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The stories on this page were published Thursday, Sept. 20, 2001
Costa Ricans show their sympathy with flowers
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The wall at the U.S. Embassy in Pavas is a collection point for flowers and notes of sympathy.

A child constructed a cardboard miniature of the World Trade Center. It arrived Wednesday and found a place of prominence among the floral tributes.

Many of the written tributes clearly are from the hands of children. A plastic container is partly filled with notes of condolence. Others are attached to floral tributes or directly to the concrete wall. 

Small candles burn night and day. Private guards patrol the perimeter of the embassy while passersby on foot and in the many buses that ply Pavas boulevard are captured by the display and the frequent ceremonies.

That was the scene Wednesday when the Fuerza Publica came with sirens blaring to present a floral tribute on behalf of the police and citizens who died in the New York and Washington attacks Sept. 11. Firemen offered their condolences Friday. 

The floral tribute from the police and a later one of a national flag by the Cuban community of Costa Rica were accepted by Joseph Schreiber, administrative counselor at the embassy.  Both tributes joined the display at the wall.

A.M. Costa Rica photos
Floral tributes pile up at the U.S.Embassy


 The police came Wednesday morning to offer their sympathy for the terrorist attacks in the United States.

Police identify suspects in Rohrmoser kidnapping 
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Police have released the names of the five suspects grabbed late Tuesday night in a raid that rescued four kidnapping victims

They are being charged with kidnapping two women and two small children from a car in Rohrmoser Sept. 7. The victims survived the ordeal and were reported in good condition but dehydrated Wednesday morning.

The arrested individuals, according to the Judicial Investigating Organization, are:

Alexander Barbosa Vásquez, 28, said to be the leader of the group, Alonso Solano Ugalde, 22, Walter Aguilar Bartels, 25, Carlos Arellano Pineda, 29, and Erica Sanchez Rodríguez, 24. 

They all are from San José, investigators said. The penalty for kidnapping in Costa Rica is 20 years in jail, but criminals traditionally serve about half their sentence. The five suspects were arrested 

when police raided cottages in Birri de Heredia
about 11 p.m. Tuesday.  A.M. Costa Rica reported the arrests at 10 a.m. Wednesday but did not give names of suspects. It also incorrectly reported that six persons had been arrested. Investigators said later Wednesday that the error was caused by a bad connection in a cell telephone.

The four victims were taken in a spectacular daylight operation about 7:45 a.m. one Friday morning in Rohrmoser when the car in which they were riding was blocked and they were dragged into a getaway vehicle. Kidnappers had wanted $2 million.

Freed were Gabriela Diaz Vindas, 32, a Honduran, her son Luis Diego Escalante Díaz, 4 1/2, a nephew, Billy Guillén Díaz, 3 1/2 years, and Yorleny Cajuna, 20, a Nicaraguan believed to be a nanny for one of the children. 

Local news reporters speculated that the younger boy was the kidnappers' target because his father runs a chain of stores.

Internet scammers
have new twist

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

There's a new twist to the Nigerian scam. This time the money is safely in Spain, and you won't have to go to Nigeria to collect all those millions of dollars.

That's the gist of a new scam letter making the rounds of the Internet. In the past, some alleged Nigerian bureaucrat would seek help in moving a large amount of illicitly obtained money from that country.

The idea was to hook a First World business executive to help and then milk him or her for "fees," "taxes," "unexpected bribes." etc.

Sometimes the mark was lured to Nigeria, held captive and forced to pay his own ransom. Once a victim ended up dead.

But this new scam letter suggests that the authors are responding to publicity about their previous offers.

For starters, the man who has the money is one "John Peters," a very western-sounding name, and he is employed in the auditing and accounting unit of Eco Bank in Lome-Togo West Africa.

It seems that one John Creek, a U.S. engineer died a couple of years ago in a plane crash and left a spare $30 million in the bank. The money soon  will revert to the bank as no relative has appeared

But, Peters says in the Internet message, that it would be an easy task for the recipient to go to Spain, impersonate a member of the family and make off with the $30 million. Fortunately he has managed to move the money to Madrid.

"We would have executed this deal alone but because we are still working with the bank . . . we as civil servants by law are not allowed to operate a foreign account that is more reason why your assistance is needed to help us execute the deal," said the scamster.

For the small task of retrieving the money and engaging in international fraud, the U.S. business executive gets 30 percent of the $30 million.

Instead of the executive being forced to make a trip to Nigeria, Peters and his associations are willing to give the $30 million on trust with the expectation that they will travel to the executive's home country to split up the cash as a later date. This, too, is a new twist, presumably designed to eliminate the fears of the scam target.

Such scams have been around for years, but the Internet has enabled the scamsters to reach many more people very cheaply. The scamster in this case maintains a free Yahoo e-mail account: john peter <cmukifezo@yahoo.com>.

The U.S. Secret Service is anxious to know about scam letters such as this and has set up a special e-mail address to receive information from people who may have received such messages:  419.fcd@usss.treas.gov.

