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(506) 2223-1327           Published Thursday, Sept. 1, 2011, in Vol. 11, No. 173          Email us
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Prime suspect detained in Osa double murder case
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Investigators finally have made an arrest in the long-running case of two Austrians who vanished on the Osa Peninsula.

A man identified as Gabriel Rojas Santamaría, 25, surrendered to prosecutors Wednesday after having been hiding out in the wilderness of the peninsula. He had long been a suspect.

The case was one of three that sowed uncertainty among expats living on the peninsula, primarily at Puerto Jiménez on the west shore of the
Gulfo Dulce in southwestern Costa Rica.

Dead are Horst Hauser, 68, and Herbert Langmeier, 66, who owned property in Dos Brazos de Río Tigre near Puerto Jiménez. The case attracted international attention because they were missing for more than a year and agents could not move ahead on the case without bodies.

The Poder Judicial noted Wednesday that remains of the men turned up on Playa Ciénaga March 16, and the discovery helped the investigation to advance.

Rojas was seen driving a vehicle that belonged to one of the men shortly after they were considered missing after Christmas 2009.

Prosecutors are leveling an allegation of two counts of murder and 28 counts of aggravated theft because someone accessed a victim's bank account that many times and took $5.485, said the Poder Judicial. A single allegation of simple theft is being prosecuted, too, because Rojas is suspected of taking the men's tractor.

Hauser and Langmeier were long-time residents who were involved in gold panning in the tributaries leading from the Parque Nacional Corcovado on the peninsula.

Hauser was identified from dental records supported by DNA tests after flooding uncovered his resting place. The Judicial Investigating Organization said that agents still were awaiting positive identification of the body presumed to be that of Langmeier. The evidence is coming from Austria.

Agents have been working on the case since 2009 because blood traces were found in the home the men shared on a remote tract in the wilderness.
The disappearances received heavy coverage in their native country. The Kleine Zeitung newspaper published a half dozen articles and interviewed Hauser's brother, William, who visited Costa Rica to seek him unsuccessfully.

The Judicial Investigating Organization said that its investigators contacted relatives of Rojas after the man was presumed to have fled into the mountains. They tried to persuade the relatives to encourage the suspect to surrender. When he did so Wednesday he was in the company of a lawyer, agents said.

Prosecutors sought a year's preventative detention, but a judge ordered him to be held for nine months while the investigation proceeds, said the Judicial Investigating Organization.

Prosecutors and investigators are working on the theory that the two men were surprised by a home invasion and were killed by multiple blows. There is considerable evidence that the killer was not working alone. Austrian investigative sources have maintained that Rojas was a member of a criminal band that committed many illegal acts in the area.

The Judicial Investigating Organization suggested the same thing in a release Wednesday in which it said Rojas was a suspect of participating in the murder of the men.

Agents have detained four persons in the July 20 murder of U.S. citizen Lisa Artz. That, too, is being described as a home invasion with the help of inside knowledge.

Evidence discovered in searches related to the Artz murder appear to relate to the killing of Canadian Kimberley Ann Blackwell, who was found Feb. 2 in her remote home. Ms. Artz was the resident manager of Casa Tres Palmas on the east shore of the Osa peninsula. She was about to leave for the United States, and the prosecutor's theory is that crooks thought she had substantial cash in her living quarters near the luxury dwelling that her family rented some 14 miles south of Puerto Jiménez. Ms. Blackwell, another long-time resident, operated an upscale chocolate company.

The murders are believed to have had an impact on tourism, not only on the Osa peninsula but in all of Costa Rica. A major Canadian magazine just did a major story on Ms. Blackwell, the Austrians and Ms. Artz.

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Poisoned robbery victim
dies after week's struggle

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

After a week of suffering, a robbery victim who was made to drink poison, died early Wednesday.

The victim was a high school student who was confronted by robbers as he walked near the Colegio Bocas de Nosara in that Pacific beach community. He was identified by the Poder Judicial as Emmanuel Hernández Caravaca. That was early Aug. 23.

He died in Hospital México where he was taken from the Hospital de Nicoya when his condition worsened. Death was attributed to heart and lung failure. His assailants took a cell telephone, some 50,000 colons, about $100 and made him drink a mixture of weed killer at gunpoint.

Agents said there was a revenge motive behind the robbery, too.

The victim was able to identify two suspects, and one was detained. He was identified by the Poder Judicial by the last names of Campos Villarreal. However, a judge set him free. Prosecutors are expected to ask a judge to revise that decision in light of the death of the victim and a pending murder allegation. Investigators are seeking the second individual.

Man gets 12 years
for internal trafficking

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A criminal tribunal in Santa Cruz has convicted a man of internal trafficking of women but acquitted his son, who had faced the same allegation.

