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(506) 2223-1327        San José, Costa Rica, Friday, July 25, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 147       E-mail us
Jo Stuart
Real Estate
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Police raid brothels that operate in San José
By José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
and the A.M. Costa Rica staff

posted at 5:45 p.m.
The Policía Municipal and other agencies swooped down on three brothels in San José Friday afternoon and began the process of closing them.

The raids took place in the middle of the work day, and women and some customers had to leave in the full glare of television and newspaper cameras.

Raiders shut down Musas on Avenida 7 at Calle 9 and then moved to the well-known New Fantasy on Avenida 9 between calles 5 and 7. Some officers headed to Zona Blue three blocks to the west.

After they had ordered the employees from the various buildings, police locked the doors and put stickers showing that the businesses were closed.

An immigration official said that two foreign women were found working at New Fantasy. One was a Colombian and the other was a Nicaraguan. Both were legal, he said because they had Costa Rican cédulas.

The women left the various businesses with their heads covered, but there were no arrests. One woman wore an arctic jacket with the hood fastened tightly around her face.

Fuerza Pública officers participated in the raids. One officer said the day still was young and that many other brothels that had been operating openly in the city would be targeted.

A.M. Costa Rica had raised the issue of brothels operating in the city using pension licenses three weeks ago. La Nación, the Spanish-language newspaper, published a major article Sunday, and Channel 7 Teletica was featuring the issue through the week. The television station was concerned because some of the brothels were 
New Fantasy employee
A.M. Costa Rica/José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
Municipal police officer helps a New Fantasy employee negotiate her exit with head covered.
located in historic buildings in Barrio Amón.

At New Fantasy one officer left the premises with an arm load of loose-leaf binders that appeared to hold the operating ledgers of the business.

Unlike some of the other businesses, New Fantasy made no pretense of what transpired within its walls. Other firms advertise rooms for rent to continue the fiction that they are a legitimate small hotel or pension. There are perhaps 100 brothels in the metropolitan area and they are a key element in sex tourism.

New Fantasy, for example, was mainly patronized by North American tourists who sometimes arrived in vans on guided tours.

Illegal banking investigated
Prosecutor raids hit Catholic Church, Grupo Sama

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The fraud prosecutors raided three agencies of the Roman Catholic Church and the financial services firm Grupo Sama Consolidado Thursday morning as part of an investigation into illegal banking.

The Poder Judicial said that the raids were at the Fundación para la Restauración de Templos Católicos at the Catedral Metropolitana, at the Conferencia Episcopal offices and at the offices of Servicios Pastorales.

The  Conferencia Episcopal is the highest level of the church in Costa Rica and is headed by the various bishops of the country.

The Poder Judicial said little about what was found but did say that the raid was prompted by a complaint from the Superintendencia General de Entidades Financieras. The complain alleges illegal banking or, as it is called in Spanish,  intermediación financiera ilegal.

The Catholic Church is a major investor in Grupo Sama.
As A.M. Costa Rica reported in 2006 the church had been collecting money from dioceses, priests, nuns and lay people, pooling the proceeds and investing the cash in a series of commercial funds.

That was reported first by Channel 7 Teletica and more recently this year by La Nación.

The Poder Judicial said that evidence obtained in the searches Thursday would be evaluated over the new few month. When the story first broke in January 2006, estimates were that the church was operating a fund of some $86 million.

No one has alleged that anyone in the church has taken any money. But accepting money, pooling it and investing is is illegal in Costa Rica without registering the activities with the Superintendencia.

The money is believed to have flowed through  Servicios Pastorales into a Panamanian firm, but the investigation is hampered because a key figure in  Servicios Pastorales has died.

The Superintendencia told the bishops to liquidate the fund two years ago.

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The celebration is today
on the Nicoya Peninsula

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Today is the day for the Nicoya Peninsula and the rest of Guanacaste. Even though the legal holiday is Monday, civic activities are taking place today, on the actual date.

The celebration of the 184th anniversary of the  Anexión del Partido Nicoya to Costa Rica takes place at 10:30 a.m. in the Parque de Nicoya. Earlier, President Óscar Arias Sánchez will have met with this cabinet in a 9:15 a.m.consejo de gobierno.

