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(506) 2223-1327        Published Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2008, in Vol. 8, No. 215       E-mail us
Jo Stuart
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A sloth continues to make the rounds at Parque Bolívar in north San José. The creature, a mother with a tiny youngster stashed somewhere on her body, is not an inmate at the park's zoo but a free animal at liberty to munch leaves on the park perimeter.
slow moving sloth
A.M. Costa Rica/Alejandro Rodas Padilla

New murder might be continuation of crime spree
By Elyssa Pachico and Saray Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Violent crime took center stage again Tuesday after bandits attacked three young women in a car in Escazú, killed one and distributed the victims in three different parts of the western metro area.

The early morning crime followed a weekend in which one man died in one of two bus stickups on the General Cañas highway. A key witness to another murder case died in an assassination in Alajuelita hours before the Escazú crime.

The three women worked in the Jazz Casino at the White House Hotel, an upscale gathering place for wealthy North Americans and rich Costa Ricans. It is high in the hills south of Escazú Centro.

The car with the three women was intercepted less than a half mile from the hotel after the women left work about 1:20 a.m., according to the Judicial Investigating Organization. Investigators believe that the goal of the bandits was to kill all three women with bullets to the head. But two survived, although one is in critical condition in Hospital México.

Jorge Rojas, director of the Judicial Investigating Organization, said this case is possibly related to a series of seemingly random, execution-style killings that began June 19. In each case, pairs of victims were killed by bullet wounds to the head, and then dumped several miles apart.

According to the investigators, Yerlín Marín Salazar, 24, a mother of a 6-year-old child, was the woman murdered by the bandits. Her body was found near dawn at a traffic circle in San Antonio de Belén.

A second victim was the dead woman's sister, Arelis, 27, the mother of two. She was found still conscious in an alley, one kilometer to the west of the Autopista Próspero Fernández. She received bullet wounds to the lower back and the neck, said investigators. She was being treated at the Hospital San Juan de Dios in San José.

A companion Angie Peraza Fernández, 25, also survived. She was the first found. That was about 2:30 a.m. near Autos Bolaños in Alto de las Palomas de Heredia, agents said. She received wounds to the cheek and the head and was being treated at Hospital México, agents said.

The bandits had abducted the women in hopes of getting them to withdraw money from automatic teller machines, but only one, believed to be the dead woman, carried her debit card.

Investigators said that one of the women called her
husband shortly before leaving the casino at 1 a.m. When she failed to appear at home, the husband went toward the White House Hotel, and discovered the vehicle abandoned on the road some 400 meters before the entrance to the hotel.

The abductions resemble the murder of one couple in August and two other couples in June.

Rolando Orozco Alpizar, 24, died where he was found near the fence of the Tobias Bolaños airport in Pavas either late Aug 20 or early Aug 21. He had a single bullet wound to the head. The body of his companion, Pamela Chávez Umaña, 22, turned up in a vacant lot not far from the U.S. Embassy. The man and woman had been dating and they last were seen Aug. 20 when they left a home to visit a restaurant.  Orozco's car was found intact in front of the condominium where Ms. Chávez lived with her mother.

June 19 a journalist, Julio Acuña, 34, was found dead in a similar fashion in Alajuelita. His companion of the previous evening, Yoselin Rojas Chinchilla, 23, a teacher, was found dead in Escazú.

Gunshots to the head were the causes of death.

The same day investigators learned of two more deaths when bodies were found along route 32 in Tibás. Again the victims were a man and a woman. Three of these six victims were university students.

The killing in Alajuelita Monday night was of a woman who had avoided murder attempts three times in the past.  Dead is Dunia María León Calderón, 48 who was a witness to the murder of  Ariel José Rodríguez Salas, 19, who died last Dec. 14 at the same home. The woman refused to leave her home despite the murder tries.

The bus killing was about 10 p.m. Friday when bandits tried to stick up a bus bound to San José from Alajuela.  Killed was Jorge Muñoz, a waiter who was a former policeman. One bandit saw Muñoz go for his own pistol and shot him once in the chest. Muñoz still managed to return fire and wounded a bandit. A suspect was detained a short time later at Hospital San Juan de Dios, said police.

The bus stickup was the second of the night along that stretch of road between Parque la Sabana and Hospital México. An Alajuela-bound bus suffered the same fate about 7 p.m.

