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(506) 2223-1327              Published Monday, Sept. 21, 2009,  in Vol. 9, No. 186             E-mail us
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Parents post reward for son who may be hiding
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Investigators are working on the assumption that a missing 28-year-old doctoral student is living as a hermit  just outside Parque Nacional Rincón de la Vieja.

That is why his parents have posted a $10,000 reward for anyone who provides verifiable information leading to the son's return.

Seth Derish of Costa Rica Investigations, S.A. said the missing man, David  Gimelfarb may be been seen near Río Negro Hot Springs. Derish was hired by the parents, Roma and Ludmila Gimelfarb of the U.S. state of Illinois.

A resident of the area picked out a picture of the missing man from a photo lineup and said that he had seen him twice, on Sept. 9 and Sept.12, said Derish. The man told investigators that the individual he saw was sleeping in the grass and got up, appeared to be startled and walked into the nearby forest.

Investigators found areas of matted grass where the individual may have been sleeping.

"David is about 170 cm tall, weighs 57 kilos (or less) , has blond hair and light brown eyes," said a news release put out by the parents.. At this point he probably has a rough beard and has longer hair than usual.  He may be injured, confused or afraid of people. Because of this, he should be treated with the utmost care and the authorities should be immediately contacted."

Gimelfarb vanished while visiting the park Aug. 11. He was seen the day before at the Río Negro Hot Springs, which is just about a kilometer from the location outside the park where the resident said he had seen the man. He was described as traveling alone

Based on the resident's statements, the Judicial
David Gimelfarb
David Gimelfarb was ID'ed from this photo


Investigating Organization and the local police are stepping up their activities, said the investigator. Thursday law officers combed the area with a trained dog but did not find anything, he said.

Cruz Roja rescue workers made an extensive search of the park,  but they were looking for a dear or injured persons and no someone who did not want to be found.

The parents said that persons with information on the son could contact Roma Gimelfarb at (506) 8928-2277. The father also be contacted at  the Hotel Hacienda Guachipelin at (506) 2666-8075 or by e-mail to:  lgimelfarb@kraft.com.


Lawmaker seeks to penalize xenophobic comments
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A lawmaker seeks to pass a bill that he says will reduce the xenophobia of the Costa Rica people.

Alexander Mora Mora of Liberación Nacional is the man who says he is fighting xenophobia. He represents San José in the legislature.

Members of the  Comisión Especial de Derechos Humanos rejected his bill last week, but he managed to keep it alive with a parliamentary maneuver., He said he will bring it to the full legislature. The bill seeks to punish with fines those who verbally smear other nationalities or groups.

"I presented this initiative to bring up for national discussion," said Mora. "Many times we take for a fact that we are not a xenophobia country.

"However, sadly, if there is dislike, people are persecuted in an irresponsible manner for being a different color, a different nationality for thinking differently or for being different."

Mora said that he received a xenophobic joke via his cell phone. He said such jokes are heard frequently in restaurants and bars where people gather and that they are part of the culture of violence of the country.

The proposal would fine people equivalent to 10 to 50 days of a minimum monthly salary for offending with hatred, hostility or rejection of
foreigners or other groups that are different. The fines would be larger if the display of xenophobia is made in public.

In March 2007 the Interamerican Human Rights Commission threw out a case brought against Costa Rica by the Government of Nicaragua on technical grounds. Nicaragua alleged discrimination against Nicaraguans in the wake of two deaths here.

The first was the well-publicized death of a Nicaraguan sneak thief when guard dogs continued to attack him for some 90 minutes while police and others simply watched. The second was the death of a Nicaraguan who got in a fight about the dog case with some Costa Ricans.

The Washington, D.C.,-based human rights commission, which is an agency of the Organization of American States determined that Nicaraguans had not exhausted the judicial remedies that existed in Costa Rica.

A.M. Costa Rica also has written about the topic and said that xenophobia has very deep roots in Costa Rica. Fear of foreigners engenders prejudice and manifest itself as suspicion and bad treatment of persons with darker complexions, sid the newspaper in 2006.