His day starts with inaugurating a highway between Carrillo and Lajas on the Pacific coast at 8:15 a.m. After lunch, the president will kick off the start of work on a bridge in Nicoya and then go to Río Seco, Santa Cruz, for an inspection of a new road.

This year there does not seem to be the expensive allocations that normally take place on annexation day. Last year expensive pieces of road machinery were put into service in Liberia.

However the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad is picking up the slack. The electrical and telecom company will be opening three agencies in Guanacaste today.  One office is being opened in  Nandayure, a smaller  one in  Filadefia and a third is being reopened in Liberia.

Gunman awarded 16 years
for 2007 Alajuela murder

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An Alajuela court sentenced a man to a total of 16 years in prison Wednesday for two crimes, murder and attempted murder.

The man, identified by the last names Hernández Keith, was given 12 years for the murder of Juan Pablo Sibaja, and four years for the attempted murder of Sibaja's friend, stemming from a shooting in October 2007 in San Rafael de Alajuela, according to a court release.

Another man, identified by the last names Montero Castillo, originally thought to be involved with the murder, was acquitted at the sentencing, which began on July 2, the release said.

In an unrelated case, a 17 year-old minor was also sentenced to 8 years in prison Thursday by the San José juvenile court for the murder of a 21 year-old.

The murder occurred March 16 when the minor shot the victim, Jonathan Zúñiga Barrantes, three times at close range. The accused had apparently just broken up with his girlfriend moments before the shooting, which occurred at 11 p.m. in front of the girl's house according to a court release. The shooting occurred in Hatillo, according to the release.

Six Olympic athletes
sworn in for games

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Six members of Costa Rica's Olympic team were sworn in Thursday at a ceremony in the headquarters of the nation's athletic committee. Two other athletes were not present because they are outside the country in training.

Sworn in were Mario Montoya, swimming 220 meter free stroke; Marianela Quesada, 50 meters free stroke; Allan Segura, racing 20 kms;  Gabriela Traña, marathon;  Kristhoper Moitland. tai kwon do at 80 kilos;  and Federico Ramírez, mountain biking. Henry Raabe, cycling 240 kms.,  and Nery Brenes, racing 400 meters, were not present.          
Among those attending the ceremony was  Wang Xiaoyuan, ambassador of the People's Republic where the Olympics will be held in two weeks.

Arias to lecture in London
on his climate initiative

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Oscar Arias Sánchez will lecture at the London School of Economics Sept. 4 regarding climate change effects on Costa Rica.

Arias will discuss the nation's plan to obtain carbon-neutrality by 2021 as well as the “Peace with Nature Initiative” of the government aimed at limiting pollution and raising public awareness, according to a economics school release.

The speech will begin at 6:30 p.m. Tickets to the event will be free to the public, available on the school's school's web site beginning at 10 a.m. on August 26, the release said.
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U.S. Embassy expresses its displeasure at Tomayko decision
By Elise Sonray
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The U.S. Embassy was not happy with the security minister's decision on extradition, said unidentified U.S. officials in a document released Thursday. And U.S. officials delivered a veiled threat over the pending free trade treaty.

The embassy statement came 24 hours after the security minister, Janina Del Vecchio, granted refugee status to Chere Lyn Tomayko, a U.S. citizen wanted by a U.S. federal court to face a parental kidnapping charge. Ms. Del Vecchio admitted that she did not talk to anyone other than Tomayko family members or supporters before making her decision. She said the case was one of domestic violence and human rights. The case originated in Fort Worth, Texas, more than 11 years ago.

A letter from a reader HERE!

The case also generated a flurry of legal actions. But the court in Heredia refused to order the release of Ms. Tomayko, who Thursday night still was in Buen Pastor women's prison where she has been for 10 months while she fights extradition to the United States.

The U.S. embassy responded with the statement which also addressed human rights:

“The protection of fundamental human rights was a cornerstone in the creation of the United States as a country more than 200 years ago. We are in absolute disagreement with the implicit assumption that the U.S. judicial system could not protect Ms. Tomayko against any alleged or potential abuse.

