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(506) 2223-1327              Pulished Monday, July 26, 2010,  in Vol. 10, No. 145        E-mail us
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Expats want to unite and have voices heard on crime
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A new expat anti-crime initiative developed over the weekend.

The origin is with the anti-crime organization in Dominical with assistance from a similar group in San Ramón.

The initiative has two prongs. First the organization  Crime Awareness and Prevention has proposed five recommendations for President Laura Chinchilla, including a rewrite of some sections of the penal code.

The second effort is an online petition that begins: "The residents and citizens of Costa Rica believe that a current state of emergency exists regarding the security of its citizens, businesses, property, and way of life; threatened by the increasing unabated wave of crime that is engulfing the country."

There were 102 signatures Sunday night. Many of those who signed noted they have been a victim of crime. One woman said "Please help us!" The petition has been available since Saturday.

Michael McGinnis, founder of Crime Awareness and Prevention, said in an e-mail that he is aware that the petition has no legal weight. But he and Mike Styles of Community Action Alliance of Costa Rica in San Ramón said they wanted to demonstrate to the new president the level of support among members of the international community living in Costa Rica.

Ms. Chinchilla has invited security suggestions from all corners of Costa Rican life via a U.N. program called the Politica Integral y Sostenible de Seguridad Ciudadana y Promoción de la Paz Social, known as POLSEPAZ.

Expats usually have been reluctant to involve themselves in Costa Rican politics but this time they have been invited. In addition, the impact crime is having on development, tourism and retirement plans is obvious.

McGinnis said he has been in Dominical for nearly 20 years. When crime began to grow there 10 years ago, he instituted a program to generate funds for the local police. In the Abel Pacheco administration, his group donated $50,000 to the security ministry in exchange for more police, more vehicles and a police booth on the Costanera Sur. Crime plummeted, he said.

The situation has changed with turnover in police brass, but his group still has several programs to generate funds for police, he said Sunday. He added that metro area criminals are taking advantage of the completed coastal highway to commit crimes on the central Pacific.

Both McGinnis and Styles praised Paul Birdsall, the consul general at the U.S. Embassy. Birdsall has been making the rounds of expat groups to address the crime issue. Security issues appears to be a new embassy concern because U.S. officials maintained a hands-off approach for years.

McGinnis is involved in Dominical with local real estate broker Ben Vaughn, who was critically injured by a thief in mid-May. He is recovering after major surgery in Escazú.

McGinnis said he estimates that in the main area of his concern, from Dominical south to Ojochal, there are about five criminal incidents a day.

McGinnis said that he would like to unite all the citizen groups, expat and Tico, under one banner.
Petitions online

Styles said that he feels that now expats have a chance to be part of the solution. Both he and McGinnis have material they said they would be happy to send to other groups that may be forming.

Styles bemoaned the legal system's "catch and release policy."

That is one of the proposals in the message to Ms. Chinchilla and in the petition. Both use similar wording. The petition calls for:

1. A comprehensive revision of the existing criminal code that is based on accountability with sentencing, and immediate and significant consequences to offenders.

2. Increase the flagrancy courts throughout Costa Rica to impose swifter sentencing, thereby relieving the existing overburdened justice system, thus sending the message to criminals that crime in Costa Rica doesn't pay.

3. Increase prison/jail capacity to facilitate the enactment of a revised/new criminal code and court processing system.

4. Increase in police personnel, training and compensation bringing about a new level of job commitment and ethics, thereby gaining respect throughout the country.

5. Organizational, educational, and financial support for schools and communities to promote rehab programs, values based education curriculum, and positive alternative activities steering at-risk youth away from a potential life of crime.

Specifically, the message to Ms. Chinchilla seeks to beef up the penalties for various levels of robberies and to eliminate the financial thresholds in the theft laws. The message also seeks preventative detention for those involved in a serious crime or for someone who is a regular in the criminal courts.

Another key point is the creation of a crime of receiving stolen property. Pawn shops are key players in the criminal cycle. Some in San José have better selections of top-of-the-line cameras than a typical photographic store. Most appear to have been stolen from tourists.

The groups represented by McGinnis and Styles are not yet associated with citizens in Nosara, where a meeting is being held on crime today.

Color Champagne not involved

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A news story Friday said that burglars fled from Color Champagne, a tourist operation in Nosara, and one confronted a passerby with a firearm on the street. Color Champagne was not the site of the burglary, a spokesperson for the owners said. Instead, the break-in happened at adjacent bungalows, a second spokesman said.

That area is known as the K section of Playa Guiones, according to the spokesman, who said that there have been 15 robberies in this section over the past two months.

The spokesperson for the Color Champagne owners said that they had installed bars and other anti-theft devices.