Convicted was a man with the last names of Pizarro Angulo. The son has the names of Pizarro Nuñez.  Both were detained last September in an undercover operation. The principal customers of their organization were foreigners, said the Poder Judicial.

They were tried on allegations that they ran a call girl ring and induced minors to join it.

The court sentenced the father to 12 years.

The allegations were that girls in high school were contacted and offered modeling contracts which later turned out to be for prostitution.

The conviction comes under a law that was revised in 2010 to make internal trafficking of persons for purposes of prostitution a crime.

Lawmakers given proposal
to protect kids on Internet

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Fundación Paniamor presented a legislative proposal Wednesday to punish adults who harm children via the Internet.

The concept was presented by Milena Grillo, executive director of the organization. Paniamor is the group that supports a code of ethics for tourism operations to prevent exploitation of minors and also works against physical punishment for children.

The proposal is expected to go to the Comisión Permanente Especial de Seguridad y Narcotráfico of the Asamblea Legislativa. The proposal has not yet been presented formally to lawmakers.

In a general outline, the organization said the change in the criminal code is designed to protect children and adolescents from violence and the inadequate use of the new technologies of information.

The organization has done studies on the use of cyberspace by youngsters and is targeting undesirable content, content of a sexual nature and promotion of the use of violence to resolve conflicts. The group also is interested in threats to privacy, it said.

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!
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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Sept. 1, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 173

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Punctured tire ruse can be used on bank patrons. too
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Not only tourists driving rental cars from international airports are targets of tire puncturing bandits. A man who just made a withdrawal from a bank was a victim Wednesday.

Fuerza Pública officers said they nabbed three suspects and recovered the money.

The drama played out in Grecia where police appear to have received a tip in advance of the crime.

The victim withdrew 3 million colons, about $6,000 in cash from a local bank. But he had to stop his vehicle after leaving the bank because a tire went flat. Puncturing a tire is a traditional method of crooks. They either arrive to offer help and steal items or simply show up and stick guns in the face of motorists.

Tourists leaving an airport are prime targets because they are presumed to be carrying personal items already packed. However, some puncturing takes place at local service stations when an attendant is in league with crooks.

Police in Grecia were able to chase their suspects to a
robbery susepcts
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía
y Seguridad Pública photo
Captured trio awaits transportation

local shopping center where the trio were changing vehicles. Two vehicles were confiscated.

Javier Aguirre, head of the Fuerza Pública in Grecia identified the trio by the last names of Montero Solís, González Alfaro and Oyos Moreno.

One of the suspects tried to hide money in his underwear but officers managed to confiscate it, they said.

Judicial police say that 15 were scamming Caja as disabled
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

At best, the crime, as described by judicial investigators, was not well thought out. In other words, there were bound to be arrests.

The case revolves around the system by which the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social reimburses an employee who is ill with 60 percent of the normal salary. After an employee is out sick for three days, the employer is not obligated to pay wages. So the Caja picks up the slack.

Judicial police detained 15 persons Wednesday in an investigation of a scam that took advantage of the Caja policy.

The bulk of those detained are accused of pretending to be drug addicts or alcoholics so they could pretend to be disabled and unable to work. The Judicial police said they collected the 60 percent disability pay while still being employed full time. Some were security guards. Some were bank employees.
Since they were working full time,their employers were also reporting their salaries to the Caja. So the case was uncovered by the audit department of the Caja when workers there noticed that individuals were getting disability pay but also being reported each month as full-time employees.

The Poder Judicial said the amount gained in the scam was about 13 million colons, or about $26,000. The case is in the hands of fraud prosecutors.

All of those detained are from the San José area. Judicial police said that each received a false statement from a center that treats alcoholics and drug addicts that they were disabled due to these afflictions.

With that paper, the  Instituto de Alcoholismo y Farmacodependencia issued a document that was accepted by physicians working at Caja clinics and the workers were declared incapacitated.

Judicial police said that the institute and the employers of the suspects participated in the investigation.

More than three dozen historical objects lifted from theater
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Teatro Nacional appears to be the victim of an inside job. The theater officials reported Wednesday that historical objects stored in the orchestra pit area under the stage have been taken. A report was made to the Judicial Investigating Organization when officials first realized that a small gold cherub was missing. That was reported by Carmen Marín, head of the Unidad de Conservación, said the theater.

The missing item caused theater officials to order an inventory, and 36 more objects were determined to be missing. Judicial police speculate that the items were removed a few at a time from the area where only employees normally have access. The theater officials said that a lot of surplus material is kept in the same area.
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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Sept. 1, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 173

Narrow span is too small for cars, but there is a good chance that motorcycle drivers will dare to use it.

pedestrian bridge
Consejo de Vialidad photo

Acosta residents at least get to use a new pedestrian bridge
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

When there was not enough money for a vehicle bridge, the nation's road agency built a pedestrian bridge between the Acosta community of Bijagual and the communities of Cangrejal, Sabanillas and Parrita.

