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(506) 2223-1327          Published Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2011, in Vol. 11, No. 161          Email us
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Nigerians place too-good-to-be-true newpaper ad
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Expats and subscribers elsewhere probably do not know that a full-page Tico Times newspaper ad marketing cell telephones and other electronic devices was placed by Nigerians who have a history of scams.

The ad has run for at least three weeks on the back page of the English-language weekly.

The key contact on the ad, identified as Billy Kasht, sends his email messages from this IP address: The numbers trace back to an Internet server at in Lagos, Nigeria.

The full-page advertisement contains the same telephone number that was flagged by scam busters as being associated with The Thunder-Ball UK lottery scam. LLC, a Japanese firm that follows scams, listed Thunder-Ball as an advance fee fraud that was making the rounds in 2006. Emails would show up in a victim's inbox saying that the email address won a big prize. Never mind that the victim did not enter any contest.

The more naïve would follow instructions and send money for taxes, fees and other charges in order to claim the non-existent money prize.

That phone number is 447024064888. An Internet search shows that it also is related to a company that calls itself Ocean Limited.

The firm or individual using that name was placing classified ads a year ago  “Looking for 18-50 guys and girls for Entry Level Customer service/Sale/Account Manager/Transport/ Marketing Positions.”

Ocean Limited uses this email address: Scam busters report that scammers frequently use free email accounts like Yahoo, Hotmail or Gmail.

Scam busters also said that the phone number above is a special mobile type in Britain that forwards incoming calls to other countries. The company address is ostensible 8 Charlton Ave. in Eccles, Manchester, England.

The full-page newspaper ad also uses the email address Imesh Perera is a 26-year-old student in Sri Lanka who does not seem to be in the Internet marketing business, according to her Linked-in online profile.

However, the email address using her name is associated with classified ads for customer service, sales, account managers, market and transport and other job categories. The ads are running all over the world including one on another Costa Rican classified Web page. It says the email address is for the Oriental Coast Yacht Hotel UK.

The classified was posted in January and again in June.

Also seeking 50 individuals to fill entry-level jobs is the current key contact who uses the email address This person is identified in online classified postings as being associated with a firm called Oceans 17 Limited. This is a real British firm, according to the Company House there. The classified ads are circulating all over the world.

Scammers frequently offer jobs to persons seeking adventure but then demand advanced fees.

Billy Kasht also is another contact person if one seeks to purchase cell telephones via the full-page weekly newspaper ad. He offers the same Yahoo email account address, too. In the ad, Kasht says he is associated with The Mobile Phone Communications Limited and offers an address in Manchester, England. In direct mails, the firm is called The Mobile Telephone Exchange Limited, which is very similar to but not the same as a large London company that purchases used cellular telephones by mail.

The ad offers iPhones and iPads at what appears to be about half the normal retail price.

Newspapers are vulnerable because they are anxious to run advertising. Scammers have been known to pay their bills with fake or stolen credit cards. The newspaper publishes the ad for several weeks before the credit card companies report that the purchase was bogus. Consequently, some scammers are able to get their

scammer location
Map shows spot where email was sent

the ad
A.M. Costa Rica photo
Newspaper ad has run for at least three weeks

announcements before the public by trickery but without any expense.

The individual identified as Billy Kasht sought to place advertising in A.M. Costa Rica and its associated news titles. To pay the $5,000 bill, he offered a Citibank Mastercard in another name. A Mastercard fraud worker in The Philippines said that the card still was active. She said she would contact the card holder. The bank is based in New York.

Those expats who use a credit card to purchase mythical cell telephones from Nigerians should expect that their numbers will be used frequently and fraudulently by the scammers.

There once was a time when scammers offered to sell cell telephones and other electronic devices from their Nigerian location via emails. The suspicious wondered why Nigerians would offer good deals on such devices because the country did not manufacture cell telephones. The main reason is that the Nigerians had no intention of actually selling anything. They just wanted credit card information or money wired by Western Union.

