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(506) 2223-1327        Published Wednesday, July 30, 2008, in Vol. 8, No. 150       E-mail us
Jo Stuart
Real Estate
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U.S. and Costa Rica mend fences with quick trip
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The disappointment of the United States with the country's failure to extradite one of the nation's most wanted fugitives lasted less than three days.
An embassy spokesperson said Wednesday that the U.S. ambassador, Peter Cianchette, took Costa Rica's security minister on a trip to Florida Sunday.

The security minister is Janina del Vecchio. She granted refugee status in a controversial  decision July 23 to Chere Lyn Tomayko, a U.S. citizen who faced a child abduction indictment in U.S. federal court.

The embassy spokesperson said that the ambassador took the security minister on a visit to the U.S. Southern Command, the multi-service military organization that has responsibility for Latin America, including the Panamá Canal. They were supposed to return today.

Of more interest to Costa Rica is the maritime patrol agreement under which U.S. and Costa Rican ships hunt drug smugglers. Under the agreement, the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard turn over Costa Rican suspects captured on the high seas to the courts here. Costa Rican officials have expressed their own disappointment that the United States only allocated $4.5 million for anti-drug work for the coming year.

When Ms. del Vecchio made her refugee announcement, based on her unique interpretation of international laws, U.S. Embassy officials canceled a ceremony Friday during which  Cianchette was to donate an aircraft to the security ministry, correctly
Friends again
U.S. Embassy photo
Friends again: Cianchette and Ms. del Vecchio

known as the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública. That was the extent of the official pique over the insult.

Certain to have been discussed in Florida is the U.S. reactivation of the Fourth Fleet, a designation of ships that was mothballed after World War II. The Pentagon said that the new fleet was simply a name change. But some Latin American political figures think otherwise. At a trade summit July 1, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez said the U.S. naval command could pose a threat to Venezuela's vast oil resources.

The U.S. military revived the naval command for the Latin America and the Caribbean region in late April.

Costa Rican officials are trying to get extended credit for petroleum purchases from Chávez now.

Magistrate ducks questioning on Arias slush fund
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The substitute magistrate of the nation's high court was a no-show Tuesday in the legislature. Lawmakers wanted to question him about secret payments he got from the Presidencia.

The man is Federico Sosto. He is a member of the  Corte Suprema de Justicia. He had a date with the Comisión de Control del Ingreso y el Gasto Público. A message from his law firm,  Sosto, Hidalgo y Asociados, said he was out of the country until Aug. 6.

Lawmakers who are members of the committee said that the invitation to appear was sent to the magistrate Thursday evening.  Jorge Eduardo Sánchez, the president of the committee, said he had trouble reaching the magistrate because the court would not provide contact information. The lawmaker said he had to get the fax number for Sosto's law firm from the Web page of the Colegio de Abogados, the lawyer's association.

Sergio Alfaro of Partido Acción Ciudadana suggested contacting the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería to find out when the
magistrate returns to Costa Rica.  Alberto Salom of the same party said he wanted to check to make sure the man really did leave the country.

Tomorrow the committee is supposed to hear from  Jorge Nowalsky of the Centro Internacional para el Desarrollo Humano. Thursday the witness will be  Carlos Sojo of Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales. Both organizations are believed to have received funds from such funds maintained by the executive branch.

The magistrate, Sosto, also is listed as someone who received funds from the Presidencia, but because he is a member of the judicial branch, some have called for his resignation. The supreme court has given him a vote of confidence.

The committee is investigating the off-the-record payments to public employees and to private individuals and firms who were listed as advisers for the Óscar Arias administration. In addition, the committee wants to know about the conversion of some $1.5 million that was donated to the housing ministry by the government of Taiwan for poor who were flooded out in Pavas. Instead, the money was spread around associates of the administration.

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That package delivery caller
may be casing the property

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Don't give any information over the phone. That's a piece of advise for homeowners who don't want to be robbed, said a judicial official.  One man contacted A.M. Costa Rica Tuesday and said he had been receiving calls from someone who said they worked for DHL delivery service. The callers say they have a package for him and ask for his exact address. They would not say who the package was from, said the man.

Manuel Brenes Carillo, director of the Sección de Asaltos at the Judicial Investigation Organization, said Tuesday that he had not yet heard of many operations of this type, but that he would look further into the issue. Brenes said usually thieves and robbers case a house before they raid it. Many times robbers ring the doorbell and attack the person who answers, he said.

In a previous interview however, he advised people not to give out any personal information over the phone as that potential robbers may call for information.  

Two held in murder
of Nicoya taxi driver

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Agents of the Judicial Investigating Organization arrested two men Monday who are suspected of murdering a taxi driver in Nicoya Saturday. The two suspects, a 32-year-old Nicaraguan and a 19 year-old Costa Rican, were arrested after appearing at a local hospital with knife wounds and a story that was later contradicted by various witnesses, including the man who led them to the hospital, according to a release.

The taxi driver, identified by the last name Villareal, 26, was discovered in the trunk of his abandoned car Sunday at noon, dead of multiple stab wounds in Nicoya. His wife had alerted officials after losing contact with her husband following a text message saying he was going to Santa Ana, the release said.