Cover page has a spectacular photo

Guide to Costa Rica
goes electronic

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A guide book about Costa Rica is different than most.  For an additional charge, author Harry S. Pariser has made arrangements for book purchasers to download a Palm Pilot supplement that is searchable by computer.

Pariser is an experienced travel author from San Francisco who has published "Explore Costa Rica" through his own Manatee Press. 

Another company, Peanut Press, which sells the supplement for $10, was acquired by Palm and publishes books only in that format, said Pariser.

A Palm Pilot is a hand-held computer that is designed to be user-friendly and accept handwritten input. The computerized supplement is an advancement from guides which only provide updates at their Web sites. 

Nearly every publisher today offers some kind of update service, and at least one guide is on a CD. But that requires the user to either carry a laptop computer or to make frequent visits to cybercafes which may or may not permit the use of outside disks on their machines.

Pariser's company can be reached at http://www.savethemanatee.com  He writes a number of "Explore"  guides highlighting different countries.

Peanut Press is at http://peanutpress.com

Bush will address
Congress, world

By A.M. Costa Rica wire services

WASHINGTON President Bush addresses both houses of Congress tonight to explain to the American people why the United States has come under attack by terrorists. Speaking from the White House Wednesday, Bush said there is no better place than the Congress to talk about the ongoing battle to maintain freedom. 

He said the current situation is an emergency unlike any the country has faced. National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice says the president will not use his speech to announce a military response to the attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center.

Bush said he wants to assure the American people that Washington is dealing with the terrorist threat.

The President said last week's terrorist attacks have hurt the U.S. economy, but he expressed confidence that it will bounce back. 

British Prime Minister Tony Blair visits the White House today.

Wednesday, Bush garnered support from visiting Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputrias he continued to seek international backing for an international coalition against terrorism.

Bush Wednesday spoke by telephone with South Korean President Kim Dae-Jung and South African President Thabo Mbeki.

Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Blair met with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder Wednesday, Several Western foreign ministers also are in Washington to express their governments' support for the U.S. effort.

Friday, European Union leaders are holding an emergency meeting to consider the bloc's options in responding to the crisis. 

IRA disavows Colombian trio

The Irish Republican Army says three Irish men arrested in Colombia several weeks ago are not affiliated with the organization.

In a recent statement, the Catholic paramilitary group said its ruling council did not send anyone to Colombia to train or participate in military cooperation with any organization.

The IRA says it has not interfered in Colombia's internal affairs and is not a threat to that country's peace process.

The three Irish men were arrested in Bogota last month after leaving a demilitarized zone controlled by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. The three face charges of passport fraud and training FARC members to use explosives. 

Cuba previously identified one of the three men, Niall Connolly, as a Havana-based representative of Sinn Fein, the political wing of the IRA. Sinn Fein denies any involvement with any of the men.

Judge orders arrests
of Dirty War suspects

BUENOS AIRES An Argentine federal judge has ordered the arrest of 18 former officials from the country's military dictatorship during the late 1970's and early1980's. 

Judge Gabriel Cavallo acted Tuesday at the request of a Spanish court, which seeks their extradition on terrorism and genocide charges during Argentina's so-called Dirty War. 

An Argentine court official says Judge Cavallo is awaiting a formal extradition request from Spanish Judge Baltazar Garzon, who asked that the arrests be made. 

Judge Garzon is investigating human rights abuses during Argentina's military rule from 1976 to 1983, when tens of thousands of dissidents were tortured, killed or went missing. 

The Spanish judge had unsuccessfully asked for former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet to be extradited to Spain for trial. An appeals court ruled the 85-year-old retired general cannot be tried for alleged human rights violations because of his poor health. 

Prosecutors allege General Pinochet covered up the abduction and murder of 75 suspected dissidents shortly after he seized power in a 1973 coup. The former dictator denies responsibility for the deaths. 

OAS discussed
Rio Pact consequences

WASHINGTON The Organization of American States has held a one-day special session to discuss hemispheric action in the wake of last week's deadly terrorist strikes in the United States.

The OAS Permanent Council met here Wednesday to consider calls to activate the Inter-American Reciprocal Assistance Treaty, or Rio Pact. Foreign ministers from the34-member organizations also are set to convene Friday to discuss the issue.

Signed by the United States and 19 Latin American countries in 1947, the accord became a cornerstone of hemispheric security in the early days of the Cold War and was seen as protection against expansionist moves by the former Soviet Union. 

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer says the Bush Administration is gratified by calls to invoke the treaty and looks forward to learning how its elements can be used.

Mexico, however, is expressing reservations about the treaty, which says an attack against any single American country is an attack against the entire hemisphere. 

A Mexican government statement says the treaty is not the perfect mechanism to confront the current security challenges in the region. 

Mexican President Vicente Fox, in a recent visit to the United States, said Mexico may leave the pact and will make a decision in two months. 


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