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These stories were published Monday, Nov. 11, 2002, in Vol. 2, No. 223
Jo Stuart
About us
A.M. Costa Rica photos/Bryan Kay
Guy Fawkes before and after his big moment on the beach at Jacó
They had hot time remembering Guy Fawkes
By Bryan Kay
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Guy Fawkes Night went pretty much according to plan this weekend in Jacó . . . if the grand-opening rocket, from the event’s fireworks display, erratically exploding into the crowd is discounted. But there were no serious injuries as a result.

About 50 Brits assembled at the Arenal Pacifico Hotel for the 10th Annual Guy Fawkes Weekend on the beach at Jacó, colorfully interspersed with friends from other countries.

The event, organized by John Wakefield, brought together the British community with representatives of the British Embassy. Georgina Butler, ambassador, Oriel Willock, second secretary, and Sheila Pacheco, vice-consul, were all in attendance. 

Ms. Butler said recently that she wants to 

create more of a community amongst the British in Costa Rica. Indeed, Ms. Pacheco pointed out that this year there seemed more of a family atmosphere, more than in previous years.

The highlight of the weekend was the burning of the ‘Guy.’ As the fire was lighted, the ‘Guy,’ perched atop the fire, erupted into flames, quickly disintegrating into ashes. The ‘Guy’ symbolizes Guy Fawkes, who on Nov. 5, 1605, attempted to blow-up the Palace of Westminster, London. He was not successful as officials of James I, then King of Britain, caught him in the act.

The embassy staff took part in all of the activities spread over the weekend. Besides the bonfire and fireworks display, there was a cricket match, a darts tournament and a horseshoe competition. The embassy team won the cricket match. Chris Lear and Lofty Tweedale won the darts, while Bob and Sheila Morrison won the horseshoe competition.

of dogs
in Londres
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Dogs are dying mysteriously in Londres in Quepos.

According to Elena Ross of the Samantha Foundation, a care-giving group for canines, at least 10 dogs have died in the last two weeks. She suspects the cause of the epidemic is parvovirus, but is not sure.

The virus attacks a dog’s digestive system and symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting and lethargy. Parvovirus mostly affects puppies, because they do not have strong immune systems. 

The mysterious cause of the dogs’ deaths will not be clarified until Monday when Luis Fernando Chitiva, a veterinarian, holds a clinic at the community center in Londres beginning at 10 a.m.

The doctor will perform vaccinations and consultations at a reduced fee for the impoverished, dog-owning population. Dogs can survive parvovirus, but without treatment this is unlikely.

Ms. Ross encourages donations to help save the dogs. Anyone interested can call her at: 779-1123, or e-mail on: askelena@att.net. 

We announce our photo contest for readers
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Friday’s newspaper clearly shows that some A.M. Costa Rica readers are talented with the camera.

Johnny Mauricio’s photo of Arenal at daybreak is a stunner. Doug Gesler took a great shot of the ball dancing before the net during a women’s soccer match in Seattle. 

With so much talent, it seems appropriate to announce an A.M. Costa Rica photo contest. Rules will be posted later this week, but we have established five categories: Deadline news, scenic, wildlife, sports and people.

The photo must be taken by the person who submits it, and they must agree to give A.M. Costa Rica one-time use of the photo for publication here. The photo must be taken within the borders of Costa Rica between today and the contest deadline.

The photos must be submitted digitally, and only one entry will be allowed per person in each category. A.M. Costa Rica staffers or interns are not allowed to compete.

A team of judges will be assembled by Saray Ramírez Vindas of the newspaper staff. The deadline is April 15, and $100 prizes will be awarded to winners in each category.

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Recovering cash assets is a difficult chore at best
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Any effort by creditors to track down international assets of Luis Enrique Villalobos Camacho quickly comes up against several big problems.

First, there is no existing legal action, criminal or civil, that would give creditors the right to probe into foreign bank accounts.

But the larger problem may be the extreme difficulty of simply tracking assets internationally. A long string of high-profile asset searches sanctioned by governments shows how difficult.

• Peru wants upwards of $2 billion believed stashed by former President Alberto Fujimori and associates including Vladimir Montesinos. The country is seeking to hire special international asset tracking firms. Fujimori fled to Japan two years ago.

• In nearby Nicaragua, officials are seeking to locate some $100 million believed taken by former President Arnoldo Aleman, who left office this year.

• The Philippines may have recovered about $2 billion from the family of Ferdinand Marcos, but officials estimate they missed perhaps $5 to $8 billion more. Marcos fled the country in 1986.