All three major television news shows provided extensive coverage of the latest killing Tuesday night, in part because Rojas gave a press conference on the topic. Some stations also had taped coverage of the Cruz Roja putting the surviving Marín woman in an ambulance and investigators carrying off the body of the dead sister.

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Costa Rica involved in drill
testing tsunami warning

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Costa Rica is among the Pacific Rim countries that are participating in the staged tsunami drill, “Exercise Pacific Wave 08.” The drill started Tuesday and involves two days of testing the Pacific Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System, a network to promote the exchange of seismic and sea level data for rapid tsunami detection. 

With the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami disaster providing a stark reminder of the need for preparedness, the tsunami test will be the second of such exercises, the first conducted in May 2006, according to the United Nation's  Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission.

Countries are required to make decisions and take preliminary steps short of alerting the public, thus testing current warning systems and helping to identify operational strengths and weaknesses in each country, the U.N. said.

According to the scenario, a powerful earthquake located off Japan’s northeast coast generated the simulated major tsunami spreading in real time across the entire Pacific, taking 24 hours to reach the coast of South America.

During this activity, bulletins are being issued by the tsunami advisory and warning centers in Tokyo, Japan, and Hawaii and Alaska in the United States, and sent to focal points responsible for tsunami response in the countries concerned.

While in reality only a subset of countries would be affected by a real-life tsunami, all have been encouraged to take part in the drill as it is the Pacific region that is struck by the most frequent and destructive tsunamis, said the U.N..

Other participants in the tsunami drill include Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Cook Islands, El Salvador, France (French Polynesia and New Caledonia), Nicaragua, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Niue, Peru, Russian Federation, Samoa, Singapore, Republic of Korea, Thailand, the United States, the island of Yap, and the Federation of Micronesia.

Security minister backs
integral, humanistic approach

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Central America has to position itself as a region that bets on combating violence by means of prevention, changing the repressive vision for an integral and humanistic concept of security that seeks the rescue of its youth, said the security minster Tuesday.

The minister, Janina del Vecchio, was speaking to ministers from Costa Rica and other governments in the region at a conference discussing children at risk.

Ms. del Vecchio supported development of programs against family violence, trafficking of persons and those that promote human rights. She also said she wanted to be taught in the school system and in the communities how to fight against the use of illegal drugs. She heads the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública.

Marine law sent back
to legislative committee

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A legislative proposal to revise the law governing marinas went back to a committee for at least 22 days Tuesday.

The original draft contained at least three sections that were believed to be unconstitutional. Most dealt with sidestepping environmental regulations.

The Comisión de Consultas de Constitucionalidad will study the proposal and try to iron out legal defects.

The law promoted by the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo would update the regulations involving marina development in the coastal zones.

New food proposal on agenda

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization wants to increase the production of basic grains by 60 percent in the region by the use of more productive seeds. This will be one of the proposals presented to agricultural officials at the  XVIII Cumbre Iberoamericana that starts today in San Salvador.

The U.N. agency will be seeking $12 million in donations from the countries involved to carry out this plan. The idea is to produce more because of anticipated shortages in the world supply of food.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 215

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Despite crisis, U.N. expects latin exports to grow 23 percent
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services
and special reports

Exports from Latin America and the Caribbean are on track to grow at an estimated 23 per cent this year, despite the global financial crisis, according to a report released Monday by the United Nations office for the region.

Higher commodity prices during the first half of the year, particularly in metal and fuel, led to a 25.5 per cent increase in the value of exports, compared to a 10 per cent increase for the same period in 2007.

The “Latin America and the Caribbean in the World Economy” report, released in Mexico City, also noted that the value of imports to the region will rise by an estimated 22 per cent, leading to an expected trade surplus of $51 billion at the end of 2008.

However, the global economic slowdown and the drop in commodity prices in the third quarter of this year combined with a falling demand for Latin American products, primarily from the United States and to a lesser extent the European Union and Japan, will lead to lower growth rates and less favorable trade balances in 2009, said the report.
The report was by the U.N. Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean. It stressed that the looming recession and current credit crisis means that states in the region will have to deal with restricted access to external financing, higher interest rates, tumbling stock exchanges and a shift of capital to safer destinations, as well as lower remittances and direct foreign investment in the coming year.