But Nigeria was so notorious as a scammer's paradise that most customers were reluctant to do business with persons located there. Consequently many set up front operations in other countries to make it appear the customer was doing business in the First World. Scammers in Nigeria are so blatant that many such scams are called Nigerian 419s in reference to the section of the country's penal code that covers such crimes.

The paid newspaper ad appears to be an alternate approach and seeks to have individuals believe that the sellers are located in Manchester.

In an email exchange, editors challenged Billy Kasht to provide more information about the company and perhaps a bank reference. That is normal in business.

The individual appeared miffed in the broken English reply. He said “We are have been putting advert in the newspaper you found our advert and there is know complain. So why such question{We want to make sure that our readers get the cell telephones that they order}?Our company is on 17th aniversary that is why we reduce the price for the month.”

Instead of a bank reference he provided a list of individuals who were supposed to be satisfied customers. Two had email addresses that have been associated with scams in the past, according to an Internet search. Also included was a second telephone number, 442032390186, that appears to be associated with a  number of job offer ads on the Internet.

The irony is that for years bilingual crooks in Costa Rica marketed top-of-the-line computers that did not exist to victims in the United States.

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Our reader's opinion
Take money from drug game
and use it for treatment

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I agree with Warren Kinsman's letter regarding the legalization of drugs. The sad truth is that addicts are getting what they need through a violent, corrupt, worldwide system that makes everyone on any drug route subject to violence and corruption at all levels.
The real truth is that addicts are already getting what they need and want. They are just getting it at our expense in terms of the quality of life of those who live in trafficking areas. The price we pay for the mentality of cops and robbers is astronomical, not in terms of money (although we pay a high price in that), but more in terms of life quality.
Drug trafficking invites organized crime. It invites corruption. It invites violence.
The idea that all of a sudden addicts would multiply because drugs were legal just does not make any sense at all. They are ALREADY getting the drugs! We are not making a dent in the trafficking of drugs, or anything else for that matter. We are just playing an expensive game of cops and robbers.
With the same money put into drug treatment that we put into law enforcement, we would be far better off. Not just financially, but in terms of our quality of life.
I also agree with Warren that it is not likely to happen in my lifetime because we get in this moralistic battle instead of looking at the practical.
Right now the Asemblea Legislative is approving a new tax on cigarettes. A good idea, probably. However, the real truth is that smugglers will simply start a new business in Costa Rica, smuggling cigarettes from Nicaragua or another Central American country and we will have enriched, again, the lives of those who cross the borders with drugs. Our mentality is making them rich and powerful and eroding the quality of life for everyone else.
Time to stop and think. What would happen if we took the money out of the game and gave it to governments, in the form of taxes, to treat addiction?
At least have the willingness to actually think about it!

Robbie Felix
Quepos and Manuel Antonio

Guanacaste man held
in cases of 100 burglaries

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Investigators are attributing at least 100 home burglaries in Guanacaste to a Guayabo de Bagaces man who posed as a door-to-door book seller.

Agents said they were watching early Sunday when the man left his home. He was detained in Liberia when he was caught leaving a home that had been burglarized, said the Judicial Investigating Organization. There was a car chase, and the suspect was detained when his vehicle crashed into another, said agents.

In the car they found flat screen televisions, home appliances, telephones, computers, jewels, a firearm, tools and the books he offered to homeowners.

The burglaries were reported mainly in Liberia, Cañas, Nicoya and Santa Cruz, the agency said.

Investigators said the burglar would arrive at a home and ring the bell. If a homeowner answered, he would offer to sell books. If no one answered, the burglar would force the lock and enter the home, they said.

Monday morning agents entered his home in Guayabo and a small eating place in Fortuna, both in Bagaces. They found a treasure trove of goods, including 100 watches, 100 gold rings, 50 pairs of earrings, seven flat screen televisions, 10 laptops and 20 cell telephones. Agents were continuing to catalogue the goods in the late afternoon.