• The Shah of Iran is believed to have illegally taken up to $30 billion during his tenure.

• Carlos Menem, former Argentine president, is accused of taking some $10 million in bribes during his term, and the country is trying to verify this claim.

• A handful of Asian and African ex-dictators have been the object of similar asset investigations, and the results have been minimally successful. The Abachi regime in Nigeria is believed to have taken $5 to $6 billion.

• So great is the difficulty in recovering assets that some international officials believe the United Nations should take a lead role and set up a special office.

The granddaddy of asset searches kicked off Sept. 11, 2001, when Osama bin Laden was designated 

the mastermind behind the terrorist attacks on the United States. His terror network was believed to have some $200 million in a number of financial institutions, including some on Cyprus. The full force of the United States was brought to bear on blocking the assets.

One outcome of the U.S. effort was a series of treaties and agreements that expedite to some extent international asset searches.

The major problems with such asset searches include bank secrecy, hidden corporate ownerships and the possible use of holding companies, foundations, trusts and charities. Investigative expenses also can be burdensome.

Panamá to the south has strict bank secrecy laws that permit disclosure only in selected felony cases. A string of Asian island states, principally Nauru and Vanuatu, still are considered good places to hide assets. Grand Cayman may have nearly $1 trillion on deposit and is relatively insulated against prying eyes.

Other former tax havens, like the Isle of Jersey, have signed on to the international effort toward swapping information among governments.

There has been no evidence yet that assets of the Villalobos operation are anything but safely invested. But creditors are getting anxious since the businessman defaulted on interest payments in early October and adopted a low profile.

Costa Rican bank accounts, some 50 frozen by judicial order for investigation, contain only about $6 million of an estimated $1 billion loaned to him.  A lot of creditors are hoping for a thaw in the freeze Nov. 26, but others are examining their legal options.

International experts on asset recovery note that countries like Costa Rica provide an advantage to unhappy debtors. Under Costa Rican law victims can join with any criminal case to seek recovery.

If the bulk of the Villalobos assets fails to turn up, a criminal case brought against Villalobos for illegal banking or violation of money laws might be a boon to creditors who could then join with the government in seeking return of their cash assets. Prosecutors are exploring both options.

Haiti called to account
by U.S. diplomat

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The United States is "very concerned" about Haiti and would like to see the Haitian government take "concrete actions" to resolve the ongoing political crisis in the country, says Roger Noriega, ambassador of the United States to the Organization of American States.

In remarks Wednesday to the organization’s permanent council, Noriega expressed concern that the Haitian government has not taken the steps necessary to strengthen democracy and end the political impasse in the island nation.

Noriega called on the Haitian government to fulfill its commitment to establish "a neutral, credible and independent Provisional Electoral Council" as quickly as possible. 

The U.S. official also called on the Haitian government to make more progress on its commitments to ensure a climate of security, develop and implement a disarmament program, investigate the Dec. 17 acts of violence, prosecute those responsible, and make reparations to the victims.

U.N. agency notices
more Colombian refugees

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services 

GENEVA, Switzerland — The U.N. Refugee Agency says it is concerned that intensified fighting in Colombia among government, rebel, and right-wing paramilitary groups could cause thousands of people to flee to neighboring countries. 

The agency reports about 1,200 Colombians sought asylum last month in Ecuador, three times the average monthly number of refugees crossing into Ecuador since the agency opened its office in the country nearly two years ago. 

Jennifer Clark, spokeswoman for the agency, said the refugees were forced to flee Colombia because of intensified fighting or because of threats from the paramilitary or guerrilla groups. 

"Some have also expressed a fear of possible forced recruitment by some of these groups and a smaller number, a few families, have also said that they left because of the increased fighting and because of the aerial fumigation of illicit crops in the border region," she said. 

The U.N. refugee agency reports that border areas in Venezuela are also affected by the worsening situation in Colombia.

Ms. Clark said paramilitary groups from Colombia are said to be carrying out increasing attacks and selective killings in several Venezuelan border towns. As a consequence, she said the Venezuelan government is reinforcing border security. 

Ms. Clark said her agency is worried that the safeguards adopted by the Venezuelan government to keep rebels from crossing into its territory also might keep out genuine asylum seekers.

Cuba says diplomats 
in U.S. were no spies 

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

HAVANA, Cuba — Cuba has rejected U.S. charges that four expelled diplomats were involved in espionage. 

