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(506) 223-1327               Pubished Thursday, Sept. 6, 2007, in Vol. 7, No. 177            E-mail us   
Jo Stuart
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Cinema California
A.M. Costa Rica/José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
Just a shell remains of the California theater.

They needed
a guard service!

The once-proud Cine California is just a hollow shell now. The cause was not termites or tornados. This was a case of the owners not providing the security the building needed. Thieves ravaged the structure and took about any marketable item they could find, from pipes and others metals to the beams that were the roof. The movie theater building is on a valuable piece of property on Calle 23 not far from Parque Nacional. Some say the owners were happy that thieves did the demolition work.

Four teens blamed for 70 stickups around Terra Mall
By José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A gang of young bandits has been preying on shoppers at Terra Mall east of San José and committed at least 70 armed robberies in that vicinity and on and around the pedestrian bridge that joins the mall with the south side of the Autopista Florencio del Castillo, according to investigators.

Agents rounded up two 18-year-old suspects, a 17-year-old suspect and one 16 years old early Wednesday.

There had been no information provided by police agencies about the extensive string of robberies. Nor did mall managers issue warnings so that shoppers could protect themselves.

Agents said that two victims were shot and seriously injured by robbers.
 The raids were in San Diego de Tres Rios, and agents said they captured all members of the band. The adults are Luis Gustavo Villalobos Segura and Jason Ricardo Abarca Aguilar, agents said.

Some robberies involved victims who were waiting for bus transportation outside the fenced area of the mall.

The police raids produced articles that are suspected to be the loot from robberies as well as drugs, firearms, a digital camera and 255,000 in colons, some $490, said agents.

The two adults were remanded to the supervision of the Ministerio Público, the nation's prosecutorial arm. The juveniles were remanded to the Centro Penal Juvenil de Cartago.

Investigators said that as word of the arrests circulated, more persons came forward to file reports.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Sept. 6, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 177

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Our readers' opinions
Homeowners should have
firearm handy, reader says

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

After reading the recent letters concerning crime in the Quepos area, I would like to offer another point of view. The fact of the matter is there are only two times when the crime can be stopped. Before and during the crime.
1.)  If you can prevent someone from becoming a criminal in the first place, which is done by deterring people from a life of crime through penalties such as long term incarceration for serious crimes (a deterrent Costa Rica can't afford to offer), or death penalty, etc. The other is an alternative way to make a living beside a life of crime, such as work that pays well, such as economic opportunity (an option Costa Rica doesn’t offer to most).  As B.J. Massey points out, the rewards of a criminal life outweigh the penalties. This method of correction would take decades to work.

2.) Most crimes happen in seconds or minutes. Even in the U.S. where the citizens are taxed to death and sufficient money is being thrown at law enforcement, it is totally unrealistic to think the police will be there in the minutes or seconds the crime takes place. So the answer is to deputize the homeowner or citizen by expanding their rights to protect themselves through gun ownership and gun education/training.

One example of this theory in action is where this expat shot a home invader in the chest in which he immediately gave up information and names on his partners in crime. See article (Anderson)
The bottom line is :
A.) You can’t reason with a desperate criminal that is willing take a firearm and commit a crime which may result in someone’s death.
B.) The police cannot respond in time to stop the crime.
C.) People need the means to protect themselves such as legal firearms possession.

There is the possibility that lives can be lost on both sides of the law by use of this method, however, the psychological effect that it will have on the criminal that the victim may be armed might just be the deterring factor that prevents him from taking action.

One fact that I want to make expat homeowners aware of is that you are allowed to have a Sociedad Anonima or S.A. and legally purchase and register a firearm under it for your home protection purposes. I would strongly suggest that firearms and self-protection training accompany the purchase of the firearm so split second decisions can be made on when and whether to draw and use the firearm as prevention during a crime.
Kris Winters

Drugs, illegal immigration
are not problem, he says

I read Mr. Bodaans' lamentable letter concerning Quepos' understaffed, poorly equipped police, and their growing crime problems with a mixture of feelings.

