinks, artisans, folk dancing, poetry, paintings and sculptures among others, said a press release.  The fair is scheduled to be held at Parque Recaredo Briceño in the center of the city, said the release. 

Monday, the last day of the festival, starts at 5 a.m. and ends with a fireworks show.  The day also is a national holiday.

Nicoya is situated in the center of the peninsula of the same name, close to the popular tourist destinations of Playa Nosara, Sámara and others.
Trial in editor's murder
ordered for six men

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The trial in the murder of Ivannia Mora, a journalist who was gunned down two days before Christmas in 2003, will start within a month, said the Poder Judicial.

Six men, identified by the last names Millot, Serna, Cortés, López, Nieves and Martínez de la Cruz, are charged with planned homicide and conspiracy, the agency said.  One of them, Eugenio Millot is the former boss of the 33-year-old editor.  Mora had recently left the Millot's Estratagia & Negocios to work for another magazine.

Ms. Mora was killed by two men on a motorcycle as she drove through Curidabat.  Another passenger in her car was not hurt.   

For a case to go to trial in Costa Rica, a judge must decide if the case merits a preliminary hearing.  At the preliminary hearing, a second judge decides whether a case will go to trial.  Both of those steps took place, and the case is set to go to the Juzgado Penal del II Circuito.
Intel reports earnings
for second quarter

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Intel Corp. announced Tuesday that its earnings per share of stock for the second quarter of 2005 were 33 cents.  This is a drop from 35 cents from the first quarter but an improvement from 27 cents in the second quarter of 2004. 

President and corporate executive officer Paul Otellini billed it as a record-setting second quarter.  The company has facilities in the Central Valley.

"Intel delivered record second-quarter revenue, with growth of 15 percent versus a year ago led by strong demand for our notebook platforms," he said. 

Intel officials estimate that their earnings for the third quarter will be between $9.6 billion and $10.2 billion.  This quarter the corporation earned $9.2 billion. 
Man shot twice in leg
dies of his wounds

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A man entered hospital San Juan de Dios about 7:40 p.m. Monday with bullet wounds in each leg.  The man, Alejandro Rojas Corella, died soon after. 

According to a report, the man got into a confrontation with “various persons,” in Barrio La Carbonera in Paso Ancho. 

The police are asking for the help of residents to find the people responsible for Rojas' death.  They say that informants are guaranteed absolute confidentiality.  People with information are asked to call 295-3372, 295-3373 or 295-3640.

Our readers reply

He can't understand
the free trade treaty

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

As a person planning on Costa Rican residency, but born, raised, and educated in the United States of America with a college degree, I felt that in order to have an opinion on the DR-CAFTA my first responsibility was to read the agreement; however, several questions came to the surface.

First, I cannot seem to find in my research who wrote this document? Certainly the authors would have a slanted and bias opinion with regard to its agenda, but WHO?  Second, if this is a Central America Free Trade Agreement, why does it include the Dominican Republic (only one of many Carribean nations) and why does it exclude Belize and Panamá?  On all of the maps I look at, they are both part of the Central American community yet they are conspicuously absent from this document. Interesting that Costa Rica’s northern neighbor, Nicaragua, would be a free trade partner yet Panama to the south would not. WHY?

I used to believe that government was “of the people, by the people, for the people” so why is it that an agreement meant, supposedly, for the “good” of so many “of the people” is written in a format that can be understood by so few of those same people?  I may not be the brightest star in the sky, but I am certainly not stupid.  I have always been told not to sign anything until you read it, and as I try to read this agreement I cannot help but wonder if it is written to intentionally confuse the reader.

I know that Costa Rica has selected a group of “learned” individuals to review the merits of this agreement, but it would appear from what I have been able to understand to this point in my reading (about 60 pages of the document) that it will take an army of government bureaucrats to enforce it, which only encourages the size growth of government itself. 

I have not waded through enough of this agreement to formulate any kind of an opinion to this point, as to whether it would be a good thing for Costa Rica or not, but I would like to continue to share my observations with your readers as I continue.  One thing I am sure of, if this agreement was not good for the United States of America, they would not be in such a hurry to have it ratified by all of the parties involved.  My general feeling is that what is good for the U.S. may not be such a good thing for Costa Rica and the other countries involved.