A statement from the Cuban foreign ministry Friday said charges that the four had engaged in unacceptable activities were completely untrue. The statement also accused the United States of lacking moral authority or justification in making the charges. 

The U.S. State Department expelled Oscar Redondo Toledo and Gustavo Machin Gomez Tuesday for their alleged role in helping a defense intelligence analyst who was given a 25-year prison term for passing information to Cuban authorities. 

The expulsion came shortly before two members of Cuba's mission to the United Nations in New York were asked to leave the country on charges of engaging in activities deemed harmful to the United States. The two were later identified as Francisco Gonazalez Garcia and Carlos Augusto Suanes Flexas.

Talks for peaceful end
kick off in Venezuela 

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

CARACAS, Venezuela — The formal opening of talks Friday between the Venezuelan government and opposition raises some hope that the country's deep political crisis may be resolved peacefully. But neither side appears willing to give way on seemingly irreconcilable demands.

Cesar Gaviria, secretary-general of the Organization of American States, who is to chair the negotiations, called in his opening remarks for both sides to avoid the heated rhetoric that has characterized the political debate in Venezuela almost since President Hugo Chavez came to power in 1999. 

"Venezuela needs much more mutual respect," Gaviria said. But observers say the talks are more likely to proceed in an atmosphere of mutual hostility.

The opposition, represented by a loose coalition of business and labor organizations, political parties and NGO's, regards Chavez as both incompetent and autocratic. They are demanding an early chance to submit the president's popularity to referendum. To that end, it recently delivered what it says are over two million signatures to the country's electoral authority.

Gaviria agrees that the solution to the crisis has to be electoral, and the issue of when to hold an election is the main point on the agenda for the talks. 

The government, however, says that, unless the constitution is amended, the earliest date for a referendum on Chavez's presidency would be next August.

The opposition insists if the government fails to show flexibility on this point, it will call an indefinite general strike to force Chavez out. 

Meanwhile, Chavez's government has taken several steps to forestall a referendum. First, it asked the Supreme Court to oust the current board of the election council. And, while the court threw out the request, several members of the board resigned in what the opposition says is the result of the government's attempts to paralyze its work.

Should the board decide to go ahead with the referendum anyway, the government is almost certain to challenge its constitutional legitimacy. 

With both sides of Venezuela's political divide barely talking to each other, observers say the hope for an early settlement appears slim.

Man gets jail time for
illegal caviar trading

Special to A.M. Costa Rica 

MIAMI, Fla. — A Russian national, has been sentenced to 41 months in a federal prison as a result of his involvement in a wildlife smuggling conspiracy. 

Victor Tsimbal paid couriers to bring caviar-filled suitcases into the United States after new international restrictions were announced in 1998 to protect sturgeon, according to an announcement Thursday by the U.S. Attorney in Miami and the Justice Department.

Tsimbal, president and owner of Miami-based Beluga Caviar, Inc., was sentenced on Wednesday by  Federico A. Moreno, U.S. District Court judge, after pleading guilty to charges of conspiracy, smuggling and money laundering, including using false documents to smuggle more Beluga caviar from Russia into the United States via Poland in 1999 than the entire Russian export quota for that year.

"Smuggling and money laundering are serious crimes that will not be tolerated," said Marcos Daniel Jiménez, United States attorney for the Southern District of Florida. 

"We will use all the legal tools at our command to deter those who place their own profit before environmental concerns and violate the laws intended to protect wildlife,” he said.

U.S., European airline
agreement contested 

Special to A.M. Costa Rica 

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. "open skies" agreement and other air services agreements with European Union member states remain in force despite the European Court of Justice's ruling Tuesday that certain provisions of those agreements are contrary to European Union law, says a U.S. Department of Transportation official.

The European Union court decision "did not have any immediate impact on the rights of U.S. and European airlines to continue to conduct services pursuant to the challenged bilateral agreements," Jeffrey Shane, assistant deputy secretary of transportation said Friday to an American Bar Association forum in Florida.

The court decision affects U.S. two-way air services agreements with eight countries: Austria, Belgium, Britain, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Luxembourg and Sweden. 

The case brought by the European Commission argued that European Union law gives the Commission sole authority to represent its members in air services negotiations with third countries and that European Union members' bilateral agreements with the United States are therefore illegal.

Shane said the ruling was the subject "of some of the most galactically erroneous reporting in recent history." 

Contrary to many press reports, he said, the European Court "did not strike down" the bilateral agreements nor did it prohibit European Union member states from continuing to conduct negotiations with the United States in their own right.