"The records should show that Ms. Tomayko was on the FBI list of 10 most wanted for child abduction.”

The statement also said, “We are very concerned about the implications that this decision will have on the obligations of international treaties to Costa Rica and under the bilateral judicial cooperation with the United States.”

One such international agreement is the free trade treaty with the United States and other Central American nations. The pact has not yet gone into force in Costa Rica.

Wednesday, when asked about the free trade treaty in light of the country's rupture of  an international child kidnapping treaty, the security minister said using the
treaty's initials: “Don't unite this issue with CAFTA. I have
been very clear of my position on that treaty. This is very different it's an issue of human rights.”

The Tarrant Country, Texas, judge who decided the Tomayko custody case 11 years ago, William W. Harris, coincidentally is an appointee and strong supporter of the former governor of that state, U.S. President George Bush. The judge ordered joint custody, and Ms. Tomayko fled with her daughter.

A judge in Heredia finally ruled Thursday afternoon that Ms. Tomayko must stay in prison at least until pending habeas corpus actions are resolved by the Sala IV constitutional court, according to Fabían Barrantes, a spokesman for Poder Judicial. 

Others who are not happy with the ruling include the father of the child, Alexandria, whom Ms. Tomayko was accused of kidnapping in 1997. The father, Roger Cyprian, a nurse in Texas, has hired a Costa Rican lawyer to fight for his interests. He denies being an aggressor, and said that Ms. Tomayko exaggerates.

Cyprian's lawyer, Juan Carlos Esquivel, said what the security minister did Thursday is illegal and an embarrassment to anyone in the Costa Rican judicial field. Esquivel said he filed an action Thursday seeking that the extradition process continue. An action against the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública and the Tribunal de Juicio was filed in the constitutional court Thursday morning by lawyer Arcelio Hernández Mussio, said a court spokeswoman.

The Defensoría Pública filed a habeas corpus action to get Ms. Tomayko out of prison. This public body has represented her.  Marta Iris Muñoz Cascante, the director of the agency, said the fact that Ms. Tomayko received refugee status based on the domestic violence claim was well known. She said that the appropriate documents were filed with the  Tribunal Penal de Heredia, which has original jurisdiction in the case. The appeal is designed to have the constitutional court intervene and order the release.

The U.S. Embassy's attitude notwithstanding, Ms. Tomayko lived openly in Costa Rica. Embassy employees were told of her whereabouts  at least as long ago as 2002, but did not take any action until after the child who was abducted celebrated her 18th birthday. Embassy officials have never said why they failed to act, although it is clear that Ms. Tomayko's claim of domestic violence influenced a lot of people in Costa Rica.

on the coast

If Costa Rica is anything, it is a land of contrasts. Who would expect Mennonite visitors in the flashy town of Jacó? But the peace-loving and conservative Mennonites have been residents for decades along the Pacific coast.
Jaco visitors
A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Rmírez Vindas

From that artificial cold air right back into hot water
Just two days after my return, I spent three hours in Hospital San Juan de Dios for doctors’ appointments and a test.  My waiting time was about an hour and a half, but when I was finally on my way out, I found myself smiling broadly.  It was because I was passing open windows.  The balmy air was wafting in. 

One of the unexpected side effects of my visit to the States was finding myself in one building after another with the air conditioning blasting and windows that didn’t open.  Which was too bad because the air in Jamestown, New York, is certainly cleaner and fresher than the air in San José.

I dislike and am allergic to air conditioning (although I appreciated it in my sister’s home in hot and humid Florida because they keep it at a sensible 77).

My sister and I exchanged recipes and talked food. We both love to cook and have similar tastes.  The difference is that she has greater access to convenience foods and prepared ingredients that make recipes quicker and more versatile.  But I have become so used to making recipes from scratch that I don’t even think in terms of mixes and seldom open a can.  That doesn’t mean that I won’t start as the markets here continue to introduce more and more imported goods and the local bakeries expand their offerings — and she sends me more recipes.

