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(506) 2223-1327          Published Thursday, Aug. 4, 2011, in Vol. 11, No. 153           Email us
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Robbers on the night shift hit two hotels in city
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The bold downtown robbers seem to be targeting hotels.

Bandits robbed two such places in San José early Wednesday within an hour.

The Judicial Investigating Organization said that the first place hit was a hotel on Avenida Primera at Cuesta de Mora hill just a short distance from the Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones. That happened at 12:20 a.m.

Three men, two with guns and one with a long pipe, arrived at the gate to the reception area and threatened the lone employee inside, said agents. Under threats from the gunmen, the female employee opened the gate or porton and was quickly bound, gagged and thrown to the floor, said the agency. The crooks got away with about 3 million colons, about $6,000, the judicial police said.

A short time later men arrived at the locked front door of the Sportsmen's Lodge on Calle 13 between avenidas 9 and 11 in north San José. They produced what looked like a hotel key to the guard and said they were returning to their rooms after a night out, said a spokesman for the hotel and restaurant. Once inside they tied up the guard and sought cash. The spokesman said that the four crooks did not get much money, but that they took
computer equipment. He speculated that a fifth man was waiting in a vehicle outside the business.

Later in the day at 8:50 a.m. two armed men held up the lone employee at a cell telephone store near the main office of Correos de Costa Rica, said the  Judicial Investigating Organization. They took cell telephones and portable computers to the tune of 7 million colons, said agents. That's about $14,000.

A robber did not fare too well in Guápiles about 1 p.m. Wednesday. The man entered a jewelry story in the center of town and produced a gun. The owner was one of two persons there, and he struggled with the man, who fled with a small amount of jewelry, said judicial agents. A short time later they located a suspect in a nearby vacant lot and recovered a plastic gun and jewelry, they said.

The two hotel robberies are not unique. There have been other such crimes in the city center. In two cases, the crooks went from room to room to awaken guests and take their possessions and money.

The daylight downtown robberies may not be by the same gang. There has been a wave of such crimes, mostly at stores located on the main pedestrian promenade, the bricked over Avenida Central. The robbers still are loose despite beefed up Fuerza Pública presence, municipal police and surveillance cameras.

Environmentalists question decree banning drilling
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

At least 20 environmental organizations and at least 70 individuals have signed a petition in which they claim that a moratorium on drilling for petroleum is fake.

René Castro, the new environmental minister, issued the decree Monday, the same day he moved into the job from his former post of foreign minister.

The petition calls upon Laura Chinchilla to established a moratorium that covers all exploration for hydrocarbons and any exploitation.

The petition says that there are verbal loopholes in the decree issued by Castro that might allow for natural gas exploration.

The issue is in the news because a U.S. firm, Mallon Oil, has emerged victorious from a 10-year legal battle with environmentalists. It was the
winner of a concession in 1999. But now Costa Rican officials do not want to follow through on the concession and permit the company to explore for oil and gas in the northern zone.

Costa Rica imports all its petroleum. Another U.S. firm is in court because Costa Rican officials pulled the rug out from under its plans to explore off the Caribbean coast. That was more than nine years ago. That company, Harken, says it may seek compensation from international arbitration if court appeals fail.

Ms. Chinchilla has said that she would accept natural gas exploration but not the same for oil.

The Spanish-language press has speculated that Costa Rican officials want Mallon out of the away so that a joint Chinese-Costa Rican consortium can search for the petroleum. Involved would be the Refinadora Costarricense de Petróleo, the country's motor fuels monopoly.

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Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía
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These are the four handguns that were confiscated

Domestic violence cases
include murder and weapons

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A 68-year-old Matina husband stands accused of murdering his 67-year-old wife, but police said they may have short circuited another domestic violence case when they confiscated four handguns from a home in Heredia Wednesday.

The victim in Matina was  Elizabeth Castillo Jiménez, who was found in her B Line, Matina, home Tuesday. Detained was the husband, identified by the last names of  Ureña Carmona. The Poder Judicial said there was no record of prior court action between the two persons.

Investigators said the woman was strangled.

In Barva de Heredia Fuerza Pública officers responded to a domestic violence call to find that the 61-year-old suspect, identified by the last names of  Oses Cordero, had four handguns and about 200 bullets of various calibers.

Daniel Calderón Rodríguez, head of the Fuerza Pública there said police confiscated the weapons because the woman involved complained that the man threatened her with one. Police did not say if the man had registered the weapons.

