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(506) 223-1327        Published Friday, Aug. 25, 2006, in Vol. 6, No. 169       E-mail us    
Jo Stuart
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Tránsito officers gathered Thursday in Desamparados as they prepared to crack down on illegal taxi drivers, those without permits.

Licensed taxistas have been livid because the unlicensed drivers cut into their revenue, a critical issue with higher gas costs and higher fares.

A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas

Examples of early Costa Rica stone work from the exhibit announcement
Early artisans and their stone masterpieces will be featured
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Some 1,800 years of stone artifacts produced by the pre-Columbian residents of Costa Rica are going on display.

The Museos del Banco Central said some 143 objects from 300 B.C. to 1500 A.D. have been gathered from three major collections beside its own for the show, which starts Sept. 3.

In addition to the stone artworks themselves, the museum hopes to show the way in which they were made and the role they occupied in daily life.

The exhibition, “Artesanos y Piedras: Herramientas y escultura precolombina en Costa Rica,” runs through January, the museum said.

Contributions come from the Museo de Jade, the Museo Nacional de Costa Rica and the Escuela de Geología of the Universidad de Costa Rica.

Pre-Hispanic Costa Ricans created elaborate sculptures with stone and soft metal 
instruments. The exhibit will include information about the location of mineral deposits used by the Indian cultures and the pecking and chipping that was used to create masterpieces.

Stone objects were intimately linked to the
socioeconomic development of the Indian peoples, said Patricia Fernández, archaelogical curator of the museum.

Ms. Fernández also happens to be one of the authors or "Artesanos y piedras: Herramientas y escultura precolombina en Costa Rica." The other author is the geologist Guillermo Alvarado. The book will be available at the museum store.

Sept. 3 is a Sunday, so the inauguration of the exhibit will coincide with the II Festival Cultural which will take place in the Plaza de la Cultura above the museum. This is billed as a family event.

The festival includes theater, an exhibition of working in stone and a seminar on the subject. Entrance to the museum will be free for Costa Ricans and residents on that day.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Aug. 25, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 169

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Private shark fin docks
ruled illegal, group says

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Sala IV constitutional court has ordered the immediate closing of private docks where shark fishermen have been unloading their catch for years.

The court's decision was reported by the Programa Restauración de Tortugas Marinas, which filed a case in 2004.

The court said that the customs law requires that all foreign flag vessels at first discharge their cargo at public docks. The court said this was to protect the public interest.

The court further said that three public agencies had abdicated their constitutional duties, permitted shark species to be put in grave danger through irrational exploitation. The agencies are the Instituto Costarricense de Pesca y Acuacultura, the Departamento de Aduanas and the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transporte, said the environmental organization.

Although not a party to the action, the Ministerio de Ambiente y Energía, the environmental ministry, also was ordered to guarantee the compliance with the law on the private docks.

The Programa Restauración de Tortugas Marinas said that the court resolved the case in February but that the agencies chose to ignore the decision until they were notified formally, which took place this month.

Private docks in Puntarenas have been used since 1998 for shark fishermen to off-load the fins they catch. There have been repeated protests from the environmental community. But the situation is tied up with Costa Rica's relationship with Asian governments. Shark fin soup is much in demand in Asia, and Costa Rica has accepted many grants from Asian countries, principally Taiwan.

The Programa Restauración de Tortugas Marinas said that the public agencies also reply that there are no public facilities suitable for the unloading of sharks and shark fins.

But the environmental organization said that a perfect facility exists in Golfito.

Old liquor factory
celebrates its 150th

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Fabrica Nacional de Licores has had its 150th birthday. This is the series of buildings that is now the Centro Nacional de Cultura just east of Parque España.

But the structures were not built for culture but for aguardiente or guaro, liquor made from sugar cane.

When Spain ruled the new world, the sale of liquor, gunpowder and tobacco were monopolies of the crown, noted a summary from the Ministerio de Cultura, Juventud y Deportes.

When Latin Americans won their freedoms, the right reverted to the national government, which was interested in taxes but also wanted to safeguard the people from bad liquor.

In 1850 then-president Juan Rafael Mora Porras decided to centralize the production of alcohol, which then was being produced in small family businesses under state authority.  Aug. 24, 1856,  is when the new alcohol factory was inaugurated. It was the only structure in the area, the ministry said. There was a good water supply and the factory and its odors was well out of the way of the downtown.

As civilization closed in a new plant was constructed in  Rincón de Salas, Grecia, and the distilling process was done there since 1981. By 1993 all the liquor manufacturing was moved out of town.

That's when the buildings became the culture ministry.

New pedestrian bridge
raises question of use

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A new pedestrian bridge was put into service Thursday amid concerns that only about 15 percent of those on foot use the safety measure.