The influx of Nicaraguans has reinforced this xenophobia and prejudices as Costa Ricans level blame on the newcomers for all sorts of social ills, it added.


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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Sept. 21, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 186

Costa Rica Expertise
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hatillo cleanup
Asociación Terra Nostra photo
Volunteers pick up trash in Hatillo 8 Sunday as part of the nationwide cleanup  More than 350 persons were on the job Sunday, including youngsters from the  Escuela Jorge Debravo. There also were cleanups in San Carlos, Santa Ana, Playa Guacalillo, Playa Garza, Playa Uvita and Playa La Colonia.


Material to stop floods
said to lack tight controls


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

There is another financial scandal brewing. This time it is in the national emergency commission where an audit has found what are being called anomalies in the delivery and use of materials.

The emergency commission, formally  the Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias, uses building materials and similar in responding to emergencies and also in completing projects that are supposed to prevent emergencies, like dikes.

It is in this last category where the new head of the agency,  Vanessa Rosales,  has ordered a halt to the purchase of materials.

The audit said that the agency has purchased about 2.4 billion colons worth of materials in 2007 and 2008. That's an amount slightly more than $4 million. But the audit said that the agency seemed to be purchasing the same materials more than once.

The commission will ask an outside firm to conduct an inventory of the materials. The audit also faulted lax controls on the distribution of the materials and their use for sidewalks, roadways and sewers that were not under the category of preventing risks.

Although the Partido Acción Ciudadana raised the issue last week, the agency said that a full audit has been going on since it was ordered by the board of directors in February.


Hiker's injury stalls
transnational journey


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A group of North Americans and their guides set out Monday to walk from the Pacific coast to the Atlantic via the Talamanca mountains.

The group left  Buenos Aires de Puntarenas on foot and passed through the southern mountains and the Reserva Nacional  Durika. That was where one of the tourist hikers suffered an accident and left him unable to continue. It appears that he hurt his back.

The Cruz Roja arrived by helicopter at Ujarrás de Buenos Aires Friday and a rescue crew hiked three kilometers to reach the individual. The man was believed to have been airlifted out. There was no information on identity.


Two suspects nabbed in wave
of tire-puncturing robberies


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Judicial police detained two Colombians. a man and a woman, both 35, Friday afternoon and said they were suspects in a series of robberies of foreigners by means of a punctured tire.

The Judicial Investigating Organization said that there was at least one other suspected member of this band to arrest.

They linked the couple to  the robbery of a Frenchman July 11 in Escazú where 500,000 colons were taken, some $860. A North American lost 150,000 colons in Santa Ana, agents said. That's about $260.

Agents said that the band would stake out banks and target persons who appeared to be making withdrawals in cash.
Then they would follow them until a tire went flat.

This is a variation on the crimes that have faced tourists taking rental cars from Juan Santamaría airport.

A special group within the Sección de Robos y Hurtos has been on the trail of this band for seven months, said agents. The police agents specialize in crimes against tourists, said the Judicial Investigating Organization

Friday agents said the target was a tourist who stopped in a gas station in Alajuela to fix his tire. The couple were caught in the act, said agents. It was unclear if criminals used force in the past or simply offered to help the stranded motorist. In some cases the motorist is distracted and one of the group just steal valuables.

The robbers drove a distinctive white Yaris that has been involved in similar crimes all over the county, including Pérez Zeledón, Jacó and Puntarenas, agents said.

Both of the persons detained Friday have been in Costa Rica for 10 years on refugee status, said agents.

Agents asked that anyone who have been victimized in this manner to call them at 2295-3309 or 2295-3310.


Stadium work progresses
faster than was expected


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Casa Presidencial said Friday that the new stadium being constructed by a Chinese contractor is about 35 percent complete and that plans are being made to use the stadium for the inauguration of a new president in May.

The stadium will cost the Chinese government about $83 million. Some 631 Chinese workers are on the job, Casa Presidencial said.

President Óscar Arias Sánchez toured the site at the northwest corner of Parque La Sabana Friday. He said that the lack of rain which has affected farmers so badly has been a boon to construction crews that are much further advanced than had been expected.