Another southern zone quake
rattles border residents

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A 4.8 magnitude earthquake rattled residents in southern Costa Rica and northern Panamá at 11:12 p.m. Wednesday.

The epicenter, estimated by the U.S. Earthquake Information Center, appeared to be right on the border of both countries. The center also specified the magnitude.

The location is 36 kilometers or 22 miles southeast of Golfito and 211 kilometers or 131 miles southeast of San José.

The Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico de Costa Rica estimated the magnitude a bit stronger at 5.4. The observatory attributed the quake to a local fault.

Find out what the papers
said today in Spanish

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Here is the section where you can scan short summaries from the Spanish-language press. If you want to know more, just click on a link and you will see and longer summary and have the opportunity to read the entire news story on the page of the Spanish-language newspaper but translated into English.

Translations may be a bit rough, but software is improving every day.

When you see the Summary in English of news stories not covered today by A.M. Costa Rica, you will have a chance to comment.

This is a new service of A.M. Costa Rica called Costa Rica Report. Editor is Daniel Woodall, and you can contact him HERE!

From the Costa Rican press
News items posted Monday through Friday by 8 a.m.
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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Aug. 4, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 153

Prisma dental

Lawmakers are not at all shy about bashing Liberación
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

When the Asamblea Legislativa meets in afternoon session, the 57 lawmakers usually have from five to 10 minutes to express themselves on any topic. Because they are elected officials speaking in a political forum, they are protected from being sued or hit with a defamation charge.

Wednesday was a day for bashing the Partido Liberación Nacional, the party of President Laura Chinchilla, which is now in the minority in the assembly because other parties formed a bloc.

Jorge Alberto Gamboa Corrales of the Partido Acción Ciudadana began by complimenting prosecutors for arresting the mayor of Golfito and two other municipal officials on the allegations that they sought a bribe to approve a maritime concession.

The subject of corruption is nothing new, he said, adding that also not new was that Liberación party members were involved in municipal corruption.

"In fact, it can't be a coincidence that during the last two municipal periods the corruption has increased to levels of a heart attack in almost all the municipal buildings, especially in the southern zone," he said. "Also it is not a coincidence that in the last five  years the Partido Liberación Nacional has come to control the majority of the local governments as if they were their own property." He noted that Liberación won 58 races for mayor out of a possible 81 in the last round of elections.

He alleged that the party was an accomplice in the municipal corruption and noted that the party leader is Rodrigo Arias Sánchez, the brother of the former president. Rodrigo Arias has political ambitions of his own, so he is a frequent target of opposition members.

The mayor is Deylon Gerardo Arroyo Blandón. Also jailed for preventative detention were the president of the municipal council,  Rodolfo Delgado Jiménez, and another official, Alexis Rojas Rojas.

José María Villalta Florez-Estrada of Frente Amplio picked up the theme when it was his turn to speak.

He noted that the Golfito mayor  has less than a year in the job and that he belongs to Liberación. He said he wondered why Liberación party leaders do not open their own investigation. The Golfito case is not an isolated one, he said, noting that prior administrations there have been involved in concession scandals and that zoning regulations were approved illegally.

He claimed that Liberación was having a party with the property of the state and that in a subsequent session he

would spell out links among the maritime zone concessions, Liberación party members and narcotraffickers.

Wálter Cépedes Salazar of the Partido Unidad Socialcristiana used his time to explain why he participated in blocking the Caribbean coastal highway July 26. That was when firebombs and rocks were thrown at police and shots rang out. Céspedes said he was not just there to defend the two hotels that were supposed to be demolished. He said that the entire area around Puerto Viejo de Talamanca is in jeopardy. The case involves properties constructed in the Refugio Vida Silvestre de Gandoca Manzanillo.

"At this moment the whole population of Puerto Viejo, including the Hotel Tamara, the restaurant, the liquor stores, the bank, all the population, the city of Puerto Viejo is within the  Refugio de Gandoca Manzanillo," he said. "If the interpretation  of the Contraloría is applied that the refuge is state property, this means that no one, that no human, only animals and trees can live inside a refuge." The  Contraloría had urged the demolition of the two hotels. Las Palmas already is demolished.

He also was critical of the way in which a single minister and the president can sign a decree that has the force of law. That is in contrast to the legislature where there is a long process to pass a law, he noted.  Cépedes made clear he was not just talking about the current administration but the custom that the central government has to issue such decrees.

