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(506) 2223-1327           Published Friday, Oct. 14, 2011, in Vol. 11, No. 204       Email us
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Milanes negotiates for three years' home detention
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

When Luis Milanes, San Jose's casino king, goes to criminal court today, he will have fewer problems.

Most of the investors in his failed Savings Unlimited high-interest operation have chosen to make a deal with him. Now only a handful of persons are
Gegory Kearney
Gregory Kearney
continuing to press the criminal case, and lawyers for Milanes are expected to make another deal today with all but one of the victims.

Gregory Kearney Lawson said that only he, two other lawyers and the Defensa Civil de la Victima have clients who chose to reject formal conciliation and continue with the
criminal case. But, he said, nearly all of these individuals are ready to accept a second, better offer.

The second deal, just like the first, involves the sale of a Milanes property. Kearney said the casino owner has come up with a home said to be worth $1.2 million. Kearney said he thinks that the property might bring less in the current market. The lawyer said that this second deal will be handled in conjunction with a proposed abbreviated legal process in which Milanes pleads guilty and receives three years' home detention.

The remaining few investors must agree to this deal, and Kearney said that all but one person, his client, has said they will go along. Those who agree will see a high percentage of their money returned but probably not 100 percent.

The only obstacle to Milanes putting this legal battle behind him is the single Kearney client who did not accept conciliation and who is not accepting the second effort at a payoff, the lawyer said. Kearney said he is confident that Milanes will agree to pay his client about $100,000, the investment loss plus interest, to make the case go away.

Meanwhile, those who accepted the original conciliation are struggling with changes in the rules. Milanes was supposed to pay $100,000 a month to offset expenses of the transaction. In a message to the court Sept. 2 Milanes said that he has suffered financial reverses and that he sought to pay only $30,000 a month. He noted he already had paid $354,000 into a trust that was set up to handle the transactions.
Milanes turned over 10 properties he estimated to be worth $10.4 million to the trust. Kearney said Wednesday that he believes all liens have been cleared on the properties and that they have been transferred successfully to the trust. Kearney said he has four or five other clients who accepted the conciliation offer. He said he gave his clients a choice.

The trust is supposed to sell the properties and remit the proceeds to the many investors who have signed on to the deal. Included in the transfer is the downtown Hotel Europa, where Milanes rents space for one of his casinos.

Other sources said that Milanes also is asking a five-person committee made up of three lawyers and two investors to split the cost of rewiring the hotel. The electrical contract is about $80,000 said the source. The five-person committee is supposed to direct and approve the actions of the trust.

In addition to the investors who accepted conciliation and those who are likely to accept the newest deal, Kearney said there was a long list of investors who could not be contacted. They may be unaware of the developments in the case or dead.

Savings Unlimited investors lost an estimated $200 million when Milanes closed the office and snuck out of town in November 2002. He was gone until June 2008 when he returned after making a deal with prosecutors. He spent a night in jail.

Others are accused in the case, but Milanes is the principal figure.

He claimed that an associate stripped him of his money and fled to Europe.

Investors who accepted the conciliation agreement never got a financial statement from Milanes, so they do not know what possessions he has. That is how he could come up with another property estimated at $1.2 million.

They also did not get a profit and loss statement form the Europa Hotel, the cornerstone of the conciliation. Nor did anyone look into the profitability of the Milanes casino properties, here and elsewhere.

The casinos are not included in any of the deals, although the one in the Hotel Europa is paying $12,500 a month rent to the trust.

Kearney called the hearing today the turning point in the case. And he described himself this way: “I am the rock in Milanes' shoe.”

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There is no access here as workmen for the Instituto Costarricense de Acueductos y Alcantarillados defy the weather and try to fix broken pipes on Avenida 4 in downtown San José.

Parrita evacuation planned
as river continues to rise

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Cruz Roja said last night that it was evacuating some 800 persons from vulnerable sections of Parrita on the central Pacific.

The rescue agency said that the Río Parrita was likely to run out of its banks. The agency said it was sending two trucks and a special vehicle into the area to assist with the evacuation.

The situation in Parrita is in addition to the estimated 123 persons who are in shelters. Mainly in the Nicoya peninsula and the area around Golfito.

The national weather service said that the country would be getting rain for 48 hours at least. The blame was being placed on Tropical Depression 12 that is just off the coast of southeastern México. However, yet another area of thunderstorms and showers has developed in the Caribbean and is associated with a broad low pressure area, said the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida.

The center said that the system has a low chance of developing into anything stronger in the next 48 hours. However, it said that locally heavy rains will likely continue over Central America. The center warned of life-threatening flash floods and landslides.

The Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes released a long list of highways and roads that have suffered damage. Most have reduced but not blocked passage. Seven municipal routes were closed completely by slides. They were in Puriscal, Coto Brus, Parrita and Aserrí.