The newest bridge is in front of Mall Real Cariari over the Autopista General Cañas.

The Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transporte has embarked on a week of publicity to raise observances of traffic safety rules in an effort to cut deaths by 19 percent. Other agencies are participating.

The public works ministry plans to build six more bridges. These will be on the autopistas Próspero Fernández and Florencio del Castillo with one more on the Circuvalación that runs along the south and east sides of San José.

Since the year 2000, some 422 pedestrians have lost their lives.

The ministry and Tránsito officers have another campaign where they paint yellow hearts on the highways showing where pedestrians died. The trip from Juan Santamaría airport to San José passes many such hearts.

Physical activity day
celebrated at schools

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

About a million school children all over the country will be celebrating the Día de la Comunicad Activa. The idea is to show the benefits of physical activity.

The day is being promoted by the Ministerio de Educación Pública and the Red de Actividad Física de las Américas.

Hikes, competitions, soccer tournaments and some inside sports will take place at schools. Similar events will be taking place over the rest of Latin America.

The educational ministry estimates that about 20 percent of the school children are sedentary and that 13 percent are overweight and 8 percent are obese.

Teachers and alumni will be included in the activities, the ministry said.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Aug. 25, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 169

U.S. targets yet another sportsbook operating here
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Three sportsbook operators in Costa Rica are facing U.S. federal iindictments in another complex crackdown on offshore betting here.

They join nine individuals in the United States who have been indicted on illegal gambling and money laundering charges.

The San José individuals are Richard Anderson, 62, also of Los Angeles, California, and Darwin Mobley and Jorge Esteban Hall Zumbado, both of San José. Anderson, Mobley, and Zumbado allegedly operated the gambling business in Costa Rica and received compensation for doing so with funds sent by wire transfer from the United States to a bank account in Costa Rica, said a release from the U.S. Department of Justice.

Houshang Pourmohamad, 61, of Richmond, California, is a fourth person indicted at the same time. He worked as an agent in the United States, collecting money from players in the United States and delivering the currency either to a bookmaker or to runners. As an agent, Pourmohamad received a commission based on a percentage of his players’ losses, said the government.

The gambling operation on the Internet was know as

The four individuals were named in a 12-count indictment, which was unsealed last week. The defendants face charges of conspiracy and of conducting an illegal gambling business, conspiracy to launder funds from the business, and conspiracy to use facilities in interstate and foreign commerce, including e-mail, telephone communication, and an Internet Web site, to promote the unlawful activity, said  U.S. Attorney Kevin V. Ryan of the Northern District of California.

Pourmohamad was arrested on July 26 in Richmond, California, on an earlier criminal indictment. He made
his initial appearance in federal court in Oakland,
California, and is scheduled to appear again Sept. 12. Seven other persons were arrested with Pourmohamad in California July 26.

They are Jenaro R. Mejias of Carson City, Nevada; Tony Ferretti of Pacifica, California; Dallas Affolter, also of Pacifica;  Ed Attanasio, of San Francisco, California; David Volkman, of Belmont, California; Norm Foisy of Lafayette, California, and Ray Vargas, of Fremont, California, according to the U.,S. Department of Justice. The men also were described as agents who collected money for transfer to Costa Rica.

The complaint charges the defendants with conspiracy to conduct, finance, manage, and supervise an illegal gambling business and conducting, financing, managing, and supervising an illegal gambling business. Each count carries a maximum statutory penalty of five years imprisonment, a $250,000 fine, three years supervised release, and a $100 special assessment. The complaint also charges the defendants with conspiracy to launder money. Each count carries a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years imprisonment, a $500,000 fine, five years supervised release, and a $100 special assessment.

The earlier case also involves The Web site is not active now.

Local sources said they believe Mobley is 37 and has residency in Costa Rica. He lives in la Pacifica subdivision. Hall Zumbado, 29, is a Costa Rican who lives in Heredia, said the same sources. It is not known if Costa Rica will honor a U.S. request for extradition.

The U.S. federal action comes shortly after similar allegations of illegal gambling were leveled against BetonSports, a well known sportsbook with offices in Mall San Pedro.

By comparison, was believed to be much smaller. But the firm did use agents and runners in the United States instead of relying on bettors to place their wagers via the Internet and telephone.

Heads of nation's drug institute come to its defense
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Heads of the Instituto Contra las Drogas came to a legislative committee Thursday to defend the agency.

The nation's chief prosecutor last week said the agency was worthless and money could be saved by eliminating it.

Mauricio Borachi, the institute's director, also defended the agency's money-laundering section and said there needs to be more coordination between his  Unidad de Análisis Financiero, the money-laundering section of the Judicial Investigating Organization and prosecutors. Borachi was accompanied by José Torres, institute president and also a vice minister of the Presidencia. The institute is part of the executive branch.