David Mesmer
Pompano Beach, Fla.

She prefers plastic
on those milk cartons

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I have dulled more than three pairs of scissors opening the milk boxes in my six years of living in Costa Rica.  In fact, I resorted to buying pruning shears to open the boxes because I found them so difficult to open.

I find the plastic thingamabob an improvement.

Alicia Wagner
San Pedro
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The rainy season makes for some stunning flowers.  Ana Cecilia Calvo Solano takes pride in her little shop on Avenida Central.

A.M. Costa Rica/Jesse Froehling

Massive decision in Villalobos case to be studied
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Supporters of the Villalobos Brothers are trying hard to put an optimistic spin on a judge's decision to bring the case to trial.

The detailed 260-page plus decision “basically threw the book at him,” in the words of one creditor of the brothers' operation.

For the dwindling numbers of supporters, a trial will be the best way for Oswaldo Villalobos Camacho to clear himself. The allegations include fraud, money laundering and illegal banking.

The decision to go to trial grew out of a preliminary hearing earlier this year. The judge, Édgar Castrillo, took months to author the detailed decision. The purpose of a preliminary hearing is to determine if there is sufficient evidence for a trial. However, in Costa Rica less than half of those who are accused in a criminal case are convicted.

John Manners, spokesman for the United and Concerned Citizens of Costa Rica, a pro-Villalobos group, said that the organization's lawyer, José Miguel Villalobos Umaña, would be studying the lengthy document to provide a summary for the group.

The bulk of the Villalobos creditors are North Americans, and fewer than 600 of the possible 6,200 account holders choose to seek redress via the Costa Rican courts.

It is believed that the judge upheld all of the prosecutor's allegations and provided detailed reasons for doing so.

The United and Concerned Citizens have attempted to conduct parallel legal efforts to that of the Villalobos defense team. Their basic philosophy, for which they raised $137,000, is to have the charges thrown out so Oswaldo's brother, Luis Enrique Villalobos Camacho, can come out of hiding and pay off those creditors to whom he owes money. The estimated loss in the Villalobos affair is more than $1 billion. That was the amount of money the Villalobos were believed to have on their books when they closed up Oct. 14, 2002.

Luis Enrique Villalobos was the principal figure in the borrowing operation and the man to whom most creditors thought they were giving their money. Oswaldo's defense team is expected to argue that their client simply ran a money exchange house, Ofinter S.A., that had a headquarters adjacent to the
Luis Enrique Villalobos operation in Mall San Pedro.

The prosecution will present a report from the Judicial Investigating Organization, based on documents confiscated in a raid July 4, 2002, that says Oswaldo was a full partner with his brother and had substantial management authority, including the power to accept new lenders even if they did not come with an introduction from a current creditor.

Since the Villalobos closed shop, it has appeared increasingly possible that they were involved in the black market peso exchange business, which transferred Colombian pesos and exchanged them for U.S. dollars. That type of money exchange activity is vital to the Colombian narcotics trafficking organizations, although it appears that even if they were involved, the Villalobos broke no Costa Rican laws.

However, money laundering is the most potent of the charges facing Oswaldo Villalobos. And at trial     money laundering may not have anything to do with drug traffickers. At least several North Americans put disconnectedly earned money into the Villalobos operations. These included some fraud suspects who have been subsequently arrested on North American charges.

The simple act of accepting dirty money and paying out clean interest every month could be construed as money laundering. And a money laundering conviction would leave the Villalobos assets vulnerable to be transferred to the national drug institute, as per current law. The Villalobos operation paid creditors up to 3 percent a month.

What still is up in the air is why the Villalobos operation needed money from North Americans if it were involved in the lucrative Colombian peso exchange business.  Some have said they needed substantial economic activity at U.S. banks in order to mask the real nature of the business. And that is where the creditors money was used.

Hanging over the heads of the creditors is the short message from Luis Enrique Villalobos two years ago in which he said that if he went to jail no one would be paid. If Oswaldo is convicted of anything, Luis Enrique would have a good excuse never to return.

Meanwhile, José Miguel Villalobos, the United and Concerned Citizens' lawyer, is running for president. He was the principal recipient of the $137,000 raised by the group but his legal success has been limited.