The job was suppose to take 23 months. The stadium will hold 35,000 spectators and also have offices and rooms for many types of sports.


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Did you try

to call us?

We're not trying to avoid you. We just are victims of another ICE problem.

It is hard to believe that our company telephones have been out of service  for at four weeks.

The workmen came and disconnected the phones in our old office before they found out that they did not have sufficient space to install the lines in the new office.

Calls to ICE are met with yawns.

You can reach us at 8832-5564.

But Internet is best.

-A.M. Costa Rica

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Sept. 21, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 186

Rectification

Tourist police are majority of those detained as drug aides
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Seven of the 10 police officers detained Friday on suspicion of helping drug traffickers were tourists police assigned to the Herradura station, officials said.

One office was the former head of the Fuerza Pública's anti-drug efforts on the central Pacific, and one was chief of the Tárcoles station.

Another policeman, identified by the last names and age of Vindas Mora, 31, already was facing an open case of drug sales.

Two of the tourist policemen has just 10 months on the job. They were identified by the last names and ages of Porras Zeledón, 41, and Alipzar Molina, 41.

Investigators said that the police were information sources for Colombian traffickers and that some officers rode escort for drug shipments. They appear not to have been very successful. Since July 26 investigators intercepted three major cocaine shipments totaling more than 2,500 kilos. The most dramatic confiscation was by the Policía de Control de Drogas at Playa Tárcoles where a gun battle erupted. Two Colombians and a Costa Rican were detained.

Investigators said that the chief of the Herradura tourist police, identified by the last names and age of Chacón Rodríguez, 28,  and the chief in Tárcoles, identified by the last names and ages of Picado Venegas, 33, facilitated the landing Aug. 16 of the drug-laden boat at Tárcoles, which is north of Jacó near the river of the same name.

July 26 Judicial Investigating Organization agents in San Mateo intercepted a truck carrying 1,400 kilos of cocaine and arrested two Costa Ricans and a Dominican. They said that this truck was allowed through a Fuerza Pública checkpoint without inspection in Tárcoles because it was being escorted by Chacón and several other officers, who were identified by agents as Alpizar and Molina.

The last drug shipment credited to those detained Friday was discovered abandoned on a fastboat last Tuesday at Damas in the Cantón de Quepos. The crew fled because the boat was spotted by a security ministry airplane, officials said.

The case has all the drama of a spy novel. Investigators allege that a former member of the Servicio Nacional de Guardacostas, identified by the last names and age of Mora Villalta, 43, was in charge of recruiting police officers to help traffickers. He lives in Parrita and left the coast guards
in July after 17 years service, officials said.

Three Colombians also were detained Friday. Investigators said that a man with the last names of Bustamante Riascos from San Rafael de Escazú was the leader of the
organization. Another man, said to be the second-in-command and identified by the last names of Reyes Torres, was detained with Bustamante in Escazú.

Investigators detained the third Colombian, identified by the last names of Zapata Gallegos, in La Garita where they said he may have stored shipments from the Pacific.

The former head of the Programna Regional Antidrogas who was detained was identified by the last names and age of Valladares Bonilla, 30. Agents said that he used his contacts to provide information to traffickers. He was transferred to Esparza two months ago after investigators began to unravel the case.

The four other tourist policemen detained in the case were identified by the last names and ages of  Carrillo Mora, 43; Diaz Arias, 33; González Villegas, 27; and Rodríguez Campos, 22.

All the identities were provided by the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública. The Poder Judicial said that Nataly Arley Porte, a judge in Puntarenas, ordered that eight of the 10 policemen and two of the Colombians be held for one year's investigation.

The number of tourist policemen involved in the case has led other police officials to refer to these arrests informally as the Caso Turismo.

This is the second set of arrests since Sept. 10 in which police were accused of helping drug traffickers move their goods. One of four persons detained Sept. 10 was the chief in Santa Cecelia de La Cruz near the Nicaraguan border.

The chief and another policeman were detailed to keep narcotraffickers alerted to other police activity and to make sure the way was clear for moving drugs, according to the Judicial investigating Organization.

