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(506) 223-1327        Published Friday, July 28, 2006, in Vol. 6, No. 149       E-mail us    
Jo Stuart
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A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas
They want

The family of slain Rocio Sariego Pérez-Olea maintains a vigil at the Embassy of Chile where the woman died two years ago. The family members, sister Rafaela, father Jorge Sariego and sister Laura want  investigation results  and a resolution. The killer was the officer assigned to guard the embassy.

Story is BELOW

Pacific hotels being scammed by fake agency
By Saray Ramírez Vindas
and the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rican hotels are being scammed by crooks who trick the operators into accepting a group of adults and children for pre-paid weekend vacations.

The trouble is that the vacation is paid through a bank deposit of a bum check.

At least two operators of hotels have spoken in detail about the scam. But it is still uncertain if the two dozen vacationers are victims or scammers. Or if the groups are the same people.

The scam is simple to work. The crooks, pretending to be a travel agency, get an estimate from a fancy hotel and then make a deposit to the hotel's Banco Nacional account using a check from a private bank. The bank is supposed to freeze those funds until the check clears. But in one case, the bank appears to have delayed doing so. So the hotel employees thought the total bill, in one case of $2,379, was paid, including $500 in a pre-paid bar bill.

In this case, that of Condominio La Laguna Puerto Real, Quepos, the scammers may have used a rubber stamp "Deposito en efectivo," showing a fake cash deposit. The deposit slip was then faxed to the hotel.

The group arrived in Quepos last Friday. There were eight adults and 15 youngsters, according to Marcos Gamboa, the manager there. He thought the guests were victims who

had paid money to a handful of scammers who fled the scene. A member of the group told him they had paid 250,000 colons, some $485, Gamboa said.

Earlier in the month, a group, which may have been the same persons, visited La Mariposa Hotel in Manuel Antonio. Ludovic Quintana, the manager there, said the hotel was scammed on an $8,000 tab. He correctly noted that when a hotel loses money from a bad check or invalid deposit, it still has to pay for the food and services consumed by the guests.

In this case, members of the group said they had won a raffle, said Quintana. In both cases, the hotels sent vans to pick up the guests and had to pay an outside contractor for this service.

Many of the group that went to Pueblo Real came from the La Capri neighborhood of Desamparados south of San José, an areas sociologists call marginal. The names of those who visited Manuel Antonia were not available,

Quintana in Manuel Antonio said the group there was vulgar and made a lot of noise in the restaurant.

Gamboa, who filed a police complaint, said that the reservation for his condos came from the Asociación Crown International. The phone numbers on the letterhead appear to be random or of public telephones in post offices.

Both men said they had heard rumors that additional hotels had been scammed.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, July 28, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 149

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A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas
The sisters of slain  Rocio Sariego Pérez-Olea bundle up against the chilly night to maintain their vigil.

Family of diplomat killed
by cop maintains a vigil

By Saray Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two years ago on July 27, a Fuerza Pública officer cracked up and took his weapon and killed three workers in the Embassy of Chile in Los Yoses. Although the officer then killed himself, the family of one of the victims says it has not received the needed answers.

The family is that of Rocio Sariego Pérez-Olea. The father, Jorge Sariego, has called upon President Óscar Arias Sánchez and Michelle Bachelet, to clarify the responsibility of the Costa Rican government in the crime. They came here from Chile for the anniversary of the deaths.

"The authorities have been keeping silent. Nobody has talked to us since then and, honestly, I don’t believe that investigation exist," said Sariego.

Police delayed for seven hours before they entered the embassy. The family believes that Miss Sariego, a secretary, lived for hours after being shot and could have survived.

The embassy is 200 meters north of Avenida Central in Barrio Dent in San José east side not far from Mall San Pedro. The family and others gathered there Thursday for a candlelight vigil.

The Sariego family also is seeking financial compensation from the Costa Rica government and has rejected one offer. Laura Chinchilla, the first vice president, met with the family Thursday seeking an agreement for a three-person arbitration panel to resolve the financial situation.

Also killed were Cristhian Juseff, the Chilean consul in the embassy, and Roberto Nieto, the first secretary.

The killer was José Orlando Jiménez Jiménez, 54, who worked as the police officer assigned to guard the premises for the previous five years. The shooting took place about 3:45 p.m., and police were still trying to negotiate with the long-dead Jiménez at 9 p.m. They finally entered the structure at 10 p.m.

The crime prompted changes in the way Costa Rican police make assignments for such duties and also resulted in a policy of psychological examinations.

Combination of plants
making successful hay

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A 2-year-old experiment in the commercial production of hay has resulted in significant income for farmers in the  Bagaces areas. They are growing a high-protein mix of two tropical grasses.

More than 140,000 17-kilo (37-pound) bales have been shipped in two years resulting in an income of 800 million colons, about $1.6 million, said a summary from the Ministerio de la Producción, the former agriculture ministry. The hay is being marketed through the  Asociación de Productores Agroindustriales de Bagaces under the trade name of Nutriheno. Heno in Spanish means hay.

