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Investors of the suspended Villalobos firm continued to choose up sides Monday for what promises to be a long legal battle.
Several groups of investors seemed to have joined together to present a meeting Sunday in the Hotel Aurola Holiday Inn Sunday at 10 a.m. The hotel is in the downtown.
That group is coordinated by James Manners, who said the hotel can set up for 400 persons.
William Romero of San Rafael de Heredia announced a meeting at the same time near the Teatro Nacional, but by day’s end, Manners said the two groups would try to meet together.
Manners said he wanted to invite agents of the Judicial Investigating Organization and even the operator of the suspended investment firm, Luis Enrique Villalobos Camacho, or his representative.
These two groups bring to at least seven the number of separate organizations being formed to safeguard investor interests, to take action against the Costa Rican government, to take action against Villalobos or do all three.
Some groups have told their members privately that they intend to negotiate with Villalobos in an effort to withdraw their principal investments at a discount when and if the investment bank accounts are unfrozen by the courts.
The efforts to accept payment at a deep discount would seem to be the
first sign of real concern by
Some of the organizations that are springing up seem to follow the patterns of how people became involved in the high-interest investments in the first place. Participation was by invitation, and those who invited their friends and families seem to be rallying the people for whom they feel a responsibility.
Investors who live in the United States are particularly anxious because they feel they are missing out on steps they might take to secure their investments. However, the Villalobos bank accounts are frozen until Nov. 26, and some legal experts say that the process to assert a claim in Costa Rican courts is long and full of paperwork, so it is unlikely that anyone who wishes to join an action will be left out.
Investigators shut down Villalobos’ operation July 4, and he stopped paying his monthly interest at the end of September. He suspended operations Oct. 14, creating a near-panic among his predominately North American clientele.
He paid up to 3 percent interest a month for years, and never told investors how he used their money. The police raid took place at the request of Canadian authorities who were investigating six suspected drug dealers and money launderers.
Some of the money passed through Ofinter S.A., a money exchange house that shared facilities with Villalobos in the San Pedro Mall and was owned by his brother. Villalobos says he has done nothing wrong and that he will pay his debts.
Casa Alianza has welcomed the positive response of the Costa Rican government to a recently released report documenting the extent of children living on the country's streets.
"The Reality of Street Children and Adolescents in Costa Rica" is the result of a two-month diagnosis by Casa Alianza together with the government's national child welfare institute, the Patronato Nacional de Infancia. The study revealed that Costa Rica has a problem with the numbers of children living and working on its city streets.
The report estimates that 1,500 children and adolescents are living on the streets in Costa Rica, putting them at great risk of exploitation, violence, crime and drugs. A further 147,000 children and adolescents are exploited through work.
The report estimated 3,000 children and adolescents are victims of sexual exploitation and a further 20,000 children spend their days on the streets but go home at night. Casa Alianza Nicaragua staff undertook the report.
Funded by the Canadian Fund for Development Initiatives, the report shows that three-quarters of the street children have some connection with their family but 24 percent have no links to family.
Just over half of the youngsters are boys and nearly 80 percent are 15 to 18-years-old. Eleven percent of the youths are under 12.
The majority of the homeless children interviewed failed to complete primary education and 8 percent are illiterate. Three-quarters admitted to being addicted to drugs, and nearly half said they took drugs all day in order to escape the reality of their lives.
|Abel Pacheco, president of Costa
Rica, invited, Rosalia Gil, the minister for child and adolescent affairs,
and Bruce Harris, representative of Casa Alianza, to present the report
to the Costa Rican government cabinet.
Harris urged the Costa Rican government to act now and help the thousands of children living and working on the streets.
"The government must ensure that the necessary finance is made available to offer an adequate and integrated approach to children who find themselves on the streets or are at high risk," he said. "I believe this Government is dedicated to helping these children but it needs to show this dedication by ensuring the funding is available."
Casa Alianza has offered training support to help Costa Rica’s national child welfare institute run a program designed for street kids.
The conclusions in the report suggest measures - including an immediate attention center for street children - to help children deal with the problems faced in their daily lives. The report urged the government to make sure services for street children and adolescents were appropriate, adequate and modern.
The social phenomenon of street children is relatively new in Costa Rica, and the child welfare service has not yet formulated a response, leaving the children on their own. One 15-year-old homeless boy was shot to death in San Jose earlier this year and many have complained about ill treatment by the police.
Sixteen percent of the street children in Costa Rica are from bordering
Nicaragua. The children come to this country looking for work and survival.
|70 Marxist rebels dead
after air strike
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services
BOGOTA, Colombia — Officials here say at least 70 Marxist rebels have been killed by an air strike on two trucks carrying insurgents and explosives.