Very simply . . .  your choices here in Costa Rica of finding your dream home are limited to:

1. a Tico home:  claustrophobic, cold water, and postage stamp land size.

2.  a rare American-style home . . . normally at a VERY inflated price . . . in Grecia, a town of 50,000 less than an hour from San José  there are MAYBE five existing homes for resale suitable for most "gringos."

3.  a renovation;  problem here is that it typically costs more to remodel than to build from scratch.
And of course, we have all heard the horror stories about building in Costa Rica: the builders that absconded with the money —  the five-year wait until completion — the shoddy workmanship . . . and so on.

BUT... think for a minute:  "what do Ticos do when in the market for a new home?"  ANSWER:  "they BUILD" So...just maybe...the horror stories are an exaggeration... or....

The simple fact is this:    BUILDING IN COSTA RICA IS SAFER AND LESS RISKY THAN BUILDING IN THE UNITED STATES.... and obviously the cost is less.

If you are having problems finding your dream home... talk to us.  We work with a small group of very talented and very honest builders who guarantee their work... honor their contracts... and live in the areas in which they build. 

Call us... and come and visit... and see for yourselves .

Call today or e-mail for an appointment:    011-506-444-1695 or 011-506-841-5782  

Leaders of Andean trade bloc select Hugo Chavez
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

LIMA, Peru — Andean leaders have appointed Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez as the new head of the Andean Community of Nations, a regional trade bloc. Chavez will serve as chairman of the Andean Community for a term of one year. He succeeds Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo as the head of the community.

The group is made up of the nations of Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela. Representatives from Argentina, Brazil, Mexico and other Latin American nations also attended the summit.

After accepting the post Monday, Chavez called for greater involvement of Andean Pact nations in projects relating to energy. Venezuela is the world's fifth largest exporter of oil and has been actively seeking new trade partners in the region and beyond.
At the start of the summit in this, Peru's capital, President Toledo called on Andean nations and others in Latin America to work together to fight against social problems like drugs and poverty.

"Our enemies are not beyond our frontiers, they are within our borders and they are a concern to all of us," Toledo said.

While the Venezuelan president has fostered strong ties with much of Latin America since assuming office in 1998, he is an ardent critic of the United States and the Bush administration.

The White House accuses Chavez of trying to create a Cuba-style authoritarian state in Venezuela. In turn, the Venezuelan president says that the United States is meddling in his nation's affairs. He accuses the United States of backing an unsuccessful effort to remove him from office in 2002. U.S. officials deny that accusation.

Strength of hurricane seasons worrying officials
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Hurricanes in the Caribbean threaten to cause a severe economic setback to Haiti, Grenada and other small nations in the region, says the Organization of American States.

The multi-nation organization said it is worried by the "hurricane phenomena" that is widely observed to be increasing in intensity in the Caribbean in recent years.

The organization expressed deep concern over "the troubling development of hurricanes," especially in view of the fact that storms in 2005 arrived very early in the hurricane season, which extends to Nov. 30.

The concern also revolves around the potential reach of the hurricanes into Central America, Mexico and the United States, and the resulting loss of life witnessed, especially in recent years.

Secretary-General José Miguel Insulza said the effect of hurricanes in 2005 "could be substantial in terms of the human and material cost" for countries hit by the storms. Insulza expressed condolences for the loss of life in the Caribbean caused by two hurricanes — Dennis and Emily — that have already struck in 2005.
Hurricane Dennis caused significant damage July 6-7 to the southern peninsula of Haiti, which resulted in approximately 40 deaths.  The storm also caused deaths in Cuba, Jamaica and the United States.

Hurricane Emily struck Grenada July 14, causing widespread damage in that Caribbean nation.  The hurricane also extensively damaged Mexico.

The U.S. Agency for International Development announced Friday that it is providing an initial $50,000 in immediate disaster-relief funding to assist victims of Hurricane Dennis in Haiti.

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted another above-normal hurricane season in the Caribbean in 2005, following a particularly destructive hurricane season in 2004. 

The outlook for 2005 called for 12-15 tropical storms, with at least 10 of these storms turning into hurricanes.

The agency said May 16 that the Atlantic hurricane outlook reflects an expected continuation of above-average activity that began in 1995.  Since then, all but two Atlantic hurricane seasons have been above normal.

Jo Stuart
About us
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