The suspects arrived at the Nicoya Hospital Saturday night, one with a stab wound and another missing his little finger.

Our reader's opinion
He would not prohibit
those victimless crimes

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I was surprised at the venom of a recent letter to the editor regarding prostitution. During my career as a sociologist in the field of drug abuse, I did some research on prostitution. In my experience, prostitutes are typically more disturbed emotionally than the average person and have a higher rate of self destructive drug and alcohol use.

Clients of prostitutes, whether frequent or not, run the gamut of social class and emotional stability. Many are married, and some have seemingly good relationships with their wives except for this violation of their marital contract.

Prostitution is certainly not the life I would want for my loved ones, and my experience is that being a frequent client of prostitutes does not come in the same package with an overall happy life. But prostitution and being a client are victimless crimes, no matter what your venomous reader says. Granted, others can get emotionally hurt by people who engage in these behaviors, but whether they are victims is up to them.

Drug and alcohol use, gambling, prostitution, and certain sexual activities between consenting adults are all activities that have been condemned by many throughout the ages. There is a long and inglorious history of scapegoating and punishing people for these activities, very often making them criminals and sending them to prison.

I urge Costa Rica A.M. readers to read Peter McWilliams' book, "Ain't Nobody's Business If You Do." It is available free and is the most thorough review of victimless crime and social responses to them I have read. The author's libertarian stand is not hidden, but his facts are accurate and might give people pause.

As a researcher I am trained to separate my personal feelings from my scientific observations, and I have done the same here. I applaud Costa Rica's stand on prostitution, and at the same agree that pandering or pimping is an activity that can easily be used to denigrate and manipulate prostitutes, as is drug selling or running casinos or state lotteries that can be used to prey on people's addictions.

Costa Rica chooses to limit or prohibit these activities, but that is not the issue raised by your reader — it is the right of adults to use their own bodies the way they want, whether for sex, drugs, or rock and roll.
John French
San Pablo de Heredia

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Three Iraqis nabbed at Juan Santamaría with false passports
By Elise Sonray
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Police have arrested what they say are three Iraqí men who had fake European passports and a Polish man wanted on charges of child kidnapping. The action took place at Juan Santamaría airport Monday.

The men were all detained at an airport in Guatemala and send back to Costa Rica where their flight had originated, according to the Ministerio Público. Guatemalan airport police noticed irregularities in the men's passports and would not let them into the country, according to the ministry. The men were sent back to Costa Rica, according to a judicial press release.

The three men said to be from Iraq had passports from Greece, England and Yugoslavia, according to the ministry. The ministry added that the men only spoke Arabic. Costa
Rican immigration police determined the three passports were false, said the release.

Fransisco Castaing, director of the Policía de Migración said by telephone Tuesday that the men were taken to the prosecutor's office in Alajuela for holding. Castaing said he did not have many details about the men and did not know if they lived in Costa Rica or came into the country on a previous flight.

A judge ordered that the three suspects be given three months of  preventative prison for investigation of the use of fake documents.

The criminal court in Alajuela also gave the Polish man with the last name of Marek three months of preventative prison. The ministry said in addition to face an allegation of kidnapping minors Marek was wanted on other charges in Poland.  It was unclear if the four men were together.

coffee event
A.M. Costa Rica/Jeremy Arias
Manuel Dinarte explains his work while the German ambassador, Wolf Daerr, enjoys a cup
Coffee is the guest of honor at a Museo Nacional reception
By Jeremy Arias
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A lively crowd filled a gallery of the Museo Nacional Tuesday to celebrate 200 years of coffee in Costa Rica.

Rocío Fernández, museum director, joined German Ambassador Wolf Daerr and the Ronald Peters Seevers, Instituto del Café de Costa Rica director,  to welcome guests while the museum plaza was made ready for coffee tasting.

“Coffee has given much to Costa Rica,” Daerr said in his welcoming speech, “and the coffee of Costa Rica has given a lot to the world.”

Following the greetings, the audience was given a brief but detailed history of one of the museum's works of art, a 1932 painting by Alajuela native Julio Solera Oreamuno titled “Café de Costa Rica.” German expert Volker Wünderich delivered the speech.

In the plaza, guests crowded under the broad museum tents to sip coffee and enjoy pastries as a light drizzle began to fall. The national barista champion, Manuel Dinarte, awed
the crowd with a demonstration of professional expresso preparation along with coffee institute representative Ricardo Azofeifa. A barista, an English word, is one who serves coffee at a coffee bar and is generally associated with upscale firms like Starbucks.

“Between these two tables we have every type of coffee you could want!” Dinarte boasted with a smile as he served out delicious cappuccino and espresso drinks. He represented the country in a world competition.

A smooth, creamy layer of foam floated on top of the deliciously vanilla-flavored brew beneath, and the expertly blended caffeine-loaded cocktail seemed to emanate a pleasant, comfortable warmth in the stomach as the dark-blend aftertaste lingered happily on the tongue.

In a country renowned for its coffee production, the champion barista did not disappoint, and Daerr became the latest in a long line of foreigners to delight in the particularly rich Costa Rican blend.