Authorities said Monday's air strike was launched to help drive back a rebel invasion of an Indian village, Belalcazar, southwest of here. The military says that on Sunday rebels attacking the village killed three police officers. The government casualty figures could not be independently confirmed.
International news sources say that if confirmed, the death toll would be one of the heaviest losses inflicted on rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) since President Alvaro Uribe took office in October. The FARC is Latin America's largest rebel army.
The country is mired in a 38-year civil war involving the FARC and a smaller rebel group, a right-wing paramilitary force, and the government. The conflict claims thousands of lives each year.
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services
QUITO, Ecuador — The presidential election here looks to go to a second-round run-off, with the possibility of a coup leader in the final running to become the country’s next president.
With nearly half of the votes counted by Sunday night, coup leader Colonel Lucio Gutierrez was leading a pack of several candidates, with nearly 19 percent of votes cast.
Closely following, with 18 percent, was the country’s richest man, Alvaro Noboa, who lost the 1998 run-off against former president Jamil Mahuad.
In January 2000, Gutierrez helped lead an Indian insurrection that resulted in a short-lived ruling trio composed of himself, Indian leader Antonio Vargas and a supreme court judge.
In just hours, it was replaced by the administration of Mahuad's then-vice-president Gustavo Noboa, who was not a candidate in this election. Vargas was a candidate, this time, but did not poll among the several near the top.
Socialist Party Congressman Leon Roldos had 16 percent of votes cast. Former President Rodrigo Borja had 15 percent. Xavier Neira and Jacobo Bucaram had 13 percent and 10 percent respectively.
After the short coup in 2000, Colonel Gutierrez was jailed but later was granted amnesty. He founded his political party, calling it the Jan. 21 Patriotic Society, referring to the coup.
However, he dismisses comparisons with populist Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who led a botched coup before winning office at the ballot box. Gutierrez finds his backing among leftist groups. Noboa finds favor from the country’s poor masses.
Pacific Rim assembles
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services
CABO SAN LUCAS, Mexico — Officials from 21 Pacific Rim nations have gathered here for the meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.
Among the topics heads of state are to discuss later in the week are terrorism, a possible war with Iraq and North Korea's nuclear program.
Not much is expected from this latest gathering of leaders and top officials from the Pacific Rim, other than some general statements in support of free trade and a condemnation of terrorism.
Most of the real work will be accomplished in meetings between foreign ministers in the coming days and between heads of state on the weekend.
In his meetings with officials from China and Japan here, Colin Powell, U.S. secretary of state, is expected to discuss the recent revelation that North Korea has an active nuclear weapons program.
He will also address the issues of terrorism and a possible U.S. attack on Iraq in his private meetings with foreign ministers from various forum member nations.
Terrorism, in particular, is a matter of deep concern for many of the nations who are represented at the meeting. The bomb attack in Bali, Indonesia, on Oct. 12 that claimed more than 180 lives has awakened fears of new terrorist threats in that part of Asia.
In the past year, the United States, Canada, Russia, Singapore, Australia, Malaysia and the Philippines have also been affected directly or indirectly by terrorism. In Latin America, only Colombia faces a severe terrorist threat from its internal civil conflict.
Economic matters are at the heart of any forum meeting, and there are several contentious issues that are likely to arise. Mexico is in dispute with China over allegations that China dumps cheap products on the Mexican market, but closes its own market to Mexican goods.
Mexico is also hoping to revive talks with the United States over a proposed immigration accord. That effort was sidetracked after the terrorist attacks in the United States on Sept. 11, 2001.
After he arrives here Saturday, President George Bush is expected to meet with Mexican President Vicente Fox to focus on immigration, free trade, and the joint effort against possible use of Mexico as an entry point for terrorists planning attacks on U.S. soil.
Bush will also discuss terrorism, and a possible armed conflict with Iraq with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Putin has been reluctant to support military action against Iraq.
Security is tight in the Mexican Pacific-coast resort area, which lies at the southernmost tip of the Baja California peninsula. More than 3,000 Mexican soldiers, federal agents and state police are on hand. There are also Mexican naval patrols off the coast.
Bush declares the
Special to A.M. Costa Rica
WASHINGTON, D.C. — President George Bush has proclaimed the year beginning Oct. 18 as the Year of Clean Water in commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the Clean Water Act.
A White House proclamation calls on Americans to observe the year with programs, ceremonies and activities that focus on clean water, and join together in setting good examples of environmental stewardship.