Other lawmakers addressed the economy, in vitro fertilization and the need to have strong laws against drunk driving. There has been a wave of fatal accidents involving apparently drunk drivers. The issue is being considered along with the entire traffic code. It is in committee.

Lliberación lawmakers did not have a chance to reply to the opposition speeches because the session recessed so that Andrey Amador, the Costa Rican cyclist, could be honored in an adjacent room. He participated in the Tour de France bike race.

Exchanges like the one Wednesday sometimes become hotter. There have been no recent cases of lawmakers engaging in fist fights as in other countries, but sometimes the situation becomes tense. The transcripts of the afternoon plenario session are quickly posted to the assembly Web site. Plus the afternoon session is televised. The channel depends on the cable provider.

Development bank will loan country at least $700 million
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica has been offered a loan ranging from $700 million to $1.06 billion by the  Inter-American Development Bank.

The development bank said it approved a new country strategy with Costa Rica for the period from this year to 2014. The strategy seems to address all the country's woes.

The bank's statement in a press release did not outline the payback provisions of the load. Typically such loans carry low interest and a grace period for a few years when no payments are expected.

The bank is believed to support President Laura Chinchilla's proposal for $1 billion in new taxes.

Said the bank in a release: "The strategy focuses on sectors where Costa Rica faces constraints for its growth, such as transport, energy, early childhood development and innovation. It also covers issues that have demanded priority attention in recent years, such as public safety and health. The sectors identified in the strategy are in line with the pillars of the Costa Rican government plan."

The low quality of the infrastructure, especially in transport, is one of the factors that affect Costa Rica’s productivity, increasing logistical costs and affecting business decisions regarding location, investment and production, it said.

The development bank said it seeks to improve the quality and maintenance of the national and cantonal road network as well as Costa Rica’s ports and airports, and the goal is to reduce travel costs and times for both goods and persons. While highway infrastructure is one aspect of the plan, emphasis is also placed on public transport, it said.

The development bank also said it will support investments to modernize and strengthen Costa Rica’s energy sector with the goals including boosting the installed generation capacity from 2,412 megawatts (in 2009) to 2,677 megawatts in 2014 and attracting more private sector
producers by reinforcing the regulatory framework. The bank also said it plans to promote the use of renewable energy sources, raising generation from 1,787 megawatts to 1,972 megawatts and strengthening Costa Rica’s integration in the regional electricity market.

The strategy seeks to contain violence and crime in Costa Rica by boosting the government's capacity to prevent and fight organized crime. The program includes professionalizing and training police forces, developing social prevention programs for at-risk young adults and communities and promoting the social reintegration of lawbreakers, it said.

The development bank also said:

• Children from poor households face significant delays in their physical, emotional and cognitive development. Evidence shows that early childhood development interventions help break the intergenerational transmission of poverty. The bank will provide support for strengthening a system to protect early childhood. Plans include building and equipping the national child care and development network and stimulating labor market access for the mothers it serves.

• Costa Rica’s has very positive health indicators but budget limitations have affected the maintenance and expansion of the service network. The strategy seeks to update coverage to fit a new epidemiological profile based on an aging population, as well to expand access to health services for the poorest. It also aims to modernize and expand primary and tertiary health facilities and to improve the quality and organization of the hospital system.

• The bank will focus on strengthening and increasing the scope of financing instruments, including technological development funds and seed capital. It will promote the development of advanced human technical/scientific capital adapted to the demands of the business sector. The bank will also support technology-transfer programs and activities that link universities with businesses, and plans to increase access to and the use of information and communication technologies in the productive sector.

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A.M. Costa Rica's Fourth news page
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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Aug. 4, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 153
Here are the opinions of our readers
Panamá is not the paradise
writer was seeking here