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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, July 26, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 145

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Costa Rica will contest
Arizona immigration law


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The foreign ministry said Friday that it had instructed its embassy in Washington to seek permission to file a friend-of-the-court brief supporting México's case against Arizona.

Arizona lawmakers passed a law instructing policemen to check the legality of any individual who otherwise comes in contact with law enforcement.

The Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores y Culto said that the federal court brief would protest racial profiling and discrimination. The government here also said it wanted to support U.S. President Barack Obama in his effort to reform the immigration laws.


Giant stone spheres among
ancient pieces confiscated


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Prosecutors in Heredia and judicial agents confiscated 108 archaeological pieces from a property in San Rafael de Heredia Friday. The pieces included 14 stone spheres, some of them engraved, that had to be removed with a flatbed trailer.

The complaint came from the Museo Nacional which invoked a law giving the state rights to all archaeological artifacts found in the country.

The pieces were in the possession of a family who has been negotiating with the museum for several years.


Investigators wonder why
Cañas woman got to Heredia


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A young woman in Cañas, Guanacaste, left her home July 7 to attend night classes and to study with friends.

Seemingly without reason her body turned up six days later in a field in Barrio El Socorro in Santa Domingo de Heredia.

The woman with the last name of Obando was 19 when she was murdered. She was a student at the local branch of the Universidad Latina. She had been tied up and strangled.

The investigation was confounded for several days while agents tried to learn the identity of the corpse. DNA tests showed Friday that the victim was the Cañas girl.

Still to be determined is how a Cañas college student ended up being a murder victim who was dumped so far from home.


When in Caracas, eat
at Uncle Hugo's Areparía


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Venezuela's Hugo Chávez has gone in the food business.

Correo del Orinoco International reports that a government-run restaurant in the La Rinconada neighborhood in Caracas is designed to sell food at a fair price and not as a commodity. Being quoted is commerce minister Richard Canan.

The restaurant serves arepas, the Venezuelan-style fry bread that usually is served as a sandwich.

The government has seven trial restaurants competing with private ownership, the publication said.

Canan bragged that the socialist restaurants sell arepas for 7.5 bolívars or about $1.74. He said that private restaurants sell the same thing for from 20 to 30 bolívars each, from $4.65 to $6.98. He said the one restaurant already has sold 693,000 arepas.


Exports show increases
in double digits over 2009


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Exports for the first half of 2010 totaled $4.9 billion in Costa Rica, according to statistics from the Promotora del Comercio Exterior. The organization said this was an 11.9 percent increase over 2009.

Industrial exports were 73.5 percent, it said. This figure includes microchip components. That amount is 19.6 percent greater than in 2009, the organization said.

Agricultural exports jumped 32.2 percent when compared to 2009, which was at the depths of the economic recession.


Havener memorial set

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Friends of Donlon Havener plan a memorial service for him at the Tom and Norman Home for unwanted adults that he supported for years.

The service will be Aug. 22 at the facility in La Rita de Pocosi. After the service, Havener's remains will be placed in the chapel of the home, which will be his final resting place, friends said.

Havener died July 13 at 91.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, July 26, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 145

Rapid Respose
Rock n roll


Savings Unlimited creditors facing a complicated choice
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Luis Milanes has warned his creditors that they better accept his offer of 25 cents on the dollar because he is in poor physical shape and likely to die suddenly.

The high-interest financier who was a fugitive for nearly seven years, told a criminal court in a written statement that he has had three heart attacks and is a patient with a high probability of sudden death. He said incorrectly that if he dies his goods would pass to his heirs and his creditors, whom he called investors, would get nothing.

He also presented to the court a note from a physician, identified as Danielo González Gómez, who used nearly identical words and also said that Milanes has had Type II diabetes for 20 years and is obese.

Milanes claims to have put $15 million on the table to be divided among those creditors who have joined the criminal action. Many creditors are suspicious because Milanes wants to transfer the funds to a fellow Cuban-American, Pedro Borges Fiol. Borges has been advertising for creditors to join what he called the Savings Unlimited Recovery Fund.

Part of the court filing is a letter from a firm identified as Incite International Holdings Ltd., which offers to purchase the Europa Hotel owned by Milanes for $10 million.

British corporate records say that the firm was charted Jan. 2, but the firm included a letter from a Citi financial analyst, Michael Harripersaud, affirming that the bank had more than $10 million on deposit.

There was no clear explanation why Incite sent what it called a binding letter of intent to Borges and not Milanes, nor was there an explanation why Citi incorrectly identified the British firm as DFS International Ltd.

The letter from Incite identifies Borges' recovery fund as the legal representative of Savings Unlimited S.A. The letter also asks for a release from the Costa Rican fiscal general allowing the sale to take place.

The Europa contains one of the casinos that Milanes owns.