Friday marked the 30th anniversary of the Clean Water Act — the landmark environmental legislation that has led to dramatic improvements in the quality of the nation’s drinking water and the health of its wetlands and watersheds.
According to the proclamation, federal wastewater assistance under the Clean Water Act has ensured that 165 million U.S. citizens now benefit from modern sewage treatment, up from 86 million in 1968. Advances in wastewater treatment during that period constitute one of the major achievements in modern American public health.
The government says it has also cooperated with states, local communities and businesses to reduce all forms of water pollution, and is close to achieving its goal of halting overall wetlands loss.
Brazilian leader wins
Special to A.M. Costa Rica
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso has been named the first winner of the United Nations human development award for his work in fighting poverty and for improving employment and health care in his country.
The U.N. Development Program chose Cardoso for being a "tireless advocate" for human development and for overseeing such progress in Brazil.
Kofi Annan, U.N. secretary general, said in an Oct. 15 statement that Cardoso's "longstanding dedication to human progress, and his democratic leadership of Brazil, have raised the standard by which governance can be judged throughout Latin America."
Mark Mallock Brown, a development program administrator, said that under Cardoso, "the fight against poverty has become a national priority and democracy a vibrant reality" in Brazil.
Cardoso "has demonstrated how to make human development into dynamic public policy. He is an inspiration to all of us working in this field," said Brown.
The development program cited Cardoso for launching in 2001 the Alvorada Program, an anti-poverty initiative providing health care, running water, and education in Brazil's poorest municipalities.
As president, the development program said, Cardoso also created 8.9 million jobs between 1993 and 2001, keeping the country's unemployment rate to about seven percent.
He also resettled 588,000 agrarian families between 1995 and 2001, and gave 20 million hectares of land to the country's landless people, the development program said.
Between 1995 and 2001, Cardoso was also credited for reducing the percentage of children who did not go to school from 10 percent to almost zero while increasing the proportion of the poorest children going to school from 75 percent in 1995 to 93 percent in 1999.
Cardoso will be presented with the award, formally named the Mahbub ul Haq Award for Outstanding Contribution to Human Development, at a Dec. 9 ceremony in New York.
The award is named for a Pakistani economist who worked in human development and founded the development program’s annual Human Development Report.
Chile good friend for
Special to A.M. Costa Rica
SANTIAGO, Chile — The United States seeks a free-trade agreement with Chile because that South American nation is a "special country" in terms of what it has achieved in re-establishing its democracy, building a strong economy, and on matters of honesty in government, says Otto Reich, assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs.
Speaking at a press conference here Friday, Reich said a U.S.-Chile free-trade pact will benefit both countries.
Chile is the kind of country, Reich said, with which the United States has both good political and commercial relations. The two countries, Reich added, have common values such as the rule of law, respect for human rights, press freedom, and good governance.
Reich predicted that Chile will be one of the first countries to sign
a free-trade agreement with the United States under the new trade promotion
authority that the U.S. Congress recently gave President George Bush.
|Boats are ready for
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
Boats are already reserved for the Costa Rica Classic Invitational Billfish Tournament, according to the event’s website, scheduled to cast off Nov. 23 in Quepos.
The tournament’s proceeds are going to the Boomer Esiason Foundation, which helps people with cystic fibrosis. Boomer Esiason is a former National Football League quarterback whose son has cystic fibrosis.
The foundation’s website said that since 1993 it raised more than $7 million to fight the disease.
The tournament is still looking for fisherman to join the charity competition and throw their lines into the Pacific. Points will be awarded for billfish, tuna, dorado, and snapper.
The tournament’s website is calling it a premier Costa Rican fishing event. The website itinerary for the event promises three nights of dinners and parties, two days of fishing, and an awards ceremony.
Non-fishermen are welcome to join the festivities. People interested can go: www.CostaRicaClassic.com or call 800-493-8426.
Coke suspects arrested
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
Investigators raided three locations Saturday and Sunday to arrest six persons they said were instrumental in the crack cocaine trade in Orotina.
Agents said the gang that distributed cocaine had set up headquarters in the Pic Nic Bar in the Orotina train station. From there they supervised the distribution of the popular form of cocaine.
The raids were in Turribares de San José, Mastate de Orotina and in central Orotina. Investigators obtained evidence through a sting operation, and they confiscated marked bills during the raids.
The persons arrested were identified by their last names and ages: Mora, 24; Chacón, 34; Loría, 19; Ureña, 25; Ledezma, 25; and León, 32.
Press joins anti-Chavez
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services
CARACAS, Venezuela — Media, including privately owned newspapers, radio stations, and TV channels, have openly joined the growing campaign to pressure populist President Hugo Chavez to leave office. For his part, Chavez continues his attacks on the press, aggravating the situation even further.