It has been more than six years since I had been in the States, so I expected to find changes and to be culture shocked.  But because my visit was so brief, most of my time, when not with my family was in planes, airports or hotels.  They were all cold.

The biggest shock was airport security.  I left Costa Rica after a cursory check at the airport. Coming back was a different matter. At the Fort. Lauderdale, Florida, airport I got carefully searched on my way to Buffalo, New York, and even more so on my way back to Costa Rica. My carry-on was emptied of all small containers, which I had put in a too-large plastic bag, and crammed into a smaller acceptable one.  Then I was carefully patted down even to the bottoms of my bare feet. 

I learned quickly that you do not make jokes or express
Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart

annoyance with security.  They are a serious group, and I imagine they get enough dirty looks in one day to last them a lifetime.  Of course, I realize that Costa Rica has very little reason to feel threatened by terrorists. 

Bad drivers, maybe, but not terrorists.

Doctors and dentist appointments were the reason for my short trip.  Anyone who benefits from the national health insurance program (Caja) knows that you don’t casually cancel an appointment once you have secured one.  So my week back was spent going from clinic to hospital for appointments.  Although the particular clinic I belong to is a model for how clinics can be run, I managed to finish a book I had just started while waiting for my two hospital appointments. (That is where the specialists are). 

Still, I was smiling when I left I the hospital.   Not so when I arrived home.  When I turned on the hot water faucet the water began spurting out.  At first I thought it was because the electricity had been off for a short time due to the thunderstorm.  When the electricity goes off in my building, so does the water pump.  Then I saw the water steaming and realized boiling water was coming out.  Even the wooden cabinet around my hot water tank was hot.

I turned on all my faucets hoping to get cold water in the tank.  Then the thermometer blew.  So I pulled the circuit breaker and called the manager of the apartment building.  I am hoping that by the time this column appears I will have a new hot water tank.  One of the reasons I live in an apartment and do not own a house (the American Dream, I hear time and again) is that a telephone call generally takes care of things that go wrong.

All in all, I loved my visit, and I love being back home.

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A.M. Costa Rica
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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, July 25, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 147

Sardis Presbyterian youngsters put their backs into it at the site of a new classroom at the Curabande School. church group working
A.M. Costa Rica/Greg Golojuch

North Carolina teens are putting an addition on school here
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

A youth group from the Sardis Presbyterian Church in Charlotte, North Carolina in on its fourth mission trip to Costa Rica at the Curabande School just outside of Liberia. The first of approximately 55 youths and advisors arrived last week and are adding a classroom to the small school. The only interruptions were some lost luggage and occasional downpours.

The group's organizer, Rhonda York, said this trip has been one year in the making. With the help of the Sardis congregation and a multitude of fund raisers, their mission is almost accomplished. She said:

"We've been taught to help those less fortunate, but it's not only good for the Curabande community, it's good for all
of us too. As the children work and grow together, it's  rewarding for the advisors to watch the children stretch out of their comfort zone."

Giovanny Lobo, a local in the community, assisted the group by having the community clear and grade the land prior to the youth group's arrival, as well as organizing and getting much of the construction materials on the site. 

The eight advisors here for the entire two-week project are Ms. York, Presley Gilbert, Sallie and Glenn Crossley, Mary Saclarides, Tom Simpson, Jenny Parker and the youth minister, the Rev. Jason Robbins. The youth are in two separate groups for one week each.

Prior construction projects for the Sardis Presbyterian Church in Costa Rica were in Brasilito and Lorena.

Red Cross recovers eight hostages taken by Colombian rebels just last week
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The International Red Cross says Colombian rebels have released eight people who were kidnapped last week while traveling on the country's northwestern jungle rivers.

A statement issued Thursday says the hostages were freed Wednesday in a rural area of Colombia's Antioquia department province after confidential dialogue between the parties concerned. Officials also reaffirmed the Red Cross's neutrality in Colombia's conflict.

On July 2, a team of Colombian military personnel — posing as members of a fake humanitarian aid group — tricked the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia into handing over 15 hostages, including French-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt and three Americans.