The hanging bridge is 90 meters long and 1.2 meters wide. It spans the Rio Pirris. That's about 296 feet long by nearly 4 feet wide.

In the works is a vehicle bridge, but that will cost 480 million
colons or about $950,000, said the Consejo Nacional de Vialidad. This job is in the design stage, the agency said.

Meanwhile, another bridge continues to give the agency headaches. The bridge on the General Cañas highway over the Río Virilla had work crews on the job Wednesday night. This is three days in a row that the Consejo closed or reduced traffic on that span from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. the following day. Each time they announced the work would be completeed that night.

Workmen are reinforcing the bridge because the vibration is cracking apart the concrete deck.

New book explores political dimension of global warming
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Polls in recent years show that fewer Americans believe global warming is a threat or that it is driven by human activities.

That’s despite statements by scientists that climate change is not only very real, but also that it is caused largely by the burning of fossil fuels in cars, trucks and power plants.

University of California history professor Naomi Oreskes explores why so many Americans are mistrustful of science in "Merchants of Doubt," a book she co-authored with science historian Erik Conway. 

The subtitle sums up their thesis: “How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming.” 

The story begins 50 years ago in the tobacco industry, with the announcement by medical researchers that the tar in cigarettes causes cancer. According to Ms. Oreskes, tobacco industry leaders were fearful of the financial harm the news might do to their lucrative products, so they turned to a public relations firm to cloud the issue and change the narrative. 

“The pattern that they put together was to use many statements that any one of them by themselves might have not been untrue," Ms. Oreskes says, "and yet, taken together, created a picture that was untrue. It’s really an extremely clever strategy because the strategy is not to say that 'tobacco is safe.' The strategy is to say that 'We don’t really know for sure.'”

The tobacco industry funded studies and recruited distinguished scientists to lend authority to these doubts. But Ms. Oreskes notes that the specialists’ expertise was not public health, but rather in rocket science and weapons. 

“This was part of the strategy that the industry settled on very early in that they would fight science with science, or, as we say in the book, at least with scientists.” 

The same group of scientists later worked together in a Washington think tank to combat the Soviet threat. When the Cold War was over, Ms. Oreskes believes they turned their attention to what they saw as a new threat: radical environmentalism.

“It’s what they think is the exaggeration of environmental issues for political reasons. Because they fear that
environmental issues like global warming will be used as an excuse for the expansion of government power, the expansion of regulation, the expansion of government control over the marketplace and therefore a kind of slippery slope to socialism.”

In her book, Ms. Oreskes argues the current climate change debate is not about the physical warming of the planet — which is well-documented by scientific evidence — but about politics. This explains, she says, why the U.S. Congress rejected an emissions trading plan which would have capped climate-changing carbon emissions. 

“Because if the science were truly not settled, then it would be logical to say that we’re not really sure. It would be a mistake to spend a lot of money on alternative technologies, a mistake to have intrusive government regulations, a mistake to have a carbon tax, if we don’t really need those things, if this problem isn’t really real anyway.”

That’s the same line Texas governor and Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry used on a recent campaign stop in New Bedford, New Hampshire. He voiced his opposition to spending what he says would be billions of dollars on emissions reductions programs.

“And I don’t think from my perspective that I want America to be engaged in spending that much money on what is still a scientific theory that has not been proven and from my perspective is more and more being put into question,” Perry said.

But the debate over global warming science must be fought on a level playing field, insists Ms. Oreskes. Science is not about opinion, she says, it’s about evidence. If a research group claims global-warming is not real or human caused, she says, then they should prove it. 

“The burden should be on them to come up with the evidence to show that. And if journalists would demand evidence, what they would find is these people either have no evidence at all in many cases or the supposed evidence that they have is actually distorted. It’s taken out of context. It’s misrepresented or in some cases there are arguments that were published 20 to 30 years ago that have since been refuted.”

In "Merchants of Doubt," Ms. Oreskes writes, “Acid rain, secondhand smoke, the destruction of the stratospheric ozone and global warming are all real problems. The real question is how to address them."

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New hurricane appears
headed on a northern track

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
and wire services reports

A new hurricane, the second of the Atlantic season, has taken form in the mid-Atlantic. However, the track estimated by the U.S. National Hurricane Center shows the storm veering to the north on a direct line with Bermuda. Costa Rica does not seem to be threatened.

The storm is rated category one on a five-point scale with five being the most severe. Winds are about 75 mph, said the center.