In San Miguel de Aserrí some 1,400 persons were without water due to the rupture of a pipe. In Orotina, there was a similar problem.

Because of the low pressure area in the Caribbean, the northern zone and the Caribbean coast will be getting rain and thundershowers today.

The Asociación Nacional de Productores Arroceros de Costa Rica postponed a meeting planned for today to inspect the rice field in the Province of Limón.

The Consejo Nacional de Vialidad said in the late afternoon that heavy rains were obstructing repairs of the Interamericana Norte at Kilometer 82 in el Empalme or Cambronero. Trucks were being detoured to Ruta 27, the new Caldera highway. The agency urged others to consider taking the same route. However, it said it expected to restore passage at that point later Thursday night.

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, Friday, Oct. 14, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 204

Downtown tourism office now in Banco Anglo building
By Zachery McDonald
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

On Avenida Central, almost a block west of the Plaza de la Cultura, in the old Banco Anglo building, is the Oficina de Informacion Turistica. There are no signs outside identifying the office, but just inside the door to the left sits the office of Nelson Torres Sánchez.

Sánchez described his duties as a tourist assister and information supplier. He explains to tourists how to travel and different options to get around the country. The difference between what they do and the other assorted tourist information centers is that they will help with anything within their ability: Anything from safety tips, to maps of outlying areas or something as simple as help with a few Spanish terms.

The service is free and supported by the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo.

Sánchez is from the San José area and has been assisting tourists for 20 years. So he´s very helpful with bus routes for people unfamiliar with Costa Rica´s public transit system. He speaks Spanish, English and a little French.

Some 98 percent of Sanchez´s job is helping people, which he says he enjoys. The other 2 percent see him as the embodiment of the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo, and are unhappy. The office hours, for the moment, are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday.

The location is a change from the front office of the Museos del Banco Central under the Plaza de la Cultura.

banco anglo
A.M. Costa Rica/Zachery McDonald
Restored Banco Anglo is a downtown jewel

The Banco Anglo Costarricense was a public bank that
failed due to internal corruption in the 1990s. The central government has restored the building that is on the pedestrian mall that is Avenida Central downtown.

Discovery of car links money laundering here with murder
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Judicial agents seeking a money laundering suspect encounters a vehicle owned by the wife of a man suspected in the Guatemalan murder of singer Facundo Cabral.

That happened Thursday when agents conducted two raids. One was in Barrio San José de Alajuela and the second was at the business Lubricentro Alajuela.

The Poder Judicial said the vehicle belonged to the wife of Alejandro Jiménez González, who is known as Palidejo. He is in flight after police in Guatemala obtained statements implicating him from those who killed the singer. His wife was identified as Wendy Nancy Pérez Sánchez. Three other vehciles also were confiscated, said the Poder Judicial.

The suspect who was detained faces an allegation of money
laundering. The case is linked to the discovery of some 128 kilos of cocaine that was being sent to Spain in 2008. The Poder Judicial identifiedhim by the lzst names of Sovalbarro Chaves.

Agents from the economics unit said that the man is suspected of putting $3.3 million into the national banking system in the last three years.

The car was found at his home. She is missing, too.

The shooting of famed singer Cabral was the result of an attempt on the man in whose car the singer was riding. That is Henry Fariñas, a Nicaragua businessman with interests in Costa Rica.

As agents looked deeper into the case here, they found connections with drug smuggling and money laundering.

He surely would have liked to leave his heart in Costa Rica
This week I fell in love, with Tony Bennett.  I have known him for years as a singer, but never personally.  I moved to San Francisco with his crooning “I left my heart in San Francisco,” and in 1963 I saw him in person at Harrah’s in Lake Tahoe.  I was disappointed in his performance then because he seemed to sing off key a couple of times.  (I must confess I am tone deaf so I don’t know if my critique was fair).

I didn’t know that later that decade he was part of the civil rights movement and took part in the marches to Selma and Montgomery, Alabama, and then he refused to perform in Apartheid South Africa.

I found out these things when he was interviewed on television by Piers Morgan, in between some of the silly questions Morgan interrupts his guests to ask.

When Morgan asked what he brought away from his participation in the Battle of the Bulge in World War II, Bennett responded, “I learned that killing someone is the lowest form of human behavior.”  That is when he had me.

But it was obvious that Morgan was not pleased with his answer.

Then I learned that his Italian mother, like mine, was also left a widow to raise her children alone during the Great Depression. He learned about integrity from his mother.  It is hard to outdo a good Italian mother.