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:
The grass is greener on the other side of the border?
In the past I used to get upset when I read letters posted from angry Americans leaving Costa Rica for greener pastures. Now I just say "Adios and good luck.  I hope you find what you are looking for.   Sorry my friend, but if you can't find it here you will never find it."
They just can't leave quietly and admit that for whatever personal reason they just can't hack it here.  They have to blame someone else.
I am sure that if you dig a little deeper you will find another unhappy Gringo looking for paradise and peace in Costa Rica,
when paradise and peace of mind comes from within.
All of the negative issues that the letter list: crime, traffic tickets, security, cost of living, corrupt government officials, unfair taxes, are issues he will find everywhere, including Panamá.  Especially Panamá, my friend.   The disparity between rich and poor is particularly apparent in Panamá. Take a walk in Panamá City and Colón, away from the guarded and gated communities, and I recommend a bodyguard, maybe two.
Although far from perfect, Costa Rica has the longest standing democracy in Latin America, a business environment that welcomes foreign investment, the happiest people on the planet, a minimum wage, social security benefits for the elderly, and a health system that at least tries to take care of the basic needs of the poorest among us. And, yes, an education system that produces one of the highest literacy rates in the world.
One of the things I like the best is their historical policy of minding their own business and staying out of foreign entanglements.  When you are at peace with your own people and your neighbors, you dont need to waste money on a military.
The writer mentioned in his letter that he built a "big house" yet he doesn't want to pay a small luxury tax on this mansion to help pay for the improved services that he complained about.   I am sure a home like that would be subject to properly taxes in the U.S. far in excess of the little luxury tax assessed here in Costa Rica.  Next time build a smaller home.
If the home is subject to the luxury tax, it must be something else.  Maybe he should have built something smaller and tried to blend in and become a part of your community.
I have lived and prospered here for 13 years, never been robbed, taken hostage, or assaulted.   Yes, I have had a few traffic tickets, but they are easy to appeal and languish in the courts..  The appeal process is open to everyone including us Gringos.
If you are unhappy here, then I suggest you go to Panamá, San Salvador, Nicaragua, or Honduras and build another "big house"
Your maid will be much less expensive because they work for nothing. Why? Because they are hungry and their government does not protect them with a minimum wage, or health coverage, or guarantee them an education.
Sounds like the perfect place for the writer. 
Leo Plumley
Hermosa Beach

Murders in Osa peninsula
causing sleepless nights

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I am writing you tonight about the recent murder I just read about today.  Being busy with work and getting my son back into school has kept me out of the news.

I am very disturbed about the fact that murders are happening at a rapid pace now here in the southern zone and going unsolved.  I went to bed to get the sleep I deserve after a very long day of studying and working and find that I am unable to sleep due to lack of investigation of numerous murders  and fear for my own  life. 

It seems to me with a lady president in office currently that she would have respect for the lives of single ladies here.  Violence against women is becoming a very serious issue here and needs to be addressed.  Along with the fact that now two ladies from this area have been murdered and perhaps raped.

I repeat as I wrote before has anyone considered the possibility of a serial killer being free to roam about and pick his next victim?

Take a look at the American serial killer Wild Bill and how he was caught because of one man's interest in the case of his ex-wife being missing.  He killed at least five people and perhaps many others not so far away from here in Panamá.

Let's consider the fact that murders which remain unsolved means a killer is lose and perhaps indeed this is a serial killer that is picking American women as his victims.

I feel for the family and friends and, of course, the Costa Ricans in the area as well.  For one moment would someone please address the fear that must be in the minds of any women in the area and the fact that this is a damn crime, please?

Let's put this issue on the president's doorstep and ask her how many will it take before some serious investigation is carried out.  I truly believe this could be anyone and nothing can be assumed until the murderer is caught. 

This is total insanity when murder is treated as if it is commonplace and investigations are slack and disorganized.

Prayers go out to all friends and family of Ms. Artz, as well as all the people who are trying to sleep in the zone.

There are 14 people missing or murdered according to the Facebook missing in Costa Rica page.  That does not include the murders of Ms. Blackwell and Ms. Artz.

Debora Edholm
There are many chances
for inexpensive events

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Not another one!!!  I have to ask myself why these Costa Rica bashers decided to relocate to Costa Rica in the first place!  Ignorance?  Not checking out the facts beforehand?  Trying to live "cheaper" but wanting all the amenities they had elsewhere?  Really, I have no sympathy for those who opt to move here, become disgruntled because it's not as economical as they had thought and now start bashing the whole country and everything about it, except the weather!  

Yes, it may be more expensive to live here, but where do you spend your money?!  There are many things that can be done for a mere pittance or for no cost at all.  My husband and I saw two excellent jazz concerts recently at a cost of 1,000 colons!  After the concert, we had the best homemade ice cream in a little, old ice cream parlor in the center of town, followed by a walk in the park and talking to many people along the way.  We don't live in a cage, but maybe we are more adventurous than some.  We are cautious, having had a couple of bad experiences, but that's the challenge we are up to facing.