Many hurricanes form and veer to the north and circle back in the direction of Europe without coming near Central America or the U.S. mainland.

Meanwhile, residents in the eastern United States are still recovering from Irene -- a hurricane that weakened into a tropical storm -- with communities cut off by flooding and some schools closed because of lost power.

Emergency workers have begun airlifting food and water to thousands of residents stranded in the northeastern state of Vermont, after floodwaters washed over roads and bridges, isolating a number of communities in the state's worst floods in nearly a century.

In the state of New Jersey, emergency workers rescued hundreds of people from flooded homes.

Irene has so far been blamed for at least 43 deaths in the continental U.S. and five deaths in the Caribbean.  President Barack Obama on Wednesday signed disaster declarations for the states of North Carolina and New York.

Top Obama administration officials are visiting impacted areas Wednesday.

Irene first made landfall on Saturday in the southeastern state of North Carolina, before moving up the East Coast and weakening into a tropical storm. It dumped heavy rain over inland areas of Vermont, New Jersey and New York state, causing streams and rivers to burst their banks. Millions of people throughout the region were left without power.

The beginning of September is normally the peak of the hurricane season.  Experts predict an active 2011 hurricane season with eight to 10 hurricanes possible, which would be slightly more than normal.

More suspects are sought
in casino arson probe

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire servcies

Mexican authorities are seeking seven more suspects in an arson attack that left 52 people dead at a casino in the northern state of Nuevo León.

Officials said they are seeking additional suspects, as five people already in custody were presented to the news media.  Authorities say the five are alleged members of the Zetas drug cartel and have confessed to involvement in the attack at the Casino Royale in the state capital, Monterrey. 

Nuevo León state prosecutor Adrian de la Garza says as many as 12 people were involved in the daytime attack.

Clinton-Bush fund for Haiti
gives $1.4 million for training

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A foundation established by former U.S. presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush says it is providing an additional $1.4 million to efforts to rebuild Haiti following its devastating earthquake last year.

The non-profit Clinton Bush Haiti Fund said Tuesday the money will go to a Haitian company that will train engineers and general contractors to manufacture steel-frame houses.  Funds will also be allocated for equipment at a school that trains people in construction and for a non-profit group that lends money to people so they can pay for basic needs such as energy and clean water.

Last year, U.S. President Barack Obama tapped Clinton and Bush to lead fund-raising campaigns and oversee long-term reconstruction and relief efforts in the Western Hemisphere's poorest country.  The Clinton Bush Haiti Fund has raised millions of dollars for relief efforts.

Clinton also serves as the United Nations special envoy for Haiti.

The earthquake in January 2010 killed more than 200,000 people.  Hundreds of thousands of people are still living in tent camps.
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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Sept. 1, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 173

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MMArio Zamora and Anne Slaughter
Ministerio de Gobernación,Policía
y Seguridad Pública/Paul Gamboa

Mario Zamora Cordero, security minister, presents a note of appreciation to Anne Slaughter Andrew, the U.S. ambassador, in recognition of the work by the crew and staff of the UDD Confort, that visited Puntarenas.

No action by legislature
on OK for U.S. warship

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Lawmakers do not seem to be moved by a request from the security ministry to allow the USS Boone to dock in Puntarenas with five Costa Ricans accused of international drug smuggling.

The Asamblea Legislativa did not even mention the situation in its regular meeting Wednesday afternoon.

A proposal from the Ministerio de Gobernación. Policía y Seguridad Pública has been languishing in the legislature for three months. This is a routine request from the U.S. Embassy, channeled through the security ministry, to allow U.S. ships on drug patrol to dock at Costa Rican ports. The Costa Rican Constitution requires legislative approval of such visits by foreign warships.

The USS Confort, a hospital ship that completed a humanitarian mission in Puntarenas nearly did not get permission to dock because the legislature moved so slowly. That was a separate and individual request. Finally approval was given July 23.

Surgeons aboard the Confort did 139 procedures, ministry officials said Wednesday. Physicians and other members of the international staff saw 8,376 patients. Teams from the ship visited other areas and provided medical assistance.

The ministry and the U.S. Embassy appear to be trying to pressure the legislature into approving the random visits for shore leave and other reasons of U.S. ships on drug patrol. But there is no indication that the legislature is feeling the pressure from the transparent public relations onslaught.

Meanwhile, the USS Boone will have to off load a sample of the cocaine cargo it confiscated Sunday and the five prisoners in international waters. The Boone is accompanied by the María Canela, the Puntarenas-based fishing boat that was carrying the drugs from Ecuadorian waters. Presumably the Costa Rican Servicio Nacional de Guardacostas can put a crew aboard to bring the boat to dock in Costa Rica.

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