In my 25 years in Costa Rica $$$billions have flowed into the country to surfeit the coffers of the rich and powerful. Only a fraction of that sum has ever reached the "people". The greedy and venal politicians, along with their affluent supporters, find it a convenient distraction to blame the growth of crime on drugs and illegal immigration.
It's no secret that poverty is a major source of crime as well as a host of other ills. Until a major effort is made to change underlying 'social' conditions, the problems of crime will remain, and probably worsen.

I imagine by then, a repressive, quasi police state, [similar to the U.S.A.], will have emerged to deal with these issues.  And sadly, the once gentle and peaceful Tico will be transformed into another angry "fraternal"beast.
H. Franz
Santa Ana and Las Vegas, Nevada

He cites environmental woes
at Manual Antonio's park

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I have been reading with interest the complaints and concerns about crime in Quepos and the letter from Harry Bodaan particularly caught my eye. Mr. Bodaan complains that local folks and businesses are not organizing nor investing money to protect their interests and, thus, the crime wave is affecting tourists and residents alike.

I can also attest to the environmental version of this problem. Currently, the stream at the entrance to the Manuel Antonio National Park is flowing with sewage.   Real estate developers are decimating the area's remaining forests and harming both critical habitat and scenic beauty. Quepos is on the verge of environmental collapse, and so far most business and property owners are doing nothing to help solve these devastating problems. But there is something you can do.

The Fund for Costa Rica has a challenge grant of $50,000 for 2007 to help fund local environmental defense patrols to stop pollution and deforestation. This means that every dollar in donations from local businesses and property owners will be matched 100 percent up to $50,000. Further, we will even match donations to install non-polluting toilets in the Manuel Antonio National Park. So far we have raised effectively $0 in donations from local businesses, and that needs to change!

If you own a business or property and you want to help ensure that Manuel Antonio continues to be a natural paradise and a successful nature tourism destination, now is the time to act! Your donation will not only make a real difference on the ground in Manuel Antonio but will be doubled! For more information visit us at  or
Matthew M. Cook
The Fund for Costa Rica

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Intense afternoon downpour brings a surprise dose of hail
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An afternoon thunderstorm took an unusual twist Wednesday as pellets of hail pummeled parts of the metropolitan area.

The hail fell about 2 p.m. in La Uruca, Sabana and San José centro, according to the Instituto Meteorológico Nacional. Most were the size of a pea or smaller, yet big enough to damage plastic roof panels and put dents in some vehicles.

The hail vanished almost as soon as it hit ground. In all, there was some 25.7 mms. of rain in the metropolitan area Wednesday. Some fell between 1 and 2 p.m., and a greater amount fell at 5 p.m.

The Autopista Próspero Fernández experienced delays about 5:30 p.m. when a small landslide covered two of the
 four lanes. Transport workers cleared a lane, but the traffic jam still was large. There were reports of a highway being blocked near Atenas, too.

Emergency officials had warned that the ground was saturated from rains last week and predicted major problems from Hurricane Felix. However, the storm did not cause the expected rainfall.

The rain Wednesday was part of the normal seasonal cycle of cloudy mornings and downpours in the afternoon, said Eduardo Murillo of the weather institute. He said that Guanacaste and the Pacific coast also received heavy rains during the afternoon. They were accompanied by intense electrical activity. Some sectors of San José briefly lost power Wednesday between 1 and 2 p.m.

Murillo said that gusts of 44 kph (27 mph) came with the afternoon storm.

Visiting U.S. guest conductor adds his pay to music fund
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The campaign for the Sistema Nacional de Educación Musical got a boost Wednesday when John DeMain, the conductor invited to lead the Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional this weekend, donated his paycheck.

The amount is $18,000, and the Instituto Nacional de la Música, which is part of the national system, will be among the entities that benefit.

The donation was announced by the Ministerio de Cultura, Juventud y Deportes.

DeMain is artistic director of the Madison, Wisconsin, Opera and the Opera Pacific as well as musical director of
the Madison Symphony. He directed the Houston Grand Opera in a presentation of "Porgy and Bess" which was recorded by RCA and won a Grammy and a Tony.

The Youngstown, Ohio, native began his career as a pianist.

The symphony performances will be Friday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 10:30 a.m. in the Teatro Nacional. The program includes violoncellist Alvaro González and works by Ravel and Debussy.