Germany and France were the major importers of Costa Rican coffee during the early days of production.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, July 30, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 150

 9 out of 10 convicted in 2007 were men, judicial study finds
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

More than 90 percent of people convicted of crimes in 2007 were men, according to a study done of the court by Poder Judicial. The majority of those men were single, according to the study. Women made up just 9.2 percent of convictions.

The study done by the Sección de Estadística del Poder Judicial, analyzed the people convicted last year. Courts sentences  3,736 persons to prison or to other measures, in 2007, according to the study. Of those convicted, 772 or 20.6 percent, were repeat offenders, according to Poder Judicial.

More women than men were convicted of selling drugs and more men were convicted in crimes like robbery, according to the study.

Eleven people from the United States received convictions, according to the study. 

According to the statistics, 97.3 percent  of the people tried in court over drug involvement were imprisoned. For those tried in property crimes such as robbery and theft,  71.2 were convicted.
The offense of aggravated robbery led to the highest  number of convictions, 630 in total, according to Poder Judicial.  That was followed by sexual abuse against minors with 331 individuals convicted. Third was simple theft with 205 convictions.

Out of the men convicted,  63.8 percent were sent to prison,  31.7 percent received a deferred sentence and 3.2 percent received fines.

Of the men sentenced to prison, 564 were sentenced to between five and seven years. The Poder Judicial said 351 men were sentenced to three to five years. That total is  42.3 percent of the men serving prison sentences of three years or longer, said Poder Judicial. 

Of the 342 women sentenced, 51.2 percent or 175 were sent to prison, while 38 percent were given  deferred sentences and  9.9 percent were was punished with a fine.

Of those foreigners who received sentences, in addition to the 11 from the United States,  313 were Nicaraguans, 77 were Colombians and 17 were Panamanians  Of those, 297 or 57.7 percent of foreigners who were convicted were sent to prison,  203 or 39.4 percent were granted the benefit of deferred sentencing and 15 or 2.9 percent were fined.

World trade talks collapse again over agricultural imports
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

World Trade Organization talks in Geneva have collapsed after members were unable to reach a compromise on agricultural import rules.

Delegates said Tuesday the United States and developing countries were unable to settle a dispute over measures regarding protection of farmers in emerging economies.The measures would have imposed tariffs to protect farmers in case of a sudden surge in goods on the market or a drop in prices.

Earlier, China and India accused the United States of refusing to negotiate on the issue while U.S. officials accused them of backing out of an earlier agreement.

Pascal Lamy, World Trade Organization director general,
described the situation as a "serious setback" but indicated an interest in reviving talks.  Trade representatives from the United States and Brazil also refused to discount future negotiations.

The current negotiations, known as the Doha Round, have made little progress towards a world trade pact since they were launched in 2001.

Disagreements between rich and poor countries have repeatedly stalled the talks. Among the issues was import duties on bananas from Latin America by the European Union. Earlier in the week it appeared that agreement had been reached on that point.

Emerging nations have demanded wealthy countries reduce agricultural subsidies which they say give farmers in developed countries an unfair advantage in an open market.

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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.

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Contacting us

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

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Two paramilitary leaders
admit drug smuggling roles

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Two Colombian paramilitary members have pleaded guilty in a U.S. court to drug trafficking charges, after being extradited from Colombia.

The two right-wing paramilitaries entered guilty pleas in a Miami courtroom to helping to smuggle tons of cocaine from Colombia into the United States in the late 1990s. The men, Ramiro Vanoy Murillo and Javier Lindo face maximum prison terms of 17 years in the case.

The two were among a group of 14 leaders of the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia, knownin English as the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, who were extradited from Colombia in May. The 12 others, including former leader Salvatore Mancuso, are facing similar charges in other U.S. courts.

Colombia decided to extradite the men after accusing them of failing to fulfill the terms of a government-backed peace agreement and of continuing to commit crimes while in prison.

The government of President Alvaro Uribe says the peace plan has demobilized tens of thousands of paramilitary fighters and sharply reduced violence in the nation.

University of Miami professor Bruce Bagley says scores of paramilitary members continue to operate across Colombia. "Many of them have not demobilized, others are re-forming. They continue to operate in drug trafficking. The fact that he extradited these top capos is an indication of just how concerned the Colombian government is," he said.

Paramilitary leaders had opposed extradition to the United States where they face added charges and tougher prison terms than in Colombia. Bagley says the extradition shows the Uribe government is continuing to pressure the paramilitary groups in an effort to further advance peace efforts. Critics say Uribe extradited the men to keep them from testifying in Colombian cases that might implicate him and his associates in crimes.

Antennas will block
convicts' cell phones

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

What may seem like an obvious move, officials at the la Reforma prison in Alajuela have set up antennas to block cell phone signals. That's because prison guards are unable to keep illicit cell phones out of the hands of inmates.

The convicts have been using the phones to manage criminal activities outside the prison, including various types of extortions, officials have said. Such crimes have been going on for years, but only now do prison administrators have a solution at just one facility in the country.

The antennas emit a signal that blocks cell telephone frequencies within a half-mile radius.

Jo Stuart
Real Estate
About us

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