Go to Panamá and buena suerte!  I do hope the writer has done more homework on Panamá than he did before coming to Costa Rica.  For example: insurance costs, potentially (I stress potentially) dangerous political arena, etc.

Oh, yes, I agree that we Americans certainly do have a bit more money than the Ticos. After all, have you looked at the wages the Ticos get?  But why come here and expect to live like a king when you can look around and see there are needy people on every street.  Have a heart!

In my management classes, I was taught there are certain things people need: food, clothing, shelter.  We have found all of those here in Costa Rica plus a lot more.  A little caution is always a good idea whether here, Panama, or Barre, Vermont!

Ann Boyd
Canoas de Alajuela

Taxes here are nothing like
those in Massachusetts

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Let's see. For openers, the taxes on my home in Massachusetts were at $11,000 per year seven years ago, and rising when I moved here.The taxes on my main home here, larger than the former home in Massachusetts, were $440 last year. Already I am $10,560 or more ahead. When I see a doctor at CIMA, the charge for the visit is between $60 and $90. Blood tests, etc., about $100. In Massachusetts you can add a zero to those figures.

I used to drive 20,000 miles per year in Massachusetts, and now we drive about 6,000 miles, saving mucho gas money. I have found auto and moto repairs to be far less and even have an excellent mechanic who comes to my home.

Saturdays at the feria result in bringing home lots of fresh vegetables at laughable prices. We also usually bring home over two kilos of fish, usually snapper (pargo), tuna (atun), king mackerel, etc. at a per-pound cost of $4 to5 vs. $10 to15 per-pound in Massachusetts. Interest on CDs here is way above U.S. banks. Heating and air-conditioning costs are zero, as there is no need for them in the Valle Central.

Restaurants and bars are generally less expensive. Concerts at the Teatro Nacional cost a fraction of what i paid before. Need I continue with more examples? The problem with many Gringos here is that they arrived under-capitalized and naive as to the realities of inflation. Add to all that Pura Vida, and Costa Rica is a home run.

Barry Schwartz

Just cut spending here
and in the States, too

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Kudos to you and your team for providing several excellent ideas for raising money in Costa Rica. Concise, creative and constructive. It was the best article I have read in five years in any journal in this country. My hope is for Costa Rica to find a way to prevent the same pitfalls of their neighbor to the north. The U.S.A. spends $300 billion per month and only takes in $180 billion per month. The name of the game is to just cut spending. It would be interesting to note the same numbers for Costa Rica.

The Spanish philosopher, George Santayana, said: "A man's feet should be planted in his country, but his eyes should survey the world."

To the curmudgeon from Puntarenas whose penchant for Betty Crocker box top coupons is superseded only by his inability to fathom the quality of life afforded by Costa Rican culture and lifestyle: "May you have fun in Panama and may your biscuits always rise. We won't miss your negative energy. Pura vida!"

John 'Skeeter' Coleman
Cima Estelar
Grifo Alto de Puriscal

We'll publish your letter
if it adds something new
to the debate over
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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Aug. 4, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 153

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Noriega is headed home

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A lawyer for former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega says France has agreed to extradite him to face charges in his home country.

The lawyer says French Prime Minister Francois Fillon signed the extradition order last month and Noriega was notified last week. 

Panamá and France have not confirmed the development.  Panamá requested Noriega's extradition for his role in the killing of the leader of an attempted military coup in 1989.  He also faces charges of murdering political opponents. Noriega is currently serving time in a French jail for laundering drug money.

Noriega served 20 years in prison in the United States for drug trafficking, money laundering and racketeering before being extradited to France in 2010.  He had been sentenced in absentia in 1999 to seven years in jail on charges of money laundering.

Noriega came to power in Panamá in 1983 and maintained a firm grip on the Central American country until he was ousted by U.S. forces in 1989.

Martelly loses choice again

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Haitian lawmakers have rejected President Michel Martelly's second pick for prime minister.

Lawmakers rejection of Bernard Gousse, a controversial lawyer and former justice minister, delivers a major blow to President Martelly's efforts to get a new government in place nearly three months after taking office.

Sixteen members of the 30-seat Haitian Senate voted against Gousse.  The other members refrained from voting.

Martelly's first pick as prime minister, businessman Daniel-Gerard Rouzier, was rejected by the chamber of deputies June 21.