The fund-raising campaign by the ministry has as a goal to create and support some 21 music schools around the country. The existing Instituto Nacional de la Música always has had many more applicants than it can accept each year, ministry officials said.

Judicial agent who shot man in 2004 exonerated by trial tribunal in Cartago
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A judicial police agent who shot and killed a man in 2004 was absolved of criminal responsibility Wednesday by a tribunal in Cartago.

The agent is Juan Luis Fonseca Madrigal, who was working with the Judicial Investigating Organization Oct. 1, 2004, when the shooting took place. The three judges said he killed in self defense.

Newspaper reports at the time said that the man who died,
David Carranza Quesada, 39, was driving a car in an erratic manner and at high speeds in the center of Turrialba. 

Carranza was an ex-convict who crashed the car and pulled a knife and slightly wounded two Fuerza Pública officers who tried to intervene, said news reports at the time.

The man was shot when he tried to return to his car that he had been using as a weapon against officers, said the reports.

Fonseca was having a day off but acted to help officers.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Sept. 6, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 177

Workshop Saturday will prepare kids for Independence celebration Sept. 14
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rican Independence Day, Sept. 15, is a little more than a week away, and the Museos del Banco Central are preparing to give a workshop to children Saturday on the construction of faroles.

Faroles are torches and the symbol of liberty. They recall the evening gatherings in 1821 where torches lighted the way of citizens who sought to hear the news of independence and discuss its implications.

Although there are official activities Sept. 15, the night of Sept. 14 belongs to children. They will be part of the
rain-drenched relay race that brings the torch of liberty from the Nicaraguan border.

And they will participate with their faroles in ceremonies at Parque Central in San José and the traditional governmental gathering in Cartago, the first capital.

Typically, faroles are like little houses suspended on a staff. Most youngsters have a candle inside.

The free workshop begins at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at the museums under the Plaza de la Cultura. Children under 12 can enter the museum free. Adults who are residents have to pay 1,000 colons, a bit less than $2.

Noriega's lawyers plan to present a last-ditch appeal today
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A federal judge in Miami, Florida, has temporarily blocked the extradition of former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega, who has been fighting efforts to send him from the U.S. to France to face money laundering charges.

Judge William Hoeveler issued the order Wednesday, after lawyers for the former strongman filed papers to block Noriega's extradition.

The order called on the defense to present what it called "credible" evidence to show that if Noriega were sent to France, he would not receive Geneva Conventions protection as a prisoner of war.  Noriega is seeking to return to Panama where a local newspaper says his former mansion is being remodeled.
Noriega's lawyers have until this morning to make their case.  The judge also ruled that federal prosecutors have until noon local time to respond.

Noriega is scheduled to be released on Sunday after spending 17 years in a Florida prison.  He faces a 10-year prison sentence in France on the money laundering charges.

In Panamá, Noriega has been sentenced to 40 years in prison for his role in the disappearance and murder of opposition figures. However, many current political figures there held jobs in his administration.

Noriega surrendered to U.S. troops in January 1990, two weeks after U.S. forces invaded Panamá.  A U.S. court convicted him in 1992 of drug trafficking and other charges.

Opera great Pavarotti, a favorite of Costa Ricans, dies in Modena, Italy, home
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Hailed as one of the century's greatest tenors, Luciano Pavarotti, 71, died today at his home in Modena, Italy.

He was considered one of the last in the line of classic Italian tenors, with musical ties to Enrico Caruso, the famous opera star of the early 1900s. Pavarotti earned the nickname "King of the High C's" after executing a string of
high notes in Donizetti's opera "Daughter of the Regiment," which has long been considered a challenging work for tenors.

His large, rich voice and endearing personality made him a favorite with music lovers, around the world.  The 1990
recording of the "Three Tenors" concert in Rome, featuring Pavarotti with Placido Domingo and José Carreras, sold millions of copies.

Pavarotti last performed in Costa Rica Jan. 31, 2004 at the Estadio Nacional. Nearly 27,000 fans came out for the concert. It was clear then to music experts that Pavarotti had lost some of the strength in his voice, but the event was understood to be a farewell performance.

He performed 24 songs that night and got rave reviews in the local newspapers.

Pavarotti had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last year and underwent further treatment last month.

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