Some 25 farmers in the areas of La Soga, Falconiana, Tamarindo and Bagatsí have allocated 100 hectares (about 247 acres) and are netting about 400,000 colons per hectare, about $775, said the ministry. The program was promoted as an option for farmers of the region.

The hay is a combination of pinto peanut or  maní forrajero (Arachis pintoi ) and pangola grass (Digitaria decumbens), called trasvala here. The maní forrajero is a perennial herb and pangola grass stays green though wet and dry seasons.

Both crops are highly digestible by cattle and have been used for years elsewhere in the tropics. They can even be found in the subtropical United States.

Agents get untaxed goods
in 7 simultaneous raids

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Judicial agents made seven raids Thursday to break up a business of importing untaxed merchandise.

A woman, age 30, and a man in his 40s were detained and large quantities of perfume, liquor, cell phones and other merchandise were confiscated. The goods came from Panamá. The case, in the hands of the Sección de Fraudes, is being treated as tax fraud.

More than 50 agents of the Judicial Investigating Organization, 17 prosecutors, seven judges and 20 police cars were involved in the raids. They took place at a house in Moravia, three warehouses, one in Hatillo one in Carmen de Guadelupe and the third in Alajuela, and a store near Hospital Calderón Guardia in north San José.
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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, July 28, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 149

The three vices of human activity are universal
Being a student of anthropology, I find it interesting that three human activities, sex, gambling and achieving an altered state of consciousness, are what are considered universals.  That is, they occur in almost every society throughout time and space.  Prostitution is often called ‘the oldest profession.”  Yet, in most Western societies one or all of the trio are illegal or considered vices.  Much money, time and punishment are directed towards trying to stamp them out.  The United States, probably the most institutionally puritanical (some would say moral) of western powers, works the hardest to obliterate these vices.  

Actually, when it comes to prostitution and betting, governments don’t care if you do it, as long as you don’t do it for money. And in some cases, it is okay to take drugs to alter your consciousness — if you don’t buy them.  I am not sure if this is because they are concerned that the acts will contaminate the money or the money contaminates the act.  Either way and ironically, these three activities probably bring in more money worldwide than any other enterprise, except perhaps the sale of real estate. 

Just about every country has government sponsored lotteries, but very few condone drug taking, unless a form of alcohol or medically prescribed. Several European countries and one state in the U.S. has legalized prostitution and some states and Indian reservations permit gambling so that it can be controlled.  I consider these countries and states like Nevada to be more enlightened, or at least more realistic.  Costa Rica is among them. 

I am still not clear as to whether prostitution is actually legal or just not illegal in Costa Rica.  Recently a trusted source assured me it is legal here.  Pimping is definitely illegal here, and certainly underage prostitution is forbidden. 

There are gambling casinos throughout the country, some of them in the best hotels.  It is, I guess, regulated and taxed.  It seems to work as well as it does in Las Vegas.  (And I have found that casinos have the nicest public bathrooms.)  Online gambling is another matter.  I personally think that gambling online is a very risky business for the bettor.

No country seems to have successfully figured out how to regulate, control, or make the consumption of drugs a safe, accepted activity.  The U.S. is even trying to stop the importation of medical drugs from Canada. It is a toss-up as to whether drug-related crimes are committed because the person is high or because they are trying to get money to get high — or well, as the case may be. 

This is all very interesting to me, but it is not these three activities that I am concerned with at the  moment.  It is with another universal.  All cultures  
Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart

throughout time and space also eat eggs.  They are probably one of the best foods one can eat.  And certainly the most nutritious and versatile and delicious.  And the fresher they are the more nutritious and delicious they are.  Not to mention, attractive.  And therein lies my beef. (Bad word to use in connection with eggs. Cows don’t lay them.)

Nowhere in Costa Rica, as far as I can tell, do the purveyors of eggs refrigerate them, or even keep them in a really cool place.  And the longer they sit out at room temperature, the sooner they get old and the whites spread out and the yolks flatten, and to my mind, the taste diminishes. 

Some friends, Franz and Linda, feel the same way I do and for a while even raised their own chickens just to get fresh eggs.  But they were free-ranging chickens and after a while it got to be a real chore finding where on the range they had laid them.  For a while I got fresh eggs at the Plaza Víquez feria, but now, I am too far from there  The supermarket eggs

 are hopeless in my opinion. Although they do put some in boxes so they are less apt to break, still they are not refrigerated. 

I didn’t realize how strongly I felt about this until the other night when I was watching some drama on TV.  The scene was breakfast time in the kitchen, and the wife had just cracked an egg into the frying
pan.  For some reason the camera zoomed in on that egg — a beautiful egg with a centered upright yolk surrounded by a high mound of white, not spread all over the pan.  Tears came to my eyes. 