Other Fuerza Pública officers have been detained recently, including 10 who work downtown. One was the regional chief. They were accused to taking money from crooks in exchange for allowing them to commit crimes. Some 50 more are being investigated.

Fuerza Pública officers also are suspects in the robbery of 320 kilos of cocaine form the Golfito prosecutor's office.


Residency applicants told to prove they have registered with their consulate
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Costa Rican immigration agency has added another requirement for those seeking permanent and temporary residency in Costa Rica.

Applicants are required to register with their own consulate in Costa Rica. Exempted are those seeking political asylum and those applicants whose country does not offer consular services in Costa Rica.

Most embassies urge citizens here to register be they tourists or residents. However, many person do not.

The new rule came from Mario Zamora, the director general, who has issued an internal decree that is available on the Web site of the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería.

The rule applies to all types of residency in the country, although renewals of residencies are not mentioned specifically.
The requirement becomes the sixth along with birth certificate, passport, photos, fees and police report.

The rule went into effect Friday, said the decree. What applicants have to show is vague in the decree. It only says that they have to provide proof that they have registered with the consular office of their embassy in Costa Rica. No embassy has specified any procedure. In the case of the U.S. Embassy registration usually is done online with a link to Washington, D.C.

The immigration requirement will be an additional check on the individual applying for residency. although there is no guarantee that embassies will check the name and passport number against a list of fugitives.

Most fugitives maintain perpetual tourist status anyway to avoid giving governments too much information.

The Immigration agency has been unable to make accurate foreign arrest warrant checks on incoming visitors although computer systems are improving.


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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Sept. 21, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 186


Chávez appears to be starting a Latin American arms race

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Venezuela's President Hugo Chávez is leading a new diplomatic effort to strengthen ties with a set of distant partners. He signed a new billion-dollar arms deal with Russia and has promised to ship gasoline to Iran to circumvent possible international sanctions.

Chávez is no stranger to foreign capitals, and he has just completed an 11-day tour of Africa that included stops in Libya, Iran and Russia. One of the outcomes was a deal to buy 100 Russian battle tanks and air-defense rockets with all the funding coming from Moscow.

"The Russian government approved a $2.2 billion loan for weapons," Chávez said. "And we must thank them."

Chávez announced the deal only days after voicing support for pro-Russian separatists in South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Nicaragua is the only other nation in the world community to recognize those regions' breakaway from Georgia.

Some Latin American leaders fear the Venezuelan deal is part of an arms race. Uruguay's President Tabaré Vázquez expressed his concern at a meeting in Washington.

"We have already expressed time and again our position against an arms race," Vázquez said. "We believe it is quite inconvenient for the region to devote such significant economic resources to purchasing arms."

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says Chávez has not been clear about how the weapons will be used.

"So there is concern that we have expressed, and we'll continue to raise with other countries in the region. And we hope that we can see a change in behavior and attitude on the part of the Venezuelan government," Mrs. Clinton said.
The Venezuelan leader says the deals with Russia, which also include fighter jets, are for self-defense. Tensions are rising with Colombia, since Chávez denounced his neighbor for opening Colombian military bases for use by U.S. anti-drug missions.

Venezuela's oil sector, crucial to the national economy, also has been watching the new agreements that Chávez signed. 

Jorge Pinon is a former executive for Amoco Oil and a researcher at the University of Miami.

"There are a lot of people concerned, even in the energy sector, with what we see in the region as an arms race. There is no need," Pinon said, "I am not aware of any armed conflict going on between two Latin American countries."

Pinon says the concern is that Venezuela's struggling oil sector may lose much-needed investment. Production has yet to recover from a major strike in 2002, and slumping world oil prices have reduced government revenues.

Chávez also risks pushing away Western nations. During his travels, Chávez slammed Israel as genocidal, and he pledged to send 20,000 barrels of gasoline a day to Iran to offset possible U.N. sanctions arising from Tehran's nuclear development program.

But Pinon says that may be a hard promise for Venezuela to keep."In the last 60 days, Venezuela has had problems with its refinery structure, and is actually importing gasoline from Brazil. Anything Venezuela does today, you have to look at it," he adds, "Is it really a political issue, or is there an economic foundation behind it?"