The political wrangling continues to hamper efforts to rebuild Haiti after the devastating 2010 earthquake.

President Martelly, a former pop music star, was elected in March with no political experience, and took office in May.

Massacre duo sentenced

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A Guatemalan court Tuesday sentenced four former soldiers to 6,060 years in prison each for the 1982 massacre of 201 men, women and children during the Guatemalan civil war.  The court sentenced them to 30 years for each person killed, plus an additional 30 years for each murder as a crime against humanity.

The length of the sentences is viewed as largely symbolic.  Guatemalan law limits the time a convict can serve to 50 years.

Former Lt. Carlos Antonio Carias received an additional six years for stealing the victims' belongings.

The killings took place over the course of three days in December 1982 as part of Guatemala's 1960-1996 civil war.  Witnesses say the victims included pregnant women, children and the elderly.  The only survivors were several children.

Judge Jazmin Barrios called the killings perverse and said they erased from the map the village of Dos Erres.

Guatemala's civil war led to nearly a quarter of one million deaths.  Thousands of people remain missing.

Haiti braces for hurricane

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Nearly 12,000 United Nations peacekeepers are on emergency standby in Haiti as tropical storm Emily barrels towards the impoverished Caribbean country, which is still struggling to recover from the devastating 2010 earthquake that killed more than 200,000 people and displaced 2.3 million others.

Some contingents of the U.N. Stabilization Mission in Haiti, which comprises 8,500 troops and 3,000 police, have already been deployed as a precautionary measure in regions that are most at risk from the storm, which is expected to hit the country overnight.

These forces are in position on the ground in Gonaïves and Les Cayes and on standby in Port-au-Prince should rescue operations be needed, and the mission has set up two crisis centers to coordinate action.

Last November, Hurricane Tomas caused widespread flooding, unleashing a cholera epidemic that killed hundreds and infected some 20,000 people.

MINUSTAH, which has been on the ground in Haiti since mid-2004 after then president Jean-Bertrand Aristide went into exile amid violent unrest, includes a contingent of 1,000 military engineers, whose work could be critical in the event of serious flooding.
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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Aug. 4, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 153

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Latin America news
Another journalist's murder
brings call for in-depth probe

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The Inter American Press Association has condemned the murder of Dominican Republic journalist José Agustín Silvestre. the organization asked officials to order an immediate in-depth investigation to uncover the motive and bring those responsible to justice.

Silvestre, 59, was kidnapped Tuesday morning in the southeastern province of La Romana by four men in a SUV. His body was found several hours later with two gunshot wounds the local media reported. His sister, who was near Silvestre when he was abducted, said she believes he stood up to his assailants so one then shot him.

Silvestre, known as “Gajo,” hosted the program La Voz de la Verdad ("The Voice of Truth") that aired Monday through Friday at 2:30 p.m. on Cana TV and published a twice-monthly magazine with the same name.

After reporting alleged ties between local public prosecutor José Polanco and drug traffickers he was held in prison for several days in May and charged with libel, then released after posting bail.

Press association President Gonzalo Marroquín, president of the Guatemala City, Guatemala, newspaper Siglo 21, said that although the reasons for the murder were not immediately known “the authorities must pay special attention to this crime and investigate transparently and with diligence until those responsible have been identified.”

Robert Rivard, chairman of the organization's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information and editor of the San Antonio Express-News, Texas, publicly expressed concern and condemnation of Silvestre’s murder, which is added to 19 committed in the Americas so far this year.  “Sadly,” Rivard said, “this is one of the most tragic years for journalists.”

The news of Silvestre’s murder raised angry reactions among his colleagues and Tuesday afternoon the attorney general’s office announced the creation of a special investigative commission.

Silvestre was known for his ongoing and controversial claims about drug trafficking in the community of La Romana on several radio and television programs and in his magazine; on one issue’s cover he accused Polanco of nepotism.

The Web site said that according to unofficial information, last Saturday Silvestre gave details during a program about alleged killers of a pub owner and others in La Romana, “and since that day … he’s had to stay in the city of Santiago because he was being pursued.”

The press association officers also brought up the murders of Dominican journalists Johnny Martínez in 2006, Juan Andújar in 2004 and Luis Orlando Martínez in 1975, cases that ended with convictions as opposed to the case of Narciso González whose whereabouts have remained unknown since 1994.

Last month the Inter-American Human Rights Court held public hearings on the González case.

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