These are a few of the unusual aspects creditors are dealing with as they decide if they will take the deal offered by Milanes. He posted shortly after his arrest June 18, 2008, what was described then as $5 million in property.

He said in his court statement that he now has land in Santa Ana worth $3 million.

Milanes surrendered in San Salvador after striking a deal
with exiting Francisco Dall'Anese, the fiscal general until Aug. 1.

Milanes has said that he does not have any more money to pay his creditors. An estimated $200 million was believed invested with Savings Unlimited when Milanes left Nov.25, 2002. Milanes has claimed that a former associate, Costa Rican lawyer José Adolfo Somarribas Arias, now fighting extradition in Europe has access to the bulk of the money. In his most recent court filing he blamed José Victor Poo, who would not release properties for reimbursement of creditors. Poo died recently. Shortly after Milanes left, his associates also fled. Poo was caught by unhappy creditors in Panamá. He then was returned to Costa Rica. He served pretrial detention time.

A conciliation hearing for Milanes lasted just a few hours July 1. It had been scheduled for four days.

If all his creditors that are involved in the criminal case accept his deal, he will not be prosecuted. However many say they are anxious for a preliminary hearing and trial.

Nevertheless, they are off-balance considering the nature of the Milanes offer and its complexity. If he is convicted of the fraud charges he faces, creditors still will get to share his holdings.

About 2,400 persons are believed to have given Milanes money in exchange for a 3 to 5 percent monthly return,

Some 500 former investors are believed to have signed on as complainants. They represent about $40 million in deposits.

Among those facing allegations in the Milanes case is Michael González Espinoza, who served as accounts manager at the operation in the 11th floor Edificio Colón offices until it folded.  He served time in pre-trial detention.

Also facing allegations, according to court papers, are Enrique Pereira Oceguera, general manager of Savings Unlimited; Enrique Pereira Sila, auditor general; José Milanes Tamayo Coto, the brother of Luis Milanes, who worked as the general manager of an associated company; Mercedes del Carmen López Blandon, a former Milanes housekeeper who rose to a position of confidence in the operation, and Herman Zango Milgram.

Milanes said in his court filing that he wanted to exonerate his associates.

It was Costarican Savings Unlimited, a Panamá corporation, that was doing business here as Savings Unlimited. The operation was called informally "the Cubans" because of the heritage of Milanes and others.


Couple sought in Panamá killings held in Nicaragua
BULLETIN: Reports from the Nicaraguan border today say that the fugitive couple in the story below were intercepted by an army patrol while on the Río San Juan. They appear to have been attemptng to cross the river to Nicaragua.

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff


Judicial police have been working overtime this weekend as they seek a man and a woman suspected of multiple murders in Panamá not far from the Costa Rican border.

Agents got a tip Saturday that the pair, William Adolfo Cortez and Jean Seana Cortez, had rented living quarters near Turrialba.

The story has been big news in Panamá where as many as two deaths and five missing persons cases may be under investigation. Local newspaper and television stations picked up the story, and the owner of the living quarters contacted police.

The couple is believed to have fled when their names made the Saturday newspapers. Both are believed to be U.S.
citizens although they could be traveling under different passports with different names.

They are suspects in the death of Cheryl Lynn Hugues, who ran a backpacker hostel that Cortez later operated. Ms. Hugues, who vanished in March, was found in a grave on property Cortez operated. Investigators found another body at the same time. They believe it is of Bo Icelar, who vanished in December after Cortez was said to have purchased his tourism business.

Agents also want to question the Cortez couple about three Dutch citizens, a husband and wife and a son, who have been missing in the Boca del Toro area for three years.

The Cortez couple is believed to have said they purchased property from the husband and wife.

Neftali Jaen, a judicial official, said Saturday that two local workers who were employees of the couple have vanished.

The Cortez couple are believed to have crossed into Costa Rica two weeks ago.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, July 26, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 145

Dancing
for peace

The July 25 holiday is filled with dancing, mostly in the Guanacaste style. That was the case in the low-income neighborhood of León XIII Friday when the security ministry put on a festival for peace.
traditional dancers
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública photo



President Chinchilla outlines goodies for Guanacaste

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

As is traditional every July 25, the president provides a list of investments the central government is making in Guanacaste.

Sunday was the 186th anniversary of the Anexión del Partido de Nicoya to Costa Rica, and President Laura Chinchilla said that work in enhancing the passenger handling capabilities of Daniel Oduber airport would begin in October under the control of a concession holder. Houston Airport Services, the firm that manages Juan Santamaría airport, is doing the job.

The airport manager got the concession in October.

Houston Airport Systems is investing $35 million to construct 23,000 square meters of space. The job will increase passenger handling from 900 to 1,500. The expansion plans were announced when the concession was awarded.
Ms. Chinchilla said that the Interamerican Norte would receive $154 million in improvements and reconstruction. The job includes 19 bridges and making the two-lane road four lanes.

Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social is investing nearly $600,000 for a new health center in La Cruz, which will be done in 2011, she said. The Hospital Enrique Baltodano in Liberia will get about $7.5 million in construction after bids are awarded, said Casa Presidencial.

The president also announced a litany of social and agricultural programs.

Another investment, this one for $2.9 million, was announced earlier in the day by Luis Liberman, second vice president. The job is 2 kilometers of road linking Playa Panamá with Ruta 159. The job will replace a gravel road. Liberman also participated in a presentation for the restoration and rehabilitation of the former military headquarters in Liberia into a museum.


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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, July 26, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 145

Medical vacations in Costa Rica

Hurricanes present chance
of another Haiti tragedy


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The International Organization for Migration says efforts are underway across Haiti to prepare for a summer of tropical storms and hurricanes.  The organization says this year's hurricane season poses a particular danger because 1.5 million earthquake survivors are living in flimsy tents and shelters in Haiti.

International aid agencies say the challenges ahead are enormous.  They warn the coming bad weather may bring another humanitarian disaster down on the Haitian people.

The catastrophic earthquake that struck Haiti six months ago killed an estimated 230,000 people, made more than one-and-a-half million people homeless, and destroyed much of the country's infrastructure.

Haiti is situated in the middle of what is called Hurricane Alley, a path that major tropical cyclones tend to take after they form in the mid-Atlantic.

Over the past five years, more than 5,000 people in Haiti were killed by hurricanes and storms. 

Jean-Philippe Chauzy, a spokesman for the International Organization for Migration, says aid agencies are putting in place strategies they hope will mitigate the impact of forthcoming hurricanes, especially in vulnerable, earthquake hit cities, such as Gonaives.

"For instance, roads have been paved to make sure that assistance can be delivered to displaced populations," he said. "We have been working with U.S. funding on creating terracing, to make sure that the land can be retained, does not basically get washed away by the rains.  We have been also working on reforestation programs." 

Chauzy says the organization and its partners are preparing for the worst by pre-positioning emergency shelter materials for 25,000 families.  He says they plan to increase shelter to cover the needs for 130,000 families or 650,000 people by September.

At the same time, he says a communications system is being put in place to issue warnings to Haitians to prepare for violent weather.  He says roadside billboards and posters will provide people with advice on safety measures during storms. 

"We also are creating awareness messaging systems," said the spokesman.  "For instance, camp managers in Gonaives and other parts of the country that are vulnerable to hurricanes will receive SMS text messages ahead of the hurricanes to make sure that camp residents can evacuate areas that are prone to flooding, that are prone to landslides.

So far, Chauzy says more than 5,600 transitional shelters have been built and an additional 15,000 transitional shelters are in the pipeline.  He says they cannot yet be built because not enough land is available.

He says the land issue is a big problem and likely to remain so for a long time.  He says much of the land is blocked by debris from the earthquake.  He says there are also large parcels of land whose ownership is being contested in court.
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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, July 26, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 145


Latin American news
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Gold company said text
will bolster its argument


Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Industrias Infinito Ltd. has received and reviewed the full and detailed decision of the Sala IV which was issued July 9. The detailed material supports the summary decision that was released in April.

The Sala IV ruled that the challenges raised against the grant of permits that allowed development of the company's Crucitas gold project were without merit, with one exception that was considered to have been cured by the date of the vote.

On April 17, the day after the vote, groups opposed to the Crucitas project obtained an injunction from the Tribunal Contenscioso Adminastrativo that prohibits further development of the Crucitas Project.

June 16 the company filed a motion with the Tribunal arguing that the Injunction should be lifted in part because a higher court, the Sala IV, had already ruled on the substance of these matters. The tribunal denied the company's motion. However, the Tribunal indicated a reluctance to accept the argument that the Sala IV had already ruled on each of the relevant matters without seeing the detailed decision.

The detailed decision is now available and local counsel has advised the Company that the text appears to have addressed in significant detail the matters that were raised in the proceedings before the Tribunal.

The company has its next scheduled hearing before the Tribunal on these matters on Aug. 11, and its local counsel intend to use the detailed decision and other legal points to argue that the Tribunal should lift the Injunction and also dismiss the matters.

Although the company remains confident of its legal position there can be no certainty as to the timing or the outcome of any ruling by the Tribunal.

The company, a subsidiary of a Canadian firm, has in place an exploitation permit which provides the rights to mine the Crucitas concession comprising 1,200 hectares.

In addition to the exploitation permit on the 1,200 hectares associated with the Crucitas project, the company holds 15 times this amount of ground, or 18,000 hectares in exploration concessions adjacent to the Crucitas concession.

Gold has more than quadrupled in price since the project began.


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