Over time, Chavez's actions will show which alliances are more important to his government. 



Venezuela threatens to begin shooting down planes that might carry drugs

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez says he is considering allowing his government to shoot down foreign planes suspected of drug trafficking.

Chávez said he is considering the possibility of bringing down aircraft from Colombia or the United States.
His comments come three days after the United States named Venezuela as one of three countries that fails to meet international obligations to fight the drug trade.

Chavez said his country is doing everything it can to combat drugs and called the United States the No. 1 country responsible for drug production and trafficking.
Burma and Bolivia were the other two countries.


   
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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Sept. 21, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 186

Casa Alfi Hotel

U.N. report says big firms
recognize ills of corruption


Special to A.M. Costa Rica

A new United Nations report Friday is the first of its kind to detail measures taken by the world’s top-earning companies to root out corruption in their ranks.

The publication – a joint effort of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime and PricewaterhouseCoopers – highlights efforts by corporations of the Fortune Global 500 to stamp out and prevent corruption.

“The private sector has a lot to lose from corruption, and has considerable leverage to stop it,” said Antonio Maria Costa, executive director of the drug office. He spoke in Geneva, Switzerland.

Although the companies surveyed have different approaches to tackling corruption, the new study points out that they all recognize that many of their employees may not act as whistleblowers and report their colleagues due to fear of retaliation.

As a result, many corporations have set up anonymous hotlines, Internet-based whistleblower systems or appointed third-party ombudsmen, with nearly all having policies in place to protect those who report infringements.

Companies must also deal with so-called facilitation payments, a form of bribery to expedite or facilitate actions by public officials, which is prohibited by the U.N. Convention against Corruption, signed by 140 countries and ratified by 137 to date, the report noted.

But such payments are still part of business practices in many countries, it added.

“There is no one-size-fits-all set of rules to prevent corruption, but businesses should not go below international standards contained in the U.N. Convention against Corruption,” Costa stressed.

He called on business leaders to attend two key U.N.-backed conferences later this year: the Global Forum on Fighting Corruption and Safeguarding Integrity Nov. 7 and 8, and the Conference of States Parties to the U.N. Convention against Corruption, Nov. 9 to 13, both in Doha, Qatar.

“This will be a golden opportunity to strengthen corporate responsibility in line with the world’s only universal anti-corruption instrument,” Costa said.



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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Sept. 21, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 186

Latin American news
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Drought in Guatemala
creates urgent food needs


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Guatemala is facing the worst drought in 30 years, said the United nations. Some 2.5 million people in 21 provinces are affected and in need of urgent food assistance, the organization said.

The effects of the weather phenomenon known as El Nino have extended the dry spell in Guatemala, triggering a food crisis in the country. The drought has caused a reduction and loss of agricultural production. There are similar agricultural problems in Costa Rica.

The World Food Program says people are suffering from a combination of factors, including high food prices, the global financial crisis, unemployment and recurrent poor food crops.

Spokeswoman Emilia Casella said this situation is having a bad affect on the nutritional status of the rural poor in Guatemala, particularly women and children.

"Guatemala has the fourth highest rate of chronic malnutrition in the world and the highest in Latin America and the Caribbean," she said. "Nearly 50 percent of children under 5 years old in Guatemala suffer from chronic under-nutrition, which can cause stunting or severe weight loss." Her agency is expecting that the worst-hit families will be about 54,000 families in Guatemala, although the government is estimating the number could be closer to 300,000, she said.

Ms. Casella says the World Food Program so far has managed to distribute food to more than 20,000 families in affected areas. She says 20 metric tons of high-energy biscuits also are currently being distributed to more than 10,000 families. In the next few weeks, she says the program will continue to distribute these biscuits to a further 20,000 families.

She says stocks in Guatemala are at their lowest level in years. She said the World Food Program currently is providing a special fortified blended food to 100,000 children under 3, as well as to 50,000 nursing and pregnant women in 136 communities.

The spokeswoman warns this critically important program will be cut by the end of October unless the agency receives $7 million for the next 12 months.









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