When he was asked about the dark years, in the 70s when he was using drugs, he gave us the lesson he’d learned.  He said, “I thought I was doing fine on drugs, but I wasn’t.”  Then he told about talking to the former manager of Lenny Bruce, who said about Bruce’s drug habit, “He sinned against his talent.”  That was an epiphany for Bennett, and he experienced what all struggling not-to-be addicts would love to have: a transformation.  He immediately stopped using, with no withdrawal pains, and no need to go to rehab. He went on doing what his passions were: singing and painting.  If that would only happen more often!  He added another bit of wisdom nice to remember:  “At any given moment you can learn.”
Butterfly in the City
. . .  Musings from San José

By Jo Stuart

Jo Stuart

And finally, the man has followed the dictum, “To thine own self be true ---and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.”  Maybe that should be the oath that people take before becoming a CEO or assuming public office.  Or maybe it should be a rite of passage at puberty for everyone.  Unless of course, you are a natural born villain, but there are few of those.

What surprises me is that Tony Bennett never came to Costa Rica.  He would love it here, and I think Costa Rica would love him.  Maybe he still will.  At 85 – a good looking 85 -- being one of those lucky men who gets better with age – he works out every day and refuses to take elevators or escalators when he travels.  In Costa Rica he would have many opportunities to take part in marches for good causes.  The country seems sympathetic to closing streets, even main streets for parades and marches against such things as breast cancer and cruelty to animals, and marathons devoted to various themes.  Even protest marches by groups are usually peaceful here, and their causes usually are just.  Most people are tolerant of the inconvenience these can cause . . . except sometimes me.

Actually, it is not the parades or marches that bother me, it is what happens whenever there is a performance or a match at the new stadium in Sabana Park.  Limiting access to the Avenida de Las Americas (the boulevard on the north side of the park) has become a regular thing in my neighborhood since the stadium was built. I don’t mind the lines of people hours before an event but just trying to get out of the area is a chore. I suppose I would stop complaining if the occasion were a Tony Bennett concert.  And come to think of it, one of the lessons Mr. Bennett taught by example, on the Piers Morgan show, (and something I should learn) is graciousness in an annoying situation.  

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Oct. 14, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 204

New study offers proof that bilingualism delays Alzheimer's
By the St. Michael's Hospital media staff

Researchers at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto, Canada, have found that people who speak more than one language have twice as much brain damage as unilingual people before they exhibit symptoms of Alzheimer's disease. It's the first physical evidence that bilingualism delays the onset of the disease.

“This is unheard of – no medicine comes close to delaying the onset of symptoms and now we have the evidence to prove this at the neuroanatomical level,” said Tom Schweizer, a neuroscientist who headed the research.

Schweizer’s team studied CT scans of patients who had been diagnosed with probable Alzheimer’s disease and who had similar levels of education and cognitive skills, such as attention, memory, planning and organization. Half were fluently bilingual, the other half spoke just one language.

Despite the fact that both groups performed equivalently on all measures of cognitive performance, the scans of the bilingual patients showed twice as much atrophy in areas of the brain known to be affected by Alzheimer’s. The findings have been published on-line in the journal Cortex.

Schweizer said that bilingual people are constantly using their brain and keeping it active, which may contribute to overall brain health. That’s why many physicians encourage older
people to do crossword puzzles or Sudoku.

Schweizer said that because bilingual people constantly switch from one language to another or suppress one language to speak in the other, their brains may be better prepared to compensate through enhanced brain networks or pathways when Alzheimer’s sets in.

Previous observational studies have found that bilingualism delays the onset of Alzheimer’s symptoms by up to five years, but this is the first to find physical proof through CT scans.

Schweizer said the results are especially important in Canada, which is officially bilingual and has large numbers of immigrants for whom French and English are at least second languages. His study was conducted in Toronto, where the second language of many study participants was French, English or Chinese.

Schweizer noted that bilingualism does not prevent Alzheimer’s. Once Alzheimer’s symptoms appear in bilingual people, it is not clear whether the disease progresses at an accelerated rate.

He said the next steps would be to repeat the study in a larger sample of patients followed over time using more sophisticated MRIs. He said it wasn’t clear from this study whether a second language had to be learned early in life to provide maximum benefit.

Power company will be at work on the General Cañas Saturday
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Traffic officials are closing part of the General Cañas highway Saturday because the electric company will be working on the lighting.

The work will be between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m., said the Compañía Nacional de Fuerza y Luz, S.A. The stretch is the eastern half of the highway starting at Parque la Sabana

In addition, the electric company will have workers at the
 infamous platina bridge installing 10 new lights, the company said.

Traffic police will be on duty to keep vehicles moving and to protect the workers.

The platina bridge is the one that defies repair and where the concrete is eroding and exposing the rebar.

The Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes has been trying to fix the bridge for two years.

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Mexico praised for putting
food rights in constitution

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

A United Nations expert has praised Mexico’s constitutional reform that recognizes the right to food in the country and urged authorities to implement measures to give all Mexicans access to this human right.