But reforms made over recent decades have better prepared the region for the threatened global economic slump and financial meltdown, according to the report. It stressed that these reforms must be maintained, particularly those contributing to fiscal responsibility, control of inflation, freer trade, market diversification, debt reduction and the accumulation of international reserves.

In its report the commission recommended that regional governments undertake a series of measures to absorb the economic shocks felt around the world and reduce the impact felt on their economies. Its suggestions include reinforcing supervision of banks and financial institutions, maintaining the reforms and investing income from higher commodity prices to promote competitiveness, human resource development and export diversification.

Arias promotes international initiatives with Ms. Bachelet
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The president of Chile paid calls on a number of official locations in her first day here Tuesday. Among the individuals there were President Óscar Arias Sánchez, magistrates of the Tribunal Supreme de Elecciones, lawmakers and the foreign ministry staff.

The political highpoint of the visit came with Arias when both presidents signed a joint declaration that sets up a committee to guide the relations between the two countries. Costa Rica and Chile have had a free trade agreement since 2002.

Casa Presidencial said that Arias used the time with Ms. Bachelet to promote his international initiatives. They include the so-called consensus of Costa Rica whereby rich First World nations would give money to developing countries that do not waste their resources on arms and the military.

Arias also promoted his peace with nature initiative and a U.N. proposal that would keep track of weapons sold in the world.

In the joint declaration both countries call for reforms at the United Nations where Costa Rica is now serving as a non-permanent member of the Security Council. Developing nations want to get more of a role on the Security Council and veto power like the major nations.
Ms. Bachelet and tribunal president
Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones photo
President Michelle Bachelet of Chile shares a few words with Luis Antonio Sobrado González, president of the Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones Tuesday.

Both presidents will participate today in the inauguration of a new structure for the International Court of Human Rights in San Pedro and then fly to El Salvador for a Latin summit.

Police gearing up for another round of Noche de Brujas
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Halloween is not a well-developed holiday in Costa Rica but Noche de Brujas, Devil's night, is. So the Fuerza Pública is calling on parents to keep their children at home.

Every year on Oct. 31, there are groups of young people causing mischief.  Heredia is a frequent trouble spot.

The Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública also said that Halloween here is a good time for criminals to trick homeowners or for pedophiles to infiltrate groups of children by wearing a disguise.

The ministry also recited the usual warnings about letting children go trick-or-treating alone. That North American custom is not traditional here, but with international television, the idea is taking hold.
The ministry said that opening a door or gate to a costumed child gives a crook nearby the chance to put a gun on the homeowner.

This year Halloween is a Friday, and all members of the Fuerza Pública have been called to duty, according to  Erick Lacayo Rojas, the director of the police force.

Police said they were worried about the behavior of youngsters as they return from school in the afternoon.

Each year there are bonfires and vandalism on Halloween night. Some expat enclaves have their own door-to-door trick-or-treating. Doing so outside of known neighborhoods is risky, the Fuerza Pública said, warning of deviants and persons who may try to slip drugs to children in the guise of candy. Police also noted that bandits sometimes dress up in costume on Halloween to rob stores.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 215

State of nation report says that 2007 was a pretty good year
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The 14th Estado de la Nación report came out Tuesday, but the financial and petroleum crises of 2008 seem to have changed conditions drastically.

The report covers 2007, which was a good year for Costa Rica, the report notes, although it pegs inflation at 10.8 percent.

The year was the culmination of a cycle of expansion, said the lengthy document. The full document is not yet on the organization's Web site, and it will be some time before the English version appears. However, a condensed version of the finding became known at a press conference Tuesday.

The report said that growth in 2007 was about 7.3 percent, down slightly from the 8.8 percent the year before. The document said that the tendency toward accumulation of the
wealth by the better off continued. It warned that this could affect the country's stability.

The report also noted that international agencies are predicting an increase in the demand for foodstuffs.
Demand for cereals is expected to increase 35 percent by 2020, and the demand for meat is expected to increase 57 percent, the report noted.

The report did take note of changes in 2008 that affect the country. These include petroleum prices, a higher rate of inflation and the continual devaluation of the colon, which Tuesday means that a dollar could buy 550.34 colons and  560.34 colons could buy a dollar.

The Programa Estado de Nación is operated by the four public universities in the country. The reports are valuable because they integrate much of the economic and social development of the country into one document.

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