The institute coordinates and implements policy but doesn't execute it, Borachi told the legislature's Comisión de Narcotráfico. The institute has a budget of $1.6 million and is supporting nearly 200 cars on the road all over the country for other agencies, he said. The institute pays the expenses but the other agencies pay for the gas, he said.
Borachi also said the institute has returned a lot of money to the country:

• It has put 330 million colons (some $640,000) into a soon-to-be-completed building for young drug addicts;

• It has put 400 million colons ($776,000) into the  Centro de Intervención Telefónica for use in getting telephone evidence against drug traffickers;

• It has donated land in the southern zone to the Ministerio de Justicia y Gracia, and

• It has provided land in Santo Tomas de Santo Domingo de Heredia for a local clinic.

Part of the institute's problem is laws that are preventing its full development, said Borachi, adding that some changes to the law will be presented to the legislature by the executive branch soon.

Later the commission said that it would hear  Francisco Dall"Anesse, the chief prosecutor, in an unusual closed session next week because he said last week there were factors that he could not discuss in public.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Aug. 25, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 169

Chávez says he will triple petroleum exports to China
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has signed a series of trade agreements with China and pledged to more than triple oil exports to the energy-hungry country within five years.  Chávez, who is visiting China, also obtained his hosts' support for Venezuela's U.N. Security Council bid.

Chávez signed eight trade deals with China, including an agreement to jointly exploit Venezuela's vast oil reserves.

Chávez said Thursday he wants oil exports to China to double to 300,000 barrels a day by next year and reach 500,000 barrels per day within five years.

Venezuela sells most of its oil to the United States, but Chávez, an outspoken critic of Washington, has been courting alternative markets.

Michael Pettis is a financial analyst based at Beijing University.  He says Chávez may not be able to loosen trade ties with the U.S. in favor of China.

"This seems more like posturing by Chávez than anything else," he said.  "It's hard to imagine that it is economically efficient to divert a huge amount of oil away from its traditional markets towards China. There's really no reason to put in the transportation
costs and the costs of diverting the supply of oil."

Chávez also met with Chinese President Hu Jintao Thursday.  He told reporters that the Chinese leader had pledged support for Venezuela's bid to join the U.N. Security Council. Chávez welcomed China's support.

The United States opposes Venezuela's bid.

Chávez has said developing relations with countries like China are part of efforts to create a multi-polar world to counter U.S. influence.

However, financial analyst Pettis says China is not interested in the fiery populist politics of the left-leaning Latin American leader and is really interested in diversifying its sources of foreign oil to fuel its booming economy.

"Particularly, since much of Chinese presence in the oil industry tends to be very low quality, or countries with unstable governments," he added.  "So, a country like Venezuela is very interesting because it's got high quality large amounts of oil and it's basically been a fairly stable producer of oil over the long term."

Other deals under consideration during Chávez's visit to China, are purchases of Chinese made oil tankers and oil drills.

One arrest made in Curridabat robbery at Banco de Costa Rica branch
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two well-dressed men impersonated bank officials Wednesday morning and managed to pull off a 35 million ($68,000) robbery in Curridabat.

But investigators nabbed one suspect Thursday. He was identified by the last names of Montalvo García. He is a Colombian. A judge in the Juzgado Penal de
Goicoechea was asked to hold him for six months for investigation.

The bank is a branch of the Banco de Costa Rica. It is in Plaza Cristal in Curridabat. The two men showed up a half hour before the 11 a.m. opening time and showed bank credentials and said they wanted to see the manager. Once inside, they revealed their true purpose.

Law enforcement agents grab two men convicted of child abuse
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A special anti-crime unit has detained a man convicted of abusing children. The man has been keeping a low profile in the mountains of the northern zone since his six-year prison sentence was ratified in 2000, officials said.

He has the last names of  Pérez González, and he was convicted in the Tribunal de Juicio de San Carlos.

A report said that agents of the Departamento de Prevención del Crimen of the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguidad Pública worked  for a week in the rough terrain of Caño Negro, Upala, to
find the 43-year-old man, who was working as a woodcutter.

Meanwhile, the Judicial Investigating Organization reported that agents there had detained a man with 34 years of experience in working in the pharmacy at the Hospital de Heredia. He, too, has been convicted of abusing minors in the Tribunal Penal del Primer Circuito Judicial. Agents said that the crimes took place in the Unidad de Ortopedia of the hospital. The man has the last names of Araya Sancho.

Convicted criminals frequently are released from custody here when their sentence is undergoing obligatory review by a higher court.

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