“This is a great step forward for Mexico,” said Olivier De Schutter, who carried out an official visit to the country in June. “With this reform, Mexico joins a select group of countries around the world that have enshrined the right to food in their constitutions.”

“Now is the time to implement this reform for the benefit of all Mexicans by approving corresponding legislation,” he added.

De Schutter said the reform to articles 4 and 27 of the Mexican Constitution is particularly relevant in the current context of rising food prices as it highlights the need for states to guarantee access to adequate nutrition for their citizens.

Recently, a U.N. report warned that high food prices are likely to continue and possibly increase over the next decade.

The report recommended that governments have a transparent and predictable regulatory environment in place that promotes private investment and an increase in farm productivity.

For his part, De Schutter said it was necessary to encourage the Mexican government to design a national strategy for the realization of the right to food, by re-orienting public policies on rural development, agriculture, health and trade in line with the right to food, which should not merely be understood as the right to be fed, but rather the right to feed oneself.

Chile remembers ordeal
of its trapped miners

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A group of the Chilean miners rescued in an operation that transfixed the world a year ago returned to the San José mine Thursday for a solemn ceremony.

Chile's former mining minister Laurence Golborne was among those who attended the service, together with engineers and several of the rescued workers. During the service, workers laid the first stone of a monument honoring the 33 miners.

The 69-day ordeal began Aug. 5, 2010, when the San José mine collapsed. The miners were rescued Oct. 13 when they were pulled one-by-one to the surface in a 22-hour operation.

Not all of the rescued workers were at the anniversary event. Despite the media attention the miners received, many of them are still living in poverty and without steady work.

Mexican prison riot
linked to arrest of Zeta

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Mexican security officials say seven inmates have died in a prison riot on the outskirts of the northern Mexican city of Monterrey.

Authorities say military and federal officials were called in to quell the riot early Thursday after prison staff failed to control the fighting.

Local reports say the rioting may have started after inmates learned of the arrest of Carlos Olivia Castillo, a key figure in the Zetas drug cartel. He was arrested Wednesday after an hours-long gunfight with security officials in the northern city of Saltillo.

Olivia Castillo allegedly ordered the torching of a Monterrey casino in August, which killed 52 people. That incident was one of the country's worst attacks against civilians in decades.

Olivia Castillo was the No. 3 man within the Zetas organization. His arrest was part of a larger offensive launched in August in three northern states against the country's drug cartel. The army has since arrested more than 700 suspected criminals and seized several-hundred weapons.

European Union urged
to send aid to the poorest

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The European Commission has proposed changing European Union foreign aid programs to focus more on the world's poorest nations.

In a policy paper published Thursday, Andris Pielbags, EU development commissioner, said the 27-nation EU must adapt the way it fights poverty to make sure that every euro of aid reaches those who need it most. He says EU aid programs should put recipient countries on track to achieving sustainable and inclusive growth.

The European Union says it was the world's biggest donor last year, handing out $74 billion in foreign aid — about half of the global total.

Pielbags says future EU aid should concentrate on countries in the greatest need of external support for poverty reduction, rather than on middle-income emerging powers. He did not name any nations.

The EU commissioner says aid programs should support specific economic sectors such as sustainable agriculture and clean energy that can create opportunities for growth. He also says aid should be made conditional on recipient nations signing contracts for good governance, ensuring an emphasis on human rights, democracy and the rule of law.

The European Commission says it will ask EU foreign ministers to endorse the new aid proposals in early 2012.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Oct. 14, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 204

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Limon work
Casa Presidencial photo
Workmen excavate a trouble spot before putting down asphalt.

Big road job kicked off
for the province of Limón

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A little asphalt goes a long way politically.

Workmen started putting down some 38 kilometers (23.5 miles) of asphalt in Limón Thursday. Casa Presidencial said the work was the result of two months of intense negotiations by the municipality, the public works ministry, the regional development agency and the national petroleum refinery.

Casa Presidencial said that the work required the personal intervention of Alfio Piva Mesén, a vice president.

The work is supposed to be done by December.

Bottling company merges
with Mexican counterpart

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Coca-Cola FEMSA, S.A.B. de C.V., the largest public bottler of Coca-Cola products in the world in terms of sales volume, and Grupo Tampico S.A. de C.V. and its shareholders, have announced the successful merger.

Coca-Cola FEMSA held an ordinary and extraordinary shareholders meeting Monday at which the company’s shareholders approved this merger, amended the company’s by-laws to increase the number of board members from 18 to 21 and appointed Herman Fleishman president and Robert Fleishman, vice president of Grupo Tampico, as director and alternate director.

Coca-Cola FEMSA assumed Tampico's in net debt.

Coca-Cola FEMSA will start integrating the Grupo Tampico’s beverage division this month.

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