In an Internet cafe in la Fortuna, the agents confiscated 15 laptops, desk computers, two flat screen televisions, other televisions and other electronic devices. Agents said they suspect that the items were left at the cafe to be placed on sale.

The judicial police said that homeowners always should make sure that someone is at home in a house to protect against unlawful entries.

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, Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 161

Prisma dental

Legislative recesses delay final OK of corporation tax bill
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Lawmakers failed to pass on second reading the tax on corporations at their regular session Thursday.

The afternoon legislative session was interrupted repeatedly by requests for recesses by leaders of the various political parties.

The bill, technically Impuesto a las Personas Jurídicas, expediente N.º 16.306, did come to the floor and was lambasted by Wálter Céspedes Salazar, who said the measure would be costly for small business operators and those in agriculture.

He noted that the measure would place a tax on active corporations and other forms of company ownerships of $316 a year. Inactive corporations would pay half that.

Céspedes said that many banana growers and others have corporations just so they can do business with the state. Yet now they must either pay the tax or pay to have the company dissolved. He said dissolving the corporation would cost 100,000 colons or some $200.

He asked that the tax bill be returned to committee for study. He said to do otherwise would be robbing from the public. There was no action on the request because of the recesses that followed. Then Juan Carlos Mendoza García adjourned at the usual 6 p.m. time.

Céspedes, a member of the minority Partido Unidad Socialcristiana, was also irked because the original amount for an annual corporate tax was $200.

The committee increased the amount by 50 percent.

Some readers have expressed their objection to the bill, and Garland Baker pointed out in an article July 11 that the cost of closing a corporation is about $306, counting notary fees and other expenses, including publication in the La Gaceta
official newspaper. He wrote:

“The proper way to close an inactive company is to go before a notary and change the constitution.  Most companies are constituted for 99 years.  The notary would change the constitution of the company to only a few months into the future.  Once past, the company would be in theory dead.  The books then should go to the tax department for cancelation.”

Céspedes was speaking contrary to the sentiments expressed by lawmakers a week ago. Some 39 of them voted for the bill on initial passage. The agenda for today has not yet been published, so it is unclear if the bill will come up for a vote this afternoon.

One reader pointed out that he subdivided land and created a corporation for each lot on the advice of his lawyer. So now he has to pay the tax on 79 separate corporations, he said.

Even in worse shape are the many lawyers who have created shelf corporations to sell. Some have as many as 500 inactive shelf corporations in their inventory awaiting purchasers. That would mean an annual tax of about $79,000 on 500 inactive corporations.

Céspedes in his talk challenged a lawmaker who is a lawyer to help banana growers dissolve their corporations for free. But Céspedes said he doubted the lawmaker would do so.

President Laura Chinchilla strongly supports this bill. She is seeking an estimated 37 trillion colons in income that the bill would mean in the first 10 days of 2012. That's about $74 million. She plans to spend about $30 million on developing a new school for police in Heredia. The rest is designed for other security efforts, including an effort to integrate drug users and criminals back into society.

The delays caused by the recesses Thursday probably should not be seen as discontent with the bill. Most lawmakers were anxious to start their four-day weekend.

President authorizes child care program for cops' kids
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

More than 400 children of female police officers will receive day care under a new program launched by President Laura Chinchilla.

The president chose Monday, el Día de la Madre, to inaugurate the program, which is affiliated with the country's Centros Infantiles de Atención Integral and Centros de Educación y Nutrición. She issued a decree that authorizes the program. Fernando Marín, minister of Bienestar y Familia, said that his agency will put more resources in the hands of the nation's child care network to improve the infrastructure and coverage.

The special program is for women who work with the Fuerza Pública under the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policia y Seguirdad Pública. The coverage is supposed to be nationwide, and there is supposed to be a national network of Centros de Cuido y Desarrollo Infantil. President Chinchilla inaugurated one such center in Quircot de Cartago Saturday. The investment was 92 million colons or about $184,000.