In a nationwide broadcast last week, Chavez took the privately owned media to task for underplaying a large pro-government march on Oct. 13.
"Five hours of coverage of the opposition march," the president said citing one station, "and just 17 minutes devoted to our march on Sunday. This treatment is not impartial and also denies television viewers valuable information."
This tendency also was evident in the print media. One of Venezuela's major newspapers, El Universal, did not include the pro-Chavez demonstration on its front page, and devoted only one page on the inside to the event. By contrast, the newspaper carried seven pages on the Oct. 10 opposition march and related developments, including ample front-page play.
Lawmaker Desire Santos Amaral, who is a member of Chavez' party, describes this kind of coverage as flagrantly biased.
"Journalism in Venezuela, and most of all the media owners are taking on the role of political opposition parties in this country," she said." The result of this is that journalistic ethics are ignored and the media now openly manipulate information to agitate and scare the population."
But the media blame Chavez, saying he has been hostile to the press since he took office in 1999. The Committee to Protect Journalists, a press watchdog group in New York, says Chavez's criticism has inspired press intimidation and harassment by his supporters.
Sauro Gonzalez, a researcher at the Committee's Latin American program, said: "Especially during the last two years, the president has often in his radio and TV programs, or his frequent speeches, referred to journalists by name and also to media owners in very aggressive ways.
When Chavez was briefly deposed by elements of the military in mid-April, following bloodshed during an anti-Chavez march, Venezuela's media openly cheered the coup. Two days later, as Chavez was being swept back into power by loyalist forces, much of the media did not report on the turn of events.
At one point, angry Chavez supporters surrounded a television station demanding it broadcast a message calling for the leader to be restored while terrified journalists inside broadcast appeals for help.
Elides Rojas, editor of the Universal newspaper, says this intimidation and what many journalists believe is Chavez's autocratic tendencies have forced most reporters to take sides against the government. As a result, he says, the principles of impartiality and objectivity have been dispensed with.
"It's war, not in conventional terms but in terms of having to put aside objectivity, balance, and comprehensiveness in our news coverage, in return for someday recovering these principles in a normal society," he said. "I don't see anything immoral in this . . . it is honest since we are proclaiming this openly."
But the Committee to Protect Journalists is concerned. While no journalist
has been arrested, nor has any media outlet been shutdown by the government,
the Committee's Sauro Gonzalez says press freedom in Venezuela is endangered.
"So, although, CPJ is glad there is no imprisoned journalist in Venezuela it takes more than that. It takes a president to not take such an aggressive tone against journalists and also it takes media owners to allow journalists to do their jobs in a balanced manner, and for both to follow the Venezuelan constitution," he said.
It is hard to find middle ground in a country where an estimated 70 percent of the population wants President Chavez to step down, while the remaining 30 percent are equally adamant that the leader serves his six-year term.
US to attend climate talks, low-key on Kyoto
Special to A.M. Costa Rica
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The United States will be "very active" in the talks on climate change beginning Wednesday in New Delhi, but will play a "low key role" in discussions relating to the Kyoto Protocol and its implementation, according to Harlan Watson, senior U.S. climate negotiator and a leading member of the U.S. State Department delegation to the talks.
The meeting is the Eighth Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The Kyoto Protocol is a treaty that grew from the years of negotiation in that framework.
It would impose mandatory reductions in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions that are linked to global warming. The Bush administration opposes the Kyoto Protocol on the grounds that its reductions targets would cause serious damage to the U.S. economy.
"We’ll be following protocol issues," Watson said at a news briefing in Washington before his departure for India. "We’re certainly not going to interfere, but we will be watching very carefully, obviously to protect our national interests."
Watson said the New Delhi meeting will also be the first opportunity for U.S. experts to explain the George Bush administration policy on climate change, announced by the president last February. That plan commits the United States to cutting greenhouse gas intensity by 18 percent over the next 10 years. The initiative also supports an enhanced research effort and expands funding devoted to climate change.
Bush’s budget for 2003 proposes increasing funding for climate change initiatives to $4,600 million. In addition to outright government spending, the administration plan creates tax incentives to encourage the private sector to adopt more environmentally-friendly energy technologies
A White House fact sheet issued with the initial announcement said:
"The president's growth-based approach will accelerate the development
of new technologies and encourage partnerships on climate change issues
with the developing world."
envious of bravery
Dear A.M. Costa Rica:
Whoever said that investors with "The Brothers" are greedy and deserve to lose their capital are just envious of those of us who were brave enough to take the risk. It is a known fact that the higher the return, the higher the risk.