I would give up sex, drugs and gambling for a dozen really fresh eggs.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Packages of eggs contain a statement that they should be refrigerated:

Local artist combines
Dutch-Caribbean, Latin

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A Caribbean Dutch artist who lives in Costa Rica has a unique style that creates contemporary works with multiple crosses on the canvas.

The artist is Johannes Boekhoudt, whose work will be on display at the Museo Dr. Rafael Ángel Calderón Guardia in San José from Aug. 9 to 27.

Boekhoudt is recognized internationally for his unique style, which is attributed to mysticism. ". . . the increasing sense of mysticism and depth continues to be an important personal element to my works," says the artist on his Web site.

The exhibition is entitled  "Dos Voces" or two voices in recognition of his relationship with both the Dutch Caribbean world and the Latin world.

Boekhoudt was born in Curaçao in 1966 and was raised in Bonaire, both in the Netherland Antillies.  He has lived in Costa Rica for 25 years and also lived in the United States.

It is this mixture of cultures that he brings to the canvas. The crosses are about two inches high and wide. Thousands fill the canvas, one atop the other, worked in three-dimensionally into the oils.

Embassy of Holland photo
Johannes Boekhoudt at work

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, July 28, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 149

Proposals for new taxes are on the executive agenda
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The executive branch has sent legislators 38 law proposals to be considered and perhaps acted upon during the so-called extraordinary session that begins Aug. 1

Among the proposals, according to legislative sources, is an executive branch proposal for changes in the income tax law and a law to create new taxes for the elimination of slums. Two other pressing issues are a change to stop the new immigration law from going into effect and the approval of a number of loans, including one for $130 million from the government of Japan to help redo the Central Valley sewer system.

The Costa Rican Constitution says that the Asamblea Legislativa may only meet from May 1 to July 31 and from Sept. 1 to Nov. 30. In order to keep the legislature working, this administration as well as previous ones have called the lawmakers into extraordinary session, which also is permitted by the Constitution.

During these special periods, lawmakers may only consider matters brought before it by the executive branch.

In an announcement Thursday, Casa Presidencial listed some 20 laws that the executive branch has endorsed. The announcement came after Rodrigo Arias, the minister of the Presidencia, met with legislative leaders.
But Casa Presidencial briefly mentions the free trade treaty with the United States and the two tax laws, but there were no details. The proposals are expected to be for an increase in the tax rate and a surcharge on homes and properties to eliminate slums.

There was no mention of a value added tax, which the executive branch supports, although creation of such a tax in place of the existing sales tax could be within one of the tax laws.

The administration is expected to change the tax laws to put more burden on those who earn more while increasing the number of workers who pay no taxes.  And also expected is what amounts to a national tax on real estate that will be used to clear slums.

In addition to the Japanese loan, the executive branch is seeking approval for loans from the World Bank to finance a project for efficiency and equality in education, a contract with the Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo to finance a program to aid competitiveness and a loan from the Banco Centroaméricano de Integración Económica to beef up the nation's tax collections.

The immigration law, passed by the previous legislature, is due to take effect Aug. 19. The executive branch says it does not have the resources to enforce it and wants the effective date put off to December 2007.

Lawmakers will not meet Monday because it is a national holiday.

Indian group wants consultation on free trade treaty with United States
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Another hitch has developed with lawmakers approving the free trade treaty with the United States.

The Centro para el Desarrollo Indígena says that Costa Rica is bound by a 1992 international labor convention to consult Indian tribes about the measure.

In Costa Rica international treaties and conventions trump the Constitution and other laws.

The Indian group, based in Buenos Aires de Puntarenas said that the Departamento de Servicios
 Técnicos of the Asamblea Legislativa has confirmed that such consultation is obligatory. The legislative experts were asked about the matter by Janina Del Vecchio Ugalde, president of the Comisión de Relaciones Internacionales y Comercio Exterior, which is studying the treaty, said the center.

The treaty contains matters that directly affect the Indian groups, the center said.

It is not clear how such consultation needs to be done. The commission is holding hearings for a broad cross section of Costa Rican society. The center is associated with the Boruca Indians of southwest Costa Rica. There are other tribes.

Venezuela signs contract to buy 24 Russian jets and 53 helicopters
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The head of Russia's state arms trading agency says Russia has signed contracts to sell Venezuela 24 jet fighter planes and 53 military helicopters.

Details of the deal were not immediately clear. But the head of Russia's arms export agency said the two countries have signed contracts for a Venezuelan purchase of some $3 billion worth of military equipment over the last 18 months.

His comments came as Russian President Vladimir
Putin and Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez met in Moscow.

The newly acquired Russian fighter planes are expected to replace a fleet of U.S.-made F-16 fighter jets. Venezuelan authorities say they have not been able to buy spare parts for the F-16s since Washington imposed an arms embargo on Venezuela earlier this year.

Putin said Thursday the contracts are not directed against other states. He said they are aimed at developing the economies of the two countries.

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