Part of the money for caring for children of police officers probably will come from the tax on corporations that lawmakers are on the verge of passing. Ms. Chinchilla mentioned the tax Monday.
President and mothers
Casa Presidencial photo
Ms. Chinchilla is pictured among women police officers and their children.

Murders of two Mexicans add dimension to drug fight here
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Law enforcement officers appear to have been unsuccessful in keeping rivals in the international drug trade from killing themselves.

The latest evidence are the bodies of two Mexicans that were found Friday in an industrial area of Los Lagos, Heredia. The Judicial Investigating Organization confirmed Monday that the two men had been identified as German Lugo Auspivo and Federico Alonso Dávalos. Agents have little record of what the men were doing in the country.

The pair were wrapped individually in sheets and bound with industrial grade duct tape. Investigators attributed their deaths to the tape that was placed over their mouths and noses.

Investigators suspect the deaths happened Thursday or early Friday. The bodies were found Friday. At the same time they are investigating the murder of a man in Hatillo Thursday afternoon. He was a known drug dealer, identified as Steven Castro Ibarra. The location was his home in Colonia 15 de Setiembre. His body was wrapped in a blanket and bound with tape. He also suffered multiple bullet wounds.

Such treatment of bodies is considered a way drug gangs send messages. There are various drug cartels active in Costa Rica. The two men found in Los Largos were believed to have been associated with the Sinaloa cartel. The Los Zetas and the Michoacan cartels are known to be fighting in Costa Rica over drug routes. However, the
Familia Michoacan traditionally beheads the persons they kill. The Sinaloa gang has been identified as owners of large cocaine shipments.

Law officers and politicians are working hard to keep the kind of warfare that has resulted in 40,000 Mexican deaths out of Costa Rica.

Drug-related killings can range from purely local affairs to those international in scope. Local San José and Pavas gangs are attempting to expand their territory into San Ramón and other areas. Castro, the man killed in Hatillo, was believed to be involved with a gang in San Ramón that was attempting to recruit drug vendors.

A 39-year-old Nicaraguan man died early Aug. 1 when an armed gang broke into his home in Bajo Tejares de San Ramón de Alajuela. Agents quickly detained three persons they said were involved in the killing. This crime has some link to the man in Hatillo.

Friday agents detained a fourth man, a 21 year old who lived in an area known as El Progreso. The gang not only was involved in drug dealing but also in robbing pedestrians and small stores in the area, said the Judicial Investigation Organization.

Even though the Spanish-language press is linking the Hatillo killing with the bodies of the two men found Friday, there might be no relationship. The two dead Mexican men may have been invovled in an operation that was on a more international level than the San Ramón drug gang.

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A.M. Costa Rica's Fourth news page
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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 161

There is a downside to carbon sequestering in tropical forests
By the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology news service

A new study shows that as climate change enhances tree growth in tropical forests, the resulting increase in plant litter could stimulate soil micro-organisms leading to a release of stored soil carbon.

The research was led by scientists from the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology and the University of Cambridge, United Kingdom. The results are published online in the scientific journal Nature Climate Change.

The research team used results from a six-year experiment in a rainforest at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panamá to study how increases in dead plant material such as leaves, bark and twigs which fall to the ground might affect carbon storage in the soil. Their results show that extra litter triggers an effect called priming where fresh carbon from plant litter provides much-needed energy to micro-organisms, which then stimulates the decomposition of carbon stored in the soil.

Lead author Emma Sayer from the Centre said, “Most estimates of the carbon sequestration capacity of tropical forests are based on measurements of tree growth. Our study demonstrates that interactions between plants and soil can have a massive impact on carbon cycling. Models of climate change must take these feedbacks into account to predict future atmospheric carbon dioxide levels.”