In this case, though, it is a government entity that froze Villalobos’ accounts. And just like the person who called us "greedy", they are in awe of Don Luis Enrique's success and just can't believe how he does it in this era of economic turmoil, mostly caused by apparently legal but extremely greedy businessmen.
Besides the brilliant strategy of Mr. Villalobos, his success is due to the loyalty of his investors and their sticking to the rules, until now at least. So the failure of the venture will be due to those few, impatient investors who are breaking the rules and thus hurting all involved.
Dear A.M. Costa Rica:
I, too, feel that rational and responsible action should be prepared to deal with a situation that so strongly affects so many of us "Gringos" and Ticos alike. I also whole heartily underwrite the letter published in A.M. Costa Rica from Wolfgang Hilbich.
On October 14th, I submitted an email to A.M. Costa Rica asking to request patience of all investors. (Letter was not published.) Wrong action jeopardizes my money even more than the limbo it is in already. I also feel, that we should offer support to Mr. Villalobos, who I found to be above board after following his business for approximately three years, prior to requesting his assistance in generating an excellent return on my money.
Many of my good friends have benefited from his efforts in excess of five years, always being paid on time. But alas, I don't have to defend him to my fellow investors, we ALL know he is A-OK, and has allowed us to benefit from his efforts. I certainly hope that he became rich in the process — he deserves it!!
To those who sneer at his operation I only can say, take an objective look at "real" banks, and recognize them for the organizations they really are, recognize the shady manner of managing YOUR money. (You truly don't believe that banks don't generate more than 36% per year benefit from YOUR money, do you?? If you still do, do some arithmetic and calculate from their annual statement what their true return on YOUR investment is.)
Look at the banks that helped the Marcosses, the Mendozas and the Ortegas of the world to whisk their blatantly stolen money away from its legitimate source.
This letter serves to offer my support in efforts to organize a coherent organism to represent our concerns in this distasteful matter, which was brought upon us, not so much by the Costa Rican government, but by another country, which obviously lacked the ability to take care of affairs in their own back yard. (By the way, personal income tax in Canada is actually illegal, or was when I left in 1999.
So those Canadians who are very worried right now should look into that. In addition, those who invested this year have done nothing illegal anywhere in the world, since income declarations to your tax departments are not due until year's end.
|Greedy claims 'shallow
Dear A.M. Costa Rica:
Regarding some individuals’ notions that ordinary people are "being greedy" because they've found a way to have an easier life is simply sophomoric and shallow. Here in the United States, credit card companies are charging people astronomical interest rates, rates that until fairly recently, were considered illegal. As I see it, if there is an opportunity to invest one’s money and get the highest possible return they should!
As it turns out, it's not only beneficial for the individual, but as so many have pointed out, it has also become an important part of the economy. I have a job and I earn at least $3,500 per month. But I don't find that amount to be anything like what "rich" people live on.
For better or for worse, Villalobos has become an institution of sorts, and for a country as poor as Costa Rica and with so few monetary options, it seems to work for everyone involved. Why destroy such a successful operation?
Dear A.M. Costa Rica:
As far as I know, none of the investors know 100% about what is really going on in the offices of the investigative police in this case . . . I read that the police have allegedly been very cooperative, but I also read somewhere that some investors have been informing the D.A. of all that is going on.
I imagine they (the police) have done this (being nice) because they know they can actually GET MORE information by being nice . . . and for sure the investors pass it along because they are scared and they think that this is helping out.
But it looks like it actually helped in the closing of his office and the consequent stopping of all interest payments that, for sure, have affected many investors.
As it seems that Don Luis Enrique Villalobos has decided to use your newspaper as his voice, maybe you could forward this email to him:
Don Luis Enrique Villalobos Camacho:
Considering all that is happening at this moment, and due to the lack of guidance on the part of many, I feel that it would be right to address this issue as follows:
Don Enrique, not all of the investors has made hasty decisions regarding private matters between your company and them. But, for sure, most of the investors have felt the consequences.
Don Enrique, I am sure you are aware of many groups that are in formation both to support you and to act against you. Since we are kind of third parties trying to figure out what is going on, I think it would be best for you to send your opinion based on what your legal teams advises you would be the best course of action that those that support you should do???
We are not a part of the defense team (your lawyers), so at this point we don't know what would help the case and what could actually make it worse or no better.
Why don't you tell us what it is that would best serve all of our interests? A) A CLASS ACTION AGAINST THE PROSECUTOR; B) A RALLY; C) NOTHING; D) OR SOMETHING.
Let us know how we can help this case so many lives can get back to some normalcy. God Bless.
J. Duke Moseley
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