But Colombian President Alvaro Uribe later acknowledged that his military used the Red Cross symbol in the rescue
mission. His government later apologized to the Red Cross, which said it was not involved in the hostage rescue and was not aware of plans to carry it out.

Uribe said one member of the rescue team wore a vest with the Red Cross emblem, but that it was because the person was nervous about the operation.

Use of the Red Cross symbol for a military operations violates the Geneva Conventions because it could damage the relief organization's reputation for neutrality in conflicts and put humanitarian workers at risk in war zones.

The Red Cross says its symbol must be respected in all circumstances and that its misuse is prohibited.

The Red Cross says that as a neutral and impartial organization, it must enjoy the trust of all the parties to Colombia's conflict to be able to carry out its humanitarian work.

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A.M. Costa Rica
users guide

This is a brief users guide to A.M. Costa Rica.

Old pages

Each day someone complains via e-mail that the newspages are from yesterday or the day before. A.M. Costa Rica staffers check every page and every link when the newspaper is made available at 2 a.m. each week day.

So the problem is with the browser in each reader's computer. Particularly when the connection with the  server is slow, a computer will look to the latest page in its internal memory and serve up that page.

Readers should refresh the page and, if necessary, dump the cache of their computer, if this problem persists. Readers in Costa Rica have this problem frequently because the local Internet provider has continual problems.


The A.M. Costa Rica search page has a list of all previous editions by date and a space to search for specific words and phrases. The search will return links to archived pages.


A typical edition will consist of a front page and four other newspages. Each of these pages can be reached by links near the top and bottom of the pages.


Five classified pages are updated daily. Employment listings are free, as are listings for accommodations wanted, articles for sale and articles wanted. The tourism page and the real estate sales and real estate rentals are updated daily.

Advertising information

A summary of advertising rates and sizes are available for display and classifieds.


A.M. Costa Rica makes its monthly statistics available to advertisers and readers. It is HERE! 

Contacting us

Both the main telephone number and the editor's e-mail address are listed on the front page near the date.

Visiting us

Directions to our office and other data, like bank account numbers are on the about us page.

Our reader's opinion
Reader on Ms. Tomayko:
Justice has been served

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Justice has been served.  Now go catch some real criminals and let Chere [Tomayko] get on with her beautiful life with her lovely family here in Costa Rica.
Is it really necessary for Roger, the father from Texas, to write such horrible things about the intelligent and caring people of Costa Rica.  Furthermore is it really very good business for you to print such articles when you live and enjoy the life Costa Rica allows you here?  Costa Rica should be respected by your paper, and the decision made should also be respected.
Please quit putting the people of Costa Rica down and letting people label them as stupid because they are not.  They are actually some of the smartest and kindest people on the planet and deserve respect.
What other countries have had enough sense in this gasoline crisis to take measures as rapidly as the Costa Ricans have?  That is only one example of why this is the best place on the planet to live and raise a family.
Simply said find someone else and a more relevant news story to print.  I have many I would be happy to send your way.  As an example lets get people farming again so we do not go hungry here.
Ms. Debora Y. Edholm  

Fidel praises brother Raúl
for silence on Russian jets

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Former Cuban president Fidel Castro says his brother was right to adopt a dignified silence about a newspaper report that Russia may soon station nuclear-capable bombers on the island.

In comments posted on a government Web site, the former president said Cuba does not owe the United States any explanations, excuses or calls for forgiveness over the issue.

Fidel's younger brother, Raúl Castro, became president in February, after the elder Castro resigned nearly five decades after taking power in a revolution.  Raúl had been interim president since July 2006.

Monday, the Russian newspaper Izvestia quoted a source as saying Moscow is considering stationing military aircraft in Cuba in response to U.S. plans to deploy a missile-defense system in eastern Europe.

The RIA-Novosti news agency in Russia Thursday quotes a Russian defense ministry spokesman, Ilshat Baichurin, as saying Moscow regards reports from anonymous sources as disinformation.

Moscow has voiced strong opposition to the U.S. missile defense plan, under which missile guidance radar would be placed in the Czech Republic and 10 interceptor missiles would be based in Poland.

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