The study concludes that a large proportion of the carbon sequestered by greater tree growth in tropical forests could be lost from the soil. The researchers estimate that a 30 percent increase in litter could release about six-tenths of a ton of carbon per hectare from lowland tropical forest soils each year. This amount of carbon is greater than estimates of the climate-induced increase in forest biomass carbon in Amazonia over recent decades. Given the vast land surface area covered by tropical forests and the large amount of carbon stored in the soil, this could affect the global carbon balance.

Tropical forests play an essential role in regulating the global carbon balance. Human activities have caused carbon dioxide levels to rise, but it was thought that trees would respond to this by increasing their growth and taking up larger amounts of carbon. However, enhanced tree growth leads to more dead plant matter, especially leaf litter, returning to the forest
carbon check
Centre for Ecology & Hydrology photos/Emma Sayer
Tent-like device helped measure carbon content of litter.

litter fall
This is an example of the forest litter that accumulates under the canopy.

floor and it is unclear what effect this has on the carbon cycle.

“This priming effect essentially means that older, relatively stable soil carbon is being replaced by fresh carbon from dead plant matter, which is easily decomposed,” said co-author Edmund Tanner from the University of Cambridge. We still don't know what consequences this will have for carbon cycling in the long term.”

Energy workshops planned for small and medium firms
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The Inter-American Investment Corp. in cooperation with BAC/Credomatic will be holding energy efficiency training workshops for entrepreneurs throughout Central America from Wednesday through Aug. 30.

The first is Wednesday in Costa Rica. The other countries and days are Nicaragua, Monday; El Salvador, Aug. 24; Honduras, Aug. 26; and Guatemala, Aug. 30.

The workshops are part of the Central American launch of the GREENPYME program, an Investment Corp. program that supports small- and medium-sized enterprises to help them become more competitive by promoting energy efficiency and clean technologies, said the agency, a member of the Inter-American Development Bank Group. More than 250 companies are expected to participate.
In partnerships the GREENPYME program provides access to green financing, and thus assists in improving access to financing for energy efficiency measures and energy audits. Each of the workshops will include a series of successful case studies where small- and medium-sized enterprises that have already implemented energy efficiency measures will describe their experience and lessons learned, the corporation said.

The participation of international companies such as Siemens and Schneider will add value to the events as they will highlight the newest available energy efficiency technologies, it added. Enterprises that participate in GREENPYME Central America may receive free technical assistance for energy audits and clean technology viability studies to detect energy inefficiencies within their facilities, said the corporation. Companies interested in participating in the GREENPYME workshops can register through the GREENPYME Web site:

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 161

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Friendly fire at Bay of Pig
outlined in new releases

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Newly declassified documents show that a CIA field operative accidentally fired on friendly pilots during the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in 1961.

The documents were released Monday by George Washington University's National Security Archive.  According to the papers, the operative fired rifles and machine guns at B-26 aircraft the CIA had supplied to a Cuban exile invasion force.  The bombers were flown by exiles and were configured to look like Cuban military planes.  The Archive cites the operative as saying some of the bombers were fired on because no one could distinguish them from the Cuban planes.

It is not clear whether anyone was hurt in the friendly fire incident.

The revelation comes about two weeks after the United States made public four volumes covering the CIA's official history of the failed attack on the government of then-Cuban president Fidel Castro. The document release was a response to a lawsuit filed by the Archive.  One volume remains classified.

On April 17, 1961, about 1,500 CIA-trained Cuban exiles landed on Cuba's southern coast in hopes of sparking an uprising.  Castro was warned of the impending invasion and had ample time to prepare his forces.  Most of the exiles were arrested and spent time in prison on the island.

John F. Kennedy was U.S. president at the time of the disastrous invasion and took responsibility for it.  Many Cuban exiles blamed the botched operation on President Kennedy, saying he did not provide enough support.

Ms. Fernández wins primary
on path to re-election

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner looks set to win a second term in October after defeating her rivals in an open primary Sunday.

With nearly all the polling places reporting, President Fernández had just over 50 percent of the vote, while her two closest rivals trailed by at least 37 percentage points.  Voters chose from among Ms. Fernández and nine challengers. 