Shane also touched on the question of possible U.S. aviation negotiations with the European Union, as an entity, following the European Court decision. 

Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía 
y Seguridad Pública photo
This is the box that police found a man carrying on Avenida 2 in the downtown. The brown material is cocaine, police said.

Police grab Jamaican
with suspicious box

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A 31-year-old Jamaican man walking along Avenida 2 attracted police attention because he was carrying a box, according to a spokesman for the Fuerza Pública.

When police stopped him they found that the box contained two kilograms of cocaine. they said. Police were somewhat stunned that the man would carry this type of cargo in the very center of the city.

They noted that he had an air ticket to return home the next day.

In other weekend anti-drug action, police conducted three operations, arrested eight persons and grabbed another kilogram of cocaine.

In the settlement of León XIII, police arrested a man and a women and later arrested a man on Avenida 5 who was carrying suspected marijuana and cocaine.

In Curridabat, police arrested four persons they said were distributing drugs there, and in Desamparados, a woman went to jail because police said she was a distributor.

Sunday anti-drug police capped off their weekend by releasing statistics on arrests at Juan Santamaría airport.  They said they arrested 42 persons who tried to leave the country with contraband narcotics, 12 of them Costa Ricans. The most recent was Wednesday when a Venezuelan man was grabbed with what police said was five kilograms of cocaine. He was planning to go to Holland, they said.

Car strikes down
father and daughter

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A four-by-four struck two joggers and a bicyclist at dawn Saturday in Villa del Mar in Moín near Limón. The joggers, a father and daughter, died on the scene, and the cyclist was clinging to life in a hospital late Sunday.

Fuerza Pública officers identified the dead as Fernando Tucker Tucker, 62, and Norma Tucker Zapata, 28. The cyclist is Angel Brideño Hernández, who was in Hospital Calderón Guardia.

The driver of the four-by-four, identified by the surnames Martínez Martínez was arrested on an allegation that he was intoxicated, said officers. The vehicle failed to make a curve and hit a light pole, police said.

Police also arrested a passenger, identified by the last names Bejarano Viales, they said.

In other traffic deaths over the weekend:

Jefry Gómez Quirós, 27, was found about 5 a.m. Saturday in Guápiles, the apparent victim of a hit-and-run, said Fuerza Pública officers.

In La Guaira, near Guácimo, a guard found the body of a man later identified as Aurelio Delgado Brenes, 52, police said. The man is an apparent accident victim.

VFW meets Tuesday
to consider legalities

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The Veterans of Foreign Wars will meet Tuesday to decide on forming a new corporation and to elect officers. 

The meeting will be at 2 p.m. in the Bufo Dorado Room of the Gran Hotel Costa Rica downtown.  The group, Post 11207 San José of the VFW, will hear a presentation by Lic. Sergio Sanchez B., a bilingual Costa Rican lawyer, who will discuss the various forms of incorporation permitted here. He is a lawyer for a number of businesses operated by North Americans here. 

A serious, special 'surprise' ceremony will follow the lawyer’s presentation, and maximum attendance is requested, said a spokesman for the organization.  All former military service members and friends, whether members of the VFW or not, are invited, as are their ladies or girl friends. 

For further information, readers may contact Post Commander Ken Johnson (552-3464), Adjutant Rick Garcia (282-5944) or Committeeman Bob Foster (231-7872).  The meeting room is on the ground floor of the hotel behind the reception desk 

Today is special

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Today is a day to remember war veterans. It’s Veteran’s Day in the United States and Remembrance Day in Canada. In Great Britain Sunday was the day for Remembrance.

The possibility of war with Iraq lends a special anxiety to this day. No ceremonies are scheduled here in Costa Rica by the expat community.

The U.S. Embassy is closed. 

Traffic gridlocked
by special event

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Traffic in San José was gridlocked again Friday because workmen were constructing spectator stands in the middle of Avenida 2 in the rain at evening rush hour. 

Transit police were detouring eastbound Avenida 2 traffic south, and the subsequent tie-up and overflow from frustrated motorists blocked traffic all the way west to the Pavas Highway.

Motorists had no advance notice that the way would be blocked until they reached the closed section where the only possible route was south into narrow side streets.

A routine ride from the downtown to the western suburbs took 90 minutes instead of 15 because of the jam.

The stands were part of a marathon for the Hospital Dr. Raúl Blanco Cervantes, but the closure of the road was not announced previously.
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Learn how to best protect your interests in the Villalobos case. Explore your options at

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