This was Argentina's first open primary, meaning that all parties put up a candidate and voters cast ballots for their favorite.  Political analysts say the primary was more of a nationwide opinion poll than an election, and voters were responding to a booming economy, despite an inflation rate estimated at 25 percent.

The primary took place ahead of presidential elections on Oct. 23. 

Under Argentina's electoral system, a candidate who gets more than 45 percent of the vote wins the presidential election outright. Candidates can win the presidency in the first round with 40 percent of the vote as long as their nearest rival trails by at least 10 percent.

Ms. Fernández was first elected in 2007, succeeding her husband, Nestor Kirchner, who died last year.

Tropical storm Gert moves
past Bermuda to Atlantic

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Bermuda's weather service has canceled a tropical storm warning, as Tropical Storm Gert begins to turn north and is now expected to pass well east of the British territory in the Atlantic Ocean.

At last report, forecasters at the National Hurricane Center said the storm had maximum sustained winds of 95 kph (60 mph) as its outer edge neared Bermuda. Gert is traveling at about 22 kph (14 mph).

Forecasters expect the storm will increase its speed in the next two days and move out to sea, away from the U.S. east coast.

Gert is the seventh named storm of the 2011 Atlantic hurricane season, but none of the storms has developed into a hurricane.

Oldest U.S. Bataan survivor
died at 105 in Illinois

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The oldest survivor of the harrowing World War II march from Bataan province near the Philippine capital, Manila, to a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp has died at the age of 105.

He was Albert Brown. He died Sunday at a nursing home in the northern U.S. state of Illinois.

He survived the so-called Bataan Death March that U.S. and Philippine prisoners were forced to make in 1942 after losing the battle of Bataan. The Japanese Imperial Army forced about 75,000 prisoners of war to march more than 90 kilometers (about 56 miles) to a Japanese camp. Thousands died during the forced transfer, which an allied military commission later categorized as a Japanese war crime.

Brown was in his late 30s when he endured the march, but it was not until Japan's surrender in 1945 that he could return home. During his internment, he endured near starvation, cruel treatment by the Japanese prison guards and a host of diseases and ailments.

His remarkable experience during the march and in the Japanese camp is chronicled in a recently published book “Forsaken Heroes of the Pacific War: One Man's True Story” by Kevin Moore and Don Morrow.

In 2007, Brown was recognized at an annual convention of Bataan survivors as the oldest one still living.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 161

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Aquino's work
One of the works that will be featured

Self-taught artists featured
in exhibition near Liberia

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The works of Gilberto Aquino Pérez, a self-taught painter who has been in Costa Rica since 1972, will be presented starting Saturday in Liberia.

The exhibition is called “Colores y Formas Para el Espiritu.”

Aquino has cultivated several techniques, and the exhibit will highlight acrylics with the colorful and deep, rich texture for which he is known, said a spokesperson for the Hidden Garden Art Gallery, where the show will be presented. The exhibition will show approximately 20 paintings in small, medium, and large formats of birds, landscapes, and abstracts, the gallery said.

“Whenever I find myself facing a blank canvas, I experience an immense sense of freedom: the freedom that I get from doing what I love, transforming my ideas into finished work,” said Aquino. “Upon completion, I will feel satisfied, or perhaps dissatisfied, but always know I have given the best of myself in everything I do. This is loaded with discipline, order in my disorder and above all, love for what I do. It is not work, but a joy with the knowledge that the greatest satisfaction will be seeing my work finished.”

Fellow artist Gina Rojas Marín said “. . . his works stand out by the masterful handling of color, design, and shape; the texture, a perfect combination to convey what every artist needs and aims for: sensitivity, and his own interpretation.”

The gallery spokesperson said that an on-site  café serving bocas where people can gather to relax and enjoy the art has recently opened. The gallery is on the Playas del Cocos highway 5 kilometers west of the Daniel Oduber airport. The exhibition runs until Sept. 15.

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